Tag Archives: James White

Patriots Free Agents Will Demand Several Important Decisions

Steve Balestrieri
January 7, 2020 at 1:12 pm ET

A look at the Patriots impending free agents shows that the team will be forced to make several very important decisions moving forward. There are several key players, especially on the defense that will require the team to decide whether to bring back those players or not once the new league year begins in March. 

The biggest question the Patriots have right now is are they all-in for another big push for a 7th Super Bowl, or is this a rebuilding year, where they break it down and start anew. Much of that answer will have to do with the first name on the list.

If he returns then it would most certainly mean that they’re planning on retooling for another run. The team has already lost STs/WR coach Joe Judge who is the new head coach of the New York Giants. That is the first big domino to fall.

First, here is a look at the Patriots free agents in 2020: 

Tom Brady
Devin McCourty
Kyle Van Noy
Matthew Slater
Phillip Dorsett
Nate Ebner
Jamie Collins
Danny Shelton
Nick Folk
Marshall Newhouse
Joe Thuney
Ben Watson
Shilique Calhoun
James Ferentz
Ted Karras
Elandon Roberts

Three players will be restricted free agents:
Keionta Davis
Jermaine Eluemunor
Adam Butler

Obviously, a lot hinges on Brady’s status. Are the Patriots going to bring him back for one more year? From a monetary standpoint, it would be beneficial to do so, if Brady leaves, the Patriots are on the hook for $13.5 million. Can the two sides work out fair compensation for both parties, but still allow them to retool and add enough weapons? 

This is the big one. Because if Brady returns (and we think he will), then they may feel they only lack a player or two to make another run. While they start the new year with seemingly plenty of cap space, a new Brady contract will eat a lot of that up. If they decide to move on from Brady, does this mean Jarrett Stidham is the man? And if so, does the offense change too? Interesting times ahead.

So who goes? I think that Kyle Van Noy will command a lot of cash in free agency and has earned his payday, with 6.5 sacks, 14 QB hits, and a team-leading 58 QB pressures. No one else had more than 33. I think he’s gone. 

Joe Thuney will be one of the most sought-after guards in free agency.  He earned 2nd team All-Pro and has never missed a game…he’s gone too as he’ll get a big payday.

Jamie Collins came back to NE on a one-year prove-it type deal and he had an outstanding start to the season. While he finished quietly, what he showed early this season should earn him a healthy payday. His type of athleticism can’t be taught. 

Phillip Dorsett is a popular guy in the locker room, but after a very nice start to the season, he disappeared down the stretch with three catches in the final five games of the season and had only 29 catches on the year. I’d be surprised if he comes back.

Ben Watson came out of retirement to play for the Patriots one more time this season. He was released early but brought back and handled it the way he always has, with class. One of the nicest people to play the game, he had a disappointing season but still led all NE tight ends in receptions. He is likely to retire again, judging from his postgame comments. 

One of the toughest calls to make will be with Devin McCourty, a team leader on and off the field, McCourty had arguably his best season with the Patriots in 2019. His age and the amount of money it will take to bring him back will make it a difficult proposition. It may get compounded by if the team decides to cut ties with his brother Jason. I think they’ll try to work out a deal with him to stay for one more year. But if one of his former coaches wows him with a big-money deal, who knows?

Danny Shelton went from a healthy scratch late in the 2018 season to one of the team’s most important defensive linemen. He and Lawrence Guy were outstanding this season in the interior as run stuffers. 

Matthew Slater is a borderline Hall of Famer for Special Teams, a team captain and a huge veteran presence in the locker room. Any signs of aging in this 12th season at age 34? Not a bit. He was a 1st team All-Pro this year. It would be a huge surprise not to see Slater back in 2020. 

Elandon Roberts’ snaps went to a career-low defensively this season but if anything he’s improved his stock with the team. With James Develin and Jakob Johnson on IR, Roberts stepped up and played fullback and did a very commendable job. Belichick loves versatile guys who put the team first. 

Nate Ebner is a Belichick guy, a tough as nails STs guy, one of the better STs guys in the league… Will he back? Belichick wore his rugby jersey at joint TC practice with the Saints a few years ago…any questions?

Nick Folk stepped in (twice) for the Patriots this year with Stephen Gostkowski on IR and played pretty well. The only FG he missed was blocked. Gostkowski’s status may have a play in this, but the feeling is here, they’ll move on but keep his number just in case.

Marshall Newhouse started nine games this season, eight at LT for Isaiah Wynn, one for Marcus Cannon at RT. He’s played for seven teams in his career and is now 31. We’ll have to see how the Patriots feel about the return of Yodny Cajuste but the feeling here is they’ll let Newhouse walk. 

Ted Karras filled in for David Andrews all year at center, when the veteran suffered from blood clots in his lungs. Can Andrews even return to football this year? I think Karras returns and will battle for a guard spot if Thuney leaves and Andrews returns or is the team’s center if he doesn’t. James Ferentz is a backup interior lineman and won’t break the bank to get to return. He did make two starts this year inside. It will be interesting to see how Hjalte Froholdt works out. 

Shalique Calhoun is a situational pass rusher and he played in 15 games this year, at times pretty well. If the money’s right, he’ll be back. Ditto for Keionta Davis who spent the entire season on IR.

Adam Butler should be brought back. He notched six sacks, nine QB hits, eight tackles for loss and five passes knocked down as an interior situational pass rusher. Great depth guy who can step up when needed. 

Jermaine Eluemunor is an interior OL who the Patriots traded a 4th round draft pick for this summer. He only played a handful of snaps this year and was a healthy scratch for most of the season. It shouldn’t break the bank for him as well. 

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

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

Titans, Henry Boot Patriots From Postseason 20-13

Steve Balestrieri
January 5, 2020 at 12:09 am ET

The Tennessee Titans behind a crushing running game of Derrick Henry who rushed for 182 yards and a tough defense smothered the Patriots and will move on in the playoffs, knocking off New England 20-13.

The Patriots will not play in the AFC Championship Game for the 1st time since the 2010 season when they lost to the Jets in the Divisional Round. The Patriots offense failed them when they needed it the most. After moving the ball well and scoring 10 points early, the offense, as it had done often in the second half of the season sputtered and fell flat. 

But the Titans behind Henry was the story of the game. Henry had 204 of the Titans 272 yards from scrimmage. And he had 182 of the Titans 201 rushing yards. And the Patriots failure in the red zone was once a big part of the outcome. After taking the opening kickoff and driving the ball down to the Tennessee 18-yard line they stalled and had to settle for a field goal.

Tennessee’s first possession featured Henry gashing the Patriots run defense for 44 yards. When Pat Chung injured his ankle, the Titans went right after Terrance Brooks and Ryan Tannehill hit a touchdown pass to tight end Anthony Firsker for 12 yards and put Tennessee up 7-0. 

Brady then led another nice drive and this time they would finish. Sony Michel had a big 25-yard run. Brady then hit Ben Watson for 11 and they were in business. From the five-yard line, Julian Edelman ran a jet sweep early in the 2nd quarter and scored easily to put New England up 10-7.

After stopping the Titans twice, the Patriots had the momentum and a nice …and rare punt return from Mohamad Sanu put the team at the Titans 47. The team moved easily and when Brady hit Rex Burkhead with a screen, it looked like he would score. But the Titans stopped him at the one. That’s when the game turned. Three times the Patriots ran the ball, Michel lost a yard, Burkhead gained a yard and Michel lost a yard again. The Titans regained the initiative and wouldn’t give it back. The field goal made the score 13-7.

Once again, bad situational football doomed the team. Henry ran for 29 yards on first down and he gashed the Patriots on the ground and got them to the New England 23. Then he caught a 22-yard screen pass down to the one. He’d power it in to give Tennessee a 14-13 halftime lead. 

