Tag Archives: Matthew Stafford

Patriots  Week 3 Report Card, Lions Crush New England

Steve Balestrieri
September 25, 2018 at 8:33 am ET

The Patriots were beaten badly for the second week in a row, and if possible, this one was more ugly than the last one. We’ve gotten used to these rotten apples in September before and the coaches always seem to get things figured out. But they face pretty much a must-win this week against 3-0 Miami. And there are lots of issues to fix right now on this team.

With no running game, wide receivers who can’t get separation and the inability to stop the run, you have a recipe for losing football. And they were again dominated at the line of scrimmage.  

So, once again the players won’t be rushing up to garner their grade sheets after this one. Burn the game film of this one, this was particularly bad..

Quarterback: C-

Tom Brady was visibly frustrated after the game and seemed to be pointing his finger at Josh McDaniels decision to force feed Sony Michel the ball this week in an attempt, not to shake the rust off, but to burn it off. Brady said, that James White, who had the Patriots’ only touchdown Sunday night needs more touches.  “He’s got to be involved. The guys who can make plays, those are the ones who should be involved.”

Brady badly forced a deep ball to Phillip Dorsett who was double covered and the pass was picked off. And with no one getting open in the short to intermediate game, he was forced to take deep shots down the field.

Running Backs: C-

The Patriots were obviously forcing the issue with Michel, and while he had just 50 yards on 14 carries, on many plays, there was absolutely nowhere to run, (wasn’t that a song by Martha and the Vandellas?). He also had a costly drop in the passing game. Michel will get it going, this is just his second game after missing almost a month of practice and all of the preseason. But the team is limited right now and hopefully, it will be sooner rather than later.

Rex Burkhead was limited again and left with concussion issues…sigh. James White was once again the most dependable back on the field. White made a nice catch in the back of the end zone while the defender had tight coverage…which we’ve come to expect from him.

Wide Receivers: D-

The wide receivers are struggling big time and they’re not winning the one-on-one matchups. After a couple of decent performances, Dorsett didn’t register a catch even though Brady threw to him five times.

Hogan had a couple of catches and Patterson had one along the sideline. But the issue is, they are all complimentary receivers and they’re good ones. But none are able to assume the mantle of a top WR in this offense.

The Patriots get back Julian Edelman after the Miami game and have Josh Gordon waiting in the wings. Will it be enough? We shall see.

Tight Ends: C

Rob Gronkowski was blanketed by the Lions who were treating him and rightfully so as the primary target and they’d be right. He had a detail assigned to shadow him like the President. With Jacob Hollister getting injured this week, it took away another possible weapon for Brady to target. But what Gronk needs is others to step up. He can’t be the only game in the pattern.

Dwayne Allen isn’t used in the passing game as a target and is strictly a blocker, at a time when they desperately need weapons. And he got blown up by Tavon Wilson (remember him?) on a third and short running play.  That one stung.

Offensive Line: C-

The offensive line did a good job in pass protection. The Lions sacks were mainly those of the coverage variety. One sack Brady held the ball for almost 5-6 seconds.

However, the run game blocking was for the most part atrocious. If you look at the stats, 89 yards on 19 carries, it doesn’t look so bad, but that would be a mirage. The Pats have for years ran to the right behind Marcus Cannon and Shaq Mason. And those two were beaten consistently which is troubling.

On third and 1, Mason was blown up by Ricky Jean-Francois (remember him too?), and Michel was stuffed. On another, to the right side the Lions swooped in and blew up the play in the backfield. And this was from a team allowing an average of 179.5 yards per game.

Defensive Line: D

The defensive line was manhandled at the point of attack as the Lions obliterated the right side of the Patriots defense consistently with their running game, their other “supposed” weakness. Frank Ragnow had Malcom Brown on roller skates all night, consistently pushing him deep into the second level. On one play, Brown and Keionta Davis were driven so far to the left that they almost were out of screenshot. So, Kerryon Johnson became the first Lions running back in five years to rush for 100 yards.

The pass rush for the second straight week was MIA. Matthew Stafford had all day to throw. The team missed Trey Flowers but the others have to step up and show something. Deatrich Wise had a lone bright spot, beating Taylor Decker on a nice inside move to sack Stafford when the score was 13-10 and they actually had hope.

The Pats run defense is now second worst in the NFL allowing 143 yards per game….ugh.

Linebackers: D-

This was an absolutely awful game for the linebackers who appeared to be running in cement. They couldn’t cover the backs in the passing game and were late or ineffective at clogging the wide open holes in run support.

