Tag Archives: Rex Burkhead

Patriots Players To Watch Against the Chiefs on Sunday

Steve Balestrieri
December 7, 2019 at 9:29 am ET

The Patriots take on the Kansas City Chiefs tomorrow afternoon (night) in a big AFC matchup between two of the best teams in the conference. The two meetings last season were fantastic right down to the wire contests with the Patriots holding serve at home 43-40 and then beating the Chiefs in overtime in the AFC Championship Game 37-31 at Arrowhead. 

While this one should be no less entertaining, we expect a lower-scoring affair this time around. The Patriots defense is much improved this season and the KC pass defense is also a lot better than the team that faced the Patriots in the AFC title game. 

So here are our Patriots players to watch in the game tomorrow. 

Tom Brady – 

Brady’s numbers are way down this year, but most of that has to do with the supporting cast. The Offensive line has been beset by injuries and struggled. The running game has sputtered and the revolving door at wide receiver has made life difficult. Is part of this on himself as well? Of course, but writing him off at this time of year is a fool’s errand.

But here we are. Brady always uses criticism and a big game as motivating factors. And there is plenty of both floating around this week (just listen to Boston sports radio) as the Pats gear up for the Chiefs.

We’re looking for Brady to have laser focus this week and play at his best, in what appears to be a great matchup of excellent quarterbacks as Patrick Mahomes is heating up at just the right time of the year.

Jonathan Jones – 

Jones is finally getting his due as one of the best slot cornerbacks in the league this season. He’s having an outstanding season thus far and has been one of the Patriots’ best defenders. He’s invaluable in a secondary that has shined. 

This week Jones is tasked with covering one of the fast players in the NFL in Tyreek Hill. The Chiefs offense is built for speed and no one is faster than Hill. If he gets a step at the line of scrimmage he can turn a play into a one-play touchdown drive. 

Jones was tasked with primarily covering him during the AFC Championship Game where the Patriots held him to just a single catch. But that catch went for 42 yards. That’s how fast (pardon the pun) things can change. 

Rex Burkhead – 

Most of us will be watching Sony Michel in the running game and James White in the passing game. However,  it is Burkhead who is kind of the “X-Factor” for the Patriots offense out of the backfield. He can do a bit of both and presents the offense with the versatility to run or catch that keeps the defense guessing.

In the AFC title game, Burkhead did just that with 12 carries in the running game and four catches out of the backfield. He scored the Patriots final two touchdowns, both on the ground which sent the Patriots back to the Super Bowl. 

Look for Burkhead to see quite a few snaps tomorrow afternoon.

Jamie Collins –

The Patriots brought back Collins this season specifically for games like this. Kansas City has a mobile quarterback that can move and throw the ball down the field. The Patriots defense needs an athletic player who can rush the passer but also give chase he begins to move in the pocket. 

Collins, this season is having an excellent overall year, worthy of a Pro Bowl selection. He was one of the players who were under the weather with the flu a week ago and was a bit on the invisible side down in Houston. 

With Collins’ athleticism, he can turn a game around on his own, and with the Patriots having to disrupt Mahomes’ passing game before he’s ready to throw the ball, we expect Collins to play a big role in their game plan.

Mohamad Sanu –

Sanu was brought over from the Falcons to help the struggling passing game. In his second game, and pretty much lost in the loss at Baltimore was Sanu’s 10-catch, 81-yard effort that showed some hope that things would be soon on the upswing. 

But an ankle injury suffered against the Eagles forced him out of that game and Sanu missed the Dallas game before returning against the Texans. Still not 100 percent he managed just 3 catches for 14 yards in Houston last week. 

Now, getting closer to being all the way back, Brady and the offense really need Sanu to bring his game up another notch and become the receiver that they need him to be. Look for Brady to go to Sanu early and often and to get him more involved in the offense this week.

Stephon Gilmore –  

Gilmore has had an outstanding season and cemented himself as the best corner in the NFL. He’s often put on an island with the opposing team’s best wide receiver.  Left to cover the opponent’s best alone, Jones has excelled. That is the trust that the coaches show in Gilmore as his pass defense has been outstanding all season. 

With the Chiefs Hill being tasked with Jones, the Chiefs bigger receiver Sammy Watkins will fall to Gilmore. Watkins had a huge game in January with 114 yards on four catches including a big 54-yarder. 

This will be another intriguing matchup to watch as Gilmore and Watkins tangle in what is looking to be a great battle. Another wrinkle in January was that the Patriots rotated Gilmore on Travis Kelce on third downs. We may see more of that this week as they try to take away Mahomes’ favorite target.  

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

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Patriots-Chiefs Week 14 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
December 6, 2019 at 6:42 am ET

The Patriots return home to Gillette Stadium for a big matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday afternoon.  This one has serious playoff implications for the AFC East and in the conference. 

The Patriots no longer control their own destiny for the AFC’s top seed, with the Baltimore Ravens holding the top seed virtue of the tiebreaker, beating New England head-to-head. And the Patriots lead over the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East has been decreased to just one game. The Bills and Ravens play each other on Sunday in Buffalo, so the opportunity to gain ground on one of them exists, but only if the Patriots can come away with a victory.  A loss to Kansas City would put them only a game behind New England in the conference.

With a win on Sunday night, the Patriots would win the 11th game of the year, marking 10 straight seasons with at least 11 wins, which is an NFL record.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Jim Nantz will handle play-by-play duties with Tony Romo as the color analyst. Tracy Wolfson will work from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (10-2) are returning home after losing to the Houston Texans 28-22 on Sunday night. 

