Tag Archives: James White

Players To Watch Patriots-Vikings Week 13

Steve Balestrieri
November 30, 2018 at 1:00 pm ET

Big Game For Both Teams

The New England Patriots return home after a few games on the road and the bye week to take on the Minnesota Vikings in a late afternoon game that will be televised by Fox.

This is a very big game for both teams this week. The Patriots traditionally try to turn things up a notch in December and get ready for a deep playoff push. They are currently the #2 seed and still have a shot at being the #1 with a first-round bye.

The Vikings are currently the #5 seed with a shot at still winning their division with the Bears although they trail by a game and half with still one against each other still in play.

So, from a Patriots perspective, here are our Players to Watch on Sunday:

Rex Burkhead:

The Patriots versatile but injury-prone running back returns this week and the feeling here is that he may be eased back into things slowly. With Sony Michel playing excellent football right now, there is no need for the Patriots to overwork Burkhead right off the bat, as he hasn’t played since the first half of the Lions game in Week 3.

But one area that the Patriots could use Burkhead and his versatility is in the red zone where they’ve been struggling (for them) this season. The Patriots sit at a 63 percent touchdown rate in the red zone which is 13th in the league. Not bad, but much lower than they always are. Burkhead could change that. James White is an excellent receiver but just so-so as a runner. Sony Michel is having an excellent season running the ball but has yet to be fully integrated into the passing game. The team is a bit one-dimensional with those players in the game.

Burkhead is more than capable of running the ball between the tackles and catching it out of the backfield. He’s also a very good blocker in pass protection. With him having a smaller workload in his first game back, we could still see Josh McDaniels having a plan to utilize him in the red zone.

Trey Flowers:

The Patriots best player on their front seven and arguably on their defense is going to be looked to provide a bulk of the Patriots pass rush this week. With the weapons that the Vikings have on their offense, it is imperative that the Patriots bring pressure on Kirk Cousins before his talented wide receivers (Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs) shake loose in the secondary.

The Patriots pass rush this year (and for several of the past years) has been largely stuck in neutral. It puts the secondary in the bad position of having to cover for too long. They have addressed the issue with multiple players but thus far it is still a problem.

We’ll look to see if they move Flowers around some and utilize him as an interior pass rusher to get more speed and athleticism on the field. But a lot of eyes will be on the Pats best DL. They will try to attack the right side of the Minnesota offensive line, that is where they’ve been having issues protecting Cousins.

Julien Edelman:

The Patriots slot receiver has been terrific in several of the latest games, he set the tone for the offense last week, getting a 36-yard catch and run on the Patriots first drive of the game. He’ll be going against  MacKensie Alexander this week. Alexander has been terrific over the last month +, allowing a QB rating of just 45 when opposing QBs have targeted him.

Edelman has always been the guy to do the dirty work underneath and frequently takes a terrific beating while doing so. Alexander is a great matchup for Edelman and we expect to see those two battling all day long.

With the excellent pass rush of the Vikings, Tom Brady will be looking to get the ball out quickly. And there is no one who has the chemistry with Brady better than Edelman. We look for him to be targeted early and often in this one.

Pat Chung:

The Pats box safety had an excellent bounce-back game against the Jets last week. This week, the stakes are higher and the opposition is much better. The Vikings are a difficult matchup team for the Patriots defense due to their running back, Dalvin Cook and their tight end Kyle Rudolph, two areas that the Pats have issues defending.

Chung is the team’s best tackler in the box and he’ll have to be strong in run support against Cook while being one of the defenders against Rudolph in the passing game.

One thing we may see more of this week is the Patriots “Big Nickel” look with safeties taking the place of LBs in coverage. We saw just a glimpse of it last week as the Pats broke in newly signed S Obi Melifonwu and with his size and athleticism, he should be a natural at that. That would allow Chung to play closer to the line of scrimmage in the box. It is a chess match every week.

Josh Gordon:

The Patriots big wide receiver has been slowly finding his way in New England, learning on the fly and while he may no longer be the athletic freak he was five years ago, he still has plenty of speed and with his size, opponents have to account for him on every play. With Xavier Rhodes banged up and questionable this week, Gordon may play a big role in the game plan.

But what is really exciting for Gordon is the motivation that comes with playing meaningful football games in December/January. That is a first for him and he told the media this week that he’s excited for it to happen.

“It’s exciting,” he said. “It’s motivational for me and for everybody. I’ve never really got the opportunity before, considering the circumstances. So it’s great to have the opportunity now.”

Gordon told Mike Reiss of ESPN that, “I think there’s a lot more room to expand upon and potential to be reached. It just goes to how much work I put in, and let it manifest itself on the field,” he said. “The most I can do is just stay consistent with my work ethic and the rest will try to work itself out eventually.”

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

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

Patriots-Vikings Week 13, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
at 6:00 am ET

The New England Patriots came off their bye week with a 27-13 win over the Jets in the Meadowlands, a much-needed road win. Now, they’re taking on the Minnesota Vikings who appear to be a much better team than their record indicates at 6-4-1. This is a huge game for both teams.

Minnesota is second in their division, a game and a half behind the Bears who they play one more time on 12/30. But a loss to Chicago a few weeks ago and to the Bills early in the year have really hurt them.

This week’s game will be broadcast by FOX and can be seen locally on WFXT Channel 25. Joe Buck will handle play-by-play duties with Troy Aikman as the color analyst. Erin Andrews 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 (8-3) are coming off of a win over the Jets 27-13 on the road. The offense rolled up nearly 500 yards and Sony Michel gained 133 yards on 21 carries.

The Vikings (6-4-1) beat the Packers 24-17 to keep their divisional hopes alive. Kirk Cousins threw for over 300 yards against the Packers despite being under pressure for most of the game.

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

Series History:

The New England Patriots and Minnesota Vikings are meeting for just the 13th time, they last met in 2014 when Cordarrelle Patterson was a member of the Vikings. The Patriots are 8-4 in their brief history and have won the last four meetings. The last time the two teams met in Foxboro was in 2010 when Brett Favre was QB for Minnesota.

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 Vikings Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Minnesota

The Patriots running game was clicking on Sunday against the Jets as they rolled up 215 yards on the ground. Sony Michel led the way with 133 yards with James White picking up 72. Now they have Rex Burkhead back from IR with concussion/neck injuries. The Pats OL did a tremendous job of clearing out lanes for the backs to run, but this week they have a much tougher task.

The Minnesota front seven is excellent against the run, 4th best in the league allowing an average of just 93.6 yards per game. They’re big, physical and maintain outstanding gap integrity. Linval Joseph and a resurgent Sheldon Richardson are a very, very tough pair of DTs to move in the running game. They held the Packers to just 82 yards a week ago.

Look for the Patriots to mix things up, with the aggressiveness of the edge players, they may try to sneak Michel and Burkhead more toward the edge this week. But with the Vikings, they’ll have to stay patient because yards on the ground will be difficult to come by this week.

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

The Patriots passing game is currently 11th in the league but they just got back Rob Gronkowski last week and gets back Burkhead this week. When he’s been healthy, he’s been an outstanding option in the passing game. Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, and Chris Hogan all pose big matchup problems if Tom Brady has time to throw. The Pats OL will have their hands full with a very good pass rush.

Minnesota is currently fifth best against the pass in 2018, allowing just 221.1 yards per game. Something to keep in mind, the Vikes held both Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers to under 200 yards passing. They have excellent bookend pass rushers in Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter, but the key is again inside. If Joseph and Richardson can push the pocket, Brady will not be able to step up and make his throws.

