Tag Archives: Sean McVay

Patriots Report Card In Super Bowl LIII Win Over LA

Steve Balestrieri
February 5, 2019 at 7:50 am ET

Patriots Report Card In Super Bowl LIII Win Over LA

Nobody saw that kind of low-scoring game playing out, but Bill Belichick and Brian Flores put together a masterful game plan and totally shut down the Rams offense, which was the #2 scoring unit in the league, holding them to nearly 30 points below their weekly average.

Julian Edelman was the most uncoverable receiver on the field and very much deserved the MVP Award, although the Patriots offense moved the ball well all night long, they couldn’t finish drives. But they found a way to win late and that’s what champions do, And the duck boats are gearing up for a parade on Tuesday morning. Super Bowl win #6 is a testament to how teams win victories and not always the more talented.

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

Quarterback: B-

Tom Brady didn’t have the eye-popping numbers 21-35 for 262 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT in the game as the Rams did a very good job of mixing things up and changing coverages especially after the Patriots would cross mid-field.

While Brady didn’t get hit a lot, the Rams did have pressure and were all around him enough to influence many of his throws. So, while the Patriots could move the ball consistently, they weren’t able to finish drives. Until crunch time.

With the game tied at 3-3 with ten minutes to go, that’s when Brady engineered a perfect drive where he made it look easy. First, he lobbed a perfectly drop in the bucket to Rob Gronkowski for 18 yards to get the offense moving. Next, he hit Edelman right down the middle for 13 yards. This was followed by a 7-yard pass to Rex Burkhead on the right sideline. On 2nd and 3, from the Rams 31, he made his best pass of the night, a beautifully placed touch pass to Gronkowski who beat double coverage. Gronkowski hauled it in as he went to the ground for a 29-yard gain. Sony Michel easily powered it in from the 2-yard line on the next play….Boom. Welcome home Lombardi Trophy #6.

Running Backs: B

The Patriots were patient with the running game and it paid off in the end. They ran for 154 yards on 32 carries as the Rams wore down in the end and the running game gashed them while running the 4-minute offense.

Sony Michel, you remember that “waste of a 1st round pick”? Well, he led all ball carriers with 94 yards on 18 carries including the only touchdown in the game. His biggest play was a 26-yard scamper that got the Patriots out of the deep hole in their own end.

Rex Burkhead chipped in with 7 carries for 43 yards and two catches for 15 more. On the same drive that started at the Patriots 4-yard line, Burkhead also got a 26-yard run where he burst thru the line and then cut back against the grain. Those two runs took the Patriots from deep in their own end into scoring range.

James White was a total non-factor in the game, carrying just two times for four yards and with just one catch for five more. The Rams did a tremendous job of taking him away.  

Wide Receivers: B-

Julian Edelman was absolutely uncoverable, and he rates an A+. The rest of the receivers? Not so much. Edelman roasted Nickell Roby-Coleman, frequently having 3 or more yards of separation. Roby-Coleman was doing a lot of talking early in the week, but didn’t walk the walk. The Rams then tried Aqib Talib on Edelman, but his quickness was too much for Talib off the line. Then Phillips trotted out Marcus Peters who was blown away off the line allowing a big catch down the seam for 25. Nobody could cover him on Sunday night. He finished with 10 catches for 141 yards on 12 targets.

Chris Hogan was targeted six times and had zero catches. Brady’s interception, on the first pass of the game, was well behind him. But he was unable to get any separation. Phillip Dorsett wasn’t targeted. Cordarrelle Patterson had two catches for 14 yards and added a pair of runs for seven.  

Tight Ends: A-

Rob Gronkowski was excellent in the running game blocking for the backs. On the Patriots touchdown, they went to a two-tight end set and he and Dwayne Allen helped the line blow the Rams off the line of scrimmage for a too-easy touchdown that was the difference in the game.

But in the passing game, Gronkowski had six catches for 87 yards on seven targets. Like Brady, he saved his best for last. On the Patriots touchdown drive he had catches for 18 and 29 yards, the latter a really nice catch as he was going to the ground.

Offensive Line: A-

The Patriots offensive line put together another very impressive performance. While the Rams were able to stop the running game early on, they did a good job of protecting Brady, despite the pass rush of Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh getting some pressure. The only sack was more of a coverage sack than anything else. Brady had forever to throw but no one was open and he probably should have thrown it away.

But late in the game, with the Patriots backed up at their four-yard line with four minutes to go, the Rams knew they were going to run the football. And they did. On Sony Michel’s 26-yard run, David Andrews destroyed Suh, pushing him three yards to the left and dumped him on his backside.

Defensive Line: A

The Patriots defensive line was absolutely terrific. The Rams potent running attack with Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson never got untracked and had just 62 yards on 18 carries. The Rams motion tries to get linemen moving sideways, but the Patriots attacked and were getting very good penetration. Danny Shelton blew thru a gap and nailed Anderson for a loss.

Trey Flowers also burst thru and had a tackle for a loss. But the front also did a very good job at getting pressure on Jared Goff. Adrian Clayborn and Lawrence Guy had QB hits while Flowers had two.

Linebackers: A

The Patriots linebackers were outstanding. Both Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy were all over the field and they were a very disruptive force all night long. With the team running a 6-1 look, the outside backers were essentially lining up on the line of scrimmage. They did a tremendous job of setting the edge in the running game and took away those shallow crosses and slants the Rams like to run.

Hightower, who in every Super Bowl plays like a man possessed, was everywhere. He had two tackles for a loss, two QB sacks, a pass defensed and three QB hits. Van Noy was also everywhere. He had four tackles, a tackle for a loss, a sack, and three QB hits. Hightower, on the Shelton run stuff absolutely destroyed Tyler Higbee in the interior of the line. Ouch.

Elandon Roberts and John Simon each saw action and as a whole, the linebackers totally took away the Rams RBs in the passing game, which was supposed to be a mismatch. Rams RBs had three catches for 11 yards in the game.

