Tag Archives: Duron Harmon

Malcolm Mitchell Reflects Back On Time With Patriots

Robert Alvarez
February 21, 2019 at 8:50 pm ET

Malcolm Mitchell continues to show love and appreciation for the New England Patriots.

On Twitter this week, Mitchell sent out tweets reflecting back on his short, but memorable time in Foxborough, calling the Patriots one of his “guardian angels”.

The tweets come on the heels of an injury grievance he filed against the Patriots back in September.

Mitchell was cut in August 2018 without an injury designation, so he didn’t receive any of his $630,000 season salary and is seeking full recoupment.

His NFL career started strong, finishing with 401 yards receiving on 32 receptions and four touchdowns in 14 games played in 2016.

Mitchell also had a key role in Super Bowl LI, hauling in six of his seven targets for 70 yards during the historic comeback. Five of those receptions came in the fourth quarter.

His biggest play of the game came on a 12-yard catch that resulted in a first down on third-and-11.

The reception helped set up a touchdown and two-point conversion that trimmed the Patriot deficit to 28-20.

Since his promising rookie season Mitchell has battled knee injuries, including one that sidelined him the entire 2017 season.

His injury history dates back even further to his time at the University of Georgia.

Mitchell tore his ACL in 2013 and suffered another knee injury in 2014.

The Patriots elected to cut ties with Mitchell when it became apparent his knee issues were going to linger into 2018.

“He did everything he could. It’s unfortunate it didn’t work out…I don’t know how he could have put in any more than he did,” head coach Bill Belichick said last August.

ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss caught up with Mitchell in his native Valdosta, GA before Super Bowl LIII.

“I’m still motivated, I’m still encouraged, I’m recovering — the last surgery totaled out to be No. 10, and it takes a little while to come back from it,” Mitchell told ESPN.com. “But I am working my way back. And I’ll be back.”

Despite the legal matters and recovery process, Mitchell still keeps in touch with old teammates and holds no ill feelings towards the franchise that drafted him.

“I still have New England in my heart. I think I always will, Jonathan Jones and I were great friends even before we ended up on the same team. On New Year’s, I texted everyone, from Devin McCourty, to Matthew Slater, to Tom, to Julian [Edelman]. I know Danny [Amendola] isn’t on the team any more, but we still talk. It’s fun. Duron Harmon has been a huge encouragement. So I try to keep those relationships. There’s no reason they shouldn’t be there.”

During his time away from the football field, Mitchell remains active in the community as an advocate for the importance of reading, including an author of multiple children’s books.

With four wide receivers hitting free agency this off season, perhaps the Patriots haven’t seen the last of Malcolm Mitchell.

Best Of Social Media: The New England Patriots Celebrate Valentines Day

Robert Alvarez
February 14, 2019 at 3:40 pm ET

Love is in the air across Patriot Nation.

Check out all of the best social media postings from current and former Patriots to their loved ones on Valentines Day, including a funny feature from Super Bowl week with James White.

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https://www.instagram.com/p/Bt3pRSilNzs/
https://www.instagram.com/p/Bt3_N4JhOj8/
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Forever mine, my valentine @shelbywaddle ❤❤❤

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Patriots Celebrate Super Bowl Victory At Celtics Game

Robert Alvarez
February 9, 2019 at 2:00 pm ET

The Super Bowl championship victory tour took a few members of the New England Patriots to Thursday nights game between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers.

Before the start of the second quarter, the Celtics shared a video tribute in honor of the Patriots.

The tribute featured appearances by some players sitting courtside on the TD Garden jumbotron.

The McCourty Twins. Duron Harmon, Trent Brown, Rex Burkead, Trey Flowers, Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, Sony Michel and Head Coach Bill Belichick were all shown on screen to the fans.

As an added bonus, Barstool sports founder Dave Portnoy was also shown sporting his infamous Roger Goodell clown shirt.

After the game, the Los Angeles Lakers Lebron James met with Belichick to congratulate him on his latest championship.

https://twitter.com/DefPenSports/status/1093724783093694465
https://twitter.com/espn/status/1093743977629708288

Unfortunately for the hometown fans, Los Angeles finally earned a win against a Boston sports team, with the Lakers defeating the Celtics in heartbreaking fashion at the buzzer in a 129-128 victory.