The secondary is aggressive and athletic. But Xavier Rhodes is questionable in this one. It will be him matched up with Gordon outside, but if he can’t go, then the Vikings may opt to give help over the top. Edelman and MacKensie Alexander will be another great matchup to watch. Alexander has been terrific over the last month-plus, allowing a QB rating of just 45 when targeting him.  

And then there is Gronkowski, I would think they’d put Anthony Barr with safety help on him but the Rhodes situation may have some bearing on that. Home cooking is always a big deal when talking offenses. Look for Brady and the offense to use play-action a lot in this one.

Of course, the Patriots will have to be aware of Harrison Smith and where he is on the field. Bill Belichick compared him to Ed Reed this week. Anyone who knows how BB feels about Reed knows that it isn’t a comparison he throws around lightly. It promises to be a fascinating matchup.

Next up the Vikings offense:

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

Minnesota’s running game is currently 30th in the league right now averaging just 85.3 yards per game. Dalvin Cook is the lead back, but he’s been hurt for much of the season and has appeared in just six games. Latavius Murray, Mike Boone, and Ameer Abdullah also can contribute. Don’t be put off by Cook’s 3.5-yard average, he looks to be getting his explosion back. The key will be the offensive line play.

The Patriots run defense has been up and down this year but they’ve been trending better in that department. Lawrence Guy has been very solid as has Trey Flowers and Kyle Van Noy in run support. The key here is setting the edge.

Cook is the kind of back who has traditionally given the Pats trouble. Although I don’t expect he’ll have big numbers running the ball, as we mentioned above, setting the edge on the side opposite of Flowers will be key and that is where the Vikings will attack.

Vikings WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Minnesota

The Vikings passing game is 7th in the league averaging 283.2 yards per game. They have one of the league’s most dynamic players in Adam Thielen who has caught 93 passes this season. Stefon Diggs and Laquon Treadwell give them an excellent trio. Kirk Cousins has come in and completed 71.1 percent of his passes for 3289 yards (7.1-yard average) with 22 TDs and 7 INTs. TE Kyle Rudolph and Cook out of the backfield give them a plethora of targets in the passing game.

The Patriots have the league’s 25th pass defense giving up a lot of yards (269.7) but the opposing passer rating of 87.3 is the 6th best in the NFL (Minnesota is 8th). They’re competitive outside but have big issues covering tight ends and backs.

How the Patriots cover Thielen will be an intriguing matchup. The Vikings like to put him in the slot, I see the Patriots using Jason McCourty with over the help safety help on most downs with him. They’ll try to matchup Diggs with Stephon Gilmore. They’re not going to shut them down regardless. They’re going to get their yards, but I expect the Patriots to be competitive there.

It will be interesting to see if Belichick and Flores go back to Jonathan Jones who was benched last week for poor play or roll with the rookie J.C. Jackson who replaced him. The key here is with Rudolph and Cook. Pat Chung and Devin McCourty will have to be on top of their game’s this week. Could we see more of Obi Melifonwu helping on the tight end with his size and athleticism? Possibly. He could be the long-term answer there, but for now, I think the ball is in Chung and McCourty’s hands to do the job.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots special teams normally play better at home and I think that Cordarrelle Patterson (playing against his former team) and Julian Edelman may have a big return or two in the cards for this one. The Patriots get the edge in the kicking game with Stephen Gostkowski over Dan Bailey while both punters are solid with Ryan Allen and Matt Wile for the Vikes.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This should be a hold-on-to-the-edge-of-your-seat kind of game this week. I fully expect it to go right down to the wire. Both teams need the win, the Vikings to keep their division hopes alive and for the time being, to maintain the #5 seed. The Patriots are currently the #2 seed, a game behind KC and with a Chiefs’ slip up, they could slide into the #1 spot due to a tie-breaker. Keys to the game from a New England perspective.

Third Down/Red Zone: Minnesota is one of the best defensive teams in each of these categories for a reason. Minnesota is 2nd in the RZ and 1st on 3rd Down. With a full complement of offensive weapons, the Patriots have to play better in each this week. Burkhead could be their “X-Factor” here. The playcalling from Josh McDaniels in the red zone will be something to watch this week. The calls have been a bit predictable and we’ll see if they mix it up.

Defensively, the Patriots must get off the field on 3rd down. Look for Brian Flores and Belichick to be more aggressive this week. They should take a few more risks in order to bring pressure on Cousins. If they’re getting the job done against the run, we could see more of the lighter fronts with moving Trey Flowers inside as an interior pass rusher or Deatrich Wise and Adam Butler in the same role.

No Turnovers: The Vikings are an aggressive bunch and can create turnovers on defense, they will at times roll the dice and be susceptible to a big play. Brady has to be spot on and recognize his opportunities and produce. Defensively, the Pats likewise will have to roll the dice and blitz Cousins. The pass rush has been nowhere near good enough. Could it cost them six? With this team, easily but that is what they’re going to have to do to slow them down.

Stay Balanced: The Pats are an excellent offense when they can run and pass. With everyone getting healthy offensively both in skill positions and on the OL, they have to remain balanced and not give the Vikings the advantage of dialing it up when they’re in 3rd and long.

The weather forecast is calling for rain early (like every weekend this fall) but may taper off later in the game. The wet ball could be a factor, we’ll have to see.

New England will have to attack the right side of the Minnesota offensive line and win there to keep Cousins from being flat-footed in the pocket. They’ve had troubles in pass protection, especially there. However, if Cousins has all day to throw it will be a long afternoon for the home team. Look for Gronkowski to play a big role in this one. Opening things up for the rest of the offensive weapons. I look for both Brady and Cousins to play well on Sunday. Hold on to your hats, folks,  the Pats will hold serve at home…barely.  But by one or 20, it counts the same in the standings.  Patriots 28-27

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots Week 12 Report Card, Pats Down Jets 27-13

Steve Balestrieri
November 26, 2018 at 5:51 pm ET

The Patriots came off the bye and despite a very uneven first half where they should have been up by two scores but were tied at 10, dominated the second half for the win. And while they let the Jets, losers of four in a row hang around for the first half, they leaned on the running game and outscored Gang Green 17-3 after halftime to secure a 27-13 victory and move into the #2 seed for the time being in the AFC a game behind Kansas City.

The defense also played much better and more aggressively in the second half holding the Jets to just a field goal. Ryan Allen on Special Teams was outstanding, never allowing dangerous return man Andre Roberts a clear path to return the ball.

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

Quarterback: B

Tom Brady, it should be noted was not spectacular but he was very good, attacking downfield, spreading the ball around and was extremely efficient, averaging 9.1 yards per pass play. Brady finished 20-31 for 283 yards with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions for a QB rating of 115.4. Which were all of the things he didn’t do well in Tennessee two weeks ago.

Eight different Patriots receivers caught passes as the offense rolled up nearly 500 yards with a great amount of balance between the passing and running games.

He had a few bad throws in the first half, but he also had some really nice heaves downfield. His 34-yard touchdown pass to Gronkowski was a beautiful arc and put it right in the bucket. But his best was arguably on the Pats final scoring drive. Facing a 3rd and 10 at the Jets 47, Brady lasered a deep out pattern to where only Josh Gordon could catch it for a gain of 17 yards.

Brady targeted his top five receivers on the day 21 times and completed 16  passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns. That is very economical and again…efficient.

Running Backs: A

Sunday was the Sony Michel show, Michel had 133 yards on 21 carries and lost about 45-50 more because of penalties behind the play. He averaged 6.3 yards per carry and scored on a one-yard touchdown. He also caught two passes for 12 yards. He displayed excellent vision and ran behind his blockers but knowing when to cut back against the grain and a very nice burst once he got into the open field.

