Category Archives: NFL News

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.

New England Patriots News 11-03, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
November 3, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 11-03 and AFC East notes this week. 

Game Day, as the Patriots are in Baltimore to take on the Ravens on Sunday Night Football on NBC.

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

Oh, those Frequent Flier Miles – NFL teams in 2016 flew a total of 564,820 miles during the course of the season. Traveling around the world equals 25,000 miles, so NFL teams basically circled the globe 22.5 times in 2016. That is a lot of logistics to cover.  

Tomlin, Steelers Fined – The Steelers were fined $75,000 and head coach Mike Tomlin an additional $25,000 for failing to accurately report Ben Roethlisberger’s injury during Week 2. The Steelers’ QB hasn’t played since then but the team listed him missing practice as non-injury related. 

Boogeymen 2? Child Please – The 49ers defense has been outstanding this season, but perhaps they need pointers on originality. Yes, the Niners are calling their defense “the Boogeymen” as well as the Patriots. On the Niners Instagram page on Thursday night, they posted a picture of DeForrest Buckner sacking Kyler Murray with the caption, “the Boogeymen live in the backfield.” 

Brady/Gisele Buying in CT – The Patriots QB has been the subject of endless rumors of the TMZ variety, i.e. “Rift with BB, “Taking shots at Kraft”, Playing elsewhere in 2020” yada, yada. So the news they just bought a house in Greenwich, CT won’t slow those down at all. It’s a long commute to Foxboro … However, if you’re wondering about the home they just purchased, “The home sits on 10 acres of land and was built in 1990. It features approximately 14,862 square feet of living space with 7 bedrooms, 8 full and 4 half bathrooms, 2-story foyer with staircase, 2-story great room, formal dining room, gourmet kitchen, breakfast room, family room, gym, indoor pool, 3-car garage and more. Outdoor features include a motor court, balcony, patios, gardens, swimming pool, and a tennis court.” 8 full, 4 half bathrooms? Never have to wait there… 

If you care to take a look at the humble manse of the Brady clan, check out the pictures of the new place here:

Sad End For Josh Gordon in New England: 

After the Patriots announced that Josh Gordon was going on IR and would then be released, one’s immediate reaction was to believe that he was having a relapse of his well-known substance abuse problems. That is perhaps unfair but hardly a stretch since it has been a constant thorn in his development and his career. 

Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston was the first to report that the Patriots were growing concerned with Gordon being consistently late to things. That is troubling because that is where it started with Cleveland so long ago. And as Curran said, “he was showing signs of undependability.” That, the team couldn’t afford to play around with. 

And with diminishing production, just 20 catches for 287 yards this season, perhaps they felt that he was not going to ever recapture the speed and athleticism that he once dominated the league with, albeit for a very brief time. 

But they had a decision to make. The team invested in a first-round draft pick in N’Keal Harry this spring and as Curran points out, right now, he’s faster and more athletic than Gordon. But after missing the first half of the season, could the team have moved on too quickly from Gordon? Certainly but we aren’t in the building there every day so at this point, you’d have to assume the coaches know better. 

But after watching Gordon here for the past two years, you can’t help but root for him personally to conquer the inner demons that have haunted him for most of his life. He’s now a Seattle Seahawk, but more than anything we all root for the per    Watching those tapes of 2013, my what a player he could’ve been. 

Steve Belichick, Calling the Plays For the Defense:

It is hard to argue with the job that the Patriots defense is doing these days. And while the naysayers will point out the schedule, regardless of who you are playing when your defense is scoring as many touchdowns as they are allowing, then you’re on to something special. 

Of course, some radio hot take artists will tell you that the only reason Steve Belichick got hired by his father was through nepotism. Now, it turns out that Steve is the one that is calling the defensive signals in from the sidelines. Many believed that it was Jerod Mayo who was calling the signals or that the two were sharing the responsibility. 

But this week, Andrew Callahan of the Boston Herald reported that several players confirmed that it is the younger Belichick is the one calling the signals. And when you hear him speak, he sounds exactly like his father. And if his football mind is half as keen as his father (and early results play out that he’s on the right track), then the future is bright indeed for the younger Belichick. 

Patriots Players to Watch Today :

With the Patriots taking on the Ravens tonight, here are our Patriots players to watch for the game. If they are to leave Baltimore victorious these players will have to step up for them in a big way tonight. 

Jamie Collins: The Patriots linebacker is in the middle of an outstanding career renaissance in his second stint with the team. The most athletic linebacker in a very solid group, he’s been tremendous through the first half of 2019. 

He’ll have to be on top of his game tonight.  The Ravens running game, through the read-option is where they make things difficult defensively. One of the key players to combat that is Collins. 

Mohamed Sanu: The wide receiver is in his second week with the team and should be a little bit farther along in the offense this week than he was against the Browns. The team really needs him to learn the offense as quickly as possible to become a trusted member of the passing game. 

We expect that he’ll see more targets tonight as he begins to settle into this offense. We look for Sanu and Julian Edelman to be a dangerous pair inside for Tom Brady to utilize. 

Pat Chung: One of the Patriots’ most versatile and important players on the defense, Chung is somehow always overlooked when talking about his worth to this team. 

Chung plays a huge role in run support and he’ll be the first line of defense against the Ravens’ tight ends, where Mark Andrews is the team’s leading receiver. 

Julian Edelman: The Patriots offense’s most irreplaceable piece after Brady should play a big role in the offense tonight. The Ravens defense is quite different than the ones we were used to seeing in the past. After watching several of their games if there is a weakness in this unit, it is with the short, quick passing game.

That is a recipe for Edelman and Sanu to become big factors in the game tonight. If they are successful, the offense should be in better shape than we’ve witnessed lately. If the Ravens shut them down, it will be a long evening for Brady & Co. 

N’Keal Harry: Harry hasn’t even been activated yet, so we’re leaning a bit forward in the foxhole here (Friday night), but the feeling here is that not only will Harry be activated, but he will play as well. 

We’re going to temper expectations in his first NFL game action, but it is really important for him to get some game action and get his feet wet before the bye week. He can do all the things that Josh Gordon did for the offense, but now the 1st-round pick will have to go out and prove it. Welcome to the NFL… 

NFL Schedule Week 9, 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: 14-1
Season:79-41-1

TNF San Francisco over Arizona 1-0

Houston over Jacksonville (9:30 a.m. London)
Philadelphia over Chicago
Indy over Pittsburgh
NY Jets over Miami
Kansas City over Minnesota
Carolina over Tennesse
Buffalo over Washington
Seattle over Tampa Bay
Oakland over Detroit
Green Bay over LA Chargers
Cleveland over Denver
SNF New England over Baltimore
MNF Dallas over NY Giants

Bye week: Falcons, Bengals, Rams, Saints

Week 9 Thursday Night Football Raiders over LA Chargers

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Look to Rebound Vs Haskins, Skins:

The Buffalo Bills went through a rough patch to a small degree, after a close win over the Titans, they had more trouble with the Dolphins than perceived and then played poorly in a 31-13 loss to the Eagles last week. But this week, their defense is facing rookie QB Dwayne Haskins, in the loud, friendly confines of Buffalo. 

For the Bills defense, this should be a prime time to get their A-game back under control and going against a rookie 1st-round QB in Haskins who, the Redskins were loathing to put in the game because the coaches felt he wasn’t ready. Now, they have no choice and Haskins is being thrown into the deep end of the pool. 

This Bills defense is excellent and is a tough test for even the most experienced pro QBs. For a rookie making his first start and on the road in Buffalo? This could get ugly early. Expect the Bills to roll big today. 

Dolphins Continue to Lose But Confidence in Flores Grows:

The Miami Dolphins may be winless and going nowhere, but the fans see the growth (baby steps) and the players’ trust and belief in Brian Flores and what he’s trying to accomplish down in South Beach. 

The Dolphins will be meeting the Jets for the 108th time in their history today and they’re going to have to accomplish a few things if they want to get off their winless streak and sink the Jets even lower in the standings. 

They’ll have to limit LeVeon Bell and the Jets running game, Bell’s offensive line is a far cry from what he enjoyed in Pittsburgh and he’s been a non-factor. Miami will be looking to continue the struggles of Sam Darnold. After returning from illness with a stellar game against the Cowboys, Darnold was awful against New England and that continued last week with more interceptions. His confidence was shaken by that nightmarish New England game, and the Dolphins defense has to continue that trend. 

Finally, Miami has to empty the tank to get the offense going, try every trick and gadget play they can think of. What a way to end their winless streak if they could get B-Flo a win over their long-time rival Jets.

Jets Once Again Teetering on the Brink of the Abyss :

The New York Jets are back in familiar territory, and that is they’re straight into the eye of another really bad season. Disfunction has followed this franchise around gum on your shoe for too many years. The 2019 season was supposed to usher in a new era, with a franchise QB, a new coach, and a new attitude. But so far, we’ve seen that nothing has changed. 

Granted, some things that happened were completely out of their control. Sam Darnold’s illness and then Trevor Siemian’s gruesome injury were just horrible bad fortune. How many teams could rely on a practice squad QB by the first quarter of Week 2 and be successful? Not many. 

But since Darnold’s return, the wheels have seemingly came off again. After a huge win over the Cowboys, everything was pointing in the right direction and confidence was sky-high. Then came the debacle against the Patriots where the team was shellacked 33-0. Darnold looked lost and Adam Gase left him in there long after the game was decided. 

Darnold’s struggles continued against the Jaguars and the team lost 29-15 as he threw for three more interceptions. With the trade deadline, the team jettisoned former 1st-round pick (6th overall) Leonard Williams and stated that they were open to trading Le’Veon Bell, who they just rewarded with a huge FA contract this spring. They then dangled Jamal Adams who is their best player on defense. 

Now, the Jets are facing a must-win against the winless Dolphins or this season the team may implode again. And this won’t bode well for Gase…

________________

“Well, we have a lot of confidence in our secondary. There’s a give and take with the rush and the coverage, so the more guys you have in coverage, the fewer guys you have rushing. The more guys you have rushing, the fewer guys you have in coverage. I mean, it’s pretty basic so you try to do what you think is best in a particular situation or against a particular team and the matchups that you have. There’s an element of changing it up, but ultimately it comes down to that decision – do you want to rush more and cover with less, or cover more and rush fewer. There’s middle ground there. We’ve done all of the above and I’m sure we’ll continue to do that, like we always have. It’ll just depend on the situation, the team, so forth.” – Bill Belichick being asked about bringing extra pressure on opposing QBs and the pressure it puts on the secondary.

________________

“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.

 

New England Patriots News 10-27, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
October 27, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 10-27 and AFC East notes this week. 

Game Day, as the Patriots take on the Browns in the later game this afternoon.   

