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Patriots  Week 6 Report Card, New England Holds Off Chiefs 43-40

Steve Balestrieri
October 16, 2018 at 7:03 am ET

The Patriots are on a bit of a roll and have won three in a row. Last night’s win over the Chiefs won’t win many style points, but at the end of a scrap, it doesn’t really matter. The “W” is what was important especially coming in at 3-2 and the Chiefs undefeated.

A loss would have put them far, far back in the standings, as early as it still is for the AFC’s top seed, instead, they’re right back in the mix of things once again. After a good first half, the defense at times got smoked by the fastest offensive unit in the NFL. The Patriots offense left some points on the board but still scored 43, which speaks volumes at the progress they’ve made on that side of the ball.

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

Quarterback: A

Tom Brady knew that everyone was talking about Patrick Mahomes this week…and rightfully so. The second-year player but only starting his seventh game as a pro came in unbeaten and was lighting it up. Brady got off to a slow start this year but has been getting better.

On Sunday night, Brady completed 24-35 for 340 yards and 1 TD. He also ran for a late touchdown on a short scramble that won’t confuse anyone with Tyreek Hill speed but was effective none-the-less.

Brady was his vintage self, he had the offense in control and kept the Chiefs off balance all night. The Patriots rolled up 500 yards of offense and didn’t punt once. His only bad play was a poor decision to hold the ball far too long with no one open and was stripped sacked. Brady’s best pass was the touchdown to Edelman, on 3rd and 10, he dropped a dime in the corner of the end zone while under pressure.

But late in the game, his deep passes to Chris Hogan and Rob Gronkowski were also beautifully thrown. While Mahomes impressed for the seventh straight game, Brady showed what he’s been doing for 18 years.

Running Backs: A-

The Patriots running backs had another very productive night. Sony Michel led the way on the ground with 24 carries for 106 yards and 2 scores. His ability to make those short-yardage conversions was very impressive. He hasn’t become a factor in the passing game…yet.

James White is so reliable that when he has another game like Sunday night, you begin to take them for granted. White had six carries for 39 yards and five catches for 53 more. Six yards a carry, and over 10 a pop in the air. White and Michel have become a dynamic tandem that is just what the Patriots need.

Kenjon Barner appeared for a series or two and chipped in with  3 carries for 16 yards as he is trying to assimilate in the offense. James Develin provided his usual hard nose in the blocking game and had a couple of pass receptions.

Wide Receivers: B

The wide receivers were solid on Sunday night.  Josh Gordon is still working thru some growing pains with Brady, their chemistry on the deeper out routes or the comebacks is still a work in progress. But he has very good hands, isn’t afraid to go over the middle to do dirty work and is still a big, fast athletic receiver. He made 5 catches for 42 yards but also drew a big 37-yard pass interference penalty on the one-yard line.

Julian Edelman had 4 catches for 54 yards including that nice touchdown pass from Brady. He had a solid game and chipped in one run as well for 7 yards. For a smaller WR, Edelman is an effective blocker in the running game.

Chris Hogan has gotten a lot of negativity thrown his way lately. But on Sunday night, with a full complement of receivers on hand, Hogan was facing the 2nd and 3rd corners that he traditionally has gone up against. And he produced. Hogan was targeted just four times but caught all four for 78 yards. His big one was the 42-yard bomb from Brady where Hogan got separation and was being interfered with but still made the catch.

Cordarrelle Patterson had one catch for 13 yards, one run for three yards and a 30-yard kickoff return. Phillip Dorsett was MIA, we had to check twice to ensure he was active.

Tight Ends: B+

Rob Gronkowski was quiet most of the night, as the Chiefs, like other teams made it their focus to take him away. But in the fourth quarter, Gronkowski came up with two huge plays. A beautifully designed 42-yarder where Trent Brown shot out and blocked the corner on the line, allowing Gronk a free release. He then gave the safety a stiff arm that put him on his back.

On the final drive of the game, Brady found Gronkowski down the right sideline for 39 yards, putting the Patriots in chip shot field goal range. His run blocking is outstanding and the big man was a key reason why they ran the ball down the Chiefs’ throats. Three catches, 97 yards, and his production came when they needed it.

Offensive Line: A

The offensive line was outstanding against an arguably depleted Chiefs front seven. But it doesn’t matter, you dance with the ones who brought you. They pushed the Chiefs back consistently in the running game. Brady was sacked twice but one was his own fault, holding the ball too long. Only 1 QB hit. The Patriots held the ball for 36 minutes and averaged over 8 yards per play and rolled up 500 yards of offense.

Defensive Line: C-

The defensive line was able to bring some pressure in the first half but got no sacks. Although they did influence several throws, especially in the red zone where it could have resulted in touchdowns. In the second half, the pressure was down and they allowed Mahomes to break containment several times.

Kareem Hunt gashed them again garnering 80 yards on just 10 carries.  After a promising start, they faded down the stretch.

Linebackers: C

This was a tale of two halves as well for the linebackers as their performance was up and down. The KC offense was targeting Dont’a Hightower early in the game with RPOs but then he picked up his game a notch and had several key plays. The interception of Mahomes where he put the Pats in prime position to score was a huge turning point. After showing blitz, he dropped and sat in coverage right in the throwing lane.

At the end of the half, he had pressure on Mahomes and had a hold of his shirt where the hurried throw was picked off in the end zone by Duron Harmon. Kyle Van Noy had a couple of chances at big tackles for loss against Hunt but missed…which is hardly a surprise, Hunt makes a lot of people miss.

Elandon Roberts had a couple of splash plays, a big run stuff near the goal line, and a deflected pass. An up and down night, but as we put in our keys to the game, the Chiefs offense is predicated on stressing the linebackers, which they do quite well.

Secondary: C

The secondary also was a mixed bag. The corners played a very solid game with one exception while the worst of the Chiefs’ production was the result of burning the safeties. Jason McCourty had a good game, the one play that was bad was where he had Hunt coming out of the backfield and peeked back at Mahomes in the pocket. Hunt kept going and was wide open. Mahomes hit him in stride for a too-easy 67-yard touchdown. Stephon Gilmore was excellent. He was locked up with Sammie Watkins and held him to two catches for 19 yards. He had a nice pass deflection in the end zone. Jonathan Jones got a freebie when Hill blew by him but the pass was overthrown. But he too was good.

The safeties? Sunday night was a rough one. McCourty was victimized twice by Hill for touchdowns and Hill’s 75-yarder was the result of him blowing by Duron Harmon easily. The majority of the damage done by Hill was the result of the safeties breaking down. After a good first half, they had a disastrous final two quarters that nearly cost the Patriots the win.

Special Teams: C

Stephen Gostkowski saves this grade from being much lower. He was outstanding kicking 5-5 on his field goal attempts. The game-winner, although a chip shot is still a pressure kick as we saw in the earlier games on Sunday afternoon. Ryan Allen had the night off except to hold and never punted.

The coverage units allowed the Chiefs good field position consistently and then gave up a 97-yarder that put the Chiefs on the three and gave them the lead. Patterson had one decent return.

Coaches: B-

The Patriots had an excellent game plan coming in and they executed it to near perfection in the first half, heading into intermission with a 24-9 lead.  Bill Belichick had the team ready to go. The defense was aggressive and forced some errant throws by Mahomes early. The offense was clicking right from the start.

When the Chiefs adjusted in the second half, we started to see the coverage breakdowns and big plays that they hoped to avoid. They nearly lost a game that they had much in hand at halftime.

In the end, they made a few more plays than the Chiefs did and controlled the clock at the end to not give KC another shot. We’re on to Chicago.

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.

Players To Watch Patriots-Chiefs SNF Week 6

Steve Balestrieri
October 12, 2018 at 9:07 am ET

“It Feels Like We’re Playing Kansas City”  

The New England Patriots are playing the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday Night Football in a much-hyped game for Week 6 in the 2018 NFL season. Except for Bill Belichick that is. Belichick wasn’t buying into all the talk for playing for AFC supremacy, home-field advantage or anything else. On Thursday at his press conference, he was asked a few times about how he feels about the significance of the game. Belichick’s not-so-surprising response… “it feels like we’re playing Kansas City.”

But make no mistake it is a big game for both teams. The Chiefs have been on a roll and are 5-0, they want to continue their dominance and build upon that. But they also know they were in a similar position a year ago when the wheels came off. The Patriots started badly at 1-2 but have played much better the past two weeks and now it begins a very tough stretch of games for them.  

This game features two very intriguing QBs, Tom Brady, the reigning MVP and winner of five Super Bowls and Patrick Mahomes, the second-year player making just his seventh start in the NFL who has been lighting the league on fire for the first month plus. Their skill sets and strengths are pretty different and each will have the chance to showcase their talents again on the big national stage on Sunday Night.

