Category Archives: Patriots Commentary

Sloppy Patriots Beat Bears 38-31, Observations, Three Up, Three Down

Steve Balestrieri
October 22, 2018 at 7:29 am ET

This win, the Patriots first win on the road this season, wasn’t the way they drew it up on the chalkboard but it is a win. And in what is turning out to be a wacky 2018 NFL season, the team will take it. The Patriots made far too many mistakes but turned things around with some big plays on special teams and left Chicago 5-2 after downing the Bears 38-31 on Sunday afternoon. The craziness extended to the final play of the game where the Bears tried…and converted a Hail Mary on the final play of the game but the play was stopped at the one-yard line. 

But the biggest news was that rookie running back Sony Michel left the game in the first half in what looked like a serious knee injury. Michel was hit and wrapped up at the line and was twisted in the pile. It was one of those plays that just didn’t look good for the rookie as he was being helped off the field. He’s scheduled for an MRI on Monday.

Other observations from the game include:

The Patriots offensive line once again did a tremendous job. The Bears came in with 18 sacks, boasting edge rushers Khalil Mack, Leonard Floyd, and interior pass rusher Akiem Hicks.  They sacked Tom Brady only once and generally were handled easily. However, the Bears helped the Patriots cause by dropping both edge rushers frequently into coverage. Despite that, the offensive line gave Brady plenty of time to throw.

Despite the sloppy play, which initially caused the team to fall behind 17-7, the Patriots found a way, to persevere and come away with the victory. Granted, there won’t be high marks for style points in this one, but they beat a division leader on the road and they did what they had to do.

Speaking of Mack, while he did miss most of last week’s practice, he played and clearly wasn’t 100 percent. But he didn’t line up against LaAdrian Waddle, but Trent Brown who clearly handled him easily. Mack was pancaked by Dwayne Allen on a running play in the second half. Much like Mexico City a year ago, Mack was a non-factor.

The game started off with one of the Patriots most impressive drives of the year. Taking the kickoff and starting at their 25, Brady and Josh McDaniels had the Bears totally discombobulated on defense marching 75 yards on 9 plays capped off with a Brady 9-yard touchdown pass to Julian Edelman. It also featured a lot of Sony Michel.

Taking advantage of the aggressive Bears defense, they ran a run delay play to Michel for 18 yards and then utilized the screen game to perfection. James White had a 14-yard screen, Michel had another for 13 more. It was a great start that soon went awry.

The three turnovers will have the coaching staff seeing red. The one fumble by Michel is a free pass. He was injured, apparently severely and him dropping the ball there isn’t something we or anyone else should point the finger at. But the fumble by Cordarrelle Patterson was a play where he has to take better care of the ball in that situation. And once again a Brady pass into the hands of a receiver is bobbled and deflected right into the hands of a defender. Unbelievable.

Patterson did redeem himself, showing why he is the best kick returner in the NFL returning a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown, narrowing the gap to 17-14. He later nearly broke another, returning a kick for 38 more.

An area that the team continues to struggle (badly) in is containing mobile quarterbacks. Mitch Trubisky looked like Bobby Douglass out there on Sunday. He rushed six times for 81 and his running kept the Bears in the game when they couldn’t do anything offensively in the first half. Trubisky had an 8-yard touchdown run where he ran around the field for about 65 before getting in untouched.

His 39-yard scramble in the second half was an ugly sequence for the defense where he kept making defenders miss. The defense keeps losing containment and once these mobile QBs get free, the lack of speed at linebacker is concerning. Two words…. Deone Bucannon. Anyone? Bueller?

Besides the fumble by Patterson, the Patriots special teams continued to make several gaffes that cost the team, a pair of 15-yard penalties, unsportsmanlike conduct for the gunner going out of bounds and a facemask really hurt. Ryan Allen’s punt at the end of the game was far from one of his good ones. Julian Edelman muffed a punt inside the 10 but was able to avert disaster by falling on it. 

Bill Belichick played the odds at the end of the game and with 29 seconds left and facing a 4th and 6 at the Bears 33. Rather than try a long field goal, he decided to punt and pin them deep. Allen who normally is excellent at putting punts inside the 10, boomed this one nine yards into the end zone.

The sloppy play hit the coaches too. The Pats were flagged for a delay of game on a kickoff of all things and then only had 10 men on the field while the Bears were attempting a 4th down and 2. This cost them a timeout. Could they have used it at the end of the half? Possibly. But the field position may have played much into it.

Rookies J.C. Jackson and Keion Crossen were victimized by several penalties but Jackson was redeemed by an interception, one of two the defense had. The other was a terrific play by Jonathan Jones who high pointed the ball perfectly. In reality, the defense should have had two more interceptions. Trubiski forced a pass into the end zone where he threw it right to Elandon Roberts for what should have been a gift pick. But he couldn’t hold on.

Later Stephon Gilmore jumped a route and was in great position to make another pick, but he too dropped it. On both sequences, one play after Roberts’ drop and two after Gilmore’s the Bears scored touchdowns. That was a huge swing. The Pats make those two plays and this is a blowout win.

The special teams did redeem itself with the Patterson return, later they saw something on film and inserted Dont’a Hightower into the punt team. Hightower burst thru the protection and smothered a punt for a block that Kyle Van Noy scooped up and returned for a touchdown. That 29-yard score put the Pats up for good.

Patriots Three Up, Three Down:

Trending Up:

Josh Gordon – This was Gordon’s first game with 100 yards receiving, catching 5 passes for 100 yards including a 55-yarder where he ran out of gas and was tackled at the one. Gordon, who’s been limited with a hamstring admitted that the 96-yard drive had him gassed there.

But the conversion he made where he went up, fought for the ball and came down on his head causing his helmet to fly off but still holding on to the ball was a fantastic play. He’s just scratching the surface of his potential. I would expect to see his role increase as he gets more in tune with the offense.

James White – Already missing Rob Gronkowski on the offense this week, out with a back and ankle injury, the team lost Michel on the first play of the second quarter. White picked up the slack and was his normal productive self in the passing game, 8 catches 57 yards, two touchdowns. He also carried 11 times for 40 yards and helped the Patriots kill nearly all of the clock at the end.

While the Patriots offense goes thru Tom Brady and will until he ultimately hangs it up, White has become the second most important piece of the puzzle. With the injury epidemic at running back, White is now even more important to both the running and passing games.

Tom Brady– Facing a Bears defense that has gotten a lot of props as one of the best in the league, Brady completed 25 of 36 passes for 277 yards with three touchdowns and the one interception, that we mentioned above.

Brady was in control all day despite missing two of his biggest offensive weapons in Gronkowski and Michel. He spread the ball around and had the Patriots in position, twice…to put the game away late.

Honorable Mention: Patterson, Offensive Line, Chris Hogan

Trending Down:

Sony Michel – The Patriots rookie running back appeared to suffer a serious leg injury and was in excruciating pain as he was twisted to the turf. We won’t know until Monday how serious it is, but his injury was a huge blow to the Patriots offense as he’s been the featured back in the running game.

Michel was off to another dynamic start in the game and was featured on the Patriots opening touchdown drive. We’ll keep our fingers crossed that he dodged a bullet on that one.  

DL “Containment”– Yes, this one could easily have been labeled, “non-containment”.  Time and again, Trubiski hurt the Patriots with his running and the team looked, at times, powerless to stop it. He ran both outside and inside up the middle and the Patriots didn’t seem to have an answer.

