Category Archives: 2019 Patriots Regular season

Dolphins Slam the Door on a Patriots Bye and Any Possible SB

Steve Balestrieri
December 29, 2019 at 8:36 pm ET

You can put a fork in ‘em, folks, because the 2019 version of the Patriots are done. There won’t be no coming together and doing self-scouting this week to get healthy and prepped for a deep playoff run. While they’ll live to play again either next Saturday or Sunday, this season is on life support and any hopes of playing in Miami in February are a pipe dream at this point. 

With a chance to clinch the #2 seed and get that all-important bye week against a 4-11 Dolphins team, the Patriots showed no fire and slept walked through the first quarter while their defense, which has been their rock all season was eviscerated by Ryan Fitzpatrick, who sliced and diced, scattered, covered and smothered them like homes fries at Waffle House. 

Although the Patriots took the lead with five and a half minutes to go, there was no feeling that they were going to close this one out as they’d done so many times this season. Fitzpatrick picked them apart worse than any QB had done all season long. And he methodically went down the field, (like Brady) and calmly sliced a pass to Mike Gesicki from 5-yards out with just 24 ticks left on the clock. 27-24 Dolphins. Thanks for coming, place your seats in the upright position and please be kind on Route 1. 

Last year, the Dolphins won on a fluke, a freak play that never should have had any success. This year, there was no fluke. Fitzpatrick turned into Fitzmagic, as we said in our pregame, he’s fully capable of doing. When the Patriots played zone, he picked them apart and when they played man coverage, his wide receivers totally dominated on the field. 

Fitzpatrick finished the day 28 of 41 for 320 yards and a touchdown, nearly double what the Patriots had been allowing through 15 weeks. The Dolphins got 26 first downs, 19 through the air. Stephon Gilmore had, arguably his worst game in a Patriot uniform and it couldn’t have come at a worse time. 

DeVante Parker totally dominated his matchup with Gilmore this afternoon, something no one has done in three years. Parker had eight catches for 137 yards on 11 targets and was once again Fitzpatrick’s favorite target. 

If there was any team that needed the bye it is this one. Julian Edelman has been hobbled by a myriad of injuries all season and the while he’s been out there giving his all, right now he’s a shell of his normal self. 

Brady has been dealing with an elbow issue and he was wearing different cleats today, which means he maybe has an ankle issue going on? Mohamad Sanu has been dealing with an ankle issue, the offensive has been banged up….we could go on and on. 

The Patriots needed this bye week, we’ve seen their history. Playing on Wildcard Weekend in the Belichick era they are 3-3. And if this team wins next weekend against Tennessee, they’d have to go on the road to Kansas City and Baltimore to make the Super Bowl. Anyone think this team can go to both and win a big road playoff game? Anyone? Bueller….Bueller? 

The blame can’t go to the offensive line today, once again the running game showed signs of life and despite getting away from it, they ran the ball for 135 yards and averaged 5.0 yards per rushing attempt. Sony Michel led the way with 74 yards on 18 carries. Rex Burkhead had 48 yards on 6 carries (8.0 yards per rushing attempt.

And the OL gave Brady plenty of time to throw, but for much of the game, he was way off target. Brady also threw an awful pick-six between Edelman and Michel and it was difficult to tell who the pass was intended for. Eric Rowe was stuck right between both, not sure who to cover. Brady’s pass went right to him. 

Michel and Burkhead were bright spots on the offense, as was Elandon Roberts. He caught a 38-yard touchdown when no one followed him out in the pattern. He made a nice catch from Brady and then raced down the sideline for a score. Brady’s other touchdown pass went to James White on a very well developed screen pass with a great block downfield by Shaq Mason. 

The coaches didn’t get the players ready to go today, despite proclaiming all week that this was a playoff game for them…let’s hope this isn’t what to expect in a playoff game because that effort and the gameplan was not good…at all. 

And in a move right out of the Andy Reid school of clock management, another head-scratcher. After stopping the Dolphins at the end of the first half with about 1:42 to go and three timeouts in the pocket, the coaches decided to let the clock run out and hand the ball off to Michel. In a tie game that your team needs for a playoff bye. Head-scratcher. 

So Tennessee is coming here next weekend after the Patriots blew a prime opportunity to get themselves in the bye week. And the worst part of this? They could actually face a short week if they are slated for Saturday. This was an ugly finish to the most dominant decade in NFL history. This is the kind of loss that can stick with a team, it isn’t just going to be business as usual this week. 

C-ya next weekend in Foxboro…just don’t be booking any flights to Kansas City just yet. 

New England Patriots News 12-29, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 12-29 and AFC East notes this week. 

With the Patriots wrapping up their 11th straight AFC East title last week, they still have some work to do in the regular season and with a win today against Miami, they clinch the #2 seed and a bye for the first round of the playoffs. 

It has been a long series dominated by the home teams so it bodes well for a Patriots victory today. The team has stated that they’re treating it like a playoff game. So there’s that.. 

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

Tre’Davious White – The Bills talented cornerback took exception to Tom Brady block that helped spring N’Keal Harry for an 18-yard run last week. “Chill Tom, we all know if I hit you, I’ll get fined and suspended not vice versa.” Which led us to one of the bigger myths about Tom Brady, that he is protected by the refs and “gets all the calls.” 

A great tidbit this week on Twitter from Tucker Boynton that is worth passing along, not that the legion of Brady detractors will pay attention. “In 2019 there were 140 unnecessary roughness penalties, and 127 roughing the QB calls. Tom Brady didn’t receive one of those.”

Chandler Jones – The former Patriots defensive end has a shot of breaking Michael Strahan’s record for sacks today and we all here wish him the best in that pursuit. Having met him at Gillette a few years ago, Jones was personable as well as a talented pass rusher. But like everything else around here, there has been a lot of revisionist history surrounding Jones. 

The Patriots weren’t going to pay him $82.5 million, and as much as I liked Jones, the defense hasn’t missed a beat, going to three straight Super Bowls, winning two. This season, the team can win their 13th game of the season. What Jones is earning this year, the Patriots are paying five of their defenders. And his stellar play rushing the QB (notice we didn’t say setting the edge), hasn’t transformed the Cardinals defense one bit. 

And without the trade, they’d be no Joe Thuney who has been one of the best guards in football the past three years. It has been a trade that was a win-win. The Patriots got talent that took them to three straight Super Bowls, and Jones got his mammoth payday.

NFL Investigators – The league is supposedly growing frustrated with their inability to pin their investigation of the Patriots filming of Cincinnati’s sidelines from the film crew to the Patriots football operations. They’ve confiscated numerous devices and can’t find the smoking gun that links the two entities…

Frustrated? Wow, I always thought that an investigation was supposed to find the truth, not just to reinforce a theory of wrongdoing. But as we saw with Tom Brady with the asinine “more probable than not”, that never stopped Park Avenue. I would imagine this thorough “investigation” will finish sometime next week or the week after…timing is everything.

Navy Bowl Game: The Navy was stuck without a flight to their bowl game in the Auto Zone Liberty Bowl. They generally fly Southwest Air to their away games but the airline had no planes available at the last minute during the Christmas holiday. Robert Kraft and the Patriots stepped up and the Midshipmen flew in style. 

Navy’s football team arriving for their bowl game in the Patriots aircraft

4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, Please do check it out.  

Farewell 2010s, A Decade of Dominance: 

With the game today, this will be the Patriots’ final game of the decade. The first playoff game will begin the 2020s decade. It will be hard for the team to match what the past decade has brought. 

The Patriots, with a win today will end up the decade with an incredible record of 126-34. The next closest team is the Steelers who currently sit at 102-56-1, far behind them. If you factor in the postseason, the Patriots in the 2010s are an amazing 142-40.

