Tag Archives: N’Keal Harry

Best Of Social Media: Week 11 Patriots vs Eagles

Robert Alvarez
November 19, 2019 at 9:36 am ET

The New England Patriots returned from their bye week seeking a bounce back win over the Super Bowl 52 foe Philadelphia Eagles.

Check out all the best sights and sounds from social media throughout and after the game.

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Patience… ⏱

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One step at a time. #GameDay

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In the first half, the Patriots found themselves down 10-0 early in the second quarter as the offense struggled.

In what was originally ruled an interception by Jonathan Jones, the call was reversed giving the Eagles the games first touchdown by tight end Dallas Goedert.

Despite the offensive struggles, the Patriots boogeymen defense kept the game close, and three Nick Folk field goals brought the Patriots within one at halftime.

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LFG #trenches

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10-9 Philadelphia at the half.

In the third quarter, the Patriots took their first lead of the game courtesy of some trickery and a former quarterback.

A Phillip Dorsett 15yard touchdown pass from Julian Edelman gave the Patriots a 15-10 lead, a two point conversion pushed it to seven.

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#WeKeepGoing

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Over the next quarter and a half the Patriots defense completely shut down the Eagles offense, while the special teams unit continued to pin them deep in their own territory.

The Patriots would exit Philadelphia with a hard fought 17-10 road victory to improve to 9-1.

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Great road win.. Keep stacking em.. #LFG

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Glory be to GOD. Always. Good team win! #LFG

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Road win! 🤟🏾

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when it’s breezy, swing easy 🌬

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Focus

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5 Thoughts Following the Patriots Win Over the Eagles

Ian Logue
November 18, 2019 at 8:34 am ET

After two weeks away from the football field, the Patriots were back in action on Sunday looking for a big win out in Philadelphia as they began their second-half push toward another postseason run.

Much like their game against the Ravens, Sunday’s contest against the Eagles was a difficult battle, but this time New England managed to come away with a 17-10 win to improve to 9-1 on the season.

Here are some thoughts on the win:

1) Many will talk about the defense’s difficulties on Sunday as the Eagles had success early in the first half moving the football, but it’s hard not to appreciate what they managed to do down the stretch. With Tom Brady and the offense struggling, it left them responsible for closing out the game and they stepped up and did just that.

Their second-half performance was outstanding, with this group coming through in big moments against Carson Wentz and his receivers. After allowing Wentz to complete 11-of-16 for 87-yards and a touchdown in the first half as Philadelphia built a 10-9 lead, they were absolutely relentless and made him miserable over the final two quarters.

Belichick was spotted late in the first half holding court with the entire defense on the sideline, clearly settling them down after the Eagles scored their lone touchdown of the afternoon after a 16-play, 95-yard march down the field against them, the longest drive allowed by a Patriots team in the regular season in the last eight years.

Whatever he said obviously worked, as things changed from there and even more so when they came out of the locker room after halftime.

How good were they? They held Wentz to just 9-of-24 (38%) for 127-yards in the second half, including zero points.

That was key because New England’s offense came out in the second half and marched right down the field on their opening drive, with Brady going no-huddle and taking them 84-yards on 10 plays, which saw a trick play where Brady threw out to the right to Julian Edelman, who then fired a 15-yard strike to Phillip Dorsett in the end zone for the touchdown. James White would take it in for the 2-point conversion, giving New England a 17-10 to begin the second half.

Dorsett would be knocked out of the game on that play, leaving the Patriots short-handed against an Eagles team that was pretty tough all afternoon. As it would turn out, this would be a game where the defense would be the group responsible for carrying them to a victory.

It didn’t start off perfectly, as Jason McCourty was called for a 49-yard pass interference penalty on the first play of the game, leading to a 42-yard field goal as the Eagles took an early lead. Two possessions later, they allowed the aforementioned 95-yard drive that resulted in their first and only touchdown of the afternoon, giving them a 10-0 advantage.

But that would be it as New England held them scoreless the rest of the way, with the team getting back in the win column as they maintained their edge over the Ravens in the AFC for the top seed.

While it wasn’t pretty, it was enough and Belichick’s group now heads back to New England with their ninth victory of the season.


Brady was under pressure all afternoon down in Philadelphia.

2) Prepare for the pundits to be all over Brady this week, with the veteran finally showing cracks in his Hall-of-Fame armor for the first time on Sunday.

Brady is no stranger to making the occasional mistake, but he made several uncharacteristic decisions on Sunday, including a few questionable throws that he was very lucky didn’t lead to turnovers in key moments.

The Eagles brought pressure all game long, giving him little time to find anyone and he had to work for every single throw. But the biggest thing that stood out was that for the first time in recent memory, instead of showing frustration, he actually looked panicked on several occasions. That’s unusual for a player who is normally so poised, but he had moments where he didn’t look like himself at all on Sunday, which saw him get sacked once and hit 6 times.

Philadelphia did a good job making him uncomfortable, not allowing him to get set and throwing off the timing on quite a few plays and New England’s offensive line certainly didn’t do him any favors.

But Brady’s demeanor will likely be the story this week as he finished with a career-high 14 incompletions in the first-half, a stat that will probably be repeated by the talking heads and critics who will start pointing to the beginning of the end for the quarterback. Now, it was obvious that there are problems personnel-wise which are clearly contributing to these issues, but it’s unusual to not see Brady overcome them and falter in the uncharacteristic panicked moments he had on Sunday. He also nearly threw another red zone interception after almost getting picked off on a bad throw to Mohamed Sanu during their second scoring drive.

Following the game, it was clear there was a lot of frustration as Brady looked very sullen during his post-game press conference. He offered little in terms of any encouragement and looked like a player without any answers as to why they haven’t quite been able to get things going through 11 games.

Unfortunately, despite the fact there were moments where receivers weren’t in the right spot (one route by Jakobi Meyers where he broke off his route obviously come to mind), Brady wasn’t exactly his normally sharp self. There were a few plays that will likely be the topic of discussion all week, a couple of which could have resulted in turnovers. Brady was lucky he escaped unscathed after getting away with a few that could have been disastrous.

The good news is, history has shown that this should hopefully be an anomaly for the 6-time Super Bowl Champion. However, seeing him even have these moments was certainly unsettling for a player who is normally much more poised than he was on Sunday.

3) Jake Bailey walks away as the player of the game in this one, spending much of the afternoon flipping field position and forcing the Eagles to have to work with a long field all game long.

He was unbelievable, finishing with 8 punts, including six where he pinned the Eagles inside their 20-yard line. In fact, 3 of those drives started inside their own 10-yard line, with two more starting from their own 12.

That was huge because not only did it force the Eagles to start with bad field position, it gave the offense some terrific field position after Philadelphia was forced to punt quite a bit inside their own territory.

The bad news is, the Patriots obviously struggled to get anything going offensively and they weren’t really able to take advantage of it.

The other thing that stood out was the fact that Bailey’s high, booming kicks were a reminder that the swirling winds teams will be dealing with over these final months will likely cause some problems, with the Eagles punt returners looking a little shaky on a couple of his kicks. After seeing Cyrus Jones muff one two weeks ago in Baltimore, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Bailey get someone else to misjudge one at some point. The only thing that would have made his afternoon complete would have been if Bailey would have been able to recover a fumble on a kickoff in the second quarter after their field goal. On the play, Boston Scott was returning Bailey’s kickoff but Brandon Bolden came in behind Scott and punched out the ball, leaving Bailey as the player who was in position to recover it. Bailey dove and appeared to nearly have it, but couldn’t quite hang on to it and it went out of bounds.

