Tag Archives: Eric Lee

Best Of Social Media: Week 17 Jets vs Patriots

Robert Alvarez
January 5, 2018 at 6:17 pm ET

Heading into Sunday’s regular season finale against the New York Jets, the Patriots were seeking to secure the number one seed in the AFC and lock up home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

gameday #letsgooooo #gopats

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

Last regular season game. #finishstrong

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Game Day!!

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In the first quarter, the Patriots won the toss and elected to recieve in an effort to score early, they did just that for the seventh time in 2017.

Jets quarterback Bryce Petty got off to a difficult start seeking a response when he was caught by CBS cameras struggling to get his helmet on.

In what would be a recurring topic of conversation throughout the afternoon, it was a little chilly in Foxborough.

The Jets would get on the board with a Chandler Catanzaro 48 yard field goal to bring the score to 7-3 after one quarter of play.

Despite early struggles connecting to wide receiver Brandin Cooks, Brady continued to show confidence in his new wideout, and found him from five yards out late in the second quarter to provide some breathing room. 14-3 Patriots.

The Patriots defense throughout the first half shut down the Jets offense, and when they forced a three and out just before halftime, the Patriots offense continued to produce points in the final minute.

A Tom Brady block helped setup Dion Lewis for yet another touchdown in recent games.

21-3 Patriots at haltime.

Tom, your thoughts on the game so far?

https://twitter.com/ryan_spags/status/947551234910773249

In the third quarter, James Harrison made his presence known, landing this big hit after the catch, and forcing a Jets punt.

Stephen Gostkowski would nail a 21 yard field goal to up the lead to 24-3 which was setup by this Dion Lewis carry.

https://twitter.com/patriots/status/947562353326882816

In what was otherwise an uneventful third quarter, Patriots cornerback Johnson Bademosi put on a terrific display of acting on the sidelines.

https://twitter.com/mcckshea/status/947564035645562885

In the fourth quarter, the Jets made Jet decisions, and elected to kick a field goal from 35 yards out to cut the deficit to 18 at 24-6.

https://twitter.com/caseybake16/status/947565330368483330

The Patriots defense then put the icing on the cake with an Erice Lee safety on Petty.

https://twitter.com/caseybake16/status/947571951802961920

With the game clock winding down, James Harrison tallied back to back sacks, doubling his season total when he was in Pittsburgh.

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https://twitter.com/kvn_03/status/947595167216885762

Patriots – Steelers Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge

Steve Balestrieri
December 16, 2017 at 8:30 am ET

The Patriots go back out on the road for their fifth game in the last six and their last in the 2017 regular season as they take on the Pittsburgh Steelers. This is still a hat and t-shirt game for the Patriots. With a win or a tie, the Patriots clinch the AFC East once again for the ninth straight time and the 17th since Robert Kraft took over the team in 1994.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, December 17 at 4:25 p.m. ET and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4 in Boston. Jim Nantz will handle play-by-play duties with Tony Romo as the color analyst. Tracy Wolfson will work 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 (10-3) are coming off an ugly 27-20 loss to Miami on Monday night. The offense struggled all night long and the defense couldn’t stop Kenyan Drake either running or receiving. They’ll be looking for a bounce-back game.

The Steelers (11-2) had another late 4th quarter comeback and pulled off a dramatic 39-38 win over the Baltimore Ravens where Ben Roethlisberger threw for over 500 yards and Antonio Brown had 213 yards receiving.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2017 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Steelers are meeting for the 31st time and the Steeler and Patriots are tied with 15 wins each. However, during the Bill Belichick era the Patriots are 10-3 against the Steelers and have won the last four meetings including the 2016 AFC Championship Game  36-17 in Gillette Stadium last January.

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 Steelers Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Push

The Patriots running game was steadily gaining momentum with the duo of Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead giving them big-play potential. The gained nearly 200 yards two weeks in a row against Miami and Buffalo before hitting the wall last week against the Dolphins and abandoning the running game too soon.

The Steelers run defense has been pretty good all season but in a short week after losing LB Ryan Shazier to a potential career-threatening injury, they were gashed by the Ravens for 152 yards while averaging 5.8 yards per carry.

Now they’ve had time to work out the kinks of replacing Shazier and this will be a key area to watch. If Lewis and Burkhead regain their game this week, it will go a long way in negating the Steelers pass rush and make their job of slowing down Tom Brady and Co. much, much harder. The key from a New England perspective is getting the running game going early and opening up the middle of the field.

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

The Patriots passing game is still tops in the NFL and this week they get Rob Gronkowski back from his one-game suspension. Chris Hogan returned from a shoulder injury last week but was ineffective last week. Ditto for Brandin Cooks. The versatility of the Patriots lies with the multiple running backs they can utilize in the passing game, Lewis, Burkhead and James White. And Danny Amendola does nothing but move the sticks every time he catches the ball.

Pittsburgh’s pass defense is the #4 unit in the league, while second in sacks with 41. They can get after the passer in a variety of ways with Cameron Heyward providing them with a career year with nine sacks, Vince Williams with seven and rookie T.J. Watt has six. The Steelers have only allowed an opposing QB to throw for more than 264 yards once (M.Stafford). The pressure on Brady will be the key for them… And will they change their defense from their zone to more of a man scheme?

