Tag Archives: Los Angeles Rams

Patriots Report Card In Super Bowl LIII Win Over LA

Steve Balestrieri
February 5, 2019 at 7:50 am ET

Patriots Report Card In Super Bowl LIII Win Over LA

Nobody saw that kind of low-scoring game playing out, but Bill Belichick and Brian Flores put together a masterful game plan and totally shut down the Rams offense, which was the #2 scoring unit in the league, holding them to nearly 30 points below their weekly average.

Julian Edelman was the most uncoverable receiver on the field and very much deserved the MVP Award, although the Patriots offense moved the ball well all night long, they couldn’t finish drives. But they found a way to win late and that’s what champions do, And the duck boats are gearing up for a parade on Tuesday morning. Super Bowl win #6 is a testament to how teams win victories and not always the more talented.

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

Quarterback: B-

Tom Brady didn’t have the eye-popping numbers 21-35 for 262 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT in the game as the Rams did a very good job of mixing things up and changing coverages especially after the Patriots would cross mid-field.

While Brady didn’t get hit a lot, the Rams did have pressure and were all around him enough to influence many of his throws. So, while the Patriots could move the ball consistently, they weren’t able to finish drives. Until crunch time.

With the game tied at 3-3 with ten minutes to go, that’s when Brady engineered a perfect drive where he made it look easy. First, he lobbed a perfectly drop in the bucket to Rob Gronkowski for 18 yards to get the offense moving. Next, he hit Edelman right down the middle for 13 yards. This was followed by a 7-yard pass to Rex Burkhead on the right sideline. On 2nd and 3, from the Rams 31, he made his best pass of the night, a beautifully placed touch pass to Gronkowski who beat double coverage. Gronkowski hauled it in as he went to the ground for a 29-yard gain. Sony Michel easily powered it in from the 2-yard line on the next play….Boom. Welcome home Lombardi Trophy #6.

Running Backs: B

The Patriots were patient with the running game and it paid off in the end. They ran for 154 yards on 32 carries as the Rams wore down in the end and the running game gashed them while running the 4-minute offense.

Sony Michel, you remember that “waste of a 1st round pick”? Well, he led all ball carriers with 94 yards on 18 carries including the only touchdown in the game. His biggest play was a 26-yard scamper that got the Patriots out of the deep hole in their own end.

Rex Burkhead chipped in with 7 carries for 43 yards and two catches for 15 more. On the same drive that started at the Patriots 4-yard line, Burkhead also got a 26-yard run where he burst thru the line and then cut back against the grain. Those two runs took the Patriots from deep in their own end into scoring range.

James White was a total non-factor in the game, carrying just two times for four yards and with just one catch for five more. The Rams did a tremendous job of taking him away.  

Wide Receivers: B-

Julian Edelman was absolutely uncoverable, and he rates an A+. The rest of the receivers? Not so much. Edelman roasted Nickell Roby-Coleman, frequently having 3 or more yards of separation. Roby-Coleman was doing a lot of talking early in the week, but didn’t walk the walk. The Rams then tried Aqib Talib on Edelman, but his quickness was too much for Talib off the line. Then Phillips trotted out Marcus Peters who was blown away off the line allowing a big catch down the seam for 25. Nobody could cover him on Sunday night. He finished with 10 catches for 141 yards on 12 targets.

Chris Hogan was targeted six times and had zero catches. Brady’s interception, on the first pass of the game, was well behind him. But he was unable to get any separation. Phillip Dorsett wasn’t targeted. Cordarrelle Patterson had two catches for 14 yards and added a pair of runs for seven.  

Tight Ends: A-

Rob Gronkowski was excellent in the running game blocking for the backs. On the Patriots touchdown, they went to a two-tight end set and he and Dwayne Allen helped the line blow the Rams off the line of scrimmage for a too-easy touchdown that was the difference in the game.

But in the passing game, Gronkowski had six catches for 87 yards on seven targets. Like Brady, he saved his best for last. On the Patriots touchdown drive he had catches for 18 and 29 yards, the latter a really nice catch as he was going to the ground.

Offensive Line: A-

The Patriots offensive line put together another very impressive performance. While the Rams were able to stop the running game early on, they did a good job of protecting Brady, despite the pass rush of Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh getting some pressure. The only sack was more of a coverage sack than anything else. Brady had forever to throw but no one was open and he probably should have thrown it away.

But late in the game, with the Patriots backed up at their four-yard line with four minutes to go, the Rams knew they were going to run the football. And they did. On Sony Michel’s 26-yard run, David Andrews destroyed Suh, pushing him three yards to the left and dumped him on his backside.

Defensive Line: A

The Patriots defensive line was absolutely terrific. The Rams potent running attack with Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson never got untracked and had just 62 yards on 18 carries. The Rams motion tries to get linemen moving sideways, but the Patriots attacked and were getting very good penetration. Danny Shelton blew thru a gap and nailed Anderson for a loss.

Trey Flowers also burst thru and had a tackle for a loss. But the front also did a very good job at getting pressure on Jared Goff. Adrian Clayborn and Lawrence Guy had QB hits while Flowers had two.

Linebackers: A

The Patriots linebackers were outstanding. Both Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy were all over the field and they were a very disruptive force all night long. With the team running a 6-1 look, the outside backers were essentially lining up on the line of scrimmage. They did a tremendous job of setting the edge in the running game and took away those shallow crosses and slants the Rams like to run.

Hightower, who in every Super Bowl plays like a man possessed, was everywhere. He had two tackles for a loss, two QB sacks, a pass defensed and three QB hits. Van Noy was also everywhere. He had four tackles, a tackle for a loss, a sack, and three QB hits. Hightower, on the Shelton run stuff absolutely destroyed Tyler Higbee in the interior of the line. Ouch.

Elandon Roberts and John Simon each saw action and as a whole, the linebackers totally took away the Rams RBs in the passing game, which was supposed to be a mismatch. Rams RBs had three catches for 11 yards in the game.

Secondary: A-

The Patriots secondary played a different look mixing in man coverage with Quarters zone coverage and held the Rams to a net 198 yards passing which was far below their average of 281 per game. Stephon Gilmore was outstanding as he has been all season and chipped in with the interception that sealed the deal for the Patriots.

Slot corner Jonathan Jones played some safety in their Quarters looks which showed off his versatility. Jason McCourty had the play of the game where on a busted coverage, Brandin Cooks was wide open in the end zone. McCourty flew over from his side and knocked the ball away.

Pat Chung was having an excellent game, but early in the third quarter broke his arm. In stepped “the Closer” Duron Harmon, who played very well. Harmon blitzed and forced Goff into throwing a floater that was picked off by Gilmore.

Special Teams: A-

Ryan Allen and Matthew Slater were fantastic in this game. Allen dropped three punts deep in the Rams zone where Slater was there to cover it up. They were able to force the Rams to go the length of the field.

Stephen Gostkowski missed his first field goal attempt but made his next two tries, including the one with a minute to go to put the game out of reach. The coverage units were solid and Patterson took the opening kickoff back 38 yards.