The Chiefs (8-4) are coming off of a big 40-9 win over the Oakland Raiders. 

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

Series History:

The Patriots and Chiefs have been meeting since the early days of the AFL and used to meet twice a year from 1960 through the AFL-NFL Merger in 1970. The Chiefs hold an 18-14 series edge overall. At home, the Patriots are 11-7-2. Recently, however, either at Gillette or at Arrowhead, both teams hold a 5-1 advantage at home. The teams met twice last year with the Patriots holding serve at home 43-40 and then defeating the Chiefs in Arrowhead 37-31 in the AFC Championship Game.

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 had its best game of the season last week in Houston running for 145 yards. James White and Sony Michel combined for most of the production on the ground. However, a lot of that yardage came after Houston was comfortably ahead. But they did run the ball much more effectively there and against Dallas the week prior.

The Chiefs run defense is their biggest weakness and they allow a whopping 141.3 yards per game. One bright spot for them has been the play of Mike Pennel who spent training camp and preseason with the Patriots. 

This is a huge key to the game for the Patriots. With their offense struggling to score points, they need to establish the running game to keep the chains moving and to slow the game down. The Chiefs defense struggles to stop the run on first down and that is where the Patriots have to be consistent and get production. 

Look for the trio of running backs, Sony Michel, James White, and Rex Burkhead to get plenty of work as they try to establish the run and set up play-action passing against a KC defense that likes to pin their ears back and get after the QB.

Patriots WRs vs Chiefs Secondary – Razor’s Edge Kansas City

The Patriots passing game has sputtered in the second half of the season and it has become a case where the players are overthinking things, which slows down their game and ultimately has led to mental mistakes. Julian Edelman remains Tom Brady’s go-to guy and he’s been excellent, but opponents know that and have been doubling Edelman and then using a corner or safety on James White, essentially daring the Patriots to beat them elsewhere. 

The Chiefs pass defense is in the middle (16th) in the league allowing 230 yards per game. Their coverage has improved with four corners (Bashaud Breeland, Chavarius Ward, Morris Claiborne, and Kendall Fuller) providing depth. Tyrann Mathieu has solidified the safety position. New Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo likes to get after the QB and KC has racked up 34 sacks with Frank Clark, Chris Jones, Emanuel Ogbah, Tanoh Kpassagnon, and Alex Okafor all having good production. 

The Chiefs want to get opponents in obvious third-down passing situations, where their pass rush turns into ball-hawking opportunities. On 3rd down the Chiefs defense is 3rd in the league in sacks and 4th in turnover percentage. The Patriots desperately need secondary receivers not named Edelman or White to step up. Phillip Dorsett, Mohamad Sanu, Jakobi Meyers, N’Keal Harry with tight ends Ben Watson and Matt LaCosse need to step it up. If they continue their production as is, it will be a long afternoon again for the offense.  

Next up the Chiefs offense:

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

The Chiefs have a trio of their own at running back with Damien Williams, LeSean McCoy and Darrel Williams, but they are banged up right now. Darrel Williams was placed on IR and Damien has been bothered with a rib injury, McCoy leads the Chiefs with just 410 yards on the ground. The Chiefs average just 94 yards per game on the ground. 

The Patriots run defense has really looked much better the past two weeks with Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton anchoring down the front and not allowing opponents to get to the second level. We look for Andy Reid to try to get McCoy going against his old divisional foe just enough to keep the defense honest, but this is a matchup the Patriots should be able to win. 

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

The Chiefs passing game unlike New England’s is built for speed. Patrick Mahomes has Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, and Mecole Hardman who can all go to the house if they get the ball in space. Mahomes’ main target is Travis Kelce who leads the team with 68 receptions, 928 yards with four TDs. Mahomes has 20 TD passes against just two interceptions this year. 

The Patriots secondary has been outstanding this year, however, last week in Houston they allowed four TD passes after just allowing only four all season. Stephon Gilmore and Jonathan Jones will be stressed this week, it would help matters to have Jason McCourty back this week as well. The pass rush will have to be better this week and trying to force Mahomes to get rid of the ball before he’s ready to. 

Mahomes is in his third year, (2nd as a starter). The Patriots were able to confuse him at times last year, but those days are coming to an end as he’ll recognize more and more of what they’ll be trying to do. Which is why they pass rush is so important this week. If the Chiefs turn this into a track meet, they’ll put up a boatload of points. 

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Kansas City

The Patriots special teams doesn’t have a kicker (Thursday afternoon), will they be going with Jake Bailey kicking and Jarrett Stidham as the holder this week? Bailey has been outstanding punting this season and the coverage units superb.

Kansas City has Harrison Butker who is 25-29 on FG attempts this season. Three of his four misses were beyond 50 yards. Dustin Colquitt is having a great season with just two touchbacks on his 39 punts. The Chiefs coverage units have been outstanding. 

Next up, who wins and why…

The Patriots are looking to improve to 11-2 and this one may be of more importance to them than the Chiefs. They have their division pretty much locked in having beat Oakland twice and up essentially three games with four to go.  

Keys to the Game from a Patriots Perspective:

Run, Run, Run the Ball – The Patriots have to take the pressure off the passing game and give them much more manageable third downs this week. They have to run the ball, slow the game down and allow them to dictate the pace and tempo. 

Kansas City’s run defense is poor and running effectively will bring up those linebackers and make them susceptible to play-action passing, which hopefully, will allow those struggling secondary receivers to get some needed separation this week.  

