Category Archives: 2019 Patriots Regular season

Patriots – Cowboys Week 12 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
November 22, 2019 at 6:38 am ET

The Patriots return home for a big matchup against the Dallas Cowboys at Gillette Stadium. This will be the second straight week facing an NFC East team as the Patriots were in Philadelphia last Sunday.  

The Patriots are trying to stay ahead of the Baltimore Ravens for the top spot in the AFC while trying to keep some distance between themselves and the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East. The Cowboys are leading the NFC East with a 6-4 record, a game ahead of the Eagles…thanks to New England. 

This will be a match of strength vs strength as the #1 offense of the Cowboys is facing the #1 defense of the Patriots.  

This week’s game will be broadcast by Fox and can be seen locally on WFXT Channel 25. Joe Buck will handle play-by-play duties with Troy Aikman as the color analyst. Erin Andrews will report 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 (9-1) are coming off a hard-fought, tough 17-10 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. The defense logged five sacks of Carson Wentz and shut them out for the final 42+ minutes 

The Cowboys (6-4) are coming off of a big 35-27 win over the Detroit Lions. Dak Prescott threw for 444 yards and is leading the league. 

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 Cowboys have met 12 times in their history, including the first-ever game in Texas Stadium in Irving. Dallas won the first seven and the Patriots the last five. The teams last met in October 2015 in Dallas where the Patriots won 30-6.

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 Cowboys Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Dallas

The Patriots running game remains frustratingly mired in neutral, they have tried different combinations and backs but the issue remains the offensive line has not played well as a group. However, starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn returns after being on IR for eight weeks (turf toe). Will it help to have Wynn back? Of course. Will it make them a juggernaut running the ball or even consistently good? Nope. Their problems running the ball are deeper than just one man can fix. But it should be better. 

The Cowboys run defense is middle of the road allowing 105.2 yards per game which is tied for 15th in the league. Their defense is small and very fast and athletic. (More to this below). This is a matchup a year ago that the Patriots ground game would have eaten them alive in the second half. This year? Hmm…

Look for Josh McDaniels to mix things up but this may be a straight-ahead type of game for the running backs. Trying to run those stretch plays to the outside against a fast, athletic defense is pure folly.  A straight-ahead game would favor more Rex Burkhead and possible Brandon Bolden than Sony Michel but we’ll see.         

Patriots WRs vs Cowboys Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

Caveat here…. A big maybe considering who may miss this game. The Patriots passing game has been limited by the pass blocking of the offensive line. Again, it hasn’t been anywhere near good enough. That means Tom Brady can’t wait long enough for plays to develop. The Patriots have good possession guys in Julian Edelman and Mohamed Sanu who are very quick off the line and can eat up the short-intermediate areas of the field. Sanu is dealing with an ankle sprain and is expected to miss this week’s game. A big loss. 

Dallas is 7th in the league against the pass allowing 216.9 yards per game. Their strength is their pass rush. Robert Quinn has 8.5 sacks while DeMarcus Lawrence has 4.5. Michael Bennett has garnered three sacks in three games. 

Wynn’s return will definitely help because Marshall Newhouse struggled against speed rushers. And Quinn is an excellent speed rusher off the blindside. With Sanu and possibly Phillip Dorsett out, it means Edelman, James White, and Rex Burkhead will be leaned on heavily. The offense will need rookies N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers to step up big this week. Ben Watson has been coming on a bit and should see more targets this week. 

Next up the Cowboys offense:

Cowboys RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Dallas

The Cowboys running game with Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard with Prescott scrambling out of the pocket is very effective. It helps to have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL to run behind. An area to watch is the health of the Cowboys’ bookend tackles Tyron Smith and La’el Collins, both of whom have been banged up. 

The Patriots have been a Top 10 defense against the run allowing 97.3 yards per game. They’ll need the big men inside, Danny Shelton and Lawrence Guy to penetrate and slow down the running game at the point of attack. 

For the Patriots it isn’t so much stopping Elliott, he’s going to get his yards, but they have to slow him down with their nickel package to force Prescott into obvious passing situations on third down. If they can do that, they’ll be successful. If Dallas constantly has third and short, they’ll get burned by play action. 

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

The Dallas passing game has a plethora of weapons. Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb at wide receiver, Jason Witten at tight end and Elliott out of the backfield is a tough group to cover. Dallas is the #1 team in the NFL on 3rd down. 

The Patriots #1 pass defense will be tested here. Stephon Gilmore is the best corner in the league and will be matched up with Cooper. But the key for New England is QB pressure where the Patriots have 37 sacks on the season. Covering the secondary receivers Gallup and Cobb will take on an increased focus for J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, and Jason McCourty.

Prescott will continue to spread it around, look for Witten to play a big role this week. The Patriots will try to pressure him and force him into making a mistake. Third downs and keeping the sticks moving will be key for the offense. 

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots special teams have Nick Folk who has settled things down in the kicking game although he hasn’t been asked to do much from distance yet. Jake Bailey is having an outstanding season and last week put six of eight punts inside the 20-yard line. The coverage units have been terrific. The return game has been stuck in neutral.

The Cowboys have the very steady Brett Maher who is 32-32 for PATs and has been okay in the FG department but has missed 4-6 from 50 yards and beyond. The Dallas return game has been only so-so. Because they’re at home and Bailey is on a roll, the Patriots get the nod this week.

Next up, who wins and why…

The Patriots are looking to improve to 10-1 but have their work cut out for them this week as the Cowboys are a very tough matchup this week. But Dallas has been inconsistent this season. One week they look awful and lose to the Jets and then they totally blow out the Eagles. I’d expect them to bring their A-Game to Gillette this week.

Keys to the Game from a Patriots Perspective:

Slow Down the Run- Look for the Patriots defense to give some different looks this week. If Pat Chung can return to game action this week it will help as he typically plays in the box. The Cowboys like to play mainly out of their 11 personnel package, (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR) and even with Elliot, they’ll be in their nickel package. 

Instead of the normal two-gapping the big men, the Patriots may try to have Guy and Shelton penetrate and slow things before they have a chance to get off the line. This is a big key for the defense. It seems crazy to say that they want to force the ball in Prescott’s hands but that would match against the Patriots strength, their secondary. 

Get the RBs into the Passing Game – The Patriots offense has struggled lately and with Sanu and possibly Dorsett out, this could get ugly. Therefore. James White and Rex Burkhead have to step up and keep the chains moving. Look for the Patriots to go up-tempo and try to control the clock. 

Michael Lombardi was on Dallas radio and had some interesting things to say. 

“In the last 2 seasons when the Cowboys play 30 minutes or more on defense they’re 5-17. When they play 30 min or less they’re 20-4. 

Why is that? It’s because the Cowboys are small on defense, they rely on quickness, they rely on speed, they rely on their movement to make plays.  When they have to stand in the middle of the ring for 32, 33 minutes, they wear down. That’s the essence of this game and I think what you’ll see from the Patriots is you’ll see tempo, you’ll see them control, you’ll see them want to hold the ball 34+ minutes and keep Zeke and Dak off the field.” 

Will this work without Sanu and Dorsett? We’ll see. Bill Belichick is the master at finding the adjustments needed to win and in the coaching department, he gets the edge over Garrett, but the team may be very short-handed on offense. 

Special Teams Will Have to Step Up – The Patriots have been getting great special teams play and they’ll need more of that this week to earn a victory. Bailey has been outstanding at pinning teams deep and they’ll need more of that on a rainy Sunday in Gillette. 

Look for them to go after a punt or two this weekend to help out the struggling offense. Justin Bethel or Brandon Bolden may be a key contributor this week.

___________

Prediction: 

As we’ve said, the Cowboys present a great matchup of two really good football teams. The Cowboys offense is tough and will not be easy to stop. They’ll get their yards and points this week, especially with the Patriots offense scuffling along right now. The Patriots will get it figured out, they always do.

