Tag Archives: Frank Gore

Patriots Week 4 Report Card, in Tough 16-10 Win Over the Bills

Steve Balestrieri
October 1, 2019 at 7:42 am ET

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.”

The Patriots are, despite the hand-wringing going on 4-0 and have already beaten every team in the division. And yes, with the way the defense played, they did deserve to win. The offense, on the other hand, struggled mightily. And the Bills had the same issue, while their defense was lights out, their offense threw four interceptions and had another turnover on downs inside the five-yard line. So it was a tale of two cities…if you will.

Special teams once again played a big role, both positively and negatively in this game but in the end, it was a knock-down grind out contest that the Patriots won, on the road in a very hostile environment. 

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

Quarterback: D+

Tom Brady had a pretty awful day by his standards, completing 18-39 for just 150 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception. The pick in the end zone [his first of the season] was particularly bad as it took points off the field and was a bad mental mistake, something that Brady rarely makes. His best throw was early on a 26-yard drop in the bucket to James White that set up the Patriots first touchdown.

But he wasn’t getting a ton of support from his wide receivers nor his offensive line in this game. There was plenty of negativity to go around…and will. 

Running Backs: B-

The Patriots got back James White this week, and as we pointed out in our keys, he figured to be a big part of the passing game [like the Buffalo game a year ago] and he was. White caught eight passes for 57 yards and was his normal, clutch self out there, setting up the Patriots first TD on a 26-yard wheel route where he beat Matt Milano. 

Sony Michel had 63 yards on 17 carries [3.7-yard average] and showed some signs of getting the running game going. He does, however, seem to take an extra half-second or so, with hitting the hole. And in his defense, maybe it is because there isn’t any there. 

Brandon Bolden again got some early work and scored on a nicely designed 4-yard run. Rex Burkhead was limited with a foot injury and got no carries, and had one reception for 7 yards. [More to this below] Jakob Johnson had some nice moments in the blocking game, including a nice clean out of Milano that sprung Michel on a 10-yard run.

Wide Receivers: D

The Buffalo secondary totally dominated this matchup on Sunday as the wide receivers got very little in the way of separation on Sunday. Josh Gordon had 3 catches for 46 yards including a big 31-yard drag route that the Bills challenged. Julian Edelman was banged up and not targeted nearly as much as normal and had only four catches for 30 yards. He also had a drop where he was in the clear and had a lot of running room. Phillip Dorsett, “the man that catches everything thrown his way” was taken away by the Bills. He was targeted 9 times and had 2 catches for 10 yards. Jakobi Meyers wasn’t targeted but once all game.

Last week the top three Edelman, Gordon, and Dorsett had 19 catches for 198 yards. This week they were targeted 23 times and had 9 catches for 86. That ain’t getting it done folks. 

Tight Ends: D-

Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo weren’t targeted once in the passing game. When the TEs’ biggest contribution is whether or not his rub route was a foul or not, the production isn’t getting there. And the blocking has not been great either, not bad per se, but not great. It makes one appreciate Gronk so much more when he blocked like another tackle out there.  

Offensive Line: C-

The offensive line still is having struggles opening holes in the running game, and they’re not getting a push on the opponent. Too many times the Bills stood them up at the line of scrimmage. The stretch runs don’t seem to be nearly as effective as the middle runs are. They were able to spring Michel on a few of them. 

The pass blocking didn’t allow a sack, but a lot of that has to do with Brady being able to get rid of the ball so fast, as in the second half, the Bills pressure put Brady on rollerskates far too many times. 

Coach Scarnecchia is always preaching everyone pulling together, and I believe that he’s going to sort this out. 

Defensive Line: A-

The defensive line led by Lawrence Guy was excellent. Guy constantly takes on double teams and stops the offensive line from getting any push. Danny Shelton, who is really playing well in his second stint in Foxboro, had another strong game inside. 

The Patriots pass rush racked up another five sacks for 40 yards and eight QB hits this week against the Bills QBs. While Frank Gore rolled up 109 yards on 17 carries, [6.4yard average], two of those runs totaled 61 yards and were from players other than the DL not making the plays at or near the line of scrimmage. 

Linebackers: A-

The Patriots linebackers even without Dont’a Hightower had another excellent game on Sunday. Kyle Van Noy, [becoming one of Bill Belichick’s biggest steals] was outstanding on the field for the Patriots. Van Noy was everywhere, eight tackles, including two for a loss, two sacks and four QB hits, including the final play for the defense where he hit Matt Barkley as he was releasing the ball, and allowed Jamie Collins an easy interception. 