We don’t have to repeat the stats Brady has against Pittsburgh, he’s had his way with them for 16 years. And with the Patriots offense, it is all about spreading the ball around. Gronkowski leads the team with 55 receptions, White and Cooks have 54 each while Amendola has 52. Hogan who missed four games has 34. While everything goes thru Gronkowski, for Brady it is about sharing the wealth. If he has time to throw.

Next up the Pittsburgh offense:

Steelers RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Pittsburgh

The Steelers running game is based on the incredibly patient Le’Veon Bell who has the vision and physical tools to wait for the slightest crack in the defense and then burst thru the hole. Bell not only leads the league in rushing with 1105 yards rushing, but has 75 catches for 579 yards. He carries a tremendous workload on his shoulders and behind a very good offensive line is a guy who can easily take over a game by himself.

The Patriots run defense has suffered all season. Injuries have piled up both on the edge and inside, the latest with Alan Branch who will miss Sunday’s game is a big blow for a Patriots unit that has struggled to stand up inside.

This matchup is a clear, big advantage for the Steelers. Bell can control the game either on the ground or in the passing game and the Patriots will be hard pressed to keep him in check this week. If he consistently can grind out big gains on 1st and 2nd down, it will make the potent Pittsburgh air attack more deadly.

Steelers WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Pittsburgh

Ben Roethlisberger has a plethora of weapons, arguably the best he’s ever had in a Steelers uniform to use in the passing game. Antonio Brown easily leads the NFL with 99 catches for 1509 yards and nine touchdowns. Brown is another guy that can take over a game and he had 213 yards against the Ravens last Sunday night. Roethlisberger uses Bell out of the backfield, Jesse James at the tight end position as well as JuJu Smith Schuster, Martavis Bryant and Eli Rogers. They’re heating up at just the right time of the year.

The Patriots pass defense has undergone a transformation in the past seven games. Since a horrible start in September, the New England pass defense in the last seven is allowing an average of 193.1 yards per game. The secondary with Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe and Jonathan Jones at corner have really picked up their game. And they’ll need to against this Pittsburgh talented group of receivers.

Obviously, the keys from a New England perspective is how well they can slow down Brown and Bell, they won’t stop them. Even in games where the Patriots have won comfortably, have got their yards. The key is getting a few stops in the red zone. They’ll have to manufacture some pass rush pressure on Roethlisberger who has been sacked just 19 times this season. And force him into getting rid of the ball before he can find one of his receivers downfield.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The kickers in this one, the Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski, and the Steelers’ Chris Boswell are both having outstanding seasons. Both have been money on big kicks from long range. What has made Gostkowski so special this season are his kickoffs, which are pinning teams deep.  The Patriots’ outstanding coverage units are smothering the opposition. They’ve also gotten some big plays from Special Teams. The Steelers units rank lower to the bottom of the league in punt and kick returns. The Patriots could use a big play on Special Teams this week on the road.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This one should be another Patriots-Steelers instant classic. With the top seed of the AFC on the line, whoever wins this one will have the inside track for home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Pittsburgh has been openly clamoring for this one since March and have proclaimed themselves to be “a team of destiny.” Coach Mike Tomlin hasn’t shied away from it either saying the Steelers should win the Super Bowl.

The contrast is, of course, Bill Belichick, while the Patriots know what is at stake, he never lets the team’s focus get too far ahead. To them, this week is a big game, obviously but they say that about every week.

Everything is breaking right for the Steelers, they’re hitting their peak at just the right time and get a Patriots team that is banged up with 13 players on IR and 10 more questionable to play on Sunday. Plus they get it at home where they have a better home record in the last decade-plus than anyone…except New England.

A lot has been made about the changes to the Steelers defense, but until they show those changes on the field, Brady’s dominance over them for the past 16 years is the driving factor here. It will go down to the wire, but the Patriots go home with a very close win. Patriots 30-28

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.

New England Patriots News 12-10, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
December 10, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 12-10, & AFC East Notes.

The Patriots are playing in their first Hat and T-shirt game of 2017 on Monday Night Football. Any scenario of a Bills loss/tie or a Patriots win/tie guarantees them the AFC East crown for the ninth year in a row. We know that they set their sights much higher, but it all begins with winning the division. And they’ve been remarkably consistent in the Bill Belichick era at doing just that.

Tom Brady began his Saturday presser with an apology to Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels, saying that it had bothered him all week after his outburst early in the game in Buffalo last week. “I’ve been feeling bad all week and haven’t had a chance to say it. He knows how much I love him.” Brady said.

Chris Hogan Could Return This Week:
The Patriots could really use the return of Chris Hogan this week as they head down to Miami today without Rob Gronkowski who is suspended for this game. Hogan practiced, albeit in a limited capacity this week, but his return would be a shot in the arm for the Patriots passing game.

Both Malcolm Mitchell and Vincent Valentine have been spotted in the locker room this week. The Patriots only have one IR slot for a player to return remaining, so it may be one or the other depending on what the team needs are. Mitchell was a nice target in the red zone down the stretch last season. If he’s ready to go, he could be a nice addition to the offense.

Nate Solder, A Worthy Choice for the Team’s Walter Payton Award :
With the Patriots, as most of the NFL teams do, the players have to make so many appearances in the community as part of their contracts to give back. But many of the players go far beyond the minimum as they embrace their role in the community.