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

Sony Michel:

The Patriots rookie running back is actually questionable to play with a knee injury and was limited in Thursday’s practice session. It isn’t known if this latest injury is a continuation of his knee that was drained of fluid during training camp or it is another new injury that he suffered during the Thursday night game against the Colts.

Michel in the past two weeks has gained over 200 yards and has been really rounding into form after missing all of the preseason games this summer. He has begun to show the form that he exhibited in college that attracted him to the Patriots this spring and gives them a dynamic back who gain can break a small run into a big one.

He should be (if he’s good to go), a big part of the game plan this week. The Patriots will look to stay balanced and run the ball, controlling the clock and keeping Kansas City’s pass rushers off balance. And the best way to do that is running the ball right at them.    

Josh Gordon

The Patriots newest wide receiver has still only been a member of the team for about a month and is still learning the playbook and the route tree for the Patriots wide receivers. So far, the results while encouraging, have been small in relation to what his potential can be. Gordon has been saying and doing all the right things and his teammates seem to be completely behind him.

This might be a week where the coaches try to get him a bigger piece of the game plan and try to stretch the field more vertically. We saw last week, the Jaguars try to the same thing time and again, and while it was successful a few times, their protection didn’t hold up enough to make it viable.

The Patriots could opt to do some of the same, especially if Eric Berry and Justin Houston are out. Gordon has the size and athleticism to be a huge target down the field, opening up all kinds of room for guys like Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski to work the middle of the field.

James White:

Assuming everyone is healthy (or reasonably so) and on the field, White could be the Patriots “X-Factor” this week in the passing game. As we wrote in our keys to the game earlier this week, with the Chiefs having to cover Gronk, Edelman, and Gordon, it opens White up as the movable chess piece for Brady to use in the air.

While Michel is the valuable piece in the ground game, White is the Swiss Army Knife for the passing game. Look for Brady to put him in motion and try to isolate him on a linebacker where they can possibly get a mismatch.

White is one of the most dependable, versatile players on the Patriots offense. He can do it all, run between the tackles, catch out of the backfield, and pass block. He and Michel will no doubt feature prominently this week.

Tom Brady:

With all of the league abuzz, and rightfully so over the early season excellence of Patrick Mahomes, Brady is usually a player that will use that fact as fodder to motivate himself to elevate his game this week. Not that he should need any extra motivation. The past two games against Kansas City have ended badly for New England.

Brady started slowly this season, but the past two games, he’s looked much better and is getting hot at just the right time. The Patriots will need a big game out of him, and with many questioning, whether New England is ripe to fall, this game against the undefeated Chiefs will be a big measuring stick.

Brady will look to start quickly this week, something he did against the Colts where he went 9-9 for 75 yards and a touchdown pass to Cordarelle Patterson. KC’s defense has given up a ton of yardage but has been very stout on 3rd down, which will automatically be something that will bear watching this week.

Pat Chung/Kyle Van Noy:

The Patriots defense has a pretty heavy task in front of themselves this week, in trying to scheme a way to slow down the high flying Chiefs’ offense. To do so will require a total solid defensive effort but a couple of players must have strong games on Sunday night. And it starts with Chung and Van Noy.

The Chiefs’ RPO (run/pass option) game is strong and gave the Patriots fits last year, not only against the Chiefs but in the Super Bowl against the Eagles. No doubt Andy Reid took note of that. Van Noy will need a big game this week. KC likes to fake the run and get Travis Kelce that deep open space behind the linebackers with lots of room to move. Van Noy will have to get the depth and take away those easy passes.

Chung is outstanding in run support and he’ll probably draw the task of covering Kelce much of the time. It will be an interesting chess match. It won’t be an easy one to win but they should have a good game plan in place.

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

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

Patriots-Chiefs Week 6, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
October 11, 2018 at 8:24 am ET

The New England Patriots host Sunday Night Football, their second primetime game in a row, where they will appear in four in five weeks. The Patriots travel to Chicago for a 1:00 p.m. start next week followed by a Monday Night Football game in Buffalo and then another Sunday night game against the Green Bay Packers.  

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 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 (3-2) defeated the Colts on Thursday night 38-24. Tom Brady threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns while Sony Michel rushed for 98 more yards this week as the offense played the best game that they’ve had all year.

The Chiefs (5-0) beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 30-14 as Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense sliced and diced the Jags defense. After the talk that Jacksonville did before the game, it had to have been demoralizing to the say the least.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2018 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game.

Series History:

The Patriots and the Chiefs are meeting for the 36th time including the playoffs in their history since the days of the old AFL when they would meet twice a year. Kansas City holds the overall lead 18-14-3. The Patriots own the edge in games in Foxboro with an 11-7-2 record. This is the fourth straight primetime game between the two teams since 2011.

The Chiefs won the last matchup between the two teams 42-27 on Opening Night in the NFL for 2017.

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 Chiefs Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game has found its rhythm the past two games with Sony Michel and James White sharing the duties. Michel had 112 yards against Miami and then 98 more against the Colts last Thursday night. They just brought back Kenjon Barner to add some depth. But they miss Jeremy Hill and Rex Burkhead who are both on IR.

The Chiefs defense has struggled against the run allowing an average of 118.8 yards per game and a whopping 5.8 yards per rush. And a part of that is that the Chiefs have been playing with the lead every game and are pinning their ears back with their pass rush. However, they aren’t great against the run and can be run on, running right at those edge rushers.

Look for the Patriots to stay balanced and keep riding Michel attempting to keep the Chiefs defense on the field and to slow down their pass rushers. This will allow them to use play action passing on early downs as well as to control the clock.

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

The Patriots passing game finally has all of their weapons on the field at the same time. And that unit looked nothing like the one that struggled for the first few weeks of the season. Having Julian Edelman back gives them a huge boost from the short-yardage slot position and this keeps the chains moving. Josh Gordon has only caught four passes in two games but brings a different element to the field. As he gets more and more comfortable in the offense, his production will increase.  Rob Gronkowski has been slowed by a bothersome ankle but should see a spike as well.

The Chiefs pass defense has struggled in 2018 allowing an average of 343 yards per game. They miss safety Eric Berry who may not play this week. Pass rushers Justin Houston and Tanoh Kpassagnon may also miss this week with injuries as well. Only the Bucs have allowed more yardage thru the air and the KC defense is dead last in total yards allowed as well as 25th in points.

Look for Brady to attack the middle of this defense, especially if Houston is out with Edelman and Gronkowski early. This should open up opportunities on the perimeter with Gordon and their complementary guys in Phillip Dorsett and Chris Hogan. The “X-Factor” for the passing game this week is James White out of the backfield. With a full complement of receivers now, he can be a big mismatch when they split him out wide. This would be a good week to get Jacob Hollister involved a bit more in the passing game as well.

Of course, everything depends on the protection. The Patriots offensive line has to do a good job of keeping the Chiefs pass rushers at bay. They saw how Dee Ford single-handedly impacted the Jacksonville game. That must come with a combination of better blocking and having the running game keeping them off-balance.

Next up the Kansas City offense:

Chiefs RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Kansas City

The Chiefs have their workhorse in Kareem Hunt who burst on the scene as a rookie with a huge game against the Patriots in his first NFL game. Hunt led the league in rushing a year ago and tremendous vision, balance and runs with good power.

Kansas City didn’t use him much the first couple of weeks because they were just lighting up the opposition through the air but that changed in Oakland where he rushed for 121 yards and the game-winning touchdown.

The Patriots run defense was awful for the first three weeks of the season and very good the past two weeks, albeit playing against teams that don’t run the football well (Dolphins/Colts).  But the difference was the play of the front seven, specifically the defensive line. Where they were getting pushed around a lot, they stiffened and were getting penetration, disrupting the opposition the past two weeks.

The Chiefs gashed New England with Hunt a year ago, opening up all kinds of holes in the passing game, particularly running to the right. Look for much of the same with Hunt who it seems is starting to find his groove.

Chiefs WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Kansas City

The Chiefs passing game has been lights out so far in 2018. No one has figured out a way to stop them and with a plethora of playmakers to throw to, (Tyreek Hill, Sammie Watkins, Travis Kelce and Hunt out of the backfield), Patrick Mahomes has had historically crazy success. Thru five weeks he’s averaging nearly 300 yards per game with 14 TDs and just 2 interceptions.

The Patriots’ secondary play has been better as of late, however, the pass rush has been inconsistent again and they’re allowing opposing QBs for the most part too much time to see the field and throw the ball. Against the Chiefs this week, that is a recipe for another big night for Mahomes.

Look for the Andy Reid to run those RPOs (run/pass option) plays that they sliced New England up with last year again. Those plays freeze the defense and allow the TE Kelce to get immediate separation in the gap behind the LBs with room to move. When the Chiefs get in the red zone, they spread the ball around beautifully and nine different players with TD catches… Who do you try to take away?

