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New England Patriots News 11-29, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
November 29, 2020 at 5:00 am ET

New England Patriots News 11-29, AFC East Notes(PHOTO: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports)

🕑 Read Time: 8 minutes

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 11-29 and AFC East notes this week. 

Game Day! The Patriots have yet another test versus another excellent mobile QB in Kyler Murray and the Cardinals.

With every one of Denver’s QBs declared out of today’s game vs New Orleans due to COVID-19, this is not a good look for the shield of the NFL, trying to pass off this game as being legitimate. And all teams except those playing on Monday and Tuesday have been banned from their facilities over the coronavirus.

Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia were both fired in Detroit after they were pasted on Thanksgiving Day by Houston. That isn’t surprising considering how bad the Lions have been under their watch. The timing was slightly so. Interesting fact, the three teams with coaching vacancies already have QBs DeShaun Watson, Matthew Stafford, and Matt Ryan as their starters.

However, we hope that everyone had a wonderful, happy, and safe Thanksgiving. And while everyone was harping about the sales on Black Friday…my family and I did the opposite, we went para-sailing on a relaxing and fun day. 

 Quick Hitters For the Pats, and the NFL: 

Marquez Valdes-Scantling: The Packers wide receiver fumbled after receiving a catch in overtime against Indianapolis and was receiving death threats from a few idiot fans who couldn’t handle the fumble and ultimate loss to the Colts. 

Valdes-Scantling was asked about it by ESPN on Monday.  “Social media gives cowards the right to say whatever they want with no consequences, so I guess that’s one of those things with the profession that we’re in, you’ve got to take it for what it is, don’t let it affect you,” he said. “It doesn’t affect me.”

QB Aaron Rodgers was on the Pat McAfee show and came to his WR’s defense. “Anybody who is so distraught about this that they need to go to Twitter and talk about killing someone, I would suggest that you relax,” Rodgers said. “It’s a game. We’re all trying our best. We’re trying to entertain you, but we’re also trying to do our best because we have a lot of pride in our performance. Nobody’s trying to do anything to f— up our season or your precious watching experience.”

Michael Pinckney: The Patriots’ practice squad linebacker has been suspended for six games by the NFL for taking a banned substance while rehabbing from off-season surgery. According to NESN’s Doug Kyed, “I’m told Patriots rookie practice squad linebacker Michael Pinckney was suspended six games for taking a banned supplement. He did so unknowingly while rehabbing an offseason surgery.”

Did You Know?… On this day in 1964, the Patriots beat the Houston Oilers 34-17. QB Vito “Babe” Parilli had a big day completing 20-36 passes for 336 yards with three TDs and an interception. He completed TD passes of 80 yards to Art Graham, 26 yards to Larry Garron, and 20 yards to Gino Cappelletti. Ross O’Hanley added a 47-yard interception return for a TD. 

4th & 2 Podcast – If you haven’t checked out our podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, please check it out. Russ, Derek, and I recorded a podcast on Thursday talking about the loss to the Texans and were joined by our old friend Miguel Benzan who all of you know as @Patscap

Russ Francis/ Chuck Fairbanks: The former Patriot tight end and head coach both should be in the Patriots team Hall of Fame…this will be on our Sunday posts until it happens.

Michael Onwenu, a Bright Spot in a Rebuilding Year: 

The Patriots have not had the kind of season that fans have been accustomed to in 2020 with the team below .500 at 4-6 this late in the season. Not since Bill Belichick’s first season in 2020 have the Patriots been under .500 at this juncture. But it hasn’t all been doom and gloom. Rookie Michael Onwenu has proved to be a diamond in the rough and an absolute steal for the Patriots in the 6th Round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

The rookie offensive lineman has been outstanding on the field as he’s been extremely solid and has committed just one penalty and allowed only two sacks in 578 offensive snaps in 2020. But what is even more impressive is that he’s fulfilling a multitude of different positions along the offensive line at left guard, right guard, and right tackle. That’s impressive for any offensive lineman. For a rookie with no offseason workouts and very limited interaction with his coaches this spring, it is fantastic. 

