Tag Archives: Phillip Dorsett

Which of the Patriots Free Agents Return in 2019?

Steve Balestrieri
February 14, 2019 at 8:32 am ET

Which of the Patriots Free Agents Return in 2019?

The Patriots are facing a ton of potential turnover in their roster in the upcoming 2019 season and to go along with a slew of coaching changes, it presents a difficult challenge in the days ahead.  

Most Super Bowl winners suffer a turnover of more than 20 players from the Super Bowl to Week 1 of the following NFL season. This year’s Patriot team will no doubt be any different.

So, now that the post-Super Bowl celebrations are over and we’ve had a chance to let the dust settle, we are going to take a look at some of the Patriots free agents and try to get a feel on who may return and who may be moving on. And let’s start with the two biggest of them.

Trey Flowers:

The Patriots defensive end was a fourth-round pick from Arkansas just four years ago and at 25 is just now entering the prime of his career. Flowers led the team in sacks the past three years but he’s much more than just a sack specialist.

In the varied scheme that the Patriots run on defense, they ask their edge players to do a lot of different things. And Flowers can do them all. He sets the edge, rushes the passer from the outside, can kick inside as an interior pass rusher and drop occasionally into the passing lanes in the flat.

Flowers has arguably been the Patriots’ best defensive player for the past several years and they know and appreciate his value. How will the rest of the league value Flowers? In an increasing fantasy football mindset, many fans and writers may not believe that he’s a top-tier defensive player. But the coaches see what he brings, especially two ex-New England coaches in Detroit and Miami.

The chances of Flowers returning are probably less than 50/50, and if they can’t get anything done by the time the signing frenzy begins, it will probably be less than that. Flowers would look awful in teal…

Trent Brown:

My, my, my, (Joe Kenda voice), what a difference a year makes. When the Patriots got Brown in a trade with the 49ers there were a lot of very unconvinced people (including right here) that wondered why the Niners would let him go if he was as good as Von Miller proclaimed him to be.

Miller, the Broncos pass rush specialist, called Brown the best right tackles in the NFL and considered him one of the best tackles …period. Brown is absolutely enormous at 6’8, 380-pounds but for a man so big, he moves incredibly well. He took over the starting left tackle position in the first days of training camp and never looked back.

He started all 16 regular season games and all three playoff games and was simply outstanding. So, yes… he can play left tackle in the NFL, and do so at an elite level. Having feet as quick as his for such a large man allows him to keep pass rushers at bay and he can be a road grader in the running game.

Will another team throw a boatload of money at his feet this spring? With the protection of QBs blindsides always at a premium, the answer is probably yes. Will the Patriots match? Probably not. They invested their top pick last year in Isaiah Wynn who ended up on IR with a torn Achilles last year. Marcus Cannon is under contract for the next three years. The Patriots believe Wynn is more than capable, however, they’ll want to take him along slowly with his injury.

If the Patriots do re-sign Brown, then swing tackle LaAdrian Waddle will probably go, if not he’ll return for another year. The chances of Brown returning are far less than 50 percent in 2019.

Stephen Gostkowski/Ryan Allen:

Both of the Patriots kicking tandem are free agents this season. Gostkowski has been with the Patriots since Adam Vinatieri left in 2006, (the Patriots have essentially had two kickers since 1995), and Gostkowski has been remarkably consistent for a very long time. Last season he was 27-32 on FG attempts, three of his misses were beyond 50 yards and 49-50 on extra points. His work on kickoffs is a subject that Bill Belichick has long complimented on as exemplary.

Allen has been outstanding at angling punts to the sidelines and dropping them inside the 20-yard line of opponents. During the Super Bowl, he pinned the Rams deep three times inside their 10-yard line. And don’t forget, it is Allen that does the holding on all of the extra points and field goals.

Both are extremely valuable and trusted. The odds of each returning is well over 50 percent for 2019.

Jason McCourty:

J-Mac was a very valuable contributor in 2018, his solid play, experience, and leadership were all key factors in the team’s success in the secondary. And playing in the playoffs for the first time in his career, was an experience that McCourty relished, a valuable teaching point to the younger players to never take anything for granted. Especially for a player who went from 0-16 to a Super Bowl win.

The Patriots have a lot of depth at the cornerback position with Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones (RFA), Duke Dawson, Keion Crossen and Eric Rowe (UFA). McCourty’s veteran presence would be very valuable in 2019, but much of his future may be tied into his brother’s retirement consideration. If Devin decides to return for one more year, Jason would be much more inclined to remain. He’s a 50/50 proposition to return.

Chris Hogan/Phillip Dorsett/Cordarrelle Patterson:

The Patriots three complementary wide receivers are all unrestricted free agents this spring. Hogan has spent the past three seasons here after signing a three-year deal bringing him over from Buffalo. Hogan was a key contributor on the two Super Bowl teams his first two seasons but this year, he seemed to be frozen out of the offense, where he was forgotten for very long stretches. A classy vet, on and off the field. He’s a great teammate who works hard every day and can be a valuable complementary piece in any offense.

Dorsett seemed primed to have a nice role in the offense after a really strong training camp. But when the team signed Josh Gordon, he saw his playing time slashed. However, when his number was called, he contributed some big plays, most notably the touchdown pass in KC during the conference championship game right before the half. He never lived up to his first-round draft pick expectations but can be a nice role player.

Patterson remains one of the premier kick returners in the game and the opening kickoff in the Super Bowl showed how dynamic he can be, nearly breaking it for a TD. The Patriots installed a package on offense to take advantage of his blazing speed and he chipped in with three receiving touchdowns. He also jumped into the mix at running back when injuries piled up at mid-season and acquitted himself pretty well there. That concept of doing whatever the team needs you to do wasn’t lost on the coaching staff.

The belief here is that Hogan is gone and Dorsett is slightly less than 50 percent to be returning, probably looking for a spot that will allow him more playing time. Patterson seemed to really like it here and if the Patriots offer him anything close to what he gets on the open market, then his chances of returning are better than 50 percent.

Malcom Brown/Danny Shelton:

The two big men in the middle both had the team decline fifth-year options for each in 2019 which says that they are prepared to move away from either or both unless the money is right. Brown had a good but unspectacular 2018 season and like his previous four years, had bouts of inconsistency. He was much better down the stretch and into the playoffs. But in truth, he never really lived up to his first-round draft expectations.

The Patriots picked up Shelton from the Browns last spring and he too was plagued by consistency problems. He was a healthy scratch for three late-season games including the AFC Championship Game but was active and very good in Super Bowl LIII.

The belief here is that the team could easily bring one of the two back on a team-friendly deal, but the chances that either return are under 50 percent.

John Simon/Albert McClellan/Ramon Humber:

The Patriots love their special teams’ guys and in a year when the normally stellar STs units were struggling with their consistency early in the year, they brought these three into to the fold to steady the boat.

Simon proved to be a valuable role player on the defense first and STs second. He did a very good job when called upon in setting the edge and getting after the passer as well as dropping into coverage. In the sub-packages the team runs, he provided a valuable role and fit in well.

McClellan was an outstanding addition to the STs and blocked a couple of kicks, forced a key fumble. But in the punt coverage teams? Before McClellan’s arrival, the team was allowing nearly 13 yards per punt return. After he came on board, it was cut in half. That isn’t a coincidence.

Humber is another STs maven and he’s terrific on kick coverage and recovered a blocked punt. The chances of these three returning are better than 50 percent, it would be nice to see the team re-sign all three this spring.

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

New England Patriots News 2-10, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
February 10, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 02-10 and AFC East Notes.

