Tag Archives: Jakobi Meyers

No Panic Necessary, Patriots To Stay the Course With the Offense in 2019

Steve Balestrieri
December 5, 2019 at 10:00 am ET

The Patriots offense has been scuffling along for the majority of the 2019 season and we’re now three-quarters of the way through. The team struggles in the red zone, on third down and doesn’t seem to have an offensive identity. 

Much of the fanbase has descended into full-blown panic mode, begging the owner of the team to sign one of the most self-centered players to suit up in the NFL within memory. Forgetting that the same player has only himself to blame for his ouster. All he had to do was shut up and play football. That was too much to ask. Ciao…

So, with the offensive struggles, we’ve heard the same things, we hear every year, “the Patriots are done, Brady is done, they can’t win…yawn. Wash, rinse, and repeat. As my friend Terry said the other day, “Bashing Tom Brady has become a cottage industry.”

After the loss to the Texans that dropped the team to 10-2, (gasp, how horrible!) the crescendo rose even louder. But what about the Patriots? Is there any panic coming from Gillette Stadium? Nope. Frustration, sure, who wouldn’t be? 

Flashback to Week 15 last year, the offense was ugly in the 17-10 loss to the Steelers in Pittsburgh and everyone (again) wrote the team off. They figured things out and then won their last two games of the regular season averaging 31 points and then three playoff games where they averaged 30 more.

We’re in Week 13 now, with the Chiefs who are playing much better now than they were about a month or two ago. So, they have a month instead of two weeks to figure it out. 

I know, I know, “this team doesn’t have that feeling that they can turn it around” right? How many times have we heard that one? The issues on offense, HAVE been consistent, so is the panic justified this time or is it just more of the same old rot?

However, the fact remains that what ails this offense is execution issues. The plays are there, they’re schemed up but for some reason, aren’t getting done.  I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been one to say that they lack speed on the outside and it influences the way opponents play them. And I’ll stand by that, however, (comma), the Patriots have never really had a bunch of speedy wide receivers. 

So, what’s the difference this year (so far), execution. Just like Bill Belichick says all the time that pass defense is a combination of pass coverage and pass rush, the passing game is a combination of three things. 

The offensive line has to give the quarterback enough protection to allow him to go through his progressions to hit the open receiver. The wide receivers have to run precise routes and be on the same page as the quarterback in terms of route selection. And the quarterback has to make his reads and deliver the ball accurately to where the receivers are. 

Too often this year, one or more of those three items have broken down, sometimes several on the same play. These items are still fixable. Two of the wide receivers (Jakobi Meyers and N’Keal Harry) are rookies with Harry only playing in a couple of games due to injury. Mohamad Sanu came over in midseason from the Falcons and may still be hobbled a bit by his ankle injury. 

Phillip Dorsett is coming off a concussion, however, he’s now in his third season with the Patriots and his production is far from what it should be now. It seems like ages ago we were discussing his streak of completed passes thrown his way. 

All of them can be better, and in doing so, take some of the pressure off Julian Edelman. 

The offensive line has been in flux all season. Isaiah Wynn was taking over at left tackle and then was injured and put on IR. He’s been back just two games. David Andrews was lost for the year on IR, Ted Karras took over at center, now he’s hurt and may miss a few weeks. Marcus Cannon has been fighting an illness for two weeks. And Shaq Mason just isn’t having the type of season we’re accustomed to seeing from him. 

We have seen some improvement in the run blocking, the team ran for a season-high 145 yards on Sunday, facing a team (KC) that is pretty awful at defending the run (141.3-yard average), it is imperative that they run the ball well. 

Which leads us to Brady. Of course, the national bobos who glance at stats and will have you believe that he’s done have been saying that BS for years. But if you see the game and not just watch it, the truth says differently. Can he be better? Of course, but the lack of a running game, hit or miss protection and an inexperienced WR core have taken its toll. Is the trust factor real or imagined? I tend to believe it, but some ex-players have pooh-poohed the idea as overrated.

Josh McDaniels on a conference call with the media earlier today (Dec.4) spoke about what the team needs to do to right the ship. 

“I think there’s a lot of factors in the passing game that would determine what being on the same page really means, but practice, repetition – there’s no shortcut to it, he said. 

“Every rep we take in practice, every pass we throw, every side session that we’re able to take part in, every conversation, every one-on-one drill that we do in practice, every film session that we’re in, it just continues to try to build off of the last one. I think patience is something that – I know everybody wants everything to be a finished product, and we do too, but at the same time you have to understand there’s going to be a process and we’re going to try to stick to it.” 

He added, “We have to be committed to it, and we know that it’s productive when we stay the course and continue to coach the right things and fix the right things and then the players go out and make corrections and they have success with it.”

There is a month to go, tough matchups with KC and Buffalo are at home where they tend to play better. Those games are sandwiched around their last away game in Cincinnati and at home against Miami. Both of those are eminently winnable. 

They have a month to figure things out, can they do it? While many people tend to think that they can’t, their track record speaks otherwise. 

I’ve seen many, too many posts that say… “There’s no way they beat Kansas City this week!” I’m going to drink the Kool-Aid this week and say the offense plays much better and begins to turn things around. 

Who knows? That’s why they play the games. Check back later tomorrow and we’ll have the breakdown of the Chiefs game and the key matchups.

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

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

 

Tom Brady Explains Video Of Himself Screaming At Teammates, Hear The Sideline Audio

Robert Alvarez
December 4, 2019 at 9:40 pm ET

The New England Patriots fell to 10-2 following a 28-22 loss in Houston Sunday night.

During the game, quarterback Tom Brady was caught by cameras screaming at some of his receivers who had a rough night vs the Texans secondary.

Speaking with Westwood One’s Jim Gray Monday night, Brady clarified what happened, and explained its a usual occurrence.

“I do that quite a bit in practice,” Brady said. “I know they don’t always pick it up when I do speak, but I speak a lot in meetings and [on the] practice field, and certainly in the games, and in the huddle. I’m just trying to communicate what I see. A lot of other guys are doing the same thing.”

It’s no secret the offense has struggled, but Brady remains optimistic and is pleased with the effort so far.

“Guys are trying. I have no problem — I love playing with Phillip Dorsett,” Brady said on WEEI Monday. “I love playing with N’Keal. N’Keal is working his tail off. He hasn’t had a lot of opportunities out there and he’s learning as he’s going. To expect someone to go out in their third game of the year and be perfect, I think that is unrealistic for anyone. I love what N’Keal is bringing. We’re gaining confidence every week. I love what Jakobi (Meyers) is doing. We’re gaining confidence every week. Gaining confidence with Mohamed (Sanu). Julian (Edelman) and I, we’ve played together for a long time and I think that shows itself pretty well. I think you see, James (White) and I, we’ve played together a long time.”

The Patriots released mic’d up sights and sounds from the game, and you can hear some of Brady’s sideline words in the link below.

Five Thoughts Following the Patriots Loss to the Texans

Ian Logue
December 2, 2019 at 12:28 pm ET

After a week of misery where the Patriots saw their locker room get swept up with a team-wide illness, Sunday night’s performance in Houston certainly didn’t leave anyone feeling any better.

