Tag Archives: Le’Veon Bell

Patriots 2019 Opponents, Week 7, Jets Get Darnold, Optimism Back

Steve Balestrieri
October 16, 2019 at 8:30 am ET

The New York Jets won their first game of the season last Sunday in the Meadowlands over the Dallas Cowboys and there was optimism in the air. Not only did they get off the schneid, but they got their quarterback, Sam Darnold back on the field, which gave their offense a huge shot in the arm. 

All of a sudden, Adam Gase, who many fickle members of the NY press corps were calling for his head a week ago, now has, as they put it, has a chance to go on a run. As Yakov Smirnov would say, “What a country” only in New York. 

So, here are our second look at the Jets this season:

Darnold Didn’t Look Like He Missed a Beat:

Sam Darnold missed three games with mono and returned to play a very impressive game last Sunday against Dallas. The Jets offense was non-existent during his absence, however, in all fairness, his backup QB was injured early in Game 2 and they were forced to go with Luke Falk who was signed off their practice squad. 

Darnold showed no signs of rust and led the Jets to a big first-half lead which they parlayed into a 24-22 win over Dallas. Darnold finished the game 23-32 for 338 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. It was one of the best games in his young career. It was highlighted by an impressive 92-yard touchdown pass to Robby Anderson in the first half. He also hit Jamison Crowder six times for 98 yards. 

In the three games that he missed, the Jets offense scored one offensive touchdown. On Sunday, they scored three. Is it possible for just one player to transform an offense? It certainly appeared that way on Sunday. He had them moving the ball well all day long.

The Running Game Has Yet to Get Going: 

The Jets got Darnold back and the passing game was clicking for the first time this season with Anderson, Crowder and Demaryius Thomas all contributing last week. But now the focus will be getting the running game with Le’Veon Bell untracked. Bell was given a four-year deal worth $52.5 million dollars this spring, but has yet to break out.

Part of the reason has been with Falk at quarterback, opponents were stacking the box and basically daring the Jets to throw the ball. Which is why Bell has had 85 rushing attempts (16th in the NFL) but only 256 rushing yards. That is only 27th in the league with a long run of just 13 yards. The Jets as a team are averaging just 64 yards per game on the ground, 30th in the league. That will have to change.

They’re going to need a better push from their offensive linemen but with the team using more play-action on first down, that should definitely help matters. Even though left guard Kelechi Osemele is having shoulder surgery, his replacement Alex Morgan is playing well and may have supplanted the veteran.

Williams on the Trading Block? Possibly As the Deadline Approaches:

The jets have a decision looming with their excellent DT Leonard Williams. He’s in the last year of his rookie contract and the 25-year old is expected to draw significant interest…as well as significant money on the free-agent market. That is if the Jets allow him to hit free agency. 

But the Jets have other options, they can lock him up with a long-term contract extension now, or wait and re-sign him in the spring. But another option is out there and that is, they could trade Williams at r before the trade deadline.

There are reports out on social media that the Jets are receiving lots of offers for Williams, and rightfully so, he is an outstanding defensive lineman who frequently draws the double teams from opponents. The Jets have said that, right now, they have no plans to trade him. But with Henry Anderson, Steve McLendon and this season’s first-round pick Quinnen Williams on the roster, they could set themselves up with a deal at the trade deadline. 

Jets Could Get Mosley, Herndon Back for Monday Night: 

The Jets are hoping that LB C.J. Mosley and tight end Chris Herndon can return and play this week against the Patriots on Monday night. The Jets signed Mosley to a huge free-agent contract this spring and he was the QB of the defense and their unquestioned leader. It was no coincidence that before Mosley injured his groin in Week 1, the Jets were beating Buffalo 16-0. After he left, the Bills scored 17 unanswered points to pull out a victory. 

Coach Adam Gase said on Monday that Mosley’s been progressing well and they believe he’s ready to begin practice. If he can practice and play on Monday night, it will be a big boost for the Jets defense. The offense could also be getting a key player back on Monday in tight end Chris Herndon.

Gase also remarked that Herndon is progressing well from his hamstring injury that he suffered as he returned from his suspension and that the team was going to be smart with it and see how it responds. Herndon can give the Jets the ability to attack the seam more and be a bigger red-zone target than his replacement Ryan Griffin. 

Bucking the Trend, Jets Looking to Erase Frustration: 

In recent years the Patriots have owned the Jets in the head-to-head matchups winning the last seven in a row. And that number could have been much, much higher as the Jets pulled out two overtime victories in the Meadowlands including the 2013 game with the bogus “pushing” penalty on Chris Jones, gave the Jets a second chance, erasing a 56-yard miss with a 15-yard penalty, where Nick Folk made his 42-yarder for the win. That penalty hasn’t been heard from since…but New England gets all the calls, right?

This week, optimism is high in New Jersey as the Jets have refound their swagger on offense, their defense has been playing solid football and with their QB and other players coming back, they are hoping to catch the Patriots at just the right time. 

New England lost Dont’a Hightower, Pat Chung, Josh Gordon, Matt LaCosse, and Jakob Johnson to injuries last week. Johnson ended up on IR, while Gordon is not expected to play. If Chung especially, and Hightower can’t go, it puts the Patriots in a much more vulnerable position on Monday night. 

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

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

 

Patriots Week 3 Report Card, 30-14 Win Over the Jets

Steve Balestrieri
September 24, 2019 at 7:30 am ET

 The Patriots returned home and had the most one-sided 30-14 win over the Jets on Sunday that you will probably ever see. The Pats led 30-0 and gave up two late scores, one on a muffed punt and the other on a pick-six by the Jets defense of rookie Jarrett Stidham. 

The offense started fast and scored 20 points before the Jets had time to catch their breath. After that, the Jets made adjustments and the going got much tougher. They held the Patriots to just 10 second-half points. 

Defensively, the Patriots held Gang Green to just 105 total yards with just 69 net yards passing. The Jets never came close to threatening to score offensively in this one. The defense held Le’Veon Bell to under 2 yards per carry and the Jets overall to just 36 yards rushing.  

The Patriots are the first team since the 1937  Bears to not allow a defensive touchdown in their first three games. They are the first team in the Super Bowl era to do so, however. 

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

Quarterback: B+

Tom Brady finished the day 28-42 for 306 yards and two touchdowns with a passer rating of 103.4. New England fans are rushing out to buy customized Patriots #12 jerseys with Cliff on the back. Because if this is the cliff that we’ve heard so much about, let’s hope he continues for another 2-3 years falling like this. 

Brady protects his receivers from big hits by throwing those low passes over the middle that his guys can get to without being lit up. When they’re wide open, he adjusts his trajectory, as we saw with Phillip Dorsett and he went for an easy 25-yard touchdown. The little things… He wasn’t great on Sunday but he was very good

Running Backs: B-

The Patriots were minus James White (birth of his son), so they went with mainly Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel, with a little bit of Brandon Bolden mixed in early in the game. Jakob Johnson got in for the final kneel down at the end of the game. 

First the good, Burkhead had another very impressive game. He rushed for 47 yards on 11 carries (4.7 y.p.c.) and a touchdown. He was once again master of cutting against the grain and getting good yardage. He added 6 catches for 22 yards. 

Sony Michel continues to struggle to find any running room, he’s not making people miss but the bigger issue is that he’s consistently getting hit in the backfield. He had 9 carries for only 11 yards, one of which was a five-yard touchdown. 

Bolden got the start… and Brady went to him right away, catching the Jets off guard… as well as the fans too. .

Wide Receivers: A-

Phillip Dorsett was the recipient of many more snaps with AB out of the picture. And he made the most of them. He had six catches for 53 yards including the 25-yard TD. The one incompletion thrown in his direction looked like a catch from the cheap seats. 

Josh Gordon had 6 catches for 83 yards including two highlight-reel plays. Facing a 3rd and 22, Brady uncorked a beautiful back-shoulder throw that Gordon high pointed and brought it down before tumbling out of bounds. Later he caught a deep seam pass where he used his height to haul it in. 

Julian Edelman had seven catches for 62 yards and a touchdown before leaving with an injury in the second quarter. Jakobi Meyers had two catches for 38. Brady’s top three targets had 19 catches for 198 yards on the day. Good day.

Tight Ends: C+

Matt LaCosse was inactive and Ryan Izzo had one big catch for 41 yards. His blocking looks okay in the run game but could be a lot better.  He was getting pushed around at times and his strong suit is blocking. Jakob Johnson lined up as a blocker for the final snap of the game. 