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Chiefs

The Patriots have a solid group of specialists with Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, P Ryan Allen, and returners with Edelman and Cordarrelle Patterson returning punts and kickoffs. The coverage units have been a bit inconsistent and need to play better.

The Chiefs counter with Harrison Butker and the excellent Dustin Colquitt in their kicking duties. But the Chiefs feature the dangerous Hill who returns kicks and has a 91-yard punt return. As a team, the Chiefs are averaging a ridiculous 26.7 yards on punt returns, while holding opponents to 1.7 yards per return average. That’s called flipping the field.

The pressure will be on Allen this week, to keep the ball away from Hill and angle his punts out of bounds.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This is shaping up to be an exciting Sunday Night game, that may harken back to those days of the old AFL shootouts before the 1970 merger. Reid’s offenses always get off to a fast start in the season. It will be interesting if the Patriots and Belichick, with 10 days to prepare to figure out a way to slow down the Chiefs offense.

The feeling here is to do that, they’ll have to be aggressive, play Cover 1 man and try to jam and reroute and/or slow the receivers at the line of scrimmage. If they can do that and disguise their coverages, then they have a shot at slowing down KC’s offense. But traditionally against mobile QBs such as Mahomes, the Patriots M.O. has been to be more passive and in a react, containment mode. That, in our opinion, will not work and they’ll get smoked if they do that.

Offensively, the Patriots offense can match up just as well against the Chiefs defense with Brady leading the way. They can stress the KC defense with plenty of weapons of their own. One big area to watch is third down, one area that the Chiefs defense has done very well in.

The key from a New England perspective is to start fast. KC has outscored the opposition 59-9 in the first quarter of the games this season. They’ve either been slightly outscored or are even in every other quarter. They have to find a way to get the lead and force the Chiefs to play catch up for a change. This could be one of those games where the team that has the ball last wins. Since the Patriots are home, we’re saying that it will be Tom Brady.  Patriots 38-35

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.

Andy Reid’s KC Offense Is Fun to Watch, And Hard to Stop

Steve Balestrieri
October 9, 2018 at 7:00 am ET

You can always set your watch to certain things in the NFL, especially early in the season. There will be massive overreactions to early season wins and losses. The Patriots will struggle early and every show this side of Mars will ask, “Is this the year, everything falls apart in NE?” Some surprise team will arise creating some talk and the Chiefs offense under Andy Reid will get off to a blistering start.

Reid always has his offense much more prepared for the start of the season than opposing defenses in the NFL and the Chiefs are one team you don’t want to face in the early going, (see New England, Week 1, 2017).

Last year the Chiefs roared out to a 5-0 start and were averaging 33 points per game. But once the NFL defensive coordinators caught up, Kansas City would only score 30 points in two more games the rest of the way.

But… that was with Alex Smith. Smith, it should be noted, was smart, moved well in the pocket and rarely made mistakes with the football. But his weakness was his arm strength. Patrick Mahomes, on the other hand, does all of those things well too but has an absolute cannon for an arm. Bill Belichick said on Monday, that if Mahomes is on his own 20, then you have to defend your goal line because he can throw it that far.  The only thing he lacks right now is the experience.

Kansas City is off to an even better start this year under Mahomes as their offense, while fun to watch, has to be a nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators to scheme up ways to slow down or stop them.

Eventually, the defenses will begin catching up, as they get more tape on this year’s version of Reid’s offense. They’ll get a better insight in how to slow them down and they’ll find things that Mahomes doesn’t do well. They can’t keep up this kind of scoring pace week after week. We saw this first-hand with the Patriots in 2007. By the end of the season, although they kept winning, opponents had figured out a way to slow the Patriots and Brady down. Will this be the week for KC after Bill Belichick and the Patriots have 10 days to prepare? Meh….I’m not so sure about that.

But it does require some dumpster diving into the film vault and watching that nightmarish night the Patriots defense had last year on opening night. It helps to have no game on Sunday with extra film time to spare. Because the Chiefs run much of the same concepts …only better.

Reid is an incredible innovator. He has blended a wonderful marriage of the Bill Walsh West Coast offense that he was raised on, and the college spread. Much of what Reid and the Chiefs do is pure college spread. The outside zone RPOs (Run/Pass Option the dirty word no one in NE wants to hear), bubble screens, touch passes, diamond formation options, etc.

While it isn’t quite the college spread…it is close.

How to Defend the Spread:

The old stand-by in college was to have the defense play in a nickel (4-2-5) and be aggressive by attacking the formation. One half of the equation is still correct and the other, not so much. Modern spread offenses in colleges have learned how to beat the nickel and Reid’s offense just eviscerates it.

Opponents have run a version of the nickel this year against KC, as the second most common defense against them, in an attempt to slow down their speed. And the Chiefs have been successful on nearly 60 percent of their plays.

Opponents have to be aggressive, as we saw Denver attempt to do for much of Monday night, but have to be willing to allow the occasional big play. The Patriots traditionally have eschewed that technique. And worse from a Pats perspective, this KC offense stresses the play of the opposing linebackers. And if there is a weakness on the Patriots defense, it is the depth and speed at linebacker and that is exactly what the KC offense attacks.

Where the aggressiveness negated Miami’s speed last week, the flip side of that was that the Dolphins are not good at running the football. Kansas City is much better at it, although they haven’t done it extremely well yet, they gave New England fits with their running game a year ago. They run to the right extremely well as we’ve seen here in Week 1 a year ago.

Their run-pass option will freeze the linebackers and allow their tight ends (Kelce, Harris) to get behind the second level and have a lot of free space to move. They then isolated Hunt on DE Cassius Marsh where Smith hit him in stride for a long TD, that was not Marsh’s fault, but a superior job by Smith and Reid for taking advantage of a mismatch.

They confuse the opposition with a lot of different looks and using different players. The run the Jet sweep with two different players out of two very different formations and they can, (Week 1 vs LA Chargers) make a defense look silly running it in for what appeared to be an uncontested touchdown.

The beauty of Reid’s offense is that while it appears very complex and confusing to the opposing defense, it is very easy for his players to execute. And he gets everyone involved. Between the 20-yard lines, the passing game relies mainly on Tyreek Hill, Sammie Watkins, and Kelce. Once they get into the red zone, they get everyone involved, which is the opposite of what most teams do.

Opponents have tried to run the nickel, as we listed above without effect, and the most prevalent defense facing the Chiefs this season has been a 3-3-5, which they’ve also shredded to where their play calls are almost 70 percent effective against it. The Patriots tried the big nickel with Jordan Richards last year and he reacted too slowly for a screen pass for Hunt who slid across the formation and had an easy touchdown.

What works? The old-fashioned 4-3 Cover 1 and the 3-4. But, as we’ve seen in the past, a QB that can run, the Patriots preach to contain and gradually squeeze the pocket and that player ends up with a ton of time to throw the ball. If that is the way they approach Sunday night, then look for KC to score in the upper 30s at least.

Against a spread type of offense, having players that are in a nickel and who aren’t going very aggressive towards the QB is a bad mix. Mahomes can gun the ball into very tight spaces and the only way to combat this is to be aggressive and try to mix up your coverages.

Last year, they ran a bunch formation to the right and the rub by the WRs left Hill wide open on a drag route across the middle for a huge gain. Then a busted coverage allowed Hill to run all alone down the sideline for a 75-yard touchdown. The communication in the secondary will have to be much better than this.

This will be a huge matchup to watch this week to see how Bill Belichick decides to attack the KC offense and how each side adjusts once the game begins. The Patriots may opt for a smaller, faster front with a big man (Shelton, Guy) anchored at the nose, but run the risk of being run on with Hunt.

No one has been able to slow down the Chiefs offense yet, and the Patriots defense doesn’t seem to match up well against what KC does best. But we’ll see what Belichick can come up with. He’s had 10 days to prepare for them, so not looking prepared for what they do isn’t an option this week.

“Buckle your seatbelts, it is going to be a bumpy night.”

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

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

New England Patriots News 10-07, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
October 7, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, Here is your Sunday Patriots news 10-07, & AFC East Notes.

With the Patriots playing on Thursday night, today we get to relax and watch a nice slate of games on tap for the remainder of Week 5.  

Robert Kraft and the coaches were sporting the new Nike Air Force 1 Ultra Fly Knit Low RKK on Thursday night. The new shoe design commemorates Kraft’s 25th anniversary of owning the team. And proceeds from the sales will benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Boston. And for $160 bucks, you too can sport these.

“This shoe will get us over $2 million to the Boys & Girls Club of Boston,” Kraft said. “So whenever you can do something you love, you wear it, and you can do good in the community, it’s a win all around.”

Josh Gordon had an interesting comment after the game on Thursday night, as he spoke with Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston. According to NBCSB Curran asked Gordon how it felt to NOT be the focal point of the offense. And Gordon replied it was a relief. Curran, as relayed from Phil Perry said that Gordon said he liked watching the other players do their thing and he’s happy just to contribute right now.

