Tag Archives: Baker Mayfield

Patriots Week 8 Report Card, Defense Shines in 27-13 Win Over Cleveland

Steve Balestrieri
October 29, 2019 at 7:18 am ET

 Patriots Improve to 8-0 at the halfway mark of the season

The Patriots defense put the team on their back early in this one, forcing three Cleveland turnovers in three consecutive snaps to springboard the team out to an early 17-0 lead in the first quarter. They held Baker Mayfield to under 200 yards passing and frustrated the talented Browns wide receivers.

The shorthanded offense sputtered a bit but came up with a key drive in the third quarter when the Browns threatened to crawl back into the game. The Patriot played perhaps their worst game of the year, but it was more than enough to down the mistake-filled Browns.

So, while the Patriots aren’t perfect, they are certainly undefeated. Check out our grades and see how the team fared in this week’s win.

Quarterback: B

Tom Brady completed 20 of 36 passes for 259 yards with two touchdowns in Sunday’s win. Dealing with the absence of three starting offensive linemen, two tight ends, both fullbacks and with a WR who had been on the team just a few days, he ran the offense as well as one could expect. 

Despite having to get rid of the ball very quickly because of pass protection issues, Brady still had several nice throws. His movement in the pocket, sliding to the right and hitting Julian Edelman for a 14-yard touchdown was a nice play. He delivered a beautiful deep ball right on the money to Phillip Dorsett. And threw a dart down the seam to Ben Watson. 

Running Backs: B-

The running game continues to sputter but things got off to a good start on Sunday afternoon before grinding to a halt later in the game. Sony Michel got off to a nice start and broke a couple of nice runs, breaking tackles, giving the Patriots some early balance. Michel finished with 74 yards on 21 carries (3.5-yard average). 

But when Cleveland knew they were going to run late in the game, the running game ceased. James White and Rex Burkhead didn’t fare any better with five carries for eight yards. The issue wasn’t with the running backs but with the blocking up front.

White, however, was a big factor in the passing game catching four passes for 75 yards including a huge 59-yarder that led to a touchdown that broke the game open in the second half. Burkhead after missing the past few games had one catch for nine yards.

Wide Receivers: B

Julian Edelman and James White were the biggest targets in the passing game (no surprises there) and each came through in their normal fashion. Edelman had a game-high eight receptions for 78 yards with two touchdown catches. White, as mentioned above had four for 75. Phillip Dorsett had three catches for 43 yards. 

Newcomer Mohamed Sanu played in 37 snaps, which was over half, considering he just arrived last week, that number was surprisingly high. He chipped in with a pair of catches for 23 yards. His numbers will increase every week as he gains a better grasp of the offense. He was right with White downfield blocking on his 59-yard catch and run. That had to get the attention of the coaching staff. 

Jakobi Meyers was targeted just twice and had one catch for five yards.

Tight Ends: B-

Ben Watson and Eric Tomlinson both saw considerable action with Tomlinson logging in nearly half of the offensive snaps and Watson around 70 percent. Tomlinson did a good job in the run blocking game inside, he sprang Michel for a nice run up the middle sealing the linebacker off in a play that was highlighted on the telecast.

Watson caught the only pass he was targeted with but it was a big one, a 26-yard rope from Brady down the seam that set up the team inside the 10-yard line. We can Watson’s role in the passing game expanding in the near future.

Offensive Line: C-

The offensive line was missing another key piece in Shaq Mason, the left guard was ruled out and James Ferentz took his place. Ferentz stepped up and played all 69 offensive snaps. However, with three of the five starters out, it is little wonder that the unit struggled in both the running game and pass protection. 

Early results were good in the running game, but they tapered off to nearly nothing late in the game when the Browns knew the Patriots were going to run. Trying to close out the game by running the ball once again failed and continues to be an issue. 

Pass protection wasn’t good on Sunday. The Browns sacked Brady three times and he was forced to get rid of the ball far too often. Health is the biggest factor in holding back this unit right now. 

 Defensive Line: B

The defensive line had some issues in the running game, part of it was by design as they were being aggressive in getting after QB Baker Mayfield, but they were pushed around a bit as well. But they tightened things up when they had to. It is an issue that they’ll address in the meeting rooms to be sure. 

But they did a very good job of getting pressure on Mayfield. Lawrence Guy perfectly read the shovel pass coming to Jarvis Landry and blew up the play in the backfield intercepting the pass to boot. Adam Butler continues his high level of play with two sacks, three tackles for loss and a pair of QB hits.

Linebackers: A-

Jamie Collins was the star of the group again. Seemingly everywhere on the field, Collins logged 13 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1.5 tackles for a loss and two quarterback hits. Kyle Van Noy caused the first turnover, setting the edge and as the blocker was going to the ground he kicked the ball out of his own runner’s hands. Van Noy added a sack.

Dont’a Hightower scored the first touchdown of the game on a scoop and score off a Nick Chubb fumble, caused by Van Noy. Hightower was beaten for a 21-yard touchdown pass in the first half where he took the wrong angle inside and was beaten to the pylon. 

