Category Archives: Patriots Commentary

Falcons, Like the Patriots Are Still Searching For Consistency

Steve Balestrieri
October 19, 2017 at 8:30 am ET

 

For most of the first six games of the 2017 season, the Patriots have scuffled along. At times playing very well, others they’ve looked lost out on the field with blown assignments and coverages and have allowed far too many yards and points. This was hardly the team that many experts were picking to finish 16-0 and repeat as Super Bowl Champions. And neither has been their foe in the Super Bowl, the Atlanta Falcons.

Atlanta too has struggled with their consistency and although they’ve consistently stated that they’ve put that Super Bowl collapse behind them, their play on the field has shown that while they’ve stated that, they still may not have taken that lesson to heart yet.

They allowed the Patriots to come back from 25 points in the Super Bowl and eventually win in overtime. Last week the Falcons had a 17-0 lead over the Dolphins at home in their new domed stadium and somehow lost 20-17 to a Miami team that is struggling to score points with QB Jay Cutler.

This was coming off of their bye after they dropped another home game to the Buffalo Bills despite leading at the half in that one also. Perhaps the old myth that New England goes to the playoffs every season because they play in the AFC East will not get much play in Atlanta after the past three weeks.

Here are some of our first impressions of the Falcons this week as they face off with the Patriots on Sunday Night Football.

Matt Ryan Isn’t Producing Anything Close to 2016 Level: The Falcons quarterback was operating on a different plane in 2016. Ryan completed a career-high 69.9 percent of his passes for 4944 yards with 38 touchdowns against just seven interceptions. He led the league in a plethora of passing categories. Yards per attempt (9.3), Touchdown percent (7.1), Yards per Completion (13.3), and Passer Rating (117.1).

Ryan followed that up with an outstanding performance in the three playoff games, completing 71.4 percent of his passes for 1014 yards (338 per game) with 9 touchdowns and zero interceptions for a passer rating of 135.3.

Thru his first five games of 2016, Ryan threw for 1740 yards with 12 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. In those games, after dropping the opener to the Bucs, the Falcons ripped off four wins in a row. In his first five games of 2017, his completion percentage has dropped but is still a very good 65.9 percent, but his yardage and touchdowns are way down and his interceptions are way up. Ryan has thrown for 1357 yards with six touchdowns and six interceptions. The Falcons are 3-2 and have had a couple of close calls in games they should have won easily….sound vaguely familiar?

Things may be looking up for Ryan this week, the Patriots defense has given every QB they’ve faced at least 300 yards passing. They’ve had numerous breakdowns in the secondary in coverage and the communication, even after six weeks is still hit or miss. Ryan should get Mohamed Sanu back this week which coupled with Julio Jones and their other receivers will be a big boost to the passing game. And New England will probably be without two of their top their corners in Eric Rowe and Stephon Gilmore who are injured and won’t play.

Running Backs Will Present Biggest Challenge: Even with a healthy secondary, one area that the Patriots defense is really struggling is covering the running backs and the Falcons have a pair of very good ones in either running or catching the ball out of the backfield. Devonta Freeman has 79 carries for 353 yards, 4.5 yards per carry and 5 touchdowns so far in 2017. No one can forget his first play from scrimmage in the Super Bowl when he ripped off a 37-yard run to begin the game. Tevin Coleman has rushed 38 times for 213 yards, 5.6 yards per carry and a score so far.

But working underneath in the passing game is where they’ll be most dangerous against a team that has struggled to defend it. Freeman has 11 catches for 81 yards and Coleman has 14 receptions for 157 yards, 11.2 yards per catch and a score. With a secondary already missing two corners, the safeties of New England will be hard-pressed to keep up with the wide receivers of the Falcons. So who is going to cover the backs? Kyle Van Noy has struggled in coverage, Dont’a Hightower has been used as an edge rusher.  Elandon Roberts or Jordan Richards? That is a big mismatch that the Falcons will exploit.

Defense Hasn’t Created Enough Pressure: The Falcons had a lightning-fast defense in 2016 and one that gave the Patriots fits thru the first three quarters of the Super Bowl. One of the reasons they were so successful is that they were able to bring pressure on Tom Brady throughout the game, sacking him five times.

Despite investing heavily in the defense this season, they haven’t been able to ratchet up the pressure that they hoped to so at this point of the season. As a team, they have just 12 sacks which is tied for 21st in the league after five games. One of the trickle-down effects of this is that the team isn’t generating turnovers. Atlanta as a team has generated just three turnovers thru five games, two interceptions, and a fumble recovery. Think back to how dominant they were, rolling thru the playoffs generating six turnovers in three playoff games.

Coming into Sunday’s game against Miami, Jay Cutler had been sacked 10 times in four games. The Falcons with a big 17-point lead in the second half should have been in prime position to push the envelope and get after Cutler and create pressure and perhaps force a turnover or two which could have broken the game open. But they didn’t sack Cutler once and Miami came back and forced a turnover of their own after scoring 20 straight points.

The Time is Now For the Falcons to Turn It Around: The Falcons schedule isn’t filled with easily winnable games the rest of the way of the 2017 season. If they can regain their winning formula of the 2016 season, they are still in good position to take their division once again. And it won’t be easy, Carolina is playing better this season and is a half-game up at 4-2. New Orleans, has turned things around and sits with them at 3-2.

A look at the Falcons remaining 11 weeks is a tough slate. After facing the Patriots on the road on Sunday Night Football, they return home to face the Jets and then go away to Carolina, home against the Cowboys, away against the Seahawks, home against the Bucs, Vikings, and Saints, away against the Bucs and Saints, before finishing up with the Panthers at home. That finale (admittedly very far in the future), could be the difference in the division’s crown.

Other than the Jets, who admittedly have been playing much tougher this season, there are no easy wins on this schedule. They have a tough slate of games to go. But what better way for them to re-ignite their season than to beat the Super Bowl champs on Sunday Night Football on the road?