Coaching: A

Bill Belichick and Brian Flores gave a master’s class on having a great game plan that the players were able to execute perfectly.  Of all the Patriots Super Bowl wins, this one could arguably be considered their best defensive effort, holding a team that averages almost 33 points a game to just a field goal.

They flummoxed Sean McVay and Jared Goff on the opposite side of the field all game long. The Rams offense never looked like it was getting into anything resembling a rhythm or a comfort level all game long. McVay admitted after the game that Belichick outcoached him. It wasn’t the first time that Belichick has done that.

Josh McDaniels tried mixing things up offensively where the team could move the ball but kept stalling. They did figure it out late in the game and the team put together two impressive drives to finish the game, and win another Super Bowl.

So, who’s ready for a parade?

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as our writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

Six-Cess! Belichick Defensive Gameplan Another Gem Wins Sixth Title 

Steve Balestrieri
February 4, 2019 at 7:39 am ET

Six-Cess! Belichick Defensive Gameplan a Gem Wins Another SB

Bill Belichick has saved some of his best defensive game-planning for the Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams. And in doing so, he’s capped the latest Super Bowl victory much like he did their first.

In Super Bowl XXXVI, the Patriots showed the Rams something they hadn’t seen before. Recognizing that the “Greatest Show on Turf” went thru Marshall Faulk, the Patriots decided that they were going to hit Faulk (and hard) every time he went out of the backfield and they punished him enroute to a huge upset win.

Last night, Belichick showed the Rams something they hadn’t seen the Patriots do on tape by playing a defense that was different for them and totally confusing to the Rams offensive players. It was stifling, physical and utterly brilliant.

In our pregame matchups, we thought the Pats would dust off a look of the old Bears 46 Defense in an attempt to take away the Rams stretch running plays. What Belichick did was different but similar. They ran what looked a 6-1 front with both outside linebackers up on the line of scrimmage. The Rams run with a ton of motion and use play action more than anyone with QB Jared Goff under center about 40 percent of the time.

But the Patriots interior defensive linemen didn’t take the cheese. Rather than sliding east-west with the motion, they were attacking north-south and penetrating the gaps. The Rams outside running game was negated by the linebackers setting the edge. Todd Gurley who does the bulk of the Rams outside running was held to just 35 yards on 10 carries. And by having the outside backers up, right on the line of scrimmage, those screens to the backs were negated. Gurley and C.J. Anderson had just three catches for 11 yards.

The other thing it did was take the Rams out of their tight formation packages that they like to run where it gives its more options. By having the linebackers in their face, everything was disrupted and it was plain to see all day. Sean McVay, who after the game said he was thoroughly out-coached then had to adjust by moving their receivers farther out wide. That further hurt their zone stretch running plays and much of their crossing routes over the middle.

But the second half of the defensive equation was arguably Belichick’s best move and he can thank his former Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia for the blueprint on this one. Matty P, who was being roasted by the talking heads on the air after the game last night, must have got a huge smile on his face and a big piece of redemption because Belichick copied what Patricia’s Lions did late in the season.

The Patriots played quarters coverage in the secondary, something they didn’t show the Rams on tape. Patricia’s Lions ran this on early downs with two safeties back, it took away those play action slants the Rams were so successful running this year. Duron Harmon, normally the third safety was replaced by slot corner Jonathan Jones who played safety for the first time. With Belichick, versatility is key, the more you can do…

Harmon however, did come on to play in the second half, when Pat Chung appeared to break his arm early in the third quarter. Chung was put in an air cast and then watched the rest of the game from the Patriots sidelines.

Facing a lot of third and long situations, Belichick and Flores unleashed the Ameoba fronts we’ve seen so much of down the stretch and the pass rush was outstanding. Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower were all over the field and provided outstanding pressure. Hightower had a pair of sacks, a tackle for a loss, a pass defensed and three QB hits. Van Noy was a pain in the backside for Goff as well with a sack, a tackle for loss and a pair of QB hits. For two players who are “too slow”, they certainly didn’t appear so, …especially to the Rams offensive line.

The coverage was a perfect blend to the pass rush. Goff most times had absolutely nowhere to throw the ball and was hounded all night long. But it wasn’t just Goff, the entire Rams offense was out of synch and looking for answers all night long. Stephon Gilmore was once again outstanding and sealed the deal with an interception on the Patriots 2-yard line after Harmon blitzed and forced Goff into launching a floater that was a too-easy interception.

The Rams had the #2 offense in terms of yards (421.1) and points (32.9) during the season. The Patriots held them to just 260 yards and three (3) points in the Super Bowl. For all the talk all season about this defense wasn’t good enough, they faced three excellent offenses in the Chargers, Chiefs, and Rams in the postseason and beat all three with outstanding efforts in each game.

The Patriots defensive six-cess was another example of a brilliant coaching job by the master. Belichick did it to the Rams again, with a tip of the hat to Matty P.

For McVay who is one of the most brilliant of young coaches in the game, it will be a learning experience. He’s hardly the first who were taught the ways by the old Jedi master… his time will come. But for now, “PATIENCE YOU MUST HAVE my young padawan”

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 game analysis.

Patriots Defense Crushes Rams 13-3 For Sixth Super Bowl Title

Steve Balestrieri
at 12:42 am ET

Patriots Defense Crushes Rams 13-3 For Sixth Super Bowl Title

Hey New England, the Lombardi Trophy is coming back to Foxboro for the sixth time in the Belichick – Brady era. Bill Belichick weaved a masterful game plan as the Patriots turned back the clock to the days of the smashmouth years, holding the #2 scoring offense of the Rams to just three (3) points in a tremendous performance.

Tom Brady put together the winning drive at crunch time, as he’s done many times before and he used the usual suspects, Rob Gronkowski, and Julian Edelman to moved down the field where Sony Michel scored the only touchdown of the Super Bowl with a 2-yard score. Edelman was the MVP of the Super Bowl with a phenomenal 10 catch, 141-yard performance.

How dominant has the Patriots defense been in the playoffs? The Patriots were the only team since the 1985 Chicago Bears to hold opponents to seven points or fewer in three consecutive first halves of playoff football. And you can put the “Tomato Can” garbage to bed. The offenses of KC and the Rams were prolific scoring machines all season.

Belichick and Brian Flores called a tremendous game defensively. They harassed, flummoxed and beat up Jared Goff all night long. While all the talk pregame was about the Rams pass rush with Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh (who played very well BTW), it was the Patriots pass rush that was the game changer. They sacked Goff four times and were in his face better than half of his dropbacks.

The Patriots held the Rams to just 3.4 yards per rushing attempt and just 62 yards overall on 18 carries. Todd Gurley had 11 touches (10 carries, 1 reception) for just 34 yards. Goff finished 19 for 38 for 229 yards (198 yards net)  with 0 TDs and one interception. The Rams finished just 3-13 on third down.

During the playoffs, the Patriots defense allowed a grand total of just 122 yards rushing in the three games, which comes out to 40.6 yards per game. That is outstanding.

