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6 Thoughts Following the Patriots Win Over the Jets

Ian Logue
October 22, 2019 at 10:58 am ET

The Patriots improved to 7-0 after embarrassing the Jets in front of their own crowd and the world Monday night, demoralizing a New York team that had been riding fairly high coming into the game after beating the Cowboys the week before.

With Jets quarterback Sam Darnold back under center, New York seemed to be poised to turn things around and potentially give New England their first loss of the season.  Unfortunately for Darnold, the result was quite the opposite and here are some thoughts on the Patriots’ seventh win of the season.

1) It’s hard not to wonder how we’ll someday look back on this defense given the performance they’ve put forth so far through the first seven weeks of the season.  As Patriots fans, most people look back on the days of Ty Law, Willie McGinest and Tedy Bruschi as the glory days of this group, but the 2019 version has been far more dominant than anyone could have ever expected.

Monday night was certainly a terrific example of how good they could be after they forced six Jets turnovers, including 4 interceptions by Darnold.  It started right away after Devin McCourty nabbed the first, picking the Jets signal-caller off on just his second snap of the contest and setting the tone for the rest of the night.  The turnover gives McCourty an NFL best 5 on the season and it was a good job by the safety who made a nice play on the football.

They kept Darnold off balance all night and came at him from all angles, putting him under constant duress and forcing quite a few errant throws.  Darnold, who was mic’d up for the game, was spotted on the sideline saying, “I’m seeing ghosts” and that quote would come back to haunt him for the rest of the evening as New England refused to take the foot off the gas the entire night.

The Patriots made Darnold miserable Monday night.

It didn’t get any better and he finished having completed just 11-of-32 (34%) for 86-yards for the game.  New England’s defense held New York to just 2-of-11 on third down, with Darnold completing a paltry 3-of-10 (30%) for 27 yards and three interceptions.

The interception total is just ridiculous.  Last night’s game gives New England 18 on the year, nearly double that of the next closest team, which is Pittsburgh with 8. They’ve also defended 50 passes, well ahead of the next closest team, which is the Buffalo Bills with 36.

As Mike Reiss pointed out last night, according to ESPN Stats and Info, it’s the second-highest interception total through the first seven games in the last 30 seasons.  The only team with more is the Packers, who had 20 during their Super Bowl season in 1996 (unfortunately, most of us remember who they beat to win it).

The critics will point to the competition this group has faced so far, but good teams are supposed to beat up on inferior clubs and the Patriots did more than beat up the Jets, they absolutely annihilated them.  This is a group who collectively right now is playing so well as a unit and they didn’t back down all night.  In fact, despite the lopsided score, this game even had a strange feel as if it was still much tighter than the scoreboard showed given the fact they never let up and were playing just as hard in the fourth quarter as they were when the game started.

Needless to say, while it’s hard to believe, we’re witnessing history each week.  With 9 games stil left to go, this unit definitely appears poised to potentially write themselves further into the NFL record books and at the rate they’re going, it should be fun to see how it plays out.

2) With the Patriots without Josh Gordon Monday night, it was Jakobi Meyers who stepped up and had another solid outing.  Brady was 5-of-5 targeting him, with their chemistry starting on the first drive of the night after the Patriots faced a 3rd-and-7 at midfield.  Meyers hauled in a 9-yard pass to extend the drive, but then made a further impact on the ensuing 3rd-and-10 play where he made a key block to allow Julian Edelman to pick up 14-yards.

Both of those moments were big as it helped extend the drive and set up the eventual 3-yard touchdown run by Sony Michel.

It was good to see and Brady clearly appears to be finally getting some confidence throwing to him.  He also went to him on early downs, connecting on 3-of-3 targets for 34-yards on second down, including a 23-yard reception early in the second quarter that helped put them near the goal line to take advantage of a Darnold strip-sack.  That play eventually led to another Michel touchdown.

