Tag Archives: Chris Hogan

Players To Watch Patriots-Dolphins Week 14

Steve Balestrieri
December 8, 2018 at 7:00 am ET

Playoff Atmosphere in South Beach This Weekend

The New England Patriots head to Miami to take on the Dolphins on Sunday and would love to exorcize some South Florida demons that have plagued them down there. Like a week ago, this game is important for both teams. The Patriots want to at least keep the #2 seed for the time being with the Houston Texans having the same record where the Patriots own the tiebreaker having won head-to-head. And they’re just a game behind the Chiefs for the #1 seed, also with a tiebreaker in hand.

Miami at 6-6 is still very much in the Wild Card hunt but has a rough road if they want to make up any ground. Following the Patriots, they have to go to the Minnesota Vikings, the Jacksonville Jaguars before finishing up on the road in Buffalo.

Yesterday we posted our keys to the game and key matchups where we broke down the game positionally.

So, from a Patriots perspective, here are our Players to Watch on Sunday:

Sony Michel:

The Patriots rookie running back is a key part of the New England attack and the go-to guy in the running game. On the season Michel has carried the ball 144 times for 649 yards (4.5-yard average) with five touchdowns.

He’s facing a Miami defense that is allowing 144.7 yards per game and 5.0-yards per carry this season. Michel had his coming out party against Miami in Foxboro Week 4 when he carried 25 times for 125 yards and a 10-yard touchdown.

While the Patriots will probably use all three running backs heavily in this one, with Rex Burkhead and James White in the passing game, Michel should be a key component in the offensive game plan this week against a team that is struggling to stop the run.

Trey Flowers:

The Patriots best defensive lineman has been outstanding this season. And this week they’ll probably be moving him to the left side to attack what has been the Dolphins weak spot, the right side of their offensive line.

Setting the edge will be important this week with both Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore in the backfield for Miami and Flowers has been the best at doing that for the Pats all season.

Miami has given up 31 sacks on the season and they’ll have to bring pressure on Ryan Tannehill to get him to get rid of the ball quickly and hopefully force him into making some mistakes. Flowers has notched sacks in three of the past four games and could be in line for another big game this week. Last week, Miami RG Jesse Davis gave up a pair of sacks, was flagged for holding as well as a false start.

Josh Gordon:

The Patriots big wide receiver is someone opponents have to account for him on every play, given his size and speed. With Xavien Howard out this week with a knee injury, Gordon’s role may become much larger this week as the Dolphins will have to shuffle personnel around to cover for their ball-hawking corner.

Gordon will draw either Minkah Fitzpatrick or second-year UDFA Torry McTyer and they are matchups that Tom Brady will be testing out early in this one. Gordon has been solid for the Patriots since arriving in mid-stream this season but has only had two 100-yard games, Chicago (4-100) and Green Bay (5-130-1TD). Could this be #3 for him?

Gordon wasn’t part of the game plan until late in the third quarter last week against Minnesota before ending up with 3 catches for 58 yards, and a score as well as drawing a big pass interference penalty. We expect that will change this week.

Kyle Van Noy:

The Patriots under the radar linebacker doesn’t have that concern when it comes to the Miami Dolphins. Dolphins coach Adam Gase called Van Noy a “nightmare for us” the past two seasons. And indeed Van Noy, when he’s been in the lineup has been exactly that when facing the Dolphins.

In the win in Foxboro in 2017, Van Noy had six tackles, a sack, a tackle for a loss, two QB pressures and a QB hit. This year in the 38-7 win in Week 4, four tackles, two pressures, a QB hit, and a fumble recovery. It is interesting to note, that Van Noy was injured and missed the late season game in Miami last year. Doug Kyed from NESN reported that Gase said that Van Noy on their radar.

“He does a great job. He disrupts. He does a great job setting the edge,” Gase said. “He always does a great job any time we — if we ever try to run the ball to the edge, it’s getting to the point where it’s kind of pointless. He shuts down the run to his side. That whole defensive line does a great job as far as when they’re working their stunts and you got the TEs and the ETs, they set each other up so well. There’s a lot of unselfish football going on along the defensive front. He plays a big part in it. He causes all kinds of problems.”

Chris Hogan:

The Patriots wide receiver has kind of been the forgotten man in the Patriots offense in the second half of the season. He went thru two straight games without being targeted at all. In the last two games, Hogan’s been targeted twice with two catches in each. And although it seems like his production is way off his previous seasons, it isn’t really. If Hogan can average two catches or more for the final four games of the season, he’d be right about the same production he’s been in the past.

We wrote that he may be an “X-Factor” in the offense this week. With Miami banged up across their roster and missing Howard in their secondary, it puts more pressure on the backup players. The trickle-down effect means that Hogan could be facing lesser competition with the Dolphins top defenders worrying about Gordon, Julian Edelman, and Rob Gronkowski.

He could be in line for a game like he had against either Kansas City or Chicago in back-to-back weeks where he had four catches for 78 yards or six for 63 respectively. One area where they’ve not targeted Hogan or Edelman as much this season is in the red zone. Especially that play along the back of the end zone. This may be a perfect time to dust that one off.

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

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

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

Steve Balestrieri
December 7, 2018 at 7:00 am ET

The New England Patriots head out for the first of their final two road games of the 2018 regular season. They play in Miami this week and Pittsburgh next week in games that will go a long way in determining where they stand in terms of AFC Playoff seeding.

The Patriots can clinch their 10th straight AFC East title with a win or a tie and would set a record for making the playoffs in10 straight years. They are currently tied with the Dallas Cowboys (1975-83) and the Indianapolis Colts (2002- 10) as the only teams to play in the postseason for nine straight seasons.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Ian Eagle will handle play-by-play duties with Dan Fouts as the color analyst. Evan Washburn will work from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (9-3) beat the Minnesota Vikings 24-10 in Foxboro as the defense was outstanding limiting the Vikings offense to just 278 yards while rolling up 471 of their own.

The Dolphins (6-6) beat the Buffalo Bills 21-17 as Ryan Tannehill threw for three touchdowns in the fourth quarter come-from-behind win.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2018 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game.

Series History:

The Patriots and the Dolphins are meeting for the 107th time in their history. Miami holds the overall edge 54-52 with each team holding big advantages at home. Against the Dolphins in Miami, the Patriots are 4-15 in the month of December.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge. First up is the Patriots offense:

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

The Patriots running game is nearly back to full strength with Sony Michel, James White, and Rex Burkhead as the three main backs in the backfield. But Julian Edelman and Cordarrelle Patterson both will see some carries on Jet Sweeps. James Develin, their big blocking fullback is now a short-yardage option. He scored a pair of touchdowns last week against Minnesota.

The Dolphins run defense was first gashed by the Patriots to the tune of 175 yards this season after Miami began 3-0. Since then they allowed 164 to the Bears, 248 vs the Lions, 188 to Houston, 195 to Green Bay, and 198 to the Bills. Miami is allowing an average of 144.7 yards per game and 5.0 yards per rush, which is 30th in the league.

Look for the Patriots to try to pound the rock all day between the tackles. Miami’s defensive tackles Davon Godchaux and Akeem Spence have not played well against the run and neither have linebackers, Raekwon McMillan and Kiko Alonso. If DC Matt Burke tries to bring the safeties up into the box in run support or blitz the linebackers, it will open up play-action passing.

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

The Patriots passing game has been playing their cards close to their vest lately as their being fairly conservative in the passing game. But in Josh Gordon, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan at wide receiver, Rob Gronkowski at tight end and James White, Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel out of the backfield, Tom Brady has a plethora of weapons. Add it Patterson and Phillip Dorsett and the depth is there for them to mix it up.