The Defense Can’t Allow 1-Play Drives – The Patriots defense has to make the Chiefs chip away and move slowly down the field, a small piece at a time. In both matchups last season, the Chiefs ate them up with big plays in the second half. This year, the Chiefs are among the best first-half teams in football and get off to fast starts. 

The defense will get stressed by the speed of this offense and they’ll need to weather the storm. Being physical at the line of scrimmage and challenging the Chiefs WRs is a difficult proposition. But allowing them a free release off the line is a recipe for disaster.

Time to Revisit the Turnover Machine  – This is the time for the Patriots to get some turnovers rolling again. With the offense struggling to score points, they’re going to need help from the defense or special teams to get them some cheap points either through a fumble or a rare Mahomes interception.

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Prediction: 

This should be another great matchup between Andy Reid and Bill Belichick. The Chiefs struggled early this season, but are healthy now and rolling along looking better every week. The Patriots, on the other hand, were rolling early but are struggling now going 2-2 in their last month. 

I’m going to drink the Kool-Aid this week and say, that at home, the Patriots and the offense find a way to slap some points together. They’ll start to get who they are offensively figured out a bit and play much better. The defense will get a key turnover and get that one big stop as they hold serve at home.  Patriots  27-24

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” heads back out on the road next week to take on the Cincinnati Bengals. 

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

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

 

New England Patriots News 12-01, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
December 1, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 12-01 and AFC East notes this week. 

Gameday! The Patriots are on the road to face the Houston Texans later tonight on Sunday Night Football. And after three bad weather games in the past four, the Patriots will be playing indoors.

But first, we hope everyone had a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving holiday surrounded by family, food, and football. I was exceptionally blessed to be surrounded by all three. Thanksgiving morning I was lucky enough to cover and shoot a highschool game between long-time rivals Grafton and Millbury since I also work for each of the respective town’s newspapers. 

These small-town, early morning Turkey day games are so distinctly New England in their flavor, it would make a great Norman Rockwell painting and sets the tone for the entire day. And what a game this year, two outstanding coaching staffs, great kids and a great game that went right down the wire. It was more entertaining (for me anyway) than much of what I watched later on television. That’s what I was thankful for. 

Great high school game on Thursday set the tone for the weekend

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

M*A*S*H* Unit – The Patriots have over a third of their roster either out or questionable for tonight’s game against the Texans as the flu bug has ravaged the unit (Thanks Dallas) this week. The latest to go down was LB Kyle Van Noy who missed practice on Friday.  With one player ruled out (As of Friday night) Ryan Izzo, and 17 questionable, the list of inactive players will be scrutinized closely later tonight.

Kai Forbath – The veteran kicker is the 4th player to play the position in 2019 after Nick Folk suffered appendicitis and was released. Forbath has played for Washington, New Orleans, Minnesota, and Jacksonville. 

Forbath’s signing means that the team has had more kickers (4) in the past eight weeks than they did in the previous 23 years. Other than the final eight games of 2010 when Stephen Gostkowski was injured, the Patriots have had either him or Adam Vinatieri at the helm. 

Julian Edelman – The Patriots veteran WR has one of the most entertaining social media accounts out there. From his “cop” videos with Danny Amendola to others, it is always a must-see for Patriots fans. He didn’t disappoint on Thanksgiving having photoshopped the famous Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving Day painting and adding Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick, Sony Michel, Chase Winovich, Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, Devin McCourty and of course his BFF Tom Brady.  

Edelman 2: Edelman on Friday was in a Star Wars state of mind. NESN’s Zach Cox wrote that the WR was asked about his leadership style when in the meeting room with the young Patriots WRs. Edelman didn’t disappoint. 

“I don’t think Yoda would go out there and tell his secrets of how he trains Jedis,” Edelman said. “So I’m not saying anything, buddy.”

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

It is That Time Again, Post-Thanksgiving Run: 

Bill Belichick has always said that you don’t really know what you have in a football team until after Thanksgiving. Well… here we are. The Thanksgiving tryptophan coma is in the books and tonight will the first game in the month of December. 

This is when the Patriots have traditionally have turned things up a notch and began to tighten things up for the stretch run and hopefully a long post-season run. Not that the team has a lot of things to tighten up on, being 10-1 entering Week 13. 

But with the Ravens right behind them in the AFC (with the tie-breaker) and the Bills playing really good football at 9-3, they can ill-afford any slip-ups. Especially with Chiefs awaiting after the Texans game and the Bills on tap soon after that. 

Tom Brady spoke about these things on Friday in his press conference and echoed that this is the time of year, for the team to take it up a notch. 

“Yeah, this is an important time of year for every team and the teams that are fortunate enough to really still be in it,” Brady said.

“This is the time where you’ve pretty much seen what you can do and what the other teams can do and the roles guys play and so forth. So, we’ve got to – we’re playing some really good teams, and this is the one that matters the most is the one that we’ve got ahead of us. It’s a great football team, well-coached, very good on offense, very good on defense. They don’t beat themselves, they’re explosive. It’s just a great football team. So, a big challenge for us, Sunday Night Football. I’m sure they’re going to give us everything they’ve got, and hopefully, we can go match it.”

Situational Football Practicing Pays Off:

The Patriots are always practicing situational football and while many teams pay it lip service, not many will practice it with the intensity that Bill Belichick’s teams do…and it highlights the sometimes razor-thin difference between winning and losing. 

Sunday’s game against the Cowboys was a prime example. There is a reason the Patriots practice outside in all weather conditions and Belichick frequently will douse the footballs with water, making it as difficult as possible in practice. Because they won’t blink if it happens in the game. 

