Tag Archives: Sony Michel

New England Patriots News 11-10, AFC East Notes

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

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 11-10 and AFC East notes this week. 

The Patriots are off, on their bye week so, this weekend is a time to watch the other games and check out some of the Pats’ future opponents.

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

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

Tom Brady/Ed Reed – We saw a glimpse of the two in the tunnel before the game on Sunday night embracing and it wasn’t hard to see the respect those two have for each other. Of course, NFL Films detailed the respect Brady and Belichick have for Reed a long time ago. Reed was honored at halftime after being inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

OBJ/Larry Fitz – It seems Larry Fitzgerald to New England rumors will finally go the way of the dodo. And the rumor makers have seemingly found new fodder for the rumor mills- Odell Beckham Jr. We’ll be hearing and seeing this rumor a lot from now on.

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. 

Iron Men – The Patriots offense played virtually the entire game against Baltimore with the same 10 players. Nine players were on the field for 100 percent of the snaps. A 10th player, Phillip Dorsett missed one play and was replaced by Jakobi Meyers. The only position where the team rotated was running back.

Former Patriot DE Jake Bequette Now An Army Officer: 

After his playing career ended, former Patriot defensive end Jake Bequette fulfilled a life-long dream of his, in serving in the US military. Jeff Howe of the Athletic got in touch with Bequette who is now a 1st Lieutenant and serving in the 101st Airborne Division at Ft. Campbell, KY. 

Bequette, now 30, spent parts of four seasons with the Patriots (2012-2015) before moving on with his life. Initially, he couldn’t pass the medicals to enter the Army because of the injuries he suffered as a football player. 

“I’ve known for a long time I wanted military service to be part of my life,” Bequette said to Howe. “I couldn’t say for certain exactly how that was going to manifest itself. I wanted to play football for as long as I could. Toward the end of my time in New England, I knew if I wanted to serve in active duty, if I wanted to do what I wanted to do — be an infantry officer and go through Ranger School and all that — it was kind of now or never.”

Bequette graduated the physically grueling Army Ranger School in 2018 and has already conducted two combat tours. 

“Ranger School is a life-changing experience,” Bequette said in the interview. “It challenged me like I’ve never been challenged before. Mentally, physically, it’s a great leadership challenge as well. That was a goal I had going in, to graduate Ranger school. I was lucky enough to accomplish that goal. It was tough going from football. I played ball at about 270 (pounds). I went into Ranger School about 245. I graduated at about 200 pounds. People lose a lot of weight during Ranger School. Coming from a sports background, we’re used to being well-fed. Ranger school is more about pushing yourself past what you think are your boundaries. That was definitely one for me.”

With Veterans Day tomorrow, it is great to see more young men like Bequette take up the call and serve our country. Maybe this will soften Bill Belichick about getting an Army guy on the team… Maybe not.

Patriots Players Up and Down At the Bye Week:

It is hard to argue with the fact that the first half of the season has been very successful for the team at 8-1. While too many people (media/fans/hot take artists) are dwelling on their one loss, only one team, San Francisco has a better record at this point. 

So, here are our Patriots Players who have performed well or better than expected at this juncture of the season and those who have not. 

Players Trending Up: 

Jamie Collins – Taking a page out of the Pat Chung “Yes you can go home again”, Collins has been fantastic through the first half of 2019. The Browns cut him loose after a so-so time in Cleveland. He has been a huge FA signing by Bill Belichick. He’s had 48 tackles, including seven tackles for a loss, six sacks, four passes defended, two forced fumbles, and three interceptions.  And scored a touchdown. 

Yes, you can go home again. We were very wrong with this signing. And right beside Collins, you can add Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower.  The Boogeymen cometh.

Stephon Gilmore – No surprise here. He’s finally getting the due across the league as the best corner in football and his performance through the first nine weeks has put a stamp on that.  Remember a few years ago in his first few games as a Patriot? Bill Belichick took a lot of heat on that one… Those people are very quiet now.

Jake Bailey – The Patriots rookie punter caught a bit of flak when the usual ninnies who are infinitely better GMs than Belichick whined: “Why is Bill wasting a 5th round pick on a punter?”  After watching him put several punts in the ozone during minicamp/training camp he beat out Ryan Allen who was outstanding at directional punting in his time here.

But Bailey has been getting better and better with his own directional game and he still routinely puts punts into the flight path at Logan. He’s helped out with kickoffs as well as punting and has proven to be a very smart selection…Imagine that?

Honorable mention: Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, James White. Much is always expected from these three and they’ve done nothing to disappoint. 

Players Trending Down:

Offensive Line – The favorite whipping boy, Marshall Newhouse is already on the tip of everyone’s tongue but in reality, he hasn’t been bad. He’s a long-time veteran journeyman offensive lineman, thrust into the starting left tackle for the most successful franchise over the last 20 years. Has he been good? No, but he’s hardly alone.  

