Tag Archives: Stephen Gostkowski

What to Watch For, Preseason Week 3 Patriots vs Panthers

Steve Balestrieri
August 22, 2019 at 7:30 am ET

The Patriots are taking on the Carolina Panthers tonight in Foxboro for the third preseason game for both teams. This is the week that the starters traditionally see a lot of game action. But I have always disliked the term “dress rehearsal”, so for the eighth year in a row here at PatsFans.com, I’ll use my favorite quote from Willie Nelson. My wife and I spent time back and onstage with Willie at one venue and partied on his bus with him at others. [Those are stories for a different time.] But Willie’s words ring true.

“There are no dress rehearsals, we are professionals and this IS the big time”

So, both teams’ starters should see about a half of work and maybe a series in the second half to get acclimated to the entire process. This will be Cam Newton’s first game action this year after off-season shoulder surgery. So, he may not be as apt as he’s shown in the past about tucking the ball away and running with it. This will also be Tom Brady’s first preseason action this summer.

So, what are we looking for from a Patriots perspective tonight? 

Can Brady and the New Faces Click on Offense?

Julian Edelman came off of NFI on Monday, Demaryius Thomas was removed from PUP on Tuesday. I don’t imagine either will play. Josh Gordon is still on NFI and has already been ruled out of tonight’s game. N’Keal Harry just returned to practice this week and may not play either. 

So, this will be a really big test for Jakobi Meyers, going against the top Carolina defense as Brady’s go-to receiver. Phillip Dorsett and Braxton Berrios should also get a lot of snaps with the first unit. 

This should be a good time to see how Sony Michel and Damien Harris are used out of the backfield in the passing game, something they’ve worked on this summer. We know James White’s value there, but the coaches made a concerted effort to by more unpredictable this summer. Michel and Harris should handle the bulk of the work in the running game. Isaiah Wynn’s workload should increase this week and we want to see how he handles this as well as how he holds up against a stout Panthers defense.

Matt LaCosse is back on the field after being injured in Detroit, and this is his opportunity to shine. No one has really stepped up at tight end this summer, so this a big chance to carve out a role with the team. 

How Well the Front Seven [Starters] can Create Pressure:

We’ve seen the top guys dominate in workouts and joint practices. The second and third-tier guys have looked really good in preseason games, but now the starters get to show their stuff. And they get a good test against a Panthers team that has given them problems in the past.

With players like Micheal Bennett, Dont’a Hightower, and Kyle Van Noy getting into their first game action of the year, mixing in Jamie Collins, Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, and John Simon, we’ll get a better idea on how they are planning on using these players. In particular, will the coaches continue to be aggressive and we’ll be wanting to see the personnel groupings that they will rollout.

This front seven looks deep and versatile, with guys like Chase Winovich, Shalique Calhoun, and Derek Rivers coming on later to spell the starters, the 2019 front seven is as deep a unit the Patriots have had since the 2003-2004 teams.

Watching the Starting Secondary Gel On the Field:

This secondary unit of the Patriots is one of the more stronger ones in the league and arguably the deepest secondary unit that Bill Belichick has coached since he took over the reins of the Patriots in 2000.

Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, and Jason McCourty give the team their top three boundary corners. Jonathan Jones has easily bested former 2nd round pick Duke Dawson for the top slot corner. Now watching the starters and their communication with Devin McCourty and Pat Chung at safety is a step. This unit hasn’t played together in a game since the Super Bowl. This is a big week of preparation for the season. Many of them probably won’t play next week. 

Dawson should see plenty of reps in the second half as he’s one of the guys who is fighting for a roster spot. Joejuan Williams, the rookie 2nd round CB, who has improved markedly since training camp began and Keion Crossen should also see a lot of work in the second half.

Special Teams Get Ready For Week 1:

With the release of Ryan Allen, Jake Bailey has won the starting punting position. But the pressure doesn’t let up now, it just gets even tougher. He’s replacing a very popular player with the fanbase and this will be his first game action in Foxboro. He’ll also be tasked with holding on field goal and extra-point attempts. It will be important for him to get off to a good, clean start.

Stephen Gostkowski has missed field goals in each of the first two games, whether that was all on him or something in the exchange between Joe Cardona and his new holder Bailey will bear watching. For all of the fans who would like to see the third most accurate kicker in NFL history replaced, who is out there and most importantly available? Other than the Ravens’ Justin Tucker, Gostkowski is right up there with the best kickers in the game. With a better career accuracy average than the guy he replaced 14 years ago.

The kick return game will bear particular watching tonight. Braxton Berrios or Gunner Olszewski’s roster spot may depend on how well they produce in the kick return game. 

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.

5 Monday Patriots Thoughts: Interesting Storylines Starting to Develop

Ian Logue
August 19, 2019 at 10:03 am ET

Here are some Patriots thoughts on this Monday morning:

1) One of the best stories coming out of this year’s training camp has certainly been the emergence of the defense, which seemingly appears like it could be one of the deeper and faster groups this team has had in quite a long time.

They’ve been impressive, with the ability to get after the quarterback having been a strength through two games. That success carried over again Saturday night down in Tennessee as New England put together another strong performance in their win over the Titans.