Other than that, he was terrific and ended up being a big factor in the victory. He’s been outstanding all season but Sunday was definitely one of his best performances yet.

4) It was good to finally see N’Keal Harry in the line-up, with the rookie entering the game on just the second play. He spent most of the game blocking the running game, but did haul in three passes for 18-yards.

His first came on a 2nd-and-10 from their own 36-yard line, with Harry making a nice grab for an 11-yard pick up early in the second quarter on their first scoring drive. That helped keep things moving as the offense marched 59-yards on 13 plays, with Nick Folk hitting a 35-yard field goal to get them on the board after they trailed 10-0.

Harry’s addition seemingly comes at a good time as the Patriots lost Dorsett on his touchdown reception after he took a hard shot to the head on the play but somehow managed to hold on after the throw from Edelman. Dorsett left the field and appeared to be O.K., but was later looked at on the sideline and he didn’t return.

While it was a relatively quiet game, it was a good start for the rookie first round pick. With a home game up next, it should be interesting to see if his role expands this weekend.


New England’s defense was terrific Sunday.

5) It was also good to see Ben Watson get more involved again for the second straight week, with the veteran making several key receptions on Sunday.

Watson finished the afternoon with 3 receptions for 52-yards, including a 22-yard grab on a 3rd-and-10 from their own 47-yard line on the same drive Harry had his catch, with the team finishing it off with their first field goal of the game.

The veteran tight end also hauled in a 19-yard pass on the ensuing drive, which helped set up their second set of points after that one ended with a 22-yard field goal by Folk.

That’s a positive sign as Watson appears to be getting more comfortable in the offense and it’s certainly coming at the right time. With Dallas up next, followed by key AFC battles against Houston and Kansas City, the road doesn’t get any easier. Hopefully his contributions are a sign of things to come, which will if all goes well will also see Brady settle back in heading into their final six games.

The Patriots will face Dallas at Gillette Stadium next Sunday at 4:25pm.

New England Patriots News 11-17, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
November 17, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 11-17 and AFC East notes this week. 

Gameday! The Patriots are back from their bye week and are set to take on the Eagles in the late afternoon game. It is a big matchup for both teams and should be one of the best games to watch today. 

Veterans Day is tomorrow. To those who served before me, to those I served with and to the ones who followed and will follow in the future…I salute you. 

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

Bill Belichick – Addressed the Myles Garrett incident (more below) and how the Patriots address those issues. “Every situation is different. There’s no two that are the same. We can go back and look at 50 of these through the years, some type of fighting or ejections. They’re all different. I wouldn’t say it’s like offsides penalties. There’s a lot of different things happening, different situations and so forth and so on. Yeah, fundamentally, I told players what we should do in those situations, how we should handle them. I think they’ve done a good job with it.”

Tom Brady – This will get plenty of airplay now, as Brady’s personal trainer says Brady could play until he’s 46, or 47. “We talk about it all the time, Alex Guererro said. “Every year he just adds another year. He goes in and he’s like, ‘Guys, I feel so good still. I think I am going to go till 45.’ I am like, ‘OK.’ Now he’s like, ‘Alex, I think I can go like 46 or 47.’”

4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, Please do check it out. 

Patriots – Bills – The Patriots have had enough prime time games this season. And thankfully there won’t be another added as the NFL has released the late-season schedule and the Patriots and Bills will meet on Saturday, December 21 at 4:30 p.m. The game could have got flexed to another night game

N’Keal Harry’s Situation Will Be Closely Watched Today:

Will he play or will N’Keal Harry be inactive again? If he does play, how active will he actually be? Will he just play enough to get his feet wet or is he ready to jump in and become an integral part of the Patriots offense, which we all envisioned when he was drafted this past spring?

Nobody knows the answers to those questions just yet. But some of those answers we’ll find out later this afternoon. It isn’t quite as simple as just coming off of IR and being close to being physically ready. That’s just a small part of the equation. 

For a rookie like Harry, he was just beginning to round into form during training camp, learning the offense, his route tree and was just beginning to learn the little nuances of the offense as Tom Brady likes to run it. He and Brady were working a lot of one-on-one during STs portions of practice as he was getting the chemistry and timing down for the first time. For someone like Julian Edelman, who’s been in the system for several years, it is much simpler. He already has that built-in chemistry with Brady, and he’d just have to get his timing down.

Harry had to basically restart everything from scratch. However, he was able to sit in the meetings and soak up all of that, so that part of it should be just fine. Knowledge of the playbook and his route tree is essential. Then he just has to be where Brady expects him to be. Brady throws to spots on the field where he expects (actually demands) his receivers to be. We watched him discuss this with Harry and everyone else who has come along, down to the minutest detail. 

If he doesn’t trust that you’ll be there, you won’t get many second chances. But the reason the Patriots offense has been so successful for so long is that Brady and Josh McDaniels always try to put players in their best position to succeed. They don’t ask a guy to do something he’s not good at. They’ll find your strengths and play to them.

I can’t wait to see what Harry can bring to the table. Just know this… what you see today and moving forward this season, is just scratching the surface on his potential moving forward… Let the games begin… 

Miles Garrett Situation, Scary, Ugly, and Dangerous: 

As the game on Thursday night between the Browns and Steelers was winding down, an ugly incident unfolded and will have fans and media discussing it for a long, long time. Myles Garrett took down Pittsburgh QB Mason Rudolph hard after he tossed a screen pass. Rudolph took exception to that and as the two were on the ground, he twisted Garrett’s helmet. 

What unfolded went from ugly to scary to dangerous in a matter of seconds. Garrett and Rudolph began to tussle and then the Browns edge rusher ripped Rudolph’s helmet off his head and then swung it hard and made glancing contact (thankfully) before bedlam ensued. Maurkice Pouncey, coming to Rudolph’s defense tried to kick Garrett in the head several times before punching him on the ground.  The benches emptied and it nearly got out of control. 

The referees insisted on playing out the game which was at that point smoking around a powder keg and Freddy Kitchens wisely sent out the Browns backup QB to take the final snap. Garrett was suspended indefinitely, at least through the rest of the season and the playoffs and rightfully so.  There is absolutely no defending what he did. And for one of the NFL’s youngest and brightest stars, it is crushing for his team as they hope to climb out of a deep hole and make a playoff run. 

I still can’t believe what I watched there. I fully expected to Rudolph to go down and not get back up. No one wants to see that, especially if the aftermath were very different which it could have been. 

Pouncey was suspended three games for kicking Garrett in the head. Larry Ogunjobi was suspended for one game for his own actions, as he leveled Rudolph after the fact. The Steelers and the Browns are bitter rivals, everyone knows that, but what transpired was way beyond football and any rivalry. Thankfully, Rudolph wasn’t seriously injured and the courts didn’t get involved in this. Which is the last thing anyone, especially the NFL wants to see.

What Is the NFL Doing With The Kaepernick Workout?

It is a bizarre scenario with the entire Colin Kaepernick being shadow-banned by the league, his lawsuit which was settled out of court and now his league-sanctioned workout. Actually, it wasn’t sanctioned, it was almost an ultimatum. Take it or leave it.

Kaepernick was given no notice and had only hours to agree to the terms, will supposedly work out this Saturday (this was written on Friday) for representatives from 24 NFL teams in a private event funded and arranged by the league.

The entire thing is crazy. Why on Saturday, the day before a game when coaches and general managers are prepping for their game the next day? Tuesdays are the day off for all of the teams that play on Sunday and would have been a much better choice. 