Offensive Line: B-

The offensive line got Marcus Cannon back at right tackle. That was a big bonus, especially with the big game against the undefeated Bills looming next week.  Their protection of Brady was very good, for the most part he had plenty of time to throw and Stidham, not Brady was sacked only once. 

The run blocking was not great, however, and while the Jets are a very good team at defending the run, the Patriots could only muster 68 yards rushing. That stat must improve down the line. After rewatching the game tape there were too many times during the game that the Jets were pushing the New England offensive line back 1-2 yards off the ball. And not just at tackle but the interior guys as well. Shaq Mason and Joe Thuney were included in that. 

Marshall Newhouse is still finding his feet here in Foxboro. Dante Scarnecchia will work on his fundamentals in the coming weeks. Overall he was okay but tends to lunge a bit, that comes from not having his hands and feet in sync. Coach Scar will fix that. 

Defensive Line: A

The defensive line was once again outstanding. Coming into this game, we knew that because the Jets offense was short-handed, that they’d lean on the outstanding Le’Veon Bell. And of course, the Patriots knew that too. The defensive line was great at standing up the Jets offensive line and allowing the linebackers to clean up.

Danny Shelton was excellent continuing his very solid start to the season. The Jets could only manage 36 yards on the ground on 20 carries. The front seven brought excellent pressure on QB Luke Falk sacking him five times, with 10 QB hits and 10 tackles for a loss. Michael Bennett, Chase Winovich and Adam Butler were all very solid. The very underrated John Simon added 1.5 sacks. 

Linebackers: A+

The Patriots linebackers are off to an amazing start this season. They are flying all over the field, never out of position [Belichick may disagree], and making plays everywhere. No one is a better example of that than Jamie Collins.   

Collins had seven tackles including 3.5 for loss, 2 sacks, 2 quarterback hits and a pass defensed. He was the Jets biggest pain in the backside as he was seemingly everywhere. Dont’a Hightower prior to injuring his shoulder was solid. He and Elandon Roberts each had .5 sack. 

The Patriots brought pressure on Falk early using what they call the “Casino” blitz, rushing six and then later showing it and dropping eight into coverage. It was too much for a young QB to decipher in his first game.

Kyle Van Noy, who after the game credited the defense as a whole for having great communication, had 1.5 sacks. See the trend here? There is no one “sack master”, it is a group effort. And this group is playing lights out.

Secondary: A

The secondary bottled up the Jets WRs and shut them down. Stephon Gilmore wrapped himself around Robby Anderson and basically put him on a milk carton. Ditto for Jonathan Jones covering Jamison Crowder. The Jets two top WRs had five receptions for 36 yards combined… ouch. Jason McCourty is off to a great start for 2019. 

Pat Chung and Devin McCourty are playing some of the best football of their respective careers. Bell had four catches for 28 yards in the passing game. The Jets were 0-12 on third down and had just 98 yards [69 net] passing. Incredible start in the first three games for the defense. 

Special Teams: B-

Stephen Gostkowski had another rough start missing his first extra point. After that, he hit three in a row and a field goal. Gunner Olszewski.muffed a punt which resulted in a Jets TD. That, as he pointed out after the game is unacceptable. But he came right back out, fielded the next one cleanly and returned it for 11 yards.  

Jake Bailey punted seven times for a 44.3-yard average, placing five inside the 20-yard line. Matthew Slater had an outstanding play where he chased down a punt that seemed destined for the end zone and knocked it back where it was downed on the one-yard line. 

Coaches: A

The Patriots coaching clearly were two steps ahead of Adam Gase and his staff on Sunday. By the time Gase and his defensive coordinator adjusted, the Patriots were up by three touchdowns and this one was “ovah Mike!”

Bill Belichick will pick the team apart during their Monday film session as several players noted on Sunday, but they were much better prepared than the Jets and totally dominated this one from start to finish, especially on the defensive side of the ball. 

We’re on to Buffalo. The “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door” 2019 tour continues. 

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

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

Patriots 4th & 2 Jets Overtime Podcast

Steve Balestrieri
September 22, 2019 at 6:14 pm ET

Listen in to our quick observations with Russ and Steve (Derek is sick today) as we do a quick post-game look at the Patriots 30-14 win over the New York Jets. With the win, the Patriots improve to 3-0 and have a date with the 3-0 Bills in Buffalo next week.

Listen to “Patriots Fourth And Two Overtime – Patriots Beat The Jets” on Spreaker.

New England Patriots News 9-22, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 09-22 and AFC East notes this week. 

Game Day,.and the Patriots face off against their old rivals from the AFL, the New York Jets. But something tells me the pregame shows will not be focusing on the game as much as the off-field drama. Let’s all hope that it isn’t the case and we can get all get back to paying attention to the games.  

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

Antonio Brown – lasted just 11 days here in New England, his actions that came to light on Thursday night spelled the end of his short tenure here. We’re not getting into the entire fiasco again, it has been played out ad nauseam elsewhere. It was, however, intriguing, to see the possibilities with him in this offense. That’s the sad part of all of it, his football skills are incredible. C’est la vie. 

Marshall Newhouse – will have a lot of eyes on him this afternoon as he protects Tom Brady’s blindside. Look for the Jets to test him early and often today. Isaiah Wynn’s turf toe will keep him on the shelf until late November and the veteran offensive lineman has a chance to carve out a nice roll and payday for himself. 

Damien Harris – may see his first NFL game action today. With James Develin likely to miss the game this week, he hasn’t practiced, the Patriots will definitely miss their big lead blocking fullback. But it may give the rookie Harris the opportunity to get some game reps in against the Jets. We’ve been excited to see what he can do since they drafted him in May. 

NFL Top 100 Plays – had a couple of Patriots plays in there and two [at least here] were not truly given their due. Malcolm Butler’s interception in the Super Bowl came in at a very respectable #5 but that play was the difference between the Patriots winning or losing Super Bowl XLIX.  None of the top four had that kind of drama, in our humble opinion. 

Adam Vinatieri’s 45-yard field goal in the swirling snow in the old Foxboro Stadium was to me the greatest kick in NFL history. At #18, I believe was woefully underrated, but perhaps my Vinatieri bias is showing. The Philly Special [illegal formation] at #10? LOL Child, please…

My favorite anti-Patriots play was and always will be that Barry Sanders run [#59] where he turned the Patriots defense inside out with an amazing run. Absolutely amazing.

Dante Scarnecchia – Loved to see the Patriots make the assistant coaches available this week, especially Scarnecchia who is a legend in these parts. I could watch him talk all day long. “Continuity is more important than anything right now.” Asked about how tough it is to get new players up to speed, “I don’t do anything, I just coach.” 

The Patriots Passing Game is Just Fine Thank You:

After the Miami game, many were comparing the Patriots passing attack to the 2007 team that ran roughshod over the league when Tom Brady passed for 50 touchdowns and the team went undefeated in the regular season. Now many of the same people are sounding the alarm bell, “the Patriots are back in the same boat they were a few weeks ago!” To quote Joe Kenda here… well my, my, my.

No one is doubting the on-field abilities of Antonio Brown, which are huge. But the rest of the group remains intact and there is help on the horizon if the need arises. And to think the loss of one player makes the entire group go from all-time mention to “uh-oh Houston we’ve got a problem here” is just crazy talk. 

The top three of Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, and Phillip Dorsett is just fine. And with Dorsett back as the #3 option for WRs, he’ll get more looks in the passing game where he’s caught the last 23 passes thrown his way. Rookie Jakobi Meyers who had a strong summer and flashed in very limited reps in the Pittsburgh game is now guaranteed to get some more reps now after being inactive last week. 

The Patriots still have rookie 1st-round draft pick N’Keal Harry on IR and he can return after Week 8. The Patriots signed Cam Meredith and placed him on PUP, he can return after Week 6. Meredith in 2016 caught 66 passes for the Bears. In 2017 he suffered a bad knee injury and was lost for the season. He came back and played very sparingly for the Saints last year and caught nine passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. It is unknown if he can ever recapture his magic of three years ago. 

Harry, on the other hand, is the big, [6’4, 225] rookie wide receiver that the Patriots really like. He’ll be coming back later this year and is eligible to return Week 9 when the Patriots take on the Ravens.