One would have thought that the Patriots would have (at least by the 2nd quarter), assigned a linebacker to spy on Trubiski in case he decided to…you know scramble all over the field.

Sloppy Patriots STs Play – Granted they balanced the ledger with two huge scoring plays on Patterson’s TD return and the blocked punt TD return. And yes they nearly had a third, but the uncharacteristic mistakes this unit is making is beginning to be a concern. Could the loss of Bolden and Richards off the STs units mean more than we ever believed possible?

A fumble by Patterson, two costly penalties and another near turnover where Julian Edelman muffed a punt inside the Patriots 10-yard line, (Edelman alertly scooped it up), are the types of plays this unit isn’t known for. The coverage units were only okay on Sunday and allowed a 17-yard punt return to the speedy Tarik Cohen.  

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 discuss the latest Patriots news.

New England Patriots News, 10-21, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
October 21, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, Here is your Sunday Patriots news 10-21, & AFC East Notes.

Some Quick Hitters this morning… just a quick reminder that you can check out our key matchups to the game here and our players to watch for tonight’s game can also be found here:  

Stephon Gilmore’s contract was tweaked a bit this week, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network and that frees up almost $3.7 million in salary cap space. That means that the Patriots could either try to sign a free agent or maybe trying to swing a deal for another player at the trade deadline. The team only had a bit more than $1 million in salary cap space this week. BTW, the NFL trade deadline is October 30, just nine days away.

Rob Gronkowski has been battling an ankle issue an injury for some time, but once the Friday injury report was released, the Patriots big tight end is also battling a back injury and is officially listed as questionable for today. He’s had back injuries and a pair of back surgeries in the past. So this will bear watching. **Update** Gronkowski didn’t make the trip to Chicago so, there will be a lot of Dwayne Allen in the blocking game, but this could also be a chance for Jacob Hollister to shine as well. 

Marcus Cannon is out for today’s game with a concussion, he will be replaced by LaAdrian Waddle at right tackle. Waddle is one of our players to watch today as he fills in for Cannon, which is why they brought him back this spring.

Khalil Mack on the flip side is expected to play today. The Bears big pass rusher missed practice on Weds and Thursday but did return for the walkthru on Friday. How effective he’ll be will be an area to watch. Waddle did a good job on Mack a year ago when Mack was a Raider in the game in Mexico City.

Josh Gordon believes that the minor chemistry issues he’s having with Tom Brady are about ironed out. Gordon spoke with NESN’s Doug Kyed on Friday and said that the two are constantly working things out, as they’ve only been practicing for a month together. But he thinks, it is ready to take off.

“I think that comes with more experience with Tom and knowing certain situations and certain looks,” Gordon said. “But moving forward, I think we got a good grasp on that right now, and (if the) opportunity presents itself, I think we can take advantage of it this time.”
Brady agreed. “Yeah, I think the longer you play with guys, you just learn body language and they know when to expect it and look,” Brady said. “I think those plays — I think timing and accuracy are important on all those ones. So I’ve just got to do a better job giving him opportunities to catch them. I think he’s got great hands. He’s got a great awareness and feel. I’m just so impressed with how he’s come in and learned everything and the role that he’s taken on.”

2018 Red Sox-A Prime Example of Sitting Back and Enjoying the Ride:

Although this isn’t about football, I think you can draw a clear parallel to the Patriots here. This 2018 Red Sox team has been special since April, they went on a long winning streak early in the season, won 108 games, something no Red Sox team ever…has done. But instead of just enjoying the process of watching how the season plays out, many, far too many fans and media members have gone way overboard trying to find faults and negativity behind every win. Shame on you. I grew up in an era where the Sox were terrible and fans were hungry for a winner. Some hot-take radio personality ridiculed RS fans this week for recalling the “loser” teams of 1967 and 1975.

Many of us remember those days as times when the RS overachieved and gave the fans something to cheer about. We didn’t take it for granted that they’d win every day, every year. This 2018 team is a great example of a “team”. Every night, somebody different is stepping up and they’re finding ways to win.

But on social media it was a constant barrage of “this means nothing”, “the bullpen is the worst in baseball”, “Dombrowski did nothing to help them at the deadline”, “Price sucks and should NEVER be allowed to pitch for the RS again”, and my two favorites…”This team CAN’T beat the Yankees”, “Houston is better in every matchup up and down the lineup.”

Not only did the Sox win, but they also went 5-0 in Yankee Stadium and in Houston. Now they’re on to the World Series. Will they win? Who knows? But it will be fun watching it unfold either way. The Patriots for the past 18 years are in the middle of an unprecedented run. And yet we hear the same drivel time after time. A friend of mine who is a die-hard Patriots fan from overseas finally got his chance to fly over to see a game in person last season.

He and his wife flew over on a Thursday and they spent the weekend going to Patriots Place, taking in the Hall, and finally the game (35-17 win over Miami). On his way home he emailed me horrified at what he heard not only from what he was hearing on sports talk radio from the hosts but from the callers.

He said he was astounded that people acted like the team was 2-9 rather than 9-2 and a Super Bowl Champion. I told him my first Pats game was in Fenway Park just a few weeks after those “loser” Red Sox dropped Game 7 of the ‘67 WS. The Pats were awful then and were absolutely obliterated by the Raiders that afternoon. That team WAS a two-win team at the time.

Someday, and maybe soon, this unbelievable run of success that Boston sports fans are enjoying will end. And unfortunately for many, they’ll have totally missed it.

Patriots Have to Find a Way to Negate Slow Starts on the Road:

In the first two road games of the season, the Patriots started slowly…awful may be a better way to describe it. Far unlike the way this team has been playing the last three weeks and certainly not as well as they are capable of playing.

So the focus today for the Patriots is to start road game number 3 much better than they played in the first two. In those losses, by the time the team woke up, it was too late. And for one of the captains of the team, Devin McCourty, they know that has to change.

“I think when you’re on the road and you fall behind, it’s like everything’s against you and you’re just fighting uphill. So that’s something we talked about getting off to a fast start across the board — offense, defense, kicking game,” McCourty said.

Trey Flowers told that the team needed to bring energy right from the outset. “We’ve got to bring our own energy, and it’s something we probably haven’t done this year,” defensive end Trey Flowers said. “I think it’s just a matter of just energy and bringing that focus throughout the week and being able to bring our own energy instead of feeding off the crowd.”

Patriots Traditionally Dominant vs NFC Especially NFC North:

This 2018 season will be an intriguing one as the Patriots schedule this season has them playing against the NFC North. Notwithstanding the Week 3 blowout by the Detroit Lions who are probably the worst team in the NFC North, the Pats have traditionally done very well when playing the old “black and blue” division.

Since realignment in 2002, the Patriots are 14-3 vs the NFC North. Included in this, the Pats are 4-0 versus the Bears since 2002. Overall, since the 2001 season, the Patriots have an incredible 54-15 regular season record against the NFC, the best interconference record in the NFL.

With a resurgent Bears team today and the upcoming games against Green Bay and Minnesota, this will be an interesting slate of games. And their success or lack thereof will have a major impact on their hopes for another division crown and a first-round bye.