 An Emotional Bill Belichick: We are used to seeing to the normally clipped and reserved Bill Belichick over the course of the year, where he always keeps things in perspective and never gets too high or too low. But as the Patriots clinched Super Bowl LIII, all of those shrouds were lifted and we saw the joy for all of the hard work come thru. In typical Belichick style, he gave all of the praise to the players. NFL Films captured it perfectly right here:

Patterson With a Diamond-studded Gift for Brady: Patriots WR/KR/RB Cordarrelle Patterson was obviously very grateful for his 2018 season with the Patriots and especially with Tom Brady. Patterson made a gift of a diamond-studded TB12 logo to Brady after the Super Bowl, which no doubt set him back thousands of dollars. Brady posted a picture of his daughter wearing it on his Instagram page. She saw it and fell in love with it…Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.

What a Crowd for the Parade: The Patriots 6th Super Bowl win this week featured a couple of huge crowds which put to rest that the fans were getting blase about the team’s continued success. The turnout for the send-off rally was over 35,000 fans and the Super Bowl parade which had a huge crowd of 1,500,000 fans in downtown Boston. The crowd at the game itself was the first time that the Patriots had a clear advantage in terms of crowd noise. It never gets old or taken for granted.

Did you Know? For the yards are more important than points crowd… The Patriots in SB LIII garnered more yards (407) than their season average (393) against the Rams. While the defense held the Rams to 160 yards fewer (260) than their season average which was 421. When we wrote about the defense coming together late in the season, many scoffed at it. After those last three playoff wins, nobody is scoffing now.

A Return for Amendola? The latest news out of Miami is that the Dolphins are rumored to be moving on from WR Danny Amendola after just one season in South Beach. If that were to happen, could a return to Foxboro be in the cards? Absolutely. And I know a certain QB that would love to see that happen as well.

Close the Roof: With another sound clip from just before the game started, watching Bill Belichick questioning the timing of the roof closure after the flyover shows how detailed the Patriots and their coaches are in preparation for every possible scenario.

Favorite Play of the Game in Super Bowl LIII:

In a game dominated by defense, there are several plays that could fit the bill as favorite plays of the game. The pass breakup by Jason McCourty in the end zone, Stephon Gillmore’s interception, Dont’a Hightower just blowing up Tyler Higbee during the Danny Shelton’s run stuff, but my personal favorite was from Kyle Van Noy.

The Rams rolled Jared Goff out to the right and had three WRs flooding the zone. Josh Reynolds was the main target doing a shallow cross about 3-4 yards off the line of scrimmage with a deeper cross about 12 yards and Cooks running a deep corner route.

Van Noy was supposed to get sucked into Goff which allows his an easy window to complete the pass and have an easier 7-10 yard pass play. But Van Noy recognized the play coming, and slowed up to hit Reynolds with a forearm, flattening him. He then joined the rush after Goff, who had nowhere to throw and was forced out of bounds. It was a tremendous play.

Brian Baldinger from the NFL Network every week does his “Baldy’s Breakdowns” and highlights certain key plays and they are excellent. He calls this particular play here: 

Flores Brings Three Patriots Assistants With Him to Miami:

The Miami Dolphins hired former Patriots de facto Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores this week and Flores has brought three Patriots assistant coaches with him to Miami. Former WRs coach Chad O’Shea will become the Dolphins offensive coordinator. Josh Boyer who coached the NE cornerbacks will handle the same duties in Miami with the added title of defensive passing game coordinator as well. And Jerry Schuplinski, the assistant QBs coach will also handle the same duties there.

Greg Schiano Rumored to be the Next Defensive Coordinator:

With Flores departure for South Beach, the Patriots are looking for a couple of defensive coaches and what was first reported locally by Jim McBride of the Boston Globe, the Patriots are reportedly close to signing former Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano as their next DC.

Schiano spent the last two years as the Ohio State DC and is a friend of Bill Belichick’s. But where Schiano is best known for was his time as Rutgers’ head coach. During his tenure there 19 players who played for him made their way to New England.

Those players included Devin and Jason McCourty, Duron Harmon, Logan Ryan, and current Patriots safety coach, Steve Belichick. Bill Belichick will always surround himself with players he likes, and the Rutgers connection with Schiano is a testament to that. He and Schiano should get along fine.

Patriots Have Large Free Agent Class in 2019:

As tough as it is moving on from Super Bowl LIII, time marches on and now the team will have a lot of tough personnel decisions to make in 2019. Here is the list, and it is lengthy of the Patriots free agents this year.

Trey Flowers
Trent Brown
Chris Hogan
Cordarrelle Patterson
Phillip Dorsett
Jason McCourty
Eric Rowe
Stephen Gostkowski
Ryan Allen
Malcom Brown
Danny Shelton
LaAdrian Waddle
John Simon
Albert McClellan
Ramon Humber
Brian Schwenke
Ulrick John
Jonathan Jones (RFA)
Josh Gordon (RFA)
Ufomba Kamalu
Cody Hollister

Obviously, the two top free agents are Flowers from the defense and Brown on the offense. Flowers has arguably been the Patriots best defensive player for the past three years and has led the team in sacks in those three. The Patriots will no doubt try to find a way to secure Flowers services but he’s in line for a huge payday and is considered one of the top free agents this spring.

Brown was brought on-board last spring and had never played left tackle. He took over the position early in training camp and never looked back. He was very solid in pass protection and was terrific in run blocking, especially in the postseason. He’s another guy inline for a huge payday.

Hogan will probably be gone although I do believe that the team will make efforts to bring back both Dorsett and Patterson, the latter who did a bit of everything this past season, playing wide receiver, running back and returning kickoffs. Patterson had a combined yardage total of over 1100 in 2018. Dorsett was a forgotten man during the time Josh Gordon was on the team, but contributed down the stretch and had a big TD reception in the AFC Championship Game.

Gostkowski and Allen are an excellent duo. Gostkowski has been here since Adam Vinatieri left in 2006. Allen was outstanding in the Super Bowl, pinning the Rams three times inside their 10-yard line.

It will interesting to see if McCourty returns, there were rumors that he and his brother Devin may retire after the Super Bowl but he played well all season and made a huge play in the Super Bowl, coming from across the field to break up a pass for Brandin Cooks in the end zone. Rowe began the year as the #2 corner before landing on IR after just four games.

Brown and Shelton are the two big guys in the middle of the DL.Both played well down the stretch and into the playoffs. However, after passing on the fifth-year options on both, the team may only resign one. Waddle has been a valuable swing tackle, with the health along the OL this season, he wasn’t used as much.

Simon, McClellan and Humber were brought in mid-season and all filled valuable roles. The team will probably look to retain all three. Jones and Gordon are restricted free agents. And the interesting aspect of Gordon is that he can apply for reinstatement in May of this year.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Have $80 Million in Cap Space, But Preach Caution:

In a really good piece by Vic Carucci, the Buffalo Bills in the first two seasons under Sean McDermott have been trying to manage expectations and build for long-term sustained success. So with about $80 million in cap space this spring, GM Brandon Beane in a letter to season ticket holders is preaching more caution. The message is to not expect the team to go all-in in free agency for instant gratification.

“The sole focus is to build the Buffalo Bills into a championship contender and help create a culture aimed at long-term, sustained success,” Beane wrote.

That is the correct way to build a winner. The Bills are still a long ways off from being a true contender and now they’ll try to start adding the long-term pieces that they’ll need to surround their young QB Josh Allen.

“The previous two draft classes have begun a new foundation of young players on our roster,” Beane wrote. “We are encouraged by the development thus far by players like Josh Allen, Tremaine Edmunds, Tre’Davious White and others. Each of them was given an individual plan of improvement at season’s end and they understand they have a lot of work in front of them.