With the very tough weather conditions on Sunday and in a tight defensive game, it became a field position, situational football game. The Patriots were very prepared for it, Dallas was not. Belichick knew that they couldn’t turn over the ball and may need a turnover or two to win. They got it and never put the ball on the ground. Dallas had one turnover and nearly had several others.

Just a look at how each team handled the kicking game was quite telling. The Patriots kicked off short and while the wind played tricks on the returners, the Cowboys nearly turned the ball over a few times. The Patriots left their deep man back and had a returner at about the 15-yard line in case of the same issue. 

The conditions on the field were such that practicing in conditions like this played in NE’s favor. Photo: SBalestrieri

Wonder why they always have so many guys practicing returning punts in practice? Late in the 3rd quarter, Rex Burkhead made a fair catch of the ball in the wind giving the Patriots excellent field position. No big deal right? Wrong. Burkhead, who had never fielded a punt in the NFL, had been practicing for this type of situation since training camp. New England got a field goal on the ensuing possession. 

And of course, Matthew Slater with a huge block of a Cowboys punt deep in their own end gave the struggling offense the ball at the 11-yard line. The result of which was a Patriots touchdown, the only one of the game. Chess-checkers. 

Patriots Players to Watch Tonight: 

With the Patriots in Houston tonight, we’ve compiled our list of players to watch in the game. This list will also be matched against who is available as 17 players are questionable for this one. 

Tom Brady – The Patriots QB hears the same drivel every year at this time from the hot take artists that he’s done, he’s in decline, yada, yada, wash, rinse and repeat. With the OL getting back together, and his #2 and #3 receivers possibly being back and his 1st round draft receiver getting back into the lineup, things are trending up. 

And this is a great week for turning things up a notch (as we stated above). With everyone talking about Deshaun Watson this week, Brady would love to stick a fork in all that with a big game against the Texans. The feeling here is that he will. 

Stephon Gilmore – The Patriots corner is making people rethink that Revis Island stuff we were all saying a few years ago. He’s been the best corner in the league for a couple of years now and is facing another daunting task of covering DeAndre Hopkins.

This is nothing new for the soft-spoken Gilmore, which is even rarer among NFL corners as they tend to be the bombastic, diva types. But his matchups with Hopkins, among the very best WRs in the league will be areas to watch all night.  Where are all those people who lamented paying Gilmore all that money over Malcolm Butler in 2017? 

Sony Michel – The Pats 2nd-year RB had a very solid game against the Cowboys last week. And it wasn’t just in the number of yards it was the way he ran. He hit the holes quickly and made a number of good cuts as well as got good yards after contact. 

Running against a middling Texans run defense, look for the Patriots to get Michel involved early this week to set up play action. Do you think Sony liked running behind his old college teammate at crunch time? 

Lawrence Guy – The Patriots’ very good and very underrated big man on the defensive line has had a couple of very good games back-to-back against the Eagles and Cowboys.

With the RPO (run, pass option) of the Texans and a very good Houston rushing offense, Guy will need a big game again. Look for him and fellow teammate Danny Shelton to try to penetrate inside to disrupt the timing and flow of those RPOs. 

Isaiah Wynn – Wynn made a nice return to the field this past week and had a solid game against the Cowboys. He looks like a player far beyond making just his fourth start in the NFL. The Patriots have put a lot of faith in him as their LT of the future and down the stretch and in the playoffs he can justify all of that faith. 

After what we saw in crunch time against Dallas, look for the Patriots to utilize him and Joe Thuney in the running game with TE Ben Watson more and more as they’ll attempt to run to the left in this one tonight. 

NFL Schedule Week 13, Who Are Your Winners:

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

Last Week: 11-3
Season:116-59-1

Thanksgiving Day Football 1-2
Detroit over Chicago
Dallas over Buffalo
New Orleans over Atlanta  

Indianapolis over Titans
NY Jets over Cincinnati
Carolina over Washington
49ers over Baltimore
Jacksonville over Tampa Bay
Cleveland over Pittsburgh
Green Bay over NY Giants
Philadelphia over Miami
LA Rams over Arizona
LA Chargers over Denver
Kansas City over Oakland
SNF New England over Houston
MNF Seattle over Minnesota

Bye week: No teams

No AFC Notes this week, we’ll bring those back next week. 

________________

Yeah, they’ve been great. Joe’s got a lot of leadership, obviously ,and more experience, but Jake’s mature beyond his years. He’s handled everything as well or better than I could imagine anybody at his age and his experience level handling it, from the punts to the field goals to the holding to the kickoffs. He’s done a great job for us. They’ve both played great.”Bill Belichick being asked about the way Jake Bailey and Joe Cardona have handled the situation working with different kickers

________________

“So, how was your week?”

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

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

 

Best Of Social Media: Week 11 Patriots vs Eagles

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

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

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

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Patience… ⏱

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

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One step at a time. #GameDay

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

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

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

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

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LFG #trenches

A post shared by Lawrence Guy (@thatlguy) on

 

10-9 Philadelphia at the half.

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

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

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#WeKeepGoing

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

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

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

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

A post shared by Mohamed Sanu Sr. (@mohamedsanu) on

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

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https://www.instagram.com/p/B4_cUODnF2P/

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Road win! 🤟🏾

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when it’s breezy, swing easy 🌬

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Focus

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Patriots Players To Watch, Week 11 Against the Eagles

Steve Balestrieri
November 15, 2019 at 8:31 am ET

The Patriots are on the road again and are taking on the Philadelphia Eagles after their bye week. The Eagles always seem to give the Patriots a tough matchup and we all remember SB LII which Philly won 41-33.

