Tag Archives: Danny Amendola

PHOTO: Julian Edelman Wishes Danny Amendola Happy Birthday

Robert Alvarez
November 3, 2018 at 9:26 pm ET

Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola may play for rival teams these days, but that hasn’t affected their friendship one bit.

On Instagram Friday, Edelman shared a “Happy Birthday” photograph of the two of them embracing on top of a duck boat during one of their two Super Bowl parades.

“we just become best friends? Yup! #HappyBirthdayDola” the caption read.

New England Patriots News 10-14, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
October 14, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, Here is your Sunday Patriots news 10-14, & AFC East Notes.

Some Quick Hitters this morning… just a quick reminder that you can check out our key matchups to the game here and our players to watch for tonight’s game can also be found here:  

Josh Gordon said this week, that the transition to the Patriots offense hasn’t been that hard, because of all the support that he’s receiving from the other players, including Tom Brady. Gordon said the two talk football all day long and with his family here now, the transition to New England has been much smoother.

“Most of the day, we end up talking football, whether it be in the locker room here briefly or in most of the meeting rooms or the time after practice. We carve out time, and we make it happen,” Gordon said.

“I just ask and he’s open about it. It makes it easy for me to communicate with him and makes it a real natural type of relationship,” Gordon added.

Chris Hogan will have a lot of eyes on him this week and moving forward. Hogan was outstanding as a complementary WR in 2016 and then was on his way to another very solid 2017 when he went down with a shoulder injury. He struggled the rest of the season however, he had a very big game in the Super Bowl so the hope was that he was back.

However, thus far in 2018 Hogan has struggled to get any separation in man coverage and his numbers are way down. With Josh Gordon in the fold and Julian Edelman back from his torn ACL and four-game suspension, if Hogan is going to make a splash this season, the time is now.

QB Connor Cook, WR Devin Ross, TE Shane Wimann as well as edge players Will Clarke and Kasim Edebali were given workouts by the Patriots on Friday at Gillette Stadium. Wimann spent time with the Patriots during training camp before suffering an injury. Edebali went to Boston College and bounced around to several teams.

Tom Brady passing the torch as the premier QB in the AFC to Patrick Mahomes?  SMH. Noted bobo and hot-take artist Nick Wright said that should KC win tonight, the mantle may be passed from Brady to Mahomes. Pump the brakes a bit. Mahomes is off to a tremendous start, but we’ve seen this before, let Mahomes develop and actually win something before you anoint him as the next GOAT. Let’s see one has five SB wins and one has five wins…period. That’s a stretch even for Wright.

Rob Ninkovich has taken the side of Rob Gronkowski (not surprisingly), in the debate over who is the better tight end, Gronk or Travis Kelce. While both are talented pass catchers, Kelce treats blocking inside like kryptonite, something Ninko pointed out. However, having a former teammate jump to your defense isn’t exactly scientific.

Blueprint term overused much? One of the terms in the NFL that is used far too often is the word “blueprint”. Team A has a blueprint on how to defeat Team B, as if the different players had nothing to do with it and it is all scheme driven.

Case in point, this week I saw close to a half-dozen mentions of the Jacksonville “blueprint” on how to stop the Kansas City offense. While certain principles may apply on how to approach certain downs and situations, the differences in personnel for every team make that blueprint seem more guideline-ish. But maybe we’re just reading too much into it.  BTW, didn’t Jacksonville lose 30-14?

Jalen Ramsey who made such noise about Tyreek Hill being a “return specialist” was sure showing some respect last week. With the Chiefs facing a 3rd and 10 in the second half, Ramsey was giving Hill an 11 yards cushion. Not bad…for a return specialist. Hill had four catches for 61 yards and two runs for 26 more.

London Jaguars? PFT Fell For Another Banana in the Tailpipe:
Not Patriots related but some NFL “news” is that Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith saw the item in the British tabloids that not only is Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan is buying Wembley Stadium and….(gasp!) is planning to move the Jaguars there in 2022. Khan also owns the Fulham Football Club of the English Premier League. Smith, as well as the British tabloids, had as their “source”, a former Fulham employee, Craig Kline who says that Khan “told this to him and to keep quiet” before he was fired from Fulham over a year ago.   

Kline, has been described (and aptly) by people that knew him in Fulham as a total flake. Since being canned, he’s accused the Khans of just about everything including racism. This latest take is just another “look at me” moment.

The Khans saw what the Patriots did in Foxboro with One Patriots Place and are trying to build the same type of facility and are actively pumping millions of dollars into the surrounding area of their stadium to make it a showplace and moneymaker. Hardly the move a smart billionaire would do if he’s planning on pulling out in a few years.

The NFL is committed to London by playing games there (at Wembley) every year. But moving a franchise there? That is still far in the distance and wouldn’t receive the necessary support from the other owners to make it happen.

White’s Versatility Has Him On Pace For Big Season:

Although this isn’t anything new, the Patriots have been relying on James White’s versatility heavily this season. And his numbers right now have him on pace for a record-breaking year.

White’s 32 catches and 270 yards currently have him slotted for a 103 catch, 864 yards receiving season which would be the most ever for a running back in NFL history (Matt Forte had 102) and the most yards receiving in a single season for a Patriots running back. Tony Collins holds the Pats record for a RB receiving with 684 yards. White also is on pace for 13 receiving touchdowns.

While part of his numbers has been the case of necessity early in the year, White has always been versatile and dependable. Besides never fumbling, he’s always productive in a multitude of ways.

White probably won’t be able to keep those numbers going. Now that Julian Edelman is back and with Josh Gordon in the fold, Tom Brady will be spreading the wealth around a lot more in the upcoming weeks. But it should do little to diminish his value to the team as a very dependable, versatile cog in the offense. We look to him tonight to be a big part of the game plan.  

McCourty: Pats Have to Find a Way to Negate Chiefs’ Speed:

In the leadup for tonight’s game, Devin McCourty was asked this week about the unenviable task of trying to slow down the high flying Chiefs offense. He told the Herald’s Kevin Duffy that Kansas City reminds him of the Steelers team of just a few years ago.

“It’s a little bit like I remember playing against Pittsburgh when it was Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders,” McCourty said. “Like that was just speed everywhere with a quarterback that can launch the ball and get it to them, and it’s the same thing. You have a receiving corps where I think 4.39 (40-yard dash time) is like the slowest speed out there.”

The Patriots will have their hands full tonight, trying to equate with the Chiefs speed outside where they don’t just air it out, but use Tyreek Hill’s speed in the running game as well. How well or poorly they handle that speed will go a long way in determining how tonight’s game goes.

Who You Have This Week, NFL Week 6 Predictions:

Last week: 11-4 Season 49-27-2 Bye Week: Lions, Saints

Thursday night’s pick Eagles over the Giants 1-0

Tampa Bay at Atlanta: Falcons
Carolina at Washington: Panthers
Seattle at Oakland: Seahawks
Indy at NY Jets: Colts
Arizona at Minnesota: Vikings
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati: Steelers
LA Chargers at Cleveland: Browns
Buffalo at Houston: Texans
Chicago at Miami: Bears
LA Rams at Denver: Rams
Baltimore at Tennessee: Ravens
Jacksonville at Dallas: Jaguars
Kansas City at New England: Patriots
San Francisco at Green Bay: Packers

Early Thursday Night Prediction: Denver over Arizona

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Fan Takes Shot at the Franchise Even in Death:

The Buffalo Bills have some of the most passionate football fans in the league. However, they can push the envelope as much, if not more than anywhere else. They’ve taken table crashing to an art form. And now one of their long-suffering fans has with a dying wish slammed his team one last time.

