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Patriots News 9-10, Players To Watch..And Then There’s Tom

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
3 months ago at 5:00 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary

Patriots News 9-10, Players To Watch..And Then There’s TomBrian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, and Happy Gameday, as the 2023 season begins today. Here are our Sunday Patriots news 9-10 and notes. The 2023 season for the Patriots begins later today when the NFC Champion Eagles come to Foxboro. 

And as excited as we are to see the Patriots begin another season, I’ve been following them since the Fenway Park days, Tonight will be an opportunity for fans and the team to honor the Greatest Of All-Time. 

An Appreciation Post For Tom Brady

Tom Brady was drafted in 2000 with very little fanfare. He was a 6th-round draft pick (199th overall) from Michigan, where they kept trying to replace him with “the next greatest thing,” that fact and his draft placement would drive him his entire career.

When he took over from an injured Drew Bledsoe in 2001, no one could foresee what would transpire over the next 22 seasons. But the Patriots went on a ridiculous two decades of winning, the likes of which we have never seen in the NFL. And make no mistake, winning in the NFL is hard; that is why no one in the NFL has repeated as Super Bowl champions since the Patriots did in 2003-2004.

That 2001 Patriots team bounced back from an 0-2 start and a 5-5 midseason record to win eight straight and defeat “The Greatest Show on Turf” the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. The Patriots were double-digit underdogs but led for most of the game. Brady went to work after the Rams stormed back in the 4th quarter to tie the game.

Calling the game in the booth, legendary coach and announcer John Madden repeated over and over that the Patriots should play for overtime. But with each completion, Madden was coming around to watching greatness unfold. Just before Adam Vinatieri lined up for the game-winning field goal, Madden said, “What Tom Brady just did gives me goosebumps.”

Brady wasn’t about individual stats. The only thing he cared about was winning. And in an 18-year period, the Patriots went to nine (9) Super Bowls, winning six. But his legacy isn’t just about Super Bowls (he ended up going to 10 and winning 7); it was about being the consummate professional. 

He was always the first one in and the last out. He took incredible control of his body and started the TB12 clinic so that other athletes could come to try a different method of training that extends their longevity…and it works. 

Not just for Tom but for anyone. When I was a writer for a military news site, I was curious if the TB12 method would work for tactical athletes (Special Operations personnel, Green Berets, Navy SEALs, etc.). I was invited to come to the clinic at Patriots Place. 

I wrote a piece on the training regimen after going through it myself. It was my favorite article that I ever wrote because Tom himself declared on his LinkedIn account, “This is a great article.” So, I’m biased. But not many sportswriters can ever say that about anything they’ve written about Brady. 

Brady treated practices like games and was very competitive to the nth degree. This drove his teammates to practice harder and was one of the reasons the Patriots rarely, if ever, beat themselves. 

This week I was trying to come up with a list of Brady’s best moments, but it was nearly impossible. With such a prolonged, consistent career of excellence, you could point to multiple games every season, and the list would go on and on. 

Bill Belichick was asked about his list of Brady’s best moments, and the ever-sarcastic Bill said, “Well, six come to mind.”

My favorites include in no particular order, but are not limited to:

  • In the 2013 game against Peyton Manning, down 24-0 at the half, the Patriots stormed back to win in the 2nd half. 
  • The first game of the 2007 season. The media was full of stories that Randy Moss was down and that the Patriots were going to cut him at the end of training camp. Brady and Moss put on a show in the blowout win over the Jets. 
  • The game-winning drive against the Saints. Brady was throwing to Aaron Dobson, Austin Collie, and Kembrell Thompkins, who caught the game-winner in the corner of the endzone.  With all the talk of who wasn’t playing on Thursday night, they should re-watch this drive. “Unicorns, Show ponies, where’s the beef!” Classic.
  • The multiple 14-point comebacks against the Ravens in the Divisional Playoff game in 2014 ended with a beautiful pass to JoJo Lafell in the endzone to win it.
  • The overtime drive in Kansas City in 2018, where Brady completed several key third-down throws to get them in position to win it. It was one of his best moments in such a key situation. 
  • We all remember the 28-3 comeback in the Super Bowl against the Falcons. But his sideline throw to Danny Amendola in OT was an absolute dime. Brady was a man on a mission in that 4th quarter and OT. 
  • We’ve got to include at least one Gronk TD here (the duo had 102 total), so I’ll go with a personal favorite, an OT win against the Jets, as I got a good shot of it from the opposite side of the field.