Don’t be fooled into believing this is a weaker or middle of the road Philadelphia team by their 5-4 record at this point in the season. Many picked them to be one of the teams to fight for the NFC crown this season. To be sure they were very inconsistent earlier this year, but enter winning two games in a row over the Bills and Bears before having their own bye week last Sunday. Both teams have had two weeks to prepare. 

Here are our Patriots players to watch this week as they try to improve to 9-1 on the season against the Eagles. 

Mohamad Sanu: 

The Patriots wide receiver has played in just two games with his new team but has already exhibited a familiarity and chemistry with Tom Brady that belies how little time he’s had here. He’s had 12 catches in his first contests with New England and he and Julian Edelman should provide a very potent duo that the Patriots can move inside or outside depending on the matchups.

Sanu fulfilled a need for another wide receiver to step up in this offense and the feeling is, that they are just scratching the surface of his potential thus far. We look for Sanu being targeted early and often against an Eagles secondary that has had its issues this season, although they are getting healthy now. 

Sanu has already proven to be a great fit for the Patriots offense. Now with the meat of the schedule here, is his chance to show how good he can be. Barring any health concerns, he should be in line for a career-high in receptions. A big game against the Eagles would be a nice way to kick off the second half of the season.

Pat Chung:

Chung has been limited in practice this week after missing last week’s only two bye-week practices, suffering from heel and chest injuries. Chung is tremendously versatile in the Patriots defense, doing a bit of everything. Bill Belichick has said continuously how valuable Chung has been in his second stint with the team.

Chung is especially needed this week. Philadelphia has two excellent tight ends in Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. Ertz is the Eagles go-to guy on 3rd down and covering him will probably fall to Chung, which is no easy task. 

Being able to limit Ertz’s effectiveness (notice we didn’t say shut down), will go a long way in giving the Patriots the advantage for the defense in being able to slow down and stop this Eagles team from scoring. Chung, if he’s available will be that guy. 

Julian Edelman:

We always seem to put Edelman in there because, after Tom Brady, he’s the most indispensable player on the roster. While the debate can rage across the NFL on whether Edelman is HOF worthy or is he a #1 WR, the fact is, in the Patriots offense, he IS their #1 WR and go-to guy in the passing game. 

Edelman has been banged up since the first half of the first Jets game (eight weeks ago) but is as tough as they come in the league. He’s absolutely fearless in going across the middle and doing the dirty work underneath, which is why the Patriots have had so much success in the past few years. 

Edelman will continue to be the focal point of the Patriots offense as well as the guy to stop for the Philadelphia defense. It is the matchup within the matchup that makes the game so fascinating.  

Jamie Collins:

The Patriots linebacker had an outstanding first eight weeks of the season, worthy of Defensive MVP consideration. Two weeks ago against the Ravens, he wasn’t put in a great position to succeed early in that game and he as well as the rest of the defense was gashed. 

While the Eagles use the run/pass option concepts in the running game and have a mobile quarterback of their own (Carson Wentz), it is a pretty different offense than the one the Patriots faced in Baltimore. However, with several excellent running backs and good WRs and TEs, they are no less a formidable task.

We look for Collins to get back on track as being a dominant, disruptive force on the Patriots defense. Look for him to be very aggressive this week as they look to get back to where they had been playing. 

Rex Burkhead: 

This is shaping up to be a game where the Patriots are throwing more than running. Philadelphia’s rush defense is excellent and is 4th best in the NFL. So, with Sony Michel presenting more of a one-dimensional threat at this point of his career, we expect to see more of Burkhead and James White in the backfield this week. 

Burkhead gives the Patriots a little bit more of a versatility factor in the offense. While he’s neither a great runner nor a great receiver, he’s very good at both. And they’ll need that versatility to keep the Eagles defense honest and keep them guessing. 

Look for his role to increase, similar to what we saw down the stretch last year and in the postseason. If he can stay healthy and on the field, he’ll see a lot more reps, which will hopefully get the running game going a bit more.    

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

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

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

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

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Jim Nantz will handle play-by-play duties with Tony Romo as the color analyst. Tracy Wolfson will work from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

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

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

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

Series History:

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

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

 

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next up the Eagles offense:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Philadelphia

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

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

Next up, who wins and why…

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

Keys to the Game from a Patriots Perspective:

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

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

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

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

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

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Prediction: 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sorting out the Patriots Issues During the Bye Week

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

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

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

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

The Team Needs to Fix Their Red Zone Production:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s why they play the games…  

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

 

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Patriots Week 9 Report Card, Defense Struggles in 37-20 Loss to Baltimore

Steve Balestrieri
November 5, 2019 at 8:26 am ET

Patriots are 8-1 at the Bye Week

The Patriots weren’t going undefeated, we’ve been saying it all year since the summer but yet people continued to predict it like it is a walk in the park. Think about this, it has only been done twice in the past 50 years and four times in 100 seasons of the NFL.

The point is they were bound to have a game where they were making too many mistakes and ran into a hot team. Earlier on Sunday, I watched Green Bay scarcely resemble the team they’ve been all year play sluggishly on the road in LA. And wondered if it was the Patriots’ time. Baltimore, rested after a bye week was the perfect storm and pretty much kicked the Patriots defense behind all game long. 

So, please stop with the over the top reactions to a single loss. Although some of them were unintentionally hilarious.  Check out our grades and see how the team fared in this week’s game in Baltimore.

Quarterback: B-

Tom Brady got off to a rough start but was able to get it going in the second and third quarters when the team went to the hurry-up, up-tempo offense. Brady finished 30-46 for 285 yards with a touchdown and an interception. 

