Tag Archives: LeSean McCoy

New England Patriots News 7-07, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
July 7, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 07-07 and AFC East notes this week. 

We hope that everyone had a happy and safe Independence Day celebration. Just 18 more days until the hard work begins for “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door.”

 Quick Hitters:

Bernard Pollard – is the latest, “look at me” ex-player who is trying to get himself a gig on television or radio. If you think otherwise, you’re kidding yourself, but there is never a shortage of people who feed the monster and fall all over themselves giving these hot take artists their air time. 

Rob Gronkowski – told Rich Eisen in an interview this week, that he reserves the right to change his mind about returning to the NFL once the season starts. In the interview, Gronkowski said this will be the first August in 15 years that he won’t be playing football. But judging from his leaned out frame recently, I still say that the chances of the big guy returning this year are remote.

Jerod Mayo – may not be calling the defensive plays just yet for the Patriots this year. Jeff Howe of the Athletic wrote that Bill Belichick will be calling the plays. Mayo who was seen calling the plays in minicamp this June. 

N’Keal Harry – leads the Patriots rookies with a 74 grade on Madden 2019 that was released recently. Cornerback Jojuan Williams was second with a score of 70 while Damien Harris and Chase Winovich were next, tied with a grade of 69.

Tom Brady – is preparing for training camp and continues to defy Father Time. He posted a video of his workouts where he was running sprints. While Brady will never be considered remotely anything close to a sprinter, he did, however, beat his own time at the NFL Combine, which is pretty impressive for a player about to be 42 in less than a month from now. 

Tom Brady Pt2 – With all of the talk centering around Brady from the hot take artists every summer, one has to dig thru many oysters to find a pearl. Or in this case, I didn’t have to do anything at all since it was handed to me. Our good bud, @PatriotsSBLIII has always shared great stuff with us, and he never fails to use common sense in a frequently senseless debate when it comes to #12. He sent me this a few weeks ago but right now seems a perfect time to share this.

Tom Brady’s last 16 playoff games (2013-18)
13-3 (.813) 3SBs
452/702 (64.4%)
5,230 yards
7.45 Y/A
43.9* Att/gm @CSimmsQB
31 TD
12 INT
94.4 PR

Only 3 players in NFL history have had a 16-game regular season on this level. (Brady, Brees 2011; Manning 2013)

And for those anti-Brady types out there, not one of those games was against any team from the AFC East but all against playoff teams in the Divisional Round and beyond which makes those numbers even more impressive. Thanks again to @PatriotsSBLIII for the always great stuff and being a sounding board for constructive criticism. 

Tedy Bruschi Suffered a Stroke on July 4:

The former Patriots linebacker who has been a regular on ESPN was just given a promotion this week, being added to their pregame broadcast. It was reported that Bruschi, who had a stroke after the Super Bowl in Feb. 2005, recognized his own symptoms and reported it right away. Robert Kraft and the Patriots released the following statement:

“While shocked to hear of his recent stroke … we are relieved to learn that he recognized the early symptoms and immediately sought and received treatment,” the statement says. “On behalf of the entire Patriots organization, we extend our love, thoughts and prays to Tedy and the Bruschi family while we wish him godspeed in a complete recovery.”

Bruschi created a runners club called Tedy’s Team to raise awareness for the American Stroke Association. He has run the Boston Marathon three times, including in this spring. He is expected to make a complete recovery.

Damien Harris Could Be a Big Contributor For the Offense in 2019:

We were quite excited with the possibilities for the offense after the selection of Damien Harris in the 3rd round of the draft this spring by the Patriots. Harris was locked up for four years with a $3.6 million dollar deal. 

Harris should fit in extremely well in the Patriots running back by committee positional group. While in Alabama, he played with a multitude of very talented running backs that are now in the NFL. Alabama also played with RB committee under Nick Saban and Harris played with the likes of Derrick Henry, Bo Scarborough, Kenyan Drake, Najee Harris, and Josh Jacobs while with the Tide.  

With Sony Michel coming off of a minor but another knee procedure, Harris can more than fit the bill for the Patriots penchant for running the ball between the tackles. A couple of key numbers should be remembered when thinking about Harris:

  • 2 (Two) The number of fumbles Harris had in 477 career carries at Alabama. Bill Belichick loves sure-handed running backs and Harris is definitely that.
  • 6.4 – The average yards per carry Harris had at Alabama. That kind of average always puts the offense in a position to succeed. 
  • 3.2 – Yards Harris averaged after contact. This number can’t be overstated and when the offense needs to pick up those 3rd and 4th and short-yardage situations, it helps to have a back that can easily do that.

Harris isn’t a threat to take the ball to the house on every carry, he doesn’t have that breakaway speed but he is a perfect fit for the Patriots offense. He hits the hole quickly and has very good vision and will follow his blockers thru the point of attack. He then shows the ability and confidence to make a cut and go.

With a thickly built lower body, he’s tough to bring down, will get the yards after contact and has little wear on his tires after playing in a similar committee approach at ‘Bama. He’s a very good and willing pass blocker, something the Patriots insist on for their backs. And he is a good if underrated pass catcher out of the backfield with soft hands and the ability to move outside into the slot if needed. 

With Michel out of the picture during minicamp, Harris and Brandon Bolden got quite a few snaps in the running game. Look for that to continue thru training camp and into the preseason. He could be a very valuable addition to the offense as a rookie. 

Patriots Coaches Learn The Old Fashioned Way Under Belichick:

One of the ways that Bill Belichick likes to fill out his coaching staff is by hiring young coaching assistants. Then molding, training and develop them by increasing their responsibility by putting more and more on their plates.

This is the way everyone is trained, including Nick Caserio, Josh McDaniels, and Joe Judge who started at the bottom and worked their way up. It also includes his two sons who it seems always get mentioned it seems as benefits of nepotism more so than hard work. If one can remember back to the early days of Belichick’s reign as head coach in New England, they’ll see his sons on the sideline, charting plays and soaking in the experience, very much like Belichick learned from his father at Navy. 

And one of the things at all of the young coaches get tasked to do is to learn by “padding games.” So, what the heck is “padding games” and what does it entail, you ask? Nothing nefarious (sorry BB haters). 

Padding of games for Bill Belichick is about not only learning the game inside and out but more importantly for the assistants, it is learning the game thru the prism of the head coach’s eye. They learn the way that Belichick views the game and therefore they’ll be able to better support him in his game planning. That includes his sons.

Steve Belichick, the Patriots safeties coach, calls it his father’s “Football 101.”

Belichick will assign young assistants one or several games of an upcoming opponent. Then, watching the All-22 coaches tape, they will chart every snap on paper. The assistants have to chart the movement of every single player on the offense and defense on separate pieces of paper.

They must identify each player’s responsibility as well as formations, splits, routes from receivers, protection schemes and what each team is attempting to accomplish on each given play. Given that the length of games will involve so many plays, padding a single game will take from several hours (for someone who has been doing it) to several days for one game. 

McDaniels, in an interview during Super Bowl week with Yahoo cited padding games for three years as instrumental in learning the intricacies of the game. “I think the most important thing young people have got to understand is, it’s not punishment,” McDaniels said. “It’s a tremendous opportunity to learn how important everything is at this level.”