The Patriots were shut out in the 2nd half and as we’ve seen so many times this season, a big gain was wiped out by a penalty. Brady connected with Watson for 38 yards but Shaq Mason was called for being illegally downfield. 

Tannehill got pressured early in the 4th quarter and throwing off his back foot, had the pass sail and die where Duron Harmon picked it off. 

With a final chance to move from their 11, with 4:32 to go. Brady hit James White for 20 yards but they would stall and opt to punt with 3:30 to go on 4th and 6. The killer was on 2nd down when Julian Edelman was wide open and dropped a pass that would have moved the sticks.

The Titans held the ball and punted with just about 20 seconds to go. Brett Kern hit a beauty and it rolled and died at the Patriots one. And in a fitting way to end the season, Brady’s pass bounced off of a receiver’s hands right to the Logan Ryan who returned it for a pick-six. Ball game 20-13 Titans and they move on to Baltimore. 

A very disappointing end to what promised to be another special season. The offense, specifically the passing game needs an overhaul. We’ll go over that later but for now, the Patriots season is over and they had plenty of opportunities right in front of them but couldn’t convert.

 

Patriots-Titans Wild Card Game, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge

Steve Balestrieri
January 3, 2020 at 7:35 am ET

The Patriots are at home against the Tennessee Titans in the Wild Card game of the 2019 NFL Playoffs. The Patriots (12-4) are the #3 seed while the Titans (9-7) are the #6 seed in the AFC. 

The Patriots have been outstanding at home in the playoffs and have won a playoff game for an NFL record eight years in a row. 

The Patriots were five and a half minutes away from a bye week if they held on to beat the Dolphins last week but that loss knocked them into the Wild Card weekend. Tennessee has been very good since installing Ryan Tannehill in at quarterback. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games and have scored at least 20 points in their last seven. 

However, he will be making his first postseason start while Tom Brady will be making his 41st career start in the postseason. 

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. 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.  

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 Titans Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Tennessee

The Patriots running game has taken off in the past three games against Cincinnati, Buffalo, and Miami giving them something to build off of. For much of the season, they were stuck in neutral due to injuries and subpar play along the offensive line. But that part of the equation has ratcheted up and the backs, Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead have looked much better and more explosive lately. 

The Titans are solid against the run coming in at #12 in yards against and #7 in yards per carry. They have the big guys upfront DaQuan Jones in the middle, with Jeffery Simmons and Jurrell Casey on the ends in their 3-4. 

The Patriots need to establish the run early to get their passing game going and I expect Michel, Burkhead, and James White will get plenty of work. But I also expect former Patriots coaches Mike Vrable and DC Dean Pees to take a page out of Miami’s book and cheat the linebackers up and run blitz to disrupt the running game and dare the Patriots to beat them in the middle of the field with the tight ends.         

Patriots WRs vs Titans Secondary – Razor’s Edge Tennessee

The Patriots passing game has had issues most of the season and while people will talk about Tom Brady’s decline, after Julian Edelman (100 catches) the next wide receiver in production of Phillip Dorsett with 29 catches. The tight ends have been disappointing in their production as well. Brady has had to rely on the consistent but banged up Edelman and James White (72 receptions) out of the backfield. 

The Titans pass defense isn’t great and finished at #24 in the league allowing 255 yards per game. With corners Logan Ryan and Adoree Jackson, safeties Kevin Byard and Kenny Vaccaro they have a good group but they miss former Patriot Malcolm Butler who is on IR. 

The Patriots need everyone to step up this week and that includes the tight ends, who have to occupy the middle of the field. Tennessee has 43 sacks on the year, which is led by Harold Landry with nine. They can get after the QB and we’d expect some blitz action on third downs as Pees will mix things up. Protection for Brady, like always is key here. 

Next up the Titans offense:

Titans RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Tennessee

The Patriots run defense with Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton has continued to play outstanding football and have been excellent at slowing or stopping the run at the point of attack and allowing the linebackers to make plays. 

Tennessee has Derrick Henry who led the NFL with 1540 yards, an average of 5.0 yards and 16 touchdowns. He was a big reason they were so successful down the stretch. Dion Lewis is their #2 back who can run or catch out of the backfield. QB Ryan Tannehill is very mobile and can run as well.

A big key for the Patriots is not only to slow Henry at the point of attack but setting the edge here as well. If Henry gets to the edge, bad things will happen for the Patriots defense. The defense has had some issues with big backs this season, Frank Gore, Nick Chubb, and Joe Mixon have all given them problems. On a short week with several players less than 100 percent, this could be problematic.  

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

The Tennessee passing attack has thrived under Ryan Tannehill who has played outstanding since taking over and getting out of Miami for a fresh start. Tannehill easily had the most impressive season in his career, completing 70 percent of his passes with a QB rating of 117.5 since taking over. He threw 22 TDs and just six INTs. 

Tannehill has several good weapons at his disposal. Rookie WR A.J. Brown, Corey Davis (who roasted the Patriots for 125 yards last season) and two good tight ends in Jonnu Smith and Andrew Firkser with Dion Lewis out of the backfield. 

The Patriots pass defense (until last week) was outstanding all season allowing just 180 yards per game It will be interesting to see if the Patriots decide to use Gilmore on Brown or Davis. With both Jason McCourty and Jonathan Jones hobbling with groin injuries it cuts down on their depth. Tannehill won’t have slot WR Adam Humphries who is out with an injury. 

The pass rush, so dominant earlier this season has to ratchet it up now. The Patriots had 47 sacks but in the past few games, they’re just not getting home, just missing with the sacks. The Titans allowed a whopping 56 this season, and this is an area that the Patriots have to exploit or it could be a long night for the defense. Look for a similar gameplan like Kansas City where the Patriots try to keep everything in front of them.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots special teams have been a big bright spot with four blocked punts and outstanding coverage. Nick Folk now has the team confident that he can consistently make field goals and extra points. Jake Bailey had a terrific rookie season with 36 punts downed inside the 20. 

The Titans like New England have gone through four kickers this season. Greg Joseph took over for the injured Ryan Succop two weeks ago and hasn’t attempted a field goal yet. Punter Brett Kern had an outstanding season averaging 47.1 yards per punt with 37 inside the 20 with just two touchbacks. 

Neither has much of a return game but the Patriots get the edge at home here and could use a big play (or two) from their STs this week.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

The Patriots have a tough matchup this week with a very hot Titans team that has scored 20 points or more seven weeks in a row. When the defense has allowed 20 or more points this season, they’ve lost. So, the 20 point plateau is a benchmark to monitor.  

Here are our keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:

Slow Down Henry and the Run Game – The Patriots have to slow down Henry and force Tannehill into obvious passing situations. The linebackers have to have their best game of the year. Bringing down Henry is no easy task and they have to get him running east-west at the point of attack. 

With the Titans’ deep group of receivers, the Patriots won’t have the luxury of stacking the box as the Titans will on defense. The front seven will have to stand up and be the “Boogeymen” this week. If Henry gets going and puts the Titans on his back with second and third downs with short yardage, it will be a long game. 

Start Quickly and Get the Lead – The Patriots got off to a horrible start last week and appeared to be sleepwalking through the first quarter. They can’t have that this week if they want their season to continue.

The offense needs to get going early and get some points on the board and force the Titans to play catchup. It will put a little bit of pressure on Tannehill who is playing in his first-ever playoff game.

They have to have the lead late in the game and again put Tannehill in a position where he has to throw. A great bit by Mike Dussault of Patriots.com, Henry in the last seven games has 250 yards more than any other running back, 10 touchdowns and averaging 8 yards per carry in the second half of the Titans games. 

Brady Has to Get Everyone Involved – With the playoffs here, the Titans are going to stack the box to take away the run and dare Brady to beat them down the field. Expect Edelman to get bracketed all game long. So, they’ll need the secondary receivers, Mohamad Sanu, Phillip Dorsett, N’Keal Harry to step up and produce. 