One player who has been out in the community a lot has been left tackle Nate Solder. Solder and his wife have been very active in supporting hospitals that deal with childhood cancer. His own 2-year-old son Hudson is undergoing treatment for his second go-round with cancer treatments after previously been in remission. Solder was the Patriots’ team choice to represent them in the NFL Walter Payton Award that recognizes a player’s strong play on the field with his involvement with the community off the gridiron.  Bill Belichick was asked about Solder last week before the Bills game and had this to say:

“Nate has a lot of maturity and discipline and physical and mental toughness to do what he does day after day, week after week. We have a lot of respect for him, Lexi, Hudson and the entire family.”

McDaniels, Caserio At the top of the List for the GIants Potential Fits::
Whenever there is a turn over in a head coaching or General Manager position, the Patriots’ Nick Caserio, Josh McDaniels, and Matt Patricia are always names that seem to come up at the top of lists. And once the Giants announced that they’d fired both their coach and GM, that got the tongues wagging once again.

Caserio and McDaniels both would be great fits in New York with the G-men. If there is someone who could light a fire out of that offense and get those players pulling in the same direction it is McDaniels. And Caserio is about as solid as a GM candidate as there is.

One has to wonder if the Giants are interested in them and with the current regime with Bill Belichick and his feelings known about the Mara family, he’d support the move there if it came down to it. It would be a tremendous loss for the team but Belichick would understand that the men were looking for the next big step in their career progression and being in New York with the Giants is big time.

“They Know Who He is Now”, Eric Lee Making An Impact:
The Patriots plucked DE Eric Lee off of the Buffalo Bills practice squad just a few weeks ago and the young player has certainly made an impact in his first two NFL games. After just a few days of practice, he played in about 40 percent of the snaps against the Dolphins, mostly in the second half and notched his first NFL sack. Last week against the Bills with Trey Flowers out, Lee was pressed into a lot of snaps [85 %] and the rookie made some major impact right away on the first drive of the game.

Although the Bills were running at him early, on that first drive of the game, once they got down in the red zone, Lee dropped into the throwing lane and intercepted Tyrod Taylor to snuff out the Bills’ scoring chance and he added 1.5 sacks, a couple QB hits and a tackle for a loss. His good, far outweighed the bad. And the rookie has now caught the eye of his fellow players as well as the coaches.

During the telecast last week, Tony Romo told the funny story how Lee in his first game, made a play and on the Patriots bench Tom Brady and Danny Amendola were talking and didn’t know who Lee was. Amendola said, “Eric Lee? Who is that? Wait, he’s on our team?”

“Brady looked at Amendola and says, ‘Who is Eric Lee?”  Romo added on the telecast that “They know who he is now.”

Who Do You Like This Week NFL Week 14:
Last week 12-4 mark. Season Total: 125-67.

This week’s Thursday games I went with New Orleans (0-1) over Atlanta. Now for the rest of the slate:
Colts at Bills – Buffalo
Cowboys at Giants – Dallas
Lions at Buccaneers  – Detroit
Raiders at Chiefs – Oakland
49ers at Texans  – Houston
Packers at Browns – Green Bay
Bears at Bengals – Cincy
Vikings at Panthers – Minnesota
Redskins at Chargers – Los Angeles
Jets at Broncos – New York
Titans at Cardinals – Tennessee
Eagles at Rams – Philadelphia
Seahawks at Jaguars – Jax
SNF Ravens at Steelers – Pittsburgh
MNF Patriots at Dolphins – New England
Next Thursday Denver over the Indy:

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Taylor’s Status a Game-time Decision for the Bills:

The Buffalo Bills enter today’s game against the Colts with more uncertainty at quarterback. Tyrod Taylor, who injured his knee against the Patriots last week is officially a game-time decision on whether or not he can go and if he can’t Nathan Peterman may get his second NFL start.

Taylor was just a limited participant all week and although he’s had plenty of snaps of practice in the past, it may just be that he’s not physically capable of playing this week. Peterman threw five interceptions in his only start against the Chargers and then played late in the game last week against the Patriots after Taylor left the game.

If Peterman does get the call, his coach, Sean McDermott praised the rookie’s poise and control and stated that he is very steady for such a young player.

Dolphins’s Gase and Cutler talk about facing New England:

The Miami Dolphins face the Patriots for the second time in just three weeks on MNF  and Miami coach Adam Gates was asked about the Patriots pass rush.

“They’re a little bit more difficult than people give them credit for. There’s a reason why they haven’t let up more than 17 points since about the fourth week of the season,” Gase said.

“They force you to get the ball out quick. We had a couple of protection errors. That really put Matt [Moore] in a bad spot where a few times he thought he was good and all of a sudden somebody came free in his face, whether it was oline, running back, tight end – we all took our turns – play calling. There were a couple of those in there where I didn’t really give him a good chance and kind of put him in a bad spot. We’ve just got to do a better job of making sure that we handle that up front. They make it difficult because those guys, they do a good job game planning. They find your weakness and they try to maximize using the information they have.

QB Jay Cutler was asked about facing the Patriots defense and had this to say:
“I think it’s the whole team in general. It’s a very, very smart team. [They are] situationally aware. They do things the right way. I think they tackle well on defense.”