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

“We’re Not in Kansas anymore Toto” – If I told you… say three or four years ago that the Patriots would have Antonio Brown, Demaryius Thomas, Josh Gordon and Michael Bennett on the roster in the same season, and then either cut or trade every one of them? I’d have been locked up. It just goes to show what a crazy season it has been.

Behind the Scenes – The Patriots video department was the subject of a very cool behind the scenes clip for the Patriots All-Access crew. Ever wonder what it takes for the video crew to break down the coaches’ film from games and how fast it gets to the coaching staff? Check it out here:

Mohamad Sanu – has been made to feel right at home this week. Sanu spoke about Tom Brady who spoke highly of the Patriots’ new acquisition. Sanu jokingly said that Brady even offered him the #12 jersey that Sanu wore with the Falcons. Sanu’s answer? “Nah, you got that. I’ll change to 14.” Asked as a follow-up if he offered anything to Brady for the jersey, Sanu laughed it off and said, “No, I’ll just go out there and do my job and let him be great.”

Bill Belichick, Not a fan of the Weathermen- The Patriots coach has never been a fan of the weathermen who are predicting heavy rains for the Browns game this afternoon. Asked during a press conference if the team was preparing for the deluge, Belichick scoffed at the notion.

“In the Giant game, it was supposed to be a monsoon and everything and, like usual, there was not one drop of rain and let’s say minimal wind. Although there was some wind. It was across the field, so it didn’t affect the game that much.

“We went down to Miami. We thought it was going to be hot… So predicting heat in Miami in September … maybe you and I can figure that out.

“I’ve seen the forecast. This is the exact same forecast we had for the Giants. Not one drop of rain. So we’ll see. I don’t know. I’m sure it’s hard to get it right, especially specific locations like this. Where it is 10 miles from here and where it is here makes all the difference in the world to us. That’s the world we’re in. So we’ll see.” If there is one person who Belichick believes is wrong more than the weatherman? Charley Casserly.

Trade Deadline Approaching, But Will Anyone Trade With Bill? 

After the Patriots traded for Mohamed Sanu, their cap space was down to $10K according to Miguel, aka @Patscap. Not $10 million but 10 thousand.. Yikes.  That number was increased to a little over $2.8 million with the trade of Michael Bennett to the Dallas Cowboys but still leaves the team with precious little room to maneuver.  With the trade deadline rapidly approaching, do they have enough cap space to make another deal? And will anyone make a trade with New England? 

There are still some players out there who the Patriots have been linked to but how much they are actually interested at this point remains to be seen. Or was their interest simply doing their own due diligence? Among those players are:

TE O.J. Howard: Howard is a big, athletic tight end in the Gronk mold. We’re not comparing him to Gronkowski, but he could be that kind of complete tight end. He’s 6’6, 255 and he can run. But he’s woefully underutilized in Bruce Arians’ offense in TB and has just 13 catches so far this season. The Patriots reportedly inquired and were told no…He’s not playing today, I’d try one more time.

TE Austin Hooper: The Falcons trade of Sanu made sense, their season is shot and they still have Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. The got a 2nd round pick for Sanu which will help with the retooling process there. But trading Hooper? That would be folly for Thomas Dimitroff.  He’s only 24 years old and is on pace for a 100 catch 1100-1200 yard season. Several teams have supposedly asked about Hooper but have been told that he’s staying. 

TE Tyler Eifert: The Cincinnati Bengals tight end has been another name that has frequently been rumored to be on the Patriots radar. Eifert is a very good tight end when he’s on the field which is very rare in the past three years. Eifert appeared in a total of 14 games in the three seasons of 2016-2018. He has appeared in all seven games this season and has 17 catches for 118 yards and a touchdown. Picture a more fragile Rex Burkhead…

Rumors persist about WRs A.J. Green of the Bengals and Danny Amendola returning to New England. But unless the Patriots decide that they are not going to activate rookie WR N’Keal Harry, bringing in another wide receiver just doesn’t make sense at this point.

Redskins LT Trent Williams name continues to be tossed about to the Patriots, who were reported to have offered Washington their 1st round draft pick for the veteran tackle who hasn’t played a down this year. How they could afford him now under the cap is a major mystery. 

Patriots Players to Watch Today :

With the short week due to Monday Night Football, we didn’t get to post our normal players to watch that we usually do on Friday. So, with the game in just a few hours, we still have time to share our players who we feel need to step up for a Patriots victory today. So, (Jim Lang voice) Heeeerrrree they are.

Stephon Gilmore: The best cornerback in the league is facing the most explosive, dynamic playmaker for the Browns in Odell Beckham Jr. today. This is the kind of matchup that is tailor-made for the national television audience. 

Baker Mayfield has been trying to force things to Beckham in the early going of the season. Will he do it again today in Gillette? Seeing two players of this magnitude competing against one another is always must-watch territory. 

Mohamed Sanu: The newest Patriots wide receiver has only been on the ground for a few days. We expect that he and Tom Brady will eventually forge a nice chemistry on the field. But how much can we reasonably expect this week? 

Wouldn’t it be a great storyline if Sanu can turn in a big game this afternoon? But we’ll temper expectations a bit this week …and next. After the bye week, he should be fully involved in the offense. 

Dont’a Hightower: The Patriots linebacker is off of the injury report and he’ll be needed against the Browns top running back Nick Chubb this week. Cleveland needs to move the ball on the ground and control the clock against the Patriots defense. They can’t get into 3rd and long situations. Chubb is the man who can do this. Hightower is the player the Patriots need to step up against the Browns today. 

Hightower is always at his best in big games. Against an opponent who was considered the up and coming team of the year and on national television, this is a big game. How well the Patriots defend or don’t defend Chubb will go a long way in determining this game today. 

Marshall Newhouse: The Patriots left tackle hasn’t been great thus far this season. He hasn’t been terrible, just not great. He’s facing the Browns’ best defender in Myles Garrett who leads the Browns with nine sacks. 

We don’t expect Dante Scarnecchia to put Newhouse out there all alone. I would expect the Patriots to chip Garrett with a tight end or have help with running backs to stay in and block. However, Newhouse will also be under a microscope this afternoon. 

James White: It seems like the Patriots Swiss Army Knife at running back is on here every week. With the running game sputtering for the most part and Rex Burkhead hurt again, the team has come to rely heavily on White, who is as reliable as they come. 

Look for Tom Brady to target White heavily again this week. The pass rush of the Browns is a concern, one way to minimize it is to get White involved in the short, quick passing game where he’s outstanding. 

NFL Schedule Week 8, 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: 11-3
Season: 65-40-1

TNF Minnesota over Washington 1-0

Seattle over Atlanta
Indy over Denver
Tennessee over Tampa Bay
New Orleans over Arizona
LA Rams over Cincinnati
Philadelphia over Buffalo
Chicago over LA Chargers
Detroit over NY Giants
Jacksonville over NY Jets
San Francisco over Carolina
Houston over Oakland
New England over Cleveland
SNF Green Bay over Kansas City
MNF Pittsburgh over Miami

Bye week: Dallas, Baltimore

Week 9 Thursday Night Football San Francisco over Arizona 

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Still in the Market For a WR After Losing Out on Sanders:

The Buffalo Bills tried to bring in Emmanuel Sanders from the Denver Broncos to help out their passing offense but lost out on the bidding war with the San Francisco 49ers. Today the Bills are facing the suddenly desperate Philadelphia Eagles in what is a big barometer test for both teams. The Eagles were considered one of the top teams in the NFC but dropped two in a row to fall to 3-4. The Bills are 5-1, but are hearing the same lament as their neighbors in the AFC East, “They haven’t played anybody.”

Besides Sanders, who would have made the division race even better this season, the Bills are also rumored to be looking at the Jets Robby Anderson, Eagles WR Nelson Agholor, Taylor Gabriel of the Bears, as well as Miami’s DeVante Parker and A.J. Green of the Bengals.

It will be interesting to see if the Bills can land a quality WR by the trade deadline and improve the passing game. With a good running game and a very good defense, an improved passing game would put the Bills in great position down the stretch.

Dolphins Could Get Two Important Players on IR:

The Miami Dolphins season is one of rebuilding and evaluation of the players on the roster to decide whether they will remain when the team begins it long retooling in 2020. But two Dolphins players that are eligible to soon return of the PUP list are DL Robert Nkemdiche and CB Cordrea Tankersley. 

It will be interesting to see what these players can bring to the table for head coach Brian Flores who has the unenviable job of starting from scratch. Nkemdiche was a highly touted prospect who spent three forgettable years in Arizona. 

In other news, many teams have contacted Miami about RB Kenyon Drake but the Dolphins request of a 4th round pick is deemed too high. Current indications are that most teams aren’t willing to part with any more than a 6th rounder.

NY Media Turning on Jets Adam Gase Already:

This didn’t take long. A week after hyping the game with the Patriots, the media has already grown tired of New York Jets head coach Adam Gase. After being forced to play his third-string QB for about a month, Gase finally got his starter, Sam Darnold, back two weeks ago. And after an impressive win over Dallas, Darnold …and Gase were overmatched and overwhelmed at home against New England. 

But according to the NY Daily Post and noted flip-flopper, Manish Mehta, Gase is redefining  “non-competitive” one blowout loss at a time. Well, with their starter, it IS one blowout loss. Amazed? You shouldn’t be.

It seemed like yesterday, Mehta was guffawing over the Jets’ weak slate upcoming. Now the sky is falling. 

________________

“Smart kid picks things up well. We’ll see what we can do here. Sometimes as it accumulates – early downs, third down, red area, situational stuff. We’ll see what the load looks like, but he’s made good progress both days. Works hard. Good kid. Is really in-tune and trying very hard to pick up things quickly and get on the same page as everybody else. That’s obviously a long way to go, a lot of work to do, but he’s working hard at it, so we appreciate that.” – Bill Belichick being asked about new Patriots WR Mohamed Sanu

________________

“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.

 

Patriots Boogeymen Bedevil, Whitewash the Jets 33-0

Steve Balestrieri
October 22, 2019 at 7:32 am ET

In the end, it wasn’t any more contested or closer than the first meeting. The Patriots’  defense flummoxed, frustrated, and dominated the Jets from the opening bell. They throttled the Jets in a 33-0 embarrassment in front of a national television audience on Monday Night Football.    

Just a week after Sam Darnold made a triumphant return from an illness and was the AFC’s Offensive Player of the Week, the Patriots had him literally “seeing ghosts” in the first half, forcing him into 5 turnovers. Darnold, who is one of the up and coming young quarterbacks in the NFL was left tonight looking silly and quite unprepared. 

But if Darnold was left seeing ghosts or Boogeymen in his sleep tonight, he didn’t have the worst game on the New York side. Head Coach Adam Gase was taken to the woodshed by Bill Belichick, his team looked completely unprepared and Gase made no adjustments that could be seen and left his young quarterback in far too long in a game that was decided in the first 30 minutes. 