Best Of Social Media: Sights And Sounds From The Patriots Championship Parade

Robert Alvarez
February 8, 2019 at 3:00 pm ET

On Tuesday the New England Patriots concluded their Super Bowl celebrations with a championship parade through the streets of Boston.

For the twelfth time since 2001, the 2018 New England Patriots became the latest Boston “Big Four” sports team to be honored with a duck boat rolling rally.

Check out all of the best social media postings from the Patriots, media, and fans below.

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Can I call you Gronky too??? @gronk

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

https://twitter.com/patspulpit/status/1092826800626024448
https://twitter.com/RobGronkowski/status/1092798039805304840
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6 #StillHere

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Still Dreaming

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/Btg2DDWhaFb/
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Boston. You are insane. #LFG

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

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How. Do. We. Feel.

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

https://twitter.com/zeus30hightower/status/1092864195253751809
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https://twitter.com/BumpNrunGilm0re/status/1092995398363422720
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https://twitter.com/Flyguy2stackz/status/1092847064642392064
https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1092827140435992579
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#mvp #flashthat #slimeseason

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All the way live. #champs

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Rookie and the Vet

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World Champs!

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https://twitter.com/NBCSPatriots/status/1092887724422516736
https://twitter.com/WillBrinson/status/1092827881934389248

Best Of Social Media: Super Bowl LIII Patriots vs Rams

Robert Alvarez
at 9:30 am ET

For the fourth time in five years, the New England Patriots earned the opportunity to capture yet another Lombardi trophy.

Their opponent, fittingly enough, was the same Rams franchise that on the same date 17 years earlier, the Patriots defeated for their first championship.

Check out all the highlights from social media during Super Bowl LIII below.

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Family and Football ❤️❤️ #LFG

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

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Still Here. Never Left.

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

https://twitter.com/RedSox/status/1092195246560215041
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The best is ready to begin. #GrowingPats

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“Time is an illusion.” – Albert Einstein

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on


https://twitter.com/JustSportsTweet/status/1092211692174487553

For the eighth time in the last nine Patriots Super Bowls, the team was held scoreless in the first quarter. 0-0 after one.

A Stehpen Gostkowski field goal gave the Patriots a 3-lead at the half in a surprise defensive battle between both teams.

A Greg Zuerlein 53 Yd Field Goal knotted the game at 3-3 late in the third, but the Patriots defense continued its domination of the Rams.

https://twitter.com/Patriots/status/1092250114524012544

With the game still tied at three with seven left in the 4th quarter, the Patriots offense at last put together the first (and only) touchdown drive of the game.

Leading by ten with under five to play, the Rams appeared to be in position to tie the game.

Stephon Gilmore had other plans.

https://twitter.com/MichaelaNESN/status/1092254536918622214

The interception by Gilmore led to a Patriots Super Bowl clinching drive when Stephen Gostkowski redeemed his first quarter miss with a 41 yard Field Goal to push the lead to seal a 13-3 championship win.

For the sixth time since 2001, the Patriots were Super Bowl champions.

https://twitter.com/mcckshea/status/1092256501379432448
https://twitter.com/Al_Horford/status/1092257146056646656
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THE W.

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

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Family and Football! ❤️❤️❤️❤️

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

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https://twitter.com/SullyBunz/status/1092493953281216512
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Super Bowl LIII Champs!!!

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CHAMPS! #LFG

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The GOAT. #SixRings

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

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Boston, we’re coming for you.

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

https://twitter.com/espn/status/1092288426320252929
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Still here

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MAMA WE MADE IT!!

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3 time

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My why! Super Bowl Champs baby!!!!!!

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Did it!

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Well…. last night was fun lol @alexbrandy

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What a week! @atlsuperbowl53 Champs!

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Mood……. Champ!!!! #picworth1000words

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Perfect ending to and imperfect story. #champs

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So blessed!! Dope!

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Six-Cess! Belichick Defensive Gameplan Another Gem Wins Sixth Title 

Steve Balestrieri
February 4, 2019 at 7:39 am ET

Six-Cess! Belichick Defensive Gameplan a Gem Wins Another SB

Bill Belichick has saved some of his best defensive game-planning for the Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams. And in doing so, he’s capped the latest Super Bowl victory much like he did their first.

