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Patriots News 11- 14, Belichick on Sun Tzu Strategy, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
2 years ago at 5:00 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots News

Patriots News 11- 14, Belichick on Sun Tzu Strategy, AFC East NotesKirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning and we hope everyone has a happy Sunday.  Here is your Sunday Patriots news 11-14, and AFC East Notes.

Gameday, now that the insane amount of OBJ speculation is over, the Patriots, and the Browns meet this afternoon and with each team at 5-4, there are already playoff and division implications for each team at play here. While it doesn’t fall quite into a “must-win” scenario, it is darned close for each team. 

We expect a hard-nosed, defensive football game today, and although both teams have carved an identity with being a power running team, both teams should be missing significant players at running back. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

With Kareem Hunt still on IR, the Browns will be without Nick Chubb and Demetric Felton with COVID-19. The Patriots will be without Damien Harris who was ruled out on Friday and Rhamondre Stevenson, who didn’t practice all week while on concussion protocol and as of Saturday night was still listed as questionable. But there were reports surfacing that he may have a chance to play. It may come down to a game-time decision.

Matt LaCosse and Tashawn Bower were activated from the practice squad, while Jamie Collins was placed on IR with an ankle injury. Trent Brown’s activation immediately brings questions as to how they’ll opt to use him at either right or left tackle.

This afternoon’s game is the 1000th of the Patriots history, hopefully, they’ll make it a memorable one at home with a big win

Have you checked out our sortable stats for the Patriots? It is a great resource for all of the players on the roster.  

Quick Hitters For the Pats, and the NFL: 

Christian Barmore: The Patriots’ 2nd round draft pick is quickly making himself invaluable on the defense as an impact player, which for a rookie in this system is something to behold. 

Barmore played a huge role in the Patriots’ win over the Panthers on Sunday and although he didn’t figure largely on the stat sheet, real football is is quite different than fantasy football. And his efforts were huge in the utter disruption with the Panthers’ offense. Bill Belichick uttered some unusual praise on his development after the game.

“He’s worked extremely hard. I’ve got to give that kid a lot of credit: He comes in early, he stays late, he works on his flexibility, his strength, his technique.

“He’s really applied himself, and he’s just gotten better and better every week in the running game, in the passing game, more discipline, use of hands, recognition of plays. He’s done a good job for us and he’s a big man.’’

The big man (6’5, 311 pounds) reminds one of a young Richard Seymour, and although he has a long, long way to go to reach those heights, he’s off to a helluva good start. 

NFL Parity On Full Display: People began questioning the Buffalo Bills after their 9-6 loss to Jacksonville on Sunday, Doubt them if you will, but the Bills were hardly alone this season and last week, It is a case that on any given Sunday if you don’t bring your A-Game, you are playing with fire. 

Early season front-runners for the MVP,  Josh Allen, Dak Prescott, and Matthew Stafford had their teams lose in embarrassing fashion on Sunday. The Jets have beaten the Titans and Bengals and then on Thursday Night Football, the Dolphins shut down the Ravens and current MVP favorite Lamar Jackson. If anything, the craziness of this season has left the league, especially the AFC wide open which makes things more interesting as the season wears on.  

Aaron Rodgers and the NFL: The NFL, as we wrote right here last week, has been consistently inconsistent with its policy of fines and Park Ave. once again reared its ugly head with the Aaron Rodgers “investigation”. 

Rodgers was fined $14,650 for attending a team Halloween party because unvaccinated players are not allowed to gather with teammates in groups of more than three outside of the team facility. The Packers were fined $300,000 for not reporting Rodgers and Lazard’s presence at the party and for not disciplining Rodgers for failing to wear his mask during press conferences.

But Rodgers and the Packers were not fined for allowing Rodgers to fly on the team charter plane (unmasked). He was also photographed at another indoor event at a bar with teammates unmasked which should have incurred additional fines. Some investigation. 

Meanwhile, the Cowboys Cee Dee Lamb was fined $15,450 for having his shirt untucked for the second time during a game. So, to Park Avenue, having your shirt untucked is more egregious than putting people’s lives at risk during a global pandemic.

Tony Corrente/ Cassius Marsh: Monday Night Football was not a good look for the league when the officiating crew of Tony Corrente had a couple of bad calls against the Chicago Bears, one of which wiped out a touchdown in the Bears 29-27 loss to the Steelers. The other wiped out a 3rd down sack by Cassius Marsh that would have given the Bears back the ball, instead, it gave Pittsburgh a first down in field goal range, which they later converted. 

On the first play, guard James Daniels was whistled for a low block on a TD pass for being outside the tight end box. Daniels wasn’t and didn’t even make contact with T.J. Watt. 

On the Marsh taunting penalty, Corrente ruled that Marsh’s move towards the Pittsburgh bench was taunting but watching the replay, Marsh claimed that Corrente moved into his path, in effect, “hip-checking” him and only then threw the flag. And he is correct. 