Chase Winovich in limited snaps added a half-sack and a QB hit. Overall the Patriots sacked Mayfield five times. ***Note*** The Patriots defense in 2018 had 30 sacks for the entire season. The defense this year has 31 with the season just half gone.  

Secondary: A

The secondary continues their outstanding play of 2019 limiting the Browns to under 200 yards passing. Stephon Gilmore once again goes to the head of the class. Going against the dangerous and explosive Odell Beckham Jr., Gilmore easily won this matchup. He held Beckham to four catches for 21 yards until a late garbage time 31 yarder. The Patriots will take that all day long. 

Jonathan Jones continues his strong play in the slot and showed tremendous speed while chasing down Chubb and causing the fumble to take away a scoring opportunity from the Browns. Jason McCourty and J.C. Jackson were solid.  

Pat Chung returned from injury and he, Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon continue their strong play at the back end and in the box. Missed tackles were an issue for the entire defense but the weather no doubt had a hand in that. But give Chubb credit, he runs hard and is a tough guy to bring down, rain or shine.

Special Teams: C+

Mike Nugent had a block on a 29-yard field goal attempt and badly missed another. Jake Bailey had a good game with a 45.4 yard average with one punt inside the 20 and another that was a touchback. The coverage units did a very good job on a dangerous returner in Dontrelle Hilliard. The return game didn’t do much

Coaches: A-

The Patriots coaching staff were working on a short week. They wanted to get off to a quick start and they did, racing out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter. That was huge in putting the Browns and their coaches behind the eight-ball. They weren’t up to the task. 

Bill Belichick got his 300th career win while Freddy Kitchens showed he has a long, long way to go. Josh McDaniels because of injuries and new personnel had to limit the playbook somewhat, and he’s still searching to find the offense its identity.   

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.

 

5 Thoughts Following the Patriots Win Over the Browns

Ian Logue
October 28, 2019 at 11:07 am ET

The Patriots improved to 8-0 on Sunday with their win over the Browns and here are some thoughts on the victory:

1) It can’t be said enough how much Bill Belichick has meant to this franichise and it was only fitting that his 300th career win came in front of the home crowd at Gillette Stadium who, despite the rain, gave their coach quite the ovation at the end of the game.

The fact it also happened as head coach of the team he earned his first victory against (he got his first win after beating the Patriots as head coach of the Browns back on 9/8/91), along with beating the Browns, his previous head coaching job prior to his arrival in New England, was a nice bit of poetic justice. For anyone who followed Belichick during those days in Cleveland, it’s still a little tough to understand why people felt he did so poorly during his first coaching stint.

During his first three seasons from 1991-1993, he finished 6-10, 7-9 and 7-9 as he revamped the roster and then came out in 1994 and led them to an 11-5 record, which even included a playoff win over the Patriots.

But the following season when it was announced that the Browns were suddenly being relocated to Baltimore was when the wheels came off, which had nothing to do with Belichick. During a documentary, Belichick brought to light what a tumultuous period that was for both he and the players and it played a key role in the fact that decision, not Belichick, was the reason things fell apart.

It’s good news for the Patriots, who ultimately ended up being the place he got his second opportunity. Fortunately, we know how things have turned out and seeing him set himself among greats such as George Halas and Don Shula is only fitting. What’s even more incredible is the fact he’s done it during the salary cap era, finishing with a winning season every year he’s been here, while also winning 10 or more games every season going back to 2003. He even did it in 2008 without Tom Brady, after Brady was lost mere minutes into that season.

He’s the best ever and each week is another little notch as he continues etching himself into the record books. But Sunday was a historic milestone that while the weather was far from perfect, the result certainly was as the Patriots remained perfect and won their eight game of the season.


Nice start for Sanu in his debut.

2) The weather likely spoiled a potentially more productive day for newcomer Mohamed Sanu, but what we saw from him Sunday was hopefully a sign of things to come.

Sanu finished the game with two receptions on the afternoon, with his first coming on a 4th-and-4 late in the first half. It was a big play and extended the drive, getting the Patriots down in scoring territory. Unfortunately, the drive eventually stalled and Mike Nugent’s field goal was blocked, but it doesn’t change the fact that he appears like he’ll be a good fit in this offense.

The big thing that stood out was the energy and intensity he played with, which was a stark contrast from Josh Gordon, who looked pretty tired and worn down during his final outings. Sanu took some big shots on Sunday but popped right back up and got back in the huddle and was also spotted doing a good job blocking on run plays and overall played pretty well.

He was targeted 5 times and while he only had two receptions, the rain played a part in a couple of those missed connections. But if initial impressions are any indication, it should be fun to see his contributions in the coming weeks now that he’s part of this offense.


The defense was big again on Sunday.

3) Sunday was another unbelievable day for the defense, which set the tone early.