Collins was again very good and has to be loving his second go ‘round with the Patriots.He had four tackles, one tackle for a loss, one sack, one QB hit, one pass defensed and one huge interception to seal the deal. 

Ja’Whaun Bentley was solid in filling in for Hightower, but he had one major gaffe early in the game. Gore showed a run to the outside, Bentley reacted too quickly and tried to fill a gap that was set on the edge. Gore recognized it and cut back to a wide-open B gap and ran it for 20 yards. 

Secondary: A-

The secondary had another big day intercepting three passes and limiting the Bills to just 10 points. J.C. Jackson had a pair of interceptions and provided very solid coverage. Zay Jones was held to 2 catches for 4 yards on 8 targets. John Brown and Stephon Gilmore battled hard all day with Brown coming away with 5 catches for 69 yards on 11 targets. Cole Beasley led Buffalo with seven catches for 75 yards with most of them later in the game after matching up with Jonathan Jones. 

Jackson had two mistakes that he’ll hear about from Belichick. On Frank Gore’s 41-yard run, Jackson had a clear attempt to wrap him up about two yards from the line of scrimmage. He turned and attempted a shoulder block that Gore shook off like a dog coming in from the rain and rolled for 41 yard…tsk, tsk. He also left his feet on a blitz against a mobile QB. Uh-oh, BB will take umbrage with that. But overall the second year UDFA had an excellent day.

Pat Chung had a solid game and had excellent coverage on Dawson Knox who just made a fantastic over the shoulder 26-yard catch on a third down. Couldn’t defend it any better than that.  Devin McCourty had his fourth interception in as many games. 

Special Teams: B

Stephen Gostkowski had another miss on the first extra point of the day in an increasingly puzzling development. That miss may have loomed large if the Bills had scored in their final drive.

But the special teams’ units scored a touchdown on a blocked punt by J.C. Jackson that was returned for a score by Matthew Slater, his first touchdown in a stellar 12-year career. Jake Bailey was outstanding again punting nine times for a 48.1 average including two punts of more than 60 yards.

Coaches: B-

The Patriots coaching staff had the team prepared and they made nearly all of the correct calls on defense and special teams. Obviously, they saw something on tape that showed them the Bills were ripe for a punt block and they executed it flawlessly. 

The offense and Joss McDaniels, however, struggled and the play calling was seemingly stagnant. They were relying on too many screens at or behind the line of scrimmage that the Bills were not fooled by all game. The Bills weakness on defense is the middle of the field targeting the linebackers but the Patriots attempted precious few attempts there. Perhaps Edelman being banged up and lack of confidence in the TEs has something to do with that. But Ben Watson should return just in time. 

We’re on to the nation’s capital to take on the Redskins at 4-0, so there is a reason for optimism around these parts. The “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door” 2019 tour continues. 

 

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

 

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

 

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

Steve Balestrieri
September 26, 2019 at 8:44 am ET

The Patriots head out to upstate New York to take on the Buffalo Bills in the team’s third division game in a row. With both teams coming in undefeated, the optimism is sky-high in Buffalo for Sean McDermott’s team to take the next step.  

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, September 29 at 1:00 p.m. and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Ian Eagle will handle play-by-play duties with Dan Fouts as the color analyst. Evan Washburn will work from the sidelines The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (3-0) beat the New York Jets 30-14. Tom Brady passed for 306 yards and two scores while the defense held the Jets to just 105 total yards.

The Bills (3-0) beat the Cincinnati Bengals 21-17, Frank Gore powered in from the one-yard line with just three minutes left to give them the win.  

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

Series History:

The Patriots and Bills have been playing each other since 1960 and this will mark the 119th time the two teams have faced each other. 

The Patriots have swept the season series the past two years and have won five in a row against the Bills. The Patriots have dominated the season series against the Bills 74-43-1 and since Bill Belichick took over the team in 2000, the Patriots are 33-5 against the Bills.

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 Bills Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Buffalo

The Patriots running game has been mediocre in the first three games of the season, the offensive line hasn’t been able to get any kind of push against their opponents. Last week against the Jets, they were getting pushed backward especially in short-yardage situations.  And that isn’t just the new tackles but the interior guys including Shaq Mason and Joe Thuney. 

