Tag Archives: Mike Gillislee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Of Social Media: Preseason Week 3 Patriots vs Panthers

Robert Alvarez
August 25, 2018 at 6:51 pm ET

The New England Patriots entered Thursday nights preseason matchup with the Carolina Panthers for the final “dress rehearsal” before the opening of the 2018 regular season.

Before the game, it was reported that quarterback Tom Brady was expected to play “extensively” and into the second half.

#Lfg ✈️

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Work time

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Charles Darwin.

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In the first quarter, the Patriots offense struggled to find the red zone on their few drives, but the defense made big plays and held the Panthers to two Graham Gano field goals.

After one, 6-0 Panthers.

In the second, wide receiver Julian Edelman showed of his recovery progress as he returned to his old ways of being clutch on third down.

https://twitter.com/Patriots/status/1033349640114950145

In what could be a sign of things to come in 2018, Brady connected with Phillp Dorsett following an audible at the line.

https://twitter.com/CaseyBake16/status/1033150178965037056

The drive led to the Patriots first points of the game, a 27-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski.

Unfortunately despite Brady’s solid first half, the team was unable to get much going in the red zone and found themselves down a pair of field goals heading into halftime at 9-3.

Halftime 9-3 Panthers.

As the second half opened, things got a little weird for returner Cyrus Jones, who’s jersey looked like some Spider-Man webbing.

The Panthers meanwhile, extended their lead to eleven following a 7 play 50 yard drive capped off by a Taylor Heinicke one yard run.

15-3 Panthers with 9:09 remaining in the third.

Gano would tack on a 47 yard field goal to up the score to 18-3 after three. The Patriots offense remained silent.

In the fourth, the Panthers broke it open when backup quarterback Garrett Gilbert found Mose Frazier for a six yard touchdown. 25-3 Panthers.

With just three minutes remaining in the game, the Patriots delt with another injury situation as running back Jeremy Hill limped off the field following this play.

Hill appeared to be okay in the locker room after the game.

With the game winding down, the Patriots finally found the end zone on a Mike Gillislee two yard run, he would then convert the two point conversion.

25-14 Panthers and that would be how it would end.

The Patriots conclude the 2018 preseason with a trip to the Meadowlands to take on the New York Giants next Thursday night at 7pm.

Super Cam & TB12.

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The 2018 New England Patriots On Social Media

Robert Alvarez
August 2, 2018 at 6:03 pm ET

The following list is a reference point for the 2018 New England Patriots social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and YouTube.

(NOTE: Most Snapchat account links only available within app and are not listed publicly)

Ryan Allen 

David Andrews

Ja’Whaun Bentley

Braxton Berrios

Brandon Bolden

Tom Brady

Kenny Britt

Rex Burkhead

Marcus Cannon

Patrick Chung

Adrian Clayborn

Duke Dawson

Phillip Dorsett

Eric Decker

Nate Ebner

Julian Edelman

Danny Etling

Trey Flowers

Marquis Flowers

Mike Gillislee

Stephon Gilmore

Rob Gronkowski –

Lawrence Guy

Duron Harmon

Dont’a Hightower

Jeremy Hill

Chris Hogan

Jacob Hollister

Brian Hoyer

Cyrus Jones

Jonathan Jones

Ted Karras

Harvey Langi

Brandon King

Devin Lucien

Shaq Mason

Jason and Devin McCourty

Sony Michel

Malcolm Mitchell

Cordarrelle Patterson

Derek Rivers

Elandon Roberts

Eric Rowe

Christian Sam

Danny Shelton

Joe Thuney

Vincent Valentine

Kyle Van Noy

LaAdrian Waddle

James White

Deatrich Wise

Isaiah Wynn

New England Patriots Training Camp Primer – Running Backs

Steve Balestrieri
June 25, 2018 at 8:30 am ET

 

Different Look, Better Production?

The Patriots head into training camp in just a few weeks and there should no shortage of competition at several spots, especially at the back end of the roster. As a lead-in to the beginning of camp, we’ll break down the positions and give our take on who is a lock, a near lock for the 53-man roster and who is on the bubble. Next up are the running backs.

