New England Patriots News 11-6, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
November 6, 2016 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news 11-6, and AFC East Notes for this week.

Mid-Season Awards:
We already did our report cards this week by positions but who gets the individual awards at the halfway point of the season? Who were the guys who stood out both positively and negatively?

Offensive MVP: LeGarrette Blount
I was definitely leaning towards Brady who has been absolutely lighting it up since his return [more to that below], but the much-maligned big man really stepped up this year, and when they needed him the most, during Brady’s suspension.

Blount has 609 rushing yards and an already career-high nine touchdowns. Raise your hand if you saw this coming…. That’s the good news. The better news is with Brady back, and the passing game coming around, there’s no reason to believe Blount won’t be any less effective once the weather turns ugly around here.

Honorable Mention: Martellus Bennett. With Rob Gronkowski out and then limited the first four games, Bennett more than stepped up and played fantastically.

Defensive MVP: Dont’a Hightower
Much is expected with the Patriots captain; he was given the spot in the locker room where players like Willie McGinest and Jerod Mayo reigned over the goings on among the players. It isn’t given lightly. And Hightower has delivered.

He’s logged 33 tackles…and when he hits people they’re tackled, 1.5 sacks and two safeties. His tackle of Andy Dalton for two points was the turning point of the game.

Top Rookie: Joe Thuney
No brainer here. Thuney has shined from Day 1 and has not only been an immediate starter but has thrived on the left side. He and Nate Solder have played very well together, and not surprisingly, those are the guys they look to run behind when closing out games.

Thuney has shown that he may be a fixture at the left guard position for years to come as this under-the-radar draft pick was a steal for the Patriots.

Biggest Surprise: Marcus Cannon
At the start of the season, there were very few people happy with the fact that Cannon was the starting right tackle in place of Sebastian Vollmer [PUP]. Well with improved health and much better technique [thanks to Dante Scarnecchia], Cannon has been very solid thru the first half, especially in the running game.

His pass protection has been improving in recent weeks as well, which Scarnecchia says has a lot to do with much better technique at using his arms and keeping opponents away from him. Happy to have been wrong on this one.

Biggest Disappointment: Cyrus Jones
The easier choice would have been to go with Collins since the Patriots felt their defense was better without the All-Pro and shipped him off to Cleveland for a song. But like the Cannon situation, this is one that no one saw coming, except in not a good way.

Jones was a highly regarded cornerback from a big school [Alabama] that plays in high-pressure situations. We thought he’d be pushing for starting reps by now. Instead, he’s been a healthy scratch for three games. And when he has been on the field, he’s been picked on by the opposition. A dynamic punt returner in college, this was a role that he was supposed to step into on Day 1. He’s shown a problem hanging onto the ball and has been replaced by Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola.

Best Offseason Addition: tie Martellus Bennett/Chris Hogan
Again I feel like I’m would not be giving Bennett his due here if he isn’t the choice. Second on the team with 31 receptions for 402 yards and four touchdowns, he put the work in with Brady this offseason and he’s earned his way into that circle of trust that Brady demands to have with his receivers. And Bennett’s blocking has been superb in the both the running game and in pass protection.

But what about Hogan? Little fanfare was present when he signed [except here], after all, he was a guy that couldn’t break through with the Bills offense. Well, the guy nicknamed 7-11 because he’s always open has made the most of his opportunities. He has 19 catches for 391 yards [20.6 average], including 4 of 35 yards or more. Is he a #1 WR? No. But he doesn’t have to be in this offense. Bet Buffalo regrets letting him walk?

Top Offensive Play: Brady 53-Yard Touchdown Against Buffalo
Facing a third and 13 from the Patriots 47-yard line, Brady threw a perfect rainbow to Hogan who streaked past Stephon Gillmore down the left sideline for a 53-yard touchdown strike.

Not only was it a big touchdown in terms of the game, putting the Pats up 14-3, but for Hogan who was let to walk away this year by the Bills and Rex Ryan. We see Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo practice this play every day during training camp at the end of each session. They try to drop a deep pass into a trash can. Brady’s pass went dead center to Hogan in stride.

Top Defensive Play: Hightower’s safety of Dalton in the Cincinnati game
Hightower’s safety was the turning point of the game against the Bengals. Dalton had been having his way with the Patriots defense. But a penalty set them back and then on the next snap Hightower launched thru the line on a blitz and was able to wrestle Dalton to the turf for a safety.

Soon after the Patriots would take the lead and never look back. These are the type of impact plays that the team looks for from the leader of their defense.

Jamie Collins Trade Shows Why Belichick Isn’t Afraid to Make Tough Choices:
The trade of the talented Collins has been hashed about all week on social media as well as sports talk radio and we’re not going to rehash it again here.

But the thing that people should keep in mind is this; Belichick has made these difficult decisions before and he’s not worried about what the media believes, how the fans will react and could care less what the rest of the league thinks.

His only focus is doing what is best for the football team. Mike Lombardi who worked in the front office with Belichick until this summer had this to say on Fox Sports about his call to trade Collins.