The Patriots put a stamp on this one early. After receiving the opening kickoff, Tom Brady led a methodical, perfectly executed, time-consuming, soul-sucking drive that covered 14 plays and ate up nearly nine minutes of the first quarter. The much-ballyhooed return of MLB C.J. Mosley was nonexistent as Brady and the offense converted 3rd downs of 7, 10 and 5 yards before Sony Michel finished it off with a 3-yard touchdown on 3rd and 2. 

The Jets’ first possession took just two plays for the defense to force its first turnover of the night, one of six in total, five of which belonged to Darnold (four interceptions and a fumble). On 2nd and 8 from the 10-yard line, the Patriots overloaded a blitz on the right side and Darnold, under pressure lobbed the pass too high and it was easily picked off by Devin McCourty. 

What a difference a week makes. After Darnold picked apart the Cowboys, the confidence level was running high in New York. Darnold was talking about finding the weaknesses in the Patriots’ defense and exploiting them. He even added that once  TE Chris Herndon returns the Jets offense would be “unstoppable.” Not exactly bulletin board material, or overly cocky, but he and the Jets offense had no answers to what was to come. 

Gase, in another move that will be dissected for a long time to come, allowed his young quarterback to be mic’d up before the game, perhaps allowing himself the fleeting thought that after last week, this was to be the changing of the guard in the AFC East. Late in the first half, ESPN ran a clip of Darnold on the bench where he looked lost and admitted he was “seeing ghosts out there”. That clip, unfortunately, will follow him for a long time to come. 

What the Patriots did on defense was simple in its plan and yet brilliant in its execution. They blitzed the woeful Jets offensive line with the linebackers (Boogeymen) running free and forcing Darnold to throw off his back foot all game long. Or they would show the blitz and drop seven into coverage and give him nowhere to throw the ball. 

The Jets never adjusted, and never found an answer. While the Patriots only had one sack for 13-yards last night, the pass rush was the biggest factor for the defense. They had Darnold throwing off his back foot where the ball was continuously sailing on him. Darnold finished the game just 11 of 32 for 86 yards with four interceptions and a fumble. His passer rating for the game was just 3.6. He threw as many interceptions as the Jets were able to pass for first downs. They averaged just 2.7 yards per game.

Le’Veon Bell had a nice game with 15 carries for 70 yards including a couple of really nice runs where his patented patience allowed him to bust a few where it appeared he had nowhere to go. But in truth, he was a total non-factor. 

Robby Anderson, fresh off his big game against Dallas was once again relegated to a milk carton by Stephon Gilmore. Anderson had one catch for 10 yards while being targeted eight times. Gilmore had one of the Patriots’ interceptions. Demaryius Thomas who was chirping at the Patriots and Bill Belichick last week, made it sound like a big revenge game fell flat on his face. Targeted nine times, he had just three catches for 42 yards. 

If there was one downer on the defense, it had to be that cornerback J.C. Jackson was being singled out by the referees for flags. He was whistled for three penalties on the night.

But back to the offense. For all the hand-wringing the fans and much of the media are doing, they scored 31 points, (the defense scored two on a safety), and when the game was still in doubt, put 17 points on the board in the first quarter.

Was it a well-oiled machine? Hardly. But missing two key offensive linemen including the left tackle, two fullbacks who are key to the running game, both tight ends, their “X” wide receiver (Josh Gordon) and their most productive running back (Rex Burkhead), they did what they had to do. 

The Patriots’ two tight ends hadn’t played a snap this year but despite the lack of playing time and timing, both Ben Watson and Eric Tomlinson played a significant amount of snaps. Jakobi Meyers is building his trust factor with Brady more every day and was targeted five times and had five catches for 47 yards. He also drew a pass interference penalty on Trumaine Johnson that would’ve been a touchdown. Johnson bit on a double move and had to grab him or get burned. The usual suspects, Julian Edelman and James White each had seven receptions. 

Tom Brady had a so-so night number wise but ran the offense efficiently and utilized everyone at his disposal, completing passes to eight different receivers. His two best throws were a nice 28-yard back-shoulder throw to supersub Brandon Bolden and a beautiful 26-yard touchdown pass to Phillip Dorsett who dusted Johnson in coverage.

Sony Michel had little running room, finishing with just 42 yards on 19 carries, but added three short touchdown runs. Edelman chipped in with a few jet sweeps. And linebacker Elandon Roberts, known for his downhill run-thumping style, was pressed into service as a blocking fullback for goalline and short-yardage. He did very well. 

So while the pundits will continue to decry about the Patriots opponents or lack thereof, they don’t care. They’ve enjoyed this one for a moment and are already moving on the Browns.  After that they will face the Ravens, Eagles, Cowboys, Texans and the Chiefs. One at a time. Those games will ultimately define their season. But they are 4-0 in the division, including 3-0 in the division on the road, 4-0 on the road overall where they were just 3-5 last year. 

Sleep well Patriots fans, and even though Halloween is still 10 days away (nine since it is officially after midnight), but remember Boogeymen do exist. I think they’ll be haunting the dreams of Mr. Darnold for many nights to come.  

_________

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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New England Patriots News 10-28, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
October 20, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 10-20 and AFC East notes this week. 

Game Day, but not for the Patriots who play the Jets on Monday Night Football tomorrow night.   

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

Patrick Mahomes – it seems dodged a serious injury on Thursday night in Denver. And that is a good thing not just for Mahomes and the Chiefs but for the league as a whole. Mahomes’ star is rising and he’s quickly becoming one of the new faces of the league. No one wants to see any player, let alone a star suffer a serious injury. Anyone who would do so, needs to seriously reevaluate the lives. 

However, what the heck is wrong with some media types who before Mahomes is even off the deck, turn his injury into some kind of an anti-Patriots diatribe. It was a disgusting lack of empathy. We know you can’t help the slant against the Patriots but for cryin’ out loud, have a little humanity.  His injury at the time had zero to do with NE, a horrible lack of timing there, but it has become par for the course in some places.

Andy Reid – He knows he dodged a bullet with Mahomes’ injury and he’ll return at some point this season. Hopefully, he won’t rush his QB back too soon and risk further injury. Despite the game on Thursday, they have a woeful defense, but they still have plenty enough playmakers on offense to remain competitive in Mahomes’ absence. They’ll still be in a position to carry their division with Matt Moore. They’ll get their QB back for the stretch run and go from there. 

Eric Tomlinson – had a crazy week. According to NESN, the Patriots new tight end signed and practiced with the team on Tuesday, and then jetted off to Texas for the birth of his son who was delivered by Caesarian section on Wednesday morning. He’s back in Foxboro and preparing for his former team the Jets and may see reps at both tight end and fullback.  

Two-Point for Tua? Seemed So- The Miami Dolphins scored a late touchdown last week against the Washington Redskins in the closing moments of the game and trailed 17-16.  Rather than attempt an extra point to tie the game and send it into overtime, Miami, winless like the Redskins, decided to go for the win. But their attempt seemed like they were determined to fail rather than succeed. The Redskins snuffed it out in the backfield and came away with a victory in the debut of interim coach Bill Callahan.

Trent Brown – In case anyone was wondering is a member of the Oakland Raiders. In fact, Oakland signed Brown to the highest contract for an offensive lineman in NFL history this spring. But once Brown was charged with domestic assault, Brown wasn’t a Raider at all. Several media outlets including those here in Boston led off with “Former Patriots OL Trent Brown…” Funny thing is when all of the sexual assault allegations came against Antonio Brown, I didn’t see a single headline stating “Former Pittsburgh Steeler Antonio Brown…” and yet every allegation against him occurred when he was a member of the Steelers. Coincidence? You be the judge.

Brady Rightfully Pi$$ed At Supposed Kraft Dig:

Tom Brady is livid that people who saw a clip of a new Paul Rudd Netflix film, took it to mean that it was a dig against Robert Kraft. And unless everything we’ve ever believed about Brady and his relationship with Kraft is wrong, then yes, people jumped to conclusions before bothering to research the clip and the meaning.

“That’s not what that was about,” Brady said. “I think that was taken out of context, just like you’re taking it out of context and trying to make it a story for yourself, which has a negative connotation to it, which I don’t appreciate. It was meant to be something different than that. The fact it’s a distraction or you’re bringing it up is not something I want to be talking about.”

“It was shot on a green screen,” he said, remarking it was not filmed at a strip mall. “It was agreed to a year ago. It was written four years ago. Again, it’s unfortunate that people would choose to think I would ever do something like that about Mr. Kraft. I think that’s a very bad assessment of my relationship with him. I would never do that.”

Timothy Greenberg, a fan of the New York Jets, said that he wrote the scene as a “subtle dig” at Brady, who at the time was coming off his “Deflategate” suspension. Brady, while exiting the spa is supposed to be a clone of himself, not receiving a “happy ending” at a massage parlor.

“There was this implication that maybe he’s a clone and he’s cheating,” Greenberg said in an interview. “When I wrote it, he was 37 and had won four Super Bowls. And then by the time I actually make the thing, he’s now 41 and he’s just coming off his sixth Super Bowl win. So he became even more perfect. He was our number one choice for that.”

The media ran with the clip without bothering to do due diligence in an attempt to get it out there first and tried to paint it as Brady slamming his boss when the fact of the matter is that it had nothing to do with Kraft or his situation. I’d say we’re shocked, but no…we’re not here. He’s been raked over the coals for nothing for the past several years and one has to wonder when he’ll decide it isn’t worth it anymore.

The filmmakers knew what they were doing, they filmed Brady on a green screen and then after the Kraft situation, superimposed the strip mall to make it look like the Florida spa. They did him dirty, but no worse than all of the sites who ran with the false narrative. The total a$$-covering by the rest is… not surprising.

Will Michael Bennett’s Situation Play Out? Probably Not Well:

After the Patriots suspended DL Michael Bennett for “conduct detrimental to the team”,  it naturally opened up conversations if Bennett is on his way out of Foxboro. It certainly would appear so, his snaps have been steadily decreasing and last Thursday he played in only a handful of snaps against the Giants, most of which at garbage time. That led to what Bennett described as a “philosophical disagreement” with positional coach Bret Bielema. 

Bennett was brought in to help replace Trey Flowers after he bolted in free agency. Bennett thrives in a 4-3 system as a defensive end, which is what the Patriots played in 2018. But the defense morphed into more of a 3-4 defense this season and that hasn’t played into Bennett’s strengths. Because the down linemen in the Patriots 3-4 still have the same two-gap responsibility that they’ve always had. 