Who You Have This Week? NFL Week 7 Predictions:

Last week: 9-6 Season 58-33-2 Bye Week: Packers, Raiders, Steelers, Seahawks

Thursday night’s pick Denver over Arizona 1-0

Tennessee at San Diego (London): Chargers
Carolina at Philadelphia: Eagles
Minnesota at NY Jets: Vikings
Buffalo at Indy: Bills
New England at Chicago: Patriots
Cleveland at Tampa Bay: Browns
Houston at Jacksonville: Jaguars
Detroit at Miami: Dolphins
New Orleans at Baltimore: Saints
Dallas at Washington: Cowboys
LA Rams at San Francisco: Rams
Cincinnati at Kansas City: Chiefs
NY Giants at Atlanta (MNF): Falcons
Early Thursday Night Prediction: Houston over Miami

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Anderson, the Latest on the Bills QB Carousel:

The Buffalo Bills boast one of the league’s top defenses. They’re excellent against the run and pass and are a pain in the a$$ to gameplan against. But as good as their defense is, their offense is equally inept. Buffalo rivals only Arizona as the worst offense in the NFL. Now due to the injury to QB Josh Allen’s throwing elbow, Derek Anderson will become the third Bills QB to start a game in 2018.

The Bills started Nathan Peterman to start the season but he flamed out early and coach Sean McDermott decided to go with the rookie Allen. Now with Allen’s injury, the reins of the woeful Buffalo offense go to Anderson. He hasn’t played since starting in place of an injured Cam Newton in Week 5 of the 2016 season.

The good news for Anderson is that the Bills are playing the Colts this week and their defense is pretty forgiving of mistakes, allowing an average of nearly 387 yards a game. With the Bills defense, keeping them in nearly every game, Anderson doesn’t have to do too much this week. Expect for them to rely on Shady McCoy and the run game.

Osweiler Gets the Nod for the Dolphins Against Detroit:

The Miami Dolphins starting QB Ryan Tannehill has a shoulder injury and will miss this week’s game again as questions about his durability are raised again after another injury for the Miami signal-caller. In lieu of Tannehill again is Brock Osweiler.

Osweiler had a fantastic day last week, throwing for 380 yards in the overtime win over Chicago. This week, he’s facing a Lions’ defense that is much stingier, allowing only about 222 yards per game thru the air.

But the key to this one may be the Miami running game. Although far from prolific, the Lions defense allows 145.8 yards per game. Factor in the South Florida heat, and in a close game, the heat, like it did with Chicago, may factor into this game, especially with Frank Gore pounding the rock. That may open up things quite a bit for Osweiler.

Jets Have to Stop Thielen This Week:

The New York Jets have a difficult road this week if they want to get over .500 and that means they have to defeat the Minnesota Vikings at home. The Jets are 3-3 and have played better than most people had given them credit for. But after a slow start, the Vikings are starting to put it together and are looking for their third straight win.

And the one guy the Jets defense will have to account for is wide receiver, Adam Thielen. He’s off to a ridiculously hot start in 2018 and already has 58 catches (not a typo) for 712 yards (12.3-yard average) and four touchdowns. Thielen has had 100-yard games in all six Vikings contests this year.

The Jets secondary is banged up right now, CBs Buster Skrine and Trumaine Johnson along with safety Marcus Maye, may all miss this game. So the onus will be on the Jets defensive front to bring pressure on Kurt Cousins and for the Jets offense with Sam Darnold to score enough points to keep up.

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 discuss the latest Patriots news.

Who Are the Key Players To Watch Patriots-Bears Week 7?

Steve Balestrieri
October 19, 2018 at 7:30 am ET

Another Big Game, Another Explosive Offense  

The New England Patriots are off to the Windy City this week as they take on the Chicago Bears for what is a rare 1:00 p.m. start for the visiting team. The last two games have been prime time affairs and next week, it is back to another late game as the Pats will be on Monday Night Football against the Bills.

This week, the Bears return home disappointed after they let the chance to return 4-1 and atop the division with some breathing room slip away. They melted late in the game in the South Florida heat, something the Patriots are well familiar with dropped the game in overtime. At 3-2, they have a half-game lead on the Vikings and Packers.

The Patriots at 4-2, have won three in a row and are tied with Miami for the top spot in the AFC East. They’re entering a tough stretch with KC, Chicago, the MNF on the road and the Packers, before taking on Tennessee before their bye.

The Bears offensively run a similar offense to what the Chiefs do and have some explosive offensive players in Tarik Cohen, Taylor Gabriel, and Allen Robinson to go along with the mobile quarterback Mitch Trubiski. The Bears and Trubiski exploded a few weeks for six touchdown passes in the blowout win over Tampa Bay.

So, from a Patriots perspective, here are our Players to Watch on Sunday:

LaAdrian Waddle:

The Patriots swing tackle will no doubt get the start this week at right tackle as Marcus Cannon hasn’t practiced this week after leaving the KC game with a concussion. This is the reason the Patriots resigned Waddle this spring when he was a free agent. They knew that at some point they’d need him.

He may or may not be facing the Bears’ Khalil Mack, who also hasn’t practiced this week with an ankle injury and is considered day-to-day. Waddle faced Mack a year ago when Mack was a member of the Raiders defense. The Patriots beat Oakland in Mexico City 33-8 and Waddle was in for Cannon that day. Mack against Waddle that day had a sack, a tackle for a loss and three QB hits.

But regardless of whether Mack plays or not, Waddle will have a very important role in the Patriots game plan this week. Not only will he be responsible with protecting Brady’s right side from whoever rushes off the edge (Leonard Floyd, Akiem Hicks), but he’ll have to be solid in the running game as well.    

Josh Gordon

The Patriots wide receiver is still working on his chemistry with Tom Brady. The deep out routes, the comebacks, and the back shoulder throws are all things that they’ve not worked the kinks out of yet. Those things will come in time, but this week, Gordon could see his role expanded a bit more.

The Bears have a pretty stout front seven and the running game may need the passing game to get it going instead of the opposite. Gordon has the size and athleticism to stretch the field vertically a bit more this week. They tried it a few times against KC. On one play, Gordon was open and ready to catch a deep ball before being interfered with, drawing a 37-yard penalty.

We’d look for the offense to begin expanding Gordon’s range more and more as he gets a bigger comfort level in the offense. Gordon will probably draw Prince Amukamara on the outside, the big, veteran corner should be an intriguing matchup to watch this week.

Dont’a Hightower:

The Patriots big linebacker had a pretty productive game against the Chiefs despite the team allowing 31 second-half points. Hightower had an interception, a tipped pass and had quarterback pressure on Patrick Mahomes which forced him to throw an interception in the end zone, wiping out a Chiefs scoring threat.

This week the Patriots will have to contend with the diminutive but lightning-fast Tarik Cohen out of the Bears backfield. He’s a threat to run the ball or catch it out of the backfield and can be the Bears “X-Factor” in their offense this week.

How well (or badly) the Patriots defense does this week, will have a lot to do with how well they defend Cohen. While a bit different, the Bears offense does run a similar look to the Chiefs and they utilize the RPO (run/pass option) concepts which try to freeze and take advantage of the opposing linebackers. And for New England, that begins with the big man in the middle.

Julian Edelman:

With a Bears defense that gets a lot of sacks (18) and is much better at stopping the run that the past few opponents that the Patriots have faced, they’ll look to what has always worked for them. The short passing game with Julian Edelman will be key this week, helping Tom Brady get the ball out fast and keeping the chains moving.

Edelman’s short area quickness and ability to find the open seams of the defense are a hallmark at the chemistry that he’s enjoyed with Tom Brady for many years.

The Bears defense will have their hands full with trying to jam, throw off the timing and re-route Edelman off the line. That will no doubt fall to the veteran corner Bryce Callahan. The Bears are really happy with the play of  Callahan and resigned the smaller (5’9, 188), but very feisty cornerback this spring.