Of course, when the talk of New England comes up, we always hear about the AFC East. Well, at home against the AFC East, the Patriots are 27-2, which would lend some credence to that…right? Well, against the rest of the AFC at home, the Patriots are 28-2. Hmm, how about ‘dem apples?’ 

The best record in any decade used to belong to the Dallas Cowboys of the 1970s, who went 119-46. Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the team have smashed that. 

NFL Top 100, Fascinating, Must Watch Television:

If you haven’t watched the NFL Network’s Top 100, then you’re really missing out. And for Patriots fans, seeing Bill Belichick talking history of the NFL is like manna from heaven. 

Tom Brady joined Belichick, Rich Eisen, and Cris Collinsworth and the back and forth with the coach was something that we’ve never had many opportunities to see. It had a little bit of everything. Brady spoke his friendship with Peyton Manning and how the two spent a few weeks during the offseason together and how he (Brady) copied some of the Colts’ play calls and how much it factored into Rob Gronkowski’s success. 

Brady and Belichick had a great moment when he said after the first Super Bowl win, the two shared a limo ride together and Belichick in perfect Bill-speak said to him,  “Tom, just wanted to let you know you had a pretty good year.”

But Belichick also added a great moment telling Eisen when he believed that Brady was going to be special, and it wasn’t in a game, but in practice before Brady had even began to play. 

Forget about the lists, like any other list, or poll, it is just an exercise to get people talking and discussing the game. People get too hung up over who is on the list and who isn’t. It is just an opinion folks. Tune in and enjoy some great football talk. 

 

Players to Watch Today:

The Patriots put a bow on the 2019 regular season today and here are our Patriots players to watch for the game. 

Sony Michel – The Pats 2nd-year running back has had a frustrating season but the last two weeks have seen him beginning to turn it on. His 96 yards last week against the Bills were a season-high. Now facing the Dolphins 27th ranked run defense, he has the opportunity to hit the playoffs on a three-week highpoint. 

 With LB/FB Elandon Roberts leading the way, we expect Michel and the running game, in general, to have a big afternoon running the ball today. 

Stephon Gillmore – The Patriots top cornerback will be going against DeVante Parker who is having a career season this year. Parker is the Dolphins’ go-to guy this year and naturally, Gilmore will be assigned to guard him closely.

This should be a great matchup to watch this afternoon. The Patriots have done a good job on Parker in the past, but every week is a new game. 

Tom Brady – Brady had arguably his best game of the season last Saturday against the Bills #3 ranked defense. Spreading the ball around to nine different receivers, completing almost 80 percent of his passes, Brady looked as good as he has all year.

Going against Miami’s 28th ranked pass defense, it should be another big game for Brady and he wants to get the offense and himself in the best possible position before the playoffs begin…Today he’ll be focused and ready to do just that.

Jamie Collins, Kyle Van Noy, Dont’a Hightower – The Boogeymen are collectively facing a team with the worst running game (72.9 yards per game) in the NFL. That means there should be plenty of opportunity to rush the QB against a team that has allowed 56 sacks in 2019. We expect that number to rise today. 

I expect the Patriots to get after Ryan Fitzpatrick early and often this afternoon and the trio of linebackers should be disruptive and active in the Dolphins backfield. 

NFL Schedule Week 17, Who Are Your Winners:

How are you feeling about the games this week? We have a post on our PatsFans Forum where our readers can predict the slate of games for that week. I did it on our weekly Sunday column here and will post it up below. Here is the link if you’d care to pick your own: https://www.patsfans.com/new-england-patriots/messageboard/picks/

Last Week: 13-3
Season:154-85-1
Cleveland over Cincinnati
New England over Miami
Minnesota over Chicago
Kansas City over LA Chargers
Buffalo over NY Jets
Green Bay over Detroit
New Orleans over Carolina
Tampa Bay over Atlanta
Philadelphia over NY Giants
Houston over Tennessee
Dallas over Washington
Baltimore over Pittsburgh
Indianapolis over Jacksonville
Oakland over Denver
LA Rams over Arizona
SNF San Francisco over Seattle

Bye week: No teams

Sorry due to the Christmas holiday break, there will be no AFC East notes this week, they’ll be back soon…

________________

Yeah, I don’t think you really know a player until you spend a lot of time with him, day-in and day-out, where you really see what that player and what that person is like. We knew some things about him from Buffalo, but it’s not the same when you spend every day with a player, so we know a lot more about him now. He’s, again, very professional and impressive. He puts a lot into it, he puts a lot into his training, he puts a lot into his preparation and I think everybody has a tremendous amount of respect for him in part because of that..” Bill Belichick on the preparation of Stephon Gilmore and his work ethic since coming to New England. 

________________

“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 blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

Best Of Social Media: Week 16 Bills vs Patriots

Robert Alvarez
December 24, 2019 at 10:54 am ET

The Patriots returned home to Gillette Stadium for a rare Saturday night matchup with the rival Buffalo Bills.

With a win, the Patriots would clinch their 11th consecutive AFC East title and remain on track for a first round bye in the playoffs as the two seed.

Check out all the best sights and sounds as they occurred over social media from the game below.

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Urgency. #GameDay

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

In the first quarter, the Bills made it known earlier this team was different than past years.

A forced fumble by safety Jordan Poyer gave the Bills an opportunity for points and a lead.

A Stephen Hauschka 35 yard field Goal gave the Bills the early road lead.

The Patriots responded, with quarterback Tom Brady finding tight end Matt Lacosse for a 7-3 lead after a quarter.

https://twitter.com/Patriots/status/1208506488953692161?s=20

https://twitter.com/giseleofficial/status/1208505845220286465?s=20

The second quarter opened with Brady continuing his hot start, passing aside, Brady also showed off his rare blocking abilities.

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Let’s Ride‼️

A post shared by N'Keal Harry (@nkealharry) on

A Nick Folk 36 yard field goal pushed the lead to seven. 10-7 Patriots midway through the second.

With the clock winding down on the first half, the Bills continued to show their resiliency and creativity.

A big man touchdown for Bills lineman Dion Dawkins tied the game at ten going into halftime.

https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1208523130240565248?s=20

Rex Burkhead bounced back from his earlier mistake to setup a go-ahead field goal with career highs in receiving yards.

A 13-10 Patriots lead following a Nick Folk 51 yard good attempt.

Once again the Bills battled back on the heels of Josh Allen’s arm.

A John Brown 53 yard touchdown pass Allen gave the Bills a 17-13 after three quarters.

Needing a spark on offense, who else but Julian Edelman to get it going for the Patriots to open the fourth quarter.

The Bills defense held up, and the Patriots had to settle with a Nick Folk 20 Yd Field Goal to cut the deficit to one at 17-16.

With five minutes to go in the game, and the Patriots defense remaining stout, a Brady QB sneak setup the go-ahead winning score.

A Rex Burkhead rushing touchdown following by a successful two-point conversion to Julian Edelman gave the Patriots a 24-17 lead.

https://twitter.com/BrycenNFL/status/1208571226165264385?s=20

Now trailing by seven, Allen and the Bills had one more opportunity to keep the game alive and force overtime.

https://twitter.com/BuffaloBills/status/1208543885661749253?s=20

A defensive stop inside the 15 gave the Patriots the victory and a division title.

The Patriots move to 12-3 with a 24-17 victory over the Bills.

https://twitter.com/nflnetwork/status/1208555030682296325?s=20

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The force is strong in my family…

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/B6XCX8kFHfx/

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My savages!! Great pic @adamrichinsphoto

A post shared by Patrick Chung (@23patrickchung) on

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Hats&T-Shirts.

A post shared by Isaiah Wynn (@iwynn77) on

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The fam ❤️

A post shared by James White (@sweetfeet) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/B6ZWyh2hO73/

https://twitter.com/KVN_03/status/1208589419197939717?s=20

New England Patriots News 12-22, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
December 22, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 12-22 and AFC East notes this week. 