Lee Merkel, 83 passed away last week, without ever seeing his beloved Bills win a Super Bowl, although he watched them go four straight years to attempt to win the big one but ultimately fail. And one of his wishes was that six current Bills players act as pallbearers at his funeral. Why? So the Bills “can let him down one last time.”

Merkel, a long-time season ticket holder,  is to be buried in a Bills t-shirt that says “once before I die” was an Army veteran, a father, grandfather and ironically enough a member of the Utica Optimists Club.

Dolphins Face Pivotal Mid-Season Game At Home Against Chicago:

The Miami Dolphins are no strangers to questions being asked of them around this time of year. And the biggest question always is, “Who are the Dolphins going to be this year?” The last two years are prime examples.

Under Adam Gase, the team limped out to an atrocious 1-4 start in 2016, with the only win against Cleveland. But then they blew out Pittsburgh and finished strong, going 10-6 and making the playoffs before Ryan Tannehill was hurt and they were ousted in the Wild Card Round.

A year ago, they were thought to have turned the corner and started a very respectable 4-2 and the hope was that, despite losing Tannehill for the year in preseason, they’d be able to build on their success from 2016. Then came the debacle, a 40-0 whitewashing by the Ravens on national television and they would drop six in a row and finish out of the playoffs with a 6-10 record.

Wholesale changes were made. Locker room cancers were cut out and they brought in strong veteran leaders like Danny Amendola, Albert Wilson, and Robert Quinn. The Dolphins raced out to 3-0 start and things were looking up. But then two blowout losses, one to New England by 31 and the other to the Bengals after Miami led by 17 has the Fins in a very familiar position in mid-October. After today’s game against the Bears, we should know more about this team, depending on how they play.

Crowell A Game-Time Decision for the Jets:

The New York Jets Isaiah Crowell had a franchise record 219 yards rushing last week against the Denver Broncos on just 15 carries for a ridiculous 14.6-yard average. Crowell’s yard average, which is outstanding as a pass receiver was the highest by any player in league history with 15 carries.

He was outstanding and a big part of the reason that the Jets rolled easily at home over the Broncos last week. But he tweaked an ankle last week and after not practicing Wednesday and Thursday, he returned, albeit in a limited fashion on Friday’s walk-through, so coach Todd Bowles has stated that they’ll see where he’s at on Sunday morning.

“We’ll work him out Sunday and see where he’s at,” Bowles said.

Crowell had runs of 77 yards for a TD, 54 yards in the third quarter, and a 36-yarder in the fourth quarter en route to his big, big day. In the first five games of the season, Crowell has had five runs of 50 yards or more in the first five games of the season.

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.

 

Good News, Bad News: Patriots Offensive Totals Through 5 Games

Ian Logue
October 12, 2018 at 1:00 pm ET

Some interesting numbers after five weeks for the Patriots offense, with a different take on some stats after comparing some totals at this point last season.

Here’s a little good news, bad news after looking things over:

Bad News: Rob Gronkowski doesn’t have a red zone reception so far through five games on just one target.
Good News: Gronkowski had just one red zone reception (a touchdown) in 2017 on six targets at this point, so he’s not far off from where he was last season in that regard.

Bad News: The Patriots have 443 fewer total receiving yards so far than they had at this time last year.
Good News: They have more red zone receiving yards (114yds) than they had at this point last season (107yds).

Bad News: The Patriots have fewer receiving first downs (63) than they had at this point last season (79).
Good News: They actually have one more receiving touchdown (12) than they had at this point last season (11).


Gronk currently leads the Patriots in receiving yards. (USA TODAY Images)

Bad News: The Patriots have just two receivers with 200+ yards receiving, with only Gronkowski eclipsing the 300+ plateau.  Last season at this point, the Patriots had five receivers with 200+ yards, including two who were over 300.  Gronkowski (318yds) and former Patriots wideout Brandin Cooks (379) were the two with those totals.
Good News: This season the Patriots have 11 receivers with double-digit yardage totals compared to 10 last season. Not exactly a huge positive, but a positive nonetheless.

Bad News: The Patriots have just two receiving plays of 30+ yards so far this season compared to eight at this point last season.
Good News: None…that isn’t good.  However, both of those plays occurred in each of the last two games (Patterson’s 55-yd TD against the Dolphins, and Josh Gordon’s terrific 34-yd touchdown Thursday night against Indy) so hopefully, it’s a sign of things to come.

Good News: Tom Brady has thrown for more second-half touchdowns (5) than he had at this point last season (3).
Bad News: Four of his six interceptions so far this season have all come in the second half.  He hadn’t thrown any in the second half at this point in 2017.

Good News: For the most part, the Patriots offense has done a good job of staying out of long-yardage situations on offense, especially on 3rd down.   At this point last season they had already faced 3rd-and-10 seven times compared to just four this season, along with having been up against 3rd-and-over-10 yards twelve times compared to just eight this season.
Bad News: They’re 0-for-4 converting on those 3rd-and-10 attempts while converting just 2-of-8 on 3rd-and-over-10.  Again, obviously, not great news but that should also hopefully improve moving forward.

Bad News: Through four games, Tom Brady was just 15-of-30 (50%) for 143-yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs in the first quarter, compared to 33-of-49 (67%) for 433-yards and 4 TDs last season.
Good News: After the Colts game, where he was 12-of-13 for 105-yards and 1 TD, Brady’s first quarter completion percentage jumped to 63% with his totals now sitting at 27-of-43 for 248yds, 2TDs, 2INTs.  Players who helped raise that stat last Thursday night include James White (4/4 38yds), Julian Edelman (3/4 28yds), Corradelle Patterson (2/2 11yds, 1TD) and Rob Gronkowski (1/1 19yds). This improvement has been key as the Patriots have scored 10 of their current season total of 19 first-quarter points over the last two games.

Good News: Dwayne Allen actually has a reception through five games, which is certainly better than the 0-for-6 total he carried through the same number of games last season.
Bad News: That one catch went for a 4-yard loss.

LEFTOVERS:

– Sony Michel is ahead of last year’s leader at this point, Mike Gillislee, with Michel carrying the football 67 times for 294-yards along with 2 touchdowns while averaging 4.4 yards-per-carry.  That’s better than Gillislee’s 69 rushes for 246 yards, which was an average of 3.6 yards. However, Gillislee also led all rushers at the time with four touchdowns.

– At this point last season, Chris Hogan had 23 receptions for 288 yards and a team-leading 5 touchdowns.  So far this year Hogan has just 11 receptions for 143-yards and 2 touchdowns, just one reception ahead of newcomer Corradelle Patterson (10 catches, 10yds, and 2TDs).  With Gordon and Edelman potentially taking the focus off of him, Hogan’s production should hopefully improve.

– One final related stat for Hogan, he had five red zone receptions at this point last season, with four touchdowns after being targeted nine times.  He’s been targeted just once thus far in 2018, which was a 7-yard touchdown.