Overall, thus far, the’ve totaled 11 sacks, which is just 3 shy of what they finished with during last year’s preseason (14) and well ahead of 2017’s exhibition total (4). The only thing they haven’t done much of is force turnovers. They have just one interception so far, after having finished with five takeaways last preseason (3 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries).

But it’s hard not to be a little excited at what could be in store for this football team this season and Saturday night’s game was yet another reminder of the potential this group has heading into the season.


Stidham’s fast development has been a pleasant surprise.

2) That being said, one of the more interesting situations may ultimately be what ends up happening with the quarterback position after Jarrett Stidham’s performances through two games.

The rookie is 28-of-43 throwing the football with 372-yards passing with 2 touchdowns and a QB rating of 107.9. The latter stat ranks him 2nd in the NFL and he’s averaging 8.7 yards per throw, which also ties him for 2nd this preseason.

While it’s too early to get too excited, the bigger issue now could potentially see the team opt to take a chance on playing him behind Brady and open up a roster spot to address the depth they have on both sides of the football. Bill Belichick knows better than anyone that it’s a long season and injuries certainly happen, but Stidham’s recent growth could have just changed the future of another player who might have been on the outside looking in had Stidham not played as well as he has this preseason.

3) Another player who has also been a nice surprise is Jakobi Meyers, who finds himself 2nd in the NFL in receptions with 12 and tied for the league lead in touchdowns with 2. His 151 receiving yards are third-best in the league behind Buccaneers receiver Tanner Hudson (177yds) and the Steelers James Washington (162yds) and he’s been explosive to watch.

This has been mentioned before but given what we’ve seen from N’Keal Harry and now Meyers, along with Julian Edelman set to hopefully be ready to go in week one and the return of Josh Gordon, the Patriots could have one of the deadliest receiving cores in quite some time.

For a position that had a lot of question marks heading into this season, all of a sudden, the answers should have most fans pretty excited about what could be in store for this group this season.


Winovich has had a terrific preseason so far.

4) Chase Winovich has been one of the most pleasant surprises this preseason and he’s certainly living up to the hype he received during the draft.

Watching film of him back then, even in college he was a player who plays with a ton of energy and emotion, which are two traits that make anyone at his position fun to watch.

He already has 2.5 sacks this preseason, which is second in the NFL behind Philadelphia’s Daeshon Hall (3.0). He’s essentially looked like the same player he was at Michigan and so far he’s carried his tenacity and explosiveness over to the NFL level. He’s worked hard this preseason and it’s obvious he’s going to be a player who the Patriots should be able to have success with. It may only still be August, but the future appears bright for the former Wolverine here in New England.

5) While the Patriots have spent the preseason with a punting battle going on between incumbent Ryan Allen and newcomer Jake Bailey, Saturday night’s game put the spotlight on kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who missed another field goal in as many weeks.

While Belichick has been one of the kicker’s biggest supporters, Gostkowski really needs to start settling in as the season approaches. Some will remember his difficulties in the Super Bowl, but a loss in his family the day before helped provide some context with that performance.

However, seeing him struggle again this preseason raises a red flag and one would hope he can start turning things around. It’s easy to make the suggestion of finding another kicker, but it’s a completely different story to actually find a reliable, consistent bad-weather kicker.

After a relatively good 2018, Gostkowski brought enough currency into this year to believe the kicker position shouldn’t be a concern. However, one would think these next two weeks will be important for him to start building some positive momentum heading into the season as the Patriots will need Gostkowski to be at his best heading into 2019.

The Patriots will play their first home preseason game of the year this Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers at Gillette Stadium.

Best Of Social Media: Preseason Week 1 Patriots vs Lions

Robert Alvarez
August 12, 2019 at 6:43 pm ET

For the first time since their sixth Super Bowl championship back, the New England Patriots returned to game action in their preseason opener out in the Motor City.

Check out some of the best sights and sound from social media over the course of the game.

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Year 2… #mybrotherskeeper

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Go time.

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In the first quarter, the Patriots new-look defense showed their presence early.

Quarterback Brian Hoyer hooked up with rookie N’Keal Harry for a highlight first catch as a Patriot.

The Patriots offense got on the board first as receiver Maurice Harris hauled in a 14 yard touchdown reception from Hoyer.

7-0 Patriots after one quarter of play.

In the second quarter, Hoyer continued his hot start, finding Jakobi Meyers for his first of two touchdown hauls on the night.

The Patriots defense continued to pressure the Lions and John Simon forced a fumble in the process.

Rookie Jarrett Stidham entered the game for Hoyer and the offense continued to shine as Meyers again found the end zone.

20-0 New England at the half following a missed two-point conversion attempt.

The stats were ugly for Matt Patricia’s Lions.

Kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed a 37 yard field goal before the half…or was it Stephen Gostowski?

Don’t tell Lions fans it’s just a preseason game.

In the second half the Patriots picked up right where they left off, extending their lead to 28-0 early in the third quarter. A second two-point attempt was good.

One Lions fan had some unfortunate explaining to do after the game.

After three quarters and a four touchdown lead there was plenty of praise to go around for the 2019 Patriots debut.