But with Sanu and Dorsett out, that may be too much for the offense to work around. The Patriots drop their first game at home this year and fall to 9-2 on the season.  Cowboys 24-16

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” tour goes back out on the road next week as the Patriots take on the Houston Texans.

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

 

Patriots 2019 Opponents, The Cowboys Coming in on a Roll

Steve Balestrieri
November 21, 2019 at 6:58 am ET

The Patriots return home for a late afternoon matchup with the Dallas Cowboys. It has been an up and down season in Dallas, but right now the Cowboys are on a roll offensively. Dak Prescott behind a superb offensive line and a talented and deep group of receivers is lighting it up in 2019. They also have Ezekiel Elliot in the running game and a fast, flowing to the ball defense. 

Dallas is trying to be the first team since the 2003-2004 Eagles to win the NFC East back-to-back times. Right now at 6-4, they are a game up on Philly with six to go, but hold the tiebreaker after crushing Philly 37-10 about a month ago.

So, let’s take a look at the 2019 version of the Cowboys and what’s happening in Jerry’s World down in “Big D” as we approach Week 12

The Offense Is Riding Prescott’s Hot Hand:

The Cowboys entered the 2019 season with some question marks as RB Ezekiel Elliott was a holdout and after a stellar rookie season, QB Dak Prescott had two so-so years in 2017-18. Any doubts about Prescott are now in the rearview mirror as he’s been outstanding in 2019 and nearing career highs in yards and touchdown passes only 10 games in. 

Prescott has completed 247 of 365 passes (67.7 %) for 3221 yards with 21 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. In the Cowboys’ last three games against the Giants, Vikings, and the Lions, he’s completed 79 of 122 passes for 1098 yards with 9 touchdowns and 1 interception. 

Prescott is now considered an MVP candidate and has a plethora of good targets to throw to. And he’s been spreading the ball around. In the Cowboys win over Detroit, Prescott targeted Michael Gallup, Amari Cooper, Randall Cobb, and Jason Witten seven or more times each as they rolled up 444 passing yards.  

Stopping Elliott Will Present a Tough Matchup:

Despite Prescott’s very high numbers in the passing game, one of the toughest matchups, and a key one for the Patriots defense on Sunday will be trying to slow down the Dallas running game behind Ezekiel Elliott. 

Elliott runs behind one of the premier offensive lines in the NFL and he’s enjoyed great success in his career up to this point. So far in 2019, Elliott has rushed 194 times for 833 yards (4.3-yard avg) with 7 touchdowns. He’s also caught 28 passes out of the backfield for 220 yards and a score. 

His numbers receiving are way down from a year ago but that has to do with two main factors. The Cowboys have so many talented receivers, they’re just spreading the ball around more and keeping everyone involved and secondly, they’re putting him on a pitch count a bit to keep him fresh for a stretch run that they hope will lead to a deep playoff run.

But with the passing game hot right now, Elliott isn’t sweating seeing his touches go down the past two weeks. “The passing game is rolling right now so you’ve got to ride it and ride it while it’s hot,” Elliott said. Slowing him down and forcing the Cowboys into obvious passing situations will be a tough task on Sunday. 

Watch the Dallas Pass Rush Closely:

Dallas, as we stated earlier has a very fast and athletic defense. And the Cowboys’ pass rush will bear consistent watching this week as they take on a Patriots offense where the offensive line is struggling. 

The Cowboys have 26 sacks and are led by Robert Quinn who has 8.5 already this season. Quinn is enjoying a career renaissance in Dallas and besides his sack total has 30 QB pressures on the season. Not bad numbers for a guy who missed the first two games of the season. 

Quinn has been an absolute steal for the Cowboys, Dallas got him for a 6th round draft pick from the Dolphins. His speed rush is his patented move and Isaiah Wynn, in his first game back will have his hands full. Marshall Newhouse, who filled in for Wynn while he was injured struggled mightily with speed rushers. Welcome back Isaiah, your plate is filled already. 

Quinn isn’t even the Cowboys best defensive lineman, that title belongs to DeMarcus Lawrence, who although he has just 4.5 sacks is a load to handle. Lawrence banged up a shoulder against the Lions and may be limited this week. 

Dallas picked up Michael Bennett from the Patriots a few weeks ago and Bennett has 3 sacks in 3 games with Big D. It will be interesting to see how Rod Marinelli the Dallas defensive coordinator game plans this week. I look for the Cowboys to be uber-aggressive in coming after Tom Brady. 

Jason Witten Calls Sunday “A Defining Game” For the Cowboys: 

The Cowboys veteran tight end who has been around the block a few times and spent time in the broadcast booth after a brief one-year retirement isn’t one to make statements lightly. 

That’s why it was interesting to see his comments on the upcoming game. Witten was asked if Sunday’s game is a type of measuring-stick affair for the Cowboys.

“Yeah, I think it is,” Witten said. “These are defining games that happen. You look at last year’s season … and you beat a good New Orleans team. This is one of those games. There’s still a lot of games out there, so I don’t think it’s “make or break”. But at the same time, to be able to go on the road and play against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and their team — they’re 9-1 like they are. A great opportunity for us.”

Expect Dallas to bring their A-Game on Sunday. 

We’ll have our keys to the game and key matchups later tomorrow. Stay tuned… 

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 Patriots Week 11 Report Card, Defense Steps Up In 17-10 Win Over Philly 

Steve Balestrieri
November 19, 2019 at 7:00 am ET

Patriots are 9-1 and heading home to Face Dallas

The Patriots gutted out a tough,17-10 road win against a tough NFC team in Philadelphia on Sunday. After allowing a touchdown early in the second quarter, the defense shut them out the rest of the way and held them to just 152 yards from that point on. The defense had a turnover and five sacks from five different players.

The offense was another matter as they looked nothing like a team that had two weeks to prepare for Philadelphia. The last time they faced them with a two-week window they rolled up over 600 yards of offense. On Sunday afternoon, they didn’t get half of that. 

This is who they are right now, they can’t run behind the offensive line and they can’t hold up for long in pass protection. That means it puts an inordinate amount of pressure on the quarterback to work through his progressions really fast. The wide receivers had a tough night getting any kind of separation from the Eagles secondary who played outstanding in coverage. 

So, check out our grades and let’s take another look at the Eagles game.

Quarterback: C

Tom Brady struggled with the punchless Patriots offense on Sunday and the numbers played that out. He completed just 26 of 47 passes on Sunday for just 216 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INTs. The offensive line can’t open up any holes for the backs and can’t protect the QB. The wide receivers have a dearth of speed to get separation. 

That puts a lot of the onus on him and they don’t have the offensive playmakers to make it happen right now. Will things get better? Yes, Josh McDaniels can find a combination to make things work while N’Keal Harry and Isaiah Wynn round into form. But right now the offense has zero identity. It is a struggle. 

All you need to know about how Brady feels about the offense right now is the way he approached his post-game press conference. He knows that they don’t have the talent to get into a shootout with anyone right now. And they’re relying on the defense. “I don’t think it matters what I think. It matters what we do.”

Running Backs: C

The running game can’t get going, the blocking from the offensive line just isn’t there. They try to run to the edge and there are frequently one or two defenders hitting the backs deep in the backfield. Against a tough Eagles front seven, the Patriots managed 75 yards on 21 carries and a Brady kneel down. Sony Michel had 10 carries for 33 yards for a 3.3-yard average which is exactly his season average. James White had 5 carries for 20 yards and Rex Burkhead had 5 for 14. 

They have a deep and talented backfield with nowhere to run. 

Burkhead had two catches for 34 yards, the big one being where it looked like he was about to be tackled for a loss in the backfield, he kept his balance and rolled down the sidelines for a gain of 30-yards. James White had four catches for just 16 yards while Sony Michel had two for 11. 