Brady put the team on his back when they were trying to dig out from the big hole they got in and targeted Edelman and Sanu almost exclusively in this one. Everyone else was an afterthought. The best throw of the night was his 30-yard completion to James White, however. 

Running Backs: C-

The running game either by design or the way the game unfolded early was relegated to the back burner on Sunday night. We said in our pregame keys that we thought they’d eschew the ground game for the most part and try to attack Baltimore through the air. 

They ran just enough to keep the defense honest and ended up with just 17 carries for 74 yards (4.2-yard average). While no one stood out as outstanding, neither did anyone stand out badly either. Going into a 17-0 hole in the first quarter will take an offense out of their game plan if indeed they did plan on running more. 

James White had the most production out of the group with 38 yards on 9 carries. He tripped and ended up just short of the goal line just before the half where the team actually had a chance to tie the game up. He later added a touchdown. 

Wide Receivers: B

Julian Edelman and Mohamed Sanu were both featured in this one and it is easy to see that Sanu is going to fit this offense quite well. Edelman was targeted 11 times and had 10 catches for 89 yards. Sanu was targeted 14 times and had 10 catches for 81 yards and a touchdown, his first as a Patriot. 

Sanu in just his second week on the team has already been determined to having the trust factor with Brady. In our keys, we also thought that both he and Edelman would have good games with the short quick passing game against the Ravens secondary.

Edelman’s fumble hurt. After crawling out of a 17-point deficit, the team actually had the chance to take the lead early in the 3rd quarter, the idea of which seemed ridiculous earlier in the game. It happens. Give the Ravens defense the credit there. It flipped the momentum right back into their corner. They didn’t relinquish it again.

Phillip Dorsett had just two catches. Jakobi Meyers played one snap. White, Burkhead and Michel had only four combined catches out of the backfield.

Tight Ends: C

Ben Watson went the distance for the Patriots at tight end and had four catches for 28 yards on five targets. Ryan Izzo was active but didn’t play a snap. Watson played pretty well but did have a drop on a contested 2nd-down catch, that set up the 3rd and 10 play where Brady was picked off deep. 

The team can’t expect Watson to play all the snaps down the stretch at 38-years old and will need somebody else to step up. 

Offensive Line: C

The offensive line got back Shaq Mason this week although he didn’t play particularly well in his return. Marcus Cannon did have arguably his best game of the season. After a tough start, the line did a decent job of pass protection when the team decided to spread out the defense and go up-tempo. But although they gave up just two sacks, 10 QB hits is a lot, but considering the score, it could have been worse.

The run blocking was fair enough this week, the Ravens are a tough team to run against and they didn’t really ever get the chance to establish anything considering the early deficit. But the 4.2-yard average was better. 

 Defensive Line: C-

The defensive line struggled for the first time this year against an opponent. There wasn’t anything exotic, the Ravens didn’t scheme up some things that they hadn’t seen before. They just lined up and played very physical. What did give the line problems was the option plays where Jackson stuck the ball in the hands of a back and either kept it or left it depending on the play of the defense. They never really figured that out.

Baltimore’s running game, especially Mark Ingram gashed the Patriots for 210 yards on 41 carries. Ingram had 115 yards on just 15 carries. The team also did a much poorer job of setting the edge, it is rare to see a back or QB turn the corner and see no one there. It happened more than once. 

The group was able to generate just one sack and three QB hits.  

Linebackers: C

The linebackers had their most lackluster game of the season. Dont’a Hightower’s fiery speech on the sidelines lit a fire under the group for a bit and their play improved…for a bit. He led the team with 13 tackles and one tackle for loss, something the unit had precious little of on Sunday night. Kyle Van Noy had a solid game, providing backside coverage when Lamar Jackson would cut back. 

Jamie Collins had a rough game, getting taken in on those option plays by Jackson early, he certainly wasn’t alone. Elandon Roberts struggled as well.   

Secondary: B

The secondary wasn’t really tested by the Ravens wide receivers, mainly out of design. They passed for only 163 yards because their running game was a difference-maker for them. When they did pass it was to the tight ends. 

Stephon Gilmore matched up with Marquise Brown who had three catches for 48 yards. Willie Snead had two grabs for 15. That was it for the wide receivers. The tight ends did the damage with Nick Boyle, Mark Andrews, and Hayden Hurst combining for 9 catches for 63 yards and a score. On the surface, it doesn’t add up to much, but it seemed every catch was a key first down.  

Special Teams: B+

Nick Folk gets passing marks this week, he made both extra points and both chip shot field goal attempts. It is a strange night when Justin Tucker misses an extra point or field goal but he did although it didn’t hurt the overall scheme of things. 

Brandon Bolden did well in the kick return game and the coverage units were outstanding. Lost in the hot takes of the dynasty crumbling was the STs coverage units. This was easily their best game of the year. The Ravens averaged just 12.7 yards on kick returns and 3.5 yards on punts. They forced a fumble on a Cyrus Jones muff and recovered by newcomer Justin Bethel. 

Jake Bailey continued his stellar rookie season, averaging 46.6 yards per punt while dropping three inside the 20. 

Coaches: C

The Patriots coaching staff didn’t have the team properly prepared to handle the Ravens running game, especially those options by Jackson. As Bill Belichick said after the game, they didn’t do anything well enough to win, coaching, playing, or preparation.

The offense played in “11 personnel” all game long and it is a head-scratcher when the team has struggled all season long to find a viable red-zone target for Tom Brady and you have a big 1st-round draft pick at WR who is inactive for a tight end that you didn’t play a single snap.   