Stephen Gostkowski tacked on a field goal to open the fourth quarter to push the lead to 31-0 and the Patriots defense did the rest to close out the evening.

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Well… that escalated quickly

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The Patriots would go on to win their preseason opener by an impressive 31-3 final score.

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Just another day in the office Game 1 ✅

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New England Patriots 53-man Roster Projection 2.0

Steve Balestrieri
August 5, 2019 at 8:30 am ET

With the Patriots first ten days of training camp over, it is time to take another crack at our New England Patriots 53-man roster projection. With eight practices in, several of them fully padded, we’ll look at the early risers and whose falling. We’ll revisit this after a week with the Detroit Lions and their first preseason game.

Offense –
Quarterbacks: (3)

Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham
Out: Danny Etling

The Patriots will continue to go with three QBs as Brady, Hoyer, and Jarrett Stidham will man the position this year. It will be interesting to see if Stidham shows enough in the upcoming preseason games to push Hoyer as Brady’s backup in case of emergency.

Running backs: (6)

Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden, James Develin
Out: Nick Brosette, Jakob Johnson* [NFL International Player]

Sony Michel looks good, now that he is back on the field and he and Damien Harris are getting more frequent looks in the passing game. James White looks as good as ever while Brandon Bolden isn’t going anywhere, he’s a good depth guy and outstanding on STs. Develin could easily be posted with the tight ends as he practices with them frequently. If the Patriots decide five is enough would that make Burkhead expendable? Possibly, but for now, he sticks.

Brosette is a victim of the numbers and lands on the practice squad. Ditto for Johnson who is automatically granted an extra spot on the PS due to his NFL International status

Tight ends: (2)
Matt Lacosse, Ryan Izzo, **Ben Watson Suspended**
Out: Lance Kendricks, Stephen Anderson, Andrew Beck

The Patriots have Lacosse being the receiving tight end with Izzo as the blocker who nudges out Anderson, the move tight end thus far. Ben Watson will return after the first month which means they’ll have to make another cut somewhere.

Beck got a fair amount of guaranteed money and could become another fullback option if Develin gets hurt, he’ll be a practice squad candidate.

Wide Receivers: (5)
Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Phillip Dorsett, Maurice Harris, Jakobi Meyers
Out: Braxton Berrios, Dontrelle Inman, Damoun Patterson, Ryan Davis, Gunner Olszewski, **Josh Gordon Suspended** Demaryius Thomas [PUP], Cameron Meredith [PUP]

Edelman, Harry, and Dorsett are the top three, Dorsett is still an intriguing case. He has all of the tools to be a very productive receiver but only produces in short flashes. But given the cuts, he’s the only viable kick returner on the roster unless the coaches want to push Edelman or Michel back out there. 

Harris has been the most consistent receiver on the field thus far and Meyers is already beginning to develop the chemistry with Brady that will be needed. Thomas has yet to see the field so no one knows if he has anything left in the tank. Gordon has applied for reinstatement by the league so we’ll be watching to see how that unfolds.  

Berrios can’t get any separation and after a strong showing in the spring, has taken a step back. This coming week with the Lions will be huge for him. Inman has been largely invisible but just began making progress this week. Patterson, Davis, and Olszewski are practice squad candidates.

However, Berrios and/or Olszewski could carve out a role in the return game. Preseason will tell the tale.

Offensive line: (8)
Isaiah Wynn, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Joe Thuney, James Ferentz, Ted Karras, Hjalte Froholdt
Out: Yodny Cajuste [NFI], Dan Skipper, Cedric Lang, Tyree St. Louis, Martez Ivey

Hmm, depth at tackle remains a dicey situation with Isaiah Wynn still not a full go at practice. At this point, they need to start getting him real reps and not a walk-thru if he’s going to be ready for the regular season. The team is giving Dan Skipper every opportunity to win a roster spot but he’s shown that even against the 2nd tier guys, he’s getting beat. Not good for a left tackle.

Cajuste is still on NFI and the longer it drags on, the more it seems that he won’t be ready until midseason. The answer for the short term? Joe Thuney at LT, Karras at LG and now it makes more sense to keep Ferentz. 

Defense –

Edge Players: (4)
Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise, John Simon, Chase Winovich
Out: Derek Rivers, Keionta Davis, Trent Harris, Nick Thurman, Ufomba Kamalu

Bennett and Wise are your defensive ends in a base 3-4, which they’ve run a lot of this spring/summer. Simon and Winovich could easily be lumped in with the linebackers. It is curious if they do run a 3-4, Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler could be 3-4 DEs as well. Rivers has looked good so far, but Winovich is looking just a strong right now and would, IMO get the nod. 

Nobody is closing the door on Davis, Harris, Thurman, or Kamalu at this point. All of them have had good moments in camp. Plenty can happen in the next few weeks, but as of today, they’re on the wrong side of the numbers crunch.

Interior Defensive Line: (4)

Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel, Danny Shelton, Adam Butler

Out: Bryon Cowart, David Parry

Guy and Pennel should be the Week 1 starting combination inside. Shelton returns, as the backup nose tackle. Guy and Butler offer versatility in either inside DL in a 4-3 or as 3-4 DEs playing a five-technique. This is a solid group and Mike Pennel should be an immediate early downs producer. 