James White added in 72 yards on 9 carries on the ground on a day where he caught just one pass. Normally he and Brady are in lockstep but Sunday, in the passing game they were out of sorts a bit. Brady targeted White 5 times but they connected only once for just five yards. Cordarrelle Patterson stepped in when Michel was shaken up for a bit and added a couple of key first downs.

Wide Receivers: B

The wide receivers were all involved efficient, and productive on Sunday. Julian Edelman was the most productive catching four passes for 84 yards. He jumped started the offense on the Pats opening drive beating Morris Claiborne at the line and catching a 36-yard pass. He was outstanding. His 3rd down reception in the second half was a terrific play worked perfectly in sync with Brady.

Josh Gordon had five catches for 70 yards and while it may not have been a huge numbers day for him, his game, like everyone else’s was very efficient. The communication with he and Brady is improving every week and Sunday was more proof of that.

Chris Hogan was targeted twice and had two catches for 47 yards. Phillip Dorsett chipped in with a pair of catches.

Tight Ends: B

Rob Gronkowski was back in the fold and was looking like his normal self in the passing game as well as in the running game where the big man is like a road grader. He caught just three passes for 56 yards but one of them was a 34-yard score in the first quarter for the team’s first touchdown.

He and Brady didn’t connect later on several red-zone attempts but as we’ve said here many times, there are rules for covering receivers downfield in the NFL and then a set for Gronkowski. He’s been tugged, held and been the victim of helmet-to-helmet contact and not given a flag more than any other player we know.

Offensive Line: A-

The offensive line was outstanding on Sunday, as they had the entire group back in the fold and it was obvious, especially in the running game. While Brady was never sacked, the Jets had some pressure in the first half but they solved those issues with some halftime adjustments. The biggest, however, was the commitment to the running game. The team made a concerted effort to run the ball in the second half and they did just that.

When your team rushes for over 200 yards and your backs average over six yards per pop, your offensive linemen are a happy group because it means that they’re being physical and aggressive up front.  

The only issue it seemed, and it was team-wide was penalties. Shawn Hochuli’s crew is known as a flag-happy bunch and the Pats OL had four that we saw, Trent Brown twice, Joe Thuney and David Andrews.

Defensive Line: C+

The defensive line had a kind of Jekyll and Hyde day. In the first half, they stuffed the Jets running backs, allowing just 16 yards. But the pass rush was non-existent and Josh McCown had all day to throw the ball.

In the second half, the defense picked up with the pass rush but the Jets ran the ball much more effectively and ended up rushing for 74 yards on 15 carries. The yardage is nothing to worry about but the 4.9-yard average is a bit concerning. While a chunk of that was McCown scrambling, it also leads to containment issues.

Trey Flowers stood out once again with a sack and four QB hits. Deatrich Wise also had a sack and 3 QB hits. But consistent pressure is and has been an issue for this team all season.

Linebackers: B-

The Patriots linebackers had a solid game with Kyle Van Noy being the standout player from the group. He did a terrific job setting the edge and stuffing a runner for a loss and when he blitzed he knocked down one pass and on another crunched McCown with a thunderous hit.

Dont’a Hightower was solid in the running game but got caught in pass coverage and was in chase mode and appeared to be plodding.

Elandon Roberts had his usual mixed bag. He made a couple of nice run stuffs and like every week, a play where he totally whiffed. He overran Isiah Crowell on a screen dump off and it turned into a 19-yard pass play. Overall, the play of the linebackers was solid and they helped hold the Jets offense to just three points after the break.

Secondary: B-

The secondary had a rough start but in the end, McCown averaged just 6.1 yards per pass attempt and scored just 13 points. He finished with a QB rating of just 73.9 which they’ll take every time. Stephon Gilmore and Devin McCourty each had big bounce-back games. Gilmore was back to his being his shutdown self on Sunday. He had two passes defensed and a nice interception where he got body position and hauled in a deep pass from McCown at the Patriots two-yard line.

Jonathan Jones was getting picked on underneath in the slot and was burned once too often and was benched for J.C. Jackson. Jason McCourty got torched by Jermaine Kearse for 41-yards but Gilmore intercepted the next play. McCourty got a bit of revenge, however, knocking away a 4th down pass in the end zone on the Jets’ garbage time drive with a minute to go.

McCourty, Pat Chung, Duron Harmon, and Obi Melifonwu (in a limited role) were part of the reason the Jets scored just 13 points. But covering tight ends remains an issue for this team. Although most of the passes were in front of them, it is something that needs tightening up.

Special Teams: A-

The Special Teams had a nice game and was led by Ryan Allen who was simply outstanding in this one. Allen averaged 46.0 yards per punt but he angled them to the sideline where they either bounced harmlessly out of bounds or gave the dangerous Andre Roberts nowhere to run. He had one punt return for one yard. That was an area that we wrote we were concerned about and Allen was terrific.

Stephen Gostkowski was perfect on his three extra points and two field goals. The coverage units allowed one big return to Roberts for 35 yards but held the other one to just 17 on kickoffs. The return game netted zero on the day as the Jets boomed the ball out of the end zone to Patterson and had solid coverage on Edelman.

Coaches: B+

The Patriots coaching staff had a very good game plan coming into this one, and although the performance was sloppy in the first half, they made very good adjustments at halftime and dominated the final 30 minutes, outscoring the Jets 17-3.

The playcalling of Josh McDaniels remains confusing at times, especially in the red zone. They are intent on targeting James White and Gronk inside the 20, so maybe it is time to mix things up some by calling other players’ numbers to give opposing defenses something else to think about. But on a day where the offense rolls up nearly 500 yards? You can’t fault them too much.

Defensively, Brian Flores saw that things weren’t working in the first half and got more aggressive in the final two quarters. They really brought some pressure finally on McCown and the results spoke for themselves. While we’re not going to get too excited because they’re the Jets offense, like Bill Belichick said, the Jets always play them tough, especially in the Meadowlands.

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

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

Patriots Finish Strong, Improve to 8-3, Beat the Jets 27-13; Observations

Steve Balestrieri
November 25, 2018 at 9:03 pm ET

In the end, we knew this would be a typical Patriots-Jets game in the Meadowlands. The Patriots were very much up and down in the first half in all phases of the game, but played much better in the second half, dominating the Jets with a punishing ground game, pulling away to beat the Jets 27-13.

We’ll get to our observations but first some quick hitters for the history buffs. The win which put the Patriots at 8-3, guarantees New England a .500 record or better for 18 straight years. The Dallas Cowboys have the NFL record with 21.

And Tom Brady set the NFL record for most yards passing in his career, both regular and postseason, passing Peyton Manning. Surprisingly, (perhaps not so), it scarcely got a mention on the telecast and the NFL? Crickets.

**Update**:  The Steelers lost in Denver and the Patriots are now the #2 seed behind Kansas City. The two teams will play in Pittsburgh later this year, but the Steelers also have games next week against the Chargers and the Saints after they play the Patriots.