Secondary: A-

The Patriots secondary played a different look mixing in man coverage with Quarters zone coverage and held the Rams to a net 198 yards passing which was far below their average of 281 per game. Stephon Gilmore was outstanding as he has been all season and chipped in with the interception that sealed the deal for the Patriots.

Slot corner Jonathan Jones played some safety in their Quarters looks which showed off his versatility. Jason McCourty had the play of the game where on a busted coverage, Brandin Cooks was wide open in the end zone. McCourty flew over from his side and knocked the ball away.

Pat Chung was having an excellent game, but early in the third quarter broke his arm. In stepped “the Closer” Duron Harmon, who played very well. Harmon blitzed and forced Goff into throwing a floater that was picked off by Gilmore.

Special Teams: A-

Ryan Allen and Matthew Slater were fantastic in this game. Allen dropped three punts deep in the Rams zone where Slater was there to cover it up. They were able to force the Rams to go the length of the field.

Stephen Gostkowski missed his first field goal attempt but made his next two tries, including the one with a minute to go to put the game out of reach. The coverage units were solid and Patterson took the opening kickoff back 38 yards.

Coaching: A

Bill Belichick and Brian Flores gave a master’s class on having a great game plan that the players were able to execute perfectly.  Of all the Patriots Super Bowl wins, this one could arguably be considered their best defensive effort, holding a team that averages almost 33 points a game to just a field goal.

They flummoxed Sean McVay and Jared Goff on the opposite side of the field all game long. The Rams offense never looked like it was getting into anything resembling a rhythm or a comfort level all game long. McVay admitted after the game that Belichick outcoached him. It wasn’t the first time that Belichick has done that.

Josh McDaniels tried mixing things up offensively where the team could move the ball but kept stalling. They did figure it out late in the game and the team put together two impressive drives to finish the game, and win another Super Bowl.

So, who’s ready for a parade?

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.

Six-Cess! Belichick Defensive Gameplan Another Gem Wins Sixth Title 

Steve Balestrieri
February 4, 2019 at 7:39 am ET

Six-Cess! Belichick Defensive Gameplan a Gem Wins Another SB

Bill Belichick has saved some of his best defensive game-planning for the Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams. And in doing so, he’s capped the latest Super Bowl victory much like he did their first.

In Super Bowl XXXVI, the Patriots showed the Rams something they hadn’t seen before. Recognizing that the “Greatest Show on Turf” went thru Marshall Faulk, the Patriots decided that they were going to hit Faulk (and hard) every time he went out of the backfield and they punished him enroute to a huge upset win.

Last night, Belichick showed the Rams something they hadn’t seen the Patriots do on tape by playing a defense that was different for them and totally confusing to the Rams offensive players. It was stifling, physical and utterly brilliant.

In our pregame matchups, we thought the Pats would dust off a look of the old Bears 46 Defense in an attempt to take away the Rams stretch running plays. What Belichick did was different but similar. They ran what looked a 6-1 front with both outside linebackers up on the line of scrimmage. The Rams run with a ton of motion and use play action more than anyone with QB Jared Goff under center about 40 percent of the time.

But the Patriots interior defensive linemen didn’t take the cheese. Rather than sliding east-west with the motion, they were attacking north-south and penetrating the gaps. The Rams outside running game was negated by the linebackers setting the edge. Todd Gurley who does the bulk of the Rams outside running was held to just 35 yards on 10 carries. And by having the outside backers up, right on the line of scrimmage, those screens to the backs were negated. Gurley and C.J. Anderson had just three catches for 11 yards.

The other thing it did was take the Rams out of their tight formation packages that they like to run where it gives its more options. By having the linebackers in their face, everything was disrupted and it was plain to see all day. Sean McVay, who after the game said he was thoroughly out-coached then had to adjust by moving their receivers farther out wide. That further hurt their zone stretch running plays and much of their crossing routes over the middle.

But the second half of the defensive equation was arguably Belichick’s best move and he can thank his former Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia for the blueprint on this one. Matty P, who was being roasted by the talking heads on the air after the game last night, must have got a huge smile on his face and a big piece of redemption because Belichick copied what Patricia’s Lions did late in the season.

The Patriots played quarters coverage in the secondary, something they didn’t show the Rams on tape. Patricia’s Lions ran this on early downs with two safeties back, it took away those play action slants the Rams were so successful running this year. Duron Harmon, normally the third safety was replaced by slot corner Jonathan Jones who played safety for the first time. With Belichick, versatility is key, the more you can do…

Harmon however, did come on to play in the second half, when Pat Chung appeared to break his arm early in the third quarter. Chung was put in an air cast and then watched the rest of the game from the Patriots sidelines.

Facing a lot of third and long situations, Belichick and Flores unleashed the Ameoba fronts we’ve seen so much of down the stretch and the pass rush was outstanding. Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower were all over the field and provided outstanding pressure. Hightower had a pair of sacks, a tackle for a loss, a pass defensed and three QB hits. Van Noy was a pain in the backside for Goff as well with a sack, a tackle for loss and a pair of QB hits. For two players who are “too slow”, they certainly didn’t appear so, …especially to the Rams offensive line.

The coverage was a perfect blend to the pass rush. Goff most times had absolutely nowhere to throw the ball and was hounded all night long. But it wasn’t just Goff, the entire Rams offense was out of synch and looking for answers all night long. Stephon Gilmore was once again outstanding and sealed the deal with an interception on the Patriots 2-yard line after Harmon blitzed and forced Goff into launching a floater that was a too-easy interception.

The Rams had the #2 offense in terms of yards (421.1) and points (32.9) during the season. The Patriots held them to just 260 yards and three (3) points in the Super Bowl. For all the talk all season about this defense wasn’t good enough, they faced three excellent offenses in the Chargers, Chiefs, and Rams in the postseason and beat all three with outstanding efforts in each game.

The Patriots defensive six-cess was another example of a brilliant coaching job by the master. Belichick did it to the Rams again, with a tip of the hat to Matty P.

For McVay who is one of the most brilliant of young coaches in the game, it will be a learning experience. He’s hardly the first who were taught the ways by the old Jedi master… his time will come. But for now, “PATIENCE YOU MUST HAVE my young padawan”

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.

Patriots Defense Crushes Rams 13-3 For Sixth Super Bowl Title

Steve Balestrieri
at 12:42 am ET

Patriots Defense Crushes Rams 13-3 For Sixth Super Bowl Title

Hey New England, the Lombardi Trophy is coming back to Foxboro for the sixth time in the Belichick – Brady era. Bill Belichick weaved a masterful game plan as the Patriots turned back the clock to the days of the smashmouth years, holding the #2 scoring offense of the Rams to just three (3) points in a tremendous performance.

Tom Brady put together the winning drive at crunch time, as he’s done many times before and he used the usual suspects, Rob Gronkowski, and Julian Edelman to moved down the field where Sony Michel scored the only touchdown of the Super Bowl with a 2-yard score. Edelman was the MVP of the Super Bowl with a phenomenal 10 catch, 141-yard performance.

How dominant has the Patriots defense been in the playoffs? The Patriots were the only team since the 1985 Chicago Bears to hold opponents to seven points or fewer in three consecutive first halves of playoff football. And you can put the “Tomato Can” garbage to bed. The offenses of KC and the Rams were prolific scoring machines all season.

Belichick and Brian Flores called a tremendous game defensively. They harassed, flummoxed and beat up Jared Goff all night long. While all the talk pregame was about the Rams pass rush with Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh (who played very well BTW), it was the Patriots pass rush that was the game changer. They sacked Goff four times and were in his face better than half of his dropbacks.

The Patriots held the Rams to just 3.4 yards per rushing attempt and just 62 yards overall on 18 carries. Todd Gurley had 11 touches (10 carries, 1 reception) for just 34 yards. Goff finished 19 for 38 for 229 yards (198 yards net)  with 0 TDs and one interception. The Rams finished just 3-13 on third down.

During the playoffs, the Patriots defense allowed a grand total of just 122 yards rushing in the three games, which comes out to 40.6 yards per game. That is outstanding.

Defensive Play of the Game:

With the game still in the balance, Goff had the Rams moving in the second half. With a 1st and 10 at the Patriots 29-yard line, they ran Brandin Cooks down the seam and he was wide open. But Goff was just a half-second late throwing the ball and that allowed Jason McCourty to come flying over to knock the ball away. On third down Goff was sacked for -9 yards and it forced a 53-yard Greg Zuerlein field goal to tie it up.

Later after the Patriots took the lead 10-3, the Rams moved into Patriots territory but a deep pass to Cooks by Goff was influenced by Kyle Van Noy and the ball hung up in the air where Stephon Gilmore picked it off at the Patriots two.

Drive of the Year:

With about 10 minutes to go and the game tied, this is when great players step up to the forefront and Brady, Gronkowski and Edelman once again showed that they aren’t too old, too slow and too beat up. The Patriots went 69 yards in five plays with Sony Michel powering it in from the two-yard line for the only TD in the Super Bowl.

It started with a beautiful 18-yard drop in the bucket to Gronkowski to get things going. He then hit Edelman for 13 yards and hit Rex Burkhead for seven more on a nice sideline throw. On 2nd and three from the Rams 31, Brady launched a perfect throw down the seam to Gronkowski who hauled it and went down at the two-yard line. Michel scored on the next snap. Michel ground out 94 tough yards on 18 carries. Boom game over.

Edelman was easily the best offensive player on the field for either team and although Wade Phillips put an outstanding game plan of his own tonight, the Rams had no answer for Edelman. He frequently left the talker Nickell Roby-Coleman in the dust grabbing air.

Edelman now stands second only to Jerry Rice with 1,412 receiving yards in the postseason.  His bromance with Brady was in full-effect with Brady gushing over his buddy’s accomplishments. “He just played the best game he has all year,” Brady said. “He’s a fighter, man, that kid. I am just so proud of him. He’s been an incredible player for this team in the playoffs and he just cemented himself, again, in the history of the NFL for what his accomplishments are.” Gronkowski, meanwhile, ranks first among tight ends in postseason receptions (81), yards (1,163) and touchdowns (12).

As Brady and Belichick celebrate with their sixth ring and Super Bowl win together, Robert Kraft summed up the win the best.

“Patriots fans,” Kraft said. “This is your sixth championship in the last 18 years; truly an unprecedented accomplishment, really managed by exceptional players and coaches to whom all of us are forever grateful. But there is one constant throughout this whole 18 years, two men who are the best at whatever has been done in the history of the NFL: Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. And through their hard work and great leadership, I am honored to say for the sixth time, we are all Patriots and once again the Patriots are world champions.”

Cue up the duck boats, Mahhty! We have another parade to celebrate.

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, 2-3, “The Patriot Way” or Belichick’s?

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

Good morning, it is Super Bowl Sunday once again here in New England and here is your Sunday Patriots news 02-03.

Some Quick Hitters this morning: *No AFC East notes this week* They’ll be back next week after the Super Bowl when we begin looking at the NFL Combine and Draft. But first some kudos this week.

Congratulations to Ty Law for being enshrined in the Hall of Fame, very deserved to be sure. He was an integral part of those first Patriots championships, especially his pick-six in Super Bowl XXXVI. Hopefully, the voters will get it right with Richard Seymour next season.

Kudos to Patriots fans: Sunday, over 35,000 fans showed up for the Patriots send-off rally at Gillette Stadium. It was the biggest one yet of any of the Super Bowl teams with Brady and Belichick. This flies in the face of the hit piece in the Boston Globe that tried to claim that Patriots fans are growing bored with the team’s success.

The turnout on Sunday, television ratings all season long and merchandise sales all point in the absolute other direction. However, it should be noted that the flimsy “evidence” by the writer is coming from the same guy who said that Brady having a MAGA hat in his locker was hurting the team’s standing with the fan base two years ago.

Way to go Pats fans, that was an incredible send off rally. For the first time, could the Patriots fans outnumber the haters at a Super Bowl? …What a concept.

Kudos to WEEI: On Friday after with the buildup to the big game in full swing, ‘EEI swung … low and missed. How? By putting that noted hot-take artist Rob Parker on the air on Radio Row. Actually, calling Parker that is an insult to hot take artists, he hasn’t had an actual new thing or a hot take to say in years. WEEI decided to go for the lowest common denominator in their coverage. Don’t we have enough of that already on the air?  What’s next? Is Baghdad Bob going to be guesting on the air, to talk about the political climate of the Super Bowl?

Did you Know? With a win today, the Patriots will tie the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most Super Bowl wins (6) in league history. They are currently tied with San Francisco and Dallas with 5 wins.

Did you Know Pt. 2: With a win today, the Patriots will move past the Steelers in all-time playoff victories with 37, the two teams are currently tied with 36. The Patriots already own the best postseason winning percentage with teams with a minimum of 15 playoff appearances.  
Team              Wins Losses Win Pct.
New England  36 20    .643
Baltimore        15 9 .625
Green Bay       34 22  .607
San Francisco 30     20 .600
Pittsburgh       36 25 .590

Did you Know Pt. 3: The Running game is a big part of the matchups this week. Since Bill Belichick took over the team in 2000, the Patriots are 51-1 when a running back cracks 100 yards rushing in a game. In 2018, Sony Michel had four 100-yard games and the Patriots were 4-0 in those contests.

“The Patriot Way” Is All About the Team and Belichick:

With the kickoff this evening, the Patriots will appear in their 11th Super Bowl and the ninth in the Belichick-Brady era and this dynasty is truly something to behold. The Patriots under Belichick have remained steadfast in his philosophy about building a team, which has been dubbed “the Patriot Way” and even today, two decades later, there are still misconceptions about that.

In the Patriot way, which should really be called, “the Belichick Way”, there is a right way and a wrong way about building a football team that is constructed for the long run. And since 2001, the Patriots have far and away blown away the rest of the league in terms of staying competitive for a Super Bowl. A down year for the Patriots has been 10 wins or in the case of 2018, 11 wins. And yes, this was written up all fall as a down year, despite the fact that they’re one win away from their 6th Super Bowl title in 18 years.

In watching some of the endless programs leading up to the big game, I’ve seen the same thing, much like we’ve seen every Sunday for the past 18 years. The analysts will point to the rosters and say “Team A has better personnel up and down the roster” and at that point, you just have to shrug and turn the channel. They don’t get it, have never gotten it and most unfortunately never will get it.

To quote Belichick, “It’s not about collecting talent, it’s about building a football team.”

And this one from Belichick is perhaps the most frequently overlooked but arguably most important.  “On a team, it’s not the strength of the individual players, but it is the strength of the unit and how they all function together.”

Many teams, including this season’s Rams team, were the latest of the “dream teams” where they made a concerted effort to push all of their chips into the middle of the table and go all in for a title. They collected talent at every turn and didn’t see a free agent or trade scenario that they didn’t like. The fact that this team is unsustainable as it is currently constructed once they have to pay their QB who is still on a rookie deal is overlooked right now, but that day is coming.

Belichick has always kept an eye on the long-term goal of not just building a winner but maintaining it for the long haul. Which is why they A. never overpay for veteran players who are looking for the huge payday and B. done their shopping with many players who aren’t considered top players but will fit a role in the Patriots (read Belichick) system.

Look at this year’s Patriots defense, Kyle Van Noy and undrafted rookie free agent J.C. Jackson have become two of the most valuable players and some of their biggest performers down the stretch. Van Noy was considered a bust and the team got him for a song (6th round pick). Jackson went undrafted and has now worked himself into the starting rotation at cornerback.

On the subject of Van Noy, Belichick, rather than focusing on what he can’t do or trying to force him to do what the team wants, he’s learned what he does do well and puts him in a position to succeed. And he’s had a career resurgence with the Patriots. Belichick once spoke about the mistakes some coaches do with trying to squeeze a player into a system where the fit may not be the exact right fit.

“You definitely go through a stage, most coaches do, where you see a good player and you get enamored, you really like what the player does, but then when you put him into your system, it’s not quite the same player that he was in another system. He has some strengths, but you cant utilize all those strengths. If you try to utilize all his strengths, you end up weakening a lot of other players who are already in your system.”

That’s why the subject of “dream teams” is always interesting. Collecting all the talent doesn’t necessarily mean that those pieces will gel together. The Eagles a few years ago tried to buy a Super Bowl and then fell flat in the regular season. Not only do they have to fit what you’re doing but they also have to fit within the confines of the locker room.

Back to the Rams, watching television this week, I saw more than one analyst say, as we mentioned above, that the Rams defense is “more talented” at nearly every position than the Patriots. Is it true? Maybe so. But as a unit? Hmm, the numbers don’t attest to that. Looking at yardage, which everyone always has a fit over here in New England, the Rams allowed a half-yard less (yes 0.5 yards) per game than the Patriots. In points allowed (which Belichick preaches) the Rams were 19th, the Patriots 7th.  Hmm.

“A sense of humor is a huge thing with us. You’ve got to be able to laugh. You’ve got to be able to take a dig, give a dig — that sort of thing. And [you have to] feel comfortable in your own skin that you don’t have all the answers.”

Part of this philosophy is by design, Belichick knows how to build a football team and knows what will or won’t work. And part of it is by necessity. Because of their success, the Patriots are always picking in the #30-32 range in the NFL draft. You’re not going to find too many Khalil Macks or the next Randy Moss in that range very often, if at all. And the draft, as Belichick knows, beyond the first half of the first round is often times a crap shoot. Some players take longer to develop at the pro level and some peak in college and never work out. Which is why the Patriots would rather package picks and move down further to amass more selections which gives them a better chance at hitting on one of their prospects.

Belichick has a penchant for finding veteran players that fill a complementary role rather than being superstars and fit the team-first mentality. Which is why players like Van Noy and others that they’ve added in the years before have nearly always filled valuable roles for the team in their continued success.

One of the more prevalent myths that surround Belichick, and one we hear often is “GM Bill is hurting Coach Bill,” as if this is a no-brainer. And it is as wrong as rain on a wedding day. It isn’t “luck” as some talking heads would have you believe that the Patriots have been in 50 percent of the Super Bowls since 2001.

No doubt it has been fantastic coaching but it has also been having an outstanding eye for talent. Talent to fit your team, your system and your locker room. Have they hit on everyone? Of course, not. They’ve had plenty of swings and misses. However, Belichick and Nick Caserio have done a fantastic job of assembling a scouting staff that has been able to identify talent that is out there that nobody else has seen and identifying the players that want to win championships. And that is the final piece of the puzzle.   

“For a team to accomplish their goal, everybody’s got to give up a little bit of their individuality.”

Lots of teams make the noise and spout the old clichés about “team-first” mentality and such but much of what you hear is just that …noise. Belichick has said this also in the past during the draft process.

“We’re looking for people … [who] have gotten over themselves, and you can tell that pretty quickly,” Belichick said.

“You can talk to somebody for four or five minutes, and you can tell if it’s about them, or if they understand that they’re just a piece of the puzzle. So we look for that.

Not many players are willing to give up their individuality, their stats, and their quest to get paid the most at their positions to win a championship. That’s another reason the Patriots success has lasted so long. They are like a chameleon, they can change their identity from week-to-week and adjust accordingly to create mismatches against their opponent.

A receiver could have 15 targets one week and be the team’s go-to guy and the next to be relegated to a mere decoy if the coaching staff feels, that they need to go run heavy and throw the ball elsewhere. If a player can’t handle that, he’ll either not sign here or soon find himself being released to take their talents elsewhere.

Brady is the final piece of Belichick’s “Patriot Way”. Having a QB who is the best to ever play his position and do it for so long has made Belichick’s job of sustaining excellence for so long much easier.

Brady was the outlier in the draft process. The guy no one including Belichick had the slightest idea would have ever thought would become the player he has. 198 players were selected before Brady in the 2000 draft, and the Patriots passed on him thru six rounds.

Brady outworked everyone and continues to inside the Patriots clubhouse. He’s totally bought into what Belichick preaches. And when the greatest QB to ever play the game buys in, if you’re a veteran and a role player, you think you’re going to buck the system?

And Brady has become the perfect foil for Belichick. We’ve all heard about the Monday film sessions where Belichick, as Tedy Bruschi as said, would “MF everyone”, even in big victories, pointing out mistakes in the endless quest for perfection. He frequently picks on plays made by Brady. The point being, if Brady’s going to get roasted, then you had better “Do Your Job” better than anyone else.

Brady has also totally bought into the team-first mentality by frequently taking team-friendly deals where he’s taking far below market value to allow the team to spend more on supporting cast members of the team. He’s not even in the Top 15 list of highest paid QBs in the league in 2018.  

How will all of this play out later this evening? Nobody knows, it is after all one game where anything can and will happen. But I wouldn’t bet against the Patriots, who are battle tested and playing their best football at exactly the right time. That just isn’t the Patriot Way, that’s the Belichick Way.

Defending the Rams Receivers All About the Matchups:

The Rams have a pair of dangerous 1000-yard receivers in Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks. How the Patriots choose to match up with the Rams tonight will be fascinating to watch.

Stephon Gilmore practiced against Brandin Cooks all of last season, so he knows him well. But I believe (we wrote about this earlier last week) that Gilmore will cover Woods, who isn’t quite as fast as Cooks but is bigger. I think Jonathan Jones will cover Cooks with safety help over the top. Jones is speedier but… the Rams often put Woods in the slot, so that may fall to J.C. Jackson. So who will draw Josh Reynolds? Reynolds at 6’3 is too big and would present a mismatch against Jones. It is a interesting scenario.

Our feeling here is Gilmore – Woods, Jones – Cooks, and Jackson – Reynolds. But anything can happen and the defense may end up switching things up. Jason McCourty is also in the mix and he could replace Jones in the matchups.  

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Patriots-Rams Super Bowl LIII Keys Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
February 1, 2019 at 7:30 am ET

The New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams are in Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII and contrary to popular belief outside of New England, the Patriots don’t reach the Super Bowl every year that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are together on the field. It just seems that way.

Super Bowl LIII will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, February 3 at 6:30 PM ET 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, Evan Washburn, and Jay Feely will work from the sidelines.  The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The SportsHub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Cappello.

The Patriots (13-5) are in the big game for the third straight year, after blowing out the Chargers and winning an overtime thriller against the #1 seed Kansas City Chiefs.

The Rams (15-3) also won in overtime in the NFC Championship Game beating the New Orleans Saints after coming back from being two scores down early in the game.

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 Rams are meeting for the first time in the postseason since Super Bowl XXXVI, the Pats first Super Bowl win over the “Greatest Show on Turf”. The only two remaining pieces for either team remain Brady and Belichick.

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 Rams Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots rushing offense has been outstanding down the stretch and thru the first two games of the playoffs. New England utilizes a three-headed rushing attack with Sony Michel handling the lion’s share with Rex Burkhead, and James White also adding into the mix as well.

The Rams defense uses the Wade Phillips 3-4 where they bring an extra linebacker up on the line in run support. The Rams during the regular season allowed 5.1 yards per rush but have been much better in the playoffs. In the Saints game, Aaron Donald was shooting the gaps and blowing plays up before they had a chance to develop.

The Patriots run a different system and should line up right over Donald and will look to take him on rather than trying to reach block him like New Orleans did where Donald’s quickness off the line made that a losing proposition.

Look for the Patriots to attack the perimeter in the running game and they’ll use motion with Julian Edelman and Cordarrelle Patterson to run some of those Jet Sweeps. The aggressiveness of their front, especially Donald and Ndamukong Suh is where they’ll try to exploit by running at them on the perimeter.

The Patriots interior players David Andrews, Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason will be the ones to watch against the Rams interior run stuffers. They like to move Suh around and created mismatches so this will be a key area to watch.

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

The Patriots passing game has ratcheted up their game down the stretch with Tom Brady and Julian Edelman both having big games in the first two playoff matchups. The key obviously is in pass protection, the Rams boast Donald, Suh, and a very good pass rush which can disrupt anyone’s passing attack.

Wade Phillips will try to take away the middle of the field and may try to double up Julian Edelman. If that happens, watch Brady put him in motion. The Rams defense struggled in the passing game against “12 personnel” groupings (2 WR, 2TE, 1RB) and look for the Patriots to utilize White or Burkhead quite a bit in the passing game.

How LA decides to cover Rob Gronkowski will be fascinating to watch. Will it be in single coverage like KC did with a safety? Or will they chip and roll more coverage on him? Gronkowski looks as healthy as he has all season and had a big game inKC. Brady will try to get the ball out quickly and negate Donald and the pass rush. How well they are able to do that will determine how successful they are at passing the ball.

The Rams played a lot of zone coverage, then switching to man coverage inside the red zone. However, since Aqib Talib’s return, they’re playing more man coverage, and that should continue this week.

Next up the Los Angeles offense:

Rams RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Los Angeles

The Rams have been one of the best teams at running the football this season averaging 139.4 yards per game (3rd in the NFL) and have two excellent running backs in Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson. Some tendencies to watch for. When Gurley is in the game, they run nearly 70 percent of the time to the edge and when Anderson is in, that number is nearly 50 percent right up the middle.

The Rams offensive line is much like the Patriots, they are tough, very well-coached and rarely make mistakes. LA runs primarily out of “11 personnel” (3WR, 1TE, 1 RB). They like to condense the formations, (something Bill Belichick mentioned this week) and run a ton of misdirection. Like New England, they like to put a guy in motion to get three men on one side and like to run behind that strength.

Jared Goff lined up for 40 percent of his snaps under center, among the most in the league. Play action passing is a stable of their offense. I’m looking for the historian in Belichick to dust off a look that he used successfully in Super Bowl XXXIX against the Eagles, the Bears 46 Defense.

Bringing up eight men in the box and placing a linebacker outside close to the line of scrimmage is a way of limiting the running game of Gurley. They’ll place a big man over the center and use their interior men to attack the gaps. The key is setting the edge, especially when Gurley is in the game. In two playoff games, they’ve allowed just 60 yards rushing.

Rams WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Los Angeles

The Rams passing game was lighting up the league in the first half of the season. The loss of Cooper Kupp to IR has been a big blow, however, they are still very, very talented. They have a plethora of targets for Jared Goff in Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, Gurley, Josh Reynolds, and Tyler Higbee.

The key is for the Patriots is to disguise their look until the final second. Goff doesn’t read the defense as well or as quick as Brady. Rams coach Sean McVay will have his team rush to the line and see how the Patriots line up and he’ll call out into Goff’s helmet the read until the microphones are cut off at the 15-second mark of the play clock. It will be then up to Belichick and Brian Flores to change things up and show something different. Can they confuse Goff enough or slow down his processing time enough to make a difference? That’s the key here.

Look for the Patriots to put Stephon Gilmore on Robert Woods, and possibly their speediest corner Jonathon Jones or Jason McCourty on Cooks with safety help. Rookie J.C. Jackson will see more of Reynolds.

Look for more of that “Amoeba Front” look to disguise where the pass rush is coming from to try to get pressure on Goff. They’ll rotate their coverages and safeties to give Goff a different look in an attempt to slow down his processing time to allow the pass rush to get home.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Los Angeles

The Patriots special teams have been much better down the stretch but for once, they’re facing a team with a slightly better cast. Stephen Gostkowski and Ryan Allen remain extremely solid. Julian Edelman and Cordarrelle Patterson will look to make a difference in the return game.

The Rams have an outstanding STs unit and it begins with punter Johnny Hekker. He is always lavished praise by Belichick and not only is he an outstanding punter but the Rams have shown that they aren’t afraid of throwing it on 4th down with him. Greg Zuerlein is very good at kicking. JoJo Natson and Blake Countess handled return duties.

Next up, who wins and why…

Keys to the Game and Prediction

This game should be another classic must-watch down to the wire matchup. What would a Patriots Super Bowl be without an edge of your seat finish? Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective are:

Start Fast and Put the Rams in Catchup Mode: The Patriots have been very good at starting fast this postseason. That must continue. The Rams offense wants to make this a track meet and that’s a game they’re much better suited to winning.

3rd Down/Red Zone Key: The Patriots have to win the 3rd down battle, on offense they must give Brady the third and manageable distances, the 3rd and 4 or less. On defense it has to be the opposite, forcing Goff into obvious passing situations where they can mix and match their coverages and bring pressure. Field goals instead of touchdowns will be a way to win or lose the game.

Win the Turnover Battle: The Patriots and Rams should both be able to move the ball this Sunday  It may come down to getting a key turnover, especially in the opponent’s end of the field. Can the Patriots generate a turnover or two, something they were unable to do a year ago?

The feeling here is experience is a great asset. Brady, Edelman, Gronkowski and James White have been here and won, before. That will be the difference in another great Super Bowl. It will go right down to the wire, but cue the duckboats, Marty, the Lombardi is coming back to New England. Patriots 31-27

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.

Six For Saturday: Rams Taking a Page From Brady?

Ian Logue
December 2, 2017 at 12:14 pm ET

With Sunday’s match-up with the Bills steadily approaching, here are some thoughts on this Saturday from some interesting stories this week, along with some other tidbits heading into their match-up against Buffalo on Sunday.

1) Rams Taking a Page From Brady? – With the Rams sitting at 8-3 on the season, part of the discussion this week has centered around the success of their offense and how effective they’ve been in moving the football and scoring points.

Part of what Los Angeles has been doing seems to involve taking advantage of the communication that quarterbacks and coaches are allotted prior to the snap, where they’re allowed to communicate until there’s 15 seconds remaining on the play clock.

As noted by USA Today earlier this week, the Rams have been aggressive on offense, getting to the line quickly to give themselves more time to evaluate the defense from the sideline.  From there, head coach Sean McVay is discussing what to do and helping Jared Goff make the necessary audibles to put their team in the best situation.

It’s been a great strategy, and it’s obviously working.  The Rams have won five of their last six games and are putting themselves in terrific position to make a playoff run.

What was interesting about that story is what we learned back in February, which saw Tom Brady discuss this with Peter King in a Podcast following their historic Super Bowl win over the Falcons.  King questioned the veteran quarterback, asking him about whether or not he and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels communicate all the way up until the 15-second cutoff and the ways they take advantage of it.

The topic came up as King inquired about a play to Danny Amendola during the game, highlighting how they utilized the time before the communication cutoff, along with the types of things that McDaniels tells him leading up to the snap.

“I don’t remember exactly…because there were a lot of times where [he said] ‘Get them in this formation’, ‘Could be man coverage’, when he sees the corner go inside.  ‘You have one-on-one outside’, things like that, which is a great thing to do,” Brady told King.  “Part of the advantage of going fast is the coach-to-quarterback communication.  So I don’t remember exactly what happened on that play, other than i think he obviously said, ‘Don’t forget about Danny’, or ‘Danny’s got a great shot on this’, something like that.”

That mention gave some insight into how the offense operates, and it highlighted the benefit of speeding things up by going no-huddle.  That interview happened to reveal that it allows for two perspectives leading up to a play, which certainly provides an advantage to be able to put themselves in the best situation before the snap.

Here in New England it’s no secret there have been plenty of fans around the league who question what makes the Patriots so great.  However, those of us who follow the team more closely simply realize they’re coached by one of the best in the game in Bill Belichick, who has always seemingly been a fan of taking advantage of every inch the league allows, and they make the most of every single one.

Clearly it works and from what we learned this week, it sounds like the Rams are having success with it as well.

2) Tuesdays Now Have a New Meaning – An article by Nora Princiotti of the Boston Globe on Monday certainly changed the way I now view Tuesdays, as well as the amazing amount of respect and empathy I feel for Patriots left tackle Nate Solder, and his wife, Lexi.

Many fans may have already heard about the horrible news surrounding their son, Hudson, who was diagnosed with kidney cancer as an infant.  The two reportedly found a lump in his belly while giving him a bath, which prompted an immediate trip to his pediatrician.

That was when Solder and his wife learned the news, which ultimately turned their world upside down.

For Solder, that was another blow after he himself had already been diagnosed and undergone treatment for testicular cancer.  The veteran left tackle ended up with a happy ending for himself, as he was able to beat it.  Now he finds himself in a situation most parents fear, with he and Lexi forced to be strong to get through while watching their 2-year old son fight a battle of his own.

Hudson’s illness now requires the young parents to make the trip to Boston every Tuesday, which is an off day for the players.  According to Princiotti, the two depart at 6am for a two hour trip so that Hudson can get his treatments.  Also joining them is their 7th month old daughter, Charlie, and Lexi told the newspaper that they try and make the best of it.

“We do it all together as a family so when we look back years and years from now we can say we did it and she was there and we were all part of that,” said Lexi.

The worst part about the story is the fact that as of last October, the news appeared to be positive as Hudson’s tumors had shrunk to the point where he no longer needed treatment, just monitoring.

Unfortunately this past September, a routine MRI reportedly showed that all of the tumors in each of his Kidneys had started growing again and he started treatment again on October 3rd.

So for those who may get on Solder for a miscue during the game while wondering why he’s not out there performing flawlessly, the fact he’s out there doing it at all is impressive in itself.  And now when you wake up every Tuesday morning, think of how the Solders are spending their day and pray that that their son will one day be able to live a cancer-free life.


Garoppolo will finally start on Sunday in Chicago.

3) It’s Jimmy Time in San Francisco – Jimmy Garoppolo may have only spent just over 60 seconds on the field last weekend against Seattle, but he certainly made the most of it.

Garoppolo came into the game after C.J. Beathard went down with an injury and completed two passes, the final of which was a touchdown pass as time expired.  San Francisco was trailing 24-6 before the touchdown, so the game was clearly out of hand at that point.  But Garoppolo played like he always did here, giving his all while not just going through the motions.

His touchdown provided a spark in the Bay Area and it was all 49ers fans needed to see from the player they believe will guide them back to their former Glory.  It appears they’ll get their first opportunity this week to see Garoppolo spend 60-minutes on the field on the road against the Chicago Bears.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan said this week that they’ve scaled things back offensively heading into Garoppolo’s first start, and said that if there’s anything he’s not comfortable with, they’ll change it.

“He’ll work at it all week and whatever he doesn’t feel comfortable with and he doesn’t get down in these three practices, then we’ll take it out and whatever we’re going with Sunday, he’ll know 100 percent of it,” Shanahan said. “I want him to feel real comfortable going into this game. So, we’ll see how he feels at the end of the week.”

Garoppolo finds himself in a position where how he plays over this final stretch will certainly have an impact on his future.  If he plays like he did during his limited time as a starter last season for the Patriots, it will bode well for a team that has been in dire need of a talented and dependable starting quarterback.

For now, Garoppolo admits that he’s not worried about what his future holds and he knows it won’t mean anything unless he plays well this week.

“I’m trying not to think about the future too much,” Garoppolo said. “I’ve learned in the past that when your mind wanders like that, quarterbacking in this league is hard enough. So, when you start thinking about other things you’re going to have a tough time. I think just staying focused on the Bears this week.”


Manning’s time in New York appears to be over. (USA TODAY Images)

4) Manning Situation Makes You Wonder About Brady’s Future – Seeing what happened in New York this week was a harsh reminder that the ending is not always happy when it comes to teams and their aging starting quarterbacks parting ways.

One of the things that obviously comes to mind with Manning’s situation is the fact that it’s hard not to wonder about how the Patriots will eventually handle parting with Brady.  That would be hard to imagine, and if what we’ve seen is any indication, it looks like it might hopefully be a while before it reaches that point.

But what’s been interesting here in New England has been the fact that most aging players who have opted to retire, many have done so on their own accord.  Players like Troy Brown, Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi and Rob Ninkovich are just a few examples of guys who as soon as they felt they couldn’t do it anymore, they hung up their cleats and left with some level of dignity.  Even a player like Vince Wilfork, who while he didn’t finish his career in New England, he still went on to play at a relatively high level in Houston while playing a part in that group being one of the best defensive units in the league.  Wilfork’s end had a special twist as he had the rare satisfaction of ending his career on the same field he started on, with his final career game coming in a playoff loss for the Texans in January at Gillette Stadium.

With Manning, he’s in a bad situation because he’s on a team that’s been decimated by injuries this season, preventing him from improving off a year where they finished 11-5 before getting blown out 38-13 against the Packers in the Wild Card round last season.  At 36-years old and with the team at 2-9, the Giants apparently feel like they’ve already gotten his best, and now they’re ready to move on.

By sitting Manning and putting their immediate future in the hands of Gino Smith or Davis Webb, they’ve now put themselves on a collision course for a divorce from their franchise quarterback this offseason, ending one of the longest remaining current tenures for a starting QB remaining in the NFL, along with ending Manning’s 210 game streak as an NFL starting QB.  With that streak coming to an end, it now gives the Chargers Phillip Rivers, who has started 188 straight games, a chance to surpass him.

Change is the only thing that’s consistent in this league and unfortunately, for Manning that’s just how it is and he appears to be a player who will make the offseason a little more interesting by giving it a shot with another franchise.

As for Brady, hopefully he’ll be able to go out the same way that  John Elway did, with Elway having walked away after leading Denver to back-to-back Super Bowls.  Elway’s situation was a little different, but only because he had taken a bigger beating than Brady and realized his body didn’t have enough left to come back one more time.  He wanted to go for three in a row, but didn’t feel he could do it.

Meanwhile, Brady finds himself playing well while putting his team in position to contend for another this season.  Hopefully he’ll be able to go out in similar fashion as Elway, while edging out the former Denver QB with a little longer championship streak of his own.

5) NFL Getting Help From Amazon – An interesting note in the New York Times this week revealed that the National Football League will be working with Amazon to try and improve the analysis of the league’s games by using some of the online retail giant’s technology.

According to the newspaper, the NFL, which already uses Amazon’s cloud computing services, is planning on using the company’s advanced machine-learning technology, which recognizes patterns and analyzes data captured during the games.  They believe that data will help provide new kinds of statistics for fans as well as help coaches.

Amazon will also reportedly become an official technology sponsor of the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, which already offers some unique stats via their official site.

It makes for an interesting situation and it’s another sign that things are continuing to evolve when it comes to the way we currently consume football.  The league has already had plenty of success with their own GamePass service, which has grown and in recent years added coaches film, increasing fan interest in evaluating plays after the game.  It’s continued to grow, becoming a popular product that the league claims to have subscription rates in the “six figures”.  With a powerful partner like Amazon, for those who are into analysis and breakdowns, this will definitely be a story to keep an eye on to see what additional products they come out with.


Brady’s first quarter numbers have been terrific so far this season.

6) Fast start will be key on Sunday – With the Patriots about to play on the road out in Buffalo, one of the areas that will certainly be important will be for the team to get off to a fast start, which they did when these two met last season in their second meeting.

In that game Tom Brady opened with a first quarter that saw him complete 8-of-11 passes including two touchdowns, as the Patriots went on to build a 24-10 first half lead that they wouldn’t relinquish as they beat the Bills in Buffalo 41-25.

Fortunately, that’s one of the areas where Brady has excelled this season.  The first quarter has been his best statistically this season, with the veteran completing 73% of his passes, including 7 touchdowns.  He hasn’t thrown more than three incompletions in the opening quarter over his last six games, which included an 11-of-11 performance two weeks ago against Oakland.  That essentially means you have to go all the way back to their match-up against the Buccaneers in Week 5 when he missed four passes by starting 8-of-12.

One of the other notable stats is the fact he’s thrown at least one touchdown in the opening quarter over each of the last three games, which was preceded by a stretch where he didn’t throw a first quarter TD in five-straight contests that started in their loss to Carolina in Week 4.

For now with their first game in December looming, the goal is to try and finish strong against a Bills team that will likely be a tough challenge.

“It’s so important,” said Brady when asked about finishing the season off strong. “I think Coach [Bill] Belichick said it best the other day. He said whether you’re 5-5 at this point or 10-0, it really depends on what we do going forward because I was here in 2001 when we were 5-5 and we ended up not losing a game after that.”

“A few years ago we were 10-0 and the season didn’t end very well. I think so much of your season is dependent on how we’re going to do at this point moving forward. We put ourselves in decent position but we’re going to have to go capitalize.”