Defensive Play of the Game:

With the game still in the balance, Goff had the Rams moving in the second half. With a 1st and 10 at the Patriots 29-yard line, they ran Brandin Cooks down the seam and he was wide open. But Goff was just a half-second late throwing the ball and that allowed Jason McCourty to come flying over to knock the ball away. On third down Goff was sacked for -9 yards and it forced a 53-yard Greg Zuerlein field goal to tie it up.

Later after the Patriots took the lead 10-3, the Rams moved into Patriots territory but a deep pass to Cooks by Goff was influenced by Kyle Van Noy and the ball hung up in the air where Stephon Gilmore picked it off at the Patriots two.

Drive of the Year:

With about 10 minutes to go and the game tied, this is when great players step up to the forefront and Brady, Gronkowski and Edelman once again showed that they aren’t too old, too slow and too beat up. The Patriots went 69 yards in five plays with Sony Michel powering it in from the two-yard line for the only TD in the Super Bowl.

It started with a beautiful 18-yard drop in the bucket to Gronkowski to get things going. He then hit Edelman for 13 yards and hit Rex Burkhead for seven more on a nice sideline throw. On 2nd and three from the Rams 31, Brady launched a perfect throw down the seam to Gronkowski who hauled it and went down at the two-yard line. Michel scored on the next snap. Michel ground out 94 tough yards on 18 carries. Boom game over.

Edelman was easily the best offensive player on the field for either team and although Wade Phillips put an outstanding game plan of his own tonight, the Rams had no answer for Edelman. He frequently left the talker Nickell Roby-Coleman in the dust grabbing air.

Edelman now stands second only to Jerry Rice with 1,412 receiving yards in the postseason.  His bromance with Brady was in full-effect with Brady gushing over his buddy’s accomplishments. “He just played the best game he has all year,” Brady said. “He’s a fighter, man, that kid. I am just so proud of him. He’s been an incredible player for this team in the playoffs and he just cemented himself, again, in the history of the NFL for what his accomplishments are.” Gronkowski, meanwhile, ranks first among tight ends in postseason receptions (81), yards (1,163) and touchdowns (12).

As Brady and Belichick celebrate with their sixth ring and Super Bowl win together, Robert Kraft summed up the win the best.

“Patriots fans,” Kraft said. “This is your sixth championship in the last 18 years; truly an unprecedented accomplishment, really managed by exceptional players and coaches to whom all of us are forever grateful. But there is one constant throughout this whole 18 years, two men who are the best at whatever has been done in the history of the NFL: Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. And through their hard work and great leadership, I am honored to say for the sixth time, we are all Patriots and once again the Patriots are world champions.”

Cue up the duck boats, Mahhty! We have another parade to celebrate.

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 game analysis.

New England Patriots News, 2-3, “The Patriot Way” or Belichick’s?

Steve Balestrieri
February 3, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, it is Super Bowl Sunday once again here in New England and here is your Sunday Patriots news 02-03.

Some Quick Hitters this morning: *No AFC East notes this week* They’ll be back next week after the Super Bowl when we begin looking at the NFL Combine and Draft. But first some kudos this week.

Congratulations to Ty Law for being enshrined in the Hall of Fame, very deserved to be sure. He was an integral part of those first Patriots championships, especially his pick-six in Super Bowl XXXVI. Hopefully, the voters will get it right with Richard Seymour next season.

Kudos to Patriots fans: Sunday, over 35,000 fans showed up for the Patriots send-off rally at Gillette Stadium. It was the biggest one yet of any of the Super Bowl teams with Brady and Belichick. This flies in the face of the hit piece in the Boston Globe that tried to claim that Patriots fans are growing bored with the team’s success.

The turnout on Sunday, television ratings all season long and merchandise sales all point in the absolute other direction. However, it should be noted that the flimsy “evidence” by the writer is coming from the same guy who said that Brady having a MAGA hat in his locker was hurting the team’s standing with the fan base two years ago.

Way to go Pats fans, that was an incredible send off rally. For the first time, could the Patriots fans outnumber the haters at a Super Bowl? …What a concept.

Kudos to WEEI: On Friday after with the buildup to the big game in full swing, ‘EEI swung … low and missed. How? By putting that noted hot-take artist Rob Parker on the air on Radio Row. Actually, calling Parker that is an insult to hot take artists, he hasn’t had an actual new thing or a hot take to say in years. WEEI decided to go for the lowest common denominator in their coverage. Don’t we have enough of that already on the air?  What’s next? Is Baghdad Bob going to be guesting on the air, to talk about the political climate of the Super Bowl?

Did you Know? With a win today, the Patriots will tie the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most Super Bowl wins (6) in league history. They are currently tied with San Francisco and Dallas with 5 wins.

Did you Know Pt. 2: With a win today, the Patriots will move past the Steelers in all-time playoff victories with 37, the two teams are currently tied with 36. The Patriots already own the best postseason winning percentage with teams with a minimum of 15 playoff appearances.  
Team              Wins Losses Win Pct.
New England  36 20    .643
Baltimore        15 9 .625
Green Bay       34 22  .607
San Francisco 30     20 .600
Pittsburgh       36 25 .590

Did you Know Pt. 3: The Running game is a big part of the matchups this week. Since Bill Belichick took over the team in 2000, the Patriots are 51-1 when a running back cracks 100 yards rushing in a game. In 2018, Sony Michel had four 100-yard games and the Patriots were 4-0 in those contests.

“The Patriot Way” Is All About the Team and Belichick:

With the kickoff this evening, the Patriots will appear in their 11th Super Bowl and the ninth in the Belichick-Brady era and this dynasty is truly something to behold. The Patriots under Belichick have remained steadfast in his philosophy about building a team, which has been dubbed “the Patriot Way” and even today, two decades later, there are still misconceptions about that.

In the Patriot way, which should really be called, “the Belichick Way”, there is a right way and a wrong way about building a football team that is constructed for the long run. And since 2001, the Patriots have far and away blown away the rest of the league in terms of staying competitive for a Super Bowl. A down year for the Patriots has been 10 wins or in the case of 2018, 11 wins. And yes, this was written up all fall as a down year, despite the fact that they’re one win away from their 6th Super Bowl title in 18 years.

In watching some of the endless programs leading up to the big game, I’ve seen the same thing, much like we’ve seen every Sunday for the past 18 years. The analysts will point to the rosters and say “Team A has better personnel up and down the roster” and at that point, you just have to shrug and turn the channel. They don’t get it, have never gotten it and most unfortunately never will get it.

To quote Belichick, “It’s not about collecting talent, it’s about building a football team.”

And this one from Belichick is perhaps the most frequently overlooked but arguably most important.  “On a team, it’s not the strength of the individual players, but it is the strength of the unit and how they all function together.”

Many teams, including this season’s Rams team, were the latest of the “dream teams” where they made a concerted effort to push all of their chips into the middle of the table and go all in for a title. They collected talent at every turn and didn’t see a free agent or trade scenario that they didn’t like. The fact that this team is unsustainable as it is currently constructed once they have to pay their QB who is still on a rookie deal is overlooked right now, but that day is coming.

