Category Archives: Patriots News

Patriots-Chiefs Week 14 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
December 6, 2019 at 6:42 am ET

The Patriots return home to Gillette Stadium for a big matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday afternoon.  This one has serious playoff implications for the AFC East and in the conference. 

The Patriots no longer control their own destiny for the AFC’s top seed, with the Baltimore Ravens holding the top seed virtue of the tiebreaker, beating New England head-to-head. And the Patriots lead over the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East has been decreased to just one game. The Bills and Ravens play each other on Sunday in Buffalo, so the opportunity to gain ground on one of them exists, but only if the Patriots can come away with a victory.  A loss to Kansas City would put them only a game behind New England in the conference.

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. Jim Nantz will handle play-by-play duties with Tony Romo as the color analyst. Tracy Wolfson 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 (10-2) are returning home after losing to the Houston Texans 28-22 on Sunday night. 

The Chiefs (8-4) are coming off of a big 40-9 win over the Oakland Raiders. 

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 Chiefs have been meeting since the early days of the AFL and used to meet twice a year from 1960 through the AFL-NFL Merger in 1970. The Chiefs hold an 18-14 series edge overall. At home, the Patriots are 11-7-2. Recently, however, either at Gillette or at Arrowhead, both teams hold a 5-1 advantage at home. The teams met twice last year with the Patriots holding serve at home 43-40 and then defeating the Chiefs in Arrowhead 37-31 in the AFC Championship 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 Chiefs Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game had its best game of the season last week in Houston running for 145 yards. James White and Sony Michel combined for most of the production on the ground. However, a lot of that yardage came after Houston was comfortably ahead. But they did run the ball much more effectively there and against Dallas the week prior.

The Chiefs run defense is their biggest weakness and they allow a whopping 141.3 yards per game. One bright spot for them has been the play of Mike Pennel who spent training camp and preseason with the Patriots. 

This is a huge key to the game for the Patriots. With their offense struggling to score points, they need to establish the running game to keep the chains moving and to slow the game down. The Chiefs defense struggles to stop the run on first down and that is where the Patriots have to be consistent and get production. 

Look for the trio of running backs, Sony Michel, James White, and Rex Burkhead to get plenty of work as they try to establish the run and set up play-action passing against a KC defense that likes to pin their ears back and get after the QB.

Patriots WRs vs Chiefs Secondary – Razor’s Edge Kansas City

The Patriots passing game has sputtered in the second half of the season and it has become a case where the players are overthinking things, which slows down their game and ultimately has led to mental mistakes. Julian Edelman remains Tom Brady’s go-to guy and he’s been excellent, but opponents know that and have been doubling Edelman and then using a corner or safety on James White, essentially daring the Patriots to beat them elsewhere. 

The Chiefs pass defense is in the middle (16th) in the league allowing 230 yards per game. Their coverage has improved with four corners (Bashaud Breeland, Chavarius Ward, Morris Claiborne, and Kendall Fuller) providing depth. Tyrann Mathieu has solidified the safety position. New Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo likes to get after the QB and KC has racked up 34 sacks with Frank Clark, Chris Jones, Emanuel Ogbah, Tanoh Kpassagnon, and Alex Okafor all having good production. 

The Chiefs want to get opponents in obvious third-down passing situations, where their pass rush turns into ball-hawking opportunities. On 3rd down the Chiefs defense is 3rd in the league in sacks and 4th in turnover percentage. The Patriots desperately need secondary receivers not named Edelman or White to step up. Phillip Dorsett, Mohamad Sanu, Jakobi Meyers, N’Keal Harry with tight ends Ben Watson and Matt LaCosse need to step it up. If they continue their production as is, it will be a long afternoon again for the offense.  

Next up the Chiefs offense:

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

The Chiefs have a trio of their own at running back with Damien Williams, LeSean McCoy and Darrel Williams, but they are banged up right now. Darrel Williams was placed on IR and Damien has been bothered with a rib injury, McCoy leads the Chiefs with just 410 yards on the ground. The Chiefs average just 94 yards per game on the ground. 

The Patriots run defense has really looked much better the past two weeks with Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton anchoring down the front and not allowing opponents to get to the second level. We look for Andy Reid to try to get McCoy going against his old divisional foe just enough to keep the defense honest, but this is a matchup the Patriots should be able to win. 

Chiefs WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Kansas City

The Chiefs passing game unlike New England’s is built for speed. Patrick Mahomes has Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, and Mecole Hardman who can all go to the house if they get the ball in space. Mahomes’ main target is Travis Kelce who leads the team with 68 receptions, 928 yards with four TDs. Mahomes has 20 TD passes against just two interceptions this year. 

The Patriots secondary has been outstanding this year, however, last week in Houston they allowed four TD passes after just allowing only four all season. Stephon Gilmore and Jonathan Jones will be stressed this week, it would help matters to have Jason McCourty back this week as well. The pass rush will have to be better this week and trying to force Mahomes to get rid of the ball before he’s ready to. 

Mahomes is in his third year, (2nd as a starter). The Patriots were able to confuse him at times last year, but those days are coming to an end as he’ll recognize more and more of what they’ll be trying to do. Which is why they pass rush is so important this week. If the Chiefs turn this into a track meet, they’ll put up a boatload of points. 

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Kansas City

The Patriots special teams doesn’t have a kicker (Thursday afternoon), will they be going with Jake Bailey kicking and Jarrett Stidham as the holder this week? Bailey has been outstanding punting this season and the coverage units superb.

Kansas City has Harrison Butker who is 25-29 on FG attempts this season. Three of his four misses were beyond 50 yards. Dustin Colquitt is having a great season with just two touchbacks on his 39 punts. The Chiefs coverage units have been outstanding. 

Next up, who wins and why…

The Patriots are looking to improve to 11-2 and this one may be of more importance to them than the Chiefs. They have their division pretty much locked in having beat Oakland twice and up essentially three games with four to go.  

Keys to the Game from a Patriots Perspective:

Run, Run, Run the Ball – The Patriots have to take the pressure off the passing game and give them much more manageable third downs this week. They have to run the ball, slow the game down and allow them to dictate the pace and tempo. 

Kansas City’s run defense is poor and running effectively will bring up those linebackers and make them susceptible to play-action passing, which hopefully, will allow those struggling secondary receivers to get some needed separation this week.  

The Defense Can’t Allow 1-Play Drives – The Patriots defense has to make the Chiefs chip away and move slowly down the field, a small piece at a time. In both matchups last season, the Chiefs ate them up with big plays in the second half. This year, the Chiefs are among the best first-half teams in football and get off to fast starts. 

The defense will get stressed by the speed of this offense and they’ll need to weather the storm. Being physical at the line of scrimmage and challenging the Chiefs WRs is a difficult proposition. But allowing them a free release off the line is a recipe for disaster.

Time to Revisit the Turnover Machine  – This is the time for the Patriots to get some turnovers rolling again. With the offense struggling to score points, they’re going to need help from the defense or special teams to get them some cheap points either through a fumble or a rare Mahomes interception.

