Author Archives: Ian Logue

Ian Logue

About Ian Logue

Ian Logue is a Seacoast native and owner and senior writer for PatsFans.com, an independent media site covering the New England Patriots and has been running this site in one form or another since 1997.

Butler Will Likely Be Looking to Make Brown ‘Pout’ Again This Weekend

Ian Logue
December 13, 2017 at 6:00 am ET

Watching Antonio Brown run up and down the field against the Ravens last week was a reminder that the Patriots will definitely have their hands full as they try and slow down an explosive Steelers’ offense on the road.

During their last meeting in the AFC Championship Game, it was Malcolm Butler who once again was given the duty of trying to slow him down, and he was relatively successful.  Butler and Brown battled it out and the Steelers’ receiver was held to just 77 yards on 7 catches on an afternoon where the Steelers couldn’t get much going.  But the bigger story after the game was the fact that even when his team did have success, Brown was seen “pouting”, which happened after DeAnegelo Williams scored Pittsburgh’s first touchdown.

Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL Network reported on the incident after the game, which showed a different side of Pittsburgh’s star receiver.

“I was sitting with Hines Ward … we were sitting next to each other last night, DeAngelo Williams scores the Steelers first touchdown. Antonio Brown was wide open in the back of the end zone and he pouted,” said Kinkhabwala.  “Guys, he pouted! His team just scored a touchdown and he was upset that he was wide open and Roethlisberger didn’t go to him. Roethlisberger was then waiting on the sideline, Brown was the last player off the field. Roethlisberger had to talk to him.”

“Instead of those minutes next to Todd Haley … he had to sit and worry about Antonio Brown’s ego.”

There’s a reason why Brown might have been so miserable.  According to Pro Football Focus, Brown caught just two passes with Butler on him that day,  clearly frustrating the Steelers’ receiver to the point where after the game he was too embarrassed to talk to the media.

That seems to be the theme with the Steelers.  When things are going well, they’re on top of the world and tend to talk about what a great team they are.  When things don’t go their way, they hang their heads, contemplate quitting, and things get ugly.  That seems to be the mantra of a Pittsburgh team that just hasn’t been able to figure out a way to win the big game and you tend to learn a lot by how clubs react during times of adversity.

Needless to say, hopefully if all goes well, Butler will have Brown pouting again this weekend.

Steelers Tomlin Fired Up For Patriots Showdown

Ian Logue
at 5:00 am ET

It’s only Wednesday and Mike Tomlin sounds like a kid who can’t wait for Christmas as the Steelers await their long anticipated showdown with the Patriots this weekend.

He likely enjoyed himself Monday night as his hated rivals from New England fell apart on national television in a loss that put the Steelers atop the AFC for this week with the best record in the Conference.  That now puts the Patriots in a must-win situation this week, as a victory will tie them with Pittsburgh record-wise at 11-3, but give them the advantage with a head-to-head victory for the tie-breaker for the top seed with two games to play.

Fortunately, unlike back in January when the Patriots ended the Steelers’ run in the AFC Championship Game, Pittsburgh will get to play this one on their home turf.  This one still has plenty riding on it, and Tomlin is certainly fired up for it.

“It’s good to be in the kitchen.  The kitchen’s in Pittsburgh, PA, this week in the National Football League, and at Heinz Field,” Tomlin said via ESPN. “That’s where you want to be in the middle of December. We don’t take it for granted.”

Had New England beaten Miami, it would have likely put even more hype into one of the biggest match-ups of the season.  Up until Monday night, the Patriots and Steelers were the two teams in the AFC who were both playing well and seemed to be the most likely to end up in Minnesota this February.  Now, it’s Pittsburgh who has been the team that despite struggling against lesser opponents, they’ve still found a way to win.  New England, meanwhile, saw Rob Gronkowski get suspended against the Bills last weekend, leaving the Patriots vulnerable against a Dolphins team who smelled blood and took advantage.

Oddly enough, even as bad as everything went, the Patriots were still very much in the game but just couldn’t quite make enough plays to pull off the victory.  To Le’Veon Bell, that’s one of the things he feels should now separate the Steelers and give them the advantage as the Super Bowl favorites.

“I’m obviously going to say yeah, we should be the Super Bowl favorite and we have the talent to back it up,” said Bell via Yahoo! Sports.  “I think we haven’t been necessarily playing our best football, but we’ve been getting the job done for the last eight weeks or so that we’ve won. It may not be pretty, we may not win by 25, 30 points or play a style everybody likes, but we find a way to get the job done.”

“I think us beating Baltimore [in Week 14] 39-38 really showed a lot because that’s a divisional rivalry, against a team that’s been playing really good football. Then you see a team like New England [during the same week] they played a division rival and they didn’t get the job done. Some people don’t like the way we win, but at the end of the day we are winning the games. So I’m confident and I think the rest of our team is too.”