The Patriots will attend and if they were interested in Kaepernick, and we’ve examined this n the past, they’d have to change their offense if they wish to get the most out of Kaepernick’s talents. Could it be a look to the future? Kaepernick is now 32 and after not playing for several years, how much of a future does he truly hold? 

NFL Schedule Week 11, Who Are Your Winners:

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

Last Week: 4-9
Season:92-55-1

TNF Browns over Pittsburgh 1-0

Carolina over Atlanta
Dallas over Detroit
Indy over Jacksonville
Buffalo over Miami
Baltimore over Houston
Minnesota over Denver
NY Jets over Washington
New Orleans over Tampa Bay
San Francisco over Arizona
Oakland over Cincinnati
New England over Philadelphia
SNF LA Rams over Chicago
MNF Kansas City over LA Chargers

Bye week: Green Bay, NY Giants, Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee

Week11 Thursday Night Football Browns over Pittsburgh

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills, Hauschka Looking to Rebound:

The Buffalo Bills lost a golden opportunity to gain ground on the idle Patriots by dropping a 19-16 decision to the then 2-6 Cleveland Browns (the Browns have now defeated Buffalo and Pittsburgh to move to 4-6). The loss dropped the Bills to 6-3 and two games behind the Patriots (New England owns the tie-breaker too). 

With the Patriots facing a tough test against the Eagles this afternoon, Buffalo is facing the Miami Dolphins who’ve won two in a row. Miami’s offense should have a tough task taking on the Bills defense, but after practicing in the cold and snow this week, the game is in South Beach, so that may have some bearing on it. 

One player looking for some bounceback is kicker Stephen Hauschka. He hasn’t been good this season (4th worst FG average) and his range looks seriously shorter than we remember. He missed two big kicks last week, right before the half, and at the end of the game. Those kicks were costly.

Dolphins’ Fitzpatrick Maintains His Love for the Game:

The Miami Dolphins are just 2-6 but QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has lost none of his enthusiasm and love for the game. ESPN Insider Field Yates was a guest on One Bills Live podcast and said Fitzmagic’s love of the game rivals that of Brett Favre. 

“And, not that Ryan Fitzpatrick has had Brett Favre’s career at all,” he said, “but he reminds me of Favre in his pure enjoyment of football. Fitz seems to have a blast every time he is out there. Sometimes people may see it as carefree, I look at it as passionate. He’s a warrior. He’s incredibly tough. I think his teammates respect the heck out of him. I’ve really enjoyed the various chapters of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s career.”

The Dolphins players respect and believe in Fitzpatrick, which is why he’s still the starter and Josh Rosen is not. 

Jets Facing Haskins, Redskins Today, Prepare for Heat Young Man:

The New York Jets are facing the woeful Washington Redskins this afternoon and Washington is starting rookie QB Dwayne Haskins. The Skins want to run the ball with Adrian Peterson and Darius Guice but the Jets have a very good run defense. 

Translation, Gregg Williams is going to stack the box to take away the run and blitz the heck out of Haskins. The rookie will be throwing to Terry McLaurin, his Ohio State teammate, but don’t expect him to have much time to throw it down the field.

This one is ready-made for Williams to throw the kitchen sink at Haskins. Look for the rookie to have a rough outing against the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets today. He’ll need the cold tub tomorrow.

________________

See what happened, check it out, absolutely,” Belichick deadpanned. “Interact with everybody, see what they think, get my opinions out there. I don’t want to get left behind on that. Then brush my teeth.”Bill Belichick being asked about jumping on social media first thing in the morning to give his take on issues trending around the league.

________________

“So, how was your week?”

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

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

 

Patriots – Eagles Week 11 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
November 14, 2019 at 8:51 am ET

The Patriots head back out on the road and come off of their bye week to face the Philadelphia Eagles in a big game for both teams.

The Patriots are trying to stay ahead of the Baltimore Ravens for the top spot in the AFC while trying to keep some distance between themselves and the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East. Philadelphia got off to a slow start but is locked in a tight divisional race with the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East and won their last two games to go into their own bye week at 5-4. 

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS 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 will work from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (8-1) are coming off their bye week. But in their last game, they were defeated by the Ravens 37-20.

The Eagles (5-4) are coming off their bye week. In their last two games they defeated the Buffalo Bills and the Chicago Bears.

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 Eagles have met twice in the Super Bowl with the Patriots winning SB XXXIX and the Eagles winning SB LII.

During the regular season, the two teams have met 12 times with Philadelphia holding a 7-5 edge overall. The last regular-season meeting was in Foxboro in December 2015 with the Eagles winning 35-28. 

 

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 Eagles Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Philadelphia

The Patriots running game has not had the production that was envisioned this summer. It is plodding along averaging just 92.9 yards per game, just 23rd in the NFL. That isn’t good enough. Sony Michel is averaging only 3.3 yards per carry. Against Baltimore, he had just four carries but that may have had more to do with the Ravens jumping out to an early 17-0 lead that forced the Patriots to abandon the running game a bit.  

Philly’s run defense is playing very good thus far in 2019 allowing just 87.3 yards per game, good for 4th best in the NFL. Buoyed by the big men upfront Fletcher Cox and Teddy Jernigan inside and Derek Barnett and Brandon Graham at the edge with a group of athletic linebackers at the second level. 

Expect to see more what the Patriots did in Baltimore two weeks ago and using Rex Burkhead and James White running occasionally out of the shotgun formations to keep the Eagles defense honest, but this won’t be a big Sony Michel week.            

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

The Patriots passing game has been given a boost by the addition of Mohamad Sanu. He and Julian Edelman give Tom Brady a pair of inside receivers that can move inside or outside, depending on the matchups. With an extra two weeks in the Patriots system, Sanu should be farther along in his development. Phillip Dorsett rounds out the top three at WR while Burkhead and White out of the backfield add the extra dimension for defenses to account for. Ben Watson at tight end should see more looks in the passing game down the stretch. 

The Eagles pass defense has been middle of the road allowing 239 yards per game (16th). Their strength is again up front where they’ve logged 24 sacks on the season. Graham, Cox, and Barnett can be very disruptive. Their secondary hasn’t been good, they’ve been banged up but are getting healthy and rounding into form. 

Look for Brady to try to slow down the pass rush and account for less than stellar pass protection by getting the ball out quickly to Sanu and Edelman. If the Eagles pass rush begins to get home, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the offense go to an uptempo, hurry-up mode that slowed down the Ravens front seven. 

Philadelphia has been susceptible to the deep ball this season, something that isn’t necessarily a strength of the Patriots offense but I’d imagine they’ll test the waters a few times to try to loosen them up. Will we see N’Keal Harry this week? And how much, if at all will he play???? Inquiring minds want to know.

Next up the Eagles offense:

Eagles RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Philadelphia

The Philadelphia rushing attack has been featured in their last two games against the Bills and Bears and Philly has held the ball for 77 minutes compared to 44 for their opposition in those two contests. They feature Jordan Howard (525 yards, 6 TDs), Miles Sanders (336 yards, 1 TD) and Darren Sproles running behind one of the best offensive lines in football. 

The Patriots defensive front seven took a big hit in the Baltimore game, getting gashed by the Ravens ground game. While some of that was playing the wrong schemes, they’ve had some uncharacteristic tackling issues as well. They will be looking to slow down that running attack this week and get back on track where they’ve been prior to the past two games. On the season, the defense is 11th against the run, allowing 99.1 yards per game.

