Category Archives: Patriots Film Room

Injury-Riddled Patriots Move to 6-0 With 35-14 Win Over Injury-Riddled Giants

Steve Balestrieri
October 11, 2019 at 7:13 am ET

Mini-Bye Week Comes a Great Time for NE

The Patriots are 6-0 and defeated the New York Giants 35-14 but this one went unlike most had envisioned on Thursday night at Gillette Stadium. Most had this one as a blowout which the final score indicated but in reality, it was anything but. 

Ah, the joys of Thursday Night Football…

With solid play and timely stops by their defense, the Giants were very much alive in this game with about nine minutes to play, with the score just 21-14. Then the Patriots defense, which was outstanding again, turned the game into the Pats’ favor for good. Jamie Collins jarred the ball loose from running back Jonathan Hilliman, where Kyle Van Noy scooped the ball up and rolled for a touchdown. Game over, thanks for coming, drive safely down Route 1.

New England could breathe a sigh of relief as this one was effectively over. Tom Brady added a final touchdown on a one-yard quarterback sneak to finish off the scoring, his second rushing touchdown of the game to put a bow on it, making the score 35-14.

It was the Giants who entered this game beat up missing three of their top offensive players [Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram], but it was the Patriots who limped out of this one. New England entered the game missing two of its own offensive performers, wide receiver Phillip Dorsett and running back Rex Burkhead. But they then suffered a slew of injuries during the game.

Josh Gordon left after awkwardly twisting his ankle/knee and didn’t return. Fullback Jakob Johnson also left with an injury, as well as tight end Matt LaCosse who left early in this one. These losses would affect the way the offense was able to line up the rest of the game. With only one tight end and no fullback, the Patriots ran only 11 personnel grouping [3 WRs, 1TE, 1 RB] for nearly the entire second half. 

Gordon’s loss hit an already thin wide receiver position and forced undrafted rookie wide receivers, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski, into prominent roles in the offense. 

On defense, Pat Chung, Dont’a Hightower, and J.C. Jackson left with injuries, although Jackson was able to return later. So, the mini-bye week with 10 days off before playing on Monday Night Football against the Jets, couldn’t come at a better time.

Other observations from tonight’s game include:

Defense Steps Up Again With Four More Turnovers:

The Patriots defense continues to play stellar team defense with great coverage in the secondary while generating turnovers. On a night where they generated just a single sack, the defense forced four turnovers with the aforementioned fumble and score by Van Noy and three interceptions by Duron Harmon, John Simon, and Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore almost had a fourth but dropped it when he jumped a route to Golden Tate on a third-down near midfield. 

The coverage was sticky all night long against a game but depleted Giants WR core. The defense did give up its first passing touchdown of the year, a 64-yard scoring pass from Daniel Jones to Tate, although Jonathan Jones had tight coverage and actually got his hand on the ball. But credit Tate with an outstanding play, he was able to keep his concentration and still able to haul it in for the score. 

But the defense limited the Giants to just 213 total yards [52 rushing, 161 passing] while being outstanding once again on third down, holding the G-men to just 2-10. 

You Think Bringing Back Brandon Bolden Was Worth It?

At the time Brandon Bolden was re-signed and brought back after a year with Miami, there were many who panned the signing,[including a hot-take dolt on the air] saying that Bill Belichick signs too many players with Special Teams talent only. As the Southwest Airlines commercial says, “Want to Get Away?” No, the return of Bolden has done nothing but pay dividends. 

Back in minicamp, I spoke with RB coach Ivan Fears prior to practice and asked him about bringing back the popular teammate inside the Patriots locker room. And what Fears said has rung true this season.  “No matter what we ask him to do, Brandon will do it, and do it well,” Fears said. 

In the last three games, Bolden has scored three touchdowns and figured prominently in a fourth. Bolden had a rushing touchdown against Buffalo, caught a 29-yard score from Brady against the Redskins and ran one in against the Giants in short-yardage tonight. But he caused the blocked punt in the first half which resulted in a Chase Winovich touchdown. 

Bolden rushed in on a punt block and drove Nate Stupar backward where Riley Dixon’s punt went off Stupar’s head. The ball bounced backward where Thor scooped and scored. This was all because of Bolden’s work while out on the field. 

Daniel Jones Can Sling It: 

What? you say, are you kidding? And a look at Jones’ numbers would seem to play that out. How so when he completed only 15 of 31 for 161 yards which was only good for 5.2 yards per pass and three interceptions?  

Granted Jones’ numbers weren’t good, nor his passer rating of 35.2, but his depleted receiving core was blanketed all night long and he frequently had nowhere to go with the football. 

But several of his throws, including the touchdown to Tate and another pass to Tate on a third-down slant were delivered in very tight windows, quickly and accurately. If you look past the boxscore and rewatch the tape, Jones did as well as could be expected given the circumstances.

The Giants, as we pointed out in our key matchups piece, would move Tate into the slot to take him away from Stephon Gilmore and have him battle Jonathan Jones. It was a good hard battle all night long.  

Jones had plenty of bad moments and plays to be sure, but he looks to be a good QB who was just placed in an unwinnable situation

Offense Needs Help But They Weren’t Quite As Bad As Believed:

  The Patriots struggled on offense for much of the night and had to claw and scratch for everything they got. The play of the offensive line continues to be suspect at times and they seem to be scuffling along in search of an identity. 

But at the end of the day, the generated 424 yards of offense and held the ball for nearly 40 minutes, which really tired out the Giants’ defense. 

Tom Brady struggled in the first half but ended up 31-41 for 334 yards. He scored on two short QB sneaks but threw a weird interception in the first half. While attempting a deep post to Julian Edelman, the ball was well behind Edelman where Janoris Jenkins picked it off. Was it miscommunication or the wind?  Edelman was outstanding with nine catches for 113 yards including a beautiful diving catch which set up Brady’s last TD dive. 

Sony Michel struggled for much of the night but ended up with 86 yards on 22 carries. The Patriots ground game, which struggled for much of the night ended up with 114 yards. But the offensive line and wide receivers need help. 

TE Ryan Izzo has really struggled with blocks to the edge which is supposed to be his strong suit. LaCosse can’t catch a break, or stay healthy, he’s hurt again. With the injuries to Dorsett and Gordon, an already hurting WR core was stretched mighty thin. Kudos to UDFA rookie wide receivers Meyers and Olszewski who both contributed in the passing game. Meyers had four catches for 54 yards including a nice 23-yarder where he high-pointed the ball and had the awareness to raise it over the defender to keep it from being knocked away. Olszewski chipped in with two catches for 34 yards. 

But within the next 10 days, they have some decisions to make. Even if Gordon and Dorsett are back, they should probably look at adding some help. One thing to keep in mind, 1st-round draft pick N’Keal Harry can begin practicing on Wednesday and return in another two weeks from then. 

And with LaCosse hurt again, it may be time to explore bringing in another tight end. The offense is getting by for now but with the meat of their schedule upcoming with Baltimore, Philadelphia, Dallas, Cleveland, Houston. and Kansas CIty yet to come, they need to get the offense figured out. 

_________

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

 

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

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

 

Patriots Players To Watch, Week 6 Against the Giants

Steve Balestrieri
October 10, 2019 at 11:00 am ET

 

The Patriots are back home in Gillette Stadium to face the New York Giants. With the short week to prepare, the game plans for either team will probably be limited so it comes down to execution. Thursday night games tend to be sloppier than their Sunday counterparts, so limiting mistakes while trying to force some mistakes on your opponents are always a big key, even more so than on Sunday.

Here are our Patriots players to watch this week as the Patriots try to improve to 6-0 on the season against the Giants. 

James White: 

The Patriots, as we pointed out in our key matchups piece, will no doubt try to target the Giants linebackers in the passing game by putting them in coverage against the running backs. And their main weapon in that regard continues to be James White. 

White is fantastic out of the backfield and keeping the sticks moving and when the defense wants to drop back and play coverage, he has always been able to take advantage of his opportunities in the running game. 