In Super Bowl XXXVI, the Patriots showed the Rams something they hadn’t seen before. Recognizing that the “Greatest Show on Turf” went thru Marshall Faulk, the Patriots decided that they were going to hit Faulk (and hard) every time he went out of the backfield and they punished him enroute to a huge upset win.

Last night, Belichick showed the Rams something they hadn’t seen the Patriots do on tape by playing a defense that was different for them and totally confusing to the Rams offensive players. It was stifling, physical and utterly brilliant.

In our pregame matchups, we thought the Pats would dust off a look of the old Bears 46 Defense in an attempt to take away the Rams stretch running plays. What Belichick did was different but similar. They ran what looked a 6-1 front with both outside linebackers up on the line of scrimmage. The Rams run with a ton of motion and use play action more than anyone with QB Jared Goff under center about 40 percent of the time.

But the Patriots interior defensive linemen didn’t take the cheese. Rather than sliding east-west with the motion, they were attacking north-south and penetrating the gaps. The Rams outside running game was negated by the linebackers setting the edge. Todd Gurley who does the bulk of the Rams outside running was held to just 35 yards on 10 carries. And by having the outside backers up, right on the line of scrimmage, those screens to the backs were negated. Gurley and C.J. Anderson had just three catches for 11 yards.

The other thing it did was take the Rams out of their tight formation packages that they like to run where it gives its more options. By having the linebackers in their face, everything was disrupted and it was plain to see all day. Sean McVay, who after the game said he was thoroughly out-coached then had to adjust by moving their receivers farther out wide. That further hurt their zone stretch running plays and much of their crossing routes over the middle.

But the second half of the defensive equation was arguably Belichick’s best move and he can thank his former Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia for the blueprint on this one. Matty P, who was being roasted by the talking heads on the air after the game last night, must have got a huge smile on his face and a big piece of redemption because Belichick copied what Patricia’s Lions did late in the season.

The Patriots played quarters coverage in the secondary, something they didn’t show the Rams on tape. Patricia’s Lions ran this on early downs with two safeties back, it took away those play action slants the Rams were so successful running this year. Duron Harmon, normally the third safety was replaced by slot corner Jonathan Jones who played safety for the first time. With Belichick, versatility is key, the more you can do…

Harmon however, did come on to play in the second half, when Pat Chung appeared to break his arm early in the third quarter. Chung was put in an air cast and then watched the rest of the game from the Patriots sidelines.

Facing a lot of third and long situations, Belichick and Flores unleashed the Ameoba fronts we’ve seen so much of down the stretch and the pass rush was outstanding. Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower were all over the field and provided outstanding pressure. Hightower had a pair of sacks, a tackle for a loss, a pass defensed and three QB hits. Van Noy was a pain in the backside for Goff as well with a sack, a tackle for loss and a pair of QB hits. For two players who are “too slow”, they certainly didn’t appear so, …especially to the Rams offensive line.

The coverage was a perfect blend to the pass rush. Goff most times had absolutely nowhere to throw the ball and was hounded all night long. But it wasn’t just Goff, the entire Rams offense was out of synch and looking for answers all night long. Stephon Gilmore was once again outstanding and sealed the deal with an interception on the Patriots 2-yard line after Harmon blitzed and forced Goff into launching a floater that was a too-easy interception.

The Rams had the #2 offense in terms of yards (421.1) and points (32.9) during the season. The Patriots held them to just 260 yards and three (3) points in the Super Bowl. For all the talk all season about this defense wasn’t good enough, they faced three excellent offenses in the Chargers, Chiefs, and Rams in the postseason and beat all three with outstanding efforts in each game.

The Patriots defensive six-cess was another example of a brilliant coaching job by the master. Belichick did it to the Rams again, with a tip of the hat to Matty P.

For McVay who is one of the most brilliant of young coaches in the game, it will be a learning experience. He’s hardly the first who were taught the ways by the old Jedi master… his time will come. But for now, “PATIENCE YOU MUST HAVE my young padawan”

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

Best Of Social Media: AFC Championship Patriots vs Chiefs

Robert Alvarez
January 23, 2019 at 9:09 pm ET

The New England Patriots entered the AFC Championship game seeking their first AFC title on the road since 2004.