The offensive line as a whole has not performed as expected and that includes such usually solid performers Shaq Mason and Marcus Cannon.

Sony Michel – As the season began, we all expected big, big things from the Patriots 2nd-year running back. Things haven’t worked out that way as Michel has struggled.

While much of his struggles concern the play of the line (see above), Michel isn’t totally blameless as he’s not seeing the holes and reacting quickly enough. 

Rookie Class – With the exception of the aforementioned Bailey and Chase Winovich the Patriots haven’t got much from their rookie class. N’Keal Harry has been injured and hasn’t played a snap. 

Joejuan Williams, Damien Harris, Jarrett Stidham (thankfully), and Byron Cowart have barely seen the field. Yodny Cajuste and Hjalte Froholdt are on IR. Ken Webster was cut and is a Dolphin.  Although UDFAs Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski have played well in spurts. And part of that is the depth that the roster has…Glass half-full.

NFL Schedule Week 10, 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: 9-5
Season:88-46-1

TNF Raiders over LA Chargers 1-0

Kansas City over Tennessee
Arizona over Tampa Bay
NY Giants over NY Jets
New Orleans over Atlanta
Green Bay over Carolina
Buffalo over Cleveland
Baltimore over Cincinnati
Detroit over Chicago
Indy over Miami
LA Rams over Pittsburgh
SNF Dallas over Minnesota
MNF San Francisco over Seattle

Bye week: Patriots, Eagles, Broncos, Texans, Jaguars, Redskins

Week11 Thursday Night Football Browns over Pittsburgh

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Getting No Respect From Vegas, Underdogs at Cleveland:

The Buffalo Bills are 6-2 and have only lost to the Patriots and the Eagles. But somehow they are three-point underdogs as they travel to the dog pound to take on the very dysfunctional Cleveland Browns who are 2-6.

Has Cleveland done anything to deserve the preseason hype piled upon them? And the Bills are getting no love or respect around the NFL as they have compiled a very good record through the first half of the season. The Bills are completely healthy today, they had nobody on the injury report, a rarity these days.

Baker Mayfield and the underutilized OBJ will be facing a very tough defense in the Bills this week. Look for the Browns to feed Nick Chubb a lot in the early going as the Bills have struggled a bit in their run defense. Take the Bills, they’re for real. 

Dolphins Gesicki Being Utilized More Lately and Thriving:

The Miami Dolphins barely used 2nd-year tight end Mike  Gesicki in the first four games of the season but in the last four, his numbers have more than doubled as he begins to thrive in the Miami offense. Gesicki had just six catches in the Dolphins first four games but has 15 more in the last four. 

Gesicki had 22 catches as a rookie last season and has nearly equaled that halfway through the 2019 season.  Gesicki has developed a nice rapport and chemistry with veteran QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who recognizes the value of a big (6’6) tight end. 

“The big thing about playing with Fitz is that he’s just going to give you a chance to go make a play, which as a receiver, tight end, any pass catcher, that’s the trust and the belief that you want your quarterback to have in you that when the play … worst comes to worst, he’s just going to give you a shot and go make a play for him,” he said in an interview with The Audible.

Jets Enter Home Stadium “Rivalry Game” Against the Giants:

The New York Jets are 1-7 and in the throes of another meltdown and are facing the 2-7 New York Giants in what some NY fans are dubbing the “Toilet Bowl”.  Expectations are so low for this game, that some innocuous comments by Jets LB Jordan Jenkins have been termed trash-talking by the media.

Said Jenkins, “We both share the same stadium. It’s almost like playing for the rights [to it].”

“It’s the team right up the street. You’re competing with who has bragging rights for the year and all that type of stuff,” he said. “We know it’s going to be a physical game. We’re battling for who’s home field it really is. It’s going to be fun.”

I doubt even the Patriots would find that bulletin board material. But I digress. C.J. Mosley will miss another game, it was a huge mistake for the Jets coaches to allow him to come back …too early against the Patriots and now he’s hurt and the season is rapidly becoming a wasted one for the big-money free-agent inside linebacker.

The clock is already ticking for Adam Gase and a loss to the Giants and his hot seat may become too hot to handle.

________________

“Yeah, because that’s the way it is. It’s not about rating what did or didn’t happen. It’s about correcting the mistakes and improving on them, and there’s a lot of room for all of us to do that, and that’s what we’ll focus on – every player, every unit, every coach. I mean, when you look at it collectively, there are things we could have done better in every area that would have helped us, and we all need to address those and we all need to improve on them.” – Bill Belichick being asked about whether any positional group played well on Sunday against the Ravens.

________________

“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.