Thus, the assistants learn what concepts, both offensive and defensively will work against an opponent. The younger Belichick has charted hundreds of games by his own account and sees the value in it. 

“You get to learn about football, different schemes, different styles of play. You understand how different and creative you can be to win … I used to get excited to pad the good teams and I learned what not to do from the bad teams.”

This is the way the assistants learn how Belichick breaks down tape and how they all get on the same sheet of music. Bill’s famous attention to detail will invariably entail numerous sticky notes on each page, identifying things missed or wrong and what the assistant has gotten right. 

It is the way that the younger coaches grow and develop and gives them the attention to detail and exhaustiveness that Bill Belichick demands from himself and his assistants. There is no secret formula, it is just hard work…and doing your job.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Sticking With McCoy (for now) as Starting RB: 

When the Buffalo Bills entered the offseason, many thought RB Shady McCoy had played his last game in a Bills uniform. After suffering his worst season as a pro, on the wrong side of 30 and with a lot of wear on his tires, it seemed McCoy’s days were numbered for Buffalo. 

The Bills then brought in the ageless Frank Gore, to go along with T.J. Yeldon and rookie Devin Singletary and fullback Patrick DeMarco. And things seemed, on the surface that McCoy was soon to be phased out. But not so fast…

GM Brandon Beane has stated all spring that entering the season, McCoy was the starting running back. Something McCoy has been quick to echo. 

Perhaps with a move to the quick passing game utilizing Cole Beasley, the Bills are hoping with the addition of Gore, Yeldon, and Singletary that McCoy, with less work will rediscover his game. Holding onto him for trade value doesn’t make much sense at this point. Training camp will be interesting to watch this summer.

Dolphins’ Kendrick Norton Loses Arm in Horrific Car Crash:

The Miami Dolphins defensive lineman Kendrick Norton was seriously injured in a car crash early Thursday morning when his pickup truck crashed into a concrete barrier and ended up on its roof. 

EMTs reportedly had to amputate Norton’s arm before taking him to the hospital. He also reportedly suffered head injuries but while the damage to him was very serious, he is expected to survive. His condition was upgraded to good on Saturday morning. Norton was a 7th round draft pick of the Panthers in 2018, Miami scooped him off of Carolina’s practice squad last year and was expected to compete for a roster spot with Miami in training camp.

Sources from Norton’s family said on social media that another driver, behind the wheel of a 2015 Maserati cut off Norton and caused the accident. But that hasn’t been confirmed from the Florida Highway Patrol. They have yet to issue a report. That driver who has been identified as Jessie Pena, 30, was not injured in the crash.  And her car sustained minor damage.

Jets Hoping For a Big Year From Robby Anderson:

The New York Jets are hoping for bigger things from 2nd year QB Sam Darnold this fall. Adding RB LeVeon Bell to the Jets stable should definitely help take some of the pressure off of him. But beyond that, they’ll need better production from their wide receivers in 2019. 

The Jets current WR depth chart includes Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa, Jamison Crowder, Josh Bellamy, Charone Peake, Deontay Burnett, Greg Dortch, Valentine Holmes, Quadree Henderson, J.J. Jones, Jeff Smith, Tim White, and Deonte Thompson.

The first three players are locks to make the roster and they’ll need those and some of the latter wideouts to step it up this year. Barring a trade or a signing for an established wide receiver, these players, especially Robby Anderson will have to increase their production.

Both Anderson and Enunwa suffered injuries last year but should be fine come the beginning of training camp. One area where Anderson is expected to increase his production is in his usage. The Jets have used him as a deep threat mainly, however that is expected to change under Adam Gase. 

With Crowder and Enunwa’s injury history, depth may be an issue, but the biggest question this summer will be, can Anderson produce in a contract year and stay out of trouble? As the #1, he’ll draw the opponent’s often best cover corner. 

________________

“There are no shortcuts to building a team each season. You build the foundation brick by brick.”Bill Belichick

“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 Week 16 Report Card, Hats and T-Shirts in Win Over Buffalo

Steve Balestrieri
December 25, 2018 at 7:59 am ET

The Patriots returned home and the results were much better than the previous two weeks as they clinched the AFC East with a 24-12 win over Buffalo. The defense held the Bills to just a pair of field goals until a late garbage-time touchdown, the offense rolled up 273 yards on the ground, and they got some splash from their special teams.

The win, coupled with the Texans loss vaulted the Patriots right back into the #2 seed and a bye if the season ended today. They could be the #1 seed amazingly enough, although both KC and the Chargers would have to lose and then the Pats beat the Jets.

But there was still a lot of sloppiness and they turned the ball over three times which can’t continue.

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

Quarterback: D

Tom Brady threw two interceptions, although neither was his fault. The first one had Rex Burkhead turn outside where Brady expected him to turn across the middle. The result was an easy pick for Lorenzo Alexander. The second was a short pass to Rob Gronkowski where the ball sailed right thru his hands…ditto Jordan Poyer.

The fact that the Pats only threw 25 passes wasn’t a bad thing considering the running game was pounding the ball against the Bills front seven. But with the running game so effective, the play-action passing game should have skewered Buffalo. It did not.

Brady was off on several throws which keeps giving rise to the rumors that his knee isn’t even close to 100 percent. Not one pass was completed beyond 5-6 yards past the line of scrimmage. The pass protection wasn’t great and although Brady moved and slid well in the pocket, he didn’t target Chris Hogan or Phillip Dorsett once. In 89 combined snaps they weren’t targeted at all.

Running Backs: B+

Sony Michel had a big day running the ball, piling up 116 yards in 18 carries. While he was getting good blocking up front (something that several media members hold against only him among running backs when he has a big day), the most impressive thing about his day was after contact. Michel kept his legs churning and carried the pile further for more yardage. It paid off with his touchdown run where he carried the pile into the end zone where he was contacted around the two-yard line.

James White had 41 yards on five carries but his 27-yard touchdown was a beauty. Facing a 3rd and 2, White sliced thru the line and broke to the outside and raced down the left side for a big touchdown run. He had just two catches for 13 yards on four targets in the passing game.

Rex Burkhead had a couple of good plays in both the passing and running games but was also involved in two turnovers. He got the ball punched out after catching a pass from Brady in the first half and then ran the wrong route across the middle leading to an easy interception. He took over for Michel down the stretch, in the kill the clock mode.

Wide Receivers: C

Julian Edelman contributed the only notable splash play in the passing game, catching a six-yard Brady pass on 4th and 4 from the Bills 32-yard line. He was tackled by two Bills defenders but landed on top of them and alertly rolled off and ran into the end zone for the touchdown. He was the only consistent target in the passing game for the WRs catching six passes for 70 yards on ten targets. But Edelman also had two costly penalties and a drop.

Cordarrelle Patterson was targeted twice in the passing game and had one catch for three yards. But Patterson was outstanding at running the ball on the Jet sweeps gaining 66 yards on 4 carries, using his speed to burn past Bills defenders.  Phillip Dorsett had 13 yards on two carries after Patterson tweaked his knee. One was blown up for a four-yard loss but the other was a nice 17-yard scamper.

But neither Dorsett or Chris Hogan was targeted once in the passing game…which is inexcusable.