For the first time since the 2014 AFC Championship in Denver, the Patriots found themselves as the underdog in a playoff game.

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If you happen to be lucky…

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2️⃣6️⃣

A post shared by Sony Michel (@flyguy2stackz) on

In the first quarter, Rob Gronkowski reached another career milestone to open the game.

Much like the Chargers a week ago, the Patriots again put together a lengthy scoring drive on their first possession.

Sony Michel logged the games first points and it was 7-0 NE midway through the first.

https://twitter.com/TheHall/status/1087138581817237504

More deja vu carried over from the Charger game on defense, as the Patriots pressured quarterback Patrick Mahomes early and often.

The Chiefs were held scoreless and it was 7-0 Patriots after one.

https://twitter.com/Patriots/status/1087139297264775168

Just when it appeared the Patriots were going to jump out to a 14-0 lead to open the second, a Tom Brady mistake in the end zone gave the Chiefs much needed life.

https://twitter.com/Chiefs/status/1087142237849284608

Despite the miscue, the Patriots defense continued to keep the Chiefs high powered offense off the field.

With the Chiefs threatening for the first time late in the second quarter, linebacker Trey Flowers had other ideas.

https://twitter.com/davidortiz/status/1087150991252819969

With two minutes to go until halftime, Brady and the offense capitalized on their final possession and took a 14-0 lead into the locker room. .

Tom Brady can in fact, throw the deep ball.

14-0 Patriots at halftime.

Needing to desperately get something going in front of their home fans, Mahomes and the Chiefs finally woke up.

They’d score their first touchdown of the night in just under two minutes to open the second half.

Patrick Mahomes found Travis Kelce to cut the Patriots lead in half.

14-7 Patriots.

A Stephen Gostkowski 47 yard field goal pushed the Patriots lead back to ten at 17-7 after three quarters.

Then, just like the regular season meeting between these two, the floodgates opened in the fourth quarter.

The Chiefs quickly scored on a Mahomes touchdown to
Damien Williams to cut the deficit to three.

After the touchdown, the Patriots response stalled inside the Chiefs 25 when Rex Burkhead was stuffed on fourth down.

Momentum began shifting to KC.

https://twitter.com/Chiefs/status/1087167845534814209

Disaster nearly struck when Julian Edelman nearly fumbled away a kick return. The ruling after review stated the ball never touched him.

Unfortunately just two players later the Chiefs regained the ball anyway.

A fan ran on the field immediately after the interception.

Needing to take advantage of Edelman’s mistake, Damien Williams burned the Patriots again and the Chiefs had their first lead of the night with seven to go. 21-17 Kansas City.

Tom Brady and the offense fought back, but another crucial fourth down arose that could have ended the game.

Sony Michel had other ideas.

The Patriots regained the lead 24-21.

Again the Chiefs refused to die, feeding off the home crowd as Damien Williams found the end zone for a third time.

28-24 Chiefs but a full two minutes for Tom Brady to work with.

With 42 seconds remaining in the game, Rex Burkhead gave the Patriots the lead back at 31-28.

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https://twitter.com/JDMartinez14/status/1087181405359165440

The 23 year old Mahomes showed no fear despite limited time remaining.

The potential league MVP had one final drive left in him as he set up a Harrison Butker 39 yard field goal to knot the game at 31 all.

For the second time on championship Sunday, the trip to the Super Bowl would be decided in overtime.

The Patriots won the overtime coin toss, and like in a previous Super Bowl, it would be the final drive of the game.

The Patriots overtime drive saw Tom Brady complete not one, but three 3rd and 10s that setup the winning score.

On second and goal inside the five, Brady handed off to Rex Burkhead to clinch the AFC Championship for the New England Patriots.

https://twitter.com/thecheckdown/status/1087189790045261826

A 37-31 final score that send the Patriots to an unprecedented third Super Bowl in a row and the fourth in five seasons.

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AFC champs! #yesssssirrrr

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TD-REX, FTW.

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On we go. #TeamDub

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“I LOVE YOU GUYS.”

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Reppin’ the East.

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W

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

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“ATLANTA, WE THERE.”

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We’ll see you in the A!

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

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Back to the Bowl!! Let’s go!!