Belichick has always kept an eye on the long-term goal of not just building a winner but maintaining it for the long haul. Which is why they A. never overpay for veteran players who are looking for the huge payday and B. done their shopping with many players who aren’t considered top players but will fit a role in the Patriots (read Belichick) system.

Look at this year’s Patriots defense, Kyle Van Noy and undrafted rookie free agent J.C. Jackson have become two of the most valuable players and some of their biggest performers down the stretch. Van Noy was considered a bust and the team got him for a song (6th round pick). Jackson went undrafted and has now worked himself into the starting rotation at cornerback.

On the subject of Van Noy, Belichick, rather than focusing on what he can’t do or trying to force him to do what the team wants, he’s learned what he does do well and puts him in a position to succeed. And he’s had a career resurgence with the Patriots. Belichick once spoke about the mistakes some coaches do with trying to squeeze a player into a system where the fit may not be the exact right fit.

“You definitely go through a stage, most coaches do, where you see a good player and you get enamored, you really like what the player does, but then when you put him into your system, it’s not quite the same player that he was in another system. He has some strengths, but you cant utilize all those strengths. If you try to utilize all his strengths, you end up weakening a lot of other players who are already in your system.”

That’s why the subject of “dream teams” is always interesting. Collecting all the talent doesn’t necessarily mean that those pieces will gel together. The Eagles a few years ago tried to buy a Super Bowl and then fell flat in the regular season. Not only do they have to fit what you’re doing but they also have to fit within the confines of the locker room.

Back to the Rams, watching television this week, I saw more than one analyst say, as we mentioned above, that the Rams defense is “more talented” at nearly every position than the Patriots. Is it true? Maybe so. But as a unit? Hmm, the numbers don’t attest to that. Looking at yardage, which everyone always has a fit over here in New England, the Rams allowed a half-yard less (yes 0.5 yards) per game than the Patriots. In points allowed (which Belichick preaches) the Rams were 19th, the Patriots 7th.  Hmm.

“A sense of humor is a huge thing with us. You’ve got to be able to laugh. You’ve got to be able to take a dig, give a dig — that sort of thing. And [you have to] feel comfortable in your own skin that you don’t have all the answers.”

Part of this philosophy is by design, Belichick knows how to build a football team and knows what will or won’t work. And part of it is by necessity. Because of their success, the Patriots are always picking in the #30-32 range in the NFL draft. You’re not going to find too many Khalil Macks or the next Randy Moss in that range very often, if at all. And the draft, as Belichick knows, beyond the first half of the first round is often times a crap shoot. Some players take longer to develop at the pro level and some peak in college and never work out. Which is why the Patriots would rather package picks and move down further to amass more selections which gives them a better chance at hitting on one of their prospects.

Belichick has a penchant for finding veteran players that fill a complementary role rather than being superstars and fit the team-first mentality. Which is why players like Van Noy and others that they’ve added in the years before have nearly always filled valuable roles for the team in their continued success.

One of the more prevalent myths that surround Belichick, and one we hear often is “GM Bill is hurting Coach Bill,” as if this is a no-brainer. And it is as wrong as rain on a wedding day. It isn’t “luck” as some talking heads would have you believe that the Patriots have been in 50 percent of the Super Bowls since 2001.

No doubt it has been fantastic coaching but it has also been having an outstanding eye for talent. Talent to fit your team, your system and your locker room. Have they hit on everyone? Of course, not. They’ve had plenty of swings and misses. However, Belichick and Nick Caserio have done a fantastic job of assembling a scouting staff that has been able to identify talent that is out there that nobody else has seen and identifying the players that want to win championships. And that is the final piece of the puzzle.   

“For a team to accomplish their goal, everybody’s got to give up a little bit of their individuality.”

Lots of teams make the noise and spout the old clichés about “team-first” mentality and such but much of what you hear is just that …noise. Belichick has said this also in the past during the draft process.

“We’re looking for people … [who] have gotten over themselves, and you can tell that pretty quickly,” Belichick said.

“You can talk to somebody for four or five minutes, and you can tell if it’s about them, or if they understand that they’re just a piece of the puzzle. So we look for that.

Not many players are willing to give up their individuality, their stats, and their quest to get paid the most at their positions to win a championship. That’s another reason the Patriots success has lasted so long. They are like a chameleon, they can change their identity from week-to-week and adjust accordingly to create mismatches against their opponent.

A receiver could have 15 targets one week and be the team’s go-to guy and the next to be relegated to a mere decoy if the coaching staff feels, that they need to go run heavy and throw the ball elsewhere. If a player can’t handle that, he’ll either not sign here or soon find himself being released to take their talents elsewhere.

Brady is the final piece of Belichick’s “Patriot Way”. Having a QB who is the best to ever play his position and do it for so long has made Belichick’s job of sustaining excellence for so long much easier.

Brady was the outlier in the draft process. The guy no one including Belichick had the slightest idea would have ever thought would become the player he has. 198 players were selected before Brady in the 2000 draft, and the Patriots passed on him thru six rounds.

Brady outworked everyone and continues to inside the Patriots clubhouse. He’s totally bought into what Belichick preaches. And when the greatest QB to ever play the game buys in, if you’re a veteran and a role player, you think you’re going to buck the system?

And Brady has become the perfect foil for Belichick. We’ve all heard about the Monday film sessions where Belichick, as Tedy Bruschi as said, would “MF everyone”, even in big victories, pointing out mistakes in the endless quest for perfection. He frequently picks on plays made by Brady. The point being, if Brady’s going to get roasted, then you had better “Do Your Job” better than anyone else.

Brady has also totally bought into the team-first mentality by frequently taking team-friendly deals where he’s taking far below market value to allow the team to spend more on supporting cast members of the team. He’s not even in the Top 15 list of highest paid QBs in the league in 2018.  

How will all of this play out later this evening? Nobody knows, it is after all one game where anything can and will happen. But I wouldn’t bet against the Patriots, who are battle tested and playing their best football at exactly the right time. That just isn’t the Patriot Way, that’s the Belichick Way.

Defending the Rams Receivers All About the Matchups:

The Rams have a pair of dangerous 1000-yard receivers in Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks. How the Patriots choose to match up with the Rams tonight will be fascinating to watch.

Stephon Gilmore practiced against Brandin Cooks all of last season, so he knows him well. But I believe (we wrote about this earlier last week) that Gilmore will cover Woods, who isn’t quite as fast as Cooks but is bigger. I think Jonathan Jones will cover Cooks with safety help over the top. Jones is speedier but… the Rams often put Woods in the slot, so that may fall to J.C. Jackson. So who will draw Josh Reynolds? Reynolds at 6’3 is too big and would present a mismatch against Jones. It is a interesting scenario.

Our feeling here is Gilmore – Woods, Jones – Cooks, and Jackson – Reynolds. But anything can happen and the defense may end up switching things up. Jason McCourty is also in the mix and he could replace Jones in the matchups.  

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-Rams Super Bowl LIII Keys Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
February 1, 2019 at 7:30 am ET

The New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams are in Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII and contrary to popular belief outside of New England, the Patriots don’t reach the Super Bowl every year that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are together on the field. It just seems that way.