Bill Belichick took his healthy players on one plane and his sick players on another, clearly hoping to keep the illness from spreading. Instead, their 28-22 showing against the Texans likely ended up being nauseating for everyone and the team now finds itself with a remaining schedule full of must-win games if they hope to earn a top seed and possibly even win the AFC East.

With this one behind us, here are some thoughts coming off of the loss.

1) The discussion this week will likely center around the lack of offensive weapons at Tom Brady’s disposal but it’s hard not to look back at what happened in this game and not feel like the problem extends beyond their lack of experienced talent at the receiver position.

Obviously the miscue by rookie wideout N’Keal Harry that led to an interception was bad, especially since Houston took advantage and scored their first touchdown. But the fact he was essentially completely removed from the offense is pretty disappointing.

Harry wasn’t targeted again following the interception and was on the field for just 22 of the 87 offensive snaps Sunday night, clearly being penalized for the miscue. It was definitely a bad play, which saw him not fight through the defender for the football and led to the interception. But following that turnover, Harry appeared to see little of the field and it was surprising to see them completely give up on him.

For a team that used a 1st round pick on him, it’s surprising that he would be taken out and alienated considering they need every receiver they have to be involved right now. Some may say Harry’s disappearance might be on Brady, but the lack of playing time was clearly a coaching decision and that’s obviously not great news.

If that’s the case, it’s telling for the future of Harry this season, who a few weeks ago seemed like he might have been one of the answers this team has been in need of. Instead, he’s now become a question mark and it’s concerning not just for the remainder of this season, but potentially moving forward if they hope to avoid failing with developing yet another young receiver.

2) This group right now really is a mess, with the veterans accounting for the majority of Brady’s attention as he selectively tries to work the younger guys into the mix. One thing is obvious, as much as it’s going to irritate him, Brady is going to have to force himself to get other players involved in the offense, no matter how uncomfortable it makes him.

There weren’t many occasions where guys came open but there were a few where players like Matt LaCosse and Jakobi Meyers managed a little separation, but Brady instead opted to target his more trusted receivers in both Julian Edelman and James White, who each combined for 214 of the 326 passing yards Brady finished the evening with.

But for the most part, his usual guys were covered and some of his targets were forced, with Phillip Dorsett and Edelman both seeing several passes thrown their way that should never have happened, including two plays where the ball was heaved downfield both to Dorsett and to Edelman (who was double-covered) and nearly picked off, with Brady clearly hoping for either a miracle or a pass interference penalty. Neither happened.

Mohamed Sanu was a guy many hoped would be a difference-maker, but he’s been banged up and played just 19 offensive snaps Sunday night as he continues fighting through an ankle injury. Brady went to him early in the third quarter, which included a 3rd-and-4 where Sanu couldn’t quite reach the marker. The Patriots went for it on 4th-and-1 and Sanu, who was also interfered with on the play, was targeted again couldn’t quite come up with the football. That was a critical sequence because the Texans turned around and took the football the other way on the ensuing possession, with Watson hitting Kenny Stills for a 35-yard touchdown.

Brady clearly has his expectations of how he expects the offense to be run and he was spotted Sunday night imploring his receivers to be “faster”, “quicker” and “more explosive”. He’s got guys who are both quick and fast, but the mental complexity that goes with this offense is clearly creating a learning curve that the younger players have yet to master. You saw it on the play where Meyers didn’t turn upfield when the play broke down and you saw it again where the depth of his route didn’t change and he collided with Edelman, who was penalized for a pick play after Meyers crossed in front of him. Those are mental mistakes, but not reason enough to yet give up on guys who will potentially be valuable down the stretch.

Those are the plays which account for Brady’s frustration and is just going to require patience, because there isn’t another player walking through that door to help them out.

Brady may not realize it, but he’s getting what he wants. He might prefer older, more experienced players, but they need to get younger, faster and quicker and have two very good receivers that fit that description. Despite the growing pains, Brady is just going to have to accept the fact things aren’t going to be perfect and rather than ignoring them after a bad play, he’s going to have to stick with them if he hopes to see them become valuable assets in this offense. It needs to happen, because the offense can’t be stuck in neutral if they expect to beat another tough opponents in the Chiefs team this weekend.

Michel had a productive night against the Texans.

3) Speaking of the offense, it was surprising to see them completely give up on running the football, especially considering the success Sony Michel had early in this contest.

Part of the reason why is somewhat obvious. The fact Michel isn’t a dual threat is likely the reason he came out of the game in favor of James White, with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels probably hoping to make things a little more unpredictable for the Texans’ defense.

The bad news is, it made the Patriots less effective and they struggled to sustain drives and give New England’s defense much of a break through much of the first half.

That remains a curious situation given that Michel has shown some good moments catching the football and working in the open field. The problem is, when he’s dropped a pass or not made a play, they completely get away from targeting him. That’s quietly been the story with several offensive players this season and it’s bizarre that they haven’t yet realized giving up on guys and not going back to them has become a pattern that has really hurt them and kept them from potentially getting to where they need to be. Michel has shown he can fill that role when he needs to and it’s strange that they didn’t use him more after he had been productive prior to them going away from him. Whether or not that changes remains to be seen, but that’s been how things have gone so far with the second-year running back who had 621-receiving yards and 6 touchdown receptions during his collegiate career at Georgia.

4) The loss of Stephen Gostkowski continues to loom large, especially after losing Nick Folk to an appendectomy coming into this game.

Newcomer Kai Forbath hit a 23-yard field goal to cap the team’s first drive of the game, but missed an extra point and he looked pretty shaky as the team struggled all game long to sustain drives.

Say what you want about Gostkowski, but he missed just one field goal in his eight attempts this season before getting injured, although he was 11/15 on his extra point kicks. But if the team was in field goal range, there wasn’t much doubt that Gostkowski had a good shot at hitting it. Instead, not having a reliable field goal kicker is something that has definitely hurt them this season and you saw again on Sunday night how it affected some of their decision making.

This will likely remain a problem and when you take into account their offensive struggles, it’s even more concerning as these games continue to become tighter and more meaningful heading into the end of the season.

Despite giving up a few big plays, the defense played about as well as could have been expected Sunday night.

5) Meanwhile, despite how much they struggled, the defense actually had a better game than people think, especially after Belichick pulled them aside late in the first half and started making adjustments.

They did a reasonably good job keeping Deshaun Watson in check, with the Texans really only putting together and scoring one good touchdown drive in the first half, which came on a 13 play, 88-yard possession where Houston held the ball for nearly 7-minutes and wore down the Patriots’ defense. The other touchdown came on the Brady/Harry interception, which gave Houston the football at the New England 21-yard line, setting the Texans up for an easy scoring play to Duke Johnson just 3-plays later.

They actually held Watson to just 3-of-7 in the Third quarter, but the problem was, each of those completions went for 15, 20 and a 35-yard touchdown pass, respectively. For a group that’s normally good about not allowing big plays, that was their Achilles heel as the Texans pulled away.