With the Patriots looking to use the middle of the field, players like Callahan and Danny Trevathan will be tasked with taking that away. The matchup between Edelman and Callahan will be an intriguing one to watch this week.

Trey Flowers:

The Patriots defense has not been good at getting home against opposing quarterbacks and creating consistent pressure this year. Now they’re facing another mobile quarterback that can move and more importantly, throw on the move in Trubiski. That means the defense will have to set the edge and keep him in the pocket.

Flowers has been the best Patriots defensive lineman and although he has only two sacks on the season, he’s played very well. He got a lot of praise from the Bears’ coach Matt Nagy this week, “He’s not the ‘big-name guy,’ but he’s the big-name guy among the coaching world,” Nagy said. “He can hold the point. He’s strong, he’s quick, he’s fast, he plays in front of the quarterback. So, we know that he’s a good football player. … We have a lot of respect for his game.”

The Patriots are going to need a big game out of Flowers this week, setting the edge, and getting after Trubiski if they want their defense to have a better showing than they had with Kansas City. And they’ll need their best defensive player to lead the way.

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 discuss the latest Patriots news.

Patriots-Bears Week 7, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
October 18, 2018 at 7:29 am ET

The New England Patriots head back out on the road for the next two weeks. They face the Chicago Bears on Sunday at 1 p.m. before heading off to Buffalo and facing the Bills in a prime-time Monday Night Football matchup.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Ian Eagle will handle play-by-play duties with Dan Fouts as the color analyst. Evan Washburn will work 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 (4-2) defeated the Chiefs on a last-second field goal 43-40.  Tom Brady threw for 340 yards and Sony Michel ran for 106 as the Patriots rolled up 500 yards of offense. But the defense, which had a 24-9 first-half lead, allowed 31 points after intermission.

The Bears (3-2)  lost to the Miami Dolphins 31-28 in overtime. Cody Parkey had a chance to win in it OT but his kick was wide right. The Bears defense allowed Brock Osweiler to pass for 380 yards and three TDs. Mitch Tribuski threw for 316 yards and three TDs in the loss.

We here at are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2018 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game.

Series History:

The Patriots and the Bears will meet for just the 14th time in their history with the Pats holding a 9-4 advantage in those contests. The only meeting in the postseason, however, was a crushing 46-10 blowout in Super Bowl XX. The Pats are 5-3 vs the Bears on the road. The last time the team’s faced in Chicago was back in 2010 in a snowstorm. The Patriots rolled 36-7. The Patriots have won the last four meetings including the last meeting between the two teams 51-23 at Foxboro back in 2014.

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 Bears Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game has really found its rhythm the past three weeks. They’ve rushed for an average of 148.3 yards in the games against the Dolphins, Colts and the Chiefs. The offensive line is doing a tremendous job of opening holes for Sony Michel and James White. In this three-game streak, Michel has gained 315 yards in those wins and seems to be getting better every week. James Develin has been outstanding as a lead blocker.

The Bears have been good against the run allowing an average of just 84.3 yards per game. It starts up front with a very good front seven. Former Patriot Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman anchor the front three in the Bears 3-4 scheme. They boast very good linebackers in Danny Trevathan, rookie Roquan Smith, Leonard Floyd and of course, Khalil Mack.

Look for the Patriots to attack the Bears front by running right at it between the tackles and guards with Michel and White. Miami did this last week and was very successful running the ball gaining 161 yards on the ground with 101 of them going to Frank Gore. The NFL is a copycat league and after watching the Dolphins carve them up a bit in the heat, look for the Patriots to attempt the same.  

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

The Patriots passing game has really taken off with the return of Julian Edelman and with Josh Gordon just now beginning to assimilate into the Patriots offense. Tom Brady started slowly this year, with all of the injuries at WR, but is getting better every week. Against Kansas City, he completed 24-35 for 340 yards with a TD. He, Edelman and Rob Gronkowski have a built-in chemistry thru years of playing together and they’re beginning to ramp up the production.

The Bears have a ball-hawking defense and have 10 interceptions in just five games. They also have 18 sacks led by Mack with five. He’s banged up right now and may not be 100 percent on Sunday. But in reality, most of the big edge rushers don’t have big games against Brady and the Patriots. It is the interior guys like Hicks that disrupt things. He’s the one to watch. If Brady can’t step up or slide in the pocket, then edge guys like Mack can be productive.

Look for Brady to attack the middle of the field with Edelman and Gronkowski this week. With Gordon and Hogan outside the numbers, they’ll take a fair share of deep shots and when they do that, they’ll try to use James White underneath in the open spaces underneath. I look for Brady to continue his hot streak in the Windy City this weekend

Next up the Chicago offense:

Bears RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Chicago

The Bears have their own two-pronged rushing attack with big back Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen as their speedier back out of the backfield and can inject some quickness off the line. Howard is averaging just 3.5 yards a carry this season as the Bears offensive line has been inconsistent at opening up holes for him. Cohen, however at just 5’6, 181 has been electric both in the running game and catching the ball out of the backfield.

The Patriots were getting gashed early in the season in the running game, but then back-to-back games, albeit against weak running teams in Miami and the Colts had the needle pointing up. Last week, the Chiefs Kareem Hunt had 80 yards in just 10 carries so they are back to square one.

I would expect the Bears to use Cohen a lot in this one. He’s the kind of player with the speed that gives them a lot of headaches. Look for coach Matt Nagy to look for creative ways to get him the ball a lot in this one.

Bears WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Chicago

The Bears for the first time in a while have a large assortment of weapons and thus far, QB Mitch Trubiski has been having a very good season at getting them all the ball. The second-year QB is coming into his own and spreads the ball around nicely. Newcomer  Taylor Gabriel is the player to watch, he has the speed to be a game breaker. Allen Robinson looks healthy after tearing an ACL last year and tight end Trey Burton leads the team with 3 TD receptions and a 13.3 yard per catch average. Cohen is a big (if diminutive) factor out of the backfield.

The Patriots corners have played very well this year, it is the play of the safeties that have been up and down. But the real issue is the lack of consistent pressure on the QB. The Patriots have just seven sacks, that isn’t going to get it done, they have to start creating ways to get more pressure on the QB.

I’m looking for Trubiski to get Burton and Cohen involved in this one early. Running the RPO (run/pass option) similar but not exactly the same as KC, they’ll try to freeze up the Patriots linebackers, get Trubiski outside the pocket and hit his WRs downfield.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots have a slight advantage here in the kicking game with Stephen Gostkowski and Ryan Allen over Cody Parkey and Pat O’Donnell. Parkey had a chance to win the game in Miami in overtime and sailed it wide right. Gostkowski has been very solid for over a decade. The Bears have the fast Cohen in the return game but the Patriots counter with Cordarrelle Patterson and Julian Edelman on their own. Look for the Patriots to tighten up their coverage units this week. They’ve been uncharacteristically leaky.

Next up, who wins and why…


This is a big game for both teams. Both are sitting atop of their respective divisions but have other teams tied with them and must keep pace. The Bears have a dynamic offense for a change and things are definitely trending in the right direction for them. The Patriots are turning it on as well after a slow start. They’ve won three in a row and are averaging nearly 40 points a game in those.

Look for Tom Brady to throw first and then run against the Bears defense this week. Breaking what they have been doing in establishing the running game first. I’m looking for him to try to get Edelman and Gronkowski involved early. With all of the focus on Mack and his health, Hicks and Trevathan are the X-Factors for the Bears defense this week. The Bears watched the tape of the KC game and running a similar offense, they’ll try to do much of the same things utilizing their team speed.