We look for White to play a big role this week in the offensive game plan, facing a defense that has struggled to stop the run or the pass, White on the field is the kind of versatile chess piece which will keep the defense guessing.

Jamie Collins:

The Patriots linebackers are having a fantastic season. Dont’a Hightower has dubbed them “the Boogeymen” and Collins has fit the bill [no pun intended], as the top Boogeyman for opponents to face. Collins is having a fantastic second stint with the Patriots. He’s been disruptive, has done a great job of setting the edge, getting after the quarterback and dropping into coverage. 

Every week it seems that we’re singing the praises of one of the linebackers after a game. Two weeks ago it was Kyle Van Noy, who was the defensive player of the week. Last week it was Hightower who seemed to be everywhere in disrupting the Redskins offense. This week, it is Collins’ turn. 

With the Giants missing three of their top offensive chess pieces in this game, it will allow Bill Belichick and Jerod Mayo to give Collins more opportunities to disrupt the flow of the Giants offense. And we expect him to do just that. 

Julian Edelman:

Bill Belichick said this week that Edelman is “one of the most competitive players I’ve ever coached.” Tom Brady took it one step farther heaping huge praise on the tough yet banged-up wide receiver. 

“He’s one of the best players in the history of the franchise,” Brady said in a radio interview on Monday. “When you think of some of the great receivers we’ve had, Julian is right up there at the top. So you’ve got to get him the ball, and he’s making a lot of yards with it in his hands. We put a lot on Julian. Julian’s a very smart player. Very tough. He’s mentally, physically tough. What he’s gone through the last few weeks with his injury and then still just laying it on the line — you see even on that catch-and-run there in the third quarter, him kind of diving over the pile. He’s an incredible player, an incredible teammate, and the more we get him the ball, the better it is for our offense.”

Edelman is questionable for this game as his chest/rib injury has been very painful, he’s been wincing every time he gets off the turf. But It would be folly to count him out of this nationally televised game. He knows how valuable he is to this offense. He’s the one matchup nightmare that the Giants will have a hard time covering tonight. 

Jonathan Jones:

Jones seems to be finally be getting his due as one of the outstanding slot corners in the NFL. The Patriots rewarded him with a 3-year extension this summer worth around $21 million dollars. Along with Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, J.C. Jackson, the Patriots have one of the deepest and most talented cornerback groups in the league.

Jones may see a lot of Golden Tate this week. With Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram out this week, Tate may be the go-to guy for Daniel Jones and the Giants passing game. And the G-men may move Tate in the slot to keep him away from Stephon Gilmore and give Tate more options to break on the ball. 

This promises to be a great matchup between the two. Tate is an accomplished veteran who has been in many big games. The moment will never be too much for him and as he stated this week, the Giants aren’t intimidated by the moment. 

Matt LaCosse: 

LaCosse was a bit more involved in the offense last week, he only caught a single pass for 22 yards and has only caught three passes on the season, but he’s been banged up and now that he’s healthy, the Patriots are hoping that he can be more productive in the passing game. He did show up nicely in the running game, and easily had his best game of the season in that regard. He made a key block in springing Sony Michel for his 14-yard touchdown run. That is the type of play the team needs consistently.

The focus on LaCosse and Ryan Izzo will be much closer now that the team has decided to release veteran Ben Watson. Watson was considered to be the main TE target once his suspension was over. Now he’s gone and there the focus will be on these two, TEs to get it done. Especially on LaCosse who is considered the better receiver of the two. 

We’ll see if Josh McDaniels tries to get LaCosse more involved in the passing game this week. With WR Phillip Dorsett out with a hamstring injury, it would be a prime opportunity for him to begin to carve out a role for himself.   

_________

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

 

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.

 

Five Takeaways from the Patriots 33-7 Win Over the Redskins

Steve Balestrieri
October 6, 2019 at 7:18 pm ET

The Patriots head home from Washington with their 5-0 record intact and now have a short week to prepare for the New York Giants on Thursday Night Football. The Patriots dominated the second half today and came away with an easy 33-7 win. But for the first 30 minutes it was a close one as the team led only 12-7 at the half. 

Very uneven play along the offensive line, going nearly completely away from the running game and some uncharacteristic mental errors cost the team in the first half. But they made their adjustments after halftime and outscored the Redskins 21-0 after intermission. In fact, the Patriots scored 33 unanswered points. 

Tom Brady passed for 348 yards and three touchdowns and Sony Michel had a big second half and finished up the day rushing for 91 yards on 18 carries. 

After giving up a huge 65-yard touchdown run on a jet sweep to Steven Sims in the first quarter, the Redskins didn’t do much of anything offensively. The Patriots defense pretty much slammed the door shut after that. 

Here are our takeaways from the Patriots 33-7 rout of the Redskins. 

Brady Has a Bounceback Day And Finishes on a High Note:

It wasn’t all easy but overall Tom Brady had an outstanding day completing 28-42 for 348 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. In the second quarter, Brady had a red zone interception for the second week in a row.  

But his three touchdowns gave him #600 for his career counting regular and postseason. Ryan Izzo is also the 72nd player to catch a touchdown from Brady. He passed Brett Favre for third all-time on the list of career passing yards. With 17 yards on Thursday, he’ll surpass Peyton Manning on the list for the #2 QB in terms of passing yards. 

Brady spread the ball out to nine different receivers with three different ones [Edelman, Brandon Bolden and Ryan Izzo] scoring touchdowns. Edelman was his favorite target and had 8 catches for 110 yards and a score on 9 targets. 

The Offensive Line Struggled Overall in the First Half and With Protection All Game:

The Redskins came in with the 2nd least amount of sacks in the NFL today. But they registered four sacks of Brady, and for the most part rushed only three. They registered one sack by rushing just two. The offensive line also struggled to open holes in the running game where the Skins have been getting gashed all year long.

But their adjustments worked and they began to run the ball much more effectively in the second half. Sony Michel got 91 yards on 18 carries overall with most of it coming after halftime, and most of that came running between the tackles. 

With the running game going in the second half, the passing game clicked much better and the team scored three second-half touchdowns with Brady giving way to Jarrett Stidham for the final eight minutes. After running for 19 yards in the first half, the team finished with 130 yards on the ground. Maybe they can carry this over into next week.

The Defense Had Another Huge Day, Led By Dont’a Hightower:

We mentioned the hiccup in the early going on the Sims’ run for a TD, both McCourty twins had a shot at bringing him down, but give Sims credit for a beauty of a run. Kyle Van Noy was screaming for a flag for holding and Scott Zolak mentioned it as well. But after looking at the replay, it didn’t seem so. 

After that, the defense was lights out. Washington had just 220 yards of offense and was just 1-11 on third down. Colt McCoy ended up with just 75 yards net passing yardage. The unit got six more sacks, eight quarterback hits, forced an interception and two fumbles recovering one. 

Hightower was immense. He had eight tackles, four tackles for a loss, a pass defensed, one and a half sacks and two quarterback hits. He was a disruptive pain in the backside for McCoy and the Redskins offense all day long. 

Sony Michel Got Untracked Today And Contributed in the Passing Game:

Michel has had a frustrating start to the season. But the coaches haven’t lost sight of the fact that he was a very important cog in their postseason run a year ago. After another frustrating first half, Michel and his offensive line got going by running between the tackles. 

Michel had a beauty of a 25-yard run midway through the third quarter. He showed great patience and then with a nifty cut making a man miss [gasp!] before cutting to the outside and rolling for a really nice pickup before being knocked out of bounds. He finished off the drive with another really nice run, a 14-yard touchdown run. So, along with his 91-yards on the ground, Michel added another 32 on three pass receptions. It was nice to see the team getting him involved in the passing game. 

James White and Brandon Bolden also chipped in nicely today. White had 72-yards combined rushing and receiving while Bolden had a pretty 29-yard touchdown pass from Brady where he ran a wheel route, isolated on a linebacker and Brady made a beautiful pass, dropping it right in the bucket. 

