Category Archives: Patriots Film Room

 Patriots Week 17 Report Card, Crushing Loss to Miami, Bye-Bye Bye Week

Steve Balestrieri
January 1, 2020 at 8:05 am ET

Patriots Come Out Flat And Lose #2 Seed

Happy New Year, from all of us here, we hope that you all had a happy, safe and fun New Year’s Eve and an even better 2020.

The Patriots lost out on a big…and needed opportunity to earn themselves a bye week by losing to the Miami Dolphins at home 27-24 in the final regular-season game of  2019. Entering Sunday’s game Tom Brady had a 15-1 record at home against Miami but like last year, they lost a game to the Dolphins in the final seconds. 

So, check out our grades and we’ll take one more look at the game film before putting the regular season behind us this week.

Quarterback: D

Tom Brady after one of his best performances against the Bills had one he’d rather forget. Brady was sailing the ball high on many of his incompletions and was wearing different cleats (looked like hightops) which may speak to having an ankle issue which would explain part of it. But both he and the team started slowly against a team that was 28th in pass defense. Brady was 2-4 for 10 yards in the first quarter.

His protection overall was outstanding, he had plenty of time to throw for the vast majority of the game. The accuracy and timing just weren’t there. Brady finished 16-29 for 221 yards with 2 TDs and a horrible pick-six to Eric Rowe. 

Running Backs: B

The Patriots running game once again had a pretty solid night rushing for 135 yards with some solid work by Sony Michel (74 yards on 18 carries) and Rex Burkhead (48 yards on six carries). Despite Miami cheating their linebackers up in the box and blitzing on running plays, they consistently gained yardage after contact and have turned it up a notch down the stretch. 

Elandon Roberts once again provided good blocking in the running game, opening the hole for Michel’s touchdown run. And he caught his first NFL pass, which just happened to go for a 38-yard TD.

Wide Receivers: C-

The Dolphins bracketed Julian Edelman all game long and dared the Patriots to beat them elsewhere. Edelman, hobbled by shoulder and knee issues, hasn’t been 100 percent for quite some time. On Sunday he was held to just three catches for 26 yards.

Phillip Dorsett and Mohamad Sanu once again failed to pickup the slack. Sanu had just three catches for 35 yards, that 2nd round draft pick trade is looking worse and worse. Dorsett meanwhile had just one catch a 50-yard bomb from Brady where he did do a nice job of tracking the ball and kept going for some yards after the catch. But that was it, and it isn’t enough. 

N’Keal Harry had three catches for 29 yards on seven targets. Brady’s two touchdowns came on passes to Roberts (38 yards) and to James White on a nicely designed screen pass for 11 yards with a great block by Shaq Mason. 

Tight Ends: C-

Are we seeing a trend here on the Patriots skill position players? Matt LaCosse has been much, much better in the run blocking department lately, helping to open some holes for the backs to get to the second level. But with Miami’s linebackers cheating up and blitzing inside in the running game, we kept waiting for the Patriots to attack the seams and make them pay… nothing materialized and LaCosse didn’t have a catch 

But he wasn’t alone. Ben Watson had just one catch for four yards. This was a disappointing end to what was a disappointing regular season for the tight ends. 

Offensive Line: B+

The offensive line play was not the reason for the team losing on Sunday, they opened holes for the running backs to run for 135 yards and if the defense had played their normally stellar game, then they’d have run for a lot more. Shaq Mason and Joe Thuney were both excellent.

The pass protection for nearly the entire game was terrific, giving Brady oodles of time to throw and look downfield. The only sack given up was by Marcus Cannon on a nice speed rush move by Trent “Toolbox” Harris who may look familiar to Patriots fans. He spent the last two training camps here and was a member of the practice squad in 2018.                  

 Defensive Line: B

The defensive line once again played very solidly against the run, which wasn’t a big surprise as the Dolphins entered the game as the worst running team in the league averaging just 72.9 yards per game. They only managed 63 here, but their running backs had a combined 37 yards on 16 carries. Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton were solid as usual. 

The defensive ends set the edge well but didn’t generate a lot of pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Linebackers: B-

The linebackers had some issues with wrapping up and missing tackles which was a small issue but in what has become a concerning trend, the pass rush, while getting pressure has been just short of getting home. Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, and Dont’a Hightower was getting plenty of pressure on Fitzpatrick, but those big drive ending sacks or QB hits resulting in turnovers haven’t been there. 

Collins had one of their only two sacks and a QB hit, where they generated only four. They are going to need those players to step un next week.  

Secondary: D

The Patriots secondary had, by far, their worst game of the season. Stephon Gilmore had his worst game as a Patriot since perhaps his first month here. DeVante Parker clearly won the matchup against the Patriots top corner as no one has done yet. Parker had eight catches for 137 yards with the vast majority coming against Gilmore.

But Gilmore wasn’t alone, J.C. Jackson allowed six receptions while Jonathan Jones still hobbled by a bad groin allowed five catches on five targets. Mike Gesicki got the better of Pat Chung most of the game and beat him for the game-winning touchdown. 

Special Teams: B

The Special Teams had a solid game on Sunday. Brandon Bolden ripped off his longest return of the season for 38 yards which set the team up with excellent field position for a change. Nate Ebner had a couple of good tackles in coverage while Matthew Slater remains the gold standard for gunners in the league. Nick Folk converted all three extra points and his only field goal attempt. A good day for Joe Judge’s troops 

Coaches: C-

The Patriots coaching staff, and it begins with Bill Belichick had some head-scratching moments this week. After preaching like they were treating this as a playoff game, the Patriots came out flat and it was Miami who looked like it was playing for a playoff bye. And the end of the first half time management looked like the team was playing not to lose (Marty ball?) which isn’t the way the Patriots have performed under Belichick.

Defensively, the Belichicks (plural) were taken to school to Chad O’Shea, who, interestingly enough was fired after the game. They never found a way to counter what Miami was doing or to stop them…And that isn’t a great offense at all. 

Offensively, despite all the hand-wringing over Josh McDaniels play calling, this offense is very flawed, especially at wide receiver and while he may have waited a bit too long to adjust the power running game, he’s working with a short deck. 

We’re on to Tennessee and the Wild Card game… 

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

 

 Patriots Week 16 Report Card, Offense Reappears In Big Win Over Buffalo

Steve Balestrieri
December 24, 2019 at 7:00 am ET

Patriots Win 11th Straight Division Title

The Patriots all week leading up to this game stated that this was a playoff game, and judging from their preparation, intensity, and production, they totally bought in. They won their 12th game of the season, a hard-fought 24-17 win over the Buffalo Bills which clinched the AFC East for the 11th year in a row and puts them one step away from a playoff bye and the #2 seed. 

We’ll get to the grades for the players in just a moment, but first a word about the coaching staff. In any profession, perhaps the hardest thing to do is assess oneself critically and be able to say that something isn’t working, even if that something was your idea. The ability to self-assess, or in Patriots parlance “self-scout” is something they are head and shoulders above everyone else in the league since Bill Belichick took the reins. 

Everyone says they’re going to “self-scout” and they all will change up their gameplans, and occasionally many teams come up with a brilliant one. But nobody, nobody can morph their teams from one week to the next, depending upon their opponent and put in the time, preparation and commitment than the Patriots have done the past 20 years. 

And the players have to buy in completely or it doesn’t work. How many times have we heard the past 20 years, “well Team A is more talented across the board” and how many times has Team A looked up at the wrong end of the scoreboard at the end of the day. So at the end of the day, when the votes are in for the Coach du jour, Belichick will get no votes but his team will probably win 13 games, while the naysayers will tell us they can’t win it all again. 

So, check out our grades and we’ll take one more look at the game film before putting a bow on this week.

Quarterback: A-

Tom Brady was showing signs of age, decline and his elbow has been bothering him for several weeks. Plus he was facing a team that has increasingly played him tougher and tougher for the past few years and was in the top 3 of most defensive categories. So, how did that work out? Brady had his best game in several weeks, perhaps all season. 

Brady completed 26-33 for 271 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. Completing nearly 79 percent of his passes while averaging 8.2 yards per pass attempt against this Bills defense is outstanding work. 

Brady got everyone involved and mixing things up and hitting nine different receivers kept the Bills defense off-balance all night long. His back-shoulder throw to Matt LaCosse for a touchdown showed perfect touch. This was a vintage Brady performance.  

Running Backs: B+

The Patriots running game followed up their most productive game of the season in Cincinnati with a game that was arguably more impressive considering the opponent. The team rushed for 143 yards against a tough Bills defense and were running physical, getting yards after contact and following the blocking well. 