The Athletic’s Jeff Howe spoke with his college coach and former Patriots OL coach and a legend among positional coaches, Dante Scarnecchia, who not surprisingly had a hand in the drafting of Onwenu this spring. 

“What a great thing for the Patriots and (Onwenu) because here’s a kid who’s played right guard, right tackle, left guard. How do you do that?” Scarnecchia said. “How do you find a guy in the sixth round who can do all that? I think that’s a hell of a deal and a hell of a tribute to (Patriots co-offensive line coach) Cole (Popovich) and the job they’ve done with the offensive line this year. They’ve done an unbelievable job.”

At Michigan, Onwenu played 34 games at right guard and just one at left guard. But he’s never been asked to play tackle before. His college coach Ed Warriner was even amazed by how well he’s adapted. 

“It really is impressive,” Warinner said. “I’ve never asked a person to do that. The fact that he’s doing it at that high of a level is really impressive. He’s very smart. He’s very detailed in terms of his thinking and learning. It just shows his athletic versatility. No matter what you say – playing the left side, right side, inside, outside – it’s all different. There’s a lot of carryover, but there’s not as much as you think.”

“I never thought anybody would put him at tackle, but the Patriots are open-minded enough and smart enough to realize what they saw of him at guard made them think maybe this guy can play tackle, Warriner added. “My hat’s off to the Patriots for not putting him in a box and saying you can only play this position. That’s pretty cool by them. That’s how they operate. They think outside the box in a lot of areas and have been so successful because of it.”

Onwenu has proved adept and versatile enough that the team can approach the offseason by looking at the big money contracts at  LG Joe Thuney (UFA) and RT Marcus Cannon ($9.6 million) and decide if they can live without them. It will obviously be a factor in negotiations.  

Replacing Rex Burkhead Will Be No Easy Feat:

When the Patriots lost Rex Burkhead last week in Houston, it created a big hole in their running back rotation and also special teams, where the veteran RB also played a sizable role. 

Burkhead’s versatility, being both a runner and receiver in the backfield as well as playing a key ST’s role will be difficult to replace and can’t be done with just one player on the roster.  Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears spoke via a video conference call on Friday about that issue. 

“Rex was a special guy as far as the way he handled himself off the field and the way he contributed on the field,” Fears said. “He was involved in a lot of special teams, as well as having a hell of a role on offense.

“So that’s going to be a big void to fill. But that’s an opportunity for somebody else. Somebody’s got to step up and take his place, and I fully expect our guys to do that. I’ve got a great room, a great bunch of guys in there, and I don’t expect us to lose a step in that room. But missing Rex personally, I love the kid.”

The team already was utilizing Damien Harris as their primary running back with James White as their third-down passing back. Burkhead’s value is that he is versatile enough in either running or receiving to keep defenses honest. Sony Michel is coming off of IR but hasn’t been able to generate anything in the passing game. Rookie running back UDFA J.J. Taylor is very intriguing and offers somewhat of a change of pace back with his speed, and elusiveness. But he doesn’t have a lot of experience in the passing game either. But he could help the STs in the return game. 

In our keys to the game on Friday, we advocating making both active and using Taylor as a returner, and that way he could fill in and get reps at running back as needed. But Michel would back up Harris in the running game. 

NFL Schedule Week 11, 2020, Who Are Your Winners:

How are you feeling about the games this week? We have a post on our PatsFans Forum where our readers can predict the slate of games for that week. 

Last Week:     6-8

Season Total: 106-54-1

Last Season:  162-93-1

Thanksgiving Day Football – 

Detroit over Houston
Dallas over Washington 0-2


Buffalo over LA Chargers
Indianapolis over Tennessee
Minnesota over Carolina
Cleveland over Jacksonville
NY Giants over Cincinnati
Arizona over New England
Miami over NY Jets
Las Vegas over Atlanta
New Orleans over Denver
LA Rams over SF
Kansas City over Tampa Bay

Sunday Night Football:

Green Bay over Chicago

Monday Night Football:

Seattle Over Philadelphia

Tuesday Night Football:
Pittsburgh over Baltimore

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Cody Ford is Out For the Season With a Knee Injury:

The Buffalo Bills announced that OL Cody Ford will miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury, a big loss for their offense as well as their offensive line. 