 

Sorting out the Patriots Issues During the Bye Week

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

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

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

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

The Team Needs to Fix Their Red Zone Production:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s why they play the games…  

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

This week’s game will be broadcast by NBC and can be seen locally on NBC 10 Boston. Al Michaels will handle play-by-play duties with Cris Collinsworth as the color analyst. Michele Tafoya will work the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (8-0) beat the Cleveland Browns 27-13, Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes to Julian Edelman while the defense held the Browns to just 13 points.

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

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

Series History:

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

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

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

First up is the Patriots offense:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next up the Ravens offense:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Baltimore

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

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

Next up, who wins and why…

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

Keys to the Game from a Patriots Perspective:

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

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

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

___________

Prediction: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Best Of Social Media: Week 8 Patriots vs Browns

Robert Alvarez
October 31, 2019 at 8:40 pm ET

The Patriots entered Sunday’s matchup with the Cleveland Browns on Sunday seeking to become the third team under Bill Belichick to start a season 8-0.

Check out all the best sights and sounds from social media as it happened below.

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It’s all clicking… #LFG

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Locked in.

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The Patriots jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter courtesy of the “boogeymen” defense, a squirrel, and the Cleveland Browns beating themselves.

 

 

 

In the second quarter, the Browns cut into the Patriots lead courtesy of a Baker Mayfield touchdown pass to Demetrius Harris.

A 17-7 New England lead was taken to halftime.

The Browns opened up the second half with a field goal to cut the deficit to 17-10 as the Patriots offense struggled to pull away.

A James White 59 yard run reignited the Patriots.

Tom Brady found Julian Edelman for a second time to push the lead back up to 24-10.

https://twitter.com/thecheckdown/status/1188582989409579008?s=20

 

In the fourth quarter the Patriots defense shut down the Browns the remainder of the game.

A field goal by both sides concluded the scoring as the Patriots improved to 8-0 with a 27-13 victory.

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Football guy weather ⛈ #OnToBaltimore

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Great team win ‼️ #LFG

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☔️ ☔️☔️ 8-0

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W.

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Patriots Week 8 Report Card, Defense Shines in 27-13 Win Over Cleveland

Steve Balestrieri
October 29, 2019 at 7:18 am ET

 Patriots Improve to 8-0 at the halfway mark of the season

The Patriots defense put the team on their back early in this one, forcing three Cleveland turnovers in three consecutive snaps to springboard the team out to an early 17-0 lead in the first quarter. They held Baker Mayfield to under 200 yards passing and frustrated the talented Browns wide receivers.

The shorthanded offense sputtered a bit but came up with a key drive in the third quarter when the Browns threatened to crawl back into the game. The Patriot played perhaps their worst game of the year, but it was more than enough to down the mistake-filled Browns.

So, while the Patriots aren’t perfect, they are certainly undefeated. Check out our grades and see how the team fared in this week’s win.

Quarterback: B

Tom Brady completed 20 of 36 passes for 259 yards with two touchdowns in Sunday’s win. Dealing with the absence of three starting offensive linemen, two tight ends, both fullbacks and with a WR who had been on the team just a few days, he ran the offense as well as one could expect. 

Despite having to get rid of the ball very quickly because of pass protection issues, Brady still had several nice throws. His movement in the pocket, sliding to the right and hitting Julian Edelman for a 14-yard touchdown was a nice play. He delivered a beautiful deep ball right on the money to Phillip Dorsett. And threw a dart down the seam to Ben Watson. 

Running Backs: B-

The running game continues to sputter but things got off to a good start on Sunday afternoon before grinding to a halt later in the game. Sony Michel got off to a nice start and broke a couple of nice runs, breaking tackles, giving the Patriots some early balance. Michel finished with 74 yards on 21 carries (3.5-yard average). 

But when Cleveland knew they were going to run late in the game, the running game ceased. James White and Rex Burkhead didn’t fare any better with five carries for eight yards. The issue wasn’t with the running backs but with the blocking up front.

White, however, was a big factor in the passing game catching four passes for 75 yards including a huge 59-yarder that led to a touchdown that broke the game open in the second half. Burkhead after missing the past few games had one catch for nine yards.

Wide Receivers: B

Julian Edelman and James White were the biggest targets in the passing game (no surprises there) and each came through in their normal fashion. Edelman had a game-high eight receptions for 78 yards with two touchdown catches. White, as mentioned above had four for 75. Phillip Dorsett had three catches for 43 yards. 

Newcomer Mohamed Sanu played in 37 snaps, which was over half, considering he just arrived last week, that number was surprisingly high. He chipped in with a pair of catches for 23 yards. His numbers will increase every week as he gains a better grasp of the offense. He was right with White downfield blocking on his 59-yard catch and run. That had to get the attention of the coaching staff. 

Jakobi Meyers was targeted just twice and had one catch for five yards.