However, the fact the Patriots managed just 3 points really made things tough and it seemed like it was just a matter of time before the wheels eventually came off. That’s unfortunately, exactly what happened after Houston marched their way down to the Patriots 35-yard line early in the third quarter, with Watson tossing a 35-yard pass to Will Fuller, who appeared to haul in the football for the score. However, replay showed that Jonathan Jones got his hand in and kept Fuller from controlling the football and the call was reversed and called incomplete.

But the Texans wasted no time going right back at Jones, with Watson this time throwing a perfect 35-yard pass to Kenny Stills on the next play for a touchdown, which suddenly put the pressure on New England at 21-3. That play was a tough one, especially after the close call Jones had just one play earlier. It was also the second longest scoring pass play allowed all season, with the previous one coming all the way back in Week 6 against the Giants thanks to Golden Tate’s 64yd touchdown.

The Patriots answered with a scoring drive of their own on the next possession, but the failed extra point seemingly took the wind out of their sails and they trailed 21-9 at the end of the third quarter. Houston then put together a drive to begin the fourth quarter that ended with a toss to Deandre Hopkins, who then threw a touchdown to Watson on a play that looked like a pitch but was ruled a forward pass, with Watson diving into the pylon for the touchdown.

Either way, the real story of this game was the fact on a night where they were facing a good team who came in with a good game plan, the lack of complimentary football by the offense was really their bigger issue. Three first half points obviously wasn’t enough and unfortunately, it put them in a hole just deep enough where despite their last-second scoring run, they just couldn’t recover.

As good as this defense has been, expecting them to hold opposing teams scoreless if they can’t put up points is asking a little much and all things considered, especially considering the state they were in health-wise, they played about as well as could have been expected.

With the Chiefs up next it’s another big challenge and expecting this group to shut down Pat Mahomes and the rest of the Kansas City offense is going to be a tall order if they can’t put up any points. If that ends up being a problem again this weekend, they’re going to be in for another long afternoon.

Hopefully, they’ll figure it out. They’ll spend the rest of this week trying to put this one behind them and do just that before they kickoff against the Chiefs on Sunday at 4:25pm.

Five Thoughts on the Patriots Win Over the Cowboys

Ian Logue
November 25, 2019 at 8:33 am ET

The weather at Gillette Stadium may have been miserable, but at least the fans on hand who braved the elements on Sunday got to see the Patriots take care of business against the Cowboys as they improved to 10-1 on the season.

Points were at a premium and it was New England who came away on top, beating Dallas 13-9 on a rain-soaked field in front of the home crowd. Here are some thoughts on the win.

1) Wide receiver N’Keal Harry had a fairly solid outing on Sunday, with his athleticism on display in what ended up being the key play of the game as he scored the lone touchdown of the afternoon.

On the play, Harry broke out toward the corner and twisted himself around, snatching the ball out of the air on a terrific throw from Tom Brady, while managing to keep both feet in bounds for the 10-yard touchdown.

It was a huge play for the rookie, coming two plays after Matthew Slater blocked a Dallas punt deep in their own territory and it ended up being the knockout blow as the Cowboys never reached the end zone for the entire game.

Harry was targeted 4 times with his lone TD reception but did have a couple of drops in this one, which were largely due to the elements as the ball slipped through his fingers on a couple of leaping grabs that may have otherwise been receptions in dryer weather. But Sunday was a nice glimpse of why the Patriots selected him and hopefully, it’s a sign of things to come.

2) Sunday was also a big day for fellow rookie receiver Jakobi Meyers, who stepped up big in Sunday’s win.

Meyers was targeted 9 times and finished with 4 receptions for 74-yards, all of which were first downs. He also caught 2-of-3 targets on third down, both of which moved the chains.

The rookie averaged a team-high 18.5 yards per reception and made a critical 9-yard catch during a fourth-quarter drive that led to a 42-yard field by kicker Nick Folk, which put the Patriots up 13-6 and kept the pressure on Dallas.

Overall, like Harry, it was a solid showing for Meyers and it came when they needed it most. Without receivers Mohamed Sanu and Phillip Dorsett, who were both sidelined with injuries, the two each got in some much-needed work and it was great to see both players take advantage of their opportunities.

3) Much of the talk all week centered around the return of left tackle Isaiah Wynn and he didn’t disappoint on Sunday.

Brady had significantly more time to throw and even more importantly, the ground game was pretty effective all afternoon. Running back Sony Michel finished Sunday’s game carrying 20 times for 85-yards, 14 of which went to the left side.

Dallas’ pass rush was also kept at bay and Wynn played a big factor in that and he looked fairly comfortable out there. Not bad for a player who has been a spectator all season as he spent time getting healthy. The team seemingly took their time and didn’t rush him back, hopefully making sure that this time, they’ll have Wynn back for the long haul.

If Sunday’s game is any indication, Wynn appears to be the difference-maker they needed up front and the result certainly speaks for itself.

4) One of the things that also stood out was the fact that Stephon Gilmore was absolutely outstanding on Sunday, completely shutting down Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper.

Cooper was held without a reception for the first time since he joined the Cowboys, with Gilmore blanketing him all game long and making sure Cooper was never a factor out there.

Gilmore also finished the game with a diving interception, which came early in the second quarter as Dak Prescott was targeting Cooper and the Patriots ended up with Folk hitting a 44-yard field goal, which at the time put New England up 10-0.

By the fourth quarter it was obvious Cooper was frustrated and the game ended in fitting fashion, with the Dallas receiver failing to haul in a fourth down reception as Cooper dove for a pass from Prescott to try and extend the game. It was initially ruled a 20-yard reception but was overturned after replay showed that Cooper couldn’t quite secure it before he hit the ground.

But credit Gilmore for his performance. In a tight game like this one where there was little margin for error, the veteran defensive back made sure there were certainly no mistakes on his side of the field.

5) Sunday’s game was a solid outing for Brady, who finally had some room to work back in the pocket.

With Wynn stabilizing his side of the offensive line, Brady did a solid job even despite the rain throwing the football. Granted, there were a couple of throws that were off-target, but that was to be expected given the elements. But the biggest thing that was noticeable was the fact he was much more poised than he had been in recent weeks and that was largely because he was under significantly less duress.

Brady finished the afternoon 17-of-37 for 190 yards and a touchdown, with his best quarter coming in the final 15 minutes of Sunday’s game as he completed 7-of-13 for 55-yards, which included a terrific 23-yard pass to Julian Edelman that put New England in Dallas territory. While the drive stalled, that pass was big because it put them into position to allow Jake Bailey to pin the Cowboys in at their own 8-yard line and forced Prescott and the offense to have to drive the length of the field if they hoped to win the game.

However, he did make a dangerous play in this one on another throw to Edelman as he was sandwiched between defenders and twisted awkwardly as he went down. Fortunately, Brady escaped injury but watching it on replay was certainly scary. For a player who normally does a pretty good job with self-preservation, that was a moment that could have turned out badly and he’s fortunate to have come away unscathed.

But overall, it was probably the most comfortable we’ve seen Brady in a long time and with a climate-controlled game up next in the dome in Houston, it should be interesting to see if this is the week both he and the offense finally breaks out.

If ever there was a week to make a statement, this is certainly it. Hopefully, that’s exactly what we’ll see next Sunday night when New England faces the Texans as they look to improve to 11-1 on the season.