Bennett has always been an attacking 4-3 end and a 3-4 defensive end is more of an interior lineman. It hasn’t been a great fit, scheme-wise. When he’s able to pin his ears back and rush the QB, he’s been pretty successful. But with the depth and the production of the linebackers, he’s been relegated to a subpackage interior pass rusher. So, now the question arises, where do they go from here?

The trade market would be very limited, given Bennett’s age and the state of the league. Few of the teams still in the hunt for a playoff spot would be willing to take on or need a player with his strengths. The Lions or the Raiders would possibly make sense or maybe the Rams who are looking for a spark defensively. If the Patriots were to trade Bennett it would free up about $2 million in salary-cap space where they’re right up against the cap.

Releasing Bennett is, of course, an option, if those philosophical disagreements get any worse or continue for that matter. That would free up the cap space and possibly rid the team of any distractions in the locker room. But then you run the risk of another rival picking him up for nothing and adding him to the mix against you down the road in the postseason. And if the team suffered an injury on the defensive front, it would leave the team thinner with their depth. 

Or they could choose to ride things out and hope that they can get Bennett to buy-in for the duration of the season. With several tougher games on the slate, a player like Bennett, especially in the postseason has the experience and pedigree to give the team some outstanding production in those game-changing moments. 

But Bennett is a proud player and in reality, not a great fit for what the Patriots are running defensively right now. And I will be surprised if he’s still with the team by the end of the season. 

Demaryius Thomas’ Tenure With NE as “A Waste of Time” :

The Patriots traded WR Demaryius Thomas to the Jets in the fallout of the signing of Antonio Brown and hindsight being 20/20 it shows that now it was a mistake. Both in trading Thomas and of course signing Brown.

Thomas on Wednesday didn’t mince any words over how things played out and characterized the Patriots and Bill Belichick’s actions as “disrespectful”. 

“Like, you know, you could trust me and I could trust you,” Thomas said. “You told me when you cut me at the [final] cut, sit around you’ll bring me back. And I stayed. I could have easily become a Jet once I got cut.… I could have been here the next day after I got released. But I chose to stay.”

“Bill Belichick came up to me and was like, ‘Uh, we got too many guys. We can’t get the ball around enough and we’re going to trade you to the Jets,’” Thomas added. “And that was that…. Ain’t no reason to yell. They’ve won championships without me. I was only trying to be a part of something that was going to be good when I was there… They’re doing a hell of a job.”

Thomas’ frustration is certainly understandable but he must remember that he told the media that the Patriots were the only team who contacted him after his Achilles injury with the Texans. They worked with him all spring and summer, and in retrospect should have stuck with him. But from a pure football standpoint, the decision between Thomas at this point in his career and Brown is truly a no-brainer.

NFL Schedule Week 7, 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: 7-7
Season: 54-37-1

TNF Kansas City over Denver 1-0 

Buffalo over Miami
Jacksonville over Cincinnati
Minnesota over Detroit
Green Bay over Oakland
LA Rams over Atlanta
Indy over Houston
49ers over Washington
NY Giants over Arizona
Tennessee over LA Chargers
Saints over Bears
Seahawks over Ravens
SNF Philadelphia over Dallas
MNF Patriots over NY Jets

Bye Week – Panthers, Browns, Steelers, Bucs

Early Thursday Night Football pick Minnesota over Washington

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Looking to Be Buyers at the Trade Deadline:

The Buffalo Bills currently have the second-best record in the AFC behind the Patriots and will almost certainly improve that today with a home tilt against the Dolphins. With the trade deadline approaching in less than 10 days, the Bills aren’t looking to unload talent, but bring some in to help for a postseason push where they are still very much alive in the AFC East. 

Buffalo’s defense is stacked although if they were to add a piece there, they may want a defensive end who can get after the QB. The Bills have plenty of depth there but not a ton of production. But overall, their defense is solid and the strength of the team. 

If they can use some help, it would probably be at wide receiver. A.J. Green has been mentioned as a possible Buffalo target (including here), he’d give the Bills a big, physical target who has had plenty of production in his career but has had issues with staying healthy and on the field. 

Other names that have been supposedly tied to Buffalo include the Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, Giants wideout Golden Tate, and TE O.J. Howard. Sanu has played mainly in the slot for the Falcons but can slide inside or outside and has made an average of 64 catches for over 700 yards in his time in Atlanta. 

Tate is a talented receiver but the Giants, who aren’t going anywhere this season have two young talented WRs in Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepard and may decide to dangle Tate as a search for draft capital. 

Howard is a very talented tight end who is not being utilized in the Tampa Bay offense. Coupled with the young and talented Dawson Knox, he could give the Bills a huge and athletic target in the passing game. He’s also an excellent blocker.  

Dolphins Drake on the Trading Block:

The Miami Dolphins in the midst of an awful rebuilding program where the fans are either on the “Tanking for Tua” or “Bailing for Burrow” storylines won’t be surprised to see that several teams are contacting the Dolphins about the availability of running back Kenyan Drake for a possible deadline trade. 

The former 3rd-round draft pick has always somewhat under-utilized in Miami’s system under both Adam Gase and now Brian Flores. With the bad offensive line play, Drake is on par for his worst statistical season of his career. 

Drake is in the final year of his rookie deal and would be a really nice pickup for any playoff teams looking for a reliable, versatile player. 

Jets/Docs Dispute Extent of G Kelechi Osemele’s Shoulder Injury:

The New York Jets are facing some backlash over the shoulder injury suffered by guard Kelechi Osemele. He’s been out for four weeks with his injury and the Jets team doctor and an independent doctor have cleared him for play. And if he doesn’t return to practice by Saturday, Osemele is subject to fines and/or suspension for “conduct detrimental to the team.” 

The rub is Osemele is saying he needs surgery to repair his shoulder. The Jets counter that the injury is a pre-existing one that can wait until the season is over. 

“It’s been killing me,” Osemele said to the media on Friday. “I’m just trying to get this done. I’ve done everything I can. I’ve been at work every day, waking up at 5 in the morning, doing all the rehab and the treatments and stuff like that. I’m like the last dude out of here at night. I’m doing everything I can.

“I’m working with my agent. We’re communicating with the team. There’s just no communication between the team and my doctor and my agent. It’s just been butting heads for whatever reason. Hopefully, it gets resolved soon.”

There is a source who reported to the Jets media that Osemele wasn’t cleared by the two doctors and that surgery was recommended, due to a torn labrum. The same source also said Osemele was told to take the painkiller Toradol, prescribed by the Jets’ doctor, so he could play. He did and aggravated it against the Patriots a month ago. He’s making $11.7 million dollars this season (non-guaranteed) but if he’s injured, the Jets can’t cut him loose without forking over the rest of his money.

________________

“Demaryius is a great kid. I have a ton of respect for him. He’s very professional and did everything we asked him to do. Our circumstances changed a couple times in that period leading up to when he was traded, and so I felt like I was always truthful with him, but things changed, and therefore what I said was not the same as what it was – what I had said previously. So, it is what it is..” – Bill Belichick being asked about the comments by Demaryius Thomas on the “insulting and disrespectful” trade by the Patriots with the Jets.

________________

“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.

 

New England Patriots News 10-13, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
October 13, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 10-13 and AFC East notes this week. 

Game Day, but not for the Patriots who are off until next Monday evening when they take on the Jets on Monday Night Football.   

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

Tom Brady – so much hand-wringing over a QB who completed 31-41 for 334 yards on a short week throwing the ball to two UDFA wide receivers and a seventh round tight end. Look, no one is arguing that Brady was lights out in the Giants game…he wasn’t. But despite all the missing pieces, and the scuffling of the offense, he completed 15 in a row at one point and made some terrific throws. On that subject…. 

Wright, Kellerman, Parker – who or what exactly are the Three Stooges going to make asses of themselves with every week when Brady retires. How anyone can actually watch these bobos or take anything they say remotely seriously? I see the clips every week on social media. It is the dumbing down of America. Are the haters of everything Brady and Patriots so desperate for hope that they get their pablum from these people?    

Chase Winovich – The Patriots rookie LB scored his first NFL touchdown on a blocked punt in the Giants game and then hurled it deep into the stands…oops! His boundless enthusiasm and motor got the best of him there. Hopefully, the fan with the ball will get some face time with “Thor” and return it for some Pats swag.

Matthew Slater – was quoted as not being a fan of the Thursday night games and made his point in his usual eloquent style. “You could be 22 years old — it’s [still] tough. Player safety, player health? This doesn’t fit into that as far as I’m concerned,” Slater said. “I know we’ve had a lot of discussions about it as a union. I know it’s a good product as far as the consumers are concerned, and the fans enjoy these Thursday night products. But I think when you talk about the rigors of playing in an NFL game, and then what it takes to recover and be able to do it again the following week, to do a Sunday-to-Thursday turnaround is tough. It doesn’t fit under the umbrella of player safety as far as I’m concerned. But you guys know that — I’ve said that every year.”

TNF – I’ve made it clear I hate Thursday Night Football. From the lack of preparation/rest that creates sloppy football, it is dangerous to the players as well. The Patriots suffered six injuries on Thursday night. And yes it includes those awful “color rush” monstrosities that the NFL has sold the fans on what they “must-have”…heaven knows why. “If you take the blue pill..” However, I digress.

If the league was truly invested in player safety then make TNF after the opening week wait until teams come off their bye week [Thanks Murph]. Teams coming off the bye week can play on Thursday nights, and still, have 10 days until they play again. Problem solved. It can be done but would require some work by the good folks on Park Avenue. Although we’d still be subjected to those awful uniforms…

Sunday’s Games – One of the key games to watch today will be the Houston-Kansas City game with the Chiefs being the home team. This should be as exciting a matchup as we’ve seen all season. The Chiefs are coming off a home loss to the Colts and are getting Tyreek Hill back from injury. But Patrick Mahomes isn’t completely healthy, he injured an ankle against the Colts that could the mobility that makes him so dangerous.

For the Texans, they’re coming off a 50-point explosion where QB Deshaun Watson threw for five touchdowns. This one ought to be fun to watch and may come down to the team with the ball last wins. 

But the NFL is a Passing League: You know the old saying that the NFL is a copycat league? If you think teams didn’t notice how the Patriots ran the ball in the playoffs, think again. While going to these light fronts with smaller athletic players on defense, offensive coordinators are adjusting accordingly. Look at last week…

Carolina gashed Jacksonville for 285 yards rushing including 176 for my early MVP vote Christian McCaffrey. The Colts kept the potent KC offense sitting on their hands Sunday night while rushing for 180. San Francisco’s two-headed rushing attack had 275 yards against the Browns, while Arizona ran over Cincinnati to the tune of 266 yards on the ground. Think Bill Belichick may have been ahead of the curve once again?