– It’s hard to believe that James White didn’t have a touchdown reception at this point last season, but so far in 2018 he already has a team-best 4 touchdowns.  He also leads the team in receptions so far with 32 receptions for 270-yards.  He also led the team at this point last year with 29-catches for 230 yards, ahead of Hogan (23) and Amendola (23), followed by Gronkowski (20) and Cooks (18), who rounded out the top 5 in that category.

– Tom Brady has 8 red zone touchdowns so far, which is actually one better than the 7 he had at this point last season.  White (4), Phillip Dorsett (2), Hogan (1) and Patterson (1) are the ones who get the credit for that total.  Last season it was Hogan (4), Danny Amendola (1), Rex Burkhead (1) and Rob Gronkowski (1) who each accounted for that total.

For a more detailed look at much more sortable stats, view our Stats Page: 

Best Of Social Media: Week 4 Dolphins vs Patriots

Robert Alvarez
October 2, 2018 at 7:30 pm ET

The New England Patriots entered their week four match up with the division rival Miami Dolphins seeking to rebound from two-straight losses and avoid their first 1-3 start since 2001.

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It is not the highs that define us… #GameDay

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Game day #LETSGOOO

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Fired up.

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Pregame moves.

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Early on in the first quarter, newly signed wide receiver Josh Gordon tallied his first reception as a Patriot which helped setup the first points of the game.

A Stephen Gostkowski 20-yard field goal put the home team ahead 3-0.

In the second quarter, with the score still low, Cordarrelle Patterson found a hole in the Dolphins secondary for his first touchdown reception as a Patriot. 10-0 New England.

In what became a recurring theme throughout the game, the Patriots defense turned in its best showing of 2018. Shutting down the Dolphins offense, especially on third down.

Despite the great start, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick wasn’t going to be pleased with his offense committing three penalties on play.

Still leading 10-0 with seven minutes to go in the half, linebacker Kyle Van Noy forced a fumble that setup a James White 22 yard touchdown run on the very next play. 17-0 in favor of the Patriots.

As the defense continued to do its job keeping the Dolphins offense off the field, the Patriots offense was clicking as Phillip Dorsett hauled in this acrobatic catch just before halftime.

24-0 Patriots at the Half.

During the halftime break, the New England Patriots honored newly enshrined team Hall of Famer Matt Light, who provided a very “colorful” speech to the fans.

In the third quarter, the Brady/White combination struck again with another touchdown, and all but putting the game away.  31-0 Patriots.

With the Patriots up 31-0 and the defense continuing to shut out the Dolphins, rookie Sony Michel capped off his career day with his first career touchdown run.

Michel ran for 112 yards on 25 carries with the touchdown, his first career 100 yard rushing game. 38-0 Patriots.

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With a 38-0 lead, the Dolphins managed a garbage time touchdown with 2:42 remaining in the game when Frank Gore caught a six-yard pass from backup quarterback Brock Osweiler.

The Patriots would go on to win by a final score of 38-7.

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Unbreakable bonds.

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W

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Patriots  Week 4 Report Card, New England Routs Miami 38-7

Steve Balestrieri
at 7:00 am ET

The Patriots looked much more like the team that we are accustomed to seeing on Sunday afternoon in Foxboro. They played their best complete game in quite some time with a dominant, offensive and defensive effort. While it is only one game and they have to start stringing some games like this together, this was exactly what the doctor ordered.

Miami entered this week 3-0 and with a two-game lead in the division and with a chance to go up by three with a tie-breaker. They had been playing well and the Patriots had looked terrible for two weeks in a row.

But the coaches put together an outstanding game plan and the players executed it in fantastic fashion. The team came out immediately, energized, with a tough physical presence and a sense of urgency that has been sorely lacking in a while.

This one was over by halftime with the Pats up 24-0 and then they just put it on cruise control the rest of the way. It was a great game offensively for Sony Michel and James White, with Josh Gordon having an impact immediately. Defensively, Lawrence Guy and Kyle Van Noy were outstanding as the defense pitched a shutout for 57 minutes.

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

Quarterback: B

Tom Brady got off to a bit of a slow start but got the passing game going and he ended up with 274 yards and three touchdowns. This was on a day where the running game was gashing the Dolphins defense. But his two picks hurt his overall grade, where each was preventable because of uncharacteristic mistakes.

But he did get the wide receivers going, hitting a 55-yard touchdown pass to Cordarrelle Patterson for his first Patriots touchdown. A nice 9-yard dart to Phillip Dorsett for another score. And he lasered a third-down pass to newcomer Josh Gordon on a slant for a 13-yard gain to get him his first reception on the team. And his best pass of the day was a gorgeous rainbow pass to James White in the corner of the end zone where he was getting drilled as he released it. Just like they draw it up in the bucket drill during camp.

But his two picks were preventable. On the first, he got fooled when Bobby McCain was running with Chris Hogan. Dorsett was to cut under the Hogan route, where it was supposed to generate some open space. But McCain passed off Hogan to a deep safety and sat down right on the spot that Dorsett was crossing. He made a very good head’s up play. On Brady’s second INT, he was just trying the force the ball into a very tight, well-covered window. Miami had two defenders located right there while under a heavy rush. He also threw a high pass on the goal line to Patterson which was knocked away and nearly picked. Normally,  Brady delivers that ball low where it can’t be deflected and only catchable by his man.

Running Backs: A

The Patriots running backs had a fantastic productive day.  Sony Michel, who last week had to hear in some circles that he’s already a bust, had he first 100-yard day and NFL touchdown. He rushed 25 times for 112 yards and is beginning to show the trademark burst that he was known for in college.

A cool stat courtesy of Tedy Bruschi, 65 yards of Michel’s 112 came after contact. He’s also seeing the field much better as he becomes more comfortable in the offense.

James White had 112 total yards of offense, with 44 yards rushing including a nice 22-yard touchdown run and 68 yards receiving including the beautiful aforementioned rainbow from Brady for a score. He also ran a perfect rub route on Patterson’s 55-yard TD catch which freed up the receiver for an easy pitch and catch.

James Develin was his usual solid self in the running game, delivering big blocks to get the backs to the second level. Kenjon Barner got some work in at garbage time and got some snaps in which may set the table for more work down the road.

Wide Receivers: B

The wide receivers had a much more productive day. The arrival of Josh Gordon and his small sample size (18 plays), belied his influence on the field. While he had just two catches for 32 yards, both were on third down and Brady made it clear he was not just a decoy. He also drew a penalty that resulted in another first down and made a nice block downfield on White’s TD run. His arrival opened up some space for the other receivers. It was a good start.

Phillip Dorsett and Chris Hogan are complimentary type receivers and not the #1 types that they been forced to assume early this season. Dorsett had four catches for 55 yards including the somersaulting TD grab. Hogan had one catch for 25 yards, and Patterson had the 55-yard touchdown catch as well as an 11-yard carry.

The overall group will get even better with the arrival of Julian Edelman who was back in the facility on Monday but is not yet part of the 53-man roster as the team will have to make a corresponding roster move.

Tight Ends: B

Rob Gronkowski has been bothered by an ankle injury which has limited him in practice the past 10 days. He aggravated the injury late in the game and with the blowout score was taken out. He’s considered day-to-day but with the short week, it would seem that he is doubtful to play this week.

