Belichick, Patriots Playing it Close to the Vest
The Patriots wrapped up their week with the Houston Texans with a preseason game at the site where they triumphed in the Super Bowl just over six months ago. The two teams had a couple of spirited joint practices in West Virginia, a good competitive football game and they’ll meet again, for real in Week 3 of the NFL season.
There were a couple of surprises at the outset of this one. Rob Gronkowski played in a preseason game for the first time since 2012. The big man was used mainly as a blocker in the running game but as Bill Belichick said, they all need the work. Trey Flowers didn’t play, perhaps it was a coach’s decision since the team is so thin on the edge right now. Adding to that was the fact that Geneo Grissom didn’t dress, apparently suffering an injury during the joint practices on Wednesday. Our other observations from Saturday night:
- Belichick and the team gave nothing away in this one. The offense was very conservative. No seam routes to Gronk, no deep shots to Brandin Cooks. Obviously, this has Week 3 in mind when the two teams meet again.
- Tom Brady played a bit and looked good, completing 6-9 passes for 67 yards and a touchdown.On the Patriots second drive, he marched them down the field for a touchdown.
- Jimmy Garoppolo didn’t have a great night, turning the ball over twice. Once on a sack where he fumbled and the other on his last pass of the night, a poor decision on the sideline that set up a Houston TD on the next snap. Overall he completed 15-23 for 145 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
- On Garoppolo’s touchdown drive, he was sharp going 6-6 for 70 yards, topping it off with a nice 25-yard touchdown pass to D.J. Foster.
- Jacoby Brissett once again came on late with a chance to pull the game out and failed. He holds the ball too long (broken record here) and his accuracy is all over the place.
- Matt Patricia’s defense had another rough game. For a team that prides itself on no big plays, they gave up plays of 33, 37 and 63 yards in Houston. Preseason or not, that is unacceptable and the defense has some work to do.
- Malcolm Butler struggled in his first game action of the year. He gave up a deep pass on the Texans first possession where he had good coverage but when turning, didn’t jump for the ball. Later he slipped in the end zone and gave up an easy touchdown pass to Jaelen Strong.
- Rex Burkhead had a very nice night, he was showing why the Patriots picked him up from the Bengals. On the touchdown drive with Brady, Burkhead accounted for 70 of the 75 yards. He rushed five times for 14 yards and caught four passes for 56 yards including a 22-yard touchdown.
- Stephen Gostkowski was sharp, hitting three field goals (38, 42 and 51). The team had him kicking off out of the end zone last night, possibly to minimize the injury factor. Normally his pooch kickoffs die on about the 5-yard line.
- The Patriots passing game is going to feature the running backs quite a bit this year as the talented wideouts clear out real estate underneath for them to operate. We’ve seen that all summer and it was in evidence last night, Burkhead, and D.J. Foster’s touchdowns were clear cases of this. Dion Lewis had some wiggle room too.
- Fans on social media were piling on Kony Ealy on DeShaun Watson’s touchdown scamper, but that is a mismatch against a defensive lineman. Ealy had his moments but overall played well.
- I love the way Harvey Langi plays, but he has to remain in control, a couple of times he got upfield too far and allowed the QBs to step up and run to the edge.
- One Texan who won’t look forward to the film session for this one will be LB Zach Cunningham. He was victimized…twice on those passes to the backs and looked bad on each.
- During the work up to the draft, I wrote about Texas now Texans running back D’Onta Foreman. I loved the physicality of the big guy and was anxious to see how he looked. He didn’t disappoint. Taking a screen pass, he easily shook off Elandon Roberts and rumbled 63 yards to set up a score. He has tremendous power inside and looks to be a nice pickup.
- Alan Branch played a lot of snaps this week, the team obviously wanted to get him right up to speed quickly.
- James O’Shaughnessy took over the primary 3rd TE role last night and was a frequent target of Jimmy Garoppolo. He had a good week of joint practices both on offense and STs.
- Elandon Roberts took a shot to the ribs by teammate Jonathan Freeny on the Foreman 63-yard catch and was helped off the field. Vincent Valentine turned an ankle but was able to finish the game.
While the collective angst in New England rose perceptibly during the game because of the losing effort. It should be noted that Brady didn’t attempt a pass to Gronkowski and just one short quick out to Cooks.
The offensive line woes with Nate Solder, LaAdrian Waddle, and Tony Garcia out no doubt dictated that but it probably was more to the coaches not showing their cards too much before Week 3.
The defense, however, needs some tweaking, especially they need to improve their tackling in the open field.