With the Patriots playing in the rare Saturday game this week, it kind of throws everything off as we’re used to having Sundays as our normal game day. But Saturday this week it was…and it turned into a playoff game atmosphere with the Patriots beating the Buffalo Bills and winning their 11th straight AFC East Championship.

The players all got hats and t-shirts which read, “The East is Not Enough” 

We would like to wish all of our readers an early Merry Christmas and hope your holiday, however you choose to observe it, is a happy and healthy one.

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

Julian Edelman – The Patriots often outspoken wide receiver was asked about the latest controversy surrounding the team, the filming of the Bengals sideline and he didn’t disappoint. He told Andrew Callahan of the Boston Herald, “Yeah, that’s pretty much a joke,” Edelman said. “We haven’t even thought about it, honestly. We’ve been thinking about other things. It’s funny, but it is what it is. I don’t know, it’s ridiculous. My focus is on the Buffalo Bills.”

Jumbo Elliott – The former Giants player gets one of the Tweet of the Week mentions. Seeing Rex Ryan, pooh-poohing the latest Patriots faux scandal, Elliott tweeted out, “Had to laugh. Saw Rex Ryan commenting on Patriots filming Bengals sideline. So when his dad was Eagles coach I recall certain sons filming Giants practice from hotel off route 3 in N.J.  LMAO!!”

In a follow-up Tweet he posted, “I think it was 89 or 90.  Believe coach had state troopers go to the hotel and roust them.  We were running stuff we’d never call in a game. LOL”

Joe Mixon – The Bengals star running back was effusive in his respect for Tom Brady after the game last week and mentioned that he was going to ask #12 for a jersey but was too embarrassed. Brady heard about the comments and sent Mixon a jersey and a note that touched Mixon. 

He took to Instagram and posted that he’d be paying it forward. “Man I say this in the most humbled way I’m so Blessed to be playing this game in the @nfl and Super Thankful for the G.O.AT. @tombrady Best Christmas gift ever especially growing up not ever having nothing. Made a young kid from The Bay year. Later on Today I’m headed down to the boys and girls club today to give the gift forward today with my own jerseys,”

Netflix – The video giant released a trailer about former Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez that will air as a three-part docuseries (The Killer Inside) on the NFL player turned murderer. In a phone call that was recorded while in prison, Hernadez had the following conversation.

“My whole body’s shaking right now,” Hernandez said.
“What happened?” a woman on the other end of the call asks.
“You know my temper,” Hernandez answers…

4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, Please do check it out. 

Pro Bowl – I’ve never been a fan of the game (watched only one) or the voting, which is a joke. But many of the players have large amounts of money tied up in it because of bonuses if they are selected so I totally understand some of their angst. 

One member of the Patriots secondary gets a nod while another team, that didn’t have close to the season that they had defensively gets three? LOL Yep, it is a joke, which is why I’m glad that I don’t partake in any way. 

Keep “Wrighting” Off Brady at Your Own Peril: 

Every year like clockwork, the talk is always that “this could be it for Brady and the Patriots” and they begin throwing dirt on them long before the fat lady sings. This season has been a big struggle, offensive line issues, a revolving door of wide receivers, drops, injuries …you name it. Some of the talking heads can’t help but rub their hands with glee at every perceived slipup. 

But all week, it was the Patriots and not the Bills who played this one up as a playoff matchup and Buffalo’s very tough defense found out that playoff Brady is a different animal than the regular season one. You’d think that after 20 years, people would catch on the same film we’ve seen time and again. 

Brady channeled his best game of the season into a come-from-behind win on Saturday night. The best in the game always shine the brightest under the glare of the biggest lights in the biggest games. This was a big game and Brady looked laser-focused. 

He didn’t look anything like the guy who has struggled this season and the offense, against the #3 defense in the NFL was able to generate over 400 yards of offense. Someone wrote this week that he (Brady) looked like he doesn’t enjoy football anymore. 

Then we watched him throw a lead block on N’Keal Harry’s 18-yard run. Run a QB sneak for a 1st down and hook up with Edelman for a 30-yard gain on his first snap from scrimmage after missing about a quarter, going through concussion protocol.   

NFL Schedule Week 16, Who Are Your Winners:

How are you feeling about the games this week? We have a post on our PatsFans Forum where our readers can predict the slate of games for that week. I did it on our weekly Sunday column here and will post it up below. Here is the link if you’d care to pick your own: https://www.patsfans.com/new-england-patriots/messageboard/picks/

Last Week: 10-6
Season:141-82-1

Saturday Football –
Houston over Tampa
New England over Buffalo
San Francisco over LARams

Sunday
Pittsburgh over NYJets
New Orleans over Tennessee
Indianapolis over Carolina
Miami over Cincinnati
Baltimore over Cleveland
Atlanta over Jacksonville
NYGiants over Washington
Denver over Detroit
Oakland over LA Chargers
Seattle over Arizona
SNF Kansas City over Chicago
MNF Minnesota over Green Bay

Bye week: No teams

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Are Closing But Not Quite There Yet:

The Buffalo Bills had a legitimate shot at taking down the Patriots on Saturday although even with a win, the chances of them winning the division were rather remote as that would entail the Dolphins winning next week in Foxboro. But the Bills gave New England all they could handle and have narrowed the gap considerably. 

But in the end, they came oh-so-close but not close enough as they fell to 3-32 against Tom Brady. One thing is for sure, as the #5 seed in the playoffs, they are going to be a tough out to whomever they play (KC or Houston). 

Sean McDermott maybe is just 0-6 against Belichick, Brady and the Patriots, but the difference between now and a few years ago seems like light years ago. The division is going to be interesting from here on.  

Dolphins Gesicki Having Good 2nd Year, Working With Fitz:

The Miami Dolphins have been rebuilding in 2019 and cut loose many of the players they invested heavily in. But one of the players they kept and is paying dividends is TE Mike Geskicki. The 6’6, 250-pound tight end was used as more of an in-line blocking tight end in his rookie season by Adam Gase. But under Chad O’Shea, he’s lining up more as a “move” tight end and his production has doubled. 

He caught 22 passes in his rookie campaign and with two games to go against Cincinnati today and the Patriots next week, he has caught 41 for 454 yards and two scores. Not earth-shattering numbers but good enough for sixth in the AFC. 

Gesicki has loved playing with veteran QB Ryan Fitzpatrick this season.  “He’s one of the best teammates I’ve been around, so it’s super easy to get along with him and play with him. It’s been great,” Gesicki said.

“He has great anticipation. He knows when things are going to happen before they happen. He obviously has a ton of experience, so to be able to play with him has been great for me and helped me get better.”

Jets Bell Will Face the Steelers for the 1st Time Today:

The New York Jets are playing out the season and will today face the Pittsburgh Steelers who currently hold the #6 seed in the AFC playoff picture. But for Le’Veon Bell, he’ll be facing his former team for the first time. 

Bell has had a down season, but that speaks more to what he has as an offensive line this season compared to what he had with the Steelers, rather than speaking to a loss of talent (Sony Michel bashers take note). Bell expects a ton of Steelers fans at MetLife Stadium today but isn’t sure what kind of reception he’ll get. 

 “I don’t know, honestly,” Bell said. “I think it will probably be 50/50. I think there will be half that will be happy to see me and still love me and half that hate me and despise me. It is what it is. I’m going to show love regardless. Everybody that’s wearing my jersey I’m going to go sign it and things like that. It’s going to be fun.”

“People look at the stats and they just go off of the stats,” Bell said. “I think people who understand football and break down the film and really watch it, they know exactly what’s going on and what type of player I am and how I’ve been performing,” he added. 