Mike Nugent Doesn’t Fill the Foxboro Faithful With Hope:

After the Sims touchdown, Brady led the Patriots on a beautiful scoring drive, six plays, 75 yards, capped off with a Brady pass to Julian Edelman from the six to make it 7-6. Mike Nugent, who replaced the injured Stephen Gostkowski comes on for the extra point and pushes it wide right…by a large margin. 

You could feel the collective groan across New England. Nugent settled down and made two chip shot field goals from 23 and 37 yards. And then he made all three extra points after that, but it wasn’t the kind of start that anyone wanted to see. 

We’ll have to see how things play out but after five games in the season, the Patriots have missed five extra points. The last time they missed that many was back in 1988. So, we’ll be watching how this develops. Bill Belichick likes veterans to handle the kicking duties. Jake Bailey, on the other hand, continued his stellar rookie season, punting six times for a 47.7-yard average. 

We’re on to the Giants…

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

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

 

Patriots Week 4 Report Card, in Tough 16-10 Win Over the Bills

Steve Balestrieri
October 1, 2019 at 7:42 am ET

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.”

The Patriots are, despite the hand-wringing going on 4-0 and have already beaten every team in the division. And yes, with the way the defense played, they did deserve to win. The offense, on the other hand, struggled mightily. And the Bills had the same issue, while their defense was lights out, their offense threw four interceptions and had another turnover on downs inside the five-yard line. So it was a tale of two cities…if you will.

Special teams once again played a big role, both positively and negatively in this game but in the end, it was a knock-down grind out contest that the Patriots won, on the road in a very hostile environment. 

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

Quarterback: D+

Tom Brady had a pretty awful day by his standards, completing 18-39 for just 150 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception. The pick in the end zone [his first of the season] was particularly bad as it took points off the field and was a bad mental mistake, something that Brady rarely makes. His best throw was early on a 26-yard drop in the bucket to James White that set up the Patriots first touchdown.

But he wasn’t getting a ton of support from his wide receivers nor his offensive line in this game. There was plenty of negativity to go around…and will. 

Running Backs: B-

The Patriots got back James White this week, and as we pointed out in our keys, he figured to be a big part of the passing game [like the Buffalo game a year ago] and he was. White caught eight passes for 57 yards and was his normal, clutch self out there, setting up the Patriots first TD on a 26-yard wheel route where he beat Matt Milano. 

Sony Michel had 63 yards on 17 carries [3.7-yard average] and showed some signs of getting the running game going. He does, however, seem to take an extra half-second or so, with hitting the hole. And in his defense, maybe it is because there isn’t any there. 

Brandon Bolden again got some early work and scored on a nicely designed 4-yard run. Rex Burkhead was limited with a foot injury and got no carries, and had one reception for 7 yards. [More to this below] Jakob Johnson had some nice moments in the blocking game, including a nice clean out of Milano that sprung Michel on a 10-yard run.

Wide Receivers: D

The Buffalo secondary totally dominated this matchup on Sunday as the wide receivers got very little in the way of separation on Sunday. Josh Gordon had 3 catches for 46 yards including a big 31-yard drag route that the Bills challenged. Julian Edelman was banged up and not targeted nearly as much as normal and had only four catches for 30 yards. He also had a drop where he was in the clear and had a lot of running room. Phillip Dorsett, “the man that catches everything thrown his way” was taken away by the Bills. He was targeted 9 times and had 2 catches for 10 yards. Jakobi Meyers wasn’t targeted but once all game.

Last week the top three Edelman, Gordon, and Dorsett had 19 catches for 198 yards. This week they were targeted 23 times and had 9 catches for 86. That ain’t getting it done folks. 

Tight Ends: D-

Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo weren’t targeted once in the passing game. When the TEs’ biggest contribution is whether or not his rub route was a foul or not, the production isn’t getting there. And the blocking has not been great either, not bad per se, but not great. It makes one appreciate Gronk so much more when he blocked like another tackle out there.  

Offensive Line: C-

The offensive line still is having struggles opening holes in the running game, and they’re not getting a push on the opponent. Too many times the Bills stood them up at the line of scrimmage. The stretch runs don’t seem to be nearly as effective as the middle runs are. They were able to spring Michel on a few of them. 

The pass blocking didn’t allow a sack, but a lot of that has to do with Brady being able to get rid of the ball so fast, as in the second half, the Bills pressure put Brady on rollerskates far too many times. 

Coach Scarnecchia is always preaching everyone pulling together, and I believe that he’s going to sort this out. 

Defensive Line: A-

The defensive line led by Lawrence Guy was excellent. Guy constantly takes on double teams and stops the offensive line from getting any push. Danny Shelton, who is really playing well in his second stint in Foxboro, had another strong game inside. 

The Patriots pass rush racked up another five sacks for 40 yards and eight QB hits this week against the Bills QBs. While Frank Gore rolled up 109 yards on 17 carries, [6.4yard average], two of those runs totaled 61 yards and were from players other than the DL not making the plays at or near the line of scrimmage. 

Linebackers: A-

The Patriots linebackers even without Dont’a Hightower had another excellent game on Sunday. Kyle Van Noy, [becoming one of Bill Belichick’s biggest steals] was outstanding on the field for the Patriots. Van Noy was everywhere, eight tackles, including two for a loss, two sacks and four QB hits, including the final play for the defense where he hit Matt Barkley as he was releasing the ball, and allowed Jamie Collins an easy interception. 

Collins was again very good and has to be loving his second go ‘round with the Patriots.He had four tackles, one tackle for a loss, one sack, one QB hit, one pass defensed and one huge interception to seal the deal. 

Ja’Whaun Bentley was solid in filling in for Hightower, but he had one major gaffe early in the game. Gore showed a run to the outside, Bentley reacted too quickly and tried to fill a gap that was set on the edge. Gore recognized it and cut back to a wide-open B gap and ran it for 20 yards. 

Secondary: A-

The secondary had another big day intercepting three passes and limiting the Bills to just 10 points. J.C. Jackson had a pair of interceptions and provided very solid coverage. Zay Jones was held to 2 catches for 4 yards on 8 targets. John Brown and Stephon Gilmore battled hard all day with Brown coming away with 5 catches for 69 yards on 11 targets. Cole Beasley led Buffalo with seven catches for 75 yards with most of them later in the game after matching up with Jonathan Jones. 

Jackson had two mistakes that he’ll hear about from Belichick. On Frank Gore’s 41-yard run, Jackson had a clear attempt to wrap him up about two yards from the line of scrimmage. He turned and attempted a shoulder block that Gore shook off like a dog coming in from the rain and rolled for 41 yard…tsk, tsk. He also left his feet on a blitz against a mobile QB. Uh-oh, BB will take umbrage with that. But overall the second year UDFA had an excellent day.

Pat Chung had a solid game and had excellent coverage on Dawson Knox who just made a fantastic over the shoulder 26-yard catch on a third down. Couldn’t defend it any better than that.  Devin McCourty had his fourth interception in as many games. 

Special Teams: B

Stephen Gostkowski had another miss on the first extra point of the day in an increasingly puzzling development. That miss may have loomed large if the Bills had scored in their final drive.

But the special teams’ units scored a touchdown on a blocked punt by J.C. Jackson that was returned for a score by Matthew Slater, his first touchdown in a stellar 12-year career. Jake Bailey was outstanding again punting nine times for a 48.1 average including two punts of more than 60 yards.

Coaches: B-

The Patriots coaching staff had the team prepared and they made nearly all of the correct calls on defense and special teams. Obviously, they saw something on tape that showed them the Bills were ripe for a punt block and they executed it flawlessly. 

The offense and Joss McDaniels, however, struggled and the play calling was seemingly stagnant. They were relying on too many screens at or behind the line of scrimmage that the Bills were not fooled by all game. The Bills weakness on defense is the middle of the field targeting the linebackers but the Patriots attempted precious few attempts there. Perhaps Edelman being banged up and lack of confidence in the TEs has something to do with that. But Ben Watson should return just in time. 

We’re on to the nation’s capital to take on the Redskins at 4-0, so there is a reason for optimism around these parts. The “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door” 2019 tour continues. 

