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MORSE: 15 Observations from Week 9 – Patriots vs Panthers

Mark Morse
Mark Morse on Twitter
2 years ago at 3:34 pm ET
Posted Under: 2021 Patriots Season

MORSE: 15 Observations from Week 9 – Patriots vs PanthersJim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

I knew this was going to be a tough game against a quality Defense.  It was strength against strength and the Patriots imposed their will on the Panthers.  You could tell how physical the game was by the number of injuries, on both sides.  I expected a low-scoring game, but it was the defense that gave the Patriots this win.

  1. With the pick-six by JC Jackson, the Patriots Defense actually outscored the Panthers. Even when the Patriots turned the ball over, the Defense was stout and held the Panthers to field goals.   The Patriots’ defense held Carolina to 240 yards of total offense.  The Panthers ran 23 times for 78 yards.  Last week they ran 40+ times!  They were 3-11 on 3rd down and 0-2 in the Red Zone.  I will also add that Carolina lost two starting Offensive linemen which didn’t help.  The Patriots defense has not allowed more than 24 points in regulation, in any game this year.  They played very complementary football.  The secondary blanketed the receivers with a combination of man-to-man and zone.  JC Jackson said in the post-game press conference they played more zone than they usually did.  The pass rush, with normally just four rushing put pressure on Darnold all day and forced him out of the pocket with nowhere to throw the ball.  The Patriots Defense started with Lawrence Guy, Carl Davis, and Davon Godchaux as the three-down lineman.  That’s a lot of beef.  The Pats replaced the lighter Deitrich Wise at DT.  Look for this same lineup against the run-heavy Browns next week.  When it came to 3rd and long they played Matt Judon outside next to Christian Barmore.  That’s an interesting combo.  Ja’Whuan Bentley didn’t show up in the highlight reels but his play at ILB had been outstanding and getting better.  He takes on OG and plants them in the hole the RB is supposed to be running through.
  2. JC Jackson had two interceptions, one for a pick-six. This is from a player that was sick for two days this week (strep throat).  Bill Belichick praised Jackson in his post-game press conference touting how well he practiced on Friday.  He is going to get paid one way or another.  The Patriots may have to tag him in order to keep him.  I would like to see Jackson signed to a long-term contract, but that is going to cost big bucks to accomplish.  Darnold was 1 for 4, 2 INTs, throwing against Jackson.
  3. Christian Barmore is getting ink every week. It’s well deserved!  He was outstanding today and is already a force in the league.  Even Bill Belichick ranted on about Barmore in his post-game press conference.  He stated how Barmore is in early every day and working on his flexibility, strength, and hand placement.  Barmore is now working all three downs and is now seeing double team blocks.  On those, he is powering his way through those blocks too.   His stat line was 3 hurries, 2 run stops, 2 blocked passes, and a season-high 81.8 Pro Football Focus (PFF) grade.  One of the battered down passes would have been a TD to McCaffrey who beat Hightower badly one-on-one.   Barmore had his 1st public interview after the game and he was very polite and jovial.
  4. Matt Judon is a beast. His play is evident all over the field.  On one particular play, the ball is run away from him, and the edge is set forcing the running back inside.  Judon comes from the opposite side of the field to make the tackle.  His pressure on the QB is relentless. It was his pressure that forced Darnold to overthrow his target and into the arms of Jackson.   I thought there should have been a couple of holding calls against the Tackles with a necktie hold on Judon.  Even if he doesn’t get the sack his pressure is forcing the QB off his spot.
  5. What an exceptional play by Jamie Collins Sr. on his interception. That was a heck of an athletic move to time his jump and pick off that fastball throw, a mere 5 feet away.
  6. Brandon Bolden has become quite the valuable player. Many people had written him off as a special teams only player.  They forgot how well he played the one year he was away from the Patriots with Miami.  He has filled in for James White remarkably well.  Nobody expected the contribution Bolden has made.  He has caught the ball much better than anyone expected.  His blocking on third down has been good, better than the rookies.  This week he runs for 54 yards on 8 carries for a 6.75 per carry.
  7. Rhamondre Stevenson had a really good game before he sustained the head injury. He had 62 yards on 10 carries 6.2 per carry and 3 catches for 44 yards.  His big 41-yard swing pass reception was a pretty thing.  I particularly liked his power run and he split two defenders, breaking both tackles.  His head injury came on a cheap shot by a Panther defender while he was on the ground.  He was kicked in the head as the defender ran by after the play.  More on injuries later.
  8. The O Line needs to get credit for their performance against a top run-stopping D Line. This was the top-rushing performance by the Patriots so far this year.  Not all is good as Isaiah Wynn had a rough day protecting Mac Jones and blocking for Damien Harris.  He missed a block against Brian Burns that resulted in a strip-sack by Jones.  Later he let Burns go and Shaq Mason was supposed to pick him up.  Mason was late and Burns met Harris as soon as he got the handoff.  Harris was injured on the play.
  9. This was not a good day for Mac Jones. Poor blocking was to blame for the strip-sack, but Jones also held onto the ball.  It was 3rd and 4 at the Panthers 47 yard line with 39 seconds left in the 1st  Brandon Bolden had split wide right and motioned back to his normal half-back spot.  Jones had Bolden open on a little curl route out of the backfield.  He was looking downfield and missed him altogether.  Jones missed his pre-snap read that showed a single high safety and no one in the middle.  It should have been a simple dump-off to Bolden who had his defender trailing behind him badly.  Jones’s numbers for the day were a pedestrian 12 of 18 for 139 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, and a fumble.   The INT was a great play by Stephon Gilmore.  Gilmore shut down Jakobi Meyers.  Myers was supposed to get a pick from Jonnu Smith, who was late and ran a bad route.  Gilmore came over the top of the route and beat Meyers to the ball.   It looked like Jones was throwing it directly to Gilmore, but was really a great read and reaction by Gilmore. Like he was running the play for the WR.   I must give Jones credit for two 75 yard drives that proved to be the difference in this game.
  1. Injuries piled up in his game. Gunner Olszewski went out early on a vicious hit.  He was out with a concussion.  I expect him to be put on IR and replaced by a new player.  Both Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris went out with head injuries.  The Pats finished with just Brandon Bolden at running back.  Look for JJ Taylor to be active.  I don’t know what the status of Malcolm Perry is, but we may be looking at a street Free Agent RB being added.  Some veteran names out there (it’s thin) Duke Johnson, Ito Smith, Bo Scarborough, and Frank Gore.  Tyler Gaffney would know the offense but not sure he has anything to offer.  Could they convince Dion Lewis to come out of retirement? Don’t know if there are players that are other teams Practice Squads that could help.  This should be a hot topic this week.  Jonnu Smith re-injured his shoulder.  He may be another candidate for the IR squad.  His performance has been a big disappointment this year.
  2. I cannot believe Matt Ruhle did not replace Sam Darnold after the second interception. Carolina was still in the game at that point.  Darnold is still seeing ghosts and was owned by the New England Defense.  He was 16 of 33 for 172 yards.  A lot of that came in the 4th quarter where the Patriots were giving up the inside stuff and playing not to get beat deep.  He was 5 of 9 on that last drive.  Darnold had no TDs, 3 INTs, and a rating of 3.0
  3. I still didn’t like to play-calling by Josh McDaniel. He called three screen passes against a team that is the best defending the screen pass.  None of the three worked.  I also didn’t like the 52 yard FG attempt.  The Patriots didn’t need the points and pinning the Panthers back in their own end was more important.  Carolina started at their own 44 because of the missed kick.  Another controversial call was not to go for 4th and one in the 1st quarter.  I didn’t have a problem with that call, they were playing for field position with the game scoreless.
  4. There were too many penalties for the offense. How do you get a delay of game penalty coming off a TV timeout?  The Patriots constantly put themselves in a bind with penalties and thus a scoreless 1st   You play a good team, and you are not recovering from those mistakes.
  5. Hunter Henry has become the go-to target of Jones in the Red Zone. This is exactly why they went out and got him.   Henry has scored 5 TDs in the last 6 weeks.
  6. Christian McCaffrey, in limited play, was the only bright spot for Carolina. The Patriots limited him to 52 yards rushing on 14 carries.  He had 4 catches for 54 yards.  Three of those receptions came in the last two drives.  Why didn’t they take advantage of the matchup of McCaffrey against either Bentley or Hightower earlier in the game?  In the end, the Patriots were giving up everything in front of them.