This will be a big week for the tight ends if they can produce. The middle of the field will be there for the taking but Matt LaCosse and Ben Watson haven’t been able to do much this year. If they can hit a few seam passes it will open up a lot of room for the struggling players outside.  

Where are the Turnovers, They Need Turnovers – The defense hasn’t got any turnovers for the past two games and this week they could really use a few. If the pass rush can get to Tannehill, a strip-sack or a forced throw for an interception would go a long way in helping an offense that is having trouble consistently scoring points. 

Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson were both off their game a week ago. Look for them to be more competitive this week and try to steal a pass in some tight windows. 

___________

This is not a great matchup for the Patriots. Coming off of a short week, facing a physical and hot Tennessee team where the coaching staff and several players have plenty of experience in the New England system. 

We know the Patriots are very tough at home in the postseason and haven’t dropped a home playoff game since 2013.  But the Titans being able to mix things up on offense and having a tremendous red-zone offense (scoring 75.6 percent of the time) is a tough matchup this week.

There are plenty of ways I can see the Patriots circling the wagons and toughing out a hard-fought win at home. We’ve seen it too many times to count. But the feeling here is that the offense won’t be able to keep up and allow them to move on. Titans 24-17

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

 

 Patriots Week 17 Report Card, Crushing Loss to Miami, Bye-Bye Bye Week

Steve Balestrieri
January 1, 2020 at 8:05 am ET

Patriots Come Out Flat And Lose #2 Seed

Happy New Year, from all of us here, we hope that you all had a happy, safe and fun New Year’s Eve and an even better 2020.

The Patriots lost out on a big…and needed opportunity to earn themselves a bye week by losing to the Miami Dolphins at home 27-24 in the final regular-season game of  2019. Entering Sunday’s game Tom Brady had a 15-1 record at home against Miami but like last year, they lost a game to the Dolphins in the final seconds. 

So, check out our grades and we’ll take one more look at the game film before putting the regular season behind us this week.

Quarterback: D

Tom Brady after one of his best performances against the Bills had one he’d rather forget. Brady was sailing the ball high on many of his incompletions and was wearing different cleats (looked like hightops) which may speak to having an ankle issue which would explain part of it. But both he and the team started slowly against a team that was 28th in pass defense. Brady was 2-4 for 10 yards in the first quarter.

His protection overall was outstanding, he had plenty of time to throw for the vast majority of the game. The accuracy and timing just weren’t there. Brady finished 16-29 for 221 yards with 2 TDs and a horrible pick-six to Eric Rowe. 

Running Backs: B

The Patriots running game once again had a pretty solid night rushing for 135 yards with some solid work by Sony Michel (74 yards on 18 carries) and Rex Burkhead (48 yards on six carries). Despite Miami cheating their linebackers up in the box and blitzing on running plays, they consistently gained yardage after contact and have turned it up a notch down the stretch. 

Elandon Roberts once again provided good blocking in the running game, opening the hole for Michel’s touchdown run. And he caught his first NFL pass, which just happened to go for a 38-yard TD.

Wide Receivers: C-

The Dolphins bracketed Julian Edelman all game long and dared the Patriots to beat them elsewhere. Edelman, hobbled by shoulder and knee issues, hasn’t been 100 percent for quite some time. On Sunday he was held to just three catches for 26 yards.

Phillip Dorsett and Mohamad Sanu once again failed to pickup the slack. Sanu had just three catches for 35 yards, that 2nd round draft pick trade is looking worse and worse. Dorsett meanwhile had just one catch a 50-yard bomb from Brady where he did do a nice job of tracking the ball and kept going for some yards after the catch. But that was it, and it isn’t enough. 

N’Keal Harry had three catches for 29 yards on seven targets. Brady’s two touchdowns came on passes to Roberts (38 yards) and to James White on a nicely designed screen pass for 11 yards with a great block by Shaq Mason. 

Tight Ends: C-

Are we seeing a trend here on the Patriots skill position players? Matt LaCosse has been much, much better in the run blocking department lately, helping to open some holes for the backs to get to the second level. But with Miami’s linebackers cheating up and blitzing inside in the running game, we kept waiting for the Patriots to attack the seams and make them pay… nothing materialized and LaCosse didn’t have a catch 

But he wasn’t alone. Ben Watson had just one catch for four yards. This was a disappointing end to what was a disappointing regular season for the tight ends. 

Offensive Line: B+

The offensive line play was not the reason for the team losing on Sunday, they opened holes for the running backs to run for 135 yards and if the defense had played their normally stellar game, then they’d have run for a lot more. Shaq Mason and Joe Thuney were both excellent.

The pass protection for nearly the entire game was terrific, giving Brady oodles of time to throw and look downfield. The only sack given up was by Marcus Cannon on a nice speed rush move by Trent “Toolbox” Harris who may look familiar to Patriots fans. He spent the last two training camps here and was a member of the practice squad in 2018.                  

 Defensive Line: B

The defensive line once again played very solidly against the run, which wasn’t a big surprise as the Dolphins entered the game as the worst running team in the league averaging just 72.9 yards per game. They only managed 63 here, but their running backs had a combined 37 yards on 16 carries. Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton were solid as usual. 

The defensive ends set the edge well but didn’t generate a lot of pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Linebackers: B-

The linebackers had some issues with wrapping up and missing tackles which was a small issue but in what has become a concerning trend, the pass rush, while getting pressure has been just short of getting home. Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, and Dont’a Hightower was getting plenty of pressure on Fitzpatrick, but those big drive ending sacks or QB hits resulting in turnovers haven’t been there. 

Collins had one of their only two sacks and a QB hit, where they generated only four. They are going to need those players to step un next week.  

Secondary: D

The Patriots secondary had, by far, their worst game of the season. Stephon Gilmore had his worst game as a Patriot since perhaps his first month here. DeVante Parker clearly won the matchup against the Patriots top corner as no one has done yet. Parker had eight catches for 137 yards with the vast majority coming against Gilmore.

But Gilmore wasn’t alone, J.C. Jackson allowed six receptions while Jonathan Jones still hobbled by a bad groin allowed five catches on five targets. Mike Gesicki got the better of Pat Chung most of the game and beat him for the game-winning touchdown. 

Special Teams: B

The Special Teams had a solid game on Sunday. Brandon Bolden ripped off his longest return of the season for 38 yards which set the team up with excellent field position for a change. Nate Ebner had a couple of good tackles in coverage while Matthew Slater remains the gold standard for gunners in the league. Nick Folk converted all three extra points and his only field goal attempt. A good day for Joe Judge’s troops 

Coaches: C-

The Patriots coaching staff, and it begins with Bill Belichick had some head-scratching moments this week. After preaching like they were treating this as a playoff game, the Patriots came out flat and it was Miami who looked like it was playing for a playoff bye. And the end of the first half time management looked like the team was playing not to lose (Marty ball?) which isn’t the way the Patriots have performed under Belichick.

Defensively, the Belichicks (plural) were taken to school to Chad O’Shea, who, interestingly enough was fired after the game. They never found a way to counter what Miami was doing or to stop them…And that isn’t a great offense at all. 

Offensively, despite all the hand-wringing over Josh McDaniels play calling, this offense is very flawed, especially at wide receiver and while he may have waited a bit too long to adjust the power running game, he’s working with a short deck. 

We’re on to Tennessee and the Wild Card game… 

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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.

 

Dolphins Slam the Door on a Patriots Bye and Any Possible SB

Steve Balestrieri
December 29, 2019 at 8:36 pm ET

You can put a fork in ‘em, folks, because the 2019 version of the Patriots are done. There won’t be no coming together and doing self-scouting this week to get healthy and prepped for a deep playoff run. While they’ll live to play again either next Saturday or Sunday, this season is on life support and any hopes of playing in Miami in February are a pipe dream at this point. 