Tight Ends: B-

Ben Watson and Eric Tomlinson both saw considerable action with Tomlinson logging in nearly half of the offensive snaps and Watson around 70 percent. Tomlinson did a good job in the run blocking game inside, he sprang Michel for a nice run up the middle sealing the linebacker off in a play that was highlighted on the telecast.

Watson caught the only pass he was targeted with but it was a big one, a 26-yard rope from Brady down the seam that set up the team inside the 10-yard line. We can Watson’s role in the passing game expanding in the near future.

Offensive Line: C-

The offensive line was missing another key piece in Shaq Mason, the left guard was ruled out and James Ferentz took his place. Ferentz stepped up and played all 69 offensive snaps. However, with three of the five starters out, it is little wonder that the unit struggled in both the running game and pass protection. 

Early results were good in the running game, but they tapered off to nearly nothing late in the game when the Browns knew the Patriots were going to run. Trying to close out the game by running the ball once again failed and continues to be an issue. 

Pass protection wasn’t good on Sunday. The Browns sacked Brady three times and he was forced to get rid of the ball far too often. Health is the biggest factor in holding back this unit right now. 

 Defensive Line: B

The defensive line had some issues in the running game, part of it was by design as they were being aggressive in getting after QB Baker Mayfield, but they were pushed around a bit as well. But they tightened things up when they had to. It is an issue that they’ll address in the meeting rooms to be sure. 

But they did a very good job of getting pressure on Mayfield. Lawrence Guy perfectly read the shovel pass coming to Jarvis Landry and blew up the play in the backfield intercepting the pass to boot. Adam Butler continues his high level of play with two sacks, three tackles for loss and a pair of QB hits.

Linebackers: A-

Jamie Collins was the star of the group again. Seemingly everywhere on the field, Collins logged 13 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1.5 tackles for a loss and two quarterback hits. Kyle Van Noy caused the first turnover, setting the edge and as the blocker was going to the ground he kicked the ball out of his own runner’s hands. Van Noy added a sack.

Dont’a Hightower scored the first touchdown of the game on a scoop and score off a Nick Chubb fumble, caused by Van Noy. Hightower was beaten for a 21-yard touchdown pass in the first half where he took the wrong angle inside and was beaten to the pylon. 

Chase Winovich in limited snaps added a half-sack and a QB hit. Overall the Patriots sacked Mayfield five times. ***Note*** The Patriots defense in 2018 had 30 sacks for the entire season. The defense this year has 31 with the season just half gone.  

Secondary: A

The secondary continues their outstanding play of 2019 limiting the Browns to under 200 yards passing. Stephon Gilmore once again goes to the head of the class. Going against the dangerous and explosive Odell Beckham Jr., Gilmore easily won this matchup. He held Beckham to four catches for 21 yards until a late garbage time 31 yarder. The Patriots will take that all day long. 

Jonathan Jones continues his strong play in the slot and showed tremendous speed while chasing down Chubb and causing the fumble to take away a scoring opportunity from the Browns. Jason McCourty and J.C. Jackson were solid.  

Pat Chung returned from injury and he, Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon continue their strong play at the back end and in the box. Missed tackles were an issue for the entire defense but the weather no doubt had a hand in that. But give Chubb credit, he runs hard and is a tough guy to bring down, rain or shine.

Special Teams: C+

Mike Nugent had a block on a 29-yard field goal attempt and badly missed another. Jake Bailey had a good game with a 45.4 yard average with one punt inside the 20 and another that was a touchback. The coverage units did a very good job on a dangerous returner in Dontrelle Hilliard. The return game didn’t do much

Coaches: A-

The Patriots coaching staff were working on a short week. They wanted to get off to a quick start and they did, racing out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter. That was huge in putting the Browns and their coaches behind the eight-ball. They weren’t up to the task. 

Bill Belichick got his 300th career win while Freddy Kitchens showed he has a long, long way to go. Josh McDaniels because of injuries and new personnel had to limit the playbook somewhat, and he’s still searching to find the offense its identity.   

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.

 

5 Thoughts Following the Patriots Win Over the Browns

Ian Logue
October 28, 2019 at 11:07 am ET

The Patriots improved to 8-0 on Sunday with their win over the Browns and here are some thoughts on the victory:

1) It can’t be said enough how much Bill Belichick has meant to this franichise and it was only fitting that his 300th career win came in front of the home crowd at Gillette Stadium who, despite the rain, gave their coach quite the ovation at the end of the game.

The fact it also happened as head coach of the team he earned his first victory against (he got his first win after beating the Patriots as head coach of the Browns back on 9/8/91), along with beating the Browns, his previous head coaching job prior to his arrival in New England, was a nice bit of poetic justice. For anyone who followed Belichick during those days in Cleveland, it’s still a little tough to understand why people felt he did so poorly during his first coaching stint.

