Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 10-8, & AFC East Notes.
After playing a pair of games in four days, the Patriots are off today and have some well-needed rest until they face the Jets next Sunday in the Meadowlands.
Winston Calls Meeting Brady “an Honor” After the Game:
A rather poignant moment took place after the game outside the Patriots locker room. Tom Brady had just finished his press conference and was heading to the team bus. Bucs QB Jameis Winston was waiting for him and the two shared a few quality moments chatting.
Winston had mentioned prior to the game, which was relayed on the broadcast by Tony Romo and Jim Nantz that he was looking forward to chatting with Brady after the game and had said that as a young boy playing QB, that you always dream of being a “Joe Montana, Peyton Manning or Tom Brady.” After the meeting, Winston was very open about his respect for #12 stating, “It was an honor. I told him thank you. A lot,” Winston said. “That’s a blessing, man, to meet someone like that. I dream to be able to be the type of quarterback he is for his team to our team.”
“It was a privilege and an honor to meet him, to look him in his eye, to shake his hand. It felt good. That was another highlight of my night,” he added. “I hate that he beat me, but he beats a lot of people.”
Brady spoke very highly of Winston, in his post-game presser. What was a bit surprising was the outcry on social media from many Bucs fans who took exception to their QB meeting with the opposing team’s QB. Really? Obviously, Winston has great respect for Brady, just from his comments he made prior to the game. It may very well be the only time the two will face off against one another. And where is the outcrying of bad vibes with the fans where after every game, the players from both teams meet at midfield and speak?
This one feels like a sour-grapes type of reaction. The Bucs are one of the up and coming teams in the NFL. This week was widely billed as a benchmark type of game for Tampa against a wounded and vulnerable Super Bowl champion. And when they came up short, fans are taking it out on their QB….wrong answer.
Run Defense Wasn’t As Bad as First Glance:
One of the reasons I dislike Thursday’s games is that with such a short turnaround, you typically get a much inferior product, sloppier play, more penalties, and less chance for injured players to get back on the field. Thursday night was no exception. Neither the Bucs or the Patriots put on a “best performance” type of game by any stretch.
But much of the talk on Friday remained on the Patriots defense. And one of the talking points was the run defense. Many pointed out, (and correctly so) that Doug Martin, fresh off of suspension ran for 74 yards on 13 carries, a 5.7 yard per carry average. But two-thirds of those came on one drive in the second quarter. On the Bucs scoring drive, Martin carried five times for 48 yards. The remainder of the game, he had eight carries for 26 yards, a 3.25-yard average. While no one is excusing that one drive (as well as the missed tackles) on that one, but the overall tone for the rest of the game speaks about a better effort and adjustments made after the half (6 carries for 19 yards). We’ll see if the defense does a better job against the Jets next Sunday.
Amendola Gets Love From Coaches, Brady:
We are always singing the praises of Danny Amendola on these pages and what’s not to love? When the season was being looked at in training camp, we had (and rightfully so) that while Amendola may be the fifth option in the passing game behind Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Brandon Cooks and Chris Hogan, he was a valuable and trusted member of Tom Brady’s “Circle of Trust.”
With Edelman gone for the year, Malcolm Mitchell on IR, and Rob Gronkowski missing the game with a thigh injury, his stock has risen sharply. He was targeted eight times on Thursday night and made eight catches for 77 yards. He also had a big return (which we called in our pregame matchups) on Special Teams. Josh McDaniels was impressed with his performance.
“There’s nothing I don’t love about Danny Amendola,” said McDaniels. “Every time he’s out there, you feel good about what may happen if the ball is headed towards him, and he always comes up big in the biggest moments or biggest games. Danny’s having a very good beginning to the season, and we want to continue to try to do that.”
Bill Belichick echoed the praise, “Yeah, I thought Danny gave us a lot of critical plays in the game,” Belichick said. “He gave us punt returns, some catches and he blocked well. He’s one of our best and most dependable players.”