Brady Jumps On the Bandwagon About Too Many Penalties:

The Thursday Night Football broadcast was notable for not only the rain deluge that the teams had to play thru but the number of penalties that were called. The NFL had said that it was cracking down on the amount of holding that has been going on and the TNF game was notable for it. 

The refereeing crew led by Shawn [Baby Guns] Hochuli called 20 penalties in the game, 15 in the first half and eight of those were for holding. Social media was abuzz with the number of calls [12 of which went against Tennessee]. Tom Brady then lit a fire under it all when he went on Twitter to bash the league for the number of flags. 

I’m turning off this game I can’t watch these ridiculous penalties anymore #TENvsJAC
Too many penalties. Just let us play!!!!  #TENvsJAC
@TomBrady

Can We Wait Until A Player’s Career is Over Before Discussing HOF?

The Giants announced that they were moving on from an aging Eli Manning to the young Daniel Jones at QB this week. This immediately set off the HOF debate for Manning the Younger as to whether or not he’s worthy of a bust in Canton. Can we just wait until Manning, you know, actually retires before having this debate?

Because the NFL is a fickle business and there are no guarantees here. Even though many predict great things for Jones [including here], no one knows how he’ll fare while facing the top defenses against the teams he’ll be facing, including the Bucs today. 

Manning is by no means done just yet if Jones struggles or gets hurt, see Nick Foles, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Sam Darnold, Trevor Siemian et. al. in just the first two weeks of the season. Manning may find himself right back in the starting lineup. And his story hasn’t been finished. What is the rush anyway? Can’t we all just hold our collective horses before getting into these needless debates before the last chapter is written? 

NFL Schedule Week 3, Who Are Your Winners:

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

Last Week: 10-6
Season: 21-10-1

TNF Tennessee over Jacksonville 0-1 

Dallas over Miami
Buffalo over Cincinnati
Patriots over New York Jets
Philly over Detroit
Colts over Falcons
Minnesota over Oakland
Baltimore over Kansas City [Upset special]
Packers over Denver
NY Giants over Tampa Bay [Welcome Daniel Jones!]
Cardinals over Panthers
49ers over Steelers
Seattle over New Orleans
LA Chargers over Houston
SNF LA Rams over Cleveland
MNF Bears over Redskins

Early Thursday Night Football pick Philly over Green Bay

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Riding High After 2-0 Start Behind Josh Allen:

The Buffalo Bills and the fanbase are getting really excited about this team’s chances after an impressive 2-0 start to the season behind the solid play of 2nd-year QB Josh Allen. The team was down 16-0 in the Meadowlands against the Jets in Week 1 when Allen led a 17-point comeback win. Last week, after the Giants closed with a score to make it a one-score game late, Allen led a touchdown drive to put the game and the Giants away. And the guy who was specifically brought in to help Allen, Cole Beasley is loving life in Western New York. 

“You know, everybody sees Josh making throws and extending plays with his feet but they don’t really see how he remains level emotionally throughout the mini highs and lows of a football game. It got as bad as it could really get in Week 1 and he remained the same guy the whole time, still pushing the unit, still competing, still leading,” said Beasley on Uninterrupted 17 Week’s podcast. 

“That’s a good sign for a guy as young as he is and that’s really exciting to see and that’s hard to find. You know, a lot of guys, under pressure, you know you always want to see what a guy is about when he is dealing with adversity. He handles it very well. You can’t even tell if he’s going through a bad time or a good time. That’s a great thing to see from a young guy and it is easy to follow a guy like that.”

With a win today versus Cincinnati and a Patriots victory over the Jets, that would set up a meeting of 3-0 teams in Buffalo in Week 4. Then things will really get crazy in Buffalo. 

Rosen Finally Getting a Chance With the Dolphins:

The Miami Dolphins are starting QB Josh Rosen today when the face off against the Dallas Cowboys. And things won’t be easy as facing the Cowboys’ defense is a daunting task. But for Rosen and the Dolphins who invested a 2nd-round pick for him this year, it is time to see what he can do. 

Head coach Brian Flores has seen steady improvement in Rosen all summer.  “There’s been a lot of improvement. That’s something that we’ve focused on really since he got here – reading defenses, making quick decisions, pushing the ball downfield when it’s the right time to do those things, getting in and out of the huddle, managing the game correctly, limiting mistakes and turnovers and things of that nature. I think mentally, he’s processing all of that a little bit better. I think he’s ready to go.”

While the management has made it clear they are tanking for Tua, Rosen has 14 weeks to show them that they already have a franchise QB to build around. Then all of that draft capital can be used to build around him and not Tua…stay tuned. 

Jets Have to Play Mistake-Free Football Today:

The New York Jets are 23 point underdogs today as they face off against the Patriots for the first time in 2019, and their QB situation has a lot to do with it. Sam Darnold is out for at least a month with an illness [Mononucleosis], backup Trevor Siemian was knocked out of the first quarter of MNF with an ankle injury that resulted in him going on IR. So it is up to 3rd string QB Luke Falk. 

They have to play error-free and that begins with Falk. But all of the players know it as well. “We can’t make no mistakes,” DT Steve McLendon said. “Zero. You almost got to play perfect.”

Expect the unexpected today. Trick plays, weird formations etc. The Jets are playing with house money as the Patriots have dominated in recent years, winning 14 of 16 and 10 in a row at Gillette. The last three have been ugly with the Patriots out-scoring the Jets 105-12 in those matchups. Le’Veon Bell throwing a pass? Flea flickers? It is kitchen sink time injury-depleted Jets. 

________________

“Yeah, I think I’ve already addressed this, so we’re going to get ready for the Jets here. I’m happy to answer any football questions, but I’m done with the rest of it..” – Bill Belichick on the incessant questions about Antonio Brown and not on the Jets game.

________________

“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 – Jets Week 3 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
September 19, 2019 at 7:30 am ET

The Patriots return home this Sunday to take on the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium. This is the first of two meetings between the two teams, and the rivals will play again in the Meadowlands on Oct. 21 on Monday Night Football.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, September 22 at 1:00 p.m. and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Kevin Harlan will handle play-by-play duties with Rich Gannon as the color analyst. Dana Jacobson 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 (2-0) trounced the Miami Dolphins 43-0 where the defense forced four interceptions and returned two of them for touchdowns. Tom Brady threw for two touchdowns and ran for another.

The Jets (0-2) lost at home 23-3 to the Cleveland Browns on Monday Night Football. With QB Sam Darnold, already sidelined for at least a month with an illness, backup QB Trevor Siemian got the start before he too was injured and lost for the year. Luke Falk finished up the game and will get the start this week. 

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

Series History:

The Patriots and Jets have been rivals since the earliest days of the old AFL. The Patriots lead the all-time series 65-54-1 including a 35-25-1 record at home against the Jets. The two teams have met three times in the postseason with the Patriots holding a 2-1 edge there. 

The Patriots have swept the season series the past three years. Since Gillette Stadium opened in 2002, the Patriots are 14-3 against the Jets at home.

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 Jets Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New York Jets

The Patriots running game still hasn’t gotten untracked yet, which definitely has something to do with the injuries along the offensive line. With the starting center on IR and both tackles out last week, they still managed to run for 126 yards. 

Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, and James White are an impressive trio, especially with James Develin opening holes for them. But the offensive line’s play in the running game has been inconsistent. 

The Jets are stout upfront with nose tackle Steve McLendon and interior linemen Leonard Williams and Henry Anderson. Rookie first-rounder Quinnen Williams has been banged up but may be back for this one. Ditto for LBs Jordan Jenkins and C.J. Mosley. 

During MNF the Jets defense stifled the Browns running game holding them to just 70 yards on the ground. They are allowing only 99 yards per game so far in 2019.

With several new faces on the Patriots offensive line, the slogging may find itself to be tough for the Patriots backs to find traction early. However, if the Jets offense continues to struggle and leave their defense on the field for a large portion of the game, then this could change. But this is one time when the Jets front seven handles the Patriots running game and wins the matchup                     

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

The Patriots passing game got a boost with the addition of Antonio Brown last week and his production after only three days of practice was good, 4 receptions 56 yards and a touchdown. Brown along with Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, as well as backs White and Burkhead out of the backfield gives Tom Brady a plethora of weapons.

The only thing that can hold back this unit is the offensive line. Left tackle Isaiah Wynn was placed on IR with turf toe, while right tackle Marcus Cannon missed last week’s game with a shoulder injury. So will it be Marshall Newhouse and Korey Cunningham at tackle or will they move Joe Thuney to tackle then after fill in another new body at the guard position? Dante Scarnecchia will have the boys working overtime this week.