Perhaps the most troubling of the players is Dont’a Hightower. He looks really slow right now and he is far from his normally very physical self on the field. They tried to move him around as a pass rusher but he was ineffective there as well. It may soon become the time to question whether maybe his multitude of injuries are catching up with him.

Ja’Whaun Bentley had the only splash play with a nice interception of Stafford when he had excellent position on tight end Luke Wilson.

Secondary: C

The secondary was missing two starters in Pat Chung and Eric Rowe and their defensive approach was obvious because of it. Chung was really missed in run support where he is a sure tackler and that was an area that the defense as a whole struggled with on Sunday.

Stafford wasted no time exploiting rookie Keion Crossen on a third and long, matched up with Marvin Jones. Duron Harmon blew a coverage where he was supposed to take Jones from Stephon Gilmore and stayed put allowing a long touchdown pass. Watching the game tape again, there was no Lions receiver on that side even in the zip code. These simple communication mistakes are correctable but that one stung.

Special Teams: C

Cordarrelle Patterson got a nice 42-yard return to start the game when it looked like they may actually start fast. But the coverage units were a bit leaky again and were fortunate to have a 32-yard punt return called back for a penalty.

Coaches: D-

Where in the world were the defensive adjustments? Bueller? Bueller? They didn’t seem to try much. After being gashed by the run for three quarters they switched up to a 3-4 look for a short time, but by keeping the two safeties back to protect against the deep passing, the Lions ran right at their front seven and dominated totally.

The team played with no urgency, no fire and that is on Bill Belichick. The offensive game plan had some serious question marks and the play calling was very suspect in this one.

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

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

Patriots Mauled By Lions on SNF 26-10, Three Up, Three Down

Steve Balestrieri
September 24, 2018 at 7:00 am ET

Apparently, the message wasn’t sent or received this week. After a disastrous first quarter in Jacksonville last week, the prevailing theme was the Patriots needed to show much more urgency and energy to start this week’s primetime game against the Detroit Lions. The Lions were entering 0-2, players and fans were already rumbling about new coach Matt Patricia and a quick start it was thought would get the crowd and players doubting themselves…. Well, that didn’t happen. At all.

If anything the Patriots got out to an even worse start than in Jacksonville and you can’t blame the 99-degree heat and Florida zip code for this week’s debacle. Once again the Patriots were manhandled at the line of scrimmage badly as Detroit could do whatever it pleased on both sides of the ball and the results spoke for themselves as they cruised to 26-10 mauling of the Pats on Sunday Night Football.

While the pregame hype had more people watching Josh Gordon play catch with a Patriots coach than t.v. cameras looking for a puff of white smoke from the Sistine Chapel, they should have been watching the warmups for the offensive and defensive lines. Because for the second week in a row they were a no-show. Black smoke coming up for them.

The Patriots have some serious issues along the right side of the defense. We’ve been saying now since the Houston game, that teams were running to the left of the Patriots defense. One week in an anomaly, two weeks is concerning, three weeks is a trend. The game plan was for the Patriots to keep two safeties deep to take away the deep passing of the Lions. With three starters out on the defense, two in the secondary (Pat Chung and Eric Rowe), it made sense. But the DL didn’t hold up at all.

We mentioned in our key matchups that Detroit, after all, was averaging just 68.5 yards per game on the ground and hadn’t had a 100-yard rusher since Reggie Bush nearly five years ago. We also wrote that the Detroit running game was the key defensively to the game. Stop the run and they’re one-dimensional. If they can run the ball, then it will open up all kinds of other options for Matthew Stafford.

Detroit ran the ball down their throats at will targeting the left. Frank Ragnow totally dominated Malcom Brown at the point of attack and had him on roller skates blowing him 4-5 yards consistently off the ball. That kind of push opened the doors for Kerryon Johnson to run for 101 yards on the night on just 16 carries. That is a 6.3 yards per carry average. Worse for the Pats is the play of Dont’a Hightower, also on the left who appears slow, and physically nothing like the player we’ve come to expect.

The Patriots running game has for the past few years run to the opposite side, to the right behind Shaq Mason and Marcus Cannon. They weren’t getting any push at all against Detroit’s front seven, which had resembled a sieve the first two weeks of the season. Opponents had been gashing the Lions front seven to the tune of 179.5 yards per game. That front seven swallowed up the Pats running game and spit them out.