Patriots Defense Rises Up Again, Downs Dallas 13-9

Steve Balestrieri
at 7:33 am ET

Sunday afternoon was a time for the defenses to shine, with the weather conditions difficult at best for the offenses to get untracked and the Patriots and Cowboys defenses pretty much dominated the action. But in the end, the Patriots made a few more plays than Dallas did and came away with a hard-fought 13-9 in a wet, windy and miserable Gillette Stadium. 

The effects of the weather can’t be minimized, there were times when the rain was driving sideways, making ball handling difficult, the kicking game a crapshoot and throwing the ball on-target hit or miss. It isn’t a coincidence that all three missed field goals were all toward the open end of the stadium where the wind at times was whipping intermittently. 

With the Patriots banged up physically entering the game and having over a quarter of the active roster questionable for this game, coaching played an even larger part in this one. Bill Belichick put together a tremendous game plan to slow down the #1 offense of the league and they did. Dallas had three field goals to show for their efforts on the afternoon. 

On the flip side, Jason Garrett did things there were head-scratchers, but it has become what we’ve come to expect from the Cowboys coach. Facing several 3rd and 1 situations and with Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield, he chose to throw against the #2 pass defense in the league. And down seven with just over six minutes to go in a game where his offense had scored six points, he opted for another field goal attempt knowing he’d still need a touchdown… Game over. Thanks for flying Belichick Airlines, be sure to place your tray tables in the upright position.

Yes the Patriots swept the East this season… the NFC East.

Other observations include:

Stephon Gilmore Erased Amari Cooper: 

Can there be any doubt any more who is the best corner in football? Gilmore was absolutely brilliant as he held the Dallas wide receiver and Dak Prescott’s go-to guy without a catch for the first time in a Dallas uniform. 

Cooper was Prescott’s first read and with Gilmore blanketing him, it through Prescott off all game long and he struggled to find his second read. Gilmore had an interception on a beautiful play where he trailed Cooper, baiting Prescott into throwing the ball on a drag route, believing him to be open, but then Gilmore undercut it and picked the ball off.

Two of Prescott’s go-to guys in this game were basically taken out of the game completely. Cooper had zero catches with an interception while being targeted, while Jason Witten had one catch for five yards on four targets. Outstanding job by the Patriots coaches and defense taking those two right out of the game and relegating them to a milk carton. 

N’Keal Harry Scores His 1st NFL Touchdown:

We’ve been beating the dead horse since the spring that Harry, the Patriots big 1st round draft pick could be a viable red-zone target for the offense. The rookie WR had his development delayed due to an injury, putting him on IR but he played in his first game last week. This week Harry scored his first NFL touchdown, in the red zone.

From the 10-yard line, Harry ran a fade route and Brady put the ball up where only Harry could get it and he did a great job, snatching the ball out of the air, coming down and just getting his feet inbounds with possession.

They went back to him later in the game, but he couldn’t come up with that one as the ball went through his hands. It will be something we should see more of as the season winds down. 

Fellow rookie WR Jakobi Meyers had a pretty solid game with four catches for 74 yards including a big 32 yarder where he shook off a tackle and got about 25 yards after the catch. 

Patriots Defense Slows Down Ezekiel Elliott:

In a very solid effort, the defense slowed down the Cowboys big running back and limited his effectiveness at influencing the game at key points of the game. We pointed out in our pregame notes, the Patriots weren’t going to shut down Elliott and they didn’t, Elliott had 86 yards on 21 carries for a 4.1 average.

But Elliott and the Dallas offense never got the running game going to the extent that they were controlling the line of scrimmage and the tempo of the game. (See our comments above on the 3rd and 1 situations)

Running behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, the Cowboys ran the ball fairly well but the Patriots defensive line did a good job at slowing them down at the point of attack. Lawrence Guy had another strong game inside and having Pat Chung back was huge for the defense as he always has a strong presence in the box. 

Sony Michel and the Running Game Rebound:

Meanwhile, the moribund Patriots rushing attack had a good game of running the ball and especially when they HAD to run the ball at the end of the game. Was it perfect? Obviously not. But in a year where they’ve struggled to run the ball at all, it was a good first step. Getting Isaiah Wynn back was a big plus and it wasn’t a coincidence that Michel’s big run on 2nd a 5 at the end the game that iced it was behind his big teammate at Georgia. 

Michel ended up with 85 yards on 20 carries, a solid 4.5-yard average. At this point, the Patriots will take that, and give them something to build off of moving forward. 

Brady Plays Solid With a Banged Up Group of Receivers: 

Oh, the talking heads on those hot take shows that overpopulate the media now will no doubt disagree but if you watch those bobos and subscribe to that drivel…shame on you. With an offensive line that has underperformed this season, a running game stuck in neutral and entering the game with his top WR who can’t raise his left arm over his head, they did well enough to win. And BTW, his #2 and #3 wide receivers were out. 

Julian Edelman gutted out another tough game and it seemed after every play, he was trying to loosen that banged-up left shoulder. But he caught eight passes for 93 yards. After that, Brady had undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers and rookie WR N’Keal Harry playing in just his second game of his career. 

The Patriots had six drops by my count and several others that were contested and they couldn’t come down with. With those 10-11 passes going their way, Brady’s numbers would have looked much more impressive. 

His best throw? Facing a 3rd and 20, Brady slid in the pocket to avoid pressure from the inside and unleased a dart to Edelman, who had just enough yardage to move the sticks. Dallas was in a Cover 2 shell, and Edelman found the soft spot. 

Where is James White? 

It is beginning to look like James White may be dealing with something physical because in the past few weeks his production and usage are way, way down. White had just two carries for five yards against the Cowboys and a single catch for -6. 

We’ve become so accustomed to seeing him be a big part of the offense, especially in the passing game, it is surprising to say the least for him to be relegated to a non-factor for several weeks in a row. 

He may be fine health-wise but it definitely seems like something is amiss with the Patriots “Swiss Army Knife” on their offense. With just three targets and one catch for negative yardage (great play by former Patriot Michael Bennett), it is becoming worrisome, especially for a passing game that is already missing some key pieces. 

______________

Regardless of style points, the Patriots won a close one and are now 10-1 on the season. They maintain a two-game lead in the AFC East, where the Bills are now 8-3 (for all my Dallas friends who complain about the AFC “Least”, the Bills would be leading your division by two games…just sayin’)

 And they maintain at least a one-game lead over Baltimore in the AFC (pending their game on Monday Night Football). We’re on to Houston.

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 and game analysis.

 

Patriots – Browns Week 8 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
October 25, 2019 at 7:29 am ET

The Patriots return home to take on the Cleveland Browns with the opportunity to close out the halfway point of the season 8-0 for the third time in team history. The Patriots defense has been playing at a historically high level and is facing a Browns’ team that can be explosive in both the running and passing games.

With a win on Sunday, Bill Belichick will join the 300 club, it will be the 300th win of his career, which he started with the Browns, earning his first victory against the Patriots.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ Channel 4 on Sunday, October 27 at 4:20 p.m.. Jim Nantz will handle play-by-play duties with Tony Romo as the color analyst. Tracy Wolfson 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 (7-0) beat the New York Jets 33-0. The defense intercepted Sam Darnold four times and collected two fumbles. Sony Michel rushed for three touchdowns.