The Patriots got their first touchdown of the day off of a fumble by running back Nick Chubb, with Dont’a Hightower scooping it up in stride and taking off 26-yards into the end zone to give New England a 10-0 advantage, but the most impressive play came on Cleveland’s next snap from scrimmage.

After Chubb broke off a 44-yard run down to the Patriots 16, Jonathan Jones, who initially fell down, got back up and sprinted the length of the field and came in and punched the football out, with Devin McCourty falling on the football at the New England 4-yard line. That was big, because had the Browns gotten into the end zone they would have been back in the game and it could have changed the momentum.

Instead, Jones’ effort fired up his group, who came after Baker Mayfield on the Browns’ first play of their ensuing drive and Lawrence Guy stepped in front of a short pass from Mayfield to Jarvis Landry, intercepting the pass and giving the Patriots the football at the Browns’ 11-yard line. Two plays later, Brady hit Edelman for an 8-yard touchdown and the Patriots were in command at 17-0.

It wasn’t perfect, as the Browns did have a fairly decent day running the football, with Chubb finishing with 131-yards on the day. However, considering the Browns were probably the most talented offense they’ve faced, New England held them to 3-of-12 (25%) on third down and just 13 points, making key plays when they needed to.

They still lead the league in points-per-game allowed (7.6) and Guy’s interception gave them 19 picks for the season, an NFL best. They also lead the league with 31-sacks after taking Mayfield down 5 times on Sunday.

Overall, it was a solid day’s work against a pretty good offense. The big test now is up next as the Patriots start getting ready for the Ravens, who are second in the NFL in yards-per-game and second in the league in points-per-game behind New England. They also lead the NFL in average time of possession.

4) Sunday’s game highlighted a solid afternoon for running back Sony Michel, who had a pretty good performance against the Browns’ defense.

He finished Sunday’s contest carrying 21 times for 74-yards, averaging 3.5 yards per game. But the thing that stood out was the fact Michel did a better job accelerating
and darting through openings against Cleveland’s defense, which gave us glimpses of the player we saw quite a bit last season.

And it’s not like the Browns defense wasn’t tough. They stopped Michel and Burkhead for either a loss or no gain seven times on Sunday, as well as another for a loss by Edelman. But the fact Michel was able to do what he did in those conditions was big as it kept Cleveland off balance just enough for Brady to throw for over 250-yards in driving rain.

A lot of the credit obviously goes to the guys up front, as they appear to be making progress. But this is the time of year where you need to see that improvement and hopefully Sunday is a sign of things to come.


Despite tough conditions, Brady played well Sunday.

5) Speaking of Brady, give him credit for the way he orchestrated the offense on Sunday, with the veteran making a couple of key plays in big moments.

One of the first was a perfectly thrown 33-yard pass to Phillip Dorsett on their second drive of the game, putting New England in business in Browns territory. It eventually led to a 20-yard field goal by Mike Nugent to give them an early 3-0 lead.

His next big play came on 2nd-and-7 from the Browns’ 8-yard line following Guy’s interception. Facing pressure, Brady rolled right and threw a perfect strike to Edelman, who caught the ball in stride and slashed into the end zone. That touchdown was Brady’s 12th of the season and also put him in the record books as the most touchdown passes in a season by a 42 year-old quarterback, breaking the previous mark of 11 by Warren Moon in 1998.

His throw to Sanu on the 4th-and-4 play was also terrific, firing a strike between the numbers as Sanu caught it with defenders bearing down on him and he turned just quickly enough to reach the first down marker.

Given the conditions, it was a terrific showing against a pretty good football team and Brady did a good job against a Browns defense that got fairly good pressure on him.

With a trip to Baltimore up next Sunday night, this will potentially be their biggest test of the season thus far.

Expect this one to be tough, as the Ravens are also coming off a bye and have had extra time to start preparing for this one. To add a little extra to this rivalry, Baltimore wasted no time making things interesting, having added recently released safety Jordan Richards and signing another defensive player in Ufomba Kamalu off New England’s practice squad.

That’s just Ravns head coach John Harbaugh being Harbaugh, likely looking for whatever edge he can find against a team that has always made things tough against him. Whether or not any of it really makes a difference this Sunday remains to be seen.

Undefeated but Imperfect Patriots Improve to 8-0 With Win Over Cleveland

Steve Balestrieri
October 27, 2019 at 10:23 pm ET

The Patriots took care of business at home on a very rainy and windy Gillette Stadium on Sunday and went to 8-0 on the season with a 27-13 win over the Cleveland Browns.

Bill Belichick joined the 300 club as today the win was the 300th of his career, the fastest any coach has ever won that many. Belichick was victorious in his 434th game as a head coach. (Hint, that is a pretty darned good winning percentage)

Tom Brady waxed poetic in his praise for Belichick. Asked about the significance of the coach’s 300th win, he had this to say.