Sony Michel has been struggling to get past the line of scrimmage and is averaging only 2.4 yards per rushing attempt so far. Rex Burkhead has outgained Michel [112-105] and is averaging 4.7 yards per attempt, so we may see more of Burkhead, who has shown some nice cutback ability so far. James White will return this week after missing the Jets game when his wife gave birth to a son. James Develin is on IR so, Jakob Johnson is now the fullback. 

The Bills rush defense has been solid thus far allowing just 88 yards per game, good for eighth in the league, although they allow a 4.4-yard average on rushing attempts. Like New England, they use the big men up front, Star Lotulelei and rookie Ed Oliver to slow up the offensive line which allows linebackers Tremaine Edwards and Matt Milano to clean up. Kyle Peko was elevated to the 53-man roster after Harrison Phillips was placed on IR [ACL tear].  

The Patriots have to find a way to get the running game going as thus far they’ve played poorer teams that haven’t put any pressure on them as the games were all lopsided wins. That may prove to be tough this week. Don’t be surprised if Josh McDaniels decides to ride the hot hand and get Rex Burkhead the bulk of the work this week. But the Bills front seven will make the going tough this week.               

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

The Patriots passing game gets the edge here with the caveat that Julian Edelman is able to play this week. Edelman has traditionally been a thorn to the Bills defense, especially in Buffalo as they’ve had a tough time matching his quickness off the line. Last season in Buffalo on Monday Night Football, Edelman had nine catches for 104 yards. Tom Brady will look to Edelman, Josh Gordon, and Phillip Dorsett outside with Jakobi Meyers sprinkled in a bit. With James White and Rex Burkhead out of the backfield. Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo haven’t had a lot of production at tight end.

The Bills boast an outstanding pass defense that has allowed just 211.7 yards per game through the air, but as wet blankets have said about New England, they haven’t played anyone yet. But that defense was solid a year ago and will be again. Tre’Davious White is an under the radar corner who is one of the better ones in the league. The Bills safety tandem of Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde is terrific. The Bills pass rush has produced seven sacks thus far and will be looking to test the new look Patriots offensive line.

** Interesting Stat** Buffalo’s front seven has 15 passes defensed this year, they are knocking down a lot of passes at the line of scrimmage. This could be a factor on Sunday.

Edelman is the big question mark this week, and the Patriots are hoping that he can play. He’ll test the Bills down low, but regardless, this may be a big James White kind of day. In Buffalo last year, Brady targeted White 13 times, connecting on 10 for 79 yards. He and Burkhead may see a lot of passes directed their way. Dorsett and Gordon will have to produce and keep the Bills perimeter busy or it will be a tough day for the offense. 

Next up the Bills offense:

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

The Patriots front seven has been outstanding against the run thus far this season allowing just 36.7 yards per game, best in the NFL. That will get tested this week as this game should be much closer which means the Bills won’t have to abandon the run as the previous three opponents have had to do. But the big men in the middle Lawrence Guy, Danny Shelton, Adam Butler, and Michael Bennett have been terrific. They’ve stuffed opponents at or behind the line of scrimmage and allowed the linebackers to make plays. 

The Bills running game has the ageless Frank Gore, who has definitely given them a boost and exciting rookie Devin Singletary who is averaging 12.7 yards per rush. The Bills have rushed for an average of 151.3 yards per game, fifth-best in the league. The offensive line play has improved in 2019. And of course, Josh Allen is always a threat to scramble out of the pocket. 

With right guard Jon Feliciano held out of practice with a neck injury, sustained last week and Singletary nursing a balky hamstring, both could miss this game, which would be a blow to the Bills running game. If he can’t go, they may look to use T.J. Yeldon more in this one, he had a big day against New England a year ago. Look for the Patriots linebackers to limit Gore’s yards in this one as the Patriots are able to slow down the Bills’ rushing attack.

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

The Bills passing game with Josh Allen has greatly improved this season as offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has utilized Cole Beasley in much the same way the Patriots use Julian Edelman. Beasley has 17 catches for 171 yards as they now are employing a shorter, quicker passing game than the past. Allen’s completion percentage is now 64.2 compared to about 52 percent last year. John Brown has been excellent and has 18 catches for 246 yards. Zay Jones and TE Dawson Knox are also very much in the mix.