 

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.

 

Patriots – Jets Week 3 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
September 19, 2019 at 7:30 am ET

The Patriots return home this Sunday to take on the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium. This is the first of two meetings between the two teams, and the rivals will play again in the Meadowlands on Oct. 21 on Monday Night Football.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, September 22 at 1:00 p.m. and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Kevin Harlan will handle play-by-play duties with Rich Gannon as the color analyst. Dana Jacobson 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 (2-0) trounced the Miami Dolphins 43-0 where the defense forced four interceptions and returned two of them for touchdowns. Tom Brady threw for two touchdowns and ran for another.

The Jets (0-2) lost at home 23-3 to the Cleveland Browns on Monday Night Football. With QB Sam Darnold, already sidelined for at least a month with an illness, backup QB Trevor Siemian got the start before he too was injured and lost for the year. Luke Falk finished up the game and will get the start this week. 

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

Series History:

The Patriots and Jets have been rivals since the earliest days of the old AFL. The Patriots lead the all-time series 65-54-1 including a 35-25-1 record at home against the Jets. The two teams have met three times in the postseason with the Patriots holding a 2-1 edge there. 

The Patriots have swept the season series the past three years. Since Gillette Stadium opened in 2002, the Patriots are 14-3 against the Jets at home.

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 York Jets

The Patriots running game still hasn’t gotten untracked yet, which definitely has something to do with the injuries along the offensive line. With the starting center on IR and both tackles out last week, they still managed to run for 126 yards. 

Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, and James White are an impressive trio, especially with James Develin opening holes for them. But the offensive line’s play in the running game has been inconsistent. 

The Jets are stout upfront with nose tackle Steve McLendon and interior linemen Leonard Williams and Henry Anderson. Rookie first-rounder Quinnen Williams has been banged up but may be back for this one. Ditto for LBs Jordan Jenkins and C.J. Mosley. 

During MNF the Jets defense stifled the Browns running game holding them to just 70 yards on the ground. They are allowing only 99 yards per game so far in 2019.

With several new faces on the Patriots offensive line, the slogging may find itself to be tough for the Patriots backs to find traction early. However, if the Jets offense continues to struggle and leave their defense on the field for a large portion of the game, then this could change. But this is one time when the Jets front seven handles the Patriots running game and wins the matchup                     

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

The Patriots passing game got a boost with the addition of Antonio Brown last week and his production after only three days of practice was good, 4 receptions 56 yards and a touchdown. Brown along with Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, as well as backs White and Burkhead out of the backfield gives Tom Brady a plethora of weapons.

The only thing that can hold back this unit is the offensive line. Left tackle Isaiah Wynn was placed on IR with turf toe, while right tackle Marcus Cannon missed last week’s game with a shoulder injury. So will it be Marshall Newhouse and Korey Cunningham at tackle or will they move Joe Thuney to tackle then after fill in another new body at the guard position? Dante Scarnecchia will have the boys working overtime this week.

The Jets, when everyone is healthy, have a very good front seven. They have Leonard and Quinnen Williams inside and can push the pocket. But the secondary, especially the corners are not going to shut anyone down for long. Former Patriot Darryl Roberts mans one side while Trumaine Johnson who was paid a big-money contract just a year ago was manning the other. Johnson was benched for poor play and in his stead came Nate Hairston and Brian Poole. 

Those corners are no match for the Patriots receivers, but the Jets and DC Gregg Williams may try to take advantage of the offensive line flux of the Patriots by bringing overload blitzes and stunts to test their communication. Look for Brady to use the quick passing game first and the backs if the Jets come after him. If he gets good protection, they should shred the secondary. After his flurry of outrage earlier this week, it will be interesting to see how Jamal Adams plays and is used this week.

Next up the Jets offense:

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

The Jets picked up Le’Veon Bell this offseason from the Steelers and he’s one of the most talented backs in the league. Despite having a sore shoulder that required an MRI this week, Bell had 31 touches on MNF [21 rushes and 10 receptions]. But the Jets offensive line has struggled to get him into areas where he can break free. They also have Ty Montgomery and Bilal Powell in the backfield.

The Patriots front seven has been outstanding against the run allowing just 37 yards per game. The defensive line led by Danny Shelton, Lawrence Guy, and Michael Bennett has stuffed the opposition at the point of attack, allowing the deep and versatile linebacking crew to clean up and attack. 

Look for the Jets to try to get creative here to get Bell going. If the Jets have any chance of pulling an upset, they have to win this matchup and have Bell being a difference-maker and keep the defense honest. If not, it will be a long afternoon for Gang Green. 

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

The Jets brought Luke Falk off the practice squad for Monday Night’s game after Trevor Siemian [ankle] and Sam Darnold [illness] were knocked out of the starting lineup. Falk performed as well as could be expected, coming in cold after Siemian was hurt. But his issue is having enough weapons in the passing game. 

Quincy Enunwa is on IR with a neck injury. Newcomer Demaryius Thomas reaggravated the hamstring injury he had with the Patriots. That leaves Robby Anderson, Jamison Crowder, tight end Ryan Griffin, and Bell out of the backfield.

The Patriots’ secondary has been outstanding in the passing game. And the pass rush sacked Dolphins’ QBs seven times last week. They’ll attempt to test a Jets OL that has struggled so far in 2019. 

Stephon Gilmore and Jonathan Jones should matchup with the Jets two big targets outside, while Pat Chung will draw Griffin. It comes back to Bell against the host of New England’s linebackers. On paper, it appears Falk will have a long, frustrating afternoon. 

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots Stephen Gostkowski had a singularly awful day in Miami with 2 missed extra points and a missed field goal. The good news is he returns to Gillette where he’s been solid. Jake Bailey has done well with his first punting action although he has struggled it seems with the holding for FGs and extra points. The return game has been so-so but the coverage units have been solid.

The Jets have had struggles of their own and have Sam Ficken as their placekicker. Lachlan Edwards has done a solid job of punting but Braxton Berrios and Trenton Cannon haven’t provided much in the return game.  

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

So, do the Patriots improve to 3-0 or do the Jets pull a huge upset in Gillette being three-touchdown underdogs?  The signs point to the former rather than the latter. This is a game even without the myriad of injuries the Jets have suffered, is one the Patriots, on paper should win. That’s why they play the games.

Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:

Stay Aggressive and Get After Falk – Look for the Patriots defense to remain aggressive and challenge the Jets receivers. They’ll feel like the Jets WRs can’t beat them deep, so they’ll challenge the short to intermediate routes and give Falk nothing to find open. Falk was actually processing the plays too quickly early on Monday and got rid of the ball before the play developed. Later in the second half, he was holding the ball too long. If the Patriots can force him to do that again on Sunday, they’ll be successful and may force some turnovers.

They’ll show different fronts and packages [show man, play zone] to try to confuse Falk, who is a smart kid but doesn’t possess great arm strength. With a pass rush that doesn’t have any single “dedicated pass rusher”, the Patriots should utilize bringing pressure from all different areas. 

Make the Jets win while passing the ball is what they’re going to try to do this week. With a banged-up and depleted WR core and the third QB under center, the key is to make Luke Falk beat them.

Short, Quick Passing Game To Move the Ball: The Patriots passing game and Tom Brady’s protection will be put to the test early in this one as I believe Gregg Williams, who is always aggressive, will try to overwhelm the new faces on the offensive line. The Patriots counter the Jets blitzes by using their quickness off the line, Julian Edelman and Antonio Brown are two of the best at this and are nearly uncoverable out of the slot. 

James White and Rex Burkhead are also the great equalizers in both blitz pickup and getting out of the backfield and getting open. It will be a great part of the chess match to see when and where Williams decides to send his blitzes. Josh Gordon can work the short areas as well with slants while Phillip Dorsett along with Gordon will attack the intermediate areas of the field. 

Win the Turnover Battle: The Patriots, especially right now are much deeper than the Jets and have the superior team. The Jets offense has struggled to move the ball and to score points. They can’t afford to get into a situation where they have to match Brady and Co. score for score. They have to shorten the game, keep the NE offense on the bench and help out their young QB by giving him some short fields to work with. That’s why turnovers are so important this week. 