Look for the Eagles to run more of their 12 personnel looks this week with two tight ends. They’ve been successfully doing that lately and Carson Wentz is always a threat to scramble. The dreaded RPOs (run-pass options) that Philly runs and ripped the Patriots in SB LII will an area to watch. 

If the Philly guards get to the second level and are able to attack the Patriots linebackers there, it will be a long afternoon for the defense again. The Patriots will be looking to stuff the run at the point of attack. Look for them to be more aggressive this week and ditch some of the two-gapping style we saw in Baltimore. 

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

The Philly passing game has been beset by injuries and inconsistency. They wanted to base the passing game on DeSean Jackson but he’s been hurt. Alshon Jeffrey and Nelson Agholor have been bedeviled by drops at inopportune times. However, they boast two outstanding tight ends in Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert and those two will be a handful to cover, especially on third down and in the red zone. 

The Patriots secondary has been outstanding this season. Stephon Gilmore has been showcasing his talents since early this summer. Jonathan Jones is having a Pro Bowl type of season and J.C. Jackson as well as Jason McCourty have been very solid. 

When Philly has struggled, it has been because of protection issues for Wentz. The Patriots with 32 sacks this season have the capability to be very disruptive and force Wentz into scrambling behind the line. The key to this week will be how well they cover Ertz and Goedert. Ertz is one of the best tight ends in the league and Pat Chung, who’s been banged up will draw him…if he’s available. The Patriots secondary can handle the wide receivers, but the key here will be the tight ends. 

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Philadelphia

The Patriots special teams are now on their third kicker Nick Folk who they hope won’t be forced into making a pressure kick from long distance at this stage of his career. Punter Jake Bailey has been outstanding in his rookie season, skying long punts and getting better and better and pinning opponents inside the 20. The coverage units have been excellent although the return game has been only so-so.

The Eagles have Jake Elliott who hasn’t missed a field goal this season… hmm. Cameron Johnson has also done a terrific job at pinning the opposition inside the 20. The Eagles have Sanders and Sproles returning kicks and punts respectively. But because of Elliott and his consistency, they get the nod here. 

Next up, who wins and why…

The Patriots are looking to improve to 9-1 and this should prove to be a fascinating matchup of two very good teams. The inconsistency that plagued Philly seems to have been eradicated and Doug Pederson is a very game-plan specific coach. Look for different looks and formations that the Patriots haven’t seen given that he’s had two weeks to prepare.  

Keys to the Game from a Patriots Perspective:

Spread Them Out – Look for the Patriots offense to once again go to a more spread look and hit the quick passing game with an uptempo look. Using only three wide receivers as they did in Baltimore isn’t the answer, so look for Jakobi Meyers and fellow rookie N’Keal Harry to get some play this week. 

As always this is a Julian Edelman, James White type of game for Tom Brady. Those two will be targeted a lot by Brady and the Eagles defense. The “X-Factor” in this one is Mohamad Sanu. If he shows more of the development that we expect at this point, then he should be in line for a big day. 

Run Defense Has to Rebound – The Eagles running game will present a huge test for the Patriots defense. This game will hinge on the play of the offensive and defensive lines this week. While that sounds cliche, it is especially true this week. The Patriots front seven has to be more aggressive in attacking the running schemes of the Eagles and try to blow plays up in the backfield. 

Win Third Down – The Patriots struggled both offensively and defensively on third down in Baltimore. That will have to change this week. Offensively they have to keep the chains moving and wear down that front seven of the Eagles. On the defensive side, allowing Philly and Wentz to have those easily manageable third downs (3rd & 2, 3rd & 3 or less) is a recipe for the tight ends to kill them in the short passing game. 

They have to get the Eagles in those 3rd and long situations where they can bring pressure on the QB, something they’ve been excellent at doing this season. Forcing Wentz to have to throw in those longer situations, plays to the strength of the secondary.

___________

Prediction: 

We’ve already said this is a fascinating matchup and this should be one of the best games to watch this week. We expect a really great, close game although not quite as high scoring as the last time these two teams met. 

I think both teams will move the ball at times and struggle at others. The experience factor with Brady will play a huge role here, he’ll lead the offense to a late score and the Patriots defense returns to form with a big stop as New England returns to the win column.  Patriots 27-24

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” tour returns home to Foxboro next week as the Eagles will become Patriots fans as the Dallas Cowboys visit Gillette Stadium.

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

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

 

Sorting out the Patriots Issues During the Bye Week

Steve Balestrieri
November 8, 2019 at 7:00 am ET

The Patriots only held one practice during the bye week, on Wednesday, and then the players were given some needed time off to rest and recuperate. If you bet that after the loss to the Ravens on Sunday night that the coaches would keep them here all week in pads, you’d have been wrong. 

This is telling in that it says that the issues facing the team aren’t physical and Bill Belichick doesn’t feel that they need to practice doing things that they aren’t doing well so that practice makes perfect. No, this means that the coaches have done, and are still doing no doubt a healthy dose of self-scouting. The issues that the team is facing are more scheme-related than physical. Which includes the defense, and we’ll get to those. 

But first, let’s take a quick look at what we feel are two of the biggest issues facing the team after deciphering the first nine games of game film have been watched, watched again and analyzed. 

The Team Needs to Fix Their Red Zone Production:

Despite being one of the top-scoring teams (1st in points, 2nd in Points per Game) in the NFL, the Patriots have not been anywhere near as efficient as they have in years past. In fact, in the red zone, the Patriots currently rank 21st in red-zone production tied with the (gasp!) New York Jets at 50 percent. That is down from 62.18 percent from a year ago. 

Part of the reason they have struggled in the red zone is three-fold. They have struggled to run the football. Their tight end production is way down, and so is the production from their outside or “X” wide receiver.  Missing their left tackle, center, fullback James Develin and having both starting tight ends being dinged up for most of this season doesn’t help with the running game. 

Not that anyone really expected Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo to block as much as well as Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen did a year ago. Having these issues compounds the entire picture. While some will point to Sony Michel as being the issue, that is too simplistic and ignores the fact that there is often nowhere to run and he’s getting hit in the backfield.

Gronkowski was a tremendous red-zone threat in the passing game. Izzo and LaCosse? Not so much. Missing Gronkowski in the passing game was known to be a given. But their lack of production in the red area combined by their big “X” WR and TE are both show stoppers. Much more was expected out of both positions. LaCosse has three catches for 55 yards on the season and has been hurt more than anyone on the offense. Izzo, a blocking specialist, has six catches for 114 yards and a score. Ben Watson has played in the last three games and has 8 catches for 72. Put together, the tight end production is not going to cut it. 

Josh Gordon was placed on IR and then released, being picked up by the Seahawks. But in six games, he only had 20 receptions for 287 yards and just one touchdown this season. Added together, it is a weakness that opponents have taken advantage of and needs fixing. 

The problems along the offensive line have been well documented at this point and the lion’s share of the blame has been heaped on backup left tackle Marshall Newhouse. Is it correct? Look he hasn’t been great, but putting all of the blame on him is unfair and untrue. Neither Shaq Mason nor Marcus Cannon has played anything close to their level that we’ve come to expect. Although Cannon was better on Sunday night against the Ravens. 

Getting Isaiah Wynn back against Dallas will certainly help but will be no panacea for the OL as a whole. Wynn should immediately help in the running game and we’ll have to see how well he holds up in the passing game. But the offensive line as a whole needs to get healthy and perform better. Wynn will help. But Newhouse has been the convenient whipping boy but in truth, it is the group that needs to improve overall. 