The Patriots secondary has been outstanding this season, Stephon Gilmore has continued his All-Pro play and will be the matchup for Brown. While Jason McCourty will draw Zay Jones. But the biggest matchup to watch Sunday will be Beasley going against Jonathan Jones who has been excellent through the first three games. The Patriots pass rush already has 13 sacks this season, they’ll be looking to create pressure and force Allen into making a mistake. 

Third downs will be key here, as the Patriots defense is allowing opponents to convert on only 13 percent of third downs this season. They’ll be looking to pressure Allen while keeping him in the pocket and prevent his scrambling for first downs. This should be a great matchup to watch.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Buffalo

The Patriots Stephen Gostkowski continues to struggle as he missed his first extra-point attempt on Sunday. He then hit his last three and a field goal to end the game on a higher note but this issue needs to be resolved. Jake Bailey was the AFC’s Special Teams’ player of the week after his big game against the Jets. The return game has been so-so and Gunner Olszewski muffed a punt against the Jets giving them a touchdown. The coverage units have been solid. 

The Bills Stephen Hauschka has been solid, his only miss was a 62-yard field goal against the Bengals. Former Patriot punter Corey Bojorquez has been good with a 41.9 average with five punts downed inside the 20. They also boast the dangerous return man Andre Roberts who is now healthy. Their coverage units are excellent.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

The Patriots and Tom Brady have enjoyed incredible success against the Bills [30-3] and since Brady became the starter in 2001, he has more wins in Buffalo during his time in the league than any Bills QB during the same time frame. Let that one sink in for a second. Sean McDermott is still looking for his first win against Bill Belichick and the Patriots, but they believe they have the team to compete…and win against New England now. 

Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:

Eliminate Big Plays – Look for the Patriots to try to force Allen into moving the ball down the field a small chunk at a time. Despite his much better play this season, he’s still prone to making mistakes, he had a pick last week that nearly cost them the game against Cincinnati. But he turned it around and led a nice game-winning drive. Will he stay patient all game long? The Patriots are hoping to force him into bucking that trend.

Third Downs Key – With both defenses playing excellent thus far this season, this one may come down to who converts more on third down. Daboll has tried to make things easier for Allen by providing him with a much better third and manageable range. With Gore converting many of those third and short runs, look for the Bills to try to catch the Patriots cheating up and hitting one of their signature plays. Watching the tape so far this season, the Bills like to play action pass and hit Brown with a quick slant, usually to Allen’s right side. 

For the Patriots, Edelman [if he’s available] and White are going to loom large on converting those third-down attempts. They have to keep the sticks moving and keep the Bills defense guessing. The Patriots’ third-down defense [13.6 percent] and the Bills [32.5 percent] are #1 and #8 in the league. 

Continue the Script – What does this mean, you ask? Well in the past five games dating back to last season’s playoffs the Patriots have shut out opponents and put them behind the eight ball. The defense has 13 sacks, 10 QB hits, and 27 hurries so far. If they can continue that type of play and trend, it will put the Bills offense in a mode where Allen, as he has shown on occasion, will try to do too much. 

Offensively, the Patriots need to be patient and mix the run and pass up to keep the Bills coaches guessing. And nobody is better at that than Brady. Both teams want ball control drives and this has been a hallmark of the Brady-Belichick era. The Bills have scored all eight touchdowns this year on drives of at least 70 yards.

___________

This should be a tough, physical contest… and a low scoring one and even lower if Edelman can’t play this week. Buffalo, as always will be a raucous place as the fans are excited that both teams come in 3-0 and will be playing for control of the division. 

Brady and Co. have been here before, they won’t let the moment get too big for them. And the Patriots defense continues to rise up for the occasion. The Pats defense gets a couple of big turnovers and stops and they win a tough road game.  Patriots 23-13

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” tour heads back out on the road next week as they travel to the nation’s capital, well Landover, Maryland, to take on the Washington Redskins next Sunday.

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

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

Miracle Finish Is Fitting End to Dolphins 34-33 Win, Observations

Steve Balestrieri
December 10, 2018 at 6:30 am ET

The Patriots got another loss in South Florida the old fashioned way…they earned it. Very uncharacteristic mental mistakes abounded and cost the team just about any slim chance they had at securing the #1 seed in the AFC playoff picture. Lost in the wild, wacky, horribly-played lateral play was a plethora of unforced errors and bad situational football which placed them in the position in the first place.