Super Bowl LIII will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, February 3 at 6:30 PM ET and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Jim Nantz will handle play-by-play duties with Tony Romo as the color analyst. Tracy Wolfson, Evan Washburn, and Jay Feely will work from 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 (13-5) are in the big game for the third straight year, after blowing out the Chargers and winning an overtime thriller against the #1 seed Kansas City Chiefs.

The Rams (15-3) also won in overtime in the NFC Championship Game beating the New Orleans Saints after coming back from being two scores down early in the game.

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 Rams are meeting for the first time in the postseason since Super Bowl XXXVI, the Pats first Super Bowl win over the “Greatest Show on Turf”. The only two remaining pieces for either team remain Brady and Belichick.

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 Rams Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots rushing offense has been outstanding down the stretch and thru the first two games of the playoffs. New England utilizes a three-headed rushing attack with Sony Michel handling the lion’s share with Rex Burkhead, and James White also adding into the mix as well.

The Rams defense uses the Wade Phillips 3-4 where they bring an extra linebacker up on the line in run support. The Rams during the regular season allowed 5.1 yards per rush but have been much better in the playoffs. In the Saints game, Aaron Donald was shooting the gaps and blowing plays up before they had a chance to develop.

The Patriots run a different system and should line up right over Donald and will look to take him on rather than trying to reach block him like New Orleans did where Donald’s quickness off the line made that a losing proposition.

Look for the Patriots to attack the perimeter in the running game and they’ll use motion with Julian Edelman and Cordarrelle Patterson to run some of those Jet Sweeps. The aggressiveness of their front, especially Donald and Ndamukong Suh is where they’ll try to exploit by running at them on the perimeter.

The Patriots interior players David Andrews, Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason will be the ones to watch against the Rams interior run stuffers. They like to move Suh around and created mismatches so this will be a key area to watch.

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

The Patriots passing game has ratcheted up their game down the stretch with Tom Brady and Julian Edelman both having big games in the first two playoff matchups. The key obviously is in pass protection, the Rams boast Donald, Suh, and a very good pass rush which can disrupt anyone’s passing attack.

Wade Phillips will try to take away the middle of the field and may try to double up Julian Edelman. If that happens, watch Brady put him in motion. The Rams defense struggled in the passing game against “12 personnel” groupings (2 WR, 2TE, 1RB) and look for the Patriots to utilize White or Burkhead quite a bit in the passing game.

How LA decides to cover Rob Gronkowski will be fascinating to watch. Will it be in single coverage like KC did with a safety? Or will they chip and roll more coverage on him? Gronkowski looks as healthy as he has all season and had a big game inKC. Brady will try to get the ball out quickly and negate Donald and the pass rush. How well they are able to do that will determine how successful they are at passing the ball.

The Rams played a lot of zone coverage, then switching to man coverage inside the red zone. However, since Aqib Talib’s return, they’re playing more man coverage, and that should continue this week.

Next up the Los Angeles offense:

Rams RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Los Angeles

The Rams have been one of the best teams at running the football this season averaging 139.4 yards per game (3rd in the NFL) and have two excellent running backs in Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson. Some tendencies to watch for. When Gurley is in the game, they run nearly 70 percent of the time to the edge and when Anderson is in, that number is nearly 50 percent right up the middle.

The Rams offensive line is much like the Patriots, they are tough, very well-coached and rarely make mistakes. LA runs primarily out of “11 personnel” (3WR, 1TE, 1 RB). They like to condense the formations, (something Bill Belichick mentioned this week) and run a ton of misdirection. Like New England, they like to put a guy in motion to get three men on one side and like to run behind that strength.

Jared Goff lined up for 40 percent of his snaps under center, among the most in the league. Play action passing is a stable of their offense. I’m looking for the historian in Belichick to dust off a look that he used successfully in Super Bowl XXXIX against the Eagles, the Bears 46 Defense.

Bringing up eight men in the box and placing a linebacker outside close to the line of scrimmage is a way of limiting the running game of Gurley. They’ll place a big man over the center and use their interior men to attack the gaps. The key is setting the edge, especially when Gurley is in the game. In two playoff games, they’ve allowed just 60 yards rushing.

Rams WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Los Angeles

The Rams passing game was lighting up the league in the first half of the season. The loss of Cooper Kupp to IR has been a big blow, however, they are still very, very talented. They have a plethora of targets for Jared Goff in Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, Gurley, Josh Reynolds, and Tyler Higbee.

The key is for the Patriots is to disguise their look until the final second. Goff doesn’t read the defense as well or as quick as Brady. Rams coach Sean McVay will have his team rush to the line and see how the Patriots line up and he’ll call out into Goff’s helmet the read until the microphones are cut off at the 15-second mark of the play clock. It will be then up to Belichick and Brian Flores to change things up and show something different. Can they confuse Goff enough or slow down his processing time enough to make a difference? That’s the key here.

Look for the Patriots to put Stephon Gilmore on Robert Woods, and possibly their speediest corner Jonathon Jones or Jason McCourty on Cooks with safety help. Rookie J.C. Jackson will see more of Reynolds.

Look for more of that “Amoeba Front” look to disguise where the pass rush is coming from to try to get pressure on Goff. They’ll rotate their coverages and safeties to give Goff a different look in an attempt to slow down his processing time to allow the pass rush to get home.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Los Angeles

The Patriots special teams have been much better down the stretch but for once, they’re facing a team with a slightly better cast. Stephen Gostkowski and Ryan Allen remain extremely solid. Julian Edelman and Cordarrelle Patterson will look to make a difference in the return game.

The Rams have an outstanding STs unit and it begins with punter Johnny Hekker. He is always lavished praise by Belichick and not only is he an outstanding punter but the Rams have shown that they aren’t afraid of throwing it on 4th down with him. Greg Zuerlein is very good at kicking. JoJo Natson and Blake Countess handled return duties.

Next up, who wins and why…

Keys to the Game and Prediction

This game should be another classic must-watch down to the wire matchup. What would a Patriots Super Bowl be without an edge of your seat finish? Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective are:

Start Fast and Put the Rams in Catchup Mode: The Patriots have been very good at starting fast this postseason. That must continue. The Rams offense wants to make this a track meet and that’s a game they’re much better suited to winning.

3rd Down/Red Zone Key: The Patriots have to win the 3rd down battle, on offense they must give Brady the third and manageable distances, the 3rd and 4 or less. On defense it has to be the opposite, forcing Goff into obvious passing situations where they can mix and match their coverages and bring pressure. Field goals instead of touchdowns will be a way to win or lose the game.

Win the Turnover Battle: The Patriots and Rams should both be able to move the ball this Sunday  It may come down to getting a key turnover, especially in the opponent’s end of the field. Can the Patriots generate a turnover or two, something they were unable to do a year ago?

The feeling here is experience is a great asset. Brady, Edelman, Gronkowski and James White have been here and won, before. That will be the difference in another great Super Bowl. It will go right down to the wire, but cue the duckboats, Marty, the Lombardi is coming back to New England. Patriots 31-27

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

New England Patriots News 1-27, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
January 27, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 01-27.