The Jets, when everyone is healthy, have a very good front seven. They have Leonard and Quinnen Williams inside and can push the pocket. But the secondary, especially the corners are not going to shut anyone down for long. Former Patriot Darryl Roberts mans one side while Trumaine Johnson who was paid a big-money contract just a year ago was manning the other. Johnson was benched for poor play and in his stead came Nate Hairston and Brian Poole. 

Those corners are no match for the Patriots receivers, but the Jets and DC Gregg Williams may try to take advantage of the offensive line flux of the Patriots by bringing overload blitzes and stunts to test their communication. Look for Brady to use the quick passing game first and the backs if the Jets come after him. If he gets good protection, they should shred the secondary. After his flurry of outrage earlier this week, it will be interesting to see how Jamal Adams plays and is used this week.

Next up the Jets offense:

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

The Jets picked up Le’Veon Bell this offseason from the Steelers and he’s one of the most talented backs in the league. Despite having a sore shoulder that required an MRI this week, Bell had 31 touches on MNF [21 rushes and 10 receptions]. But the Jets offensive line has struggled to get him into areas where he can break free. They also have Ty Montgomery and Bilal Powell in the backfield.

The Patriots front seven has been outstanding against the run allowing just 37 yards per game. The defensive line led by Danny Shelton, Lawrence Guy, and Michael Bennett has stuffed the opposition at the point of attack, allowing the deep and versatile linebacking crew to clean up and attack. 

Look for the Jets to try to get creative here to get Bell going. If the Jets have any chance of pulling an upset, they have to win this matchup and have Bell being a difference-maker and keep the defense honest. If not, it will be a long afternoon for Gang Green. 

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

The Jets brought Luke Falk off the practice squad for Monday Night’s game after Trevor Siemian [ankle] and Sam Darnold [illness] were knocked out of the starting lineup. Falk performed as well as could be expected, coming in cold after Siemian was hurt. But his issue is having enough weapons in the passing game. 

Quincy Enunwa is on IR with a neck injury. Newcomer Demaryius Thomas reaggravated the hamstring injury he had with the Patriots. That leaves Robby Anderson, Jamison Crowder, tight end Ryan Griffin, and Bell out of the backfield.

The Patriots’ secondary has been outstanding in the passing game. And the pass rush sacked Dolphins’ QBs seven times last week. They’ll attempt to test a Jets OL that has struggled so far in 2019. 

Stephon Gilmore and Jonathan Jones should matchup with the Jets two big targets outside, while Pat Chung will draw Griffin. It comes back to Bell against the host of New England’s linebackers. On paper, it appears Falk will have a long, frustrating afternoon. 

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots Stephen Gostkowski had a singularly awful day in Miami with 2 missed extra points and a missed field goal. The good news is he returns to Gillette where he’s been solid. Jake Bailey has done well with his first punting action although he has struggled it seems with the holding for FGs and extra points. The return game has been so-so but the coverage units have been solid.

The Jets have had struggles of their own and have Sam Ficken as their placekicker. Lachlan Edwards has done a solid job of punting but Braxton Berrios and Trenton Cannon haven’t provided much in the return game.  

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

So, do the Patriots improve to 3-0 or do the Jets pull a huge upset in Gillette being three-touchdown underdogs?  The signs point to the former rather than the latter. This is a game even without the myriad of injuries the Jets have suffered, is one the Patriots, on paper should win. That’s why they play the games.

Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:

Stay Aggressive and Get After Falk – Look for the Patriots defense to remain aggressive and challenge the Jets receivers. They’ll feel like the Jets WRs can’t beat them deep, so they’ll challenge the short to intermediate routes and give Falk nothing to find open. Falk was actually processing the plays too quickly early on Monday and got rid of the ball before the play developed. Later in the second half, he was holding the ball too long. If the Patriots can force him to do that again on Sunday, they’ll be successful and may force some turnovers.

They’ll show different fronts and packages [show man, play zone] to try to confuse Falk, who is a smart kid but doesn’t possess great arm strength. With a pass rush that doesn’t have any single “dedicated pass rusher”, the Patriots should utilize bringing pressure from all different areas. 

Make the Jets win while passing the ball is what they’re going to try to do this week. With a banged-up and depleted WR core and the third QB under center, the key is to make Luke Falk beat them.

Short, Quick Passing Game To Move the Ball: The Patriots passing game and Tom Brady’s protection will be put to the test early in this one as I believe Gregg Williams, who is always aggressive, will try to overwhelm the new faces on the offensive line. The Patriots counter the Jets blitzes by using their quickness off the line, Julian Edelman and Antonio Brown are two of the best at this and are nearly uncoverable out of the slot. 

James White and Rex Burkhead are also the great equalizers in both blitz pickup and getting out of the backfield and getting open. It will be a great part of the chess match to see when and where Williams decides to send his blitzes. Josh Gordon can work the short areas as well with slants while Phillip Dorsett along with Gordon will attack the intermediate areas of the field. 

Win the Turnover Battle: The Patriots, especially right now are much deeper than the Jets and have the superior team. The Jets offense has struggled to move the ball and to score points. They can’t afford to get into a situation where they have to match Brady and Co. score for score. They have to shorten the game, keep the NE offense on the bench and help out their young QB by giving him some short fields to work with. That’s why turnovers are so important this week. 

If you’re the Patriots, if you win the turnover battle this week, this should be a runaway.  By being aggressive and forcing the issue, the Patriots should be in a good position to do just that.

___________

Never underestimate divisional games and how tough they can be, despite the apparent lopsidedness of the Vegas odds.  The Patriots and Jets’ games are always hard-hitting and physical contests. This one should be no different. The two teams by virtue of playing twice a year, know each other well and will look to use that knowledge against one another. 

The Patriots are the better team and that will play out as the game unfolds. It may be close for a half, but Brady and Co. find holes in the Jets secondary and the defense once again rises to the occasion.  Patriots 30-6

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” tour heads back out on the road next week as the Patriots take on the Buffalo Bills.

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

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

Patriots 2019 Opponents, First Impressions of the Jets

Steve Balestrieri
September 18, 2019 at 8:17 am ET

The New York Jets had very different designs on the start of the 2019 season. After firing everyone and beginning a fresh start, they hired head coach Adam Gase, who they hoped would jump-start Year 2 for QB Sam Darnold, were big spenders in free agency signing Le’Veon Bell and C.J. Mosley to big-money contracts.

But a combination of injuries and illness have taken their toll on the roster and the Jets find themselves in an 0-2 hole. Now they’re coming to Foxboro to take on their hated rival New England Patriots who have dominated the matchups in recent years. 

With the offense banged up and already on their third starting QB of the season, they’ll have to lean on their running game and their defense this week if they want to pull an upset. Here’s our first look at the 2019 J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets.

Luke Falk is the Starting QB for Now:

Luke Falk went from practice squad QB and running the scout team to being the Jets starting QB in a matter of hours.

The football gods dealt the Jets a couple of haymakers early this season. Starting QB Sam Darnold was feeling sick before the opener against the Bills and later it was learned that he contracted mononucleosis and will be out for at least a month. With the weight loss and fatigue that is associated with the illness, there is a dangerous chance of his spleen becoming enlarged, which would put him at serious risk of injury if he were to play before being completely healed.

The team had signed free agent Trevor Siemian this offseason. He spent 2018 with the Vikings after three years of being on the QB carousel with John Elway and the Broncos. Siemian is a smart, strong-armed passer but has had accuracy issues. He got the starting nod [13-11 record as a starting QB] against the Browns. But on a hit by Miles Garrett as he was releasing the ball caused his foot to get caught up in the turf under him. The result was a gruesome-looking injury. He tore the ligaments in his ankle and is lost for the year. 

Luke Falk, c’mon down… It is a tough position for Falk to step into. The Jets will be signing another QB this week to back up Falk but Gase said he will be the starter until Darnold returns from his illness. Falk also signed with the Jets this spring after spending much of his rookie season on IR with the Dolphins. He entered in the second quarter after Siemian went down and completed 20 of 25 passes for 198 yards. He had a 99.7 passer rating. 