As a result, New England’s misery has Pittsburgh riding high heading into Sunday’s game.  The Patriots have history on their side since Tom Brady holds the 7-2 regular season advantage, as well as a perfect 3-0 postseason record, but Pittsburgh has the momentum.  The good news for Patriots fans is the fact that while Monday night’s game might not have gone the way they hoped, the one thing it likely will do is make the focus a little sharper this week and raise the motivation even a little bit higher as the Patriots try and get back to playing good football.

Either way, this is a pivotal game for both teams, and Tomlin says they’re looking forward to being in the spotlight on National Television for a chance to knock off their nemesis this weekend.

“It’s good to be in big games. It’s better to be in big games than ones nobody’s watching,” he said. “We better be appreciative of this spot and not resistant in any way, but embrace it.”

“This is what we’ve been fighting for since March, to be in these types of games against these types of people. Why would you fight that? It’s an awesome thing.”

Patriots Sign WR Britt to 2-Year Deal

Ian Logue
December 12, 2017 at 5:34 pm ET

Watching the Patriots group of receivers struggle Monday night without Rob Gronkowski apparently sparked the team to make a change on Monday.

According to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Patriots are signing WR Kenny Britt to a 2-year deal, adding the former Rutgers receiver after he cleared waivers following the Browns waiving him last Friday.

It’s a solid move for New England, with the 6’3″ Britt bolstering a group who last night couldn’t get much going with their fellow tight end sidelined.  It was a rough night as Chris Hogan, Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola each failed to make much of an impact against a physical Dolphins defense that held the offense to a frustrating 0-for-11 on third down.  Given the injuries they’ve dealt with, Britt will also give them better depth ahead of Phillip Dorsett, who hasn’t been able to establish a consistent role for himself this season.

Britt originally signed with Cleveland this past offseason, reportedly signing a $32.5 million deal that included $10.5 million in guaranteed money.  According to Rapoport, the Patriots were in the mix but opted out after his price tag got too large.

Britt caught 18 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns in Cleveland, but he’s also had some moments that included dropped passes and inconsistent play.  We’ll see if he and Brady can get on the same page and if he can contribute, which if he does, will hopefully give them an additional boost heading into the postseason.

Five Takeaways From the Patriots Loss To Miami

Ian Logue
at 9:00 am ET

Monday night down in Miami didn’t go quite as planned and the Patriots found themselves on the wrong end of a 27-20 loss in a game that was never as close as the final score indicated.

Sure, the Dolphins did about all they could to give the game away, but New England looked like a team that lacked energy and allowed themselves to be manhandled by a Miami team with little to lose and plenty to prove after losing their previous meeting up in Foxboro two weeks ago. The end result saw the Patriots get outplayed by an opponent that simply competed harder, which now sets up a game next Sunday in Pittsburgh that suddenly has even more riding on it.

That being said, here are some thoughts on what went down Monday night.

1) No repeat in their ground game this time around – In their first game, the Patriots did a good job running the football, with both Dion Lewis (15 carries, 112 yards) and Rex Burkhead (13 carries, 50 yards) finishing with strong performances as the Patriots racked up 196 yards on the ground.  But on Monday night, it was a different story as the two combined for just 10 carries and 25 yards.

Miami’s defense did a better job up front, especially against Burkhead, who carried 5 times for just 8 yards.  The Dolphins defense set the tone right away on the first play from scrimmage, with Ndamukong Suh drilling Burkhead and dropping him for no gain.  Suh walked back to the huddle jawing at New England’s offense and that ended up being a bad sign as the Dolphins brought plenty of fire and intensity in this one, which the Patriots never seemed able to match.  They attacked the Patriots offensive line and closed down a lot of the holes that were open the first time, keeping the Patriots from controlling the line of scrimmage while not allowing them to get into a rhythm.  As a result, the ground game seemed to take a backseat and that was obviously a big factor in shutting down New England’s offense.

2) Tom Brady looked like he was playing through pain – Looking back at last night’s game, one of the things that stood out was the fact that many of Brady’s throws were coming up short, while others either sailed or lacked the normally tight spiral that we’re used to seeing from the veteran quarterback.  He’s missed time over the past couple of weeks while reportedly dealing with an Achilles injury, but the lack of power on quite a few of his throws was probably about as evident as it’s been since this injury first appeared on the injury report.

The first sign something was up came on New England’s opening series, with the team facing 3rd-and-10 from their own 25.  With Brandin Cooks facing one-on-one coverage on the outside, Brady dropped back and thew deep down the left sideline and didn’t seem to get enough on it as he underthrew him, leading to his first interception of the night.   From there he was either coming up short or badly overthrowing receivers who were right in front of him, which for a player who is normally one of the more accurate passers in the league, it was clear something was amiss.  Brady was spotted flexing his hand after a hit, although it’s unclear if that played a factor.