At tight end, Watson will continue to see more targets as he finds a comfort level in the offense and his timing gets better with Tom Brady. What the team really needs is for either Izzo or LaCosse to step up, preferably both. But at this point, they are what they are and I’d be surprised if they got anything different than what they’ve gotten up to this point. 

They’re going to have to live with what they have for the rest of this season. Watson, although 38-years old, is much more viable than the others in the passing game. The fades and crosses that we saw him practice with Brady during side sessions in training camp need to get dusted off and used again. This is a position that the team will need to address, and address in a big way next year, either through free agency or the draft, possibly both. 

At the WR position, it seems obvious that N’Keal Harry “should” provide a big part of the answer. The Patriots invested a 1st-round draft pick in Harry and despite some of the bobos who are already asking if he’s a bust, he was supposed to be one of the best WRs coming out of the draft at getting his hands on contested passes. 

He has the frame (6’4, 225) that is ready-made for working the same part of the field that Gordon was working earlier this season. He’s big, athletic and physical. He’s not going to stretch the field vertically but those side sessions with Brady during the summer had him working fades, back-shoulder throws, and quick outs and slants. 

But he’s not going to be the focus on the red zone production. It is a lot, too much to ask of a rookie who’s been hurt and hasn’t played a down yet. He should see plenty of reps but then who will the offense lean on more in the red area? Mohamed Sanu. 

Sanu has good size (6’2, 210) and should easily fulfill the Brandon Lafell role in the Super Bowl year. Sanu had 10 catches in just his second week with the team and caught a what? Yes, a red-zone touchdown last week. He and Julian Edelman will continue to work in and out of the slot and create some mismatches. 

So getting Wynn back, adding Harry and putting more on Sanu and Watson’s plates should help to get the passing game going. In the running game, look for Rex Burkhead (if he can stay on the field) and James White to get more play in the running game in the red zone. That’s not blaming Sony Michel for the lack of production, but if they use the other two more, it gives them a more versatile look with the run/pass option where Sony is more run focused.  

Is the Run Defense Vulnerable? Don’t Sweat It Too Much: 

Oh my, after Sunday, social media had the “blueprint” to beat New England. The run defense was the Achilles Heel and the sky was definitely falling. “Can they win any of the next four games?” Take a deep breath folks and relax. 

What we saw against Cleveland and then against Baltimore was scheme-related and is easily fixable. The Patriots against the Browns were protecting the pass playing a lighter front in an attempt to take away the pass and weren’t overly worried about giving up some yardage in the running game. Obviously, the long run that was fumbled by Nick Chubb was something that they accept, but that was more of a missed tackle(s) thing than anything. 

Against the Ravens, the OL of Baltimore did and should get a ton of credit for being the more physical and dominant unit. But the coaching staff, something Bill Belichick said in his postgame comments didn’t put the defense in a good position to succeed. 

The Patriots went to their 3-4 base and their interior players mainly Danny Shelton and Lawrence Guy who have both been outstanding this season were asked to two-gap against the Ravens running schemes. 

Instead of zone running schemes that they normally employ, the Ravens attacked the gaps and the passive nature of the two-gap system was a poor choice and put their big men in a difficult position to win. 

After the first couple of possessions, they switched things up and went to a four-man front and were attempting to penetrate and disrupt the running game by attacking it. That is the correct way to try to counter the powerful Ravens running game. Does it guarantee success? Of course not, but it offered a better way. 

Instead of having Jamie Collins as an outside linebacker, where he got overplaying the running game early, he was moved inside with Dont’a Hightower and was asked to be a penetrator. 

We know the NFL is a copy-cat league, the Eagles will try some of what we saw from Baltimore, and the Cowboys and Texans can definitely attempt more of the same. Something tells me that the coaches will have this figured out by next week in Philadelphia. The Eagles are running the ball a lot more lately as they take advantage of a heavier running package…we’ll have more of that next week when we do our pregame look at the matchups. 

As it appears here, the issues they had were more scheme-related than a personnel weakness. And those are easily fixable. If there is anyone who can make changes on the fly and in mid-season better than Bill Belichick, we haven’t seen him. 

That’s why they play the games…  

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

 

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

New England Patriots News 11-03, AFC East Notes

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

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 11-03 and AFC East notes this week. 

Game Day, as the Patriots are in Baltimore to take on the Ravens on Sunday Night Football on NBC.

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

Oh, those Frequent Flier Miles – NFL teams in 2016 flew a total of 564,820 miles during the course of the season. Traveling around the world equals 25,000 miles, so NFL teams basically circled the globe 22.5 times in 2016. That is a lot of logistics to cover.  

Tomlin, Steelers Fined – The Steelers were fined $75,000 and head coach Mike Tomlin an additional $25,000 for failing to accurately report Ben Roethlisberger’s injury during Week 2. The Steelers’ QB hasn’t played since then but the team listed him missing practice as non-injury related. 

Boogeymen 2? Child Please – The 49ers defense has been outstanding this season, but perhaps they need pointers on originality. Yes, the Niners are calling their defense “the Boogeymen” as well as the Patriots. On the Niners Instagram page on Thursday night, they posted a picture of DeForrest Buckner sacking Kyler Murray with the caption, “the Boogeymen live in the backfield.” 

Brady/Gisele Buying in CT – The Patriots QB has been the subject of endless rumors of the TMZ variety, i.e. “Rift with BB, “Taking shots at Kraft”, Playing elsewhere in 2020” yada, yada. So the news they just bought a house in Greenwich, CT won’t slow those down at all. It’s a long commute to Foxboro … However, if you’re wondering about the home they just purchased, “The home sits on 10 acres of land and was built in 1990. It features approximately 14,862 square feet of living space with 7 bedrooms, 8 full and 4 half bathrooms, 2-story foyer with staircase, 2-story great room, formal dining room, gourmet kitchen, breakfast room, family room, gym, indoor pool, 3-car garage and more. Outdoor features include a motor court, balcony, patios, gardens, swimming pool, and a tennis court.” 8 full, 4 half bathrooms? Never have to wait there… 

If you care to take a look at the humble manse of the Brady clan, check out the pictures of the new place here:

Sad End For Josh Gordon in New England: 

After the Patriots announced that Josh Gordon was going on IR and would then be released, one’s immediate reaction was to believe that he was having a relapse of his well-known substance abuse problems. That is perhaps unfair but hardly a stretch since it has been a constant thorn in his development and his career. 

Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston was the first to report that the Patriots were growing concerned with Gordon being consistently late to things. That is troubling because that is where it started with Cleveland so long ago. And as Curran said, “he was showing signs of undependability.” That, the team couldn’t afford to play around with. 

And with diminishing production, just 20 catches for 287 yards this season, perhaps they felt that he was not going to ever recapture the speed and athleticism that he once dominated the league with, albeit for a very brief time. 

But they had a decision to make. The team invested in a first-round draft pick in N’Keal Harry this spring and as Curran points out, right now, he’s faster and more athletic than Gordon. But after missing the first half of the season, could the team have moved on too quickly from Gordon? Certainly but we aren’t in the building there every day so at this point, you’d have to assume the coaches know better. 

But after watching Gordon here for the past two years, you can’t help but root for him personally to conquer the inner demons that have haunted him for most of his life. He’s now a Seattle Seahawk, but more than anything we all root for the per    Watching those tapes of 2013, my what a player he could’ve been. 