If you’re the Patriots, if you win the turnover battle this week, this should be a runaway.  By being aggressive and forcing the issue, the Patriots should be in a good position to do just that.

___________

Never underestimate divisional games and how tough they can be, despite the apparent lopsidedness of the Vegas odds.  The Patriots and Jets’ games are always hard-hitting and physical contests. This one should be no different. The two teams by virtue of playing twice a year, know each other well and will look to use that knowledge against one another. 

The Patriots are the better team and that will play out as the game unfolds. It may be close for a half, but Brady and Co. find holes in the Jets secondary and the defense once again rises to the occasion.  Patriots 30-6

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” tour heads back out on the road next week as the Patriots take on the Buffalo Bills.

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

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

Patriots-Dolphins Week 2 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
September 12, 2019 at 7:50 am ET

The Patriots head out on the road for the first time in 2019 as they travel to South Florida, to take on the Miami Dolphins. The Patriots are looking to get off to a 2-0 start and put behind them the slow starts that have earmarked earlier seasons.

Miami has a new coaching staff in place with Brian Flores, the former de facto Defensive Coordinator for New England serving as their new head coach. He has taken several former New England assistants with him, including Chad O’Shea who is the Dolphins Offensive Coordinator. 

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, September 15 at 1:00 p.m. 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 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 (1-0) are coming off a convincing 33-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Tom Brady threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns.

The Dolphins (0-1) were shellacked 59-10 by the Baltimore Ravens where Miami’s defense was gashed for 623 yards [265 on the ground, 378 in the air]. 

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

Series History:

The Patriots and Dolphins have been playing each other since 1966. Miami holds the overall edge 55-52 with each team holding a huge edge in home games. Miami is 38-16 at home against New England while the Patriots are 36-17 all-time at home against the Dolphins. Bill Belichick’s record versus Miami with the Patriots is 24-14. In games in Miami, Tom Brady is 7-10, and the team is just 1-5 in their last six games there. 

The teams split last year’s contests with the Patriots blowing out Miami 38-7 at home and then losing 34-33 in December in the “Miracle in Miami” game.

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 Dolphins Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game didn’t have a great game last week, but it wasn’t all bad either. The team ended up with 99 yards on the ground against a very good Pittsburgh front seven. They’ll be looking to get Sony Michel untracked this week as he was bottled up against the Steelers last week. 

Miami was gashed badly by the Ravens in the opener to the tune of 265 yards and 5.8 yards per rushing attempt. They were overwhelmed at the point of attack and will be looking to do a much better job. They’ll need their big men up front, nose tackle Davon Godchaux, and ends John Jenkins and Christian Wilkins to be much better. If the Patriots big men in the middle, Ted Karras, Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason can get a push to the second level, the ground game will be successful. 

Look for plenty of the two-back sets with Michel, Rex Burkhead, and James White rotating in with James Develin leading the way. It will be interesting to see if the team activates Damien Harris this week, as he was removed from the injury report and having Brandon Bolden limited with a hamstring issue.

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

The Patriots passing game looked really good passing for 374 yards in the opener against the Steelers. Tom Brady was sharp and was getting everyone involved in the passing game. The pass protection against the top team in sacks from 2018 held up quite well. Isaiah Wynn shined in his first game but the team lost Marcus Cannon to a shoulder injury in the second half. His absence will be a place to watch this week. The team did sign veteran tackle Marshall Newhouse this week. 

The Dolphins pass defense was arguably more miserable than their run defense was last week. Lamar Jackson had a perfect passer rating and threw five touchdowns along with 324 yards passing. His backup RG III came in and was 6-6 for 55 yards with a touchdown. Ravens’ QBs were 23-26 for 378 yards with six TDs. The secondary has some good pieces there with Xavien Howard, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Reshad Jones, and Bobby McCain with a bunch of ex-Patriots, Eric Rowe, Johnson Bademosi, Jomal Wilz, and Ken Webster. 

The Patriots running game should open up play-action passing in this one. Seeing how the Dolphins choose to match up with Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, and Julian Edelman with White and Burkhead out of the backfield will be an interesting part of the chess match. Flores knows the Patriots weapons well and he’ll be trying to counter their moves. The pass rush for Miami is key here. If Brady has time to throw, he should light them up again. It is unknown right now whether Antonio Brown [on Wednesday evening] will play. It may depend on how much of the offense he can learn in practice this week.  

Next up the Miami offense:

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

The Dolphins rushing attack was put on the backburner early last week when they fell behind so far, so early. They have Kenyon Drake and Kalen Ballage toting the rock behind an offensive line with new pieces everywhere. 

Jesse Davis was moved to left tackle from the right side. Michael Dieter and Daniel Kilgore at LG and C respectively are the only carryovers. Right guard Danny Isadora and right tackle Julien Davenport are both new and started last week after coming to Miami after the initial 53-man cutdown. 

The Patriots front seven stuffed the Steelers rushing attack last week holding them to just 32 total yards. James Conner only gained 21 yards on 10 carries. The big men up front Danny Shelton, Lawrence Guy, and Michael Bennett held firm and allowed the linebackers to clean up. 

Although Drake has had success against the Patriots in the past, with this patchwork offensive line, it is tough to see Miami getting much going on the ground without them getting really creative here.  

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

Miami has surprisingly gone with veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick in the early going after they brought in second-year QB Josh Rosen earlier this year. Fitzpatrick has the capability to get really hot for a few games, as we’ve seen in the past, but overall he’s 2-9 in his career with the Bills and Jets against the Patriots. 

The skill players are good with DeVante Parker as their possession guy with Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant as their outside guys with speed to burn. Tight Mike Gesicki will be someone to watch. But this offensive line will decide this matchup. Can they hold up? 

The Patriots defense was outstanding against the Steelers, with the secondary of Stephon Gilmore, Jonathan Jones, and Jason McCourty taking away the outside threats. Look for Pat Chung to cover Gesicki and that will be a great matchup to watch. 

I look for the Patriots left side to attack Miami’s right side of the OL. Davenport who came over from the Texans in the Laremy Tunsil deal gave up 12 sacks, 65 QB pressures and committed 16 penalties last year. Look for the Patriots to bring their pressure attacking the right side. 

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots Stephen Gostkowski had a really solid game after an uneven preseason. He hit on all three extra points and all four field goal attempts. Jake Bailey hit one boomer and one dud last week. But his holds on the field goals were spot on, something they struggled with a bit in preseason. The coverage units were solid and Gunner Olszewski had a nice debut with punt returns of 20 and 15 yards. 

Miami’s Jason Sanders booted a 54-yard field goal last week in one of the few bright spots of that game. Punter Matt Haack averaged 53.7 yards per punt. Their return game didn’t net much on the day.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

Another year heading to the Patriots House of Horrors? New England is just 1-5 in their last six games in South Florida, including the past two. They always seem to save some of their worst football for games in South Florida. Can they turn that around and start the year off 2-0 and avoid the slow starts that have plagued the team in recent years?

Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:

Be Aggressive and Get After Fitzpatrick – Look for the Patriots defense to be aggressive and attack the Miami offensive line here, while they try to set the tone of this one from the outset. Fitzpatrick isn’t the most mobile of QBs and the OL hasn’t played together for very long. Show them different fronts [Amoeba look with one down lineman] bring pressure and try to generate some turnovers. 

Jamie Collins, Michael Bennett, and rookie Chase Winovich are the players to watch here. They don’t want to lay back and allow Fitzpatrick to get into a rhythm. This secondary has shown it can play blanket coverage across the field, take advantage of it and force the issue. 

Run the Ball to Open up Play Action: The Patriots running game is looking to get untracked this week and this is a perfect time and place to do so. Miami hasn’t sorted things out yet and the ground game can set the tone for this one early. Michel, Burkhead, and White should give them plenty of yardage to open things up in the passing game. With play-action, Brady will have more open room across the middle and allow him more time to hit Gordon and Dorsett on the perimeter. It will be interesting to see if they give rookie Jakobi Meyers more snaps this week. We’re not counting on Antonio Brown playing in this one, but we’ll have to see how that plays out. 