Miami may be without their best defensive player in Xavien Howard who has a knee injury. He’s an All-Pro talent who leads the team with seven interceptions this year. With him injured they’ve been forced to play Minkah Fitzpatrick at the other corner with Bobby McCain in the slot. If Howard can’t go, 2nd-year corner Torry McTyer will get the start. Miami has two very talented edge rushers in Robert Quinn and Cameron Wake but they’ll need to get pressure up the middle if they want to be successful there.

Look for Brady to utilize the “Pony” backfield with White and Burkhead on third down a lot in this one, they’ll try to isolate the linebackers in coverage and keep the sticks moving. If Howard is indeed out, look for Brady and Gordon to test McTyer. Chris Hogan could be an “X-Factor” this week.  

Next up the Miami offense:

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

The Dolphins running game is averaging 102.7 yards per game (24th) this season with a 4.3 average yards per carry. They have two very good backs in the ageless Frank Gore who leads the team with 616 yards and the dangerous Kenyan Drake. Their problem has been the offensive line hasn’t been on the field enough because of injuries.

The Patriots rush defense is currently 13th allowing 106.7 yards per game. They’ve been trending up in that regard and this week, they’ll have their hands full as the Dolphins will try to mix things up by using both Gore and Drake. They’ll have to get a big game out of their linebackers, especially Kyle Van Noy who Adam Gase was talking about this week.

Look for the Patriots to go to a bigger front this week with Gore in the lineup and try to get Miami into the 3rd and long passing situations. They’ll have to set the edge this week as the Dolphins should be much more patient with their running game than the Vikings were.

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

The Miami passing game is 28th in the league averaging just 199.4 yards per game. But getting Ryan Tannehill back from injury has helped and in the last two games, he’s had a passer rating of over 100 against the Colts and Bills defenses. He has DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, and Danny Amendola as wide receivers with Nick O’Leary and Mike Gesicki at tight end with Drake out of the backfield. The team was much more explosive before Jakim Grant and Albert Wilson went on IR.

The Patriots defense had their best game of the year last week against the Vikings. The secondary stuck like glue to the receivers and they had constant pressure on QB Kirk Cousins. Can they do that again in South Florida?

I would expect they will try to match Stephon Gilmore on Stills which should be a great matchup to watch. And I’d expect either Jason McCourty or J.C. Jackson on Parker with either McCourty or Jonathan Jones on Amendola in the slot. The key is getting pressure on Tannehill and look for the Patriots to attack the middle/right side where the Dolphins OL is banged up and RG Jesse Davis has not played well.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Miami

Both teams have gotten solid play in the kicking game from punter Matt Haack and kicker Jason Sanders for Miami and Ryan Allen and Stephen Gostkowski for New England. But Sanders gives the Dolphins the edge in the kicking game, especially at home. While Patterson in the return game is always a threat to return a big one. But although Miami misses Grant in the return game, the Pats coverage units have been uncharacteristically very inconsistent.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This one is a playoff game for both teams. Unlike 2013 and 2015 when the Patriots came limping into Miami beat up, this year it is the Dolphins who are all banged up with injuries while the Patriots are as healthy as one can expect at this time of year.

Last year the Pats got caught looking ahead to Pittsburgh and got their butts handed to them. But last year they afford that loss and keep the #1 seed as long as they beat Pittsburgh the next week. This year they don’t have that luxury and they know Miami still has a shot for a playoff berth.

Three keys from a Pats perspective:

Run the Ball Between the Tackles:
Miami isn’t good against the run and they’re ranked 30th for a reason. Spread the wealth between the three RBs and keep their defense on their heels. Plus it will open up play action and slow down their edge rushers.

Win the Turnover Battle:
Miami isn’t an offense that scores a lot of points, they can’t afford to get into a shootout situation. Their 29th in offense and 29th in defense. They are still in the hunt because they force a lot of turnovers. Make them go the length of the field with no easy scoring drives is a win-win situation.

Get After Tannehill:
Dolphins QBs have been sacked 31 times this year, the offensive line is suspect. Especially in the center and on the right. The Patriots don’t have a lot of sacks this year but they are among the top teams at creating pressure. They need to do that and force Tannehill into making mistakes. When they’ve lost to Miami down there, he was standing flat-footed in the pocket for much of those games.

Look for the Pats to play much better this time around. Belichick will harp on the way they looked past them last December and they should be ready to play. Look for Michel, Burkhead, and White to all have big games for the Patriots as the defense clamps down this time in South Beach. The East goes thru New England again.   Patriots 27-13

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Patriots Week 13 Report Card, Defense Dominates Vikes in 24-10 Win

Steve Balestrieri
December 4, 2018 at 7:00 am ET

The Patriots returned home to face the Minnesota Vikings in a game that was very important to both teams. And this one was dominated by the Pats defense, they held Minnesota to just 10 points and just three in the second half. The Vikings duo of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs was held in check extremely effectively by the NE secondary.

The Patriots offense rolled up 471 yards to just 278 for Minnesota. The win puts the Patriots at 9-3 for their 18th straight winning season which is second in NFL history to the Cowboys who had 21 straight winning seasons.

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

Quarterback: B

Tom Brady, mostly threw underneath to the backs and WRs on screen passes and quick throws which really gouged the Minnesota defense. When the Vikings began to adapt their looks and adjust, Brady then moved the ball down the field. He finished 24-32 for 311 yards (9.7-yard average which is great) with 1 TD and 1 INT for a 102.5 passer rating.

Brady’s movement in the pocket was superb, he felt the pressure and would slide or step up in the pocket. On his one pick, he was hit by Harrison Smith as he was letting go of the ball. Against one of the better defenses in the league, this was a very good performance.

Brady didn’t make any what we’d characterize as “great” throws, but he got everyone involved and kept the chains moving. But he was very good and kept the Vikings off balance.

Running Backs: B-

The Patriots running backs played a huge role in this game, they combined for 40 carries and catches on the day. James White had a big day with 6 carries for 26 yards and 7 catches for 92 more. Sony Michel didn’t have the biggest day with only a 3.7-yard average but he ran hard and was going against one of the better run defenses (3rd)  in the league. Rex Burkhead returned from IR and had a good solid complementary effort.

Overall, the Patriots ran for 160 yards on 39 carries which is a 4.1-yard average. While good anytime, against the Vikings defense, that is a very big game. It shows the coaches have faith in the running game and the players. Contrast that to what Minnesota did with just 13 rushes on the day.

James Develin had a pair of touchdowns from the one and the two-yard lines. The team may have found what ails them in the red zone and short-yardage.

Wide Receivers: B

The wide receivers, for the most part, had a pretty quiet game. Josh Gordon wasn’t even targeted until the closing moments of the 3rd Quarter. And then in the blink of an eye, Gordon has three catches for 58 yards and a touchdown as well as drawing a pass interference penalty.

Julian Edelman was quiet in the passing game (3 catches, 25 yards) but added 35 more in the running game. Chris Hogan had a pair of catches on two targets and Patterson had a big day, rushing, receiving and returning kickoffs for 114 yards total.  Phillip Dorsett wasn’t targeted.

Tight Ends: C

Rob Gronkowski was quiet in the passing game (3 catches, 26 yards) but was his usual beast-like self in the running game opening holes for the running backs. He also got flagged for a couple of penalties for a false start and holding.

Offensive Line: A-

The offensive line did a tremendous job considering the defense they were going up against. Minnesota entered the game with the third overall defense, 4th against the run, 5th against the pass and the Pats rolled up 471 yards.

The offensive line opened enough holes in the running game for the Pats to run for 160 yards. The pass protection, while solid wasn’t really tested much as Brady was throwing quick passes and the misdirection plays and screens kept the Vikings on their heels.

But when they did throw downfield later in the game, they did a tremendous job against one of the better defensive units in the league.