Wide Receivers: C

The wide receivers had a rough time getting separation from an Eagles secondary that is rounding into form. Nearly everything on every down was contested. Julian Edelman, as always led the way with five catches for 53 yards. He also threw the only touchdown, a 15-yard double pass to Phillip Dorsett. 

Mohamad Sanu had only two catches for 4 yards, a disappointing game for him. Phillip Dorsett had three catches for 33 yards and a score, while rookie N’Keal Harry had his first NFL action with three catches for 18 yards. Jakobi Meyers had one catch for 7. 

Tight Ends: C

Ben Watson had a nice game with three receptions for 52 yards on four targets. Matt LaCosse made his return to the field and had a forgettable game. He had two catches for three yards.  LaCosse nearly turned the ball over with a fumble and Watson was flagged for holding. The blocking in the running game remains inconsistent.

Offensive Line: C-

The offensive line was getting pushed around in the running game, Fletcher Cox was immovable in the center. The pass protection was spotty at best. Marshall Newhouse was turnstiled several times by Derek Barnett, and he gave up some run stuffs but he wasn’t alone. Brady was being pressured constantly. The coaches called so many screen passes to slow down the Eagles and Brady continues to get the ball away so quickly, Philly ended up with one sack. But that doesn’t mean the OL played well. 

Tony Romo kept repeating that Isaiah Wynn will right the ship during the telecast. In the running game it may have a domino effect, they could then bring Newhouse in as an extra tight end on short-yardage, but the pass protection is not good. 

The Patriots were only one for three in the red zone and when they had to run the ball at the end of the game, the Eagles knew they had to run the ball and stopped them from doing it twice. 

 Defensive Line: A-

The defensive line made a nice comeback week, going against one of the best offensive lines in football, the Eagles running backs combined for only 64 yards on the ground against the Patriots defense. Carson Wentz added 17 more on a few scrambles but overall it was a tremendous effort. 

They had the one hiccup where the Eagles drove the ball 95 yards in nearly 10 minutes of clock that they looked like they were passive and slow. But once Bill Belichick pulled them aside and made his adjustments, in the final nearly 43 minutes of the game, Philly had a total of 152 yards, and 30 of those were in the final garbage-time drive with 30 seconds to go in prevent.   

Danny Shelton and Lawrence Guy had excellent games and were penetrating upfront and disrupting things at the point of attack. The play at the Eagles two-yard line was a standout. Guy split the double-team block and nearly had a safety. Great penetration. This was exactly what the doctor ordered. 

Linebackers: A-

The linebackers returned to form as well against Philadelphia and were outstanding on Sunday afternoon. It begins with Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy, they were all over the field and dominated upfront. Van Noy had a sack, a tackle for a loss (TFL) and two quarterback hits. Hightower had a sack, a TFL, and three quarterback hits. 

Elandon Roberts had a sack, a TFL, and a QB hit. Chase Winovich had three tackles and two QB hits. Only Jamie Collins had a quiet night for this group as he was used in coverage for much of the game. He had a pass defensed.  

The Patriots wanted to pressure Carson Wentz and they did so with five sacks and seven QB hits. Mission accomplished.

Secondary: A

The secondary was as solid as ever as they held Carson Wentz and the Eagles to just 174 yards net passing. The Eagles wide receivers were banged up and the ones who did play were held in check.  Eagles WRs had six catches for 75 yards. Zach Ertz did most of the damage with 9 catches for 94 yards but as good as he is, he didn’t make any catches at critical moments as the Patriots rotated Stephon Gilmore on him on third downs, which was a brilliant move. 

With Pat Chung out, Terrence Brooks filled in and did a good job, playing down low and defending against the tight ends. Gilmore, Jonathan Jones, and J.C. Jackson were all excellent. Wentz on several occasions would look and have nowhere to throw.   

Special Teams: A

Jake Bailey continued his outstanding rookie season, averaging 47.6 yards per punt and put the Eagles in bad starting field position time and again. He put six punts inside the 20 and forced Wentz and the Eagles to start from the 12 (twice), the 6, 5, and 3-yard line. That is just outstanding work. Belichick traded up to get him in the 5th round this year (with the Eagles), and he’s been a steal. 

Nick Folk was 3-3 on field goals, none of them far but with the gusty winds in Philly on Sunday, nothing was a given. The coverage units were very solid once again.

Coaches: A-

The Patriots coaching staff made a number of good moves in this game. After giving up a 95-yard drive, Belichick called the defense over and Philly offense sputtered the rest of the game and was shut out from that point on. Putting Gilmore on Ertz for third downs was brilliant as they took him away.  

With all of the hand-wringing over  Josh McDaniels play calling, he’s more like Merlin right now, the offense is smoking and mirroring right now. McDaniels is pulling out all the stops trying everything to get the offense going. He and Brady drew up a play to get James White involved and boom! They go to it on first down and it works. McDaniels had them go uptempo early in the 3rd quarter and they got their only touchdown of the day. 

Great job by the Patriots coaching staff on Sunday. Nothing came easy but they put their players in the best position to win. 

 

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Patriots Defense Rebounds, Shuts Down Eagles 17-10

Steve Balestrieri
November 17, 2019 at 11:15 pm ET

The Patriots improved to 9-1 on the season, gutting out a tough 17-10 win on the road against the Philadelphia Eagles. Philly was trying to keep pace with Dallas at the top of the NFC East while the Patriots wanted to maintain their two-game lead over Buffalo in the division and keep a game ahead of the Ravens in the AFC. 

This definitely wasn’t a replay of Super Bowl LII. While the talk all week was about a Super Bowl rematch where there was one punt and over 1100 yards of offense, this on was a defensive game where neither team had 300 yards of offense. 

While the defense had a big rebound night, the offense sputtered and once again struggled with red-zone production. The pass protection problems remain an issue and not just with Marshall Newhouse. The Eagles were getting pressure from all over the defensive line. The running game again didn’t do much gaining 75 yards on 21 carries before a Brady kneel down. 

Here are our other observations on the game:

Defense Has a Very Solid Game: 

The Patriots defense had a much better night than they did in Baltimore two weeks ago, although they did once again start slow.  After a 49-yard pass interference play set up a field goal, the third Eagles drive covered nearly 10 minutes and went 95 yards as they went out to a 10-0 lead early in the 2nd quarter. 

After that, Philadelphia had 152 yards of offense, including 30 in garbage time with 30 seconds left in the game. That comes out to 122 yards over nearly three-quarters of a game. Whatever changes Bill Belichick made as he pulled the defense over after that long Philadelphia drive, it worked because they struggled to move the ball the rest of the night. 

The Patriots defense got five sacks and a turnover on a strip-sack of Carson Wentz, holding the Eagles to just 174 net passing yards. The Eagles were just 3 of 14 on third or fourth downs. And the Eagles running game after that scoring drive went nowhere. Philly finished with just 81 yards on 21 carries. 

Danny Shelton and Lawrence Guy had terrific games inside. Both were able to penetrate and disrupt at the point of attack. Shelton had seven tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, and a QB hit.

Terrence Brooks filling in for an injured Pat Chung had a big game with seven tackles, two passes defensed, and two quarterback hits. The five sacks came from five different players, Shelton, Van Noy, Hightower, Butler, and Roberts. 

Stephon Gilmore was his usual shutdown self, although later in the game, they shifted him over on TE Zach Ertz on third downs, similar to what they did with Travis Kelce in the AFC Championship Game. J.C. Jackson was also very solid once again. He was targeted seven times and allowed four catches for 22 yards. 

