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Patriots Survive Chiefs, Make Super Plans

Bob George
January 20, 2019 at 11:36 pm ET

KANSAS CITY – It was perhaps the most wonderful déjà vu in Patriot history.

Routine?  Matthew Slater called heads.  Coin came up heads.  Ballgame.  Seen this before?

The Patriots took command of the AFC Championship Game early, dominating the Kansas City Chiefs early on on Sunday night at Arrowhead Stadium.  But a foolish end zone interception by Tom Brady kept the Chiefs in the game, and in the end the teams had a fourth quarter for the ages.  Young Patrick Mahomes and Brady acted like gunslingers, and the game predictably went to overtime.

Slater called the coin toss right, just like in Super Bowl LI.  Brady took the Patriots down the field, like two seasons ago in Houston.  With some incredible third down conversions along the way, Rex Burkhead (not James White) ran it in from two yards out four minutes and fifty seconds into overtime, giving the Patriots a 37-31 win and the right to face the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII in two weeks.

The Patriots head to their third straight Super Bowl, and fourth in the last five years.  Despite losing the turnover battle, you the Patriot fan never really thought the game was lost.  Your pulse might have quickened during the fourth quarter and overtime, but you never lost faith.  That is because you have seen this before, many times.

Brady is the type of player who can shake off two interceptions and still have enough to deliver a garrison finish.  Brady led the Patriots to touchdowns on their last three drives that didn’t include a kneeldown.  He was able to find his receivers with regularity, and despite some bumps along the way, was able to defeat a tough home opponent in one of the hardest places for a road team to win in the NFL.

Before we go any further, major props have to go out to the next great star of the NFL, Patrick Mahomes.  Ten to fifteen years from now, one might be talking about Mahomes like they talk about Brady now, or at least somewhat in that context.  Despite completing less than 50% of his passes at the end of the game, he did manage to rally his team from down 14-0 and 17-7 to make the game a classic in the fourth quarter.  He ended up with three touchdown passes, two more than Brady, and the only reason he didn’t wind up in the winner’s circle is that he never got to touch the ball in overtime.

The Patriots broke out of the box and dominated early.  They took the opening kickoff and did exactly what they had to do.  Brady led the Patriots on a 15-play, 80-yard drive that consumed nearly seven minutes, with Sony Michel finishing it off with a one-yard touchdown run.  The Patriots got the ball back six plays later and once again made with the ball control, driving from the Chiefs 44 to the one-yard line, and we’re now into the second quarter.

On the verge of putting the Chiefs down and shutting up the crowd early, Brady made an uncharacteristic mistake.  On the third play of the second quarter, facing third down and goal at the Kansas City one, Brady play faked to Michel and tried to hit Rob Gronkowski with a lob pass in the end zone.  He underthrew the ball and it went right to linebacker Reggie Ragland.

Give the Patriots credit.  The interception wound up being benign other than holding down the score.  Following a 29-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Philip Dorsett in the final minute of the first half, the Patriots went into intermission up 14-0.  This was the first time a Chiefs team coached by Andy Reid was shut out at home in the first half.

Mahomes started right in on the Patriots just after halftime.  On the third play of the third quarter, Mahomes hit Sammy Watkins for a 54-yard bomb after he ran by Stephon Gilmore.  One play later, Mahomes hit Travis Kelce on a slant route to make it 14-7.  The Patriots were able to notch a 47-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski to end the third quarter up 17-7, but Mahomes was full of confidence and seemed primed to stand toe to toe with Brady the rest of the way.

The fourth quarter will go down as one of the most exciting quarters in recent NFL postseason memory.  On the second play of the quarter, following a 33-yard dump pass from Mahomes to Damien Williams (the replacement for the disgraced Kareem Hunt), Mahomes found Williams from one yard out to make it 17-14 Patriots.  The Patriots got the ball back and drove from their 24 to the Kansas City 25, and faced fourth down and less than a foot.  Rather than kick a safe field goal, Bill Belichick went for it and Burkhead was stuffed for no gain.