Defensive Line: B+

The defensive line had a very solid night. They were mixing and matching and shifting players around to bring pressure on Kirk Cousins and they sacrificed their run defense in order to take away what the Vikings do best.

Trey Flowers and Lawrence Guy both turned in excellent games. Adam Butler and Adrian Clayborn both contributed and the front seven were a constant disruption of the Vikings offense all night long. The Patriots dusted off their muddled front with at times only Flowers as the only down lineman, and with others Flowers and Butler.

And BTW, Guy stopped Murray short on that 4th and 1, I still don’t think Murray has made the sticks yet. Awful call.

Linebackers: A-

The Patriots linebackers easily had their best game of the season. With the coverage downfield solid, Cousins was forced to check down to his running backs which is a weakness of the LB unit right? Well on Sunday night. Dalvin Cook had eight catches, for just 22 yards. Latavius Murray had two catches for three yards.

All three of the linebackers (Kyle Van Noy, Dont’a Hightower and Elandon Roberts) were all over the field. They were tackling receivers with no yards after the catch and rushing up in the rush against the QB.

Roberts set the tone early with a thunderous hit on Cook on the first snap. But he was victimized twice on runs over running the hole and those two plays went for 50 yards on the ground. While that knocks down the grade a bit, Roberts was all over the field and was hitting everything in sight.

Secondary: A-

The secondary was terrific. Adam Thielen came in with nine 100-yard games and the Patriots held him to just five catches for 28 yards and a score. The Patriots doubled him most of the game which took him effectively out of the game plan.

Stephon Gilmore was very effective on Stefon Diggs and the team felt confident enough in rookie J.C. Jackson that they slid him over on Diggs as well. That allowed them to get creative on third downs. Jason McCourty largely covered Thielen in the slot which then allowed the Pats to move the bigger Jackson outside.

The safeties,   Devin McCourty, Jason McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon and Obi Melifonwu were very active and they confused Cousins with their crowding things up with their looks down low in the box. It all played a hand in how they limited the Vikings to just 201 yards thru the air. Jonathan Jones and Duron Harmon had interceptions.

Special Teams: B-

The Special Teams was lauded by Belichick after the game for their results in the kicking game. Ryan Allen had another strong game pinning the Vikings inside the 10 and angling his punts along the sideline. Cordarrelle Patterson and Julian Edelman both had nice returns of 34 and 23 respectively. Jonathan Jones may have influenced a missed FG with his breaking thru the line. But they also gave up big returns in the kicking game and Brandon King got whistled for a hold that wiped out a nice punt return.

Coaches: A-

The Patriots coaching staff came up with a terrific game plan to take on the Vikings and the players executed it extremely well. There was no doubt that the Patriots were ready for this one, right from the opening snap. Brian Flores had a very aggressive game plan on tap right from the start and they didn’t deviate from it, even when the Vikings made them pay for it on their only touchdown drive of the game just before halftime.

Josh McDaniels was trying to take away the Vikings pass rush early in this one with screens, quick passes, and misdirection, and the defense was never able to assert itself in this game. They had their moments when they sputtered but going 7-14 on third down and 2-3 in the red zone against the Vikings defense, numbers which would have been even better if the referees called an interference on Edelman on third and goal (but we digress).

Bill Belichick had a firm hold on this one throughout. The team was prepared and they all executed the game plan in fine fashion.

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Patriots Strong Finish Buries Vikings 24-10, Observations

Steve Balestrieri
December 3, 2018 at 7:30 am ET

The Patriots took a workman-like approach to the game on Sunday and ground out a hard-fought 24-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. The victory moved the Pats to 9-3 and they have kept the #2 seed behind Kansas City who beat the Raiders on Sunday.

All week there has been some loud noise from the doubters stating that maybe this team wasn’t as good as some of the other Patriots teams in the past and that the defense, bereft of playmakers would be the Achilles Heel of them. That remains to be seen but the indications are that this team is rounding into form defensively.

It was the defense that stepped up, limiting the Vikings to just 10 points. Kirk Cousins was frustrated all night long as the Minnesota deep passing game was taken away and he was forced to check down for passes underneath.

He completed eight passes to Dalvin Cook out of the backfield but for just 22 yards. The tackling and coverage were terrific on those.

The Patriots secondary was outstanding, the dynamic duo of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs was held in check. Combined, they managed 10 catches for 77 yards and one touchdown. Thielen who had nine 100 yard games entering the contest was held to just five catches for 28 yards and a score. Diggs had five for 49. Mission accomplished

It was truly a collaborative effort when combatting Thielen who has been tearing it up in the league this season. Jason McCourty drew the assignment when Thielen lined in the slot. Stephon Gilmore covered Thielen occasionally when he was on the outside. Rookie J.C. Jackson even lined up on him once or twice.

Some observations from the game include:

Patriots Offense Still A Work in Progress:

On some levels, it still seems like the team doesn’t really know what it has offensively. It really seems like Josh McDaniels and the offense is playing their cards close to their vest. They mixed things up nicely on their opening drive, a variety of runs, screen passes, and misdirection had the Vikings on their heels. They scored a touchdown but then would only add three points for the rest of the first half.

They stayed conservative until late in the third quarter and then Tom Brady began pushing the ball down the field and they quickly found their rhythm. While we believe that the Patriots should be scoring more than 24 points (they certainly believe that) the fact that they rolled up 471 yards of offense on the third-ranked defense in the NFL.

And on third down and the red zone what we believed was to be a key area of the game, they were 7-14 and 2 of 3 respectively against the #1 team. Tom Brady finished 24-32 for 311 yards (9.7-yard average) with a TD and an INT. His passer rating was 102.5

Brian Flores Is More Aggressive Than Patriots Teams in the Past:

The Patriots defense came into this one looking to try to limit the Minnesota deep passing game. They did it extremely well, with very good coverage and an aggressive blitz scheme that keep the Vikings on their heels and made them earn every yard down the field.

The Vikings were just 3-12 on third down for the game as Flores did a tremendous job of disguising their coverages and looks and dialing up the pressure that made Cousins have to get rid of the ball to his check down receivers.

Cousins burned them on it, as can happen when they beat the blitz during the Vikings only touchdown drive at the end of the first half. That’s the risk you take but overall the unit played very well. And they never went away from it. They were willing to concede the running game (95 yards on 13 carries) by getting after the passer. Trey Flowers was terrific once again.

We wrote before the game, lost in all of the talk about the yardage allowed by the Patriots defense thru the air was the fact that they were the 6th best team in the Opposing QB rating with a mark of 87.3. Cousins’ QB rating for Sunday was 70.3.

I like that the Patriots are working in Obi Melifonwu into the game plan covering tight ends in the dime package. He was competitive going against Kyle Rudolph and certainly looked like he knocked the ball out on the sidelines. But the officials ruled it a catch. On that subject, Lativius Murray still hasn’t reached the sticks on the 4th and 1 run…no evidence?

Gordon Invisible For a Half Then Bursts Out:

Something that goes along with McDaniels playing things close to his vest was the game of Josh Gordon. He wasn’t even targeted in the first half. Then after Minnesota tied the score, the offense looked his way when he and Brady began the next drive hooking up for a 24-yard catch and run. They’d finish the drive in a similar fashion.

On a 1st-and-10 from the Vikings 24-yard line, Brady stepped up in the pocket and found Gordon all alone inside the 10. He found the open spot in the Vikings zone coverage, and Brady zipped him the ball. Gordon caught the pass at the 7-yard line, and easily cruised into the end zone. He finished with three catches for 58 yards and the score.

After the game, he was asked the significance of catching Brady’s 500th TD pass and then his 579th career pass (including postseason) to tie Peyton Manning and he had this to say.