Injuries Everywhere For the Jets:

It isn’t just being down two quarterbacks where the Jets are hurting. They are banged up everywhere. WR Quincy Enunwa was lost for the season on IR after suffering a serious neck injury. Le’Veon Bell had an MRI on his shoulder after getting banged up on Week 1 against the Bills. He did play and play well against the Browns but will be operating on a short week.

Newly acquired wide receiver Demaryius Thomas was already dealing with a hamstring issue with the Patriots before his trade to Gang Green, reinjured it on Monday night and it would be surprising to see him play on Sunday. That leaves Robby Anderson, Jamison Crowder at WR with Bell out of the backfield, Ryan Griffin at tight end and a lot of question marks.

The defense is banged up too. ILB C.J. Mosley who the Jets signed to a huge free-agent contract was playing outstanding in the opener, scoring a TD on a pick-six as the Jets raced out to a 16-0 lead. But once he left with a groin injury, the Bills scored 17 unanswered points and took the game 17-16. He missed the Browns game and is considered day-to-day for New England this week. 

Quinnen Williams, the #3 pick overall in this spring’s NFL Draft injured his ankle against the Bills and also missed the Browns game. Jordan Jenkins injured his calf against the Browns and isn’t expected to be ready for the Patriots game this weekend.

Le’Veon Bell “Frustrated By 0-2 Start”, Vows to Remain Upbeat:

The Jets laid out some big money for running back Le’Veon Bell this spring and thus far he’s done everything they’ve asked and then some, totaling up 229 all-purpose yards on offense for the Jets after sitting out the 2018 season in a contract squabble with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

But the look on his face on Monday Night was unmistakable as he was visibly frustrated as the Jets fell to 0-2 with a 23-3 loss to the Browns. Now the Jets travel to New England, whose defense has been playing outstanding for the first two games. Bell, who was not used to losing in Pittsburgh was quick to point out that he was looking forward.

Bell took to Twitter and put any questions to rest…for now. “It’s easy to get down, but I don’t let that negativity affect me. I’m BLESSED! I’m healthy, secure, & back doing what I love! Yea, I’m frustrated things haven’t went our way. But I look at life and think, how can I complain? I’m grateful to be in this position & to play this game.”

Expect the Jets to lean heavily on Bell in both the running and passing games on Sunday in Foxboro. 

Jamal Adams Benched, Trying to Force His Way Out of NJ?

During Monday night’s 23-3 loss to the Browns, Jets safety Jamal Adams was benched, albeit shortly [five snaps], but it was his reaction that set tongues wagging. After the game, Adams, changed his Twitter bio that previously read “Former LSU All-American – Defensive Back for the New York Jets.” to “Let the lord fight your battles. He hasn’t lost one yet!”

This immediately got the social media world gaga over his comments, believing that he, like Antonio Brown and Minkah Fitzpatrick was trying to force his way off the Jets and move on to greener pastures. His comments after the fact did little to dispel those rumors. 

He called the questions to his bio change just “outside noise” and insisted he was “just focused on this team.” But his explanation of his benching, although brief, was alarming in its tone. “Yeah, I was benched. They benched me. I tried to anticipate a play … and I anticipated wrong,” Adams said in an interview with WFAN Sports Radio on Tuesday. “It happens.”

The Jets also benched high-priced cornerback Trumaine Johnson, who they gave a five-year $72 million dollar contract last year, but his benching was for the entire game. Whether they are just sending a message or they’re done with Johnson will be an area to watch this Sunday.

Gregg Williams Aggressive Defense Will Be Front and Center on Sunday:

There are fewer controversial figures than the Jets defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams. Williams is no shrinking violet the way he coaches his defense and the manner in which they play. But sometimes, both he and they cross the line. 

Prior to MNF, Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. called out Williams and accused Williams of coaching “dirty football.” He cited a 2017 preseason game where Beckham Jr. said, Cleveland players told him after the game that Williams wanted the WR targeted for dirty or late hits. 

Williams was suspended for the 2012 season following a tape that was made while he was the defensive coordinator of the Saints where he openly encouraged Saints players to take out opposing players for a monetary bonus.“Kill the head and the body will die”, he was recorded as saying. The tape made its way to the league and both he and head coach Sean Payton were suspended. 

Regardless of those charges, the Jets and Williams should be even more aggressive on Sunday. His team’s offense is struggling and the defense will have to keep them close enough to try to force an upset. The Patriots offensive line is minus three starters including both starting tackles. Williams’ defenses are always aggressive and use the blitz liberally. Come Sunday, look for him to be even more aggressive.

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

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

Best Of Social Media: Reaction To Rob Gronkowski Retirement From Football

Robert Alvarez
March 25, 2019 at 6:00 pm ET

On Sunday night, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski formally announced over Instagram that he will be retiring from the NFL after nine professional seasons.

View this post on Instagram

It all started at 20 years old on stage at the NFL draft when my dream came true, and now here I am about to turn 30 in a few months with a decision I feel is the biggest of my life so far. I will be retiring from the game of football today. I am so grateful for the opportunity that Mr. Kraft and Coach Belichick gave to me when drafting my silliness in 2010. My life experiences over the last 9 years have been amazing both on and off the field. The people I have meet, the relationships I have built, the championships I have been apart of, I just want to thank the whole New England Patriots organization for every opportunity I have been giving and learning the great values of life that I can apply to mine. Thank you to all of Pats Nation around the world for the incredible support since I have been apart of this 1st class organization. Thank you for everyone accepting who I am and the dedication I have put into my work to be the best player I could be. But now its time to move forward and move forward with a big smile knowing that the New England Patriots Organization, Pats Nation, and all my fans will be truly a big part of my heart for rest of my life. It was truly an incredible honor to play for such a great established organization and able to come in to continue and contribute to keep building success. To all my current and past teammates, thank you for making each team every year special to be apart of. I will truly miss you guys. Cheers to all who have been part of this journey, cheers to the past for the incredible memories, and a HUGE cheers to the uncertain of whats next.

A post shared by Rob Gronkowski (@gronk) on

Since entering the league as the 42nd overall pick in 2010, Gronk compiled
521 catches for 7,861 yards with 79 touchdowns during his time in Foxborough.

Gronk earned five Pro Bowl selections over his career but dealt with
multiple back surgeries, a twice-broken arm and a torn ACL.

Despite the injuries, Gronk put together a career that all but assures him a place in Canton, Ohio at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Check out all the best reactions from social media to the news below.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BvaGsDcHQ7_/
View this post on Instagram

Icon. #TheGronk

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

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https://twitter.com/LeVeonBell/status/1109945245800824832?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1109945245800824832&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nbcsports.com%2Fboston%2Fpatriots%2Ftom-brady-react-rob-gronkowski-retirement
https://twitter.com/BIrvin_WVU11/status/1109944240325431298?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1109944240325431298&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nbcsports.com%2Fboston%2Fpatriots%2Ftom-brady-react-rob-gronkowski-retirement
https://twitter.com/gregolsen88/status/1109949544727494657?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1109949544727494657&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nbcsports.com%2Fboston%2Fpatriots%2Ftom-brady-react-rob-gronkowski-retirement
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New England Patriots News 3-10, AFC East Notes

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

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 03-10 and AFC East Notes.

Quick Hitters:

Van Noy Defense – As if Van Noy needed anything else to endear himself to the fan base. After Colts TE Eric Ebron took a veiled shot at the Patriots when he tweeted  “nobody wanna do that Patriot way bull- #COLTure.” But Van Noy quickly answered that by tweeting a picture of two rings with a winking emoticon.

Gronk Selling Condo: On a day with some exciting trade news, one item that could have people thinking worst case scenarios was the news that Rob Gronkowski is selling his Boston seaport condo. Gronk’s luxury condo located at 21 Wormwood St. located on the waterfront can be yours for a cool $2,375,000. Does this mean the big guy is retiring? Not so fast. While it could be just that, it should be noted that he bought the place just a few years ago for $1.8 million. Just another sound financial investment.

Jamie Collins redux? With the news that the Cleveland Browns were parting ways with linebacker Jamie Collins, many fans and media members were wondering about a reunion for the two. As we see it here, that ship has sailed and he won’t be returning to New England. We don’t see it as a need as the LBer position isn’t in bad shape.

Et Tu Amendola: Danny Amendola was released by the Dolphins on Friday. The cost-cutting move is expected to clear a salary-cap space that Miami may use to entice Trey Flowers to South Florida. Now many are hoping for a reunion with Amendola and the Patriots.