Some Quick Hitters this morning: *No AFC East notes this week*

Jerry Rice is Impressed With Julian Edelman: Jerry Rice has never been shy about voicing his opinions on a variety of subjects. So it was no surprise that he was approached about Julian Edelman now being the #2 in career playoff receptions behind only Rice himself. His response, however, may not be what you’d expect.

“He’s got that attitude. That ‘f— you’ attitude: ‘I’m going to do what I want to do, and I’m going to go out and I’m going to ball. I’m going to make catches. I’m going to score touchdowns. I’m going to do whatever I have to do to help my team win.’ You can only have an appreciation for that.”

Rice was then asked if Edelman in the future would pass Rice in career playoff receptions, how would he (Rice) react to it, Rice responded in a similar vein.

“He’s coming after me. If that should happen, I would be the first one to congratulate [Julian Edelman] because of what he does on the football field. I think he’s making his own mark. He’s made a name for himself. Here’s a guy that was a quarterback then transitioned into a receiver, and he has done a fantastic job.”

Adams’ Actions Speak Volumes About the Difference Between NE and the Jets: The Pro Bowl is mostly a yawnfest between the skills competition and the lack of intensity in what passes as a game, it is a weekend I always take a pass on. We’ve seen better-spirited practices at Gillette during training camp.

But Jamal Adams’s actions of flattening the Patriots mascot were noteworthy for a couple of reasons. Beside the fact that it was stupid, immature, and dangerous to a guy unprepared for it and wearing a mask, and it was from behind to boot, Adams rode him into the ground, driving him into the turf.

And if the back-handed apology that he didn’t mean to hurt him and “I didn’t hit him that hard” reasoning wasn’t bad enough, his interview after the fact with Dianna Russini was the kicker. Asked if he regretted it, he screamed into the microphone, “Nooooooooo!”


These are the tidbits that reveal some players’ character or in this case, the lack of it. Future free agency opportunities loom for very talented players, such as Adams. But this won’t win him any high marks from anyone. Welcome to NY Adam Gase.

Brady’s Career Pre-ACL Injury and Post-Injury Are Both Hall Worthy: Tom Brady has had a remarkable career by any measuring stick, next Sunday will mark his ninth Super Bowl appearance which is more than any team.

But if you were to divide Brady’s career from pre-ACL injury in 2008 to post-ACL injury from 2009 onward, each would be a Hall of Fame worthy segment on their own. Which makes what is transpiring all the more impressive. After one hot take artist, who should be enroute with bag and baggage to Tijuana proclaimed in 2012 that Brady would never get to another Super Bowl, next Sunday will his third in a row and his fourth in five years.

Laser-Focused? NFL Isn’t: The NFL said it was “looking into the report” that a laser was pointed at Tom Brady’s face during the AFC Championship Game. Several times during the game a green light was shined on Brady’s face and shoulders from the stands. The light was visible on the television broadcast. Brady wasn’t asked about it in the post-game interviews nor was much made of it on television.

The NFL, however, leaped into action with all the alacrity of a tortoise marathon. The official response was that the league would “look into the report”. Well, I feel better. What didn’t happen was Mike Kensel running down to the Chiefs’ coaches yelling, “we gotcha!” What also didn’t happen was Ted Wells was being tasked with doing a witch hunt involving a team of junk science dweebs that would tell us that the lights were actually a natural phenomenon.

Robert Kraft took the high road and when asked about it, stated that Tom Brady was “laser-focused” and it didn’t have any effect on the game. We can all breathe a sigh of relief that this incident didn’t happen in Foxboro to Patrick Mahomes. Because it would have been the lead-in story of the “network” as well as the major television outlets all week. Complete with weepy ex-quarterbacks and all of the above-mentioned responses taking place.

Did you Know? From Inside Edge: Tom Brady threw for 250+ yards in 24 games since the 2017 season — tied for most of the Qualified QBs in NFL (File under cliff diving #1)

Did you Know Pt. 2: From Inside Edge- Tom Brady (NE) has averaged 9.5 Yards per Attempt (1,065 yards/112 attempts) in the 4th quarter this season — best of 28 Qualified QBs in NFL; League Avg: 7.3 (File under cliff diving #2)

Did you Know Pt. 3: From Inside Edge- Patriots RBs have averaged 24.3 carries per game (389 carries / 16 games) this season — 2nd highest in NFL; League Avg: 21.4

Patriots RBs have averaged 7.6 receptions per game (121/16) this season — best in NFL; League Avg: 5.4

The Myth of the AFC “Least” Not to be Confused with “System QB”:

You’ve all heard it. Heck, some of you probably have said it yourselves, because you’ve heard so many times that you may actually believe it…. You know, the only loser’s lament that, “the only reason the Patriots are in the Super Bowl is that they’re guaranteed a bye because the AFC East sucks.”

It has been repeated so often it rivals the other myth that #12 is a “System QB” or even that blasphemy that “the Patriots filmed the Rams walkthru before SB XXXVI”, thanks JT…for nothing.

Field Yates from ESPN posted this bit of information yesterday:

So, besides playing a first-place schedule every year where they face the division winners from every division the year before, they dominate that field as well while not another team is over .500. But please, sing us another one…

“A lie told often enough becomes the truth.” – Vladimir Lenin

Edelman Comes Full-Circle in “Emotionally, Physically, Exhausting” Year:

After the Patriots win over the Falcons in Super Bowl LI, Julian Edelman was riding high. But life as he knew it changed quickly soon after. He became a dad for the first time, he then tore his ACL in the preseason against the Lions and missed all of the 2017 season where the Patriots wound up in the Super Bowl and lost, to the Eagles. Then he was suspended for the first four games of this season while in the process of coming back.

Now, after two big playoff games, he’s back in the Super Bowl, this time against the Rams with the chance to cement the team’s and his own legacy with another SB win. But, he knows it has been a long, hard road since that night in Houston two years ago.

“This is what you play the game for and it’s been a crazy year for me, two years. I have a kid, tear your ACL, you miss four games. It’s been a mentally, physically, emotionally exhausting year,” he told WEEI.

“You put all that effort into overcoming that for this game. It’s been a heck of a year to get to go out and play with your teammates and see how this thing’s evolved out. It’s always a great thing getting to play in the last game of the year.”

Edelman, despite what many are calling a declining year, had very good numbers in 12 regular-season games, he finished with 74 catches for 850 yards and six TDs. In two postseason games thus far, he has added 16 catches for 247 yards.

Brady, Patriots Not Interested in Pro Bowl Honors:

With the bye week before the Super Bowl, many media members will be making the rounds to players who have some insight on the current players getting ready to play in the biggest game of the year.

Sports Illustrated reached out to former Patriots and Bills linebacker Brandon Spikes about some insight into playing with Tom Brady. Spikes didn’t disappoint and told a great story about where the priorities lie in Foxboro. Spikes told his tale to SI as follows:

“I had one of my best years my third season,” Spikes said. “I’d been playing off the charts. And I didn’t get picked to go to the Pro Bowl. I was moping around, actually in tears, and a few guys were trying to lift me up, like, ‘It’s gonna be alright man. We’ve got to worry about what’s in front of us.’