“Three hundred wins is pretty spectacular. He’s the best coach of all time and it’s a privilege to play for him for as many years as I have. He’s taught me so much on and off the field, just been a great mentor for me,” Brady said.  “

Being here 20 years ago – it was his first year, it was my first year. It’s been a great journey. Just proud of him, everything he’s accomplished. Amazing to think that he coached for another place and they didn’t think he was good enough, and then he comes here and does a great job. It’s a great celebration for him and certainly hard-earned, well-deserved. And the only thing better than 300 is 301. So, we’ll be back at it this week.”

So, while the team is undefeated, they are far from perfect. But the Patriots have a way to bring out the very worst in their opponents and they used the Browns’ many miscues to put this one in the rearview mirror early. 

The Patriots defense forced turnovers on three straight offensive snaps by Cleveland to take a 17-0 lead in the first quarter and the Browns could never recover. The first turnover was created on a solid play by Kyle Van Noy and Nick Chubb’s fumble was scooped up by Dont’a Hightower and returned for a touchdown. 

The next turnover occurred when Chubb rolled for 44 yards and appeared headed for a touchdown. But Jonathan Jones ran him down and tomahawked the ball out. Devin McCourty recovered for the Patriots at the five-yard line.

The third turnover was perhaps the most bizarre of all. The Browns attempted a shovel pass to Jarvis Landry. Lawrence Guy read the play and got penetration inside and actually made contact with Landry before he was in position. Baker Mayfield should have never attempted the pass and in essence, he passed it right to Guy who had to be the most surprised player in Gillette Stadium. 

Not many teams can spot an opponent 17 points on the road and come back to win. Especially with the weather conditions the way they were and facing a defense that has been playing like the Patriots’ have thus far this year. 

Cleveland hung around, thanks to the terrific running of Chubb who settled down after his first two miscues and pounded out 131 yards on 20 carries. But the Browns never gave the impression they were seriously threatening to challenge for this game. 

Although they made things interesting with a field goal to open the third quarter to make the score 17-10, the Patriots immediately answered with Tom Brady leading the team on an 84-yard drive in seven plays putting them up 24-10 and pretty much putting this one to bed. The key play was a 59-yard pass play from Brady to James White on a 3rd and 10. Brady capped off the drive with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Julian Edelman, his second touchdown reception of the game. 

Baker Mayfield completed 20 of 31 passes for 194 yards with a touchdown and an interception. While it wasn’t his worst game of the season by a long stretch, it wasn’t a great one either. Mayfield broke up a streak of 71 straight points by the Patriots when he connected with Demetrius Harris for a 21-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Harris got by Hightower who tried to play inside leverage. Harris broke for the pylon and Mayfield hit him with a nicely thrown ball. It would be the only touchdown of the game for the Browns. 

The Patriots defense held Cleveland to just 13 points and generated another three turnovers while adding five more sacks to their total while scoring another touchdown. It wasn’t perfect there either as Chubb and the ground game gained far too much yardage. But Mayfield and the passing game never got untracked. 

Stephon Gilmore and Odell Beckham Jr. were matched up and the talented wide receiver had five catches for 52 yards but 31 of them came late on a deep pass at garbage time when this one was already decided. This match goes to Gilmore. Jarvis Landry led all Browns receivers with 5 catches for 65 yards on 10 targets. 

Which brings us to the Patriots offense. The problems at the offensive line with replacements at the center, left tackle, and right guard this week are becoming a show stopper. The running game could muster only 79 yards on 27 carries, a measly 2.9-yard average. This against a team allowing 154 yards per game. 

Sony Michel had 74 yards on 21 carries but his yards per carry average suffered late in the game when the Browns knew the Patriots were trying to run out the clock and they stuffed him time and again. 

Brady was only sacked three times but the pressure was such that he is forced to get rid of the ball in under two seconds or he’s going to get hit more often than not. The playmakers on offense aren’t the problem. When he did have time to throw, he made nice throws to Edelman for a pair of touchdowns, a nice deep throw to Phillip Dorsett and a really nice seam pass to Ben Watson for 26 yards. The protection has to improve. And the run blocking has to vastly improve. 

Newcomer Mohamed Sanu had a pair of catches including a nice first down where he just made it to the sticks before getting popped but was able to hold on to the ball. He’ll get more involved the longer he’s here and learns more of the offense. 

In our pregame key matchups, we said that Chubb was the key for the defense and that James White and Edelman were the go-to guys on offense. Edelman had eight catches for 78 yards with two touchdowns. White had four catches for 75 yards on five targets. 

So the team moves on to Baltimore “for their first real test” of the season. They’re 8-0 at the halfway point of the season. Unbeaten but hardly perfect. They’ll be taking on a Ravens team that is on their own bye week. They’ll be rested and at home. 

So, be forewarned, the airwaves will be filled this week with ways that the Ravens can beat New England and reasons given why you should fear Baltimore.  We’ll get into that more as the week goes on. 

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 – Browns Week 8 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
October 25, 2019 at 7:29 am ET

The Patriots return home to take on the Cleveland Browns with the opportunity to close out the halfway point of the season 8-0 for the third time in team history. The Patriots defense has been playing at a historically high level and is facing a Browns’ team that can be explosive in both the running and passing games.