Steve Belichick, Calling the Plays For the Defense:

It is hard to argue with the job that the Patriots defense is doing these days. And while the naysayers will point out the schedule, regardless of who you are playing when your defense is scoring as many touchdowns as they are allowing, then you’re on to something special. 

Of course, some radio hot take artists will tell you that the only reason Steve Belichick got hired by his father was through nepotism. Now, it turns out that Steve is the one that is calling the defensive signals in from the sidelines. Many believed that it was Jerod Mayo who was calling the signals or that the two were sharing the responsibility. 

But this week, Andrew Callahan of the Boston Herald reported that several players confirmed that it is the younger Belichick is the one calling the signals. And when you hear him speak, he sounds exactly like his father. And if his football mind is half as keen as his father (and early results play out that he’s on the right track), then the future is bright indeed for the younger Belichick. 

Patriots Players to Watch Today :

With the Patriots taking on the Ravens tonight, here are our Patriots players to watch for the game. If they are to leave Baltimore victorious these players will have to step up for them in a big way tonight. 

Jamie Collins: The Patriots linebacker is in the middle of an outstanding career renaissance in his second stint with the team. The most athletic linebacker in a very solid group, he’s been tremendous through the first half of 2019. 

He’ll have to be on top of his game tonight.  The Ravens running game, through the read-option is where they make things difficult defensively. One of the key players to combat that is Collins. 

Mohamed Sanu: The wide receiver is in his second week with the team and should be a little bit farther along in the offense this week than he was against the Browns. The team really needs him to learn the offense as quickly as possible to become a trusted member of the passing game. 

We expect that he’ll see more targets tonight as he begins to settle into this offense. We look for Sanu and Julian Edelman to be a dangerous pair inside for Tom Brady to utilize. 

Pat Chung: One of the Patriots’ most versatile and important players on the defense, Chung is somehow always overlooked when talking about his worth to this team. 

Chung plays a huge role in run support and he’ll be the first line of defense against the Ravens’ tight ends, where Mark Andrews is the team’s leading receiver. 

Julian Edelman: The Patriots offense’s most irreplaceable piece after Brady should play a big role in the offense tonight. The Ravens defense is quite different than the ones we were used to seeing in the past. After watching several of their games if there is a weakness in this unit, it is with the short, quick passing game.

That is a recipe for Edelman and Sanu to become big factors in the game tonight. If they are successful, the offense should be in better shape than we’ve witnessed lately. If the Ravens shut them down, it will be a long evening for Brady & Co. 

N’Keal Harry: Harry hasn’t even been activated yet, so we’re leaning a bit forward in the foxhole here (Friday night), but the feeling here is that not only will Harry be activated, but he will play as well. 

We’re going to temper expectations in his first NFL game action, but it is really important for him to get some game action and get his feet wet before the bye week. He can do all the things that Josh Gordon did for the offense, but now the 1st-round pick will have to go out and prove it. Welcome to the NFL… 

NFL Schedule Week 9, Who Are Your Winners:

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

Last Week: 14-1
Season:79-41-1

TNF San Francisco over Arizona 1-0

Houston over Jacksonville (9:30 a.m. London)
Philadelphia over Chicago
Indy over Pittsburgh
NY Jets over Miami
Kansas City over Minnesota
Carolina over Tennesse
Buffalo over Washington
Seattle over Tampa Bay
Oakland over Detroit
Green Bay over LA Chargers
Cleveland over Denver
SNF New England over Baltimore
MNF Dallas over NY Giants

Bye week: Falcons, Bengals, Rams, Saints

Week 9 Thursday Night Football Raiders over LA Chargers

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Look to Rebound Vs Haskins, Skins:

The Buffalo Bills went through a rough patch to a small degree, after a close win over the Titans, they had more trouble with the Dolphins than perceived and then played poorly in a 31-13 loss to the Eagles last week. But this week, their defense is facing rookie QB Dwayne Haskins, in the loud, friendly confines of Buffalo. 

For the Bills defense, this should be a prime time to get their A-game back under control and going against a rookie 1st-round QB in Haskins who, the Redskins were loathing to put in the game because the coaches felt he wasn’t ready. Now, they have no choice and Haskins is being thrown into the deep end of the pool. 

This Bills defense is excellent and is a tough test for even the most experienced pro QBs. For a rookie making his first start and on the road in Buffalo? This could get ugly early. Expect the Bills to roll big today. 

Dolphins Continue to Lose But Confidence in Flores Grows:

The Miami Dolphins may be winless and going nowhere, but the fans see the growth (baby steps) and the players’ trust and belief in Brian Flores and what he’s trying to accomplish down in South Beach. 

The Dolphins will be meeting the Jets for the 108th time in their history today and they’re going to have to accomplish a few things if they want to get off their winless streak and sink the Jets even lower in the standings. 

They’ll have to limit LeVeon Bell and the Jets running game, Bell’s offensive line is a far cry from what he enjoyed in Pittsburgh and he’s been a non-factor. Miami will be looking to continue the struggles of Sam Darnold. After returning from illness with a stellar game against the Cowboys, Darnold was awful against New England and that continued last week with more interceptions. His confidence was shaken by that nightmarish New England game, and the Dolphins defense has to continue that trend. 

Finally, Miami has to empty the tank to get the offense going, try every trick and gadget play they can think of. What a way to end their winless streak if they could get B-Flo a win over their long-time rival Jets.

Jets Once Again Teetering on the Brink of the Abyss :

The New York Jets are back in familiar territory, and that is they’re straight into the eye of another really bad season. Disfunction has followed this franchise around gum on your shoe for too many years. The 2019 season was supposed to usher in a new era, with a franchise QB, a new coach, and a new attitude. But so far, we’ve seen that nothing has changed. 

Granted, some things that happened were completely out of their control. Sam Darnold’s illness and then Trevor Siemian’s gruesome injury were just horrible bad fortune. How many teams could rely on a practice squad QB by the first quarter of Week 2 and be successful? Not many. 

But since Darnold’s return, the wheels have seemingly came off again. After a huge win over the Cowboys, everything was pointing in the right direction and confidence was sky-high. Then came the debacle against the Patriots where the team was shellacked 33-0. Darnold looked lost and Adam Gase left him in there long after the game was decided. 

Darnold’s struggles continued against the Jaguars and the team lost 29-15 as he threw for three more interceptions. With the trade deadline, the team jettisoned former 1st-round pick (6th overall) Leonard Williams and stated that they were open to trading Le’Veon Bell, who they just rewarded with a huge FA contract this spring. They then dangled Jamal Adams who is their best player on defense. 

Now, the Jets are facing a must-win against the winless Dolphins or this season the team may implode again. And this won’t bode well for Gase…

________________

“Well, we have a lot of confidence in our secondary. There’s a give and take with the rush and the coverage, so the more guys you have in coverage, the fewer guys you have rushing. The more guys you have rushing, the fewer guys you have in coverage. I mean, it’s pretty basic so you try to do what you think is best in a particular situation or against a particular team and the matchups that you have. There’s an element of changing it up, but ultimately it comes down to that decision – do you want to rush more and cover with less, or cover more and rush fewer. There’s middle ground there. We’ve done all of the above and I’m sure we’ll continue to do that, like we always have. It’ll just depend on the situation, the team, so forth.” – Bill Belichick being asked about bringing extra pressure on opposing QBs and the pressure it puts on the secondary.

________________

“So, how was your week?”

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

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

 

Patriots – Ravens Week 9 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
November 1, 2019 at 6:45 am ET

The Patriots head back out on the road to take on the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday Night Football. This should be the marquee matchup of the week as Lamar Jackson and the Ravens offense has been lighting it up thus far in 2019. 