Gronk had a couple of good catches in traffic and ended up with 4 catches for 44 yards on the day. Dwayne Allen had a very good day in the run blocking department as he was clearing house for the backs. He was targeted on a deep route that was knocked away and caught a pass behind the line, that perhaps Brady should have thrown away where the Dolphins were all over him for a loss.

Offensive Line: B+

The offensive line had a tremendous bounce-back day. After being manhandled for two straight weeks, a little home cooking was just what the doctor ordered. Dante Scarnecchia’s crew took it to the Dolphins front seven and the Patriots running game carved them up for 175 yards on the ground.

Unlike the past few games where they couldn’t open up holes, they were getting a good push and did a very good job of protecting Tom Brady. Miami has a pair of outstanding edge rushers in Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn and both had quiet days which is a big win for New England.

Defensive Line: A-

The defensive line simplified things a bit and rather than being reactive and pushed around, they were setting the tone of things and dominated up front.  After getting gashed two weeks in a row, the run defense allowed the Dolphins only 56 yards rushing, most of which long after the outcome was settled. Miami averaged 3.1 yards per rush.

Lawrence Guy had an outstanding game inside, Malcom Brown was much improved and the line was bolstered by the return of Trey Flowers who is always very solid. The Patriots did a great job of pushing the pocket and collapsing it around Ryan Tannehill. He frequently couldn’t step into his throws, which is why so many sailed high for him.

The unit only had two sacks, one by Adam Butler and one by newcomer John Simon but they had good pressure all game long around the QB’s feet.

Linebackers: A-

This was a fantastic day for the Patriots linebackers despite them barely registering on the stat sheet. The linebackers were active, chipping the Dolphins receivers, tight ends, and backs and looked quite the antithesis to the slow, plodding group that we saw for two weeks.

Kyle Van Noy was outstanding all game long mixing in run and pass coverage.  He recovered a fumble when the Dolphins backup center snapped the ball over Tannehill’s head before he was ready. Elandon Roberts was playing his downhill, thumping game and was a thorn in the backfield before he was injured late in the game. Dont’a Hightower had a very active, physical game.

One way to combat their lack of speed is to chip the backs and receivers off the line. On Sunday that was the game plan and they worked it to perfection. The Dolphins speed was negated and their backs and tight ends were not a factor. Dolphins running backs had just three catches for 29 yards, and two of those came in garbage time.

Secondary: A-

The secondary played their best game of the season and arguably their best in quite some time. The game plan was to get physical with the Dolphins receivers at the line of scrimmage. This was conducted to throw off their timing as well as negating their team speed.

The game plan worked to perfection as the Dolphins wide receivers were blanketed by the Patriots secondary all game long. Tannehill had nowhere to throw the ball. He entered the game completing 72 percent of his throws with a passer rating of 121.8 on the season. He finished just 11 of 20 for 100 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. The Dolphins wide receivers had 11 receptions for just 97 yards. Rookie J.C. Jackson had his first career interception.

Pat Chung was back and in this Patriots defense, he is outstanding. He is extremely versatile and can play as an in-the-box safety, cover tight ends or even play in the slot. He’s an excellent tackler and a smart savvy player. Mike Gesicki the talented rookie tight end had just one catch for 9 yards.

Special Teams: B

Cordarrelle Patterson didn’t get many opportunities to strut his stuff as the Dolphins only kicked off twice. But Cyrus Jones had a very nice 24-yard punt return at the beginning of the second quarter. The Dolphins return game didn’t do much despite having the dangerous Jakeem Grant and the always elusive Danny Amendola. Was that Danny Amendola starting to run to the Patriots sidelines after returning a punt in the first half? Ryan Allen only had to punt twice and Stephen Gostkowski had a chip shot (20-yard) FG and extra points to make.

Coaches: A

What a difference a week makes. The Patriots had a great game plan to combat the Dolphins speed and worked it perfectly. It was a tad reminiscent of those old Patriots-Colts games of the early 2000s in the old stadium. They were physical with the Miami receivers and wouldn’t allow them any separation.

Bill Belichick had the team ready to go on Sunday.  They played with the urgency and energy that we’ve come to expect of Patriots teams. Josh McDaniels called a superb game, mixing in the run and pass perfectly.  He was calling the right plays to get everyone involved. The offense for the first time this season looked like the offense that we expected to see.

This overall was a very solid team win. Now they have to start stringing a few together. They have a short week with Indy coming into Foxboro on Thursday night.  Then they will have 10 days to come up with a game plan to slow down the Chiefs offense.

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 Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots Smash Dolphins 38-7 In Dominant Fashion, Three Up, Three Down

Steve Balestrieri
October 1, 2018 at 7:30 am ET

For one week at least, the Patriots have calmed the fears of fans of New England as they broke a two-game losing skid in dominant fashion, demolishing the not-ready-for-primetime Miami Dolphins 38-7.

On Sunday afternoon, Miami came in riding high at 3-0 while the Pats limped in at 1-2 and much was made of whether the Patriots defense, which seemed slow and unathletic would be able to keep up with the team speed of Miami. The defense answered the bell today and Miami never seriously threatened to score until a garbage time drive by their backup quarterback as New England dominated in all three phases of the game.

The Patriots won the physical game up front, both the offensive and defensive lines clearly won the 1-on-1 matchups as the Pats rolled for 175 yards on the ground, springing Sony Michel and James White for big chunks of yardage all game long, something that had been sorely missing for the past two weeks.

Michel who was foolishly labeled a draft bust by the hot takes crowd after just two weeks and after having missed all of the preseason rushed for 112 yards on 25 carries with a touchdown. White had 112 yards from scrimmage with 44 yards rushing, 68 yards receiving and had a touchdown rushing and receiving.

Defensively, the Patriots front seven stuffed the Dolphins on early downs, putting QB Ryan Tannehill in third and long situations all game long. Of course, getting two of their best defenders in Trey Flowers and Pat Chung back helped. We wrote in our pregame matchups that the defense had to get out of early holes that made third-down conversions easy. Tannehill faced third downs needing 12, 10, 10 (converted via penalty), 13, 8 and 24 yards in the pivotal first half. That is much, much better.

Miami was only 1-6 on third down in the first half, and that came as the half was winding down and the defense was giving them the underneath stuff.  By the time the first 30 minutes were over, the game was over with the Patriots going into intermission with a 24-0 lead.

Even more encouraging, the passing game got going against a very good Dolphins secondary. Tom Brady threw for 274 yards and three touchdowns but they got the big chunk plays that they’ve been missing. Brady hit Cordarrelle Patterson for a 55-yard touchdown, James White and Phillip Dorsett who caught a somersaulting 9-yard touchdown pass from Brady rounded out the scoring.

After having no success throwing to his wide receivers thru the first three weeks, they contributed 10 receptions for 166 yards. Hardly earthshattering numbers, but much better. And with the news that Julian Edelman returns on Monday, this should have an immediate impact on the passing game.

Newcomer Josh Gordon played only 18 snaps but did have an immediate impact. He caught two passes for 32 yards, both third-down conversions, and drew a penalty giving the offense another first down. But perhaps the best indicator from him was the nice block he made downfield on White’s 22-yard touchdown run. That is something the Patriots pride themselves on with the WRs and it is an early sign that Gordon is buying in.