There will be plenty of self-scouting to do this week before they take off for a few days during the bye week before preparing for Philadelphia.   

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

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

 

Patriots – Browns Week 8 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
October 25, 2019 at 7:29 am ET

The Patriots return home to take on the Cleveland Browns with the opportunity to close out the halfway point of the season 8-0 for the third time in team history. The Patriots defense has been playing at a historically high level and is facing a Browns’ team that can be explosive in both the running and passing games.

With a win on Sunday, Bill Belichick will join the 300 club, it will be the 300th win of his career, which he started with the Browns, earning his first victory against the Patriots.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ Channel 4 on Sunday, October 27 at 4:20 p.m.. Jim Nantz will handle play-by-play duties with Tony Romo as the color analyst. Tracy Wolfson will work from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (7-0) beat the New York Jets 33-0. The defense intercepted Sam Darnold four times and collected two fumbles. Sony Michel rushed for three touchdowns.

The Browns (2-4) are coming off  their bye week. 

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

Series History:

The Patriots and Browns are meeting for the 25th time with Cleveland holding a 13-11 overall advantage. The Patriots have won the past five matchups at home however. 

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 Browns Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Cleveland

This is a matchup that the Patriots should dominate. Cleveland is allowing a whopping 154 yards a game on the ground, including 5 yards a carry. While Cleveland does a great job in getting after the QB, their run defense has been gashed. 

However the Patriots running game remains mired in mediocrity in 2019. Sony Michel did rush for three touchdowns last week, but was held to just 42 yards on 19 carries. The offensive line is not opening up nearly enough holes for him to run effectively. Hopefully, the team will get Rex Burkhead back from yet another injury. Burkhead has been the teams’ most effective back overall this season. 

Look for the Patriots to try to establish the run in this game by hitting the running game between the tackles. But until we see signs of it improving on the field, the feeling here is that they will continue to scuffle along.                     

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

The Patriots passing game is going thru another change. The injured Josh Gordon has been placed on IR and is to be released as soon as he’s healthy. The team traded for Mohamed Sanu this week and he, Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers will be the team’s WRs this week. With Ben Watson at tight end and James White and possibly Burkhead and Brandon Bolden out of the backfield, Tom Brady will have plenty of places to throw the ball.

The Browns have been excellent at getting after the quarterback this season with 19 sacks, nine of them by Miles Garrett. They’ve had injuries at cornerback but both Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams are expected to be back this week.

Look for the Patriots to give the struggling LT Marshall Newhouse some help this week against Garrett. Brady, as always will try to get the ball out quickly and get his chemistry going with Sanu who will work out of the slot with Edelman and outside. Protection is the key here.

Next up the Browns offense:

Browns RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Cleveland

Cleveland has the explosive Nick Chubb at running back. He’s gained over 600 yards this season while averaging 5.3 yards per rush and has six touchdowns. The Browns average nearly 120 yards per game on the ground.

The Patriots run defense has been very good overall allowing just 74.7 yards per game on the ground. Danny Shelton, Lawrence Guy, Deatrich Wise, and Adam Butler have done a terrific job at stopping the run at the point of attack and allowing the linebackers to clean up and make plays.

Chubb will get his yards this week, Frank Gore and Le’Veon Bell had good games against the Patriots front seven as well. But will Cleveland be able to run effectively enough to control the game? The feeling here is no. 

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

The Browns have some very explosive wide receivers in Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry along with Chubb out of the backfield. That’s the word that we’ve heard coming out of the Patriots side of the house all week. However, Baker Mayfield has struggled with turning the ball over, throwing 11 interceptions already this year. 

The Patriots defense has garnered 25 sacks and 18 interceptions so far this season. They’ve varied the pass rush and the pressure has forced opposing QBs into making far too many mistakes. They also boast an extremely sticky cornerback group who has the ability to shut down the opposition. Beckham Jr. and Stephon Gilmore ought to be the most intriguing matchup of the game. Landry who guaranteed victory in his pregame trash talk will face either Jason McCourty or J.C. Jackson. 

Cleveland’s pass protection of Mayfield has been a mess this season. We’ve read that they’ve toyed with changing players in multiple positions during the bye week. We may not see as many of the “0 blitzes” this week, but with the varied pressure they can bring on the QB, I’d expect to see the defense trying to force Mayfield into making more mistakes this week.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots already solid special teams has just received a boost this week when they signed All-Pro ST/S Justin Bethel who was released by the Ravens. He joins Matthew Slater, Brandon Bolden and others in an excellent unit. Mike Nugent has solidified the kicking game while rookie Jake Bailey is having an outstanding rookie season. 

The Browns Austin Seibert hasn’t missed a FG this year (8-8), while Jamie Gilan was the STs Player of the Month for September. Dontrelle Hilliard gives Cleveland good return ability. The Patriots at home get the nod here and look for Joe Judge to give Bethel a chance to shine this week..  

Next up, who wins and why…

The Patriots are looking for the third 8-0 start in team history. Bill Belichick can earn his 300th career win with the team he earned his first head coaching win a long time ago.With a national television audience, this should be a great game to watch. 

Keys to the Game from a Patriots Perspective:

Continue the Turnover Machine – Look for the Patriots defense to try to force Mayfield into making mistakes. No one has thrown more interceptions than he has in the early going this season. By mixing up the pass rush and coming from all different angles, they can pressure an offensive line that has been terrible at protecting its quarterback. They’ll mix up their coverages and show the Browns something different than they’ve seen on tape. 

The Running Game is Key This Week: The Browns haven’t been good at defending the run. One way to slow down that pass rush of theirs is to run the ball effectively. If Sony Michel isn’t getting it done, then they should rotate Burkhead or Bolden in more.