The Browns (2-4) are coming off  their bye week. 

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 Browns are meeting for the 25th time with Cleveland holding a 13-11 overall advantage. The Patriots have won the past five matchups at home however. 

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 Browns Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Cleveland

This is a matchup that the Patriots should dominate. Cleveland is allowing a whopping 154 yards a game on the ground, including 5 yards a carry. While Cleveland does a great job in getting after the QB, their run defense has been gashed. 

However the Patriots running game remains mired in mediocrity in 2019. Sony Michel did rush for three touchdowns last week, but was held to just 42 yards on 19 carries. The offensive line is not opening up nearly enough holes for him to run effectively. Hopefully, the team will get Rex Burkhead back from yet another injury. Burkhead has been the teams’ most effective back overall this season. 

Look for the Patriots to try to establish the run in this game by hitting the running game between the tackles. But until we see signs of it improving on the field, the feeling here is that they will continue to scuffle along.                     

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

The Patriots passing game is going thru another change. The injured Josh Gordon has been placed on IR and is to be released as soon as he’s healthy. The team traded for Mohamed Sanu this week and he, Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers will be the team’s WRs this week. With Ben Watson at tight end and James White and possibly Burkhead and Brandon Bolden out of the backfield, Tom Brady will have plenty of places to throw the ball.

The Browns have been excellent at getting after the quarterback this season with 19 sacks, nine of them by Miles Garrett. They’ve had injuries at cornerback but both Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams are expected to be back this week.

Look for the Patriots to give the struggling LT Marshall Newhouse some help this week against Garrett. Brady, as always will try to get the ball out quickly and get his chemistry going with Sanu who will work out of the slot with Edelman and outside. Protection is the key here.

Next up the Browns offense:

Browns RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Cleveland

Cleveland has the explosive Nick Chubb at running back. He’s gained over 600 yards this season while averaging 5.3 yards per rush and has six touchdowns. The Browns average nearly 120 yards per game on the ground.

The Patriots run defense has been very good overall allowing just 74.7 yards per game on the ground. Danny Shelton, Lawrence Guy, Deatrich Wise, and Adam Butler have done a terrific job at stopping the run at the point of attack and allowing the linebackers to clean up and make plays.

Chubb will get his yards this week, Frank Gore and Le’Veon Bell had good games against the Patriots front seven as well. But will Cleveland be able to run effectively enough to control the game? The feeling here is no. 

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

The Browns have some very explosive wide receivers in Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry along with Chubb out of the backfield. That’s the word that we’ve heard coming out of the Patriots side of the house all week. However, Baker Mayfield has struggled with turning the ball over, throwing 11 interceptions already this year. 

The Patriots defense has garnered 25 sacks and 18 interceptions so far this season. They’ve varied the pass rush and the pressure has forced opposing QBs into making far too many mistakes. They also boast an extremely sticky cornerback group who has the ability to shut down the opposition. Beckham Jr. and Stephon Gilmore ought to be the most intriguing matchup of the game. Landry who guaranteed victory in his pregame trash talk will face either Jason McCourty or J.C. Jackson. 

Cleveland’s pass protection of Mayfield has been a mess this season. We’ve read that they’ve toyed with changing players in multiple positions during the bye week. We may not see as many of the “0 blitzes” this week, but with the varied pressure they can bring on the QB, I’d expect to see the defense trying to force Mayfield into making more mistakes this week.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots already solid special teams has just received a boost this week when they signed All-Pro ST/S Justin Bethel who was released by the Ravens. He joins Matthew Slater, Brandon Bolden and others in an excellent unit. Mike Nugent has solidified the kicking game while rookie Jake Bailey is having an outstanding rookie season. 

The Browns Austin Seibert hasn’t missed a FG this year (8-8), while Jamie Gilan was the STs Player of the Month for September. Dontrelle Hilliard gives Cleveland good return ability. The Patriots at home get the nod here and look for Joe Judge to give Bethel a chance to shine this week..  

Next up, who wins and why…

The Patriots are looking for the third 8-0 start in team history. Bill Belichick can earn his 300th career win with the team he earned his first head coaching win a long time ago.With a national television audience, this should be a great game to watch. 

Keys to the Game from a Patriots Perspective:

Continue the Turnover Machine – Look for the Patriots defense to try to force Mayfield into making mistakes. No one has thrown more interceptions than he has in the early going this season. By mixing up the pass rush and coming from all different angles, they can pressure an offensive line that has been terrible at protecting its quarterback. They’ll mix up their coverages and show the Browns something different than they’ve seen on tape. 

The Running Game is Key This Week: The Browns haven’t been good at defending the run. One way to slow down that pass rush of theirs is to run the ball effectively. If Sony Michel isn’t getting it done, then they should rotate Burkhead or Bolden in more.

On the flip side, limiting Chubb’s effectiveness, puts the onus more on Mayfield’s shoulders. He’s going to get things figured out eventually, and with the WRs they have, their offense will be very good. Just ensure it isn’t this week.

Play a Clean Game: The Patriots can’t allow the Browns to get any short fields for their offense and must protect the ball. Can the Browns generate enough offense on their own to win this game? I’d say no if you’re going by how this season has played out. 

Another area to monitor is the flags. The Patriots have been getting flagged more this season it seems than other years. The coaches need to get that cleaned up before it hurts the team in a key situation

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Prediction: 

The Patriots defense has been playing at an insanely high level this season. We look for that to continue. Mayfield hasn’t done a good job of protecting the ball and that should once again rear its ugly head in this one. Look for Brady to work the short area of the field with Edelman, White and more of Ben Watson this week. It will be interesting to see how quickly they can get Sanu into the passing offense.   

The defense will put pressure on Mayfield and do another great job of blanketing their opponent’s wide receivers. And the home team holds serve. Patriots 24-13

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” tour heads back out on the road next week when the Patriots travel to Baltimore to take on the Ravens.

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What is the Plan for the Patriots at WR with Josh Gordon Gone?

Steve Balestrieri
October 24, 2019 at 7:45 am ET

It would seem that the Josh Gordon era in Foxboro is over. Multiple national writers are stating that the Patriots, who placed Gordon on IR on Wednesday afternoon are planning on releasing the oft-troubled wide receiver as soon as he is healthy.

It was a bizarre ending of the day to be certain. Earlier in the day, the Patriots conducted a walk-through practice and Gordon was visible, joking with new WR Mohamed Sanu, then two hours later the news that he was being placed on IR, followed by reports that he was done in New England. 

That he was being placed on IR was no great shock, everyone who saw that awkward tackle against the Giants and the way he went down thought that he perhaps suffered a serious, season-ending injury. But then reports stated that he wasn’t hurt badly and that he could return to action soon. 

But the reports of his impending release were…surprising. At the very least, the timing was. And of course, speculation was running rampant. Did Gordon have another relapse in his battle to counter his substance abuse problems? 

Things were confused even more when the Instagram post by the Patriots went out that they had placed Gordon on IR. Gordon responded to the post by stating “Interesting”. This set off every amateur psychoanalyst on social media, who all insist on poring over one-word posts and over-analyzing those to the point of craziness. 