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We’re coming home

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Local tradition. #BeatLA

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Best Of Social Media: The Patriots Celebrate Christmas

Robert Alvarez
December 26, 2018 at 4:59 pm ET

On Tuesday, current and former members of the New England Patriots took time to share Christmas messages and photographs over their social media accounts.

Check out some of the best below.

https://twitter.com/camillekostek/status/1077733400176455682
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‘Twas the night before Christmas. Happy Holidays!

A post shared by Jonathan Jones (@getitonjones31) on

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Merry Christmas fam

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https://www.instagram.com/p/Brv16IIHxnG/
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Merry Christmas Everyone

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Merry Christmas from the squad!

A post shared by Duron Harmon (@dharm21) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/Br2_ErwDkAC/
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New England Patriots News 12-23, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
December 23, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 12-23, & AFC East Notes.
From all of us here, we wish you all an early very Merry Christmas.

Some Quick Hitters this morning:

Just a reminder that you revisit our keys to the game here:

Did you Know? That the Patriots currently have a regular season home winning streak of 11 games dating back to last season. That is currently the fifth longest in team history and can move into a 4th place tie with the team from 2006-2008.

Did you Know Pt.2? The Patriots picked up Cordarrelle Patterson to help with the kickoff return game. The Patriots currently rank 2nd in the league with a 28.6 yards per return average. If that number remains the same or increases, it will be the team’s best average in the Bill Belichick era, beating the 2006 team’s average of 26.8 yards per return.

Did you Know Pt. 3: With just 21 yards passing today, Tom Brady will reach the 4000-yard mark for the 10th time in his career, the 3rd most in NFL history. Also with just three catches, Julian Edelman will move past Ben Coates (490) in career catches with the team, which will put him in 5th place.

Points Allowed Stats: One of the more interesting stats especially for those who like to chime in with the “Bill can’t coach defense anymore” crowd is the fact that since 2001 the Patriots have the most seasons allowing 20 points per game or fewer with 12. The Ravens and Steelers are next with 11 each. Baltimore is a shoo-in for their 12th this season unless they allow 68 points in their last two games, which isn’t likely. The Patriots would have to hold the Bills and Jets combined for 10 points…very unlikely. The Steelers would have to hold their opponents (New Orleans today) to four points or less.

Josh Gordon’s Story Shows Why Mental Health Is Such an Issue :

With the news this week after Josh Gordon announced that he was stepping away from football to concentrate on his own mental health and addiction issues and the league announced that he failed another drug test, the social media world exploded.

Several noted hot take media types including a few here in the Boston market took to calling Gordon “selfish” and not taking “individual or personal responsibility” is short-sighted and wrong. We were guilty of it here as well, not being aware of how deep his mental health issues were initially until the team signed him.

And mental health and addiction issues DO go hand-in-hand. I keep reading and hearing people go on and on about “choices” which is patently ludicrous. Does anyone seriously think that a person with their first drink or taste of an illegal substance plan on becoming an alcoholic or drug addict?

Chris Carter who had his own issues with addiction during his playing career was very emotional about the entire Gordon issue and how he feels most people still don’t understand it all.

“And the kid needs help! He does not need football. He needs help. He needs tools that he can be able to say ‘no.’ No to those drugs. No to the world, and yes to his opportunities. Yes to relationships.

That’s what so upsetting [for] me is just the lack of understanding. This is what addicts do. They don’t show up for work. They lie. They deceive. That’s what they do. But addicts need help. Myself, I need help. Josh needs help. And I hope that he’s able to continue this long, long battle, because there is no cure. The day you’re cured is the day they put you in the ground.”

The Patriots, who are now being roasted by the “I told you so” crowd, certainly knew the risks with signing a player with a troubled history such as Gordon’s. They did everything they could as an organization to help him find his way here. They installed him with a locker right next to Tom Brady’s where the two would certainly interact more.

The coaches stayed late with him, helping him learn the offense and navigate the intricacies of it. Even the PR Dept. of Stacey James took great care with his interactions with the media, trying to keep everything on point and limit the talk about the off-field distractions that had derailed such a promising career.

There were even rumors to the effect that the team had hired people to hang with Gordon in the off-hours to keep him away from the demons that have haunted him. Not like Foxboro on a Friday night will be confused with Vegas. But even that, wasn’t enough for a person/addict with issues to fall back into their destructive behavior. For the first time in his professional career, Gordon was playing for a winner with a chance to write his own redemption story.