The Eagles wide receivers were beat up entering the game and the box score shows it. The wide receivers caught only six passes for 65 yards on the night. Jonathan Jones nearly had an interception on the Eagles touchdown as he tried to rip the ball away from TE Dallas Goedert. Initially, the play was ruled an interception but was overturned on replay. And although it was very close, it did appear that Goedert had possession as he crossed the goal line. So, the officials did get one right…for a change. 

Offensive Woes Continue:

We mentioned the issues with the offensive line, those are the key to what ails the team for much of their problems. Tom Brady was under duress for the majority of the night and he’s forced to get rid of the ball far too quickly. However, the Eagles secondary is getting healthy and they played a heckuva game, doing a great job of shadowing the receivers and breaking up plays. 

Brady ended up with pedestrian numbers, 26-47 for just 214 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INTs although Julian Edelman dropped a touchdown in the end zone and they were forced to settle for a field goal. 

With the red-zone woes, Josh McDaniels broke out the double-pass play, that we saw against the Ravens in the divisional playoffs a few years ago. This time they ran it to the right and Julian Edelman hit Phillip Dorsett for a 15-yard touchdown. Dorsett was injured on the play, suffering a head injury and didn’t return. 

Ben Watson was a bright spot in the passing game, catching three passes on four targets for 52 yards. N’Keal Harry made his NFL debut and had three catches for 18 yards. Mohamad Sanu was quiet, with just two catches for four yards. 

Rex Burkhead made a really nice move on a screen pass that looked like he was going to be hit for a loss. But he kept his balance and then rolled for a 30-yard gain. Jakobi Meyers had one catch, Dorsett had three catches for 33 yards and a score. Matt Lacosse returned to action and two catches for 3 yards. 

That’s Why They Moved Up to Draft Jake Bailey:

Interestingly enough, it was the Eagles who the Patriots traded with to move up in the draft to nab Jake Bailey. The rookie punter has a mammoth leg and can put the ball high in the sky with incredible hang time. 

But with each and every week, his directional punting gets better and better. Tonight he pinned the Eagles at the 12-yard line (twice), the 6, the 5, and the 3-yard lines. That while dealing with a really stiff wind tonight is outstanding. Bailey punted eight times for a 47.6-yard average. Can you say AFC Special Teams Player of the Week again? 

Nick Folk was perfect when called on, going 3-3 on field goals, granted they were all short, the long was just 39 yards, but in the conditions and given the low score of the game, he gets high marks tonight. 

So, we’re on to Dallas and a home game. 

_________

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New England Patriots News 11-17, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 11-17 and AFC East notes this week. 

Gameday! The Patriots are back from their bye week and are set to take on the Eagles in the late afternoon game. It is a big matchup for both teams and should be one of the best games to watch today. 

Veterans Day is tomorrow. To those who served before me, to those I served with and to the ones who followed and will follow in the future…I salute you. 

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

Bill Belichick – Addressed the Myles Garrett incident (more below) and how the Patriots address those issues. “Every situation is different. There’s no two that are the same. We can go back and look at 50 of these through the years, some type of fighting or ejections. They’re all different. I wouldn’t say it’s like offsides penalties. There’s a lot of different things happening, different situations and so forth and so on. Yeah, fundamentally, I told players what we should do in those situations, how we should handle them. I think they’ve done a good job with it.”

Tom Brady – This will get plenty of airplay now, as Brady’s personal trainer says Brady could play until he’s 46, or 47. “We talk about it all the time, Alex Guererro said. “Every year he just adds another year. He goes in and he’s like, ‘Guys, I feel so good still. I think I am going to go till 45.’ I am like, ‘OK.’ Now he’s like, ‘Alex, I think I can go like 46 or 47.’”

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. 

Patriots – Bills – The Patriots have had enough prime time games this season. And thankfully there won’t be another added as the NFL has released the late-season schedule and the Patriots and Bills will meet on Saturday, December 21 at 4:30 p.m. The game could have got flexed to another night game

N’Keal Harry’s Situation Will Be Closely Watched Today:

Will he play or will N’Keal Harry be inactive again? If he does play, how active will he actually be? Will he just play enough to get his feet wet or is he ready to jump in and become an integral part of the Patriots offense, which we all envisioned when he was drafted this past spring?

Nobody knows the answers to those questions just yet. But some of those answers we’ll find out later this afternoon. It isn’t quite as simple as just coming off of IR and being close to being physically ready. That’s just a small part of the equation. 

For a rookie like Harry, he was just beginning to round into form during training camp, learning the offense, his route tree and was just beginning to learn the little nuances of the offense as Tom Brady likes to run it. He and Brady were working a lot of one-on-one during STs portions of practice as he was getting the chemistry and timing down for the first time. For someone like Julian Edelman, who’s been in the system for several years, it is much simpler. He already has that built-in chemistry with Brady, and he’d just have to get his timing down.

Harry had to basically restart everything from scratch. However, he was able to sit in the meetings and soak up all of that, so that part of it should be just fine. Knowledge of the playbook and his route tree is essential. Then he just has to be where Brady expects him to be. Brady throws to spots on the field where he expects (actually demands) his receivers to be. We watched him discuss this with Harry and everyone else who has come along, down to the minutest detail. 

If he doesn’t trust that you’ll be there, you won’t get many second chances. But the reason the Patriots offense has been so successful for so long is that Brady and Josh McDaniels always try to put players in their best position to succeed. They don’t ask a guy to do something he’s not good at. They’ll find your strengths and play to them.

I can’t wait to see what Harry can bring to the table. Just know this… what you see today and moving forward this season, is just scratching the surface on his potential moving forward… Let the games begin… 

Miles Garrett Situation, Scary, Ugly, and Dangerous: 

As the game on Thursday night between the Browns and Steelers was winding down, an ugly incident unfolded and will have fans and media discussing it for a long, long time. Myles Garrett took down Pittsburgh QB Mason Rudolph hard after he tossed a screen pass. Rudolph took exception to that and as the two were on the ground, he twisted Garrett’s helmet. 

What unfolded went from ugly to scary to dangerous in a matter of seconds. Garrett and Rudolph began to tussle and then the Browns edge rusher ripped Rudolph’s helmet off his head and then swung it hard and made glancing contact (thankfully) before bedlam ensued. Maurkice Pouncey, coming to Rudolph’s defense tried to kick Garrett in the head several times before punching him on the ground.  The benches emptied and it nearly got out of control. 

The referees insisted on playing out the game which was at that point smoking around a powder keg and Freddy Kitchens wisely sent out the Browns backup QB to take the final snap. Garrett was suspended indefinitely, at least through the rest of the season and the playoffs and rightfully so.  There is absolutely no defending what he did. And for one of the NFL’s youngest and brightest stars, it is crushing for his team as they hope to climb out of a deep hole and make a playoff run. 

I still can’t believe what I watched there. I fully expected to Rudolph to go down and not get back up. No one wants to see that, especially if the aftermath were very different which it could have been. 

Pouncey was suspended three games for kicking Garrett in the head. Larry Ogunjobi was suspended for one game for his own actions, as he leveled Rudolph after the fact. The Steelers and the Browns are bitter rivals, everyone knows that, but what transpired was way beyond football and any rivalry. Thankfully, Rudolph wasn’t seriously injured and the courts didn’t get involved in this. Which is the last thing anyone, especially the NFL wants to see.

What Is the NFL Doing With The Kaepernick Workout?

It is a bizarre scenario with the entire Colin Kaepernick being shadow-banned by the league, his lawsuit which was settled out of court and now his league-sanctioned workout. Actually, it wasn’t sanctioned, it was almost an ultimatum. Take it or leave it.

Kaepernick was given no notice and had only hours to agree to the terms, will supposedly work out this Saturday (this was written on Friday) for representatives from 24 NFL teams in a private event funded and arranged by the league.

The entire thing is crazy. Why on Saturday, the day before a game when coaches and general managers are prepping for their game the next day? Tuesdays are the day off for all of the teams that play on Sunday and would have been a much better choice. 