The Patriots offensive line looked much, much better in springing the backs this week, and giving them the needed space to make the tough yards inside where they like to run and after the criticism, they’ve had to endure the past few weeks, this was a big, bounce-back game. Defensively, the line was penetrating, Miami had nowhere to run, with most of their 56 yards rushing coming long after this one was settled. Again in the pivotal first half, Miami rushed six times for seven yards.

The Dolphins had just 172 yards of offense, 75 of which came on the final garbage time drive led by backup QB Brock Osweiler where they scored with under three minutes to go. Tannehill, who entered the game completing 72 percent of his throws and with a passer rating of 121.8, completed just 11-20 for 100 yards with no touchdowns and an Interception.

Although he was sacked just twice, the Patriots had good pressure around the pocket all day where he wasn’t able to step into his throws all day. That’s why it seemed many of his passes sailed on him. His best throw was on the first snap of the game, where he drilled a 22-yard pass to Kenny Stills right between two defenders. That would be the Dolphins longest play of the day.

The Patriots defense allowed just 3.1 yards per rush and 4.3 yards per pass. Malcom Brown had a big bounce-back game as well as Dont’a Hightower. Lawrence Guy and Kyle Van Noy were particularly very good for the defense, who got solid contributions from everyone in the secondary, including rookie J.C. Jackson who got his first NFL interception on a pass that Tannehill underthrew a bit on a deep fly.

UP AND DOWN –

UP: Unlike a week ago, we could easily name several players here, and will add on to our three up just a tad this week.

Sony Michel: Imagine a rookie 1st round running back being labeled a bust after just two games when that back missed all of the preseason. Welcome to the world of New England overreaction sports radio. Michel looked much more comfortable in the Patriots offense this week and was showing more and more flashes of why the team thought so highly of him with a very solid performance.

Michel had 112 yards on 25 carries with a TD in the best game of his young career and quieted the critics for a week at least. As he gets more comfortable out there, his vision will continue to improve and we’re starting to see that burst he was so known for at Georgia.

James White: Last week, Tom Brady lamented that the coaches needed to get White more involved in the offense as he’s always a big playmaker. Mission accomplished. White had a typically big-play day with a 22-yard touchdown run and a 14-yard touchdown reception where Brady dropped a dime in the corner of the end zone as he was getting drilled.

Lawrence Guy: The big man inside is always one of the more underrated members of the Patriots defense and on Sunday afternoon he contributed big time to the overall defensive effort. The Patriots mixed up their fronts and at times, Guy shifted over to a DE spot and was outstanding, as the front seven was overall against the run.

Josh Gordon: His Patriots debut in front of a loud and raucous home crowd was just a small sample size (18 plays), but a successful one. His two catches were both on third down which signals that Brady wasn’t afraid to go to him right off the bat.

Both of his catches and a drawn penalty helped keep drives alive. He made a nice downfield block on White’s touchdown run and said all the right things after the game. So far, so good

Down:

Injuries: On a short week, with a game on Thursday night against the Colts, there are three injuries that need to be monitored. Rob Gronkowski, who was nursing an ankle injury before the game, left in the third quarter when he re-aggravated it.

Elandon Roberts who played a very solid, active game at middle linebacker left with looked like a fairly serious ankle or foot injury. Adam Butler was also injured in the second half and was on the ground in obvious pain.

Brady Decision Making: On what was otherwise a very good game by Tom Brady, he was victimized by the ball-hawking Dolphins secondary twice in the game, and both could be characterized by poor decision-making.

His first pick was actually a play where Brady was fooled by the Miami coverage. Bobby McCain was running with Chris Hogan on a deep post. Phillip Dorsett was supposed to cut inside Hogan for a deep cross. But McCain passed off Hogan to the safety and sat right in the throwing lane. He made a smart heads-up play for the pick.

On the second interception, Brady just got too greedy up 38-0 and tried to force the ball into tight coverage when he should have just thrown the ball away. It may be just a tad nitpicky here, but these are the kinds of mistake we generally don’t see from #12.

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New England Patriots News 9-30, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
September 30, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, Here is your Sunday Patriots news 9-30, & AFC East Notes.

Some Quick Hitters this morning… just a quick reminder that you can check out our key matchups to the game here and our players to watch for today’s game can also be found here:  

Dont’a Hightower said this week, that the defense has spent extra time in the meeting rooms trying to improve communication and to be sure that t “all 11 guys can be on the same page” when they hit the field today against Miami.

“We put it upon ourselves to kind of split up and spend more time on it — and it kind of went on a little longer than we wanted to — but it’s really just trying to get everything down pat. When everybody knows exactly what everybody else is doing, we’re able to play faster,” Hightower added. We’ll see today how effective that was.

Shea McClellan has filed for injury protection with the NFL over his concussion issues which forced him out of the league. That move prompted the league to guarantee half of what McClellan salary would have been, which lowers the Pats salary cap down by over $1 million. That would leave the team with just $1.7 million dollars in salary cap space.

For those clamoring for a LaVeon Bell trade? Not that the Steelers would trade him to New England anyway, but he isn’t signing for a million bucks.

If Tom Brady was doing a demo for “Dancing With the Stars” on Friday, he may have some more work to do. Brady was imitating James White’s TD dance move and both he and White laughed about it and said he has a long way to go.

Patriots Hoping Gordon and Edelman Can Revive Passing Game:

Although we’ve seen the stats, we don’t really need to as the eye test will tell the same thing. The Patriots passing game has been terrible so far this season. The wide receivers have underperformed and struggled and it has put far too much pressure on Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski to get things done.

The hope is that the additions of Josh Gordon, possibly today and Julian Edelman on Thursday against the Colts will reinvigorate and energize the passing game, especially with the wide receivers. Edelman would give Brady that built-in safety valve, chains moving piece of the puzzle that can pick up those key first downs. Gordon gives them, if healthy, the big-bodied WR that has game-breaking potential for big plays and can stretch the field, opening up some room underneath for Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Cordarrelle Patterson.

The latter three are the more complementary type of receivers and not the #1 go-to guys and would benefit greatly by the addition of both Edelman and Gordon.

But today, whether Gordon makes his much-anticipated debut or not, the wide receivers need to step up and play a lot better period. Miami has very good corners and they’ll be playing a lot of press man coverage. They need to start winning the 1-on-1 matchups and getting open.

The coaches can help by ditching the conservative play calling and putting the ball back in Brady’s hands and allowing him to be more proactive in the offense rather than reactive and throwing in obvious situations.

Injuries Have Hit Epidemic Proportions For the Pats:

In the aftermath of the ugly loss in Detroit was the added bad news that both Rex Burkhead and rookie linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley were being placed on IR. After just three weeks of the NFL season, the Patriots roster has already been decimated by injuries this summer.

Of course, there are some revisionist history types that want to take Belichick to task for trading Brandin Cooks this spring. To a degree, there is some definite room for argument there that the Patriots should have kept Cooks given how thin the WR core is on the team right now. We won’t even mention the tin foil hat types who claim that Belichick is sabotaging Brady in the final years of his career to … make Brady (and himself?) look bad.