Put Them Down Early: The Patriots have had a bad habit of letting the Dolphins hang around in games down in Miami and those have come back to haunt them. Sunday, they need to come out firing and put the Dolphins in the rearview mirror early. The confidence can’t be high there right now after last week’s debacle. 

Bill Belichick needs to get the team coming out fired up like this is a playoff game and approach it in that way. A couple of quick scores early and have the Dolphins on their heels. They have done that at home against the Dolphins seemingly every game, it is time to do so down there.  

___________

So, a lot of Patriots fans and some media have been playing up the familiarity idea that the Dolphins’ coaches know the Patriots and their system and know exactly how to attack them. And they point, successfully at the Lions and Titans games from a year ago. And it is a valid point…to a degree. 

But this New England team is a better one than took the field last year, and this Dolphins team is frankly, one that is going to struggle to win 3-4 games in 2019. The only thing holding the Patriots back this week is themselves. They should establish dominance early in this one. There won’t be any miracles this time.  Patriots 42-13

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” tour moves back to New England next week to take on the Jets.

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

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

Patriots Week 1 Report Card, All Systems Go in Blowout Win Over the Steelers

Steve Balestrieri
September 9, 2019 at 11:47 am ET

  The Patriots didn’t show any effects of having a Super Bowl hangover, an aging roster, or facing the last team to beat them, the Pittsburgh Steelers on opening night. The Patriots dominated the Steelers again at home from start to finish in a very impressive win to kickstart the 2019 season.

They looked like a much better-prepared team than their opponents, who after beating the Patriots last December, were looking to erase a lot of bad history when they play the Patriots on the road. Ben Roethlisberger’s only win in Gillette came in 2008, against Matt Cassel as that was the year that Tom Brady blew out his knee in Week 1. 

The Patriots coaches put together a superb game plan and the players executed to near flawless perfection. This was a tremendous win to start the 2019 season, as we’re off and running.  

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

Quarterback: A

Tom Brady, was in midseason form last night as he methodically and surgically picked apart the Steelers’ defense as he’s done so many times in the past  Brady was sharp, slid well in the pocket and was able to manipulate the safeties with his eyes as the offense rolled up 465 yards of offense.

Brady finished 24-36 for 341 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He spread the ball around to a number of different receivers and backs, and Pittsburgh had no answers for. 

His best throw was a dime to Phillip Dorsett for a 25-yard touchdown that was perfectly placed down the seam. Later he Dorsett again for a 52-yard touchdown where the WR was all alone. Dave Brown from the Concord Monitor referenced the hot take artists with his call of “Brady’s macaroni elbow was supposed to be the downfall of this team.” That is classic!

Running Backs: A-

The Patriots running backs were pegged by us as a key component to beating the Steelers last night. We thought they’d have to run the ball effectively and factor out of the backfield into the passing game. They did just that. Running out of a heavy set early, they picked up a couple of first downs before spreading the defense out and picking them apart. 

James White and Rex Burkhead were both outstanding in this game, each combining for over 80+ yards on the ground and in the air. White had 5 catches for 56 yards and added 26 more on the ground. Burkhead also had five catches for 41 yards and he added 44 yards on the ground. The team also got Brandon Bolden involved early, the do-everything back had an early carry for seven yards. 

The only downside was that the team couldn’t get Sony Michel involved effectively. The Steelers made a concerted effort to make other backs beat them and Michel was frequently hit in the backfield. He had only 14 yards on 15 carries. 

Wide Receivers: A

Questions, questions, questions about this group before the game last night. Not a peep this morning. The starting trio of Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, and Josh Gordon was terrific last night. The trio combined for  13 catches and 251 yards with three touchdowns.

Combined with the game the backs had out of the backfield, Brady just spread the wealth around nearly equally and the Steelers had no answer. Phillip Dorsett had four catches for 95 yards with two touchdowns [25 and 52], while Gordon had just three catches but for 73 yards and a score. His 20-yarder shows how difficult he can be in the open field to take down and he and Brady combined for a 44-yard bomb later in the game.

Julian Edelman looked in mid-season form, doing the dirty work underneath and across the middle and being a pain in the backside to anyone trying to cover him. He’s virtually uncoverable at times off the line and showed zero signs of the thumb ailment. Edelman had six catches for 83 yards. He had one carry for eight yards. 

Jakobi Meyers played only a handful of snaps but had a nice 22-yard reception where he took a big hit, was able to hold onto the ball and get yards after contact. The Patriots perimeter receivers averaged 23.75 yards per reception last night. Dink and Dunk? And they played without Demaryius Thomas, Antonio Brown, and rookie N’Keal Harry. Let that sink in a second.

Tight Ends: B-

Rob Gronkowski is retired and everyone wants to know “Who replaces Gronk?” The short answer….the wide receivers and backs. James Develin and Ryan Izzo did a good job in the running game but they didn’t contribute much in the passing game. Izzo had one catch for three yards

They should receive a boost if Matt LaCosse is able to go in Miami but I wouldn’t expect bigger things from them until Ben Watson returns.

Offensive Line: A-

The offensive line was a big question mark coming into this game. Isaiah Wynn was playing in his first NFL game and Ted Karras was starting for David Andrews at center after the veteran went on IR. It is safe to say they aced their first test.

Facing a very good Steelers front seven that led the league in sacks a year ago, Brady was able to operate clean virtually the entire game. Overall, the pass protection was excellent. The run blocking was good but not great, but one should remember that Pittsburgh was the sixth-best team against the run last year. 

One thing to monitor is the status of Marcus Cannon who left the game with a shoulder injury and was seen with his arm in a sling. That could be a big loss if he’s out for an extended period of time.

Defensive Line: B

The defensive line was outstanding against the run, limiting the Steelers to just 32 yards on the ground. James Conner had just 21 yards on 10 carries. Jaylen Samuels had a pair of carries for four yards. Last year Samuels had 142 yards in the game at Pittsburgh. The linemen were holding at the point of attack and allowing the linebackers to make plays.

The only downside was the pass rush against that outstanding Steelers offensive line was negligible. The only sack by Deatrich Wise, where he stripped Roethlisberger of the ball was more of a coverage sack than anything else. But an overall very strong effort.

Linebackers: A-

The Patriots linebackers were excellent last night. They filled the gaps in the running game, got some QB pressure and covered the backs well out of the backfield. The defense allowed just 87 yards and four first downs in the first half. 

Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, and Ja’Whaun Bentley were never out of position and consistently disrupting plays. With the top receivers blanketed, Ben Roethlisberger was looking for his secondary targets, and the linebackers helped shut those down as well. 

The front seven was suffocating, Roethlisberger was 27-47 for 277 yards and one interception. Many of those yards came with garbage time drives. He simply had no where to go and no one to throw to.

And their arguably best playmaker, Kyle Van Noy was inactive as his wife was having a baby on Sunday night. Van Noy was watching, however, and tweeted out “How about that defense?!?!?!?!? Them boys hungraaaayyyyyy!! My guys!!!!”

Secondary: A

The secondary has been a source of tremendous optimism since the spring. And they had a fantastic game against a fast and potent Pittsburgh offense. This secondary was lights out and taking away everything the Steelers tried to do. 

Stephon Gilmore was tasked with shadowing JuJu Smith-Schuster and took him out of the game. Don’t be fooled by some meaningless catches long after the game was decided, Gilmore easily won this matchup. Jonathan Jones was terrific in the slot. Jason McCourty similarly was very solid except for one deep pass to James Washington where he inexplicably pulled up, which resulted in a 45-yard completion.

Pat Chung was outstanding and took Vance McDonald out of the equation as well as providing excellent run support down low in the box. Devin McCourty had the only interception of the game. 