With a win on Sunday, Bill Belichick will join the 300 club, it will be the 300th win of his career, which he started with the Browns, earning his first victory against the Patriots.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ Channel 4 on Sunday, October 27 at 4:20 p.m.. 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 (7-0) beat the New York Jets 33-0. The defense intercepted Sam Darnold four times and collected two fumbles. Sony Michel rushed for three touchdowns.

The Browns (2-4) are coming off  their bye week. 

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

Series History:

The Patriots and Browns are meeting for the 25th time with Cleveland holding a 13-11 overall advantage. The Patriots have won the past five matchups at home however. 

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 Browns Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Cleveland

This is a matchup that the Patriots should dominate. Cleveland is allowing a whopping 154 yards a game on the ground, including 5 yards a carry. While Cleveland does a great job in getting after the QB, their run defense has been gashed. 

However the Patriots running game remains mired in mediocrity in 2019. Sony Michel did rush for three touchdowns last week, but was held to just 42 yards on 19 carries. The offensive line is not opening up nearly enough holes for him to run effectively. Hopefully, the team will get Rex Burkhead back from yet another injury. Burkhead has been the teams’ most effective back overall this season. 

Look for the Patriots to try to establish the run in this game by hitting the running game between the tackles. But until we see signs of it improving on the field, the feeling here is that they will continue to scuffle along.                     

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

The Patriots passing game is going thru another change. The injured Josh Gordon has been placed on IR and is to be released as soon as he’s healthy. The team traded for Mohamed Sanu this week and he, Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers will be the team’s WRs this week. With Ben Watson at tight end and James White and possibly Burkhead and Brandon Bolden out of the backfield, Tom Brady will have plenty of places to throw the ball.

The Browns have been excellent at getting after the quarterback this season with 19 sacks, nine of them by Miles Garrett. They’ve had injuries at cornerback but both Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams are expected to be back this week.

Look for the Patriots to give the struggling LT Marshall Newhouse some help this week against Garrett. Brady, as always will try to get the ball out quickly and get his chemistry going with Sanu who will work out of the slot with Edelman and outside. Protection is the key here.

Next up the Browns offense:

Browns RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Cleveland

Cleveland has the explosive Nick Chubb at running back. He’s gained over 600 yards this season while averaging 5.3 yards per rush and has six touchdowns. The Browns average nearly 120 yards per game on the ground.

The Patriots run defense has been very good overall allowing just 74.7 yards per game on the ground. Danny Shelton, Lawrence Guy, Deatrich Wise, and Adam Butler have done a terrific job at stopping the run at the point of attack and allowing the linebackers to clean up and make plays.

Chubb will get his yards this week, Frank Gore and Le’Veon Bell had good games against the Patriots front seven as well. But will Cleveland be able to run effectively enough to control the game? The feeling here is no. 

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

The Browns have some very explosive wide receivers in Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry along with Chubb out of the backfield. That’s the word that we’ve heard coming out of the Patriots side of the house all week. However, Baker Mayfield has struggled with turning the ball over, throwing 11 interceptions already this year. 

The Patriots defense has garnered 25 sacks and 18 interceptions so far this season. They’ve varied the pass rush and the pressure has forced opposing QBs into making far too many mistakes. They also boast an extremely sticky cornerback group who has the ability to shut down the opposition. Beckham Jr. and Stephon Gilmore ought to be the most intriguing matchup of the game. Landry who guaranteed victory in his pregame trash talk will face either Jason McCourty or J.C. Jackson. 

Cleveland’s pass protection of Mayfield has been a mess this season. We’ve read that they’ve toyed with changing players in multiple positions during the bye week. We may not see as many of the “0 blitzes” this week, but with the varied pressure they can bring on the QB, I’d expect to see the defense trying to force Mayfield into making more mistakes this week.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots already solid special teams has just received a boost this week when they signed All-Pro ST/S Justin Bethel who was released by the Ravens. He joins Matthew Slater, Brandon Bolden and others in an excellent unit. Mike Nugent has solidified the kicking game while rookie Jake Bailey is having an outstanding rookie season. 

The Browns Austin Seibert hasn’t missed a FG this year (8-8), while Jamie Gilan was the STs Player of the Month for September. Dontrelle Hilliard gives Cleveland good return ability. The Patriots at home get the nod here and look for Joe Judge to give Bethel a chance to shine this week..  

Next up, who wins and why…

The Patriots are looking for the third 8-0 start in team history. Bill Belichick can earn his 300th career win with the team he earned his first head coaching win a long time ago.With a national television audience, this should be a great game to watch. 

Keys to the Game from a Patriots Perspective:

Continue the Turnover Machine – Look for the Patriots defense to try to force Mayfield into making mistakes. No one has thrown more interceptions than he has in the early going this season. By mixing up the pass rush and coming from all different angles, they can pressure an offensive line that has been terrible at protecting its quarterback. They’ll mix up their coverages and show the Browns something different than they’ve seen on tape. 