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots QB Brady Sees His Peers Show Him Serious Respect

Ian Logue
October 18, 2017 at 9:14 pm ET

It’s one thing when your fans believe you’re the best in the game.  It’s probably quite another when you find out that a group of your peers apparently agrees.

ESPN conducted a survey among NFL players around the league and when it comes to quarterbacks, Brady appears to the one who, even at age 40, players believe he’s not done winning championships yet.

According to the poll, 21% of those players believe that Brady will be the quarterback in the NFL who will win the most Super Bowls over the next 10 years.  That’s pretty remarkable given that Brady’s best years should be behind him, yet here he is, still playing at the top of his game in a league full of younger players.  The player he edged out is the Raiders’ Derek Carr, who got 20% of the votes, while Aaron Rodgers (18%) and Dak Prescott (10%) rounded out the list.

Meanwhile, despite the fact Brady might have respect from many of those players, it doesn’t change the fact that he’s the quarterback that they most want to sack by a landslide.  Brady received 49% of the votes, while Ben Roethlisberger (14%) and Aaron Rodgers (10%) fell in behind him.

One funny note was the fact that one player said of why he picked Brady, “Most of the time after a sack, you get a good picture with the quarterback on the ground next to you. That’s why I would love that.”

Brady also made the list in the four quarterbacks who “talks the most trash.”  Cam Newton was at the top of the list at 26%, followed by Philip Rivers (24%) and Aaron Rodgers (17%).  Brady was fourth with (16%) of the votes.

One player said that despite Brady’s demeanor off of the gridiron, he’s a different player on it.  “People don’t really know that,” said a player who voted for Brady.

There were a couple of interesting lists from this one, including which quarterback they wouldn’t want as a teammate (Miami’s Jay Cutler) as well as who they believed was the most overrated (NY Giants QB Eli Manning).

But the comments obviously prove that Brady remains one of the most respected players in the league, and it’s nice to see that he garners just as much praise from the players he competes against as he does from the fans who support him.

Patriots Voice Support For Celtics and Gordon Hayward Following Injury

Robert Alvarez
at 8:17 pm ET

On Tuesday night the Boston Celtics played the Cleveland Cavaliers in their first game of the 2017-2018 MBA season and to show support for their fellow New England sports athletes, members of the Patriots shared good luck messages to the local basketball team.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BaWy5YWhwL5/?hl=en&taken-by=edelman11

Midway through the first quarter, forward Gordon Hayward went down with a devasating leg injury that saw many current and former Patriots players react with shock and well wishes for a speedy recovery.

https://twitter.com/TheRealVRVJ/status/920443924065456129

 

Patriots  Week 6 Report Card, 24-17 Win Over the Jets

Steve Balestrieri
October 17, 2017 at 9:16 am ET

The Patriots are in sole possession of first place in the AFC East for the first time this season after their win over the Jets. That is the good news, the fact that it took until Week 6 of the season speaks on what a totally crazy NFL season 2017 has been thus far. The only constant this season across the board is that there haven’t been many constants as it has been a wild ride with little continuity.

The Patriots had ten days to prepare for this one but they started this one like they were wearing cement overshoes. Down 14-0 on the road against a divisional opponent after the first quarter is not the way you care to draw it up. But give the players and coaches credit. There was no panic. They regrouped and came back to score 24 straight points. And while we can point to a lot of different scenarios including the controversial fumble call in the fourth quarter, the bottom line is the defense, despite giving up far too many yards again, allowed just three points over the final three quarters.

But six games in, this team is still far from a well-oiled machine, as Bill Belichick pointed out in his Monday conference call with the media. But really at this point of the season, nearly every team is facing the same challenges. They have 10 more weeks to get the kinks worked out and possibly bring some needed help in. Until then, they plug along.

So, we’ll start with the offense and the players can come forward to pick up their grade sheets.

Quarterback: B

Tom Brady was far from his normal sharp self on Sunday. Was it the injuries taking hold, the Jets playing him tough, as they always seem to do or just Brady having a bit of an off day? Probably a combination of the three. Brady made some uncharacteristic mistakes on Sunday, especially mental errors which we aren’t used to seeing.

He telegraphed a pass for Rob Gronkowski that should have been picked off by Buster Skrine on the sideline. It was one of those throws that should not have been made. Like his two deep throws into double coverage down the field, the second of which was picked off.

But Brady fired up the troops and they came back, the drives at the end of the first half and the first drive of the third quarter were vintage Brady and the Patriots offense. All of a sudden they’re up by seven in what seemed a blink of an eye. His throw to Cooks on the 42-yard bomb just before the half was a beauty. He dropped it right into the bucket perfectly.

Running Backs: B+

The running backs had productive games on the ground on Sunday afternoon. Dion Lewis had 52 yards on 11 carries and Mike Gillislee added 44 more on 10 carries. The only complaint, which isn’t on them is why didn’t the get the ball more? Gillislee had a fumble which nixed a nice drive that may have resulted in points and as a result saw the end of the bench for quite a while as a result. But Lewis appears to be the water bug that he was in 2015 before his ACL injury and he and Gillislee appear to be making a nice 1-2 punch in the running game. James White didn’t get a lot of work in the passing game this week, which I thought we’d see more of with Gronkowski drawing so much attention. James Develin was solid in leading the way with his blocking, as always.

Wide Receivers: B

The wide receivers led by Brandin Cooks were good on Sunday. Cooks had a concentration drop early in the game where he began to run before fully securing the ball. But his 42-yarder (see above) from Brady was a beauty by both players. Once again, Cooks nearly broke a short slant to the house, a shoestring tackle was all that stopped him from going the distance. It is an area that looks like it could be exploited more in the future. It is simply a matter of time before these start falling. Cooks is on pace for 64 catch, 1259-yard season which is impressive considering he and Brady still haven’t fully clicked yet.