The running back position will look very different in 2018. Dion Lewis is gone, He got a nice deal in free agency and will be in Tennessee this year. The team got back Rex Burkhead, James White returns but the big news is that the team invested a first-round draft pick to select Sony Michel (31st Overall) in the 2018 NFL Draft.

The team is deep, talented and have four good players battling for two roster spots.

So… who’s locked in and who’s on the bubble?

Roster Locks: Rex Burkhead, Sony Michel, James Develin

The Patriots did the very unPatriot-like decision to draft a running back in the first round under Bill Belichick.  But the selection of Sony Michel proves to be a very intriguing choice. He split the carries at Georgia with Nick Chubb, so playing in a New England backfield by committee won’t be a big exercise in adapting to the way the Patriots play.

But what stands out about Michel is that he’s a big-time playmaker and should be able to step in and contribute in both the running and passing games right away. He’s a different type of player than Lewis but the chiseled 5’11, 215-pound back has a boatload of potential.

Sony Michel after practice. (SBalestrieri photo)

Burkhead had a very good season in 2017 but appeared in only 10 games due to injuries. He’s back and can contribute in the running game, the passing game and on special teams. He’s a guy who will get about 500-600 combined yards rushing and receiving while being a solid contributor.

James Develin was just resigned to a two-year extension worth about $3.8 million with a $600,000 signing bonus. Develin played in about 30 percent of the Patriots offensive snaps a year ago and his value lies in his blocking. Rewatch the AFC Championship Game and look at the hole Develin blew open for Dion Lewis in the 4th quarter. That kind of smash-mouth football is invaluable in the running game.  

Near Roster Locks: James White

White remains the Patriots go-to third-down running back, especially in the passing game. In 2017, White only had 43 carries but caught 56 passes for 429 yards with 3 touchdowns. His Super Bowl performance against the Falcons shows how hot he can get when getting the favored matchups (6 carries 29 yards 2 TDs, 14 catches 110 yards 1 TD and a 2PT conversion).

 

James White hauls in a pass during practice. (SBalestrieri photo)

On the Bubble: Jeremy Hill, Mike Gillislee, Brandon Bolden

The Patriots invested in Gillislee last year and he ran okay but his lack of production in the passing game made him predictable while on the field and he was a healthy scratch in seven games.

Jeremy Hill was brought in because a change of scenery seemed like was needed for the veteran. He was an extremely productive running back in his first three seasons in the league, tallying up 27 TDs and 2700 yards rushing. But he fell out of favor in Cincinnati and is trying to restart his career here.

The Patriots could use a big physical back to churn up short yardage and be the closer in games. Could he be that guy? Possibly, but he’ll have to have a good summer and show that he still has some tread left on the tires.

Every year it seems, everyone has Brandon Bolden getting cut and every year, he’s back on the team and contributes a tremendous amount on Special Teams where he is a force out there. As a running back, he is a .260 hitter, he can run a bit and catch the odd pass here or there but is an excellent pass blocker. He will be either the 53rd player on the roster or the last guy cut.

Outside Looking in…. Longshots: Ralph Webb

The Patriots signed undrafted free agent Ralph Webb out of Vanderbilt. Webb is a straight-ahead power back with a lack of speed but with excellent vision to see where openings are. Webb is a lunch pail guy who is extremely durable, tough and consistent.

He’s not the biggest guy or the fastest but won’t be outworked. He was productive with 23 touchdowns the past two seasons. With a good summer, Webb could be looking at a practice squad slot and a chance to carve out a role for himself in the case of an injury in 2018 or in 2019.  

He reminds one of a slightly smaller BenJarvus Green-Ellis. He won’t make a lot of people miss but his feet never stop and you’ll get 100 percent on every snap.

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.

New England Patriots Possible Cap Casualties in 2018

Steve Balestrieri
February 15, 2018 at 8:00 am ET

We’ve been posting our free agent profiles for the Patriots in the offseason of 2018 as we’re trying to come to grips who will return and who won’t. This post will look at who may not return this year.

It is interesting to note via our friend Miguel @Patscap, that the Patriots have just about $13 million dollars (13.14 to be exact) to work within the salary cap this spring. That isn’t nearly enough. So what do they do? Well for starters, they’ll approach a few players to re-do their contracts and convert some of that money into signing bonuses so that it eases up some of their cap hits on the team this season.