During his first three seasons from 1991-1993, he finished 6-10, 7-9 and 7-9 as he revamped the roster and then came out in 1994 and led them to an 11-5 record, which even included a playoff win over the Patriots.

But the following season when it was announced that the Browns were suddenly being relocated to Baltimore was when the wheels came off, which had nothing to do with Belichick. During a documentary, Belichick brought to light what a tumultuous period that was for both he and the players and it played a key role in the fact that decision, not Belichick, was the reason things fell apart.

It’s good news for the Patriots, who ultimately ended up being the place he got his second opportunity. Fortunately, we know how things have turned out and seeing him set himself among greats such as George Halas and Don Shula is only fitting. What’s even more incredible is the fact he’s done it during the salary cap era, finishing with a winning season every year he’s been here, while also winning 10 or more games every season going back to 2003. He even did it in 2008 without Tom Brady, after Brady was lost mere minutes into that season.

He’s the best ever and each week is another little notch as he continues etching himself into the record books. But Sunday was a historic milestone that while the weather was far from perfect, the result certainly was as the Patriots remained perfect and won their eight game of the season.


Nice start for Sanu in his debut.

2) The weather likely spoiled a potentially more productive day for newcomer Mohamed Sanu, but what we saw from him Sunday was hopefully a sign of things to come.

Sanu finished the game with two receptions on the afternoon, with his first coming on a 4th-and-4 late in the first half. It was a big play and extended the drive, getting the Patriots down in scoring territory. Unfortunately, the drive eventually stalled and Mike Nugent’s field goal was blocked, but it doesn’t change the fact that he appears like he’ll be a good fit in this offense.

The big thing that stood out was the energy and intensity he played with, which was a stark contrast from Josh Gordon, who looked pretty tired and worn down during his final outings. Sanu took some big shots on Sunday but popped right back up and got back in the huddle and was also spotted doing a good job blocking on run plays and overall played pretty well.

He was targeted 5 times and while he only had two receptions, the rain played a part in a couple of those missed connections. But if initial impressions are any indication, it should be fun to see his contributions in the coming weeks now that he’s part of this offense.


The defense was big again on Sunday.

3) Sunday was another unbelievable day for the defense, which set the tone early.

The Patriots got their first touchdown of the day off of a fumble by running back Nick Chubb, with Dont’a Hightower scooping it up in stride and taking off 26-yards into the end zone to give New England a 10-0 advantage, but the most impressive play came on Cleveland’s next snap from scrimmage.

After Chubb broke off a 44-yard run down to the Patriots 16, Jonathan Jones, who initially fell down, got back up and sprinted the length of the field and came in and punched the football out, with Devin McCourty falling on the football at the New England 4-yard line. That was big, because had the Browns gotten into the end zone they would have been back in the game and it could have changed the momentum.

Instead, Jones’ effort fired up his group, who came after Baker Mayfield on the Browns’ first play of their ensuing drive and Lawrence Guy stepped in front of a short pass from Mayfield to Jarvis Landry, intercepting the pass and giving the Patriots the football at the Browns’ 11-yard line. Two plays later, Brady hit Edelman for an 8-yard touchdown and the Patriots were in command at 17-0.

It wasn’t perfect, as the Browns did have a fairly decent day running the football, with Chubb finishing with 131-yards on the day. However, considering the Browns were probably the most talented offense they’ve faced, New England held them to 3-of-12 (25%) on third down and just 13 points, making key plays when they needed to.

They still lead the league in points-per-game allowed (7.6) and Guy’s interception gave them 19 picks for the season, an NFL best. They also lead the league with 31-sacks after taking Mayfield down 5 times on Sunday.

Overall, it was a solid day’s work against a pretty good offense. The big test now is up next as the Patriots start getting ready for the Ravens, who are second in the NFL in yards-per-game and second in the league in points-per-game behind New England. They also lead the NFL in average time of possession.

4) Sunday’s game highlighted a solid afternoon for running back Sony Michel, who had a pretty good performance against the Browns’ defense.

He finished Sunday’s contest carrying 21 times for 74-yards, averaging 3.5 yards per game. But the thing that stood out was the fact Michel did a better job accelerating
and darting through openings against Cleveland’s defense, which gave us glimpses of the player we saw quite a bit last season.

And it’s not like the Browns defense wasn’t tough. They stopped Michel and Burkhead for either a loss or no gain seven times on Sunday, as well as another for a loss by Edelman. But the fact Michel was able to do what he did in those conditions was big as it kept Cleveland off balance just enough for Brady to throw for over 250-yards in driving rain.

A lot of the credit obviously goes to the guys up front, as they appear to be making progress. But this is the time of year where you need to see that improvement and hopefully Sunday is a sign of things to come.