Either way, as the game wore on, the ball didn’t seem like it was coming out of his hands well and it didn’t help that he was trying to battle through it against a Dolphins pass rush that did a good job of getting pressure on him.  By the fourth quarter, there were several balls that uncharacteristically fluttered after he let them go and for a player who relies so much on his mechanics, it was obvious that something definitely wasn’t right and it was hard not to wonder if his injury played a little more of a factor this week.


Brady and the offense couldn’t do very much Monday night.

3) With Gronkowski out, the passing game struggled – With Gronkowski out thanks to his fourth quarter hit against Tre’Davious White, it was clear that the Patriots’ plan was to try and get the running backs involved in the passing game in an effort to try and overcome his absence and create match-up problems.  At the end of the first half, it was Rex Burkhead (5/5 45yds), Dion Lewis (3/3 31yds) and James White (2/3, 8yds) who lead the team in receiving, while Brandin Cooks (0/2) and Chris Hogan (0/1) and Danny Amendola (0 targets) were each held without a reception.

Without their star tight end, the Patriots found themselves unable to attack the middle of the field and the Dolphins’ defense forced a lot of passes by Brady toward the sideline, and there weren’t many open looks.  The biggest reason for that was the fact the Dolphins played much more physical this time around with New England’s receivers.  Miami did a great job pressuring them coming off the line and making it hard for them to get into their routes, which allowed them to stay on them nearly every time coming out of their breaks.  Miami safety said Reshad Jones told Miami reporter Omar Kelly after the game, “We knew if we put our hands on the receivers they couldn’t get off the ball.”

It worked, and it made for a frustrating night for a group that just simply couldn’t get it going.

4) Third down was obviously a problem – The worst part about Monday night’s game was the fact New England couldn’t convert on third down, finishing 0-for-11 on the night, their worst performance during Tom Brady’s career.  Even worse, you actually have to go all the way back to 1991 to find another game where they didn’t move the chains, which happened against the Pheonix Cardinals after the team finished 0-for-6.  Brady was just 14-years old.

He finished the night 3-of-10 (30%) passing on third down, far and away his worst performance of the season.  Oddly enough, his other lowest completion percentage came against Miami in their previous meeting where he finished 2-of-5 (40%).  Prior to that, the last time he finished under 50% throwing the football on third down, you have to go all the way back to their week one loss against the Chiefs where he finished 5-of-11 (45%).

But one of the storylines of this season has been the fact that he’s had really poor results targeting Cooks on third down.  On Monday night he finished 0-for-4 with two interceptions, bringing his season total targeting him to 5-of-22  (23%).  From there he was also 0-for-2 targeting Chris Hogan, with Hogan normally a relatively reliable target for him (12-of-18, 8 first downs this season on third down).  Gronkowski’s absence loomed large, as he leads the team in 3rd down conversions, coming into the game with 16.

However, as bad as it was not having Gronkowski on the field, the bigger problem was the fact the Patriots found themselves in long-yardage situations on the majority of them.  They faced 3rd-and-8 or more on 7 of their 11 attempts, including 4 of 10-yards or longer.  That’s a recipe for disaster, and unfortunately things just didn’t go their way Monday night.

5) Defensive personnel losses definitely hurt them – As much as people want to panic about the way New England’s defense struggled during this one, the Patriots were also fairly depleted given that both Trey Flowers and Kyle Van Noy were absent coming into this game.  From there, they caught another bad break after Alan Branch suffered a knee injury in the second quarter.  The Dolphins took advantage and had a big night running the football, with Kenyan Drake putting up 114 yards on 12 carries.  Drake made his presence felt early after ripping off a 26-yard run on Miami’s opening drive that helped set up their first field goal, and he was a problem all night.

He also caused them problems in the passing game, which included a 47-yard pass that helped set up Miami’s second touchdown of the game. His performance was huge as he finished with 79-yards receiving and he played a key factor in Jay Cutler’s success on a night where Cutler finished 25-of-38 for 263 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Branch managed to play just 15 snaps after he tried fighting through an early injury and the Patriots struggled against the run, while Van Noy’s absence was also problem as the Dolphins running backs were able to get deeper into the second level, lead by Drake.

New England managed to get some pressure on Cutler, but they were inconsistent.  However, as bad as it was, give Matt Patricia credit.  He did a good job of getting creative and drawing up blitzes from the secondary, with Devin McCourty finishing the night with one of the team’s two sacks, which came on a safety blitz.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.

One thing to watch now will be the health of Patrick Chung, who was injured during the team’s poor onside kick attempt at the end of the night, which didn’t go ten yards and more or less summed up a bad night of football for a New England team that just never got it together.  Chung stayed down after the play and did manage to walk off under his own power, but he definitely appeared to be in a lot of pain.

This one will sting but the Patriots won’t have long to think about it.  They’ll return to work on Wednesday as they get ready to travel to Pittsburgh in what’s now become a must-win game if they hope to secure the top seed heading into the postseason.