We can put in dozens more and spend a whole day of Brady highlights. But we all were spoiled for so long, where excellence was so normal for him, we sometimes took it for granted. 

He never had the scripted touchdown move, although he could have. He owns nearly every passing record worth having in the NFL. Most of all, he was always accountable. It was about the team when the Patriots (and Bucs) won. When they lost, he’d take the blame. He never threw a teammate under the bus.

For some of us who had endured the many losing seasons mixed around a few very good teams, Brady and Belichick brought the Patriots to the top of the heap and remained there for two decades. The only constant was the coach and the QB. 

It was an awesome run, and thank you is not nearly enough. We were blessed, and it is time for Brady to take his place in the Hall at Patriots Place and Canton. I can’t wait for the halftime ceremony. Can’t wait to see what the statue looks like. (Spoiler alert)

Quick Hitters For the Patriots and NFL News: 

Patriot Captains: The team has announced their captains for the 2023 season. Mac Jones, Hunter Henry, Matthew Slater, Deatrich Wise Jr., Ja’Whaun Bentley, and David Andrews.

Connor McDermott: The offensive tackle was released off of IR with an injury settlement, meaning that he can sign on with any team, provided that he passes a physical. 

McDermott was poached off the Jets’ practice squad last year and started six games. The Patriots rewarded him with a two-year extension worth over three million dollars, but he struggled this spring and summer.

Rhamondre Stevenson: The starting running back was absent from Friday’s practice with an illness but is still expected to play today. Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott will have a tough task ahead of them in the opener against the Philly defense.

Patriots 4th & 2 Podcast: If you haven’t listened to our podcast, Patriots 4th & 2”, in a bit, please check it out. Patriots 4th & 2 has expanded. 

Derek Havens and I spoke about the key matchups against the Eagles, and Russ Goldman, in a separate podcast, gave his 5 Keys to Victory.  

Russ Francis/Chuck Fairbanks: The former Patriot tight end and head coach both should be in the Patriots team Hall of Fame, and the fact that Francis isn’t in is an absolute travesty. Francis and the Raiders’ Dave Casper changed the game with how teams used the tight end position…this will be on our Sunday posts until it happens. 

Patriot Players to Watch —

The Patriots have wrapped up the preseason, and now the regular season begins. And for all 32 teams, optimism reigns as they hope the players that construct their teams are the right combination. 

That’s what makes Week 1 so intriguing, the element of the unknown. What needs tweaking or being replaced wholesale? The Patriots face the daunting task of facing the NFC Champion Eagles this week, a team widely considered the deepest, most complete team in the NFL. 

If the Patriots are to pull an upset this week, they’ll need a full team effort, but here are some players we’ll be watching closely. 

Calvin Anderson: The Patriots signed him this spring, and after appearing in all the spring workouts, he developed a life-threatening illness that kept him out of training camp and preseason. 

He’ll be spelled by some of the newcomers as he probably isn’t in shape to play the entire game yet, but he’ll have big shoes to fill, trying to keep edge rusher Haason Reddick off of Mac Jones. 

You can actually pencil in the entire OL here, We haven’t seen them together this year, and in facing the best DL in the league, it will bear watching closely.

Ezekiel Elliott: I believe Elliott will see a lot of short-yardage goal-line snaps this week, but he also excels in pass blocking. Facing an Eagles defense that garnered 70 sacks a year ago, keeping Elliott in to pass block may be of primary importance this week. 