___________

Prediction: 

This should be another great matchup between Andy Reid and Bill Belichick. The Chiefs struggled early this season, but are healthy now and rolling along looking better every week. The Patriots, on the other hand, were rolling early but are struggling now going 2-2 in their last month. 

I’m going to drink the Kool-Aid this week and say, that at home, the Patriots and the offense find a way to slap some points together. They’ll start to get who they are offensively figured out a bit and play much better. The defense will get a key turnover and get that one big stop as they hold serve at home.  Patriots  27-24

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” heads back out on the road next week to take on the Cincinnati Bengals. 

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 13 Report Card, Texans Figure Out Patriots Defense

Steve Balestrieri
December 3, 2019 at 8:44 am ET

Patriots fall to 10-2, Poor Execution, Doomed Team 

The Patriots were outplayed, outcoached and for the most part out of options until very late in the game on Sunday. The Houston Texans had a great game plan, executed it to near perfection and played smart situational football throughout. I wonder where Bill O’Brien and Romeo Crennel learned those things? 

For fifty minutes or so, Houston dominated this game. And then they tried to coast and it nearly cost them. An onside kick that bounced just over Brandon Bolden’s fingertips was all that stood between the Patriots having a loss and an improbable win. But this wasn’t an epic comeback like the last time New England played in Houston. 

So, check out our grades and we’ll take one more look at the film before moving on..

Quarterback: C

Tom Brady struggled badly and was visibly frustrated starting very early in this one. And remember last week, where his pedestrian numbers we said right here were misleading? That he played much better than the numbers would appear? Well, this week is the exact opposite. 

A peek at the stat sheet and you’d say, 326 yards and three touchdown passes isn’t bad, in fact, it is pretty good… right? Wrong. 

As we mentioned above, Houston (for whatever reason) got away from what was working all game and played very soft and were allowing Brady to hit easy completions and he racked up some big garbage time numbers. Still, Houston’s gaffe nearly ended up costing them dearly, and Brady took advantage. And he had a 13-yard scramble where he didn’t resemble Lamar Jackson at all…J/K TB.

Running Backs: B+

The Patriots running game had its best game of the year running for 145 yards. The coaching staff got away from the run game early as the Texans began to stack the box and then had to almost abandon it totally when they fell far behind. 

James White must love playing here. After that epic Super Bowl performance against Atlanta, White had a huge game, with season highs in rushing (14 carries, 79 yards, 5.6-yard average), receiving (8 catches, 98 yards), and two touchdowns. The Texans had a safety on him early, but late in the game he went off and was huge for the offense. 

Sony Michel looked very good on the Patriots first drive, grinding out 33 yards on a drive that stalled deep in Houston territory and resulted in a field goal. He ended up with 45 yards on just 10 carries but was rendered to the bench. Rex Burkhead had three carries for 15 yards.

Wide Receivers: D

Julian Edelman saves this positional group from a worse grade. Edelman was bracketed all game long and still gutted his way out to a 6-catch, 106-yard night with a touchdown reception. He’s been playing hurt since the first Jets game and it baffles the mind where this offense would be without him. 

The rest of the wide receivers were …in a word, awful. No separation, blown routes, lining up in the wrong place, not catching contested passes. Did we miss anything? A couple of cases in point. Dan Orlovsky caught this first…Brady was giving a hand signal to Phillip Dorsett to go deep. Dorsett cuts his route off and Brady’s pass sails to air at the pylon. On a scramble to the right side, Brady motions for Jakobi Meyers to also go deep. He stops and the pass sails to no one. 

Dorsett and Mohamad Sanu had a combined five catches for 29 yards on 11 targets. For your #2 and #3 WRs, that isn’t going to cut it. They need a lot more from both of them, especially against a secondary that has been getting abused pretty regularly.

Meyers had three catches for 46 yards, while fellow rookie N’Keal Harry was targeted once on the pass that Brady was intercepted. Harry ran a sloppy route and didn’t box out properly, allowing Bradley Roby to jump the route and intercept the pass. Harry was sent to Siberia (or so it seemed) the rest of the game. He wasn’t targeted again. More to that later…  

Tight Ends: C

Ben Watson was only targeted once and had one catch for 23 yards, breaking a tackle and converted a big 3rd and 17 on the Pats’ first touchdown drive. Matt LaCosse played a lot of snaps and provide good blocking in run support. He had one catch for 24 yards and also had a drop. 

The offense needs to target the tight ends more down the seam and they’ll need better production from each of them in the final month of the season. 

Offensive Line: B

The offensive line played a very good game on Sunday night overall. The run blocking was the best it has been all season, generating 145 yards on the ground and averaging 5.0 yards per rush. Guards Shaq Mason and Joe Thuney were very good at opening lanes for the backs. 

The pass protection didn’t look great on the surface with Brady getting pressured on over a third of his dropbacks. But with Houston pinning their ears back in the second half with New England down by two or more scores and Brady often holding the ball for an inordinately long time (WRs not separating), it contributed to that.  

 Defensive Line: B+

The defensive line had another very good day against the Texans. Houston wanted to establish the running game with Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson and the Patriots defense stuffed them. 

Houston was able to generate 52 yards on 23 carries, 2.3 yards per rush. Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton continue their stellar play, disrupting the runs at the point of attack and getting good penetration. 

John Simon had one very good pressure and nearly sacked Deshaun Watson for a big loss. But Watson was able to slip away and got back to the line of scrimmage before throwing an incomplete pass. They, later on, that drive went the length of the field for a touchdown. 

Linebackers: B-

The linebackers (Boogeymen) weren’t very scary this week as they were victimized in coverage for two touchdowns. Watson and the Houston coaches were able to isolate Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy and they were both beaten easily.  Elandon Roberts was flagged for an interference penalty and JaWhaun Bentley was beaten in coverage a few times as well.

The linebackers did, however, generate all three of the Patriots sacks with Hightower, Van Noy and rookie Chase Winovich each notching a sack of Watson. Tackling was an issue as well at times.  Jamie Collins had a quiet evening. 

Secondary: B-

Watson went right after Stephon Gilmore and Jonathan Jones this week and DeAndre Hopkins had probably his best game against the Patriots with five catches for 64 yards. They went after Jones using their speed guys (Kenny Stills and Will Fuller) from the slot. 

Fuller beat Jones for a deep TD but upon review, Jones was able to knock the ball away. Undeterred, Watson went right back on the next snap and Stills beat Jones cleanly for the touchdown. 

Coming into Sunday night’s game, the Patriots had allowed only four TDs on the season and they allowed four more on Sunday night. Watson’s passer rating was a stellar 140.7 against a team that been allowing opposing QBs a rating of about 100 points less. 

Special Teams: C

The Special Teams didn’t have a great night, and Sunday may have been one of their quietest games of the season. Kai Forbath (since released) missed an extra point. Jake Bailey was okay averaging 44-yards per punt. He had one bad onside kick attempt and one excellent one, perfectly bouncing the ball over the Texans front. But it bounced just a tad too high. Brandon Bolden got a fingertip on it and very nearly hauled it in. The coverage units were so-so and the return game was not good. 