“Stats don’t really show how well I’ve been playing. Regardless of stats, I don’t really care what people think. I’ve been playing very good football and I’m continuing to get better. I’m smarter, learning a lot more as I continue to play. I’m healthy and I feel good in Week 16. I’m happy where I am.”

________________

Absolutely, yeah. Absolutely. That’s what we’re here for. Yep. You work all year to put yourself in a position to play in a game like this where you can win the division. So, you couldn’t say that in Week 4, or Week 6, or Week 8 – whatever it was. Well, we’re saying that now, so now is the time for us to play and coach our best football. That’s what we’re all here for.” Bill Belichick on treating this week’s game like a playoff matchup. 

________________

“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 blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

 

“The East is Not Enough” – Patriots Hold Off Bills 24-17

Steve Balestrieri
December 21, 2019 at 9:50 pm ET

Do you want a playoff atmosphere? You had it in spades today. The Patriots and Bills had a tremendous game with back and forth action and clutch plays by each team. But in the end, the Patriots made a few more plays than Buffalo did and scored 11 unanswered 4th quarter points for a come-from-behind 24-17 victory at Gillette Stadium on Saturday afternoon. 

This win gives the Patriots an unprecedented 11th straight division crown. And a win next week assures them of no worse than the #2 seed and a bye in the playoffs. But it wasn’t easy or always pretty. But this is a mentally tough team and they never quit. 

Down 17-13 in the 4th quarter, they relied on Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, and Rex Burkhead who must love the cold weather because the past two seasons, he’s turned it up a notch in big games. Today was no exception. Down 17-16, Burkhead had a tremendous effort, breaking a tackle by Lorenzo Alexander in the backfield and keeping his feet and powered into the endzone with 5:06 remaining in the game and giving the Patriots the lead. They capped it off with a two-point conversion from Brady to Edelman to make it 24-17.

Edelman was out for a while, getting checked for a concussion. It happened on a play where Edelman got flagged for offensive pass interference that wiped out a 33-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Ben Watson. We’re not going to get into the call or another on Watson that wiped out a huge first down by James White…

But after an impressive Bills drive got them with a first and goal with just under two minutes to go, the defense stiffened and made some huge stops when they had to. So, when the Patriots got into the locker room they had their hats and t-shirts for the division title, their 11th in a row. The message on the shirt, “The East is Not Enough”, and rightfully so. If they play like this, they can beat anyone. 

As we’ve been saying all year, this Buffalo team is tough, with a legit defense and they aren’t going away. They’ll be a tough out during the postseason. 

Some of our observations include:

The Patriots offense rolled up over 400 yards of offense against an outstanding defense of the Bills. And they had the balance they always seek with 271 yards through the air and 143 tough yards on the ground. While they struggled in the red zone again, this kind of offensive output has to be a sight for sore eyes. 

Tom Brady had his best game in quite a while. He looked spot on today and delivered the ball extremely well. Brady completed 26-33 for 271 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions for a QB rating of 111. Maybe that sand in the hourglass isn’t quite ready to run out just yet? Hmm?

Burkhead, as we mentioned above, had a heckuva game, he carried the ball 5 times for 20 yards and a touchdown and had 4 catches for 77 yards, shaking off an early fumble on the Patriots first possession. We pointed out in our keys that the way to beating the Bills defense was to get the running backs involved in the passing game. So with that…

Josh McDaniels gets a game ball. He called a tremendous game and they kept the Bills defense guessing all game long and they kept the tempo and pace in their own favor. McDaniels has had to be very creative with the offense struggling and he definitely was again today. 

Brian Daboll was equally creative for Buffalo. From the tackle eligible touchdown pass play to others, he was able to keep the Bills right on top through the 3rd quarter. This offense is going to get it together…it is easy to see it coming. 

Sony Michel had his best game of the season rushing for 96 yards on 21 carries with a 4.9-yard average. He frequently was making yardage after contact and kept his legs moving. 

The offensive line was outstanding, getting off the ball to rush for 143 yards on a very tough Bills defense and doing a much, much better job in pass protection allowing Brady to throw from a clean pocket for most of the game. 

The Patriots defense played tough when they had to, holding Josh Allen to just 176 yards net passing but gave up two big plays, a 33-yard strike from Allen to Dawson Knox just before the half, and a 53-yard touchdown pass from Allen to John Brown. 

Brown beat Stephon Gilmore with a double move but he passed him off inside to Devin McCourty. McCourty got caught peeking in the backfield at the pass rush and under heavy pressure, Allen delivered another strike. Brown scored easily. 

Cole Beasley had another big day, catching 7 passes for 108 yards out of the slot. Beasley has a habit of finding the open spots in the coverage and delivering. He’s a tough matchup and going back to the spring, I for one was hoping the Patriots would show some interest in picking him up. 

Nick Folk was 3-3 on field goal attempts including a 51-yarder that went right down the middle. It is nice to see the Patriots kicking game getting some traction. 

The defense did a great job of limiting Devin Singletary today. He averaged only 3.1 yards per rushing attempt (15 attempts, 46 yards) and just one catch for 2 yards. Meanwhile, Burkhead, White, and Michel combined for 9 catches, 106 yards. 

So the Patriots won their 12th game this season, the 12th time they’ve done so since the 1970 merger. They are now tied with the San Francisco 49ers with the most 12 win seasons since the merger. 

And the good news is, they are beginning to look playoff ready. With a win over Miami next Sunday in Foxboro, they’ll be 13-3 and getting that all-important bye week off to allow some of their banged-up players to get some much-needed rest. 

 

__________________

 

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

 

Patriots – Bills Week 16, Who Has the Razor’s Edge

Steve Balestrieri
December 20, 2019 at 8:45 am ET

The Patriots can wrap up their 11th straight division title with a win over the Buffalo Bills on Saturday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. in Gillette Stadium. Unlike in years past where the crowning of the division title was a foregone conclusion, this year is very different.

Even with a win, the Bills in order to win the division would have to win next week and have the Patriots lose to the Dolphins. While still a possibility, it is rather remote at this point. However, Buffalo has already clinched a playoff spot of their own and are looking to carve out their own identity. And they’d like nothing more than to knock the Patriots out of a playoff bye.

That could possibly set up a third meeting between the two teams during Wildcard Weekend in two weeks. So, with a playoff bye and the division crown on the line, this IS a playoff atmosphere this week. 

This week’s game will be broadcast by NFL Network on Saturday, December 21 at 4:30 p.m. and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Mike Tirico will handle play-by-play duties with Kurt Warner as the color analyst. Peter Schrager will work from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (11-3) beat the Cincinnati Bengals 34-13 and intercepted Andy Dalton four times, with Stephon Gilmore grabbing two, including a 64-yard pick-six.

The Bills (10-4) beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 17-10 as the Bills also intercepted four passes and generated five turnovers in a big win for Bills.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2019 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Bills have been playing each other since 1960 and this will mark the 120th time the two teams have faced each other. 

The Patriots have swept the season series the past two years and have won six in a row against the Bills. The Patriots have dominated the season series against the Bills 75-43-1 and since Bill Belichick took over the team in 2000, the Patriots are 34-5 against the Bills.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Bills Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Buffalo

The Patriots running game finally showed some life last week in Cincinnati as they rolled up 175 yards on the ground in the win over the Bengals. Sony Michel led the way with 89 yards while Rex Burkhead ripped a nice 33-yard touchdown run.    

The Bills are 10th in the league against the run allowing just over 101 yards per game. They have the stout men upfront, Star Lotulelei and Jordan Phillips are good at stuffing things at the point of attack. Matt Milano and Tremaine Edwards at linebacker are very active and aggressive in run support. 

Look for the Patriots to try to establish the run between the tackles. In this one guards Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason will be the keys to whether they can get any sustained yardage on the ground. Getting those two out front and doing some damage at the second level will be imperative for the backs to get some traction.