Tight Ends: C-

Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen were both mainly excellent in the run blocking department, acting as an extra tackle and blowing Bills defenders off the ball which helped create nice running lanes for the running backs to follow.

But neither was a factor at all in the passing game. Gronk was targeted three times and zero catches. Worse, he had a pass zip right thru his hands on the first play of the second half which was picked off by Jordan Poyer.

Offensive Line: A-

The offensive line did a tremendous job in the running game. Considering that they piled up 275 yards rushing before Brian Hoyer’s kneel-downs, that is exactly what the doctor ordered. Shaq Mason got downfield and put a huge block on Lorenzo Alexander on White’s long touchdown run. Trent Brown consistently was putting Bills defensive end Eddie Yarbrough on roller skates.

But the pass protection was not great. Although Brady was only sacked once, he was under duress far too often in the pocket. And this was on a day where the passing game was dinking and dunking along.

Defensive Line: A-

This was a huge bounce-back game for the defensive line. Danny Shelton was back over the nose and although he made only two tackles, having a big man that cover the two gaps made everything go much smoother in run defense. Bills running backs gained on 42 yards on 13 carries which is a 3.2-yard average.  The Bills only gained 72 yards overall on the ground, a big improvement over the past few weeks.

Trey Flowers was disruptive all game and Lawrence Guy was his normal solid self. Newcomer Ufomba Kamalu played about a dozen snaps and dropped Shady McCoy for a four-yard loss on his first snap as a Patriot.  

Linebackers: B

The Patriots linebackers biggest responsibility in this game was to keep Josh Allen from running rough-shod over them in scrambling from out of the pocket. In the Bills past four games Allen ran for 351 yards out of the pocket when things broke down. In this one, he was able to scramble for only 30 yards on five carries.

Linebackers John Simon and Kyle Van Noy were both very good at staying home and cutting off any lanes for Allen to run.  

Secondary: A-

The secondary had only two blips in the game. In the first quarter, Robert Foster had beaten Stephon Gilmore cleanly down the right sideline and then lost a well-thrown ball in the sun. And Jason McCourty and J.C. Jackson collided on a crossing route late in the game allowing Zay Jones to be all alone for a 31-yard touchdown.  Other than that final garbage time drive, the secondary’s play was terrific.

Gilmore broke up a fourth-down pass to Foster in the first half and a 3rd and 3 to Jones in the second half. Jackson flashed great ball skills in picking off a pass which was a poor decision by Allen. He’s rapidly turning into a terrific player and a total steal.

Jason McCourty picked off a pass as well on a nice move. He also ripped the ball out of Jason Croom’s hands on the five-yard line. Pat Chung was a factor and making plays all over the field.

Special Teams: A-

The Special Teams had another strong game, Ryan Allen boomed a 55-yarder pinning the Bills back inside the 10-yard line. He pinned them inside the 20, three times. Julian Edelman had a beauty of a 25-yard punt return which set up a field goal. And Matthew Slater blocked a punt, the third in three weeks.

The only knocks were the final two kickoff returns by Patterson that were blown up by the Bills and Michel who filled in for him after he tweaked his knee, muffed the kick and then got stuffed at the 12. Julian Edelman took a dumb penalty and the second time he’s done this recently by calling for a fair catch and then blocking a gunner.

Coaches: B+

The Patriots coaching staff put the onus on the running game this week which Buffalo’s defense, the best at stopping the pass, was unable to cope with. They also put a premium on stopping Josh Allen from scrambling and opening up plays downfield, which they did quite well. And they obviously wanted to shut down Buffalo’s running game and force Allen into trying to beat them thru the air. They did that and the Bills showed they are incapable of doing that.

We’re on to the Jets…

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.

Running Game Vaults Patriots To 10th Straight Division Crown

Steve Balestrieri
December 24, 2018 at 7:35 am ET

Running Game Vaults Patriots To 10th Straight Division Crown

The New England Patriots refound their running game and leaned hard on it, running for 273 yards against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday afternoon en route to a 24-12 win at Gillette Stadium. The win not only gave the Patriots the AFC Division Crown for the 10th year in a row but for the time being, put the Patriots back in command of their own destiny for a bye during Wildcard Weekend.

The Houston Texans lost on a last-second field goal in Philadelphia which put the Pats back up to the #2 spot. And coupled with the losses by the Chargers and Chiefs, the Patriots could actually still get the #1 seed, however, both teams would have to lose again and have the Patriots beat the Jets. That last second loss in Miami now looms large in the grand scheme of things.

The Pats flipped the script against the Bills from the last two weeks and controlled the line of scrimmage in the running game both offensively and defensively. Both were a welcome sight. Especially with the passing offense mired in neutral all game. Here are some of our observations from Sunday’s game:

Run Defense Much Better:

After being gashed recently against the run, the Patriots run defense was much better this week against the Bills. It was helped by re-inserting Danny Shelton into the lineup and playing him over the nose and filling two gaps. But the rest of the front seven played much better this week, being stout at the point of attack and doing their job.

Buffalo ran for just 72 yards total but their running backs averaged just 3.3 yards per rush while Josh Allen, who’s been scrambling wild lately was held to just 30 yards this week. LeSean McCoy was held to just 9 yards or 6 carries. While he’s been slowed by a bad hamstring, the Bills will have a tough decision to make on him in the spring.

As much as we’ve criticized the front seven’s play the past few weeks, they deserve a lot of credit here. They played the run tough all day and allowed only three rushing first downs all day and held the Bills to a 2-12 and 0-1 totals on third and fourth downs respectively.

Running Game Set the Tone For Keeping the Bills On Their Heels:

Sony Michel led the way with 116 yards on 18 carries as the Pats rolled up 273 yards on the ground. Much of the credit goes to the offensive line who won their matchup with the Bills interior DL and were consistently getting a good push. Michel, who always gets his results pooh-poohed by many of the media members in Boston when he has a good game, was very sharp in this one. Strange, when Ezekiel Elliott or Todd Gurley have big games, do the Dallas or LA media caveat their stories with “yeah but the OL was opening big holes”? Not very likely. Give Michel his due, he’s had a terrific rookie season.

Cordarrelle Patterson was gashing the Bills on Jet sweeps before injuring his knee as they did a terrible job of staying at home and setting the edge. Patterson gained 66 yards on just four carries, although on one play it seemed Lorenzo Alexander was in perfect position but Patterson’s speed just beat him to the edge.

But the Patriots ground game resulted in the Pats controlling the tempo and the clock. At one point they ran seven straight times. On another drive, they ran 10 straight as they held the ball for more than 35 minutes.

Mental Mistakes Still Maddening:

The Patriots allowed the Bills to hang around for far too long in this game because of mental mistakes and turnovers and the majority were made by veterans, not rookie UDFAs. Julian Edelman had a drop on the Patriots first series and then had two penalties, one for blocking on STs after calling for a fair catch, the second time he’s done that in recent weeks. The other was a holding call that erased a nice Sony Michel run (how many times have we heard that this year?).

But Edelman atoned for that with a great heads’ up play where he caught a pass from Brady on a key 4th down call. Facing a 4th and 4 at the Bills 32-yard line, Brady zipped a nice pass to Edelman who easily had the first down. But as two Bills defenders brought him to the turf, he landed on them, never touching the ground and had the presence of mind to keep going…for a 32-yard touchdown pass.