Sony Michel had his best game of the season rushing 21 times for 96 yards. Rex Burkhead, once again turning it on late in the season, rushed 5 times for 20 yards, including the game-winning touchdown run where he was hit in the backfield and broke two tackles to get into the end zone. 

N’Keal Harry had 18 yards on a reverse, with a lead block by Brady (yes everyone bought in). James White chipped in with 13 yards. Brady picked up a key QB sneak to keep the chains moving. The running backs (Michel, Burkhead, and White) combined for 235 yards rushing and receiving. Solid night? You bet.

Wide Receivers: B-

The Patriots wide receivers led by #11 (Who else?) had a solid night. Julian Edelman was questionable with knee and shoulder issues. Then he missed a few series that nearly took a quarter going through concussion protocol. But he still led all WRs with 5 catches for 72 yards. And maybe the Bills thought that as hobbled as he was, they didn’t need to double him. That assessment was wrong. He was beating coverage consistently and late in the game…was doubled. In a league where all the players are physically tough, Edelman is one of the toughest. 

Burkhead led all Patriot receivers with 77 yards on 4 catches, yes he had a fumble on a good defensive play but more than made up for it. He showed excellent vision and followed his blocks well. Jakobi Meyers came off the bench when Edelman was down and collected 3 passes for 25 yards.

Harry caught two passes for 25 while Mohamad Sanu caught 3 passes for 24. Sanu was again a disappointment. While he may have gotten a poor spot on a third-down pass short of the sticks, he totally whiffed on a block on a 4th and 1 with Harry getting stopped by his man on a play that could have went for a big gain. 

Tight Ends: B-

Matt LaCosse scored his first touchdown of the season on an 8-yard pass from Brady down the seam. He also had his best game in the run blocking department, the offense put him in motion and he did a good job, even lining up in the backfield. His pass protection was much, much better this week. 

Ben Watson had three catches on three targets with two going for first downs. He also had a 33-yard touchdown wiped out on an offensive pass interference call on Edelman. This was a much better day for the tight ends than we’ve seen in a while. 

Offensive Line: A-

The offensive line play was outstanding on Saturday. Buffalo didn’t sack Tom Brady and for the vast majority of the game he played with a clean pocket. They also cleared out big chunks of yardage in the running game. It is amazing what the backs can do when they are not getting hit four yards deep in the backfield. 

Shaq Mason had a very impressive game in the run department, looking like the guy we’re used to seeing blowing people up in the running game. Ted Karras and Joe Thuney were also excellent in the running game. 

Marcus Cannon hurt an ankle and was replaced by swing tackle Marshall Newhouse who played well, he did a good job in the running game but gave up a pair of QB hurries and a hit. But this unit going against the Bills performed as well as one could hope for.                      

 Defensive Line: B+

The defensive line did a tremendous job of bottling up Devin Singletary holding him to just 46 yards on 15 carries (3.1-yard average). And that begins with Lawrence Guy who was outstanding once again. Guy led the team with six tackles, a sack of Josh Allen and two QB hits. Danny Shelton was also solid in the running game. 

John Simon had a QB sack and 1.5 tackles for a loss. Chase Winovich who is looking like Lucius Malfoy these days with his dyed hair more white than blond, was his normal flying around the field self. 

Linebackers: B-

The linebackers were led by Dont’a Hightower with 1.5 sacks and a pass breakup while Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy weren’t as impactful as they can be and normally are. Ja’Whaun Bentley played his very tough, downhill style in the running game. 

Elandon Roberts played about 20 snaps as a fullback and seems to be relishing his role. “Same on defense, same on offense. When a linebacker steps into the hole, Imma run through their motherf***n’ face. Period. That’s all I think about, making my block, running through a motherf***r’s face.” How can one argue with that?

Secondary: B

The Patriots secondary had a good, but not great day against the Bills. While Josh Allen only completed 50 percent of his throws (13 of 26), hit on two long completions, one for a 53-yard touchdown and the other (33 yards to Dawson Knox) set up a 1-yard touchdown pass on a tackle eligible play. 

Stephon Gilmore got beat on a double move by John Brown and moved to the right. Brown cut left and safety Devin McCourty got caught peeking in the backfield at the pass rush and Brown then blew right by him too. However, it was his only catch of the game. Knox only caught the one big pass over Pat Chung, but was open on a couple of others but was overthrown. 

Cole Beasley caught 7 passes for 108 yards out of the slot and was finding excellent success all game long. The Patriots missed Jonathan Jones who was out with a groin injury. 

Special Teams: B

The Special Teams were led by Nick Folk on Saturday. Folk hit a 51-yarder to give the team the lead and was 3-3 on field goals for the day. You don’t have to hold your breath on kicks for the first time in a while this season. The return game was forgettable and the coverage units were okay but not their usual shutdown selves. Jake Bailey punted twice averaging 46.5 yards but didn’t drop either inside the 20.  

Coaches: A

The Patriots coaching staff gets excellent marks this week. And it begins with Josh McDaniels. McDaniels was extremely creative of trying to get everyone involved in the offense this week and used so many different looks and formations, there were times he had the Buffalo defense thoroughly confused. That doesn’t happen very often. With his play-calling, they were able to put together those long drives in the death-by-1000 cuts mold. 

Defensively, they had Allen very confused early in the game but give the 2nd year QB credit, he made a few outstanding throws and hung in there. But with the Bills driving late in the game, they brought pressure and got a sack and forced a throw off his back foot to get an incompletion in the end zone to salt the game away.  

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

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

 

Patriots – Bills Week 16, Who Has the Razor’s Edge

Steve Balestrieri
December 20, 2019 at 8:45 am ET

The Patriots can wrap up their 11th straight division title with a win over the Buffalo Bills on Saturday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. in Gillette Stadium. Unlike in years past where the crowning of the division title was a foregone conclusion, this year is very different.

Even with a win, the Bills in order to win the division would have to win next week and have the Patriots lose to the Dolphins. While still a possibility, it is rather remote at this point. However, Buffalo has already clinched a playoff spot of their own and are looking to carve out their own identity. And they’d like nothing more than to knock the Patriots out of a playoff bye.

That could possibly set up a third meeting between the two teams during Wildcard Weekend in two weeks. So, with a playoff bye and the division crown on the line, this IS a playoff atmosphere this week. 

This week’s game will be broadcast by NFL Network on Saturday, December 21 at 4:30 p.m. and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Mike Tirico will handle play-by-play duties with Kurt Warner as the color analyst. Peter Schrager 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 (11-3) beat the Cincinnati Bengals 34-13 and intercepted Andy Dalton four times, with Stephon Gilmore grabbing two, including a 64-yard pick-six.

The Bills (10-4) beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 17-10 as the Bills also intercepted four passes and generated five turnovers in a big win for Bills.

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 Bills have been playing each other since 1960 and this will mark the 120th time the two teams have faced each other. 

The Patriots have swept the season series the past two years and have won six in a row against the Bills. The Patriots have dominated the season series against the Bills 75-43-1 and since Bill Belichick took over the team in 2000, the Patriots are 34-5 against the Bills.

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 Bills Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Buffalo

The Patriots running game finally showed some life last week in Cincinnati as they rolled up 175 yards on the ground in the win over the Bengals. Sony Michel led the way with 89 yards while Rex Burkhead ripped a nice 33-yard touchdown run.    

The Bills are 10th in the league against the run allowing just over 101 yards per game. They have the stout men upfront, Star Lotulelei and Jordan Phillips are good at stuffing things at the point of attack. Matt Milano and Tremaine Edwards at linebacker are very active and aggressive in run support. 

Look for the Patriots to try to establish the run between the tackles. In this one guards Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason will be the keys to whether they can get any sustained yardage on the ground. Getting those two out front and doing some damage at the second level will be imperative for the backs to get some traction.

Michel, Burkhead, and James White will be looked to keep the offense in manageable down and distance. In the first meeting, Brandon Bolden got a carry in the red zone and chipped in with a 4-yard touchdown run. Could we see him a bit? Possibly.          

Patriots WRs vs Bills Secondary – Razor’s Edge Buffalo

The Patriots passing game has been consistently inconsistent for several weeks. Julian Edelman is banged up and clearly hobbling. He shouldn’t even play this week, or next. However, it is all hands on deck time and I expect we’ll see him out there. How effective will Edelman be? It is doubtful we’ll see anything close to his optimal game. But he’s as tough as they come and he’ll give what he has. 