5 Final Thoughts Before The Patriots Face The Dolphins

Ian Logue
December 11, 2017 at 8:07 am ET

With the Patriots preparing for another key division game tonight against the Dolphins, here are some final thoughts as New England tries to keep pace with the Pittsburgh for the top seed in the AFC after the Steelers pulled off a last-second win over Baltimore Sunday night.

1) If you look back at the Patriots battle against the Dolphins two weeks ago, one of the things that comes to mind is the fact the Patriots were able to get on top of the Dolphins early, with Tom Brady and the offense scoring touchdowns on both of their opening drives to start the game.  That ended up being one of the biggest keys during their win because it allowed the Patriots the ability to absorb mistakes, and they made a big one early. Ted Karras made a bad snap in their own territory that flew past Brady and was recovered and returned by the Dolphins’ defense for a touchdown, allowing Miami to get back in the game at 14-7.

But New England came right back on the next drive and scored another touchdown, and thanks to their fast start, the Patriots were able to take the control right back, going up 21-7 while putting the pressure right back on Miami.

Brady has said on more than one occasion that going up early and playing the game on their own terms is one of the biggest things they focus on and it ended up being one of the more important aspects in their original meeting as it allowed New England’s defense to be more aggressive and they forced several turnovers as a result.  Hopefully they’re able to achieve the same success during tonight’s rematch, although without the miscues.


The Patriots have had their struggles in Miami over the years.

2) Normally a trip down to Miami is an immediate red flag given some of their past problems down there, but the Patriots actually find themselves a little fortunate tonight thanks to the fact the schedule makers cut them one break in that they’re heading to South Florida in December instead of earlier in the season.   Those early season meetings where the heat and humidity has been miserable has been their Achilles’ heel in a few of those games, creating an environment where the home team has had the clear advantage.

Instead, according to Weather.com, the forecast is calling for temperatures closer to 70-degrees, which will likely be even cooler when the sun goes down by game time.  That plays right into their hands, hopefully setting up a comfortable night for the Patriots to play their best football as they look to sweep the Dolphins for 2017.

3) Speaking of conditioning, it’s going to be interesting to see whether or not the Patriots can continue the same success they’ve had the last two weeks running the football against Miami’s defense. In their previous meeting, Dion Lewis rushed for 112 yards on 15 carries, averaging 7.5 yards per carry against a Dolphins defense that just couldn’t stop him.

The Patriots also hit Miami with a strong dose of Rex Burkhead, who carried 13 times for 50 yards as New England went on to pile up 196 yards rushing on the afternoon.

The ability to run the football allowed Brady to keep them off balance, with the veteran quarterback completing 10-of-12 for 67 yards and four touchdowns on second down, which is also normally a down where they’re a threat to run the football.

Instead, the Dolphins never figured things out and it created a productive afternoon for the offense. This meeting will obviously be a little different since the Patriots will be dealing with managing Rob Gronkowski’s absence, who played a big part in what they did the first time around. Fortunately Chris Hogan seems poised to return tonight, but with Gronk sidelined, it will be interesting to see what they do to try and compensate for him not being out there. However, it’s worth noting that in the one game he missed this season against the Buccaneers, the Patriots managed just 19 points, their lowest scoring output of 2017. Hopefully they’re a little more productive in this one.


Brady and the offense had a strong outing in their last meeting.

4) It’s amazing how when Stephon Gilmore went down with a concussion after the team’s Week 5 game against the Buccaneers, there were many who thought the team should part ways with him after Gilmore had some early difficulties with the communication in the secondary over the first month of the season.  But since his return in Denver, Gilmore has arguably become one of the team’s most important parts of the defense as they’ve continued their eight-game winning streak, and it’s clear he’s managed to establish a strong relationship in the locker room.

Looking back at the team’s first meeting with Miami, Gilmore made an interception and nearly had another at the end of the game. Instead, Duron Harmon, who collided with Gilmore on the play, ended up with the football after Gilmore gave it up to Harmon when the two caught the pass simultaneously and fell to the ground. 

After the game, in a moment caught on film by the team in the locker room, Harmon was met by Kraft and was all smiles as he talked about the play.

“That’s a good teammate!” said Harmon, pointing at Gilmore.  “He did that for me!”  Kraft smiled and walked up to Gilmore, shook his hand, and gave him a hug.  It was a huge play, as it proved to be the game-winning turnover as the Patriots closed out the Dolphins.

It’s been great seeing Gilmore settle in to this defense and he played well last week making some big plays, including a terrific defensive stop on 4th-and-1 on the back corner of the end zone in the fourth quarter against his former team.  They’ll need those types of plays in the coming months, and after a rough start, it’s nice to see him become the type of player they hoped they’d get when they signed him.


Scarnecchia definitely brings out the best in New England’s offensive line.