 

He added, “Their assignments are on point. I think he’s [Bill Belichick] notoriously taken away your number one receiver. He makes you get to two and three. (He) makes you do things that are maybe a little bit out of your comfort zone. I think they do a really good job of keeping things in front of them, making offenses go the long road – three, four or five first downs – to score. We’ve just got to figure it out.

Jets Now Have a Nice WR Tandem in Kearse, Anderson :

The New York Jets haven’t followed the script this season. They were supposed to be a team that may go winless, but this scrappy bunch of players from Coach Todd Bowles have ignored the noise and have been in nearly every game this season while going a respectable 5-7.

The Jets have found their wide receivers for QB Josh McCown in Jermaine Kearse and Robby Anderson and the duo have both gone over 100 yards in the past two games. They now face the Denver Broncos defense which will be a big test for the pair on Sunday. Anderson leads the Jets with 871 yards receiving and Kearse has set a career high in catches with 51 for Gang Green in 2017.Both were undrafted free agents.

If the Jets are to beat Denver today, they’ll need both Kearse and Anderson to step up their game. Anderson was undrafted out of Temple and had some off the field issues plague him in college. Kearse’s time in the 40 during the Combine caused his stock to fall but carved out a solid role with the Seahawks. The Patriots will see this duo in Foxboro in a few weeks.

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 myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Best Of Social Media: Week 13 Patriots vs Bills

Robert Alvarez
December 7, 2017 at 10:44 pm ET

The New England Patriots entered their week 13 matchup with the Buffalo Bills seeking to get one step closer to locking up yet another AFC East division title and would continue a stretch of five divisional games in six weeks to round out the 2017 regular season.

let’s go boys #gameday

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In the first quarter it appeared the Bills would draw first, until a former teammate just recently released from their practice squad, came back to haunt his former team. New England, meet your new defensive end Eric Lee.

A red zone interception by Lee thwarted early Bills points.

Getting the ball back and an early momentum shift, it appeared the Patriots would make the Bills pay for their costly interception, but Tom Brady missed his recievers on third down and were forced to settle with an early field goal.

CBS cameras would catch Brady in a heated argument with offesnive coordinator Josh McDaniels over the missed connections downfield.

3-0 Patriots after a quarter.

Althought the Patriots still struggled to find a rhythm in the end zone, Eric Lee continued to punish his former team on defense.

In the second quarter, the Patriots running game stepped up, with Dion Lewis tallying the teams longest running play of the season.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BcTCjKlgf8Y/?taken-by=d_lew33

Unfortunately the Patriots again would comeup short in the red zone and have to settle for a second field goal. 6-0 Patriots at the 6:20 mark of the second quarter.

The Bills would finally get on the board with a Stephen Hauscka field goal to cut the lead in half to 6-3 but the Patriots running game continued to shine, this time with Rex Burkhead.

The career long 31 yard run by Burkhead would setup a third Gostkowski field goal and the Patriots would go into the half surprisingly only up six with no touchdowns.

In the second half, the trio of Lewis and Burkhead continued their big day, and would finally setup the first touchdown of the game. Burkhead would find the end zone and a 16-3 Patriots lead.

Despite the lack of touchdowns, Buffalo native Rob Gronkowski also had a big day on the stat sheet,  nine receptions for 147 yards, including this ridiculous catch.

Unfortunately a short time later, it would all be overshadowed by an uncharacteristic dirty play by Gronkowski after losing his cool about being held with no flag.

Gronkowski dove onto Bills cornerback Tre’davious White well after a play was over that resulted in a Bills interception. Gronk earned a one game suspension as a result and heavy criticism from around the league.

 

Rex Burkhead continued his strong game with his second touchdown of the quarter, and the Patriots all but put away the Bills with a 23-3 lead that would stand as the final score.

The Patriots would earn their tenth win of 2017 and eighth in a row.

#tbtimes

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

Great team win in Buffalo and @nfl weekend for #mycausemycleats @teamjackfoundation

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Patriots  Week 13  Report Card, Patriots Pummel the Bills 23-3

Steve Balestrieri
December 5, 2017 at 8:30 am ET

The Patriots took care of business in Buffalo on Sunday afternoon using a running game that gashed the Bills for nearly 200 yards behind Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead and the defense which held the Bills woeful passing game to just 85 net yards and three points.

Rob Gronkowski had nine catches for 147 yards and was uncoverable. He also committed a stupid, flagrant cheap shot after the whistle in the fourth quarter that will cost him. If he serves his one-game suspension, he’ll probably miss out on the final of his bonus incentives in his contract which will be expensive.

Simply put, the Patriots outplayed and outcoached the Bills again. Brady improved his record to a ridiculous 27-3 against the Bills and the team clinched a virtual tie for the division. Any Buffalo loss or New England win in the next month clinches the division again for the Patriots. Every spring and early summer we hear the “will this be the year that the Patriots are dethroned in the AFC East?” and this season, even after a slow start, it is essentially wrapped up with four games to go.

With the win, they improve to 10-2, and more importantly, they keep the pressure on the Steelers who will have to win against Cincinnati later tonight to keep pace as the top team in the AFC.

So, we’ll start with the offense and the players can come forward to pick up their grade sheets.