With a chance to clinch the #2 seed and get that all-important bye week against a 4-11 Dolphins team, the Patriots showed no fire and slept walked through the first quarter while their defense, which has been their rock all season was eviscerated by Ryan Fitzpatrick, who sliced and diced, scattered, covered and smothered them like homes fries at Waffle House. 

Although the Patriots took the lead with five and a half minutes to go, there was no feeling that they were going to close this one out as they’d done so many times this season. Fitzpatrick picked them apart worse than any QB had done all season long. And he methodically went down the field, (like Brady) and calmly sliced a pass to Mike Gesicki from 5-yards out with just 24 ticks left on the clock. 27-24 Dolphins. Thanks for coming, place your seats in the upright position and please be kind on Route 1. 

Last year, the Dolphins won on a fluke, a freak play that never should have had any success. This year, there was no fluke. Fitzpatrick turned into Fitzmagic, as we said in our pregame, he’s fully capable of doing. When the Patriots played zone, he picked them apart and when they played man coverage, his wide receivers totally dominated on the field. 

Fitzpatrick finished the day 28 of 41 for 320 yards and a touchdown, nearly double what the Patriots had been allowing through 15 weeks. The Dolphins got 26 first downs, 19 through the air. Stephon Gilmore had, arguably his worst game in a Patriot uniform and it couldn’t have come at a worse time. 

DeVante Parker totally dominated his matchup with Gilmore this afternoon, something no one has done in three years. Parker had eight catches for 137 yards on 11 targets and was once again Fitzpatrick’s favorite target. 

If there was any team that needed the bye it is this one. Julian Edelman has been hobbled by a myriad of injuries all season and the while he’s been out there giving his all, right now he’s a shell of his normal self. 

Brady has been dealing with an elbow issue and he was wearing different cleats today, which means he maybe has an ankle issue going on? Mohamad Sanu has been dealing with an ankle issue, the offensive has been banged up….we could go on and on. 

The Patriots needed this bye week, we’ve seen their history. Playing on Wildcard Weekend in the Belichick era they are 3-3. And if this team wins next weekend against Tennessee, they’d have to go on the road to Kansas City and Baltimore to make the Super Bowl. Anyone think this team can go to both and win a big road playoff game? Anyone? Bueller….Bueller? 

The blame can’t go to the offensive line today, once again the running game showed signs of life and despite getting away from it, they ran the ball for 135 yards and averaged 5.0 yards per rushing attempt. Sony Michel led the way with 74 yards on 18 carries. Rex Burkhead had 48 yards on 6 carries (8.0 yards per rushing attempt.

And the OL gave Brady plenty of time to throw, but for much of the game, he was way off target. Brady also threw an awful pick-six between Edelman and Michel and it was difficult to tell who the pass was intended for. Eric Rowe was stuck right between both, not sure who to cover. Brady’s pass went right to him. 

Michel and Burkhead were bright spots on the offense, as was Elandon Roberts. He caught a 38-yard touchdown when no one followed him out in the pattern. He made a nice catch from Brady and then raced down the sideline for a score. Brady’s other touchdown pass went to James White on a very well developed screen pass with a great block downfield by Shaq Mason. 

The coaches didn’t get the players ready to go today, despite proclaiming all week that this was a playoff game for them…let’s hope this isn’t what to expect in a playoff game because that effort and the gameplan was not good…at all. 

And in a move right out of the Andy Reid school of clock management, another head-scratcher. After stopping the Dolphins at the end of the first half with about 1:42 to go and three timeouts in the pocket, the coaches decided to let the clock run out and hand the ball off to Michel. In a tie game that your team needs for a playoff bye. Head-scratcher. 

So Tennessee is coming here next weekend after the Patriots blew a prime opportunity to get themselves in the bye week. And the worst part of this? They could actually face a short week if they are slated for Saturday. This was an ugly finish to the most dominant decade in NFL history. This is the kind of loss that can stick with a team, it isn’t just going to be business as usual this week. 

C-ya next weekend in Foxboro…just don’t be booking any flights to Kansas City just yet. 

New England Patriots News 12-29, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 12-29 and AFC East notes this week. 

With the Patriots wrapping up their 11th straight AFC East title last week, they still have some work to do in the regular season and with a win today against Miami, they clinch the #2 seed and a bye for the first round of the playoffs. 

It has been a long series dominated by the home teams so it bodes well for a Patriots victory today. The team has stated that they’re treating it like a playoff game. So there’s that.. 

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

Tre’Davious White – The Bills talented cornerback took exception to Tom Brady block that helped spring N’Keal Harry for an 18-yard run last week. “Chill Tom, we all know if I hit you, I’ll get fined and suspended not vice versa.” Which led us to one of the bigger myths about Tom Brady, that he is protected by the refs and “gets all the calls.” 

A great tidbit this week on Twitter from Tucker Boynton that is worth passing along, not that the legion of Brady detractors will pay attention. “In 2019 there were 140 unnecessary roughness penalties, and 127 roughing the QB calls. Tom Brady didn’t receive one of those.”

Chandler Jones – The former Patriots defensive end has a shot of breaking Michael Strahan’s record for sacks today and we all here wish him the best in that pursuit. Having met him at Gillette a few years ago, Jones was personable as well as a talented pass rusher. But like everything else around here, there has been a lot of revisionist history surrounding Jones. 

The Patriots weren’t going to pay him $82.5 million, and as much as I liked Jones, the defense hasn’t missed a beat, going to three straight Super Bowls, winning two. This season, the team can win their 13th game of the season. What Jones is earning this year, the Patriots are paying five of their defenders. And his stellar play rushing the QB (notice we didn’t say setting the edge), hasn’t transformed the Cardinals defense one bit. 

And without the trade, they’d be no Joe Thuney who has been one of the best guards in football the past three years. It has been a trade that was a win-win. The Patriots got talent that took them to three straight Super Bowls, and Jones got his mammoth payday.

NFL Investigators – The league is supposedly growing frustrated with their inability to pin their investigation of the Patriots filming of Cincinnati’s sidelines from the film crew to the Patriots football operations. They’ve confiscated numerous devices and can’t find the smoking gun that links the two entities…

Frustrated? Wow, I always thought that an investigation was supposed to find the truth, not just to reinforce a theory of wrongdoing. But as we saw with Tom Brady with the asinine “more probable than not”, that never stopped Park Avenue. I would imagine this thorough “investigation” will finish sometime next week or the week after…timing is everything.

Navy Bowl Game: The Navy was stuck without a flight to their bowl game in the Auto Zone Liberty Bowl. They generally fly Southwest Air to their away games but the airline had no planes available at the last minute during the Christmas holiday. Robert Kraft and the Patriots stepped up and the Midshipmen flew in style. 

Navy’s football team arriving for their bowl game in the Patriots aircraft

4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, Please do check it out.  

Farewell 2010s, A Decade of Dominance: 

With the game today, this will be the Patriots’ final game of the decade. The first playoff game will begin the 2020s decade. It will be hard for the team to match what the past decade has brought. 

The Patriots, with a win today will end up the decade with an incredible record of 126-34. The next closest team is the Steelers who currently sit at 102-56-1, far behind them. If you factor in the postseason, the Patriots in the 2010s are an amazing 142-40.

Of course, when the talk of New England comes up, we always hear about the AFC East. Well, at home against the AFC East, the Patriots are 27-2, which would lend some credence to that…right? Well, against the rest of the AFC at home, the Patriots are 28-2. Hmm, how about ‘dem apples?’ 

The best record in any decade used to belong to the Dallas Cowboys of the 1970s, who went 119-46. Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the team have smashed that. 

NFL Top 100, Fascinating, Must Watch Television:

If you haven’t watched the NFL Network’s Top 100, then you’re really missing out. And for Patriots fans, seeing Bill Belichick talking history of the NFL is like manna from heaven. 