5) One of the things that really stands out is how well-respected Dante Scarnecchia is, and how big of an impact he really has on his players.  That was evident in watching back the video following the team’s win over the Bills this week, where Scarnecchia was spotted on the sideline sitting his linemen down and reminding them that they needed to step up and help make sure the Patriots offense made their way into the end zone instead of letting the defense force them into kicking field goals.

“We’ve gotta be at our best when it counts the most,” urged Scarnecchia, who locked eyes with each player as he spoke.  “We’ve got to stand up to them and we’ve gotta f—n get it done out there.  We just kicked two field goals.  It’s a one score game, it’s not enough.  We get those points in, it’s a whole different deal.  We’ve got to rise up and be better than that, at that time.  And we’ve got to understand that situation, embrace it, and get it done.”

It obviously worked, as the Patriots punched it in on back-to-back drives to begin the second half as they went on to beat the Bills for their 10th win of the season.

It’s a reminder of what a terrific influence he is and it’s obvious why this offensive line has been so much better since he came out of retirement.  He clearly brings out their best, and he possesses a gift that the Patriots will likely have a tough time replacing when he decides to retire again.  But he’s certainly the type of coach you want out there in the face of adversity and it’s definitely a lot of fun watching him work.

A win tonight will see the Patriots clinch the AFC East and it will set up a huge meeting next Sunday when they battle the Steelers down in Pittsburgh.

Hat and T-Shirt Game On Tap For McCourty, Patriots

Ian Logue
December 8, 2017 at 9:51 pm ET

Devin McCourty said it best earlier in the season when he urged his team on prior to their match-up against the Jets, saying that it was time for he and his team to dominate the division, “like we do every year”.

Now here they are, one game away from clinching the Division for the ninth straight season.  It’s a familiar situation for a team that once again sits at 10-2 and in position to end the year for their three rival teams weeks before Christmas. But winning the Division is just the first step in a mission that is far from over for a team with much loftier goals.

“You know what’s at stake,” said McCourty this week.  “You’d be lying if you say you don’t know what’s there. That’s the reason we play games, to try to win championships. So I never take that for granted.”

The Bills have a chance to drag it out a little longer if they can beat the Colts in Indianapolis on Sunday, which will give them an opportunity to fly back to upstate New York and crowd around the television Monday night and gleefully root for Miami.  But if Buffalo loses, the Patriots will clinch the title before they even step on the field down in South Florida.

It’s the annual roller-coaster Bills fans ride this time of year and they’re fortunate the ride is even still going. All they’re likely hoping for now is an opportunity to see their grudge-ridden group get another shot at playing one more meaningful head-to-head game their hated rival on Christmas Eve hoping the Patriots don’t do what they’re probably going to do.


McCourty and the Patriots can clinch the AFC East Sunday

But If New England wins, the race for the division is over.  They’ll earn their first hat and T-Shirt of 2017 before turning the page and getting ready for a battle against a Pittsburgh Steelers team that has already become one of the most anticipated games of the season. The stakes will be high, as the winner will likely decide the top seed in the AFC, giving a huge advantage to whichever club ends up with the advantage of playing at home throughout.

McCourty’s aware of what’s on the line. This is the time of year where the games matter a little more and the focus needs to be even tighter.  With the Division race all but over, the Patriots’ number one priority is on something bigger, with the goal of being one of the teams playing in February.  It’s a long road and the month of December usually decides whether or not the road to Minnesota for the AFC will go through Gillette Stadium.

“The opportunity to get to play for a championship is tough,” said McCourty. “We talk about winning in December but obviously you’ve got to do some things right throughout the whole season to have that opportunity. It won’t be — it’s not something we’re going to talk about every day but we know it’s there but we know the only way we get that is by being prepared and going out there and winning a football game.”

It’s been an amazing year. After a rough start for their defense, which has experienced 11 weeks of improvement, McCourty and the Patriots are exactly where they need to be with four games to go. The Dolphins likely won’t go down easy as they’re no stranger to giving the Patriots fits in their home field, but McCourty knows opportunity is knocking, and it’s time to answer the bell.

“They’ll be ready to go,” said McCourty. “We’re going to get their best shot I think in every phase of the game. So we have to be well-prepared in everything we do.”

NFL Hands Down One Game Suspension For Gronkowski

Ian Logue
December 4, 2017 at 4:28 pm ET

It looks like Tom Brady may be down another target next Monday night down in Miami.

The NFL wasted little time in handing out their punishment for Rob Gronkowski’s hit on Tre’Davious White during yesterday’s win over the Bills, announcing a one game suspension for the veteran tight end on Monday afternoon.

Adam Schefter reported the news, with Gronkowski slated to miss next week’s game against the Dolphins unless it’s overturned on appeal.  Schefter reports that Gronkowski will appeal the decision, but it seems like he may have a tough time.

Schefter posted the official release, which included a portion of the letter to Gronkowski.  It said the tight end broke multiple rules when he hit White following an interception by the Bills’ defensive back, and that was the reason for the punishment.