But they’ll also be looking to cut their ties with some players or ask them to take significant pay cuts if they want to return. In no particular order here are some Patriots players who may get released in a salary cap scenario.  

TE Martellus Bennett: Bennett carries the biggest cap hit of all of the players listed here. After he signed with Green Bay last offseason, he was suffering from a shoulder injury that required surgery and Bennett was at peace with the decision and planned on announcing his retirement.

But the Patriots called and he returned to New England where he performed very well in 2016 and was instrumental in helping the Patriots win Super Bowl LI. But soon after he hurt his hamstring and was placed on IR after just a few weeks with the Pats.

Bennett may take all the guesswork out of the equation and decide to retire. If he does not, then the Patriots can ask him to take a big pay cut or just release him. If he’s released, that will save the team, $6.1 million dollars in the salary cap.

TE Dwayne Allen: Allen came over to the team after Bennett left last year in free agency. Allen was a very good blocker, which has always been his strength but really struggled in the passing game. It wasn’t a lack of effort that slowed him but he was really laboring out there in the passing game.

His struggles were so great that it was the reason the Patriots brought back Bennett late in the year, to begin with. With Gronk healthy last year, that limited his targets but even when the big man was out, he barely registered in the passing game.

Could the team bring him back in 2018? Absolutely. But at $5,000,000? That is really doubtful. This could be a scenario where the team just decides to move in another direction and cut their ties with him. That would be another $5,000,000 in savings.

DT Alan Branch: My, oh my what a difference a year makes. Branch, since coming to New England has played some of the best football of his career. Fresh off of the win in Super Bowl LI, he was given a two-year deal and it was hoped that he’d live out that contract and give the team that immovable object inside that he’s done so well.

But when big men, such as Branch go, their game goes really quickly. Branch started the season slowly, which wasn’t unusual but he never caught on to where he was in the past. When he did play this season, he was often a shell of his former self. Granted he was dinged up for a good part of 2017, but at 33, his best days are probably behind him.

Branch was a healthy scratch for this season’s Super Bowl along with Malcolm Butler, how crazy is that after the big roles each has played. Cutting Branch would save the team $3.55 million, this move is sadly, going to happen.

LB Shea McClellin: I liked what McClellin brought to the table in 2016, he could do a little bit of everything. He could rush the passer, cover in the secondary and act as a middle linebacker and support the run when needed. His versatility was such that they asked to do several things and he did them well.

But he suffered a concussion, a pretty severe one in training camp and was placed on IR at the beginning of the season. The team brought him back midway thru the year and while practicing during his 3-week return window, he suffered a setback and was lost for the year with yet another concussion.

With a lack of pass rushers, the Patriots could opt to let him come back and work his way back into the lineup. But long-term health concerns for the player trump the team’s needs. They should just encourage McClellin to get on with retirement and enjoy life. If they cut McClellin, they’d save. $2.1 million in cap space.

LB David Harris: Harris was released by the Jets and the Patriots scooped him up last year. Harris was the consummate professional and approached every day like he was the starter and worked hard.  But he obviously lost more than a step and couldn’t keep up with the flow of the game any longer.

Harris played very sparingly (180 snaps) for the season while appearing in 10 games. With the lack of depth at linebacker, that had to be crushing for the proud veteran. He only appeared against run-heavy teams on early downs but did show he still brought a pop in the trenches.

But his lack of speed was the reason he too was a healthy scratch for the Super Bowl. If Harris is cut, the savings for the team will count $2.1 million against the salary cap.

RB Mike Gillislee: Gillislee came over from the Buffalo Bills last season and began the season as the Patriots’ lead back. While most look upon his year as a bust, it didn’t have to do with his success as a runner as much as it did his lack of skills in the passing game. Once the team decided to go with Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead, Gillislee was pushed into being a healthy scratch.

Lewis and Burkhead gave the team the run/pass option whereas Gillislee was basically a threat just to run so the coaches decided on a switch. And the offense was much more difficult to stop. Cutting Gillislee would save the team $2.1 million in salary cap savings.

But both Lewis, Burkhead and backup Brandon Bolden are all free agents. That leaves Gillislee and James White as the only pure running backs on the roster. They could opt to hold onto him for that reason. Or they could cut him and use the saved money to bring back Lewis or Burkhead.