Jason McCourty is enjoying a fantastic start of the season. It wasn’t that long ago, we were talking about him being on the roster bubble in training camp after a lackluster showing was moved to safety.

So now at the Week 5 mark, where is McCourty now? He’s the fourth-rated CB in all of the NFL according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). McCourty has allowed only 13 catches on 26 attempts for 116 yards with three passes defensed. On Thursday night, McCourty allowed just 4-10 passes for 44 yards with two passes defensed, one of which should have been an interception.

J-Mac has gone from the bubble to one of the team’s best defenders in just a few short weeks. And after going thru the travails of a 0-16 season in 2017, McCourty is loving his time in New England.

Belichick Sings Praises of Brady:

Tom Brady was given extremely high praise by Bill Belichick this week after achieving two milestones, throwing his 500th TD pass and setting the record for having the most receivers catching a TD from him (71), both on the same play to Josh Gordon.

“It’s tremendous,” Belichick said of Brady hitting 71 different receivers, via quotes distributed by the team. “That’s a lot of touchdown passes to a lot of different guys, too,” Belichick added, never one to downplay the historic aspect of NFL history.

“There’s no quarterback I’d rather have than Tom Brady,” Belichick said. “He does a great job week in and week out, year in and year out, all of the situations. He does a great job.”

Belichick even commented on the big play itself, giving both Brady and Gordon kudos for improvising.

“It wasn’t really the way we drew it up, but it ended up being an extended play with two great players making a great play,” Belichick said. “Josh has worked hard. Tom has spent extra time working with him and really all of the receivers, backs and tight ends, as well. It’s good to see that hard work pay off.”

When asked about Brady’s place in Patriots lore, Belichick gave the media another tidbit.  “There’s a lot of people who have meant a lot to this organization, but certainly nobody more than Tom Brady,” Belichick said.  

Gordon and Edelman Helped Passing Game Get Back in Sync:

It was tough to tell that Julian Edelman hadn’t played a meaningful game since the Atlanta Super Bowl on Thursday night. After missing all of 2017 with a torn ACL, the Patriots WR, fresh of a four-game suspension to boot, appeared to be his normal self, quick, making fast, decisive cuts and finding the open spots of the Colts zone defense.

Edelman brings that energy and “in-your-face” attitude that the team has lacked. The energy he brings to the table is infectious. The offense took the opening kickoff and marched right down the field, where Brady was 9-9 for 78 yards and the Patriots offense had the sparkplug in the slot that they’ve lacked.

With Gordon, he is still learning the playbook so he’s just beginning to scratch the surface on what his potential can be in this offense. So far, he’s doing and saying all of the right things. He brings the element of size, freakish athleticism and speed that opposing defenses must honor and the fearlessness to go over the middle and do the dirty work.

With Edelman just back, Gordon still in the early stages of learning the playbook and Sony Michel just finding his feet in the offense after missing all of the preseason, there is a reason for optimism for this offense, that just two weeks ago appeared bare of weapons for Brady.  

Patriots Offense Will Have to Add Another RB Soon:

The Patriots pair of running backs with Sony Michel and James White is looking to be a dynamic 1-2 punch for the offense. But sometime soon they’ll have to add another back to the mix.

White is an established, battle-proven member of the offense who has continued the team’s legacy of excellent 3rd down backs who are versatile and tough. His value in the passing game is ridiculously high every year despite the number of WRs who constantly get the focus as well as Rob Gronkowski at tight end.

Michel was a first-round draft pick (31st) overall in this year’s NFL Draft. While many people normally (including the Patriots) eschew taking a running back that high in the draft, they made an exception for Michel. So naturally, (hey this is Boston after all), everyone jumped all over Michel and despite him missing all of the preseason games, he was hearing the “bust” label after just two games.

He’s just starting to scratch the surface on the potential that the Patriots saw in him. In the past week (Sunday/Thursday games), Michel has 223 yards rushing, including a highlight reel 34-yard TD run with a major league stiff arm. He’ll eventually get more involved in the passing offense, the Patriots are taking their time with him and not wanting to put too much on his plate too soon.

But if anything were to happen to either White or Michel, the team would really be in a bind. Does 2015 ring a bell? The team was banged up and brought in Stephen Jackson who was ready to retire. And it hurt them, especially in the playoffs. Look for them to add someone soon. Kenjon Barner’s number still on speed dial?

Fast Starts Are Nothing New for the Chiefs:

One game this week, that we’ll be watching closely is the Chiefs-Jaguars matchup. Kansas City is New England’s next opponent on next Sunday night. The KC offense under Pat Mahomes has been off the charts thru the first month of the regular season.

But much like the slow starts that the Patriots have regularly suffered and have had no adverse consequences, the opposite is true for Kansas City who are known for getting off to fast starts. The following is just for an example of some hot starts by the Chiefs.

1996: 3-0
2003: 9-0
2010: 3-0
2013: 9-0
2017: 5-0

What is remarkable about every one of those seasons? Not one of those resulted in a playoff win. This year’s Chiefs’ team is 4-0 and maybe the outlier of that stat. Mahomes is off to a historic start to his career. Which is why today’s game vs the Jaguars will be a must watch game before the Chiefs come to Foxboro next week in primetime.

And we all remember how their last visit to Foxboro went in the 2017 season opener.

Who You Have This Week, NFL Week 2 Predictions:

Last week: 12-3 Season 38-23-2 Bye Week: Bears, Bucs

Thursday night’s pick Pats over Indy 1-0


TITANS AT BILLS – Tennessee
FALCONS AT STEELERS – Pittsburgh
BRONCOS AT JETS – Denver
JAGUARS AT CHIEFS – Kansas City
PACKERS AT LIONS – Green Bay
RAVENS AT BROWNS – Baltimore
GIANTS AT PANTHERS – Carolina
DOLPHINS AT BENGALS – Cincinnati
RAIDERS AT CHARGERS – LA
CARDINALS AT 49ERS – Arizona
VIKINGS AT EAGLES – Philadelphia
RAMS AT SEAHAWKS – LA
COWBOYS AT TEXANS – Houston
Monday Night Football
REDSKINS at SAINTS – New Orleans

Early Thursday Night Prediction: Denver over Arizona

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Need a Big Offensive Effort to Get Things Turned Around:

The Buffalo Bills offense was particularly awful last week in a 22-0 loss to the Green Bay Packers and if they’re going to challenge the Titans today that must change. It should begin with getting LeSean McCoy and the running game going. McCoy had four…not a typo, four attempts against the Packers last week. That is not the way to protect a rookie quarterback.

Speaking of rookie QBs, Josh Allen really looked like one last week. With no running game and a leaky offensive line, he’s feeling the heat. And he’s falling into bad habits that come with the territory. He bailed too early in the pocket, took far longer to get the ball out of his hands and had a truly awful game.

In a good bit from the Buffalo News, Zay Jones, the Bills WR who leads the team with 10 catches for 144 yards. Of those 10 catches, nine of them for 127 yards have come with the Bills trailing by 17 points or more. Some production while the game is in doubt would be appreciated.

Dolphins Banged Up Before Big Game Against the Bengals:

The Miami Dolphins have about a dozen players banged up before their game against the Cincinnati Bengals today. Key among them is DE Cameron Wake who didn’t practice this week. With Andre Branch out as well, the Dolphins will roll with Robert Quinn and Charles Harris.

Back up QB Luke Falk (wrist) was placed on IR, CB Bobby McCain was injured against the Patriots and is out. DeVante Parker is also expected to miss today’s game. TE A.J. Derby is out today and the team will go with rookie Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe, and the recently activated Nick O’Leary.

But the good news is that safety Reshad Jones is looking like he’ll return this week after missing the last few games, which is good news for a defense that is a banged-up unit.

Darnold’s Confidence Still High Before the Jets Take on Denver:

The New York Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold is looking to turn the corner this week against Denver. Darnold shined in the opening game against the Detroit Lions but has struggled for three games in a row. But that doesn’t have him down, in fact, quite the opposite is true.

Darnold is confident that the offense is getting ready to break out, and not the Taylor Price variety. “As a team, I feel like we are really close,” Darnold said. “And for me personally I feel like I’m just on the edge. I’ve just got to continue to find completions, hit my guys deep when they are there. It will come, it’s just a timing thing. It’s going to click one of these games, I know it is. It’s just kind of waiting on that opportunity.”

Darnold, according to his coaches, is seeing the field better and recognizing what opposing defenses are trying to do against the Jets offense. That means an increase in the way follows his progressions and ultimately getting the ball out faster and more accurately. One good sign was the Jets were allowing him to use the entire field and throw the ball down the field for the first time and with that trust, he’ll have to start delivering. The coaches believe too that he’s on the verge of breaking out as well. Today at MetLife Stadium may be a great place to start.

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.