From Stephen Gostkowski doinking an extra point off the goal post and then shanking a gimme 42-yard field goal, to Bill Belichick showing an almost Andy Reid-like clock management skills at the end of the first half, to Tom Brady inexplicably forgetting how many timeouts they had. It only gets better.

Julian Edelman running before he secures the ball on a screen, Stephon Gilmore dropping a gift pick-six by Ryan Tannehill, false starts, an offense that looked unstoppable in the first half, and then scores just six points in the fourth quarter, they set themselves up for just a finish.

The decision not to go for a touchdown on 4th down at the Miami one-yard line can be debated, but a field goal didn’t put the game away and even if a touchdown attempt failed, it would have left Miami with under 30 seconds and 99 yards to go. But the pièce de résistance was the decision to put Rob Gronkowski back as the deep safety with Miami on their 31-yard line with 0:07 seconds to go.

Did the coaching staff really think that Ryan Tannehill was going to (could) throw the ball 75 yards down the field on a final Hail Mary? And even if they did, the team just signed 6’4 safety Obi Melifonwu who had a 40” vertical leap and runs like a deer. Inexplicable…but it is over and you have to own it.

Other observations include:

With the loss, the Patriots have about zero chance of now getting the top seed in the AFC. Baltimore took Kansas City to overtime but ultimately lost. They are now two games back in the standings with just three games to play.

The #2 seed and a bye still remain a very doable proposition, however. The Texans lost to the Colts and the Steelers, like the Patriots, played down to the level of their competition and lost to the 2-10 Raiders.

On a day when the defense sacks the QB five times and you block two punts…you have to get pretty creative to lose but that’s exactly what they did.

The running game was non-existent today as the Patriots managed just 77 yards on 30 carries, a paltry 2.6-yard average. Facing a Miami defense that was being gouged for 144.7 yards a game and nearly double the average yards per carrying, that was a huge win for the Fins defense.

In contrast, the Miami running game, nearly an afterthought for much of the year absolutely gashed the Patriots defense to the tune of 189 yards on 21 carries for a whopping 9.0 yards per play. Old friend Brandon Bolden looked like he was shot out of a cannon and galloped 54-yards untouched for the first of two touchdowns in the first half and Frank Gore was outstanding, rushing 12 times for 92 yards.

Tom Brady was outstanding in the first half, he was virtually unstoppable until the final two minutes, but was held to just a pair of field goals down the stretch and it would come back to haunt them. Brady finished with 27 completions in 43 attempts for 358 yards with 3 TDs and 0 Interceptions.

Both offenses were scoring at will in the first half, up and down the field each team was moving the ball and scoring with ease.

The silly questions about Brady’s arm strength were put to rest (for now) on Sunday. On back-to-back plays, he lasered a 3rd and 10 pass to Edelman for 16 yards and then to Cordarrelle Patterson for a 37-yard touchdown.

Rob Gronkowski had arguably his best game of the season and caught 8 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown on eight targets. He also took some hard shots to his knees and lower body.

Kenny Stills was nearly uncoverable for Miami, turning in a great game catching 8 passes for 135 yards and a score on nine targets. He was consistently getting the better of Jason McCourty and easily won that matchup today.

Josh Gordon turned in another solid game catching 5 passes for 96 yards, several of the difficult variety. Gordon and Patterson give the Patriots the size and speed that they’ve lacked in the passing game. Julian Edelman, doing the dirty work underneath, caught 9 passes for 86 yards, but his drop of a screen pass where it appeared he had some room to run was a drive killer. We’ll have to rewatch the tape of that one.

Albert McClellan was signed to give the Special Teams a boost and today, he did exactly that. Blowing straight up the middle he not only blocked one but two punts. The second one with just under a minute to go in the half gave the Patriots the ball at the 15. Normally this is when the Patriots and Brady put a dagger into the hearts of opponents…however>>>

Clock Management Andy Reid Style 1.0: The Dolphins had the ball at their own 25-yard line with 3:49 left in the half. The Patriots forced a three-and-out but didn’t use their timeouts as the clock ticked down to the two-minute warning. But after taking over at their own 20, they did nothing punted back to Miami with one minute left.

Clock Management Andy Reid Style 2.0: After the Patriots sack Tannehill and have the Dolphins facing a 2nd-and-21, then they finally stop the clock with just 46 seconds left. They then sacked Brock Osweiler, then block the punt and take over at the Dolphins 15-yard line with 30 seconds left. Brady zipped another laser to Gronk put them at the Miami 2 with 21 seconds left. Brady then overthrew an open Chris Hogan along the back of the end zone, (a play we’ve been clamoring for)  and then inexplicably took a sack on third down with no timeouts left and come away with nothing.