“It must be fate. I won’t say coincidence, but it’s great to be on the receiving end of it,” Gordon said. “Extremely humbled to come out here every Sunday and get a chance to play, let alone with Tom Brady, the greatest to ever do it. So to be part of history with him? I can’t really even put the words to describe what that means to me. It’s just great to have the opportunity.”

Patriots Offensive Line Deserves High Marks Again:

Coming into this game, the thought was that the Patriots couldn’t run the way they did against the Jets when they ran for over 200 yards. They didn’t, but they came pretty close, running for 160 yards against a much, much tougher Viking front seven. The offensive line led the way with a very strong performance and didn’t allow a sack of Brady on the night.

Sony Michel led the way with 63 yards on 17 carries but seven different Patriots ran the ball in a team-oriented win. Rex Burkhead returned and had seven carries and two pass receptions. James Develin showed some respite for the short-yardage game with two short touchdown runs.

Cordarrelle Patterson played against his former team and accounted for 114 yards with 1 carry for six yards, 2 catches for 53 yards and 2 kickoff returns for 55 more. James White had six carries for 26 and seven more catches for 92 for 118 yards.

So with the Pittsburgh Steelers blowing a big second-half lead to the Chargers, that drops them a game and a half behind New England for the #2 seed. But Houston won again and has the same record so they can’t falter now.

The Patriots move on to Miami for a “Hat and T-shirt” game for the division win next week. That’s always the first goal, win the division, get a first round bye….etc.

We’re on to Miami.

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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.

New England Patriots News 12-02, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
December 2, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 12-02, & AFC East Notes.

Some Quick Hitters this morning:

Just a reminder that you revisit our keys to the game here:
And our players to watch from a Patriots perspective by clicking on the links:

Trey Flowers missed practice on Friday, and immediately alarm bells went off. But then it was announced that his absence was not injury related. He published the reason for his absence later and it was a good one.

Did you Know? With two touchdown passes, Brady will move past Brett Favre for the second-most TD passes in the regular season with 509, (Manning has 539), and he’d move ahead of Manning for the most TD passes for both the regular and postseason combined with 580.

Did you Know Pt.2? Since 2001, the Patriots are 91-12 (.883) when they don’t turn the ball over and 144-12 (.923) with a positive turnover margin.

Did you Know Pt. 3: With a win, the Patriots will own a 54-14 (.794) record vs. NFC teams since
realignment in 2002, which is the best interconference record in the NFL during that time, including a 17-3 mark against the NFC North. With a win today the Patriots will improve their home record versus the NFC to 27-7 (.794)

Bill Belichick coaches his 300th regular season game for the Patriots today. Since 2000, he has a record of 222-77 (.742) and led the Patriots to 15 division titles in 18 seasons.

The NFL and KC Chiefs organizations continue to hit the low bar when it comes to violence against women. The Chiefs released Kareem Hunt on Friday after the video of an assault against a woman he had spent the day with surfaced on TMZ.

The Chiefs and NFL knew about this when it happened in February and the league with a large investigative branch of ex-cops, FBI agents and private investigators couldn’t find in nine months what TMZ did? They turned a blind eye toward it until it hit them in the face (Ray Rice video ring a bell?) The truth is…the Chiefs didn’t want to know, they were content, chalking this up to being young and inexperienced. Which is worse.

McDaniels Leaving? Doubtful:

Every year when the list for potential new NFL head coaches come out, Patriots Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels normally is one of the most mentioned coaches that may be on the market.  I highlight “may-be” because I really don’t think that McDaniels is going anywhere this spring, although stranger things have happened.

After the Indianapolis Colts had their flirtation with McDaniels and he bolted at the last possible second and opted to remain with the Patriots, he was signed to a five-year deal which supposedly pays him in the top tier of assistant coaches in the NFL.

If there was one place where he could possibly be enticed, it would be Cleveland. The Browns have seemingly turned a corner and it was known that McDaniels really liked Baker Mayfield in last spring’s NFL Draft. But one would have to believe that as long as Tom Brady is playing, that McDaniels is staying put as well.

Belichick is Pleased With Patterson in 2018:

The Patriots picked up Cordarrelle Patterson this year and no one was really sure how’d he’d do in the New England system. Patterson has always been a dynamic kick returner and this season has been no exception, he’s returned one for a TD, while most times teams are content with booting the ball out of the end zone and giving the Patriots the ball at the 25-yard line. But beyond that, it was a question mark.

Patterson has fit in quite well, doing a little bit where ever he’s been needed. Early in the year when the team was woefully thin at WR, he filled in and had some production there. Later as injuries wracked the running back position, Patterson accepted the challenge and filled in there as well. On the season Patterson has caught 13 passes for 122 yards with 2 TDs including a 55-yarder. He’s carried the ball 37 times for 156 yards and a score. In the kicking game, he’s returned 17 kicks for 525 yards (30.9-yard average) with a 95-yard return for a TD.

Bill Belichick mentioned Patterson during his comments on Weds. “…he’s been a good player with two different organizations,” Belichick said.  “You know, he ran the ball, he caught it, he ran with it, he returned it, he covered kicks, he blocked – he has a lot of skill and he’s a big guy that can run, he’s tough, and he shows up every day.

“So, we thought were getting that, that’s what we got and we’ve used him in different ways.  He’s embraced it, he’s worked hard to learn and accept different roles and he’s done them well.  So, he’s been a pleasure to coach, he’s been a great addition to our team and he’s given us a lot of versatility, and times where we’ve really needed him to step in and help us, and he has.”

Tom Brady has blessed Patterson with the nickname, “The Experiment” and it is one the player has embraced. “Oh man, I like any nickname Tom gives me,” Patterson said.  “I’m enjoying my time here. I am having fun, as always. No matter where I am I am going to have fun and enjoy myself like it’s my last.”

McCourty Helping Melinfonwu Get Up to Speed with the Safties:

Zack Cox from NESN had a nice piece this week on the website about how veteran Devin McCourty and the other safeties are aiding newcomer Obi Melifonwu to get fully acclimated to the Patriots defense. After saying that the Grafton, Mass. native and UConn alum was “freaking huge”, McCourty said the 6’4, 224-lb safety is doing all the right things with his teammates.

“He’s a bigger, physical guy,” McCourty said to Cox “and I thought he’s done a great job, whether it’s staying after with (Steve Belichick), talking to myself, (Pat) Chung or (Duron Harmon) (about) when he’s out there, what we expect of him and what we need him to do and then what he expects of us and what we need to do to help him.”

McCourty reiterated what we’ve said here, Melifonwu may be the team’s long-term answer covering opponent’s tight ends. “(He’s a) very athletic guy,” McCourty added. “He’s able to go up there and match up on some tight ends, and where we’re talking about being undersized against them, he lines up and is mano-a-mano, same size.

We’ve been on the Obi bandwagon since the 2017 NFL Draft, so to say we’re optimists here would be an understatement.

Who You Have This Week? NFL Week 13 Predictions:

Last week: 10-5 Season 114-60-2

Thursday night’s picks Saints over the Cowboys 0-1

Baltimore at Atlanta: Falcons
Denver at Cincinnati: Broncos
LA Rams at Detroit: Rams
Arizona at Green Bay: Packers
Buffalo at Miami: Dolphins
Chicago at NY Giants: Bears
Carolina at Tampa Bay: Panthers
Indianapolis at Jacksonville: Colts
Cleveland at Houston: Texans
NY Jets at Tennessee: Titans
KC at Oakland: Chiefs
Minnesota at New England: Patriots
San Francisco at Seattle: Seahawks
LA Chargers at Pittsburgh SNF: Chargers
Washington at Philadelphia MNF: Eagles

Thursday Early Pick: Titans over Jaguars

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Look To Continue Winning Ways In Miami:

The Buffalo Bills own a modest two-game winning streak, but when you’re 4-7, you look for positives where they may fall. Technically the Bills still have a minuscule chance at the post-season, they’d have to run the table and finish at 9-7 and still need help but they are playing a Dolphins team that is also struggling at 5-6 and on defense.