Special Teams: A-

The Special Teams had a very solid night. Stephen Gostkowski was a perfect three for three on extra points and four for four on field goal attempts. No issues were detected on the holds for his kicks with new punter Jake Bailey which had been an issue during the preseason. Bailey had one booming punt, one short one and one so-so punt. 

Gunner Olszewski had two punt returns, one for 20 yards and the other for 15 and looks very solid in the return game. The coverage units were solid

Coaches: A

The Patriots coaching staff totally dominated the matchup with Mike Tomlin and his staff. Josh McDaniels had a tremendous game plan, going at times with “20 personnel” [2 RBs, 0 TEs, 3WRs] to make up for the loss of Gronkowski. He constantly kept the Steelers guessing and defensively the plan was to take away Smith-Schuster and make the Steelers beat them with other options. It worked to a tee.

Bill Belichick had the team excellently prepared and it was clear, the preparation on the Patriots side paid big dividends. We’re on to Miami.

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

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

Patriots Mini-camp Day 3 Observations “We Got a Lot Done”

Steve Balestrieri
June 6, 2019 at 3:18 pm ET

The Patriots finished up their mandatory three-day minicamp on Thursday and at the conclusion of it, head coach Bill Belichick seems pleased..with how things turned out.

“I think we got a lot done, out on the field, which is good, but we just have to keep grinding away,” Belichick said. Both Belichick and Tom Brady spoke after the practice session and remarked on the day that Patriots long-snapper Joe Cardona was promoted in Gillette Stadium to the rank of Lieutenant in the Naval Reserve. And both remarked on how the day coincided with the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

As Brady was speaking to the media after practice, Devin McCourty cracked, “Tell ‘em (media) it is Ring Night and we ain’t got time for this!”

Julian Edelman showed some love for the Bruins by wearing a Bruins jersey out before practice started. Coincidentally, it was  #13 and had Dorsett on the back….

Notable Players MIA:

Among the missing was the same names that missed the first two sessions, RB Sony Michel, RB Nick Brossette, WR Demaryius Thomas, OT Yodny Cajuste, DE Deatrich Wise Jr, SS Patrick Chung, SS Nate Ebner. One new name was added, CB J.C. Jackson.

Isaiah Wynn was present and worked on individual drills and looked like he was moving without any limitations, which is a good sign for moving forward in training camp.

Overall today’s session was a lot of individual drills with not as much 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills.

Other observations included:

  • Joe Thuney continues to line up at left tackle and worked with the tackles during individual drills
  • Deion Branch and Troy Brown worked once again with the wide receivers. Branch gets very animated and worked with them on breaking a jam at the line of scrimmage
  • Tom Brady and Josh McDaniels worked a side session with N’Keal Harry and Jacobi Meyers. It was an exercise in timing as well as how McDaniels and Brady want the young WRs to run their routes and position their breaks. It continues to be a learning process
  • Stephon Gilmore finished a strong camp in style, by locking down the WRs and knocking down a pass.
  • Jamie Collins had a strong week and knocked down a Bryan Hoyer screen pass
  • Jonathan Jones had a nice pass breakup on a deep pass from Tom Brady to Julian Edelman in the corner of the end zone
  • The offense ran a Flea Flicker on one play where Maurice Harris got behind Jason McCourty and caught it in the end zone.
  • Duke Dawson had a nice pass breakup on a deep sideline pass from Brady to Phillip Dorsett.
  • Derek Rivers got some snaps with the first grouping of defensive players.
  • After Brady finished up his work with 11-on-11, once again the coaches went to Jarrett Stidham before Brian Hoyer or Danny Etling. They want to see what the young man has got.

Play of the Day:

The day ended on two very nice pass plays from Brian Hoyer. He threw a touchdown to Braxton Berrios to end the day, but his TD before that to Phillip Dorsett was a beauty. Hoyer threw a high arcing pass to the corner of the end zone and Dorsett made a beautiful leaping catch in the end zone.

The play by Dorsett brought Hoyer running over to celebrate with him. Ditto for the same thing with Berrios.

After practice, we got to speak with new DL Mike Pennel, and we’ll have more of that on PatsFans.com soon.

Patriots Report Card In Super Bowl LIII Win Over LA

Steve Balestrieri
February 5, 2019 at 7:50 am ET

Patriots Report Card In Super Bowl LIII Win Over LA

Nobody saw that kind of low-scoring game playing out, but Bill Belichick and Brian Flores put together a masterful game plan and totally shut down the Rams offense, which was the #2 scoring unit in the league, holding them to nearly 30 points below their weekly average.

Julian Edelman was the most uncoverable receiver on the field and very much deserved the MVP Award, although the Patriots offense moved the ball well all night long, they couldn’t finish drives. But they found a way to win late and that’s what champions do, And the duck boats are gearing up for a parade on Tuesday morning. Super Bowl win #6 is a testament to how teams win victories and not always the more talented.

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

Quarterback: B-

Tom Brady didn’t have the eye-popping numbers 21-35 for 262 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT in the game as the Rams did a very good job of mixing things up and changing coverages especially after the Patriots would cross mid-field.

While Brady didn’t get hit a lot, the Rams did have pressure and were all around him enough to influence many of his throws. So, while the Patriots could move the ball consistently, they weren’t able to finish drives. Until crunch time.

With the game tied at 3-3 with ten minutes to go, that’s when Brady engineered a perfect drive where he made it look easy. First, he lobbed a perfectly drop in the bucket to Rob Gronkowski for 18 yards to get the offense moving. Next, he hit Edelman right down the middle for 13 yards. This was followed by a 7-yard pass to Rex Burkhead on the right sideline. On 2nd and 3, from the Rams 31, he made his best pass of the night, a beautifully placed touch pass to Gronkowski who beat double coverage. Gronkowski hauled it in as he went to the ground for a 29-yard gain. Sony Michel easily powered it in from the 2-yard line on the next play….Boom. Welcome home Lombardi Trophy #6.

Running Backs: B

The Patriots were patient with the running game and it paid off in the end. They ran for 154 yards on 32 carries as the Rams wore down in the end and the running game gashed them while running the 4-minute offense.

Sony Michel, you remember that “waste of a 1st round pick”? Well, he led all ball carriers with 94 yards on 18 carries including the only touchdown in the game. His biggest play was a 26-yard scamper that got the Patriots out of the deep hole in their own end.

Rex Burkhead chipped in with 7 carries for 43 yards and two catches for 15 more. On the same drive that started at the Patriots 4-yard line, Burkhead also got a 26-yard run where he burst thru the line and then cut back against the grain. Those two runs took the Patriots from deep in their own end into scoring range.

James White was a total non-factor in the game, carrying just two times for four yards and with just one catch for five more. The Rams did a tremendous job of taking him away.  

Wide Receivers: B-

Julian Edelman was absolutely uncoverable, and he rates an A+. The rest of the receivers? Not so much. Edelman roasted Nickell Roby-Coleman, frequently having 3 or more yards of separation. Roby-Coleman was doing a lot of talking early in the week, but didn’t walk the walk. The Rams then tried Aqib Talib on Edelman, but his quickness was too much for Talib off the line. Then Phillips trotted out Marcus Peters who was blown away off the line allowing a big catch down the seam for 25. Nobody could cover him on Sunday night. He finished with 10 catches for 141 yards on 12 targets.

Chris Hogan was targeted six times and had zero catches. Brady’s interception, on the first pass of the game, was well behind him. But he was unable to get any separation. Phillip Dorsett wasn’t targeted. Cordarrelle Patterson had two catches for 14 yards and added a pair of runs for seven.  

Tight Ends: A-

Rob Gronkowski was excellent in the running game blocking for the backs. On the Patriots touchdown, they went to a two-tight end set and he and Dwayne Allen helped the line blow the Rams off the line of scrimmage for a too-easy touchdown that was the difference in the game.

But in the passing game, Gronkowski had six catches for 87 yards on seven targets. Like Brady, he saved his best for last. On the Patriots touchdown drive he had catches for 18 and 29 yards, the latter a really nice catch as he was going to the ground.