Patriots  Week 5 Report Card, New England Downs Colts Again 38-24

Steve Balestrieri
October 5, 2018 at 11:29 am ET

The Patriots were facing a short week and a familiar nemesis or perhaps that is a harsh term, foe may be a better description. Other than the ones who began the entire Deflategate fiasco with the league, the Patriots have owned the Colts for the previous seven games winning by an average of about 20 points.

Thursday night began much the same way, the Pats were up by 21 at the half and it looked like they may hang a 50 burger on a very shorthanded Colts team. And by all accounts, they should have.  But sloppy ball control in the second half cost them and due to the outstanding effort of Andrew Luck, the Colts narrowed the score to 24-17 and it was a game.

The Patriots quickly responded and put two more scores up to put it back up by 21 before Luck led a late drive to make it seem respectable at 38-24. This was Thursday Night Football in a microcosm. Dropped passes on both sides, five turnovers, players getting hurt. Not to mention those god-awful all blue monstrosities that pass for uniforms. Hell Indianapolis couldn’t even field an entire 46-man team last night. But hey Commish, tell us again how the players’ safety is #1 in your book.

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

Quarterback: A

Tom Brady was totally in control last night and was meticulously picking the Colts zone defense apart from start to finish. He started the first drive of the game by going 9-9 and throwing a touchdown pass to Cordarrelle Patterson. Of his first 13 passes, the only incompletion was a drop by Julian Edelman.

He did miss a few throws to Josh Gordon, but we chalk those up to be still working on their chemistry and timing together. But last night one got the feeling that the Colts defense wasn’t going to stop them, and it was correct. He threw for 341 yards and three TDs while completing 34-44,  and it could have been even more.

His two picks were not only preventable but right in the hands of his receivers, one of which looked more fumble than interception…but whatever. Brady passed two big milestones becoming the 3rd member of the 500 TD club and the only one to do it with one team.  He also set a new record by passing a TD to 71 different receivers, more than anyone else.

Running Backs: A-

The Patriots running backs had another very productive night. Sony Michel just missed a second 100-yard outing getting 98 yards on 18 carries. His 34-yard touchdown run was stuff we saw from him in college. In the past five days, Michel has gained 223 yards on the ground.  And he’s getting better every day.

James White was a guy we highlighted to have a big game and we were spot on there. White caught 10 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown and is so valuable in the Patriots passing game.

Michel needs to get better, and will, in the short-yardage running game, but that isn’t really his strength. James Develin continues to amaze as a blocker in the running game.

Wide Receivers: B

The wide receivers are now finally all in place, and you know what, you can stop lining up at the Tobin because “Bill doesn’t give Tawmmy enuff weaponz”. This group looked very dangerous and they’re just scratching the surface of their potential.

Julian Edelman is back and answered the questions as to whether he’d still have the quickness that we’re accustomed to seeing. He made his mark on the game right off the bat, catching three passes on the opening drive.

Gordon is still learning the offense and was only targeted a few times but had two big catches including the highlight reel 34-yard touchdown pass from Brady. Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Patterson are now the complementary guys and as such their production was just fine, 8 catches, 70 yards, and a touchdown. Hogan had the one brutal drop for a pick.

Tight Ends: B

Rob Gronkowski was obviously hobbled and in pain last night, one could see him limping several times after the play. But Brady and offense didn’t go thru Gronk and his numbers were OK, 6 catches for 75 yards. On the dropped/interception/ fumble, which we thought was a fumble, had it stood up he would have ended with 7-90, and yes we would gladly take that on a bad ankle.

Offensive Line: A

The offensive line was once again outstanding last night. The Colts entered the game with 17 sacks in the first four games and Brady’s pass protection was, for the vast majority of the game terrific. They had just 4 QB hits and 0 sacks.

Michel had room to run again and the boys up front did a fantastic job. Rewatch Brady’s 500th TD to Gordon, and he had an unreal amount of time to throw the football.

Defensive Line: B-

The defensive line did an okay job of stuffing the sputtering running game against the Colts. They had a big run at the end of the first half and some yards late in the game, but overall, it was good enough to force Luck to have to pass 60 times.  

The team only had one sack, a nice play by Trey Flowers in the first quarter. Adam Butler made a nice play of recognizing a screen pass and stuffing it for a loss. Adrian Clayborn had his best game of the season and was getting a lot of pressure on Luck. His pressure caused the Chung interception.

Linebackers: B

This wasn’t the fantastic day they had on Sunday but it was good enough. The linebackers were tasked with covering the running backs and they did a decent job of it. Nyheim Hines led the Colts with 22 receptions and he made 7 last night but for just 45 yards, which while solid enough numbers, wasn’t what the Colts needed with an injury-depleted roster.  

Hightower got beat by Eric Ebron on their final touchdown with a minute and a half to go when he bit hard on a run fake.

Secondary: B

The secondary wasn’t quite as bad as some were pointing out last night. Luck put on a nice show and threw for 365 yards and was dropping some really nice throws that was belying the hot take that his arm strength was suspect.

He also threw 60 passes so he was averaging less than six yards per pass. His passer rating was around 84 so that wasn’t great either. Jason McCourty had another strong game and is quickly becoming a very solid as the second corner. Stephon Gilmore was solid all game long, he was burned on one deep route but the receiver dropped the ball.

Jonathan Jones had a rough night and Luck was picking on him. Luck’s best target was TE Eric Ebron who gave Devin McCourty fits. Pat Chung also shared coverage responsibilities with Ebron. The two safeties got low marks for that, however, Chung was making plays all over the field and had 11 tackles, an interception, and a QB hit. McCourty forced a turnover too, so again, it wasn’t as bad as Twitter would have you believe.

Special Teams: B

Stephen Gostkowski was 5-5 on extra points and nailed his only field goal attempt. Ryan Allen averaged 48.3 yards per punt but did outkick his coverage on one and it allowed the Colts to return it 32 yards. Julian Edelman was returning punts and looked very good. The Colts weren’t allowing Patterson to return any kickoffs and boomed them away.

Coaches: A-

Faced with a short week, was there any doubt which team was the most prepared to go on Thursday Night Football? Bill Belichick had the team ready to go and they had a good gameplan and the offense looked like a house on fire racing out to a 24-3 halftime lead.

After Luck and the Colts narrowed it down the one score early in the 4th quarter, the Patriots put them away with two big scoring drives.

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Patriots Down Colts 38-24 in Sloppy TNF Win, 3 Up-3 Down

Steve Balestrieri
at 6:49 am ET

Is the rivalry back on? For the first half of tonight’s game, it certainly didn’t seem so as the Patriots throttled the Colts to a 24-3 advantage at the break. But the team played a very sloppy third quarter and the Colts narrowed the lead down to a single score before the Patriots behind a strong game from Tom Brady pulled away to win 38-24 in front of a packed house in Gillette Stadium.

The Colts, however, were equally as sloppy and the game was mired with five turnovers and after being treated to several good Thursday Night Football contests, fans were given more of what we’ve come to expect from these mid-week games.

Julian Edelman returned to his first game action since the Super Bowl against the Falcons and didn’t seem to miss a beat. The Patriots made sure he was immediately targeted on the first play from scrimmage. Edelman had three catches on the first drive where Brady went 9-9 and finished it off with a TD pass to Cordarrelle Patterson.

Edelman finished the game with seven receptions for 57 yards and was back returning punts as well. On the Patriots second drive, as they were again moving, Brady hit him wide open down the sideline and he dropped it. It was a scenario that would return…for both teams.

Brady had a record-setting night and broke two milestones with just one pass. In the fourth quarter after the Colts had pulled within seven at 24-17, Brady led the Pats on a very nice drive and at the Colts 34, with seemingly all night to throw, he aired it out to Josh Gordon for a 34-yard touchdown. It was both the 500th of Brady’s career making him just the 3rd player to do so, but it also broke another record. Gordon’s TD reception made him the 71st player to catch a TD from Brady, breaking the record he shared with Vinny Testaverde. He finished 34-44 for 341 yards with three TDs and 2 INTs.

The Colts were a banged up team on Thursday and couldn’t even field a full team of 46 active players, they could only dress 44. Please remind us NFL about how important player safety is again. And while the Colts defense is much better, and yes they were missing several players, the Patriots could have easily, should have easily dropped 50 on them.

The Edelman drop certainly cost them points and Brady’s two interceptions were both in the hands of Patriots receivers who dropped them. Chris Hogan had a Brady pass right in his hands at the 23-yard line and into Mathias Farley’s hands ending another scoring drive. On the ensuing drive, Brady hit Rob Gronkowski down the seam that would have given the Pats a 1st and goal at the five. Instead, the ball was ripped out, (seemed more like a fumble) and Najeh Goode returned it to the 20.

However, also on the plus side was the solid game by Sony Miche who racked up 98 more yards on 18 carries and he’s getting better and better. His 34-yard touchdown was a nice one where he got free on good blocking and then burst down the sideline untouched for the score.