The Bills pass defense is second only to the Patriots in stickiness to the wide receivers. They allow only 190.5 yards per game via the air. The Patriots and Bills are #1 – #2 in points allowed this season (12.9, 15.9 respectively). Tre’Davious White leads the secondary with six interceptions on the year. They have an excellent pass rush led by Phillips with 9.5 sacks, Ed Oliver, Jerry Hughes, and Shaq Lawson who all can get after the opposing QB. Two excellent safeties Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde solidify things in the middle. 

What the Patriots need …desperately is for someone else other than James White to step up. Mohamad Sanu and Phillip Dorsett have been MIA for weeks now and if there is ever a time for them to shine, now would be a nice weekend to get it going.  In the first meeting, Dorsett was targeted nine times and had two catches for 10 yards. Look for N’Keal Harry to see some more snaps and targets this week. 

If the Bills pass defense struggles in any area it would be (like New England) with backs out of the backfield in the screen game. That’s why we should see plenty of White and Burkhead in this one.

Next up the Bills offense:

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

The Patriots front seven, in particular, Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton have been fantastic against the run. They’ve held up opponents at the line of scrimmage and allow the linebackers to flow and make plays. Guy leads the league in missing only one of 53 tackles. Shelton has missed two 52 of 54 tackle opportunities. 

Buffalo has a big bruising back (Frank Gore who gained 109 yards in the previous meeting) and a faster back who can challenge out of the backfield in Devin Singletary who missed the first game. The Bills will want to run the ball to make life easier on Josh Allen in this one and Singletary will present a tough matchup. 

This will be a big game for the Patriots linebackers to try to take the running game away. Kyle Van Noy, Dont’a Hightower, and Jamie Collins will have to be active and sure in their tackling this week as the Patriots will try to force the issue and make Allen throw to win. 

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

The Bills passing game with Josh Allen is beginning to emerge as he gets more and more comfortable in the offense of Brian Daboll. They have an underrated pass receiving group with John Brown who has emerged as their #1 target, Cole Beasley out of the slot and talented TE Dawson Knox, with Singletary out of the backfield.

The Patriots are allowing just 170.9 yards per game through the air. Stephon Gilmore has been outstanding and is in the running for the Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY). He’ll be matched up with Brown. They’ll try to mix up their coverages and looks and try to bait Allen into making a mistake. 

The big matchup to watch this week is Beasley out of the slot. Jonathan Jones is out with a groin injury. Jason McCourty has been battling a groin injury of his own. Those two would be the top two choices to cover Beasley. If neither is available, rookie Joejuan Williams would probably see some action in there or the team may opt for a safety. 

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots special teams units have been the key to a lot of success this season and certainly had a hand in the win over Buffalo earlier this season. They blocked the first of four punts and Matthew Slater scored a touchdown. Look for them to come after some of Corey Bojorquez’s punts in this one to help out the offense. Jake Bailey is having an outstanding rookie season while Nick Folk has at least solidified the kicking game. Coverage on kicks has been outstanding while the return game has been poor. 

Buffalo’s Stephen Hauschka has been very inconsistent this season and has missed several kicks that have influenced games with a lack of range this season. Bojorquez is very solid and the Bills have a dynamic returner in Andre Roberts. But home cooking gives the Patriots the edge here.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

The Patriots and Tom Brady have enjoyed incredible success against the Bills (31-3) and since Brady became the starter in 2001, and are looking for a win that will give them their 12th win of the season for an amazing 13th time since the 1970 merger which would tie San Francisco for the most in the league.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. Those late-season walkovers are a thing of the past and although the Bills have never beaten Brady in a meaningful game in New England (Sean McDermott is 0-5 overall), the tides are changing. This one is going to be a battle. 

Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:

Running Game Must Be Effective – Look for the Patriots to try to run the ball between the tackles this week. They have to help out a passing game that is really struggling and going against an outstanding pass defense, this is imperative.

Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, and James White must be physical, and get yards after contact this week. The guards (as we pointed out earlier), have to win their matchups.

Get After Allen – With the Bills offense still a work in progress throwing the ball, Allen still has occasional issues with accuracy and is prone to make mistakes. The defense will have to force the issue this week. They can’t lay back and just try to contain Allen in the pocket, they will have to get after him hard this week. 

Both defenses will be aggressive this week, the Patriots’ unit will have to be better and and generate a turnover or two. 

Continue the Script – This week, that means playing tough opportunistic defense, having the special teams flip field position, and securing the football as well as generating some turnovers. The Patriots are well versed in playing in big games and always seem to turn it up a notch in those….This is a prime opportunity to do so again.

___________

This should be a tough, physical contest… and a very low scoring one and even lower if Edelman can’t play this week. Buffalo is just beginning to learn how to win. They’ve been given very little respect on the national stage. But a win over Dallas on Thanksgiving where they curb stomped the Cowboys started to change the narrative a bit. A win in Pittsburgh last week was impressive and now they are taking on their nemesis in the division. 

They have had zero success here in New England during the Brady/Belichick era but feel they have the team to create a new order in the AFC East. Is it this year? 

The Patriots have been here before, they won’t let the moment get too big for them. And the Patriots defense continues to rise up for the occasion and they’ll have to once again. The Pats defense gets a couple of big turnovers and a huge stop late in the game to salt away another division crown.  Patriots17-16

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” tour returns for the final regular-season game of 2019 at home when the Pats take on the Dolphins at Gillette Stadium.

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 15 Report Card, Back On Winning Track with 34-13 Win Over Cincy

Steve Balestrieri
December 17, 2019 at 6:25 pm ET

 Patriots Defense/Special Teams Key Big Win

The Patriots got back in the win column with a 34-13 win over the lowly and struggling Bengals, The win couldn’t have come at a better time, after dropping two in a row and three of their last five, the team needed this one to begin to try to build some momentum in the final few weeks of the season.

The offense continues to struggle but this week, the defense helped them out by getting four interceptions of Andy Dalton and giving the offense the benefits of short fields as well as a score on a pick-six. 

The win, the 11th of the season marks the 10th year in a row that the team has won 11 or more games. It also punched their ticket to the postseason. This sets up a huge game against the Buffalo Bills next week in Gillette for the division title. 

And with the all-important bye week that comes with the #2 seed still very much in doubt, the Patriots will need to win both of those games against Buffalo and Miami to end the regular season and let some players heal up a bit. 

So, check out our grades and we’ll take one more look at the game film before putting a bow on this week.

Quarterback: C

Tom Brady was facing one of the worst defenses in the NFL on Sunday, and he and the passing offense could muster just 15-29  for 128 yards with 2 TDs and 0 INTs. His elbow, which has been hurting for a while, was clearly bothering him. He sailed more than one pass well over his intended target. And he short-armed another to Sony Michel that was well behind him which cost the team a touchdown. 

The Patriots passing offense averaged just 4.4 yards per pass play. That is less than Sony Michel averaged on his 19 carries. Let that one sink in for a second. His pass protection was not good, getting pressured on about half of his dropbacks in the first half. And there are the drops, which usually come at the worst possible time. 

Brady really needs some rest which is why the bye week is so important, but there’ll be no rest this week with the Bills and their defense coming to town. 

Running Backs: B

The Patriots running game had their best game of the season, rushing for 177 yards on 30 carries before Brady had a couple of kneel-downs in victory formation. Granted the Bengals rush defense is awful, dead last in the league, but at least they made they look that way. Facing some other poor run defenses they haven’t been able to muster much. 

Sony Michel looked good, gaining 87 yards on 19 carries and showed good vision following his blocks and was able to drive through tackles and gain yards after contact. Rex Burkhead, right on time at the end of the season, chipped in 53 yards on 6 carries including a really nice 33-yard touchdown run. Burkhead ran straight ahead and burst through the line, dipped his shoulder and faked out the safety and had clear sailing into the end zone. 

James White had 13 yards on 3 carries. The team got N’Keal Harry involved on a couple of jet sweeps and the big rookie got 22 yards on two carries and two first downs. A much better day for the backs both in the running game and in the passing game. 

Wide Receivers: C-

The Patriots wide receivers almost rated an incomplete grade here. Julian Edelman tried to play through a myriad of issues and didn’t look anything like his normal self. He was laboring walking, never mind running but tried to gut through it like the professional and tough dude that he is. So it is of little surprise that he caught just two passes for nine yards on Sunday. 

Mohamad Sanu is also playing through an injury and he too isn’t moving anywhere near 100 percent. However, the 4th down drop was not injury-related and that is becoming a troubling trend for the Pats WR. He was targeted eight times and had just 2 catches for 13 yards.