According to the statement, Gronkowski “broke Rule 12, Section 2, Article 6,” which prohibits “unnecessary roughness” and specifically bans both “forcibly contacting a runner when he is out of bounds,” and “running, diving into…or throwing the body against or on a player who (1) is out of the play or (2) should not have reasonably anticipated such contact by an opponent before or after the ball is dead,” as well as Rule 12, Section 2, Article 7, which prohibits “initiating unnecessary contact against a player who is in a defenseless posture”.  Players who are “on the ground” are both “defenseless” and protected from “forcible” hits to the “head or neck area with the helmet, facemask, or shoulder.”

“Your actions were not incidental, could have been avoided and placed the opposing player at risk of injury,” said the letter.  “The Competition Committee has clearly expressed its goal of ‘eliminating flagrant hits that have no place in our game.  Those hits include the play you were involved in yesterday.”

Schefter points out that his suspension will cost him $281,250 in lost salary and as Miguel Benzan points out, may also cost him $5.5 million in incentives.

Gronkowski’s loss is significant as the team has been without receiver Chris Hogan and has gotten little production from fellow tight end Dwayne Allen.  They don’t have much left in the receiver group, with Phillip Dorsett joining Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks, who have largely benefited by Gronkowski’s presence on the field.

The good news is, Gronkowski’s availability for the Pittsburgh game in two weeks is no longer in doubt, but he just increased the level of difficulty for an offense that now has to go out and beat a tough Miami defense on the road.

It’s unfortunate, but it’s safe to say the punishment is severe enough where the league obviously got their point across.  Now it’s just up to his coaches and teammates to figure out how to get through this week without him as they try and get another Division win against the Dolphins on Monday night.

Five Takeaways From The Patriots Win Over the Bills

Ian Logue
at 8:41 am ET

The Patriots got their 10th win of the season after gutting out a tough one in Buffalo, beating the Bills 23-3 in a game that didn’t exactly go as easily as the final score might reflect.

Here are some thoughts from this one, which saw some terrific play from several players.

1) Patriots Hitting Their Stride in the Ground Game – With all the problems New England has had in the passing game from a personnel standpoint, one of the things that has really stood out in recent weeks has been the resurgence in the ground game, which was evident yet again on Sunday out in Buffalo.

Sunday saw the Patriots get plenty of production from Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead, with the two playing a huge part in the offense racking up 191 yards on the ground. Lewis is the one who stands out the most, as he’s really been explosive over the past few games and he’s really started to look like he just keeps getting stronger with each passing week.

With opposing teams now really having to key in on New England’s rushing attack, it’s really changed things in the passing game and Tom Brady has done a great job this season of not keying in on any one individual player and taking advantage of match-ups thanks to some creative personnel groupings to offset the injuries they’ve dealt with. While LeGarrette Blount was a nice weapon, Lewis and Burkhead are both players who have been dangerous both inside and on the perimeter, which is something Bill Belichick highlighted in his press conference after Sunday’s game.

Given that we’re now left with just four games to go before the playoff seeding is set and the second season begins, the Patriots are fortunate with how things are starting to shape up. When you take into account all the problems they’ve been dealing with personnel-wise in the passing game, the fact they’re able to compensate for it with a strong ground game is an asset that’s going to pay dividends in January, especially if they’re able to get everyone back healthy..

2) Unusually Rough Outing For Brady – It’s not often you see frustration boil over from Tom Brady, but the veteran quarterback clearly had some problems in the early going on Sunday, which included a rare flare up between he and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

The two were seen going at it following an offensive series in the first half where the drive stalled and they were forced to settle for a field goal.  As Brady came off the field, McDaniels could be seen telling Brady he had a receiver “wide open”, which set the quarterback off and lead to a heated exchange.

As expected, it didn’t last long, as the two were sitting on the bench together shortly after going over whatever the miscue was and it essentially ended about as quickly as it started.

But it definitely wasn’t one of Brady’s better outings. He had a first half that saw him complete just 8-of-14 (57%) for 96-yards and no touchdowns, marking the end of a streak that had seen him throw at least one touchdown pass in every game in the first half going back to the Chiefs in Week one.

Give the Bills credit, they were able to get pressure on him and sacked him three times, with Joe Thuney and Nate Solder each having a tough time keeping the Buffalo defense at bay in the early going.

However, Brady came out and completed 9-of-10 in the third quarter, jump-starting the offense and putting together two straight scoring drives, both of which ended with Burkhead running it in for touchdowns.

It obviously wasn’t a perfect outing, but give Brady credit for battling back and leading his team to their 14th consecutive road win.


The Bills took Cooks out of the game on Sunday.

3) Quiet Game For Cooks – After three games that saw him total 74-yards, 149-yards and 83-yards respectively, the Buffalo Bills did a good job taking Patriots receiver Brandin Cooks out of the game on Sunday. Cooks finished with just 17-yards on two receptions, his lowest output of the year in New England.

