The Patriots are 3-0 and one has to wonder how in the world doesn’t Bill Belichick ever get any consideration for Coach of the Year. This team perennially wins a dozen games and is always in the mix, yet he’s always snubbed as the coach du jour wins the coach of the year award. With the job he’s done thus far, to quote Celtics legend Larry Bird, “who is playing for second?”
So how did the Patriots grade out? Still missing Brady, Hightower, Ninkovich and Lewis, Jimmy Garoppolo joined the ranks of the missing Thursday night as he was scratched due to a sprained AC joint in his throwing shoulder.
So we’ll start with the offense and the players can come forward to pick up their grade sheets.
Jacoby Brissett got the start in place of Garoppolo, in lieu of Brady….and played with the poise that belied his lack of experience. The coaches came up with a masterful game plan that made his throws easier and relied on the running game, but it didn’t matter. Brissett did exactly what they were hoping for.
While his numbers weren’t anything special, 11-19 for 103 yards, he did rush 8 times for 48 yards and a huge 27-yard touchdown, it was what he DIDN’T do that stood out. The mantra from the coaches all week was “Don’t turn the ball over.”
He didn’t and ran the offense efficiently and made some plays with his feet when the protection broke down. He just missed on a couple of deep throws where the Pats had single coverage looks.
Running Backs: A
LeGarrette Blount followed up a big game against Miami with another big one just four days later against the Texans. Blount had a huge second half as he scored twice while rolling up 24 carries for 105 yards overall.
Blount was stopped for little gain in the first half but his value comes in with the team sticking with the run as he’s a closer and gets better on the 2nd and 4th quarters. Those one and two-yard runs in first half become much better as the game progresses. Blount in the second half carried 17 times for 94 yards and two touchdowns.
The team has leaned on him during Brady’s absence and he’s responded in a very big and positive fashion. Blount has already carried the ball 75 times for 298 yards and four touchdowns. His numbers play out over a 16 game season to nearly 1600 yards. While those numbers won’t continue especially once Brady returns, it shows just how effective a runner he’s been.
Wide Receivers: B
This wasn’t a big game for the wide receivers as the coaches didn’t game plan a lot of throwing, in general, limiting Brissett to just 19 passes overall. Julian Edelman led the way with 4 of the 8 passes that Brissett completed to the wide receivers. Edelman also chipped in with three runs in the running game and acted as a decoy a few times in the backfield.
Malcolm Mitchell only caught one pass but it was a big 27-yarder and it perfectly symbolized the Texans frustration as he broke numerous tackles on the way to pick up the big first down. Amendola and Hogan each chipped in as well but one thing they all did well was to block in the running game, a must in the Patriots system.
Tight Ends: B
Martellus Bennett had another strong game in run support with his blocking which has been stellar all season. He too chipped in the passing game with a couple of catches as well as a run on a sweep where he picked up six yards.
Rob Gronkowski made his first appearance of the 2016 season and he appears that he’s far from 100 percent physically. He stayed in to block for the most part and was targeted in the passing game only once.
Offensive Line: A-
The story line this week (which Bill Belichick is waiting for), was the ferocious Houston front seven and how they were going to try and fluster the rookie QB into making mistakes. We bought into that line of thinking as well.
Well, the Patriots offensive dominated in the trenches last night. How many times did we hear J.J. Watt’s name on Thursday night? Jadaveon Clowney? Whitney Merciless? None of the big three for Houston had any impact or impactful plays during the game.
The Patriots rushed 39 times for 185 yards, which was good for a 4.7-yard average and three touchdowns. Houston didn’t get much pressure on Brissett and sacked him only once. It was Dante Scarnecchia’s charges best game thus far on the season.
Defensive Line: B+
The Patriots defensive line was very impressive on Thursday night. With their alignment, they basically dared Houston to run the ball. But while the Texans rushed for 109 yards in the game, they were generally ineffective doing so.
While rushing just four for the majority of the game, the Patriots were able to get enough pressure on Brock Osweiler to influence many of his throws. Jabaal Sheard, one of our pre-game players to watch had two sacks in a very strong game. Chris Long and Trey Flowers also had productive games at pushing the pocket and setting the edge.
The interior players, Alan Branch, Malcolm Brown and to a lesser extent Anthony Johnson and Vincent Valentine were stout at the point of attack. The Texans were trying to establish the run to set up play-action deep down the field and didn’t happen.
Jamie Collins had his best game of the season. One of our other pre-game players to watch was a presence all over the field, had 14 tackles and an interception. Without Hightower in the lineup, Collins had to step up and he did in a big way. When Collins is playing like that, it is easy to see why he’s considered one of the better inside linebackers in the game.
Jonathan Freeny saw the most snaps in lieu of Hightower as he’s clearly earned the trust of Belichick. Shea McClellin and Barkevious Mingo played sparingly.
What a difference a few days makes. After getting gashed in the second half by Miami, the secondary, especially the cornerbacks turned in a fantastic performance. The plan was to take away the deep ball by having the cornerback’s undercut the routes of DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller and having over the top safety help in a Cover-2 shell. It worked perfectly.
Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler stuck with Hopkins (4 catches, 56 yards), and Fuller (3 catches for 31 yards) and even when they did make a catch, they were in a position to contest everything. It was a night and day scenario from Sunday.
McCourty, Chung, and Harmon did a great job of giving over the top safety help. Although they played far off the line, they did come up in run support. The leading receiver for Houston (by design by Matt Patricia), was the TE Griffin who caught 8 passes for 52 yards. The Patriots will take that all day long.
Special Teams: A
Punter Ryan Allen was fantastic on Thursday night…what a difference again from Sunday. He averaged 47.6 yards per punt and had six downed inside the 15-yard line. He more than anyone else, influenced field position all night long.
Stephen Gostkowski was perfect on five kicks (3 PATs, 2 FGs) and his mortar kickoffs were directly responsible for the Patriots for generating two turnovers. The only downgrade was rookie returner Cyrus Jones putting the ball on the ground twice. One of which got called back by the officials.
Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels, Matt Patricia and Joe Judge all get the highest grades possible. They put together a fantastic gameplan, saw the team see it thru perfectly and totally had their counterparts in Houston on the ropes all night long. Belichick put on a coaching clinic on Thursday night and to enter the game with a 3rd string rookie QB and win by 27 points is a testament how one-sided this game was.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2016 NFL Season 2016 Patriots season Bill Belichick Bill O'Brien Brock Osweiler Chris Hogan Danny Amendola DeAndre Hopkins Dion Lewis Houston Texans Jabaal Sheard Jacoby Brissett Jadeveon Clowney Jimmy Garoppolo JJ Watt Julian Edelman LaGarrette Blount Logan Ryan Malcolm Butler Martellus Bennett New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots edge rushers Rob Gronkowski Rob Ninkovich Tom Brady Whitney Mercilus Will Fuller