The Patriots will attend and if they were interested in Kaepernick, and we’ve examined this n the past, they’d have to change their offense if they wish to get the most out of Kaepernick’s talents. Could it be a look to the future? Kaepernick is now 32 and after not playing for several years, how much of a future does he truly hold? 

NFL Schedule Week 11, 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: 4-9
Season:92-55-1

TNF Browns over Pittsburgh 1-0

Carolina over Atlanta
Dallas over Detroit
Indy over Jacksonville
Buffalo over Miami
Baltimore over Houston
Minnesota over Denver
NY Jets over Washington
New Orleans over Tampa Bay
San Francisco over Arizona
Oakland over Cincinnati
New England over Philadelphia
SNF LA Rams over Chicago
MNF Kansas City over LA Chargers

Bye week: Green Bay, NY Giants, Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee

Week11 Thursday Night Football Browns over Pittsburgh

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills, Hauschka Looking to Rebound:

The Buffalo Bills lost a golden opportunity to gain ground on the idle Patriots by dropping a 19-16 decision to the then 2-6 Cleveland Browns (the Browns have now defeated Buffalo and Pittsburgh to move to 4-6). The loss dropped the Bills to 6-3 and two games behind the Patriots (New England owns the tie-breaker too). 

With the Patriots facing a tough test against the Eagles this afternoon, Buffalo is facing the Miami Dolphins who’ve won two in a row. Miami’s offense should have a tough task taking on the Bills defense, but after practicing in the cold and snow this week, the game is in South Beach, so that may have some bearing on it. 

One player looking for some bounceback is kicker Stephen Hauschka. He hasn’t been good this season (4th worst FG average) and his range looks seriously shorter than we remember. He missed two big kicks last week, right before the half, and at the end of the game. Those kicks were costly.

Dolphins’ Fitzpatrick Maintains His Love for the Game:

The Miami Dolphins are just 2-6 but QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has lost none of his enthusiasm and love for the game. ESPN Insider Field Yates was a guest on One Bills Live podcast and said Fitzmagic’s love of the game rivals that of Brett Favre. 

“And, not that Ryan Fitzpatrick has had Brett Favre’s career at all,” he said, “but he reminds me of Favre in his pure enjoyment of football. Fitz seems to have a blast every time he is out there. Sometimes people may see it as carefree, I look at it as passionate. He’s a warrior. He’s incredibly tough. I think his teammates respect the heck out of him. I’ve really enjoyed the various chapters of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s career.”

The Dolphins players respect and believe in Fitzpatrick, which is why he’s still the starter and Josh Rosen is not. 

Jets Facing Haskins, Redskins Today, Prepare for Heat Young Man:

The New York Jets are facing the woeful Washington Redskins this afternoon and Washington is starting rookie QB Dwayne Haskins. The Skins want to run the ball with Adrian Peterson and Darius Guice but the Jets have a very good run defense. 

Translation, Gregg Williams is going to stack the box to take away the run and blitz the heck out of Haskins. The rookie will be throwing to Terry McLaurin, his Ohio State teammate, but don’t expect him to have much time to throw it down the field.

This one is ready-made for Williams to throw the kitchen sink at Haskins. Look for the rookie to have a rough outing against the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets today. He’ll need the cold tub tomorrow.

________________

See what happened, check it out, absolutely,” Belichick deadpanned. “Interact with everybody, see what they think, get my opinions out there. I don’t want to get left behind on that. Then brush my teeth.”Bill Belichick being asked about jumping on social media first thing in the morning to give his take on issues trending around the league.

________________

“So, how was your week?”

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Patriots Players To Watch, Week 11 Against the Eagles

Steve Balestrieri
November 15, 2019 at 8:31 am ET

The Patriots are on the road again and are taking on the Philadelphia Eagles after their bye week. The Eagles always seem to give the Patriots a tough matchup and we all remember SB LII which Philly won 41-33.

Don’t be fooled into believing this is a weaker or middle of the road Philadelphia team by their 5-4 record at this point in the season. Many picked them to be one of the teams to fight for the NFC crown this season. To be sure they were very inconsistent earlier this year, but enter winning two games in a row over the Bills and Bears before having their own bye week last Sunday. Both teams have had two weeks to prepare. 

Here are our Patriots players to watch this week as they try to improve to 9-1 on the season against the Eagles. 

Mohamad Sanu: 

The Patriots wide receiver has played in just two games with his new team but has already exhibited a familiarity and chemistry with Tom Brady that belies how little time he’s had here. He’s had 12 catches in his first contests with New England and he and Julian Edelman should provide a very potent duo that the Patriots can move inside or outside depending on the matchups.

Sanu fulfilled a need for another wide receiver to step up in this offense and the feeling is, that they are just scratching the surface of his potential thus far. We look for Sanu being targeted early and often against an Eagles secondary that has had its issues this season, although they are getting healthy now. 

Sanu has already proven to be a great fit for the Patriots offense. Now with the meat of the schedule here, is his chance to show how good he can be. Barring any health concerns, he should be in line for a career-high in receptions. A big game against the Eagles would be a nice way to kick off the second half of the season.

Pat Chung:

Chung has been limited in practice this week after missing last week’s only two bye-week practices, suffering from heel and chest injuries. Chung is tremendously versatile in the Patriots defense, doing a bit of everything. Bill Belichick has said continuously how valuable Chung has been in his second stint with the team.

Chung is especially needed this week. Philadelphia has two excellent tight ends in Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. Ertz is the Eagles go-to guy on 3rd down and covering him will probably fall to Chung, which is no easy task. 

Being able to limit Ertz’s effectiveness (notice we didn’t say shut down), will go a long way in giving the Patriots the advantage for the defense in being able to slow down and stop this Eagles team from scoring. Chung, if he’s available will be that guy. 

Julian Edelman:

We always seem to put Edelman in there because, after Tom Brady, he’s the most indispensable player on the roster. While the debate can rage across the NFL on whether Edelman is HOF worthy or is he a #1 WR, the fact is, in the Patriots offense, he IS their #1 WR and go-to guy in the passing game. 

Edelman has been banged up since the first half of the first Jets game (eight weeks ago) but is as tough as they come in the league. He’s absolutely fearless in going across the middle and doing the dirty work underneath, which is why the Patriots have had so much success in the past few years. 

Edelman will continue to be the focal point of the Patriots offense as well as the guy to stop for the Philadelphia defense. It is the matchup within the matchup that makes the game so fascinating.  

Jamie Collins:

The Patriots linebacker had an outstanding first eight weeks of the season, worthy of Defensive MVP consideration. Two weeks ago against the Ravens, he wasn’t put in a great position to succeed early in that game and he as well as the rest of the defense was gashed. 

While the Eagles use the run/pass option concepts in the running game and have a mobile quarterback of their own (Carson Wentz), it is a pretty different offense than the one the Patriots faced in Baltimore. However, with several excellent running backs and good WRs and TEs, they are no less a formidable task.

We look for Collins to get back on track as being a dominant, disruptive force on the Patriots defense. Look for him to be very aggressive this week as they look to get back to where they had been playing. 

Rex Burkhead: 

This is shaping up to be a game where the Patriots are throwing more than running. Philadelphia’s rush defense is excellent and is 4th best in the NFL. So, with Sony Michel presenting more of a one-dimensional threat at this point of his career, we expect to see more of Burkhead and James White in the backfield this week. 

Burkhead gives the Patriots a little bit more of a versatility factor in the offense. While he’s neither a great runner nor a great receiver, he’s very good at both. And they’ll need that versatility to keep the Eagles defense honest and keep them guessing. 

Look for his role to increase, similar to what we saw down the stretch last year and in the postseason. If he can stay healthy and on the field, he’ll see a lot more reps, which will hopefully get the running game going a bit more.    