Then The Pharaoh himself walks up to me — I used to call Brady The Pharaoh and he hated that — Brady walks up to me and says, ‘Hey B, you think I play this s*** to go to Pro Bowls? Get it together. Get your head up. We’re trying to win rings. That’s what it is here.’ That’s where I knew what kind of environment I was in, how blessed I was.”

And by the way, Brady was selected to his 14th Pro Bowl this season. But he won’t be going, he and Patriots are preparing to play for ring #6.

Super Bowl Prediction- Next Week:

Final Regular Season 165-89-2

Wildcard Weekend:  0-4

Divisional Weekend: 4-0

Conference Championship Weekend 1-1

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.

James White is the Patriots “X-Factor” in the Super Bowl

Steve Balestrieri
January 26, 2019 at 7:00 am ET

J

The Patriots are leaving on Sunday to take part in their third Super Bowl in a row and their fourth in the past five seasons. While much of the talk and deservedly so centers around the relationship of Head Coach Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady who are competing in their ninth Super Bowl together, one other player will be critical to the Patriots success next Sunday. Running back James White.

It is a given that if you took a poll of the best running backs in the NFL, White wouldn’t sniff the top 15 or possibly even further. But in this Patriots offense, White’s role is such that he can be the mismatch that the coaches are looking for to ignite the rest of the offense. White doesn’t carry the ball much in the running game. They have rookie Sony Michel and veteran Rex Burkhead to handle the majority of those duties.

No, White’s value in mostly in the passing game where he is simply outstanding. That’s why he’s our “X-Factor” in the Patriots offense next week in Atlanta. The Rams have struggled to cover running backs out of the backfield and tight ends all season. And the Patriots will be looking to continue that trend next week.

And in 2018  White has been terrific. He’s averaging 6.5 yards per every touch he gets either in the passing or running game. That is 2nd best in the entire NFL. He averages about 47 yards per game receiving, which was 3rd best.

White is a movable chess piece. Often Tom Brady will put him in motion to find not only a mismatch against a linebacker but will often get the defense to declare what coverage they are in. And when the lights are the brightest, that’s when White shines the most. In the Super Bowl two years ago against the Falcons, he was immense. He carried the ball six times for 29 yards, (4.8 yards per rush) and two touchdowns, including the game winner in overtime. In the passing game, White was even better catching 14 passes for 110 yards and another touchdown.

In White’s career he’s played in 10 postseason games, he has 33 carries for 128 yards but with five touchdowns. And he’s caught 53 passes for 439 yards and three more scores. A total of eight touchdowns in 10 games.

This year, it has been more of the same. In the Patriots two playoff victories over the Chargers and Chiefs, White has caught 19 passes for 146 yards. Against the Chiefs, we looked at the box score after the game and were frankly amazed that his numbers didn’t jump off the charts. Six carries for 23 yards and four catches for 49 more.

Why? Because the first six times that White touched the ball, the Patriots got a first down. This all took place in the first half, from Zach Cox at NESN, here are his touches in the first half:

5-yard run on third-and-4

2-yard run on third-and-1

4-yard run on third-and-4

9-yard catch on third-and-7

5-yard catch on third-and-4

30-yard catch

While watching the NFC Championship Game, RB Alvin Kamara was a matchup nightmare for the Rams defense gaining 96 yards on 11 catches. No doubt Brady and Josh McDaniels watched that tape too.

The Patriots have a deep and diverse backfield of Sony Michel,  Rex Burkhead and White. Michel is the workhorse in the running game while White is the go-to player in the passing game. But Burkhead can do a little bit of both quite well and it just makes the defense’s job that much harder.

White was raised by a talented athlete in his father who became a law enforcement officer as well as his coach. And the elder White taught his sons about committment, teamwork and hard work. He was thrilled when James was drafted by the Patriots and Bill Belichick in the 4th round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

“He’s a great kid,” said Belichick. “He’s smart, he works hard, very tough, dependable, his ball security, his decision-making, situational football — I mean, he is one of those guys that almost always does the right thing. Sometimes things come up that aren’t exactly the way they were practiced or doesn’t exactly follow the rule that you’ve outlined, but he has to make a decision quickly, whatever the circumstances or situation is, and he almost always makes the right one. Some of that’s just instinctive and good judgment on his part that’s, I’d say, beyond coaching.”

The Patriots will be looking for Super Bowl win #6 against the Rams next week and White will be a big part of the offensive game plan. It will be interesting to see how the Rams decide to cover him. In the current postseason, White leads the all NFL backs with 2.81-yard average for every route run.

White isn’t quotable, he’s humble, down-to-earth and takes nothing for granted. He’s always prepared and has the utmost confidence from Brady in the offense.

He has “Only the Strong Survive” tattooed on his chest, and that is fitting. Because when the chips are on the line in the Super Bowl, Brady and the Patriots won’t hesitate to call White’s number.

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 game analysis.

Kyle Van Noy, “Proving People Right” for the Patriots

Steve Balestrieri
January 25, 2019 at 7:00 am ET

Kyle Van Noy, From Bust to Key Cog in the Patriots Defense

There’s nothing like a change of scenery to alter one’s perceptions is there? For a player like Kyle Van Noy, that change of scenery in 2016 marked the first of three straight Super Bowl seasons he’s enjoyed.

And Van Noy was arguably the most impressive player the Patriots had on defense in the AFC Championship Game in Kansas City.

But much more than the change of venue, it is the career resurgence he’s had – on the field that has been astounding.  The Lions took Van Noy with the 40th pick in the 2nd round of the 2014 NFL Draft and used him as a DE. It was a position that he was not suited for and it showed in his production.

After having core surgery which ruined his rookie season, he was moved to the SAM or strong side LBer role. He didn’t play much in his sophomore season either but was playing a larger role and starting in his third. However, the Lions were ready to move on from him.

The Patriots traded their 6th round draft pick (#217) for Detroit’s 7th rounder and Van Noy at the trade deadline in 2016. The Lions used that pick on Miami QB Brad Kaaya. It is a trade that was an absolute steal for the Patriots.  

The Patriots took their time with him and he went from a healthy scratch to a sub-package linebacker in his first few weeks. But Bill Belichick and the Patriots coaching staff did what they always do, they didn’t dwell on what Van Noy doesn’t do well, they focused more on putting him in positions where he’d succeed. And he has. Just a few weeks after the trade, Van Noy intercepted Rams QB Jared Goff, something the linebacker hopes he can replicate in about 10 days. By the Super Bowl against the Falcons, he was on the field for nearly 65 percent of the defensive snaps and had a half-sack, half of a tackle for a loss and a QB hit.

Last season with Dont’a Hightower on the shelf, Van Noy, despite having a nagging leg injury of his own he started 12 of 13 games for the Pats and was third on the team on the team in tackles with 73 and second on the defense in sacks with 5.5. Van Noy wore the green-dot communication device on the field and was asked to fill in at a number of different roles for the defense which went to and lost last year’s Super Bowl.