Rookie QB Josh Allen has struggled this season but against a Miami defense that is  29th in total yards allowed, 30th in passing yards per attempt, 29th in sacks and 29th in rushing yards allowed, things are looking better for a Bills offense that has struggled.

But the Buffalo defense will have to be much better against the run this week. They were gashed by the Jaguars to the tune of 225 yards before Leonard Fournette foolishly got himself ejected from the game. And they’ll have to deal with Frank Gore and Kenyon Drake who gives Miami a nice 1-2 punch.

Clock Running Out on Dolphins/Tannehill:

The Miami Dolphins have been patient, very patient in waiting for Ryan Tannehill to become the franchise QB that they hoped they drafted in 2012 when they selected him with the 8th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

But here he is and will be entering the fourth year of a six-year, $95.272 million deal that he signed in 2015. And the Dolphins are still waiting. Tannehill has only played in six games this year, getting injured in his throwing shoulder. But in those games, the Dolphins are 3-3, with Tannehill going 102-154 for 1,176 yards, 10 touchdowns, and five interceptions.

Miami, like Buffalo, has to go on a roll at the end of the season to make the playoffs. That may be the only thing that saves Tannehill’s tenure with the Dolphins. He can be jettisoned next spring when he’ll be owed a cap hit of $26,611,666. Miami will absorb a $13,423,334 dead cap hit if they release him in March.

McCown Expected to Start in Tenn. for the Jets:

The New York Jets rookie QB Sam Darnold is rapidly getting back to normal from his injured foot and was removed from the injury report on Friday. But even still, the Jets are expected to roll with the veteran Josh McCown this week and possibly start Darnold against Buffalo next week.

At 3-8, the Jets season is over and now they’re playing for pride…and jobs for next year. But this week, they’re facing a 5-6 Tennessee team that still has a shot at a playoff berth but was smarting from a loss at Houston last week.

The Jets are reeling, losers of five in a row and have allowed back-to-back 200-yard rushing performances by the opposition. Facing a rush-heavy Titans attack with Dion Lewis, Derrick Henry, and QB Marcus Mariota, the pressure will be on the Jets front seven to play much better this 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.

Players To Watch Patriots-Vikings Week 13

Steve Balestrieri
November 30, 2018 at 1:00 pm ET

Big Game For Both Teams

The New England Patriots return home after a few games on the road and the bye week to take on the Minnesota Vikings in a late afternoon game that will be televised by Fox.

This is a very big game for both teams this week. The Patriots traditionally try to turn things up a notch in December and get ready for a deep playoff push. They are currently the #2 seed and still have a shot at being the #1 with a first-round bye.

The Vikings are currently the #5 seed with a shot at still winning their division with the Bears although they trail by a game and half with still one against each other still in play.

So, from a Patriots perspective, here are our Players to Watch on Sunday:

Rex Burkhead:

The Patriots versatile but injury-prone running back returns this week and the feeling here is that he may be eased back into things slowly. With Sony Michel playing excellent football right now, there is no need for the Patriots to overwork Burkhead right off the bat, as he hasn’t played since the first half of the Lions game in Week 3.

But one area that the Patriots could use Burkhead and his versatility is in the red zone where they’ve been struggling (for them) this season. The Patriots sit at a 63 percent touchdown rate in the red zone which is 13th in the league. Not bad, but much lower than they always are. Burkhead could change that. James White is an excellent receiver but just so-so as a runner. Sony Michel is having an excellent season running the ball but has yet to be fully integrated into the passing game. The team is a bit one-dimensional with those players in the game.

Burkhead is more than capable of running the ball between the tackles and catching it out of the backfield. He’s also a very good blocker in pass protection. With him having a smaller workload in his first game back, we could still see Josh McDaniels having a plan to utilize him in the red zone.

Trey Flowers:

The Patriots best player on their front seven and arguably on their defense is going to be looked to provide a bulk of the Patriots pass rush this week. With the weapons that the Vikings have on their offense, it is imperative that the Patriots bring pressure on Kirk Cousins before his talented wide receivers (Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs) shake loose in the secondary.

The Patriots pass rush this year (and for several of the past years) has been largely stuck in neutral. It puts the secondary in the bad position of having to cover for too long. They have addressed the issue with multiple players but thus far it is still a problem.

We’ll look to see if they move Flowers around some and utilize him as an interior pass rusher to get more speed and athleticism on the field. But a lot of eyes will be on the Pats best DL. They will try to attack the right side of the Minnesota offensive line, that is where they’ve been having issues protecting Cousins.

Julien Edelman:

The Patriots slot receiver has been terrific in several of the latest games, he set the tone for the offense last week, getting a 36-yard catch and run on the Patriots first drive of the game. He’ll be going against  MacKensie Alexander this week. Alexander has been terrific over the last month +, allowing a QB rating of just 45 when opposing QBs have targeted him.

Edelman has always been the guy to do the dirty work underneath and frequently takes a terrific beating while doing so. Alexander is a great matchup for Edelman and we expect to see those two battling all day long.

With the excellent pass rush of the Vikings, Tom Brady will be looking to get the ball out quickly. And there is no one who has the chemistry with Brady better than Edelman. We look for him to be targeted early and often in this one.

Pat Chung:

The Pats box safety had an excellent bounce-back game against the Jets last week. This week, the stakes are higher and the opposition is much better. The Vikings are a difficult matchup team for the Patriots defense due to their running back, Dalvin Cook and their tight end Kyle Rudolph, two areas that the Pats have issues defending.

Chung is the team’s best tackler in the box and he’ll have to be strong in run support against Cook while being one of the defenders against Rudolph in the passing game.

One thing we may see more of this week is the Patriots “Big Nickel” look with safeties taking the place of LBs in coverage. We saw just a glimpse of it last week as the Pats broke in newly signed S Obi Melifonwu and with his size and athleticism, he should be a natural at that. That would allow Chung to play closer to the line of scrimmage in the box. It is a chess match every week.

Josh Gordon:

The Patriots big wide receiver has been slowly finding his way in New England, learning on the fly and while he may no longer be the athletic freak he was five years ago, he still has plenty of speed and with his size, opponents have to account for him on every play. With Xavier Rhodes banged up and questionable this week, Gordon may play a big role in the game plan.

But what is really exciting for Gordon is the motivation that comes with playing meaningful football games in December/January. That is a first for him and he told the media this week that he’s excited for it to happen.

“It’s exciting,” he said. “It’s motivational for me and for everybody. I’ve never really got the opportunity before, considering the circumstances. So it’s great to have the opportunity now.”

Gordon told Mike Reiss of ESPN that, “I think there’s a lot more room to expand upon and potential to be reached. It just goes to how much work I put in, and let it manifest itself on the field,” he said. “The most I can do is just stay consistent with my work ethic and the rest will try to work itself out eventually.”

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.

PHOTOS: Patriots To Wear Special Cleats For NFL “My Cause My Cleats” Campaign

Robert Alvarez
at 10:39 am ET

During Week 13 of the 2018 NFL season, players and coaches around the league will be participating in the “My Cause My Cleats” campaign.

According to the NFL, “My Cause My Cleats gives NFL players the opportunity to personalize their cleats and raise awareness for the charities and foundations they passionately support. The initiative also gives players a platform to share their stories and why the causes are important to them.”

On Sunday afternoon against the Minnesota Vikings, more than a dozen players and coaches on the Patiots will wear their customized cleats and sneakers.