Chris Hogan had one catch for 19 yards and took a nasty but clean shot to the ribs. Danny Amendola was okay but didn’t have the production ( 3 catches for 40 yards) we envisioned in our matchups.

The Pats wide receivers do a bad job of selling these pick/rub routes that everyone uses and no one else gets called on. Obviously, the league’s officials are going to watch them closely on these and they have to do a better job of selling that they are getting out of the way of the opponents.

Tight Ends: A-

Rob Gronkowski returned and was his dominant self. The Jets drafted two safeties in Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye to specifically handle the big man and they learned in their first outing what a daunting task that can be. Chalk it up as a learning experience for the young players. Gronk had six catches for 83 yards and two touchdowns. He was also interfered with horribly in the end zone despite not getting the call. He also drew one 24-yard PI call and was his normal tremendous self as a blocker in the running game. His 33-yard touchdown was classic Gronkowski where he beat one tackler (Adams) and then high-stepped his way past Maye en route to the end zone.

Dwayne Allen (six snaps), and Jacob Hollister (one), barely saw the field and were non-factors. For Allen, that isn’t a good sign.

Offensive Line: B+

The offensive line was much better in pass protection not allowing a sack for the first time this season. There were some pressures allowed and Brady did take a few hits but some of those were on the Jets blitzes. Overall this was easily their best performance, pass blocking of the season.

It was also their best run-blocking performance of the year, the team rushed for 118 yards and it definitely looked like there were more out there for them to utilize.

This was a good building block game for the offensive line and hopefully, this will signal a trend upward for the group.

Defensive Line: B+

The Patriots defensive line was much, much better against the run, Jets running backs averaged just 2.5 yards per carry. Malcom Brown had a couple of run stuffs for losses to go along with a sack. Alan Branch played 22 snaps and looked the 2016 version of himself inside.

Trey Flowers had another solid game as did Deatrich Wise with pressuring Josh McCown. The pass rush is still overall still too inconsistent but in this one, the line’s job was to stop the run (they did) first and force the game into McCown’s hands.

Weird calls on both Brown and Branch on the same series, getting flagged for holding, on running plays. Nothing comes as a total surprise in terms of officials, however.

Linebackers: B-

Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy both had productive games this week. Van Noy had a pair of sacks, a couple more QB hits and a tackle for a loss, while Hightower had a sack, and a QB hit while providing the leadership on the field he’s best at.

The team used Jordan Richards (gulp) as a dime linebacker for the first time since the opener. He made a few nice plays in run support. Elandon Roberts got fooled by McCown on a play-action fake for an easy touchdown by Austin Serferian-Jenkins. McCown used Roberts aggressiveness against him.

The good news is that Shea McClellin can begin practicing this week. Hopefully, we’ll see him back on the field in just a few weeks.

Secondary: B-

With Eric Rowe and Stephon Gilmore out this week, the Patriots were missing two of their top three corners. So, the really curious part of the Jets game plan was that they decided to attack Malcolm Butler instead of Johnson Bademosi who played pretty well in his first extended action on defense this season.

Butler had a very solid game, he did allow a touchdown pass but not much else. He picked off McCown, jumping a route on the sidelines before halftime and jarred the ball loose on Jenkins on the controversial fumble play. So why target Butler? A Very curious decision by the Jets.

The safeties, Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon and Pat Chung were solid. But what happened with the breakdowns ..once again that allowed the Jets to hit a couple of big plays where the coverage busted? You can’t blame Gilmore for these. The 44-yarder to Jermaine Kearse had no one in the zip code and the 32-yard pass to Robby Anderson down the middle on the final drive also had no one close. Too many busts.

Special Teams: A-

Stephen Gostkowski missed his first field goal of the season on a bad hit knuckler, it seemed like the snap and hold were good, but it is rare to see him hit one that poorly. Ryan Allen was okay with his punting but the coverage units were outstanding. The Jets had minus yardage on their punt returns and the kick coverage likewise was solid, twice bringing down Jets kick returners inside the 15-yard line. Sunday was a much better day for Joe Judge’s men.

Coaches: B-

Bill Belichick likes his teams to show that they can play thru adversity and they certainly did that on Sunday, showing great mental toughness coming down from 14 points on the road. But with 10 days to prepare, for the team to come out that flat against a divisional opponent? What was up with that?

Josh McDaniels got too impatient a few times that may have cost the team some points. I don’t feel like he has total trust in the running game many times. But once the team got into a groove they were moving the ball well.

Matt Patricia got Bademosi ready to play and he acquitted himself well, but the secondary continues to have communications issues six weeks into the season, allowing receivers to run free down the field. But overall, it was a win, on the road, against a divisional opponent. They’ll take it.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Dion Lewis Shines in Victory Over Jets

Ian Logue
October 15, 2017 at 8:47 pm ET

Dion Lewis has had his moments in the early part of the 2017 season, but Sunday’s performance against the Jets was just what the Patriots needed during their 24-17 win down in New Jersey.

Lewis had a strong showing, taking over the lion’s share of the carries after a first quarter fumble by Mike Gillislee in Jets’ territory forced him out of the game.  It sparked a big opportunity for Lewis, with the veteran carrying the football 11 times for 52 yards along with a touchdown.

His rushing touchdown came after a pass interference call against the Jets in the second quarter put the ball at New York’s one yard line.  From there, Lewis took the ball into the end zone and it got New England’s offense started as it was the first touchdown during a 24-3 run that ultimately allowed the Patriots to come back after they initially trailed 14-0.

Nine of Lewis’ 11 carries came on first down, with the veteran averaging 4.7 per carry over that span as well as four first downs.  From there, Lewis had two carries on second down, both of which moved the chains.

It was a productive outing for a player who has seemingly come on as of late, and he was glad he was able to go out there and make the most of his opportunities as the Patriots picked up a key division game on the road.

“Whenever you get a chance, you have to make plays,” said Lewis after the game.  “That’s my job.  I was just happy to go out there, move around a bit, and help my team.”