These cap savings would push the Patriots up to the $30,000,000 dollar salary cap cushion, due to the Top 51 players rule in the salary cap. But that scenario is a much better one than say $13.14 million.

And of course, for every player cut, another has to be there to take his place. Two young players who we saw very little a year ago are top draft choice Derek Rivers and UDFA Harvey Langi. It will be interesting to see if they can carve out a role for themselves this year in camp. We’ll have more on them and others in the upcoming weeks.

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.

Best Of Social Media: The Patriots Send Off Rally and Opening Night

Robert Alvarez
January 31, 2018 at 1:26 pm ET

On Monday. the New England Patriots held a send off rally at Gillette Stadium before the team departed for TF Green Airport in Warwick Rhode Island and a flight to Minneapolis for the Super Bowl Opening Night media session later that evening,

Below is a compilation of the best sights and sounds from the first day of Super Bowl week across New England Patriots social media.

https://twitter.com/SullyBunz/status/958002000641380355

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https://twitter.com/NFL/status/958163999966679040

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Came a long way #SBLII

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What a time to be alive!!!#sb52

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Best Of Social Media: Week 16 Bills vs Patriots

Robert Alvarez
December 28, 2017 at 8:17 pm ET

The New England Patriots entered Week 16 looking to maintain their standing atop the AFC as the number one seed, but they had to get past a Bills team that came into last Sunday’s game still in the hunt for a wild card spot.

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sunday in foxboro #gameday #letsgo

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GAMEDAY – locked in! #patsnation #newenglandpatriots #patriots #patriotsnation

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For the second time this season, neither the Patriots or Bills could get much going in the first quarter. As the lone scoring game from a Stephen Haushka 41 yard field goal to give the Bills a 3-0 lead after one.

To open the second, Stephen Gostkowski hit a 21 yard field goal to knot the game at 3, but when the Patriots got the ball back two drives later, quarterback Tom Brady made a very uncharacteristic decision, and allowed his first interception return for a touchdown for the first time since lasts years Super Bowl. Jordan Poyer made the play and the Bills took a surprising 10-3 lead.

Needing a response, Rob Gronkowski found the end zone with an incredible catch for a touchdown that again tied the game up. 10-10 midway through the second quarter.

The Brady connection to Gronkowski was the 75th time both hooked up for a touchdown, fifth all time among quarterback to receiver duos. Both the Patriots and Bills would trade another field goal each and would go into the half tied at three, but not without another officiating controversy.

Despite the calls of “cheating”and “fixing” by outraged Bills fans following the ruling, their team managed to keep the game within reach heading to the locker room.

In the third quarter, both the Patriots and Bills again traded field goals to up the score to 16-16 as Bills running back Lesean McCoy broke ankles on his way to setting up red zone opportunities.

Seeking to get some space, Brady continued to find Gronkowski, which helped setup the Patriots second touchdown of the game, by former Bill Mike Gillislee.

Through three quarters 23-16 Patriots.

In the fourth quarter, the game shifted to become the Dion Lewis show, as the Patriots began to pull away from the Bills. Brady found Lewis from 12 yeards our for his 30th touchdown pass of 2017, which extended a record for most all time by a quarterback over the age of 40. It was also the seventh time in Brady’s career with 30 plus touchdown passes. 30-16 Patriots.

Lewis again would find the end zone with about four minutes to play in the fourth, a four yard run extending the lead to 37-16 and all but closing the door on any Bills upset.

On a day that would later earn him AFC Offensive Player of the Week, Dion Lewis ran for a career high 129 yards to go with his two scores.

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https://twitter.com/kvn_03/status/945052625061404673

“What a feeling”

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Short-Yardage Remains a Work In Progress For Gillislee

Ian Logue
October 30, 2017 at 5:30 am ET

Newcomer Mike Gillislee is still growing in New England’s offense, but he’s got one growing pain that still seemingly remains a challenge for him.

For whatever reason, facing 3rd-and-1 hasn’t quite been an automatic for this group of running backs so far this season, with Gillislee’s name standing out on the stat sheet.