N’Keal Harry had a pair of catches for 15 yards including a really nice 8-yard touchdown pass along the back of the end zone. His best play was wiped out due to a false start by Edelman. Harry beat the coverage down the right sideline and made a beautiful leaping catch that would have gone for 36 yards.

James White was the big recipient on Sunday, getting 3 catches for 49 yards including a nice 23-yard touchdown pass on a screen from Brady. Michel and Burkhead also chipped in as the backs combined for 6 catches for 69 yards and a touchdown. 

Tight Ends: C-

Matt LaCosse was targeted 3 times and had 3 catches for 22 yards, that’s it for the group… Yuck. He played about 50 snaps compared to just 34 for Ben Watson who wasn’t targeted and pretty invisible all day. The run blocking overall was better this week. LaCosse had a really nice block on Burkhead’s touchdown run. However, in pass protection LaCosse was victimized several times and gave up several QB hits

Offensive Line: B-

The offensive line play was a mixed bag on Sunday. While the team had a season-high number of yards rushing, the pass protection was not great as Tom Brady was pressured on about half of his pass plays in the first half. However, Isaiah Wynn looked much better this week. Joe Thuney was also very good and had an outstanding block that sprung White for his touchdown reception. Thuney got out in front of White and pancaked the in-the-box safety. 

Ted Karras returned to action and played in all 65 offensive snaps at center. Shaq Mason was looking more like himself, especially in the running game, albeit against the Bengals. Marcus Cannon both had a rough day. Mason injured an ankle which will require a close watch this week with the Bills coming into town.                     

 Defensive Line: B-

The defensive line had a rough day trying to contain Joe Mixon who rushed for 136 yards 25 carries. On the Bengals’ first few drives, they made it their intent to run the football and they just lined up and smashed it in there. The defensive line was getting pushed back a lot in the early going. 

Although they had issues with Mixon all game long, the defensive line keyed the big turning point in the game. On a 4th and 1 from the Patriots 30-yard line, they stuffed the run of Mixon getting him for about a half-yard loss. Danny Shelton had six tackles on the day With the only QB hit coming from Deatrich Wise, who made seven tackles and was very active. 

However, the pass rush? It seemed a half-step late, which is something we’re seeing more of in the second half of the season.

Linebackers: B-

The linebackers had some issues (among others on defense) with tackling in this game. Joe Mixon’s 29-yard run should have been a two-yard loss but Jamie Collins couldn’t wrap him up and he broke free. Collins was also so-so in coverage, although he did make a nice play and tipped a pass that appeared wide open. Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower had just five tackles between them, a quiet game for two who are normally near the top of the list. Most of the missed tackles were from the linebackers, which is a bit of an unpleasant surprise.

Ja’Whaun Bentley, however, had a big game using his size and downhill style as a run-thumper to perfection He led the team with eight tackles including 0.5 for a loss. Elandon Roberts gets high marks for playing 24 snaps on defense and 10 for being the fullback on offense.

Secondary: A

The Patriots secondary had a tremendous afternoon, allowing one touchdown an 8-yard pass play where Jonathan Jones fell down but scoring one on a 64-yard Stephon Gilmore pick-six. Gilmore and J.C. Jackson each had two interceptions and are #1 and #2 respectively in opposing QB rating when targeted. Opponents targeting Jackson have a 28.6 QBR while those targeting Gilmore have a QBR of 32.8. 

The Bengals had 6 receptions for 51 yards on 15 targets when targeting either Gilmore or Jackson on Sunday. They had four interceptions including a pick-six and two pass breakups in those plays. That is domination. Gilmore is just in a league of his own. And to think he got outvoted to the Pro Bowl by Marcus Peters? Child, please…

Overall, Andy Dalton was 17-31 for 151 yards with 1 TD and 4 INTs for a QB rating of 39.2 which is great defense, regardless of the opponent. Jonathan Jones was injured on Sunday and his injury is a big one to monitor this week. 

Special Teams: A-

The Special Teams came up with yet another big play made by the outstanding tandem of Matthew Slater and Justin Bethel. Slater as a gunner, flew down the field and jarred the ball loose on Alex Ericson when he tried to field a punt with perhaps far too little room. Bethel recovered and the Patriots took the lead right before the half. 

Nick Folk made all four extra points and two field goals in two attempts. He’s solidified the position. He doesn’t have the range to go for much over 50 yards but he’s playing well and with confidence, something we haven’t had this year. 

Coaches: B

The Patriots coaching staff, especially Josh McDaniels is working overtime, trying to breathe some life into the offense. And for the 2nd week in a row, he put together a drive that went 75 yards for a touchdown. Then the offense struggled to move the ball. 

The defense was getting gashed early (a troubling trend) but then shut down the Bengals holding them to just three points after allowing them to score 10 points in the first quarter. 

Bill Belichick and the staff always seem to make good adjustments to whatever the opponent is doing well and countering it.

So the Patriots last two regular-season games will be at Gillette Stadium.  Starting with the Buffalo Bills. A win gets the Patriots the division-clinching win. But unlike other years with a late-season game against the Bills, this one won’t be easy. 

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Patriots Defense Keys Big 34-13 Win Over Cincinnati

Steve Balestrieri
December 15, 2019 at 8:26 pm ET

This is the week of Eleven. The Patriots punched their ticket to the postseason with a 34-13 win over Cincinnati and won their 11th game of the season for the 10th straight season. This is also their 11th straight playoff appearance.

The defense picked off Andy Dalton four times and the Special Teams recovered a fumble as once again those units carried the team to an easy victory. But none of the questions about the offense were answered, despite putting up 34 points. 

Some of our observations include:

The offensive line had a very mixed day, on one hand they did very good in run support as the team rushed for a season-high 175 yards on 32 carries. Of course, Cincinnati has the worst run defense in the NFL and came into this one allowing over 150 yards per game. But the pass protection for Tom Brady was terrible for virtually most of the game. Brady was sacked twice and pressured on half of his dropbacks.

Sony Michel had a good, solid day and ran for 89 yards on 19 carries. He displayed good vision and followed his blocks well. He was able to break a few tackles and was getting some nice yards after contact.  

Brady was clearly bothered by his elbow injury. During the warmups, Mike Giardi of NFL Network said he was having trouble throwing the ball. He sailed several throws including one to Mohamad Sanu in the end zone. 

He also short-armed a throw to Sony Michel on a perfectly designed play that should have been a touchdown. Brady finished 15 – 29 for just 128 yards with 2 TDs and 0 Interceptions.

Edelman and Sanu are both hobbled, Edelman especially so. He looks like he can barely move at this point. He finished with just two catches for nine yards on five targets. Sanu had just two catches for 13 yards on eight targets. He had another key drop on fourth down,

Josh McDaniels said earlier this week that they were planning on getting N’Keal Harry more involved with the offense. He had two carries in the running game for 22 yards and two catches for 15 yards including a nice 8-yard touchdown pass reception where he cut across the back of the end zone. 

Harry also had the Patriots best play of the day, he beat his coverage down the right sideline where Brady dropped a perfect pass to him where he made a nice catch for a 36-yard gain. Unfortunately, it was wiped out by a false start by Edelman.

The offense continues to struggle especially in the passing game. On their opening drive where they went 75 yards in eight plays where James White hit a very nicely executed screen pass for a 22-yard touchdown. It was keyed by an excellent block by Joe Thuney, however, they didn’t put together another long drive for the rest of the game. Fortunately, the defense and STs set them up with short fields.  

The run defense was gashed early, on Cincinnati’s opening drive, Joe Mixon was proving very hard to bring down and the Bengals ran the ball on every play all the way to the Patriots eight-yard line. There Andy Dalton threw his first pass, an eight-yard TD to TE Cethan Carter with Jonathan Jones falling down in coverage. It would be the only TD that the Bengals would score.

Although the defense stiffened and allowed only two field goals after that, they never really figured out stopping Mixon who had a very good day on the ground, gaining 136 yards on 25 carries. 

With the score tied at 10-10, the game flipped with one big special teams’ play. Jake Bailey skied a punt and Matthew Slater racing downfield stripped the ball away from Alex Erickson. Justin Bethel recovered at the Cincinnati 23. Although the offense moved backward with a sack on 3rd down. It allowed them to kick a field goal and go into the half with a 13-10 lead. 

That’s when the wheels came off for Dalton and the Bengals. On the third play from scrimmage in the 3rd quarter, Stephon Gilmore picked him off, cradling the ball in his right arm while holding off Tyler Boyd with his left. 

Brady moved them 43 yards on a short field for a touchdown with Harry making the catch at the back of the end zone. Dalton moved the Bengals to the Patriots 41 when he was too late throwing an out route and Gilmore jumped the route and picked it off going 64-yards for another touchdown making the score 27-10 and the rout was on.