Cowart and Parry have some ground to make up but are for the time being, outside looking in. 

Linebacker: (6)

Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Elandon Roberts, Brandon King
Out: Christian Sam. Terez Hall, Calvin Munson, Shalique Calhoun

Linebacker is a position of strength and the Patriots could still play Winovich and Simon here as well. If they were to add another roster spot for extra depth, Sam, who is having an under the radar camp or Calhoun who has played well in limited reps could find their way on the roster. 

Hightower, Bentley, and Roberts will handle the inside duties while the others will play outside, but moving players around seems like a given this year. 

Cornerback: (7)
Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams, Jonathan Jones, Duke Dawson, Keion Crossen
Out: Ken Webster, D’Angelo Ross

You can never have enough talented corners…right? Gilmore, McCourty, and Jackson give the team three very good to excellent boundary corners. Jones and Dawson will handle the slot. Williams is a big corner (6’4) that allows him to play against the bigger WRs or matchup with tight ends. 

The versatility and depth of this group give the Patriots their deepest part of the roster. Both Ross and Webster are candidates for the practice squad.

Safety: (4)
Devin McCourty, Pat Chung, Duron Harmon, Terrence Brooks
Out: Obi Melifonwu, Malik Gant, Nate Ebner [PUP], AJ Howard

Brooks has been seeing a lot of reps on defense with the top unit and the veteran ST’s ace edges out Obi Melifonwu right now. Obi has had a good camp and has gotten a lot of reps himself with the top unit. His size and athleticism make this one a tough choice. But the competition continues. 

Ebner is on PUP for now and Gant is a candidate for the practice squad.

Specialists: (4)
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Jake Bailey, long-snapper Joe Cardona, Gunner Matthew Slater
Out: Ryan Allen

Gostkowski and  Cardona aren’t facing any competition in camp and other than Brady, perhaps, these two should rest easiest in training camp. Bailey the strong-legged punter and Allen are locked in a good camp battle. Bailey has a booming leg with incredible hang time while Allen is the steady vet. But Bailey can also kickoff and fill in for Gostkowski on FGs if need be. Slater practices hard on his own all session long with a staff member, working on his gunner skills. 

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 Training Camp Day 6 Observations

Steve Balestrieri
July 31, 2019 at 5:25 pm ET

Sloppy Affair For the Offense

The Patriots conducted their sixth practice of training camp and their third in full pads on the fields behind Gillette Stadium on a very hot, humid Wednesday morning. It was perhaps the worst showing of the summer by the offense who were plagued by dropped passes. Between the heat, humidity and the Patriots defense, the offense had a rough session. They never looked in sync and had a hard time stringing any plays together.  

Not Practicing – Julian Edelman and Yodny Cajuste remain on NFI, Demaryius Thomas is still on PUP along with Nate Ebner and Ken Webster.

Byron Cowart and Dontrelle Inman returned after missing three practices and two respectively. Cowart worked on conditioning while Inman jumped right back into team drills. After warmups and stretching, Rex Burkhead retreated to the lower practice fields for work with the training staff. About halfway thru practice, Lance Kendricks left with a member of the training staff, which could have been a heat issue. 

Ben Watson speaks after practice on 7-31. (SBalestrieri)

The practice was conducted in full pads. Our observations included:

  • Once again a big part of the focus on Wednesday was the running game. Early in the session, James White was leading the way 
  • N’Keal Harry had a rough go of it, the worst of his career with four (4) drops one of which irritated Brady and he let the rookie know it. 
  • Braxton Berrios didn’t have a great session either, he had a drop from Brady and another from Hoyer. 

On the subject of Berrios, with Edelman out, he was expected to really compete and get work with the top unit on offense. After a really solid spring, things haven’t worked out. He hasn’t stood out at all. And worse yet, he isn’t getting any separation from the corners and he’s been mainly going against the second-tier guys. 

Maybe in the preseason, they’ll scheme up something to get him open more. Right now, I thought he’d be rapidly becoming the Amendola option to this offense. Although there is still a long, long way to go, right now, I’d put him on the outside looking in. 