Gillislee has been the running back who has struggled the most this season, with the running back having carried 6 times for 6 -yards on 3rd-and-1, while converting just half of his attempts. The Patriots faced 3rd-and-1 three times on Sunday, with Gillislee’s number being called on two of those attempts.

Gillislee picked up one of them, but he was stopped for no gain on another and it forced them to go for it on fourth down. The good news is, they went back to him on that attempt and thanks to a terrific block by James Develin, Gillislee picked up eight yards on the play.

However, that was only Gillislee’s first successful fourth-down attempt. He had previously been stopped for no gain on two other rushes on 4th-and-1.

Meanwhile, Tom Brady had the other 3rd-and-1 attempt Sunday, picking up two yards to move the chains.

Patriots Carries on 3rd-and-1 Through Week 8:

Overall on 3rd-and-1 this season, he’s been stopped for a loss once, and for no gain twice, making him 3-of-6 on the year.  His carry for a loss came down on the goal line last week against Atlanta.

James White has just one attempt, which was also for no gain.

Patriots Carries From the 1yd Line Through Week 8:

Taking another look where picking up a yard has been an issue, down on the goal line has also been a struggle for Gillislee.  He’s had four total attempts and was stopped for a loss once (his carry last week) and stopped for no gain twice, with one successful carry for a touchdown.  Dion Lewis has one attempt on the goal line, which saw him score against against the Jets.

Patriots Carries Through Week 8:

Through eight games he has 21 carries this season where he’s failed to pick up a yard, with seven carries for a loss and fourteen for no gain.  But that total is out of 98 carries, which to provide some context there, he’s actually gotten better.  Fourteen of those came over the first four games, while only 7 of those have happened in the last four.

For a comparison, here’s a look at the Patriots rushing totals through Week 8 of last season:

2016 Patriots Rushing Chart Through Week 8:

LeGarrette Blount, was stopped for a loss or no gain 35 times at this point last season, but he also had 44 carries of at least 1-2 yards, which is significantly higher than Gillislee’s 19. He also had 14 rushes of over 10 yards, which includes two of 20+ and one of over 40. Gillislee has yet to break one off a big run of 20+. Lewis is the only player to do that this season, having gained over 20 on one (a 25-yard gain against Atlanta) and another over 30 (a 31-yard run against the Buccaneers).

But the bigger issue is the situational carries where Gillislee hasn’t quite reached a point where he can be counted on to pick up a yard when the team needs it most.  With the Patriots’ offense still trying to find some consistency thanks to injuries, they’re going to need players to move the chains and to get into the end zone when the opportunity presents itself.

Needless to say, Gillislee obviously factors into that equation and it’s a weakness that hopefully he’ll improve on as he continues establishing his role in New England’s ground game. For now, it remains something to watch over the final half of the season.

Patriots and Texans Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
September 21, 2017 at 10:26 am ET

The New England Patriots will meet the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro. Kickoff is scheduled for Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.m.

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

The Patriots (1-1) were back on the winning track with a 36-20 thumping of the New Orleans Saints on the road. Tom Brady was laser sharp throwing for 447 yards as New England rolled up 555 yards of offense.

The Texans (1-1) also were back on the winning side of the equation. Led by a 49-yard touchdown run by rookie QB Deshaun Watson and a stifling defense, the Texans beat the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday Night Football 13-9.

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

Series History:

The Patriots and Texans will be meeting for just the 10th time as Houston entered the league in the 2002 season. The Patriots hold an 8-1 advantage in these contests while holding a perfect 4-0 advantage at home, including a 34-16 playoff win over the Texans in Gillette in January.

The Patriots dominated the Texans 27-0 in Week 3 of the 2016 season with Jacoby Brissett, the Pats rookie 3rd string QB at the helm. The defense shut down and shut out the Texans that night forcing three turnovers while rushing for 185 yards.

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 Texans Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Houston

The Patriots running game made some big changes this season bringing in Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead to go along with James White, Dion Lewis and James Develin. Gillislee has been productive scoring four touchdowns in his first two games but Burkhead is banged up and may miss this one.

The Texans front seven is very, very good with one of the best in the business in JJ Watt to go along with Whitney Mercilus, Benardrick McKinney, and Jadeveon Clowney. After a Week 1 aberration, they were back to being their normal stout self against the run, doing a bang-up job of stuffing the Bengals running game.