Some observations from the game include:

  • Running Game Set the tone: The Patriots offensive line took this game over in the second half. After being tied at 10 at halftime, the Pats outscored the Jets 17-3 and they did it with the running game. Sony Michel was excellent, rushing 21 times for 133 yards and a TD. NE ran for 215 yards, the most since the Jonas Gray game in Indy. James White added 73 yards on nine carries.
  • Welcome Back Gronk: The Patriots big man made his return to the field, for the first time in nearly a month and his impact was felt in both the passing and running games. He had three catches for 56 yards, including a beautifully thrown ball for a 34-yard touchdown by Brady. That was an encouraging sign. It was his first TD since Week 1 against Houston.
  • Bowles Plays by the Book and it Costs Him: In the first quarter, the Patriots were facing a 3rd and 2 from the Jets 24. Brady tried a deep pass to Edelman that was incomplete. James White was flagged for a ticky-tack offensive pass interference. Rather than let the Pats attempt a 41-yard goal, Jets coach Todd Bowles took the penalty, giving Brady another 3rd down shot on the Jets 34 with 12 yards to go. That’s when Brady hit Gronkowski down the seam for a TD.
  • Containment Still an Issue: We have heard ad nauseam about containing mobile quarterbacks, but what about a 39-year old journeyman? Too many times today and it has been an issue all season, the Patriots edge players were running past Josh McCown and allowing him to step up and throw the ball or scramble for yardage.
  • Brady Bum Knee? Not Visible: Tom Brady played well today and completed 20-31 for 283 yards with 2 TDs, the 34-yarder to Gronk and a 21-yard play to Julian Edelman. He averaged 9.1 yards per attempt and his QB rating was 115.4. He set another personal milestone passing Manning but that is nary a mention, even among the team. Best of all, Brady was spreading the ball around. Eight different receivers caught passes today…much more like it.
  • Defense-Tight Ends and Backs in the Passing game: The Patriots defense is facing the same thing every week, as teams have recognized what their weakness is and are exploiting it. They have issues covering opposing tight ends and backs out of the backfield are making the LBs appear really slow in coverage.
  • Offense Thy Name is Versatility: With Michel and White setting the tone on the ground, the Patriots rolled up nearly 500 yards of offense. Getting Shaq Mason back was a boost in the running game. But as we mentioned above, Brady shared the wealth in the passing game. Edelman led the way with 84 yards on four catches, Josh Gordon had 70 yards on five catches, Gronk with 56 on 3 grabs and Chris Hogan had two catches for 47 yards.
  • Penalties were a Thorn in the Backside: Coming into the game, the television crew mentioned that this refereeing team led by Ed Hochuli’s son, called the most penalties per game in the NFL. And they wasted little time in making their presence felt. The Patriots were flagged a season-high 11 times for 105 yards. Normally, I’d say here, this is something that the Patriots need to clean up. But they are never penalized much and this is the outlier. Today was more about the officiating crew than it was about the team.
  • The Play-calling, especially in the Red Zone: The Patriots, as we mentioned above rolled up almost 500 yards of offense…so scoring 27 points is low for that kind of day. The play calling by Josh McDaniels is getting very predictable in the red zone is a constant area where the team leaves points on the field every week. Three straight passes after a first and goal from the nine-yard line, the same play run twice with virtually no chance of success. That was an ugly sequence.  
  • Melifonwu Plays for His Hometown Team: Newly signed safety Obi Melifonwu saw some defensive snaps and plenty of work in the kicking game. He’s a guy I’d like to see more of in the tight end coverage role. But for his first action with his new team, it was a good debut.

Overall, the Patriots got out of the Meadowlands exactly what they wanted/needed. They got a road win in the division at a place where the opponent always plays them tough. They got a lot of their pieces on offense back and rolled up a ton of yardage.

They return home for a big Sunday afternoon game against Minnesota at 8-3 with a three-game lead over Miami with the tie-breaker in hand. The running game has been rediscovered with Michel, which we predicted in our keys to the game as well as the score which was spot on:

“New England will rediscover their running game with Sony Michel and force a couple of turnovers to pull away late in the game. Patriots 27-14”

Coupled with a late afternoon Pittsburgh loss and the Pats are now the #2 seed. There is plenty of football left to be played and this team still has a long way to go. But things are beginning to fall into place for them.

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.

New England Patriots News 11-25, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, we hope that everyone had a terrific Thanksgiving and that you were surrounded by the Four “F”s, friends, family, food and football on this very American holiday. Here is your Sunday Patriots news 11-25, & AFC East Notes.

Some Quick Hitters this morning

No Brady? Don’t Count on That:  Friday, was a very rare occurrence where Tom Brady missed the practice and was listed as Questionable for today’s game against the Jets. He popped up on the injury report with a knee injury from the Titans game. Other than his 2008 ACL tear in Week 1, Brady hasn’t missed any games due to injury. He did miss 4 games in 2015 due to the Patriots playing in cold weather.

Bob McNair, the owner of the Texans passed away on Friday at the age of 81. He was the driving force to bring the NFL back to Houston after the Oilers left for Tennessee in 1996. The team didn’t announce the cause of death, but McNair had dealt with several various forms of cancer in the past.

Did you Know? That with 252 yards passing today, Brady will have surpassed 3000 yards passing for the 16th time in his career. He will tie Drew Brees and Peyton Manning for the second most seasons. Brett Favre had 18.  

Did you Know Pt.2? With three touchdown passes, Brady will tie Favre for the second-most TD passes in the regular season with 508, (Manning has 539), and he’d tie Manning for the most TD passes for both the regular and postseason combined with 579.

Did you Know Pt. 3: Since 2015, James White is second in NFL running backs with receptions with 222, Theo Riddick leads the NFL with 227 (and added 7 more on Thanksgiving Day).

“Friends” Thanksgiving Video: The Patriots took a step back in the nostalgia machine by compiling a Thanksgiving montage of the show Friends best Thanksgiving moments and superimposing Patriots’ heads on them… a bit corny but well done.

New England continues to live rent-free in Lane Johnson’s head. After winning a SB with Philly last year, he talked about NE incessantly during the offseason and now with the champs at 4-6 continues to talk about the Patriots…file under: fix your priorities.

Gordon Still Has a Lot More to Contribute:

Pats WR Josh Gordon has helped stretch defenses out since signing here and is averaging a big 18.3 yards per reception with 26 catches for 477 yards and two touchdowns in 7 games. That projects out to a 60-catch, 1100-yard season over 16 games which isn’t bad considering he’s essentially missed nearly three years.

Gordon, however, told MassLive.com that he’s capable of much more and is hoping to show that down the stretch. Granted he was learning a new offense on the fly and was dealing with a balky hamstring during most of that time. Now both of those issues should be fixed although his chemistry with Brady is still a bit of a work in progress.

Will he ever again be that burner that people used to sit back and marvel at? That is still up in the air, he possesses very good speed but it has been quite a bit off of what we saw back in 2013. And his catch percentage of 53.1 percent could use improving but it is about where it has been his entire career.

The Patriots could use a productive Gordon down the stretch and the wide receiver is anxious to play meaningful games for the first time in his professional career in December and January.

 “It’s different, that’s for sure. It’s exciting, though,” Gordon said to MassLive. “It’s motivational for me, for everybody. I’ve never really had the opportunity before, considering the circumstances. So it’s great to have the opportunity now. It’s a blessing.”

Pats Hoping For Vintage Gronk Down the Stretch:

With the Patriots offense scuffling in Tennessee, the bye week came at a perfect time to let Rob Gronkowski have some extra time to heal up from the back woes that have sidelined him for three of the past four games.

Gronkowski is expected to suit up today and play and at his press conference on Friday was proclaiming himself ready to go. In just 7 games this season, Gronkowski has just 29 catches for 448 yards and one touchdown, numbers far less than his normally stellar production.

He made the trip down to Nashville, but the team held him out, probably to give him an extra two weeks to get ready with the bye week last Sunday. A healthy Gronkowski means the rest of the offense operates at close to peak performance. Tom Brady is happy to hear that the big man is returning soon.

“Absolutely. I’ve played a lot of football with him, and I think I have a lot of trust and confidence in a lot of the things that have happened over the years,” Brady said. “When he’s not there, there’s a different level with other players. Sometimes we don’t try things because Gronk isn’t in there. Sometimes we do.