Rex Burkhead fumbled on one run after the catch in the first half. The ball was punched out as he was going to the ground where Micah Hyde recovered and ran it back to the Patriots 40-yard line. But then later in the half, Burkhead cut outside when Brady expected him to cut across the middle and the result was Lorenzo Alexander picking the pass off at the Bills 21.

And on the first play of the second half, Brady targeted Rob Gronkowski who let the ball zip right thru his hands and into the lap of Jordan Poyer

Passing Game Struggles Badly:

The fact that the Patriots ran the ball so effectively covered up the fact that the Bills #1 pass defense totally shut down the Patriots passing game. Tom Brady had very pedestrian numbers of 13-24 for 126 yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs. While neither interception was Brady’s fault, it doesn’t hide the fact that the passing game has a ton of work to do.

Brady only targeted two wide receivers Edelman and Patterson, and only went to Patterson twice. Both Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett were not targeted in the passing game at all. Gronkowski was targeted twice with no catches and a pick.

The Bills front seven deserves a lot of credit here, they were getting plenty of pressure on Brady and were forcing bad throws all game long. With Josh Gordon gone, changes will have to be made, but this doesn’t fill one with confidence heading into January. WIth the running game gashing Buffalo, play action should have been wide open but it wasn’t for the vast majority of the game.

Another Blocked Punt for the STs:

For much of the year, the Patriots special teams had uncharacteristically struggled. But they brought back Ramon Humber and signed former Raven Albert McClellan and the results have been very favorable. McClellan blocked a pair of punts in Miami two weeks ago and on Sunday, STs ace Matthew Slater turned the trick on Buffalo.

With about six minutes to go, Slater came in thru the inside and blocked the punt which took a Buffalo roll and actually got 10 yards where the Patriots took over on the Bills 33.

Edelman had a big punt return of 25 yards that set the Pats up in Buffalo territory for a drive that stalled at the Bills five, but they kicked a field goal that effectively sealed the game at that point.

Defense Gets Two Interceptions of Allen:

The Bills passing offense came in ranked among the worst in the league. And on Sunday they showed why. They dropped numerous passes although, in fairness to Robert Foster, a deep ball was right where he lost it in the sun. While several of Josh Allen’s throws were well off target.

However, the Patriots secondary made a couple of nice interceptions. Rookie J.C. Jackson made a nice play on a deep pass from Allen where he definitely shouldn’t have thrown that pass. But Jackson cut in front of the receiver and high-pointed the ball.

Later Jason McCourty also made nice play on another pick. Newcomer Ufomba Kamalu played about a dozen snaps on defense and had a nice tackle for a loss on his first snap as a Patriot.

The Patriots finish out the regular season by hosting the Jets who lost in O.T. to the Packers. Stay tuned…and Merry Christmas

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.

Patriots Survive Monday Night Slugfest, Down Buffalo 25-6, 3 Up, 3 Down

Steve Balestrieri
October 30, 2018 at 8:15 am ET

Nothing Came Easy in This One

The New England Patriots are 6-2 and have a two-game lead in the AFC East. They won a road divisional game on Monday Night Football and have been victorious five games in a row. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they struggled, especially offensively to finish drives all night long and scored only one offensive touchdown. But in the end, they’ll take the 25-6 win on the road over the Buffalo Bills and move on. It was a very physical, hard-hitting contest throughout.

The loss of Sony Michel was painfully felt by the Patriots offense as the Bills defense teed off defensively and their pass rush frequently had the New England offensive line on roller skates. The Bills entered the game with one of the better units in the league at creating pressure and they certainly did on Monday night.

Tom Brady was under duress for much of the night. The Bills deep zones frustrated the Patriots ability to get vertical for much of the night and the wind conditions, which Brady said after the game, made quite a few throws flutter, would affect both teams ability to throw the ball deep.

Prior to the game, there were reports from the NFL’s Ian Rapoport that WR Josh Gordon was late for the team walk-thru and would be punished by sitting out several series, possibly even the first quarter. However, once the game started, the Patriots got the ball first and Gordon was on the field.

Gordon was asked after the game about this, he hesitated for a second and then said, “That’s going to be a question you’re going to have to ask Coach about,” Gordon said. “In relation to the game, I was available, so that’s a plus.” Bill Belichick, in typical curt fashion, said only “You’d have to talk to whoever wrote that,” he said. “I have no idea.”

Which leads back to Rapoport, who is always very accurate with his reporting and not prone to sensationalism. Was this just a case where he got his information really wrong? Or was this a case of the Patriots using an Agent provocateur in trying to ferret out where the leaks are coming from at One Patriots Place? This will be interesting in how it plays out.

Especially considering that Jay Glazer from Fox Sports reported on Sunday that the Pats were in the market “trying to go after a bonafide premium wide receiver, offering up high-draft choices for that.” Once the news of Gordon’s supposed tardiness broke, it seemed to fall into place. Now, it is just another puzzle that we aren’t likely to get an answer to anytime soon.

The Patriots defense did their job, albeit against one of the worst offensive teams in the NFL but they held the Bills to just two field goals and outscoring them in the process. Devin McCourty intercepted a Derek Anderson pass and returned it 84 yards for a touchdown to seal the game.

But it was Buffalo’s running game, that is what the team wanted to stop and they did just that. The Bills rushed for just 46 yards on 19 carries, excluding an Anderson kneel down at the end of the half, they averaged just 2.6 yards per carry on the night. LeSean McCoy had just 13 yards on 12 carries. Trey Flowers had an outstanding game, defending the run he was shooting gaps and was generally disruptive all night. Kyle Van Noy, filling in for the injured Dont’a Hightower was fantastic. Van Noy was all over the field, making seven tackles, had two sacks, forced a fumble and had two tackles for a loss as well.

With Michel out, the Pats running back depth was woefully thin, they opted not to activate Kenneth Farrow off the practice squad and stuck with just two healthy running backs, James White and Kenjon Barner. But they moved Cordarrelle Patterson to tailback for this week’s game and he logged a game-high amount of carries (10) and yards (38) on either team. Patterson isn’t going to make anyone forget Barry Sanders but gets high marks for stepping up and being a team-first guy when and where they needed him to.

The Patriots had three good drives in the first half but couldn’t finish any of them.  On their first possession, facing a 2nd and 14 from their 34, Brady went deep to Gordon but the ball fluttered and came down short. Gordon, who had his coverage beat, tried to come back for it but missed it and a golden opportunity. It was that kind of night.

On their second drive, they drove to Buffalo’s five-yard line but stalled and had to settle for a Stephen Gostkowski field goal. They scored on three consecutive drives but stalled on each and Gostkowski gave them a 9-0 lead. They were moving the ball but Buffalo’s defense was doing a great job of bending but not breaking.

After the Bills responded with a field goal to narrow it to 9-3, the Patriots drive in the final two minutes would stall out again. But this time, Gostkowski’s 51-yard field goal would drift to the right and was no good.