No one wanted to see Gordon fail here, most especially at life. But it seems he’s gone and now the world keeps turning. 

So, What Happens Now With the Patriots WR Group?

The team couldn’t keep eight WRs if you’re counting Matthew Slater in the group. We all knew that wouldn’t happen.  So, someone had to go. The Patriots weren’t going to part with Julian Edelman or Phillip Dorsett. And they had just traded for Sanu. Jakobi Meyers is young and is showing great promise, Slater is a Special Teams’ captain. N’Keal Harry is the future for the wide receivers, and they just used a 1st round draft pick this spring on him. Gunner Olszewski returns kicks so the cut had to come from somewhere. 

We’re just spitballing here, but despite Gordon’s good production in his time here (60 receptions, 1000 yards, 5 TDs) perhaps the Patriots thought that they were in a time of diminishing returns with Gordon. It was clear that he wasn’t running with the same athleticism that we’ve seen in the past. No one ever really expected to see that athletic freak who tore the league up back in 2013. And perhaps the coaches may feel that they can get the same production from Harry once he returns (eligible next week), down the stretch. 

The short-term problem is, at least for now, who lines up where? 

Gordon was the outside “X” receiver. Sanu isn’t an X, he’s been mostly used in the slot like Edelman or outside in the “Z” like Dorsett. But perhaps the Patriots could envision him doing that for now. It isn’t unprecedented. Both Chris Hogan and Jo-Jo LaFell were used as an X receiver. 

Dorsett isn’t an X either, he’s most comfortable as the Z and an occasional snap in the slot. He and Edelman are both best utilized in the slot or the Z. This week at least we may see Jakobi Meyers or Sanu there. He’s shown he is capable of running the slants and back-shoulder throws that Brady was tossing to Gordon.

The Job Will Soon Belong to N’Keal Harry: 

Whenever Harry is ready to return, he should be in the X role, hopefully for the Ravens game. He’s got the size (6’4, 225) and the athleticism to take over the Gordon role in the Patriots offense. The two have very similar body types when they both entered the league. 

The Patriots were already working with Harry in training camp to catch the same slants, back-shoulder, and fades that Brady and Gordon were working with. During training camp, Brady and Harry had numerous side sessions where they worked on those very things one-on-one.

Brady is meticulous in where he wants his receivers and when. They were working on as soon as he made his break, the ball would be there. It isn’t an easy timing sequence, there were hiccups on the way and no doubt many will occur in the coming weeks. 

More than anything, this is Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels giving a vote of confidence to the rookie 1st rounder. And with Meyers learning quickly on the job, Harry has a lot of catching up to do. With nine weeks remaining in the season, the offense has the time to find itself and what works best for them. 

Hopefully, they’ll get Isaiah Wynn back soon for the stretch run. And then we’ll see how well the unit can operate. As we’ve seen here, on a daily basis, the Patriots may be many things, boring is never one of them. 

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

 

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Patriots Week 7 Report Card, 33-0 Shutout Win Over the Jets

Steve Balestrieri
October 23, 2019 at 7:32 am ET

 Patriots Improve to 7-0 In Impressive Defensive Showing

The Patriots put this one away early, jumping out to an early 17-0 lead in the first quarter and then never looked back as they cruised to a 33-0 blanking of the Jets. The defense was outstanding, allowing zero points, holding the Jets to just 154 yards total and just 2 of 11 on third down. 

The shorthanded offense was clicking early but had their issues later in the game, although it is hard to find fault after they put up 33 points. Most everyone, including the Jets, had this one as being much closer than the first meeting. It wasn’t. 

So, while it wasn’t perfect, it was plenty good enough. Check out our grades and see how the team fared in this week’s blowout win.

Quarterback: B

Tom Brady once again had so-so numbers, 31-45, 249 yards one TD, one INT. But his TD numbers could have been inflated if not for two near scores with James White and an obvious DPI on Trumaine Johnson when got beaten by Jakobi Meyers on a double move as well as a Michel drop where it looked like a score. Regardless, Brady ran the offense very smoothly, especially early, scoring on three of their first four possessions which put the game into the win column. 

He had a pick where he was hit as he threw and that was partially on him for holding the ball too long and an intentional grounding call. The microphones on ESPN picked him up yelling “He was right there!” Ah, no Tom he wasn’t. But he was also victimized by some drops. Overall, with a short-handed offense, he ran it very well. 

Running Backs: C

The running game remains an issue, and while we can point at the running backs, in reality, there is far too frequently nowhere for them to go. As a group, the backs averaged only 2.2 yards per carry. Sony Michel had only 42 yards on 19 carries but did have three touchdown runs. 

Damien Harris got his first carries as a Patriot and finally got some work in, which is a positive sign. Brandon Bolden and James White had very little production in the running game this week. With no fullback, LB Elandon Roberts filled in as a goalline blocker and used his downhill, thumping style to good use. 

Wide Receivers: B

Julian Edelman and James White (as we pointed out in our keys to the game) were the biggest pass receivers, each hauling in seven passes and filled in their roles well. White just missed a pair of TD receptions, getting knocked out of bounds at the one-yard line and scampering down the right sideline and just being taken down around the ankles. 

Jakobi Meyers is gaining the all-important trust factor with Brady, he had five catches for 47 yards including some nice grabs in traffic. While his snaps may see a downtick with the addition of Mohamed Sanu and the return of Josh Gordon and N’Keal Harry, he’s building his rapport with #12 and that will come in hand down the stretch.

Phillip Dorsett returned from his hamstring injury and had a really nice 23-yard TD where he dusted Johnson down the seam. Brandon Bolden had a beauty of a catch along the sideline. A pretty back-shoulder catch for 28-yards where he got his feet in like a top-flight wide receiver. Next week, maybe they’ll try him as a kicker…

Tight Ends: B

Ben Watson and Eric Tomlinson combined for 100 snaps (Watson 62, Tomlinson 38) after not being on the team a week ago. Considering Tomlinson had to jet to Texas for the birth of his child and then zip back this week, was a testament to hard work. The Patriots early in the game went with the heavier two-TE look and it worked pretty well. 

Watson’s timing was off a bit early, he turned too late for the first pass from Brady and it bounced off his face mask but after that, he contributed in the passing game with three catches including a key fourth-down conversion (Trust factor). Tomlinson had a catch but provided decent in-line blocking but did have a holding penalty. 

Offensive Line: C

The offensive line did a good job of pass protection overall, Brady wasn’t sacked and hit just two or three times. But of course, much of that has to do with Brady himself. He was getting the ball out incredibly fast which has to frustrate the pass rushers who have no chance of getting home. Marshall Newhouse continues to struggle against pressure from the outside, however. 

The run blocking remains a hit or miss operation, mainly miss. We can all point the finger at Sony Michel and say he isn’t hitting the hole fast enough, but there frequently isn’t a hole to hit and he’s getting met in the backfield. 

With the game salted away in the fourth quarter, the Patriots attempted eight rushes. This is where they traditionally eat the clock up and go home happy. Those eight rushes netted 10 yards. That isn’t going to get it done. 