Despite tough conditions, Brady played well Sunday.

5) Speaking of Brady, give him credit for the way he orchestrated the offense on Sunday, with the veteran making a couple of key plays in big moments.

One of the first was a perfectly thrown 33-yard pass to Phillip Dorsett on their second drive of the game, putting New England in business in Browns territory. It eventually led to a 20-yard field goal by Mike Nugent to give them an early 3-0 lead.

His next big play came on 2nd-and-7 from the Browns’ 8-yard line following Guy’s interception. Facing pressure, Brady rolled right and threw a perfect strike to Edelman, who caught the ball in stride and slashed into the end zone. That touchdown was Brady’s 12th of the season and also put him in the record books as the most touchdown passes in a season by a 42 year-old quarterback, breaking the previous mark of 11 by Warren Moon in 1998.

His throw to Sanu on the 4th-and-4 play was also terrific, firing a strike between the numbers as Sanu caught it with defenders bearing down on him and he turned just quickly enough to reach the first down marker.

Given the conditions, it was a terrific showing against a pretty good football team and Brady did a good job against a Browns defense that got fairly good pressure on him.

With a trip to Baltimore up next Sunday night, this will potentially be their biggest test of the season thus far.

Expect this one to be tough, as the Ravens are also coming off a bye and have had extra time to start preparing for this one. To add a little extra to this rivalry, Baltimore wasted no time making things interesting, having added recently released safety Jordan Richards and signing another defensive player in Ufomba Kamalu off New England’s practice squad.

That’s just Ravns head coach John Harbaugh being Harbaugh, likely looking for whatever edge he can find against a team that has always made things tough against him. Whether or not any of it really makes a difference this Sunday remains to be seen.

Undefeated but Imperfect Patriots Improve to 8-0 With Win Over Cleveland

Steve Balestrieri
October 27, 2019 at 10:23 pm ET

The Patriots took care of business at home on a very rainy and windy Gillette Stadium on Sunday and went to 8-0 on the season with a 27-13 win over the Cleveland Browns.

Bill Belichick joined the 300 club as today the win was the 300th of his career, the fastest any coach has ever won that many. Belichick was victorious in his 434th game as a head coach. (Hint, that is a pretty darned good winning percentage)

Tom Brady waxed poetic in his praise for Belichick. Asked about the significance of the coach’s 300th win, he had this to say.

“Three hundred wins is pretty spectacular. He’s the best coach of all time and it’s a privilege to play for him for as many years as I have. He’s taught me so much on and off the field, just been a great mentor for me,” Brady said.  “

Being here 20 years ago – it was his first year, it was my first year. It’s been a great journey. Just proud of him, everything he’s accomplished. Amazing to think that he coached for another place and they didn’t think he was good enough, and then he comes here and does a great job. It’s a great celebration for him and certainly hard-earned, well-deserved. And the only thing better than 300 is 301. So, we’ll be back at it this week.”

So, while the team is undefeated, they are far from perfect. But the Patriots have a way to bring out the very worst in their opponents and they used the Browns’ many miscues to put this one in the rearview mirror early. 

The Patriots defense forced turnovers on three straight offensive snaps by Cleveland to take a 17-0 lead in the first quarter and the Browns could never recover. The first turnover was created on a solid play by Kyle Van Noy and Nick Chubb’s fumble was scooped up by Dont’a Hightower and returned for a touchdown. 

The next turnover occurred when Chubb rolled for 44 yards and appeared headed for a touchdown. But Jonathan Jones ran him down and tomahawked the ball out. Devin McCourty recovered for the Patriots at the five-yard line.

The third turnover was perhaps the most bizarre of all. The Browns attempted a shovel pass to Jarvis Landry. Lawrence Guy read the play and got penetration inside and actually made contact with Landry before he was in position. Baker Mayfield should have never attempted the pass and in essence, he passed it right to Guy who had to be the most surprised player in Gillette Stadium. 

Not many teams can spot an opponent 17 points on the road and come back to win. Especially with the weather conditions the way they were and facing a defense that has been playing like the Patriots’ have thus far this year. 

Cleveland hung around, thanks to the terrific running of Chubb who settled down after his first two miscues and pounded out 131 yards on 20 carries. But the Browns never gave the impression they were seriously threatening to challenge for this game. 

Although they made things interesting with a field goal to open the third quarter to make the score 17-10, the Patriots immediately answered with Tom Brady leading the team on an 84-yard drive in seven plays putting them up 24-10 and pretty much putting this one to bed. The key play was a 59-yard pass play from Brady to James White on a 3rd and 10. Brady capped off the drive with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Julian Edelman, his second touchdown reception of the game. 