The victory improved them to 4-2 on the season, which will now see them come home and get ready to take on the Atlanta Falcons next Sunday night at Gillette Stadium.

Replay Takes Center Stage In Patriot Victory

Bob George
at 8:13 pm ET

E. RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Remember, in the preseason many experts had the Patriots finishing 16-0 and the New York Jets finishing 0-16.

You’d be lying if you claimed that in August, an October meeting between the Patriots and the Jets would be a battle for first place in the AFC East. Yet here they are, both teams 3-2, and both teams playing opposite preseason projections. The Patriots have been bedeviled by bad defense and subpar pass blocking, while the Jets are getting unusually good performances from quarterback Josh McCown.

McCown became quarterback number six to drop 300 passing yards on the Patriots, the Patriot defenders once again had problems leaving receivers wide open despite having ten days to prepare for this game, and the Super Bowl champs still look like a team in flux rather than a team in control. At one point, the Patriots trailed the Jets 14-0, looking every bit as bad as they have in their two previous losses.

And yet the game came down to one of the most flabbergasting replay decisions in the history of instant replay. A seemingly certain touchdown by Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the fourth quarter was changed after replay to a lost fumble out of the end zone and a touchback. That turned out to be the difference in the game as the Patriots held on to win 24-17 on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

On second down and goal at the Patriot 5, trailing 24-14, Seferian-Jenkins caught a pass in the left flat, with Malcolm Butler and Duron Harmon covering him. Seferian-Jenkins gave Harmon a stiffarm, and headed towards the pylon. He fell over the pylon going out of bounds, and the official signaled touchdown. Butler and Harmon immediately jumped up and started yelling at the official. It wasn’t clear as to why they were yelling with the naked eye on the play.

After a commercial break, catching the CBS television crew by surprise, referee Tony Corrente announced that, after further review, the receiver bobbled the ball before hitting the pylon, and then fell out of bounds. By rule, that is a fumble out of the end zone, and a touchback. The six points were taken off the boards, and the Patriots had the ball at the 20 with the score once again 24-14.

Seferian-Jenkins was in absolute disbelief, and was lucky that he didn’t get flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after protesting. Replay showed that the tight end did bobble the ball, but regained possession before falling out of bounds. CBS commentator Dan Fouts overtly disagreed with the call. The lost touchdown was the margin of victory for the Patriots, and Jet fans will be gnashing their teeth over this call. Normally, the call on the field takes precedence unless there is clear and absolute proof that the call should be overturned. This is one play where Corrente should have said, “After further review, the call stands.”

But it didn’t, and the Patriots walked off the field victorious. They will take it. Tom Brady is now the winningest quarterback in NFL history, surpassing Brett Favre and Peyton Manning. The Patriots are now in sole possession of first place in the AFC East. That in and of itself is hardly earth shattering, but given how badly the Patriots have played at times this year, the Patriots will take that too.

While the defense showed general signs of improvement, it is still a work in progress. The Patriots had a hard time getting off the field on third down in the first half, and once again gave up long gains to wide open receivers.

In the second quarter, McCown had the Jets on the Patriot 31 after finding Jermaine Kearse for 16 yards on third and five. On first down, Trey Flowers brought pressure on McCown, forcing him to hurry a throw. The lob pass to the left side, however, found Jeremy Kerley in stride, who had run away from Butler, and he waltzed into the end zone for a 14-0 Jet lead. Butler played Kerley to the inside on the right side, but Kerley ran a crossing pattern and Butler took the wrong angle to him, surrendering a far-too-easy touchdown.

In the fourth quarter, on the final Jet drive of the game, the Patriots had a chance to put the Jets away and didn’t. Down to their last play at their own 25 on fourth down and 12, McCown stepped back into the pocket and found Robby Anderson in the right seam for a 32-yard completion into Patriot territory. Butler and Devin McCourty were the nearest defenders to Anderson, both of them 7-10 yards away. Again, why was Anderson so wide open on what should have been the game sealing play? The game was finally salted away four plays later, but the fact that Anderson was not covered at all on a fourth and 12 play is maddening.

To be fair, it wasn’t an overall bad day for the defense. The unit did induce four three and outs and three turnovers, albeit one of those turnovers being controversial. Butler had two interceptions, his pick late in the first half being the turning point of the game. McCown threw a bad pass along the right sideline towards Anderson when Butler jumped the route, and the Patriots scored six plays later with nine seconds left in the half on a two-yard scoring pass to Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots completed the “double score” with Gronk hauling in a 33-yard scoring pass on the first drive of the second half and the game was tied.

Despite the win, the defense still allowed 408 yards of total offense from the Jets. McCown had 354 yards passing on 31 of 47 completions, two touchdowns and two picks. His passer rating was 84.9. But McCown was sacked four times, and most of his passes were to a running back (Matt Forte) and a tight end (Seferian-Jenkins). Kearse and Anderson had the most yards, but the Patriots were able to contain them in the red area.

Brady’s numbers were actually worse than McCown’s. He finished 20 of 38 passing for 257 yards and two touchdowns, and a rating of 80.7. He had no sacks, but never really got into a rhythm. Credit the Patriot running game with helping out, as both Mike Gillislee and Dion Lewis averaged over four yards a carry and tallied 96 rushing yards between them.

The Patriots need more work on their defense and quickly, as the big Super Bowl rematch is next weekend at Gillette. Atlanta comes to town next Sunday night, and given that both of the Patriot losses have come at home, it could be bombs away for the wrong team.

And Julio Jones is hard to defense even when you do it right. Get busy, Matt Patricia.

Ugly Start, Uglier Finish, But the Patriots Win 24-17 Over the Jets

Steve Balestrieri
at 8:03 pm ET

The Jets were given a Bronx cheer by the replay officials in New York just across the river and it played a key point why the Jets weren’t going to overtime. But in the end, the Patriots were able to hold on again 24-17 as Tom Brady became the NFL’s all-time winningest quarterback in regular season history with his 187th win breaking a tie with Brett Favre and Peyton Manning. He’s already the NFL’s all-time leader in wins with both regular season and playoffs combined.