Brady targeted him just three times on the afternoon, with Gronkowski (11 targets), James White (6 targets), Rex Burkhead (4 targets) and Danny Amendola (4 targets) as the primary targets for Brady against the Bills’ defense. The biggest thing that stands out in this game is the fact the Patriots clearly felt they had a mismatch with Tre’Davious White against Gronkowski, and they obvoiusly exploited it.

It’s just another example of how much the game plan can change from week-to-week and fortunately the Patriots got the result they were looking for in their 10th win of the season.

4) Gostkowski No Longer a Concern – It doesn’t seem that long ago where people were wondering if it was time to start exploring bringing someone in to push Stephen Gostkowski, yet here we are, 12 weeks in and Gostkowski looks about as comfortable as he did a couple of years ago.

Sunday saw him hit three field goals, including a 50-yarder, making him perfect 4/4 from that distance. Overall, he’s missed just three field goals all year and the biggest thing that’s stood out is the fact that not only has he been accurate, he’s hitting the ball solid and a lot of the close calls we saw early on haven’t been there as of late. He’s been hitting them straight and true, which when you take into account how windy it was and how well he kicked the ball on Sunday, it’s a great sign as we start heading into the tough part of the year where the weather is generally worse and tends to make things challenging for kickers.

Give Bill Belichick credit. Throughout all of Gostkowski’s issues, he’s remained steadfast in his support for the veteran kicker. That faith has certainly paid off and seeing him return to form has quietly been one of the important stories of the success of this team. Without Belichick standing behind him, this could have gone in another direction. Fortunately for Patriots fans, that’s yet another benefit of having someone like Belichick who even in the face of adversity never overreacts and it’s a reminder that fans and media definitely shouldn’t either.


Lee has settled in nicely in this defense.

5) Lee Fitting In Well In Patriots Defense – The Patriots were without Trey Flowers on Sunday and as usual they turned it into a positive with an increase in playing time for Eric Lee. He finished the afternoon with four tackles along with 1.5 sacks, three quarterback hits and two passes defended.

He’s been a pleasant surprise so far and looks like a player who certainly seems to fit this system. As mentioned here previously, this has been one of the staples of this football team, with players emerging down the stretch and it’s been a big key to allowing this team withstand their personnel losses.

Given that he came from the Bills’ practice squad, it’s only fitting that he had a big game. But the fact he’s been so effective after racking up 2.5 sacks over his first two games is a terrific sign for a team that’s going to need help from everyone over these next couple of months.

Overall, he’s enjoying himself, which is also a plus for a team that was fortunate to find another productive player of his caliber for their defense.

“It’s awesome,” Lee said via NESN.com. “It’s something I’ve been telling myself all year that I want to contribute. I feel like I’m feeling comfortable and learning and being able to prepare and execute and stuff like that. I feel like those are the things that I’m in the NFL to do, so when it comes to having a role, that’s all I ever wanted. So, to really embrace that role and that passion for the game and everything like that, all that plays a part into everything that’s happened so far.”

These two teams will meet again in just a few weeks, with the Bills set to visit Gillette Stadium on Christmas Eve.

Three Reasons Why Gronkowski May Be Suspended

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at 8:19 am ET

Rob Gronkwoski’s actions on Sunday were certainly out of character, but it’s looking more and more like the Patriots may be without his services when New England plays next Monday night down in Miami.

After having some time to digest the situation, here are a few reasons why there may be cause to be concerned about the league handing down a suspension on New England’s star tight end after what happened on Sunday.

1) Gronkowski probably won’t get the benefit of the doubt – The fact Gronkowski wasn’t ejected following the hit on Tre’Davious White was surprising, because as much as we want to defend him, it falls into the category of the types of hits that the league is trying to curtail when it comes to player safety.

One of the downsides when it comes to animated GIFs is the fact that the more you watch it, the worse it looks.

Seeing how hard Gronkowski’s forearm strikes the back of White’s head is disturbing, with his head being driven into the ground by the force of the impact.  Looking back at the tape, when White eventually gets back to his feet, his mouth is bloodied and you can clearly see he looks a little disoriented.

Let’s be honest.  If the shoe was on the other foot and another player had struck Malcolm Butler in the back of his head while he was down after making an interception, as well as put him into the concussion protocol, we’d be screaming for the league to come down on that player. All you need to do is go back to the AFC Championship game a few years ago and remember the ire that Bill Belichick felt after Broncos receiver Wes Welker hit then Patriots defensive back Aqib Talib early in the game in Denver that sidelined Talib for the remainder of the contest.  That one was at least somewhat questionable, yet Belichick pulled no punches afterwards, calling it “one of the worst hits I’ve seen”.  He wasn’t impressed this time either, pulling Gronkowski out for the rest of the game and telling Bills coach Sean McDermott it was a “bulls–t” play.