Andrew Luck seems all the way back from his injury and his arm strength which some were questioning before the game, seems fine, thank you very much. He dropped some dimes all over the field and lasered a few passes into tight window coverage as well. Luck finished with 365 yards passing with 3 TDs and 2 INTs, but after throwing 62 passes on Sunday, he threw 59 more last night and they desperately need a running game or he’s going to get killed out there.

Eric Ebron had a huge game for the Colts and had his way all night long, despite being a bit gimpy himself at times. He finished with 9 catches for 105 yards and 2 TDs. Nyheim Hines had a solid game for Indy, he got 45 yards on the ground on 15 carries and added 45 more thru the air on seven catches.

The Patriots defense had a solid first half and was gashed pretty well by Luck in the final 30 minutes. The Colts short passing game kept the chains moving as Indy rolled up 439 yards of offense. These are some troubling developments and much will have to be cleaned up considering their next opponent. The defense has 10 days to prepare for Kansas City’s passing game, and they have a lot of work to do.

So who was up and down tonight?

Three Up:

Tom Brady – The Patriots QB was his normal, unflappable self against the Colts, and he seemed to be able to carve them up at will. The Colts were only able to stop the Patriots passing game on the drops/interceptions in the second half.

And to break two big milestones on one pass was pretty special. His touchdown pass to Gordon was reminiscent of a TD that he threw in 2007 to Randy Moss against Miami. That broke the record he shared with Testaverde. And it was also his 500th, making him just the third player (Brett Favre, Peyton Manning) to do so. Drew Brees is next on the list with 496. Brady as always gave the credit to his teammates.

“Things like that, milestones and so forth, there are so many people who contribute,” Brady said. “I just think of all the people who have really worked hard. A quarterback doesn’t throw them to himself. He needs people to catch, and block, and the defense to make plays, and coaches to coach. These are all great team awards. Pretty cool.”

Sony Michel/James White – The Patriots 1-2 punch at the running back position was huge again for the team. Michel gave them 98 yards on the ground, including the 34-yard touchdown and one catch for 12 yards. White, on the other hand, was a thorn in the side of Indy’s defense catching 10 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. He just two carries 0 yards, but one of those was a key 3rd and 1 conversion on the Patriots first drive of the game.

The duo was fantastic and they each bring something to each element of the offense. Michel will eventually become a bigger factor in the passing game and we know White is able to contribute in the running game.

We wrote earlier this week that with Edelman back and teaming him with Gronk and Josh Gordon would open up some room for White underneath. Tonight’s game was a testament to that.

Jason McCourty – The Patriots cornerback has continued his strong play this season and he was very solid again tonight. He made two excellent plays, back-to-back breaking up passes including one in the end zone to Zack Pascal.

J-Mac also had a nice play where he knocked the ball out from Pascal again and Jonathan Jones intercepted it to seal the game. The very next play, Michel rolled in from 34 yards to put the Pats back up by 21.

Considering the way, the summer started, it looked like J-Mac was on the bubble. Now, that thought seems a bit ludicrous.

Down:

Devin McCourty/Pat Chung – The Pats safety had an up and down night, he made a couple of big plays that helped turn the ball over to the Pats. He broke up a pass intended for Hines on a key third down stop and stripped the ball from Jordan Wilkins after a short gain and took the sting out of the Hogan drop/pick

And yes, he was given fits all night by Ebron who had the biggest game of his career and was constantly in trail. But the touchdown that Ebron scored against him was scheme driven. He was playing inside leverage and Ebron broke outside….oops. Great play call by Indy.

However, it wasn’t D-Mac’s greatest game but it wasn’t the worst as some fans would think. Chung struggled to contain Ebron as well. Tip your hat to him and get back to work on the KC gameplan I guess. Chung otherwise was strong with 11 tackles, a pick, and a QB hit. 

Jonathan Jones- The Pats nickel corner had a pretty rough night. He seemed a tad slow off the snap all night long and was getting beat consistently and was resorting to a lot of grabby work which can result in a flag fest. Something that was mentioned in the broadcast.

The Colts picked on him pretty consistently all night. We’ll have to rewatch the tape later today but it didn’t look like Jones’ best night either. But as with McCourty, Jones did get the pick on the interception.

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Patriots-Colts Week 5, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
October 3, 2018 at 6:30 am ET

The New England Patriots host a Thursday Night Football game for the first time this season against the Indianapolis Colts. It is an important game for both teams as the Patriots are trying to stay on the winning track after dropping two in a row. The Colts are trying to get back on the winning track after dropping two close games to the Eagles and Texans.  

This week’s game will be broadcast by Fox on Thursday, October 4 at 8:20 PM ET and can be seen locally on WFXT Channel 25. Joe Buck will handle play-by-play duties with Troy Aikman as the color analyst. Erin Andrews and Kristina Pink will work from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (2-2) defeated the Miami Dolphins 38-7 to even their record at .500. The Patriots dominated on both sides of the ball, holding Ryan Tannehill to just 100 yards passing. Sony Michel had 112 yards rushing, Tom Brady threw for 274 yards and three touchdowns. James White had a touchdown rushing and receiving.

The Colts (1-3) dropped a heart-breaking 37-34 overtime loss to the Houston Texans. Andrew Luck threw for 464 yards and 4 TDs, completing 40 of 62 passes. Luck completed passes to eight different receivers and the Colts had five receivers with 50 yards or more.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2018 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game.

Series History:

The Patriots and the Colts are playing for the 81st time in a series dominated by the Patriots. New England holds a 51-29 overall lead in the all-time series lead including a 4-1 advantage in the postseason. At home, the Patriots hold an all-time 29-12 lead. They have won the last seven matchups and are 5-0 against Andrew Luck including two playoff victories.

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 Colts Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game showed some definite signs of life last week with the team racking up 175 yards against the Dolphins. Sony Michel led the way with 112 yards on 25 carries with a touchdown. James White added 44 more including a 22-yard touchdown run. The coaches have made a concerted effort to remain balanced this year and this game with a short prep week, look for more of the same.

The Colts aren’t the team that the Patriots routinely gashed left and right a few years ago. They’re bigger and built much better to stop the run than those sieve-like teams. They have a good size front four with former Patriot Jabaal Sheard at one end and big Margus Hunt at the other with Al Woods and Denico Autry inside.

Look for the Patriots to continue to their balanced attack and keep mixing things up against the Colts defense. The defense played nearly a 5-quarter game on Sunday and was on the field for 83 snaps. That may begin to take a toll on the road team in the fourth quarter. Especially if the Patriots can get ahead early and keep the pressure on them.

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

The Patriots passing game looked much better with the addition of Josh Gordon last week. This week they add Julian Edelman back into the mix. That is a good sign for New England. With Phillip Dorsett and Chris Hogan more complementary type of receivers, they will be placed in a much better position to succeed. With James White and Michel out of the backfield and Cordarelle Patterson as a small package type of player, all of a sudden, Brady has plenty of weapons to work with. The only question is whether Rob Gronkowski’s ankle will allow him to play.

The Colts are allowing about 268 yards per game thru the air. If Gronkowski is able to go this week, it will put them in a very difficult position to win many matchups. However, they did get seven sacks against Houston last week, two of which came from Autry inside. They’ll need that kind of push this week.

Look for Brady to test the Colts corners (Kenny Moore and Nate Hairston) with Gordon and Edelman. White is the X-Factor in the offense, as with his full complement of receivers this week,  Brady may be able to find mismatches for his talented running back. Their linebackers are young and inexperienced but have been playing really well. If Gronkowski is available to play (I’d lean toward no right now), then his matchup will be the key one to watch.

Next up the Indianapolis offense:

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

The Colts haven’t replaced Frank Gore yet although two rookies (Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines) look to eventually have the team in good shape. The Colts are having trouble running the football this year, averaging just 72 yards per game.

The Patriots had been getting gashed via the run until last week’s game against the Dolphins. They did a much better job against Miami holding them to just 56 yards on the ground. However, in the pivotal first half, Miami had six carries for seven yards. Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton were much better last week as was the play of the linebackers.

Look for Luck to pass to run. They’d love to get their backs going and get in favorable positions in terms of downs and yardage, but the Patriots should be able to slow them down enough to force Luck and the Colts into having to throw the ball. Elandon Roberts, who had a big game on Sunday left early with an injury, we’ll see what his availability is this week.

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

The Indy passing game has been limited thus far to the no-huddle, up-tempo short yardage game as they’ve wanted to ease Luck back into things and not do too much right away. That has led some to believe that his arm strength is gone. While it probably isn’t where it was a few years ago, it will grow stronger as the season wears on.