Michel, Burkhead, and James White will be looked to keep the offense in manageable down and distance. In the first meeting, Brandon Bolden got a carry in the red zone and chipped in with a 4-yard touchdown run. Could we see him a bit? Possibly.          

Patriots WRs vs Bills Secondary – Razor’s Edge Buffalo

The Patriots passing game has been consistently inconsistent for several weeks. Julian Edelman is banged up and clearly hobbling. He shouldn’t even play this week, or next. However, it is all hands on deck time and I expect we’ll see him out there. How effective will Edelman be? It is doubtful we’ll see anything close to his optimal game. But he’s as tough as they come and he’ll give what he has. 

The Bills pass defense is second only to the Patriots in stickiness to the wide receivers. They allow only 190.5 yards per game via the air. The Patriots and Bills are #1 – #2 in points allowed this season (12.9, 15.9 respectively). Tre’Davious White leads the secondary with six interceptions on the year. They have an excellent pass rush led by Phillips with 9.5 sacks, Ed Oliver, Jerry Hughes, and Shaq Lawson who all can get after the opposing QB. Two excellent safeties Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde solidify things in the middle. 

What the Patriots need …desperately is for someone else other than James White to step up. Mohamad Sanu and Phillip Dorsett have been MIA for weeks now and if there is ever a time for them to shine, now would be a nice weekend to get it going.  In the first meeting, Dorsett was targeted nine times and had two catches for 10 yards. Look for N’Keal Harry to see some more snaps and targets this week. 

If the Bills pass defense struggles in any area it would be (like New England) with backs out of the backfield in the screen game. That’s why we should see plenty of White and Burkhead in this one.

Next up the Bills offense:

Bills RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots front seven, in particular, Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton have been fantastic against the run. They’ve held up opponents at the line of scrimmage and allow the linebackers to flow and make plays. Guy leads the league in missing only one of 53 tackles. Shelton has missed two 52 of 54 tackle opportunities. 

Buffalo has a big bruising back (Frank Gore who gained 109 yards in the previous meeting) and a faster back who can challenge out of the backfield in Devin Singletary who missed the first game. The Bills will want to run the ball to make life easier on Josh Allen in this one and Singletary will present a tough matchup. 

This will be a big game for the Patriots linebackers to try to take the running game away. Kyle Van Noy, Dont’a Hightower, and Jamie Collins will have to be active and sure in their tackling this week as the Patriots will try to force the issue and make Allen throw to win. 

Bills WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New England

The Bills passing game with Josh Allen is beginning to emerge as he gets more and more comfortable in the offense of Brian Daboll. They have an underrated pass receiving group with John Brown who has emerged as their #1 target, Cole Beasley out of the slot and talented TE Dawson Knox, with Singletary out of the backfield.

The Patriots are allowing just 170.9 yards per game through the air. Stephon Gilmore has been outstanding and is in the running for the Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY). He’ll be matched up with Brown. They’ll try to mix up their coverages and looks and try to bait Allen into making a mistake. 

The big matchup to watch this week is Beasley out of the slot. Jonathan Jones is out with a groin injury. Jason McCourty has been battling a groin injury of his own. Those two would be the top two choices to cover Beasley. If neither is available, rookie Joejuan Williams would probably see some action in there or the team may opt for a safety. 

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots special teams units have been the key to a lot of success this season and certainly had a hand in the win over Buffalo earlier this season. They blocked the first of four punts and Matthew Slater scored a touchdown. Look for them to come after some of Corey Bojorquez’s punts in this one to help out the offense. Jake Bailey is having an outstanding rookie season while Nick Folk has at least solidified the kicking game. Coverage on kicks has been outstanding while the return game has been poor. 

Buffalo’s Stephen Hauschka has been very inconsistent this season and has missed several kicks that have influenced games with a lack of range this season. Bojorquez is very solid and the Bills have a dynamic returner in Andre Roberts. But home cooking gives the Patriots the edge here.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

The Patriots and Tom Brady have enjoyed incredible success against the Bills (31-3) and since Brady became the starter in 2001, and are looking for a win that will give them their 12th win of the season for an amazing 13th time since the 1970 merger which would tie San Francisco for the most in the league.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. Those late-season walkovers are a thing of the past and although the Bills have never beaten Brady in a meaningful game in New England (Sean McDermott is 0-5 overall), the tides are changing. This one is going to be a battle. 

Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:

Running Game Must Be Effective – Look for the Patriots to try to run the ball between the tackles this week. They have to help out a passing game that is really struggling and going against an outstanding pass defense, this is imperative.

Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, and James White must be physical, and get yards after contact this week. The guards (as we pointed out earlier), have to win their matchups.

Get After Allen – With the Bills offense still a work in progress throwing the ball, Allen still has occasional issues with accuracy and is prone to make mistakes. The defense will have to force the issue this week. They can’t lay back and just try to contain Allen in the pocket, they will have to get after him hard this week. 

Both defenses will be aggressive this week, the Patriots’ unit will have to be better and and generate a turnover or two. 

Continue the Script – This week, that means playing tough opportunistic defense, having the special teams flip field position, and securing the football as well as generating some turnovers. The Patriots are well versed in playing in big games and always seem to turn it up a notch in those….This is a prime opportunity to do so again.

___________

This should be a tough, physical contest… and a very low scoring one and even lower if Edelman can’t play this week. Buffalo is just beginning to learn how to win. They’ve been given very little respect on the national stage. But a win over Dallas on Thanksgiving where they curb stomped the Cowboys started to change the narrative a bit. A win in Pittsburgh last week was impressive and now they are taking on their nemesis in the division. 

They have had zero success here in New England during the Brady/Belichick era but feel they have the team to create a new order in the AFC East. Is it this year? 

The Patriots have been here before, they won’t let the moment get too big for them. And the Patriots defense continues to rise up for the occasion and they’ll have to once again. The Pats defense gets a couple of big turnovers and a huge stop late in the game to salt away another division crown.  Patriots17-16

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” tour returns for the final regular-season game of 2019 at home when the Pats take on the Dolphins at Gillette Stadium.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and breakdown game analysis

Best Of Social Media: Week 15 Patriots vs Bengals

Robert Alvarez
December 18, 2019 at 9:56 am ET

The Patriots rolled into Cincinnati on Sunday looking to break their two game losing streak and prevent the first three game one since 2002.

Echoes of the 2014 “On to Cincinnati” rally cry were in the air leading up to the game as optimistic built for a December turnaround.

Check out all the best sights and sounds from social media as the game progressed from start to finish below.

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Game time. #LFG

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

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In the first quarter, the Patriots scored on their opening drive for the second consecutive week, as James White darted down the field for a 23 yard touchdown reception.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B6HettEpa-q/

The Bengals answered back when wide receiver Cethan Carter hauled in the tying score.

A Randy Bullock 34 yard field goal gave the Bengals a surprising 10-7 lead after a quarter.

In the second, a Nick Folk 40 yard field goal knotted the game at ten but the special teams unit provided another opportunity for points.

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Team work makes the dream work

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The fumbled punt lead to another Nick Folk field goal just before halftime to give the Patriots a 13-10 lead.

In the third quarter, the Patriots defense began to tighten up and dominate quarterback Andy Dalton and his offense.

Who else but cornerback Stephon Gilmore to get it going?

The pick turned into points.

Rookie wideout N’Keal Harry hauled in a seven yard pass from Tom Brady for his second (should be third) career touchdown.

20-10 New England.

A Stephon Gilmore 64 yard pick six on the ensuing Bengals drive broke the game open and pushed the Patriot lead to 27-10.

 

In the fourth quarter, a Randy Bullock 48 Yd Field Goal would be all the Bengals could muster for the remainder of the day.