Well, no one has been a bigger Amendola supporter than we’ve been on these pages. While we’d love to see him back in Foxboro this spring, the situation may preclude that from happening. The team needs to get younger at the position and with the cupboard bare, they may play a waiting game to see how the rest of FA/Draft plays out before making a decision. By then, I’d expect Amendola to be signed elsewhere.

Brown Has His Cake, But Won’t Share it With Buffalo: Pittsburgh WR Antonio Brown may have effectively forced his way out of Pittsburgh by demanding a trade, and now is stipulating where he won’t go. The Steelers and Bills had a deal supposedly agreed to in principle but Brown put the kibosh on it, stating he won’t go to Buffalo.  

After a few tweets and videos that may have effectively ruined whatever compensation, the Steelers could have gotten for him, Brown now halted a trade. One has to wonder if he may paint himself into a corner where the Steelers (and rightfully so), give him the option to return to the team or sit out the season.

Bennett Trade, One The Team Couldn’t Bypass:

The Philadelphia Eagles are trading DL Michael Bennett and their 7th Round draft pick in the 2020 NFL Draft to the Patriots for New England’s 5th round pick in 2020. In terms of compensation, the deal is a steal. Bennett is still a very productive player and even at 33 logged more sacks (9) and QB hits (30) than anyone on New England and fourth most (QB hits) in the league.  

Bennett’s contract isn’t going to break the bank either. He’s due $7.2 million in salary and game day bonuses and $8 million in 2020. The Patriots tried to swing a deal with the Seahawks to get Bennett last spring, but the Eagles had pounced first and he was dealt to Philadephia.

Does this mean that the team is washing their hands of Trey Flowers in free agency? Not necessarily. We’ve been of the mind here that Flowers’ chances of resigning here have been slim. Especially now with so many of the edge rushers being tagged by their respective teams. But that doesn’t mean the team won’t try to retain Flowers. Bennett’s trade was something that just popped up on the radar that was too good to pass up for a player that they tried to bring in last spring.

He wasn’t brought in as a replacement for Flowers, although it could seem like that if indeed he does walk in free agency. But the thought of watching the two on the field together in the Pats defense is an exciting one. Will it happen? Stay tuned.

Brady Extension Coming?

We heard thru someone we know (and someone who would know) that a contract extension for Tom Brady was going to be done soon and the team would lock him up for another three years, that would take him to the age 45 limit that he said he envisioned.  

The guys on “Patriots Unfiltered”, what used to be known as PFW in Progress on the Patriots team website invited me on the show on Thursday and we spoke about it for a few minutes. It can be heard here:

Free Agency “Legal Tampering” Season Is Here:

Now is when things get interesting. The Patriots still have a slew of free agents to either resign or let walk including both kickers and still look for ways to improve the team.  So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at certain positions and see who the team has out there and who they could bring in.

Interior Defensive Line:  With both Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton unrestricted free agents, there is certainly a case to be made that neither returns. However, if I had to pick one… I’d go with Brown as being the one player closer to return, but not by much. Like a 52-48 ratio.  

There are some intriguing free agents out there, Sheldon Richardson (Vikings), Brandon Mebane (Chargers), Johnathan Hankins (Raiders), but I don’t see the Patriots laying out the money that those guys would draw in free agency. On our 4th and 2 podcast, I mentioned Jets FA Mike Pennel as a guy the Patriots may target. A huge, 6’4, 330, two-gapping space eater, the Patriots are one of the few teams that still covet those type of players. Not a sexy signing, but one that will pay dividends in the season.

Tight End: Will he or won’t he? If Rob Gronkowski retires, it will free up $11.6 million in cap space, and the position becomes of critical need. if he doesn’t, it is still a position in dire need of young(er) blood. They currently have Gronkowski, Jacob Hollister, Ryan Izzo, and the sleeper Stephen Anderson under contract. Hollister has looked good but can’t stay on the field. Izzo was an intriguing kid and Anderson has unlocked potential.

With the release of Dwayne Allen, the team needs an injection of talent and youth. One guy who’ll be the perfect #2 TE with the team, (especially in the two-TE sets) is Pittsburgh’s, Jesse James. He’s been a favorite here to pick up all winter. He’s big  (6’7, 260), is a very good blocker and productive as a receiver. He’s only 25 and has 112 catches in three seasons being the #4 or lower target.

Wide Receiver: With a slew of free agents (Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Cordarrelle Patterson), and only Julian Edelman and untested Braxton Berrios coming back, adding youth at WR is also critical. Will they bring back any of those three? I could see Patterson and maybe one or the other to return but they need some talent to help Edelman and Brady in 2019.

Free agents rumored to be linked to the Patriots include Golden Tate, Adam Humphries, Cole Beasley, Randall Cobb, Jamison Crowder, Eli Rogers,  and Danny Amendola. As much as we’d love to see Tate in this offense as well as Humphries, the money those two would be looking at may be prohibitive.

Look for the Patriots to make a move on Jamison Crowder. That still would be a difficult proposition, however, because even though he’s coming off an ankle injury that forced him to miss seven games, he’s still expected to fetch in the neighborhood of $8-10 million dollars in free agency. The draft, which the Patriots have struggled to find suitable wide receivers, may end up being the answer here.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Beane Says Brown Trade to Bills “Didn’t Make Sense”:

The Buffalo Bills inquired about and were close to making a trade for disgruntled Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown earlier this week. Then Brown put any hopes of that deal materializing by stating that he wouldn’t commit to showing up if the trade went thru. In the end, Bills GM Brandon Beane took the high road and in a statement. “We had positive discussions, but ultimately it didn’t make sense for either side. As great a player as Antonio Brown is, we have moved on and our focus is on free agency.”

The trade for Brown would have made total sense, from a football perspective for the Bills. They invested heavily into a young QB last year in Josh Allen. But he had a dearth of viable weapons to throw to plus an aging RB in LeSean McCoy. It would have made less sense, as it will for any other team since no one knows if Brown will tow the line in his next assignment.

As we mentioned above, Brown is painting himself into a corner, trying to force a trade to where he wants to go. For the Bills, they’ll approach free agency with about $80 million and the opportunity to sign lesser talented players but who will be more about the team than themselves.

Dolphins Clearing Cap Space, Release Three Veterans:

The Miami Dolphins have done a house cleaning in South Florida. By bringing in Brian Flores as the new head coach, he’s starting from scratch. Miami is expected to move on from QB Ryan Tannehill and that will be the first order of business for the new regime. But the team released three veteran players which will aid their salary cap situation.

Miami released wide receiver Danny Amendola, 33, in the move toward youth as well as DE Andre Branch and G Ted Larsen. The release of Amendola frees up $6 million and coupled with the other two vets gives Miami $22 million in cap space. Miami is also expected to decline the 5th-year option for WR Devante Parker making him a free agent this week. That will add another $9.4 million in cap space.

Amendola led Miami with 59 catches and 575 receiving yards in 2018. Now, Miami drafting in the first round with the 13th pick will have to decide whether to move up in the draft to get a QB they like, hope one falls to them in their spot, or wait until next year when the QB class is expected to be better. Free agency has the most intriguing name in Nick Foles, but the Jacksonville Jaguars released a slew of players adding $30 million to their salary cap and are expected to make a big push for the 30-year old QB.

Jets Have Money to Spend in Free Agency:

The New York Jets have nearly $100 million in salary cap space in 2019 and are in a position to make some big splashes in free agency. With that amount of money, they can front load some of those contracts to make the Jets the favorites to any team that they may be bidding against. However, they also have several (as many as 10) starting positions that need to be addressed.

New York is rumored to be in on the LeVeon Bell sweepstakes and signing the very talented running back would ease the growing pains on young QB Sam Darnold. On the flip side of the ball, the Jets are also expected to make a run at the very versatile and talented LB Anthony Barr who has spent the first five years of his career with the Vikings. He’d fill a great need for the Jets.

Barr is a sideline-to-sideline linebacker who has been a Pro Bowler for the past four years with the Vikings. He’s adept at stopping the run, dropping into coverage and rushing off the edge. The team needs help at wide receiver as well as at edge rusher besides Barr. The Jets can be big players this spring with a ton of cap space. Look for them to make a splash or three.

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 15  Report Card, Patriots Beat Steelers 27-24

Steve Balestrieri
December 19, 2017 at 9:00 am ET

Sometimes it doesn’t matter how you start but how you finish. Although the Steelers controlled the vast majority of this game with their offense dominating in terms of time of possession, it never really carried over to the scoreboard. Even when the Patriots were down by 8 points in the second half, you never had the feeling that they were out of this game and they were still only down by a single score.