Luck’s most dangerous weapon, T.Y. Hilton is injured with a hamstring problem right now and may not play this week. That would really limit the stretching of the field that the Colts enjoy with him. He’ll lean heavily on Hines, out of the backfield who is the team’s leading receiver with 22 catches and Ryan Grant along tight end Eric Ebron. Jack Doyle is also injured with a bad hip.

The Patriots played much better coverage last week, getting aggressive and physical with the wide receivers off the line. The cornerbacks easily had their best game of the year and if the Colts are minus their best WR it is a plus for NE. Look for the Patriots to get more aggressive and try to put more pressure on Luck this week to generate some extra pass rush. Newcomer John Simon may see some extra work against his former team this week.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Push

The Patriots and Colts Special Teams both have very reliable kickers and punters. Adam Vinatieri was called the best kicker in NFL history by Bill Belichick this week, and unlike other times where he pumps the opponent’s tires, he isn’t stretching much there. The ageless Vinatieri is still money on FGs and EPs. The Colts have an excellent punter in Rigoberto Sanchez. The Patriots tandem of Ryan Allen and Stephen Gostkowski are an excellent tandem of their own. Except for the year Gostkowski was injured, the Patriots have had only two kickers (Vinatieri or Gostkowski) for the past 23 years.

Both teams have solid coverage units. The Colts return game is stuck in neutral while the Patriots return men Cordarrelle Patterson and Cyrus Jones are just starting to show some life.  

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

Thursday Night Games are always difficult to get a good feel for. With a very short week to prepare, you never know what you’re going to get. The Patriots have always traditionally prepared well for the short-week Thursday night contests.

We’re going to stick with what has been working and that is the Patriots will continue their winning streak against the Colts, especially at home until they show that they can win one here.

You have to factor in the Colts defense played 83 snaps on Sunday afternoon and they could still have some residual effect from that overtime contest. Factor in they may be missing their best wide receiver in Hilton and it adds to balance sheet for New England.

Brady will have Julian Edelman back this week for the first real game since the Super Bowl against Atlanta, so expect that they’ll try to get him involved early, but then limit his usage until he gets his game legs under him. I’d look for Indy to line up Hairston their bigger corner on Gordon which should be a good matchup to watch.

The Patriots and Brady have had Luck and the Colts number at home for some time now. Look for that to continue this week to kick off Week 5.  Patriots 34-17

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Patriots  Week 4 Report Card, New England Routs Miami 38-7

Steve Balestrieri
October 2, 2018 at 7:00 am ET

The Patriots looked much more like the team that we are accustomed to seeing on Sunday afternoon in Foxboro. They played their best complete game in quite some time with a dominant, offensive and defensive effort. While it is only one game and they have to start stringing some games like this together, this was exactly what the doctor ordered.

Miami entered this week 3-0 and with a two-game lead in the division and with a chance to go up by three with a tie-breaker. They had been playing well and the Patriots had looked terrible for two weeks in a row.

But the coaches put together an outstanding game plan and the players executed it in fantastic fashion. The team came out immediately, energized, with a tough physical presence and a sense of urgency that has been sorely lacking in a while.

This one was over by halftime with the Pats up 24-0 and then they just put it on cruise control the rest of the way. It was a great game offensively for Sony Michel and James White, with Josh Gordon having an impact immediately. Defensively, Lawrence Guy and Kyle Van Noy were outstanding as the defense pitched a shutout for 57 minutes.

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

Quarterback: B

Tom Brady got off to a bit of a slow start but got the passing game going and he ended up with 274 yards and three touchdowns. This was on a day where the running game was gashing the Dolphins defense. But his two picks hurt his overall grade, where each was preventable because of uncharacteristic mistakes.

But he did get the wide receivers going, hitting a 55-yard touchdown pass to Cordarrelle Patterson for his first Patriots touchdown. A nice 9-yard dart to Phillip Dorsett for another score. And he lasered a third-down pass to newcomer Josh Gordon on a slant for a 13-yard gain to get him his first reception on the team. And his best pass of the day was a gorgeous rainbow pass to James White in the corner of the end zone where he was getting drilled as he released it. Just like they draw it up in the bucket drill during camp.

But his two picks were preventable. On the first, he got fooled when Bobby McCain was running with Chris Hogan. Dorsett was to cut under the Hogan route, where it was supposed to generate some open space. But McCain passed off Hogan to a deep safety and sat down right on the spot that Dorsett was crossing. He made a very good head’s up play. On Brady’s second INT, he was just trying the force the ball into a very tight, well-covered window. Miami had two defenders located right there while under a heavy rush. He also threw a high pass on the goal line to Patterson which was knocked away and nearly picked. Normally,  Brady delivers that ball low where it can’t be deflected and only catchable by his man.

Running Backs: A

The Patriots running backs had a fantastic productive day.  Sony Michel, who last week had to hear in some circles that he’s already a bust, had he first 100-yard day and NFL touchdown. He rushed 25 times for 112 yards and is beginning to show the trademark burst that he was known for in college.

A cool stat courtesy of Tedy Bruschi, 65 yards of Michel’s 112 came after contact. He’s also seeing the field much better as he becomes more comfortable in the offense.

James White had 112 total yards of offense, with 44 yards rushing including a nice 22-yard touchdown run and 68 yards receiving including the beautiful aforementioned rainbow from Brady for a score. He also ran a perfect rub route on Patterson’s 55-yard TD catch which freed up the receiver for an easy pitch and catch.

James Develin was his usual solid self in the running game, delivering big blocks to get the backs to the second level. Kenjon Barner got some work in at garbage time and got some snaps in which may set the table for more work down the road.

Wide Receivers: B

The wide receivers had a much more productive day. The arrival of Josh Gordon and his small sample size (18 plays), belied his influence on the field. While he had just two catches for 32 yards, both were on third down and Brady made it clear he was not just a decoy. He also drew a penalty that resulted in another first down and made a nice block downfield on White’s TD run. His arrival opened up some space for the other receivers. It was a good start.

Phillip Dorsett and Chris Hogan are complimentary type receivers and not the #1 types that they been forced to assume early this season. Dorsett had four catches for 55 yards including the somersaulting TD grab. Hogan had one catch for 25 yards, and Patterson had the 55-yard touchdown catch as well as an 11-yard carry.

The overall group will get even better with the arrival of Julian Edelman who was back in the facility on Monday but is not yet part of the 53-man roster as the team will have to make a corresponding roster move.

Tight Ends: B

Rob Gronkowski has been bothered by an ankle injury which has limited him in practice the past 10 days. He aggravated the injury late in the game and with the blowout score was taken out. He’s considered day-to-day but with the short week, it would seem that he is doubtful to play this week.

Gronk had a couple of good catches in traffic and ended up with 4 catches for 44 yards on the day. Dwayne Allen had a very good day in the run blocking department as he was clearing house for the backs. He was targeted on a deep route that was knocked away and caught a pass behind the line, that perhaps Brady should have thrown away where the Dolphins were all over him for a loss.

Offensive Line: B+

The offensive line had a tremendous bounce-back day. After being manhandled for two straight weeks, a little home cooking was just what the doctor ordered. Dante Scarnecchia’s crew took it to the Dolphins front seven and the Patriots running game carved them up for 175 yards on the ground.

Unlike the past few games where they couldn’t open up holes, they were getting a good push and did a very good job of protecting Tom Brady. Miami has a pair of outstanding edge rushers in Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn and both had quiet days which is a big win for New England.

Defensive Line: A-

The defensive line simplified things a bit and rather than being reactive and pushed around, they were setting the tone of things and dominated up front.  After getting gashed two weeks in a row, the run defense allowed the Dolphins only 56 yards rushing, most of which long after the outcome was settled. Miami averaged 3.1 yards per rush.

Lawrence Guy had an outstanding game inside, Malcom Brown was much improved and the line was bolstered by the return of Trey Flowers who is always very solid. The Patriots did a great job of pushing the pocket and collapsing it around Ryan Tannehill. He frequently couldn’t step into his throws, which is why so many sailed high for him.

The unit only had two sacks, one by Adam Butler and one by newcomer John Simon but they had good pressure all game long around the QB’s feet.

Linebackers: A-

This was a fantastic day for the Patriots linebackers despite them barely registering on the stat sheet. The linebackers were active, chipping the Dolphins receivers, tight ends, and backs and looked quite the antithesis to the slow, plodding group that we saw for two weeks.

Kyle Van Noy was outstanding all game long mixing in run and pass coverage.  He recovered a fumble when the Dolphins backup center snapped the ball over Tannehill’s head before he was ready. Elandon Roberts was playing his downhill, thumping game and was a thorn in the backfield before he was injured late in the game. Dont’a Hightower had a very active, physical game.

One way to combat their lack of speed is to chip the backs and receivers off the line. On Sunday that was the game plan and they worked it to perfection. The Dolphins speed was negated and their backs and tight ends were not a factor. Dolphins running backs had just three catches for 29 yards, and two of those came in garbage time.