A Rex Burkhead 33 yard touchdown run in his return to Cincinnati sealed the Patriots eleventh win of 2019 with a 34-13 victory and a playoff berth

FINAL 34-13 NE

https://www.instagram.com/p/B6G5Cg3gBa8/

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Coming home with a W. #OnToBuffalo

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let me tell my side…

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#Patswin

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WeNeedThat.

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Passionate.

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W.

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WARNING: NSFW, Language.

Patriots Week 15 Report Card, Back On Winning Track with 34-13 Win Over Cincy

Steve Balestrieri
December 17, 2019 at 6:25 pm ET

 Patriots Defense/Special Teams Key Big Win

The Patriots got back in the win column with a 34-13 win over the lowly and struggling Bengals, The win couldn’t have come at a better time, after dropping two in a row and three of their last five, the team needed this one to begin to try to build some momentum in the final few weeks of the season.

The offense continues to struggle but this week, the defense helped them out by getting four interceptions of Andy Dalton and giving the offense the benefits of short fields as well as a score on a pick-six. 

The win, the 11th of the season marks the 10th year in a row that the team has won 11 or more games. It also punched their ticket to the postseason. This sets up a huge game against the Buffalo Bills next week in Gillette for the division title. 

And with the all-important bye week that comes with the #2 seed still very much in doubt, the Patriots will need to win both of those games against Buffalo and Miami to end the regular season and let some players heal up a bit. 

So, check out our grades and we’ll take one more look at the game film before putting a bow on this week.

Quarterback: C

Tom Brady was facing one of the worst defenses in the NFL on Sunday, and he and the passing offense could muster just 15-29  for 128 yards with 2 TDs and 0 INTs. His elbow, which has been hurting for a while, was clearly bothering him. He sailed more than one pass well over his intended target. And he short-armed another to Sony Michel that was well behind him which cost the team a touchdown. 

The Patriots passing offense averaged just 4.4 yards per pass play. That is less than Sony Michel averaged on his 19 carries. Let that one sink in for a second. His pass protection was not good, getting pressured on about half of his dropbacks in the first half. And there are the drops, which usually come at the worst possible time. 

Brady really needs some rest which is why the bye week is so important, but there’ll be no rest this week with the Bills and their defense coming to town. 

Running Backs: B

The Patriots running game had their best game of the season, rushing for 177 yards on 30 carries before Brady had a couple of kneel-downs in victory formation. Granted the Bengals rush defense is awful, dead last in the league, but at least they made they look that way. Facing some other poor run defenses they haven’t been able to muster much. 

Sony Michel looked good, gaining 87 yards on 19 carries and showed good vision following his blocks and was able to drive through tackles and gain yards after contact. Rex Burkhead, right on time at the end of the season, chipped in 53 yards on 6 carries including a really nice 33-yard touchdown run. Burkhead ran straight ahead and burst through the line, dipped his shoulder and faked out the safety and had clear sailing into the end zone. 

James White had 13 yards on 3 carries. The team got N’Keal Harry involved on a couple of jet sweeps and the big rookie got 22 yards on two carries and two first downs. A much better day for the backs both in the running game and in the passing game. 

Wide Receivers: C-

The Patriots wide receivers almost rated an incomplete grade here. Julian Edelman tried to play through a myriad of issues and didn’t look anything like his normal self. He was laboring walking, never mind running but tried to gut through it like the professional and tough dude that he is. So it is of little surprise that he caught just two passes for nine yards on Sunday. 

Mohamad Sanu is also playing through an injury and he too isn’t moving anywhere near 100 percent. However, the 4th down drop was not injury-related and that is becoming a troubling trend for the Pats WR. He was targeted eight times and had just 2 catches for 13 yards.

N’Keal Harry had a pair of catches for 15 yards including a really nice 8-yard touchdown pass along the back of the end zone. His best play was wiped out due to a false start by Edelman. Harry beat the coverage down the right sideline and made a beautiful leaping catch that would have gone for 36 yards.

James White was the big recipient on Sunday, getting 3 catches for 49 yards including a nice 23-yard touchdown pass on a screen from Brady. Michel and Burkhead also chipped in as the backs combined for 6 catches for 69 yards and a touchdown. 

Tight Ends: C-

Matt LaCosse was targeted 3 times and had 3 catches for 22 yards, that’s it for the group… Yuck. He played about 50 snaps compared to just 34 for Ben Watson who wasn’t targeted and pretty invisible all day. The run blocking overall was better this week. LaCosse had a really nice block on Burkhead’s touchdown run. However, in pass protection LaCosse was victimized several times and gave up several QB hits

Offensive Line: B-

The offensive line play was a mixed bag on Sunday. While the team had a season-high number of yards rushing, the pass protection was not great as Tom Brady was pressured on about half of his pass plays in the first half. However, Isaiah Wynn looked much better this week. Joe Thuney was also very good and had an outstanding block that sprung White for his touchdown reception. Thuney got out in front of White and pancaked the in-the-box safety. 

Ted Karras returned to action and played in all 65 offensive snaps at center. Shaq Mason was looking more like himself, especially in the running game, albeit against the Bengals. Marcus Cannon both had a rough day. Mason injured an ankle which will require a close watch this week with the Bills coming into town.                     

 Defensive Line: B-

The defensive line had a rough day trying to contain Joe Mixon who rushed for 136 yards 25 carries. On the Bengals’ first few drives, they made it their intent to run the football and they just lined up and smashed it in there. The defensive line was getting pushed back a lot in the early going. 

Although they had issues with Mixon all game long, the defensive line keyed the big turning point in the game. On a 4th and 1 from the Patriots 30-yard line, they stuffed the run of Mixon getting him for about a half-yard loss. Danny Shelton had six tackles on the day With the only QB hit coming from Deatrich Wise, who made seven tackles and was very active. 

However, the pass rush? It seemed a half-step late, which is something we’re seeing more of in the second half of the season.

Linebackers: B-

The linebackers had some issues (among others on defense) with tackling in this game. Joe Mixon’s 29-yard run should have been a two-yard loss but Jamie Collins couldn’t wrap him up and he broke free. Collins was also so-so in coverage, although he did make a nice play and tipped a pass that appeared wide open. Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower had just five tackles between them, a quiet game for two who are normally near the top of the list. Most of the missed tackles were from the linebackers, which is a bit of an unpleasant surprise.

Ja’Whaun Bentley, however, had a big game using his size and downhill style as a run-thumper to perfection He led the team with eight tackles including 0.5 for a loss. Elandon Roberts gets high marks for playing 24 snaps on defense and 10 for being the fullback on offense.

Secondary: A

The Patriots secondary had a tremendous afternoon, allowing one touchdown an 8-yard pass play where Jonathan Jones fell down but scoring one on a 64-yard Stephon Gilmore pick-six. Gilmore and J.C. Jackson each had two interceptions and are #1 and #2 respectively in opposing QB rating when targeted. Opponents targeting Jackson have a 28.6 QBR while those targeting Gilmore have a QBR of 32.8. 

The Bengals had 6 receptions for 51 yards on 15 targets when targeting either Gilmore or Jackson on Sunday. They had four interceptions including a pick-six and two pass breakups in those plays. That is domination. Gilmore is just in a league of his own. And to think he got outvoted to the Pro Bowl by Marcus Peters? Child, please…

Overall, Andy Dalton was 17-31 for 151 yards with 1 TD and 4 INTs for a QB rating of 39.2 which is great defense, regardless of the opponent. Jonathan Jones was injured on Sunday and his injury is a big one to monitor this week. 

Special Teams: A-

The Special Teams came up with yet another big play made by the outstanding tandem of Matthew Slater and Justin Bethel. Slater as a gunner, flew down the field and jarred the ball loose on Alex Ericson when he tried to field a punt with perhaps far too little room. Bethel recovered and the Patriots took the lead right before the half. 