Ford suffered a torn meniscus in practice on Wednesday, ESPN reported, and will have the surgery required to fix the issue. He’s started 22 of 23 career games since being drafted in the 2nd Round (38th overall) in the 2019 NFL Draft. 

“It’s unfortunate when a guy goes down,” Head Coach Sean McDermott said. “That said, we’re confident in the guys we have. We’re thankful we have position flexibility there.” 

Dolphins Tua, Questionable Today With a Thumb Injury:

The Miami Dolphins rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game at the New York Jets because of an injury to his left thumb suffered during practice on Wednesday.

Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores said he will watch tape from Tagovailoa’s practice to judge his effectiveness with that thumb before making a final decision on if he will play Sunday. Tagovailoa didn’t miss any practice time this week and wants to play Sunday.

“Anytime there’s anything, you have to make a declaration,” Flores said. “We have to watch the film and see what he looks like. We just figured ‘questionable’ was the best declaration for him.”

If Tua isn’t ready to go, the Dolphins have former Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick ready to go. On the season, Fitzpatrick is completing a career-high 69.8 percent of his passes for 1652 yards with 10 TDs and 8 INTs.

Darnold Set to Return to the Jets, Start Against Miami:

The New York Jets QB Sam Darnold is set to return to the starting lineup and will have his top three WRs on the field with him for the first time in 2020. Darnold suffered a shoulder injury that kept him out for the past two games. 

This next stretch of the final six games of 2020, could very well decide whether the Jets keep him under their control or decide to move on in 2021 with either Trevor Lawrence or one of the other impending rookie signal-callers in the upcoming draft.

The 0-10 Jets would be the first to draft and would have the inside track to draft Lawrence if nothing changes down the stretch. It was believed in 2019 that pairing Darnold with Adam Gase would vault the Jets back into being relevant once again. But that has not been the case. But blaming all of the Jets’ myriad of problems on Darnold is very short-sighted.  


Yeah, that’s a great question, and there’s certainly a line there and there’s a little degree of gray area that if you’re so conservative you don’t make any plays and if you take all the risks, then eventually you’re going to pay the price. So, yeah, it’s that gray-area decision making and there are times when you need to take it and there are other times when you certainly don’t want to take it and really don’t even want to even give it too long of a look. So, I think as we continue to go through our repetitions on offense, specifically in the passing game for the quarterbacks and receivers, that the better our execution is and the better decision making is. So, that’s something that we’ll continue to work on, but we’ve certainly seen a variety of coverages and looks that have been challenging from various coordinators and zones, blitz zones, pressures, man pressures, some three-man rush, some five, six, seven-man rushes, as well. So, it’s really disciplining for the quarterback of working his progression, reading through keys, and discipline with the receivers to run good routes, run them properly, attack leverage, not get undercut, things like that. Because we all know that bad rounds can lead to turnovers quicker than anything. So, it’s the coordination and consistency of the passing game from the thrower to the catcher and of course, the protection is a big part of that, too.

Bill Belichick after being asked about the balancing of risk/reward of quarterbacks and other players of balancing risk with making a big play  


“So, how was your week?”

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

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About Steve Balestrieri

A former US Army Special Forces NCO and Officer, Steve has been following the Patriots since their days at Fenway Park. Steve has worked in the film industry and wrote as an Military Editor at, as a reporter for the Millbury Daily Voice, Millbury-Sutton Chronicle, and the Grafton News. He's also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Tags: Bill Belichick Buffalo Bills Cam Newton James White Julian Edelman Miami Dolphins New England Patriots New York Jets NFL Patriots Rex Burkhead Sony Michel

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