Back to observations…

  • Jakobi Meyers is having a pretty impressive camp along with Maurice Harris. While he isn’t getting the reps that Harris is, whenever he’s being called, he is producing. He used his height to outleap Keion Crosson and brought down a pass from Stidham. I’d put him over Berrios…right now.
  • During the first 7-on-7 period, the offense struggled with drops on three plays. Berrios dropped a pass from Stidham, then he dropped one from Brady as the ball sailed right thru his hands. 
  • Harry dropped one on a quick drag route close to the line of scrimmage. 
  • Harry then ran a nice comeback route as Brady gunned the ball to his back shoulder. The rookie made the nice difficult catch on that one. 
  • During 11-on-11, Harry dropped a quick slant where Brady put the ball right in his hands. 
  • Brady just missed hitting Ben Watson with Devin McCourty providing tight coverage. The window was tight and he just missed him.
  • When Brian Hoyer came in, he tried to hook up with Phillip Dorsett but Jason McCourty did a nice job of breaking up the pass.
  • Stidham hit Damoun Patterson on a drag route close to the line of scrimmage. Then he threw behind Patterson on the next snap. 
  • During the final 11-on-11 which looked to be a hurry-up offensive series Brady laid out a deep seam pass for Harry but he dropped it. This was one of the only plays of the summer where Gilmore was beaten clearly.
  • Jonathan Jones made a really nice play of breaking up a pass intended for Berrios. Jones is having an outstanding camp thus far. Perhaps only Gilmore is playing better in the secondary right now.
  • Hoyer attempted to split double coverage with a deep seam pass to Watson. Terrence Brooks got a piece of it and Duron Harmon picked it off. 
  • Joejuan Williams had his best day of camp and broke up another pass to Watson. He had a couple on nice breakups today. 
  • Dan Skipper was getting the majority of first-team reps at left tackle but in the 1-on-1 drills he was beaten cleanly by Shalique Calhoun, who quietly is having a good camp and later was pancaked by Ufomba Kamalu. Not a good sign.
  • David Andrews and Joe Thuney held their own in the drills with good, solid stops. 
  • Backup defensive lineman Nick Thurman looked impressive in his individual 1-on-1 against Tyree St. Louis. 
  • New offensive lineman Martez Ivey was in uniform and has a long, long way to go with his conditioning.  Forced to run a penalty lap, he was so slow that the trainers came out to check on him….time to hit the hills. 
  • Punt returners today were Chung, Berrios, Olszewski, and Dorsett. 
  • Jake Bailey did a good job both on hanging his punts high in the air and on holding for Stephen Gostkowski’s field goals….hmmm.

The next practice session is slated for Thursday morning at 9:15 a.m.

Brady speaks to the media after practice. (SBalestrieri)

Brady, Watson, James White, and Dont’a Hightower all spoke with the media after practice. Brady spoke about the difficulties working against this defense and getting the new players up to speed.

“They’re all new players, so we’ve got to figure out how to get them up to speed to what our expectations are, the level of competition on a daily basis,” Brady said after practice. “We have a very good defense this year. Those guys are challenging us on every day. It’s hard to complete passes on our secondary. That’s just the reality. So, it’s actually great work for our offense to see how we measure up against a very good defense.

“Days like today are frustrating for us and we’ve got to learn from the corrections and try to come out and have a better day tomorrow.”

Play of the Day:

Okay, now that we got Harry’s struggles covered, he also had the play of the day, so that his day wasn’t a total loss. One play after dropping an easy catch, Harry made the very difficult one. He attacked the seam and was facing tight coverage from Jason McCourty . He went up and made an incredible leaping catch where he came down hard on his back. He was shaken up for a few seconds but quickly returned to the huddle and continued. 

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 2019 Training Camp Guide – Specialists

Steve Balestrieri
July 24, 2019 at 8:30 am ET

The Patriots’ 2019 training camp begins tomorrow, and it should prove to be a very interesting one once again. With approximately 65-75 percent of the roster entrenched on the top end, there should be plenty of competition for the few spots available at the back end of the 53-man roster. 

As always, injuries can play a key role, as we saw the other day with the Atlanta Falcons, players can get hurt and be lost for the season really quickly. That opens the door for guys who are on the bubble to work their way on to and carve out roles. 

Of course, for the past 15 years, an undrafted free agent has made his way to the Patriots’ roster. And frequently those players have not just made the team but ended up playing a significant amount of snaps.

Which brings us to the final positional group of our training camp guide, the specialists. Only one position, for now, has any competition. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski and Long Snapper Joe Cardona are unopposed in camp and those two should sleep pretty soundly this summer. The punter position will be one to watch closely as veteran Ryan Allen will be battling with rookie Jake Bailey to keep his job this year.

Check back with PatsFans.com as we’ll go thru the entire roster as our primers for training camp continue before the heavy lifting starts on July 25. And be sure to keep up with our coverage from training camp. 

So, let’s take a look at the position as it unfolds as training camp begins this summer.

Current roster – Stephen Gostkowski, Joe Cardona, Ryan Allen, Jake Bailey

Locks – Gostkowski, Cardona

Near Locks –  none

Bubble – Allen, Bailey

Long Shot – none

Discussion – With kicker and long snapper both locked on the roster as neither Gostkowski nor Cardona have any competition this summer, the focus turns to the punting game between Allen and Bailey.

Ryan Allen faced a bit of competition last year in training camp when the team brought in Corey Bojorquez last year. But the Patriots had no intention on making it a full competition and didn’t allow Bojorquez to punt in any of the preseason games in a hope to stash him on the practice squad. But he was scooped up quickly by Buffalo. Allen had an inconsistent regular season but turned it on when the games counted. In Super Bowl LIII, he was arguably the game’s MVP, where he pinned the Rams back time and again with outstanding directional punting. He outshone the Rams Johnny Hekker who is considered by many to be the best punter in the NFL. 

Bailey was picked by the Patriots in the 5th round of this spring’s NFL Draft. The team actually moved up to pick him which one doesn’t normally hear about a punter. The scouting report on Bailey is that he has a tremendous leg and sails the ball very high with outstanding hang time. The only knock on him was consistency at putting the ball closer to the sidelines.