Nick Folk made all four extra points and two field goals in two attempts. He’s solidified the position. He doesn’t have the range to go for much over 50 yards but he’s playing well and with confidence, something we haven’t had this year. 

Coaches: B

The Patriots coaching staff, especially Josh McDaniels is working overtime, trying to breathe some life into the offense. And for the 2nd week in a row, he put together a drive that went 75 yards for a touchdown. Then the offense struggled to move the ball. 

The defense was getting gashed early (a troubling trend) but then shut down the Bengals holding them to just three points after allowing them to score 10 points in the first quarter. 

Bill Belichick and the staff always seem to make good adjustments to whatever the opponent is doing well and countering it.

So the Patriots last two regular-season games will be at Gillette Stadium.  Starting with the Buffalo Bills. A win gets the Patriots the division-clinching win. But unlike other years with a late-season game against the Bills, this one won’t be easy. 

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

 

Patriots Defense Keys Big 34-13 Win Over Cincinnati

Steve Balestrieri
December 15, 2019 at 8:26 pm ET

This is the week of Eleven. The Patriots punched their ticket to the postseason with a 34-13 win over Cincinnati and won their 11th game of the season for the 10th straight season. This is also their 11th straight playoff appearance.

The defense picked off Andy Dalton four times and the Special Teams recovered a fumble as once again those units carried the team to an easy victory. But none of the questions about the offense were answered, despite putting up 34 points. 

Some of our observations include:

The offensive line had a very mixed day, on one hand they did very good in run support as the team rushed for a season-high 175 yards on 32 carries. Of course, Cincinnati has the worst run defense in the NFL and came into this one allowing over 150 yards per game. But the pass protection for Tom Brady was terrible for virtually most of the game. Brady was sacked twice and pressured on half of his dropbacks.

Sony Michel had a good, solid day and ran for 89 yards on 19 carries. He displayed good vision and followed his blocks well. He was able to break a few tackles and was getting some nice yards after contact.  

Brady was clearly bothered by his elbow injury. During the warmups, Mike Giardi of NFL Network said he was having trouble throwing the ball. He sailed several throws including one to Mohamad Sanu in the end zone. 

He also short-armed a throw to Sony Michel on a perfectly designed play that should have been a touchdown. Brady finished 15 – 29 for just 128 yards with 2 TDs and 0 Interceptions.

Edelman and Sanu are both hobbled, Edelman especially so. He looks like he can barely move at this point. He finished with just two catches for nine yards on five targets. Sanu had just two catches for 13 yards on eight targets. He had another key drop on fourth down,

Josh McDaniels said earlier this week that they were planning on getting N’Keal Harry more involved with the offense. He had two carries in the running game for 22 yards and two catches for 15 yards including a nice 8-yard touchdown pass reception where he cut across the back of the end zone. 

Harry also had the Patriots best play of the day, he beat his coverage down the right sideline where Brady dropped a perfect pass to him where he made a nice catch for a 36-yard gain. Unfortunately, it was wiped out by a false start by Edelman.

The offense continues to struggle especially in the passing game. On their opening drive where they went 75 yards in eight plays where James White hit a very nicely executed screen pass for a 22-yard touchdown. It was keyed by an excellent block by Joe Thuney, however, they didn’t put together another long drive for the rest of the game. Fortunately, the defense and STs set them up with short fields.  

The run defense was gashed early, on Cincinnati’s opening drive, Joe Mixon was proving very hard to bring down and the Bengals ran the ball on every play all the way to the Patriots eight-yard line. There Andy Dalton threw his first pass, an eight-yard TD to TE Cethan Carter with Jonathan Jones falling down in coverage. It would be the only TD that the Bengals would score.

Although the defense stiffened and allowed only two field goals after that, they never really figured out stopping Mixon who had a very good day on the ground, gaining 136 yards on 25 carries. 

With the score tied at 10-10, the game flipped with one big special teams’ play. Jake Bailey skied a punt and Matthew Slater racing downfield stripped the ball away from Alex Erickson. Justin Bethel recovered at the Cincinnati 23. Although the offense moved backward with a sack on 3rd down. It allowed them to kick a field goal and go into the half with a 13-10 lead. 

That’s when the wheels came off for Dalton and the Bengals. On the third play from scrimmage in the 3rd quarter, Stephon Gilmore picked him off, cradling the ball in his right arm while holding off Tyler Boyd with his left. 

Brady moved them 43 yards on a short field for a touchdown with Harry making the catch at the back of the end zone. Dalton moved the Bengals to the Patriots 41 when he was too late throwing an out route and Gilmore jumped the route and picked it off going 64-yards for another touchdown making the score 27-10 and the rout was on.

The Bengals kicked a field goal making it 27-13 and then tried an on-side kick that went only five yards. The Patriots took over at the Cincinnati 40 and cashed in again. After a two-yard pass from Brady to Matt LaCosse and a five-yard penalty on the Bengals, Rex Burkhead took a handoff up the middle, juked the safety Bates and raced 33 yards for a touchdown making it 34-13. 

The secondary once again was stellar, besides Gilmore’s two interceptions, J.C. Jackson had two of his own, both were outstanding plays. The first he went up high and after corralling the ball, he was able to come down with both feet inbounds. On the other Dalton tried to go deep down the left sideline and Jackson turned and tracked the ball, getting inside leverage, picked it off easily. 

Dalton finished 17-31 for 151 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions. His QB rating was just 39.2. While the pass rush didn’t record a sack, they did bring some pressure on Dalton and did influence some of those picks. 

But scoring 34 points on short fields against the 1-13 Bengals is one thing. With a passing game averaging 4.4 yards per play? That isn’t going to cut it. With awful pass protection and wide receivers again dropping more passes (New England now leads the league in that dubious category), it hardly appears they’ve found an identity. And the Bills defense is coming to town next week. 

The defense and special teams will always give them a chance to win but the play of the offense remains a huge red flag with two games left on the regular-season schedule. If they can win those next two games, they’ll get an all-important bye until the divisional round. They can use the rest of the bye, but first, a huge game for the division awaits against the Bills. 

__________________

Prior to the game, social media was abuzz at the film that the Bengals released of the Patriots filming their sideline in Cleveland. This was just a short clip that was gotten by Jay Glazer. We’ll learn more later when the entire film is released but contrary to what Patriots fans are saying, this…if it is indicative of the entire film (and a big if), then it is damning evidence. 

It doesn’t show the field, the plays or the Cleveland sideline, it is focused on the Cincinnati bench. Of course, since the Bengals released this, could it be that they want to release something more beneficial to their side? Of course, but that tape, again, if it is indicative of the entire film, will result in a stiff penalty… No reason for being that dumb to leave a large monitor in the press box showing what you’re doing. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

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Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

New England Patriots News 12-15, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 12-15 and AFC East notes this week. 

Gameday! The Patriots are in Cincinnati for their final regular-season road game of 2019 against the Bengals. After going just 3-5 on the road a year ago, the team can improve to 6-2 this year with a win today. 

RIP to Pete Frates, who inspired countless people and raised millions of dollars for ALS research. Our thoughts are with his family and friends this weekend.

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

Kyle Van Noy – The Patriots linebacker is the team’s nominee for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year and the Week 14 NFLPA Community MVP. He held a celebration for 153 financially disadvantaged foster families at his ‘A Very Van Noy Christmas’ event.

“We are happy to nominate Kyle Van Noy for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft said. “We are so proud of Kyle’s accomplishments on the field as a New England Patriot, but even more so of his character and his contributions in the community. 

His Van Noy Valor Foundation has helped countless children and families. He and Marissa are remembering their childhoods and how foster care and adoption positively impacted their lives. Kyle’s personal connection to the reason behind their foundation is inspiring.” Congrats to Kyle, well deserved. Now vote for him for the Pro Bowl.