“Bill is definitely trying to sabotage Brady, it is all so clear,”

But we digress. Cooks was gone after 2018 and the Patriots could have gotten a 3rd round compensatory pick for him. He was set to make $8 million which they could have afforded at the time.  Or they make the deal then and get a first-round draft pick for him (#23) which they did, and which was higher than what they paid for him (#32). But the Patriots weren’t going to pay Cooks anything close to what the Rams did and he went there and promptly got paid.

So, in retrospect, the Patriots surely could have kept Brandin Cooks this season and the passing numbers of the offense would have no doubt looked better than they are. And remember, they needed a Left Tackle because Nate Solder left to go to the Giants.

But, let’s look at the Patriots offense this year when training camp started and who’s there now, starting with the wide receivers.

WR Malcolm Mitchell – Injury, released
WR Kenny Britt – Injury, released
WR Jordan Matthews – Injury released
WR Julian Edelman – Suspended first four weeks of the season

How different would the offense have looked at those four players stayed healthy/clean? When added to Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Cordarrelle Patterson, they wouldn’t have looked so thin right? But hindsight is 20/20. Honestly, I had no issue with the Cooks trade, it made sense then, considering the loss at left tackle. But I wish they’d spent the money on Danny Amendola that they are paying a certain blocking tight end who is invisible in the passing game and who isn’t blocking anyone exceptionally well right now. 

The 2018 NFL Draft? The Patriots selections have been snake bit by the injury bug

Round 1 – LT Isaiah Wynn, Tackle – IR
Round 1 – RB Sony Michel – Injury, missed a month and is just rounding into shape.
Round 2 – CB Duke Dawson – IR
Round 5 – LB Ja’Whaun Bentley – IR
Round 6 – LB Christian Sam – IR
Round 6 – WR Braxton Berrios – IR
Round 7 – QB Danny Etling – Practice Squad
Round 7 – CB Keion Crossen – has missed time with hamstring, back injuries

Compound this with losing to two of the running backs to injury and IR that they were really counting on in Jeremy Hill and Rex Burkhead, and the time missed by TE Jacob Hollister who is supposed to take some heat off of Rob Gronkowski. Yes, the offense and the team as a whole has been snakebit.  We were actually pretty confident with those players, and adding in Michel, Burkhead, White, and Hill from the backfield that the offense was going to be fine. But injuries ravaged the offense this summer and to quote Belichick, it is what it is.

Of course, it is easy to be critical of Belichick after the fact. But a show of hands, who saw all of these players would have their injuries, thus far? Anyone?

Who You Have This Week, NFL Week 2 Predictions:

Last week: 8-8 Season 26-20-2 Bye Week: Washington, Caroline

Thursday night’s pick Rams over the Vikings 1-0

New York Jets at Jacksonville:  Jaguars
Miami at New England: Patriots
Philadelphia at Tennessee: Eagles
Houston at Indy: Texans
Buffalo at Green Bay: Packers
Detroit at Dallas: Cowboys
Tampa Bay at Chicago: Bears
Cincinnati at Atlanta: Falcons
Seattle at Arizona: Seattle
Cleveland at Oakland: Raiders
New Orleans at New York Giants: Saints
SF at LA Chargers:  Chargers
Baltimore at Pittsburgh: Steelers
KC at Denver: Chiefs

Early Thursday Night Prediction: New England over Indy

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Look For Second Straight Big Win Over NFC North:

The Buffalo Bills shocked the Minnesota Vikings last week and cruised to an easy 27-6 win. No one gave them a chance to win and they totally out-physically dominated a  Vikings team that prides itself on that.

Things don’t get much easier this week, The Bills move on to Lambeau Field and play the Green Bay Packers and again, most of the national pundits are picking Green Bay who has scuffled along at 1-1-1.

Good news for Buffalo is that Aaron Rodgers continues to be limited in his mobility from his knee injury and that will put a lid on how much he can scramble on the busted, sandlot plays that the Pack typically feast on. Jerry Hughes who had a pair of sacks, two QB hits, and a forced fumble last week will be looked to for another big game.

Josh Allen will need a big game this week, although Green Bay’s defense is far from a shutdown unit, they are opportunistic and Rodgers is usually top notch at home. Green Bay is favored by 12.5 today.

Amendola Has Been the Same Guy for the Dolphins:

The Miami Dolphins signed WR Danny Amendola this offseason for his toughness, clutch ability, and his veteran leadership. And so far this season, they’re getting all three. Amendola has the most receptions for Miami with 11 and it has been much like New England, with the bulk of his catches coming in the dangerous places over the middle where the chains continue to move and keep the offense on the field.

Amendola has plenty of close friends in the opposing locker room at Foxboro today. He was not only one of Brady’s closest friends on the team, but a very valuable trusted presence by his teammates as well.

Amendola has hardly ever been a quote machine, he totally bought into the Belichickian way of speaking and saying very little, preferring to letting his play do his talking for him. And despite what Jalen Ramsey thinks, Amendola has continued to produce without Tom Brady and will be looked to this afternoon to give Miami a big spark. No one on the Miami sideline knows the Patriots defense as well as he does. He practiced against them for years.  

Don’t be surprised if Ryan Tannehill tries to get Amendola going early and often in the matchup this afternoon. And while Amendola will never say it, either before or after the game, he, I’m sure would love to have a big, big game against his former teammates. But more than anything, he wants to come away with a win. That is the kind of thing he learned here that is most important.

Darnold Going Thru Growing Pains With the Jets:

The New York Jets Sam  Darnold burst onto the scene in Week 1 in the Jets thrashing of the Lions on national television. Since then, however, Darnold has for much of the time resembled the rookie that he is. Saddled with a leaky offensive line, which we pointed out here quite a few times, and very conservative play-calling, it is no wonder his learning curve has flattened out a bit.

This is normal for many young QBs and the Jets Offensive Coordinator Jeremy Bates is trying to simplify things for Darnold which will make it easier to for him to call the plays and play within himself as he learns the pro game.

This is the risk with playing a QB so young (Darnold is just 21) right out of the chute in the NFL. His confidence can be shaken especially with a seasoned and solid veteran in Josh McCown on the roster. Today, Darnold will be facing the Jaguars defense and he’ll have his work cut out for him.

And Bates should be worried more about Jacksonville than New England but he pointed out that failed headsets in every game this season has hurt the offense. And despite the league being in charge of the headsets, Bates had to take a dig at New England.

“It happened in all three games,” Bates said. “There’s sometimes interference, radio interference. It’s amazing. I don’t know how to do it, but I guess you can FaceTime people in China, but our headsets go out.”

I’m not throwing anyone under the bus, but the button stopped working,” Bates said. “We’ve tried to correct it, and understand that that can happen at any time, especially in New England.” Oh yes, he did…he went there.

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Players To Watch Patriots-Dolphins Week 4

Steve Balestrieri
September 28, 2018 at 7:30 am ET

Big AFC East Matchup

The New England Patriots limp home after a 0-2 and uncharacteristically poor start on the road for 2018. The team is just 1-2, and although we’re used to seeing slow starts from the Pats in September, this week’s game, because of that slow start takes on very high significance.

Miami enters the game on a roll at 3-0 and is two games up on New England in the division. A win in Foxboro, where Miami rarely wins will put the Dolphins up three games plus the tiebreaker which puts the Pats far in the rearview mirror. No one picked Miami to make much noise this season, Adam Gase has his team believing and this is a big benchmark game for them.