Tom Brady has always trusted him, even in the most key situations of the biggest games and appreciates what he has in the little big man. “Danny played great. He always does,” Brady said. “He’s had such a great year. I’m so proud of him. He’s so tough. He’s someone I just love playing with.”
Amendola is a very clutch, money player. He’s usually the last one you’d worry about holding onto the ball and in fact, his best catch was probably the one disallowed via penalty. He made a one-handed grab along the sideline which was a beauty. BTW where are all those folks who wanted to cut him this summer?
Return of the A-Gap Blitz:
One of the things we’ve been clamoring to see this season is the return of the A-gap blitz, both Hightower and the traded Jamie Collins were excellent at providing pressure right up the middle at the snap. No better way to influence the passing game than coming straight up the gut. The QB has to get rid of the ball quickly or suffer the sack.
On Thursday Matt Patricia sent Elandon Roberts on an A-Gap blitz in the 2nd half with Tampa backed up on their two-yard line. Jameis Winston had to unload the ball which he did….far from any WR in the zip code and plunked a cheerleader off the dome with the ball. Why wasn’t this called an intentional grounding penalty? In the second Super Bowl against the Giants, Tom Brady unloaded the ball down the middle of the field well over the head of the receiver and was called for it, costing the Patriots a safety. This was another case of the same thing.
I thought the Patriots may challenge that one. Ah well….it is a losing proposition trying to make sense of officiating at any level. If you have any doubt, attend a Grafton High School football game. They’ve been on a bad streak with calls going against them for…going on four years.
Alan Branch Is One of the Bigger (not-so-good) Surprises of the Season:
Entering 2017, the Patriots were hoping to go with a four-man rotation inside on the defensive line with Malcolm Brown, Alan Branch, Lawrence Guy and Vincent Valentine. Branch has been one of the stalwarts along the defensive line the past few years and has performed excellently against the run.
But thus far, in 2017, his play has suffered and he’s playing in less than 30 percent of the defensive snaps. He was a healthy scratch for the Tampa game and was left home in Massachusetts while the team traveled to Florida.
With Valentine on IR, that leaves the Patriots dangerously thin at defensive tackle. Was this latest by Bill Belichick, just sending a message to Branch that his play was unacceptable? Or does it signify that perhaps they’re moving on from the 32-year old veteran as he can’t move anymore and is having trouble with single blocking, never mind the double-teams he generally faces inside.
Next week at the Jets will tell a story, one way or the other.
Want to Join the Patriots Boston Marathon Team?
One of the biggest events every spring in New England is the annual Boston Marathon. For the 10th consecutive year, the Kraft Foundation and the Patriots are official sponsors for the 2018 Boston Marathon.
As a sponsor, the Pats have a limited amount of bibs for the race. To be placed on the team, you’ll have to raise a minimum $7500 for the Kraft Foundation, and if selected, you’ll get an official Patriots Boston Marathon team uniform, training from a marathon coach, access to training runs, fundraising tips from the Foundation and fundraising incentives.
For more information on the Patriots Boston Marathon team, visit www.patriots.com/community/marathon-team.
Who Do You Like This Week NFL Week 4:
Last week was another tough one but at least I rebounded late to finish 10-6.
Season Total: 41-22.
This week’s Thursday Night Football Game I went with the Patriots in a three-point win over the Bucs… Now for the rest (14 games now with bye weeks) of the slate:
Jets at Browns – New York (w/a Buff loss today, the Jets could play NE for a share of the division lead in Week 6, who saw this coming at the beginning of the season?)
Panthers at Lions – Detroit (Let’s see how resurgent Newton truly is)
49ers at Colts – Indianapolis
Titans at Dolphins – Miami
Bills at Bengals – Cincinnati
Chargers at Giants – New York
Jaguars at Steelers – Pittsburgh
Cardinals at Eagles – Philadelphia
Seahawks at Rams – Los Angeles
Ravens at Raiders – Baltimore
Packers at Cowboys – Dallas
Chiefs at Texans – Kansas City
Vikings at Bears – Minnesota
Bye week: Falcons, Saints, Broncos, Redskins
Next Thursday Night Philadelphia over Carolina
Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:
Bills Sources Line Up to Crow About Gilmore’s Struggles:
The Buffalo Bills have lost several free agents to the Patriots the past few years and they’re obviously smarting about it. So it comes to little surprise when cornerback Stephon Gilmore has struggled in the first few weeks of the season, that sources inside of the Bills organization couldn’t wait to line up and take a shot at New England for the signing.