The Bengals kicked a field goal making it 27-13 and then tried an on-side kick that went only five yards. The Patriots took over at the Cincinnati 40 and cashed in again. After a two-yard pass from Brady to Matt LaCosse and a five-yard penalty on the Bengals, Rex Burkhead took a handoff up the middle, juked the safety Bates and raced 33 yards for a touchdown making it 34-13. 

The secondary once again was stellar, besides Gilmore’s two interceptions, J.C. Jackson had two of his own, both were outstanding plays. The first he went up high and after corralling the ball, he was able to come down with both feet inbounds. On the other Dalton tried to go deep down the left sideline and Jackson turned and tracked the ball, getting inside leverage, picked it off easily. 

Dalton finished 17-31 for 151 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions. His QB rating was just 39.2. While the pass rush didn’t record a sack, they did bring some pressure on Dalton and did influence some of those picks. 

But scoring 34 points on short fields against the 1-13 Bengals is one thing. With a passing game averaging 4.4 yards per play? That isn’t going to cut it. With awful pass protection and wide receivers again dropping more passes (New England now leads the league in that dubious category), it hardly appears they’ve found an identity. And the Bills defense is coming to town next week. 

The defense and special teams will always give them a chance to win but the play of the offense remains a huge red flag with two games left on the regular-season schedule. If they can win those next two games, they’ll get an all-important bye until the divisional round. They can use the rest of the bye, but first, a huge game for the division awaits against the Bills. 

__________________

Prior to the game, social media was abuzz at the film that the Bengals released of the Patriots filming their sideline in Cleveland. This was just a short clip that was gotten by Jay Glazer. We’ll learn more later when the entire film is released but contrary to what Patriots fans are saying, this…if it is indicative of the entire film (and a big if), then it is damning evidence. 

It doesn’t show the field, the plays or the Cleveland sideline, it is focused on the Cincinnati bench. Of course, since the Bengals released this, could it be that they want to release something more beneficial to their side? Of course, but that tape, again, if it is indicative of the entire film, will result in a stiff penalty… No reason for being that dumb to leave a large monitor in the press box showing what you’re doing. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

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Patriots-Bengals Week 15 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
December 13, 2019 at 6:50 am ET

One more for the road. The Patriots play their last regular-season road game of the 2019 schedule with a trip to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals. It is the first 1:00 p.m. start for the team in two months.

Several weeks ago before the Baltimore game, we had this one circled as a game where several players may get a respite and see a reduced workload (Julian Edelman) and maybe see a lot of a younger player like Damien Harris and Joejuan Williams. Now, after losing three of five, that isn’t going to happen. This game has become important for holding off  Kansas City for the #2 seed and the all-important bye. And to hold off the Bills in the division. 

With a win on Sunday night, the Patriots would win the 11th game of the year, marking 10 straight seasons with at least 11 wins, which is an NFL record.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Andrew Catalon will handle play-by-play duties with James Lofton as the color analyst. Amanda Balionis 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 (10-3) lost to the Chiefs 23-16 last Sunday at Gillette Stadium 

The Bengals (1-12) are coming off of a 27-19 loss to Cleveland 

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 Bengals have met 25 times since Cincinnati entered the league in 1968 and the Patriots hold an overall 16-9 all-time edge. Of course, the most famous matchup was the “we’re on to Cincinnati game…which just happened to be after a loss to the Chiefs.

The Patriots have won the last two meetings including a 35-17 win in Gillette the last time the two teams met. The last game in Cincinnati was a 13-6 win for the Bengals back in 2013 in that monsoon game where neither team was able to do anything offensively. 

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 Bengals Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Cincinnati

The Patriots running game had an awful outing last week, gaining 94 yards against the Chiefs 31st ranked run defense. Kansas City entered the game allowing 141.3 yards per game and then dominated the Patriots upfront. By the end of the game, the Chiefs woeful run defense was preening and talking about how they hope to see the Patriots again in the playoffs… that is bad. 

Enter Cincinnati’s run defense. If you thought the Chiefs were bad, the Bengals, have been worse. Cincy’s porous run defense is dead last in the NFL allowing a whopping 156.7 yards per game on the ground. This should be a mismatch…right?

The offensive line has to open some holes this week for Sony Michel, James White, and Rex Burkhead. But honestly, I’d look at giving some snaps to Brandon Bolden, who has been effective whenever he’s been tasked and Damien Harris, giving Sony a week off. Will they do either of those? Nope. Will the Patriots run roughshod over another sieve run defense? While I’m not from Missouri, …show me. 

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

The Patriots passing game has consisted of Julian Edelman, James White, and a big question mark. That makes the opposing defense’s job a heckuva lot easier. They need both Phillip Dorsett and Mohamad Sanu to step up (sounds like a broken record at this point). Tom Brady’s pass protection has been shoddy and inconsistent for much of the season. 

Cincinnati’s pass defense hasn’t fared much better than their run defense and is 19th in the league. Their corners, William Jackson and Darqueze Dennard are okay but not special. The closest thing to a ballhawk in the back end in safety Jessie Bates with three interceptions. Their pass rush has a couple of names to watch. Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins, although they haven’t accounted for a bunch of sacks, just 21 as a team.

Again, on paper, this seems like a mismatch but this time, I do give the edge to the Patriots as Tom Brady can find a way to manipulate this secondary….if he has time to throw. Atkins is a big, disruptive inside presence. He can do damage and will be going against the #3 center in James Ferentz. Dunlap and Sam Hubbard are guys who can bring the pressure from the edges. Protection is the key here.

So, Josh McDaniels, are the Patriots going to get N’Keal Harry more involved in the passing game anytime soon? This would be a prime week to do so. It isn’t exactly like Dorsett and Sanu are lighting it up and not allowing him a chance to play…throw him the damn ball this week.  

Next up the Bengals offense:

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

The Patriots run defense has been rock solid and it all begins with the outstanding work of Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton inside. They’re both doing a great job of penetrating and holding up the line of scrimmage allowing the Patriots linebackers to fly up and make plays. 

Cincinnati has a couple of talented running backs in Joe Mixon and Gio Bernard, but when they’re constantly playing catchup, it has been difficult for them to stick with the running game, which is why their paltry 85.8 yards per game average is a tad misleading. Mixon has gained 789 yards and six touchdowns on the ground this year and is capable of producing a big game. 

Look for Cincinnati to get Mixon going this week in an attempt to stick close and dictate the pace and tempo of the game. But this is a matchup the Patriots can and should win with the play of the front seven which has been very good all season.  

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

The Bengals passing game has Andy Dalton back under center and he gave the team, their only win of the season over the Jets. He’s kept games close, and will try to once again. The problem with their passing game sounds like the Patriots. He has Tyler Boyd, who is having a very good year (73 catches, 833 yards, 3 TDs), Gio Bernard out of the backfield and a not a lot elsewhere. John Ross is their speedster and is back after spending time on IR. Bengals QBs have been sacked 43 times for 309 yards this season. 

The Patriots pass defense has been excellent this season. Expect Boyd to get matched up with Stephon Gilmore this week and Ross to get watched by Jonathan Jones or J.C. Jackson. Bernard will bear watching out of the backfield, he’s a very good weapon there. But look for the defense to be aggressive in this one and try to get after Dalton to force the issue and some turnovers.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New Englan

The Patriots special teams has Nick Folk back as their kicker. While he had a field goal blocked last week, that was a rare failure of the blocking up front. Jake Bailey has been outstanding punting this season and the coverage units have been terrific. Nate Ebner blocked the Patriots’ fourth punt of the season. 

Cincinnati has the reliable Randy Bullock who has been perfect on PATs and has made 21-25 field goal attempts. Kevin Huber had done a very good job of punting. Like NE, the Bengals haven’t generated much in way of the return game. Look for the Patriots to try to make it five blocks this season and give their struggling offense a short field.

Next up, who wins and why…

The Patriots are looking to improve to 11-3 and now this game becomes a must-win, there are no more alibis left to give if they want a bye and a guaranteed home game for the division round of the postseason.   

Keys to the Game from a Patriots Perspective:

Protect Brady and Get Others Involved in the Passing Game – The Patriots can’t be a two-man passing team in the last three games and into the postseason. That means other players have to step up and the coaches have to get others involved. This is a prime week to make that happen.

Getting Harry, Dorsett, Sanu, and Jakobi Meyers more involved in the passing game, shouldn’t be that hard, but yet here we are. It all begins with Brady’s protection but they have to start winning some battles on the line. Getting more from tight ends Ben Watson and Matt LaCosse would be a welcome sight as well. Get it done.