The Running Game is Key This Week: The Browns haven’t been good at defending the run. One way to slow down that pass rush of theirs is to run the ball effectively. If Sony Michel isn’t getting it done, then they should rotate Burkhead or Bolden in more.

On the flip side, limiting Chubb’s effectiveness, puts the onus more on Mayfield’s shoulders. He’s going to get things figured out eventually, and with the WRs they have, their offense will be very good. Just ensure it isn’t this week.

Play a Clean Game: The Patriots can’t allow the Browns to get any short fields for their offense and must protect the ball. Can the Browns generate enough offense on their own to win this game? I’d say no if you’re going by how this season has played out. 

Another area to monitor is the flags. The Patriots have been getting flagged more this season it seems than other years. The coaches need to get that cleaned up before it hurts the team in a key situation

___________

Prediction: 

The Patriots defense has been playing at an insanely high level this season. We look for that to continue. Mayfield hasn’t done a good job of protecting the ball and that should once again rear its ugly head in this one. Look for Brady to work the short area of the field with Edelman, White and more of Ben Watson this week. It will be interesting to see how quickly they can get Sanu into the passing offense.   

The defense will put pressure on Mayfield and do another great job of blanketing their opponent’s wide receivers. And the home team holds serve. Patriots 24-13

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” tour heads back out on the road next week when the Patriots travel to Baltimore to take on the Ravens.

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

 

New England Patriots News 01-06, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
January 6, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 01-06, & AFC East Notes.

Some Quick Hitters this morning:

No…This IS 41: Last week in the aftermath of the Jets game, another hot-take artist of Fox Sports radio with an ax to grind, first complained that the league conspired to get the Patriots the bye because of what he called a terrible call of roughing the passer by the Jets against Brady. “NFL badly needed the Patriots to get that #2 seed. This call is total garbage. Patriots eventually score, up 21-3.”

Then he cherry-picked a missed throw by Brady to Hogan in the end zone to claim, “This is 41.” The funny part was the next day, he called out another writer for having a “garbage take” on the Antonio Brown saga. Glass houses, especially when in the game against the Jets, Brady completed over 70 percent of his throws, threw 4 TDs and had a passer rating of 133.8.

But we can cherry pick too, so…here’s your “This is 41”

Did you Know? Since 2001, the Patriots have had 13 byes, the most in the NFL. The next closest teams are the Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers with 5. This is the ninth consecutive year earning a bye, the most prior to this Patriots run has been four. . Dallas and San Francisco earned four straight byes from 1992 through 1995 and Denver had four straight from 2012 through 2015.

Did you Know Pt. 2: The only NFL team to win a championship and is no longer in the league was from New England. The Providence Steamroller was part of the league from 1925 -1931 and won the NFL Championship in 1928. Besides being one of two teams (Chicago Cardinals) to be the first to play a night game in 1929, Providence, due to a scheduling snafu and bad weather played four games in a six-day stretch which the night game, attended by 6000 fans was the second game of the stretch.

Patriots Unveil 2018 Playoff Motto: The Patriots, as part of their M.O., have unveiled a motto for the playoffs this year, “Everything We Got.” They unveiled a short video that showed many of the national pundits calling for the demise of the Pats dynastic run.

Then the video shows the team in a quick series of vignettes and then the narrator says:
To get everything,
It’s going to take everything.
So we’re going to give everything.
EVERYTHING WE GOT.

Is it as good as “Do Your Job”? Nope. But it is a step up from “One More” in our opinion. Enjoy the Wildcard Weekend’s slate of the games. There were 12 good teams entering the playoffs this weekend, 11 of them will lose their last game of the year. That’s why our motto, which we’d steal from Hollywood, would be. “There Can Be Only One!”

With McDaniels and Flores Being Courted, Focus on O’Shea, Bielema:

Like clockwork, the staff of Bill Belichick is being raided again as multiple teams have requested interviews with coordinators Josh McDaniels and Brian Flores. McDaniels is rumored to be the top choice for the Green Bay Packers and is very much in the mix for Cleveland, he turned down a request to interview with Cincinnati. It might sound strange but the better job overall and probably better for McDaniels may be Cleveland.

The Packers have a 36-year old QB who got his last coach fired. The offense runs through Rodgers, it is doubtful, he’s going to want to learn a new system at this stage of his career. Cleveland has a good young defense, an exciting rookie QB that knows how to win and is a team trending up.

But we digress… If one, or both leave who will take over the reins as the coordinators for the Patriots in 2019? On offense, it seems like a no-brainer in that Chad O’Shea will take over the play calling there. He’s been being groomed for that spot for some time now. O’Shea has been with the team for 10 years and called the plays during the preseason last summer. That one seems like a slam-dunk. However, O’Shea’s name is being floated around as a possible Offensive Coordinator for Matt Patricia in Detroit. We’ll have to monitor that situation.