Before the Tampa Bay game, Albert Breer of MMQB and NBC Boston said he’d spoke with sources inside of the Bills and they had no shock that Gilmore has struggled as a member of the Patriots. “The guys who are there, who have coached him, who have played with him, are not surprised at all from what they’ve seen,” Breer said. “In fact, I’ll tell you what one source in Buffalo said to me about him. ‘Loved to blame everyone else, he sucked last year. We were all surprised when he got a big deal. Not a competitor. He has no dog in him.'”
Breer jumped on the ship with this line of reasoning as well, stating, “And so I just look at this and I say, that they must have missed something because this does not seem like the type of player that the Patriots typically go out and get. These same people were telling me, okay, Chris Hogan? Totally fit the Patriots. Mike Gillislee? Totally fit the Patriots. So the other guys who came from Buffalo and wound up here, like it made sense to the Bills people. Gilmore was kind of an outlier.”
Do I doubt that some people in Buffalo said these things? Not at all. But I’m always leery when someone is out there ready to throw a player totally under the bus and then not put their name to it. Gilmore played very well on Thursday night holding Mike Evans to five catches for 49 yards. So we’ll see if this was a trend in the opposite direction.
And the Boo-Birds are Circling for the Dolphins Cutler:
The Miami Dolphins lost their starting QB Ryan Tannehill this summer and went out and signed Jay Cutler who had retired and was working as a football analyst. Cutler stated at the time, it wasn’t for the money ($10 million) but for the love of the game that he was returning. Dolphins head coach Adam Gase had worked with Cutler and the QB had one of his best seasons with Gase. So the signing made some sense.
But after just three games, the “I-told-you-so” crowd is out in force and unlike the Gilmore “sources” above, these critics are taking it overtly, and off the top rope.
Social media accounts were harping on Cutler after the Dolphins were shut out last week against the Saints. Former Bears player and current Chicago talk show host Olin Kreutz: “Matt Moore will start for the Dolphins before the year is over.” Ouch.
Former NFL running back Jarrett Payton after a Cutler interception: “That’s the Jay Cutler I know.” Others such as Fox’s Shannon Sharpe among others followed with the same line but also did so while beating the “they-should-have-signed-Kaepernick” spiel. Who knew Kaepernick was so good all this time? The Dolphins face a Titans team that is struggling to defend the pass so far this season. With a loaded team of talent around him, if Cutler struggles, then the calls for his hide will only get louder.
Jets Social Media Department Lays an Egg:
There is never any lack of drama coming out of New York and the Jets, flush off two wins in their last three games are feeling their oats. Since many people felt the Jets would go 0-16, a 2-2 start is enough for the Jets social media department, never ones to let a trolling opportunity to pass, to go after this week’s opponent, the 0-4 Cleveland Browns.
The Twitter post was a cartoon picture based on the Browns’ logo of their Dawg Pound pooch. In the Jets’ troll post, the cartoon dog has a sad face, wearing both a post-surgical ‘cone of shame’ and a collar with a Jets ownership tag on it. Beneath the cartoon was a single word: “Sit.” The subliminal message was that the Jets own you and the dog with his cone can’t reach the dog cookies underneath with the Jets’ permission. Amazing what two wins will do.
Coach Todd Bowles was none-too-pleased and stated for the record that the Jets, “nothing to brag about.”
That bit of trolling will be nothing compared to what will happen next week if the Jets beat Cleveland today. If Buffalo loses to Cincinnati, the Jets will play the Patriots next week in the Meadowlands with a shot at the division lead in Week 6. Anyone who saw this coming before the season raise your hand…Anyone? Bueller?
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