“Obviously, the more dependable, consistent players you have on the field, the more productive and efficient you’ll be, which leads to more points, which leads to better opportunities to win the game, which is ultimately the reason we’re all here.”

Burkhead Return Should Be a Great Help to the Offense:

Much like Rob Gronkowski, getting Rex Burkhead back for the Minnesota game should be a significant boost to the offense. Burkhead went on IR after the Lions game due to concussions but now he’s been back at practice and we haven’t heard about any setbacks in his rehab, so things are looking up.

Burkhead has been (when healthy) a valuable, versatile part of the team’s offense. While he doesn’t run as well as Sony Michel, nor catch the ball as well as James White, he does both of those things quite well, so when he’s on the field, the opposition doesn’t have a clue as to what the Patriots will do.

If he continues on with his rehab and is ready for a stretch run for the Pats, along with  Gronkowski, the offense will be much harder to stop. The team hasn’t had a full offensive roster at any time this season.

Who You Have This Week? NFL Week 11 Predictions:

Last week: 8-5 Season 104-55-2 Bye Week: Chiefs, Rams

Thursday night’s picks  Bears, Cowboys, Saints 3-0

Cleveland at Cincinnati: Bengals
San Francisco at Tampa Bay: 49ers
Jacksonville at Buffalo: Jaguars
Oakland at Baltimore: Ravens
Seattle at Carolina: Panthers
New England at NY Jets: Patriots
NY Giants at Philadelphia: Eagles
Arizona at LA Chargers: Bolts
Miami at Indianapolis: Colts
Pittsburgh at Denver: Steelers
Green Bay at Minnesota (SNF): Vikings
Tennessee at Houston (MNF): Texans

Thursday Early Pick: Saints over Cowboys

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Josh Allen Returns for the Bills Against Trash-talking Ramsey:

The Buffalo Bills take on the Jacksonville Jaguars today at New Era Field, the first time the teams have met since the Wildcard game of 2017 where the Jags held off Buffalo in a very ugly 10-3 win. But both teams learned that being the hunted is not so easy. The Jags started off 2-0 but have since gone 1-7. The Bills are also 3-7 and seasons of high hopes for both teams have gone up in smoke.

Now Josh Allen returns from an injury and his job is to the get the Buffalo offense going. And he is going to have the luxury of working thru much rust after missing a month. Allen was not very accurate before his elbow injury and facing one of the better pass defenses in the league will be a daunting task.

The Bills and OC Brian Daboll kept things simple for Allen in the early going and it will be interesting to see if he takes the training wheels off for the rookie this week. After Jalen Ramsey called Allen “trash” and a “stupid pick”, you think the Bills coaches wouldn’t love to see their top draft pick light up the Jags secondary (and Ramsey) with a big game today?

All About the QBs Today for the Dolphins/Colts:

The Miami Dolphins hit the road for Indy today and face the much-improved Colts in a big game for both teams. Today it is all about the signal callers for both teams and how well (or not) each plays which will determine who walks away with a win.

The Dolphins defense has to find a way to slow down Andrew Luck, who has been on a roll lately for the Colts. Luck knows his go-to guy, T.Y. Hilton will be locked up with Xavien Howard all day and that will be a battle to watch. But while other teams do that, Luck has leaned heavily on TE Eric Ebron who is leading the Colts in receptions, touchdowns, and targets. Covering him will be safety, big nickel LB, Minkah Fitzpatrick. The rookie will have his hands full today.

Ryan Tannehill has missed a month and the Dolphins offense without him has looked…at times, awful. Like Allen, Tannehill will have no time to work thru the rust factor. The Fins are 4-6 and have zero wiggle room left if they want to make a playoff run this year. The time is now or never for Tannehill, and the pressure is on him to produce. Not next year, or next month, or even next week. For Tannehill, the playoffs start today.

Jets Look to Follow the Blueprint to Beat New England:

The New York Jets have seen the Jaguars, Lions, and Titans blast the Patriots this season, and they know the key is getting off to a fast start as the Patriots have struggled in the first quarter of the road games they’ve lost this year. And getting their 29th ranked offense and 32nd ranked 3rd down offense off and running quickly. Just like the Titans did two weeks ago.

Sam Darnold won’t play but the wily veteran Josh McCown, played a very solid game in the Meadowlands last year where they Jets converted 9 of 17 third downs. Tennessee scored 17 points in the first 10 minutes, more than they were averaging over 60 minutes and the Jets know that starting fast is imperative.

They also will be getting Gronkowski back against them this week. Gronk has traditionally been a thorn in the Jets backside. In 13 games against Gang Green, Gronkowski has 60 catches for 738 yards and 8 touchdowns. Plus, he’s a very good blocker in the running game. They will look to put a lid on Gronkowski and force Brady to look elsewhere in the passing 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 Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news.

Best Of Social Media: The New England Patriots Celebrate Thanksgiving

Robert Alvarez
November 22, 2018 at 10:29 am ET

The New England Patriots put a pause on the 2018 NFL season Thursday to celebrate the Thanksgiving with their families.  Check out some of the best postings from their social media accounts.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bqf1JcxndYM/

View this post on Instagram

Thankful for all of you. #HappyTurkeyDay

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

A few former Patriots also shared their Thanksgiving festivities and Martellus Bennett even shared some funny stories.

New England Patriots News 11-18, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
November 18, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, and here is your Sunday Patriots news 11-18, & AFC East Notes.

Some Quick Hitters this morning

Not a SB Team?  Former Patriot front office assistant to Bill Belichick, Mike Lombardi stated he has serious doubts that this Patriot team has what it takes to make it to the Super Bowl this year. On a podcast, he was direct in his belief.

“To me, this is not a good Patriots team. I have been saying it all year,” Lombardi said.

“They struggle to make explosive plays. Whether they have Gronk or don’t have Gronk, I think it is really problematic for them. When they are on the road — they didn’t have Shaq Mason at right guard, Ted Karras had to play in there — I thought the Titans did a great job. And Corey Davis here is a guy who has had one play over 25 yards all season. He had a 23-yard against the Eagles and a 55-yarder. The guy really makes plays down the field and he had seven (catches) for 125 (yards) in the game. That is not good.”

Did you Know? That yesterday November 17 was the 50th anniversary of the famous “Heidi” game. In 1968, the Jets and Raiders were locked in an epic shootout and the network cut away from the game to broadcast the film “Heidi” in their 4 p.m. time slot. The Raiders scored twice in the last minute to win 43-32, but the only people in America that got to see that were the fans in the stadium.  

Did you Know Pt.2? With 147 yards passing next week against the Jets, Tom Brady will become the NFL leader in passing yardage, regular and post-season combined.
Peyton Manning ……………………….79,279
Tom Brady …………………………….   79,133
Brett Favre………………………………. 77,693
Drew Brees ………………………………77,255

Did you Know Pt. 3: Since 2003, the Patriots are 46-7 (.868 win percentage) following a loss. That doesn’t bode extremely well for a Jets upset next week in the Meadowlands, but that is why they play the games.

Did you Know Pt. 4: Things that make you go hmm. There was a stat on social media, the other day, and I truly can’t remember who posted it to give proper credit, but here is a good one, especially for the “Belichick can’t draft” crowd.

Teams with the most draft picks that are still in the NFL:
Bengals     61
Ravens      54
Seahawks 54
49ers         53
Patriots     52

Now factor in WHERE the Patriots draft in relation to those other teams as well as everyone else, and presto!, their ratio isn’t so bad now, is it?

