Some Patriots news and notes on this Wednesday:
1) The Patriots will get back to work today as they start getting ready for their next match-up down in Pittsburgh against the 1-0 Steelers, who are coming off an impressive overtime road win against the Cincinnati Bengals. However, they lost linebacker T.J. Watt late in that one, with Watt reportedly suffering a pectoral injury that will keep him out for at least the next month.
That at least works in New England’s favor, removing one talented player from the Steelers’ defense heading into this one. Pittsburgh’s defense made things miserable overall against the Bengals, coming up with 11 QB hits and 9 passes defended. They also forced two fumbles, with one recovery.
Head coach Mike Tomlin talked about Watt’s injury on Tuesday and said he was “encouraged” with his prognosis.
“I can definitively say that T.J. won’t play this week, but I won’t make any commitments beyond that,” said Tomlin via the team’s website. “We’re encouraged, but we’ll just continue to look at the situation and gain opinions and do what’s appropriate. We’re going to do what’s appropriate like we always do, whether it’s him or others from a health perspective.”
As far as who will handle his role, Tomlin went on to say it will likely be a collective effort.
“It’s going to be a cast of characters to fill his role, Malik and Jamir being the lead candidates,” said Tomlin. “When you lose a guy like him, it’s not about the guys that occupy his position of left outside linebacker. It’s about how we redistribute the responsibilities collectively to produce the outcome we desire. Those guys are not going to be T.J. It’s not realistic to think that they’re going to be T.J. But we expect them to be varsity. And we’re going to formulate a plan to redistribute responsibilities to lean on our strengths, to minimize our weaknesses like we always do each and every week. We’re excited about doing that with them and getting this group ready to play this week.”
2) Meanwhile, last Sunday’s game marked the first regular season start for new Steelers quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who played mistake-free in a game where Pittsburgh’s secondary feasted on Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and picked him off four times.
Trubisky finished the contest connecting on 21-of-38 for 194-yards along with a touchdown while completing passes to six different receivers.
Tomlin said that it’s been a process as the two continue to get comfortable with one another, although Tomin appears to be gaining confidence in the veteran QB.
“Let’s be honest here, I’m getting to know Mitch. I think any time he and I step into a stadium, I come out of the stadium with a deeper understanding of what he is, who he is as a man, as a player,” said Tomlin. “It’s a process. I don’t resist that process, but I don’t take it for granted at the same time. We’re learning and growing, so it’s reasonable to expect him to be better, for me to be better with him, for us to be better with each and every passing day and particularly those days inside stadiums.”
On the other side of the football, Tomlin saw a big performance from safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who certainly made plenty of noise during their win. He picked off Burrow on Cincinnati’s first possession and returned it for a touchdown, which got Pittsburgh off to a fast start and he also blocked the extra point attempt at the end of regulation by the Bengals, which ruined what was seemingly a game-winning touchdown pass from Burrow to Ja’Marr Chase and ended up forcing overtime where the Steelers eventually ended up with the win.
Fitzpatrick was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week on Wednesday as a result of his efforts after playing in all 100 snaps, finishing with a team-best 14 tackles.
3) There was some interesting news on Tuesday as there was finally some light shed on the situation with wide receiver Kendrick Bourne, who was a spectator for the majority of the game in Miami after he played in just two snaps. One of those plays saw him haul in a 41-yard pass from Mac Jones that put them in Dolphins territory.
Given the issues they were having against the Dolphins’ defense, having that type of a dynamic player added to the mix would have seemingly made sense. Instead, Bourne never made it into the line-up, which puzzled most people by the time it was over.
On Tuesday, NBC Sports Boston’s Tom Curran made an appearance on WEEI and revealed that Bourne has apparently been in the doghouse with offensive coach Matt Patricia, which has played a role in this strange situation.
“I think it’s a Patricia thing,” said Curran. “I think Kendrick Bourne showed great production last year and enthusiasm and Josh McDaniels got a lot out of him. Just by seeing what transpired in the offseason and speaking to some folks around the situation, I think that, from what Albert Breer reported about Kendrick Bourne not being fully on board with the way the install was going here, looking at his role and seeing it diminish, seeing it diminish with two tight ends on the field.”