“We have opportunities to improve our team this offseason and the Pegulas, Sean (McDermott) and I are all on the same page and determined to bring winning football to the city of Buffalo. Thank you for your loyal dedication to this franchise.”

Dolphins Hire Flores Who Brings Plenty of NE Coaches With Him:

The Miami Dolphins hiring of Brian Flores is a new change of regime, of which the Dolphins have had plenty but this time they are hoping to catch lightning in a bottle with a big New England Patriots presence going to South Beach with Flores, Chad O’Shea, Josh Boyer and Jerry Schuplinski also coming on-board.

One of the more surprising bits of news coming out of Miami is that the Dolphins are planning on moving away from WR Danny Amendola, who they brought in a year ago to bring the veteran presence to the Dolphins locker room. That will bear watching.

Flores, like Belichick is behind the power curve in terms of being far behind in preparation for the NFL Combine, but the Dolphins will be looking to find their next franchise QB and are in need of a true nose tackle either in free agency and the draft.

Jets Coaching Staff Seems Like Perfect Choice for Hard Knocks:

The New York Jets hired Adam Gase as the new head coach for Gang Green. And as Rich Cimini of ESPN has pointed out, there is certainly no lack for potential controversy there.

The full staff, announced Friday by the Jets, includes longtime NFL assistant Joe Vitt, Gase’s father-in-law, and Blake Williams, the son of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

This is where it gets interesting.

Vitt and Gregg Williams were members of the New Orleans Saints’ coaching staff implicated in the 2012 BountyGate scandal. In the bounty hearings, conducted by former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Vitt accused Williams of lying in his testimony.

Vitt also said the players didn’t take Williams seriously because of his “false bravado” and “schtick.”

Blake Williams, 34, has a reputation for rubbing people the wrong way. As a St. Louis Rams assistant, he upset people in the organization by screaming at a draft prospect in a scouting-combine interview, a source said. He also was reprimanded multiple times for sitting in the wrong seat on the team bus; he kept sitting in a seat reserved for a senior member of the staff.

The Rams fired him after the 2013 season. Williams has only worked for NFL teams in which his father was on the staff.

Gase also hired Jim Bob Cooter as the Jets running backs coach. With an eclectic group like this with all of the potential fireworks with the coaching staff, I believe that this will be a perfect choice for Hard Knocks this summer.

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.

Best Of Social Media: Sights And Sounds From The Patriots Championship Parade

Robert Alvarez
February 8, 2019 at 3:00 pm ET

On Tuesday the New England Patriots concluded their Super Bowl celebrations with a championship parade through the streets of Boston.

For the twelfth time since 2001, the 2018 New England Patriots became the latest Boston “Big Four” sports team to be honored with a duck boat rolling rally.

Check out all of the best social media postings from the Patriots, media, and fans below.

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Can I call you Gronky too??? @gronk

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https://twitter.com/patspulpit/status/1092826800626024448
https://twitter.com/RobGronkowski/status/1092798039805304840
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6 #StillHere

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Still Dreaming

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/Btg2DDWhaFb/
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Boston. You are insane. #LFG

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

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How. Do. We. Feel.

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

https://twitter.com/zeus30hightower/status/1092864195253751809
https://www.instagram.com/p/BthXi69lXAX/
https://twitter.com/BumpNrunGilm0re/status/1092995398363422720
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https://twitter.com/Flyguy2stackz/status/1092847064642392064
https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1092827140435992579
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#mvp #flashthat #slimeseason

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https://twitter.com/KVN_03/status/1092891124316942342
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All the way live. #champs

A post shared by Jonathan Jones (@getitonjones31) on

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https://twitter.com/KVN_03/status/1092921193638907905
https://twitter.com/McCourtyTwins/status/1093155254416359426
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https://twitter.com/NateEbner/status/1092848296744374273
https://twitter.com/sportingnews/status/1092825397807513601
https://twitter.com/ShaqDiesel_70/status/1092850811682648066
https://www.instagram.com/p/BthH1YHhATf/
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Rookie and the Vet

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World Champs!

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https://www.instagram.com/p/BtgqTmPBsMY/
https://twitter.com/NBCSPatriots/status/1092887724422516736
https://twitter.com/WillBrinson/status/1092827881934389248

Best Of Social Media: AFC Championship Patriots vs Chiefs

Robert Alvarez
January 23, 2019 at 9:09 pm ET

The New England Patriots entered the AFC Championship game seeking their first AFC title on the road since 2004.

For the first time since the 2014 AFC Championship in Denver, the Patriots found themselves as the underdog in a playoff game.

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If you happen to be lucky…

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2️⃣6️⃣

A post shared by Sony Michel (@flyguy2stackz) on

In the first quarter, Rob Gronkowski reached another career milestone to open the game.

Much like the Chargers a week ago, the Patriots again put together a lengthy scoring drive on their first possession.

Sony Michel logged the games first points and it was 7-0 NE midway through the first.

https://twitter.com/TheHall/status/1087138581817237504

More deja vu carried over from the Charger game on defense, as the Patriots pressured quarterback Patrick Mahomes early and often.

The Chiefs were held scoreless and it was 7-0 Patriots after one.

https://twitter.com/Patriots/status/1087139297264775168

Just when it appeared the Patriots were going to jump out to a 14-0 lead to open the second, a Tom Brady mistake in the end zone gave the Chiefs much needed life.

https://twitter.com/Chiefs/status/1087142237849284608

Despite the miscue, the Patriots defense continued to keep the Chiefs high powered offense off the field.

With the Chiefs threatening for the first time late in the second quarter, linebacker Trey Flowers had other ideas.

https://twitter.com/davidortiz/status/1087150991252819969

With two minutes to go until halftime, Brady and the offense capitalized on their final possession and took a 14-0 lead into the locker room. .

Tom Brady can in fact, throw the deep ball.

14-0 Patriots at halftime.

Needing to desperately get something going in front of their home fans, Mahomes and the Chiefs finally woke up.

They’d score their first touchdown of the night in just under two minutes to open the second half.

Patrick Mahomes found Travis Kelce to cut the Patriots lead in half.

14-7 Patriots.

A Stephen Gostkowski 47 yard field goal pushed the Patriots lead back to ten at 17-7 after three quarters.

Then, just like the regular season meeting between these two, the floodgates opened in the fourth quarter.

The Chiefs quickly scored on a Mahomes touchdown to
Damien Williams to cut the deficit to three.

After the touchdown, the Patriots response stalled inside the Chiefs 25 when Rex Burkhead was stuffed on fourth down.

Momentum began shifting to KC.

https://twitter.com/Chiefs/status/1087167845534814209

Disaster nearly struck when Julian Edelman nearly fumbled away a kick return. The ruling after review stated the ball never touched him.

Unfortunately just two players later the Chiefs regained the ball anyway.

A fan ran on the field immediately after the interception.

Needing to take advantage of Edelman’s mistake, Damien Williams burned the Patriots again and the Chiefs had their first lead of the night with seven to go. 21-17 Kansas City.

Tom Brady and the offense fought back, but another crucial fourth down arose that could have ended the game.

Sony Michel had other ideas.

The Patriots regained the lead 24-21.

Again the Chiefs refused to die, feeding off the home crowd as Damien Williams found the end zone for a third time.

28-24 Chiefs but a full two minutes for Tom Brady to work with.

With 42 seconds remaining in the game, Rex Burkhead gave the Patriots the lead back at 31-28.

https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1087180994233262080
https://twitter.com/JDMartinez14/status/1087181405359165440

The 23 year old Mahomes showed no fear despite limited time remaining.

The potential league MVP had one final drive left in him as he set up a Harrison Butker 39 yard field goal to knot the game at 31 all.

