After improving to 10-2 on the season with a 26-10 win over the Rams, here’s a look at some of the things we came away with after a record-setting day for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
1) Brady Never Let Up On Sunday – The best part about Sunday’s game was obviously seeing Brady set the All-Time career win total record with his 201st victory in front of the home crowd, but how he handled it was even more incredible.
Leading in the 4th quarter of Sunday’s game by over 20-points, Brady was spotted emphatically talking to some of the players on the sideline after he clearly looked frustrated. At the time, on the surface his demeanor didn’t seem to make much sense, but looking closer, Brady clearly understood the team had a problem that needed to be fixed. One of those exchanges came following a third down play with rookie receiver Malcolm Mitchell, where Mitchell didn’t run his route at the depth Brady liked, which allowed the defender to close and force the incompletion. You could see Mitchell really taking in every word Brady said, pointing to himself and accepting responsibility. It’s the type of moment that may help them down the line, and it shows you the type of competitor Brady is.
“Yeah, I don’t think we were on the same page like we needed to be, between myself and some of the skill players,” Brady explained to reporters after the game. “There was some plays that I thought we could execute better. So it is frustrating when you expect a higher level than what we’re getting out there and I think everyone’s trying to do the right thing, but we’ve just got to watch the film, and try to correct it, and see if we can do a better job.”
The likely reason behind Brady’s irritation was the fact that overall, the Patriots finished the afternoon just 4-of-16 on third down (25%). That type of performance only worked out because New England’s defense held the Rams to a paltry 1-of-12 (8%), and they managed to get ahead early and play the game on their terms. But Brady obviously knows that won’t be good enough against better teams, which is who the Patriots are about to face with match-ups against the Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos now looming over the next two weeks.
As for his 201st win, he reportedly told his teammates in the locker room he wasn’t interested in any acknowledgement and he told reporters that he’s just grateful to be a part of some great teams over his career.
“You know, I’m grateful for all my teammates and my coaches and for my family and friends,” said Brady. “There’s been a lot of football over the years. It’s always been about winning and I’ve been very fortunate to be on a lot of great teams. So I just feel very grateful.”
2) Mitchell Stepped Up Again on Sunday – Malcolm Mitchell has continued to improve and Sunday’s performance against Los Angeles was yet another step for a player who has already shown tremendous growth 12 games into his first NFL season.
He’s slowly earned Brady’s trust, and on Sunday they connected on 8-of-10 attempts, with Mitchell finishing with 82 yards receiving. Six of his eight receptions went for first downs, which included Brady hitting him on two of three third down attempts, both of which moved the chains.
Looking at Mitchell’s totals overall to this point in the season, he’s now caught 24 passes on the season, with 18 first downs along with three touchdowns. This is a team that’s been in need of a player like him to compliment Julian Edelman when it comes to moving the football and Sunday was yet another example of what the future might continue to hold for the rookie heading into the rest of the season.
Malcolm Mitchell continues to grow in his first season in New England. (USA TODAY Images)
3) Jones’ Struggles Essentially resulted in Amendola’s Injury – Rookie Cyrus Jones struggled again on Sunday fielding punts, which turned out to be bad news for a Patriots offense that is already down one of their key players.
Jones had a tough time fielding Johnny Hekker’s second punt of the game, muffing the catch and he caught a huge break thanks to the fact Patrick Chung alertly dove and recovered it.
But the miscue earned him a spot on the bench as Danny Amendola stepped in and handled those duties for the remainder of the contest, but it came back to bite them late in the game after Amendola got yanked down with 23-seconds to go in the third quarter.
He immediately went to the locker room and was out for the rest of the game, with reporters spotting him on crutches and in a walking book after it was over. Initial reports indicate he suffered a high-ankle sprain and that he’s expected to be back for the postseason, but the bad news is he won’t be able to help them down this critical stretch as New England tries to lock up home field in the postseason.
Jones did come back in and handle one more punt after Amendola left, but his one mental error ultimately cost them a player who they could really use having already lost Rob Gronkowski for the season. Fortunately it could have been worse, and hopefully Amendola comes back ready to go after he recovers.
4) Perfect Day for Gostkowski – For a player who is still trying to regain some confidence, Sunday couldn’t have gone any better for Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski.
The veteran kicker went out and hit all of his field goal attempts and extra points on Sunday, and none of them were exactly easy. The veteran hit from 28, 48, 45 and 45 yards on Sunday, with all of them sailing perfectly through the uprights.
Gostkowski also got some support from Brady, who was happy to see his teammate do well.
“It was great to see those balls sail through the uprights,” said Brady. “You know, he’s so clutch. I mean, he’s a great player. I don’t think I have too many concerns about him and what he’s capable of. He’s been a great player for a long time.”
Those are the types of performances a player sometimes needs to get back on track, and while it’s just one game, give Gostkowski credit for continuing to battle through what has likely been a frustrating experience.
“It’s a start, it’s one game,” Gostkowski said via ESPN.com after the game. “You just got to battle, keep your head down, stay humble and have faith in the process that what you’ve been doing is going to continue.”
Gostkowski had a perfect outing on Sunday. (USA TODAY Images)
5) The defense had a great game – For a team that has had a tough run throughout much of the year despite being among the best in the NFL in average points allowed per contest, Sunday’s win over the Rams was certainly one of the bigger steps forward we’ve seen them take this season.
They allowed the Rams to convert just one third down the whole game and forced two Jared Goff interceptions, their first interception since October 23rd against the Pittsburgh Steelers and also held Los Angeles to just 25 first-half yards, the lowest total in a half in franchise history. They also sacked him four times, with Shea McClellin, Logan Ryan, Chris Long and Rob Ninkovich each picking up one on Sunday.
Ninkovich has quietly been improving week after week, picking up his sack along with two quarterback hits. He’s been getting into the backfield more frequently recently, which has been great to see after the veteran missed four games after violating the NFL’s banned substance policy.
There was one lone miscue, with the defense allowing a 66-yard pass play to Kenny Britt, the longest pass play allowed this season. It also helped set up their lone touchdown of the day, which also went to Britt.
Belichick said after the game that it was a bad play, and one that shouldn’t have happened.
“Yeah, we obviously could’ve played that play better,” said Belichick. “[Kenny] Britt ran a good route. It was a good throw. We just got beat on a double move.”
After their defensive performance, the Patriots moved up to being tied with the Ravens in average points per game given up with 17.3, which is now the next team up as the Ravens will visit Gillette Stadium next Monday night.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2016 NFL Season 2016 Patriots season Bill Belichick Chris Hogan Danny Amendola Dion Lewis Dont'a Hightower Jabaal Sheard Julian Edelman LaGarrette Blount Malcolm Butler Martellus Bennett New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots edge rushers Rob Gronkowski Rob Ninkovich Tom Brady