In total 19 Patriots players and head coach Bill Belichick will participate in the campaign.

Here is the full list of players and their foundation/cause of choice.

[Courtesy CBS Boston and PatsPulpit]

David Andrews (Warrior Dog Foundation)
Tom Brady (Best Buddies & The Ellie Fund)
Rex Burkhead (Team Jack Foundation)
Adrian Clayborn Brachial plexus injury awareness
Phillip Dorsett Depression and anti-bullying
Nate Ebner (Fuel Up To Play 60)
Stephon Gilmore Depression and anti-bullying
Lawrence Guy (My Life My Choice & Show Your Soft Side)
Duron Harmon (Autism Speaks)
Brian Hoyer (MSPCA-Angell)
Dont’a Hightower (One Family Inc.)
Chris Hogan (Headstrong)
Jacob Hollister (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention)
Devin McCourty (Players Coalition)
Jason McCourty (Embrace Kids Foundation)
Sony Michel (Earthquake In Haiti Relief)
Derek Rivers (Jar Of Hope)
Matthew Slater (International Justice Mission)
Kyle Van Noy (Van Noy Valor Foundation)

A few Patriots shared photos and video on their social media accounts but you can also check out the Patriots website for a full photo slideshow of all the cleats.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BqsqgC7H9yk/

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bqx6_6aBscG/?utm_source=ig_twitter_share&igshid=koqp2gt2jqzy

For more information, check out nfl.com/mycausemycleats

Patriots-Vikings Week 13, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
at 6:00 am ET

The New England Patriots came off their bye week with a 27-13 win over the Jets in the Meadowlands, a much-needed road win. Now, they’re taking on the Minnesota Vikings who appear to be a much better team than their record indicates at 6-4-1. This is a huge game for both teams.

Minnesota is second in their division, a game and a half behind the Bears who they play one more time on 12/30. But a loss to Chicago a few weeks ago and to the Bills early in the year have really hurt them.

This week’s game will be broadcast by FOX and can be seen locally on WFXT Channel 25. Joe Buck will handle play-by-play duties with Troy Aikman as the color analyst. Erin Andrews 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 (8-3) are coming off of a win over the Jets 27-13 on the road. The offense rolled up nearly 500 yards and Sony Michel gained 133 yards on 21 carries.

The Vikings (6-4-1) beat the Packers 24-17 to keep their divisional hopes alive. Kirk Cousins threw for over 300 yards against the Packers despite being under pressure for most of the game.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2018 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game.

Series History:

The New England Patriots and Minnesota Vikings are meeting for just the 13th time, they last met in 2014 when Cordarrelle Patterson was a member of the Vikings. The Patriots are 8-4 in their brief history and have won the last four meetings. The last time the two teams met in Foxboro was in 2010 when Brett Favre was QB for Minnesota.

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 Vikings Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Minnesota

The Patriots running game was clicking on Sunday against the Jets as they rolled up 215 yards on the ground. Sony Michel led the way with 133 yards with James White picking up 72. Now they have Rex Burkhead back from IR with concussion/neck injuries. The Pats OL did a tremendous job of clearing out lanes for the backs to run, but this week they have a much tougher task.

The Minnesota front seven is excellent against the run, 4th best in the league allowing an average of just 93.6 yards per game. They’re big, physical and maintain outstanding gap integrity. Linval Joseph and a resurgent Sheldon Richardson are a very, very tough pair of DTs to move in the running game. They held the Packers to just 82 yards a week ago.

Look for the Patriots to mix things up, with the aggressiveness of the edge players, they may try to sneak Michel and Burkhead more toward the edge this week. But with the Vikings, they’ll have to stay patient because yards on the ground will be difficult to come by this week.

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

The Patriots passing game is currently 11th in the league but they just got back Rob Gronkowski last week and gets back Burkhead this week. When he’s been healthy, he’s been an outstanding option in the passing game. Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, and Chris Hogan all pose big matchup problems if Tom Brady has time to throw. The Pats OL will have their hands full with a very good pass rush.

Minnesota is currently fifth best against the pass in 2018, allowing just 221.1 yards per game. Something to keep in mind, the Vikes held both Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers to under 200 yards passing. They have excellent bookend pass rushers in Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter, but the key is again inside. If Joseph and Richardson can push the pocket, Brady will not be able to step up and make his throws.

The secondary is aggressive and athletic. But Xavier Rhodes is questionable in this one. It will be him matched up with Gordon outside, but if he can’t go, then the Vikings may opt to give help over the top. Edelman and MacKensie Alexander will be another great matchup to watch. Alexander has been terrific over the last month-plus, allowing a QB rating of just 45 when targeting him.  

And then there is Gronkowski, I would think they’d put Anthony Barr with safety help on him but the Rhodes situation may have some bearing on that. Home cooking is always a big deal when talking offenses. Look for Brady and the offense to use play-action a lot in this one.

Of course, the Patriots will have to be aware of Harrison Smith and where he is on the field. Bill Belichick compared him to Ed Reed this week. Anyone who knows how BB feels about Reed knows that it isn’t a comparison he throws around lightly. It promises to be a fascinating matchup.

Next up the Vikings offense:

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

Minnesota’s running game is currently 30th in the league right now averaging just 85.3 yards per game. Dalvin Cook is the lead back, but he’s been hurt for much of the season and has appeared in just six games. Latavius Murray, Mike Boone, and Ameer Abdullah also can contribute. Don’t be put off by Cook’s 3.5-yard average, he looks to be getting his explosion back. The key will be the offensive line play.

The Patriots run defense has been up and down this year but they’ve been trending better in that department. Lawrence Guy has been very solid as has Trey Flowers and Kyle Van Noy in run support. The key here is setting the edge.

Cook is the kind of back who has traditionally given the Pats trouble. Although I don’t expect he’ll have big numbers running the ball, as we mentioned above, setting the edge on the side opposite of Flowers will be key and that is where the Vikings will attack.

Vikings WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Minnesota

The Vikings passing game is 7th in the league averaging 283.2 yards per game. They have one of the league’s most dynamic players in Adam Thielen who has caught 93 passes this season. Stefon Diggs and Laquon Treadwell give them an excellent trio. Kirk Cousins has come in and completed 71.1 percent of his passes for 3289 yards (7.1-yard average) with 22 TDs and 7 INTs. TE Kyle Rudolph and Cook out of the backfield give them a plethora of targets in the passing game.

The Patriots have the league’s 25th pass defense giving up a lot of yards (269.7) but the opposing passer rating of 87.3 is the 6th best in the NFL (Minnesota is 8th). They’re competitive outside but have big issues covering tight ends and backs.

How the Patriots cover Thielen will be an intriguing matchup. The Vikings like to put him in the slot, I see the Patriots using Jason McCourty with over the help safety help on most downs with him. They’ll try to matchup Diggs with Stephon Gilmore. They’re not going to shut them down regardless. They’re going to get their yards, but I expect the Patriots to be competitive there.

It will be interesting to see if Belichick and Flores go back to Jonathan Jones who was benched last week for poor play or roll with the rookie J.C. Jackson who replaced him. The key here is with Rudolph and Cook. Pat Chung and Devin McCourty will have to be on top of their game’s this week. Could we see more of Obi Melifonwu helping on the tight end with his size and athleticism? Possibly. He could be the long-term answer there, but for now, I think the ball is in Chung and McCourty’s hands to do the job.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots special teams normally play better at home and I think that Cordarrelle Patterson (playing against his former team) and Julian Edelman may have a big return or two in the cards for this one. The Patriots get the edge in the kicking game with Stephen Gostkowski over Dan Bailey while both punters are solid with Ryan Allen and Matt Wile for the Vikes.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This should be a hold-on-to-the-edge-of-your-seat kind of game this week. I fully expect it to go right down to the wire. Both teams need the win, the Vikings to keep their division hopes alive and for the time being, to maintain the #5 seed. The Patriots are currently the #2 seed, a game behind KC and with a Chiefs’ slip up, they could slide into the #1 spot due to a tie-breaker. Keys to the game from a New England perspective.