 Defensive Line: A-

The defensive line once again was outstanding. Le’Veon Bell had a decent game numbers-wise but was a total non-factor. He got most of them on his own. Lawrence Guy, Danny Shelton, Deatrich Wise, and Adam Butler were stuffing everything at the point of attack. And they created lanes for the pass rush to get home. 

On a day where the Patriots had just one sack, the pass rush was the difference here. As was picked up by ESPN microphones, Sam Darnold was “seeing ghosts” 

Linebackers: A

The Patriots linebackers are having an outstanding season, the depth and versatility in this group are the strength of the defense. Utilizing the “0-blitz” early in the game, they were rushing free and caused Darnold to throw interceptions and sail his throws off his back foot. 

John Simon came free on one and knocked the ball out of Darnold’s hands, which was scooped up by Kyle Van Noy who jumped up and rushed into the end zone. It was eventually blown dead as a Jet TE had bumped legs with Van Noy on the ground. 

Dont’a Hightower rocked Bell on one of the few screens the Jets attempted on a bone-jarring hit that put a bow on the evening. 

Secondary: A

The secondary continued their stellar play, no touchdowns, no points, only 86 yards passing and four interceptions. Robby Anderson who had a huge game against Dallas was rendered to a milk carton by Stephon Gilmore. Slot receiver Jamison Crowder had just four catches for 26 yards, blanketed by Jonathan Jones. The Jets only had four first downs passing. 

Bill Belichick and Jerod Mayo utilized the “Cover 0” technique for much of the game, telling the Jets that they weren’t afraid of getting beaten deep. They weren’t. Before the game, Darnold told the NY media, that Jets offense was going to become unstoppable. Maybe soon but not on Monday Night. 

The only downside was the play of J.C. Jackson who was too grabby on Demaryius Thomas and was flagged three times. 

Special Teams: A

Mike Nugent had a clean game, one field goal and four extra points with no misses. A look at Jake Bailey’s 37.3 net average on Monday and you’d think he had a bad game. That would be wrong. He did have a shank early in the game, but his plus-50 punting was outstanding dropping four inside the 20-yard line including a beauty he dropped on the one which bounced out of bounds at the three. He skied a 59-yarder that should have been put in orbit, with over a five-second hang time.

The return game was good and they recovered a muffed punt by former Patriot Braxton Berrios. A great night for the STs

Coaches: A+

The Patriots coaching staff had extra time to prepare and it showed. The first quarter was complete domination for the Patriots in a game the Jets were hoping to show that they were on their way. They were, but not where they expected. Bill Belichick took Adam Gase to school and Josh McDaniels deserves high marks for scheming up an impressive start with a very banged up offense missing several key pieces.

The defensive coaches knew what they needed to do against Darnold and their players produced much better than anyone could have hoped for, and certainly better than most expected.   

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

 

How Will Mohamed Sanu Fit in the Patriots Offense?

Steve Balestrieri
October 22, 2019 at 12:00 pm ET

The Patriots, flush off their win over the Jets in the Meadowlands 33-0 on Monday night, have made a trade to bolster their wide receiving core. They parted with a 2nd round draft pick to bring in former Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu. 

At first glance, the 2nd round price tag seems a bit high for Sanu but remember, the Patriots draft picks are generally later in the round and it is essentially a 3rd round draft pick. The other consideration is that Sanu isn’t a rental for this season only. He’s signed through the 2020 season and his cap hit is an affordable $6.5 million. 

Last year Sanu caught 66 passes for 838 yards and four TDs. So far in 2019, he’s caught 33 passes for 313 yards and a score. With Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and the emergence of TE Austin Hooper, Sanu was becoming the 4th option in an offense that has a 1-6 record. The move makes sense for Atlanta who will be doing some rebuilding next spring. 

But from a Patriots perspective, how will Sanu fit in with the Patriots offense? Quite well actually. All you really need to know is that Bill Belichick tried to trade for Sanu during the 2019 NFL Draft this spring. But Atlanta at that time had planned on making a deep playoff run. 

Sanu is a 6’2, 210 possession wide receiver that has good yards-after-catch (YAC) capability. In Atlanta’s system, he played mainly in the slot because of the presence of Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. But here, he has the versatility to be a movable chess piece. He can play in the slot or slide outside. 

Look for Josh McDaniels to move Sanu and Edelman inside and out depending on the matchups and to create mismatches. Sanu gives them a proven wide receiver who should fit in perfectly in this offense. He’s 30 years old which means he should have plenty of good years left in the tank. 

Sanu is a good and willing blocker for the running game or to support another wide receiver when they throw it elsewhere. And he’s been used on occasion like Edelman for the odd pass out of the backfield with the Falcons. 

Now the Patriots depth chart at wide receiver seems much deeper, especially with 1st round pick N’Keal Harry soon able to return to the team. 

  •  Julian Edelman
  •  Mohamed Sanu
  •  Josh Gordon
  • Phillip Dorsett
  • N’Keal Harry (eligible to return in Week 9)
  • Jakobi Meyers
  • Gunner Olszewski
  • Matthew Slater

Many fans were hoping that this doesn’t mean the end of Jakobi Meyers in the offense. I don’t believe that to be the case. Meyers is showing that he is gaining and earning Brady’s trust in the passing game. If anyone loses snaps it may be Olszewski. 

He’s still quite raw in the passing game although he’s working hard and has had some receptions. I found it curious last night that Edelman returned the free-kick, and if they try to slide Olszewski onto the practice squad, they may use Dorsett and Bolden to return kicks and punts. Would he make it to the PS? I’d say no right now, but stranger things have happened. 

But with two bigger guys with Gordon and Sanu, with Harry another to return soon to go along with Edelman, Dorsett, and Meyers, all of a sudden the WR position looks like a position of strength.

This was a very solid move by the team and have Sanu, Edelman, Meyers, and Olszewski locked up for the next couple of seasons. Now Sanu just needs to learn the playbook

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6 Thoughts Following the Patriots Win Over the Jets

Ian Logue
at 10:58 am ET

The Patriots improved to 7-0 after embarrassing the Jets in front of their own crowd and the world Monday night, demoralizing a New York team that had been riding fairly high coming into the game after beating the Cowboys the week before.

With Jets quarterback Sam Darnold back under center, New York seemed to be poised to turn things around and potentially give New England their first loss of the season.  Unfortunately for Darnold, the result was quite the opposite and here are some thoughts on the Patriots’ seventh win of the season.

1) It’s hard not to wonder how we’ll someday look back on this defense given the performance they’ve put forth so far through the first seven weeks of the season.  As Patriots fans, most people look back on the days of Ty Law, Willie McGinest and Tedy Bruschi as the glory days of this group, but the 2019 version has been far more dominant than anyone could have ever expected.

Monday night was certainly a terrific example of how good they could be after they forced six Jets turnovers, including 4 interceptions by Darnold.  It started right away after Devin McCourty nabbed the first, picking the Jets signal-caller off on just his second snap of the contest and setting the tone for the rest of the night.  The turnover gives McCourty an NFL best 5 on the season and it was a good job by the safety who made a nice play on the football.