The Defense Should Pin Their Ears Back- The Patriots defense has been a constant bright spot all season, this week, they should feast on a Bengals offensive line who have been gashed for 43 sacks. With a limited offense, the Patriots can dictate where and when the pass rush is coming from. Look for Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins to be very active this week.

Turnover Time  – The Patriots are +19 in the turnover department, tops in the NFL. Cincinnati is -11, 30th in the league and a big reason they are 1-12. The Patriots defense was huge earlier in the year at getting turnovers and helping out the offense. That has slowed a bit in the second half…time to feast.

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Prediction: 

This should be a walk in the park for the Patriots who are clearly the better team. But the offensive struggles have made every game a slogfest. The Bengals are playing for nothing but pride and jobs at this point of the season. But this week is their Super Bowl with a chance to knock off the defending champs. Plus the entire filming fiasco of last week, should light a fire under their behinds. Unless the defense gets a score or a slew of turnovers, this one will remain closer than anyone wants.  Patriots  20-10

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” heads back home for the final two regular-season games of the season and next week is a big one with the Buffalo Bills for the AFC East.

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Latest Patriots Video Flap Was Dumb and Entirely Avoidable

Steve Balestrieri
December 11, 2019 at 9:14 am ET

File this under: “The more things change… or a better one will be “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or have turned off social media (probably a smart move), you would have missed this latest Patriots scandal involving filming the Bengals sideline during their game on Sunday against Cleveland. 

What we do know is, there was a film crew from Kraft Productions that was filming an upcoming episode of the“Do Your Job,” which in this case was profiling a week in the life of a Patriots pro scout. These short subjects have been fascinating as we’ve been able to glimpse behind the curtain at a number of people who otherwise would be in the shadows. 

The three-man film crew conducted an interview with the scout and then followed him to Cleveland to film him doing advanced scouting of the Bengals before the game against Cincinnati which is the norm for all teams. 

The film crew asked the Browns for media credentials for the day after explaining what they were about to do. And the Browns granted their request. As part of the feature, the crew shot was is commonly referred to as “B-Roll” footage, secondary film work that plays over the interview that shows what the scout would be seeing during the game. That’s when everything went awry. 

While it is acceptable for the scout to watch the opposing sidelines during the game, all scouts do that, filming the sideline is not. And the B-Roll most certainly did videotape the Bengals sideline, reportedly eight minutes worth. 

The monitor in the press box was visible to all there, including a Bengals staffer who could see the sideline being filmed and reported it to NFL Security. They stopped the filming at that point and confiscated all of the videotapes including the interview with the scout and all of the earlier footage. 

This crew allegedly didn’t know that filming the sidelines was prohibited as they’ve been granted access to the Patriots’ sidelines during home games at Gillette. Only the NFL and the broadcasting television network are allowed sideline access during the games.

The Patriots, knowing they were at fault here, immediately released a statement stating “full responsibility for the actions of our production crew at the Browns-Bengals game.”

Jeff Howe of the Athletic wrote on Tuesday that when Patriots coach Bill Belichick found out about this, he was furious. He should be. Because regardless of intent, nefarious or not, this entire episode is going to get laid right at his feet. And whether he had any knowledge or not, it is his legacy that will be called into question, yet again.

Many are arguing that filming the coaches on the sideline has dubious value these days since everything is relayed into the game via a transmitter in the player’s helmet, the green dot, as we’ve all heard countless times. It doesn’t matter. Videotaping the sideline is still illegal via the press box and it doesn’t matter that “anyone can do it from the crowd”. 

And the ignorance of the rule sounds patently ridiculous. The video people are all adults and were certainly alive in 2007 when the original flap over filming other teams reared its ugly head. And although they’re granted access to the Patriots sidelines during home games, they also know that the other team’s sideline is prohibited. 

This entire fiasco was entirely avoidable, while they were granted access from Cleveland, they should have notified the NFL and Cincinnati of what they were doing. Then, anything that occurred during the game, could have been handled on the spot and stopped if the league or the Bengals found something objectionable. The events are 2007 should have certainly prompted this crew to know, that when it comes to anything with video, the Patriots have to do it cleaner than anyone else. 

The league won’t tolerate another flap like this. And trying to justify it by downplaying the value of it or the fact “it’s the Bengals” isn’t going to resonate anywhere but in New England. 

Many are trying to argue the logic of it all which again begs the question, isn’t anyone paying attention here? Nobody outside of New England cares that “Kraft Productions is a separate entity from football operations.” Opponents, sick of the Patriots being on top, made it clear that they wanted their pound of flesh during Brady’s case after the AFC Championship Game with the Colts. It is only going to grow now.  

And how will the NFL react? One must remember that this is the same league that suspended Tom Brady for a quarter of a season for cold weather. Does anyone really feel that they’re going to buy this alibi that they weren’t aware of the rule? So, please don’t try to apply logic to any of this latest fiasco.

Howe also wrote that many in the Kraft Productions house relating to video production are in fear for their jobs. Again, they should be. If what they were doing truly was innocent filming of a documentary, which it very well was, then it is even dumber that they put the team in this position.

This entire ridiculous controversy was entirely unnecessary and avoidable. The league should be grateful. The awful officiating of Jerome Boger’s crew is now far in the rearview mirror. Where the heck is Mona Lisa Vito when she’s needed. 

“People are trapped in history, and history is trapped in them.” – James Baldwin

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 Patriots Week 14 Report Card, Loss to the Chiefs 23-16

Steve Balestrieri
December 10, 2019 at 4:24 pm ET

Patriots fall to 10-3, Poor Execution Once Again Offensively Sinks Team 

The Patriots dropped their second game in a row, a hard-fought 23-16 game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Once again, as in all three losses, they fell behind big early and weren’t able to dig themselves out of a hole.

The defense got figured out by Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes who had a big second quarter where KC entered halftime with a 20-7 lead. That shouldn’t have come as a surprise, the Chiefs are the most explosive 2nd quarter team in the NFL. But the Belichicks (plural) figured it out. 

The defense really tightened up in the 2nd half and held the Chiefs to just three points on an opening drive field goal and created some turnovers giving their team a chance to win. The offense, however, was another story and struggled once again. 

So, check out our grades and we’ll take one more look at the game film before putting a bow on this week. Unless you’re hung up on the latest scandal involving the Patriots. (We’ll have more to say about that later). But for us… We’re on Cincinnati.

Quarterback: C

Tom Brady had another struggle from start to finish on Sunday. For the hot-take dweebs on national television, this is manna from heaven. But starting with the offensive line and going through his wide receivers and tight ends, this is arguably the worst supporting cast Brady has had to deal with in his 20 seasons with the team. 

Very little of Brady’s struggles had to do with his play per se, he was either not getting time (more to that below), no one was getting open, and his WRs were dropping third-down conversions or touchdowns. 

Brady got a boatload of criticism for ignoring Jakobi Meyers on the Patriots’ final offensive play of the game, who was wide open. But I’m not blaming Brady for that. Meyers seems to be fighting the ball right now and had dropped two passes, including a touchdown.  

Running Backs: C+

The Patriots running game was once again unable to get anything going, gaining only 94 yards on 22 carries (4.3-yard average). This was against a KC run defense that has been abysmal this season allowing nearly 50 yards more per game. 

James White (no surprise) goes to the head of the class. He averaged 5.5 yards per rush (6 attempts for 33 yards) and added 27 yards on 5 catches. He is making it easy for the coaches to give him the lion’s share of work down the stretch. 

Sony Michel was once again victimized by poor blocking. Opponents are sniffing run whenever he’s in the backfield, and it seemed like white jerseys were in the backfield whenever he carried the ball.

We thought Rex Burkhead would play a large role in Sunday’s game but his impact, like the vast majority of the offense was negligible. Just 7 carries for 15 yards on the ground, and 0 catches on one target through the air. 

Brandon Bolden got one carry, for 10 yards and a TD, his fourth of the season. We know he’s not a world-beater, but on a season where the offense has precious few producing, hasn’t he at least earned a few more carries, especially on short-yardage and the around the goal line? 

Wide Receivers: D-

If you are a die-hard Patriots fan, you should pray and pray very hard to the football gods that Julian Edelman can make it through the end of the season and playoffs. Without him, this offense is absolutely awful. And it isn’t great with him on it, but just imagine if he was forced to miss any time.  Edelman had eight catches for 95 yards including a 37-yard touchdown on the team’s first possession. 