Issues in the Running Game Start at Tight End:

After the lackluster game by the offense in the 35-14 win over the Giants, the lack of a consistent running game has really hurt the offense. The box score of the Patriots rolling up over 400 yards of offense and over 100 on the ground belies the fact that they were struggling for much of the night, especially on the ground. 

Naturally, the abuse gets piled on the head of Sony Michel [“He sucks, he blows” ring a bell?]. But while we can point fingers at Michel’s lack of quickness in getting to the hole at times, you can’t fault him when he’s being consistently hit behind the line of scrimmage.

The offensive line hasn’t been great by any stretch of the imagination, but a big part of the issue is at tight end. The Patriots were spoiled the past few years having Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen in the blocking role at tight end. They were like having an extra tackle out there. They drafted Ryan Izzo in the 7th round [250th overall] last year, and that was supposed to be his strength. But being put out on the edge hasn’t been anywhere near good enough. 

Look, comparing him to Gronkowski isn’t fair, we know that. But one stat that leaps off the page is this. The Patriots have run 18 outside zone runs this year. It is a staple of their offense…in the past. Gronkowski and Allen were outstanding at blocking in these. Those 18 runs this year have resulted in just 21 yards this year. Izzo and Matt LaCosse just aren’t getting it done. He’s constantly overmatched out there. Last week LaCosse and Izzo were better, but they took a step back against the Giants.

And now LaCosse is hurt again. He has been snakebit by injuries this season. The runs inside, between the tackles, have been much better, Michel’s big runs against Washington and his final big run against the Giants come to mind. Brandon Bolden has chipped in here as well. 

While everyone is clamoring for the Patriots to trade for a wide receiver [and with the injuries it may happen, more to that below] bringing in a blocking tight end, and yes, Dwayne Allen is available, maybe in the cards. They could still trade for one too.  

Wide Receiver Depth, Becoming a Show-stopping Issue:

The Patriots have a little bit of time to do some self-scouting they normally do during the bye week, but thanks to the TNF schedule have some time to do so again.  Julian Edelman has been banged up for the past few weeks but has toughened it out Phillip Dorsett has a hamstring injury where he missed nearly all of the Redskins game as well as this week. Josh Gordon injured his knee on Thursday and although it looked ugly, we’re told he didn’t injure it “significantly”. 

This left the Patriots with a hurting Edelman and two rookie UFDA wide receivers [Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski] as the only wideouts remaining. With the Monday night game coming in eight days, we still have no idea about the availability of either Gordon or Dorsett, but smart money suggests Gordon won’t be ready. 

And if both are out, that leaves the cupboard dangerously thin. One injury to any of the three listed above and they won’t have enough WRs to fill out their “11 personnel” package. They need to get healthy and still get some help there. 

The rumor mill has beaten the Stefon Diggs story to death and while others are beating the AB return to New England, that has a less likely chance of happening than the Patriots bringing in an Army guy. Rumors continue to swirl around A.J. Green and Emmanuel Sanders. Of those, Sanders would be the best, most logical choice. The Patriots liked him enough a few years ago to sign him to an offer sheet. He’s in the last year of a contract with a team with a real chance of being 1-6 by Thursday. He’d be a seamless fit in the offense if they can pry him away from Denver. But John Elway knows they need help and he’ll try to squeeze them for everything he can. 

However, help IS on the way. N’Keal Harry the Patriots 1st-round draft pick can begin practice on Wednesday. And he’s eligible to return two weeks hence. If Dorsett and Gordon can return soon, the coaches may opt to wait it out and have Harry help out the passing game. We’ll see how this plays out. 

Jakob Johnson to IR, Another Big Blow for the Offense:

Wait! What? Did I just hear myself say that? If I said back in June during minicamp that losing Jakob Johnson in early October would be a big blow to the Patriots offense, I can only imagine what my timeline would like. “You’re outta yur mind, you loosah!” But here we are.

After losing James Develin to a neck injury, the Patriots turned to Johnson who has looked good thus far but in the Giants game, he suffered a shoulder injury, that, according to Jim McBride of the Globe will put him on IR. The team is now lacking a fullback. And that is a big blow. 

No team relies on their fullback as much as the Patriots do. They rely on their fullback to open holes in the running game. So, what do they do from here? Well, they can sign one, and while there aren’t a ton of fullbacks out there, I’m sure they could bring one in for him to learn the offense. Or the answer may be internally answered. 

The team used Izzo a few times in that role on Thursday night. His size would lend itself well to that role…plus he already knows the offense. But with tight end bare already with LaCosse always hurt it may require more help. Enter Brandon Bolden. While he has nowhere near the size of a Develin/Johnson-type, he can add more in short-yardage as a ball carrier and pass receiver than those two plus he’s already on the roster and there isn’t much he can’t do.  

NFL Schedule Week 6, 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: 8-7
Season: 47-30-1

TNF New England over NY Giants 1-0 

Carolina over Tampa Bay [London]
Washington over Miami
Philadelphia over Minnesota
Kansas City over Houston [Mahomes isn’t 100%, shootout]
New Orleans over Jacksonville
Seattle over Cleveland
Baltimore over Cincinnati
LA Rams over San Francisco
Atlanta over Arizona
Dallas over NY Jets
Tennessee over Denver
SNF LA Chargers over Pittsburgh
MNF Green Bay over Detroit

Bye Week – Buffalo, Chicago, Indy, Oakland 

Early Thursday Night Football pick Kansas City over Denver

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills on the Bye, A Likely Landing Spot for A.J. Green? Maybe:

The Buffalo Bills are 4-1 and on their bye week. They’ve had an impressive start to the season, with their only loss to the Patriots at home. Their defense has been top-notch and impressive but offensively, they’re in need of some help, as their division rival Patriots at the wide receiver position. While many people have A.J. Green on the Patriots radar, he could also be on the Bills’ and even more so. 

Buffalo has two good wide receivers in Cole Beasley and John Brown but lacks a viable third option. Beasley is the Edelman of the Bills offense but they lack that big wide receiver on the outside, [Beasley is 5’9, while Brown is 5’10,180]. They traded away Zay Jones this week. 

Green, if healthy, would give them a big, viable target who would instantly upgrade the offense. And, if the rumors of New England being interested are indeed true, it would keep him away from the Patriots while helping Josh Allen.  

Dolphins Take on the Redskins in the Tua Bowl:

When the Miami Dolphins take the field against the Washington Redskins, the fans for both teams will be torn in their loyalties. While both are winless, Washington is 0-5 and Miami is 0-4, their fans will balance their desire to see their team win with the knowledge that the worse record will result in a better position to draft the next big QB prospect, in this case, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa.

Miami, coming off of a bye week, is reeling with 11 players listed as questionable. Cornerback Johnson Bademosi, [ankle]; running back Kalen Ballage, [foot]; guard/tackle Jesse Davis, [elbow]; wide receiver Jakeem Grant, [hamstring]; linebacker Trent Harris, [foot]; cornerback Xavien Howard, [knee]; safety Reshad Jones, [ankle]; cornerback Chris Lammons, [toe]; safety Bobby McCain, [hamstring and shoulder]; wide receiver Albert Wilson, who is hoping [calf and hip]; and cornerback Jomal Wiltz, [groin]. 

The Redskins are beat up as well and have already ruled out several players. Tight end Vernon Davis is out of the game [concussion]; safety Deshazor Everett [ankle]; linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons [hamstring]; guard Wes Martin [chest injury]; and tight end Jordan Reed [concussion]. The team also listed tackle Donald Penn on the report, listing him as questionable, with a hamstring issue.

The big question is…other than the fanbases, will anyone be watching this one?

Jets Facing the “Laughably Overrated” Cowboys:

Leave it to Manish Mehta, the Jekyll and Hyde beat writer for the Jets, who proclaims every spring that the Jets will unthrone the Patriots in the AFC East, then calls for the coach to be canned in his next tweet. The 0-5 New York Jets face the 3-2 Cowboys who Mehta calls “laughably overrated”. 

Mehta was saying that “back-half of the 2019 [Jets] schedule is cupcake city.” If there is something the Jets and Adam Gase shouldn’t be doing, it is considering any of their upcoming opponents as cupcakes. 

But that never stopped Mehta from bloviating his usual tripe. He’s putting this one as eminently winnable despite the fact that the Jets rank near the bottom of every offensive category. If the Jets do pull the upset today [don’t hold your breath], then Mehta will go over the top with the Jets-Patriots predictions next week.

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“No, we’re trying to cover the receiver, and when he tries to catch the ball we use technique. Jon [Jones] did a pretty good job of that. He got his hands on the ball, but it just popped up in the air and went to Tate. I thought he played the ball well. It’s the National Football League. It was a good throw and they got a favorable bounce on it. We could’ve certainly played it better and done some other things better but Jon was in good position. He did what he was coached to do.” – Bill Belichick being asked about the touchdown pass allowed this week and specifically if Jonathan Jones played it correctly

________________

“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.

 

Patriots Defense Shines Again in 30-14 Win Over the Jets

Steve Balestrieri
September 22, 2019 at 9:06 pm ET

The Patriots took care of business on Sunday after behind another stellar defensive effort and beat the New York Jets 30-14 at Gillette Stadium. One may look at the scoreboard and think the Jets hung in there and made it competitive but there was never a doubt about this one. 

The Patriots dominated the early going racing out to a 20-0 lead and then letting the defense clamp down for another dominating performance, albeit against a very depleted Jets team. 

However, 3-0 is still 3-0 and they head off to Buffalo to face off with the undefeated Bills next Sunday. Our observations follow: 

The Patriots defense made life really tough on Luke Falk in his first NFL start. With a so-so offensive line and a bunch of banged receivers, Falk frequently had nowhere to throw because of the coverage of the Patriots secondary.  Falk is the Jets’ 3rd QB, but the loss here can hardly be placed at his feet. He was placed in an untenable position from the first snap. 

Falk was 12-22 for 98 yards with an interception. He was sacked five times for 29 yards and the Jets ended up with just 69 yards net passing (Rob Gronkowski approves). They leaned heavily on Le’Veon Bell but the Patriots knew Bell would be the focal point and bottled him up. He finished with 18 carries for just 35 yards and added 28 yards receiving on four catches. 

The Patriots held the Jets to just 105 yards of total offense and 0-12 on third down. Regardless of the competition, that is domination and should not be discounted. 

Jamie Collins was sensational again today for the Patriots defense. Collins had seven tackles, including three for a loss, two sacks, two quarterback hits, and a pass defensed. Collins was seemingly everywhere.                                                                       

Offensively the Patriots started off red hot scoring the first three times they had the ball. Brady at that point was 14 -17 for 189 yards, with two touchdowns. Brady finished 28-42 for 306 yards with touchdowns and no interceptions. 

Sony Michel started the scoring off with a 5-yard touchdown run, making a nice cutback against the grain. Stephen Gostkowski missed the extra point and it was 6-0 Patriots. That drive was highlighted with a 41-yard reception by TE Ryan Izzo.