Bailey’s strong leg was on display during the Senior Bowl week and then again this spring. We watched him put some balls high into the flight pattern of Logan airport with tremendous range. But we also saw some of those inconsistencies of not getting the ball close to a sideline where the returner would have a narrow lane, an important factor in Special Teams coordinator Joe Judge’s book.

Bailey is versatile and was the primary kick off specialist for Stanford, something he could relieve Stephen Gostkowski from doing as he gets a bit older and can fill in for Gostkowski on field goals and extra points if he were to get hurt.  Versatility goes a long way on a Bill Belichick team. Bailey has a big advantage of range and hang time while Allen gets the nod on directional punting and consistency. 

Bailey is also a smart kid (Stanford graduate speaks for itself), he worked for Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, who was herself a Stanford graduate for a time and is working on getting his private pilot’s license. He’s pretty athletic, so if the Patriots ever decided to use him with a fake punt, it is something he could handle. 

Bailey at this point would seem to have the edge over the incumbent veteran Allen at this stage of the game, but keep in mind there is a very long way to go. But if you make it down to training camp in the coming days, keep your eye on him. 

The Patriots are in very good shape heading into the season. Gostkowski remains one of the better kickers in the NFL and is as reliable as they come. Cardona’s name is never called, which is exactly what you want out of a long-snapper. And whoever wins the punting competition should do really well. And it is safe to say, that both will be punting in the NFL this season. The only question is, which one will be punting in Foxboro? 

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.

Six For Saturday: Some Patriots Thoughts Heading Into this Offseason

Ian Logue
March 9, 2019 at 1:07 pm ET

Some thoughts now that the page is about to officially turn heading into an offseason that will shape the 2019 version of this football team.

1) Patriots defacto defensive coordinator Brian Flores really did have a terrific season, showing another side of what this group was able to do defensively after a 2017 season where they weren’t anywhere close to as disruptive as they were in 2018. It was great to see and was a big reason behind their dominating performance against the Rams in their Super Bowl victory.

One thing that was obvious this season was that the players really seemed to respond to Flores’ intensity and personality, which may end up being a void that the Patriots will have a tough time filling next season. With Greg Schiano coming on board to replace him, it’s going to be interesting to see if Schiano will garner the same type of respect that Flores had with a group that really played well for him.

When Flores met with the Miami media following the Super Bowl, he sounded confident and said he has a plan that will involve some “bumps in the road” as he begins trying to turn the franchise around. The now-former Patriots coach made it clear that he didn’t accept the job on a whim, saying that he told the Dolphins that if the team didn’t share his beliefs, he wasn’t interested in the job.

“Our vision, and our core philosophy of how to build a team, they were aligned. That was one of the things [that sold] me,” Flores said via the Sun Sentinal. “I told every team this, ‘if our beliefs aren’t aligned then don’t hire me’ because if they aren’t aligned it’s not going to work.”

They have a long-term vision and he made it clear to the fans to expect some pain initially as he brings in guys who are “selfless” and put the team first.  Past coaches really haven’t had much of an opportunity to build a good group of players there due to inept coaches who didn’t have the support of the front office.  Dolphins GM Chris Grier knows Flores well during his time in New England and it’s obvious that he believes that he’ll be able to create a Patriot-like culture with Miami.

After seeing what Flores accomplished in just one season, one thing is probably certain, for the first time in a while the Dolphins may finally, once again, become a thorn in the side for New England moving forward. 


Edelman was terrific in the Super Bowl against the Rams. (USA TODAY Images)

2) It’s not a surprise that most of the nation was displeased with the idea that the Patriots are again World Champions and Julian Edelman appeared to be the focus of their ire.

Edelman, who was obviously named Super Bowl MVP following his performance, ended up in the crosshairs of opposing fans who believed that he should never have even been on the field against Los Angeles to begin with thanks to his early season suspension for PEDs.

Baseball writers point to the fact that a player who was suspended for using PEDs isn’t permitted to play in the MLB postseason, which was the argument that made its way around the internet on Monday following New England’s victory.

The veteran receiver was big, catching 10 passes on 12 targets for 141 yards, with 8 of his receptions moving the chains.  He also caught 3 of Brady’s 6 third-down completions, all of which were for first downs.

It’s clearly a case of sour grapes among those who were unhappy to see Tom Brady and Bill Belichick raise another Lombardi trophy.  However, it will be interesting to see if the anti-Patriot sentiment doesn’t potentially spark a discussion for a change this offseason. 

It wouldn’t be a surprise for the NFL to consider some sort of further penalty since this issue seems to come up among players throughout the league each year.  As we know, given the history of situations involving the Patriots, the league loves to make a rule change to try and save face to figure out a way to stop a team that just continues to dominate year in, and year out.

Roger Goodell loves this stuff.  The prospect of being ineligible for postseason play would obviously make players think twice before taking that type of risk, especially since missing the first four games of the year isn’t close to the damage that would be inflicted if a team’s key offensive (or defensive) weapon was sidelined during a playoff run.  

Needless to say, don’t be surprised if we hear about this again during the offseason.  But for now, it’s just noise and the fans made plenty of it in Boston when they celebrated during last month’s parade after an unbelievable year as New England won their sixth Lombardi trophy.