After the team’s traded field goals in the second half to make it 12-6, the Patriots put together their best drive of the game and drove 85 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown, converting a couple of key third downs. Facing a 3rd and 6 from the Patriots 19, Brady uncorked a laser down the left side to Julian Edelman for 26 yards. Then facing a 3rd and 8 at the Patriots 47, Brady found James White who promptly juked a defender and got nine. Patterson had a nice 22-yard run before Brady hit Chris Hogan down to the Bills one-yard line with another nice throw. From there White powered it into the end zone and it was 18-6.

The Bills drove to the Pats 25 and nearly scored but Jason Croom dropped the ball in the end zone. After a false start, Anderson got fooled and when he tried a deep pass down the middle, Devin McCourty, playing deep safety, read Anderson’s eyes and jumped the route perfectly picking it off and rolling 84 yards for a game-sealing touchdown. That made it 25-6 and that was all she wrote.

We’re on to Green Bay…

Three Up, Three Down:

Up-

Julian Edelman– The Patriots pound for pound toughest wide receiver had a very good game and his best since his return from his ACL injury and subsequent suspension. Edelman was the main recipient for Brady’s passes as the Bills were playing those deep zones and keeping everything in front of them.

Edelman was very productive, catching 9 passes for 109 yards but also paid the price Monday night as he took several big hits. That 26-yarder down the right sideline, got the Patriots going for their only touchdown drive of the night.

Edelman’s grit and toughness were missed during his absence, and on a night like Monday night, he was a big factor in the team being able to move the ball.

Kyle Van Noy- As we mentioned above, with Hightower out, Van Noy was going to have to step up. And he did. Van Noy was making plays all over the field, logging in a pair of sacks, a forced fumble and two tackles for a loss.

He was very active and the underrated Van Noy showed his versatility off on Monday night with a big, big performance.

James White- The Swiss Army Knife of the Patriots defense, along with Edelman accounted for the vast majority of the Patriots offense. It was no coincidence with the game still on the line in the fourth quarter that White and Edelman were the choices by Brady to keep the drive alive.

He and Edelman accounted for 211 yards of the Patriots 387 yards of offensive output. Another big game for White who caught 10 passes for 79 yards.

Down:

Running Game- The Pats running game which had been so impressive the past month with no Sony Michel was mired in neutral all game long. The Bills bottled them up all game long until the big Patterson run for 22 yards during the lone touchdown drive.

This isn’t a knock on Patterson, who was playing out of position and did as well as anyone can expect given the circumstances, but if Michel is going to miss more time, then the team really needs to explore the possibility of bringing in another back.

Play calling- We may be a little nitpicky here because we thought Josh McDaniels made some creative play calls during the game, but at other times, we thought they made some mistakes.

After the Bills had hemmed the Patriots deep with a punt and penalty on Edelman, the Pats faced a third down and three at their own 12-yard line. They lined up to run Patterson in a power formation, something the Bills were just sitting on. The attacked it and blasted him down for a one-yard loss. That directly led to the Bills second field goal of the game.

No Killer Instinct- The Patriots made this game much tougher on themselves than they had to for three and a half quarters. They had plenty of opportunities to put the Bills in the rearview mirror where Buffalo’s lack of offense would have put them in a bad place. But they couldn’t finish drives and they had to scrap and fight right up until the final 4-5 minutes.

Give the Bills a ton of credit, their defense played superbly and they were hitting hard all night long. But this team is better than that and left far too many points on the field. Learn from it, file it away for the next time the teams meet and move on.

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Patriots-Bills Week 8, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
October 26, 2018 at 6:54 am ET

The New England Patriots are heading off to Buffalo and facing the Bills in a prime-time Monday Night Football matchup. They have a chance to enter the halfway point of the season at 6-2, which is pretty impressive considering the 1-2 in September.

This week’s game will be broadcast by ESPN and can be seen locally on WCVB-TV Channel 5. Joe Tessitore will handle play-by-play duties with Jason Witten as the color analyst. Booger McFarland and Lisa Salters 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 (5-2) defeated the Bears on the road 38-31 last Sunday in a rare 1:00 p.m. start. They’ve won four in a row. The Special Teams scored 14 points on a blocked punt returned for a touchdown and a 95-yard kickoff return. Tom Brady threw for 277 yards and three touchdowns.

The Bills (2-5)  lost to Indianapolis Colts 37-5. Derek Anderson, the 14-year veteran took over for the injured Josh Allen and threw three interceptions and also had a fumble as the Buffalo offense continues to struggle.

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

Series History:

The Patriots and the Bills are meeting for the 117th time and the Patriots have dominated overall 72-43-1. But since Bill Belichick took over in 2000, the Patriots have won 31 of 36 games between the two teams.

Tom Brady’s record against the Bills in games where he’s started and finished the game is 28-3. With a win on Monday Night, he will become the QB with the third most wins in Buffalo behind only Jim Kelly and Joe Ferguson.

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

Patriots RBs vs Bills Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Buffalo

The Patriots running game has been outstanding for the past month but they lost Sony Michel who has been the catalyst behind it all, to a knee injury against the Bears last week. The Bills have been good defensively, their issue has been the defense has been on the field far too long this season. They allow an average of 110 yards per game and have the big men inside, Star Lotuleilei, Kyle Williams, Jordan Phillips, with LBs Tremaine Edwards, and Lorenzo Alexander to make things difficult.

The Pats will go with James White and Kenjon Barner again this week but without Michel the running will be a bit harder to come by. They’ll look to pass first to get the running game going this week. The Colts gashed the Bills on the ground last week, so that will bear some watching here.

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

The Patriots passing game is looking more and more potent and last week, they were going much more vertical in their passing concepts than we’ve become used to. The good news is that Rob Gronkowski is expected to be back for this week’s game and his presence helps out the offense attacking the middle of the field.

The Bills pass defense is their strength and have not allowed a 300-yard passer in 15 consecutive games dating back to last year. The pass rush is improved with Jerry Hughes having a solid season and a very good secondary. The Bills have two good safeties in Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde which will bear watching as the middle is where the Patriots like to attack offensively.

Look for Tom Brady to continue targeting Josh Gordon more and with him matched up with Bills talented corner Tre’Davious White, it promises to be a great matchup to watch. But with the outside receivers going more vertical, it should open things up for the Pats to work underneath with Julian Edelman and James White.

Next up the Buffalo offense:

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

The Bills have a pair of talented running backs that New England knows well in LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory. McCoy has been in the concussion protocol but will probably play this week. It will be interesting to see how Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll who knows the Patriots well will look to attack this week.

The Patriots run defense has been much better of late during the four-game winning streak. Last week’s numbers were skewed by scrambles by QB Mitch Trubiski who ran for 81 yards. Bears running backs averaged less than 3 yards per carry.

With their passing game dormant, the Bills need their running game to give them a boost and help get things jump-started. This will be a big matchup for the interior linebackers (Dont’a Hightower and Elandon Roberts) this week. Hightower showed up on the injury report with a knee injury so that will bear watching.

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

The Bills passing game is a total mess right now averaging a league-low 129.4 yards per game thru the air. Top draft pick Josh Allen won’t play this week, he’s down with an elbow injury and journeyman Derek Anderson gets the nod. But the real problem is the Bills offensive line, which has been porous, allowing 29 sacks thus far. The Patriots pass rush has to be a difference maker this week. Zay Jones, Kelvin Benjamin, and tight end Charles Clay are decent enough weapons, but no Bills QB has had time to throw.