There is little sympathy concerning Marsh in New England (Brian Burns and his “Wanted Dead or Alive” poster now run a close second), however, in this case, it was Corrente, not Marsh who initiated contact then reached for his flag…unfathomable. But the league decided to fine Marsh and the news doesn’t end there…

John Gruden Law Suit: While this wasn’t a banner week for the NFL, the news got even better as former Bucs and Raiders coach John Gruden is suing the NFL, commissioner Roger Goodell and 20 unnamed defendants, claiming that “through a malicious and orchestrated campaign,” Goodell and the NFL worked to “destroy” Gruden’s “career and reputation.”

Gruden’s lawyers called the defendants’ (NFL, Goodell) actions “Soviet-style character assassination” where during a long investigation of the Washington football team and owner Daniel Snyder, they held over 600,000 emails but selectively leaked only Gruden’s emails to Bruce Allen. You gotta love those self-serving leaks from Park Avenue.

The lawsuit alleges that when the first leak occurred the league warned the Raiders that they’d release even more damaging emails unless Gruden was fired, which they did. Among the charges made by Gruden’s lawyers, the biggest and most believable by far is that “There was a conspiracy to release “only those emails that portrayed Gruden negatively” and singled him out in spite of the full investigation into the Washington franchise.

None of this excuses Gruden’s behavior which his firing or resignation was justified but his charge of being singled out, especially considering the actions of the Washington front office ring true. The league responded with “The allegations are entirely meritless and the NFL will vigorously defend against these claims.”

4th & 2 Podcast: If you haven’t checked out our podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, please check it out. We’ll be getting together on Monday to do a post-game look at the Browns and an early glimpse at the upcoming Falcons game.

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.

Browns Two or Three Tight End Looks, A Key Area to Watch: 

The Patriots are facing a very physical offensive team today in the Browns. And even though they are shorthanded at RB today, their physical nature will make this a game that will be difficult for the front seven. 

Cleveland runs a ton of two-tight end sets and even a lot with three tight ends on the field. It makes their running game click and they use their tight ends in the passing game, throwing a lot of screen passes to their tight ends. Bill Belichick spoke about this earlier this week. 

“If you have them (tight ends), they give you more formation versatility than any other position,” Belichick said. “If you don’t have them, you can’t manufacture them. It’s a hard position to find, but if you have them, they create formational problems and they create mismatches in the running game and the passing game. 

“They give you a lot of formation options, a lot of protection options, a lot of play-action options, a lot of blocking combinations, schemes. Even on zone plays, there’s still an extra guy there. He builds another gap, however, you form it. I doubt there are too many offensive coaches that couldn’t use a good tight end or wouldn’t use them.” 

This week the front seven, but most especially the linebackers will have to really step up. Dont’a Hightower and Ja’Whaun Bentley have been singled out as having been very effective against the run lately. But the passing game will present a different set of challenges, and missing Jamie Collins this week will hurt. 

Patriots Players to Watch Today:

Every week we look at the game within a game. Here are our players to watch from a Patriots perspective today. 

Mac Jones —  The Patriots’ QB will be looked at to provide a lot more than his 12 completions last week since the Cleveland defense is so stout against the run (3rd in the league). Jones is facing a tough secondary that is seemingly hitting its stride as well, so the onus will be moving the chains and protecting the ball. 

It will be interesting to see what the offensive game plan is this week and how aggressive the play calling will or won’t be. This will be Jones’ toughest task of the season yet.

Christian Barmore — The Patriots’ defense will be looked at to slow the running game of Cleveland down enough to put Baker Mayfield into obvious passing situations on third down, where his numbers have not been good. While the entire DL will be on notice here, Barmore’s contributions also will be looked at in the passing game. 

Facing a very good Browns’ OL, he’ll be tasked with bringing inside pressure on Mayfield who has been sacked 24 times this year. 

Isaiah Wynn — The Patriots’ left tackle, unless Trent Brown is activated and moved there has the unenviable task of blocking Myles Garrett this afternoon. While Wynn’s game has improved, especially in the running game lately, this will be a very tall order to block one of the NFL’s premier pass rushers.

I expect that blocking Garrett will not be just a one-man operation, we can expect a tight end or guard (Ted Karras) to provide some help in this regard. But if Garrett takes over the game, then it will be a long afternoon for the Patriots’ offense.

Adrian Phillips —  Although we just highlighted that the Patriots linebackers will have to have a big game against the Browns’ tight ends, Phillips has been a big factor in limiting tight end production.  

Phillips will probably draw Cleveland’s excellent tight end David Njoku in coverage today. How well he performs will go a long way in determining how well the defense defends the pass today. Look for Kyle Dugger to draw Austin Hooper. 

Brandon Bolden — With Damien Harris out and Rhamondre Stevenson still a possibility to miss today’s game, the onus of the running game will fall to the Patriots’ veteran Bolden, who has shown in the past that he can fill in as needed. 