James White set a new personal best with 66 catches and is only 11 away from a new Patriots record. Tony Collins set the team record with 77 catches in 1986. White is also right on pace with some of the best #s of catches by a running back after 10 games.
Reggie Bush     2007  New Orleans  67
Larry Centers   1996  Arizona           67
Matt Forte        2014  Chicago           67
James White    2018  New England  66

Kaepernick to the Patriots Rumors:  The Patriots were rumored in September to be in talks with QB Colin Kaepernick to bring him to New England to back up Tom Brady. At the time, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, kind of dismissed that idea, not really confirming or denying it was true. However, in an interview with Devin Gordon of the NY Times, Kraft had this interesting tidbit about Kaepernick. “Let me say this: I would very much like to see him in the league,” Kraft said. That should stoke the Kaepernick to NE rumors again.

Heating Up in the Colder (Snowy?) Weather:  Since 2001, the Patriots are 101-29 with a winning percentage of .784 on or after Thanksgiving. That is the best in the NFL. Under Bill Belichick, Patriots teams always seem to get better as the season rolls along. Let’s see how this starts out in 2018 next week against the Jets.

Now Things Get Interesting, Pats Down the Stretch:

Last week we wrote that the Patriots lost a golden opportunity to keep pace with the Chiefs who are 9-1 and now two games ahead of the Patriots in the AFC. The loss dropped New England out of the top two as Pittsburgh only has two losses (6-2-1). But the Patriots are far from out of the running for a bye once the playoffs roll around. Why? Take a look at the schedules of the teams involved.

The Chiefs (9-1) have an upcoming game this week against the Rams, and also have games upcoming against the Chargers, the Seahawks (in Seattle) and a possible trap game against the Ravens who have a tough defense.

The LA Chargers (7-2), I still have a hard time NOT saying San Diego, have games coming up against the Steelers, Chiefs and possible trap games against the Ravens and Bengals.

The Steelers (6-2-1) have the Chargers and then the Patriots and Saints in back-to-back games and also play the Jaguars today, the team who beat them twice in Pittsburgh last season.

The Patriots (7-3) have games with Minnesota, Miami (on the road where they always seem to play like poo-poo) and the Steelers

Everybody can’t win out, they all play each other. And think about this, the Chargers are only a game behind the Chiefs in the loss column, that division is far from locked up. So, the Patriots are in a position where, if they play well down the stretch, should be in a great position to lock up a first-round bye for the playoffs. The games will get very intriguing from here on out.

Areas That Need Improving Down the Stretch:

With the Patriots off this week, they always do their own self-scouting and look to where the team feels it needs improving to finish the season strong. We’re going to post our own analysis on where we feel the team needs to improve to get a bye in the first round of the playoffs and possibly parlay that into another game for NE in February.

Improve Special Teams- Specifically the coverage units. Very uncharacteristically for a Bill Belichick team, the Patriots have been bad in kick coverage this year. They currently rank 29th and 31st correspondingly in Punt and Kick coverage.

That is not good, especially with a defense that has had its struggles this year. The team seems to have already addressed those issues. They brought in STs/LBs Albert McClellan, formerly of the Ravens last week and just signed Ramon Humber who has spent time with the team in the past.

The return units are actually rounding into form quite well. The Patriots rank 2nd in the league in kickoff return yardage and 2nd in punt return average.

Get a Healthy Gronk and Burkhead Back for the Offense- The Patriots offense, while scoring at the 8th best mark in the league, can actually be much, much better. They’ve been very inconsistent and need to get their key skill position players healthy as well as their offensive line for a late-season push.

Gronkowski has missed several games and has been hobbled for much of the season beyond that. Besides being the best overall tight end in the game when he’s healthy, he provides matchup nightmares for defensive coordinators. If opponents double him, they leave someone else open. He’s a devastating blocker in the running game as well. Jacob Hollister has also been hurt most of the year, so it has left the tight end position with very little production. Dwayne Allen has two catches on the year.

Burkhead is a very valuable piece as he can spell both Sony Michel in the running game and James White in the passing game. While he’s the equal of neither in their respective strengths, his versatility makes him keep opposing defenses honest. Getting both Gronkowski and Burkhead back and healthy for a stretch run will do wonders for the Patriots offense.

Where’s The Beef (Pass Rush)- Thru the first 10 games the Patriots have just 15 sacks. That is 30th in the NFL and isn’t going to get it done. While they have gotten decent enough pressure on opposing QBs, the pass rush has to get home with much more regularity. It is a big difference between an incomplete pass on 2nd and 4 because of pressure and facing a 3rd and 12 or 13.

Trey Flowers has been outstanding and does so many things well, but the other players need to step up their games more. Although even Flowers would be best served with a bit more production as well.

They’ve been creating some extra pressure by using corner and linebacker blitzes. But as we’ve seen before, the best teams will pick up on those and it can be a dangerous situation if they do.

Brady Needs to Spread the Wealth Around- One of the things that has reared its ugly head last week in the loss to the Titans was the fact that Brady was locking into his primary receivers (Josh Gordon, Julian Edelman, James White) and has pretty much ignored his secondary WRs (Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett).

That’s always been a sure sign that Brady is struggling and that needs to change. Brady had Hogan wide open with what appeared to be a touchdown last week, instead, forcing the ball to Edelman on 4th down.

This plays into what we mentioned above and getting everyone back and healthy but he needs to do a bit better job overall and certainly to use all of his weapons. He said as much this week.

Brady and the Cliff…Keep Praying Boys, It May Come True Someday:

Our buddy Mike Dussault from Pats Propaganda wrote a very intriguing piece the other day where he said there is a very real number of national football writers and NFL fans that can’t wait for the demise of Tom Brady. Mike hit it right on the head and I would encourage everyone here to check it out. And it is true.

Many of the hot take artists are really just jock sniffers wrapped up in a suit on national television. Brady has never fit the narrative because he was never supposed to be “the guy”. A 6th round draft pick #199 taken behind some of the quarterbacks that went before him in the draft that were underachievers…would be a politically correct term. He was supposed to be an asterisk on the minds of all. “Remember Tom Brady?” “Oh yeah, that unathletic kid from Michigan that won a bowl game…he wasn’t going to ever make it in the NFL.”

Remember 2001, that was a great story…9/11, We are all Patriots…yeah he had his moment but to the hot take crowd that was his 15 seconds. Now move over kid, the great one “Manning the #1 pick in the draft, he is the ONE.”

But 2003 happened and the kid showed it wasn’t a flash in the pan and he led another final Super Bowl drive to give his team another win and the hot take crowd wasn’t happy. By 2004, the great story had turned to an open hatred of him, his unquotable coach and the team that won 3 out of 4 Super Bowls.

After leaving Manning in the dust with eight Super Bowl appearances and five wins, now the cretin, ultracrepidarians can’t wait for him to fail. Which is why after every Patriot loss, they rush to the microphone to spew their latest drivel about the “cliff’ or whatever else they do. Don’t bother. One of those loudly proclaimed after the 2011 Super Bowl loss to the Giants that “Tom Brady will never see another Super Bowl” Three SBs and two wins later, now this buffoon rushes to the microphone to say…”All of those don’t really count”. Okay.

The two real questions are #1. Who would hire someone who is more wrong than the worst weatherman in the U.S.? And #2, Are your lives so pathetic, the hate for all things NE so bad, that you rush to listen to this after every NE loss? I wonder how bad the cheering will be against Brady this February when NE and NO have the Super Bowl QB AARP game of the ages?  Don’t bet against it. I called it before Week 1 and I’m sticking to it until proven otherwise. Fast forward to the 37:15 mark and there it is.