But back to the controversy. Austin Seferian-Jenkins caught a pass at the four-yard line and rolled to the end zone, where just at the pylon, Malcolm Butler tried to and for the briefest of moments jarred the ball free. But Jenkins never really lost control and rolled out of bounds in the end zone in what appeared to 77,562 people in the stands and thousands on television as a touchdown. But NY overturned the call on the field and ruled it a touchback and New England’s ball on the twenty. A huge gift and swing of momentum.

And before my timeline fills up with Patriots Nation telling me it was the right call, switch the teams around and picture Rob Gronkowski rumbling to the end zone and the same play happens….is it a fumble then? It was the worst call in a generally terribly officiated game.

After having 10 days to prepare for the Jets, the Patriots took the first 15 minutes to figure out if the game was at 1:05 not 1:45. The defense was gashed badly on the Jets first drive as Josh McCown looked like a guy QBing a well-oiled machine instead of an offense averaging 156 yards per game. The Jets went 88-yards going 4-4 on third down and immediately thoughts were …”Here we go again.”

The Patriots were gashed on defense and turned the ball over on offense and it was 14-0 Jets before the Pats finally decided to kick it in gear. The lights then came on for Belichick’s crew and they rallied for 24 straight points and seemed poised for taking total control of the game over. But some sloppy play and indifferent defensive play struck again and the team had to hold on for another seat-of-your-pants type of win.

The Patriots recovered from a bad sequence at the end of the half to get a turnover and then went down the field in just 26 seconds to score a game-tying touchdown on a pass from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski. Gronk who was interfered with horribly on an earlier non-call where Stephen Gostkowski missed a 47-yard field goal when it seemed the team would go into the half trailing 14-7 or worse.

The Jets were moving but McCown made a mistake when he got greedy. He made a bad decision to throw on the sideline where Malcolm Butler was in great position to jump the route and he did intercepting the ball. Brady then hit a beautiful rainbow play to Brandin Cooks to set the Patriots up at the two where Gronkowski outmuscled rookie Jamal Adams for the tying score.

Receiving the ball for the second half kickoff, Brady marched them down the field where Gronkowski scored his second touchdown of the game getting behind the secondary for a 33-yard touchdown and suddenly New England is up 21-14. It was their best sequence of the day and at that time, they looked poised to put the Jets far in the rear-view mirror. But it was not to be and the team allowed McCown, to march up and down the field in the fourth quarter like they were facing Aaron Rodgers or Matt Ryan, who coincidentally comes to Foxboro next week.

Other observations include:

  • The Patriots Run Defense was actually quite good today, holding the Jets to 74 yards overall and Jets running backs were held to 20 carries for 47 yards.  Alan Branch seemed like the Alan Branch of old and was doing a great job of stuffing the interior. Malcom Brown had two run stuffs for negative yardage.
  • The Pass Rush isn’t getting it done. Can’t blame Matt Patricia for being too conservative in this one. The Patriots rushed five many times and used the corner blitz often in an attempt to influence the play. It didn’t do it enough. Often McCown had tons of time and of the four sacks, the Patriots got, thank the coverage on most of those.
  • Brady was noticeably off with his accuracy for much of the day. He completed only 20-38 for 257 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He threw deep into double coverage a couple of times and the second time was picked off by Buster Skrine. But in the middle of the game when the team found their rhythm, he was hitting some big third and long completions. His deep ball to Cooks was his best throw by far, 42 yards which set up the tying touchdown, right in the bucket.
  • Cooks and Gronkowski had very productive days, Cooks caught 6 passes for 93 yards and Gronk had six for 83 with a pair of touchdowns. But Chris Hogan had a quiet day, catching just one pass for 19. Danny Amendola and James White also had only so-so production with 3 catches for 40, and 4 for 22 respectively.
  • Kyle Van Noy had a productive day with a pair of sacks, and three quarterback hits and seven tackles. Dont’a Hightower and Malcom Brown were credited with the other sacks.
  • Dion Lewis had another good day running the football, with 11 carries for 52 yards and a touchdown. He had a long run of just 11 but once again, he appeared close on a few occasions of breaking on. Mike Gillislee had a costly fumble but also ran well, gaining 44 yards on ten carries.
  • Josh McDaniels had an up and down afternoon. The Patriots didn’t get anything going until the second quarter. And he got too impatient before the half where with a minute and a half to go, the Patriots were on the Jets 30 and tried the deep ball twice in a row without success where Gostkowski missed a field goal.  In the fourth quarter facing a 2nd and 5 from the Jets 6, he called a crossing route where a run would have had a much greater chance of success.
  • With both Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe out, Johnson Bademosi got the start with Jonathan Jones in the slot. Surprisingly, the Jets went after Malcolm Butler and not Bademosi. He didn’t play badly but played as better than what can be expected. However, the overall pass defense once again was very leaky.

There were positives to report, such as the Patriots not panicking once they got down by 14 points. They raised their level of play on both sides of the ball and showed a ton of resiliency against a division opponent on the road in a loud stadium. On a day where they weren’t playing their best. They rebounded and climbed out of a big deficit.

While they didn’t start or end the game particularly well, the Patriots showed the mental toughness that champions must have.

But there is no sugar-coating the play of the defense where although they ‘officially’ allowed only 17 points, their level of play early and late in the game just isn’t going to get it done.

And now Matt Ryan and the Falcons are coming to town next week, fresh off of blowing a seventeen point lead at home against the Dolphins. One other footnote for the game is to call attention to all of the people who constantly rail about the Patriots making the playoffs because of how weak the AFC East is. Well the AFC “Least” has more wins in Atlanta this season, than the Falcons do.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

New England Patriots News 10-15, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 10-15, & AFC East Notes.