The Patriots held the Chiefs three and out, and Dustin Colquitt punted to Julian Edelman.  The ball bounced in front of Edelman, then he went to pick it up and appeared to muff the punt.  The Chiefs recovered the muff, but after replay referee Clete Blakeman ruled that Edelman didn’t touch the ball as it skipped by him, something Edelman contended immediately.  The Patriots received a lucky break as they kept the ball at their own 28.

But two plays later, the Patriots gave the ball back.  Brady tried to hit Edelman in the left flat, and the high pass deflected off Edelman’s fingertips and into the arms of linebacker Daniel Sorensen.  On second down, Mahomes hit Williams with a screen pass to the left, the entire Patriot defense bit right, and Williams had a 23-yard touchdown pass and the Chiefs led for the first time, 21-17.

But back came the Patriots.  75 yards and ten plays later, Michel ran it in from ten yards out to put the visitors up again, 24-21.  But Mahomes led the Chiefs back on the next drive, parlaying two iffy penalties on J.C. Jackson and a 38-yard bomb to Watkins into a two-yard run by Williams to make it 28-24 Chiefs.

The Patriots likely let Williams score.  They got the ball back with 2:04 left, and Brady had all three timeouts.  He used up all but 39 seconds, hitting Edelman and Gronkowski for 25 yards each, and Burkhead finished it with a 4-yard touchdown to put the Patriots back up, 31-28.

39 seconds was enough for Mahomes, even with one timeout.  He hit Spencer Ware for 21 yards, then Demarcus Robinson for 27 yards, the first catch of the night for both men.  On second down and ten at the Patriot 21, with 11 seconds left, Reid opted right then to go for the tying field goal.  Harrison Butker nailed the 39-yard field goal to send the game to overtime.

If you liked the overtime of Super Bowl LI, this one was much more difficult and much more stressful to watch.  Three times Brady faced third and ten, and three times he converted.  At the Patriot 35, he hit Edelman over the middle for 20 yards.  At the Kansas City 45, he hit Edelman again on a crossing route for 15 yards.  At the Kansas City 30, he hit Gronkowski for 15 yards.  Perched at the Chiefs’ 15, Burkhead covered the final 15 yards on three carries, for ten, three and two yards for the win.

Brady finished 30 of 46 for 348 yards, one touchdown and two picks.  Edelman led the team with 96 yards on seven catches.  Despite Burkhead having the fourth quarter of his life, Michel finished with 113 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

The Patriots now get a rematch of Super Bowl XXXVI with the Rams, who beat the New Orleans Saints in overtime at the Superdome, 23-20 on a walkoff 57-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein.  The Saints were victimized by a horrid non-call of either pass interference or a personal foul on Nickell Robey-Coleman, after he slammed into New Orleans wideout Tommylee Lewis before the ball arrived late in regulation.  Sean Payton fumed in his postgame presser after the NFL admitted the official blew the call.  But it’s still the Rams and the Patriots in two weeks.

The Patriots opened as one-point dogs, but shortly thereafter they went up to 1 ½-point favorites.  It should be a great game, perhaps as thrilling as their first matchup 17 years ago.

The Patriots won only for the second time ever at Arrowhead Stadium, and it took overtime and a gargantuan effort by Brady to pull it off.  It is a well-deserved AFC Championship for the Patriots, albeit “still another one” for the dominant NFL franchise.

And the Patriots should always keep a roster spot for Slater, even after he cannot play anymore.  Oh, those correct coin toss calls.  Money.

Patriots Fourth And Two Podcast: Patriots Beatdown Of The Chargers And AFC Championship Game Preview

Russ Goldman
January 16, 2019 at 12:11 pm ET

In this episode, we first dicsused our “five reasons” why the Patriots beat the Chargers. In the second half of the show, we gave our comprehensive preview of the AFC Championship Game, and the show ended with our predictions.

Five Things We Learned From the Patriots Win Over the Chargers

Ian Logue
January 14, 2019 at 7:55 am ET

The Patriots spent two weeks listening to the doubters and came out on Sunday and made quite the statement, annihilating the Chargers 41-28 and sending a message to the world that it’s a little too early to write them off.