Secondary: A-

The secondary played their best game of the season and arguably their best in quite some time. The game plan was to get physical with the Dolphins receivers at the line of scrimmage. This was conducted to throw off their timing as well as negating their team speed.

The game plan worked to perfection as the Dolphins wide receivers were blanketed by the Patriots secondary all game long. Tannehill had nowhere to throw the ball. He entered the game completing 72 percent of his throws with a passer rating of 121.8 on the season. He finished just 11 of 20 for 100 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. The Dolphins wide receivers had 11 receptions for just 97 yards. Rookie J.C. Jackson had his first career interception.

Pat Chung was back and in this Patriots defense, he is outstanding. He is extremely versatile and can play as an in-the-box safety, cover tight ends or even play in the slot. He’s an excellent tackler and a smart savvy player. Mike Gesicki the talented rookie tight end had just one catch for 9 yards.

Special Teams: B

Cordarrelle Patterson didn’t get many opportunities to strut his stuff as the Dolphins only kicked off twice. But Cyrus Jones had a very nice 24-yard punt return at the beginning of the second quarter. The Dolphins return game didn’t do much despite having the dangerous Jakeem Grant and the always elusive Danny Amendola. Was that Danny Amendola starting to run to the Patriots sidelines after returning a punt in the first half? Ryan Allen only had to punt twice and Stephen Gostkowski had a chip shot (20-yard) FG and extra points to make.

Coaches: A

What a difference a week makes. The Patriots had a great game plan to combat the Dolphins speed and worked it perfectly. It was a tad reminiscent of those old Patriots-Colts games of the early 2000s in the old stadium. They were physical with the Miami receivers and wouldn’t allow them any separation.

Bill Belichick had the team ready to go on Sunday.  They played with the urgency and energy that we’ve come to expect of Patriots teams. Josh McDaniels called a superb game, mixing in the run and pass perfectly.  He was calling the right plays to get everyone involved. The offense for the first time this season looked like the offense that we expected to see.

This overall was a very solid team win. Now they have to start stringing a few together. They have a short week with Indy coming into Foxboro on Thursday night.  Then they will have 10 days to come up with a game plan to slow down the Chiefs offense.

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Patriots Smash Dolphins 38-7 In Dominant Fashion, Three Up, Three Down

Steve Balestrieri
October 1, 2018 at 7:30 am ET

For one week at least, the Patriots have calmed the fears of fans of New England as they broke a two-game losing skid in dominant fashion, demolishing the not-ready-for-primetime Miami Dolphins 38-7.

On Sunday afternoon, Miami came in riding high at 3-0 while the Pats limped in at 1-2 and much was made of whether the Patriots defense, which seemed slow and unathletic would be able to keep up with the team speed of Miami. The defense answered the bell today and Miami never seriously threatened to score until a garbage time drive by their backup quarterback as New England dominated in all three phases of the game.

The Patriots won the physical game up front, both the offensive and defensive lines clearly won the 1-on-1 matchups as the Pats rolled for 175 yards on the ground, springing Sony Michel and James White for big chunks of yardage all game long, something that had been sorely missing for the past two weeks.

Michel who was foolishly labeled a draft bust by the hot takes crowd after just two weeks and after having missed all of the preseason rushed for 112 yards on 25 carries with a touchdown. White had 112 yards from scrimmage with 44 yards rushing, 68 yards receiving and had a touchdown rushing and receiving.

Defensively, the Patriots front seven stuffed the Dolphins on early downs, putting QB Ryan Tannehill in third and long situations all game long. Of course, getting two of their best defenders in Trey Flowers and Pat Chung back helped. We wrote in our pregame matchups that the defense had to get out of early holes that made third-down conversions easy. Tannehill faced third downs needing 12, 10, 10 (converted via penalty), 13, 8 and 24 yards in the pivotal first half. That is much, much better.

Miami was only 1-6 on third down in the first half, and that came as the half was winding down and the defense was giving them the underneath stuff.  By the time the first 30 minutes were over, the game was over with the Patriots going into intermission with a 24-0 lead.

Even more encouraging, the passing game got going against a very good Dolphins secondary. Tom Brady threw for 274 yards and three touchdowns but they got the big chunk plays that they’ve been missing. Brady hit Cordarrelle Patterson for a 55-yard touchdown, James White and Phillip Dorsett who caught a somersaulting 9-yard touchdown pass from Brady rounded out the scoring.

After having no success throwing to his wide receivers thru the first three weeks, they contributed 10 receptions for 166 yards. Hardly earthshattering numbers, but much better. And with the news that Julian Edelman returns on Monday, this should have an immediate impact on the passing game.

Newcomer Josh Gordon played only 18 snaps but did have an immediate impact. He caught two passes for 32 yards, both third-down conversions, and drew a penalty giving the offense another first down. But perhaps the best indicator from him was the nice block he made downfield on White’s 22-yard touchdown run. That is something the Patriots pride themselves on with the WRs and it is an early sign that Gordon is buying in.

The Patriots offensive line looked much, much better in springing the backs this week, and giving them the needed space to make the tough yards inside where they like to run and after the criticism, they’ve had to endure the past few weeks, this was a big, bounce-back game. Defensively, the line was penetrating, Miami had nowhere to run, with most of their 56 yards rushing coming long after this one was settled. Again in the pivotal first half, Miami rushed six times for seven yards.

The Dolphins had just 172 yards of offense, 75 of which came on the final garbage time drive led by backup QB Brock Osweiler where they scored with under three minutes to go. Tannehill, who entered the game completing 72 percent of his throws and with a passer rating of 121.8, completed just 11-20 for 100 yards with no touchdowns and an Interception.

Although he was sacked just twice, the Patriots had good pressure around the pocket all day where he wasn’t able to step into his throws all day. That’s why it seemed many of his passes sailed on him. His best throw was on the first snap of the game, where he drilled a 22-yard pass to Kenny Stills right between two defenders. That would be the Dolphins longest play of the day.

The Patriots defense allowed just 3.1 yards per rush and 4.3 yards per pass. Malcom Brown had a big bounce-back game as well as Dont’a Hightower. Lawrence Guy and Kyle Van Noy were particularly very good for the defense, who got solid contributions from everyone in the secondary, including rookie J.C. Jackson who got his first NFL interception on a pass that Tannehill underthrew a bit on a deep fly.

UP AND DOWN –

UP: Unlike a week ago, we could easily name several players here, and will add on to our three up just a tad this week.

Sony Michel: Imagine a rookie 1st round running back being labeled a bust after just two games when that back missed all of the preseason. Welcome to the world of New England overreaction sports radio. Michel looked much more comfortable in the Patriots offense this week and was showing more and more flashes of why the team thought so highly of him with a very solid performance.

Michel had 112 yards on 25 carries with a TD in the best game of his young career and quieted the critics for a week at least. As he gets more comfortable out there, his vision will continue to improve and we’re starting to see that burst he was so known for at Georgia.

James White: Last week, Tom Brady lamented that the coaches needed to get White more involved in the offense as he’s always a big playmaker. Mission accomplished. White had a typically big-play day with a 22-yard touchdown run and a 14-yard touchdown reception where Brady dropped a dime in the corner of the end zone as he was getting drilled.

Lawrence Guy: The big man inside is always one of the more underrated members of the Patriots defense and on Sunday afternoon he contributed big time to the overall defensive effort. The Patriots mixed up their fronts and at times, Guy shifted over to a DE spot and was outstanding, as the front seven was overall against the run.

Josh Gordon: His Patriots debut in front of a loud and raucous home crowd was just a small sample size (18 plays), but a successful one. His two catches were both on third down which signals that Brady wasn’t afraid to go to him right off the bat.

Both of his catches and a drawn penalty helped keep drives alive. He made a nice downfield block on White’s touchdown run and said all the right things after the game. So far, so good

Down:

Injuries: On a short week, with a game on Thursday night against the Colts, there are three injuries that need to be monitored. Rob Gronkowski, who was nursing an ankle injury before the game, left in the third quarter when he re-aggravated it.

Elandon Roberts who played a very solid, active game at middle linebacker left with looked like a fairly serious ankle or foot injury. Adam Butler was also injured in the second half and was on the ground in obvious pain.

Brady Decision Making: On what was otherwise a very good game by Tom Brady, he was victimized by the ball-hawking Dolphins secondary twice in the game, and both could be characterized by poor decision-making.

His first pick was actually a play where Brady was fooled by the Miami coverage. Bobby McCain was running with Chris Hogan on a deep post. Phillip Dorsett was supposed to cut inside Hogan for a deep cross. But McCain passed off Hogan to the safety and sat right in the throwing lane. He made a smart heads-up play for the pick.

On the second interception, Brady just got too greedy up 38-0 and tried to force the ball into tight coverage when he should have just thrown the ball away. It may be just a tad nitpicky here, but these are the kinds of mistake we generally don’t see from #12.

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

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