Bolden has been filling the James White, 3rd down back receiving role this season since White was placed on IR, but today, it looks to be even more. He’ll get some help from J.J. Taylor and even TE Jonnu Smith, but look for Bolden to get a heavy workload today. 

Week 10 Predictions:

The slate of games for Week 10 and my predictions straight up for this week.

Thursday Night Football
Miami over Baltimore  0-1

Sunday –
Tennessee over New Orleans
Buffalo over NY Jets
Pittsburgh over Detroit
Indianapolis over Jacksonville
Tampa Bay over Washington
New England over Cleveland
Dallas over Atlanta
Arizona over Carolina
LA Chargers over Minnesota
Green Bay over Seattle
Denver over Philadelphia
Sunday Night Football
Las Vegas over Kansas City
Monday Night Football
LA Rams over San Francisco

Last Week:            8-6
Season:               92-44

Last Season:    169-86-1

2019 Season:   162-93-1

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Look to Reignite Their Running Game:

The Buffalo Bills look to get back on the winning track against the Jets this week and a big way for that to happen is for the running game to get back on track. In the past four games, the Bills’ running game has been virtually non-existent and it is making their offense one-dimensional. 

Whether it is the running backs or the offensive line, or a combination of both remains to be seen, but in a piece in the Buffalo News, the Bills running backs have gained just 54 yards before contact during the past 4 games according to Pro Football Focus.

Also, Buffalo has just five (5) rushing first downs during that time frame. By far the fewest in the league (New Orleans is next with 11). Buffalo is also the only NFL team during this drought without a rushing touchdown by a running back

Robert Hunt’s Effort Was the Play of the Game on MNF:

During the Miami Dolphins thrilling win on MNF, arguably the play of the game belonged to Dolphins’ offensive lineman Robert Hunt.

With the Dolphins driving early in the fourth quarter, Tua Tagovailoa was trying to throw a screen pass to his running back as the Ravens were bringing pressure.

Somehow, Hunt got in the middle of the play and snagged the ball. He deftly avoided would-be tackler and dove after being upended into the end zone. However, because he didn’t report in as an eligible receiver the Dolphins were flagged for an ineligible receiver. The touchdown was erased and Miami would eventually settle for a field goal.

Regardless, it was a great play by the 2nd year player and highlighted the overall effort that Miami played with on Thursday night. 

“I just kind of saw it and it was third down. I was, like, all right, let’s try to – it was a big game. I wanted to win. I just saw the ball, and I don’t know. I just blanked out, man. I just caught the ball and tried to run with it,” he said. “Calais (Campbell) did a really good job of defending the play, though.”

Jets’ White Says “I Should Have Been a 1st Round Pick”:

The Jets’ backup QB is once again getting the start this week when the Jets try to upset the Buffalo Bills. One thing that isn’t lacking in White’s game is confidence. He became an instant sensation when he led the Jets to a win over Cincinnati two weeks ago. He was hurt early last week in a close loss to Indianapolis. Now he’s back in the starter’s role for the Bills. 

Asked why he fell so far in the NFL in the NFL Draft, White had an answer. 

 “I couldn’t tell you. That’s definitely the scouting departments across the league and what their interpretation of me is. I have 100% confidence in myself. So if you ask me, I should have been a first overall pick. But that’s neither here nor there. That’s four years ago. I try to get my mind off that and be in the here and now and execute what my job is right now,” he said.

The former 5th round pick of the Cowboys now faces a big challenge from the Bills defense. 


“It’s evolved. I think if you want to go far enough, look at Sun Tzu. Look at the great generals, you exploit your strengths and attack weaknesses. That’s about as fundamental as it gets. If there’s something that you can do well, you want to try to do it. If there is something that your opponent is weak at, you want to try to attack it, and if you can match those up, then that’s a good way of attack. Sometimes it’s not as easy to get to the weaknesses as you would like because they do things to try to make it difficult for you to expose them in areas maybe that they’re not as strong, whether that’s schematically or personnel. Those both are, obviously, components there. The same thing with strengths. If you keep doing the same thing all the time, that makes it easier for them to stop it. If you can find a way to use your strengths without them really knowing exactly what you’re doing, or you have some little bit of disguise or distraction to it, then, I think, fundamentally, that’s really what you try to do. Be sound, play to your strengths and attack the opponent’s weaknesses. Again, that’s a much longer, detailed conversation, but at the heart of it, that’s really where it starts for us every week. What do we need to stop, and what can we do, and then build it from there.”

Bill Belichick’s comments when asked about how game plans have developed in the NFL.


“So, how was your week?”

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on Stitcher and Streamyard as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens, and myself from discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.


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Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: Bill Belichick Buffalo Bills Devin McCourty Dont'a Hightower James White Jamie Collins Mac Jones Miami Dolphins New England Patriots New York Jets NFL Patriots Sun Tzu

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