For the second time on championship Sunday, the trip to the Super Bowl would be decided in overtime.

The Patriots won the overtime coin toss, and like in a previous Super Bowl, it would be the final drive of the game.

The Patriots overtime drive saw Tom Brady complete not one, but three 3rd and 10s that setup the winning score.

On second and goal inside the five, Brady handed off to Rex Burkhead to clinch the AFC Championship for the New England Patriots.

https://twitter.com/thecheckdown/status/1087189790045261826

A 37-31 final score that send the Patriots to an unprecedented third Super Bowl in a row and the fourth in five seasons.

https://twitter.com/Al_Horford/status/1087186654991998978
https://twitter.com/paulpierce34/status/1087189398729281536
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AFC champs! #yesssssirrrr

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TD-REX, FTW.

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https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1087191148907687936
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On we go. #TeamDub

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“I LOVE YOU GUYS.”

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Reppin’ the East.

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W

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

https://twitter.com/asben16/status/1087190515911667714
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“ATLANTA, WE THERE.”

A post shared by New England Patriots (@patriots) on

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We’ll see you in the A!

A post shared by Jason+Devin McCourty (@mccourtytwins) on

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Back to the Bowl!! Let’s go!!

A post shared by Rex Burkhead (@rbrex34) on

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We’re coming home

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Local tradition. #BeatLA

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https://www.instagram.com/p/Bs4buuUh03-/

Patriots Report Card In AFC Championship Win Over Kansas City

Steve Balestrieri
January 22, 2019 at 7:00 am ET

Well… That was a wild finish to that game. The fourth quarter and overtime were exactly the way we described it in our pregame matchup piece, an instant classic. A low scoring game for three quarters exploded in the final 20 minutes of the 4th quarter/OT.

The Patriots went on the road in a very tough place to play in front of a very raucous crowd and were able to pull out a very impressive win to capture their third straight AFC championship and for the Brady/Belichick legacy, this is their ninth Super Bowl appearance since 2001.

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

Quarterback: A

Tom Brady came out of the gate and led the Patriots on a beautifully called opening drive where the Patriots went 80 yards and ate up eight minutes of the first quarter before the Chiefs even touched the ball. They went back down again with a chance to go up 14 and Brady threw an interception on the end zone on a poor decision. Late in the half, he threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Phillip Dorsett on a really nice pass to the corner of the end zone.

Brady ended up completing 30-46 for 348 yards with a TD and 2 interceptions, the other going off Edelman’s hands and right into the hands of the defender. But after the Chiefs found their offensive mojo and came to take the lead, the Patriots needed Brady’s magic. He gave it to them in spades.

In the last eight and a half minutes of the game, (3:32 in regulation and about 5 minutes of OT) Brady led the Patriots to three touchdown drives. He was vintage Tom Brady and checked all the blocks: Throwing into tight windows? Check. Zipping the ball downfield? Yes for certain. During those last three drives, Brady was 11-16 for 147 yards.  And a perfect 5-5 on 3rd downs. In Overtime, the Patriots converted three 3rd and 10s.

Lucky? Why are we still even having this drivel asked anymore?

Running Backs: A

The Patriots were once again led on the ground by Sony Michel, the rookie had another very productive day, grinding out 113 yards on 29 carries with two touchdowns. He was spelled late in the game by Rex Burkhead who ran 12 times for 41 yards and two touchdowns including the game winner in Overtime.

James White didn’t have a big a role as we envisioned carrying just six times for 23 yards. The Patriots rolled up 176 yards on the ground. They did exactly what was asked of them, they set the tone early in the game and then late when the Chiefs were selling out on their pass rush, they gashed them for three late scores.

Wide Receivers: A-

Julian Edelman was once again the Patriots leading receiver with 7 catches for 96 yards and he was immense in the game-winning drive converting two huge 3rd and 10 scenarios with a 20 and 15 yard gain. But he was nearly the goat. He had a pass bounce off his hands and right into a Chiefs linebacker’s (Sorensen) for an easy interception. But he more than made up for that during crunch time. With the hits he took down the middle Edelman once again proved he is as tough as woodpecker lips.

Chris Hogan chipped in with five catches for 45 yards including a huge third-down conversion where he dove and pulled the ball into the crook of his arm for a catch that was challenged but upheld. White had four catches for 49 yards including a huge 30-yard screen pass that set up a score. Phillip Dorsett had just one catch but it was a big one, a 29-yard touchdown. Burkhead had four catches for 23 yards, Cordarrelle Patterson had two for 18, James Develin added in one for nine.

Tight Ends: A

Rob Gronkowski once again dominated in the running game. He, Dwayne Allen, and Develin unleashed the backs with some crushing blocks on the linebackers and edge players. But the Chiefs decided to single cover Gronkowski mostly with a single safety (Eric Berry).

Gronkowski had a big game in the passing department as well hauling in six passes for 79 including the huge 15-yarder over Berry that set-up the final runs by Burkhead that gave them the win. It was an almost vintage-like Gronkowski performance and a well-needed one.

Offensive Line: A

The offensive line had another dominant performance. The Patriots rolled up 524 yards of offense, they ran 94 offensive plays and had only one play (1) go for negative yardage. The kneel down by Tom Brady at the end of regulation.  Kansas City had a very good group of pass rushers who tallied up 52 sacks in the regular season.

Shaq Mason and Joe Thuney dominated Chris Jones last night and not only did he not get any pressure on Brady, but they also pushed him around a lot in the running game.

This was magnified by the Patriots being on the road in a very loud stadium. So the Chiefs could anticipate the snaps from Brady without having to worry about a hard count. Brady was pressured on only seven of 46 dropbacks. Outstanding.

Defensive Line: B+

The Patriots defensive line had a very big game. The Chiefs running game was registered as an afterthought gaining only 41 yards on 12 carries. The defensive line did a great job of mostly containing Patrick Mahomes in the pocket and bringing pressure.

Trey Flowers was terrific on the edge and Lawrence Guy and Malcom Brown were stout inside. Flowers had a sack, a tackle for a loss and two QB hits. Guy split a sack with John Simon.  Adam Butler came on in passing downs and helped push the pocket.

Linebackers: A-

The Patriots much-maligned linebacking corps had another big day. Kyle Van Noy was outstanding, making plays all over the field. He had a pair of sacks, six QB pressures, and five run stops. He was a pain in the ass for the Chiefs offensive line all night.

Dont’a Hightower had another strong game playing 100 percent of the snaps and providing some pressure up the middle. John Simon saw more snaps than Elandon Roberts and had another under the radar strong game. He had a half-sack, and three QB pressures.

Secondary: A-

Wait you say. They gave up 31 points and 24 in the fourth quarter??? Well, look at the job that the secondary did on shutting down Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. Those two combined for just four catches for 65 yards. No one held them under 100 yards all season and the Patriots did it in Arrowhead. Hill was doubled by Jonathan Jones/Keion Crossen with outstanding help over the top by Devin McCourty. Big Mac was terrific.

Sammy Watkins had 4 catches for 114 yards but his big one, 54-yarder was one play where Mahomes had all day to throw and Watkins finally shook free from Stephon Gilmore. The Pats moved Gilmore over to Kelce in the second half and he smothered him.

Rookie J.C. Jackson was the victim of several flags and was beat by Kelce (with a push off) for a touchdown.

Special Teams: A-

The only potential bad play was the almost muff by Edelman on a bouncing punt. It was a near and potentially game changer. But Edelman was very good in the punt return game returning three for 38 yards. Patterson had three kick returns for 80 yards including a nice 38 yarder. The coverage units did a much better job time around.  Ryan Allen was solid and Stephen Gostkowski hit a difficult 47-yard field goal considering the conditions.