Rob Gronkowski – Was named to the NFL100 team and Bill Belichick had a hilarious story of Gronk’s pre-draft visit with the team, where he fell asleep on the floor prior to meeting the Patriots coaches. 

Josh Gable – The trick shot kicker and YouTube star had a very brief tenure on the Patriots practice squad, two days, but may have parlayed his brief stay into a 2020 opportunity to compete for the full-time kicking position. 

“We had a spot available on the practice squad, and it gave us an opportunity to look at a younger kicker,” Bill Belichick said.

” … Rather than just (have him) come in and do a workout, we were actually able to (have him) kick with the team and put him on the practice squad for a couple of days.”

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: Noted hot-take artist and Brady-hater Max Kellerman was trying once again (ad nauseam) to denigrate Brady’s accomplishments with Bill Belichick and was telling Damien Woody that “Belichick took that 2000 Patriots team to the playoffs without Brady at quarterback.” It makes for great television hot takes. But Woody, knowing better said, “No he didn’t, they went 5-11.”  Kellerman tried to protest but Woody corrected him again ….and he would know, he was on the 2000 Patriots team that year. He must’ve had Bart Scott fact-checking for him.

4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, Please do check it out. 

Harry to Get More Involved in the Offense? About Time: 

Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels are trying to get the Patriots offense unstuck out of the mud prior to the end of the regular season and similar to what they did a year ago before embarking on a run to the Super Bowl. One way to do that would be to get 1st round draft pick N’Keal Harry more involved with the passing game. 

So it should come as no surprise when McDaniels said this week that he needs to get the rookie more involved in the scheme moving forward. 

 “I need to do a better job of trying to find a way to get him the ball and get him involved, so that he can do some of those things and do more of them,” McDaniels said, referencing the play Harry apparently scored a touchdown against the Chiefs and his score against the Cowboys.

“He’s here early, he’s here late, and he’s trying to close the ground on being able to go out there and understand who he’s playing against and what he needs to do to be successful,” McDaniels added. “There’s no shortcut to all that, we know that. He’s got a great attitude. He has a skill set that can certainly help us produce and win.”

With Mohamad Sanu still not 100 percent and Phillip Dorsett struggling, getting Harry some snaps and looks in the passing game would take a lot of pressure off of Julian Edelman and James White. And starting with a 1-12 Bengals team may be a great place to start. 

Navy’s Big Improvement on Defense Helped by Bill Belichick:

You know of Bill Belichick’s affinity for the Naval Academy. His father coached there for many years and his formative years were spent there. So, after last season when Navy struggled on defense and lost their third straight game to Army,  Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo called Belichick, who he has become very friendly with, in a story written by USA Today’s Tom Schad. 

As they talked, Niumatalolo was frantically trying to take notes and keep up with up with Belichick as he spoke. The Navy coach said he was too embarrassed to ask Bill to slow down or repeat anything. “It’s like if you’re an artist and you’re talking with Picasso, you know?” Niumatalolo said about speaking with Belichick. “It made me realize that I don’t know crap about football.”

In part of his conversation, Niumatalolo totally revamped the defense, going from a static 3-4 to a more attacking 4-2-5 that allowed the Navy to be more creative, aggressive and deceptive. Their blitzes come from everywhere and there is constant movement at the snap to confuse the opposition (sounds vaguely familiar). 

Out of the 129 Bowl sub-division teams in 2018, Navy was 121st on third down. This season they are 29th. They went from 3-10 a year ago to 9-2 (this is written on Friday night before the big game) and a big reason is the play of their defense. 

It helps to have Bill on speed-dial, but sorry… Go Army.

NFL Schedule Week 15, Who Are Your Winners:

How are you feeling about the games this week? We have a post on our PatsFans Forum where our readers can predict the slate of games for that week. I did it on our weekly Sunday column here and will post it up below. Here is the link if you’d care to pick your own: https://www.patsfans.com/new-england-patriots/messageboard/picks/

Last Week: 10-6
Season:131-76-1

Thursday Night Football
Baltimore over NY Jets 1-0 

Sunday
New England over Cincinnati
Tampa Bay over Detroit
Tennessee over Houston
Kansas City over Denver
Miami over NYG
Philadelphia over Washington
Seattle over Carolina
Green Bay over Chicago
Minnesota over LAC
Oakland over Jacksonville
Cleveland over Arizona
LAR over Dallas
San Francisco over Atlanta
SNF Buffalo over Pittsburgh
MNF New Orleans over Indy

Bye week: No teams

Saturday Football –
Houston over Tampa
New England over Buffalo
San Francisco over LAR

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Can Punch Their Ticket to the Postseason Tonight:

The Buffalo Bills are playing in their first Sunday Night Football contest since 2007. And if they can win against the Steelers at Heinz Field, they’ll be in the playoffs for the 2nd time in three years. They travel to New England next week and then finish at home against the Jets. 

Obviously, they’d want to clinch it as early as possible, especially considering their record against the Patriots in Gillette Stadium. But facing the Steelers on the road in a prime-time matchup is a daunting task. Buffalo knows that Pittsburgh watched the Ravens game a week ago, where they pressured Josh Allen all game long. Pittsburgh leads the league with 48 sacks and will be looking to do the same.

One way to beat the pressure on the QB is the quick passing game which means more of Cole Beasley. He’ll be the guy to watch this week and in Foxboro next week.

Dolphins Sign Parker to Lucrative Extension:

The Miami Dolphins have signed WR DeVante Parker to a four-year extension keeping him locked up through the 2023 NFL season. Parker’s extension is worth $40 million, including $21.5 million in guarantees and an $8 million signing bonus, according to the NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. 

In an otherwise dismal rebuilding year for the 3-10 Dolphins, Parker has been a bright spot totaling career highs in receiving yardage with 882 thus far and with six touchdowns. He suffered a concussion last week but could be ready to suit up today against the New York Giants. 

Parker was originally drafted by the Dolphins in the 1st round (#14 overall) in the 2015 NFL Draft. Obviously, head coach Brian Flores feels he’s going to be a key piece of the offense that they can build around. Now about that QB situation…

Jets Downplay Sideline Tiff Between Gase and Darnold:

The New York Jets got blown out by the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday Night Football 42-21, that wasn’t a surprise as the Ravens have been on a roll in the second half of the season. But a sideline tiff between head coach Adam Gase and QB Sam Darnold did raise some eyebrows, but both men immediately downplayed it as just frustration.

As Darnold left the field late in the loss after an incomplete 4th and 1 pass, Gase seemed perturbed with the QB. Darnold walked away but then came back and the two had an animated conversation that ended with Darnold waving his hand dismissively. 

“We were both in the same mind frame where somebody didn’t execute their job, and basically I was bitching about that and he was doing the same thing,” Gase said after the game.

Darnold followed the same line of explanation, “We were not in a disagreement at all. It was just me being … you know, I think just frustrated on the circumstances and what was going on in the game at the time.”

The Jets started well and moved the ball very well but couldn’t finish drives, something that will frustrate the best of QBs or coaches. 

________________

The football team, the football staff and the coaching staff had nothing to do with what happened. Nothing. So, we have no involvement in it.
He was doing his job. That’s what he was doing, he was doing his job. Like we all tried to do. That’s what the football team, the football staff and the coaching staff did last week was try to do their job for Kansas City, and then Cincinnati, and then Buffalo next week and that’s it. I just answered the question. That’s it. We have no involvement in it. Zero.
Yeah, I’ve told you everything. Look, Mr. [Robert] Kraft made a statement, the team made a statement. That’s – I don’t have anything to add.
Do not have anything to add.
Do not have anything to add.Bill Belichick on being pressed with repeated questions about the filming in Cleveland of the Bengals sideline.

________________

“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 blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.