Christian Gonzalez/Keion White/Marte Mapu: The three rookies will be thrown right into the fire this week trying to stop an elite Philly offense. Gonzalez will be tasked with covering A.J. Brown or DeVonta Smith, who combined for 180 catches, nearly 2,700 yards, and 18 TDs a year ago. A welcome to the NFL moment.

Facing Philly’s RPO attack, the Patriots need penetration upfront, speed, and athleticism to counter. Rookies White and Mapu were drafted for this such a game. Normally Bill Belichick likes to lean on his veterans and ease the rookies in, but they will need these speedier players this week.

Mac Jones: Bill O’Brien installed an offense that is tailored exactly for Mac Jones’ strengths this offseason, and this will be the first time we see it. Jones will have to make the correct pre-snap reads and change the call at the line of scrimmage if need be. Then he’ll have to process things quickly and get the ball out of his hands. 

The team will use a lot of RPOs themselves this year, although Jones isn’t a threat to run. I’ll be curious if Jones goes to a hurry-up style to tire and slow down the pass rush. This is a big week/year for Jones, and this will be his first of many tests. 

Patriots Pass Rush: With all the talk of the Eagles’ pass rush (and deservedly so), there hasn’t been much talk of New England’s. Matthew Judon, Josh Uche, Deatrich Wise Jr., and Keion White could play a major factor in this game. 

They’ll need a big push inside, so guys like Christian Barmore, Sam Roberts, and Daniel Ekuale will be looked to to pressure Jalen Hurts. Philadelphia has an excellent offensive line. 

Week 1 Predictions

Thursday Night Football:

Kansas City Over Detroit, 0-1

Sunday Day Games:

Atlanta over Carolina
Cincinnati over Cleveland
Jacksonville over Indianapolis
Minnesota over Tampa Bay
New Orleans over Tennessee
San Francisco over Pittsburgh
Washington over Arizona
Baltimore over Houston
Chicago over Green Bay
Denver over Las Vegas
Philadelphia over New England
LA Chargers over Miami
Seattle over LA Raiders

Sunday Night Football:

Dallas over NY Giants

Monday Night Football: 

Buffalo over NY Jets

2022 Season:   178—92—2

2021 Season:   183—88—1

2020 Season:   169—86—1 

2019 Season:   162—93—1


“I think long snapping, to me, changed in the mid-80s, and really the key guy in that was [Steve] DeOssie, in my opinion, because Steve was the first center that really, truly allowed a spread punt formation against the all-out rush.

“Prior to that, teams would generally pull. First of all, there weren’t that many gunners, but when teams started using gunners, they would pull one in and kick away from the free guy on the back side, and that was kind of the idea that protection was not to let the snapper block against a nine-man rush with a split player. 

“The return team would have one guy on the gun or the split, and one guy returns, so you got nine guys rushing against essentially the punter who wasn’t a blocker or the split guy who wasn’t a blocker and the snapper who really wasn’t a blocker, so it was nine on eight, and the idea was to block the most dangerous eight and let the ninth guy go and punt away from him, and then when the Cowboys went to spread punt, and then the Cardinals followed that pretty quickly, and they kept two gunners split, and the snapper blocked a guy, then that created an eight on eight situation but put a lot of pressure on the snapper to deliver the ball 15 yards deep on the money and still block a good rusher offsetting and the A-gap.

Bill Belichick, an astute historian of the NFL, off the top of his head, gave a 1,500-word, nine-minute response to why the Patriots keep a long snapper (Joe Cardona) on the roster rather than just teach another positional player to do it. This is just a snippet of that answer. It is times like this where Belichick excels in his press conferences. 


“Talent sets the floor; Character sets the ceiling.” Bill Belichick

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 Commentary
Tags: AJ Brown Bill Belichick Calvin Anderson Christian Barmore Christian Gonzalez DeVonta Smith Haason Reddick Jalen Hurts Keion White Kendrick Bourne Mac Jones Marte Mapu Matthew Judon New England Patriots Philadelphia Eagles

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