The Patriots pass defense has been good with the cornerbacks covering wide receivers but they’ve had far too many breakdowns in the safety play, allowing big plays. They’ve also had issues containing mobile QBs which shouldn’t be an issue this week.

Look for the Pats to continue their recent trend of being more aggressive in the pass rush against a bad Buffalo offensive line. Anderson isn’t the most mobile of QBs and A-gap pressure may be in the cards this week. Look for Anderson to target Clay early and often in this one. Watching the tape of a few of their games, they like to hit Clay with passes over the middle where he finds open spots to roam. That’s been an issue with New England and Buffalo has watched the tape,

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots seemed to have turned the corner in their special teams play last week. Patterson returned one kickoff for 95 yards and a touchdown. In the second half, he nearly had another, going 38 yards and almost breaking it again. The Patriots also had a punt block for a touchdown, and with Stephen Gostkowski and Ryan Allen, they have a very solid kicking game.

The Bills had a punt blocked against Houston and had their own issues with muffing punts and kickoff returns. We will finally get a chance to see punter Corey Bojorquez on the field after he spent all of training camp with the Patriots. He and kicker Stephen Hauschka are solid, but the Pats get the nod here.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This one will require the Pats to get off to a good start. Buffalo hasn’t hosted a Monday Night Football game in a long time. The place will be rocking and the Bills will be looking to start quickly and get the crowd even more amped (lubed?) up.

The Patriots should take a page out of the Bills opponents this year, they’ve outscored Buffalo 110-40 in the first half. They need to start fast, get the people sitting on their hands and force the Bills to have to rely on Anderson to get them back in the game.

Brady may not have eye-popping numbers this week, but look for him and the offense to be efficient. That is, to convert third downs, score touchdowns in the red zone and take advantage of opportunities given to them. And there should be plenty to be had.   Patriots 38-14

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Patriots  Week 16  Report Card, Patriots Run Over Bills 37-16

Steve Balestrieri
December 26, 2017 at 9:12 am ET

The Patriots took care of the Bills again and won by 21, but it wasn’t as easy as the score would indicate. Buffalo had a much better game plan this time around and played hard. The score was very close until about midway thru the fourth quarter when the Pats pulled away.

This one had more controversy as Kelvin Benjamin appeared to snag a go-ahead touchdown just before the end of the half. The referees signaled a touchdown but the league’s replay officials, (which took forever) decided it wasn’t a catch. Whether you believe it was a catch or not, it certainly appears that the league’s officials in New York are adding to the problem with over-analyzing these things rather than simplifying them.

But in the end, the Bills with an extra four points or not, couldn’t stop the Patriots or Dion Lewis and New England scored on six straight possessions. Tyrod Taylor and the Buffalo offense weren’t going to match that and the Pats win assured them of their eight straight 12-win season and a first-round bye in the playoffs.

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

Quarterback: B-

Tom Brady much like the first game in Buffalo wasn’t sharp in the early going, before getting it going in the second quarter and beyond. He was late in throwing a slant to Kenny Britt which resulted in a Jordan Poyer pick-six and a 10-3 Buffalo lead. He threw well behind Rob Gronkowski and then overthrew him on passes where he was wide open. But he quickly found his game.

After the pick-six, the Patriots would outscore Buffalo 34-6 and Brady began heating up. He didn’t throw an incompletion in the second half and ended up 21-28 for 224 yards with 2 TDs and an interception.  

Running Backs: A

No James White, no Rex Burkhead? No problem. Dion Lewis, the guy whose name former Bills coach Rex Ryan claimed he didn’t know slashed Buffalo again. Lewis headlined a Patriots ground game that gashed the Bills for 193 yards. The Patriots knew the Bills were selling out trying to stop Brady from throwing and had a slew of smaller defensive backs in to stop the pass. The Patriots ran right at this group with deadly effect. New England ran for 191 the first time the teams played and 193 on Sunday.

Lewis led the way with 24 carries for 129 yards and two touchdowns. In two games against the Bills, this season Lewis ran for 221 yards. It is safe to say they know his name now.

Wide Receivers: C
The wide receivers again this week were pretty much a non-factor in the game. Buffalo’s secondary as we said, tried to take them away by flooding the field with DBs and it worked for the most part. NE’s wide receivers had a combined 7 catches for 87 yards.  Danny Amendola had three catches for 28, Phillip Dorsett had one catch for 24 yards, newcomer Kenny Britt had just one reception for 16 yards and Brandin Cooks had just two receptions for 19 yards, but he did draw a 49-yard pass interference penalty.

Tight Ends: A

Rob Gronkowski was a big factor in the passing game catching five passes for 67 yards including a sick 17-yard touchdown grab. Running a go route down the left sideline, Brady threw a back shoulder pass that Gronk snagged one-handed and was able to get both feet down for a highlight reel touchdown. He also drew a couple of pass interference penalties on the Bills as well as producing his normal stellar work in the running game.

Dwayne Allen had two catches for 26 yards while Jacob Hollister had a catch and a run for five yards each. On his run, if he stayed with Gronk and Allen to the outside, he had a touchdown. But he cut back inside and was tackled on the three.

Gronkowski also was asked about the Patriots success (12+ wins in the last eight seasons) and had a typically Gronk answer:


Offensive Line: B+

The offensive line’s play was very good this week, especially in the passing game. Brady was sacked twice but was only hit on two other occasions. He worked from a clean pocket for most of the day.

The running game was on point again as the offensive line was winning the battles there and opened up big holes for Lewis to exploit. They were getting to the second level and keeping the linebackers off the runners.  The Patriots set the pace and dictated how the game was going to be run.

Defensive Line: B

It was a good day for the Patriots front seven especially the defensive line. The Bills ran for just 84 yards on 24 carries, a 3.5-yard average. LeSean McCoy had the lion’s share of that with 17 carries for 71 yards. He had a nice 18-yard run on the edge, but the longer the game went on, the better the run defense got especially inside. The Patriots sacked Taylor six times and had 11 tackles for loss.

Linebackers: B

Marquis Flowers had a big, big day as he notched 2.5 sacks and had three tackles for loss and three QB hits in the Bills backfield. Elandon Roberts shared a TFL with Eric Lee but this week, there weren’t the glaring errors with misses and filling the wrong gaps as the linebackers were prepared and stepped up.

Especially with Flowers who has always been known as a STs guy but had a career-type of a day that was an unexpected bonus.

Secondary: C

After having their best day of the year the last time the teams played, the New England secondary had its issues all day long with the Bills receivers. Kelvin Benjamin is a beast. Even on one leg, (he needs MCL surgery after the season), the 6’5, 243-pound Benjamin gave Stephon Gilmore fits. The Bills were high-pointing the ball or allowing Benjamin to use his body to screen off Gilmore where he had five catches for 70 yards. But at least he was there with him all day.