Brady connected with Phillip Dorsett on a 25-yard touchdown pass to put the Pats up 13-0. Dorsett came all the way across the field and was all alone as Brady hit him in stride deep down the field and the offense was looking unstoppable. 

Brady hit Julian Edelman for a 3-yard touchdown to make it 20-0. Edelman had a big catch on 3rd and 9 for 15 yards, then a 14-yarder down to the Jets 28. Jakobi Meyers chipped in with his first of two catches, an 18-yarder that put the team at the Jets 10. 

Jarrett Stidham played a few snaps and completed 2-3 for 14 yards but he badly overthrew Brandon Bolden in the flat and it was returned 61 yards by Jamal Adams for a pick-six. Adams then celebrated like it was a playoff win, despite his team still being down by multiple scores.

Rex Burkhead had another impressive game out of the Patriots backfield. With James White inactive due to the birth of his son, Burkhead again stepped up his game. He led all rushers with 47 yards on 11 carries with a two-yard touchdown. He added six catches for 22 yards. 

Sony Michel had another disappointing day garnering just 11 yards on 9 carries. Other his five-yard touchdown run, he had nowhere to go, the Jets were getting penetration and keying on the run whenever he’s in the game. Overall, the Jets did a fantastic job of bottling up the Patriots running game, holding them to just 68 yards on 27 carries [2.5 yards average per rush]. 

Edelman was hurt and left the game in the second quarter, losing their chain moving threat. And the offense sputtered without him It was listed as a chest injury but thankfully the X-rays came back negative. Edelman had 7 catches for 62 yards and a score in the first half. 

Josh Gordon struggled early and hurt his finger when it appeared to get dislocated while blocking,  but he returned and made two outstanding catches where he used his size to highpoint the ball and come down with it. The first was when the Patriots were facing a 3rd and 17. Gordon made a beautiful leaping catch, just staying in bounds for a 28-yard gain. Later he made another highlight reel, leaping 22-yard grab in traffic. He finished with six catches for 83 yards. 

Gunner Olszewski booted a fair catch that resulted in the first touchdown allowed by the Patriots this season. He didn’t duck and hide over it and faced the music after the game. He knew that plays like that aren’t tolerated. The coaches did put him right back out there and he responded with a clean catch and return for 11 yards. 

Speaking of Special Teams, the ageless Matthew Slater turned in a fantastic play. Jake Bailey’s punt bounced and looked like it bound into the endzone. Slater was able to get his hands on the ball and shoveled it backward where it was downed on the 1-yard line. It was fantastic, a heads up, really impressive play by the STs.                                                                                                                                                 

Edelman, Gordon and Hightower’s injuries will have to be monitored with the Bills’ game upcoming this week.

So, we’re officially on to the Buffalo Bills. The hype and the mood in Western NY has to be officially sky-high before the meeting of the two unbeaten teams. We’ll have more on this one later this week. 

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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 myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news.

Patriots Drop Banner #6, Throttle Steelers 33-3, Observations

Steve Balestrieri
September 9, 2019 at 7:21 am ET

Saying the New England Patriots got off to a good start in 2019 is an understatement. The night began with the team unveiling its sixth Super Bowl banner and then absolutely dismantling the Pittsburgh Steelers by a 33-3 that was every bit as dominant as the score would indicate.

We entered the season just a few hours ago with questions about the offensive line, and how the offense would gel with a wide receiver core that didn’t get a lot of practice time with Tom Brady. Demaryius Thomas and Damien Harris sat this one out with injuries but the remaining cast members were outstanding as the Patriots rolled up 465 yards of offense. 

Isaiah Wynn and Ted Karras both handled their duties excellently as these two were under the microscope going against a very good Pittsburgh front seven that led the league in sacks a year ago. Karras’ shotgun snaps [as many commented on during the game] were fluttering to Brady and while it didn’t set back the offense a bit but it is something that will have to be worked on. 

With aggressive play-calling by Josh McDaniels, the Steelers were reeling almost from the outset and the receivers looked in mid-season form. Pittsburgh had no answer for the Patriots backs out of the backfield while Tom Brady absolutely picked them apart, something he’s done to Pittsburgh every time they’ve played in Foxboro.

Brady finished the night 24-36 for 341 yards with three touchdowns. 

The Patriots defense, which we’ve been excited about all summer long looked as dominant as hoped for. Pittsburgh was unable to mount any kind of sustained offense. Stephon Gilmore rendered the dangerous JuJu Smith-Schuster to an afterthought and forced Ben Roethlisberger to be constantly having to look at his second and third options. Pittsburgh’s ground game was held to just 32 yards, while the Steelers passing game piled up a bunch of garbage time yardage, they were frustrated all night long.

Other observations from tonight’s win include:

Josh McDaniels Play-calling – McDaniels had an aggressive game plan and the players executed it to near perfection. The Patriots ate the Steelers alive with quick throws, utilizing shallow crosses underneath which allowed the receivers to make yards after the catch. Pittsburgh beefed up the middle of their defense this year, but at least for tonight, they didn’t look like they were ready for the Patriots passing game. 

McDaniels dusted off the double pass from Julian Edelman to James White which had blockers out front and netted the team a huge 32-yard gain that set up the first touchdown. Whenever the Patriots spread the Steelers out, they were able to find open receivers all night long. 

Brady Razor Sharp – Rust? Is Father Time catching up? Not any time yet. Brady was methodical in his approach and surgical with his precision, something he’s done to Pittsburgh time and again in the friendly confines of Gillette Stadium. 

Brady’s best throw was a perfectly thrown ball right down the seam, a laser to Phillip Dorsett for a 25-yard touchdown. He put it in just the right place in a tight window for an easy score. Later in the second half, Brady uncorked a 52-yard strike to Dorsett for another easy touchdown when the deep safety blew the coverage and left the middle of the field wide open. With a national audience watching, Brady looked in vintage form. 

Phillip Dorsett – Speaking of Dorsett, he’s often the forgotten man among the Patriots offensive playmakers. But tonight, he made the Steelers remember his name. He had four catches for 95 yards including two TDs [25, 52], and was a thorn in the secondary’s backside considering how many other players they had to cover. 

The last 20 passes that Brady has attempted to Dorsett, dating back to last season have all been completions. Think about that for a second. 

Josh Gordon – The troubled but uber-talented wide receiver was reinstated by the league just a few weeks ago but he too appears in mid-season form. Gordon has had good success against Pittsburgh in the past and tonight was no exception. 

Gordon had three catches for 73 yards and included in that was a very impressive 20-yard touchdown where Gordon ran a crosser, broke tackles and powered his way into the end zone. Later, with the Patriots backed up in their own end, he and Brady connected with a 44-yard bomb right down the middle of the field. 

James White/Rex Burkhead – On a night where the Steelers front seven bottled up and rendered Sony Michel ineffective, White and Burkhead constantly gashed the Steelers in both the running and passing games. 

White had five catches for 56 yards and added 26 more on the ground in just four carries. Burkhead had 44 yards on eight carries and added five catches out of the backfield for 41 more. The versatility and the ability to spread the wealth around bodes very well for games down the road. 

The Secondary is Outstanding – We’ve been beating the drum for this secondary all summer and tonight was a prime example of how good this group can be. They picked right back up where they left off from the Super Bowl. After holding the Rams to just three points, that was all the Steelers’ offense could muster tonight. 

Stephon Gilmore neutralized Smith-Schuster all night long and on every big down, blanketed him like a glove forcing Ben Roethlisberger to look elsewhere. Smith-Schuster had a few catches in garbage time that made his numbers look better than the night he had overall.

Jonathan Jones, fresh off signing a long-term extension was brilliant in the slot, taking away the Steelers’ second options. He’s tough, physical and has excellent speed. Pat Chung was also outstanding, putting Vance McDonald, [someone we pegged as a possible safety blanket for Roethlisberger in our pregame] on a milk carton until the final drive of the game when he caught two meaningless passes. 

Julian Edelman – Hurt thumb? No worries here. Lost in all of the hoopla with the rest of the offensive weapons was the fact that Edelman was his normal uncoverable self tonight, doing all of the dirty work across the middle of the field. 

On the national broadcast, Chris Collinsworth called Edelman “fearless” as he knows he’s going to get tattooed with many of his catches. But it never stops him from completing his routes. With the offense spreading the wealth, Edelman had six catches [team high] for 83 yards. 

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The running game wasn’t as sharp as they had hoped, Michel had only 14 yards on 15 carries. They didn’t finish drives and had to settle for FGs. The pass rush didn’t generate much pressure on Roethlisberger [one sack]. So, the coaching staff will have plenty to pick apart in the film sessions to hammer home the point that they still have a long way to go. But it was a heckuva start.

Consider this, the offense looked as good as it did and they still didn’t have Demaryius Thomas, Damien Harris, and Antonio Brown, who signed with the team on Saturday…just in case you were on Mars over the weekend and hadn’t heard. 

Arguably their best playmaker on defense, Kyle Van Noy missed the game due to the birth of his child tonight [we hope everyone is fine], So, this wasn’t even a fully-loaded roster. 

The march to be “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door” began in earnest tonight and put the rest of the league on notice… the Patriots are back and don’t look like they’re going anywhere any time soon. 

We’re on to Miami.

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.

New England Patriots News 9-08, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
September 8, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 09-08 and AFC East notes this week. 

Game Day, Banner Day, the first Sunday of the 2019 NFL season and it is right on time. Watching the banner drop into place later tonight will hammer home the fact of how truly blessed we have been here. Looking back into my experience, watching the Patriots struggle year after year without a home in Fenway, Harvard, etc., the idea of one Super Bowl championship seemed like a pipe dream. Now we’re ready to drop #6. Enjoy it, folks. 

However, we have to temper our glad tidings with thoughts for those people from the Bahamas to the Carolinas as the hurricane that moved along the East Coast wrought havoc to too many people’s lives in the past week or so. 

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

Elandon Roberts – my what a difference a week makes. Many [including here] had him on the roster bubble at the end of training camp. And now he’s voted a team captain. Congratulations. It speaks highly of how his coaches and peers, the men in the locker room regard him. 

Mitch Trubisky  – The QB from UNC didn’t throw a pass in the preseason, and boy it certainly seemed like it on Thursday night. Week 1 of the season is always full of overreactions and with the Thursday night game, there was nothing else to discuss, so the Bears and Trubisky were roasted on Friday morning. But there was no other way to dress that one up. It was ugly. 