“Let the hate flow thru you…”

Who You Have This Week? NFL Week 11 Predictions:

Last week: 7-7 Season 96-50-2 Bye Week: NE, Buf, Mia, NYJ, Browns, 49ers

Thursday night’s pick  Seahawks over Packers 1-0

Cincinnati at Baltimore: Ravens
Dallas at Atlanta: Falcons
Tampa Bay at NY Giants: G-men
Pittsburgh at Jacksonville: Jaguars
Houston at Washington: Texans
Tennessee at Indianapolis: Colts (SB Hangover)
Carolina at Detroit: Panthers
Denver at LA Chargers: Bolts
Oakland at Arizona: Raiders
Philadelphia at New Orleans: Saints (are we having fun yet?)
Minnesota at Chicago SNF: Vikings
Kansas City at LA Rams MNF: Rams

Thursday Early Pick: Seahawks over Packers

No AFC East Notes this week as everyone is on the bye week. We’ll have those back next 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.

Titans Lewis Didn’t Hold Back After Win, Following Up Comments By Trolling Former Team Over Twitter

Robert Alvarez
November 12, 2018 at 4:27 pm ET

Following the Tennessee Titans 34-10 victory over the New England Patriots, running back Dion Lewis turned some heads with some emotional postgame comments about his former team.

Speaking with NFL Network’s Mike Giardi, Lewis said the following;

Lewis didn’t stop there, on his Twitter account he also shared some “trolling” tweets that contained laugh emoji’s and .gifs that were seemingly directed towards the Patriots.

So what caused Lewis’ surprise criticisms of the “cheap” Patriots? According to multiple reports, his strained relationship with the team wasn’t new and began in 2017 training camp.

With a chip on his shoulder, Lewis wound up leading the Patriots with a career-high 896 rushing yards after being originally told he wouldn’t be guaranteed a spot that summer. He became the top back by Week 5.

However come the 2017 playoffs, his usage dramatically dropped following the return of Rex Burkhead from injury. In Super Bowl LII, Lewis logged just 39 rushing yards and had zero receptions.

Lewis would sign a four-year, $19.8 million deal with Tennessee during the first week of free agency in March 2018. The Patriots were never serious contenders to sign him.

During his time in New England, Lewis was a valuable asset to the teams success, the Patriots went 32-3 when he played and 13-7 when he didn’t. Unfortunately in the end, Lewis wanted to stay, and the Patriots wanted to part ways. Although Lewis was ultimately rewarded for his efforts, it wasn’t by the team he hoped.

Patriots Week10 Report Card, Titans Tune Up the Pats in Music City

Steve Balestrieri
at 4:10 pm ET

The Patriots got their collective butts handed to them in Nashville on Sunday afternoon to the tune of 34-10. It was ugly from start to finish. They weren’t ready to play and Tennessee was. We wrote in our keys to the game, getting off to a quick start was imperative this week. The last thing you want to do is to play from behind with the size of their offensive and defensive lines, they’ll make life downright miserable for you if that is the case, and they did.

There was no magic elixir here, no, the Titans weren’t trotting out a gaggle of new plays and busting out a trick play to confuse the Patriots. They lined the same as they always do. And their execution was spot on. The Patriots? Far, far different story there. Tennessee came into this game averaging 16.8 points per game, just 10 minutes into the first quarter they had 17. It was that kind of day

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

Quarterback: C-

Tom Brady, like the rest of his offensive teammates, were not on the same page yesterday and not prepared to face a Titans team that was fired up and ready to go. The day started well enough with Brady firing a dime down the field to Josh Gordon for 44 yards right down the middle.

And just as quickly, that changed. Brady missed on several throws were his fault. And several others where the coverage was superb. He was under duress all day and was forced to get rid of the ball early several times. While that wasn’t his fault, we wrote yesterday that it is easy to tell when Brady is struggling because he always makes the same mistakes.

Yesterday, once again, when he and the offense struggle, he locks into receivers and ignores the rest of the field. He targeted Josh Gordon, Julian Edelman, and James White 32 times out of 41 passes on the day. That isn’t going to get it done. On the 4th and 6 where Edelman was blanketed by Logan Ryan, Chris Hogan put a double move on Malcolm Butler and was wide open. That’s on Brady. But he did zip some throws into very tight windows. He has to be better down the stretch…no ifs, ands, or buts.

Running Backs: C-

James White was rendered totally ineffective for the first time this year. The team tried to get him the ball but he was held to just 31 yards on five catches. He had just one carry and was blown up badly in the backfield for a loss of five. And to illustrate how out of sync this team was yesterday. White was bad in his pass blocking, something he’s never been as long as I can remember. Sony Michel returned from a two and a half week absence and was ineffective due to the offensive line. He had only 11 carries for 31 yards, a 2.8-yard average. Cordarrelle Patterson likewise was a total non-factor carrying the ball four times for 11 yards, mirroring Michel’s 2.8-yard average.

James Develin had his first carry of the year and had a one-yard touchdown.

Wide Receivers: C

The wide receivers had trouble all day with gaining separation. Julian Edelman gets very high marks with nine catches on 12 targets for 104 very tough yards. He was taking a lot of punishment after the catch. He was the bright spot on the offense on Sunday, before hurting his ankle.

Josh Gordon had 4 catches for 81 yards including the aforementioned 44-yard bomb. But he was targeted 12 times boys and girls. That kind of ratio isn’t going to cut it…. Not for anyone, especially someone who is supposed to be the go-to guy.

Chris Hogan is being frozen out of the offense. Brady barely looks in his direction anymore. And he may be replaced as the #3 option by Phillip Dorsett. Hogan was wide open for what may have been a score behind Butler who he beat on a double move. Patterson and Hogan had zero production. Dorsett? Two catches for 18 yards. Not good enough.

On the 4th and 6, Edelman was blanketed, Hogan put a double move on Butler and was wide open. Tell me again, how he has no separation. (screenshot CBS/NFL)

Tight Ends: C-

Rob Gronkowski was out again. Worse, Dwayne Allen was shaken up twice during the game and was forced to leave. That left the Patriots with only Jacob Hollister who was active for the first time in about a month. Hollister is more of a move tight end and not an in-line blocker. He did make one nice grab down the seam for 17 yards on two targets. The team really needs Gronkowski, a healthy Gronkowski back.

Offensive Line: D-

The offensive line was atrocious on Sunday, the worst performance I’ve witnessed from this unit in quite some time. Brady was sacked three times and was under pressure all day. The Titans completely dominated the line of scrimmage. And it wasn’t close. With Shaq Mason out, Trent Brown and Marcus Cannon missing several snaps each, there was a revolving door on the front. That certainly didn’t help with communication. But replacements Ted Karras and LaAdrian Waddle were being beaten with regularity.

The running game? Non-existent which just added to the misery of the entire day. The Patriots gained just 40 yards on 19 carries. That won’t win many games, especially when the pass protection is shoddy.

Defensive Line: C-

The defensive line was shaky in the early going, they didn’t set the edge or nor contain Marcus Mariota on the first drive of the day. They settled down and held Dion Lewis to just 2.8 yards a carry on the day. But as we pointed out on Friday, the Titans with the lead or close to it will hammer defenses with Derrick Henry. And that is just what Tennessee did. Henry gashed them with frightening ease.

The pass rush was non-existent for much of the day. Trey Flowers was good but the rest of the edge? Very little was heard from them. After the first drive, they did a great job of containing Mariota in the pocket. But the pass rush is the other half. Last week was their best game of the year in that aspect. On Sunday it was poor.

Linebackers: D

The Patriots linebackers had a “Groundhog Day” moment. The unit looked slow and appeared to be a liability especially Dont’a Hightower. Elandon Roberts had a couple of nice stuffs but then flies up into the gap against Henry at the goal line and misses him. How in the wide world of sports can you run by and miss a 250-pound running back? With Roberts, this happens far too often. Kyle Van Noy made a bunch of plays and had 12 tackles but like the others seemed out of position at times too.