The key from a New England perspective is to start fast and get the Bears in a catch-up/keep up mode. The turnover battle will be huge here. This one will be close for three quarters but a late Brady TD pass puts NE over the top. Patriots 34-21

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 discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Best Of Social Media: Week 6 Chiefs vs Patriots

Robert Alvarez
October 16, 2018 at 8:45 pm ET

On Sunday night the New England Patriots entered their Week 6 matchup with the undefeated 5-0 Kansas City Chiefs.

Coming into the game, in the Belichick/Brady era, the Patriots were seeking to move to 24-0 at home in the regular season against rookie quarterbacks. Chiefs standout rookie Patrick Mahomes stood in the way.

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Locked in. #LFG

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Back at it again. #Gameday #LFG

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In the first quarter after both teams traded field goals, Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower recorded his first career regular season interception to set up the games first touchdown.

Running back Sony Michel continued his hot pace, becoming the first Patriots rookie to record a rushing touchdown in three straight games since Benjarvus Green-Ellis in 2008.

After the Chiefs responded with their second field goal, the Patriots led 10-6 after the first quarter.

In the second quarter, the Patriots opened the scoring when Tom Brady found Julian Edelman for his first touchdown reception of the season, his first since the 2016 AFC Championship game. 17-6 Patriots.

Leading 17-9 following a third Chiefs field goal, rookie Sony Michel found the end zone again, becoming the first Patriots rookie with two rushing touchdowns in a game since Laurence Maroney in 2006. 24-9 Patriots heading into halftime.

HALFTIME 27-9 New England.

In the third quarter, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs began their comeback, with Mahomes finding Kareem Hunt deep for a 67-yard touchdown to close the gap to 24-16.

After another Chiefs field goal to cut their deficit to 27-19, the defense also made plays, forcing a Brady fumble that led to another touchdown.

With a minute to play in the third, Mahomes found Tyreek Hill to make it a one point game at 27-26 after three quarters.

Although the Patriots opened up the fourth quarter with a field goal to push the lead back up to four at 30-26, the Chiefs kept the pressure on following this 97 yard kick return by Tremon Smith.

The return setup a Mahomes to Hill 1 yard touchdown pass to give the Chiefs their first lead of the night at 33-30.

Needing to respond, Brady and the offense drove down the field on the following possession, enter Chris Hogan.

The deep ball setup this Brady four yard touchdown run to retake the lead, here comes the Clydesdale! 37-33 Patriots.

With the Chiefs trailing by seven following another Patriots field goal, with three minutes to go in the game Mahomes again attacked the Patriots secondary and found Tyreek Hill for a 75-yard touchdown to tie the game at 40.

The good news, the Patriots had three timeouts and plenty of time…oh and some guy named Tom Brady.

With 3:03 to go in the fourth, Brady marched the Patriots down the field with a little help from his tight end.

The drive setup a 28-yard field goal attempt by Stephen Gostkowski, who drilled it for the 43-40 victory.


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W (Lay down @gronk! Go to sleep!)

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Patriots  Week 6 Report Card, New England Holds Off Chiefs 43-40

Steve Balestrieri
at 7:03 am ET

The Patriots are on a bit of a roll and have won three in a row. Last night’s win over the Chiefs won’t win many style points, but at the end of a scrap, it doesn’t really matter. The “W” is what was important especially coming in at 3-2 and the Chiefs undefeated.

A loss would have put them far, far back in the standings, as early as it still is for the AFC’s top seed, instead, they’re right back in the mix of things once again. After a good first half, the defense at times got smoked by the fastest offensive unit in the NFL. The Patriots offense left some points on the board but still scored 43, which speaks volumes at the progress they’ve made on that side of the ball.

So, check out our grades and see how the team fared in this week’s blowout win.

Quarterback: A

Tom Brady knew that everyone was talking about Patrick Mahomes this week…and rightfully so. The second-year player but only starting his seventh game as a pro came in unbeaten and was lighting it up. Brady got off to a slow start this year but has been getting better.

On Sunday night, Brady completed 24-35 for 340 yards and 1 TD. He also ran for a late touchdown on a short scramble that won’t confuse anyone with Tyreek Hill speed but was effective none-the-less.

Brady was his vintage self, he had the offense in control and kept the Chiefs off balance all night. The Patriots rolled up 500 yards of offense and didn’t punt once. His only bad play was a poor decision to hold the ball far too long with no one open and was stripped sacked. Brady’s best pass was the touchdown to Edelman, on 3rd and 10, he dropped a dime in the corner of the end zone while under pressure.

But late in the game, his deep passes to Chris Hogan and Rob Gronkowski were also beautifully thrown. While Mahomes impressed for the seventh straight game, Brady showed what he’s been doing for 18 years.

Running Backs: A-

The Patriots running backs had another very productive night. Sony Michel led the way on the ground with 24 carries for 106 yards and 2 scores. His ability to make those short-yardage conversions was very impressive. He hasn’t become a factor in the passing game…yet.

James White is so reliable that when he has another game like Sunday night, you begin to take them for granted. White had six carries for 39 yards and five catches for 53 more. Six yards a carry, and over 10 a pop in the air. White and Michel have become a dynamic tandem that is just what the Patriots need.

Kenjon Barner appeared for a series or two and chipped in with  3 carries for 16 yards as he is trying to assimilate in the offense. James Develin provided his usual hard nose in the blocking game and had a couple of pass receptions.

Wide Receivers: B

The wide receivers were solid on Sunday night.  Josh Gordon is still working thru some growing pains with Brady, their chemistry on the deeper out routes or the comebacks is still a work in progress. But he has very good hands, isn’t afraid to go over the middle to do dirty work and is still a big, fast athletic receiver. He made 5 catches for 42 yards but also drew a big 37-yard pass interference penalty on the one-yard line.

Julian Edelman had 4 catches for 54 yards including that nice touchdown pass from Brady. He had a solid game and chipped in one run as well for 7 yards. For a smaller WR, Edelman is an effective blocker in the running game.

Chris Hogan has gotten a lot of negativity thrown his way lately. But on Sunday night, with a full complement of receivers on hand, Hogan was facing the 2nd and 3rd corners that he traditionally has gone up against. And he produced. Hogan was targeted just four times but caught all four for 78 yards. His big one was the 42-yard bomb from Brady where Hogan got separation and was being interfered with but still made the catch.

Cordarrelle Patterson had one catch for 13 yards, one run for three yards and a 30-yard kickoff return. Phillip Dorsett was MIA, we had to check twice to ensure he was active.

Tight Ends: B+

Rob Gronkowski was quiet most of the night, as the Chiefs, like other teams made it their focus to take him away. But in the fourth quarter, Gronkowski came up with two huge plays. A beautifully designed 42-yarder where Trent Brown shot out and blocked the corner on the line, allowing Gronk a free release. He then gave the safety a stiff arm that put him on his back.

On the final drive of the game, Brady found Gronkowski down the right sideline for 39 yards, putting the Patriots in chip shot field goal range. His run blocking is outstanding and the big man was a key reason why they ran the ball down the Chiefs’ throats. Three catches, 97 yards, and his production came when they needed it.

Offensive Line: A

The offensive line was outstanding against an arguably depleted Chiefs front seven. But it doesn’t matter, you dance with the ones who brought you. They pushed the Chiefs back consistently in the running game. Brady was sacked twice but one was his own fault, holding the ball too long. Only 1 QB hit. The Patriots held the ball for 36 minutes and averaged over 8 yards per play and rolled up 500 yards of offense.