Phillip Dorsett? No catches, no yards. He did draw a slightly questionable pass interference penalty. And should have drawn a second. But his production is non-existent, as is his presence outside. 

Mohamad Sanu has to be playing through pain because his production has flat-lined in the past few games. He had one catch for 13 yards and was invisible the rest of the game was invisible. 

N’Keal Harry played just two snaps (why?) and caught one pass that officially went for 12 yards but was truly a 15-yard touchdown pass. Jerome Boger’s crew screwed the pooch on that one. It was eminently fixable, but the call like Boger’s crew was lost. 

Jakobi Meyers is fighting the ball right now and dropped two big passes on Sunday, one of them a touchdown. He did catch a flip from James White for 35-yards. As a group, the WRs are overthinking things, playing tight and playing terribly. 

Tight Ends: C-

Ben Watson was targeted three times and had a single catch for 7 yards. Matt LaCosse was targeted four times and 2 catches for 14 yards. Those numbers are just not good enough, especially when it seemed like Josh McDaniels wanted to attack the Chiefs down the seams in this one. That failed. Their blocking in the running game isn’t good enough.

Offensive Line: D

The offensive line was terrible on Sunday against the Chiefs. Joe Thuney stopped the grade from being lower than it already was. The Chiefs’ front, dominated on the ground all year, controlled the line of scrimmage and shut down the running game. 

KC does have a good pass rush and they were bringing the heat on Brady on nearly 50 percent of his dropbacks. Isaiah Wynn had a rough outing, allowing a sack, constant QB pressure as well as getting flagged for a false start. Brian Ferentz got overwhelmed a few times. Shaq Mason’s struggles continue this season.

Kansas City’s run defense entered the game 30th in the league, watch the tape and the amount of preening they’re doing after the plays and you’d think it was 3rd. That’s how poorly the offensive line play was.                     

 Defensive Line: B-

The defensive line once again did a really good job of bottling up the Chiefs running game. Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton did a great job of shutting down the running game. The Chiefs averaged just 2.6 yards per rush on 29 attempts. 

The defensive line didn’t do a great job, however, in the pass-rushing department getting only one sack (Deatrich Wise) and were only so-so in QB pressure. 

Linebackers: B

The linebackers had a good but not great game. The running game was an area they were doing a great job in. Jamie Collins chased down a play to the sideline and just thumped the tackle Schwartz, knocking him to the ground and then hitting the ball carrier. Collins also broke up a pass. 

Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy were both very solid in run support but weren’t their usual disruptive selves in the pass rush side of things. Shalique Calhoun forced a fumble and rookie Chase Winovich got in on a big hit on Mahomes. 

Secondary: B

The Patriots secondary had a rough second quarter but after that was pretty solid. Stephon Gilmore did a bang-up job on Sammy Watkins and should have had a possible scoop and score if not for the incompetence of the Boger officiating crew. J.C. Jackson had a nice interception. 

Lots of fans are on Jonathan Jones but covering Tyreek Hill and Hardman (48-yard TD) is no routine assignment, especially when the pass rush isn’t getting home. But he missed on several tackles though, something that will certainly draw the coaches ire. 

Devin McCourty’s one-two punch on Travis Kelce got the ball out for a fumble and was a fantastic play when the team really needed it. Jason McCourty returned after missing two games with a groin injury. 

Special Teams: B-

The Special Teams were up and down. Nate Ebner blocked a punt, giving the Patriots life in the 2nd half. But Nick Folk had a field goal blocked with some uncharacteristic poor blocking up front. Jake Bailey dropped a pair of punts inside the 20.

The coverage units did well but the return game, as it has most of the year was terrible. 

Coaches: C+

The Patriots coaching staff had an up and down night as well. After Andy Reid and the Chiefs figured out what the Patriots were doing defensively and had a big 2nd quarter, the Patriots made their adjustments and did a great job of limiting their passing game and were making them take small pieces at a time and as a result did a good job of shutting them down in the final 30 minutes. 

Offensively, the Patriots wanted to run the ball, needed to run the ball and tried to run the ball. Running on nearly every first down early in the game is great if you’re successful. But they weren’t, so the Chiefs were able to pin their ears back and pressure Brady on about 50 percent of his throws. 

Josh McDaniels is resigned to using trick plays to get the offense moving. He really needs to get Harry more involved in the passing game. And Bolden more in the running game. 

So we’re on to Cincinnati (Sounds vaguely familiar) and their final regular-season away game.  

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

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

 

Patriots Lose Tough One to Kansas City 23-16, Observations

Steve Balestrieri
December 8, 2019 at 10:12 pm ET

The Patriots dropped their second game in a row getting stopped on a 4th down pass in the end zone as they fell to the Kansas City Chiefs 23-16 in a very exciting if at times aggravating game.

And while fans will point to the truly awful officiating (and it was), the reason they were behind the eight-ball didn’t have to do with the officiating, but we’ll get to Jerome Boger’s crew in due time. 

The Patriots had to overcome a bad second quarter where the Chiefs went into halftime scoring 20 unanswered points and then found themselves down 23-7 and in a position where they could have easily been blown out. Andy Reid and the Chiefs offense had figured out what the Patriots were doing defensively and Patrick Mahomes was shredding them in the second quarter.

Meanwhile, the Patriots offense after a nice opening drive was doing a lot of nothing. But they didn’t quit and forced a couple of key turnovers and put themselves in a position to either win or force overtime. And the defense made their own adjustments and held the Chiefs to just three second-half points. 

Other observations include:

Kansas City’s defense played a heckuva game, they did what I have said I’d do if I were an opposing defensive coordinator. I’d blitz the heck out of Tom Brady because other than Julian Edelman and James White, he has no one he can depend on to make plays consistently. And he doesn’t. 

Phillip Dorsett drew one long defensive pass interference penalty, and should have drawn another, but other than that? Zip, zilch, zero, nada. Zero catches, zero yards. Mohamad Sanu had one catch for 13 yards. As we said last week, when your #2 and #3 wide receivers have no production, it is awfully hard to win football games. 

The Patriots running game managed just 94 yards against a Chiefs defense that came in allowing 141.3 per game. That is a win for KC. The Chiefs defensive line was pushing around the offensive line of New England all night long. And their pass rush harried Brady on nearly every throw. 

Josh McDaniels has been pulling out all the stops and trying to find something that works offensively. On the first drive, they ran a flea-flicker with a very different look as James White took the handoff and ran to the right before tossing it back to Brady. Julian Edelman was wide open and he and Brady connected on a 37-yard touchdown pass that was aided by two pass interference calls on third down. 

The Patriots had chances to go up big, they intercepted Mahomes on the third snap for the Chiefs when J.C. Jackson undercut Tyreek Hill and picked it off at the Chiefs 40, but they went backward one yard and two passes went incomplete. 

After Mahomes led the Chiefs to a field goal, the Patriots then went on a 13-play, 56-yard drive that stalled at the Chiefs 23-yard line. Nick Folk’s 41-yard field goal was blocked when Tanoh Kpassagnon broke through the middle of the line cleanly and knocked it down. That was the turning point of the game and momentum. 

But the rest of the first half was all KC. Mahomes seemed to injure his throwing hand when it looked like he connected with one of his own players’ helmets with the pinkie on his hand. But he made some tremendous plays and had the Chiefs on the verge of a blowout. 

Facing a 3rd and 19 at their own 46, Mahomes was under heavy pressure and delivered a 21-yard strike to Tyreek Hill. Then on 2nd and 25 from the Patriots’ 48, he hit rookie Mecole Hardman for a 48-yard touchdown strike. That made the score 10-3.

Tom Brady was picked off on an unusual play on the first play of the ensuing series. Brady was attempting to hit Matt LaCosse down the numbers after he beat a linebacker in coverage. But Bashaud Breeland who was covering Julian Edelman outside on a short crossing route was fooled and kept running deep. He ran right into the play where Brady’s pass was going and picked it off, cutting in front of LaCosse 

Mahomes and the Chiefs wasted no time in converting their chance with Travis Kelce taking a direct snap on a 3rd and goal from the 4-yard line, scoring easily making it 17-7. 

The Patriots turned it over on downs. And a few plays highlight what has been troubling the offense. On 2nd a 7 from the Chiefs 27, they were showing an all-out blitz. And they did, Brady threw hot to Phillip Dorsett who ran a deep route down the numbers. He has to recognize that and cut his route short. On 3rd and 7, Jakobi Meyers dropped a pass that would have moved the sticks. 

Mahomes drove the Chiefs down just before the half with a chance to blow the game wide open. The Patriots defense stiffened and held them to a field goal and went into the half down 20-7.