Weird play in the third quarter when Trey Flowers punched the ball away from Gore causing a fumble. The officials signaled that Miami had recovered yet when the scrum had cleared the Patriots flipped the ball back to the official. Another one where maybe the tape will clear it up.

The final play will mask what was a pretty good day by the Patriots secondary. Other than Stills, the rest of Miami’s passing game was pretty much held in tow. But that isn’t how the game unfolded.

Then with 0:07 seconds to go, the Dolphins had the ball on their 31-yard line. The Patriots defenders said after the game, that they knew it was too far for a Hail Mary and it would be a lateral situation. Then why place Gronk back there for McCourty? Or Melifonwu for that matter. Tannehill hit Stills with about a 20-yard pass where Jonathan Jones took an angle that we haven’t seen since Jordan Richards whiffed on JuJu Smith Schuster in Pittsburgh a year ago.

Stills lateraled to DeVante Parker who then lateralled to Kenyan Drake and the play unfolded and it looked like Moses parting the Red Sea as Patriots defenders were lost in the wake. Gronkowski stumbled and missed a chance to knock him out at the two-yard line and Miami had the finish that kept alive their playoff hopes for another week.

Now the Pats are on to Pittsburgh, who have dropped three in a row. And lost again in stunning fashion to the lowly Raiders. But don’t expect that kind of performance from them next week. The Patriots coaches will have to work hard with the team after that meltdown.That is the kind of loss that can stick with a team.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Series History:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next up the Miami offense:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Miami

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

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

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

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

Three keys from a Pats perspective:

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

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

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

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

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 – Colts, Who Has the Razor’s Edge? Key Matchups

Steve Balestrieri
October 15, 2015 at 7:31 am ET

The New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts meet on Sunday Night Football for a rematch of last years’ AFC Championship Game. The primetime matchup will be televised by NBC with the announcing crew of Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth and Michelle Tafoya on the call. Kick-off is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET.

Indianapolis (3-2) has gotten off to a slow start in 2015 and although they’ve won their last three games, they haven’t been the team that many experts picked to represent the AFC in this season’s Super Bowl. Last week backup QB Matt Hasselback led the team to a 27-20 win over the Houston Texans.

Quarterback Andrew Luck and CB Greg Toler are expected to play for the Colts this week which should be a big boost for the team on both sides of the ball.

New England (4-0), won at Dallas last week 30-6 after a slow start to the game that saw Tom Brady sacked five times in the first half. But the offense made their adjustments and Brady was laser-sharp in the second half going 10-11 for 165 yards and two touchdowns.  More importantly, they allowed zero sacks.

The defense held the Cowboys to a pair of field goals and generating two turnovers. It was their best performance of the year to date but in the process they lost LB Dont’a Hightower to a rib injury. His status is unknown for Sunday.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our  “Razor’s Edge”  column in 2015 to give a quick break down 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 Colts will meet for the 80th time on Sunday and this series has been dominated by New England. The Patriots hold a 50-29 edge overall including a 21-17 advantage on games played in Indy.

The Patriots have won the last six meetings including two last season; a 42-20 win in Indianapolis and a 45-7 win in the AFC Championship Game in New England.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots 2015 Opponents, Five First Impressions of the Colts

Steve Balestrieri
October 14, 2015 at 6:38 am ET

The Patriots go back on the road this week as they travel to Indianapolis to take on the Colts in a rematch of last season’s AFC Championship Game.

The game is slated for a prime time Sunday Night Football on NBC. Kickoff is slated for 8:30 p.m. and NBC’s announcing crew will consist of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth handling play-by-play and analyst duties with Michelle Tafoya on the sidelines.

The Colts (3-2), won their third game in a row last Thursday night with a 27-20 win over the Houston Texans. Running back Frank Gore had 98 yards rushing on 22 carries and WR Andre Johnson had his best game of the season with 6 catches for 77 yards and two touchdowns against his former team.

Quarterback Andrew Luck is slated to return to action this week from his injury, he was a full participant in practice on Monday. Another sign that he’s fully healthy was the team releasing QB Josh Johnson early this week.