Baker Mayfield completed 20 of 31 passes for 194 yards with a touchdown and an interception. While it wasn’t his worst game of the season by a long stretch, it wasn’t a great one either. Mayfield broke up a streak of 71 straight points by the Patriots when he connected with Demetrius Harris for a 21-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Harris got by Hightower who tried to play inside leverage. Harris broke for the pylon and Mayfield hit him with a nicely thrown ball. It would be the only touchdown of the game for the Browns. 

The Patriots defense held Cleveland to just 13 points and generated another three turnovers while adding five more sacks to their total while scoring another touchdown. It wasn’t perfect there either as Chubb and the ground game gained far too much yardage. But Mayfield and the passing game never got untracked. 

Stephon Gilmore and Odell Beckham Jr. were matched up and the talented wide receiver had five catches for 52 yards but 31 of them came late on a deep pass at garbage time when this one was already decided. This match goes to Gilmore. Jarvis Landry led all Browns receivers with 5 catches for 65 yards on 10 targets. 

Which brings us to the Patriots offense. The problems at the offensive line with replacements at the center, left tackle, and right guard this week are becoming a show stopper. The running game could muster only 79 yards on 27 carries, a measly 2.9-yard average. This against a team allowing 154 yards per game. 

Sony Michel had 74 yards on 21 carries but his yards per carry average suffered late in the game when the Browns knew the Patriots were trying to run out the clock and they stuffed him time and again. 

Brady was only sacked three times but the pressure was such that he is forced to get rid of the ball in under two seconds or he’s going to get hit more often than not. The playmakers on offense aren’t the problem. When he did have time to throw, he made nice throws to Edelman for a pair of touchdowns, a nice deep throw to Phillip Dorsett and a really nice seam pass to Ben Watson for 26 yards. The protection has to improve. And the run blocking has to vastly improve. 

Newcomer Mohamed Sanu had a pair of catches including a nice first down where he just made it to the sticks before getting popped but was able to hold on to the ball. He’ll get more involved the longer he’s here and learns more of the offense. 

In our pregame key matchups, we said that Chubb was the key for the defense and that James White and Edelman were the go-to guys on offense. Edelman had eight catches for 78 yards with two touchdowns. White had four catches for 75 yards on five targets. 

So the team moves on to Baltimore “for their first real test” of the season. They’re 8-0 at the halfway point of the season. Unbeaten but hardly perfect. They’ll be taking on a Ravens team that is on their own bye week. They’ll be rested and at home. 

So, be forewarned, the airwaves will be filled this week with ways that the Ravens can beat New England and reasons given why you should fear Baltimore.  We’ll get into that more as the week goes on. 

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

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

Patriots – 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

___________

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 Week 7 Report Card, 33-0 Shutout Win Over the Jets

Steve Balestrieri
October 23, 2019 at 7:32 am ET

 Patriots Improve to 7-0 In Impressive Defensive Showing

The Patriots put this one away early, jumping out to an early 17-0 lead in the first quarter and then never looked back as they cruised to a 33-0 blanking of the Jets. The defense was outstanding, allowing zero points, holding the Jets to just 154 yards total and just 2 of 11 on third down. 

The shorthanded offense was clicking early but had their issues later in the game, although it is hard to find fault after they put up 33 points. Most everyone, including the Jets, had this one as being much closer than the first meeting. It wasn’t. 

So, while it wasn’t perfect, it was plenty good enough. Check out our grades and see how the team fared in this week’s blowout win.

Quarterback: B

Tom Brady once again had so-so numbers, 31-45, 249 yards one TD, one INT. But his TD numbers could have been inflated if not for two near scores with James White and an obvious DPI on Trumaine Johnson when got beaten by Jakobi Meyers on a double move as well as a Michel drop where it looked like a score. Regardless, Brady ran the offense very smoothly, especially early, scoring on three of their first four possessions which put the game into the win column. 

He had a pick where he was hit as he threw and that was partially on him for holding the ball too long and an intentional grounding call. The microphones on ESPN picked him up yelling “He was right there!” Ah, no Tom he wasn’t. But he was also victimized by some drops. Overall, with a short-handed offense, he ran it very well. 

Running Backs: C

The running game remains an issue, and while we can point at the running backs, in reality, there is far too frequently nowhere for them to go. As a group, the backs averaged only 2.2 yards per carry. Sony Michel had only 42 yards on 19 carries but did have three touchdown runs. 

Damien Harris got his first carries as a Patriot and finally got some work in, which is a positive sign. Brandon Bolden and James White had very little production in the running game this week. With no fullback, LB Elandon Roberts filled in as a goalline blocker and used his downhill, thumping style to good use. 

Wide Receivers: B

Julian Edelman and James White (as we pointed out in our keys to the game) were the biggest pass receivers, each hauling in seven passes and filled in their roles well. White just missed a pair of TD receptions, getting knocked out of bounds at the one-yard line and scampering down the right sideline and just being taken down around the ankles. 