They’ll be going against the Patriots defense which has been the stingiest unit in the league. The game will be taking place in Baltimore where the crowd is always loud and where the games are always tough

This week’s game will be broadcast by NBC and can be seen locally on NBC 10 Boston. Al Michaels will handle play-by-play duties with Cris Collinsworth as the color analyst. Michele Tafoya 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 (8-0) beat the Cleveland Browns 27-13, Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes to Julian Edelman while the defense held the Browns to just 13 points.

The Ravens (5-2) are coming off their bye week. 

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

Series History:

The Patriots and Ravens have had some memorable matchups in the past, and this one figures to add to that. Overall the Patriots are 8-1 against Baltimore in the regular season and 2-2 against them in the playoffs.  

One memorable Sunday night game in 2012 featured a last-second field goal by Justin Tucker that was ruled good but appeared to miss. Bill Belichick was livid over that one. 

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 Ravens Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Baltimore

This matchup clearly favors Baltimore. The Patriots running game remains stuck in neutral. Sony Michel has clearly not found the holes he enjoyed a year ago and his yards per carry average has suffered. Rex Burkhead, James White, and Brandon Bolden have all struggled to find consistent running room. 

The Ravens run defense has been outstanding thus far in 2019 allowing just 84.3 yards per game, good for third-best in the league.  The big men up front, Matthew Judon, L.J. Fort, and Josh Bynes have done a tremendous job of limiting any push from the opposing offensive line and stopping the run in its tracks.

Don’t look for Josh McDaniels to try to establish the run this week as they’ve done in other games. They’ll run enough just to keep the defense honest, but this week, they’ll look to get it done elsewhere. It would like banging your head against the wall.                  

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

The Patriots passing game is getting 1st round draft pick N’Keal Harry on the field for the first time in 2019. He’ll be asked to fill the Josh Gordon “X” role outside. Mohamed Sanu will be playing in his second game and is still learning the offense. But Tom Brady’s passing game still goes through Julian Edelman and James White out of the backfield. Ben Watson is getting more comfortable in the offense as well. 

Baltimore’s pass defense is 26th in the league, their secondary was hit hard by injuries and their pass rush hasn’t been what they’re used to there and has only 12 sacks. They traded for Marcus Peters who is a boom or bust type of player but will be up for a prime time game. They have Jimmy Smith returning this week and his availability gives them good depth with Marlon Humphries and Brandon Carr also at the corner.

This will be a “spread ‘em out” type of week for the Patriots passing game. If Shaq Mason is back, the pass protection should be improved and will give Brady time to work the routes to Edelman and Sanu. Phillip Dorsett can always be counted on to hit a couple of key plays while White out of the backfield is always a matchup problem.

Next up the Ravens offense:

Ravens RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Baltimore

Baltimore has the top rushing attack in the league and it begins with QB Lamar Jackson. Although he is more than capable of scrambling, many of his runs (he leads the team in rushing) are designed runs, schemed to take advantage of his talent. Mark Ingram is another weapon in the running game, he is averaging 4.7 yards per carry. The Ravens are averaging 204.1 yards per game on the ground, the best in the league. 

The Patriots run defense is allowing 85.3 yards per game on the ground, fourth-best in the league, just behind Baltimore, but we’ve seen some issues prop up in recent weeks in the running game with Le’Veon Bell and Nick Chubb. This rushing attack will be a big, big test this week.

The big men inside, Danny Shelton and Lawrence Guy will have to control the gaps inside to allow the linebackers to make some plays and try to limit the running game, which has averaged 35+ minutes of possession time this year. Setting the edge will take on paramount importance when Jackson takes off.

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

The Ravens passing game is middle of the road but improving.  A big key for them is if Marquise Brown is able to go this week, he’s been injured with an ankle issue and is the Ravens deep threat receiver. He’ll be matched up with Stephon Gilmore. The Ravens also use Miles Boykin and Willie Snead at wide receiver.  Jackson’s most targeted receiver, however, is Mark Andrews at tight end. 

The Patriots have been outstanding against the pass this season, allowing just 148.8 yards per game. They’ve intercepted opposing passers 19 times and have 31 sacks. Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, and Jason McCourty give New England arguably the deepest cornerback roster in the league. Pat Chung, Devin McCourty, and Duron Harmon have been excellent at safety. 

But the secondary play has been stellar this year and while Jackson is steadily improving, he still isn’t the most accurate passer in the league and the opportunity will avail itself to more turnovers this week.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Baltimore

The Patriots special teams signed former Raven All-Pro ST/S Justin Bethel last week. He, Matthew Slater, Brandon Bolden, and others form an excellent unit. Mike Nugent was released and kicker Nick Folk was signed. Rookie punter Jake Bailey is having an excellent rookie season. 

The Ravens have a kicker who is as automatic as there exists in Justin Tucker. There’s Tucker and then everyone else.  Sam Koch is excellent at pinning opponents inside the 20-yard line. Former Patriot Cyrus Jones is the Ravens’ punt returner averaging 10.6 yards per return. 

Next up, who wins and why…

The Patriots are looking to improve to 9-0 before heading home for their bye week. Then follows games against the Eagles, Cowboys, Texans and the Chiefs. They begin the meat of their schedule right now.  

Keys to the Game from a Patriots Perspective:

Spread Them Out – Look for the Patriots offense to go more to a 4-wide look this week and attempt to get the passing game going quickly. How much can they get or expect from N’Keal Harry this week? We may not see much from him until after the bye week when he starts to find his stride. Edelman and White remain the go-to guys until Sanu too finds his comfort level in the offense. Ben Watson may see more targets this week. 

Limit The Running Game For Baltimore: The Ravens are going to get their yards on the ground, but the key is to force them to have to throw to beat you and then it plays into the strength of your defense. Jackson is a dynamic player and the type of mobile QB that used to give New England fits. But the defense is much better equipped to slow down a runner like Jackson. Can they do it? That may be the key to this game.

Keep the Turnover Machine Going: The Patriots have been ridiculous at forcing turnovers this season. They obviously want to keep that going and if they can force a couple more this Sunday, it will go a long way towards earning another victory. They’ll have to bring pressure and force Jackson into making mistakes, while not allowing him to use his legs to hurt the defense.

___________

Prediction: 

We’ve said all along that the Patriots aren’t going undefeated this season and with this five-game stretch, this may be a perfect time for the Ravens to knock them off. The Ravens are coming off of their bye week and have had two weeks to prepare.

With them getting their top draft choice just on the field and having Sanu for just the second game, the passing offense could struggle somewhat, albeit against a secondary that hasn’t been great. And we’ve already put out how effective the Baltimore ground game has been. But until someone puts a lick on this New England defense, I’m sticking with Bill Belichick finding a way to make them settle for field goals.

Brady and the offense will score just enough, with some help by the defense with a key turnover as the boys of Foxboro improve to 9-0. Patriots 24-16

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” tour hits the bye week before they head back out on the road to take on the Philadelphia Eagles on November 17.

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

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

 

What is the Plan for the Patriots at WR with Josh Gordon Gone?

Steve Balestrieri
October 24, 2019 at 7:45 am ET

It would seem that the Josh Gordon era in Foxboro is over. Multiple national writers are stating that the Patriots, who placed Gordon on IR on Wednesday afternoon are planning on releasing the oft-troubled wide receiver as soon as he is healthy.