But as for the fans, the national backlash with this definitely shouldn’t surprise anyone.

To make matters worse, as ESPN’s Kevin Seifert points out, while some believe he’ll escape because he’s without any previous offenses, Gronkowski unfortunately doesn’t have a squeaky clean record as it pertains to his history.  He was fined $8,268 in 2015 for fighting near the end of the Patriots Super Bowl XLIX victory over Seattle, along with being fined the same amount for unnecessary roughness in the infamous play where he threw Sergio Brown “out of the club” after blocking him out of the end zone.

Most fans here laughed about that one (and it was pretty funny).  But the league clearly viewed it differently and it cost him then, and it might cost him even more dearly now.

As a result, Gronkowski may have opened the door for the league to hit the tight end and the Patriots where it hurts, which could see him sidelined as a result of this.


Gronkowski’s hit left White in rough shape.

2) The league has already dropped the hammer recently on player altercations – The three game suspension levied by the NFL against Cincinnati Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict on a blindside block in the preseason was one thing, especially given Burfict’s history for being a dirty player.  But the two game suspensions against Raiders receiver Michael Crabtree and Denver cornerback Aqib Talib likely set a precedent that could hurt Gronkowski in this case.

What was surprising about that situation was the fact Crabtree received an equal penalty, especially when it was an unprovoked move on Talib’s behalf, who already pulled that stunt in the past against the Oakland receiver.  The league opted to punish both players with what most felt was a pretty severe penalty, and an appeal did get it lowered to one game.  But neither player injured the other, and it’s obvious that the league was trying to set the bar for future altercations and it’s hard to argue that Gronkowski’s actions will allow him to get out of this completely unscathed.

He’ll also potentially take a hit financially, as former sports agent Joel Corry points out:

3) The Patriots are the last team given any leeway when it comes to the NFL – This one should be pretty self explanatory.  If the last two years plus have taught us anything, we’ve learned that the people on Park Avenue have little sympathy when it comes to this football team.

For those who are still rightfully irritated with the fact Tom Brady served a four-game suspension for something that didn’t happen, all you need to remember is how even more ridiculous it was that he didn’t receive any consideration under his appeal in lowering his suspension given that his history as a player was far cleaner than Gronk’s.

At the end of the day, even for those who considered Brady guilty, it should have been nothing more than an equipment violation and a fine, or at the absolute worst, a one or two game suspension.  Four remains a punishment that was clearly over the top and unnecessary, yet that didn’t stop the league from upholding it.

But Gronkowski’s forearm striking the back of White’s head has likely got the powers that be in New York excited over the opportunity to hit New England again, likely putting Gronkowski’s status for next week – or longer – in question.

Unfortunately, Gronkowski has put himself in a bad position and we’ve obviously seen more than enough to realize that now that the league has another legitimate reason to levy punishment to this team, things probably won’t bode well for him. After all, they didn’t really have one with Brady, yet he missed an entire month.

In the end, it may simply be a situation of not whether or not he’s suspended, but how much time he’ll miss. Needless to say, brace yourself for bad news, because it’s probably coming.

Gronkowski May Have Put Himself in Harms Way For Rematch With Bills

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at 5:00 am ET

Rob Gronkowski’s fourth-quarter hit on Tre’Davious White may have put himself in harms way with the NFL in terms of a suspension, but that may not be the only thing Gronkowski has to worry about before this season is over.

Standing in his way is a rematch against the Bills in three weeks when the Bills visit Gillette Stadium on Christmas Eve and if he’s fortunate enough to be able to play, the veteran tight end may find himself a target for a defense that will be looking for a little redemption on behalf of one of their own.

After the game, there was apparently already talk in the Buffalo locker room about the fact they’re not pleased with what Gronk did after the tight end struck the Bills’ cornerback in the back of the head following his fourth quarter interception.  While Gronkowski apologized after the game and said his actions stemmed from “frustration” over the way White was covering him, along with the fact the officials weren’t calling interference, the guys in the Buffalo locker room didn’t want to hear it.

“It is unnecessary anywhere in this league,” safety Jordan Poyer told WEEI’s Ryan Hannable after the game. “Tre made a great play. Obviously Gronk was frustrated and there’s no where in the league for that type of play. I understand flames are going, heat of the battle, but there’s not any room in the league for that type of crap.”

When asked about whether or not there would be any carryover from this, Poyer told Hannable, “Of course.  Yeah.  For sure.  Yes.”

That may not bode well for a player who has already suffered either season-ending injuries or injuries that severely hampered him thanks to low hits from defenders over the course of his career.  While a cheap shot may not necessarily be coming from anyone on the Buffalo defense, it could just mean that they won’t hold back if it means hitting him low in an effort to bring him down.

Needless to say, should Gronkowski be suspended this week, he may also have to worry about having injury added to insult if the Bills ultimately decide to follow through with their threat.