Coaching: A+

Bill Belichick had an absolutely masterful game plan and the players executed it flawlessly in the first half. The Chiefs were shut out at home for the first time all season and they held them to just 32 yards of offense. They would adjust and finally explode with a huge fourth quarter but that allowed the Patriots to play with the lead all game.

Josh McDaniels called another strong game. He knew where the Chiefs’ weaknesses were and the Patriots offense rolled up 524 yards while having a more than double time of possession advantage (43:50 to 20:53).

Brian Flores called another very good game as the Patriots defense held Kansas City to under 300 yards of total offense. Penalties hurt but those are part of the game. We’re on to Atlanta and Super Bowl 53.

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

Brady Engineers OT Drive To Lift Patriots in 37-31 Win Over KC

Steve Balestrieri
January 21, 2019 at 6:00 am ET

Patriots Heading to Atlanta For Super Bowl

It all came down to the coin flip. The Patriots and Chiefs battled like two heavyweight boxers for 60 minutes with each landing haymakers in the fourth quarter leaving the other battered and wobbly but still standing. It would go down to overtime. And there was little doubt that whoever got the ball first was going to score and move on.

And it just so happened that the Patriots won the toss and Matthew Slater emphatically told the referee, “We Want the Ball!” Once again Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and Julian Edelman worked their magic to lift the Patriots to the Super Bowl. The only way to ensure the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes wouldn’t score in OT was to not let them touch the ball. And that is exactly what they did. Rex Burkhead actually did the honors, running it in easily from the two-yard line but the three veterans came up huge in key third downs in the overtime.

But while we focused on the exhilarating fourth quarter, it would ignore another coaching gem from Bill Belichick. Belichick and the Patriots have faced the league’s top offense in the postseason five times and their record is now 4-1.

Faced with a team that can literally score at any place on the field and was outscoring opponents at home 49-0 in the first quarter, the Patriots could not afford to fall behind like that on the road in that stadium. So Belichick the coach showed why he is still the master at game planning going against his good friend Andy Reid who loves to script an early way to get his offense rolling.

The Patriots took the opening kickoff and stunned the crowd and the Chiefs defense by holding onto the ball for eight minutes before Sony Michel scored from the one-yard line. The Pats had already taken the Chiefs out of their game and they hounded and confused QB Pat Mahomes in the first half. Belichick essentially snuffed the Chiefs fast-break offense into a plodding half-court game.

They brought tremendous pressure up the A-Gap and unlike the first game in New England, this time they were getting home. The Patriots sacked Mahomes three times in the first half for 42 yards. Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower were getting in Mahomes face.

They did it by taking away the Chiefs two biggest weapons in Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce and made the Chiefs try to win with their secondary players…they almost did. But Hill had one catch for 42 yards which went for naught and Kelce had a quiet three catches for 23 yards.

The Patriots held the ball for over 20 minutes in the first half to the Chiefs 8:53, They outgained the Chiefs 245 to just 32 and led 14-0 at the break and if not for a bad and uncharacteristic mistake by Brady at the KC one-yard line, may have put the Chiefs away in the first half.

On third and goal from the one, Brady play-actioned passed to Rob Gronkowski in the end zone, but he threw short and Reggie Ragland intercepted him and the Chiefs got the ball at the 20.

The Patriots would score just 27 seconds before the half when Brady engineered a nice drive that began at the Patriots 10-yard line and covered 90 yards and began with 3:08 remaining. The big play was a huge 30-yard screen pass to James White that set them up at the KC 38 with 41 seconds left. On second and one from the 29, Brady threw a beautiful back-shoulder throw to Phillip Dorsett for a 29-yard touchdown.

But just like in New England in Week 6, the Chiefs offense awoke in the second half. On their opening drive, they faced a third and two from their 32. Mahomes had all day to throw and Sammy Watkins eventually slipped past Stephon Gilmore and Mahomes delivered a strike for 54-yards. On the next snap, he hit Kelce who got away with a push off at the five and the Chiefs were on the board and in business.

After holding the Chiefs deep inside their zone and forcing a punt, Julian Edelman returned it 13 yards to the KC 37. But the Patriots would only get eight yards on the ensuing drive and Stephen Gostkowski boomed a 47-yard field goal which, in those conditions was hardly a sure thing.

Kelce then got an iffy pass interference call on J.C. Jackson on third down on the ensuing KC drive at the Patriots 14 which put the ball on the one. Mahomes hit Damien Williams for a one-yard score to make it 17-14.

The Patriots drove to the Chiefs 25 but on fourth and one, Burkhead was stuffed by Daniel Sorensen. The teams traded punts and then disaster struck. After nearly muffing the punt at the 26, Julian Edelman let a Brady pass bounce off his hands and right into the hands of Sorensen who returned it to the NE 23. That set off a wild sequence of events to finish the game in regulation.

Two plays later, Mahomes hit Williams with a beautifully designed pass play where he scored easily from 23-yards to give the Chiefs the lead at 21-17. Brady went to work taking the Patriots another 75 yards for a score.

Facing a 3rd and 8 from the NE 45, Chris Hogan made a diving stab at the ball where he got it tucked in the crook of his arm and fell to the turf for a gain of 11. The play was challenged but upheld which would cost Reid and the Chiefs a valuable time out.

Burkhead had a run of 14 and Gronkowski got them back down inside the red zone with a catch for 11 before Sony Michel burst up the middle for a 10-yard touchdown. The Patriots had the lead back 24-21 with just 3:32 left in the game.

The Patriots had a turnover reversed when a Kelce fumble and recovery by Hightower was erased by a holding call on Jackson, who would then get hit with another pass interference penalty. From the NE 40, Mahomes then hit Watkins with a 38-yard pass play down to the NE 2. Williams rolled in for his third touchdown of the game to put the Chiefs back up 28-24 with 2:03 left.

Brady began the drive with a 20-yard BB to Edelman down the middle. On 3rd and 10, Brady was picked off but Dee Ford lined up offside, giving the Patriots new life. On 3rd and 5, Brady delivered a huge play to Gronkowski down the left sideline for 25 yards to the Chiefs four. On first and goal, Burkhead burst in from the four and the Patriots once again took the lead 31-28 (our prediction) with just 39 ticks left.

It would be more than enough for Mahomes to tie it up. First, he hit Spencer  Ware for 21-yards, then he delivered a 27 yarder to Demarcus Robinson with just 16 seconds left. A pass was overthrown out of bounds into the end zone where Harrison Butker kicked a 39-yard field goal to tie the wild fourth quarter up with just 8 seconds to go.

In overtime, Brady showed why you should never count the Patriots out. Facing a third and 10 from the 35, he hit Edelman with a huge 20-yard pass play where he took a big hit after coming down with the ball. The Patriots faced another big 3rd and 10 from the KC 45 and once again it was Edelman with a big catch for 15 yards down to the 30.

Once again, on 3rd and 10, Brady hit Gronkowski for 15 yards down to the Chiefs 15 and that old familiar feeling was creeping in that the Patriots were going to end this. Burkhead sliced up the middle for 10 yards down to the five. On first down, he carried to the two and on second down he easily powered in for the touchdown and the Patriots were going to their third Super Bowl in a row and their 5th in six years.

To look at the stat sheet, you’d have thought that this game was a blowout. New England outgained KC 524 to 290, had 36 first downs to 18 for the Chiefs, held the ball for 43:59 to the Chiefs just 20:53. The Patriots ran 94 plays to just 47 for KC.

The offensive line once again turned in an outstanding performance, the team ran for 176 yards of which Sony Michel ran 29 times for 113 yards and two TDs Burkhead carried 12 times for 41 yards and two TDs. Brady wasn’t sacked once and completed 30-46 for 348 yards with one score and the two picks. Edelman had seven catches for 96 yards. Gronkowski had six catches for 79 yards and was immense in the running game.