It was a bizarre ending of the day to be certain. Earlier in the day, the Patriots conducted a walk-through practice and Gordon was visible, joking with new WR Mohamed Sanu, then two hours later the news that he was being placed on IR, followed by reports that he was done in New England. 

That he was being placed on IR was no great shock, everyone who saw that awkward tackle against the Giants and the way he went down thought that he perhaps suffered a serious, season-ending injury. But then reports stated that he wasn’t hurt badly and that he could return to action soon. 

But the reports of his impending release were…surprising. At the very least, the timing was. And of course, speculation was running rampant. Did Gordon have another relapse in his battle to counter his substance abuse problems? 

Things were confused even more when the Instagram post by the Patriots went out that they had placed Gordon on IR. Gordon responded to the post by stating “Interesting”. This set off every amateur psychoanalyst on social media, who all insist on poring over one-word posts and over-analyzing those to the point of craziness. 

No one wanted to see Gordon fail here, most especially at life. But it seems he’s gone and now the world keeps turning. 

So, What Happens Now With the Patriots WR Group?

The team couldn’t keep eight WRs if you’re counting Matthew Slater in the group. We all knew that wouldn’t happen.  So, someone had to go. The Patriots weren’t going to part with Julian Edelman or Phillip Dorsett. And they had just traded for Sanu. Jakobi Meyers is young and is showing great promise, Slater is a Special Teams’ captain. N’Keal Harry is the future for the wide receivers, and they just used a 1st round draft pick this spring on him. Gunner Olszewski returns kicks so the cut had to come from somewhere. 

We’re just spitballing here, but despite Gordon’s good production in his time here (60 receptions, 1000 yards, 5 TDs) perhaps the Patriots thought that they were in a time of diminishing returns with Gordon. It was clear that he wasn’t running with the same athleticism that we’ve seen in the past. No one ever really expected to see that athletic freak who tore the league up back in 2013. And perhaps the coaches may feel that they can get the same production from Harry once he returns (eligible next week), down the stretch. 

The short-term problem is, at least for now, who lines up where? 

Gordon was the outside “X” receiver. Sanu isn’t an X, he’s been mostly used in the slot like Edelman or outside in the “Z” like Dorsett. But perhaps the Patriots could envision him doing that for now. It isn’t unprecedented. Both Chris Hogan and Jo-Jo LaFell were used as an X receiver. 

Dorsett isn’t an X either, he’s most comfortable as the Z and an occasional snap in the slot. He and Edelman are both best utilized in the slot or the Z. This week at least we may see Jakobi Meyers or Sanu there. He’s shown he is capable of running the slants and back-shoulder throws that Brady was tossing to Gordon.

The Job Will Soon Belong to N’Keal Harry: 

Whenever Harry is ready to return, he should be in the X role, hopefully for the Ravens game. He’s got the size (6’4, 225) and the athleticism to take over the Gordon role in the Patriots offense. The two have very similar body types when they both entered the league. 

The Patriots were already working with Harry in training camp to catch the same slants, back-shoulder, and fades that Brady and Gordon were working with. During training camp, Brady and Harry had numerous side sessions where they worked on those very things one-on-one.

Brady is meticulous in where he wants his receivers and when. They were working on as soon as he made his break, the ball would be there. It isn’t an easy timing sequence, there were hiccups on the way and no doubt many will occur in the coming weeks. 

More than anything, this is Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels giving a vote of confidence to the rookie 1st rounder. And with Meyers learning quickly on the job, Harry has a lot of catching up to do. With nine weeks remaining in the season, the offense has the time to find itself and what works best for them. 

Hopefully, they’ll get Isaiah Wynn back soon for the stretch run. And then we’ll see how well the unit can operate. As we’ve seen here, on a daily basis, the Patriots may be many things, boring is never one of them. 

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.

 

How Will Mohamed Sanu Fit in the Patriots Offense?

Steve Balestrieri
October 22, 2019 at 12:00 pm ET

The Patriots, flush off their win over the Jets in the Meadowlands 33-0 on Monday night, have made a trade to bolster their wide receiving core. They parted with a 2nd round draft pick to bring in former Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu. 

At first glance, the 2nd round price tag seems a bit high for Sanu but remember, the Patriots draft picks are generally later in the round and it is essentially a 3rd round draft pick. The other consideration is that Sanu isn’t a rental for this season only. He’s signed through the 2020 season and his cap hit is an affordable $6.5 million. 

Last year Sanu caught 66 passes for 838 yards and four TDs. So far in 2019, he’s caught 33 passes for 313 yards and a score. With Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and the emergence of TE Austin Hooper, Sanu was becoming the 4th option in an offense that has a 1-6 record. The move makes sense for Atlanta who will be doing some rebuilding next spring. 

But from a Patriots perspective, how will Sanu fit in with the Patriots offense? Quite well actually. All you really need to know is that Bill Belichick tried to trade for Sanu during the 2019 NFL Draft this spring. But Atlanta at that time had planned on making a deep playoff run. 

Sanu is a 6’2, 210 possession wide receiver that has good yards-after-catch (YAC) capability. In Atlanta’s system, he played mainly in the slot because of the presence of Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. But here, he has the versatility to be a movable chess piece. He can play in the slot or slide outside. 

Look for Josh McDaniels to move Sanu and Edelman inside and out depending on the matchups and to create mismatches. Sanu gives them a proven wide receiver who should fit in perfectly in this offense. He’s 30 years old which means he should have plenty of good years left in the tank. 

Sanu is a good and willing blocker for the running game or to support another wide receiver when they throw it elsewhere. And he’s been used on occasion like Edelman for the odd pass out of the backfield with the Falcons. 

Now the Patriots depth chart at wide receiver seems much deeper, especially with 1st round pick N’Keal Harry soon able to return to the team. 

  •  Julian Edelman
  •  Mohamed Sanu
  •  Josh Gordon
  • Phillip Dorsett
  • N’Keal Harry (eligible to return in Week 9)
  • Jakobi Meyers
  • Gunner Olszewski
  • Matthew Slater

Many fans were hoping that this doesn’t mean the end of Jakobi Meyers in the offense. I don’t believe that to be the case. Meyers is showing that he is gaining and earning Brady’s trust in the passing game. If anyone loses snaps it may be Olszewski. 

He’s still quite raw in the passing game although he’s working hard and has had some receptions. I found it curious last night that Edelman returned the free-kick, and if they try to slide Olszewski onto the practice squad, they may use Dorsett and Bolden to return kicks and punts. Would he make it to the PS? I’d say no right now, but stranger things have happened. 

But with two bigger guys with Gordon and Sanu, with Harry another to return soon to go along with Edelman, Dorsett, and Meyers, all of a sudden the WR position looks like a position of strength.

This was a very solid move by the team and have Sanu, Edelman, Meyers, and Olszewski locked up for the next couple of seasons. Now Sanu just needs to learn the playbook

_________

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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.

 

PHOTO: N’Keal Harry Returns To Practicing With Patriots

Robert Alvarez
October 16, 2019 at 9:01 pm ET

The Patriots offense has help on the way.

On Tuesday, wide receiver N’Keal Harry was back on the Gillette Stadium practices fields.

The 2019 first round draft pick has been on injured reserve with an ankle injury through the first six weeks.

“Felt great to be out there with the boys. #GodsPlan,” Harry wrote in an Instagram caption accompanying a practice photo.

Harry will be eligible to return Week 9 against the Baltimore Ravens per NFL injured reserve rules.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B3p4pTyFT4r/

Tom Brady voiced his support of Harry over Instagram later in the day.