Their smaller, speedy linebackers did a great job of negating the short passing game and Tom Brady was reduced to taking deep shots down the field into double coverage where only one pass was picked off and a couple of others may have been. It was an ugly, ugly night for the Patriots offense which gained a total of 209 yards on the night.

Detroit led 13-0 before the Patriots even had a first down, where was the urgency there? Patricia made a questionable decision to kick a field goal on the Lions first possession facing a 4th and 1 after they gashed the Patriots down the field.

But then Kenny Golladay just got the ball over the goal line on the Lions next possession before Stephon Gilmore stripped it away and it was 10-0 and things were going from bad to worse. Detroit was running the ball at will and Stafford all day to throw the ball. Offensively the Patriots couldn’t get a first down, let alone put points up.

They finally got a field goal before the half after they got the offense moving a bit and were fortunate to be down just 10 points at 13-3. Stafford then made a huge blunder at the beginning of the third quarter, trying to force a ball into tight coverage with linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley in perfect position to pick it off.

Brady quickly moved the Patriots the 52 yards to a score, capping it off with a TD pass to James White making it 13-10. But any hopes for a turnaround were dashed when Stafford led the Lions on a 75-yard drive eating up six minutes of the clock and capped it off with a 33-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Jones.

Gilmore had Jones and was attempting to pass him off to safety Duron Harmon. Harmon however, continued to play downhill and totally whiffed, forcing Gilmore to stop and then attempt to close again and was left far behind for an easy score. Poor communication topped off a bad night all around.

Stafford ended up 27-36 for 262 yards with two TDs and a pick. Brady finished just 14-26 for just 133 yards with a TD and a pick.

Lots of changes need to be done and this team can fix a lot of what ails it. But they have a lot of work to do before Miami who is 3-0 comes to Foxboro next week.

UP AND DOWN –

UP: (was there players trending up? Maybe a stretch)

Deatrich Wise: The second-year DE playing with his hand in a cast, tried to fire up the rest of his moribund teammates with a run stuff and a sack. A rare bit of emotion and energy from a defense that was sorely lacking in both.

James White: The Patriots talented pass-catching running back was his usual dependable self and the coaching staff would have been better served getting him more touches than trying to force feed it to rookie Sony Michel when it was clear he was laboring. White finished with 37 yards on just four carries and three catches in the passing game including the 10-yard touchdown pass from Brady for the Pats only TD.

Ja’Whaun Bentley: The rookie linebacker made a play on the interception that the team sorely needed to start the second half, giving them at least a shot at coming back. He’s now taken over the play-calling responsibilities in the middle. A big jump for the rookie 5th round draft pick.

Down:

Malcom Brown/Dont’a Hightower: This can’t be overstated. Teams are attacking the left side and those two are playing very badly right now. The Patriots tried to switch things up in the second half, going to a 3-4 look, taking Brown out and going with an extra linebacker. The former first rounders are not playing anywhere near their potential right now and may force the team to make some moves.

Shaq Mason: What happened to that run mauler that we’ve come to expect every week? Mason is being badly outplayed and beaten in one-on-one matchups every week and it is time for Dante Scarnecchia to light a fire under him and the entire offensive line when it comes to run blocking.

Duron Harmon: While Patriots fans were screaming on social media that Gilmore was toasted on that long touchdown pass to Jones, nothing was further from the truth. That was clearly on Harmon who failed to recognize what was happening and left his corner out to dry. After the Patriots had closed the gap to just three points, a breakdown of that magnitude was inexcusable.

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.

Players To Watch New England Patriots – Detroit Lions Week 3

Steve Balestrieri
September 21, 2018 at 7:00 am ET

Sunday Night Football Primetime Matchup

The New England Patriots head back out on the road to take on the Detroit Lions on Sunday Night Football. Former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia is in his first year as a head coach of the Lions and is off to a rough start, going 0-2 to start the season.

The Patriots also lost last week in Jacksonville dropping them to 1-1 on the season and they’ll be looking to rebound. The Patriots defense will probably be without two of their best defensive players in Trey Flowers and Pat Chung who were in the concussion protocol all week and haven’t practiced.

The Patriots under Bill Belichick have been outstanding at limiting losing streaks and are 45-6 in games following a loss since 2003 and have been 51-13 against NFC opponents since realignment in 2002.

The Lions with Matthew Stafford, Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, Kenny Golladay, and Theo Riddick out of the backfield offer a serious challenge defensively, especially with the players missing this week. The Lions defense has eight sacks already and got six last week against Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers.