The one thing we know about this team is that they are a resilient bunch and that if you’re going to beat them, you need to play a full 60 minutes. Pittsburgh controlled the majority of the game, but the last few minutes belonged to Tom Brady and company. Followed by a wild and wacky finish where there was a long pass play, a disallowed touchdown and an interception to seal the deal, it was a satisfying win that not only clinched the AFC East but put the Patriots back in control of the AFC with two games to play. Perfect? Far from it. Satisfying? You bet and the coaches will take it.

So we’ll go thru the positions after rewatching the tape and see what the grades say this week.

Quarterback: B

Tom Brady had a very good game considering the circumstances. His wide receiver corps was thinned even further with no Chris Hogan and then lost Rex Burkhead and James White during the game but he persevered.

Pittsburgh played much more man coverage in this game when they tried to sprinkle in some zone, Brady immediately hit Cooks with a 43-yard pass down the left side. They got good pressure on him all game long which made him uncomfortable in the pocket.

That pressure forced him into a bad interception in the third quarter with Vince Williams being the first Steeler to pick him in a dozen years. He nearly had another in the final two minutes on a tipped pass at the line.

But after that he was brilliant. Brady was 5-7 on throws of more than 20 yards in the air. So much for the dink-dunk myth or that his arm strength is failing. He realized that Pittsburgh still has no answer for Rob Gronkowski and they did what they always do to the Steeler secondary, they eviscerated it in the second half. On the key 4th and 1 play, Brady recognized the defense and signaled Gronkowski, who was one-on-one with Sean Davis. The result was an easy 10 yard gain, which led to a touchdown to Cooks.

Running Backs: C+

The Patriots didn’t run the ball very much in this one as they were mostly playing from behind this week. But when they did there was some hit and miss. Dion Lewis had 12 carries for 67 yards including the game-winning run from eight yards out that totally caught the Steelers off-guard after Gronk tortured them down the field. But he didn’t  seem to get enough work between the tackles.

Rex Burkhead went down with what looked like a serious knee injury but luckily that wasn’t the case. He had a nice touchdown run inside. James White went down during the game but was able to return.

What was surprising was how little production the backs had in the passing game. Lewis had one catch for 13 yards, White had two catches for eight although Brady overthrew him when he had a lot of open space and Burkhead had one catch for five. James Develin had an uncharacteristic drop but was mostly good in the running game opening up holes for the backs when they did run

Wide Receivers: C

The wide receivers weren’t a big factor in the game, part of that is on them, partly on the Pittsburgh secondary. Brandin Cooks had a 43-yard reception early and a nice touchdown in the back of the end zone but he ran a deep, double move pattern too close to the sideline. That allowed the defender to ride him out of bounds. That wiped out a huge gain on what was Brady’s best throw of the game.

Chris Hogan was out, Kenny Britt made an early contribution after just a few days on the team. He’ll be looked at more as the schedule plays out. Danny Amendola had just two catches on the day and Phillip Dorsett had just one. Not enough production

Tight Ends: A++

Rob Gronkowski came back from his one-week suspension and played like a man possessed, especially in the second half. Gronkowski finished with 9 catches for 168 yards, where 135 of them were after halftime. He was simply dominating the game.

Pittsburgh had no answer for him and they were simply outmatched by his strength and speed. It is one thing saying that you’re going to be physical with him, it is another thing entirely going out and doing it.

He owned the field on the final Patriots touchdown drive gaining 26 yards on back to back plays taking the Patriots from deep in their own end to the Steelers 25 yard line. Then showing incredible flexibility, (TB 12 Clinc?) he reached down to pluck a low Brady pass off the turf and rumbled for 17 more setting up Dion Lewis’ touchdown run. On that play, both he and Dwayne Allen put punishing blocks on the Steelers defensive line.

And he’ll still hear it in the film room, he dropped a touchdown that he’d normally make the catch on. But his overall play more than made up for that. As games go this was a dominating performance as you’ll see.

Offensive Line: B-

The offensive line had a mixed game, they were allowing too much pressure, once again Joe Thuney struggled, as did Shaq Mason in pass protection and they didn’t get the consistent push in the running game but it was good enough. As is the norm with them, when the chips were on the line, they held up really well. Nate Solder had one of his best games of the year. Did anyone hear T.J. Watt’s name once in the game? He’s been a disruptor for the Pittsburgh defense and Solder kept him far away from Brady all day. Nice bounce back type of game for Dante Scarnecchia’s crew after the Miami mess of a week ago.

Defensive Line: C

Trey Flowers was back and he made his presence felt getting some pressure in the passing game. But overall the pass rush is still an issue and it is a case of them “almost getting there” it seems. No Alan Branch this week and the Steelers ran at the interior early but the middle of the line, Lawrence Guy, Malcom Brown and Ricky Jean-Francois did a pretty good job of gumming up the middle. Where the Steelers ran very effectively was on the edge. Both Deatrich Wise and Eric Lee were consistently washed out or pushed inside and Le’Veon Bell was eating them up on the outside.

Lee missed a sack that he should have had against Roethlisberger, he’s not as mobile as he used to be and Lee should have made that. The team dropped Flowers into the flat on a few passing plays and he was abused by Bell.

Linebackers: D

This is an area to watch moving forward and a possible Achilles Heel in January, especially with no Kyle Van Noy. Elandon Roberts, David Harris, and Marquis Flowers had games that won’t be pretty in the film room this week.

They were consistently blown up in the running game by the Steelers offensive line who once they got to the second level owned them. Roberts flew up into the wrong gap and had a handful of air on Bell’s touchdown run and looked lost there. Harris, whose specialty is the run game, was blown up quite a few times, too many.

Coverage isn’t their strong suit which is why the Steelers were successful on those shallow crosses. Matt Patricia tried blitzing them and they had an o-fer. Every time they blitzed Roethlisberger made them pay going a perfect 6-6 for 80 yards and a score.Ugly day again for the linebackers.

Secondary: B-

The secondary had its problems with the Pittsburgh speedy group of wide receivers. Overall the Steelers were 10-16 on third down which is very good, but the team stopped them on their final three attempts. When they’re having that kind of success, the secondary has to bear a lot of the burden but it goes hand-in-hand with the pass rush as well. Rewatching the film, Roethlisberger had so much time, the receivers had time to shake themselves open.

Stephon Gilmore had a rough day with Martavis Bryant who was giving him trouble with his combination of size and speed. Malcolm Butler didn’t have to cover Antonio Brown for long as he was injured, but made a great play tackling Heyward-Bey inbounds on the Steelers final drive keeping the clock moving… under the radar great play.

Eric Rowe made the tip on the final interception that Duron Harmon picked off. Don’t pay attention to that knucklehead on the radio. Harmon is a money player who is always around the ball. Devin McCourty and Pat Chung were solid as always. Jordan Richards? What in the wide world of sports was that attempt on the JuJu Schuster-Smith catch and run? That was singularly awful and nearly cost them the game. That’s a tackle he has to make and to whiff like that? Inexcusable.

The secondary as a whole deserves high marks for not falling for the fake spike. Roethlisberger threw that into triple coverage, something that been lost in the shuffle among the hysterical fan/media outrage over the James drop in the end zone.

Special Teams: B-

Stephen Gostkowski missed an extra point but that was because of a rare snap miscue by Joe Cardona. Ryan Allen had to adjust and didn’t have a good hold, it forced Gostkowski’s timing off and he shanked it.
Allen had a net 47 yards on his punts and Gostkowski’s kickoffs consistently put the Steelers deep, behind the 20-25 yard line. Other than the one miscue, they were fine, but it could have been costly. Matthew Slater had a great play on a sliding downing of an Allen punt pinning the Steelers deep.

Coaches: B

Bill Belichick always preaches situational football, that’s why the Patriots pull out so many of these close games and opponents fail. No one bit on the fake spike, and the Steelers were unprepared for the final few plays after the James score was overturned. That is something the Patriots never have to worry about. Josh McDaniels’ crew couldn’t convert third downs again in the first half, but once he locked in on the Brady-Gronk connection, he rode it. Matt Patricia’s beat up crew on defense couldn’t get off the field on third down. It wasn’t for lack of trying, but they got the final three third downs including the final pick.