Stephon Gilmore – It seems the loss of the All-Pro CB is still a sore subject with some of the press in Upstate NY. A glance at the headline “Buffalo Bills fleece New England Patriots in OL trade”, was based on the fact that the Bills traded center Russell Bodine to New England in the wake of the David Andrews to IR scenario. Fleeced? NE sent a sixth-round draft pick for Bodine who was released this week. But, hey when you’re 3-28 against Tom Brady, then you have to claim small victories.

Jonathan Jones – was given a three-year contract extension on Saturday that will pay him an estimated $7 million a year. This will keep him in New England thru 2022. Once the Patriots cut ties with former 2nd round pick Duke Dawson, we’ve been clamoring for the Patriots to lock him up long-term. The former UDFA is an outstanding, underrated slot corner.

Nike – dropped the 6x Super Bowl Champion Air Force 1 shoes on the market on Saturday. You can pick these up at the Patriots Pro Shop.

Raiders Reward Bad Behavior, Pay for Brown to Go to New England:

The Oakland Raiders have been played by Antonio Brown …twice. And the second one will cost them, both in their checkbook and in the draft. 

After Brown quit on the Steelers who were fighting for a playoff spot last year, he maneuvered his way out of Pittsburgh and into the Raiders building. Oakland gave him a big pay raise, which was just the tip of the iceberg for the fiasco. 

From his feet, to the fiasco over his helmet, Brown was intent on making all of the headlines about him, all while the Steelers were enjoying a drama-free and football-centric training camp with no distractions. With each passing day, it seemed Pittsburgh made the right call in getting rid of the immensely talented but also the headache that Brown is. 

GM Mike Mayock was at wit’s end and had to publicly ask if Brown was “all in or all out” which prompted the WR to show up for practice, but that wasn’t the end of it. He was fined by the Raiders for sitting out practices. Brown posted the letter on social media, like the petulant child that he is and then in a move that screams “dump me please”, unfollowed the Raiders and Derek Carr on social media.

Worse, he cussed out Mayock on the practice field and attempted to go after him in a physical altercation. He was held back by Vontaze Burfict of all people. When Burfict is the voice of reason, you’re way over the top.

The Raiders said that they were prepared to play on Monday without him, which could have cleared the way for them to cut their ties to Brown and not pay him a dime. Then, the deluge of Twitterati began with Brown playing his way right into New England. 

And, the Raiders played right into Brown’s and Rosenhaus’ plans by releasing him. Truth be told, I believe that this was their intent all along with Brown going to New England and parlaying that into a big-money deal to a place of Brown’s choosing. They both knew that there was no way the Steelers front office was going to trade Brown to New England.

So in less time than it took for Brown to get to the locker room to the field in Oakland, he signs with New England. It isn’t a good look. According to NFL sources, Brown gets a one-year [read 4-month] deal for $15 million with $9 million tied to a signing bonus. So even if he flames out here with his diva show, he’ll still get his money.

But he can play the game and act the good teammate for four months and if the Patriots go deep into the postseason again, he’ll cash in…again in a big way during free agency next spring. There’s no doubt he can be a tremendous talent on the field. With Brady, Edelman, Josh Gordon, Demaryius Thomas and the big stable of running backs, the Patriots have an embarrassment of riches at WR. He’ll take some time to get up to speed but he’ll put the time in…he’s investing in himself, not so much the team.

The Steelers and the Patriots won this and the Raiders lost, sad as it is to say. Pittsburgh got rid of a huge talented headache. The Patriots got him off the street for nothing. The Raiders, in essence, paid Pittsburgh a 3rd and a 5th round draft pick for Brown to move to New England. You can’t make this stuff up. It is a crazy world but on the Patriots side of the house, it is never boring. I can’t imagine the league will be happy with the way this fiasco unfolded.

Belichick/McDaniels “Do Your Job” Was a Great Look:

The NFL and the NFL Network dropped “Do Your Job III” this week in time for the season opener and it was, just like the other videos in the past, must-watch television. Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels appeared together and they gave a compelling look at how the two managed to reinvent the team on the fly at the end of the season and won another Super Bowl. 

At the beginning of the video Belichick is shown at the ring ceremony at Robert Kraft’s house in June. And he said, “Josh, I’m glad you didn’t go to Indianapolis. Let’s start with that.”

But the best line in the show came after the loss to the Steelers, the team had lost two in a row and the doubters were out in force. Belichick knew that the team needed to change its focus and do what they do best. He told McDaniels, 

“ Belichick said, ‘If you keep holding on to what you’d rather be — no-huddle, spread formations, 34 points a game — then you’re probably going to end up regretting a lot of things at the end of the year.’ What are we really good at? What’s the most consistent part of our team offensively? And then you commit to it. We had been a pretty decent running football team. It was something that we felt like our personnel fit.”

That was great stuff, and the team harping on its doubters was a classic Belichick move. Us against the world, nobody believes in you. Edelman screaming at Brady during the AFC Championship Game, “You’re too old!” as he throws a deep TD to Dorsett. And then Belichick talks to the team in the locker room and repeats it all over again. 

“Don’t believe all the other (expletive) out there about how bad we are and how bad we suck and all that, or how old we are. Just keep doing what we’re doing.”

McDaniels summed up his relationship with Belichick, the two have been together for all six Super Bowl wins when he talked about his mentor. 

“It’s hard for me to imagine anybody being a better leader and a better role model for a young coach. He gives you responsibility, and then he lets you do your job.”

Josh Gordon Looking Only Forward From Here:

Josh Gordon hasn’t spoken to the media since his reinstatement by the league but he’s been at practice every day and is working with Tom Brady trying to get ready for the regular season without the benefit of any spring and nearly all of the summer workouts.

Gordon did release a statement where he states, he’s not looking at his past anymore and is only working towards his future. 

“Before the 2019 season starts, I would like to address an issue that arose toward the end of last season. It’s been well documented that I have battled substance abuse for quite some time. Unfortunately, I did not take the time to focus on a solution to my problem until this past year. I am eternally grateful for the constant support from the NFL, NFLPA and the Patriots organization. I also want to thank my family, friends and all the fans who supported me while I addressed this issue. Going forward, I will not be discussing the details of my past. I plan to focus on the present and getting better every day. I hope people will judge me on what I do now and in the future. I look forward to being a member of the Patriots once again this season and doing my part by contributing on and off the field.”

This means that Gordon and the team have already laid the groundwork for the season and beyond. Any questions about his past will be met with a reference to his statement. Gordon will be expected to speak with the media after tonight’s game with Pittsburgh.

NFL Schedule Week 1, 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.

Last Season: 165-89-2

Chicago over Green Bay – [hit it out of the park there] 0-1
Rams over Carolina – this one should be a good early game
Philly over Washington
Buffalo over the NY Jets
Minnesota over Atlanta
Cleveland over Tennessee
Kansas City over Jacksonville – Intriguing matchup with Foles in Jax
Baltimore over Miami
Seattle over Cincinnati
Chargers over Indy
Detroit over Arizona
Dallas over NY Giants
Tampa Bay over San Francisco
New England over Pittsburgh – [write up and details here:]
New Orleans over Houston
Denver over Oakland – Distraction Bowl

Early Thursday Pick Week 2, Carolina over Tampa Bay

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Announce Captains for the 2019 Season:

The Buffalo Bills announced on Friday the names of their captains for the upcoming 2019 season. Buffalo has six players designated as a captain, Lorenzo Alexander, Josh Allen, Dion Dawkins, Tremaine Edmunds, Reid Ferguson, and Stephen Hauschka.

Alexander and Hauschka have already been captains but they have four new faces this year. The new captains replace Kyle Williams, who retired after last season; running back LeSean McCoy, who was released; special teamer Taiwan Jones, who was signed by the Houston Texans during free agency; and fullback Patrick DiMarco, who is still with the Bills.

One interesting tidbit before the Bills – Jets game today is the friendship between starting QBs Josh Allen and Sam Darnold. The two were invited to a youth football summit by QB Coach Jordan Palmer along with then Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham. The two hit it off and have remained friends and vow to continue that friendship despite being rivals in the AFC East. Palmer characterized it saying there was an absence of jealousy between the two players. 

Dolphins Offensive Line Is a Big Question Mark Heading Into 2019:

The Miami Dolphins are trying to piece together an offensive line at the eleventh hour after trading left tackle Laremy Tunsil to the Houston Texans last week. And right now, things are not looking up. Today’s game against the Ravens will tell the early tale.

Tunsil’s replacement, Julien Davenport who wasn’t even on the team during the last preseason game. He came over in the Tunsil trade and is already penciled in as the starter, trying to learn the Dolphins offense on the fly. 

The rest of the offensive line consists of LG Michael Dieter, C Daniel Kilgore, RG Shaq Calhoun, and RT Jesse Davis. To lessen the effect on QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Dolphins and Offensive Coordinator Chad O’Shea will bring a Patriots-themed feel to the offense. They’ll try to get Fitzpatrick to get the ball out quickly to lessen the impact of the young offensive linemen on the team. 

The reason Davenport was included in the trade? According to sources in Houston, he allowed 15 sacks and had 12 penalties in 2018. OL coach Dave DeGugliemo will have his hands full with this group. 

Jets, Williams Going To Be Aggressive on Rushing the QB:

The New York Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has never been the shy, retiring type when it comes to playing defense. His teams have always been aggressive and the 2019 Jets will be no different. 

Despite not landing an “elite” pass rusher and third-round pick Jachai Polite flaming out in training camp, Williams is confident that the Jets will be successful at getting after the QB this year. Actually, confidence may be an understatement.

“I think there’s a lot of people here that people are going to be shocked about by the time the season is over,” Williams said. “You haven’t heard me say one thing about needs in that area [edge rusher]. I’m not worried about it.”

The Jets’ strength is with their interior DL in their 3-4 base defense with NT Steve McClendon, Henry Anderson, Leonard Williams, and rookie Quinnen Williams. But on the edge they’ll need to get creative with Jordan Jenkins, Harvey Langi, and Tarell Basham. New ILB C.J. Mosley may be a big chess piece for the defense. 

________________

“They really can’t beat us. We just can’t screw up now. If we’re honest, we know they don’t got anything.” – Bill Belichick just prior to Stephon Gilmore’s game-sealing interception during Super Bowl LIII

________________

“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.

New England Patriots News 9-01, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
September 1, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 09-01 and AFC East notes this week. 

September is back among us and yes that means the NFL regular season is beginning in just a few days while the Patriots season begins a week from tonight. The beauty of it all is that everyone is square with the house, and starting with a clean slate. There are 512 regular-season games on the slate for 2019 and let’s all look forward to seeing some great football this fall.  

All eyes, however, are right now on the state of Florida as a huge hurricane is barreling towards them. Stay safe folks. It looks to be a bad one.

 Quick Hitters:

Tom Brady – was photographed lining up behind Chase Winovich and measuring his hair for the famous Patriot rookie haircut event which takes place every year. The two were going back and forth with one another on Instagram about it which just heightens the sense of “Tom-foolery” one can expect sometime today.