And Jamie, for all the rhetoric that has gone around, when you really study what was going on, on the field, they were not producing.”

Does it mean that Belichick is infallible? No. One can easily question this decision and will. If the Pats fail this post season, this decision will surely pop up as a sticking point. But Belichick has the track record where he should be given the benefit of the doubt until proven wrong. And he isn’t afraid to make those decisions.

Tom Brady Player of the Month for October:
Since coming back from his suspension, Tom Brady has been lighting up the NFL like he’s playing the Madden video game. He’s always been sharp in the month of October and has more wins (49) than any QB in the history of the NFL, but this month was even more special.

He’s completed 98 of 134 passes, 73.1 percent for 1319 yards, 12 touchdowns, and zero interceptions. His passer rating is 133.9 and leads the league along with his completion percentage, as well as yards per attempt, 9.84 which would all be career highs.

In winning the Offensive Player of the Month, Brady now owns that record as this award was his ninth. He passed Peyton Manning (8) to take over sole possession. Rust? Not so much. Speaking of Brady…

Reggie Wayne Says Brady’s “Cheating” Should Disqualify Him for MVP:
Nope, this isn’t a typo.  For some of the Colts, or even former Colts, Brady’s four-game suspension wasn’t enough for the beating he put on them in the AFC Championship Game two years ago, they still want their pound of flesh.

Reggie Wayne, the former Colt, and Patriot (for a cup of coffee), WR believes that Brady’s Deflategate punishment should extend over this season as well.

“There is no way Tom Brady can win MVP because he was caught cheating this year,” Wayne said on the NFL Channel’s, All Access show.

News Flash Reg… the kangaroo court of Goodell never proved there was ever any cheating going on, however, he was indeed suspended for actions that happened two years ago. Not last year, and certainly not this year.  Wayne’s last game happened to be the AFCCG in which the Deflategate issue reared its ugly head. Hmm.

Wayne signed with the Pats and asked for his release a short while later stressing that the Pats worked too hard and it was “not fun”. There’s the reason for their success … But Wayne after being lambasted by Patriots fans this week, took to Twitter to rebut the “too hard, not fun” story, 14 months later.

Who Do You Like This Week:
Last week’s picks were 6-6-1 putting me at 66-51-2 on the year. So, who do you like today?

I am going with for the games on tap today Atlanta from TNF (picked last Sunday) Minn, NYG, NYJ, KC, Dallas, Pittsburgh, NO, Carolina, GB, SD, Denver, and Seattle on Monday Night Football

Early pick for Thursday Night Football, (Baltimore over Cleveland).

Eastbound and Down, AFC East Notes:

Bills Hopeful McCoy can Play on MNF, Gillmore Lashes Out at Fans:
The Buffalo Bills face the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football and hope to have their best offensive player, LeSean McCoy back on the field. Rex Ryan sounded very optimistic that he’ll play.

“I feel like he’s really close,” Ryan said. “Hopefully … I’m thinking he’s going.”

Cornerback Stephon Gillmore has been taking a ton of flak from fans and media members on social media for his poor play this week, especially for the 53-yard touchdown pass where Chris Hogan blew by him for an easy score. On the play, Gillmore began berating a teammate before Hogan even reached the end zone. Well, Gillmore didn’t mince words when asked about it.

“I’ve had it worse,” Gilmore said. “Playing corner, everybody wants to play from the stands and from the internet and don’t know nothing about football.”

Dolphins Going with “Safety By Committee” after losing Jones:
Miami defensive coordinator Vance Joseph admits the Miami defense hasn’t played well enough yet this season but has hope that the unit is turning things around. One of the reasons for the struggles… the loss of Reshad Jones.

So, the Dolphins will be using Isa Abdul-Quddus, Michael Thomas, and Bacarri Rambo in different places and situations to try to duplicate the production of the talented Jones. Miami is also happy keeping Mario Williams’ workload down to a minimum because, at his age, he’s much more effective when playing fewer snaps.

“So I think Mario understands now that playing 30 plays at 100 percent he helps us win versus 55 plays at 50 percent,” Joseph said. “So Mario playing less but playing harder helps us win. Sometimes you can’t play that hard for 50 plays at a certain stage of your career.”

Jets Want to Run the Ball at the Dolphins:
In an important matchup for both teams, the Jets are facing the Dolphins today and want to run the ball against the Fins 30th ranked run defense.

“It helps us to run the football,’’ Jets head coach Todd Bowles told the media on Friday. “We don’t want to be one-dimensional. If you can run the football and throw when you want to, that opens up a lot of things, so the last two games, we’ve been able to get that going. So that helps all around.’’

Not surprisingly, with Matt Forte carrying a heavy load the past two games, 55 carries for 182 yards, the Jets were victorious in both, beating both Baltimore and Cleveland. Now they want to do the same when they face Miami.

But the problem for Gang Green is the health of their offensive line. Center Nick Mangold will miss this one with a bad ankle and both Ryan Clady and Breno Giacomini are questionable with shoulder injuries.

Despite the banged up OL, look for Forte and Bilal Powell to have good games running the ball today.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.



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