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Five Takeaways From The Patriots Win Over Pittsburgh

Ian Logue
December 18, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Sunday’s win over Pittsburgh came down to the wire and certainly had some tense moments but fortunately, the Patriots came away with a 27-24 win to clinch the AFC East and put them in control of the top seed in the AFC with two games to play.

Looking back at the victory, here are some thoughts after the Patriots improved to 11-3 on the season.

1) Without Van Noy, the defense continues to struggle – The Patriots were still without Kyle Van Noy on Sunday and it’s obvious that he’s been one of the key difference-makers who has allowed the team to survive the loss of Dont’a Hightower and still be relatively successful.  The only problem is, New England’s defense has struggled in his absence, which was evident last weekend in Miami and again on Sunday.

The Steelers piled up 143-yards running the football, with the Patriots struggling to stop a Steelers’ team that converted 10-of-16 (63%) on third down and had difficulty at times getting them off the field.  With Pittsburgh having success sustaining drives, it allowed them to control the clock and keep Tom Brady and the offense on the sideline as the Steelers held the ball for 19:53 in the first half, compared to just 10:07 for the Patriots.

The veteran linebacker was downgraded to out prior to Sunday’s game, with Van Noy having last played back on December 3rd during New England’s win over the Bills in Buffalo.  Coming into Sunday’s game he was second on the team in tackles with 73, as well as second in sacks with 5.5.

Fortunately, on Sunday the Patriots survived without him but it’s clear that heading into the final two games and into the postseason, they’re certainly going to be much better off if he’s able to come back healthy.

2) Patriots are lucky the 69-yard play they gave up at the end of the game didn’t cost them – Staying on the subject of the defense, there were definitely some rough moments, including one key miscue at the end of the game that nearly cost them.

The play came following New England’s go-ahead touchdown in the final moments, which looking back at how it unfolded, it’s safe to say that it will most definitely be a point of emphasis in the film room this week.

Clinging to a 3-point lead, the Steelers had 0:52 left to work with, which was still a fair amount of time to get from their own 21-yard line into field goal range to potentially force overtime. But it felt like, at the time, the Patriots finally had the momentum and were back in control of the game at that point.  The only thing they needed was for their defense to put together one final stop and close the game out.

Instead, their beleaguered group gave it all back and then some in just one play.  On the snap, Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster came across the middle and beat Eric Rowe, with Ben Roethlisberger hitting him in stride as he came across.  From there, Smith-Schuster made a mad dash toward the sideline and safety Devin McCourty came flying in toward him to try and help Rowe out and seemingly had the angle he needed to push him out of bounds.  The only problem was, Jordan Richards was locked up with Le’Veon Bell near the sideline.  Richards dove at Smith-Schuster as he ran past, and unfortunately, he took McCourty out of the play, leaving Rowe having to continue chasing after him.

By the time Duron Harmon wrapped him up, Smith-Schuster was at New England’s 10-yard line and the Steelers seemingly had just the play they needed to at least force overtime.

You could see the frustration on the face of Tom Brady after the play, who isn’t exactly a stranger to being on the wrong end of those situations given some of the losses he’s been through.  However, fortunately, Harmon came up with the play they needed to put the game away, and New England finds themselves right where they want to be heading into the final weeks of the 2017 regular season.


There was no stopping Gronkowski on Sunday.

3) Gronkowski reminded everyone what a difference-maker he is – Having Rob Gronkowski back in action on Sunday was obviously huge, and watching him take over the game in the fourth quarter was certainly impressive.

Gronkowski hauled in 9 catches for 168 yards during the victory, including 3 receptions for 69 yards on the team’s game-winning drive, which he polished off with a 2-point conversion following Dion Lewis’ 8-yard touchdown.

He was in the zone all afternoon, making some terrific catches and his performance over the final two minutes was just ridiculous.  On his first reception, he picked up 26-yards after beating safety Sean Davis on a post coming across from the left side of the field just before the two-minute warning.

They went right back to a similar route on the next play, picking up another 26-yards after Gronkowski got behind Davis again, with Brady hitting the veteran tight end in stride between two defenders.  Gronkowski took a big shot from safety Mike Mitchell, who hit him low and wrapped him up for the tackle. But it didn’t affect him as Gronkowski was fired up at that point, flexing and clearly on a mission after back-to-back 26-yard receptions.

But as if that wasn’t enough, the catch he made on the ensuing play was just incredible.  After lining up again in the left slot, Gronkowski ran a route across the middle and Brady, who was under pressure by Pittsburgh’s defense on that play, managed to slide away and while moving to his left fired the football to Gronkowski, but the throw was slightly off target and low, reaching him mere inches from the ground.  However, Gronkowski managed to reach down and snatch the football just above the turf, pulling it into his body before somersaulting and rising to his feet.

At that point, you could see in his eyes that there was no stopping him.  Lewis would score on the next play, and Gronkowski slipped past the defender and made a twisting leaping grab for the two-point conversion.  It capped an incredible afternoon after spending the previous week as a spectator thanks to his suspension.  He admitted after the game, he was happy to be back.

“I missed the boys,” said Gronkowski of his teammates.  “They are always grinding every single week. These guys are my teammates and they are great to be around. I definitely miss them and it’s great to be back.”

And after what we saw on Sunday, they were clearly lucky to have him.

4) Expect a rule change again this offseason thanks to the James play – As we know, the NFL isn’t a fan of their own rules when it works in favor of the Patriots, and the controversial play at the end of regulation involving Steelers’ tight end Jesse James’ apparent touchdown will likely spark a discussion with the competition committee during this next offseason.

After what initially looked like a 10-yard touchdown reception that would have sealed the game, the officials reviewed the play and ultimately overturned it after ruling that James didn’t control the ball all the way to the ground.  Looking back at the film, James caught the football above his head and then twisted his body back toward the end zone, while reaching the ball across the goal line.  The only problem was, as his body and the ball hit the ground, James lost his grip on the football.

According to referee Tony Corrente, they ruled that James “just didn’t survive to the ground.”

“In order to have a completed pass, a receiver must survive going to the ground,” Corrente told the field reporter after the game.  “In this case, [James] had control of the football but he was going to the ground.  As he hit the ball, the ball began to roll and rotate and the ball hit the ground and that’s the end of it at that point.”

That play obviously changed everything because it left the door open for Harmon’s interception, which we’ll get to next.


Roethlisberger and Tomlin didn’t appear to be on the same page Sunday.

5) Tomlin and Roethlisberger were clearly not on the same page – For two people who have worked together as long as they have, it sounds like Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Tomlin were definitely not on the same page at the end of Sunday’s game.

Following Darrius Heyward-Bey’s 3-yard reception with 20 seconds left to play, Malcolm Butler tackled him in bounds, which had the game clock running.  Initially, Roethlisberger brought everyone up to the line and was ready to spike the ball to stop the clock, but he claims “the sideline” didn’t want him too, which lead to some confusion.

“It wasn’t a fake spike,” Roethlisberger told reporters after the game. “I was yelling ‘clock it’ because I felt like that was the thing to do,  clock it and get yourself one play. And it came from the sideline, ‘Don’t clock it. Don’t clock it.’ Well, at that time, everyone thinks it’s clocked so you don’t have any time to get everyone lined up.”

Roethlisberger snapped the ball with 0:09 left on the clock and it was obvious there were some players who weren’t quite sure what was happening.  The entire left side of the field saw his receivers standing around, while Eli Rogers continued his route into three Patriots’ defenders.

https://twitter.com/NFL/status/942549852595949568

“Eli (Rogers) kinda ran a quick slant in there and at that time you’ve just got to try to make a big play,” said Roethlisberger.  “I didn’t make a good enough throw.”

Roethlisberger did go through the act of faking like he was going to spike it, and then looked at Rogers and double-clutched the throw, which allowed Rowe just the amount of time he needed to close and dive out in front, knocking the ball away.  Harmon alertly picked off the football, and just like that, you could hear the collective gasp from everyone on hand at Heinz Field who were all stunned by what they had just seen.

Tomlin said after the game he had no issue with Roethlisberger’s decision to go for the end zone in that situation, despite the fact it cost them the game.

“No. No, man. We play and play to win,” said Tomlin.  “That’s what we do.”

Unfortunately for Tomlin, those types of moments have been what his team has done in these situations against a team they just can’t quite figure out how to beat.

Thankfully, it obviously worked out for the Patriots, who improved to 11-3 on the season with a rematch against the Bills up next this weekend.