Coaches: C

The Patriots coaching staff made some curious decisions. Abandoning the run when they finally got it going seemed ridiculous at the time, however, rewatching on tape, it was clear Houston was stacking the box. But the bizarre call for the two-point conversion was a head-scratcher.

Brady saw that Houston was aligned defensively with something they didn’t like. But they didn’t call timeout allowing themselves to take a penalty for delay of the game. Then they flipped-flopped, opting for the kick where Forbath shanked it left. 

And freezing out Harry, whether that is Brady, McDaniels or Bill Belichick is flat out wrong. He made a rookie blunder, but benching him there especially with the WRs not named Julian Edelman doing next to nothing? Not a good move. They should have gone right back to him allowing him a chance to redeem his confidence…ah well. 

Houston’s coaches (save for the final 9:53), definitely got the better of Belichick and McDaniels. And that doesn’t happen often. 

So we’re on to Kansas City and a home game next week. Buckle your seatbelts, its going to be a bumpy week on social media.  

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.

 

Texans Dominate Listless Patriots 28-22, Observations

Steve Balestrieri
December 2, 2019 at 7:50 am ET

It appeared that the plane carrying the players suffering from the flu was the only one that landed in Houston this weekend. The Patriots looked like a team suffering from a malaise that had them as a group, a step (or two) slower than the Texans. 

Houston dominated this game completely for about 50 minutes and then went to sleep, playing soft defense that allowed the Patriots to make the score much, much closer on the scoreboard than it was on the field. They nearly gave it away as Brandon Bolden got a hand on an onside kick that bounced just out of his reach or Houston may have given the game away completely. 

But don’t let that distract from the fact that the Patriots looked terrible all game long. The offense is adrift with no identity, no separation from their receivers, no team speed, and right now no answers.

Worse, the defense, which has been the strength of this team all season long looked slow, out of sorts and out-coached on Sunday night. And if the Texans made the defense look slow, the team has Kansas City next up on the slate. They blew out the Raiders earlier on Sunday.

The ugly loss in Houston, knocked the Patriots out of the #1 seed as the Baltimore Ravens now own that, courtesy of a knock-down, drag-out last-second win over the San Francisco 49ers. But the Patriots now have to look over their shoulder in the division at the 9-3 Buffalo Bills who are now just a game back. 

Here are four main observations from the game:

The Offense is Adrift In a Sea Of Mediocrity: 

Perhaps even mediocre is a stretch right now. This offense right now looks terrible. And there aren’t any excuses anymore about guys being injured. All week, we said that there was a chance that everyone could be back (they were) this week and that the Patriots offense would have their full complement of weapons (they did) as they’d have for the rest of the season. And if this is what they have, then it is a scary proposition. 

The lack of speed on this offense right now is alarming. Opposing defenses now know that they have to double cover Julian Edelman. And because of the dearth of speed outside, they can afford to put a safety on James White, because they don’t fear any of the other receivers or tight ends. 

As a result, the number of targets successfully completed to either Edelman or White has dropped. Last night Brady was just 14 of 23 targeting those two. And yes, many of those came in garbage time. The secondary players have to step up and make the defense pay. They haven’t and last night was a microcosm of what this offense is suffering from. The remaining receivers were targeted 23 times by Tom Brady and he completed only 10 of those. 

Phillip Dorsett and Mohamad Sanu were targeted 11 times and they combined for 5 catches for 29 yards. That just isn’t going to cut it in any way, shape or form. That is averaging just 2.6 yards per target and under 6 yards per reception. 

And it isn’t like the Texans have some sort of juggernaut defense. They entered the game with a suspect run defense and a pass defense that had been burned for most of the season. The shut down the receivers and blanketed them far too easily.

Coaching Staff Made Some Curious Decisions:

The Patriots usually are the ones who make the opposition crap their pants and make decisions that go a long way toward New England coming away with a win. In Houston, it was their turn to wear the propeller hat.

Down 14-3 late in the first half, they faced a 4th and 10 from the Houston 39-yard line with just 26 seconds to go. A first down would have given them a chance to at least kick a field goal to go into halftime with a bit of momentum and the opportunity to double score. 

Instead, they opt to punt conceding a scoring chance, which says a lot on how they feel right now about this offense and the lack of trust they had last night with the defense being able to stop Houston with 20 seconds to go. 

In the second half, they seemed to abandon the running game far too quickly, rendering Sony Michel to the bench. We thought that they would be able to run the ball against the Texans defense and in the first half, they did so, fairly effectively. This put even more pressure on a moribund passing game. 

James White ran effectively later in the game, but much of that had to do with Houston just trading space for time after they opened up a big lead. 

Then in the second half, after they scored a touchdown, they lined up to go for two. Seeing something they didn’t like with the Houston alignment on defense, instead of calling a time out, they took the five-yard penalty and then flipflopped, opting to kick the extra point. Kai Forbath then hooked it badly left…Ugly. 

And Then There is Harry:

Patriots 1st round draft pick N’Keal Harry was used as a blocker on the early drive and performed well, showing the willingness and ability to use his size and physicality to their advantage.  Then came Brady’s interception.

Harry ran a slant from the left side on a 3rd and 4 and allowed Bradley Roby, who gave him a slight tug on the jersey, to get inside and pick off Brady. Harry slowed his route, something he can’t do and didn’t use his body effectively enough. It was a rookie mistake and one that has to be corrected. 

But that was it essentially for Harry for the night. He had played 12 snaps up to that point. He wasn’t totally benched but only played 10 snaps the rest of the game. And wasn’t targeted again. We’ll have to rewatch the tape, but I didn’t see him in the second half. 

It doesn’t matter whose decision it was, Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels, Brady, but this is the kind of situation that needs to be looked at. Granted Harry made a mistake, but for him to get completely frozen out for the rest of the game over it? Ouch. And it wasn’t like the rest of the receivers were lighting it up making him expendable. 

Where do we go from here? Good question…

Texans’ Coaches Had the Patriots Defense Figured Out: 

This was a great coaching job by Houston and flawlessly executed by QB Deshaun Watson. The Patriots were a bit passive early and dropped back in zone coverage, respecting their speed at wide receiver and Watson’s ability to move in the pocket. 

When the Patriots played that way, Watson immediately targeted the middle of the field in the sweet spot and was hitting on those passes easily. Or they’d isolate a linebacker in coverage with Duke Johnson out of the backfield, which was a mismatch. 

When they switched to man coverage and specifically to their Cover 0 technique, the Texans went deep. Their speed (unlike New England) was on full display, DeAndre Hopkins, Kenny Stills, and Will Fuller gave them problems in this look.

The pass rush wasn’t much of a factor for much of this game, which hurt. And then when it did get home, Watson escaped with a great move and kept a drive alive which resulted in a Houston touchdown.

Give a ton of credit to Houston’s offensive game plan, they knew what they wanted to do and executed it extremely well. 

So, the Patriots return home at 10-2 with the Chiefs coming into town with many more questions than answers on this snowy Monday morning.

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

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

Another Sunday Nightmare For Patriots

Bob George
at 4:00 am ET

HOUSTON – Sunday, November 8, 1987 was an historic night in NFL history.

A new tradition began that night: Sunday Night Football. Halfway through a strike-marred season, ESPN began televising a third game on Sunday with an evening battle to finish the day. The NFL already had a Monday night game, still on ABC back then and still popular going into its 18th season back in 1987. But the NFL felt that another weekly night game was a perfect fit for the doting football public, even with the game being on cable.

ESPN was in its 8th season back then, and was nowhere near the Worldwide Leader it is today. But the sports broadcasting giant created by two guys from Wilbraham took a major step towards what it would become by delving into the most visible and substantive sports league in the USA, then and now. The first game featured the Patriots and the Giants from the Meadowlands, with Mike Patrick and Roy Firestone at the mike, along with a weekly guest commentator.

In an eerie harbinger of things to come many years hence, the Giants beat the Patriots 17-10. These Giants were the Super Bowl champs who had someone named Belichick as their defensive coordinator. The Patriots started off on the wrong foot on Sunday nights, and not much has changed since.

Actually, a change did happen. In 2006, a seismic shift happened in terms of television coverage, not unlike when Fox took over the NFC in 1994. ABC, after building Monday Night Football into a national cult event, walked away from broadcasting NFL games completely. ESPN took over the Monday night package, and NBC, who lost the AFC to CBS when Fox took the NFC from them, got back into NFL coverage with a major splash. They took over the Sunday night package, and over the years built the program into a bigger primetime event than ABC ever did on Monday nights. With glitzy opening songs from Carrie Underwood (and now alongside Joan Jett), former ABC Monday night icon Al Michaels took over as lead broadcaster. He worked with John Madden for many years and now is paired with Cris Collinsworth. The productions are almost like celebrations of the sport rather than the game itself.

Most all of the nation loves these events. Nielson ratings bear that out. But you the Patriot fan should think otherwise.

Since NBC took over the package in 2006, the Patriots at least have a winning record, but given a team of its dynastic stature, the record for the Patriots on NBC is only 18-12, counting both the loss Sunday night at Houston, and the earlier loss this season at Baltimore, 37-20. Despite the winning percentage, a team like the Patriots should have a much better win percentage. Instead, the Patriots generally play their worst game or games of the season on Sunday night.

In 2006, things started badly on NBC for the Patriots with home losses to both the Denver Broncos and the Indianapolis Colts. The Patriots won all three games in 2007; of course, that was the 16-0 season that ended badly in the Super Bowl against the Giants. They lost the next four games on NBC, including the famous “Fourth and two” game at Indianapolis in 2009.

Things got a little better over the years, but 2012 wasn’t great. They lost on a walkoff field goal at Baltimore, and lost a shootout at home against Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers. On Thanksgiving night that year, they did beat the Jets thanks to the Mark Sanchez “butt fumble”, but that was Thursday night, not Sunday.

The Patriots saw a little Sunday night prosperity the next few years, with the Jonas Gray game and the “We’re on to Cincinnati” game mixed in. But then there was the overtime loss at Denver in the snow in 2015 which ended a perfect season and eventually foreshadowed a playoff loss at Denver in January. Seattle came to Foxborough the next year and won a tough 31-24 decision, avenging the Super Bowl loss (that Super Bowl was on NBC, the only Big Game the Patriots have won on the Peacock).

You would think the Patriots had Sunday night figured out with a big win in Denver in 2017. But then they cut a bad stinker at Detroit last year against former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. They won a ghastly shootout against Kansas City at Gillette later that year, then later beat the Chiefs in the AFC Championship at Arrowhead back in January.

Which brings us to this year, and two hideous losses to negate a big season opening win at home against Pittsburgh. The Ravens killed the Patriots a month ago, and once again on Sunday night the Patriots stunk out the joint on Sunday night against a Texans team they usually handle easily and most experts thought the Patriots would beat. Despite a late rally, the Patriots wound up on the short end of a 28-22 score at NRG Stadium.

Despite the Texans having the worst red zone defense in the league, the Patriots had to settle for a chip shot field goal after their first offensive drive of the game stalled at the Houston 5-yard line. On their second offensive possession, the game changed permanently as Tom Brady was intercepted by Bradley Roby trying to hit N’Keal Harry in the left flat. Two plays later, DeShawn Watson hit Duke Johnson on a wheel route in the right flat with Kyle Van Noy in futile pursuit for 14 yards and a touchdown. On their next drive, Houston drove 88 yards in 13 plays which took just under seven minutes. While Brady screamed and yelled at his offensive teammates on the sideline, the Patriot season basically went up in smoke as Baltimore took over the top playoff seed in the AFC and might not let go of it.

Credit the Patriots for not giving up. They did manage to pull off a first down in the third quarter despite facing first down and 30. Brady did manage to rally the Patriots in the fourth quarter with two touchdown passes. But the Patriot defense, perhaps weakened by the flu, allowed Watson to take over the game. Watson finished with 18 of 25 passing for 234 yards, three touchdowns, and also scored a touchdown reception on a pass from DeAndre Hopkins. Watson’s passer rating was 140.7. Brady had 24 of 47 passing for 326 yards and three touchdowns, but had a passer rating of only 85.9.

The game did come down to a late onside kick with 50 seconds left. Jake Bailey managed to pull off an onside kick that bounced over every Houston defender, with Brandon Bolden streaking downfield to make the recovery. But the ball rolled out of bounds before Bolden could recover the loose ball, and the game was over.

Kansas City comes to Gillette next week, bring Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce with him. Last year the Patriots eked out a 43-40 win against the Chiefs, but the Patriots may not have the material to pull off a win like that this year.

Fortunately, the Patriots won’t be flexed into Sunday night. They’ve been on NBC three times now, and that’s it. The Patriots need to just secure the division, and worry about all the other stuff when the time is right.

Somewhere along the way, the Patriots need to get their passing game back. And make Brady happy again. If not, never mind Baltimore jumping ahead of the Patriots. Buffalo will be next.

New England Patriots News 12-01, AFC East Notes

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

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 12-01 and AFC East notes this week. 

Gameday! The Patriots are on the road to face the Houston Texans later tonight on Sunday Night Football. And after three bad weather games in the past four, the Patriots will be playing indoors.

But first, we hope everyone had a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving holiday surrounded by family, food, and football. I was exceptionally blessed to be surrounded by all three. Thanksgiving morning I was lucky enough to cover and shoot a highschool game between long-time rivals Grafton and Millbury since I also work for each of the respective town’s newspapers. 

These small-town, early morning Turkey day games are so distinctly New England in their flavor, it would make a great Norman Rockwell painting and sets the tone for the entire day. And what a game this year, two outstanding coaching staffs, great kids and a great game that went right down the wire. It was more entertaining (for me anyway) than much of what I watched later on television. That’s what I was thankful for. 

Great high school game on Thursday set the tone for the weekend

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

M*A*S*H* Unit – The Patriots have over a third of their roster either out or questionable for tonight’s game against the Texans as the flu bug has ravaged the unit (Thanks Dallas) this week. The latest to go down was LB Kyle Van Noy who missed practice on Friday.  With one player ruled out (As of Friday night) Ryan Izzo, and 17 questionable, the list of inactive players will be scrutinized closely later tonight.

Kai Forbath – The veteran kicker is the 4th player to play the position in 2019 after Nick Folk suffered appendicitis and was released. Forbath has played for Washington, New Orleans, Minnesota, and Jacksonville. 

Forbath’s signing means that the team has had more kickers (4) in the past eight weeks than they did in the previous 23 years. Other than the final eight games of 2010 when Stephen Gostkowski was injured, the Patriots have had either him or Adam Vinatieri at the helm. 

Julian Edelman – The Patriots veteran WR has one of the most entertaining social media accounts out there. From his “cop” videos with Danny Amendola to others, it is always a must-see for Patriots fans. He didn’t disappoint on Thanksgiving having photoshopped the famous Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving Day painting and adding Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick, Sony Michel, Chase Winovich, Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, Devin McCourty and of course his BFF Tom Brady.  

Edelman 2: Edelman on Friday was in a Star Wars state of mind. NESN’s Zach Cox wrote that the WR was asked about his leadership style when in the meeting room with the young Patriots WRs. Edelman didn’t disappoint. 

“I don’t think Yoda would go out there and tell his secrets of how he trains Jedis,” Edelman said. “So I’m not saying anything, buddy.”

4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, Please do check it out. 

It is That Time Again, Post-Thanksgiving Run: 

Bill Belichick has always said that you don’t really know what you have in a football team until after Thanksgiving. Well… here we are. The Thanksgiving tryptophan coma is in the books and tonight will the first game in the month of December. 

This is when the Patriots have traditionally have turned things up a notch and began to tighten things up for the stretch run and hopefully a long post-season run. Not that the team has a lot of things to tighten up on, being 10-1 entering Week 13. 

But with the Ravens right behind them in the AFC (with the tie-breaker) and the Bills playing really good football at 9-3, they can ill-afford any slip-ups. Especially with Chiefs awaiting after the Texans game and the Bills on tap soon after that. 

Tom Brady spoke about these things on Friday in his press conference and echoed that this is the time of year, for the team to take it up a notch. 

“Yeah, this is an important time of year for every team and the teams that are fortunate enough to really still be in it,” Brady said.

“This is the time where you’ve pretty much seen what you can do and what the other teams can do and the roles guys play and so forth. So, we’ve got to – we’re playing some really good teams, and this is the one that matters the most is the one that we’ve got ahead of us. It’s a great football team, well-coached, very good on offense, very good on defense. They don’t beat themselves, they’re explosive. It’s just a great football team. So, a big challenge for us, Sunday Night Football. I’m sure they’re going to give us everything they’ve got, and hopefully, we can go match it.”

Situational Football Practicing Pays Off:

The Patriots are always practicing situational football and while many teams pay it lip service, not many will practice it with the intensity that Bill Belichick’s teams do…and it highlights the sometimes razor-thin difference between winning and losing. 

Sunday’s game against the Cowboys was a prime example. There is a reason the Patriots practice outside in all weather conditions and Belichick frequently will douse the footballs with water, making it as difficult as possible in practice. Because they won’t blink if it happens in the game. 

With the very tough weather conditions on Sunday and in a tight defensive game, it became a field position, situational football game. The Patriots were very prepared for it, Dallas was not. Belichick knew that they couldn’t turn over the ball and may need a turnover or two to win. They got it and never put the ball on the ground. Dallas had one turnover and nearly had several others.

Just a look at how each team handled the kicking game was quite telling. The Patriots kicked off short and while the wind played tricks on the returners, the Cowboys nearly turned the ball over a few times. The Patriots left their deep man back and had a returner at about the 15-yard line in case of the same issue. 

The conditions on the field were such that practicing in conditions like this played in NE’s favor. Photo: SBalestrieri

Wonder why they always have so many guys practicing returning punts in practice? Late in the 3rd quarter, Rex Burkhead made a fair catch of the ball in the wind giving the Patriots excellent field position. No big deal right? Wrong. Burkhead, who had never fielded a punt in the NFL, had been practicing for this type of situation since training camp. New England got a field goal on the ensuing possession. 

And of course, Matthew Slater with a huge block of a Cowboys punt deep in their own end gave the struggling offense the ball at the 11-yard line. The result of which was a Patriots touchdown, the only one of the game. Chess-checkers. 

Patriots Players to Watch Tonight: 

With the Patriots in Houston tonight, we’ve compiled our list of players to watch in the game. This list will also be matched against who is available as 17 players are questionable for this one. 

Tom Brady – The Patriots QB hears the same drivel every year at this time from the hot take artists that he’s done, he’s in decline, yada, yada, wash, rinse and repeat. With the OL getting back together, and his #2 and #3 receivers possibly being back and his 1st round draft receiver getting back into the lineup, things are trending up. 

And this is a great week for turning things up a notch (as we stated above). With everyone talking about Deshaun Watson this week, Brady would love to stick a fork in all that with a big game against the Texans. The feeling here is that he will. 

Stephon Gilmore – The Patriots corner is making people rethink that Revis Island stuff we were all saying a few years ago. He’s been the best corner in the league for a couple of years now and is facing another daunting task of covering DeAndre Hopkins.

This is nothing new for the soft-spoken Gilmore, which is even rarer among NFL corners as they tend to be the bombastic, diva types. But his matchups with Hopkins, among the very best WRs in the league will be areas to watch all night.  Where are all those people who lamented paying Gilmore all that money over Malcolm Butler in 2017? 

Sony Michel – The Pats 2nd-year RB had a very solid game against the Cowboys last week. And it wasn’t just in the number of yards it was the way he ran. He hit the holes quickly and made a number of good cuts as well as got good yards after contact. 

Running against a middling Texans run defense, look for the Patriots to get Michel involved early this week to set up play action. Do you think Sony liked running behind his old college teammate at crunch time? 

Lawrence Guy – The Patriots’ very good and very underrated big man on the defensive line has had a couple of very good games back-to-back against the Eagles and Cowboys.

With the RPO (run, pass option) of the Texans and a very good Houston rushing offense, Guy will need a big game again. Look for him and fellow teammate Danny Shelton to try to penetrate inside to disrupt the timing and flow of those RPOs. 

Isaiah Wynn – Wynn made a nice return to the field this past week and had a solid game against the Cowboys. He looks like a player far beyond making just his fourth start in the NFL. The Patriots have put a lot of faith in him as their LT of the future and down the stretch and in the playoffs he can justify all of that faith. 

After what we saw in crunch time against Dallas, look for the Patriots to utilize him and Joe Thuney in the running game with TE Ben Watson more and more as they’ll attempt to run to the left in this one tonight. 

NFL Schedule Week 13, Who Are Your Winners:

How are you feeling about the games this week? We have a post on our PatsFans Forum where our readers can predict the slate of games for that week. I did it on our weekly Sunday column here and will post it up below. Here is the link if you’d care to pick your own: https://www.patsfans.com/new-england-patriots/messageboard/picks/

Last Week: 11-3
Season:116-59-1

Thanksgiving Day Football 1-2
Detroit over Chicago
Dallas over Buffalo
New Orleans over Atlanta  

Indianapolis over Titans
NY Jets over Cincinnati
Carolina over Washington
49ers over Baltimore
Jacksonville over Tampa Bay
Cleveland over Pittsburgh
Green Bay over NY Giants
Philadelphia over Miami
LA Rams over Arizona
LA Chargers over Denver
Kansas City over Oakland
SNF New England over Houston
MNF Seattle over Minnesota

Bye week: No teams

No AFC Notes this week, we’ll bring those back next week. 

________________

Yeah, they’ve been great. Joe’s got a lot of leadership, obviously ,and more experience, but Jake’s mature beyond his years. He’s handled everything as well or better than I could imagine anybody at his age and his experience level handling it, from the punts to the field goals to the holding to the kickoffs. He’s done a great job for us. They’ve both played great.”Bill Belichick being asked about the way Jake Bailey and Joe Cardona have handled the situation working with different kickers

________________

“So, how was your week?”

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

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

 

Best Of Social Media: The New England Patriots Celebrate Thanksgiving

Robert Alvarez
November 29, 2019 at 9:21 am ET

After a 10-1 start to 2019, the New England Patriots have a lot to be thankful for this season.

Check out some of the best social media postings from the Patriots on Turkey Day as they put a pause on football to spend time with their friends and families Thursday.

View this post on Instagram

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!!

A post shared by Jason+Devin McCourty (@mccourtytwins) on

View this post on Instagram

Turkey Day with my turkeys

A post shared by David Andrews (@bear_6060) on

A few retired Patriots also shared some Thanksgiving messages.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B5bGs-qhNsE/

Patriots 2019 Opponents, The Texans Are a Familiar Foe

Steve Balestrieri
November 28, 2019 at 6:57 am ET

Happy Thanksgiving! Here’s a quick look at the Patriots’ next opponent, the Houston Texans while you wait for your turkey to cook. 

The Patriots head back out on the road this week for a prime-time game against the Houston Texans on Sunday Night Football. At 10-1, the Patriots own the #1 seed in the AFC and still hold a two-game lead of the Bills in the division. 

The Texans are a familiar foe and it seems like they are almost a divisional opponent. The two teams have faced each other at least once in the past five seasons and former NE offensive coordinator and Texans coach Bill O’Brien conducted joint practices with the Patriots in 2017. 

So the familiarity and respect are there on both sidelines as the two teams meet up again.

Prime Time Watson Something to Watch:

John McClain the Texans’ outstanding beat writer penned a very intriguing piece on Houston QB Deshaun Watson this week and his ability to turn it on in prime time games. Watson has appeared in seven prime time games in his career and is 5-2 in those contests. 

Watson has tossed 18 touchdowns and just three interceptions. His quarterback rating is 118.6. Also included in those games, he’s rushed for 272 yards with three more touchdowns. And this week, under the bright lights, Watson and the Texans will be playing at home. 

Bill Belichick spoke about Watson early this week and the difficulties of trying to match up against Watson on Sunday night.

“He’s very, very good,” Belichick said. “He’s a very accurate downfield passer. He’s made some great throws on double-moves, seam routes, post patterns, go routes, things like that.

“And, of course, we all know he’s a very athletic guy with the ball in his hands. He can score from anywhere at any time. It’ll be a big challenge for us for 60 minutes. Any game’s a long way from being over if he has his hands on the ball.”

Big Three (Watson, Hopkins, Fuller) Present a Difficult Opponent :

The Houston offense features Watson, DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller presenting a very difficult trio to defend against. Fuller has had injury problems in his career and is nursing a balky hamstring right now. But when he’s in the lineup, opponents can’t focus on just stopping the outstanding Hopkins outside. 

In the last three seasons, the Houston offense has had that trio on the field for only 19 games. But in those games, they’ve lit it up offensively, averaging 28.6 points and nearly 400 yards of offense. 

And Watson’s numbers? (Courtesy of McClain) In those 19 games, Watson has thrown 45 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions. He’s completed 8.8 yards per attempt, and his rating is 104.2. Hopkins has 124 receptions for 1,715 yards and 17 touchdowns. Fuller has 86 receptions for 1,372 yards and 14 touchdowns. Besides the big three, Watson also has Kenny Stills, TEs Darren Fells, and Jordan Akins as well as Duke Johnson out of the backfield. 

The Patriots secondary which has been nothing short of outstanding this season faces another big challenge this week. 

Revamped Running Game Is Playing Well:

Houston has a new 1-2 punch at running back with Duke Johnson and Carlos Hyde replacing the tandem the Patriots saw in Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue. Houston has had very good balance this season churning out 136.9 yards per game, good for 7th in the league. 

Hyde has rushed the ball 174 times for 836 yards, good for a 4.8-yards per rushing attempt with 4 touchdowns. Johnson has rushed 65 times for 349 yards (5.4-yard avg) with a touchdown. Watson has rushed for 301 yards on 58 rushes (5.2-yard avg) with a team-leading 5 rushing touchdowns.

Hyde is the early-down back and getting the lion’s share of the rushes with Johnson coming in for third downs and getting more of the receptions out of the backfield. Watson is a threat to make plays with his feet at any time. 

Texans Defense Missing Clowney, Watt Down the Stretch: 

The Texans’ defense has been middle of the road to slightly below in most defensive categories in 2019. Houston has allowed 22.6 points a game, which is 17th in the league. On the ground they’re allowing 108.0 yards per game, also 17th while through the air, opponents are getting 259.3 yards per game passing which is 25th in the league.

They really miss Jadeveon Clowney who is now in Seattle as well as J.J. Watt who is on IR in their pass rush. Their strength remains the linebackers,  Whitney Mercilus, Bernardrick McKinney and Zach Cunningham, Bill Belichick called them among the best in the NFL. 

They’ve also made changes in the secondary. CB Jonathan Joseph and S Justin Reed remain but now they’ve got Bradley Roby at the other corner slot and Tashaun Gipson at safety. 

We’ll have our keys to the game and key matchups later tomorrow. Stay tuned… 

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

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

 

Patriots Week 12 Report Card, Defense Rules Again in 13-9 Win Over Dallas

Steve Balestrieri
November 26, 2019 at 10:30 am ET

 Patriots are 10-1 and head off to Houston for SNF

The Patriots played another defensive gem in horrible weather conditions in Gillette Stadium stopping the #1 offense in the league in the Dallas Cowboys and holding them without a touchdown. The Patriots would grind out a 13-9 in the wind and the rain in Gillette Stadium by once again leaning on the defense and special teams. 