Quarterback: B-

Tom Brady wasn’t sharp, especially in the first half but he and the team heated up in the third quarter and they scored on two impressive drives and put this one away early. Brady ended up with pedestrian numbers (for him), 21-30, 258 yards with zero touchdowns and an interception. The pick was the play that Rob Gronkowski was flagged and suspended for and should have been a penalty (two actually) on TreDavious White.

But Brady missed a wide-open Phillip Dorsett on a deep incompletion to Brandin Cooks, which ignited a mini-brouhaha with Josh McDaniels, but he made a couple of really nice throws to Gronkowski. Brady also slides in the pocket and steps up better than anyone in the business. He has the innate ability to feel the rush and when to step up and slide left or right.

Running Backs: A

The Patriots two-headed monster of Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead gashed the Bills defense badly. A week after holding the Chiefs to less than 60 yards on the ground, the Patriots ran for nearly 200 yards.

Burkhead ran 12 times for 78 yards with two scores and added three catches for 25 yards in the passing game. Lewis ran 15 times for 92 yards. Each broke a long gainer as the running game and the Bills were powerless to stop them.

James Develin and James White both were pressed into support status this week but each played a role and the Patriots running game is getting better and better each week. White had five carries for 18 yards and four catches for 32 more. Not bad production for the third man in the rotation this week.

Wide Receivers: C-

The wide receivers this week were a non-factor in the game. Buffalo’s secondary did a great job of bottling them up and taking away the deep chunks and the sideline routes of the wide receivers.

Brandin Cooks had just receptions for 17 yards, Danny Amendola had just two catches for 34 yards. Dorsett wasn’t targeted, however, he was wide open for that big gain where Brady missed him all alone down the left sideline.

Tight Ends: A

Rob Gronkowski once again tortured the Bills defense in Buffalo. He caught fire in the second half and they don’t have anyone that can match up with him. He caught nine passes for 147 yards despite being held and hit downfield on seemingly every snap. But what followed after the pick was inexcusable.

We get that the frustration of seven years is taking its toll on the big guy, but he frankly has to be smarter than that. And while part of the blame has to fall to the referees who let every team clutch and grab Gronkowski on every down, while if he breathes on an opponent an OPI flag is thrown, it doesn’t excuse what he did…at all. Nuff said.

Dwayne Allen had one catch for three yards but has really improved in his run blocking and provided good support in the running game. Jacob Hollister had one target in the passing game and plays a regular role on Special Teams.

Offensive Line: B

The offensive line was missing right tackle Marcus Cannon again as well as swing tackle LaAdrian Waddle and had Cameron Fleming in there this week. Center David Andrews returned this week. The pass protection was a bit iffy this week again. Buffalo, who came in with just 17 sacks, had three on the day and was getting good pressure on Brady.

The running game was clicking again. The Patriots offensive line was winning the battles there and opened up big holes for the backs to exploit. They were getting to the second level and keeping the linebackers off the runners.  

Defensive Line: B

It was a mixed bag for the offensive line who gave up a whopping 183 yards to LeSean McCoy, Tyrod Taylor et al. but it seemed every time they needed a big stop they were getting it. McCoy had just 30 yards in the second half. And the Bills ended up with a total of three points in their own building. The pass rush was once again very good, the Patriots were getting a good push from everywhere. Malcom Brown had a really solid day in his return from injury with a sack, a pair of quarterback hits and a couple of run stuffs.

Eric Lee was victimized a little bit early in the running game, but he ended up having a big day, with an interception inside the red zone, 1.5 sacks, 3 QB hits, a tackle for a loss and two passes defensed. His interception was set up with nice pressure from Alan Branch who pushed his man into Taylor, possibly effecting the throw

Linebackers: B-

Kyle Van Noy who injured his calf in the game against Miami, seeming re-aggravated it in the third quarter and didn’t return. He did have a half sack, a QB hit, and a pass defensed. Elandon Roberts and David Harris had some issues in run support this week, as they got washed out on a few of the Bills running plays.  They struggled a bit in pass coverage as well. Harris had some good pass rushes in the interior and had 1.5 sacks and a QB hit.

Secondary: A

Stephon Gilmore had an outstanding day again. The Bills tried to attack him in his return to Buffalo this week. It failed miserably. Gilmore blanketed Zay Jones all day. Overall the Patriots secondary was outstanding. Buffalo had just 115 yards passing with a net of 85 and 3.4 yard per pass average. The Bills longest play of the day thru the air was 14 yards. Tyrod Taylor, Nathan Peterman, and Joe Webb were a combined 15 -34 for 115 yards.

The Patriots secondary had their best game of the year. And the good news was that they got Eric Rowe back in the lineup after missing seven weeks with a groin injury. Rowe shook off the rust and had a pass defensed.

Special Teams: B

There wasn’t a heckuva lot to complain about here. Stephen Gostkowski is on a roll, he kicked all three field goal attempts despite having the wind be a factor in the kicking game. His kickoffs and the resultant excellent coverage by the Special Teams units kept Buffalo deep in their zone all day.

Newly signed Bernard Reedy returned one punt for 11 yards and Geneo Grissom replaced Nate Ebner on the STs roster. For a unit short Ebner, Trevor Reilly and Matthew Slater, they didn’t miss a beat.