Third Down/Red Zone: Minnesota is one of the best defensive teams in each of these categories for a reason. Minnesota is 2nd in the RZ and 1st on 3rd Down. With a full complement of offensive weapons, the Patriots have to play better in each this week. Burkhead could be their “X-Factor” here. The playcalling from Josh McDaniels in the red zone will be something to watch this week. The calls have been a bit predictable and we’ll see if they mix it up.

Defensively, the Patriots must get off the field on 3rd down. Look for Brian Flores and Belichick to be more aggressive this week. They should take a few more risks in order to bring pressure on Cousins. If they’re getting the job done against the run, we could see more of the lighter fronts with moving Trey Flowers inside as an interior pass rusher or Deatrich Wise and Adam Butler in the same role.

No Turnovers: The Vikings are an aggressive bunch and can create turnovers on defense, they will at times roll the dice and be susceptible to a big play. Brady has to be spot on and recognize his opportunities and produce. Defensively, the Pats likewise will have to roll the dice and blitz Cousins. The pass rush has been nowhere near good enough. Could it cost them six? With this team, easily but that is what they’re going to have to do to slow them down.

Stay Balanced: The Pats are an excellent offense when they can run and pass. With everyone getting healthy offensively both in skill positions and on the OL, they have to remain balanced and not give the Vikings the advantage of dialing it up when they’re in 3rd and long.

The weather forecast is calling for rain early (like every weekend this fall) but may taper off later in the game. The wet ball could be a factor, we’ll have to see.

New England will have to attack the right side of the Minnesota offensive line and win there to keep Cousins from being flat-footed in the pocket. They’ve had troubles in pass protection, especially there. However, if Cousins has all day to throw it will be a long afternoon for the home team. Look for Gronkowski to play a big role in this one. Opening things up for the rest of the offensive weapons. I look for both Brady and Cousins to play well on Sunday. Hold on to your hats, folks,  the Pats will hold serve at home…barely.  But by one or 20, it counts the same in the standings.  Patriots 28-27

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Patriots Week 12 Report Card, Pats Down Jets 27-13

Steve Balestrieri
November 26, 2018 at 5:51 pm ET

The Patriots came off the bye and despite a very uneven first half where they should have been up by two scores but were tied at 10, dominated the second half for the win. And while they let the Jets, losers of four in a row hang around for the first half, they leaned on the running game and outscored Gang Green 17-3 after halftime to secure a 27-13 victory and move into the #2 seed for the time being in the AFC a game behind Kansas City.

The defense also played much better and more aggressively in the second half holding the Jets to just a field goal. Ryan Allen on Special Teams was outstanding, never allowing dangerous return man Andre Roberts a clear path to return the ball.

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

Quarterback: B

Tom Brady, it should be noted was not spectacular but he was very good, attacking downfield, spreading the ball around and was extremely efficient, averaging 9.1 yards per pass play. Brady finished 20-31 for 283 yards with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions for a QB rating of 115.4. Which were all of the things he didn’t do well in Tennessee two weeks ago.

Eight different Patriots receivers caught passes as the offense rolled up nearly 500 yards with a great amount of balance between the passing and running games.

He had a few bad throws in the first half, but he also had some really nice heaves downfield. His 34-yard touchdown pass to Gronkowski was a beautiful arc and put it right in the bucket. But his best was arguably on the Pats final scoring drive. Facing a 3rd and 10 at the Jets 47, Brady lasered a deep out pattern to where only Josh Gordon could catch it for a gain of 17 yards.

Brady targeted his top five receivers on the day 21 times and completed 16  passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns. That is very economical and again…efficient.

Running Backs: A

Sunday was the Sony Michel show, Michel had 133 yards on 21 carries and lost about 45-50 more because of penalties behind the play. He averaged 6.3 yards per carry and scored on a one-yard touchdown. He also caught two passes for 12 yards. He displayed excellent vision and ran behind his blockers but knowing when to cut back against the grain and a very nice burst once he got into the open field.

James White added in 72 yards on 9 carries on the ground on a day where he caught just one pass. Normally he and Brady are in lockstep but Sunday, in the passing game they were out of sorts a bit. Brady targeted White 5 times but they connected only once for just five yards. Cordarrelle Patterson stepped in when Michel was shaken up for a bit and added a couple of key first downs.

Wide Receivers: B

The wide receivers were all involved efficient, and productive on Sunday. Julian Edelman was the most productive catching four passes for 84 yards. He jumped started the offense on the Pats opening drive beating Morris Claiborne at the line and catching a 36-yard pass. He was outstanding. His 3rd down reception in the second half was a terrific play worked perfectly in sync with Brady.

Josh Gordon had five catches for 70 yards and while it may not have been a huge numbers day for him, his game, like everyone else’s was very efficient. The communication with he and Brady is improving every week and Sunday was more proof of that.

Chris Hogan was targeted twice and had two catches for 47 yards. Phillip Dorsett chipped in with a pair of catches.

Tight Ends: B

Rob Gronkowski was back in the fold and was looking like his normal self in the passing game as well as in the running game where the big man is like a road grader. He caught just three passes for 56 yards but one of them was a 34-yard score in the first quarter for the team’s first touchdown.

He and Brady didn’t connect later on several red-zone attempts but as we’ve said here many times, there are rules for covering receivers downfield in the NFL and then a set for Gronkowski. He’s been tugged, held and been the victim of helmet-to-helmet contact and not given a flag more than any other player we know.

Offensive Line: A-

The offensive line was outstanding on Sunday, as they had the entire group back in the fold and it was obvious, especially in the running game. While Brady was never sacked, the Jets had some pressure in the first half but they solved those issues with some halftime adjustments. The biggest, however, was the commitment to the running game. The team made a concerted effort to run the ball in the second half and they did just that.

When your team rushes for over 200 yards and your backs average over six yards per pop, your offensive linemen are a happy group because it means that they’re being physical and aggressive up front.  

The only issue it seemed, and it was team-wide was penalties. Shawn Hochuli’s crew is known as a flag-happy bunch and the Pats OL had four that we saw, Trent Brown twice, Joe Thuney and David Andrews.

Defensive Line: C+

The defensive line had a kind of Jekyll and Hyde day. In the first half, they stuffed the Jets running backs, allowing just 16 yards. But the pass rush was non-existent and Josh McCown had all day to throw the ball.

In the second half, the defense picked up with the pass rush but the Jets ran the ball much more effectively and ended up rushing for 74 yards on 15 carries. The yardage is nothing to worry about but the 4.9-yard average is a bit concerning. While a chunk of that was McCown scrambling, it also leads to containment issues.

Trey Flowers stood out once again with a sack and four QB hits. Deatrich Wise also had a sack and 3 QB hits. But consistent pressure is and has been an issue for this team all season.

Linebackers: B-

The Patriots linebackers had a solid game with Kyle Van Noy being the standout player from the group. He did a terrific job setting the edge and stuffing a runner for a loss and when he blitzed he knocked down one pass and on another crunched McCown with a thunderous hit.

Dont’a Hightower was solid in the running game but got caught in pass coverage and was in chase mode and appeared to be plodding.

Elandon Roberts had his usual mixed bag. He made a couple of nice run stuffs and like every week, a play where he totally whiffed. He overran Isiah Crowell on a screen dump off and it turned into a 19-yard pass play. Overall, the play of the linebackers was solid and they helped hold the Jets offense to just three points after the break.