Defensive Line: C-

The defensive line was able to bring some pressure in the first half but got no sacks. Although they did influence several throws, especially in the red zone where it could have resulted in touchdowns. In the second half, the pressure was down and they allowed Mahomes to break containment several times.

Kareem Hunt gashed them again garnering 80 yards on just 10 carries.  After a promising start, they faded down the stretch.

Linebackers: C

This was a tale of two halves as well for the linebackers as their performance was up and down. The KC offense was targeting Dont’a Hightower early in the game with RPOs but then he picked up his game a notch and had several key plays. The interception of Mahomes where he put the Pats in prime position to score was a huge turning point. After showing blitz, he dropped and sat in coverage right in the throwing lane.

At the end of the half, he had pressure on Mahomes and had a hold of his shirt where the hurried throw was picked off in the end zone by Duron Harmon. Kyle Van Noy had a couple of chances at big tackles for loss against Hunt but missed…which is hardly a surprise, Hunt makes a lot of people miss.

Elandon Roberts had a couple of splash plays, a big run stuff near the goal line, and a deflected pass. An up and down night, but as we put in our keys to the game, the Chiefs offense is predicated on stressing the linebackers, which they do quite well.

Secondary: C

The secondary also was a mixed bag. The corners played a very solid game with one exception while the worst of the Chiefs’ production was the result of burning the safeties. Jason McCourty had a good game, the one play that was bad was where he had Hunt coming out of the backfield and peeked back at Mahomes in the pocket. Hunt kept going and was wide open. Mahomes hit him in stride for a too-easy 67-yard touchdown. Stephon Gilmore was excellent. He was locked up with Sammie Watkins and held him to two catches for 19 yards. He had a nice pass deflection in the end zone. Jonathan Jones got a freebie when Hill blew by him but the pass was overthrown. But he too was good.

The safeties? Sunday night was a rough one. McCourty was victimized twice by Hill for touchdowns and Hill’s 75-yarder was the result of him blowing by Duron Harmon easily. The majority of the damage done by Hill was the result of the safeties breaking down. After a good first half, they had a disastrous final two quarters that nearly cost the Patriots the win.

Special Teams: C

Stephen Gostkowski saves this grade from being much lower. He was outstanding kicking 5-5 on his field goal attempts. The game-winner, although a chip shot is still a pressure kick as we saw in the earlier games on Sunday afternoon. Ryan Allen had the night off except to hold and never punted.

The coverage units allowed the Chiefs good field position consistently and then gave up a 97-yarder that put the Chiefs on the three and gave them the lead. Patterson had one decent return.

Coaches: B-

The Patriots had an excellent game plan coming in and they executed it to near perfection in the first half, heading into intermission with a 24-9 lead.  Bill Belichick had the team ready to go. The defense was aggressive and forced some errant throws by Mahomes early. The offense was clicking right from the start.

When the Chiefs adjusted in the second half, we started to see the coverage breakdowns and big plays that they hoped to avoid. They nearly lost a game that they had much in hand at halftime.

In the end, they made a few more plays than the Chiefs did and controlled the clock at the end to not give KC another shot. We’re on to Chicago.

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 discuss the latest Patriots news.

VIDEO: Fitzy’s Super Boston Sports Sunday 2018 Recaptacular

Robert Alvarez
October 15, 2018 at 5:06 pm ET

New England Patriots superfan Fitzy returns with a video recap of the teams wild win over the Kansas City Chiefs along with the Red Sox playoff victory on the same night.

There never seems to be a dull moment in Boston sports.

“With the Sox/Astros playoff game and the Pats/Chiefs game happening at the same time Sunday night, Fitzy watched both games simultaneously and was taken on quite an emotional, beer-soaked roller coaster ride.”


5 Things We Learned From the Patriots Win Over the Chiefs

Ian Logue
at 9:13 am ET

While the world was waiting for Tom Brady and the Patriots to falter against Patrick Mahomes and the high-flying undefeated Kansas City Chiefs, they ended up coming away disappointed after an incredible 43-40 by Brady and the Patriots at Gillette Stadium.

Sunday night’s game will go down as one for the ages, with Brady not yet ready to be brushed aside in favor of a player who many feel will be among the league’s future elite quarterbacks in the coming years. Mahomes certainly played well, throwing 4 touchdowns on the night but his two critical interceptions ended up being the difference in a game where every possession mattered.

As for Brady, he passed for over 300-yards and his most notable moment came when he scored on a gutsy 4-yard rush that put the Patriots back in front 37-33 after the Chiefs had earlier retaken the lead. The victory improved them to 4-2 on the season and more importantly, gave the Chiefs their first loss of the season and potentially puts New England in the driver’s seat for home field down the road should they meet again in January.

The win was also a milestone for Brady, who became the first quarterback in NFL history to win 200 regular season games.

Here are some things we learned after a wild night at Gillette Stadium.

1) Michel Establishing Himself as a solid NFL Back – It’s amazing how many people were ready to crucify Sony Michel during his first couple of games, but it’s clear that the Patriots found themselves a gem when they selected him in the first round of the draft earlier in the offseason.

Michel ran well all night as he piled up 106-yards on the ground and accounted for 9 of the team’s 15 rushing first downs, including two touchdowns.  The biggest thing that stands out with Michel is he reads the holes well and shows great acceleration and doesn’t go down after first contact.  He’s been better than expected and played a critical role in New England being able to control the football and keep the Chiefs defense off balance.

While the Patriots offensive line certainly deserves some credit, Michel has been consistent and continues to improve each week.  Provided he can remain healthy over the rest of the season, he may end up being a name we talk about at the end of the year as a key reason why this team ultimately ends up having success down the road.

2) Hunt and Hill Proved to Be a Big Problem Again – Chiefs offensive standouts Kareem Hunt and Tyreek Hill are each known for their respective speeds and both players ended up wreaking havoc again against New England’s defense.

Even with the Patriots’ defenders in relatively good position against them on several occasions Sunday night, they still couldn’t get there quick enough to make the tackle and keep either player from making plays.  Both players finished the night with over 100-yards receiving, with Hill and Hunt hauling in touchdown passes of 75 and 67 yards respectively.  The 67-yard reception by Hunt was big, as it came on the third play of the third quarter and got the Chiefs back in the game at 24-16 less than two minutes into the second half.

Hill’s 75-yard touchdown was also key as it came on the first play of the Chiefs ensuing possession after Stephen Gostkowski hit a 50-yard field goal to put the Patriots ahead by 7 points at 40-33.  The play knotted the score at 40-40 with 3:03 left to play in the game, with Hill getting deep into the secondary and then accelerating away, stealing back the momentum for Kansas City and setting up an unbelievable finish.

Those two scoring plays were two longest receiving plays of the season by a Patriots opponent and Hill’s 75-yard touchdown matches the 75-yard touchdown he scored back in Week 1 of 2017 which, coincidentally, came in the 4th quarter of the Chiefs win in Foxboro.  He finished the night with 142-yards receiving along with three touchdowns and proved to be a player that the Patriots just didn’t have an answer for.

Gronkowski was dominant Sunday night. (USA TODAY Images)

3) Gronkowski Makes a Statement – Tight end Rob Gronkowski likely heard people talking all week about how he wasn’t as good of a player as Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, but he certainly made a pretty big statement during Sunday night’s win.