Jakobi Meyers is gaining the all-important trust factor with Brady, he had five catches for 47 yards including some nice grabs in traffic. While his snaps may see a downtick with the addition of Mohamed Sanu and the return of Josh Gordon and N’Keal Harry, he’s building his rapport with #12 and that will come in hand down the stretch.

Phillip Dorsett returned from his hamstring injury and had a really nice 23-yard TD where he dusted Johnson down the seam. Brandon Bolden had a beauty of a catch along the sideline. A pretty back-shoulder catch for 28-yards where he got his feet in like a top-flight wide receiver. Next week, maybe they’ll try him as a kicker…

Tight Ends: B

Ben Watson and Eric Tomlinson combined for 100 snaps (Watson 62, Tomlinson 38) after not being on the team a week ago. Considering Tomlinson had to jet to Texas for the birth of his child and then zip back this week, was a testament to hard work. The Patriots early in the game went with the heavier two-TE look and it worked pretty well. 

Watson’s timing was off a bit early, he turned too late for the first pass from Brady and it bounced off his face mask but after that, he contributed in the passing game with three catches including a key fourth-down conversion (Trust factor). Tomlinson had a catch but provided decent in-line blocking but did have a holding penalty. 

Offensive Line: C

The offensive line did a good job of pass protection overall, Brady wasn’t sacked and hit just two or three times. But of course, much of that has to do with Brady himself. He was getting the ball out incredibly fast which has to frustrate the pass rushers who have no chance of getting home. Marshall Newhouse continues to struggle against pressure from the outside, however. 

The run blocking remains a hit or miss operation, mainly miss. We can all point the finger at Sony Michel and say he isn’t hitting the hole fast enough, but there frequently isn’t a hole to hit and he’s getting met in the backfield. 

With the game salted away in the fourth quarter, the Patriots attempted eight rushes. This is where they traditionally eat the clock up and go home happy. Those eight rushes netted 10 yards. That isn’t going to get it done. 

 Defensive Line: A-

The defensive line once again was outstanding. Le’Veon Bell had a decent game numbers-wise but was a total non-factor. He got most of them on his own. Lawrence Guy, Danny Shelton, Deatrich Wise, and Adam Butler were stuffing everything at the point of attack. And they created lanes for the pass rush to get home. 

On a day where the Patriots had just one sack, the pass rush was the difference here. As was picked up by ESPN microphones, Sam Darnold was “seeing ghosts” 

Linebackers: A

The Patriots linebackers are having an outstanding season, the depth and versatility in this group are the strength of the defense. Utilizing the “0-blitz” early in the game, they were rushing free and caused Darnold to throw interceptions and sail his throws off his back foot. 

John Simon came free on one and knocked the ball out of Darnold’s hands, which was scooped up by Kyle Van Noy who jumped up and rushed into the end zone. It was eventually blown dead as a Jet TE had bumped legs with Van Noy on the ground. 

Dont’a Hightower rocked Bell on one of the few screens the Jets attempted on a bone-jarring hit that put a bow on the evening. 

Secondary: A

The secondary continued their stellar play, no touchdowns, no points, only 86 yards passing and four interceptions. Robby Anderson who had a huge game against Dallas was rendered to a milk carton by Stephon Gilmore. Slot receiver Jamison Crowder had just four catches for 26 yards, blanketed by Jonathan Jones. The Jets only had four first downs passing. 

Bill Belichick and Jerod Mayo utilized the “Cover 0” technique for much of the game, telling the Jets that they weren’t afraid of getting beaten deep. They weren’t. Before the game, Darnold told the NY media, that Jets offense was going to become unstoppable. Maybe soon but not on Monday Night. 

The only downside was the play of J.C. Jackson who was too grabby on Demaryius Thomas and was flagged three times. 

Special Teams: A

Mike Nugent had a clean game, one field goal and four extra points with no misses. A look at Jake Bailey’s 37.3 net average on Monday and you’d think he had a bad game. That would be wrong. He did have a shank early in the game, but his plus-50 punting was outstanding dropping four inside the 20-yard line including a beauty he dropped on the one which bounced out of bounds at the three. He skied a 59-yarder that should have been put in orbit, with over a five-second hang time.

The return game was good and they recovered a muffed punt by former Patriot Braxton Berrios. A great night for the STs

Coaches: A+

The Patriots coaching staff had extra time to prepare and it showed. The first quarter was complete domination for the Patriots in a game the Jets were hoping to show that they were on their way. They were, but not where they expected. Bill Belichick took Adam Gase to school and Josh McDaniels deserves high marks for scheming up an impressive start with a very banged up offense missing several key pieces.

The defensive coaches knew what they needed to do against Darnold and their players produced much better than anyone could have hoped for, and certainly better than most expected.   

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.