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Check back with PatsFans.com for all of our pregame and post-game analysis. And if you’re a wiz at predicting the NFL slate straight up, register for our message board and then post your picks every week. We’ll see who is the top dog at the end of the season. That page can be found here: https://www.patsfans.com/new-england-patriots/messageboard/picks/

 

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Patriots – Eagles Week 11 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
November 14, 2019 at 8:51 am ET

The Patriots head back out on the road and come off of their bye week to face the Philadelphia Eagles in a big game for both teams.

The Patriots are trying to stay ahead of the Baltimore Ravens for the top spot in the AFC while trying to keep some distance between themselves and the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East. Philadelphia got off to a slow start but is locked in a tight divisional race with the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East and won their last two games to go into their own bye week at 5-4. 

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Jim Nantz will handle play-by-play duties with Tony Romo as the color analyst. Tracy Wolfson 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 (8-1) are coming off their bye week. But in their last game, they were defeated by the Ravens 37-20.

The Eagles (5-4) are coming off their bye week. In their last two games they defeated the Buffalo Bills and the Chicago Bears.

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 Eagles have met twice in the Super Bowl with the Patriots winning SB XXXIX and the Eagles winning SB LII.

During the regular season, the two teams have met 12 times with Philadelphia holding a 7-5 edge overall. The last regular-season meeting was in Foxboro in December 2015 with the Eagles winning 35-28. 

 

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 Eagles Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Philadelphia

The Patriots running game has not had the production that was envisioned this summer. It is plodding along averaging just 92.9 yards per game, just 23rd in the NFL. That isn’t good enough. Sony Michel is averaging only 3.3 yards per carry. Against Baltimore, he had just four carries but that may have had more to do with the Ravens jumping out to an early 17-0 lead that forced the Patriots to abandon the running game a bit.  

Philly’s run defense is playing very good thus far in 2019 allowing just 87.3 yards per game, good for 4th best in the NFL. Buoyed by the big men upfront Fletcher Cox and Teddy Jernigan inside and Derek Barnett and Brandon Graham at the edge with a group of athletic linebackers at the second level. 

Expect to see more what the Patriots did in Baltimore two weeks ago and using Rex Burkhead and James White running occasionally out of the shotgun formations to keep the Eagles defense honest, but this won’t be a big Sony Michel week.            

Patriots WRs vs Eagles Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game has been given a boost by the addition of Mohamad Sanu. He and Julian Edelman give Tom Brady a pair of inside receivers that can move inside or outside, depending on the matchups. With an extra two weeks in the Patriots system, Sanu should be farther along in his development. Phillip Dorsett rounds out the top three at WR while Burkhead and White out of the backfield add the extra dimension for defenses to account for. Ben Watson at tight end should see more looks in the passing game down the stretch. 

The Eagles pass defense has been middle of the road allowing 239 yards per game (16th). Their strength is again up front where they’ve logged 24 sacks on the season. Graham, Cox, and Barnett can be very disruptive. Their secondary hasn’t been good, they’ve been banged up but are getting healthy and rounding into form. 

Look for Brady to try to slow down the pass rush and account for less than stellar pass protection by getting the ball out quickly to Sanu and Edelman. If the Eagles pass rush begins to get home, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the offense go to an uptempo, hurry-up mode that slowed down the Ravens front seven. 

Philadelphia has been susceptible to the deep ball this season, something that isn’t necessarily a strength of the Patriots offense but I’d imagine they’ll test the waters a few times to try to loosen them up. Will we see N’Keal Harry this week? And how much, if at all will he play???? Inquiring minds want to know.

Next up the Eagles offense:

Eagles RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Philadelphia

The Philadelphia rushing attack has been featured in their last two games against the Bills and Bears and Philly has held the ball for 77 minutes compared to 44 for their opposition in those two contests. They feature Jordan Howard (525 yards, 6 TDs), Miles Sanders (336 yards, 1 TD) and Darren Sproles running behind one of the best offensive lines in football. 

The Patriots defensive front seven took a big hit in the Baltimore game, getting gashed by the Ravens ground game. While some of that was playing the wrong schemes, they’ve had some uncharacteristic tackling issues as well. They will be looking to slow down that running attack this week and get back on track where they’ve been prior to the past two games. On the season, the defense is 11th against the run, allowing 99.1 yards per game.

Look for the Eagles to run more of their 12 personnel looks this week with two tight ends. They’ve been successfully doing that lately and Carson Wentz is always a threat to scramble. The dreaded RPOs (run-pass options) that Philly runs and ripped the Patriots in SB LII will an area to watch. 

If the Philly guards get to the second level and are able to attack the Patriots linebackers there, it will be a long afternoon for the defense again. The Patriots will be looking to stuff the run at the point of attack. Look for them to be more aggressive this week and ditch some of the two-gapping style we saw in Baltimore. 

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

The Philly passing game has been beset by injuries and inconsistency. They wanted to base the passing game on DeSean Jackson but he’s been hurt. Alshon Jeffrey and Nelson Agholor have been bedeviled by drops at inopportune times. However, they boast two outstanding tight ends in Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert and those two will be a handful to cover, especially on third down and in the red zone. 

The Patriots secondary has been outstanding this season. Stephon Gilmore has been showcasing his talents since early this summer. Jonathan Jones is having a Pro Bowl type of season and J.C. Jackson as well as Jason McCourty have been very solid. 

When Philly has struggled, it has been because of protection issues for Wentz. The Patriots with 32 sacks this season have the capability to be very disruptive and force Wentz into scrambling behind the line. The key to this week will be how well they cover Ertz and Goedert. Ertz is one of the best tight ends in the league and Pat Chung, who’s been banged up will draw him…if he’s available. The Patriots secondary can handle the wide receivers, but the key here will be the tight ends. 

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Philadelphia

The Patriots special teams are now on their third kicker Nick Folk who they hope won’t be forced into making a pressure kick from long distance at this stage of his career. Punter Jake Bailey has been outstanding in his rookie season, skying long punts and getting better and better and pinning opponents inside the 20. The coverage units have been excellent although the return game has been only so-so.

The Eagles have Jake Elliott who hasn’t missed a field goal this season… hmm. Cameron Johnson has also done a terrific job at pinning the opposition inside the 20. The Eagles have Sanders and Sproles returning kicks and punts respectively. But because of Elliott and his consistency, they get the nod here. 

Next up, who wins and why…

The Patriots are looking to improve to 9-1 and this should prove to be a fascinating matchup of two very good teams. The inconsistency that plagued Philly seems to have been eradicated and Doug Pederson is a very game-plan specific coach. Look for different looks and formations that the Patriots haven’t seen given that he’s had two weeks to prepare.  

Keys to the Game from a Patriots Perspective:

Spread Them Out – Look for the Patriots offense to once again go to a more spread look and hit the quick passing game with an uptempo look. Using only three wide receivers as they did in Baltimore isn’t the answer, so look for Jakobi Meyers and fellow rookie N’Keal Harry to get some play this week. 

As always this is a Julian Edelman, James White type of game for Tom Brady. Those two will be targeted a lot by Brady and the Eagles defense. The “X-Factor” in this one is Mohamad Sanu. If he shows more of the development that we expect at this point, then he should be in line for a big day. 

Run Defense Has to Rebound – The Eagles running game will present a huge test for the Patriots defense. This game will hinge on the play of the offensive and defensive lines this week. While that sounds cliche, it is especially true this week. The Patriots front seven has to be more aggressive in attacking the running schemes of the Eagles and try to blow plays up in the backfield. 

Win Third Down – The Patriots struggled both offensively and defensively on third down in Baltimore. That will have to change this week. Offensively they have to keep the chains moving and wear down that front seven of the Eagles. On the defensive side, allowing Philly and Wentz to have those easily manageable third downs (3rd & 2, 3rd & 3 or less) is a recipe for the tight ends to kill them in the short passing game. 