Tom Brady joined Belichick, Rich Eisen, and Cris Collinsworth and the back and forth with the coach was something that we’ve never had many opportunities to see. It had a little bit of everything. Brady spoke his friendship with Peyton Manning and how the two spent a few weeks during the offseason together and how he (Brady) copied some of the Colts’ play calls and how much it factored into Rob Gronkowski’s success. 

Brady and Belichick had a great moment when he said after the first Super Bowl win, the two shared a limo ride together and Belichick in perfect Bill-speak said to him,  “Tom, just wanted to let you know you had a pretty good year.”

But Belichick also added a great moment telling Eisen when he believed that Brady was going to be special, and it wasn’t in a game, but in practice before Brady had even began to play. 

Forget about the lists, like any other list, or poll, it is just an exercise to get people talking and discussing the game. People get too hung up over who is on the list and who isn’t. It is just an opinion folks. Tune in and enjoy some great football talk. 

 

Players to Watch Today:

The Patriots put a bow on the 2019 regular season today and here are our Patriots players to watch for the game. 

Sony Michel – The Pats 2nd-year running back has had a frustrating season but the last two weeks have seen him beginning to turn it on. His 96 yards last week against the Bills were a season-high. Now facing the Dolphins 27th ranked run defense, he has the opportunity to hit the playoffs on a three-week highpoint. 

 With LB/FB Elandon Roberts leading the way, we expect Michel and the running game, in general, to have a big afternoon running the ball today. 

Stephon Gillmore – The Patriots top cornerback will be going against DeVante Parker who is having a career season this year. Parker is the Dolphins’ go-to guy this year and naturally, Gilmore will be assigned to guard him closely.

This should be a great matchup to watch this afternoon. The Patriots have done a good job on Parker in the past, but every week is a new game. 

Tom Brady – Brady had arguably his best game of the season last Saturday against the Bills #3 ranked defense. Spreading the ball around to nine different receivers, completing almost 80 percent of his passes, Brady looked as good as he has all year.

Going against Miami’s 28th ranked pass defense, it should be another big game for Brady and he wants to get the offense and himself in the best possible position before the playoffs begin…Today he’ll be focused and ready to do just that.

Jamie Collins, Kyle Van Noy, Dont’a Hightower – The Boogeymen are collectively facing a team with the worst running game (72.9 yards per game) in the NFL. That means there should be plenty of opportunity to rush the QB against a team that has allowed 56 sacks in 2019. We expect that number to rise today. 

I expect the Patriots to get after Ryan Fitzpatrick early and often this afternoon and the trio of linebackers should be disruptive and active in the Dolphins backfield. 

NFL Schedule Week 17, Who Are Your Winners:

How are you feeling about the games this week? We have a post on our PatsFans Forum where our readers can predict the slate of games for that week. I did it on our weekly Sunday column here and will post it up below. Here is the link if you’d care to pick your own: https://www.patsfans.com/new-england-patriots/messageboard/picks/

Last Week: 13-3
Season:154-85-1
Cleveland over Cincinnati
New England over Miami
Minnesota over Chicago
Kansas City over LA Chargers
Buffalo over NY Jets
Green Bay over Detroit
New Orleans over Carolina
Tampa Bay over Atlanta
Philadelphia over NY Giants
Houston over Tennessee
Dallas over Washington
Baltimore over Pittsburgh
Indianapolis over Jacksonville
Oakland over Denver
LA Rams over Arizona
SNF San Francisco over Seattle

Bye week: No teams

Sorry due to the Christmas holiday break, there will be no AFC East notes this week, they’ll be back soon…

________________

Yeah, I don’t think you really know a player until you spend a lot of time with him, day-in and day-out, where you really see what that player and what that person is like. We knew some things about him from Buffalo, but it’s not the same when you spend every day with a player, so we know a lot more about him now. He’s, again, very professional and impressive. He puts a lot into it, he puts a lot into his training, he puts a lot into his preparation and I think everybody has a tremendous amount of respect for him in part because of that..” Bill Belichick on the preparation of Stephon Gilmore and his work ethic since coming to New England. 

________________

“So, how was your week?”

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

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

Patriots-Dolphins Week 17, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
December 27, 2019 at 7:30 am ET

The Patriots can wrap up the 2nd seed of the 2019 AFC Playoffs with a win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium. A win or a loss or tie by the Kansas City Chiefs will mean the Patriots are the #2 seed and earn an all-important bye during Wild Card Weekend next weekend.    

Miami is just playing out the season and is in full rebuilding mode. However, they’ve played much better in the second half of the season.  After starting 0-7, the Dolphins are 4-3 in their last seven games. 

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Greg Gumbel will handle play-by-play duties with Trent Green as the color analyst. Melanie Collins 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 (12-3) beat the Buffalo Bills 24-17 to clinch their 11th division title in a row. Tom Brady had his best game in several weeks, while the running game got 143 yards keeping the offense balanced.

The Dolphins (4-11) beat the Cincinnati Bengals 38-35 in overtime. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 419 yards and four touchdowns.

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 Dolphins have been playing each other twice a year since 1966 when Miami entered the league. The Dolphins lead the all-time series 55-53 which includes 3 games in the postseason, where the Patriots lead 2-1. This series has been dominated by the home team. Miami is 38-17 at home while the Patriots are 35-17 in Foxboro. 

The teams split the series last season. In Week 2 in Miami, the Patriots shut them out 43-0, which happened to be the only game that Antonio Brown suited up for the Patriots this season.  

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 shined for the second week in a row, and against a much tougher defense in Buffalo running for 143 yards. Sony Michel had the most productive game of his own going for 96 yards on 21 carries. Rex Burkhead scored the game-winning touchdown, breaking two tackles on his way to the end zone.

Miami’s run defense is not good this season. The Dolphins have had equal difficulties stopping the run or the pass. Currently, the Dolphins are 27th against the run, allowing 135.4 yards per game. 

Look for the Patriots to continue to accentuate the run with Michel this week. The Dolphins linebackers have been hit hard by injury this year. Michel and Burkhead should both see a lot of work in this game. With the offensive line play improving, the Patriots should be able to dictate the pace here and open up play-action passing.          

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

The Patriots passing game looked better than they have in months against the Bills. Tom Brady completed nearly 80 percent of his passes and threw for 271 yards. He spread the ball around to nine different players. WIth better pass protection, he looked laser-sharp and just what they need heading into the playoffs.

Miami’s pass defense is 28th in the league this season, allowing over 265 yards per game. They’re missing their best corner, Xavien Howard and have a former Patriots (Jomal Wiltz, Eric Rowe) and a rookie Nik Needham in the secondary. Miami has only generated 22 sacks this season.

Look for Brady to have another solid game and continue to spread the ball around. Julian Edelman is banged up but will no doubt play. Mohamad Sanu has been disappointing but has made noise this week that says he’s feeling better and is ready to be more of a factor. James White and Burkhead out of the backfield should both factor in the passing game. 

Next up the Dolphins offense:

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

The Patriots run defense with Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton have continued to trend upward and they both have been playing excellent football this season. The linebackers are very good at shooting the gaps and stuffing the opponent’s running game, and putting them in must-pass situations. 

Miami’s running game is dead last in the NFL averaging just 72.9 yards per game. The leading rusher for the Dolphins is their journeyman 37-year old QB Fitzpatrick. Nuff said.

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

The Miami passing game with Ryan Fitzpatrick has been a fairly good bright spot this year. As always, Fitzpatrick can get hot and absolutely tear up opposing defenses. But just as fast he can begin turning the ball over as well. He’s thrown 19 touchdowns but 13 interceptions as well. 

Turnovers are what hurts the offense. Fitzpatrick has good weapons to work with DeVante Parker is having an excellent year with 64 catches, 1065 yards, and 9 TDs. Tight end Mike Gesicki has 47 catches and is improving every week. Alan Hurns and Albert Wilson round out the receiver core. 