They kept Darnold off balance all night and came at him from all angles, putting him under constant duress and forcing quite a few errant throws.  Darnold, who was mic’d up for the game, was spotted on the sideline saying, “I’m seeing ghosts” and that quote would come back to haunt him for the rest of the evening as New England refused to take the foot off the gas the entire night.

The Patriots made Darnold miserable Monday night.

It didn’t get any better and he finished having completed just 11-of-32 (34%) for 86-yards for the game.  New England’s defense held New York to just 2-of-11 on third down, with Darnold completing a paltry 3-of-10 (30%) for 27 yards and three interceptions.

The interception total is just ridiculous.  Last night’s game gives New England 18 on the year, nearly double that of the next closest team, which is Pittsburgh with 8. They’ve also defended 50 passes, well ahead of the next closest team, which is the Buffalo Bills with 36.

As Mike Reiss pointed out last night, according to ESPN Stats and Info, it’s the second-highest interception total through the first seven games in the last 30 seasons.  The only team with more is the Packers, who had 20 during their Super Bowl season in 1996 (unfortunately, most of us remember who they beat to win it).

The critics will point to the competition this group has faced so far, but good teams are supposed to beat up on inferior clubs and the Patriots did more than beat up the Jets, they absolutely annihilated them.  This is a group who collectively right now is playing so well as a unit and they didn’t back down all night.  In fact, despite the lopsided score, this game even had a strange feel as if it was still much tighter than the scoreboard showed given the fact they never let up and were playing just as hard in the fourth quarter as they were when the game started.

Needless to say, while it’s hard to believe, we’re witnessing history each week.  With 9 games stil left to go, this unit definitely appears poised to potentially write themselves further into the NFL record books and at the rate they’re going, it should be fun to see how it plays out.

2) With the Patriots without Josh Gordon Monday night, it was Jakobi Meyers who stepped up and had another solid outing.  Brady was 5-of-5 targeting him, with their chemistry starting on the first drive of the night after the Patriots faced a 3rd-and-7 at midfield.  Meyers hauled in a 9-yard pass to extend the drive, but then made a further impact on the ensuing 3rd-and-10 play where he made a key block to allow Julian Edelman to pick up 14-yards.

Both of those moments were big as it helped extend the drive and set up the eventual 3-yard touchdown run by Sony Michel.

It was good to see and Brady clearly appears to be finally getting some confidence throwing to him.  He also went to him on early downs, connecting on 3-of-3 targets for 34-yards on second down, including a 23-yard reception early in the second quarter that helped put them near the goal line to take advantage of a Darnold strip-sack.  That play eventually led to another Michel touchdown.

Overall, games like these could pay dividends down the road and with the addition of receiver Mohamed Sanu, who the Patriots acquired from Atlanta on Tuesday, this is a group that could suddenly become even more dangerous if Meyers can continue to grow into the speedy threat he already appears he can be.


Michel rushed for 3 touchdowns on Monday night.

3) It was another tough night for Sony Michel, who despite his 3 touchdowns had to, once again, battle for nearly every yard.

It’s no secret that the Patriots are still trying to work things out up front on the offensive line and as a result, things aren’t coming easy for the second-year running back.  He carried 19 times for 42-yards Monday night, averaging a mere 2.2 yards per carry.  The frustrating part of last night is the fact that he failed to gain a yard 9 times, including 3 for a loss and 6 for no gain.

It’s been a difficult year for Michel, who coming into the game had 100 carries on the season, which isn’t far off from the 91 he had heading into week 7 in 2018.  But he certainly had better luck breaking through the line last season.  He had 15 carries last year through six games where he didn’t pick up a yard after he was dropped for a loss 7 times and ran for no gain on 8 others.

This season, that total was at 24 heading into last night, with 10 negative carries and 14 where he was stopped for no gain.

It’s not that hard to figure out knowing how injuries have caused shifts in the line-up compared to last season and it’s a further reminder of just how good David Andrews was in providing that middle push to open things up, as well as the effect the absence of James Develin is having.

It was interesting to see the Patriots experiment with several players last night to try and address the issue, with Elandon Roberts and James Ferentz as two players who saw action at fullback against the Jets and both did a decent job with their first opportunities.

Give Michel credit, as he’s remained pretty even-keeled so far this season and is still managing to have a productive year.  But we’ll have to see how things play out in the coming weeks as unfortunately, this quietly still remains an area to keep an eye on.

It wasn’t Brady’s best game, but he was certainly the better QB Monday night.

4) Tom Brady may have not had his best game last night but he was on point in the first quarter after completing 13-of-17 (76%) for 118-yards and a touchdown as New England pulled ahead of the Jets while building an early 17-0 lead.

Two of his best throws of the night came on their third possession where he threw a perfect back-shoulder strike to Brandon Bolden for 26-yards, which helped set up another flawless 26-yard scoring strike to Phillip Dorsett, which Brady dropped in perfectly in the back of the end zone where only Dorsett could come down with it.

The early down success was key as Brady was 11-of-15 (73%) for 57 yards on first down, along with 15-of-20 (75%) on second down.  That kept them out of long-yardage situations as they only faced 3rd-and-9 or longer on just 6 of their 16 third-down attempts.  That allowed them to continue moving the football and sustain drives, holding the football for over 38-minutes and giving their defense plenty of time to recharge and make Darnold’s life miserable.

But after the game Brady was happy but still appeared frustrated as he likely knows the offense remains a work in progress.  Hopefully, Tuesday’s addition of Sanu will start making things a little easier.

5) One player who managed to stay off of everyone’s radar Monday night was Mike Nugent, who quietly had a good game.

Nugent was a perfect 4-for-4 on extra points Monday night, as well as hitting a 34-yard field goal.  Each kick was straight and never in doubt, which is a stark contrast to his first outing where he was erratic and didn’t look anywhere near close to comfortable out there.

It’s a good sign as with the colder months coming, the kicking game tends to be a key part of the offense given how scoring tends to drop as the elements become more difficult for offenses to operate in.  Seeing Nugent settle in was a pleasant surprise and the fact he was able to go out there and get it done should have most fans feeling a little better since the Patriots will still need to soldier on without Stephen Gostkowski, who is lost for the rest of the season.

6) We’ll end on this note, which saw one of the most hilarious sequences in Bill Belichick’s tenure happen last night and it was pretty funny to watch how it all unfolded.

With just over 10-minutes to go in the game and leading 33-0, the Patriots saw their offense stall at the Jets’ 33yd line.  With the punt team on the field and facing 4th-and-2, the Patriots took a delay of game penalty, likely looking to give punter Jake Bailey a little more room to work with to pin the Jets in deep yet again.

Adam Gase declined the penalty, which seemed to amuse Belichick.  It then appeared Belichick ordered Brandon Bolden to commit a false start penalty, hoping to again move them back.  But Gase, again, declined the penalty.

From there, cameras caught Belichick smile, knowing he was still out-thinking Gase even at this point in the football game.  It was an absolutely terrific sequence and certainly will likely go down as a moment that will be mentioned years from now once he walks away.  Fortunately, all of us got to watch it happen in real-time.

https://twitter.com/espn/status/1186477725328072704

It was all-in-all a great night and the Patriots will now return home to get to work as they’ll next face the Cleveland Browns at Gillette Stadium this weekend.