They have to get the Eagles in those 3rd and long situations where they can bring pressure on the QB, something they’ve been excellent at doing this season. Forcing Wentz to have to throw in those longer situations, plays to the strength of the secondary.

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Prediction: 

We’ve already said this is a fascinating matchup and this should be one of the best games to watch this week. We expect a really great, close game although not quite as high scoring as the last time these two teams met. 

I think both teams will move the ball at times and struggle at others. The experience factor with Brady will play a huge role here, he’ll lead the offense to a late score and the Patriots defense returns to form with a big stop as New England returns to the win column.  Patriots 27-24

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” tour returns home to Foxboro next week as the Eagles will become Patriots fans as the Dallas Cowboys visit Gillette Stadium.

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Patriots 2019 Opponents, Getting to Know the Philadelphia Eagles

Steve Balestrieri
November 13, 2019 at 9:42 am ET

For the third game in a row, the Patriots will be facing a team that is coming off a bye, this week it is the Philadelphia Eagles. But the Patriots are also coming off of a bye week as the teams get ready to lock horns in Philadelphia during Week 11.

 It is interesting to note that although the Patriots could use the time off to heal up some injured players and to get newcomer Mohamad Sanu as well as injured rookie N’Keal Harry better acclimated to the New England offense, the Patriots have often appeared sluggish in their return to the field after a bye. That type of start could be a bad harbinger of things to come this week. 

So, let’s take a look at the 2019 version of the Eagles and see what is going on in Philly with Doug Pederson’s team before Sunday’s matchup.

The Offense is Changing Their Identity:

The Eagles, much like the Patriots have done in the past saw that some things weren’t working and rather than slam their heads against the wall, have adapted and in particular, the offense has been changing. 

At the beginning of the season, Philly was basing their offense around a deep group of wide receivers beginning with DeSean Jackson, who they had brought back to be the deep threat for their offense. The only question this summer was if there would be enough passes to go around. 

But Jackson has been hurt and Alshon Jeffrey and Nelson Agholor have been very inconsistent with a lot of drops at key times. Jeffrey, in particular, has looked like he’s been laboring out on the field.  

So, the Eagles have been running a lot of 12 personnel lately. Running behind arguably the best offensive line in football, with three outstanding backs in Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, and Darren Sproles, the offense has been chewing up the clock and the opposition. 

Howard has run for 525 yards with 6 TDs while Sanders has 336 yards and a score while adding an additional 22 catches for 305 yards out of the backfield in the passing game. 

In their 12 personnel package, they can throw to two excellent tight ends in Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. With the RPO game that Patriots fans will remember from the Super Bowl, this will be a huge test for the Patriots defense. 

Eagles Front Seven Present a Tough Matchup:

Philadelphia’s strength is their front seven and the ability to shut down the running game. Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, and Derek Barnett can get after the QB and disrupt things for the passing game. 

Going against a Patriots offensive line that has been under-performing for the most part this season, This is another big matchup that will go a long way in deciding the game. While the Eagles secondary has had their share of injuries, they’re beginning to get healthy. But if there is a weakness in the defense, it is the pass defense. 

Look for the Patriots to try to slow down the pass rush and tire out their better players by going with quick, short passes to the wide receivers which will hopefully open up some holes for the running game. But Philly’s run defense is excellent allowing just 87.3 yards per game, good for 4th in the NFL.

Expect the Unexpected With Philly:

Doug Pederson runs a very game-specific offense. Their game plan will have a set of different formations and looks that Pederson specifically installs for each opponent. He is guaranteed to throw something at the Patriots that they probably haven’t seen much of, if at all this season. 

How well the Patriots can recognize and react to those formations will go a long way in determining the outcome. And with two weeks to prepare for this one, Pederson should get pretty creative. 

Philly Searching For Consistency: 

The Eagles have been up and down this season and at just 5-4, this start was unexpected as many picked them to be one of the teams to watch in the NFC. Philly began with a close win over Washington then dropped consecutive games against the Falcons and Lions. A big win over Green Bay on the road followed by a stomping of the Jets appeared to have them on the right track.

Then came big losses at Minnesota and Dallas which left them at 3-4. But then they turned it around in Buffalo with a big win over the Bills before beating Chicago before their bye week. 

Did they right the ship in their last two big wins or will their inconsistent ways return this week? This is a big game for both teams but may be an even bigger contest for the Eagles as they’re still chasing Dallas and have already dropped a game against their divisional rivals. This should be one of the games to watch this week.  

With all of the talk of a “Super Bowl Rematch”, I’m not buying it. Both teams are pretty different from the last time they met. And that game is nearly two years removed since they last met. While it sounds good from a media perspective, I doubt that the teams will be looking at it as such. The game has big enough implications for each team as it is. 

We’ll have our keys to the game and key matchups later this week. Stay tuned… 

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Patriots Week 9 Report Card, Defense Struggles in 37-20 Loss to Baltimore

Steve Balestrieri
November 5, 2019 at 8:26 am ET

Patriots are 8-1 at the Bye Week

The Patriots weren’t going undefeated, we’ve been saying it all year since the summer but yet people continued to predict it like it is a walk in the park. Think about this, it has only been done twice in the past 50 years and four times in 100 seasons of the NFL.

The point is they were bound to have a game where they were making too many mistakes and ran into a hot team. Earlier on Sunday, I watched Green Bay scarcely resemble the team they’ve been all year play sluggishly on the road in LA. And wondered if it was the Patriots’ time. Baltimore, rested after a bye week was the perfect storm and pretty much kicked the Patriots defense behind all game long. 

So, please stop with the over the top reactions to a single loss. Although some of them were unintentionally hilarious.  Check out our grades and see how the team fared in this week’s game in Baltimore.

Quarterback: B-

Tom Brady got off to a rough start but was able to get it going in the second and third quarters when the team went to the hurry-up, up-tempo offense. Brady finished 30-46 for 285 yards with a touchdown and an interception. 

Brady put the team on his back when they were trying to dig out from the big hole they got in and targeted Edelman and Sanu almost exclusively in this one. Everyone else was an afterthought. The best throw of the night was his 30-yard completion to James White, however. 

Running Backs: C-

The running game either by design or the way the game unfolded early was relegated to the back burner on Sunday night. We said in our pregame keys that we thought they’d eschew the ground game for the most part and try to attack Baltimore through the air. 

They ran just enough to keep the defense honest and ended up with just 17 carries for 74 yards (4.2-yard average). While no one stood out as outstanding, neither did anyone stand out badly either. Going into a 17-0 hole in the first quarter will take an offense out of their game plan if indeed they did plan on running more. 

James White had the most production out of the group with 38 yards on 9 carries. He tripped and ended up just short of the goal line just before the half where the team actually had a chance to tie the game up. He later added a touchdown. 

Wide Receivers: B

Julian Edelman and Mohamed Sanu were both featured in this one and it is easy to see that Sanu is going to fit this offense quite well. Edelman was targeted 11 times and had 10 catches for 89 yards. Sanu was targeted 14 times and had 10 catches for 81 yards and a touchdown, his first as a Patriot. 

Sanu in just his second week on the team has already been determined to having the trust factor with Brady. In our keys, we also thought that both he and Edelman would have good games with the short quick passing game against the Ravens secondary.

Edelman’s fumble hurt. After crawling out of a 17-point deficit, the team actually had the chance to take the lead early in the 3rd quarter, the idea of which seemed ridiculous earlier in the game. It happens. Give the Ravens defense the credit there. It flipped the momentum right back into their corner. They didn’t relinquish it again.

Phillip Dorsett had just two catches. Jakobi Meyers played one snap. White, Burkhead and Michel had only four combined catches out of the backfield.