**Langi, Wife Involved in Serious Car Crash: **

Reports have been coming in all day on Saturday about a serious car crash that Patriots LB Harvey Langi and his wife were involved in Friday night about 9:30 in Foxborough. Early reports state that Langi and his wife were stopped at a red light when they were rear-ended in a three-car crash. Firefighters were forced to use the Jaws of Life to free some of the injured. The injuries suffered by Langi were considered serious but not life-threatening.The Patriots released a statement on the accident:

“We are aware of the traffic accident involving Harvey Langi and a passenger last night in Foxborough. The two were stopped at a traffic light when they were rear-ended by another vehicle,” the Patriots said. “They were both transported to a local hospital with injuries and are receiving medical attention. Our thoughts are with Harvey, the Langi family and those who sustained injuries in last night’s accident.”

Just a quick question to everyone… is there anyone out there, anyone who DOESN’T know that Tom Brady is 40 years old? Anyone? Bueller? Does every piece on Brady have to have in the first paragraph, “New England’s 40-year old QB” or a reasonable facsimile thereof? Between that and the talk of him approaching the cliff is old folks.

Let’s Hear it for the Rivalry: The Patriots and Jets renew unpleasantries for the 117th time on Sunday. There are rivalry games and there are rivalry games. And there is the Jets. The two teams have always had a healthy disdain for one another. I remember speaking with Steve Nelson, former Patriot team HOF-Linebacker and he said from the moment he was drafted, and he walked into the locker room for the first time, there was that palatable hate for the Jets, which exists the same down in NJ. Here’s to the next chapter in that rivalry.

Besides the rivalry and first place in the division which is online today, another streak that the Patriots have going since last season is their road record. The Pats have won their last 10 road games dating back to the beginning of the 2016 season.

Brady Can Set Another Record With a Win:
Tom Brady already owns the most wins in NFL history for a QB in both regular and postseason combined but for regular season wins only he’s tied with Brett Favre and Peyton Manning at 186. A win by the Patriots today in Brady’s start will put him over the top at 187 career regular season wins and add another career milestone for #12.

It is interesting to note that Sunday will be Brady’s 241st start. Manning had 266 and Favre 298. It shows the level of success that the Patriots have had with Brady under center with him having essentially almost 2 seasons less than Manning and nearly four less than Favre to reach this milestone.

Brady would like nothing more than to set the new career regular season record against the Jets. BTW Brady is 23-6 against the Jets during the regular season. Just in case anyone was wondering.

Goodell: No Policy Change on the National Anthem:
The NFL Commissioner has weighed in on the kneeling, standing, sitting, stretching, eating a banana issue on the National Anthem. In a joint statement with the NFLPA, they stated: “There has been no change in the current policy regarding the anthem. The agenda will be a continuation of how to make progress on the important social issues that players have vocalized. Everyone who is part of our NFL community has a tremendous respect for our country, our flag, our anthem and our military, and we are coming together to deal with these issues in a civil and constructive way.”

Goodell added, “What we want to do is get back to focusing on the actions that we want to take to really improve our communities and support our players to get things done,” Goodell said. “We want to get to from our current situation to where we are really making a difference in the community and get involved in action that is going to have a positive outcome for our law enforcement, for our communities, and for our country overall.”

And in a non-story hot take for the week centered around Roger Goodell’s wife who used an anonymous Twitter account to defend her husband. The Twitter account that has since been taken down, didn’t do anything that could be remotely considered controversial, she just defended her husband. Isn’t that what any good wife would do?

We’ve been super critical of Goodell and his policies on these pages but making a big deal out of an anonymous tweet that says “Roger is doing his job?” Nope. Hey, at least he has one loyal follower on his side. You go, Jane.    

NaVorro Bowman Could Be a Fit in New England:
I’ll be the first to say that I’m the first person to pooh-pooh the idea that every time a veteran player is released, Patriots nation clamors for him, regardless of fit or level of play. Due to listening to certain talking heads on the air, “they gotta have the name.”

But in this case, Bowman could be a nice addition to the Patriots defense. He was one of the best inside linebackers in the game, but injuries in 2014 and last season have taken their toll on Bowman. Despite still being the leading tackler on the Niners, the team is moving away from him and tried to find a trade partner, and barring that gave him his release. That part wasn’t surprising since the Niners are on the hook for his remaining salary the rest of the season.

Now any team, including New England could sign him as early as Monday according to his agent Drew Rosenhaus when he’ll choose his next team. They can reasonably sign him for the league minimum for veterans and Bowman can sign anywhere and not lose any cash this season.

In terms of fit, while he’s lost a step in coverage, he’s still a very effective run stopper on early downs and has the type of veteran savvy that David Harris possesses. Why would Bowman be a fit over Harris? Well, the Patriots haven’t used him at all this season. He’s played seven snaps in five games. Harvey Langi appears to be in a red-shirt type situation and the team is still weeks away from being able to activate Shea McClellin from IR. It will be something to monitor, especially today to see if Harris plays against his old team.   

Belichick Believes Run Game Will Open Up…We do too:
Bill Belichick in his weekly “Belestrator” break down of the Tampa game, he played Dion Lewis’ 31-yard scamper and spoke about Mike Gillislee’s body of work so far this season. Belichick believes that we’ll see Gillislee break out sooner rather than later and mentioned that the backs are running hard and playing better than their numbers may indicate this season.

We agree. While fans are clamoring for the return of LeGarrette Blount, the running game’s struggles would be the same…or worse with him back here. It is an offensive line issue as to why the backs have been struggling thus far to get untracked.

Today’s game may be a perfect time to get things untracked. With Muhammad Wilkerson either limited physically or out with an injury, the Patriots could make a concerted effort to run the ball. The Jets are allowing 143 yards per game and 4.6 yards per rush. With a unit that is trying to limit the hits on Tom Brady, having an effective ground game goes a long way in alleviating that. Opponents can’t pin back their ears as much and make play-action passing even more effective.