Stephon Gilmore should be matched up with Parker and that battle should be a good one to watch. I’m looking for the Patriots to get after Fitzpatrick, Miami has allowed 56 sacks this season to force him into being the latter of the two scenarios this week. 

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots special teams give them a whitewash of the key matchups this week. The coverage units have been outstanding and they’ve blocked four punts this season. Jake Bailey is having a terrific rookie season and Nick Folk has solidified the kicking with extra points and field goals. 

Miami has Jason Sanders who has done a good job in the kicking department. Matt Hauck is the punter. Their return game should be held in check this week. Look for the Patriots to go after another punt this week.  

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

The Patriots and Tom Brady have enjoyed excellent success against Miami at home (In Miami is another story) and are looking to continue that trend. Bill Belichick has stated that last week and this week are essentially playoff games. They need this win to get a playoff bye. Miami has played hard all season for Brian Flores but they’re playing only for pride …and jobs next season.  

Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:

Keep the Running Game Going – The Patriots will attempt to run the ball against a Dolphins defense that has struggled to stop it all season long. The offensive line has played much better the past two weeks and will be looking to make that trend continue. 

Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, and James White should all see some snaps in the running game. Also, look for N’Keal Harry to get another shot at a Jet Sweep this week. 

Brady to Spread the Ball Around – With the running game gaining momentum, this opens up play-action passing and look for them to work the middle of the field as well as the perimeters this week. Last week Brady used nine receivers in the passing game and it kept a very good Bills defense off-balance. Look for him to get everyone involved again and spread the wealth. 

Get After Fitzy And Force Some Turnovers – The defense didn’t get any turnovers against the Bills, but as we stated above, that is the big problem with Miami’s offense. On the season the Dolphins are -12 in the turnover department while the Patriots are +25. If the pass rush can get home, they can force Fitzpatrick into making a few errant throws that have been the bane of his career. 

__________

This is a game the Patriots should win easily. They are playing for a bye week while Miami is just playing out the string. While Flores has had the Dolphins playing hard for him all season, a fast start by the Patriots should put them in good position. I look for Brady and the offense to have another big day as New England ends up 13-3 in 2019.  Patriots 31-10

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” tour gets a week off as the Patriots get a bye week and watch the Wild Card Round resting up before a home game for the Divisional Game.

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

 

 Patriots Week 16 Report Card, Offense Reappears In Big Win Over Buffalo

Steve Balestrieri
December 24, 2019 at 7:00 am ET

Patriots Win 11th Straight Division Title

The Patriots all week leading up to this game stated that this was a playoff game, and judging from their preparation, intensity, and production, they totally bought in. They won their 12th game of the season, a hard-fought 24-17 win over the Buffalo Bills which clinched the AFC East for the 11th year in a row and puts them one step away from a playoff bye and the #2 seed. 

We’ll get to the grades for the players in just a moment, but first a word about the coaching staff. In any profession, perhaps the hardest thing to do is assess oneself critically and be able to say that something isn’t working, even if that something was your idea. The ability to self-assess, or in Patriots parlance “self-scout” is something they are head and shoulders above everyone else in the league since Bill Belichick took the reins. 

Everyone says they’re going to “self-scout” and they all will change up their gameplans, and occasionally many teams come up with a brilliant one. But nobody, nobody can morph their teams from one week to the next, depending upon their opponent and put in the time, preparation and commitment than the Patriots have done the past 20 years. 

And the players have to buy in completely or it doesn’t work. How many times have we heard the past 20 years, “well Team A is more talented across the board” and how many times has Team A looked up at the wrong end of the scoreboard at the end of the day. So at the end of the day, when the votes are in for the Coach du jour, Belichick will get no votes but his team will probably win 13 games, while the naysayers will tell us they can’t win it all again. 

So, check out our grades and we’ll take one more look at the game film before putting a bow on this week.

Quarterback: A-

Tom Brady was showing signs of age, decline and his elbow has been bothering him for several weeks. Plus he was facing a team that has increasingly played him tougher and tougher for the past few years and was in the top 3 of most defensive categories. So, how did that work out? Brady had his best game in several weeks, perhaps all season. 

Brady completed 26-33 for 271 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. Completing nearly 79 percent of his passes while averaging 8.2 yards per pass attempt against this Bills defense is outstanding work. 

Brady got everyone involved and mixing things up and hitting nine different receivers kept the Bills defense off-balance all night long. His back-shoulder throw to Matt LaCosse for a touchdown showed perfect touch. This was a vintage Brady performance.  

Running Backs: B+

The Patriots running game followed up their most productive game of the season in Cincinnati with a game that was arguably more impressive considering the opponent. The team rushed for 143 yards against a tough Bills defense and were running physical, getting yards after contact and following the blocking well. 

Sony Michel had his best game of the season rushing 21 times for 96 yards. Rex Burkhead, once again turning it on late in the season, rushed 5 times for 20 yards, including the game-winning touchdown run where he was hit in the backfield and broke two tackles to get into the end zone. 

N’Keal Harry had 18 yards on a reverse, with a lead block by Brady (yes everyone bought in). James White chipped in with 13 yards. Brady picked up a key QB sneak to keep the chains moving. The running backs (Michel, Burkhead, and White) combined for 235 yards rushing and receiving. Solid night? You bet.

Wide Receivers: B-

The Patriots wide receivers led by #11 (Who else?) had a solid night. Julian Edelman was questionable with knee and shoulder issues. Then he missed a few series that nearly took a quarter going through concussion protocol. But he still led all WRs with 5 catches for 72 yards. And maybe the Bills thought that as hobbled as he was, they didn’t need to double him. That assessment was wrong. He was beating coverage consistently and late in the game…was doubled. In a league where all the players are physically tough, Edelman is one of the toughest. 

Burkhead led all Patriot receivers with 77 yards on 4 catches, yes he had a fumble on a good defensive play but more than made up for it. He showed excellent vision and followed his blocks well. Jakobi Meyers came off the bench when Edelman was down and collected 3 passes for 25 yards.

Harry caught two passes for 25 while Mohamad Sanu caught 3 passes for 24. Sanu was again a disappointment. While he may have gotten a poor spot on a third-down pass short of the sticks, he totally whiffed on a block on a 4th and 1 with Harry getting stopped by his man on a play that could have went for a big gain. 

Tight Ends: B-

Matt LaCosse scored his first touchdown of the season on an 8-yard pass from Brady down the seam. He also had his best game in the run blocking department, the offense put him in motion and he did a good job, even lining up in the backfield. His pass protection was much, much better this week. 

Ben Watson had three catches on three targets with two going for first downs. He also had a 33-yard touchdown wiped out on an offensive pass interference call on Edelman. This was a much better day for the tight ends than we’ve seen in a while. 

Offensive Line: A-

The offensive line play was outstanding on Saturday. Buffalo didn’t sack Tom Brady and for the vast majority of the game he played with a clean pocket. They also cleared out big chunks of yardage in the running game. It is amazing what the backs can do when they are not getting hit four yards deep in the backfield. 

Shaq Mason had a very impressive game in the run department, looking like the guy we’re used to seeing blowing people up in the running game. Ted Karras and Joe Thuney were also excellent in the running game. 

Marcus Cannon hurt an ankle and was replaced by swing tackle Marshall Newhouse who played well, he did a good job in the running game but gave up a pair of QB hurries and a hit. But this unit going against the Bills performed as well as one could hope for.                      

 Defensive Line: B+

The defensive line did a tremendous job of bottling up Devin Singletary holding him to just 46 yards on 15 carries (3.1-yard average). And that begins with Lawrence Guy who was outstanding once again. Guy led the team with six tackles, a sack of Josh Allen and two QB hits. Danny Shelton was also solid in the running game. 