Malcolm Butler had an awful day against Deonte Thompson who had Butler turned all around a few times with four catches for 91 yards. Butler was caught biting on a double move and just had a rough day all-around. Shady McCoy had five catches for 76 yards, with most of it coming on an outstanding 39-yard run where he caught a screen pass at the line of scrimmage and weaved and faked his way thru the Patriots secondary down to the 10-yard line.

Pat Chung did a pretty decent job on Charles Clay and Devin McCourty was solid in the back end but it wasn’t the greatest day for the secondary as a whole. But they were bailed out a few times by Taylor’s poor decisions to not throw the ball away, where he took horrible sacks and by curious decisions by the Bills coaching staff.

Special Teams: B

No worries here, Stephen Gostkowski was perfect in his four extra points and three field goals. His kickoffs as always are spot on and allowed the Patriots coverage units to do a great job of limiting the Bills return game. Ryan Allen punted only once for 44 yards with no return. Buffalo’s coverage units also had a very solid game. Special Teams play only played a key role in the Bills’ missed 50-yard field goal.

Coaches: B+

Bill Belichick had the team coming home after a long road trip and a particularly emotional win over the Steelers. Although they started slowly, the team was prepared and they had a good game that was executed well. As always, the Patriots halftime adjustments were outstanding, outscoring Buffalo 24-3 after the break.

Josh McDaniels’ offense was missing Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell, Martellus Bennett, Marcus Cannon, Rex Burkhead and James White. And they still scored 37 points without a big turnover from the defense. That was their second highest output of the season.

And for all the hand-wringing about the Patriots defense, Matt Patricia’s unit gave up a total of nine points on just three field goals, the only touchdown the Bills scored in two games this season was by their defense. While it was neither perfect nor pretty, it was still effective.

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Patriots – Bills  Part II Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge

Steve Balestrieri
December 22, 2017 at 9:44 am ET

The Patriots return home for the final two regular-season games of the 2017 NFL Season. They’ve been on the road for five of the last six weeks and finished that difficult part of their schedule 5-1 and although injuries have ravaged the team, are in prime position to win the top seed in the AFC. If the Patriots take care of business the right way, they won’t have to leave Gillette Stadium again unless they travel to Minneapolis.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, December 24 at 1:05 p.m. and can be seen 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.

The Patriots (11-3) are coming off a stunning 27-24 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road. The Patriots scored the final 11 points of the game and then had to make a stand inside the 10-yard line where Duron Harmon intercepted Ben Roethlisberger to seal away the win.

The Bills (8-6) have won two in a row since losing to the Patriots on December 3 and last week beat Miami 24-16. If the playoffs started today, the Bills would be the #6 seed in the playoffs as they hold the tie-breaker with the Ravens.

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

Series History:

The Patriots and Bills history go back to the earliest days of the AFL in 1960. Sunday will mark the 116th meeting between the two franchises. Overall the Patriots hold a 71-43-1 edge, including a 36-21 at Foxboro. The Patriots have dominated in the Bill Belichick era, taking 30 of 34, and since Tom Brady became the QB of the Patriots, the Bills have only beaten NE in Foxboro once, in the season finale in 2014. New England rested many of their starters and Brady played only the first half.

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

First up is the Patriots offense:

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

The Patriots running game had one its best games of the year against the Bills a few weeks ago, rushing for 191 yards with Dion Lewis leading the way with 92 yards and Rex Burkhead with a pair of touchdowns. Lewis will probably continue to get the lion’s share of the carries with James White and possibly Mike Gillislee getting some work this week. The offensive line did a good job in the running game three weeks ago.

Buffalo’s run defense has been as problematic as the Patriots have. The two teams have nearly the identical yards per game average allowed on the ground. Last week, Miami ran 21 times for 100 yards.

Look for New England to run the ball hard again at the Bills front seven. Lewis is having a fantastic year and has taken over the top back slot in the New England offense. They’ll miss Burkhead who’ll be out until at least the playoffs begin and hopefully have him back by the divisional round. Gillislee, having been a healthy scratch for a month and a half, could play a key role this week.

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

The Patriots passing game is banged up at the wide receiver position. Chris Hogan missed last week’s game with a flare-up of his shoulder injury. Hopefully, he’ll be back this week to go along with Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola, newcomer Kenny Britt and Phillip Dorsett. But the wildcard is Rob Gronkowski. He torched the Steelers for nine catches for 168 yards last week. Three weeks ago against the Bills, he had nine catches for 147 yards and despite being held on a few plays that went uncalled, was the big “X” factor of the game. James White and Lewis add to the weapons that can be brought to bear in the passing game.

Buffalo’s pass defense has created a ton of turnovers. Last week, they forced four fumbles against Jay Cutler and picked him off three times. Led by Tre’Davious White, they’ve stiffened their pass defense on the perimeter. Safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer have made a tremendous difference in the middle of the field.

Look for Brady to spread them out and look for favorable matchups. Last time Cooks was held to just 17 yards on two catches. That isn’t going to get it done. Look for Brady to get him involved early. Britt could be a factor in the red zone and of course, Gronkowski remains the man the Bills have to stop. Brady will look for him to attack the seams. If Hogan is recovered from his setback which was supposedly related to a bad reaction to meds, it will be a big bonus for the offense.

Next up the Bills offense:

Bills RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Buffalo

The Bills running game goes thru LeSean McCoy and the last time the teams played, he ran for 93 yards on just 15 carries. But once the Bills fell far behind, they had to abandon the running game in an attempt to catch up. Look for McCoy to get a lot of looks early in this one. Buffalo will be taking a page out of the Pittsburgh playbook and try to keep Brady and Co. on the sideline. Tyrod Taylor is always a threat to run and can keep the chains moving with his feet.

The Patriots depleted front seven continues to struggle badly against the run. No Dont’a Hightower, Alan Branch and Kyle Van Noy among others have left them struggling for solutions. Branch is definitely out this week and it remains to be seen if Van Noy will be ready to come back although he was seen practicing…with the secondary this week.

Look for the Bills to test the Patriots at the edge, where they’ve been really struggling. Eric Lee has been targeted by opponents as well as Deatrich Wise. Without Van Noy, the edge has been a sore spot. Linebackers David Harris, Elandon Roberts, and Marquis Flowers have to do a better job at run support.

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

Buffalo’s passing game (171.2 YPG average) is predicated on getting the running game going and then having Taylor roll out and make plays with his feet. His two biggest targets are McCoy out of the backfield and tight end Charles Clay. The production from Kelvin Benjamin who’s been hurt and Zay Jones has been inconsistent.

The Patriots pass defense, specifically their secondary has been much better the second half of the season. It will be interesting to see how the Patriots opt to defend McCoy this week. Look for Pat Chung to draw Clay. In the last matchup, they held Taylor and Nathan Peterman to 82 yards net passing.

Look for the Patriots to try to contain Taylor in the pocket. Early downs will tell the tale here. If the Bills are in third and long, their offense will struggle big time having to pass for their first downs. They’ll be looking for those third and short where Taylor can run/pass option for short gainers.  

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski is having an excellent 2017 season, his extra point miss last week was the result of a rare bad snap/hold from Joe Cardona and Ryan Allen. But his kickoffs and outstanding coverage have pinned opponents deep all season.