Defensively, the situation will be difficult as they have no clear-cut coach lined up to take the reins. In reality, Flores isn’t even a “true” defensive coordinator, as he’s not been even given the title of it yet… why, is a story for another time.

Bill Belichick would probably take most of the onus on himself as the defensive coordinator for 2019, however, there isn’t a clear-cut successor ready yet. The best choice? Bret Bielema who was a head coach at both Wisconsin and Arkansas. Brendan Daly, who coaches the Defensive Line, may become a candidate in a year or two, but right now, the odds would be against him.

AB to the Pats? Not Happening:

When the news broke about the deteriorating situation in Pittsburgh with Antonio Brown, it was amazing how dysfunctional that team truly is. Mike Tomlin has always run a loose ship and that has come home to roost. But as soon as the story broke about Brown requesting a trade, Patriots fans jumped all over the story, wanting Belichick to swing a deal for Brown.

But there is no way that’s happening. For one, the Steelers would still be on the hook for Brown’s huge 2019 cap hit. They’ll probably try to mend the relationship between Brown, QB Ben Roethlisberger, and Tomlin. Barring that, if they do decide to trade him, one place they never would trade Brown to would be New England.

And as ridiculously talented Brown is, I can’t imagine that there would be a mutual interest in bringing him here. Can you imagine Brown’s Facebook Live video going on while Belichick is addressing the team in a post-game setting? And Brown, although in the midst of a terrific season, was mad because Roethlisberger was making JuJu Smith-Schuster, who had an even better 2018, the focal point. I can’t see Brown accepting a role where he’s not “the guy” that the offense runs thru.

After last season and the tabloid-like story on the divorce of Brady/Belichick, while the team was going 13-3 and on their way to another Super Bowl, is there going to be a big breaking piece on the disintegration of the Steelers’ locker room? Their two most talented offensive players quit on their team this season…but we’re not holding our breath on that one.

Young QBs Have Fans Excited in Several Markets:

The NFL had an influx of young QBs this year and many of them played big roles for their teams right off the bat. And it is a great thing for several NFL franchises that have been downtrodden for a number of years as these young QBs generate hope and excitement for the next generation.

The league has their established stars in QBs like Brady, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers but the story this season really wasn’t about any of them but Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes, while technically not a rookie lit the league on fire this fall. While perennial bottom feeders in Cleveland now have an exciting young QB, Baker Mayfield who has instantly brought hope and respectability to the franchise. Lamar Jackson, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, and Josh Rosen have had different levels of success but at least have their fans tuning in.

No one knows if any of these young studs can keep up the long-term success that they’ve found in their first year of playing.  There are no guarantees, injuries occur as well as other issues that can arise, but right now, the 2019 season looks to be, on paper one to really look forward to.

Who You Have This Week? NFL Wildcard Weekend Predictions:

Last week: 12-4 Final Regular Season 165-89-2

Wildcard Weekend:

Saturday – Houston over Indy,
                 Seattle over Dallas
Sunday –   Baltimore over LA Chargers (tough start time for West Coast teams)
                Chicago over Philadelphia

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Have Their Man in Josh Allen, Now Need a Surrounding Cast:

The Buffalo Bills picked their guy in the QB Class of 2018 in the person of Allen, the big, strong-armed youngster from Wyoming who had a very up-and-down year, which isn’t a rarity for rookie QBs.

Allen has some obvious flaws in his game. He can be woefully inaccurate at times, but those are mechanical issues that can be solved thru coaching. But for a big guy (6’5, 237) he runs deceptively fast from the pocket.

The Bills need to surround Allen with better weapons next year. Although they have Zay Jones and Robert Foster, they could use another WR, RB, TE and a heckuva lot better support along the offensive line.

Allen ended the season in dramatic fashion, throwing for three TDs and running for two more, the first Bills QB to account for five TDs in a game since Jim Kelly. That left fans in Western NY, itching for a winner, looking forward to 2019. That may even stop them from throwing sex toys on the field during games… Maybe not.

Dolphins Search For the Next Head Coach:

The Miami Dolphins, in a mild surprise, fired head coach Adam Gase after the season was over, but the way the team finished their final quarter of the season, it shouldn’t have been. After an improbable, last-second fluke win over the Patriots, Miami was blown out in Minnesota, lost by 10 to Jacksonville and by 25 to Buffalo.

The Dolphins are busy trying to find their next head coach. GM Chris Grier has interviewed the Patriots’ Brian Flores, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and now are set to interview Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen. For Bieniemy, this season was just his first as a coordinator but it was his fourth interview this week. He also met with the New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Cincinnati Bengals.

Other names included in the search include Vic Fangio, Mike Munchak, Jim Harbaugh, and Dolphins’ Special Teams Coach Darren Rizzi.

Jets May Have Interest in Baylor HC Matt Ruhle :

The New York Jets are in Texas this weekend, interviewing Cowboys’ assistant coach Kris Richard but multiple sources are reporting that the Jets may also have a lot of interest in Baylor head coach Matt Ruhle.