The Patriots offense was shorthanded and banged up but couldn’t muster much either as the Dallas defense also played a strong game. It was a tough day to throw the ball with the way both defenses played coupled with the weather conditions.

So, check out our grades and let’s take a final look at the Cowboys game.

Quarterback: B

Tom Brady would appear to have struggled mightily if one were to look strictly at his numbers. Brady completed 17-37 for just 190 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. But his top wide receiver is playing hurt and probably should be sitting. His number 2 and 3 wide receivers missed the game with injuries.  And in the poor conditions, his receivers dropped six passes and about 4-5 more that were defended well, could have gone either way. 

Brady ran the offense well despite those limitations and while he sailed a few of his throws, he also threw a few beauties including the touchdown pass to N’Keal Harry on a fade right at the pylon where only Harry could catch it.

On the 3rd and 20, where he slid in the pocket away from inside pressure from Robert Quinn and ripped a laser down the middle to Julian Edelman. He had another nice pass to Jakobi Meyers who was wide open down the seam but the safety Xavier Woods closed quickly and tattooed Meyers separating him from the ball.

Running Backs: B-

The running game showed some signs of life on Sunday afternoon and the backs had 104 yards on 25 carries before a couple of Brady kneeldowns at the end of the game. Sony Michel had a pretty decent day, rushing for 85 yards on 20 carries. He made some nice cutbacks against the grain and generally took whatever was available. Sony had four runs of 10 yards+ on Sunday. 

Brandon Bolden (1 carry, 11 yards), James White ( 2 carries, 5 yds), and Rex Burkhead (2 carries, 3 yds) were used only sparingly as this was a Michel day for the vast majority of the game on the ground.  

Is it time to start to worry about the health of James White? His production and usage is way down from what we’d normally expect and he just doesn’t look like himself on the field. 

Wide Receivers: B

Julian Edelman gets high marks here. He’s dealing with a shoulder injury and it seemed like every other play he was rotating it around in the huddle. He must be in a lot of discomfort. And in a perfect world, he’d probably sit for a week. But he can’t right now so he guts it out and continues to produce. Edelman had eight catches for 93 yards. On the 3rd and 20, he displayed a veteran’s savvy, recognizing the soft spot in the Cowboys Cover 2 shell and sitting down just over the yard marker.  

Jakobi Meyers had a few stellar plays and a few he’d probably like to have back. His drops are something that he’ll have to deal with, I think it is a mental thing where he’s pressing a bit too much. But he also had some very nice plays as well and filling in for Mohamad Sanu he had a solid four catches for 74 yards. He caught a short Brady pass and shook off a tackle and broke it for a big gain. His 32-yard reception was the Patriots longest play of the day. 

N’Keal Harry had only one catch for 10 yards but it was a very big one and the only touchdown of the day for either team. Harry has a ton of upside and we saw that he can be a red-zone target. He matched up with Byron Jones and ran a nice fade where he high-pointed the ball and snatched it out of the air. He missed on another later, but his potential is there and we expect he’ll carve out a larger role as the weeks roll on.

Tight Ends: C

Ben Watson was only targeted once and had no catches. Matt LaCosse had one catch for five yards. This seemed like a matchup on paper where they would see more targets but it didn’t work out that way. 

Watson did a good job in the running game, however. He and Isaiah Wynn teamed up for the key block on the Michel run to ice the game.

Offensive Line: B

The offensive line had a much better game this week against the Cowboys. Isaiah Wynn returned and generally got stronger as the game went on. The running game showed some signs of life, and while it was far from perfect it was much better.  The pass blocking for Brady was much better as well, there were several plays where he had all day long to throw. 

Bill Belichick spoke about the toughness of Marcus Cannon after the game. Cannon had an illness all week and Belichick spoke to how he had a tough time even suiting up on Sunday. But he toughed it out and played nearly the entire game. He was spelled by Marshall Newhouse who is the swing tackle now that Wynn is back. 

It wasn’t great or perfect but much better for Dante Scarnecchia’s charges. Let’s see if they can start building off of that. 

 Defensive Line: B+

The defensive line had another nice day against the Cowboys. The Cowboys have one of the best offensive lines in football and they like to run the ball to open up the passing game. While they did run for 109 yards, with Ezekiel Elliott getting 86 of those on 21 carries, he didn’t take over the game and they limited the big plays, the third-down conversions and the ones in the red zone. 

Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton continue to have very solid seasons and they are getting penetration and disrupting the running game. The Patriots didn’t get a ton of pressure on Dak Prescott however. 

Adam Butler pressured Prescott just enough though to force him as he was rolling out to loft the ball too high for Blake Jarwin to stay inbounds.

Linebackers: A-

The linebackers had another tremendous game led by Jamie Collins who had 10 tackles including one for a loss. That was a typical Collins play where he diagnosed a run by Elliott to the right side and shot the gap to hit him in the backfield. He also made a tremendous play later in the game. Collins was covering Jason Witten on a drag route across the middle. But he kept his eyes on the QB and when Prescott began to scramble, Collins disengaged from Witten and hit Prescott two yards short of a first down. 

Don’t Hightower had another strong game and Chase Winovich showed sideline to sideline hustle coming all the way from the right side to chase down Pollard from behind  on a screen pass to the left. 

Secondary: A

The secondary was tremendous, Prescott came into this game leading the league in passing and he didn’t crack 200 yards until the final snap of the game. The Patriots took away his top two favorite targets, Amari Cooper and Jason Witten and rendering them to MIA for the day. 

Stephon Gilmore held Cooper without a catch and had an interception on an ill-advised throw from Prescott in the first half. Witten was held to one catch for 5 yards. Gilmore nearly had another pick in the end zone. Witten was covered by Chung and Prescott tried to gun the ball in the back corner of the end zone. Gilmore read it perfectly and disengaged from Cooper and nearly came up with his second pick.

On 3rd down Dallas was 2-13, and on 3rd and 3 or less the Cowboys were 0-4.  Devin McCourty made an excellent play on a 3rd and 6 screen to Pollard to stop that one. 

Special Teams: A

Matthew Slater is still amazing at his age and one of the best STs players in the league. He blocked a punt, timing it perfectly setting up the Patriots first touchdown. Nick Folk missed two field goals at the open end of the stadium where the wind was really gusting. He also made two down that end. He gets a pass for those. Jake Bailey was trying to hang his punts up in the air as the return game was hampered by weather. 

Coaches: A+

The Patriots coaching staff had the team excellently prepared to play in those conditions, something the Cowboys staff did not. Bill Belichick knew that Sunday would be a game of field position and situational football. The Patriots excel at that, and that was the difference. 

The defense had a tremendous game plan of taking away Prescott’s two big receivers and forcing them to beat them elsewhere…they didn’t and could only muster three field goals. 