Julian Edelman  – Along with Brady were spotted doing some balancing poses on the sideline during Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Giants…which harkens back to our days of physical therapy for aching knees where we had to do the same…but not quite. 

Jadeveon Clowney – was traded to the Seattle Seahawks after refusing to go to Miami. The Texans got two linebackers and a third-round draft pick. Miami then traded LT Laremy Tunsil and WR Kenny Stills to the Texans for a bevy of draft picks. Could Miami be tanking for Trevor Lawrence? 

Bill Belichick – [on cutting the 4th preseason game],”‘The more games you play, the more opportunities you have. Look at the Giants last night, you want to go ahead and cut out this game then go ahead and cut it out. It gave [Kyle] Lauletta a chance to play half the game. It gave [Alex] Tanney a chance to play half the game and gave [Daniel] Jones a chance to play. If you want to get rid of the game then go ahead and get rid of the game, and then don’t play those guys. Do whatever you want on that.”

 “Bill Whiffed on Another 2nd Rounder, Grab Yer Torch & Pitchforks:

The NFL Draft isn’t an exact science, we all know that. And no one knows it better than Bill Belichick. He likes to amass picks because, in his mind, it gives you a better chance of hitting on players than rolling the dice on just a few players. 

So, when to no one’s surprise, the Patriots parted ways with 2nd-year cornerback Duke Dawson, trading him and a 7th rounder to Denver for a 6th round draft pick, the boo-birds were out in force. But, after watching Dawson all spring/summer in minicamp, training camp and the preseason, he didn’t deserve a spot on the 53-man roster. He was clearly outplayed by the incumbent slot corner Jonathan Jones for the starting position as well as other young players, J.C. Jackson and Keion Crossen. 

So, should the Patriots have kept Dawson around, simply by the aspect of his draft position? Of course not. It was why Belichick has never cared one iota where a player is drafted, only how he performs on the field. And that line of reasoning has worked pretty well wouldn’t you say? Nine Super Bowl appearances in 18 years, including four out of the last five? 

But several media members [and ones who know better] started with now annual and very tired “Bill has another draft flop” routine while another posted “Duke Dawson added to the Ras-I Dowling-Chad Jackson memorial Belichick 2nd round pick trash heap” 

While it is true that Belichick has whiffed on several 2nd rounders, what was forgotten, [perhaps conveniently ignored] are Belichick’s own feelings on the second round of the NFL Draft. In case any of our readers have, we are posting them here. 

Several years ago, Michael Holley wrote a New York Times bestseller [and one that every one of these media folks read] called “Inside the War Room” which detailed how Belichick goes about trying to build the perfect football team. Belichick has frequently said that the 2nd round frequently has the highest ‘bust’ rate of the entire draft league-wide and there is where the team frequently may take a chance on a guy. 

“In the second round you find a lot of players with first-round talent but not first-round performance or production,” Belichick said. “The highest bust factor is in the second.” That line of thinking has been reiterated by Nick Caserio as well during the draft. 

Belichick has stated that some of those players may be a better football player than an athlete [Brandon Spikes] or more of speed guy than a true football player [Bethel Johnson]. “One guy may work out, others will not,” Belichick said.
“If you want that kind of upside, you want that kind of potential, that’s where you have to take it, [a chance] because it isn’t going to be there in the third round.”

Belichick has had more than his share of misses in the second round where the team took a shot at some players they liked. Including in those are Chad Jackson, Ron Brace, Terrence Wheatley, Jermaine Cunningham, Aaron Dobson, Jordan Richards, Cyrus Jones as well as Dawson last year. 

But while everyone is quick to point out Ras-I Dowling in 2011, they fail to mention Shane Vereen. You know, the guy who caught 11 passes in the Super Bowl against the Seahawks?

Some notable hits in the 2nd round for Belichick include Matt Light, Deion Branch, Eugene Wilson, Pat Chung, Sebastian Vollmer, Vereen, Jamie Collins, Jimmy Garoppolo, and this year’s draftee Joejuan Williams. Belichick’s best 2nd rounder? Oh yeah, it was a kid named Gronkowski. Oh wait, what did he ever do in the league?  

It is a well-known fact that Belichick will take a chance on a second-rounder. Instead of cherry-picking that fact and accentuating the busts, look at the big picture. Dawson didn’t pan out. He himself was considered a bit of a reach in the 2nd round. Most draft analysts had him pegged for Rounds 3-4. But the simple fact of the matter is, Dawson would still be here as a backup, project DB except that a 7th round pick Crossen, and a UDFA, Jackson, clearly outperformed him. 

Let’s all remember that fact when Dawson finds his game elsewhere and then the same people decry “GM Bill trading away his top draft picks.” Enough already.  

Patriots Initial 53-man Roster Takes Shape:

The Patriots’ cut down from the 90 man roster to their initial 53 is complete. And we stress the word ‘initial’ as the roster we see today may not be the same next week against the Steelers and definitely won’t be the same in December. It will continue to evolve as the season rolls. 

As always there were some big surprises. Demaryius Thomas being released was one. After activating him on just August 20, he seemed a slam-dunk for the roster. However, Mike Giardi of NFL.com has said that both sides are amenable to his return, so we’ll watch for that. 

Brian Hoyer’s release was also something that came as a surprise. Our feeling was that he would be here for 2019, but with all the other players they wanted to keep, it became a numbers crunch. 

Gunner Olszewski had a heckuva ride this summer and yesterday was one for the books. First, he was told he was being released before noon. But a late trade with the Texans sending CB Keion Crossen to Houston opened up a spot for him. And then he was told that he’ll be remaining. The team will go with five corners and six safeties with Obi Melifonwu who many had on the outside making the initial cut. Here’s a look at the initial 53…expect some changes before the Steelers get to town. The 10-man [11 with Jakob Johnson, NFL International Player] can be filled out today at 1:00 p.m. 

QB (2) Tom Brady, Jarrett Stidham

RB (6) Sony Michel, James Develin, Rex Burkhead, James White, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden

WR (7) Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett,Gunner Olszewski, Matthew Slater, Jakobi Meyers

TE (2) Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo

C  (2) Ted Karras, Russell Bodine

G  (2) Shaq Mason, Joe Thuney, 

T  (4) Marcus Cannon, Isaiah Wynn, Jermaine Eluemenor, Korey Cunningham

DE (5) Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise, Chase Winovich, John Simon, Shalique Calhoun

DT (4) Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, Byron Cowart, Danny Shelton

LB(5) Ja’Whaun Bentley, Dont’a Hightower, Kyle VanNoy, Elandon Roberts, Jamie Collins

CB (5) Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams, Jonathan Jones, J.C. Jackson

S (6) Pat Chung, Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Terrence Brooks, Nate Ebner, Obi Melifonwu

ST (3) Stephen Gostkowski, Jake Bailey, Joe Cardona

Luck Boos, Slams, Misunderstood at Best:

How anyone could think lesser of Andrew Luck when it became apparent that he couldn’t play anymore is beyond the pale. Luck has suffered an inordinate amount of serious and painful injuries and his press conference where he spelled it all out should have been all anyone needed to hear. 

But some fans and media members, many of whom have never done anything similar in their lives and have never suffered a serious injury descended on Luck like sharks smelling blood in the water. Calling him out as cowardly, wishing “he was wired differently” [same exact thing but splitting proverbial hairs] and any other thing he heard or read is not seeing the forest for the trees. 

Listen to what Rob Gronkowski said this week in an emotional response to the pain he felt after the Super Bowl. Read Rich Ohrnberger’s story on his decision. The former Patriots OL is now a radio host in San Diego. Who are these people to question his courage without having ever walked in his shoes? 

As for others who bemoaned the timing of his decision? Sorry, your body doesn’t punch a clock in regards as to when the NFL schedule happens to fall. Gimme a break. I sincerely hope that none of these buffoons ever have to wake up in the morning and worry about how long it takes to get out of bed and moving…ever.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Trade Guard, Center Prior to Cut Down Day:

The Buffalo Bills, as many already know, traded center Russell Bodine to the Patriots for a sixth-round draft pick in 2020. Bodine, 27, made 10 starts for the Bills last season and had been a four-year starter in Cincinnati. 

Buffalo also sent left guard Wyatt Teller and a 2021 seventh-round draft pick to the Browns for two draft picks, a fifth and a sixth-round pick. Teller, 24, was a fifth-round pick in 2018 for the Bills and started the final seven games last year. But recent acquisitions Ike Boettger, and Ryan Bates made Teller expendable.

QB Josh Allen told Adam Schein on his radio show that he expects special things in 2019. “Not trying to get too ahead of ourselves, taking it one game at a time. I know it’s cliché, but this team is special. I love all the guys that we have on this team and I think it’s going to be a special year for us.”

Dolphins HOF Jim Langer, Member of Undefeated Team Dies at 71:

The Miami Dolphins lost one of their legends last week as Jim Langer, the center on the Dolphins undefeated 1972 team has died. He was 71. Langer was a Minnesota native and passed away from heart-related problems in Coon Rapids, MN on Thursday.

“Jim was a true success story,”  Dolphins coach Don Shula said in a statement via Dolphins.com. “He joined us as a free agent in 1970 and ended up as a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He was the steadying force in the middle of an offensive line which was key to our championship teams.

“But Jim was more than a great football player,” Shula added. “He was one of the finest human beings that I have ever had the opportunity to know and also to coach. He was a gentleman in every sense of the word. He was loved and respected by everyone who knew him. My thoughts are with his wife, Linda, and their children.”

Langer played every offensive snap during the team’s 1972 undefeated run. He was voted to six straight Pro Bowls and was the Fins’ MVP in 1975. He was a first-ballot HOFer inducted in 1987. 

Jets Looking For RB Help? Roster Position Appears Deep:

The New York Jets running back position seems deep with Le’Veon Bell, Ty Montgomery, Bilal Powell, and Trent Cannon set to make the 53-man roster. However, after the team released Elijah McGuire, Aaron Wilson, who covers the NFL and the Texans for the Houston Chronicle, reported that the Jets are looking to swing a trade for another running back. 

He posted on Twitter that, “Texans and Jets are actively looking for running backs via the trade market, according to league sources.”

This may be something to monitor moving forward. 

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“You take all of the things into consideration that you possibly can and just try to make the best decisions for your team. There’s a lot of considerations long term, short term, depth, the next game, games later in the year, next year. You just try to do the best you can to balance it out. You can’t do it all, so each decision has a consequence or some kind of residual. There’s always good arguments for doing things one way or the contrary point of view. In the end, you just have to try and figure out what’s best for the team by putting all of that into consideration.”
Bill Belichick on establishing the 53-man roster, 8-30

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“So, how was your week?”

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