Odell Beckham Jr Release

Rumors are flying that the Cleveland Browns will release Odell Beckham Jr today.  The pre-game talk shows were full of the OBJ talk.   One such rumor had OBJ linked to the Patriots and having OBJ telling teams not to claim him because he wants to play for a winner.  Specifically, he wants to play for the Patriots.  He is a mercurial type of player and would immediately give the Pats the downfield threat they don’t presently have.

Greg Bedard of Boston Sports Journal had a nice article on the Pros and Cons of signing OBJ.  Jaguars, Eagles, Broncos, Seahawks, Panthers, Washington, Chargers, and Steelers are the only teams that could claim him and fit him under the salary cap.  None of those teams are likely to claim him. Bedard also states that Belichick and Robert Kraft already have a relationship with Beckham.  He ultimately went with signing him after he clears waivers.  The main point is this would be a tryout for next year.  It would offer some confusion with Agholor and Beckham playing the same position and neither having the flexibility to play other WR positions.  Bedard also pointed out that no rookie QB has ever played in the Super Bowl.  Tom Brady was a starter only after Drew Bledsoe got hurt but he had an entire year of tutelage under Drew Bledsoe and QB coach Dick Rehbein.

If I was the Browns, I would hold onto Beckham until later in the week or even next week, after the Browns play the Patriots.

Jones a “dirty play” after strip-sack

To me, this was not a dirty play, but a QB trying to prevent a defender from getting to the fumble.  It happens all the time.  It was actually Burns fighting to get loose that caused the twist of the ankle.  I would say to Hassan Reddick who had the most to say about the play, why don’t you make more than three tackles including the sack in the game?  Then perhaps you can open your trap about plays.


Posted Under: 2021 Patriots Season

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