Coaches: A

Bill Belichick raked Sean McDermott over the coals in their first AFC East meeting on Sunday afternoon. McDermott didn’t come off remotely ready to challenge the Patriots for the division and when they needed to come up with an answer, they chose the Wildcat. That’s how you’re going to beat Belichick and the Patriots? By running the Wildcat? The team was focused, ready to go and had a good game plan that was effectively put into operation.

Josh McDaniels stayed patient with the running the football, and they took what was there. Matt Patricia’s unit gets high marks on Sunday. Buffalo’s best drive was their first one, and they came away with zero points.Overall very good marks for the Patriots. We’re on to Miami.

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 Running Game, Defense Throttle the Bills 23-3

Steve Balestrieri
December 3, 2017 at 7:33 pm ET

The Patriots offense this year is no longer the chuck-it 50 times a game and run it once in a while kind of show. For the second week in a row, they took advantage of a team trying to sell out to protect against the passing of Tom Brady and they made them pay. Buffalo couldn’t stop the Patriots running game and New England for the second week in a row running for nearly 200 yards on the day and the defense stuffed the Bills in a 23-3 blowout win in Buffalo.

With the victory, the Patriots improved to 10-2 and for the next 24 hours hold the top spot in the AFC until Pittsburgh plays Cincinnati on Monday Night Football. They have effectively clinched a tie for the AFC East once again, they are four games up on Buffalo with four to play. Tom Brady improved to 27-3 against the Bills all time which is a new NFL record for wins against one franchise.

There was also some fireworks at the end of the day with Rob Gronkowski that may see him get a hefty fine for an inexcusable cheap shot. Other observations include:

Pass Defense Steps Up Big Again: Remember the calls that Stephon Gilmore is a bust? That the pass defense was historically bad? Well in the last eight games the Patriots allowed 17 points or fewer in each of them, averaging 11.9 points allowed. The pass defense? Buffalo had 85 net passing yards today. Stephon Gilmore was outstanding once again in coverage on Sunday. Buffalo tried to make some kind of point by repeatedly trying to beat him for a touchdown down in the red zone. They didn’t and turned the ball over on downs….that is so Buffalo.

In the last six games, the Patriots pass defense is allowing 195.1 yards per game. Let that one roll around for a minute. What a turnaround for Matt Patricia’s crew.

“Who the H**L is Eric Lee?”: I must have heard this about 3-4 times during the game today. The youngster, plucked off of Buffalo’s practice squad just last week had himself a day in just his second NFL game.

Lee stopped the Bills’ first drive of the game, Buffalo took the opening kickoff and drove easily down the field. But inside the 10-yard line, Lee dropped back into the passing lane where the Bills like to throw a slant and Tyrod Taylor obliged by the throwing a pass right to him.

Lee’s stat line on the day? One and a half sacks, a tackle for a loss, three QB hits and an interception. These last two weeks have to be a whirlwind for the young man. He gets plucked off of the Bills practice squad, gets pressed into action just a few days later and gets his first sack against Miami. Then coming back to face his former team, has a tremendously productive day.

Brady Has Mostly a Quiet Day: Tom Brady’s stat line on the day was a modest 21-30 for 258 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. The pick shouldn’t have counted as there were at least two fouls on Gronkowski on the play but we’ll get to that in a bit.

Brady did, however, move in the pocket extremely well and it was his ability to slide away from pressure, step up and deliver is what separates the men from the boys so to speak. He did this time and again. He had a bit of frustration as he and Josh McDaniels had a small tiff on the sidelines.

Brady’s best drive was the opening one in the second half, Brady moved them easily down the field for the first touchdown of the game. On the drive, he mixed in runs and passes and hit Gronkowski three times for 50 yards before Rex Burkhead powered in for the score.

The Two-Headed Monster With Lewis and Burkhead was Outstanding: Buffalo tried to stymie Tom Brady by selling out in pass defense. The Patriots made them pay by gashing them for 193 yards on the ground before two Brian Hoyer kneel downs. This offense is varied and versatile and led by Lewis and Burkhead, they’re getting better and better every week.

Lewis led the way with 92 yards on 15 carries and narrowly missed back-to-back 100 yards games. He’s having an incredible season. Hard to believe Lewis was the subject of trade rumors in October. Burkhead had another very solid outing rushing for 78 yards on with two touchdowns. Burkhead had a long for 31 yards while Lewis added a 44-yarder as the running game is beginning to break some big chunk plays every week.

Gronkowski Has a Big Second Half Until a Huge Gaffe: The Patriots and Brady didn’t target Rob Gronkowski much in the first half, the big man had just a pair of catches for 28 yards. But all of that changed after half-time.

As we mentioned above, Brady targeted him three times for 50 yards on the opening drive of the third quarter. Gronkowski ended up with nine catches for 147 yards. And that is when all hell broke loose.

Facing a 3rd and long, Brady was looking for Gronkowski who was held and interfered with twice by TreDavious White. White actually came down with the ball, having intercepted it on the play. Gronkowski’s frustration spilled over and he delivered a very cheap shot to the head of White on the ground. There is no excuse for that kind of behavior however and Gronkowski should know better.

We get that no one is held more and interfered with more than Gronk. He also always gets these ticky-tack BS offensive pass interference penalties that no one else ever gets called on. As he said after the game, it has been going on for seven years.