John Simon had a QB sack and 1.5 tackles for a loss. Chase Winovich who is looking like Lucius Malfoy these days with his dyed hair more white than blond, was his normal flying around the field self. 

Linebackers: B-

The linebackers were led by Dont’a Hightower with 1.5 sacks and a pass breakup while Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy weren’t as impactful as they can be and normally are. Ja’Whaun Bentley played his very tough, downhill style in the running game. 

Elandon Roberts played about 20 snaps as a fullback and seems to be relishing his role. “Same on defense, same on offense. When a linebacker steps into the hole, Imma run through their motherf***n’ face. Period. That’s all I think about, making my block, running through a motherf***r’s face.” How can one argue with that?

Secondary: B

The Patriots secondary had a good, but not great day against the Bills. While Josh Allen only completed 50 percent of his throws (13 of 26), hit on two long completions, one for a 53-yard touchdown and the other (33 yards to Dawson Knox) set up a 1-yard touchdown pass on a tackle eligible play. 

Stephon Gilmore got beat on a double move by John Brown and moved to the right. Brown cut left and safety Devin McCourty got caught peeking in the backfield at the pass rush and Brown then blew right by him too. However, it was his only catch of the game. Knox only caught the one big pass over Pat Chung, but was open on a couple of others but was overthrown. 

Cole Beasley caught 7 passes for 108 yards out of the slot and was finding excellent success all game long. The Patriots missed Jonathan Jones who was out with a groin injury. 

Special Teams: B

The Special Teams were led by Nick Folk on Saturday. Folk hit a 51-yarder to give the team the lead and was 3-3 on field goals for the day. You don’t have to hold your breath on kicks for the first time in a while this season. The return game was forgettable and the coverage units were okay but not their usual shutdown selves. Jake Bailey punted twice averaging 46.5 yards but didn’t drop either inside the 20.  

Coaches: A

The Patriots coaching staff gets excellent marks this week. And it begins with Josh McDaniels. McDaniels was extremely creative of trying to get everyone involved in the offense this week and used so many different looks and formations, there were times he had the Buffalo defense thoroughly confused. That doesn’t happen very often. With his play-calling, they were able to put together those long drives in the death-by-1000 cuts mold. 

Defensively, they had Allen very confused early in the game but give the 2nd year QB credit, he made a few outstanding throws and hung in there. But with the Bills driving late in the game, they brought pressure and got a sack and forced a throw off his back foot to get an incompletion in the end zone to salt the game away.  

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.

 

New England Patriots News 12-22, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
December 22, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 12-22 and AFC East notes this week. 

With the Patriots playing in the rare Saturday game this week, it kind of throws everything off as we’re used to having Sundays as our normal game day. But Saturday this week it was…and it turned into a playoff game atmosphere with the Patriots beating the Buffalo Bills and winning their 11th straight AFC East Championship.

The players all got hats and t-shirts which read, “The East is Not Enough” 

We would like to wish all of our readers an early Merry Christmas and hope your holiday, however you choose to observe it, is a happy and healthy one.

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

Julian Edelman – The Patriots often outspoken wide receiver was asked about the latest controversy surrounding the team, the filming of the Bengals sideline and he didn’t disappoint. He told Andrew Callahan of the Boston Herald, “Yeah, that’s pretty much a joke,” Edelman said. “We haven’t even thought about it, honestly. We’ve been thinking about other things. It’s funny, but it is what it is. I don’t know, it’s ridiculous. My focus is on the Buffalo Bills.”

Jumbo Elliott – The former Giants player gets one of the Tweet of the Week mentions. Seeing Rex Ryan, pooh-poohing the latest Patriots faux scandal, Elliott tweeted out, “Had to laugh. Saw Rex Ryan commenting on Patriots filming Bengals sideline. So when his dad was Eagles coach I recall certain sons filming Giants practice from hotel off route 3 in N.J.  LMAO!!”

In a follow-up Tweet he posted, “I think it was 89 or 90.  Believe coach had state troopers go to the hotel and roust them.  We were running stuff we’d never call in a game. LOL”

Joe Mixon – The Bengals star running back was effusive in his respect for Tom Brady after the game last week and mentioned that he was going to ask #12 for a jersey but was too embarrassed. Brady heard about the comments and sent Mixon a jersey and a note that touched Mixon. 

He took to Instagram and posted that he’d be paying it forward. “Man I say this in the most humbled way I’m so Blessed to be playing this game in the @nfl and Super Thankful for the G.O.AT. @tombrady Best Christmas gift ever especially growing up not ever having nothing. Made a young kid from The Bay year. Later on Today I’m headed down to the boys and girls club today to give the gift forward today with my own jerseys,”

Netflix – The video giant released a trailer about former Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez that will air as a three-part docuseries (The Killer Inside) on the NFL player turned murderer. In a phone call that was recorded while in prison, Hernadez had the following conversation.

“My whole body’s shaking right now,” Hernandez said.
“What happened?” a woman on the other end of the call asks.
“You know my temper,” Hernandez answers…

4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, Please do check it out. 

Pro Bowl – I’ve never been a fan of the game (watched only one) or the voting, which is a joke. But many of the players have large amounts of money tied up in it because of bonuses if they are selected so I totally understand some of their angst. 

One member of the Patriots secondary gets a nod while another team, that didn’t have close to the season that they had defensively gets three? LOL Yep, it is a joke, which is why I’m glad that I don’t partake in any way. 

Keep “Wrighting” Off Brady at Your Own Peril: 

Every year like clockwork, the talk is always that “this could be it for Brady and the Patriots” and they begin throwing dirt on them long before the fat lady sings. This season has been a big struggle, offensive line issues, a revolving door of wide receivers, drops, injuries …you name it. Some of the talking heads can’t help but rub their hands with glee at every perceived slipup. 

But all week, it was the Patriots and not the Bills who played this one up as a playoff matchup and Buffalo’s very tough defense found out that playoff Brady is a different animal than the regular season one. You’d think that after 20 years, people would catch on the same film we’ve seen time and again. 

Brady channeled his best game of the season into a come-from-behind win on Saturday night. The best in the game always shine the brightest under the glare of the biggest lights in the biggest games. This was a big game and Brady looked laser-focused. 

He didn’t look anything like the guy who has struggled this season and the offense, against the #3 defense in the NFL was able to generate over 400 yards of offense. Someone wrote this week that he (Brady) looked like he doesn’t enjoy football anymore. 

Then we watched him throw a lead block on N’Keal Harry’s 18-yard run. Run a QB sneak for a 1st down and hook up with Edelman for a 30-yard gain on his first snap from scrimmage after missing about a quarter, going through concussion protocol.   

NFL Schedule Week 16, Who Are Your Winners:

How are you feeling about the games this week? We have a post on our PatsFans Forum where our readers can predict the slate of games for that week. I did it on our weekly Sunday column here and will post it up below. Here is the link if you’d care to pick your own: https://www.patsfans.com/new-england-patriots/messageboard/picks/

Last Week: 10-6
Season:141-82-1

Saturday Football –
Houston over Tampa
New England over Buffalo
San Francisco over LARams

Sunday
Pittsburgh over NYJets
New Orleans over Tennessee
Indianapolis over Carolina
Miami over Cincinnati
Baltimore over Cleveland
Atlanta over Jacksonville
NYGiants over Washington
Denver over Detroit
Oakland over LA Chargers
Seattle over Arizona
SNF Kansas City over Chicago
MNF Minnesota over Green Bay

Bye week: No teams

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Are Closing But Not Quite There Yet:

The Buffalo Bills had a legitimate shot at taking down the Patriots on Saturday although even with a win, the chances of them winning the division were rather remote as that would entail the Dolphins winning next week in Foxboro. But the Bills gave New England all they could handle and have narrowed the gap considerably. 