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

Sony Michel:

The Patriots rookie running back got into his first NFL action last week after missing all of the preseason and the first regular season game. This week should show a big uptick in his usage and he should probably be a big part of the Patriots game plan this week.

The Lions run defense has been gashed badly the first two weeks of the season. And look for the Patriots to try to take advantage of that fact with the very promising and explosive Michel.

Last week in shaking off the rust, Michel had ten carries, we look to see him get about double the touches this week between rushing the football and receiving out of the backfield with James White and Rex Burkhead.

Josh Gordon:

The Patriots newest addition to the team just got on-board this week after coming over in a trade with the Cleveland Browns. He is still trying to learn the offense, (not surprisingly after just a few days of practice) and to boot hasn’t been 100 percent physically as he tweaked a hamstring last Friday.

In our pregame matchups, we wrote that we thought he’d be unlikely to play. But many of the national and local media types keep saying that although he’s not 100 percent that they believe the Patriots will install a small package of plays to get him on the field.

If that indeed is the case, then, of course, all eyes will be on the big, physical and athletic wide receiver. As to what he can bring to the table in such a short amount of time? No one knows and we’ll just have to wait and find out.

Cordarrelle Patterson/Cyrus Jones:

The Patriots picked up the very talented kick returner/wide receiver this offseason and he hasn’t been able to showcase any of his talents much in the return game. Jones was originally the Pats top pick a few seasons ago and tore his ACL last August before being released in September. He was a member of the Ravens practice squad but the Patriots signed him to the active roster just this week for his punt return abilities.

Both could play key roles this week. The Lions coverage units have allowed a 90-yard kickoff return and 74 and 43-yard punt returns already this season. This would be a primetime perfect time for the special teams’ units to break out and give the team a boost.

We’re looking for both of these players to make a splash on Sunday night. The Patriots special teams are always one of the strengths of this team and thus far, they’ve underperformed as to what we expect from them. A national television game is a perfect time to fix that and put some production on the board.

Derek Rivers:

The Patriots top rookie draft choice a year ago, also tore his ACL last August and was lost for the entire rookie season. He’s worked his way back and had a pretty good training camp but was passed on the depth chart by fellow DE Keionta Davis who also missed his rookie season of 2017 with a neck injury.

But with Flowers unlikely to play with a concussion, Rivers should be in line to make his professional debut on Sunday night in Detroit. It will be intriguing to see what he can bring to the table in terms of rushing the passer this week. He’s waited a long time to get on the field. Now maybe a chance to show what he can do.

Jason McCourty:

With Pat Chung likely out with a concussion, McCourty should see a big uptick in usage this week at the safety spot. Chung is an excellent tackler and always does a solid job of defending the tight ends so the “other” McCourty brother will have his work cut out for him this week.

McCourty could also see significant snaps at corner. When Eric Rowe was sat down last week in Jacksonville, McCourty came in and played nearly three-quarters of the snaps. Now Rowe is on the injury report with a groin issue and he’d normally be assigned the bigger Golladay (6’4, 213) to cover.

So depending on how the coaches see this week playing out in terms of player matchups McCourty could play significant snaps at either corner or safety, perhaps a bit of both. But he’ll definitely see the field quite a bit on Sunday night.

Rob Gronkowski/Jacob Hollister:

The Patriots tight ends may be a significant part of the game plan this week. Gronkowski had only two catches a week ago as the Jaguars used two, sometimes three different defenders to take him away. The Lions defense isn’t as deep as Jacksonville’s and they can’t afford to put that much capital to defend one man.

On a big national stage, we’re looking for Gronkowski to make a big rebound and for Tom Brady to try to get him involved early and often in the Patriots offense. It will be interesting to see how the Lions plan on matching him up.

For Hollister, the Patriots 2nd year tight end is a very good receiver in his own right and has the ability to stretch the field down the seams. We’re looking for Josh McDaniels and Brady to get him more involved this week. With the preponderance of the defensive effort geared to stopping Gronkowski, Hollister could have a nice productive game and we’ll look for Brady to get him more involved.  

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

Three Keys to Victory, Patriots – Eagles

Steve Balestrieri
December 4, 2015 at 6:35 am ET

The Patriots (10-1) return home to Foxboro this weekend after their first loss of the season to take on the Philadelphia Eagles (4-7) at Gillette Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:25 p.m. The game will be televised by Fox Sports with Thom Brenneman, Charles Davis and Tony Siragusa on the call.