Tight Ends: C

Ben Watson went the distance for the Patriots at tight end and had four catches for 28 yards on five targets. Ryan Izzo was active but didn’t play a snap. Watson played pretty well but did have a drop on a contested 2nd-down catch, that set up the 3rd and 10 play where Brady was picked off deep. 

The team can’t expect Watson to play all the snaps down the stretch at 38-years old and will need somebody else to step up. 

Offensive Line: C

The offensive line got back Shaq Mason this week although he didn’t play particularly well in his return. Marcus Cannon did have arguably his best game of the season. After a tough start, the line did a decent job of pass protection when the team decided to spread out the defense and go up-tempo. But although they gave up just two sacks, 10 QB hits is a lot, but considering the score, it could have been worse.

The run blocking was fair enough this week, the Ravens are a tough team to run against and they didn’t really ever get the chance to establish anything considering the early deficit. But the 4.2-yard average was better. 

 Defensive Line: C-

The defensive line struggled for the first time this year against an opponent. There wasn’t anything exotic, the Ravens didn’t scheme up some things that they hadn’t seen before. They just lined up and played very physical. What did give the line problems was the option plays where Jackson stuck the ball in the hands of a back and either kept it or left it depending on the play of the defense. They never really figured that out.

Baltimore’s running game, especially Mark Ingram gashed the Patriots for 210 yards on 41 carries. Ingram had 115 yards on just 15 carries. The team also did a much poorer job of setting the edge, it is rare to see a back or QB turn the corner and see no one there. It happened more than once. 

The group was able to generate just one sack and three QB hits.  

Linebackers: C

The linebackers had their most lackluster game of the season. Dont’a Hightower’s fiery speech on the sidelines lit a fire under the group for a bit and their play improved…for a bit. He led the team with 13 tackles and one tackle for loss, something the unit had precious little of on Sunday night. Kyle Van Noy had a solid game, providing backside coverage when Lamar Jackson would cut back. 

Jamie Collins had a rough game, getting taken in on those option plays by Jackson early, he certainly wasn’t alone. Elandon Roberts struggled as well.   

Secondary: B

The secondary wasn’t really tested by the Ravens wide receivers, mainly out of design. They passed for only 163 yards because their running game was a difference-maker for them. When they did pass it was to the tight ends. 

Stephon Gilmore matched up with Marquise Brown who had three catches for 48 yards. Willie Snead had two grabs for 15. That was it for the wide receivers. The tight ends did the damage with Nick Boyle, Mark Andrews, and Hayden Hurst combining for 9 catches for 63 yards and a score. On the surface, it doesn’t add up to much, but it seemed every catch was a key first down.  

Special Teams: B+

Nick Folk gets passing marks this week, he made both extra points and both chip shot field goal attempts. It is a strange night when Justin Tucker misses an extra point or field goal but he did although it didn’t hurt the overall scheme of things. 

Brandon Bolden did well in the kick return game and the coverage units were outstanding. Lost in the hot takes of the dynasty crumbling was the STs coverage units. This was easily their best game of the year. The Ravens averaged just 12.7 yards on kick returns and 3.5 yards on punts. They forced a fumble on a Cyrus Jones muff and recovered by newcomer Justin Bethel. 

Jake Bailey continued his stellar rookie season, averaging 46.6 yards per punt while dropping three inside the 20. 

Coaches: C

The Patriots coaching staff didn’t have the team properly prepared to handle the Ravens running game, especially those options by Jackson. As Bill Belichick said after the game, they didn’t do anything well enough to win, coaching, playing, or preparation.

The offense played in “11 personnel” all game long and it is a head-scratcher when the team has struggled all season long to find a viable red-zone target for Tom Brady and you have a big 1st-round draft pick at WR who is inactive for a tight end that you didn’t play a single snap.   

There will be plenty of self-scouting to do this week before they take off for a few days during the bye week before preparing for Philadelphia.   

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.

 

Ravens Run Roughshod 37-20 Over the Patriots

Steve Balestrieri
November 4, 2019 at 7:16 am ET

The Baltimore Ravens had their bye week to prepare to face the Patriots and it was obvious from the opening moments that they used their time wisely. And the Patriots now enter their own bye week with some work to do. 

Baltimore’s running game was simple in its inception and executed wonderfully as they bludgeoned the Patriots defense to the tune of 214 yards and waltzed away with a 37-20 beatdown of the previously unbeaten Pats on Sunday night in Baltimore. 

The Ravens completely dominated the first quarter of the game outscoring the Patriots 17-0 and did it by running the ball right down their throats. The Ravens said they wanted to punch New England in the mouth with their running game and they did just that.

The Patriots did a poor job of setting the edge, there were uncharacteristic huge swaths of open space for the runners to exploit and the Baltimore offensive line was clearly the winner of the trenches on Sunday night. The Patriots had never faced Lamar Jackson and it was clear, his speed was very much an issue for them all night long.

Baltimore dominated that first-quarter very much like the Patriots had dominated nearly every first quarter this year. It was ultimately too big a hole to fight out of. Baltimore ran for 142 yards in the first quarter, almost double what the Patriots had been allowing in a game. 

As a result, it was New England who was making the mistakes that we normally see the opposition do. Shalique Calhoun jumping offside on the initial field goal attempt, giving the Ravens a first and goal was a harbinger of things to come. 

And when the Patriots clawed back in the game at 17-13 and actually appeared to be ready to take the lead early in the third quarter, the Julian Edelman fumble and scoop for a 70-yard touchdown going the other way drove home that this wasn’t their night. Although the Patriots answered with a touchdown drive to close again to four at 24-20, one could sense the feeling that the Ravens weren’t going to bend anymore. 

The Ravens dominated time of possession from there on going on two long, time-consuming touchdown drives to blow the game wide open. They converted several key third and fourth downs to keep the chains, and the clock moving in their favor.

The Patriots offense changed things up offensively tonight and eschewed the running formations that haven’t been bearing fruit this season and opted to spread Baltimore out with the receivers out wide, allowing Tom Brady to see the defense and adjust the protection and then hit the open man with a quick, short passing game. They went to a hurry-up offense, with the hope that it would gas the Ravens pass rushers and allow them to run the ball later in the game. 

It was working for a bit, the Ravens defense appeared totally gassed at the end of the touchdown drive that cut the score to 24-20. The problem was that they had dug themselves into too deep of a hole to make it work. And the fact that because two wide receivers were inactive (N’Keal Harry, Gunner Olszewski), the wide receivers were as gassed as the defense was. *Note* watch Julian Edelman on his fumble play. But it was all rendered moot when Baltimore answered with an eight-minute scoring drive that gave their defense the rest they needed. 

On a bright note, Mohamed Sanu appears to be a great pickup for the offense. In just his second week with the Patriots, he caught 10 passes for 81 yards and a touchdown. Edelman caught 10 passes for 89.   The pair are going to be a handful for opponents to cover down the stretch. 

The issue, however, continues to be the red zone and especially once the team gets inside the 10-yard line. They don’t have a go-to guy or a big target they trust enough to attack opponents once they get down close. And if we want to be nitpicky here, the team drafted a 6’4, 225-pound wide receiver in the 1st round who was inactive on Sunday night because he wasn’t conceivably “ready” but activated a tight end (Ryan Izzo) for the game who didn’t play a snap on offense? 

So, the Patriots enter their bye week at 8-1 and the #1 seed in the AFC and yet to log onto social media tonight, one would think they are in dire straits at 1-8. They have some self-scouting to do and now have two weeks to prepare for the Eagles in Philadelphia who coincidentally are also on a bye week this week. 

They’ll file away what they learned in what doesn’t work against the Ravens but this isn’t the time to dwell on rematches that won’t happen, if at all for two months. It is time to get back on track and move on to Philadelphia. 

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.