Secondary: D

The secondary had the same kind of day that everyone else had…awful. When your best player in the secondary has been beaten for 3 catches for 63 yards and a touchdown… plus a pass interference call, in the first two drives, then you know what kind of day you are going to have. Corey Davis roasted the Patriots for 7 catches for 125 yards and a touchdown. The instinct is to look at the box score and say, “Mariota only threw for 225 yards.” But did the numbers pass the eyeball test? No. His QB rating was 125.0 and averaged 9.5 yards per attempt.

The safeties didn’t have a great game. On the Titans first touchdown, however, Mariota broke containment and had a clear path to the end zone. The Pats had Jonnu Smith bracketed with Devin McCourty underneath and Pat Chung in trail. McCourty was forced to come up and force Mariota to throw…he was right in the throwing lane, and he lobbed it over him for an easy TD since Chung wasn’t close enough to influence the play. McCourty in that instance was victimized by the defensive line.  Chung did have a couple of nice stops on third down where he came up and tackled the receiver short of the sticks. But after arguably their best game of the year last week against Green Bay, this was a very poor effort against a team that came in averaging just 178 yards passing per game.

Special Teams: C

The Special Teams had a very mixed bag and much of it started badly. The opening kickoff had the Patriots coverage unit again have a breakdown and allowed a 58-yard return. That set the tone for the day. The Patriots allowed an average of 14 yards per punt. Stephen Gostkowski missed a 52-yard field goal wide left. That’s the bad news.

The good news is Julian Edelman averaged about 15 yards per punt return, Patterson averaged 24.7 on kickoff returns, Ryan Allen averaged 49.7 yards per punt while Stephen Gostkowski hit a 52-yard field goal. So things kind of averaged out but the start was atrocious.  

Coaches: F

The Patriots coaching staff totally dropped the ball on this one. This team was flat out not ready to play on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. The Titans scored more points in the first 10 minutes of the game than they’ve been averaging in a game all season.

Offensively, you won’t win many games where you score 10 points. How did Josh McDaniels NOT target Malcolm Butler in this one? He was listed as the worst starting CB in all of football. Everyone has been feasting on him with double moves all season and the Patriots avoided him like Revis Island in his prime…That deserves a double F.

Defensively, they were gashed every way possible and Mike Vrable gave Belichick the big “Eff You” when they tried their own pass to the QB and gained 21 yards after Brady stumbled after catching it.  That’s something the Patriots are used to doing to the opposition.

Speaking of stumbling…Patriots players were stumbling all day, shouldn’t the equipment guys have adjusted their cleats during the game or did they take the day off too?

Burn the tape, write it off and come back from the bye week and show the previous six weeks tape. Get that team ready to play the Jets…preferably in the first quarter.

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.

Music City Meltdown, Titans Thump Listless Patriots 34-10

Steve Balestrieri
November 11, 2018 at 6:11 pm ET

Pats Start Bye Week Early with a No-show

The New England Patriots needed to get out to a fast start this week against the Tennessee Titans and put the pressure on the offense which has struggled to throw the ball. That was our initial thoughts on the game but it was the Titans who whipped the Patriots from the opening kickoff until the final gun.

Tennessee dominated every phase of the game, offense, defense, special teams, and the Pats were left searching for answers as they head into the bye week at 7-3 after a really ugly 34-10 pasting by Mike Vrable and the Titans.

The handwriting was on the wall for this one right from the first play. The Patriots won the coin toss (the only matchup they’d win all day) and Tennessee promptly ran the kickoff back 58 yards to start the drive in Patriots territory. Things just got progressively worse from there.

Nothing was really working, Tennessee which came in averaging 16.8 points per game on offense, had 17 in the first 10 minutes of the game. So, rather than try to sugarcoat things or put a dress on a pig…here are our observations from this.

Brady is Struggling:

The game plan this week was to come out flinging it against a team that is really good at defending the pass. That’s the first clue that things were going to go awry. By the time they attempted a run, the Titans had already scored but they never gave the running game a chance and it showed in the output. The Patriots got 40 yards rushing….40 against a team, that although better lately is hardly stout. But I digress. Back to Brady.

How can you tell when Tom Brady is struggling? It is easy. He locks on to his primary target and forces the ball in there. And Brady is struggling right now. Granted the running game was awful, no Gronk and the offensive line resembled 2015 with constant shuffling, but this was bad.

Brady locked on to Julian Edelman who played a heckuva game (and took a worse beating) on 4th and 6. That was courtesy of Marcus Cannon who jumped on 4th and 1. Edelman was blanketed by Logan Ryan. James White was open and Chris Hogan was wide open after juking Malcolm Butler on a double move.

Brady was off all game and despite heavy pressure, had several throws go haywire when he had time to throw. He seemed to be shutting Hogan and Dorsett out. That isn’t good. Most of the passing yardage went to Edelman or Gordon. Edelman finished with 104 yards, while Gordon had four catches for 81 yards, but on 12 targets.

McDaniels Gives Butler A Pass:

Remember all of the pre-game talk of Butler being a sucker for the double move? The Patriots avoided Butler today for much of the game. Either they thought he’d morph into vintage Darrelle Revis this week, or they felt like he had too much help over the top. But they avoided him like he had the plague. Granted he didn’t play a ton, but when he was in the game, you would think he’d be the guy that they’d target, even in zone coverage.

Instead, they forced the ball all game long against Adoree Jackson and Ryan. We’ll have to go back and watch the tape again, but for Josh McDaniels to barely challenge Butler given the struggles he’s had was puzzling at best.

Hopefully, the answer will be inside the All-22 tape.

The Offensive Line  Was Constantly Shuffling and Awful:

Brady was under duress all game long, and Tennessee wasn’t exactly known as a big pass rush team. Shaq Mason was out, Marcus Cannon was in and out. Ted Karras got exposed a bit as did LaAdrian Waddle on Sunday. So with the pass blocking a negative, the run blocking was worse.

There was precious little running room against the Titans as the Pats barely averaged two yards a carry. Once Dwayne Allen got hurt, it made things worse. The only good runs were cut loose when James Develin would hit someone at the point of attack.

The Patriots never seemed to have a plan to run the football this week. And they didn’t.

Special Teams Play Was Abominable:

The STs units of Joe Judge have been uncharacteristically inconsistent this year. This was the worst they’ve looked overall in many years. How bad?

Tennessee started three drives in Patriots territory….in the first half. Stephen Gostkowski missed a 52-yarder wide left, the coverage units were awful and they did very little in the return game. The best starting field position for the Pats was the 35.

Shoddy tackling, blown assignments, and penalties….nope it can only go up from here.

Gilmore Lays an Egg:

Stephon Gilmore has been outstanding all season, since minicamp. But he was awful today, the Titans went after him with Corey Davis, and Davis totally dominated that matchup. Davis torched the Pats (and mostly Gilmore) all day long.

Gilmore got flagged twice for interference and was beaten cleanly for a touchdown. Obviously whatever malaise was infecting the other 45 players today, had an even bigger effect on the Patriots star corner. He had that kind of rough outing.

He was hardly alone, the defense was gashed by Marcus Mariota who constantly made very good throws. The Titans came in averaging 178 yards per game thru the air.

So with this kind of outing, the Pats chances of getting the top seed just took a huge blow. They limp into the bye week at 7-3 after not really ever showing up for this one. The coaches need to do a lot of self-scouting and having the team come out flat three times …all on the road this year is a coaching issue.

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.