The Eagles are still very much in the mix for the NFC East crown despite their record and are basically playing a playoff game this week. The Patriots will be looking to get back on the winning track and there’s no better place than Foxboro where they’ve been very tough.

And with the game falling on December 6th, the Patriots have to have confidence going into this matchup. Since 2001 New England’s record in December is 52-8, far and away the best in the NFL and since realignment in 2002, the Pats own a stellar 45-10 record against NFC teams including a 3-0 record against the other teams from the NFC East this season.

So here are our “Three Keys to Victory” this week from a Patriots perspective. If they can produce well in these three areas, we feel they will come away with a victory on Sunday against the Eagles. We also took some plays from the NFL’s All-22 coache’s film to highlight where a few of these areas can be exploited.

Be Aggressive on Defense: The Eagles offensive line is banged up, and their protection for QB Mark Sanchez the previous two weeks has not been good. Sanchez was sacked six times for 40 yards on Thanksgiving and an additional three times the week before against the Bucs.

QB Sam Bradford is coming back from a left (non-throwing) shoulder injury and is expected to play. He doesn’t move around the pocket as well as Sanchez so there should be some opportunities for Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich and Jabaal Sheard to really put some pressure on him to force a turnover or two or get a sack. Last week Azekiel Anzah wreaked havoc on the Eagles banged-up OL; there’s no reason to believe the Patriots edge rushers can’t be successful here.

Sanchez sacked Anzah

The Lions used a tactic that the Patriots like to use as well on Thanksgiving and that is a delayed blitz up the A-Gap. The Pats have used both Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins as well as Jerod Mayo in these delayed blitzes and last week Detroit sacked Sanchez when LB Stephen Tulloch shot up the A-gap untouched on a delay blitz that was very successful from a defensive standpoint.

Sanchez sacked A-gap

Tulloch lined up in his normal spot and waited for the offensive line to pickup pass rushers and then had a clear lane straight to Sanchez who didn’t have anywhere to throw the ball to and was sacked.

Sanchez sacked A-gap3JPG

With the extremely high tempo of the Eagles offense it is imperative for the Patriots to get off the field on third downs as it will put added pressure on an already over-taxed Eagles defense. The Philly defenders have been on the field a lot this season and getting the offense quickly off the field will bear fruit for Tom Brady and the NE offense, especially later in the game.

Target the Linebackers with TE/RB: Looking back at the Thanksgiving game, the Lions utilized their running backs in the passing game very effectively with Theo Riddick, Joique Bell and Ameer Abdullah catching eight passes for 131 yards and a touchdown.  While Stafford was using his RBs and WR Calvin Johnson to great effect, he didn’t target his tight ends much but when he did, that too was very effective.

Brandon Pettigrew and Eric Ebron were only targeted five times but caught three of those passes for 49 yards including a nice short cross from Pettigrew that went for 21 yards. Pettigrew lined up in-line on the left side as if to stay in and block.

Pettigrew 21

At the snap, he looped around the defensive end and crossed from left to right behind the linebackers and was wide open for an easy 21-yard pitch and catch. Without Rob Gronkowski this week, Scott Chandler can fulfill a similar role as well as attacking the seams of the defense down the numbers.

Pettigrew 21 yd pass 2

Win the Turnover Battle: With a banged up unit on offense, nothing could help them more than to get a couple of short fields for Brady and the offense to operate in. We saw examples of this….both good and bad last weekend in the Denver game.

The Patriots defense has been pretty good at generating some turnovers in the passing game. But the fact remains that they’ve missed on plenty of opportunities for many more. There have been a lot of missed or dropped interceptions this season as well as a couple of fumbles that have found their way back to an opponent’s offense. That should change.

This would be a great time to take advantage of a wounded Eagles team that is teetering on the verge of collapse by forcing a couple of key turnovers and putting them in an early hole. For a team fighting for its playoff life right now and beginning to doubt themselves it is imperative that the Patriots put them down early and not let them hang around late into this one where they could get their confidence boosted to believe that they could steal one on the road.

Some players are beginning to question their coach and even their teammates’ desire in the press. Getting a few turnovers is always a momentum changer. The confidence of this Philly team has to be low right now…Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia can put the players in position to generate a few turnovers and get them on their heels quickly this week.

If the Pats can produce here, then they should be in good shape to fly down to Houston to face the Texans next Sunday night with an 11-1 record. Stay tuned…

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

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