Who Do You Like This Week NFL Week 6:
Last week there were a few surprises and I picked a couple of upsets that didn’t pan out so I finished with a 9-5 mark. Season Total: 50-27.

This week’s Thursday Night Football Game I went with the Philadelphia over Carolina. Now for the rest (14 games now with bye weeks) of the slate:
Bears at Ravens – Baltimore

Packers at Vikings – Green Bay

Redskins- Washington

Lions at Saints – Detroit

Dolphins at Falcons – Atlanta

Browns at Texans – Houston

Patriots at Jets – New England

Buccaneers at Cardinals – Arizona

Rams at Jaguars – Los Angeles

Chargers at Raiders – Oakland

Steelers at Chiefs – Kansas City

Giants at Broncos – Denver

MNF Colts at Titans – Tennessee

Bye week: Bills, Bengals, Cowboys, Seahawks

Next Thursday Night Oakland over Kansas City

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills On the Bye, Is Taylor the Man Moving Forward:
The Buffalo Bills are on a bye this week and will certainly be watching the Jets-Patriots game with more than just a passing interest. But the majority of the talk centered around the Bills this week and new coach Sean McDermott continues to be QB Tyrod Taylor.

The subject still hasn’t changed from when he took over in the 2015 season. Can Taylor lead the Bills to the playoffs? The long and short answer is both yes and no.

Now in his third season, Taylor can be a placeholder for Buffalo as long as the running game is going well and the defense plays to the level that they are playing at right now. But can Taylor put a team on his back like a franchise QB and lead them to a playoff spot and possibly playoff wins? No. What you see is what you get. There is a reason the Bills have the 29th passing offense in the league, averaging about 165 yards per game. And it starts behind the center.

Taylor hasn’t shown in three years that he’s capable of more than what he is. He can make things happen with his feet to extend the play and reach downfield, as long as the running game is getting big chunks of yardage. Look back over three seasons and see where the Bills running game has struggled and look at how the passing game responded. However, the team’s best chance for success…right now rests with Taylor. As long as Shady McCoy stays healthy and the defense holds up, the Bills will compete every week and have a good shot at making the playoffs. But he isn’t the answer, and the Bills already know that.

Dolphins Fans Chants for Moore at QB “Embarrassing”:
The Miami Dolphins, even more so than the Bills have struggled to throw the ball this season. Miami currently has the 32nd passing attack in the NFL, averaging just 156.5 yards per game. Jay Cutler who was signed to replace the injured Ryan Tannehill is completing 62 percent of his throws and averaging paltry 5.4 yards per attempt. Worse, he’s thrown for just three touchdowns against three interceptions and his passer rating thru four games is a career-worst 74.8.

When Dolphins fans began chanting for Matt Moore during last week’s 16-10 win over Tennessee, Miami WR Jarvis Landry called it embarrassing. From the Miami Herald, Landry said, “If they want to change the players, we can’t buy into all that. I believe it’s disrespectful. A man that comes out here and works his [expletive] off and for people to not really understand what’s really going on. Or to not even have touched the field before, to say we want somebody else to be playing, they don’t understand the situation or know what’s going on. They just want to be on Twitter. They just want to start a [expletive] chant and it’s embarrassing, as a player to have fans like that.”

Miami coach Adam Gase pretty much reiterated what Landry said, but with the weapons that Miami put around Tannehill this summer prior to his injury, the talk was that anything less than a big step up would mean the end of his tenure in Miami. Cutler has done very little in the first quarter of the season and a playoff team from 2016, the Dolphins can’t wait much longer. They face a very good Atlanta team on the road this week.

Jets’ Ealy Looking Forward to This Week’s Game:
The New York Jets, have a chance to take over first place in the AFC East this week and according to a piece on ESPN by Lenn Robbins, Kony Ealy is itching to play the team he spent training camp with.

Robbins wrote:
But for Ealy, this is personal. The Pats traded for him in the offseason. He was expected to be one of their two key free-agent acquisitions on defense along with cornerback Stephon Gilmore.

It became clear early on that Ealy and Belichick weren’t going to find common ground. Ealy was released. The Jets signed him.

Less than two months later, Ealy and Belichick will stand on opposite sidelines, each keenly aware of how this game could play out.

He did get one part of this piece wrong, after stating that the Patriots haven’t protected Brady well, (they haven’t), he wrote the Jets have 15 sacks. They don’t. They have gotten seven so far this season and have allowed 15. Ealy is still looking for his first however and that will be an area to watch.

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 Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots – Jets Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
October 13, 2017 at 8:00 am ET

The Patriots head back out on the road to meet their old familiar rival, the New York Jets on Sunday afternoon in the Meadowlands.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, October 15 at 1:00 p.m. ET and can be seen on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Ian Eagle will handle play-by-play duties with Dan Fouts as the color analyst. Evan Washburn will work from the sidelines... The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (3-2) got back on the winning track by downing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Thursday night 19-14.Stephen Gostkowski booted four field goals and Tom Brady threw the only touchdown of the game for the Pats to Chris Hogan.

The Jets (3-2) beat the Cleveland Browns 17-14 for their third win in a row. Many people were thinking this Jets team wouldn’t  win one game and now in Week 6, they are playing at home with a chance to take over the division lead.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2016 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Jets are meeting for the 117th time. The Patriots hold a 61-54-1 edge overall. The Patriots are 28-29 all-time on the road against the Jets, including 4-3 at MetLife Stadium. The Patriots swept the season series a year ago and in the last meeting at the end of the season, the Patriots blasted the Jets 41-3 at Gillette Stadium.The Patriots have also won their last ten road games dating back to last season.

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

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Jets Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game has been disappointing so far this season. Whether it is the offensive line or the running backs that are underperforming, perhaps a combination of both, they aren’t helping the passing offense. The Patriots average just 99 yards per game. Mike Gillislee leads the team with 246 yards and four touchdowns but his yards per carry (3.6) like that of the team (3.87) is not where the team needs it to be.

The Jets run defense has struggled mightily so far this season. Gang Green has allowed an average of 143 yards per game. The Jets are the 29th ranked team against the run in terms of yards per game and 27th in rushing yards per attempt.

This may be a time for the Patriots to establish something of a consistent running game. They gave Dion Lewis some more reps last week and he responded with a solid game. Gillislee also had a decent game as well last week. The Jets may go to a lighter defense to stop the Patriots passing game and this would be the time to assert the push up front and get the running game going, not to mention not allow an opponent to pin their ears back and coming after the quarterback.

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

The Patriots passing game has been clicking despite the amount of pressure that Tom Brady has been under and the number of times he’s been hit and sacked. It is capable of being even more explosive if Brady gets decent time to throw the ball. Having the running game improve would be a big boost. Brady has plenty of productive targets in the passing game, Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski should return this week as well as Phillip Dorsett, with James White and Dion Lewis out of the backfield.

The Jets revamped their secondary this season and started it with two rookie safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye who have come in as rookies and played much better than anyone could have hoped this early in their careers. They have two good corners in Buster Skrine and Morris Claiborne but they’ll face a much more potent passing game than they’ve seen thus far. One issue has been the lack of sacks, the team has just seven so far in 2017. Neither Leonard Williams or Muhammad Wilkerson have a sack yet this season.

Gronkowski will present the rookies in the middle with a big matchup to watch on Sunday. But the Patriots have enough other weapons to force the issue with the Jets defense. With time Brady has proven he can pick apart anyone, even without a ton of time this season he’s lighting it up. Look for him to have another big day.

Next up the Jets offense:

Jets RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New York

The Jets have good running backs in Bilal Powell and Matt Forte but both of them are banged up and it isn’t known if they’ll play or how much on Sunday. But if they can’t go, the onus will fall to youngster Elijah McGuire who is a capable backup. The Jets running game looked excellent a few weeks ago against Jacksonville running for over 250 yards but then fizzled last week against the Browns, gaining only 39 yards on the ground.

The Patriots run defense has been porous at times this season. With Alan Branch underperforming and riding the pine, they’ve been susceptible to runs up the middle. Ditto for having Dont’a Hightower missing time and then playing on the edge. They seemed to make some adjustments last week against Tampa Bay. They moved Hightower back in the middle on early downs and it helped. Now if they can get Branch back on the field and performing, it would be a bonus. Paging David Harris?

The Patriots game plan will probably be to slow or stop the run and force the ball into McCown’s hands since he doesn’t have a deep group of playmakers. How well they do that slowing of the run will be an intriguing part of the game.

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

Josh McCown is playing better than anyone expected this season. He’s completing about 71 percent of his passes although for just 1020 yards with five scores and four interceptions. Jermaine Kearse, Jeremy Kerley, and Robbie Anderson are the wideouts with Austin Seferian Jenkins is the tight end and he’s having a good season thus far. Like the Patriots, the Jets have given up a lot of pressure, McCown has been sacked 15 times on the season.

The Patriots pass defense may have turned the corner a bit last week. Through three quarters playing strictly man coverage, they allowed just 110 yards. Look for more man coverage with Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore this week. Jenkins will be McCown’s safety valve and a tough matchup. He’s already got the production that the Jets tight ends got all of last year. Kearse has seamlessly integrated into the offense and came up big with a 24-yard touchdown to seal the win against the Browns. We’ll see if the Patriots pass rush can get home more this week. The consistency hasn’t been there and this may be a good time to get it going.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski made all four field goal attempts last week and is 12-12 on the season. I never worry about him on field goal attempts only with extra points…is that strange? Ryan Allen hasn’t been the same this season. He’s been inconsistent and needs to re-find his comfort level out there. Danny Amendola gave the return unit with a shot in the arm with a big 40-yard return. But the STs units committed four penalties in the game. Not good.

The Jets counter with Chandler Catanzaro at kicker, who booted a 57-yarder last week and Lac Edwards at punter. But overall the Jets have been inconsistent on special teams this season.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This one will pit old rivals who get renew unpleasantries with one another. There is never any love lost between the two teams or the franchises. Here is where we normally throw in the caveat that you can throw out their records since it is a divisional matchup but both teams come in with identical 3-2 records.

I think it is imperative for the Patriots to get off to a good start this week. The crowd at MetLife Stadium will be loud at the start of this one. No one expected the Jets to be where they are right now. So, they’ll be loose and fired up. They’re basically playing with house money. The best way for the Pats to quiet the crowd is to get some distance quickly and get the crowd to sit on their hands. Turnovers will be key also. The Jets offense hasn’t been especially prolific so to make them match the New England offense score for score will be a difficult proposition. Not giving them any momentum or short fields with turnovers is important. On the flip side getting a turnover or two would be a big boost to a Patriots offense that has been moving the ball and scoring very well but hasn’t reached its optimum peak yet.

This one will be close for awhile but the New England offense will put pressure on the Jets to keep up. A second-half turnover will open the door for Brady and the offense to break it open late. Brady and Gronkowski lead the way to a road win.  Patriots 34-13

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

VIDEO: “James Develin Tribute – The Engineering Meathead Fullback”

Robert Alvarez
October 11, 2017 at 7:58 pm ET

A member of the New England Patriots for six seasons, fullback James Develin doesn’t often get the attention of the cameras or the stat sheet, but has become a valuable blocker for the running backs that have passed through Foxboro during his tenure.

Once in awhile, he sneaks in a pass or two like he did against the Carolina Panthers two weeks ago.

For his career, Develin may only have one touchdown pass to just 16 total receptions, but one Patriots fan wanted to give him a tribute video for all of his hard work that may go unnoticed to the casual observer.

YouTube user Von Wolfwood put together the following highlight reel of Develin’s time in New England since he first arrived in 2012, a career that has seen his teams play in the AFC Championship at minimum, every season.

Video Courtesy Von Wolfwood.