That’s the saddest part of the story. I would encourage anyone to attend an Alcoholic’s Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meeting sometime and listen to the stories of those who tried and failed many, many times before finally slipping away from the bonds of their demons. Rarely if ever it is done on the first attempt.

The Patriots issues at wide receiver are minuscule next to a man’s life. We hope that Gordon, the man, will find his way back to mental health and be able to live his life as normally as possible. Whether or not he ever gets another chance to play in the NFL is secondary at this point.

Ufomba Kamalu Presented With a Chance to Stick:

When the Patriots signed OLB Kamalu to their practice squad on November 5th, it barely registered on the social media spectrum, other than his unusual name. But what is really intriguing about Kamalu, who has been signed to the active roster in the fallout from the Josh Gordon situation is his size and athleticism.

Kamalu originally was an UDFA from Miami and signed with the Houston Texans in 2016. He’s 6’6 and weighs 295 pounds, but for a big man, he’s pretty athletic. Kamalu ran a 4.88 in the 40-yard dash, a 31.5-inch vertical leap, 7.32-second 3-cone drill, and a 4.58-second short shuttle at his pro day.

In his time with the Texans, they used him at OLB and in 13 games with three starts, he logged 11 tackles and three sacks before being let go in the final cutdown this year. He briefly spent time with the Cardinals on their practice squad before signing with the Pats.

Now he’s on the active roster and although Bill Belichick had been wondering how the Pats would use him, maybe this week and next against the Jets, he’ll see some snaps and we’ll catch a glimpse of what he can do. Belichick was asked by NESN’s Doug Kyed a few weeks ago how the team envisioned Kamalu.

“I think we’re trying to figure it out, but he’s an interesting player to work with and a good player to work with,” Belichick said. “He works hard, smart. He’s played outside linebacker to defensive end to defensive tackle. So, he hasn’t really done a lot in our defense. It’s been more scout team and so forth, drills.

“But he works hard, he’s smart. He picks things up. He’s … done and is able to do different things for us. We’ll see how it goes. But yeah, he’s an interesting guy. We don’t really have anyone like him from a skill-set standpoint, so I’d say we’re kind of trying to figure it out. But he gets better every day. So, we’ll keep working with him. We’ll see how it goes.”

With Kamalu’s size, he won’t be an OLB with the Patriots but probably a DE or kick into the interior on passing downs. If he is active today, that would mean he’s leapfrogged both Derek Rivers and Keionta Davis on the depth chart as both have been inactive lately. But it is also said that Belichick remembers when opponents have big games against them. Well in a 2017 preseason game, Kamalu had four tackles, a sack and two QB hits against the Patriots.

On a defense that could really use some help in the front seven, perhaps Kamalu could work himself into a job beginning today.

Patriots Secondary Deep and Underrated:

The most overlooked aspect of the Patriots this season has been the play of their secondary. Which overall this season has been very good. The team has their best corner, Stephon Gilmore playing at a high level, he’s been outstanding from the first snaps during OTAs and has continued that. Even though the team lost Eric Rowe to IR, they’ve scarcely missed a beat with Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, and rookie J.C.Jackson holding down the cornerback position.

They have been playing so well that this year’s 2nd round draft pick Duke Dawson who was injured for most of the first half of the season, hasn’t even played yet. Jackson, the UDFA from Maryland has been terrific so far as he’s making his presence felt in the 2nd half of the season.

At safety, the team still has Devin McCourty and Pat Chung along with the “closer” Duron Harmon and then the team added former 2nd round draft pick Obi Melifonwu. That’s a deep area as well.

Ah, you say, but what about the yards allowed. The Patriots allow 256 yards thru the air each week, only 23rd in the league. But opposing QBs are still not very efficient when facing the Pats secondary. They currently rank 9th in the league in opposing QB rating with an 88.5 mark.

Jackson leads the way (albeit in a limited body of work) with opposing QBs having a rating of just 26.0 when targeting him. Gilmore has an outstanding 60.1 rating, frequently covering the opposition’s top WR. Jonathan Jones who plays the very tough position in the slot where a WR can go in either direction has a rating of 79.5 when being targeted. McCourty brings up the rear with a 98.8 but has played tough all year.