This summer during training camp, Bill Belichick spoke on how much Van Noy has grown into his role here in New England. “Kyle’s done a really good job for us. He was a player that didn’t start his career here, but has come in and really understood the way that we try to do things,” said Belichick. “He’s embraced it. He’s become very much of a leader in doing his job and doing it the right way but also helping other guys, particularly guys that transition on to the team as he did. He has a good perspective for that.”

“He’s been very durable, and dependable,” Belichick added. “He’s a smart football player. He’s versatile, can do a lot of different things defensively and in the running game, in the passing game, and in the kicking game. He’s got a good skill set, and he’s a smart player with experience and can fill a lot of different roles for us. Hard to find players like that. He’s been a valuable guy for us.”

This year, with a healthy Hightower playing in every game this season, Van Noy has been mostly terrific on the Patriots defense. The unit had their bumps on the road, especially early in the season, but they’ve been getting progressively better and since the bye week has been much, much better.

Against the Chargers Van Noy and Hightower were outstanding. With the Patriots trying to pressure Philip Rivers, the two were instrumental in disguising and creating pressure in the “Amoeba Defense” while keeping the Bolts offensive line off balance.

Last week against the Chiefs, as we said in our podcast this week, Van Noy was outstanding, he was flying all over the field, he made a game-high 10 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 tackles for a loss, five run stops and six QB pressures.

Thru it all, Van Noy has maintained a good relationship with the media and a great one with his teammates despite what one local radio talk show host continues to say about his “arrogance” off the field. Having been down there at Gillette, albeit infrequently, we’ve never seen that type of attitude as depicted. Van Noy has always been polite, funny and willing to talk.

This week in preparing to face the Rams, he was asked if he enjoys proving people wrong. He smiled and said, he’d rather prove people right, …family, teammates, and coaches who believe in one another and have each other’s backs. The entirety of that interview can be seen on Patriots.com here:

If the Patriots are to be victorious next Sunday, they’ll need another big performance both offensively and defensively. And rest assured, Van Noy will also play a big part of that. He’s been a steal for the team and winning a second Super Bowl in three years would be proving a ton of people right.

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 game analysis.

Patriots Fourth And Two Podcast: AFC Championship Game Recap With Special Guest Asmir Begovic

Russ Goldman
January 23, 2019 at 11:28 am ET

In this episode, we started the show with our five takeaways from the Patriots victory in the AFC Championship Game against the Chiefs. Later on, we shared our thoughts on the NFC Championship Game, and ended the episode with our first thoughts on the Super Bowl. Joining us during the show was Bournemouth goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, as he shared his thoughts on all of these topics.

What Should the Patriots Do With All of This Draft Capital?

Steve Balestrieri
April 5, 2018 at 9:23 am ET

Well, things certainly have changed in a hurry around the New England Patriots. Suddenly the talk has ceased about “how deep is the rift between Bill Belichick and his players” and centered on what is happening now with the upcoming NFL Draft.

The surprising trade of Brandin Cooks to the Los Angeles Rams has netted the Patriots the Rams 1st Round draft pick #23 later this month. The teams also swapped fourth and sixth round picks. But now the Patriots have jumped into the realm of being a major player later this month with four picks in the first 63 selections of the draft.

The team has options. So, for you older folks who remember classic television shows, we’ll play a version of “Let’s Make A Deal” with the draft.

Behind Door #1:

The team could package both first round picks and ship them to the New York Giants for the very talented and equally mercurial wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. That’s what the Giants are asking for him and although they won’t get that, it is where any talks would begin.

This would make a large segment of the fan base ecstatic as the quest for the “name player” never ends. And if you’re playing Madden NFL, the idea of Brady, Gronkowski, Beckham Jr. and Edelman would certainly be a fun way to play a video game.

This won’t work for a couple of reasons. First, the NFL isn’t a video game nor fantasy football.  The Patriots aren’t going to pay Beckham anywhere close to what he’ll want and you’d have him under your control for one season. At which time, he would most certainly be gone. Two first round picks for a one-year rental?  That was a large part of the reason to trade Cooks in the first place.

The team already has nine wide receivers on the roster with Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Phillip Dorsett, Kenny Britt, Cordarrelle Patterson, Riley McCarron, Cody Hollister and Matthew Slater.

While Beckham is a special player, wide receiver isn’t a glaring need and those first-round picks could be much better served in filling other needs.

So, what’s behind, Door #2?

The Patriots could package those picks (23,31) and move up into the Top 15 to snag a quarterback of the future, like a Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, Lamar Jackson or Baker Mayfield, if they fell down the board for any reason.

Jackson is a popular pick for New England lately, he played in the Erhardt-Perkins offensive system that the Patriots use. That alone will make the learning curve much simpler for him to become in-tune with the offense.

The issue here is, will any of those players still be on the board then? Most mocks have those QBs all gone by #12. Would the top two picks the Patriots now possess (23,31) be enough capital to jump that high? Probably not, so they’d have to sweeten the pie quite a bit to jump in.

And of course, the team would have to be all-in on the quarterback that they select. And by all-in, that would have to include Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels. For if the succession plan is indeed in effect, then the QB taken will have to be someone he believes in. And it may not necessarily be the pocket passer they currently have with Brady. Jackson could easily be the guy they see as their next franchise QB. McDaniels, remember drafted a guy named Tim Tebow in Denver. So it could be a kind of QB that necessarily isn’t a clone of the Brady-type.

A lot would have to fall perfectly for the Patriots to get that type of move and the trade probably wouldn’t happen until the night of the draft. They’d see the board playing out in a certain way that they could make a move and then do it and swoop in for the next QB of the future.

And then there is finally Door #3:

In this scenario, the Patriots keep one or both picks and trade back for other draft capital. They have needs at Linebacker, on the edge, at OT, TE, RB and of course QB for the long-term.

There are plenty of good prospects that may be available to them at #23 that wouldn’t at #31, especially at linebacker, Rashaan Evans and Leighton Vander Esch have been widely thought to go between #25 and #28 with the Titans and Steelers, if not earlier.

They could then look for a QB in the 2nd or 3rd rounds (Luke Falk, Kyle Lauletta, Mason Rudolph) who they can develop over the next two or so seasons behind Brady.

This falls in line with the traditional M.O. of Bill Belichick who has said that the draft is an inexact science and the more chances you have at taking players, the better chance you do of hitting on those picks.

The Patriots draft board consistently only has about 15-20 players that Belichick believes are immediate starters, so they’re much more willing to trade back than to reach for a higher draft pick on a player that they don’t have rated that high. And finally, the Patriots are about building a 53-man roster, they’re not building a fantasy football team.

Belichick has made plenty of deals during the draft, and right now, they don’t have a 4th or 5th round draft pick after the deal with the Rams for Cooks. Expect that to change.

While the possibility for Door #2 most definitely does exist, look for the Patriots to go for Door #3. It fits with their traditional M.O. and will better serve their overall needs while still giving them a shot at a franchise QB later.

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