Offensive Line: A-

The Patriots offensive line put together another very impressive performance. While the Rams were able to stop the running game early on, they did a good job of protecting Brady, despite the pass rush of Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh getting some pressure. The only sack was more of a coverage sack than anything else. Brady had forever to throw but no one was open and he probably should have thrown it away.

But late in the game, with the Patriots backed up at their four-yard line with four minutes to go, the Rams knew they were going to run the football. And they did. On Sony Michel’s 26-yard run, David Andrews destroyed Suh, pushing him three yards to the left and dumped him on his backside.

Defensive Line: A

The Patriots defensive line was absolutely terrific. The Rams potent running attack with Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson never got untracked and had just 62 yards on 18 carries. The Rams motion tries to get linemen moving sideways, but the Patriots attacked and were getting very good penetration. Danny Shelton blew thru a gap and nailed Anderson for a loss.

Trey Flowers also burst thru and had a tackle for a loss. But the front also did a very good job at getting pressure on Jared Goff. Adrian Clayborn and Lawrence Guy had QB hits while Flowers had two.

Linebackers: A

The Patriots linebackers were outstanding. Both Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy were all over the field and they were a very disruptive force all night long. With the team running a 6-1 look, the outside backers were essentially lining up on the line of scrimmage. They did a tremendous job of setting the edge in the running game and took away those shallow crosses and slants the Rams like to run.

Hightower, who in every Super Bowl plays like a man possessed, was everywhere. He had two tackles for a loss, two QB sacks, a pass defensed and three QB hits. Van Noy was also everywhere. He had four tackles, a tackle for a loss, a sack, and three QB hits. Hightower, on the Shelton run stuff absolutely destroyed Tyler Higbee in the interior of the line. Ouch.

Elandon Roberts and John Simon each saw action and as a whole, the linebackers totally took away the Rams RBs in the passing game, which was supposed to be a mismatch. Rams RBs had three catches for 11 yards in the game.

Secondary: A-

The Patriots secondary played a different look mixing in man coverage with Quarters zone coverage and held the Rams to a net 198 yards passing which was far below their average of 281 per game. Stephon Gilmore was outstanding as he has been all season and chipped in with the interception that sealed the deal for the Patriots.

Slot corner Jonathan Jones played some safety in their Quarters looks which showed off his versatility. Jason McCourty had the play of the game where on a busted coverage, Brandin Cooks was wide open in the end zone. McCourty flew over from his side and knocked the ball away.

Pat Chung was having an excellent game, but early in the third quarter broke his arm. In stepped “the Closer” Duron Harmon, who played very well. Harmon blitzed and forced Goff into throwing a floater that was picked off by Gilmore.

Special Teams: A-

Ryan Allen and Matthew Slater were fantastic in this game. Allen dropped three punts deep in the Rams zone where Slater was there to cover it up. They were able to force the Rams to go the length of the field.

Stephen Gostkowski missed his first field goal attempt but made his next two tries, including the one with a minute to go to put the game out of reach. The coverage units were solid and Patterson took the opening kickoff back 38 yards.

Coaching: A

Bill Belichick and Brian Flores gave a master’s class on having a great game plan that the players were able to execute perfectly.  Of all the Patriots Super Bowl wins, this one could arguably be considered their best defensive effort, holding a team that averages almost 33 points a game to just a field goal.

They flummoxed Sean McVay and Jared Goff on the opposite side of the field all game long. The Rams offense never looked like it was getting into anything resembling a rhythm or a comfort level all game long. McVay admitted after the game that Belichick outcoached him. It wasn’t the first time that Belichick has done that.

Josh McDaniels tried mixing things up offensively where the team could move the ball but kept stalling. They did figure it out late in the game and the team put together two impressive drives to finish the game, and win another Super Bowl.

So, who’s ready for a parade?

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as our writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

Six-Cess! Belichick Defensive Gameplan Another Gem Wins Sixth Title 

Steve Balestrieri
February 4, 2019 at 7:39 am ET

Six-Cess! Belichick Defensive Gameplan a Gem Wins Another SB

Bill Belichick has saved some of his best defensive game-planning for the Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams. And in doing so, he’s capped the latest Super Bowl victory much like he did their first.

In Super Bowl XXXVI, the Patriots showed the Rams something they hadn’t seen before. Recognizing that the “Greatest Show on Turf” went thru Marshall Faulk, the Patriots decided that they were going to hit Faulk (and hard) every time he went out of the backfield and they punished him enroute to a huge upset win.

Last night, Belichick showed the Rams something they hadn’t seen the Patriots do on tape by playing a defense that was different for them and totally confusing to the Rams offensive players. It was stifling, physical and utterly brilliant.

In our pregame matchups, we thought the Pats would dust off a look of the old Bears 46 Defense in an attempt to take away the Rams stretch running plays. What Belichick did was different but similar. They ran what looked a 6-1 front with both outside linebackers up on the line of scrimmage. The Rams run with a ton of motion and use play action more than anyone with QB Jared Goff under center about 40 percent of the time.

But the Patriots interior defensive linemen didn’t take the cheese. Rather than sliding east-west with the motion, they were attacking north-south and penetrating the gaps. The Rams outside running game was negated by the linebackers setting the edge. Todd Gurley who does the bulk of the Rams outside running was held to just 35 yards on 10 carries. And by having the outside backers up, right on the line of scrimmage, those screens to the backs were negated. Gurley and C.J. Anderson had just three catches for 11 yards.

The other thing it did was take the Rams out of their tight formation packages that they like to run where it gives its more options. By having the linebackers in their face, everything was disrupted and it was plain to see all day. Sean McVay, who after the game said he was thoroughly out-coached then had to adjust by moving their receivers farther out wide. That further hurt their zone stretch running plays and much of their crossing routes over the middle.

But the second half of the defensive equation was arguably Belichick’s best move and he can thank his former Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia for the blueprint on this one. Matty P, who was being roasted by the talking heads on the air after the game last night, must have got a huge smile on his face and a big piece of redemption because Belichick copied what Patricia’s Lions did late in the season.

The Patriots played quarters coverage in the secondary, something they didn’t show the Rams on tape. Patricia’s Lions ran this on early downs with two safeties back, it took away those play action slants the Rams were so successful running this year. Duron Harmon, normally the third safety was replaced by slot corner Jonathan Jones who played safety for the first time. With Belichick, versatility is key, the more you can do…

Harmon however, did come on to play in the second half, when Pat Chung appeared to break his arm early in the third quarter. Chung was put in an air cast and then watched the rest of the game from the Patriots sidelines.

Facing a lot of third and long situations, Belichick and Flores unleashed the Ameoba fronts we’ve seen so much of down the stretch and the pass rush was outstanding. Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower were all over the field and provided outstanding pressure. Hightower had a pair of sacks, a tackle for a loss, a pass defensed and three QB hits. Van Noy was a pain in the backside for Goff as well with a sack, a tackle for loss and a pair of QB hits. For two players who are “too slow”, they certainly didn’t appear so, …especially to the Rams offensive line.

The coverage was a perfect blend to the pass rush. Goff most times had absolutely nowhere to throw the ball and was hounded all night long. But it wasn’t just Goff, the entire Rams offense was out of synch and looking for answers all night long. Stephon Gilmore was once again outstanding and sealed the deal with an interception on the Patriots 2-yard line after Harmon blitzed and forced Goff into launching a floater that was a too-easy interception.

The Rams had the #2 offense in terms of yards (421.1) and points (32.9) during the season. The Patriots held them to just 260 yards and three (3) points in the Super Bowl. For all the talk all season about this defense wasn’t good enough, they faced three excellent offenses in the Chargers, Chiefs, and Rams in the postseason and beat all three with outstanding efforts in each game.

The Patriots defensive six-cess was another example of a brilliant coaching job by the master. Belichick did it to the Rams again, with a tip of the hat to Matty P.

For McVay who is one of the most brilliant of young coaches in the game, it will be a learning experience. He’s hardly the first who were taught the ways by the old Jedi master… his time will come. But for now, “PATIENCE YOU MUST HAVE my young padawan”

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.