Secondary: B-

The secondary had a rough start but in the end, McCown averaged just 6.1 yards per pass attempt and scored just 13 points. He finished with a QB rating of just 73.9 which they’ll take every time. Stephon Gilmore and Devin McCourty each had big bounce-back games. Gilmore was back to his being his shutdown self on Sunday. He had two passes defensed and a nice interception where he got body position and hauled in a deep pass from McCown at the Patriots two-yard line.

Jonathan Jones was getting picked on underneath in the slot and was burned once too often and was benched for J.C. Jackson. Jason McCourty got torched by Jermaine Kearse for 41-yards but Gilmore intercepted the next play. McCourty got a bit of revenge, however, knocking away a 4th down pass in the end zone on the Jets’ garbage time drive with a minute to go.

McCourty, Pat Chung, Duron Harmon, and Obi Melifonwu (in a limited role) were part of the reason the Jets scored just 13 points. But covering tight ends remains an issue for this team. Although most of the passes were in front of them, it is something that needs tightening up.

Special Teams: A-

The Special Teams had a nice game and was led by Ryan Allen who was simply outstanding in this one. Allen averaged 46.0 yards per punt but he angled them to the sideline where they either bounced harmlessly out of bounds or gave the dangerous Andre Roberts nowhere to run. He had one punt return for one yard. That was an area that we wrote we were concerned about and Allen was terrific.

Stephen Gostkowski was perfect on his three extra points and two field goals. The coverage units allowed one big return to Roberts for 35 yards but held the other one to just 17 on kickoffs. The return game netted zero on the day as the Jets boomed the ball out of the end zone to Patterson and had solid coverage on Edelman.

Coaches: B+

The Patriots coaching staff had a very good game plan coming into this one, and although the performance was sloppy in the first half, they made very good adjustments at halftime and dominated the final 30 minutes, outscoring the Jets 17-3.

The playcalling of Josh McDaniels remains confusing at times, especially in the red zone. They are intent on targeting James White and Gronk inside the 20, so maybe it is time to mix things up some by calling other players’ numbers to give opposing defenses something else to think about. But on a day where the offense rolls up nearly 500 yards? You can’t fault them too much.

Defensively, Brian Flores saw that things weren’t working in the first half and got more aggressive in the final two quarters. They really brought some pressure finally on McCown and the results spoke for themselves. While we’re not going to get too excited because they’re the Jets offense, like Bill Belichick said, the Jets always play them tough, especially in the Meadowlands.

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

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

Patriots Finish Strong, Improve to 8-3, Beat the Jets 27-13; Observations

Steve Balestrieri
November 25, 2018 at 9:03 pm ET

In the end, we knew this would be a typical Patriots-Jets game in the Meadowlands. The Patriots were very much up and down in the first half in all phases of the game, but played much better in the second half, dominating the Jets with a punishing ground game, pulling away to beat the Jets 27-13.

We’ll get to our observations but first some quick hitters for the history buffs. The win which put the Patriots at 8-3, guarantees New England a .500 record or better for 18 straight years. The Dallas Cowboys have the NFL record with 21.

And Tom Brady set the NFL record for most yards passing in his career, both regular and postseason, passing Peyton Manning. Surprisingly, (perhaps not so), it scarcely got a mention on the telecast and the NFL? Crickets.

**Update**:  The Steelers lost in Denver and the Patriots are now the #2 seed behind Kansas City. The two teams will play in Pittsburgh later this year, but the Steelers also have games next week against the Chargers and the Saints after they play the Patriots.

Some observations from the game include:

  • Running Game Set the tone: The Patriots offensive line took this game over in the second half. After being tied at 10 at halftime, the Pats outscored the Jets 17-3 and they did it with the running game. Sony Michel was excellent, rushing 21 times for 133 yards and a TD. NE ran for 215 yards, the most since the Jonas Gray game in Indy. James White added 73 yards on nine carries.
  • Welcome Back Gronk: The Patriots big man made his return to the field, for the first time in nearly a month and his impact was felt in both the passing and running games. He had three catches for 56 yards, including a beautifully thrown ball for a 34-yard touchdown by Brady. That was an encouraging sign. It was his first TD since Week 1 against Houston.
  • Bowles Plays by the Book and it Costs Him: In the first quarter, the Patriots were facing a 3rd and 2 from the Jets 24. Brady tried a deep pass to Edelman that was incomplete. James White was flagged for a ticky-tack offensive pass interference. Rather than let the Pats attempt a 41-yard goal, Jets coach Todd Bowles took the penalty, giving Brady another 3rd down shot on the Jets 34 with 12 yards to go. That’s when Brady hit Gronkowski down the seam for a TD.
  • Containment Still an Issue: We have heard ad nauseam about containing mobile quarterbacks, but what about a 39-year old journeyman? Too many times today and it has been an issue all season, the Patriots edge players were running past Josh McCown and allowing him to step up and throw the ball or scramble for yardage.
  • Brady Bum Knee? Not Visible: Tom Brady played well today and completed 20-31 for 283 yards with 2 TDs, the 34-yarder to Gronk and a 21-yard play to Julian Edelman. He averaged 9.1 yards per attempt and his QB rating was 115.4. He set another personal milestone passing Manning but that is nary a mention, even among the team. Best of all, Brady was spreading the ball around. Eight different receivers caught passes today…much more like it.
  • Defense-Tight Ends and Backs in the Passing game: The Patriots defense is facing the same thing every week, as teams have recognized what their weakness is and are exploiting it. They have issues covering opposing tight ends and backs out of the backfield are making the LBs appear really slow in coverage.
  • Offense Thy Name is Versatility: With Michel and White setting the tone on the ground, the Patriots rolled up nearly 500 yards of offense. Getting Shaq Mason back was a boost in the running game. But as we mentioned above, Brady shared the wealth in the passing game. Edelman led the way with 84 yards on four catches, Josh Gordon had 70 yards on five catches, Gronk with 56 on 3 grabs and Chris Hogan had two catches for 47 yards.
  • Penalties were a Thorn in the Backside: Coming into the game, the television crew mentioned that this refereeing team led by Ed Hochuli’s son, called the most penalties per game in the NFL. And they wasted little time in making their presence felt. The Patriots were flagged a season-high 11 times for 105 yards. Normally, I’d say here, this is something that the Patriots need to clean up. But they are never penalized much and this is the outlier. Today was more about the officiating crew than it was about the team.
  • The Play-calling, especially in the Red Zone: The Patriots, as we mentioned above rolled up almost 500 yards of offense…so scoring 27 points is low for that kind of day. The play calling by Josh McDaniels is getting very predictable in the red zone is a constant area where the team leaves points on the field every week. Three straight passes after a first and goal from the nine-yard line, the same play run twice with virtually no chance of success. That was an ugly sequence.  
  • Melifonwu Plays for His Hometown Team: Newly signed safety Obi Melifonwu saw some defensive snaps and plenty of work in the kicking game. He’s a guy I’d like to see more of in the tight end coverage role. But for his first action with his new team, it was a good debut.

Overall, the Patriots got out of the Meadowlands exactly what they wanted/needed. They got a road win in the division at a place where the opponent always plays them tough. They got a lot of their pieces on offense back and rolled up a ton of yardage.

They return home for a big Sunday afternoon game against Minnesota at 8-3 with a three-game lead over Miami with the tie-breaker in hand. The running game has been rediscovered with Michel, which we predicted in our keys to the game as well as the score which was spot on:

“New England will rediscover their running game with Sony Michel and force a couple of turnovers to pull away late in the game. Patriots 27-14”

Coupled with a late afternoon Pittsburgh loss and the Pats are now the #2 seed. There is plenty of football left to be played and this team still has a long way to go. But things are beginning to fall into place for them.

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.