As for a suspension? No. He’s never been accused of anything dirty before. Usually, it is him that opponents are taking cheap shots on, going after his knees and his head. Micah Hyde rushed to judgment saying that the league can’t tolerate plays like that. He conveniently neglected to mention that on the same play, he ripped Danny Amendola’s helmet off his head in a very dirty and unnecessary as well move. And then complained that he didn’t know what he had done… so Buffalo.

Gronk has no priors so a healthy fine should be on the way. But 9-147? He definitely likes playing in front of his old hometown. Just imagine the day he could have if he wasn’t held or interfered with on every play.

Tyrod Taylor Crowd is Eerily Quiet: We’ve been saying this for three years that Taylor is not a good QB. It isn’t rocket science why Buffalo averages under 200 yards passing a game for the past several years. It is why stats, which are good, can be very, very misleading. Taylor was 9-18 for 65 yards with no touchdowns and a pick. He lost 25 yards on three sacks so he netted 40 yards passing. That’s a 2.2 yard net on every pass attempt.

But the Twitter-verse is chocked full of Taylor apologists and they continually sing this guy’s praises. When Buffalo’s running game isn’t operating at peak capacity, he’s incapable of putting a team on his back and leading them to a victory.

Taylor suffered a leg injury and was carted off the field late making way for Nathan Peterman. On the day, the Bills averaged 3.4 yards per pass play.

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  Week 12  Report Card, Patriots Run Over Miami Again

Steve Balestrieri
November 28, 2017 at 10:30 am ET

Wash, rinse, repeat. The Patriots used a familiar formula to beat the Miami Dolphins in Foxboro where Miami has struggled to win in the last decade. They were the more physical team and controlled the line of scrimmage, they were smarter and refused to partake in the increasingly chippy, cheap-shot play that is always the Miami M.O. when they fall behind. The result was a 35-17 win where the Patriots didn’t bring their A-game to the table but were sufficiently better than their opponents.

The running game and passing games were very evenly balanced in this one and the defense allowed only 10 points while notching seven sacks. All in all, it was a game where Bill Belichick and the coaches will find plenty to critique but at the same time, they had to like what they saw. Scoring 35 points on a day where you aren’t clicking on all cylinders is pretty impressive

So, we’ll start with the offense and the players can come forward to pick up their grade sheets.

Quarterback: B+

Tom Brady wasn’t as sharp as he’d been the previous two weeks but he still finished with four touchdown passes and a 114.1 passer rating on the day. He started off uncharacteristically off with two back-to-back poor throws on the first series but then quickly went about his business of dismantling the Dolphins defense.

As the game went on, Miami’s pass rush was getting more and more pressure on him, but Brady kept his eyes downfield and delivered. He got knocked flat on his back but delivered a 15-yard touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski.Brady also recognized mismatches and delivered easy scoring throws to Rex Burkhead and Gronkowski again.

But he made an uncharacteristic poor decision by trying to squeeze a pass into too tight a window which Bobby McClain picked off. He also bobbled a shotgun snap that caused him to end up getting sacked by Cameron Wake.

But the feeling here was, the Patriots found big holes in the secondary and if they had to, they could have exploited them even more, they decided to go the conservative route in the second half.

Running Backs: A

The Patriots continue to ride Dion Lewis’ hot hand and he rewarded them with a career-high 112 yards on 15 carries on the ground. Lewis is an elusive back as you will find, Chris Price equated trying to tackle Lewis as trying to tackle a puff of smoke. But some of his most impressive runs were the ones of the shorter variety. Hit behind or at the line, he’d spin and show good power and drag a defender for a short gain, making something out of nothing.

Rex Burkhead continues to shine and shows that his signing was indeed a bargain move. He rushed for 50 tough yards on the ground and scored a touchdown on both a run and a pass, a mismatch that Brady recognized and hit him for an easy score.

James White’s snap counts are down right now but don’t despair, the team will need him before the season is finished and he’s an integral part of things. With Josh McDaniels, it is all about the matchups and they’re riding the hot hands right now.

James Develin was solid as always at fullback and played about 20 snaps. Mike Gillislee was inactive for the third week in a row.

Wide Receivers: B

Brandin Cooks once again was the big gainer for the offense in the passing game, catching six passes for 83 yards and a touchdown. His score was on a glorified handoff flip from Brady on a Jet sweep where Cooks turned on his afterburners and raced for the pylon and then rode Rob Gronkowski like a racehorse off the field. On a third and 13, Cooks toasted Miami for a 37 yard gain where he was wide open. Those dreaded communication breakdowns…

Phillip Dorsett did the same thing where the Dolphins blew the coverage and Brady hit Dorsett for a 39 yard gain. Good to see him getting involved a bit. He’s been working hard but hasn’t had much to show for it.

Danny Amendola had a quiet day catching just one pass for 15 yards. He and Bobby McCain got tangled up after a running play and McCain threw a punch and got tossed as a result.

Tight Ends: A

Rob Gronkowski was a mismatch that we pinpointed in our pregame matchup piece and the Dolphins just don’t have anyone that they can put on him. He beat Reshad Jones on his first touchdown, using his size and strength, bodying Jones away for an easy TD from Brady. On his second, he was too fast for Kiko Alonso and easily beat him to the sideline. He ended up with five catches for 82 yards and a pair of scores. And to show that he’s an equal opportunity scorcher, he smoked safety T.J. McDonald selling a block and shooting past him for a 21-yard gain.