The Patriots will have to do a good job of mixing things up to keep them off-balance this week but it going to be tough running consistently on this group. Look for the backs to make their presence felt in the passing game.

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

The Patriots passing game was clicking on all cylinders last week against the Saints despite being severely shorthanded with only three healthy wide receivers. Brady used his running backs to great effect and this week will be another case of that, although the team will probably get Danny Amendola back which will be a huge help in the slot.

Houston has the pass rush which can rush either three or four and still get to the QB. Watt, Clowney, and Mercilus are outstanding at getting home and keeping #12 upright will be a huge test for an offensive line that wasn’t great a week ago.

Brady and NE get the slightest of edges here. They’re at home and Houston’s CBs are banged up. Both Jonathan Joseph and Kevin Johnson left last week’s game. Joseph should play this week but Johnson will be out a few weeks. Look for Brady to force the linebackers into coverage with the running backs this week to keep that pass rush at bay. This is why they picked up Brandin Cooks. He could be a big factor here as he’ll face single coverage at times this week and they have to pick their spots and make them pay. *Interesting tidbit* Houston hasn’t allowed a 300-yard passer in 30 games.

Next up the Houston offense:

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

Lamar Miller remains the workhorse for the Texans running game. They also have the good-looking rookie RB from Texas D’Onta Foreman who shined in the preseason game against the Patriots. Alfred Blue may be back for this one but the issue has been the offensive line play. They’re banged up and not opening holes. Watson the rookie QB could be the X-Factor in the running game this week.

The Patriots were much better stopping the run last week allowing just 81 yards on the ground and 28 coming on the final play of the game in garbage time. Dont’a Hightower was back at practice on Wednesday so he has a chance to play. But David Harris, who played just one snap in New Orleans could be a bigger factor here this week. Elandon Roberts and Kyle Van Noy had a much better game in Week 2 along with the defensive line which held firm in run support.

I’m looking for New England to try to stop the run and force the game into Watson’s hands throwing the football. If they can do that, with his depleted weapons around him, then they’ll be in good shape.

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

Tom Savage’s turn in the barrel lasted all of one-half as Bill O’Brien went to the talented rookie QB Watson who came on in the Week 1 loss in the second half and started last week in Cincinnati. He was missing all three tight ends last week (concussion protocol) as well as WRs Will Fuller and Bruce Ellington and was forced to rely solely on the uber-talented DeAndre Hopkins. He gets Ellington back this week as well as TE Ryan Griffin who caught 50 passes a year ago which will help. Look for them to try some trickery this week to ignite a passing game stuck in neutral.

The Patriots secondary continues to have some issues in communication. Specifically the rub-routes and pick plays have been giving them fits. But with a limited cast of weapons at his disposal, they have the advantage in the secondary. Look for them to play Hopkins underneath with a corner with over the top safety help. The pass rush focus this week will on keeping Watson in the pocket and forcing him to throw from there. If he begins making plays with his feet then, they’ll have troubles. The pass rushers, Trey Flowers and Deatrich Wise will have to stay disciplined against a Houston offensive line having some issues.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Push

The Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski missed his first extra point on Sunday but made the rest including three field goals, his kickoffs, however, continue to pin teams deep. Ryan Allen didn’t have the best game a week ago but is solid with excellent directional kicking and hang time. The Texans are going with Kaimi Fairbairn this year as their kicker with solid long-time veteran Shane Lechler as their punter.  

Houston’s coverage units were awful in 2016 and last week gave up a 33-yarder to Adam Jones. The question for New England is who will return the kicks? Dion Lewis returned a kickoff for a TD against them in January….he may get the nod again.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This is going to be an interesting chess match. Bill O’Brien knows that Bill Belichick will try to force the game into Watson’s hands. WIth limited weapons and averaging just 4.85 yards per pass, he still has a long way to go. The Patriots are banged up offensively and the Texans will try to put pressure on Brady to take away that short passing game in the middle of the field.  The keys to the game from a Patriots perspective are:

  •         Don’t Turn the Ball Over: Houston is a very limited offensive team, especially in the passing game. Don’t make their job any easier by handing them a short field and letting their offense get some easy points. In a close low-scoring game, the Patriots, at home have the edge here. Making the Texans move the length of the field to score a small piece at a time will be their plan this week.
  •         Start Quickly and Put Pressure on them to Keep Up: Brady and the Patriots have the ability to score quickly and often and getting off to a quick start is a great way of putting pressure on both Houston’s defense as well as their offense.With a limited offensive arsenal, a quick start like last week will be exactly what O’Brien doesn’t want. It will force Watson into throwing and Belichick and Matt Patricia will show the rookie some different looks to try to confuse him and force a turnover or two.
  •         Stop Miller in the Running Game and Force the Ball into Watson’s Hands: This has been the Patriots M.O. forever against young QBs. If they can stuff the run and consistently get the Texans into obvious passing situations then they’ll be in good shape. The communication has to be better and they’ll have to bracket Hopkins and take their chances with Braxton Miller and Ellington. If they beat you…so be it. But they don’t want Hopkins having a big game.

Bottom line, New England holds serve at home but Brady will have a much rougher go this week against that stout defense. Look for James White and Dion Lewis to be targeted often in the passing game, trying to force the Texans linebackers in coverage. It should be a close one with New England pulling away with a late score. No style points this week.  Patriots 24-14

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Best Of Social Media: Week 2 Patriots vs Saints

Robert Alvarez
September 18, 2017 at 10:13 pm ET

Heading into Sunday’s Week Two matchup with the New Orleans Saints, the New England Patriots were seeking to rebound following the surprising loss at home to the Kansas City Chiefs to open the season.

The game featured a rare head to head between two of the games greatest quarterbacks of the new millennium in Tom Brady and Drew Brees, with Brees owning a 3-1 record against Brady coming into Sunday.

In the first quarter, the Patriots offense came out firing on all cylinders as for the first time in Brady’s career, he threw for three touchdown passes in the first period, the first of which to new running back Rex Burkhead.

https://twitter.com/NFL/status/909465853527080960

Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was lost for the season after Week 8 a year ago with a back injury, returned to his rightful place on the football field after hauling in his first touchdown pass off the season, with a thunderous spike to cap it off. It was Gronkowski’s 69th career receiving touchdown.

https://twitter.com/NFLUK/status/909809507345330177

With 21 seconds to go in the quarter, Brady connected to Chris Hogan to expand the lead.

https://twitter.com/NFL/status/909473445066399744

The quarter closed with an eye popping stat line for the 40 year old quarterback and  not a cliff in sight.

 

After one quarter of play the Patriots led 20-3.

In the second, Brees got the Saints their first touchdown of the game with a quick drive downfield to cut the lead to 10 at 20-10 and then looked on the verge of scoring again before cornerback Malcolm Butler made a key pass breakup to force a field goal.

The Patriots needing a response with the score down to 7 at 20-13, Brady took advantage of the Saints struggling defense and got into position for Mike Gillislee inside the red zone for his fourth rushing touchdown of the season.

The Patriots would tack on a field goal just before halftime after executing the perfect hurry up field goal unit to get the kick off before the clock expired.

The Patriots had 16 seconds and no timeouts remaining to get the job done.

Former Patriots wide receiver Dont’e Stallworth shared some insight into just how the team prepares for these types of situations.

At the half the Patriots led 30-13.

In the second half, the scoring frenzy died down significantly as the Patriots offense could only muster two additional field goals in the third and fourth quarter as multiple pieces to the attack got banged up with injuries, most notably this scare with tight end Rob Gronkowski.

What first appeared to be his back, was later clarified as a groin injury, Gronkowski didn’t return as a precaution.

Rex Burkhead, Phillip Dorsett, Eric Rowe and Chris Hogan would also endure minor injuries in the second half.

Of course Twitter acted accordingly to the increasing injury news.

Despite players dropping like flies, the Patriots defense continued to clamp down on the Saints offense, allowing just one “garbage time” touchdown with five minutes to go in the fourth quarter.

The Patriots would overcome the injuries and win in convincing fashion by a 36-20 score as they earned their first win of the 2017 season.

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

#bostonstrong #winning #tigerblood

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/BZKg_UuHRWf/?hl=en&taken-by=gronk

https://www.instagram.com/p/BZKiu3_B3My/?taken-by=sweetfeet