The Chiefs took the second-half kickoff and went down and kicked another field goal to make it 23-7. It was then that the Patriots defense made their own adjustments and really tightened things up, holding the Chiefs scoreless for the final 25 minutes. 

On the Chiefs’ next possession, Nate Ebner burst up the middle and blocked a punt giving the Patriots excellent field position at the KC 19. Two plays later Brandon Bolden ran it in from 10 -yards out and the score was 23-13 after the two-point conversion failed.

During the Chiefs next possession is when the wheels on Boger’s staff came right off. Facing a 3rd and 4, from the KC 35, Mahomes drilled a crosser to Sammy Watkins who was tackled by Stephon Gilmore. The side judge gave Watkins a huge favorable spot at the 40-yard line when the replay clearly showed him catching it at the 39-yard line, very close to the yard marker. 

Bill Belichick threw a challenge flag, not only on the spot but asking for an offensive pass interference penalty on Travis Kelce. While the spot may have been a 1st down regardless, the officials ruled that the initial spot was correct. And Kelce clearly interfered with Gilmore. He ran a route about 2-3 yards and stopped and then stuck his ass out which clearly made contact with Gilmore. But both calls were denied by the replay officials. That would come back to haunt the Patriots. 

Five plays later, facing a 3rd and 2 at the NE 37, Mahomes hit Kelce on a short crosser. He initially made a first down but ran backward of his own accord and then was hit and fumbled. The ball bounced behind him where Gilmore made a scoop with a lot of green in front of him. But the officials blew the call dead and deemed Kelce down by contact. 

Normally, this year, the officials will let a play run itself out and then determine if a turnover occurred. But not here. Belichick was forced to use his second challenge. The call was reversed and the Patriots recovered but the scoop and probable score by Gilmore was negated. 

Brady drove the Patriots down to the KC 15 where on 1st down, he hit N’Keal Harry on a short pass to the left. Harry broke to the outside, and launched himself over the pylon for what appeared to be a touchdown. One official ruled him in, the other said he stepped out at the three. If they went with a touchdown it would have been automatically reviewed. The replays were clear, Harry was well within bounds, but because Boger’s crew had blown those two earlier calls, the Patriots had no challenges left. 

Worse, the players had begun to leave the field, believing a touchdown had been scored. With the play clock running out, Brady hurried them to the line and White was stuffed for a 2-yard loss on a play that had no chance of success. On 2nd down, Brady’s pass was dropped by Meyers in the end zone. A 3rd down sack forced a field goal making it 23-16. 

But Boger’s crew wasn’t done, on the Patriots final drive, Brady had a 3rd and 6 and went deep to Phillip Dorsett who was clearly interfered with but no flag was forthcoming. Brady did convert the 4th and 6, scrambling in slow motion for 17. They stalled and on 4th and 3 from the KC 5, Brady’s pass to Edelman was broken up. Ball game. 

Obviously, had the Harry score upheld, the 4h down would have been a field goal attempt to tie and send the game into another overtime. And while Boger’s crew deserve all of the bile that will come their way, (they remain the worst crew in the NFL), the reason the Patriots were in that position in the first place was their own lack of execution earlier and the Chiefs big second quarter. 

They didn’t quit and the defense showed why they are among the best in the league again. It is a frustrating loss but they’re still 10-3 and remain the #2 seed. 

We’re on to Cincinnati (that sounds vaguely familiar)  

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No Panic Necessary, Patriots To Stay the Course With the Offense in 2019

Steve Balestrieri
December 5, 2019 at 10:00 am ET

The Patriots offense has been scuffling along for the majority of the 2019 season and we’re now three-quarters of the way through. The team struggles in the red zone, on third down and doesn’t seem to have an offensive identity. 

Much of the fanbase has descended into full-blown panic mode, begging the owner of the team to sign one of the most self-centered players to suit up in the NFL within memory. Forgetting that the same player has only himself to blame for his ouster. All he had to do was shut up and play football. That was too much to ask. Ciao…

So, with the offensive struggles, we’ve heard the same things, we hear every year, “the Patriots are done, Brady is done, they can’t win…yawn. Wash, rinse, and repeat. As my friend Terry said the other day, “Bashing Tom Brady has become a cottage industry.”

After the loss to the Texans that dropped the team to 10-2, (gasp, how horrible!) the crescendo rose even louder. But what about the Patriots? Is there any panic coming from Gillette Stadium? Nope. Frustration, sure, who wouldn’t be? 

Flashback to Week 15 last year, the offense was ugly in the 17-10 loss to the Steelers in Pittsburgh and everyone (again) wrote the team off. They figured things out and then won their last two games of the regular season averaging 31 points and then three playoff games where they averaged 30 more.

We’re in Week 13 now, with the Chiefs who are playing much better now than they were about a month or two ago. So, they have a month instead of two weeks to figure it out. 

I know, I know, “this team doesn’t have that feeling that they can turn it around” right? How many times have we heard that one? The issues on offense, HAVE been consistent, so is the panic justified this time or is it just more of the same old rot?

However, the fact remains that what ails this offense is execution issues. The plays are there, they’re schemed up but for some reason, aren’t getting done.  I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been one to say that they lack speed on the outside and it influences the way opponents play them. And I’ll stand by that, however, (comma), the Patriots have never really had a bunch of speedy wide receivers. 

So, what’s the difference this year (so far), execution. Just like Bill Belichick says all the time that pass defense is a combination of pass coverage and pass rush, the passing game is a combination of three things. 

The offensive line has to give the quarterback enough protection to allow him to go through his progressions to hit the open receiver. The wide receivers have to run precise routes and be on the same page as the quarterback in terms of route selection. And the quarterback has to make his reads and deliver the ball accurately to where the receivers are. 

Too often this year, one or more of those three items have broken down, sometimes several on the same play. These items are still fixable. Two of the wide receivers (Jakobi Meyers and N’Keal Harry) are rookies with Harry only playing in a couple of games due to injury. Mohamad Sanu came over in midseason from the Falcons and may still be hobbled a bit by his ankle injury. 

Phillip Dorsett is coming off a concussion, however, he’s now in his third season with the Patriots and his production is far from what it should be now. It seems like ages ago we were discussing his streak of completed passes thrown his way. 

All of them can be better, and in doing so, take some of the pressure off Julian Edelman. 

The offensive line has been in flux all season. Isaiah Wynn was taking over at left tackle and then was injured and put on IR. He’s been back just two games. David Andrews was lost for the year on IR, Ted Karras took over at center, now he’s hurt and may miss a few weeks. Marcus Cannon has been fighting an illness for two weeks. And Shaq Mason just isn’t having the type of season we’re accustomed to seeing from him. 

We have seen some improvement in the run blocking, the team ran for a season-high 145 yards on Sunday, facing a team (KC) that is pretty awful at defending the run (141.3-yard average), it is imperative that they run the ball well. 

Which leads us to Brady. Of course, the national bobos who glance at stats and will have you believe that he’s done have been saying that BS for years. But if you see the game and not just watch it, the truth says differently. Can he be better? Of course, but the lack of a running game, hit or miss protection and an inexperienced WR core have taken its toll. Is the trust factor real or imagined? I tend to believe it, but some ex-players have pooh-poohed the idea as overrated.

Josh McDaniels on a conference call with the media earlier today (Dec.4) spoke about what the team needs to do to right the ship. 

“I think there’s a lot of factors in the passing game that would determine what being on the same page really means, but practice, repetition – there’s no shortcut to it, he said. 

“Every rep we take in practice, every pass we throw, every side session that we’re able to take part in, every conversation, every one-on-one drill that we do in practice, every film session that we’re in, it just continues to try to build off of the last one. I think patience is something that – I know everybody wants everything to be a finished product, and we do too, but at the same time you have to understand there’s going to be a process and we’re going to try to stick to it.” 

He added, “We have to be committed to it, and we know that it’s productive when we stay the course and continue to coach the right things and fix the right things and then the players go out and make corrections and they have success with it.”

There is a month to go, tough matchups with KC and Buffalo are at home where they tend to play better. Those games are sandwiched around their last away game in Cincinnati and at home against Miami. Both of those are eminently winnable. 

They have a month to figure things out, can they do it? While many people tend to think that they can’t, their track record speaks otherwise. 

I’ve seen many, too many posts that say… “There’s no way they beat Kansas City this week!” I’m going to drink the Kool-Aid this week and say the offense plays much better and begins to turn things around. 

Who knows? That’s why they play the games. Check back later tomorrow and we’ll have the breakdown of the Chiefs game and the key matchups.

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

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