The Patriots (4-0), overcame a slow first half to defeat the Dallas Cowboys 30-6 on Sunday. Tom Brady was sacked five times in the first half but was very sharp going 10-11 for 165 yards and two touchdowns after halftime to lead the Patriots.

The Patriots defense held Dallas to just a pair of field goals and forced two turnovers. This was easily the best game of the season for the defense. They held Brandon Weeden to only 188 yards passing and the Cowboys to only 264 yards in total offense.

Here are our Five First Impressions of the Colts:

Focus on the Trenches Once Again: The Patriots have dominated the last few meetings between the two teams and have done so by completely winning the battle up front on both sides of the ball. That will once again be a key area to focus on again as the Colts have revamped their defensive line with three new starters.

With Arthur Jones down with injury, the Colts now go with David Parry as the nose tackle, flanked by Kendall Langford and Henry Anderson at defensive end on the defensive front. This will be a key area to watch. The Patriots with LaGarrette Blount and Jonas Gray have dominated in the running game for the last three meetings averaging 219 yards rushing and this is something the Colts must improve upon this time.

The offensive line play has improved in recent weeks and with Gore finally giving Indy a running game, it will take a lot of pressure off of Luck to have win the game single handedly. Their play against an improved Patriots front seven will be another key area to watch. Pass protection for Luck will be an area that Indy will want to improve upon as the Patriots have been able to get to him and force him into bad decisions and throws in recent meetings.

Turnovers Plaguing The Colts: Through the first five games of 2015, Indianapolis ranks 31st in the NFL with a minus seven turnover ratio. Colts quarterbacks have tossed seven interceptions and the team has lost five fumbles. They’ve only been able to add five interceptions and no fumble recoveries yet on the season.

Facing a Patriots team that is always in the top five of turnover ratio and is lighting up the scoreboards for over 37 points per game, this is one area that the Colts coaches will be driving home all week.

Losing the turnover battle against New England this week, would almost certainly spell defeat for the Colts. And with a defense that has done well at creating some turnovers against Tom Brady in the past, this will be a prime time for Indy to force Brady into his first interception of the season.

Will New Offensive Players Gore, Johnson Hold Up: The Colts in free agency this season opted to beef up the offensive side of the ball by bringing in two big signings in Frank Gore and Andre Johnson. But one has to wonder if the age of both players will impact their effectiveness down the stretch.

Gore at 32 is at an age where big, powerful running backs begin to show the wear and tear of their profession. He easily had his best game of the season last week and gave the offense a needed shot in the arm.

The bigger question is, can he continue to be an effective runner late into the season and in the playoffs for Indianapolis? The Colts haven’t had an effective running game in years and if he begins to wear down, they’ll back to square one.

Johnson also had his best game of the season with a solid effort against his former team. He looks like he’s lost a step in the passing game but the emergence of Donte Moncrief as the #2 WR behind T.Y. Hilton may ease Johnson into the complimentary 3rd WR role, which he can still be effective at.

Pressure is on Luck this Sunday: When he entered the league, Andrew Luck was touted as the next great QB and he’s put up some great numbers. But in each meeting with the Patriots, the press, ever anxious to anoint him as the new top QB of the league and passing by Brady, he’s failed badly.

Luck is still looking for his first win against New England and has yet to play an impressive game against a Bill Belichick defense. After a much hyped offseason where the Colts spent free agency and their top draft pick on offensive players, they started poorly and Luck, prior to his shoulder surgery was off to the worst start in his career with  five touchdowns and seven interceptions in three games.

Indy has plenty of offensive weapons for him to choose from, but Luck is going to have to limit the big mistakes that have plagued him against New England in the past. Perhaps now, with the expectations tempered by the Colts slow start will be a perfect opportunity for him to finally have a big game against the Patriots.

Indy Linebackers have tough test: Facing the Patriots this week, the Indianapolis linebackers will have a tough task. The Patriots love to mix things up in the running game with LaGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis. This is something they’ve been successful doing in the past and the Colts linebackers will have to be active in run support.

But with Lewis out of the backfield coupled with Rob Gronkowski in the passing game, the task becomes even larger. If there’s one area that is the most glaring matchup that favors New England, it will be the passing game targeting the linebackers, an area that the Colts haven’t addressed this season.

They don’t cover the tight ends exceptionally well and Gronkowski will be a big focus of the defense this week. Even getting back CB Greg Toler this week, this will be an area where the Colts will not only have to improve, it will be an area the Patriots will look to exploit.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast 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.