But in the end, they came oh-so-close but not close enough as they fell to 3-32 against Tom Brady. One thing is for sure, as the #5 seed in the playoffs, they are going to be a tough out to whomever they play (KC or Houston). 

Sean McDermott maybe is just 0-6 against Belichick, Brady and the Patriots, but the difference between now and a few years ago seems like light years ago. The division is going to be interesting from here on.  

Dolphins Gesicki Having Good 2nd Year, Working With Fitz:

The Miami Dolphins have been rebuilding in 2019 and cut loose many of the players they invested heavily in. But one of the players they kept and is paying dividends is TE Mike Geskicki. The 6’6, 250-pound tight end was used as more of an in-line blocking tight end in his rookie season by Adam Gase. But under Chad O’Shea, he’s lining up more as a “move” tight end and his production has doubled. 

He caught 22 passes in his rookie campaign and with two games to go against Cincinnati today and the Patriots next week, he has caught 41 for 454 yards and two scores. Not earth-shattering numbers but good enough for sixth in the AFC. 

Gesicki has loved playing with veteran QB Ryan Fitzpatrick this season.  “He’s one of the best teammates I’ve been around, so it’s super easy to get along with him and play with him. It’s been great,” Gesicki said.

“He has great anticipation. He knows when things are going to happen before they happen. He obviously has a ton of experience, so to be able to play with him has been great for me and helped me get better.”

Jets Bell Will Face the Steelers for the 1st Time Today:

The New York Jets are playing out the season and will today face the Pittsburgh Steelers who currently hold the #6 seed in the AFC playoff picture. But for Le’Veon Bell, he’ll be facing his former team for the first time. 

Bell has had a down season, but that speaks more to what he has as an offensive line this season compared to what he had with the Steelers, rather than speaking to a loss of talent (Sony Michel bashers take note). Bell expects a ton of Steelers fans at MetLife Stadium today but isn’t sure what kind of reception he’ll get. 

 “I don’t know, honestly,” Bell said. “I think it will probably be 50/50. I think there will be half that will be happy to see me and still love me and half that hate me and despise me. It is what it is. I’m going to show love regardless. Everybody that’s wearing my jersey I’m going to go sign it and things like that. It’s going to be fun.”

“People look at the stats and they just go off of the stats,” Bell said. “I think people who understand football and break down the film and really watch it, they know exactly what’s going on and what type of player I am and how I’ve been performing,” he added. 

“Stats don’t really show how well I’ve been playing. Regardless of stats, I don’t really care what people think. I’ve been playing very good football and I’m continuing to get better. I’m smarter, learning a lot more as I continue to play. I’m healthy and I feel good in Week 16. I’m happy where I am.”

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Absolutely, yeah. Absolutely. That’s what we’re here for. Yep. You work all year to put yourself in a position to play in a game like this where you can win the division. So, you couldn’t say that in Week 4, or Week 6, or Week 8 – whatever it was. Well, we’re saying that now, so now is the time for us to play and coach our best football. That’s what we’re all here for.” Bill Belichick on treating this week’s game like a playoff matchup. 

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“So, how was your week?”

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

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

 

“The East is Not Enough” – Patriots Hold Off Bills 24-17

Steve Balestrieri
December 21, 2019 at 9:50 pm ET

Do you want a playoff atmosphere? You had it in spades today. The Patriots and Bills had a tremendous game with back and forth action and clutch plays by each team. But in the end, the Patriots made a few more plays than Buffalo did and scored 11 unanswered 4th quarter points for a come-from-behind 24-17 victory at Gillette Stadium on Saturday afternoon. 

This win gives the Patriots an unprecedented 11th straight division crown. And a win next week assures them of no worse than the #2 seed and a bye in the playoffs. But it wasn’t easy or always pretty. But this is a mentally tough team and they never quit. 

Down 17-13 in the 4th quarter, they relied on Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, and Rex Burkhead who must love the cold weather because the past two seasons, he’s turned it up a notch in big games. Today was no exception. Down 17-16, Burkhead had a tremendous effort, breaking a tackle by Lorenzo Alexander in the backfield and keeping his feet and powered into the endzone with 5:06 remaining in the game and giving the Patriots the lead. They capped it off with a two-point conversion from Brady to Edelman to make it 24-17.

Edelman was out for a while, getting checked for a concussion. It happened on a play where Edelman got flagged for offensive pass interference that wiped out a 33-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Ben Watson. We’re not going to get into the call or another on Watson that wiped out a huge first down by James White…

But after an impressive Bills drive got them with a first and goal with just under two minutes to go, the defense stiffened and made some huge stops when they had to. So, when the Patriots got into the locker room they had their hats and t-shirts for the division title, their 11th in a row. The message on the shirt, “The East is Not Enough”, and rightfully so. If they play like this, they can beat anyone. 

As we’ve been saying all year, this Buffalo team is tough, with a legit defense and they aren’t going away. They’ll be a tough out during the postseason. 

Some of our observations include:

The Patriots offense rolled up over 400 yards of offense against an outstanding defense of the Bills. And they had the balance they always seek with 271 yards through the air and 143 tough yards on the ground. While they struggled in the red zone again, this kind of offensive output has to be a sight for sore eyes. 

Tom Brady had his best game in quite a while. He looked spot on today and delivered the ball extremely well. Brady completed 26-33 for 271 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions for a QB rating of 111. Maybe that sand in the hourglass isn’t quite ready to run out just yet? Hmm?

Burkhead, as we mentioned above, had a heckuva game, he carried the ball 5 times for 20 yards and a touchdown and had 4 catches for 77 yards, shaking off an early fumble on the Patriots first possession. We pointed out in our keys that the way to beating the Bills defense was to get the running backs involved in the passing game. So with that…

Josh McDaniels gets a game ball. He called a tremendous game and they kept the Bills defense guessing all game long and they kept the tempo and pace in their own favor. McDaniels has had to be very creative with the offense struggling and he definitely was again today. 

Brian Daboll was equally creative for Buffalo. From the tackle eligible touchdown pass play to others, he was able to keep the Bills right on top through the 3rd quarter. This offense is going to get it together…it is easy to see it coming. 

Sony Michel had his best game of the season rushing for 96 yards on 21 carries with a 4.9-yard average. He frequently was making yardage after contact and kept his legs moving. 

The offensive line was outstanding, getting off the ball to rush for 143 yards on a very tough Bills defense and doing a much, much better job in pass protection allowing Brady to throw from a clean pocket for most of the game. 

The Patriots defense played tough when they had to, holding Josh Allen to just 176 yards net passing but gave up two big plays, a 33-yard strike from Allen to Dawson Knox just before the half, and a 53-yard touchdown pass from Allen to John Brown. 

Brown beat Stephon Gilmore with a double move but he passed him off inside to Devin McCourty. McCourty got caught peeking in the backfield at the pass rush and under heavy pressure, Allen delivered another strike. Brown scored easily. 

Cole Beasley had another big day, catching 7 passes for 108 yards out of the slot. Beasley has a habit of finding the open spots in the coverage and delivering. He’s a tough matchup and going back to the spring, I for one was hoping the Patriots would show some interest in picking him up. 

Nick Folk was 3-3 on field goal attempts including a 51-yarder that went right down the middle. It is nice to see the Patriots kicking game getting some traction. 

The defense did a great job of limiting Devin Singletary today. He averaged only 3.1 yards per rushing attempt (15 attempts, 46 yards) and just one catch for 2 yards. Meanwhile, Burkhead, White, and Michel combined for 9 catches, 106 yards. 

So the Patriots won their 12th game this season, the 12th time they’ve done so since the 1970 merger. They are now tied with the San Francisco 49ers with the most 12 win seasons since the merger. 

And the good news is, they are beginning to look playoff ready. With a win over Miami next Sunday in Foxboro, they’ll be 13-3 and getting that all-important bye week off to allow some of their banged-up players to get some much-needed rest. 

 

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

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