Ruhle would be an interesting choice as he’s been instrumental in turning around a couple of college programs. Ruhle was born in New York City and spent a year on Tom Coughlin’s staff as an assistant offensive line coach.

He was the QB coach and offensive coordinator at Temple before becoming the head coach for four seasons. His last two in Temple, the team won 10 games, the only time in the program’s history that they accomplished that.  He then moved to Baylor to a program that had been rocked by a sexual assault scandal. In 2017, his team went 1-11. This season, they went 7-6. Ruhle got some interest from the Colts last year in their coaching search. He’d be a good coach it is believed to work with Sam Darnold.

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.

What Should the Patriots Do With All of This Draft Capital?

Steve Balestrieri
April 5, 2018 at 9:23 am ET

Well, things certainly have changed in a hurry around the New England Patriots. Suddenly the talk has ceased about “how deep is the rift between Bill Belichick and his players” and centered on what is happening now with the upcoming NFL Draft.

The surprising trade of Brandin Cooks to the Los Angeles Rams has netted the Patriots the Rams 1st Round draft pick #23 later this month. The teams also swapped fourth and sixth round picks. But now the Patriots have jumped into the realm of being a major player later this month with four picks in the first 63 selections of the draft.

The team has options. So, for you older folks who remember classic television shows, we’ll play a version of “Let’s Make A Deal” with the draft.

Behind Door #1:

The team could package both first round picks and ship them to the New York Giants for the very talented and equally mercurial wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. That’s what the Giants are asking for him and although they won’t get that, it is where any talks would begin.

This would make a large segment of the fan base ecstatic as the quest for the “name player” never ends. And if you’re playing Madden NFL, the idea of Brady, Gronkowski, Beckham Jr. and Edelman would certainly be a fun way to play a video game.

This won’t work for a couple of reasons. First, the NFL isn’t a video game nor fantasy football.  The Patriots aren’t going to pay Beckham anywhere close to what he’ll want and you’d have him under your control for one season. At which time, he would most certainly be gone. Two first round picks for a one-year rental?  That was a large part of the reason to trade Cooks in the first place.

The team already has nine wide receivers on the roster with Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Phillip Dorsett, Kenny Britt, Cordarrelle Patterson, Riley McCarron, Cody Hollister and Matthew Slater.

While Beckham is a special player, wide receiver isn’t a glaring need and those first-round picks could be much better served in filling other needs.

So, what’s behind, Door #2?

The Patriots could package those picks (23,31) and move up into the Top 15 to snag a quarterback of the future, like a Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, Lamar Jackson or Baker Mayfield, if they fell down the board for any reason.

Jackson is a popular pick for New England lately, he played in the Erhardt-Perkins offensive system that the Patriots use. That alone will make the learning curve much simpler for him to become in-tune with the offense.

The issue here is, will any of those players still be on the board then? Most mocks have those QBs all gone by #12. Would the top two picks the Patriots now possess (23,31) be enough capital to jump that high? Probably not, so they’d have to sweeten the pie quite a bit to jump in.

And of course, the team would have to be all-in on the quarterback that they select. And by all-in, that would have to include Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels. For if the succession plan is indeed in effect, then the QB taken will have to be someone he believes in. And it may not necessarily be the pocket passer they currently have with Brady. Jackson could easily be the guy they see as their next franchise QB. McDaniels, remember drafted a guy named Tim Tebow in Denver. So it could be a kind of QB that necessarily isn’t a clone of the Brady-type.

A lot would have to fall perfectly for the Patriots to get that type of move and the trade probably wouldn’t happen until the night of the draft. They’d see the board playing out in a certain way that they could make a move and then do it and swoop in for the next QB of the future.

And then there is finally Door #3:

In this scenario, the Patriots keep one or both picks and trade back for other draft capital. They have needs at Linebacker, on the edge, at OT, TE, RB and of course QB for the long-term.

There are plenty of good prospects that may be available to them at #23 that wouldn’t at #31, especially at linebacker, Rashaan Evans and Leighton Vander Esch have been widely thought to go between #25 and #28 with the Titans and Steelers, if not earlier.

They could then look for a QB in the 2nd or 3rd rounds (Luke Falk, Kyle Lauletta, Mason Rudolph) who they can develop over the next two or so seasons behind Brady.

This falls in line with the traditional M.O. of Bill Belichick who has said that the draft is an inexact science and the more chances you have at taking players, the better chance you do of hitting on those picks.

The Patriots draft board consistently only has about 15-20 players that Belichick believes are immediate starters, so they’re much more willing to trade back than to reach for a higher draft pick on a player that they don’t have rated that high. And finally, the Patriots are about building a 53-man roster, they’re not building a fantasy football team.

Belichick has made plenty of deals during the draft, and right now, they don’t have a 4th or 5th round draft pick after the deal with the Rams for Cooks. Expect that to change.

While the possibility for Door #2 most definitely does exist, look for the Patriots to go for Door #3. It fits with their traditional M.O. and will better serve their overall needs while still giving them a shot at a franchise QB later.

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

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