The Patriots are searching for answers both offensively and defensively. Injuries are have already ravaged the team after just three weeks, with nearly their entire draft class of 2018 on IR. This is an even bigger game from New England’s point of view. They can ill-afford to drop a home game against a divisional opponent, and one that is already two games up on them in the division.

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

Josh Gordon:

The Patriots traded for Gordon less than two weeks ago and his every move has been scrutinized despite being slowed by a hamstring problem that has left him limited in practice. And with that issue, along with him trying to learn the offense, would lend itself to lowered expectations, at least initially.

But the opposite is actually in effect here. Many people believe that Gordon is going to light it up immediately in Foxboro as soon as he hits the field, even if they have just a small package of plays for him to start.

Truthfully, whether you loved the trade or hated it bringing Gordon to New England, putting so much on this player’s plate after having barely played in the NFL for the past five years is a tad of a reach. But at this point, after such a buildup, we just want to see him on the field now.

John Simon:

The Patriots picked up the former Colts DE/LB this week and although he will only get a few days of practice, we do expect to see him on the field. Simon has had production in the NFL and was let go because the Colts were changing their system and his talents didn’t fit the direction they were going.

Which leads us to the intriguing question, how do the coaches visualize using Simon?  He’s at his best as a 3-4 outside linebacker and wasn’t greatly suited to be a 4-3 defensive end, hence his release from Indy. The Patriots have been primarily a 4-3 team, although Bill Belichick hates being pigeonholed. So, does this mean we’ll see some 3-4 looks or even some of those five-man fronts we’ve seen in the past?  Possibly, and with the issues they’ve had stopping the run, something had to be done.

Simon does have some talent at rushing the QB and setting the edge in the running game which is very important moving forward. It will be intriguing to see how Belichick and Brian Flores decide how to use Simon here.

James White:

The Patriots Swiss Army Knife of the offense had his looks and snaps curtailed a bit as the team was pushing Sony Michel, trying to shake the rust off of him after the rookie running back missed nearly a month of training camp, all of the preseason and the first game of the year. Now, they need the veteran to step up his game.

White’s versatility in the passing game will be put to the test this week. With the Patriots wide receivers struggling to win 1-on-1 matchups, the running backs will be looked to even more to take up the slack. Rex Burkhead was a favorite receiver of Tom Brady’s but he’s injured again and on IR. Michel is just finding his feet in the NFL so White will have to step up his game again.

Look for White to get a lot of looks against the Miami secondary this week. Brady will try to isolate him on a linebacker and create favorable matchups to keep the chains moving. White can also chip in with the running game but this week, they need him to get 7-10 catches out of the backfield.

Trey Flowers/Pat Chung:

Last week, the Patriots really missed these two starters against the Lions. Flowers is their best defensive lineman and arguably their best defensive player period. He’s excellent in run support and is a good pass rusher off the edge. Chung is outstanding in run support down in the box and has always given good coverage against opposing tight ends. With the defense reeling, they need both back this week.

They both were in concussion protocol last week and missed the game in Detroit, and both have still been limited in practice this week.  Having the two of them back for this game will be a big boost for a defense that is in search of a spark.

We’re looking for them to bounce back this week and play solid against a talented Dolphins offense. We’re watching the Flowers matchup against Miami RT Ju’Wuan James this week. If the Patriots are going to be successful, they’ll need Flowers to get the better of that one on Sunday afternoon.

Rob Gronkowski:

The Patriots big tight end has been off to a slow start during the past two games and the Patriots offense needs him to get it going. Gronkowski is a force multiplier when he’s on top of his game, it elevates the rest of the offensive players around him.

There are already some rumblings that he can’t run anymore, and that he needs to build up his speed down the field. Comments like that are always good fodder to get the competitive juices flowing even more.

Perhaps the addition of Gordon, if even for a few plays this week, will open up just enough space for Gronkowski to get his game back on track. There is nothing like a little home cooking with the crowd at Gillette to ignite the big man and awake this slumbering offense. Brady will be looking to get him involved early and often in this one.

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Patriots – Dolphins Week 4, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
September 27, 2018 at 7:47 am ET

The New England Patriots return home after a 0-2 road trip and having been soundly defeated in both contests by Jacksonville and Detroit. While it early, since we’re still in September to call anything a “must-win” game, but it is rapidly sh

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Kevin Harlan will handle play-by-play duties with Rich Gannon as the color analyst. Steve Tasker 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 (1-2) lost to the Detroit Lions 26-10 on Sunday Night Football as they couldn’t get anything going offensively or defensively. Tom Brady threw for just 133 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

The Dolphins (3-0) had a late big comeback to defeat the Oakland Raiders 28-20.  Ryan Tannehill passed for 289 yards and 3 TDs while Albert Wilson also threw for a 52-yard score.

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 106th time in their history. Miami holds the overall edge 54-51 with each team holding big advantages at home. Against the Dolphins in Foxboro, Tom Brady is 14-1 with the only loss coming in 2005 when he was pulled in the first quarter of the regular season finale.

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 Miami

The Patriots running game has taken two big hits in the injury department losing both Jeremy Hill and Rex Burkhead to IR. That leaves only Sony Michel, James White, and the recently signed Kenjon Barner. What was looked upon as a deep position just a few weeks ago is now thin.

The Dolphins run defense has been much improved in 2018. They’ve done a great job of keeping opponents from running the ball effectively and the front seven has been very solid. Last week, they did a very solid job of bottling up the Raiders Marshawn Lynch which was particularly important when the Raiders were trying to run the clock in the second half.

The Patriots run blocking has not been up to their usual standards and they’ve struggled to consistently run the ball. The team has made a concerted effort to get Michel going after he missed nearly a month of practice. Look for the Pats to just try to mix things up this week and keep Miami honest. But not a lot of room to run this week.

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

The Patriots passing game has been mired in neutral the past two weeks. The wide receivers haven’t been getting open and teams are doubling down on Rob Gronkowski. Losing Burkhead really hurts in the passing game, which means that even more will be put on James White’s plate. Could we see some Josh Gordon this week?

Miami’s pass defense has been generating a lot of turnovers thru three weeks and the pass rush with Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn is a daunting task this week. The secondary has been very good, the Dolphins have invested a lot of draft and free agent capital into improving it. Xavien Howard had two interceptions last week vs Oakland.

Look for Josh McDaniels to switch up the conservative game planning and put the ball where it belongs this week, in Tom Brady’s hands. Yes, they’ve struggled to throw the ball but an offense that is run based and throwing on second and third and long isn’t conducive to winning. Look for much more James White this week. Jacob Hollister probably won’t play this week, (they could use him to take some heat off of Gronkowski) but with Gordon getting into the game, it should open things up for the other wide receivers. Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett are under the microscope this week.  

Next up the Miami offense:

Miami RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Push

The Dolphins running game hasn’t been setting the world on fire (like Detroit) and their running back by committee has not been where they envisioned it yet so far this season. Kenyon Drake and Frank Gore present different challenges and are a good 1-2 punch once they work out the kinks. Last week the duo ran just 11 times for 15 yards against the Raiders.

The Patriots run defense, especially to the opponent’s left side has been awful so far this season. This was supposed to be much improved this year but it hasn’t panned out that way. Things should be improved this week with the team getting Trey Flowers and Pat Chung back from concussion protocol. Flowers is the team’s best defensive lineman and Chung is a very effective tackler in the running game.