The veteran finished the night with 3 catches for 97-yards, including a 42-yard reception that saw him power past safety Ron Parker, with Gronk throwing him down with one hand as Parker moved in to try and make the tackle.

Parker had no chance, as Gronkowski showed his power after knocking him completely off his feet as he scampered for his huge gain.  It was a critical play, as it helped set up Gostkowski’s 50-yard field goal.

Gronkwoski later came up big yet again as he picked up 39-yards on what proved to be New England’s game-winning drive, taking the Patriots from the Chiefs’ 48 down the Kansas City 9yd line.  From there, Brady ran it and shifted over to better set up Gostkowski’s 28-yard attempt, which he easily hit and sent everyone at Gillette Stadium home happy.

But give Gronkowski credit.  He proved to anyone watching the game that he remains the best tight end in the league and his clutch play ended up being a key reason why Kansas City is no longer unbeaten.

4) Terrific Showing for Dont’a Hightower – Hightower has taken a little bit of criticism in recent weeks after some questioned whether or not he’s lost a step, but he stepped up Sunday night during the Patriots win.

Hightower’s interception early in the game (surprisingly the first regular-season interception of his career) played a key role in New England grabbing the control in the first quarter, with the turnover giving the Patriots the football at the Chiefs’ 4-yard line.  One play later, Michel punched it in and the Patriots took an early 10-3 lead.

Hightower was also part of another turnover after he jammed Kelce and put pressure on Mahomes toward the end of the first half when the Chiefs appeared to be on the verge of getting points right before halftime.  The play, which saw Hightower run Mahomes down and get a hand on him as he released the football, led to the interception by Duron Harmon and killed Kansas City’s threat while preserving New England’s 24-9 first-half advantage.

While he only finished with two tackles on the score sheet, Hightower’s performance overall can’t be understated as he had a strong showing on a night where the Patriots definitely needed it most.

Gostkowski was clutch Sunday night. (USA TODAY Images)

5)  Gostkowski Finishes as the Unsung Hero – After an offseason with whispers by some fans who felt the Patriots should start exploring options at kicker, Stephen Gostkowski quietly came away as an unsung hero in the win over Kansas City.

The veteran kicker obviously hit the 28-yard game-winner, but he also hit a critical (and certainly not easy) 50-yard field goal with just over 3-minutes to go that put New England up by 7-points.  It proved to be a big one as the Chiefs would score a touchdown one play later after Hill’s 75-yard scoring reception.  Had Gostkowski missed, it would have forced New England into having to score a touchdown to win the game and it can’t be understated how important that field goal was.

Overall, Gostkowski was a perfect 5-for-5, hitting field goals of 48, 24, 39, 50 and 28-yards on the evening.  He also hit all of his extra points.  For anyone who follows football around the NFL, the kicker position has been one that has been incredibly inconsistent for other teams this season and the Patriots remain fortunate where they have a player who doesn’t fall into that category.

The win improves the Patriots to 4-2 on the season and they’ll now move on to the Bears, with a trip to Chicago up next for the team next Sunday at 1pm ET.

Patriots, Brady Hand KC First Loss 43-40, Three Up, Three Down

Steve Balestrieri
at 6:32 am ET

Who can go to sleep after that one?

This one lived up to the billing. The Patriots-Chiefs Sunday Night Football game turned into an instant classic, at the end of the night resembling an old-fashioned AFL shootout as the teams were scoring back and forth. Punters? Who needs ‘em? This was a night for offense and big plays and the Patriots made just a couple more than the Chiefs did in the end and walked off with 43-40 win on a Stephen Gostkowski field goal as time ran out.

Tom Brady hit Rob Gronkowski with a huge 39-pass play down the right sideline to set up the game-winner as he and KC quarterback Patrick Mahomes put on a show for fans at the stadium and watching on television. If you were looking for offense and points scored, this was the place for you on Sunday night and you would not have been disappointed.

We wrote in our pregame keys that this would come down to whoever got the ball last. We said Brady would lead them to a 38-35 win on a late drive. We didn’t give the offenses enough credit.

The Patriots defense played a tremendous first half, holding the Chiefs explosive offense to just nine points and forced Mahomes into two costly interceptions, one which put the New England offense on the doorstep for an easy TD, and the other at the end of the half in the Pats end zone which cost KC three points at the end of the half.

They were aggressive and disruptive and did enough to slow down a Chiefs offense which had outscored their opponents by a whopping 59-9 in the first quarter of their first five games. But Mahomes in the second half showed the stuff that has been the hallmark of the Chiefs’ offense this year.

They began hitting big plays and turned a comfortable 24-9 lead at the break into a track meet. Mahomes made one play, running to his left and then in a twisting motion, firing a frozen laser downfield about 30 yards to an open Tyreek Hill that was just sick. And the 67-yard strike to RB Kareem Hunt had the déjà vu feeling of a year ago when the Chiefs torched the Pats on opening night.

He brought the Chiefs back to take the lead in the fourth quarter 33-30 on a pass to Tyreek Hill which quieted what had been a raucous New England crowd. That came on the heels of another big play, a 97-yard kickoff return by Tremon Smith that set the Chiefs up on the doorstep.

Brady behind the running game of Sony Michel who rushed for another 106 yards, then put up the next 10 points giving the Patriots a 40-33 lead with a little bit more than three minutes left on the clock. Mahomes and the Chiefs would need only 12 seconds of that, thank you very much. Hill flew down the field like he was shot out of a cannon, dusting Duron Harmon, who is one of the fastest Patriots like a turnstile at the airport, going 75-yards in one play and the score was tied at 40. If there was one mistake in that, it was that KC left Tom Brady too much time. With 3:03 left and all three timeouts remaining, the Patriots did what great teams are supposed to do in big moments. They answered the bell. Michel picked up a key 3rd and 1 at the Patriots 34 and they were in business.

Brady hit James White for 16 and then Gronkowski for 39 to set them up for milking the clock and getting the ball on the left hashmark for Stephen Gostkowski who nailed the 28-yarder as time ran out to give the Patriots the win and improve them to 4-2.

Brady finished 24-35 for 340 yards with a TD. He also ran one in from 4-yards for another. Mahomes finished 23-36 for 352 yards with 4 TDs and 2 INTs. While they flustered him a bit early in the game, he never panicked and was cool down the stretch and once he got them going, the Chiefs offense looked unstoppable.

The Patriots two-head RB tandem of Michel and White was again excellent, Michel carried 24 times for 106 yards, while White had 8 carries for 39 yards and added 5 catches for 53 more. Rob Gronkowski was quiet until the fourth quarter, catching two huge passes, a 42-yarder, where he displayed a stiff arm that belongs in the WWE, to set up the go-ahead score and his final catch that set the team up for the win. He finished with 3 catches for 97 yards. New England finished with 500 yards of offense.

Hunt showed he loves playing in Foxboro, he had another mammoth game for KC carrying 8 times for 80 yards and caught 5 passes for 105 more. Hill caught 7 for 142 yards and three touchdowns. Travis Kelce had 5 grabs for 61 yards but the Patriots did a good job of neutralizing him early on.

The Patriots are on to Chicago to take on the Bears who lost in overtime to the Dolphins in Miami. They play 4 of the next five on the road.

Patriots Three Up, Three Down:

Trending Up:

Tom Brady – This wasn’t his best game, he made mistakes, he held the ball too long on a third-down play in the third quarter that ended up being a strip sack, but he more than made up for it. But on a day where the offense rolled to 500 yards, Brady threw for 340 and added a heads up running touchdown. And the final drive of the game was vintage Brady, Josh Gordon characterized his demeanor in the huddle then as “very poised.”