The Bills Special teams have been good, but not great. Stephen Hauschka has had a very solid season Colton Schmidt has a 44.4 yard average with a 40.6-yard net. The punt coverage units are very solid.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This one has playoff implications for both teams. If the Patriots win this week and next, they’ll have home-field advantage for the playoffs as the AFC’s #1 seed. Buffalo is the #6 seed right now and would break their streak of no playoff years at 17. They are tied with but hold the tiebreaker with Baltimore.

Tom Brady has only lost to the Bills at home once, in the 2014 finale with most of the starters sitting and Brady playing a half. Overall since 2000, the Bills have won in New England only twice, in 2014 and last year against 3rd string QB Jacoby Brissett. That is a huge obstacle standing in front of them.

Look for the Patriots to keep things balanced offensively and running the ball much like they did the last time but attacking the Bills vertically as well. This one will be close for the first half, but New England pulls away and goes to 12-3.  Patriots 31-17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quarterback: B-

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

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

Running Backs: A

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

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

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

Wide Receivers: C-

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

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

Tight Ends: A

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

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

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

Offensive Line: B

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

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

Defensive Line: B

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

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

Linebackers: B-

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

Secondary: A

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

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

Special Teams: B

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

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

Coaches: A

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

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

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

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

Bills Look to Erase 17 Years of Frustration Against the Patriots

Steve Balestrieri
November 30, 2017 at 9:42 am ET

The Patriots and Buffalo Bills will meet for the first time in 2017 on Sunday in Buffalo as the schedule makers don’t have the division rivals face each other until December. The rivalry has gone back and forth but the Bills have had a nightmarish record against the Patriots in the Bill Belichick era.

The Patriots won 15 in a row at one point and Tom Brady has held mastery over Buffalo. Brady is 28-3 overall against the Bills but one loss was the season finale in 2014 where the Pats rested many of their starters and Brady played in the first half. But 2017 is a new year and this Buffalo team is still in the playoff hunt as the season enters Week 13. If the Bills are going to end their own 17-year playoff drought, they’ll have to start taking some of these matchups with New England.

A sweep by the Patriots this year would doom any post-season hopes the Bills have. The teams split last year but the Week 4 win in Foxboro last season was against the Patriots #3 QB Jacoby Brissett while Brady was serving his Deflategate suspension and Jimmy Garoppolo was hurt. So, the normally raucous crowd will be even louder this week, since the Bills actually have something to play for this week and it will have the crowd and the team fired up.

Here are some things that we’ve identified this week as things to keep an eye on:

Defense Regains its Swagger…. “We’re Back”: The Bills defense had been gashed and gashed badly during the three-game losing streak. In the three blowout losses to the Jets, Saints, and Chargers, the Buffalo defense gave up 638 yards rushing. In all of their other games, they allowed just 616 yards on the ground. Last week, they righted the ship and stuffed the Kansas City running game to the tune of just 57 yards on the ground and 236 yards overall in the 16-10 win in Kansas City.

This led linebacker Matt Milano to reflect on the re-emergence of the defense stating “It got lost,” l Milano said of the defensive swagger, “but it’s back. We’re back.”

The Bills have a young and talented secondary, they’ve gotten very good play from safety Micah Hyde. In the Bills victories earlier in the year, they were generating a ton of turnovers and that’s what they’ll need this week to slow the New England offense and keep up with them scoring wise. Much will have to come from the Bills pass rush which has just 17 sacks on the season. They’ll have to bring pressure on Brady if they’re going to win this one at home.

The Offense Still Goes Thru Shady McCoy: McCoy is averaging a very unMcCoy-like 3.9 yards per carry this season. And he had a rough day against the Chiefs defense running for just 49 yards on 22 carries. He leads the team with 758 yards rushing on the season, with four touchdowns, still good for eighth in the league. So, he’ll be amped up for this one in front of the home crowd, especially with things to play for.

McCoy leads the team in receptions with 46 as well, far ahead of the next most productive receiver in Charles Clay with 29. So the Patriots focus will be on slowing down McCoy this week. The Patriots run defense hasn’t been great and since Buffalo isn’t a dynamic passing team, they’ll be looking to run the ball with McCoy and Tyrod Taylor scrambling, which will set up their play-action passes and bootlegs to the perimeter of the defense.

It is possible that McCoy, who is playing in his ninth NFL season is starting to show some wear on the treads. But the Patriots won’t be looking at him this way and their defense will put him down as the #1 target to slow down. He’s nearly 33 percent of the Bills offense. Buffalo needs a big game from McCoy this week to pull off the upset.

Taylor Has To Step Up His Game…Now: Most people don’t believe that the Bills will carry quarterback Tyrod Taylor into the 2018 season. The Bills are figuring him to be gone by then. The fact that they went with rookie Nathan Peterman two weeks ago kind of confirmed that they are looking to upgrade. Taylor can throw a monkey wrench into their plans by giving them a good reason to hold on to him. He can win out, and bring the Bills a playoff berth, something they haven’t done in 17 years. But he’s going to have to step up and be able to put the team on his back, something he hasn’t been able to do in his three seasons at the helm.

A look at his stat sheet would put Taylor in the upper half of the NFL’s QB hierarchy. I’d dispute that. Taylor has a good completion percentage and very rarely turns the ball over. They like to roll him out where he can make the safe passes that are right in front of him. And he has the option to run, where he can make plays with his legs. When the Bills running game with McCoy is thriving, he puts up nice numbers. But he’s never been able to show the ability to put the team on his back and win games when the running game has slowed. He plays it safe, checks down too often and is too frequently completing passes short of the sticks on third down. This week and the game in New England later in December, Taylor can help himself out by putting the team on his back. Throwing for an average of 182.5 yards per game and 20 points won’t win many games against New England. The Bills have been outscored in every quarter but the fourth this season…that will have to change and it starts with Taylor.

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 – Bills, Different Feel for the Rematch, Key Matchups

Steve Balestrieri
October 28, 2016 at 7:00 am ET

The New England Patriots travel to Buffalo to take on the Bills in a big game for both teams. Kickoff is slated 1:05 p.m.

The game will be televised by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4 in Boston. Ian Eagle will handle play-by-play duties with Dan Fouts as the color analyst. Evan Washburn will work the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The SportsHub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Cappello.

The Patriots (6-1) defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-16 on the road. LeGarrette Blount rushed for 127 yards and Tom Brady threw for 222 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Rob Gronkowski caught five passes for 93 yards and a score.

The Bills (4-3) lost to the Miami Dolphins 28-25 in Miami. The Bills blew a 17-6 lead in the second half and allowed RB Jay Ajayi to run for over 200 yards in the loss. Bills RB LeSean McCoy re-injured his hamstring in the game and left after 8 carries.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2016 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:
The Patriots and Bills will meet for the 114th time in their history and the second of two divisional matchups in 2016. The Patriots have dominated overall in the series holding a 69-43-1 edge overall. The Patriots hold a 33-22-1 advantage in Buffalo over the course of their rivalry including the last four games played there.

The Bills shut out the Patriots 16-0 in the first meeting between the two teams a month ago in Foxboro. It was the first time that the Patriots have been shut out at home since 1993. It was also coincidentally the final game of Tom Brady’s four-game suspension and was started by Jacoby Brissett.

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

First up is the Patriots offense: