Some news and notes on this Friday:
1) Today is an important one for New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones, who will need to make up for lost time after missing Thursday’s practice session due to an illness. According to the NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the one bit of good news is that Jones’ illness wasn’t COVID-related but instead was due to a stomach issue that kept him from being able to go at practice. That resulted in the team giving him the session off, with Jones now only having one full practice before the team gets set to travel to Pittsburgh tomorrow ahead of Sunday’s game against the Steelers.
2) Sunday’s game could potentially snap a 20-year long streak for the Patriots if they’re not able to pull off a win. According to Ed Werder of ESPN, the team hasn’t started a season 0-2 since the 2001 Patriots Season, which is the longest active streak for a team in the league. That year, they opened on the road with a loss in Cincinnati and then followed it up with a loss at home to the Jets, which was the infamous game where Drew Bledsoe suffered the brutal hit by Mo Lewis that sidelined him and led to Tom Brady’s emergence. As a result, there’s a little bit of historical significance riding on this one, not to mention the potential implications down the road in terms of their Conference record if the team has any hopes of playing football in January.
3) ESPN’s Mike Reiss got a little bit of love from Devin McCourty on Thursday, with McCourty praising him at the expense of the other reporters. One reporter tried to give McCourty a bit of a hard time in the delayed start time, to which McCourty replied, “I’ve seen you late plenty of times, plenty of times,” said McCourty, although it’s not clear who he was referrig to. “You’re not like Mike Reiss, he’s always here. There’s only one Mike here that we respect, man.”
4) McCourty talked about the match-up against the Steelers and he expects this one to be a tough game. He cited a previous conversation he once had with head coach Bill Belichick where he told the veteran safety that games like these are special, and McCourty said given the history, it definitely should be a good battle. “I remember a few years ago, Bill said if you like competition, if you like football, that’s where you want to be,” said McCourty. “And I think anytime these teams play, it’s a big deal. Obviously, it’s a little different, I think I saw, one of my good friends is like a huge Pittsburgh Steelers fan, so he posted, I think ’98 was the last time that there was no [Ben] Roethlisberger or [Tom] Brady. I think even without those two guys, you’re still sitting here talking about two teams that are built very similar throughout the years of how they play the game, what’s important, and I think that has a lot to do with obviously, Pittsburgh has only had three head coaches and kind of all been built and built the teams the same way. And then with Bill being here, it’s going to be a fun match-up.”
5) Coming off their opening day loss, McCourty expressed the importance of what the message needs to be moving forward. “We’ve got to have a win at all cost mentality,” he said. “I think last week we did some things well in the game and I think you don’t want to fall victim to that. I think every game comes down to a few plays. Every team’s good in this league and I don’t think we want to fall into that trap. We gotta have a mentality of, we need to find a way to win and I think it’s a big deal winning in Pittsburgh.”
6) Obviously, Steelers quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has taken his fair share of criticism over the years and his performance in Week 1 certainly seems to have changed things a bit. It opened the eyes of Mike Tomlin and Steelers fans who now appear to believe he could potentially be the guy who can get them through their first season without Ben Roethlisberger.
Trubisky played fairly well in the opener, completing 21-of-38 for 194-yards along with a touchdown, but more importantly, he didn’t throw an interception or make any mental mistakes to put them in any tough situations. He was also mostly responsible for their success on the final drive of overtime where he connected on passes of 9, 26, and 10 yards to set up the game-winning 53-yard field goal by Steelers kicker, Chris Boswell.
Given the rivalry between the two teams, beating New England would further cement Trubisky’s status as their starter and when you take into consideration how well their defense played, Trubisky finds himself in a unique situation. Love him or hate him, Tomlin clearly remains among one of the better coaches in the league and has put together a solid defense to compliment Trubisky as he continues growing in the offense.
Oddly enough, it’s not a unique situation for Trubisky. He’s no stranger to having a good defense behind him given what he had in Chicago, but the fact he seemingly has Tomlin’s support is also seemingly a change from what we’ve seen in the past. So far, it’s clearly paid off for him. “He did not blink,” said Tomlin of Trubisky earlier this week. “Made the necessary plays in the weighty moments. I’m appreciative of his efforts.”
7) Meanwhile, Patriots tackle Trent Brown appeared on the injury report on Thursday, with the starting tackle reporteldy being limited with an ankle injury. Brown didn’t miss a snap in Miami but he took a bit of criticism this week after seemingly being the one responsible for the play where Jones got hit on a blindside blitz, which resulted in a fumble and a recovery for a touchdown by the Dolphins.
Brown spoke to the media earlier in the week but was rather terse in his responses, likely frustrated with how things went.
“Gotta get better this week,” said Brown. “All around.”
If he’s unable to play, it’s possible we’ll see Isaiah Wynn shift back to that side, with someone like Yodney Cajuste or Justin Herron also potentially in the mix. Another player who might end up contributing could also be Marcus Cannon, who was added to the practice squad earlier in the week. However, against Pittsburgh’s defense, being down someone like Brown would certainly be a tough break, especially for a unit that already saw their starting quarterback take some ugly hits last Sunday.
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