Sony Michel – Remember a few weeks ago some bobo began calling him a bust? And he got many fans jumping on board with that absurdity. How do you like them apples? Michel had another strong game and his ability to pick up the short-yardage conversions has been excellent. His last three games? He’s racked up 112, 98, and 106 yards and the Patriots have scored 119 points in those three games and won all three.

Dont’a Hightower– On the Chiefs first possessions, they were targeting Hightower using the RPO (run/pass option). But that changed. He began to play a more aggressive game and was chipping Kelce before he was going out in the pattern, and got a key interception. Faking a blitz, he dropped into the throwing lane where he picked off Mahomes. He later brought pressure on Mahomes which forced a throw that was picked off by Harmon in the end zone. The aggressiveness shown by Hightower and the defense held KC to just 4-10 on third down.

Honorable mention – Patriots offensive line. When you roll up 500 yards of offense, including 173 yards on the ground and control the clock for 36 minutes, you’ve done your job.

Trending Down:

Jason McCourty – The Patriots corner who has played so well this year, committed the cardinal sin of peeking back in the backfield early in the third quarter. It was then that Hunt blew by him and Mahomes hit him in stride for a 67-yard touchdown strike.

Devin McCourty – Yes, it wasn’t the greatest of nights for the twins from Rutgers. McCourty had the unenviable task of trying to stick with Hill. Nobody has the kind of speed that Hill has. He makes everyone chasing him look slow and he easily beat McCourty twice for touchdowns in the second half.

Patriots coverage units – Remember when the Pats special teams were among the best in the business at covering kicks and punts? The unit got gashed and hard by the Chiefs tonight. Smith returned one kickoff for 33 yards out to the 37 to give KC excellent field position which led to a field goal. Next, he returned on 97 yards to put the Chiefs inside the five-yard line for an easy go-ahead score. That is unacceptable.

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 discuss the latest Patriots news.

Patriots Finish Off a Wild Night of Boston Sports

Bob George
at 2:12 am ET

FOXBOROUGH – We saw this sort of thing in 2013 about this time of year.

On the same day, Kenbrell Thompkins caught a touchdown pass from Tom Brady to give the Patriots a walkoff win at home versus New Orleans. Later that night, David Ortiz struck perhaps the biggest postseason blow at Fenway Park since the epic Carlton Fisk home run in the 1975 World Series with a grand slam to give the Red Sox a win versus Detroit in the ALCS, tying that series at one game apiece. New England fans were agog at both games, with Big Papi’s salami being the linchpin to the eventual World Series win the Red Sox would later get.

Now five years later, we have a bit different déjà vu, and area fans are once again celebrating not once but twice in the same night.

This time the Red Sox struck first. A three-run double by Jackie Bradley Jr. and stout relief pitching enabled the Red Sox to hold off the defending champion Houston Astros, 7-5 at Fenway Park to tie the 2018 ALCS at one game apiece. Later, Stephen Gostkowski kicked a walkoff field goal from 28 yards out to give the Patriots a wild 43-40 shootout win over the previously undefeated Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night at Gillette Stadium. The win had to be walkoff, as Patrick Mahomes and the high octane Chief offense could not be allowed to gain any more possessions. Whoever had the ball last would win, and Tom Brady made sure of that.

A shootout between the Patriots and Chiefs was expected, but the game actually outdid the hype. The 43-40 final score was the first such final score in NFL history. Mahomes and Brady combined for 692 passing yards. Kareem Hunt, the villain from the season opener last year when the Chiefs came into Foxborough and shocked the Patriots 42-27, once again bludgeoned the Patriots for 185 all-purpose yards. Tyreek Hill, the fastest man since Bullet Bob Hayes, had 142 yards on seven catches and three touchdowns. Against most any other team in the league, the Chiefs win and win easy.

But the Patriots had plenty of answers. Sony Michel had 106 rushing yards on 24 carries, and two touchdowns. James White had 92 yards from scrimmage and averaged 6.5 yards per rush. Rob Gronkowski led the team with 97 yards receiving as four different Patriot receivers had 50 or more receiving yards. Josh Gordon and White each had a team-high five catches,

For all the offenses were able to do, the Patriots have to take a look at their defense and shake their heads. Great as the Kansas City offense is, the fact remains that the Patriot defense was able to hold the Chiefs to three Harrison Butker field goals in the first half. The defense could not sustain that level, as Mahomes led the Chiefs to touchdowns on four of the six second half drives, with two of the touchdowns coming on long gains thanks to defensive breakdowns. The Patriots can break down the film and look at how they were able to deal with an elite offense, but if per chance the Patriots make it back to the Super Bowl, chances are they will experience another shootout as in the previous two Super Bowls, and once again might not be lucky to win like last year.

The first long gain came on the third play of the second half. On third down and three from his own 32, Mahomes rolled out right and saw that Hunt had slipped away from coverage. Mahomes was able to find Hunt down the right sideline and Hunt ran away from Jason McCourty for a 68-yard touchdown pass. It made the score 24-16 Patriots at the time, nothing to get too alarmed over, but to see Hunt do this to the Patriots again after what he did last September was a bit disquieting. McCourty lost complete track of Hunt and could not recover in time.

The second long gain was very perplexing. After Gostkowski kicked a 50-yard field goal to make it 40-33 Patriots, Mahomes took over at his own 25. On the very first play, Mahomes found a wide open Hill deep downfield. He made a leaping catch, then outran Duron Harmon, the nearest defender, to the end zone to tie the game at 40 with 3:05 left. Someone clearly blew the coverage; when this happens, it usually means that a cornerback let a receiver go figuring that safety help was behind him. Harmon must have broken the wrong way, figuring Hill would be tightly covered by a cornerback.

The one indelible memory that all fans should take from the game is how the Patriots won it. With Hill scoring the 75-yard touchdown so quickly, it left the Patriots with 3:05 and three timeouts to win the game. You could feel that the Chiefs did the Patriots a favor by scoring so quickly, and you more or less knew how the game would end.

And end it did. Julian Edelman ran an end around left for seven yards. Michel had two two-yard runs as the clock ticked below two minutes. Since the Chiefs had only one timeout left (remember that their head coach is named Andy Reid), once Michel got that first down, Patriot Nation began to exhale. White took a toss for 16 yards, then Brady found Gronkowski for 40 yards along the right sideline to put the Patriots at the Chief 8-yard line. Reid burned his last timeout, Brady took a kneel and put the ball just where Gostkowski wanted it. Three seconds left. Kick is good, as the late Gil Santos would say.

The Patriots now keep in play the hope that if they have to play Kansas City in the playoffs, the game might be played at Gillette Stadium and not Arrowhead Stadium. The Patriots trail the Chiefs by one game in the conference standings, but there are ten weeks of play left in the regular season. The Patriots cannot go on yielding 40 points to elite offenses, but at least the Patriot offense looks as wonderful as ever. With a decent running game to go along with Brady getting more help from his pass catchers, Patriot fortunes look bright in the days and weeks ahead.

The Patriots will get their first look at Mitchell Trubisky next week, as the Chicago Bears are no longer the offensive have-nots they have sometimes been over the years. The Bears lost an overtime struggle at Miami on Sunday after failing to take advantage of a Dolphin fumble at the goal line in overtime.

Maybe by the time the Patriots play the Bears, the Red Sox can be thinking about a World Series berth, if they can somehow break through in Houston this week. If nothing else, it could make next Sunday even bigger and better than this one.