Dwayne Allen continues his strong play of late and was very good in the running game with some excellent blocking. He also caught one pass for just two yards. He and Gronkowski both made excellent blocks on Cooks touchdown.

Jacob Hollister played less than five snaps on offense and Martellus Bennett was a scratch and has been placed on IR.

Offensive Line: C+

The offensive line was missing two starters again, right tackle Marcus Cannon and center David Andrews but this time, they got pushed around in pass protection. Although they allowed just one sack, Brady was harassed for most of the afternoon and hit hard eight times. And each lineman got beat at different times. Ted Karras subbing for David Andrews snapped a ball too soon while Brady was still checking the defense and the ball was recovered for a Miami touchdown.

The running game was a different story. Taking advantage of Miami’s aggressiveness, the Patriots rushed for 200 yards, taken back to 196 because of Brady kneel downs. That was impressive and they opened up big holes for the backs to exploit. So while the pass protection was bad across the board, the run support was outstanding.

Defensive Line: A-

Yes, Virginia, the Patriots do have a pass rush. The Patriots defensive line took advantage of having a big lead and the Dolphins abandoning their running game and teed off. They were in straight attack mode in the second half and the sacks came in bunches. Miami’s offensive line was overmatched at the point of attack and it showed.

Trey Flowers had his best game this month, getting a pair of sacks, a few QB hits and two tackles for a loss behind the line. He also forced a fumble.

Malcom Brown returned from an injury and looked stout at the point of attack. Ditto for Alan Branch and Lawrence Guy. The Pats even got a good push from the interior of the line which was a plus.

Rookie Eric Lee in his first NFL game got about 20 snaps due to the situation and showed what he could do. He got his first NFL sack on a nicely designed twist and a QB hit. The Dolphins rushed for only 67 yards on Sunday, while part of that had to do with the score, that is the kind of day, the coaches were looking for.

Linebackers: B+

Elandon Roberts had arguably his best game as a Patriot on Sunday. Matt Patricia knows he’s at his best as an attacking downhill player and Roberts utilizing the Hightower/Collins A-gap blitz was very effective. He showed good patience and waited for the line to part and exploded up the middle throwing down Matt Moore for one sack and used his speed to chase him down on another.

Kyle Van Noy playing a mix of LB/edge rusher had a sack as well as a pair of quarterback hits before he left with an injury. Roberts and Van Noy were outstanding on Sunday. David Harris had a mixed day, missing on a couple of tackles he normally makes but providing good thumping depth inside. Trevor Reilly and Marquis Flowers continue to provide good serviceable depth at linebacker although each was injured in the game.

Secondary: A

Stephon Gilmore had an outstanding day. He drew DeVante Parker one-on-one and held him to one catch for five yards. At the end of the first half, he came up with a huge play, perfectly covering Parker on a fade and then reacting well to the ball in the air, snatching it away for an interception. He should have had another on the Dolphins final play of the day, again in perfect position, but Duron Harmon snatched the ball away from him.

Jonathan Jones had a very solid day. The Dolphins decided to pick on him with Jarvis Landry and while Landry had a solid day, Jones was feisty, stuck to his man and limited the YAC (yards after the catch). The more he plays the more confidence he’s playing with.

Malcolm Butler had a mixed day, intermingling some great plays with some not-so great. He took a brutal 34-yard penalty on Kenny Stills where if he turned around, he had an easy interception. Stills, however, while not “getting in Tom Brady’s head” with his sidelines trash talking, was invisible until the second half when the game was out of reach. The same for tight end Julius Thomas, who at first glance, had a solid day, five catches for 52 yards. But all of it came in garbage time. Pat Chung had a solid game as did Devin McCourty. Duron Harmon’s snaps were limited this week as the Pats went with three corners. Jordan Richards got about a dozen snaps late.

Special Teams: B

The Special Teams got off to a great start with Nate Ebner taking a fake punt on the Patriots first possession and racing for a first down. Great call and superb execution, with a tremendous block by Brandon Bolden to free him…Hulk Smash. Unfortunately, Ebner was injured on the play and was placed on IR. Losing Ebner, Reilly, and Flowers on the ST units hurt their coverage, which was just ok.

Ryan Allen missed an opportunity to pin Miami deep and put just his third punt of the year into the end zone. Stephen Gostkowski’s kickoffs were spot on, forcing Miami to run them out and was perfect on all five extra points.

Coaches: A

Bill Belichick eased back the workload this week after a long two-week road trip and although the execution wasn’t as sharp on Sunday, the team was ready to play and showed good restraint, not getting drawn into the cheap shot game that Miami has been doing for years. The biggest difference between the two teams, (other than QB) is the self-discipline, the Patriots have it and Miami has little of it. And it shows.

Josh McDaniels had a great game plan, taking advantage of a leaky Miami run defense and keeping Miami off balance all day long. They recognized mismatches all over the field and McDaniels made them pay. The Patriots were 5-5 in the red zone.

Matt Patricia’s defense is getting better and better and as they become more comfortable in their roles, he’s opening things up more and more. We saw A-gap blitzes, corner blitzes, safety blitzes. They’re not predictable and it is going to give opponents something to think about in the weeks ahead. Miami was 2-11 on third down and in the past five games, Patriots opponents are averaging just 217.2 yards passing per game and just 13.1 points.

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.