Andy Reid was out-coached again this postseason by Belichick. (USA TODAY Images)

3) While we’re on this topic, this nonsense with the Kansas City Chiefs complaining about the overtime rules is getting old, with the subject coming up again this week after the Chiefs submitted a proposal to end the scenario where a first-possession touchdown in overtime no longer ends the game in the postseason.

This is ridiculous. If anyone inside the NFL office is even leaning that way, they should take a good look in the mirror before they even consider making this change.  The Patriots have been a part of two incredible wins in overtime during the postseason in recent years, with both coming on opening drive touchdowns to earn the walk off victory.  To change it now would indicate the NFL wasn’t happy about the outcome and would be trying to prevent those situations going forward.

Let’s be serious.  The league already once changed this rule as it pertained to field goals, which you could sort of make the argument because offenses really only needed a couple of big plays on their first possession in overtime to kick a long field goal and win it.  Although given what we’ve seen from kickers in recent years, the difficulty surrounding that sequence doesn’t seem to garner the significance of pulling that off that people seem to think it does.  But “it is what it is” at this point and the rule has already been modified.

However, the idea now that an offense digging deep and driving the length of the field and scoring isn’t worthy enough of winning the game is ludicrous.  The worst part about this situation is the league already has a key example in the New Orleans Saints, who after coming up on the wrong end of a bad call in regulation, were unable to score on their opening drive in overtime, which opened the door to the Rams winning the football game and moving on to the Super Bowl.  That game more or less proved that scoring a touchdown isn’t a given, and the fact the Patriots wore down a terrible Chiefs defense and then executed at the critical point in the contest to win the game is a reminder this rule shouldn’t even be on the table for discussion.

We’ve seen enough from the NFL over the years to realize that New England’s dominance is a key frustration behind the scenes.  But if this rule goes through, it should set off a serious red flag that the league is just reaching at this point and reacting negatively to yet another incredible postseason run by this football team.


Brady extension is good news for the Patriots. (USA TODAY Images)

4) With our own Steve Balestrieri learning this week that a contract extension may be coming for Tom Brady, it’s good news for a team that will have essentially erased the narratives and speculation that would have surrounded his uncertainty heading into what would have been the final year of his deal.

While Brady isn’t necessarily coming off of his best season, it’s obvious that even with the injuries he battled through last season and his ability to eventually overcome Wade Phillips tough game plan in the Super Bowl, he’s still playing well enough to potentially do it a few more times before he finally walks away.  That’s a positive sign for the Patriots, who are still in need of grooming a successor and don’t have that person in the locker room at this time.

Last year’s late draft pick, Danny Etling, showed some promise in the preseason, but he’s no where near the level of where Jimmy Garoppolo was and while seeing a late-round pick become a starter isn’t necessarily out of the realm of possibility (ie: Brady), we haven’t seen that from him just yet.

This year’s draft will be interesting to watch from the standpoint of whether or not they view one of the guys coming out high enough to pass on another player in favor of taking a quarterback.  That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll target someone in the first round, since as we know, Garoppolo was a second round selection.  But given the timing of where Brady is, this would be the right time to find a player they believe in who could spend 3-4 years learning in this system and eventually emerge as a starting-caliber player.

That’s tougher than it sounds, especially knowing how hard it is to find an NFL-ready quarterback.  One other X-factor in all this is Josh McDaniels, who has done a pretty good job of developing quarterbacks during his tenure here in New England.  But if ever there was a time to hope that process was starting over again, this offseason would seem to be it.


The Patriots seemed to try and prepare for Flowers’ departure on Friday. (USA TODAY Images)

5) The addition of Michael Bennett reminds me of a couple of offseason scenarios over the years, which doesn’t make me feel overly confident in the future of defensive end Trey Flowers.

Bennett’s arrival mimics one of the more surprising moves, highlighted by the signing of Danny Amendola when Wes Welker was headed to the free agent market in 2013. At the time, it was obvious that the Patriots signing of Amendola looked like they felt like Welker wouldn’t be back. So Bill Belichick appeared to take the step to protect his team from losing an impact player, essentially moving on after feeling that Welker sign elsewhere.

Flowers seems poised to end up with a big payday, with the initial reports seeming to indicate that the veteran will hit the market and test the waters, which will likely spell trouble for the Patriots in terms of trying to keep him in the fold.

While it’s not impossible, it seems unlikely and it wouldn’t be a surprise if someone like Flores brings Flowers in to help start building Miami’s defense.  While Flowers’ numbers (7.5 sacks last season) aren’t among the NFL’s best, what’s scary to consider is the fact that those totals probably could have even been higher.  While New England’s defense was more aggressive last season than it’s been in a while, he still wasn’t used in that role as much as he could have been. 

But that’s not how this scheme works. The Patriots’ defense is much more disciplined and it prevented him from ending up on the highlight reel since most of his best work really came from the plays he made that flew under the radar.  For teams who take the time to look at that body of work, they may realize that Flowers is a complete player who has only scratched the surface of what he’s capable of.  The bad news for New England is, it likely means a payday much larger than what the Patriots can offer may be coming for him.


 This year’s defense did a terrific job. (USA TODAY Images)

6) Watching this year’s defense over the final three postseason games was interesting from the standpoint of trying to ponder where they’ll someday sit in history when we reflect back on each of those players.

Think about it for a second.  At the time, none of us looked at players like Ty Law, Tedy Bruschi, Willie McGinest, etc. in the way we look at them now.  After all, during that era, none of them were ever considered among the NFL’s elite because the Patriots weren’t really viewed that way back then.  Fans knew they were good players, but it wasn’t until Bill Belichick arrived and took Pete Carroll’s roster and turned them into champions that they really became who they were.

When you look at what New England did defensively this postseason, this isn’t exactly a group full of superstars.  You can put Dont’a Hightower, Devin McCourty, Trey Flowers and Stephon Gilmore in the group of potentially elite players, but the remainder of this group is simply filled with just really, solid football players.   The secondary was rounded out with guys like Jonathan Jones, J.C. Jackson, Keion Crossen, and Jason McCourty, along with safeties Duron Harmon and Patrick Chung.  None of them get anywhere near the amount of respect outside of New England as they do by fans who see them each week.

Up front, they had players like Adrian Clayborn, Deatrich Wise, Malcolm Brown and Lawrence Guy, none of which would ever be on the radar of fans outside of this region.  The same can be said for linebackers like Elandon Roberts, John Simon, and Kyle Van Noy.  Honestly, even most casual Patriots fans don’t even know who these guys are.

Yet these are players who just put together one of the best defensive stretches in Patriots postseason history to capture the club’s sixth championship.

One of the things that made guys Law, McGinest and Bruschi so great was the fact they did it over a sustained period of time, which obviously sets them apart but again, people didn’t really appreciate how good they were until this team went through a rough stretch without them.  It’s like they say, you don’t appreciate guys like that until they’re not around anymore.

That’s why it’s going to be hard not to wonder how fans may someday view players like McCourty, Chung, Hightower, and Gilmore, with players like Van Noy even hopefully earning a little more appreciation after putting together a terrific showing to cap off a pretty terrific year. 

Either way, it’s an interesting notion.   What makes it even more curious is the fact that while many fans discussed how great they played defensively, the names didn’t seem to be joining the discussion of what they did on the field as they held one of the league’s highest-scoring offenses to 3 points. 

Oddly enough, even after a Super Bowl win, people still don’t seem to know who they are.  The key to changing that will be seeing if they can build on this performance heading into 2019.

If they can, maybe people will start paying attention.

One More Thought:


Is this the end for Gostkowski? (USA TODAY Images)

7) With the news that the Patriots weren’t using the franchise tag, the first player that came to mind was kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who appears to be headed to free agency.

When you take into consideration how many kickers struggled last year, Gostkowski looks like he’s in for a potential payday and it could mean that the Patriots might have to spend this offseason looking for a replacement.

For Gostkowski, there’s not much really left for him to prove. He’s already put together a Hall of Fame worthy career here in New England and there’s really nothing more positive that can come for him staying in Foxboro.

Gostkowski missed just one extra point during the regular season and five field goals total, missing two from 40-49yds and 3 from 50+. He was perfect from 20-39yds. In the postseason, he missed just one field goal and was perfect on all his extra points.

Yet, that didn’t stop the criticism and whispers that happened over the course of this season, as well as the year before when he hit a couple of bumps during an almost-championship season.

As a result, if I’m Gostkowski, I would follow Adam Vinatieri’s lead and target a dome team with a lot of money in need of a reliable kicker, which would likely extend his career. He still has a strong leg and doesn’t seem to have lost any of his power, which is a positive sign for a player who has been among the best in the league for a while now.

Gostkowski’s loss would be tough as he would mark the end of another solid career for another terrific kicker in Foxboro and leave the Patriots with some uncertainty at a position that he’s quietly been an afterthought since he’s been here. There have been people hoping for his departure not realizing how good he’s really been, which is unfortunate.

For now, this may be something to watch over the course of the offseason and if Gostkowski does move on, fans need to recognize just how special his run has been and how replacing him might be harder than some might think.

Patriots Fourth And Two Podcast: Could A Contract Extension Be In The Works For Tom Brady?

Russ Goldman
March 7, 2019 at 12:38 pm ET

In this episode of Patriots Fourth And Two, we started the show by talking about Tom Brady, as there are rumblings of a potential contract extension for him. After that, in the Patriots Fourth And Two Roundtable, we discussed several topics that involved the approach of Free Agency. To end the show, we talked about our thoughts on the Combine.

Which of the Patriots Free Agents Return in 2019?

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

Which of the Patriots Free Agents Return in 2019?

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

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

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

Trey Flowers:

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

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

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

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

Trent Brown:

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

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

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

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

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

Stephen Gostkowski/Ryan Allen:

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

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

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

Jason McCourty:

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

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

Chris Hogan/Phillip Dorsett/Cordarrelle Patterson:

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

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

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

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

Malcom Brown/Danny Shelton:

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

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

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

John Simon/Albert McClellan/Ramon Humber:

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

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

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

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

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

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?

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