Coaching goes a long way in this league and the Patriots had a big advantage in that department on Sunday. It was the difference and the reason they are now 10-1. We’re on to Houston.

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.

 

Best Of Social Media: Week 12 Cowboys vs Patriots

Robert Alvarez
at 9:25 am ET

For the first time in almost a month, the New England Patriots returned home to play football against the Dallas Cowboys.

Check out all the best sights and sounds from social media before, during, and after the game.

View this post on Instagram

Allow me to reintroduce myself… #LFG

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/B5QnSSPA3a_/

In the first quarter, the Patriots special teams unit continued their dominating season, exploiting the wet conditions of Foxboro.

The Patriots got on the board first when N’Keal Harry hauled in his first career NFL touchdown.

View this post on Instagram

You’re a wizard, Harry

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

7-0 Patriots after one quarter of play.

In the second, the NFL’s best cornerback continued to dominate, hauling in his fourth interception of the season.

The turnover turned into a Nick Folk 44 yard field goal extending the lead to ten.

The Cowboys scored six unanswered just before the half courtesy of two Brett Maher field goals.

10-6 Patriots at the half.

The second half saw both teams struggle on offense, with neither finding the end zone.

Dallas tacked on two field goals but the Patriots would walk away with their tenth win of the season in a 13-9 victory.

FINAL – 13-9 NE

View this post on Instagram

W.

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

View this post on Instagram

Big Dubs‼️#LFG

A post shared by Joejuan Williams (@joejuanw) on

View this post on Instagram

🗣”Find Gilmore and go somewhere else” 🔒

A post shared by Stephon Gilmore (@bumpnrungilmore) on

View this post on Instagram

🗣Chasin’

A post shared by Ja’Whaun Bentley (@warriormentality) on

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by @ jcjackson_7 on

https://www.instagram.com/p/B5S6tS9FhaC/

Patriot Defense Storms The Cowboys

Bob George
November 24, 2019 at 9:15 pm ET

FOXBOROUGH – Tom Brady needs to stop sulking as long as his team continues to win.

His press conference last week following the win at Philadelphia now seems churlish and petty. Of course, this isn’t what Brady is used to. But Brady has to remind himself to learn to work with what he has, not pretend to work with what he is used to. Over the years, Brady has adapted many times to what works, and he is being forced to do the same in 2019.

Without the retired Rob Gronkowski, with both Mohamed Sanu and Phillip Dorsett injured, with N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers not quite yet ready for prime time, Brady suffered through another substandard offensive performance on Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium. Brady was only 17 of 37 passing for 190 yards and rating of 70.8. But instead of pouting like last week, he should be more like MAD Magazine’s iconic cover boy, Alfred E. Neuman and simply say “What, me worry?”

The Patriots have the best defense on the planet, and needed every bit of it to hold off the Dallas Cowboys and their number one offense. In a driving rainstorm, the Patriots shut down Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and the rest of the gang from Big D, 13-9. A strong wind was blowing left to right the entire game, which affected both the passing game and the kicking game for the entire afternoon. Most of the time, when the elements are a factor, the opponent becomes more beatable for the Patriots, and on Sunday, the game did indeed come down to defenses and special teams, for the most part.

Brady, and not Julian Edelman, threw the one and only touchdown pass of the afternoon, a 10-yard pass to Harry at the end of the first quarter. The rookie out of Arizona State outleaped Byron Jones at the left pylon and came down barely in bounds for the touchdown. It was Harry’s only catch of the game; he was targeted a total of four times and had a drop on a sideline pass late in the first half, though the fact that the ball was wet might have been a factor.

To his credit, Brady was a little bit more talkative at his press conference than he was last week at Philadelphia, but he still looked tired and unhappy with his offense. His 17 of 37 completion percentage (46 percent) was the fifth lowest of his career. Edelman led the Patriots with eight catches for 93 yards, but the other six receivers combined for only nine catches. Brady’s other “old reliable”, James White, had a grand total of -1 all-purpose yards on five yards rushing and minus-six yards receiving.

What did help Brady was Sony Michel and the Patriot rushing attack. Michel finished with 85 yards on 20 carries and a 4.3 per carry average. His 12-yard run on the final offensive possession for the Patriots virtually closed out the win. With left tackle Isaiah Wynn back in action, Michel was able to find lots better holes to run through. This ability to run in the absence of a prolific passing attack enabled the Patriots to stay toe to toe with the Cowboys in the field position battle.

The elements also made field goals more of an important factor in the game. Nick Folk, the most recent replacement for the injured Stephen Gostkowski was two out of four in field goals, making kicks from 44 and 42 yards (both of them into the wind from right to left), while Brett Maher was three of four, missing his first attempt from 46 yards (a doink shot off the left upright) but then making his next three from 46, 27 and 29 yards. All his made field goals were with the wind, while his one miss was against the wind. Both of Folk’s misses were off to the right, but given the weather conditions, it really doesn’t behoove Bill Belichick to once again go shopping for a new kicker.

Maher’s last field goal, with 6:04 left in the game, might go down as something Dallas head coach Jason Garrett might have to explain. Trailing 13-6, the Cowboys were at the Patriot 11 facing fourth down and 7. Fox’s Troy Aikman, himself a former Dallas quarterback. Hall of Famer and three-time Super Bowl champ, strongly advocated for Dallas to go for it on fourth down and not kick. As it turned out, the Cowboys did get the ball back with enough time to try and win the game. But the Cowboys were stopped on fourth down at their own 25, as Amari Cooper, who was covered by Stephon Gilmore the entire game, caught what would have been a first down on a diving catch only to have the catch thrown out on replay because he bobbled the ball as he hit the ground. Gilmore shut out Cooper for the entire game, another key to the Patriot victory.

All game long, it seemed that the Patriots were bent on stopping the Dallas passing attack, and Cooper in particular, allowing Elliott to get his yards and not get burned by Prescott and the pass. Elliott finished with 86 yards rushing on 21 carries and a 4.1 average, which is fantastic given Elliott’s stature among current NFL running backs. Elliott is still a load and one of the toughest running backs in the league, which is no surprise to anyone. But the Patriots were able to contain him well enough to not let him take over the game and still provide enough in the defensive backfield to quash the Cowboy passing attack.

The Patriots will have to travel to Houston next week and get another dose of a running quarterback. DeShawn Watson will provide a similar skill set to Lamar Jackson, but the Patriots will return to the same stadium where they engineered the finest comeback in Super Bowl history. The Patriots historically play well against the Texans, but their only loss to this team was in this stadium in the game where Wes Welker was lost for the playoffs after blowing out his knee. The Patriots seem fully recovered from the shell-shocking loss at Baltimore and might not be as ill-prepared to face Watson as they were Jackson.

After losing the first seven to Dallas going back to 1971, the Patriots have now won the last six games against America’s Former Team. The Patriot defense still reigns supreme, and they will need every bit of it when November becomes December next week.