It will be interesting to see if the pass rush picks up how well the secondary can keep playing to their strengths/

Who You Have This Week? NFL Week 16 Predictions:

Last week: 9-7 Season 141-81-2

Saturday picks: Titans, Chargers

Cincinnati @ Cleveland: Browns
Tampa Bay @ Dallas: Cowboys
Minnesota @ Detroit: Vikings
Buffalo @ New England: Patriots
Green Bay @ NY Jets: Packers
Houston @ Philadelphia: Eagles
Atlanta @ Carolina: Panthers
NY Giants @ Indianapolis: Colts
Jacksonville @ Miami: Dolphins
LA Rams @ Arizona: Rams
Chicago @ San Francisco: Bears
Pittsburgh @ New Orleans: Saints
Kansas City @ Seattle SNF: Seahawks
Denver @ Oakland: Broncos

**Note, No Saturday Games Next Week**

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Want to Rely on Defense to Keep the Game Close:

The Buffalo Bills are smelling blood in the water this week as absurd as that sounds for a team that is 3-29 against Tom Brady. All of the talk out of Western New York this week centers around “3”. Can the Bills make it three in a row that the Patriots lose?

With their offense improving but still among the worst in the league, Buffalo will have to rely on their defense, including their top-ranked pass defense to keep the score close and give Josh Allen and the offense the opportunity to steal one on the road.

They’ll not only need a big game from their secondary but from the big guy Kyle Williams inside. Buffalo hasn’t got a sack in their last two games but they’ll need Williams to bring pressure inside where Brady can’t step into his throws. If they can do that, they’ll have a puncher’s chance, as they did in October.

Dolphins Trying to Break Out of Mediocrity Slump:

The Miami Dolphins are 7-7 and still in the playoff hunt but to get there they are going to need some help. But the ownership will be looking hard at once again making some changes at the end of the season and that begins with Executive VP of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum and GM Chris Grier.

Tannenbaum has been at the helm for the Dolphins for the past four years and the franchise is no better or worse than they were when he took over. Is this the end for him? Very possibly. And he may not be alone. Head Coach Adam Gase, like his team, has been very inconsistent. These next two games may hold a lot of the future for these two. An 8-8 finish might be the end for the both of them.

The once proud Dolphin franchise is 199-1949 since the 1994 season. The Patriots in the same time frame in the regular season are 277-121. Plus they are 30-14 in the post-season. Since Gase has taken over, the mediocrity has continued with a 23-23 mark. Those numbers would both be under .500 if not for a “miracle” finish.

These next two games may decide a lot. Tannenbaum has the confidence of Matt Higgins, the Dolphins VP and a close confidante of owner Stephen Ross. Higgins is reportedly not happy with Gase. Stay tuned…

Jets Hoping Darnold Can Spark a Win Over the Packers:

The New York Jets 2018 season is over as far as any hopes for a playoff berth are, however, there is an awful lot to play for in the next two weeks against the Packers and then next week at the Patriots. And it isn’t just for pride and jobs in 2019. It is hope.

The Jets are looking for a sign that their fortunes are headed in the right direction. After two decades of having the Patriots dominate the division, the Jets invested heavily in QB Sam Darnold. Any rookie QB starting in the NFL is going to struggle at times and Darnold was no exception.

But he played his best game of the year last week against the #2 seed in the AFC, the Houston Texans and the Jets came up just short of upsetting Houston. Now Darnold gets to take on two of the best QBs of this generation. Aaron Rodgers this week and Tom Brady in the finale in Foxboro. This will be a huge opportunity for the Jets and Darnold to build some momentum for 2019.

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.

No “Yeah Buts” Patriots Defense Is Coming Together Right On Time

Steve Balestrieri
December 5, 2018 at 8:40 am ET

With the Patriots win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, the Patriots are 9-3 and are currently the #2 seed of the AFC. They can clinch their division with a win over the Dolphins on Sunday, the first “hat and T-shirt” game of the season.

Nothing is guaranteed yet, there are still four games left to play and they could finish anywhere from the #1 seed to out of the playoffs if they drop all four. But is there anyone really out there that can see that scenario?