Mahomes finished 16-31 for 295 yards and 3 TDs but the four sacks he suffered put them back 46 yards. The Chiefs running game managed just 41 yards on 12 carries. Watkins had a big day with 114 yards on four catches.

This was a scrap that the Patriots got off to a big lead, and then had to claw and scratch their way to a huge victory on the road where the #1 seed and the home team was favored. And to do so, they got fantastic performances by Belichick, Brady, Edelman, Gronkowski, and Michel.

After all the questioning of this team seemingly all season, they are on their way to another Super Bowl. We’re on to Atlanta.

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 Report Card In Blowout Win Over the Chargers

Steve Balestrieri
January 15, 2019 at 7:00 am ET

Patriots Report Card In Blowout Win Over the Chargers

We said they needed to start fast and boy did the Patriots ever do that. When was the last time you saw domination like that in the playoffs? Answer… Never. No Patriots team has ever begun a playoff game with four touchdowns on their first four possessions.

This one was truly over at halftime but we’ll grade the team for the entire 60 minutes and it was something to see. This is the team that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing and unfortunately haven’t seen this year… until now.

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

Quarterback: A

This week Tom Brady heard the noise, many national types were saying this week against the Chargers was the end of the Patriots dynasty, the end of Brady-Belichick. The Bolts were going to put he and Rob Gronkowski into retirement mode.

Brady was fired up but more than that, he was on top of his game all day long. He saw that the Chargers were sticking with their soft zone Cover 3 look, a defense he’s shredded for his entire career and once again he gralloched it with ease.

He completed 34-44 for 343 yards and a touchdown and looked as sharp as he’s been all year. His best pass was in the fourth quarter. Derwin James had tight coverage on Julian Edelman and Brady lasered a BB down the field that Edelman turned into a 35-yard gain. His arm strength going? Watch that throw again. And again.

Don’t try to fight a lion if you’re not one yourself.

Running Backs: A

As we mentioned above, Brady and the Patriots have played this Gus Bradley Cover 3 zone defense in the past. Shane Vereen had a big day catching the ball in the Seattle Super Bowl, 11 catches 64 yards on 12 targets. The Atlanta Super Bowl, James White roasted them, 14-110 and a TD on 16 targets. Last year more of the same 14-15 for 163 yards. White was targeted 17 times on Sunday, he caught 15 passes for 97 yards.

Sony Michel gashed the Chargers run defense for 129 yards and 3 TDs on 24 carries. He had his longest run of the season a 40-yard scamper to boot. Rex Burkhead chipped in with a 6-yard touchdown run of his own. The running backs ran for 155 yards on the ground and were targeted 19 times in the game with 17 receptions for 113 yards.

When the Patriots ran out of their “21” personnel, they averaged nearly 7.0 yards per carry on Sunday. The Chargers linebackers were banged up and they were going with a light package and had no answer.

Wide Receivers: A

Julian Edelman was arguably the player of the game for the Patriots. Something to keep in mind, Edelman hasn’t played in a playoff game since the Super Bowl against Atlanta. And yes there were even whispers that he’s lost a step.

He cranked his game up a notch…actually two, and was fantastic. He had nine catches for 151 yards and he set the tone early in the game. On a third and short. Edelman caught the pass from Brady and appeared that he’d be tackled short of the sticks. But he broke the tackle and kept driving and picked up the first down. Soon after, the Patriots were in the end zone.  

During the game, Edelman moved into the #2 spot all-time for playoff receptions behind only Jerry Rice. He also moved into the top 10 all-time in receiving yardage in the postseason. And people still try to belittle his accomplishments by calling him a “slot receiver”… Oy vey. Not bad for an undersized option quarterback.

Tight Ends: B+

Rob Gronkowski dominated in the running game. With the Patriots trying to run the ball, Gronk showed why he’s a complete tight end and he was blowing people off the ball. He helped Cannon put Melvin Ingram on roller skates on Michel’s 40-yard run and for good measure drove Hayes Pullard to the sideline.

He caught one pass for 25-yards that was classic Gronkowski. He took the pass in, broke the initial tackle attempt and then ran over the next man. He drew a pass interference penalty in the end zone and helped clear out a ton of real estate for Phillip Dorsett, who was wide open for a touchdown.

Offensive Line: A

The offensive line had arguably their best game of the season and maybe of the past two seasons. The Chargers defense was no “tomato can”, they are a top 10 unit against the run and the pass. And the Patriots offensive line absolutely dominated the point of attack all day long.

Trent Brown and Marcus Cannon absolutely dominated the matchup against Ingram and Joey Bosa, they made life hell for Lamar Jackson a week ago. On Sunday, Brady had a clean pocket all game long and was only hit a couple of times.

In the running game, not only did they fire off the ball and get a great push, but the blocking downfield was outstanding. When your offense rolls up 500 yards against a Top 10 defense, it usually means one thing for the offensive line. Total domination.

Defensive Line: A

The Patriots defensive line had another outstanding effort in Sunday’s game. They held Melvin Gordon and the Chargers backs to just 19 yards on 10 carries. And once they stuffed the run, they had Philip Rivers forced into passing situations.

In the pivotal first half, Rivers was pressured on 70 percent of his throws. Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn (who had his best game as a Patriot) each had a sack. Flowers had another taken away on a ticky-tack penalty where he was blocked into the ground and thus hit Rivers low.

Adam Butler had some good quality snaps and provided good pressure on Rivers as he saw quite a bit of work with the running game shut down.  

Linebackers: A-

The Linebacking corps was also outstanding on Sunday. They were terrific in run support, the hardest hit of the day was Elandon Roberts down by the goal line where he had a tremendous collision with Gordon that sent the running back flying backward.

Kyle Van Noy was once again all over the field and he and Dont’a Hightower were constantly moving around in the “amoeba defense” which kept the Chargers guessing to where they were coming. Hightower was used in a pass rush mode often and created great pressure all game long.

John Simon saw quite a few snaps and was impressive, getting pressure on Rivers and stuffing Gordon for a loss.

Secondary: B+

Stephon Gilmore got fooled badly on the Bolts first possession where Rivers looked him into the middle of the field and Keenan Allen blew right by him for a 43-yard touchdown. But after that, he blanketed Allen and shut him down. Allen would catch only two passes, the other with Jason McCourty covering. Gilmore picked off Rivers with a very nice play in the second half where he got body position and went up and high pointed the ball.

Rookie J.C, Jackson had a very competitive game against the impressive Mike Williams who made some terrific catches with tight coverage. Jason McCourty had a bit of a rough day and gave up several long completions to the Williamses and a 30-yarder to Allen who caught it and went down at the one-yard line.

Pat Chung and Devin McCourty were very solid all game long. Rivers padded his stats with a lot of garbage time yardage and a pair of scores, but the defense was playing much different by then.

Special Teams: A-

The only blip on the special team’s radar was the opening play of the game. James Develin flubbed the kickoff out of bounds shy of the 17-yard line, where if he let it go, it goes out of bounds and the Pats get it at the 40-yard line.

The coverage units did a pretty good job on holding Desmond King in check and Stephen Gostkowski was a perfect 7-7 on his kicks.

Albert McClellan recovered a fumble that quickly turned the game into a blowout. He’s been outstanding since coming here in mid-season. Isn’t there a dweeb on sports radio that constantly pooh-poohs Belichick signing STs guys? That’s why you sign them.

Coaching: A+

Josh McDaniels called a heck of a game. The Chargers defense was kept guessing all day long and he knew exactly how to attack it and exploit the matchups. Bill Belichick had the players ready to go and they fired out of the gate better than they’ve played all season.