“There was a meeting prior to the Carolina Panthers game that he was just a smidge late to, I was told that resulted in the benching that night,” continued Curran. “All of those things I think, combined have landed him in Matt Patricia’s doghouse. But are we talking about somebody who’s gotten sideways with a particular coach and Belichick wants to give Matt the latitude to make his own decisions on how he proceeds? Or are talking about a guy who’s an active pain in the ass? I don’t know, but we’re looking at a guy whose production, and the fact that he was in mothballs on Sunday certainly caught the eye of the owner from what I understand, and I’d be surprised if he stays down for much longer.”
The fact that this has lingered on over a month and into the first week of the regular season is probably the most surprising fact. One would have thought that with the reported incident happening in Week 2 of the preseason, it would have been over well beyond now. Even worse, the fact it potentially played a role in what was essentially a loss within the Division, especially in a season where every win will likely be critical, is definitely not ideal.
Hopefully, they’ll finally get things resolved and Bourne will be out there Sunday in Pittsburgh. After seeing how tough the Steelers’ defense was against the Bengals, the Patriots will definitely need all hands on deck for this one.
The news on Jones appears to be encouraging. (PHOTO: Bill Ingram / USA TODAY NETWORK)
4) Meanwhile, the news appears to be encouraging on Mac Jones, who reportedly is recovering from what reports are calling “back spasms,” and he’s expected to start on Sunday.
Jones said on Monday that the initial injury stemmed from the play where he was hit both low and high in a roughing the passer penalty that was negated by a “chop block” penalty against David Andrews. However, he said on Monday he was feeling better.
“I just kept playing and tried to work through it,” said Jones. “It’s football, you’re going to get hit. I’ve been hit harder before and will probably get hit harder in the future. It’s part of the game and it’s all good.”
Jones overall finished Sunday’s game completing 21-of-31 for 213-yards along with a touchdown and an interception. Looking at the totals, one thing that stood out was the fact the majority of his pass attempts came on first down, with Jones attempting 14 passes with just seven completions. Even more surprising was the fact he was 9-for-9 on second down for 69yds, which included 7-of-7 and 54 of those yards coming in the second half.
Another thing that was notable was his first and third-quarter totals were also significantly better than the rest, which obviously indicates that the plan at the start of the game and coming out at the half were good, but the in-between was where they obviously had some issues. Here’s how it broke down:
QTR 1) 6/7 (85.7%) 49yds 1INT
QTR 2) 3/5 (60%) 38yds
QTR 3) 8/9 (88.9%) 62yds 1TD
QTR 4) 4/9 (44.4%) 64yds
Still, Jones said that the communication was good in their first outing, and the goal now is to try and improve it even further moving forward.
“I think the communication on the sideline was really good between all of us, and we’ll continue to grow in that area,” said Jones. “Same with the operation. It’ll get faster. I really like our coaching staff. I think they’ve done a good job just staying positive. It’s a long season and they know that, we know that. We have a lot of games left, and a big one this week, so we’ll try to improve that this week.”
5) Lost in Sunday’s battle was the fact that cornerback Jonathan Jones really stepped up and did a solid job against Miami’s Tyreek Hill, holding him in check about as well as anyone could have hoped. Hill caught 8 passes for 94-yards but they managed to hold the Dolphins to just 13 points offensively, which is more or less all you can ask for.
His return has been a pleasant surprise for a secondary that came into this season with so many questions, and his emergence could potentially be something that makes or breaks their season.
Defensive coach Steve Belichick talked about Jones this week and gave him plenty of praise.
“I’ve loved that kid since the day he walked in the building,” said Belichick. “His versatility, his toughness, his intelligence, how hard he plays… I can’t say enough good things about Jon Jones. And just having him back on the field it helps everybody out there on defense.”
Jones will likely play a big role this weekend against the Steelers. He had some success in their previous meeting, which was a 33-3 beatdown to open the season in 2019 at Gillette Stadium. In that game, New England’s defense came up with 9 passes defended, with Jones accounting for two of them as well as three tackles.
Sunday’s game is scheduled for 1pm down in Pittsburgh.
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