Look for the Dolphins to attack the left side, as we’ve seen all three opponents do this season. If they consistently get in those second and three yards or fewer scenarios, then it will be another long afternoon for the Patriots defense. Maybe this week it would bode well for Brian Flores to eschew most of the two-gap responsibilities and allow the DL to attack a bit more looking for some penetration and disruption up front. We’ll see.

Dolphins WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Miami

The Miami passing offense boasts a number of very good pass receivers in Kenny Stills, Danny Amendola, Jakeem Grant, DeVante Parker and Albert Wilson who also threw a 52-yard touchdown on a trick play last week. Ryan Tannehill has been incredibly accurate (73% completion rate) while amassing a 121.8 passer rating. They also have Drake out of the backfield and rookie TE Mike Gesicki.

The Patriots pass defense has suffered from a lack of pressure the past two weeks as both Matthew Stafford and Blake Bortles had all day to throw, frequently in very manageable situations. That has to change this week. Getting back three starters on defense (Flowers, Chung, Eric Rowe) would help.

I’d look for Tannehill to target Amendola a lot in this one. He knows the Patriots defense as well as anyone, he practiced against them every day for several years. They’ll try to move the ball down the field while taking the occasional deep shot with Stills. The matchup with Amendola with Jonathan Jones will be one to watch. Stills will probably be matched up with Stephon Gilmore while Rowe will draw either Wilson or Grant which will the other big matchup to watch.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Push

The Patriots’ Special Teams have yet to find their groove in 2018. The coverage units haven’t been anywhere near where they need to be and the return game has largely been stuck. However, last week, Cordarrelle Patterson opened the game with a 42-yard kickoff return, which is exactly what the team is looking for. Cyrus Jones is back and will be returning punts now and the team could use a boost by him.

Miami boasts the speedy and dangerous Grant in their return units. He had a 102-yard return for a touchdown against the Titans. However, the Dolphins have also given up a 94-yard touchdown return as well. 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.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This one is a much bigger game for both teams than a normal September divisional game. Miami leads the Patriots by two games, going up by three with a tiebreaker would put them far ahead in the divisional standings.

Tom Brady has been nearly unbeatable at home against Miami and on the flip side, much like Miami has been Brady’s kryptonite, Foxboro has been that for Ryan Tannehill. Miami’s QB is 0-5 in Gillette Stadium and has thrown 5 TDs and 9 INTs in those games where the Dolphins have been outscored 163-61.

While New England has been struggling, we’ve seen this before in the early season. Are we going to fall for the “banana in the tailpipe” again? This is the 2018 Patriots “We’re on to Cincinnati” game. We’ll learn something about each team after Sunday’s game.

We’re looking for Brady to get it done enough on offense this week as they begin to get things figured out. One “X-Factor” for New England may be John Simon, the ex-Colts LB/DE is best suited as a 3-4 OLB than a 4-3 DE, so could we see some 3-4 looks or the other 5-2 fronts we’ve seen in the past to try to confuse Tannehill? Possibly.

Our feeling here is that the Brady/Belichick combination in New England isn’t quite done just yet.    Patriots 24-23

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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.

What Does the Eric Decker Signing Mean for the Patriots?

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

With the surprising news that Jordan Matthews’ injury was severe enough for the Patriots to place him on IR, the Patriots lost out on one of the key free agent signings they made this spring. The team ended up releasing Matthews, I’m thinking, at his request as he probably believes that he’ll be ready to go a lot sooner this season.

But back to the situation at hand, with Matthews gone, the Patriots saw this coming and worked Decker out before he was signed on Thursday. After nearly missing all of 2016 with the Jets, Decker signed with Tennessee and put decent but career low numbers since becoming an every-down player. He caught 54 passes for 563 yards (career-low 10.4 yards per reception) with just one touchdown. But he remains reliable, his 65 percent catch percentage was the second highest of his career.

Can he revert to something akin to his last two years with the Broncos or the first two with the Jets or has he permanently lost a step. Part of his stats could stem from the struggles of the Titans offense. Last season they were just 28th in passing attempts and 23rd in yardage. Catching passes from Tom Brady should be more akin to better stats than Marcus Mariota.

The biggest asset Decker brings to the Patriots is versatility. He can play outside as the Z- receiver or in the slot. As a slot guy, he’s much like Matthews, a bigger (6’3, 215 pounds) who relies on his size to box out smaller defenders. So how will the Patriots use Decker?

Without seeing him run yet in practice, I see Decker as the Z-wide receiver, not the X. He will be used to attack the middle depth routes and work the perimeter and the middle of the field. They can move him around to create matchups in the slot where he logged about 50 percent of the Titans’ snaps last year when the opportunity avails itself. Phillip Dorsett has been seeing a lot of reps in the slot this summer and he’s been one for the more impressive players on offense.

Right now, the wide receiver depth has Chris Hogan, Dorsett, Cordarrelle Patterson, Decker along with rookies Braxton Berrios and Darren Andrews with 2nd-year player Riley McCarron, and Paul Turner. Veteran Matthew Slater is a wide receiver in name only, he’s a special teamer. Veterans Kenny Britt and Matthew Mitchell are not practicing yet and are considered day to day. Julian Edelman will return to the team Week 5 when his suspension is finished.

Decker isn’t a lock to even make the team but I believe he’ll have enough in the tank to beat out one of the younger slot guys (Berrios/McCarron) but time will tell. He had just a tad of experience with Josh McDaniels in Denver during his rookie season.

While the loss of Matthews is a blow, we thought he’d be an integral member of the offense in 2018, it certainly isn’t a death knell. Why? The Patriots still have plenty of talent at the wide receiver position. They like Britt and he’s only a year removed from a 1000-yard season. Dorsett appears primed to shake off his first season blues and be a bigger contributor. Patterson is the wild card, he’s never been able to produce like he was thought to be when he arrived in the NFL. But the Patriots are intent on finding him a role.

And this team has so many other talented pass catchers at other positions. Rob Gronkowski is the gold standard among NFL tight ends. Jacob Hollister seems poised to make a big jump in production from Year 1 to Year 2 and has caught more passes from Brady this summer than anyone. And the production from Rex Burkhead, James White and Sony Michel at running back shouldn’t have anyone pushing the panic button.

So while I’d temper expectations a bit for Eric Decker right now, I think he’ll be fine here. He’s at the age where his one-year deal comes at a good time for him. He’ll be very visible with the Patriots nationally and could parlay this into one more good payday. I expect him to be a model teammate (unlike the other guy fans were clamoring for) and be “all-in” immediately.

While I have never been a big fan of Decker’s, the timing may be just right for him to come to New England and carve out a nice role for himself. His versatility will be a key facet in him being able to pick up the offense on the fly. Without being here all spring, and the first week of training camp, he’s well behind the rest of the receivers. However, it isn’t anything that can’t be overcome with hard work.

Orchestrating all of this is Tom Brady, who has taken the Patriots deep in the playoffs and to a Super Bowl with far less talent than he has right now with this offense. The loss of Matthews and Edelman (for a month) is a blow but this team will be just fine. They always start off a bit slow anyway. No reason to panic and sound the alarm. In one aspect of this, they were fortunate that the injury happened in the first week of training camp rather than Week 9 or 10.

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