And please…stop with the “what happened in the second half?” nonsense. This game was over and Bill Belichick and McDaniels weren’t going to give Andy Reid and the Chiefs any other film to watch. They put it on cruise control and put the six-guns in the holsters and milked the clock.

Belichick and Brian Flores weren’t shy about challenging the talented Chargers and bringing the heat on Rivers. It was a tremendous game plan and flawlessly executed.

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

Best Of Social Media: Week 17 Jets vs Patriots

Robert Alvarez
December 31, 2018 at 3:52 pm ET

The New England Patriots entered their week 17 match up with the New York Jets seeking to lock up a first round bye heading into the playoffs.

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Let’s Go.

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Adapt & finish. #LFG

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GameDay!! #DARKGRIND!!

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In the first quarter, Tom Brady got James White involved early and the Patriots got on the board first.

https://twitter.com/Patriots/status/1079443109031759873

7-3 Patriots after one quarter of play following a Jason Myers field goal.

In the second, the Patriots began to pull away for good as Brady threw for two more touchdowns heading into halftime. This is 41.

21-3 Patriots at the half.

In the third, the defense got in on the scoring as Kyle Van Noy returned a football to the house for the second time in 2018. 28-3 Patriots through three.

https://twitter.com/NBCSPatriots/status/1079512110554505216

In the fourth quarter, the defense continued to shutdown Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold as Stephen Gostkowski tacked on a 38 yard field goal to push the lead to 31-3 to open the fourth quarter.

Another week, another milestone for Brady.

With three minutes to go in the game, head coach Bill Belichick elected to keep his starters in a bit longer, as Brady found his trusty squirrel for his final touchdown pass of the season.

The Patriots concluded the 2018 season with a dominating 38-3 win over the Jets and the second seed in the AFC Playoffs.

The Patriots will have two weeks to prepare for the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 13th at 1:05pm.

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W

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Forward. #OnToJanuary

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PatriotsThrottle the Jets 38-3 in Finale, Observations

Steve Balestrieri
at 6:42 am ET

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We’re on to the bye week… isn’t it crazy how perceptions change? The Patriots are considered to have had a downer of a season. And yet they’ve won 11 games are getting a bye in the first round of the playoffs because of their thumping of the Jets this afternoon in Foxboro.

Yes, before any of Negative Nancy’s are quick to remind everyone, which I’m sure the hot take artists already are…the Jets mailed this one in. This had none of the intensity we’ve come to expect from the Patriots-Jets games, however, that isn’t what’s important.

What is important, is that the Patriots had a job to do today and that was they had to take care of business, win the game to secure a bye week for the team and then prepare for the Divisional Round. Check and check.

Bill Belichick was happy, he was giving much longer answers than normal and despite his normal dour expression, knew that the team performed exactly as they should have. He said it best when discussing the game in his post-game presser when he asked about the significance of the win and the season.

“There were some good things, and there were some things that could’ve been better – but in the end, we are where we are,” Belichick said. “Essentially we won next week because we won today.” Boom… mike drop.

We don’t know how far this team will go, but we say that every year because the playoffs are a one-game elimination where anything can happen, but in the end, as Belichick said, they are where they are. That is one win away from an eighth consecutive AFC Championship Game.

On Friday we posted our keys to the game and key matchups where we broke down the game positionally. And we hit on some and missed on others.

But here are our observations from today’s game:

Brady Spread the Ball Around:

That doesn’t seem like a big point because it seemed like he always did that. But lately, he’d been too locked into certain players. Not so on Sunday. There was a much more even spread to things and that ended up with one of Brady’s best games in a while.

Brady finished 24-33 (72.7%) for 250 yards with 4 TDs and 0 INTs with a passer rating of 133.8, which was his highest rating since Week 3 of 2017 against Houston. Other than overthrowing a wide-open Chris Hogan in the end zone, he was very sharp and made several really nice throws, his best was the touchdown pass to Rex Burkhead for an 18-yard touchdown.

Chris Hogan, who we were about to put on a milk carton, was rediscovered in the offense today and was targeted 11 times and had six catches for 64 yards. He was wide open in the left half of the end zone where Brady badly overthrew him from the 18, or his numbers would have been even higher. But today was a very welcome sight.

Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett each had five catches, James White chipped in four as the production was spread around pretty evenly. Rob Gronkowski had two catches for 24 yards but had a 30-yarder wiped out by a penalty.

We said we wanted to see the ball spread around more…and they did exactly that. And when they do that, this offense is much harder to game plan around.

Running Game Still Clicked:

The Jets had a sound game plan this week, they knew the Patriots were going to try to run the ball, as they did against the Bills last week. And with the passing game scuffling, they were going to take their chances there. So, they were bringing a safety up into the box at the snap and by bringing that extra body up, made it harder for the running game to find the room at the line of scrimmage. But it opened up room in the passing game, where Brady (as we mentioned above) was very efficient.

But regardless, Josh McDaniels kept things moving along and still found ways to keep the running game going. The Patriots were still able to grind out 131 yards on 30 carries and before three Brian Hoyer kneeldowns, they were averaging 4.96 yards per rush. That creativity is what they’ll need in two weeks and beyond.

While Sony Michel had just 50 yards on 14 carries, he once again came very close to breaking a couple of deep runs. He finished off a very solid rookie regular season with 931 yards rushing and that was with no preseason action and in just 13 games.

The Jet sweeps called by McDaniels were once again very effective, a total of four for 40 yards. Two by Julian Edelman for 24 and two by Dorsett for 16. James White added a really nice 21-yard run in the mix.

Defense Did a Good Job of Keeping the Jets Out of the End Zone:

The Jets were banged up at wide receiver but Sam Darnold threw for nearly 350 yards and three scores last week against Green Bay. And regardless of who is on the field, you still have to make plays.

The run defense was solid all day, the only aberration was a scramble from Darnold that went for 28 yards. Elijah McGuire was bottled up for the entire first half, at one point having nine carries for nine yards, one of which went for 17, so he essentially had eight carries for -8 yards when the game was still in doubt. He ran better in the 2nd half but by then the Pats had gone to lighter fronts to get after Sam Darnold who was forced to throw more.

Darnold finished 16-28 for 167 yards with 0 TDs, 0 INTs and a passer rating of just 74.6. The Patriots were blanketing his WRs, especially Robby Anderson who was covered by Stephon Gilmore (3 catches, 24 yards). After that absolute stinker in Miami, the defense held Pittsburgh to 17 points, Buffalo to 12 (with a garbage time TD) and the Jets to three. That’s trending in the right direction.

Gilmore and Trey Flowers have had outstanding seasons. And the Pats secondary has been one of the strengths of the team this year. There is still some question about the middle of the DL in the running game, but with Danny Shelton back inside, we’ll see how that works out.

In the six games since they came off the bye, they’ve held all of their opponents (except Miami) to 17 points or less.

Turnovers Are Always a Welcome Sight:

The defense has been pretty opportunistic this season forcing 28 turnovers (18 interceptions, 10 fumble recoveries) the most the team has had since 2013. They forced three more on Sunday, Trey Flowers punched the ball out of McGuire’s hands in the first half, which they turned into a touchdown shortly after. Adam Butler knocked the ball out of Darnold’s hand which Kyle Van Noy scooped up and returned 46-yards for a TD (which will thrill a certain 2-6 radio show) and Jonathan Jones stripped the ball on the Jets final offensive play before Hoyer’s kneeldowns.

This is important because these things to tend to snowball one way or the other. When a defense isn’t getting any turnovers, they seem to go a long time without one. When a defense starts to get a bunch, that trend also seems to snowball…in a good way.