On the flip side, limiting Chubb’s effectiveness, puts the onus more on Mayfield’s shoulders. He’s going to get things figured out eventually, and with the WRs they have, their offense will be very good. Just ensure it isn’t this week.

Play a Clean Game: The Patriots can’t allow the Browns to get any short fields for their offense and must protect the ball. Can the Browns generate enough offense on their own to win this game? I’d say no if you’re going by how this season has played out. 

Another area to monitor is the flags. The Patriots have been getting flagged more this season it seems than other years. The coaches need to get that cleaned up before it hurts the team in a key situation

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Prediction: 

The Patriots defense has been playing at an insanely high level this season. We look for that to continue. Mayfield hasn’t done a good job of protecting the ball and that should once again rear its ugly head in this one. Look for Brady to work the short area of the field with Edelman, White and more of Ben Watson this week. It will be interesting to see how quickly they can get Sanu into the passing offense.   

The defense will put pressure on Mayfield and do another great job of blanketing their opponent’s wide receivers. And the home team holds serve. Patriots 24-13

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” tour heads back out on the road next week when the Patriots travel to Baltimore to take on the Ravens.

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

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

 

Patriots Players To Watch, Week 7 MNF  Against the Jets

Steve Balestrieri
October 21, 2019 at 7:41 am ET

The Patriots are on the road again and are taking on the New York Jets on Monday Night Football. They’ve had some extra time off since their Thursday Night Football game but will the time off help them to prepare or will they lose a bit of their edge? They will be missing several members of the offense this week.

Here are our Patriots players to watch this week as they try to improve to 7-0 on the season against the Jets. 

Tom Brady: 

The Patriots, despite having the extra time off since last Thursday’s game are entering this game shorthanded and banged up on offense. That means more pressure on the QB to get it done with less. WR Josh Gordon, TEs Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo, and RB Rex Burkhead are out, while WRs Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, and Gunner Olszewski are all questionable. 

Brady will be operating with one healthy receiver (Jakobi Meyers) and two tight ends that have been on the team for a week (Eric Tomlinson and Ben Watson), although Watson spent all of the training camp here with New England.

Couple that with an offensive line that has been missing two players all season and things won’t be easy for the Patriots QB. He and Josh McDaniels are going to have to get creative this week. 

Jamie Collins:

The Patriots linebacker is enjoying arguably his finest season with the Patriots and is turning back the clock with the way he’s been playing. With the Jets getting Sam Darnold back last week, they got much more aggressive offensively, throwing on first down more and with Darnold’s mobility he can move in the pocket and make plays with his legs. 

Collins will be one of the players who will be very important for the Patriots to ensure that Darnold doesn’t get out of the pocket. With LT Kelvin Beachum out this week, Brandon Shell will be getting his first NFL start. The Patriots will no doubt want to test Shell and Collins, as well as Kyle Van Noy, will be line up on the right side of the defense to try to bring pressure on Darnold.

Collins had a monster game against the Jets a month ago, with 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 2 QB hits, and a pass defensed. The defense will be looking for him to have another big game this week against a much different offensive team.

Julian Edelman/James White:

We’re lumping these two together this week since they will no doubt be the two players that Brady will target the most and the Jets will put the onus on stopping. Edelman against Brian Poole is a mismatch and one that he’d win easily, but expect Poole to have some help this time around. I’d expect the Jets to use a linebacker or safety on occasion to double up Edelman and force Brady to beat them elsewhere. 

James White missed the first game due to the birth of his son, and Rex Burkhead had 17 touches (11 carries, six receptions) in his absence. I’d expect that White will have a similar workload this week. In the passing game, Sony Michel may see a few touches as well as Brandon Bolden but maybe it would a nice time to let 3rd-round pick Damien Harris get his feet wet. UDFA Jakobi Meyers is the only WR not on the injury report.

The Patriots are going to have to ride Edelman and White heavily, something the Jets coaches are well aware of. The adjustments made in-game will ultimately tell the tale here. 

Adam Butler:

Butler is playing more snaps than any Patriots defensive lineman thus far this season. That speaks volumes to his progression in Year 3, and his versatility in being able to adapt to different situations. It is his play, which is the reason that Michael Bennett’s snaps have decreased so rapidly, more than anything else. 

With Bennett suspended this week, more will be thrust on Butler’s plate. With the ever-dangerous Le’Veon Bell in the Jets backfield, the Patriots defensive linemen have to stop Bell from penetrating and allow the linebackers to clean up. They also have to push the pocket on Sam Darnold and create pressure from the inside. 

Butler has been very good at being a disruptive penetrator inside and this will be a big opportunity to shine. The Bennett news will have him thrust more into the spotlight. And with a national audience tonight, Butler has a chance to create even more playing time for himself with a big game against the Jets.  

Ben Watson: 

Watson will be playing in his first game with the Patriots since the 2009 playoff loss to the Ravens at Gillette Stadium. He spent all of training camp with the team and was a frequent side session participant with Tom Brady getting some 1-on-1 work. But with just a week of practice, his first since the end of camp, it isn’t known how much he’ll play. 

The Patriots need some production from the tight end position, something they’ve gotten very little from Ryan Izzo and Matt LaCosse who has been hurt most of the season. Especially, this week with the situation involving the injuries to the wide receivers, they need someone to step up.

Watson, despite being 38-years old, still runs well and looks like someone much younger. If he can stretch the seams of the defense, just a little bit and give them some production in the middle of the field, it will open things up for Edelman and White.     

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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.