Here’s a look at what we learned as the Patriots advance to the AFC Championship game next weekend:

1) The Week off Served Brady Well – After having a week of rest, Tom Brady came out and had a terrific game, missing just six passes in the first half after completing 23-of-29 (79%) for 233-yards along with a touchdown over that span against a Chargers defense that simply couldn’t stop them. The Patriots offense marched up and down the field, converting on all five trips to the red zone as the offense built a 35-7 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.

He was just as sharp in the second half, missing just four attempts as he completed 11-of-15 and helped keep the football away from Philip Rivers and Los Angeles’ offense. They held the ball for nearly 9 minutes in the third quarter and almost 10 minutes in the fourth quarter, stepping on the throat and ensuring the Chargers would never have enough time to get back into the game. He also hit 8-of-12 in the red zone for 43-yards and a touchdown.

Overall, Brady finished the afternoon 34-of-44 (77%) for 343-yards and a touchdown. He said after the game that getting ahead of Los Angeles was important and the fact they were able to execute as well as they did was a big key in their victory.

“They’re a good defense and I think they do a lot of things well and I thought we just did a good job executing,” said Brady. “Again, blocking great and running the ball well and guys made some great catches, converted early on third downs. It was really important. It was good to get ahead of that team. They have a lot of good skill players, a very good offense. They battle to the end. They’re a great football team. It’s good to win.”

Brady reached a milestone in this game, becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to complete 227 consecutive passes in the postseason without an interception. Drew Brees had previously held that mark with 226.


Michel was key to their win yesterday. (USA TODAY Images)

2) Michel Showed His Value – So many critics seem to be undervaluing what Sony Michel brings to the table, but with one postseason game in the books, Michel proved just how important he is to this offense after a terrific performance on Sunday.

Michel scored 3 touchdowns on the afternoon, while also becoming the first Patriots rookie to rush for 100-yards in a playoff game. He got off to a fast start, with the former Georgia standout reaching that mark by halftime on Sunday. Almost half of that came on one carry after Michel broke off a career-high 40-yard run midway through the second quarter, eclipsing his 34-yard touchdown run from back in Week 5 against the Colts.

He’s been consistent all season, routinely finding openings and multiple times on Sunday showed terrific patience against a Chargers defense that was tough up front but he still broke through. It’s been these types of performances that have kept defenses off balance and allowed Brady and the offense more success in the passing game, which certainly came into play on Sunday.

Brady praised Michel’s performance after the game, crediting him for his hard work this season and for the type of person he is.

“He’s just had a great year,” said Brady. “He’s just battled and fought hard and I really love Sony as a person and his commitment to the team. He’s just been a lot of fun to be out there with. He’s making a lot of hard yards and he had a great game today. Great to see.”

One of the biggest things that stands out is the fact that the Patriots found themselves repeatedly in manageable third-down situations, largely because of Michel’s success on early downs that allowed them to convert 5-of-6 of their 3rd downs in the first half. 17 of his 24 carries all came on first down, helping the Patriots face just four third downs of 7-yards or more all afternoon.

Michel’s three touchdowns also highlighted a good day for the offense in the red zone, with his three touchdowns being key in allowing the Patriots to take control of the game and take the Chargers out of this one before they ever got started. Michel credited the effort by the guys up front, who worked hard and played a key role in his success.

“That’s one aspect of the game that we kind of focus on, red zone – very important,” Michel told reporters after the game. “We want to score when we get down there and I think we did a decent job. Guys executed, took pride in their jobs and we went out there and did our best.”


Edelman finds himself among the NFL’s elite after Sunday’s performance.

3) Edelman Comes Up Big – This is the time of year where you need your best players to step up and Julian Edelman did just that on Sunday against the Chargers.

The veteran receiver had a huge outing, finishing the afternoon catching 9 passes for 151 yards, averaging an impressive 16.8 yards per reception. Seven of his 9 receptions went for 11+ yards, including two of 20+.

That performance put him among the NFL’s elite, with the wideout now trailing just Jerry Rice all-time in playoff receptions. That’s pretty impressive for a former 7th round draft pick who has certainly come a long way over the course of his career.

“It’s pretty cool,’ said Edelman when asked about that accomplishment after the game. “I grew up in the Bay Area. I grew up close to that family and he’s the [Greatest of All-Time]. Anytime you’re in the same sentence with him, you pinch yourself. It’s pretty cool but it doesn’t mean anything unless you win, though.”

Edelman, who missed last season after suffering a season-ending knee injury in preseason, showed on Sunday that he remains the X-factor when it comes to how far this team will go. Brady praised Edelman’s performance after the game and admitted they’ll need more of the same next weekend.

“Yeah, he’s such a great player and just a great teammate, competitor and had a great game today,” said He came up big. We needed it and we’ll need it next week too.”


White was outstanding Sunday.

4) Record Afternoon for White – Another player who made history on Sunday was running back James White, who finished the Patriots’ win over the Chargers with 15 receptions on 17 targets for 97-yards.

His performance was big as it put him all alone in postseason history with at least 12 receptions in multiple games, with his most memorable one coming during the team’s historic come-from-behind win in Super Bowl LI.  Even Jerry Rice never accomplished that feat, nor did Rice ever catch 12 balls in one game during the playoffs.

Five of those catches came on New England’s opening drive, which helped set up Michel’s first touchdown of the afternoon. That was big as it helped jumpstart the offense, which allowed the Patriots to get the early momentum against a Chargers team that couldn’t quite seem to corral him.

White did most of the dirty work for the offense in the passing game, with 11 of his 15 receptions coming on first and second down, helping to mix things up with Michel and keeping Kansas City off balance. It was a game plan that worked well and White credited offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and the guys around him for what ended up being a productive afternoon.

“Each week is different,” said White. “We attack each defense a different way. Coach [Josh] McDaniels does a great job of designing good game plans. The offensive line has been doing a great job for us all year long. Them, James Develin, Rob [Gronkowski], Dwayne [Allen], receivers – they’ve been opening up that running game for us. Sony [Michel] did a great job running, Rex [Burkhead] too. We just have a great offense and guys don’t care who gets the credit.”


Trey Flowers and the defense made Philip Rivers miserable Sunday.

5) Defense Made Rivers Miserable – As good as the offense was, it’s hard not to appreciate how well New England played defensively and how miserable they made Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.

They harassed him all afternoon, with Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn putting pressure on him for most of the contest. They each finished with a sack against him, and also combined for 5 of the 7 quarterback hits the defense finished with.

With Rivers under duress, the secondary also did a terrific job. They finished with 8 passes defended, with Devin McCourty (2), Jason McCourty (1), Kyle Van Noy (1), J.C. Jackson (2) and Stephon Gilmore (2) each accounting for that total. Gilmore also had an interception.

Belichick said after the game he was impressed with the pass rush and was pleased with how tough they made things for Rivers and the Chargers offense.

“I thought we got good pressure on him but he still was able to step up and somehow avoid it and get the ball out,” said Belichick. “I thought our players rushed – our defense, we had a lot of guys – linebackers, d-linemen, in a couple cases DBs – but I thought we put constant pressure on him.”

“I thought he handled it well like he always does but we just kept battling. We got him a few times and he stepped up there and made some great throws under pressure. That’s what you’ve got to try and do. You’ve got to keep slugging it out with him in the pass rush and try to get the timing off a little bit. It’s hard but that’s what you’ve got to try and do.”

With Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes up next, they’ll need another effort like this next Sunday as they head into a hostile environment at Arrowhead Stadium. Most fans will likely remember what happened the last time they played there, which saw the Patriots lose 41-14 and inspired the “on to Cincinnati” press conference following the Monday Night loss.

The Patriots previously beat Mahomes and the Chiefs earlier in the year in a Sunday Night match-up at Gillette Stadium. That game went down to the end, with New England eventually coming away with a 43-40 victory. Beating a team twice in a season is never easy and Belichick knows they’ll have their work cut out for them.

“Yeah, well, they’re the number one seed in the AFC so they deserved it,” said Belichick. “They’re the best team. We’ll see how it goes. Well-coached, they have a lot of explosive players. We had a tremendous game with them here earlier. That was a long time ago. We’ll see where we are now, see where they are.”

The two teams will meet in the evening match-up at 6:40pm ET next Sunday night where it will be all on the line for a trip to Atlanta.

Patriots Fourth And Two Podcast: Divisional Round Preview – Chargers vs. Patriots Breakdown

Russ Goldman
January 9, 2019 at 12:11 pm ET

In this episode, we looked back at the games on Wild Card Weekend to begin the show. However, the majority of this episode is breaking down the upcoming Divisional Round Playoff Game for the Patriots against the Chargers. This is an in depth super sized preview of the upcoming game.

After a Crazy Weekend, Patriots Are on To The Chargers

Bob George
January 7, 2019 at 8:44 am ET

Bad news for Patriot fans:  They won’t be facing the Houston Texans next week.

Good news for Patriot fans:  They won’t be facing the Baltimore Ravens, either.

The Patriots badly likely wanted the Texans next week in the Divisional Round game next Sunday at Gillette Stadium.  The Patriots have never lost to Houston at home, regular or postseason.  But the Texans showed why they were the best opponent for the Patriots Saturday at NRG Stadium, as they fell meekly to the six-seed Indianapolis Colts, 21-7.  The Colts head to Kansas City next Saturday to take on the top seeded Chiefs, and the winner of Sunday’s other Wild Card game would go to Foxborough next week.

As the road team won on Saturday, so did the road team win Sunday.  Avenging a pre-Christmas home loss, the Los Angeles Chargers went into M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore and put down the Ravens, 23-17.  The Chargers jumped out to a big lead against a mistake-prone Lamar Jackson, and were able to withstand a late charge by the Ravens despite John Harbaugh’s refusal to replace Jackson with former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco.

So, instead of a team with a good history of winning at Gillette Stadium in the postseason, it’s the Chargers who come to Foxborough this Sunday.  Both the Chargers and Patriots finished the regular season 11-5, but the Patriots are the higher seed because they won their division whereas Los Angeles lost a divisional tiebreaker with Kansas City and are the five seed.

The Patriots have a better history with the Chargers, both in the regular season and the playoffs.  The Patriots are 22-14-2 against the Chargers all time, but most of the Charger wins against the Patriots came in the AFL days when the Chargers were in San Diego and the Patriots were in Boston.  The Patriots won ten straight games against the Bolts from 1973 to 2001, and the Patriots have currently won seven of the last eight meetings between the two teams, including four straight at present.

In the postseason, the Patriots are 2-1 against the Chargers, with all three games coming in different locations.

The only postseason win by the Chargers over the Patriots was a long time ago, in the 1963 AFL Championship Game at Balboa Stadium on the campus of San Diego High School.  Keith Lincoln had 329 yards from scrimmage including 206 rushing yards, two touchdowns, and the Chargers bludgeoned the Patriots, 51-10.  The 1963 Chargers sent a challenge to the then-NFL champion Chicago Bears for a one-game playoff, and told them to name the time and place and use the official NFL ball.  George Halas and the Bears denied the challenge, and there are several observers from back then who think the Chargers would have won that game and have become the New York Jets five years early.

The next postseason meeting between these teams was a 24-21 win by the Patriots at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego in 2006.  This game remains to this day the last time the Patriots won a road postseason game.  Stephen Gostkowski kicked the game-winning field goal, which helped Patriot Nation forget all about the recently departed Adam Vinatieri, for the moment.  But this game is best remembered for the fourth quarter interception of Tom Brady by Marlon McCree, but Troy Brown stripped McCree of the ball and recovered the fumble.  This led to Brady hitting Reche Caldwell for a four-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 21-21 just prior to Gostkowski’s game winner.  The Chargers were the top playoff seed in the AFC that year, and both McCree and then-head coach Marty Schottenheimer have never been able to live down this loss to this day.

The teams met the following season, as the 17-0 Patriots met the Chargers on a gloomy Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.  The Patriots earned their 18th and final victory of the season, with a 21-12 win over the injury-depleted Chargers.  Injured LaDanian Tomlinson spent most of the game sulking on the sideline wrapped in a parka, and both Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates were also nursing injuries.  The Patriots advanced to Super Bowl XLII with the win, but saw their chance at a perfect season go up in smoke in Arizona two weeks later against the Giants.

As mistake prone as the Ravens were on Sunday, the Chargers were also.  Leading 23-3 in the fourth quarter, the Chargers let the Ravens back into the game with some bad defense, allowing Jackson to get some confidence and hitting some long gainers.  Jackson hit Eric Crabtree with two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to make the game close, but the Ravens fumbled the ball four times, the last of which by Jackson late in the game sealed the issue.  The Chargers did a good job of flustering the rookie quarterback out of Louisville, but in the end Jackson never should have been in a position to snitch a win late in the game.

If the Chargers do not put away the Patriots if they have a chance next week, Brady won’t be as forgiving as Jackson and the Ravens.

The Chargers present a formidable opponent, but the Patriots perhaps stand a better chance of dealing with them than the Ravens’ defense.  The Chargers were a terrific road team in 2018, going 7-1 on the road with the only loss against the cross-town rival Rams at the Coliseum.  All year long, the San Diego expatriates played their home games at StubHub Center (since renamed Dignity Health Sports Park) in the LA suburb of Carson, the home of MLS’ Los Angeles Galaxy.  The very small stadium is a magnet for visiting fans, so their home games are also virtual road games.  Like the Ravens, the Chargers won’t be afraid to play the Patriots on the road.

But the Ravens have a history of parlaying that lack of fear into playoff wins.  The Ravens are 2-2 at Gillette Stadium in the postseason, and should have been 3-1 but for a missed chip shot field goal.  The Chargers do not have this sort of history or expectations.  Houston would still have been a better opponent.  But the Patriots instead get an opponent without a long history of postseason success, and a team still looking for its first Super Bowl win.

The biggest challenge for Bill Belichick will be how to deal with the powerful Charger defense.  Under defensive coordinator/former Jacksonville head coach Gus Bradley, the Charger defense ranked ninth in the league against the run, pass and overall.  The Patriot offense will be largely healthy heading into this game, and one has to wonder if Rob Gronkowski will finally get the protective blanket taken off him and be allowed to do what he normally does.  Chances are that the Patriot rushing attack, good in recent weeks, will not be what takes the Patriots to the AFC Championship Game.

Whatever the case, the Patriots need to win, hope that the Colts upset the Chiefs out in Missouri, and then play host for still another AFC Championship Game.

In any case, it’s not Houston, but it’s not Baltimore.  One more week, and it’s playoff time once again on the Boston Post Road.

Patriots Fourth And Two Podcast: The NFL Playoffs For The Patriots This Season

Russ Goldman
January 2, 2019 at 3:45 pm ET

In this episode, we first looked back at the Patriots victory against the Jets, and what we took away from it. After that we discussed a Patriots Fourth And Two poll on twiter, and we share the results. Later on we took a look at all three potential playoff opponents for the Pats in the Divisional Round.We finished up with our predictions for Wild Card Weekend.

It’s ‘All Systems Go’ For the Patriots With The Postseason Up Next

Bob George
December 30, 2018 at 11:44 pm ET

FOXBOROUGH – Off year for Tom Brady and the Patriots?  Not just yet.

If this were Cape Canaveral, it’s still all systems go.  If Admiral David Farragut coached the Patriots, it’s still damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead.  If Mark Twain were the Patriot head coach, he would proudly proclaim to you that all the rumours of his death are greatly exaggerated.

In other words, all is still okay with the Patriots.  Nothing has changed as January and the new year are just around the corner.

All the Patriots had to do to lock in the two seed and secure their annual first round playoff bye was to beat the 4-11 Jets at home.  That turned out to be no problem at all, as the Patriots dispatched the Jets 38-3 on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.  The Patriots finished 8-0 at home in 2018, Tom Brady completed career pass number 6,000, and Bill Belichick stuck it to his former team with a late touchdown that was delightfully unnecessary.

The Patriots went into this game still alive for the top playoff seed.  They needed both Kansas City and the Los Angeles Chargers to lose, but both won.  The Chiefs took care of the lowly Oakland Raiders, 35-3 at home to clinch the top playoff seed.  The Chargers went into Denver and clobbered the Broncos, 23-9.  The AFC playoff seeds are, in order, Kansas City, New England, Houston, Baltimore, Los Angeles and Indianapolis.  The Texans and Ravens, who both won on Sunday, will host Wild Card games next weekend.

What Patriot fans will most likely root for is for both home teams to win.  Houston would then come to Foxborough, and Baltimore would head for Kansas City.  The Patriots have always done well against the Texans at home in the playoffs, while Kansas City has had problems winning playoff games, especially at home, since their one and only Super Bowl win in Super Bowl IV, the last Super Bowl before the merger.  Baltimore could then come to Foxborough and the Patriots would still get the AFC Championship Game at home.  Going to Kansas City to play that game could be problematic for the Patriots, and a home date with the Ravens could also be dicey, but that discussion can wait.

The Patriots head into the postseason with few health issues, and their two gimme wins over Buffalo and the Jets went off as expected with no surprises.  Devin McCourty saw an independent neurologist during the second half of the game, with no reports at press time as to his condition.  Otherwise, the Patriots sustained no serious injuries, Brady enjoyed a comfortable day at the helm of the offense, the defense seems to be getting more pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and even though beating the Jets at home by five touchdowns is not a major accomplishment, the Jets did not roll over and play dead and gave the Patriots their best effort for most of the game.  But they are vastly inferior to the Patriots on paper, and Todd Bowles was predictably fired as Jet head coach later Sunday evening.

Brady’s numbers were glittering.  He finished 24 of 33 passing for 250 yards, four touchdowns, and a passer rating of 133.8.  Julian Edelman, James White, Phillip Dorsett and Rex Burkhead all caught touchdown passes.  Chris Hogan enjoyed his return to offensive relevancy with a team high six catches, while Edelman had 69 yards receiving to lead the team.

The Patriots as a team had 131 yards rushing and averaged 4.4 yards per carry.  Many of those rushes were jet sweeps, which explains why Edelman and Dorsett each had two carries and averaged ten yards per carry between them.  Sony Michel only averaged 3.6 yards per carry with 50 rushing yards.  Cordarelle Patterson missed the game due to injury.

The Patriot defense forced three fumbles, and sacked rookie quarterback Sam Darnold four times.  Darnold was held to only 167 yards passing and a 74.6 rating.  Darnold turned out to be the best running back on the Jets, as he had one scramble for 28 yards but Elijah McGuire was held to only 41 yards and a 2.3 average.

This game lacked any noteworthy moment or defining element other than Brady’s milestone pass completion and the playoff seeding ramifications.  The only portion of the game worth talking about is the final offensive possession of the fourth quarter with Brady at quarterback.  With the game seemingly secured at 31-3 about midway through the final period, the Patriots took over at the 36 after forcing a three and out by the Jets.  Brian Hoyer was expected to take over at this point, but Brady came out instead.

Two of the first three plays were double-digit rushes by Michel and Edelman, the latter a jet sweep to the left.  On third and four, Edelman ran another jet sweep left for a first down.  With the ball at the Jet 27, Burkhead ran for 8 yards, then Dorsett gained 7 yards on a bubble screen.  After an illegal shift penalty on Hogan, White took a dump pass and scampered 12 yards to the Jet 5.  Brady then faked a jet sweep to Edelman and found Dorsett all by himself in the end zone.  This drive seemed to have “HC of the NYJ” written all over it.  Hoyer should have been in at quarterback and the Patriots should have just killed clock.  Hoyer did play the rest of the game after this score.

Make no mistake, this game was all Patriots.  Nothing went wrong for the home team, and the Jets were easy prey despite not laying down and playing dead like some road non-playoff teams can do at this time of the year.  The Jets did in the end “get on the bus”, but they should be commended for playing like professionals all game long until they ran out of gas in the end.

The Patriots now take their perfunctory week off, wait for their next opponent (which will be the first game on Sunday afternoon, January 13), and let prep begin and wounds heal.  The coaches will start to pore through all film of any prospective opponent (which is anyone other than Indianapolis), and all players will nurse their owies and get physically ready for the playoffs.

The Patriots head into the playoffs as, if you may have forgotten, defending AFC Champs.  The Patriots have a shot at being the first team since Buffalo to go to three straight Super Bowls (they went to four straight).  But their immediate focus will be their Divisional opponent.  Whatever happens, the Patriots are still only two wins away from another big show.

So rest easy, Patriot Nation.  Another year, another bye week.  Party carefully Monday night, have a great 2019, and know that at One Patriot Place, all things are normal.

Patriots Fourth And Two Podcast: Breaking News: Josh Gordon Walks Away From Football

Russ Goldman
December 20, 2018 at 12:23 pm ET

In this episode of Patriots Fourth And Two, about half way through recording this show, we learned about the news regarding Josh Gordon. We discussed our thoughts on this news for him as a person, and also what it could mean for the Patriots. 

However, we started the show by talking about the Patriots losing to the Steelers. We ended the show by previewing the upcoming game against the Bills for the Patriots.

Patriots Fourth And Two Podcast: We Are On To Pittsburgh!

Russ Goldman
December 12, 2018 at 12:23 pm ET

In this episode, we preview the upcoming game for the Patriots against the Steelers. On top of that, we have a discussion on the potential reasons why the Patriots have dominated the Steelers for several seasons now.

However, we do start the show by looking back at the loss in Miami, and there is plenty of blame to go around.

Thanks to Some Help From The Broncos, Patriots Take Over #2 Seed With 5 Games to Go

Ian Logue
November 26, 2018 at 9:26 am ET

While the Jacksonville Jaguars couldn’t help the Patriots last week, the Denver Broncos provided New England a little assistance on Sunday as it pertains to their playoff hopes.

The Broncos took care of the Pittsburgh Steelers at home with a 24-17 win, which included a huge interception against Ben Roethlisberger in the end zone as the Steelers tried to tie the game in the closing minutes.

The loss dropped the Steelers to 7-3-1 on the season, giving the Patriots the #2 seed with five games to go after New England took care of business at MetLife Stadium against the Jets on Sunday with a 27-13 win.  That’s good news for the Patriots, who with that seed would have a first-round bye in the postseason.  That’s critical since in the event they’re able to maintain that spot over these final five weeks, it would provide them with another chance to potentially get healthy heading into the postseason and put them one step closer to reaching the Super Bowl.

New England will have an opportunity to knock the Steelers further down the ladder in three weeks when they travel to Pittsburgh on December 16th in what will be their final road game of the season.  It’s a huge opportunity, as it would also give the Patriots the edge in the event of a tie-breaker since they would have won the head-to-head match-up.

The Patriots would then play their final two games at home against the Bills and Jets respectively.

Meanwhile, if they’re able to win out, the top seed is still in play thanks to the Rams beating the Chiefs last Monday night.  The Chiefs were on a bye this week and still have three potentially difficult games left to go against the Ravens, Chargers and Seahawks.  They come out of their bye with a trip to Oakland to face the Raiders next weekend.

If the Chiefs were to drop one more and the Patriots are able to win their final five games, the team would then earn the top seed thanks to the fact they hold the tie-breaker from their win over Kansas City back in Week 6.  If Houston runs off five more wins, the Patriots would still hold the top spot thanks to their head-to-head win over the 7-3 Texans back in Week 1.  Houston will play at home against Tennessee tonight on Monday Night Football.

For now, the Patriots are at least in control of their future with December looming.  They’ll return home after Sunday’s win and start preparing for the Vikings next Sunday at Gillette Stadium.  It should be a tough match-up as Minnesota is coming off of a big win after beating Green Bay 24-17 on Sunday Night Football.