Another stat to consider is that the defense also had another 10 turnovers by stopping the opponent on downs.

Now We Wait …and Watch:

The Patriots came out of the game relatively unscathed, Devin McCourty suffered a concussion, but he’ll have two weeks to get ready for whoever gets the nod, and that game will be here in Gillette Stadium on Sunday, January 13 at 1:05 p.m.

The Patriots will play either the Texans, Ravens or Chargers, whoever is the highest remaining seed. The Patriots and the Chiefs get the bye and Kansas City, by clinching the top seed in the AFC will draw the lowest remaining seed.

The games should be interesting to watch this week, but we’ll be watching and trying to look at how this crazy 2018 NFL season continues to play out.

We’re on to the bye 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 the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news.

Patriots Week 16 Report Card, Hats and T-Shirts in Win Over Buffalo

Steve Balestrieri
December 25, 2018 at 7:59 am ET

The Patriots returned home and the results were much better than the previous two weeks as they clinched the AFC East with a 24-12 win over Buffalo. The defense held the Bills to just a pair of field goals until a late garbage-time touchdown, the offense rolled up 273 yards on the ground, and they got some splash from their special teams.

The win, coupled with the Texans loss vaulted the Patriots right back into the #2 seed and a bye if the season ended today. They could be the #1 seed amazingly enough, although both KC and the Chargers would have to lose and then the Pats beat the Jets.

But there was still a lot of sloppiness and they turned the ball over three times which can’t continue.

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

Quarterback: D

Tom Brady threw two interceptions, although neither was his fault. The first one had Rex Burkhead turn outside where Brady expected him to turn across the middle. The result was an easy pick for Lorenzo Alexander. The second was a short pass to Rob Gronkowski where the ball sailed right thru his hands…ditto Jordan Poyer.

The fact that the Pats only threw 25 passes wasn’t a bad thing considering the running game was pounding the ball against the Bills front seven. But with the running game so effective, the play-action passing game should have skewered Buffalo. It did not.

Brady was off on several throws which keeps giving rise to the rumors that his knee isn’t even close to 100 percent. Not one pass was completed beyond 5-6 yards past the line of scrimmage. The pass protection wasn’t great and although Brady moved and slid well in the pocket, he didn’t target Chris Hogan or Phillip Dorsett once. In 89 combined snaps they weren’t targeted at all.

Running Backs: B+

Sony Michel had a big day running the ball, piling up 116 yards in 18 carries. While he was getting good blocking up front (something that several media members hold against only him among running backs when he has a big day), the most impressive thing about his day was after contact. Michel kept his legs churning and carried the pile further for more yardage. It paid off with his touchdown run where he carried the pile into the end zone where he was contacted around the two-yard line.

James White had 41 yards on five carries but his 27-yard touchdown was a beauty. Facing a 3rd and 2, White sliced thru the line and broke to the outside and raced down the left side for a big touchdown run. He had just two catches for 13 yards on four targets in the passing game.

Rex Burkhead had a couple of good plays in both the passing and running games but was also involved in two turnovers. He got the ball punched out after catching a pass from Brady in the first half and then ran the wrong route across the middle leading to an easy interception. He took over for Michel down the stretch, in the kill the clock mode.

Wide Receivers: C

Julian Edelman contributed the only notable splash play in the passing game, catching a six-yard Brady pass on 4th and 4 from the Bills 32-yard line. He was tackled by two Bills defenders but landed on top of them and alertly rolled off and ran into the end zone for the touchdown. He was the only consistent target in the passing game for the WRs catching six passes for 70 yards on ten targets. But Edelman also had two costly penalties and a drop.

Cordarrelle Patterson was targeted twice in the passing game and had one catch for three yards. But Patterson was outstanding at running the ball on the Jet sweeps gaining 66 yards on 4 carries, using his speed to burn past Bills defenders.  Phillip Dorsett had 13 yards on two carries after Patterson tweaked his knee. One was blown up for a four-yard loss but the other was a nice 17-yard scamper.

But neither Dorsett or Chris Hogan was targeted once in the passing game…which is inexcusable.

Tight Ends: C-

Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen were both mainly excellent in the run blocking department, acting as an extra tackle and blowing Bills defenders off the ball which helped create nice running lanes for the running backs to follow.

But neither was a factor at all in the passing game. Gronk was targeted three times and zero catches. Worse, he had a pass zip right thru his hands on the first play of the second half which was picked off by Jordan Poyer.

Offensive Line: A-

The offensive line did a tremendous job in the running game. Considering that they piled up 275 yards rushing before Brian Hoyer’s kneel-downs, that is exactly what the doctor ordered. Shaq Mason got downfield and put a huge block on Lorenzo Alexander on White’s long touchdown run. Trent Brown consistently was putting Bills defensive end Eddie Yarbrough on roller skates.

But the pass protection was not great. Although Brady was only sacked once, he was under duress far too often in the pocket. And this was on a day where the passing game was dinking and dunking along.

Defensive Line: A-

This was a huge bounce-back game for the defensive line. Danny Shelton was back over the nose and although he made only two tackles, having a big man that cover the two gaps made everything go much smoother in run defense. Bills running backs gained on 42 yards on 13 carries which is a 3.2-yard average.  The Bills only gained 72 yards overall on the ground, a big improvement over the past few weeks.

Trey Flowers was disruptive all game and Lawrence Guy was his normal solid self. Newcomer Ufomba Kamalu played about a dozen snaps and dropped Shady McCoy for a four-yard loss on his first snap as a Patriot.  

Linebackers: B

The Patriots linebackers biggest responsibility in this game was to keep Josh Allen from running rough-shod over them in scrambling from out of the pocket. In the Bills past four games Allen ran for 351 yards out of the pocket when things broke down. In this one, he was able to scramble for only 30 yards on five carries.

Linebackers John Simon and Kyle Van Noy were both very good at staying home and cutting off any lanes for Allen to run.  

Secondary: A-

The secondary had only two blips in the game. In the first quarter, Robert Foster had beaten Stephon Gilmore cleanly down the right sideline and then lost a well-thrown ball in the sun. And Jason McCourty and J.C. Jackson collided on a crossing route late in the game allowing Zay Jones to be all alone for a 31-yard touchdown.  Other than that final garbage time drive, the secondary’s play was terrific.

Gilmore broke up a fourth-down pass to Foster in the first half and a 3rd and 3 to Jones in the second half. Jackson flashed great ball skills in picking off a pass which was a poor decision by Allen. He’s rapidly turning into a terrific player and a total steal.

Jason McCourty picked off a pass as well on a nice move. He also ripped the ball out of Jason Croom’s hands on the five-yard line. Pat Chung was a factor and making plays all over the field.

Special Teams: A-

The Special Teams had another strong game, Ryan Allen boomed a 55-yarder pinning the Bills back inside the 10-yard line. He pinned them inside the 20, three times. Julian Edelman had a beauty of a 25-yard punt return which set up a field goal. And Matthew Slater blocked a punt, the third in three weeks.

The only knocks were the final two kickoff returns by Patterson that were blown up by the Bills and Michel who filled in for him after he tweaked his knee, muffed the kick and then got stuffed at the 12. Julian Edelman took a dumb penalty and the second time he’s done this recently by calling for a fair catch and then blocking a gunner.

Coaches: B+

The Patriots coaching staff put the onus on the running game this week which Buffalo’s defense, the best at stopping the pass, was unable to cope with. They also put a premium on stopping Josh Allen from scrambling and opening up plays downfield, which they did quite well. And they obviously wanted to shut down Buffalo’s running game and force Allen into trying to beat them thru the air. They did that and the Bills showed they are incapable of doing that.

We’re on to the Jets…

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.