Things you can set your watch/calendar by:

  • The Pats laying a stinker or two in Sept.
  • National media rushing to be “first” to predict the end of NE’s run
  • Patriots fans screaming on social media every time an opponent completes a pass of more than 10 yards, “They’re trash!”
  • The team slogging thru the midway point of the season stringing together wins
  • Post-Thanksgiving, the team is suddenly among the AFC’s top seeds…again
  • After every win, especially against big opponents, the “yeah buts” come out
  • That “trash” defense begins to come together

Did we miss any? One fan who follows us on social media proclaimed during the Lions game that the team was “going 5-11 as Bill has gutted this team with terrible drafting”, and yet here we are again.

The best thing to watch on Sunday was the work of the Patriots defense. The one constant about the Patriots defense is that it is always changing. They don’t have the one signature aspect that everyone can point to and say, “Team “A” is going to have to deal with this” or that “Team “B” can’t match up with that”. It is, under Bill Belichick a unit that changes from week to week depending on the team and can morph into totally different entities.

Against the Jets, they went to a heavier package trying to stop the running game that was base-heavy. Against Minnesota, they went to nearly all sub-packages, at times having Trey Flowers as the only down lineman, daring them to run, while trying to stop the pass. They did a masterful job of disguising their blitzes and the safety group was moving all around which confused Kirk Cousins to where he was forced to check down time and again to outlet receivers where the defense cleaned them up.

This requires a massive amount of work and study and having players that are smart and versatile, especially the secondary which gets far too little credit. The Patriots have quietly amassed a very talented group in the secondary and they are getting better each week.

Last week, facing the Vikings talented duo of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, the Pats defense, didn’t do their normal M.O. which is to try to take away their top threat and make you beat them elsewhere, they DID take away both.

Thielen, who had amassed nine 100-yard games was held to just five catches for 28 yards and a 5-yard TD. Diggs had five catches for 49 yards. And right smack in the middle of it all was Stephon Gilmore.

Gilmore is a corner who doesn’t get nearly the credit that he deserves for being the player that he is. Other than the Titans game where he and everyone else played terribly, he’s been lights out since the earliest days of OTAs. Joining him is Jason McCourty, who not only is playing meaningful games for the first time in his career, is also playing some of the best football of his career. Jonathan Jones and the surprising rookie emergence of J.C. Jackson has to be a source of confidence moving forward.

The safety group now has four players that the team can use in just about any situation. Pat Chung and Devin McCourty are both ramping their games up to an extremely high level with Duron (The Closer) Harmon and newcomer Obi Melifonwu providing depth and versatility for the coaches to throw different looks at the opposition.

While everyone south of the North Pole laments the amount of yardage that they allow. But yards passing doesn’t win football games…points do. Otherwise, the Pats would have cruised in the SB against the Eagles. And don’t look now, but that “trash” defense of the Patriots? They’re currently tied with Seattle for 9th best in points allowed with 21.6. Right on time. And the opposing passer rating, they’re currently 6th, with opponents QBs having a passer rating of just 85.9.

They aren’t the most talented group in the front seven, with the exception of Trey Flowers on the defensive line, there are a bunch of workmen who bring their lunch pails to the stadium every day. Lawrence Guy, in particular, has been a great pickup for them.

The Linebacker group is the same. Are Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy All-Pros? Nope but in this defense, they are as valuable as them. Elandon Roberts is someone we frequently criticize but he has the confidence of his coaches and on Sunday was flying around the field which is a good thing. They miss their rookie Ja’Whaun Bentley but who should be even better next season.

Are they now a Top-10 defense? Nope. But they’re competitive and with a confidence level that they feel they can match up and slow down anyone they meet. We all heard the noise (all year) but especially before last week’s game. “They can’t stop Thielen”, or “Diggs will eat them up”, “Who is going to cover Cook underneath.” It was the same when they faced Aaron Rodgers but of course, after that game, there were the endless…yeah buts.

One of the things that Bill Belichick talks about, and one of the hardest thing to do as a coach, is getting a team to “buy-in” to what they’re trying to get across with a team philosophy. We saw that fail in 2009 when he lamented on the sideline in New Orleans that the team wouldn’t do so. Judging from what we saw on Sunday, this team is all-in. What happens from here? Nobody knows, they could run the table or get booted in the first round. “Yeah but what about the Steelers’ offense?” But just this time, for once, sit back and enjoy the ride.

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.