Overall, games like these could pay dividends down the road and with the addition of receiver Mohamed Sanu, who the Patriots acquired from Atlanta on Tuesday, this is a group that could suddenly become even more dangerous if Meyers can continue to grow into the speedy threat he already appears he can be.


Michel rushed for 3 touchdowns on Monday night.

3) It was another tough night for Sony Michel, who despite his 3 touchdowns had to, once again, battle for nearly every yard.

It’s no secret that the Patriots are still trying to work things out up front on the offensive line and as a result, things aren’t coming easy for the second-year running back.  He carried 19 times for 42-yards Monday night, averaging a mere 2.2 yards per carry.  The frustrating part of last night is the fact that he failed to gain a yard 9 times, including 3 for a loss and 6 for no gain.

It’s been a difficult year for Michel, who coming into the game had 100 carries on the season, which isn’t far off from the 91 he had heading into week 7 in 2018.  But he certainly had better luck breaking through the line last season.  He had 15 carries last year through six games where he didn’t pick up a yard after he was dropped for a loss 7 times and ran for no gain on 8 others.

This season, that total was at 24 heading into last night, with 10 negative carries and 14 where he was stopped for no gain.

It’s not that hard to figure out knowing how injuries have caused shifts in the line-up compared to last season and it’s a further reminder of just how good David Andrews was in providing that middle push to open things up, as well as the effect the absence of James Develin is having.

It was interesting to see the Patriots experiment with several players last night to try and address the issue, with Elandon Roberts and James Ferentz as two players who saw action at fullback against the Jets and both did a decent job with their first opportunities.

Give Michel credit, as he’s remained pretty even-keeled so far this season and is still managing to have a productive year.  But we’ll have to see how things play out in the coming weeks as unfortunately, this quietly still remains an area to keep an eye on.

It wasn’t Brady’s best game, but he was certainly the better QB Monday night.

4) Tom Brady may have not had his best game last night but he was on point in the first quarter after completing 13-of-17 (76%) for 118-yards and a touchdown as New England pulled ahead of the Jets while building an early 17-0 lead.

Two of his best throws of the night came on their third possession where he threw a perfect back-shoulder strike to Brandon Bolden for 26-yards, which helped set up another flawless 26-yard scoring strike to Phillip Dorsett, which Brady dropped in perfectly in the back of the end zone where only Dorsett could come down with it.

The early down success was key as Brady was 11-of-15 (73%) for 57 yards on first down, along with 15-of-20 (75%) on second down.  That kept them out of long-yardage situations as they only faced 3rd-and-9 or longer on just 6 of their 16 third-down attempts.  That allowed them to continue moving the football and sustain drives, holding the football for over 38-minutes and giving their defense plenty of time to recharge and make Darnold’s life miserable.

But after the game Brady was happy but still appeared frustrated as he likely knows the offense remains a work in progress.  Hopefully, Tuesday’s addition of Sanu will start making things a little easier.

5) One player who managed to stay off of everyone’s radar Monday night was Mike Nugent, who quietly had a good game.

Nugent was a perfect 4-for-4 on extra points Monday night, as well as hitting a 34-yard field goal.  Each kick was straight and never in doubt, which is a stark contrast to his first outing where he was erratic and didn’t look anywhere near close to comfortable out there.

It’s a good sign as with the colder months coming, the kicking game tends to be a key part of the offense given how scoring tends to drop as the elements become more difficult for offenses to operate in.  Seeing Nugent settle in was a pleasant surprise and the fact he was able to go out there and get it done should have most fans feeling a little better since the Patriots will still need to soldier on without Stephen Gostkowski, who is lost for the rest of the season.

6) We’ll end on this note, which saw one of the most hilarious sequences in Bill Belichick’s tenure happen last night and it was pretty funny to watch how it all unfolded.

With just over 10-minutes to go in the game and leading 33-0, the Patriots saw their offense stall at the Jets’ 33yd line.  With the punt team on the field and facing 4th-and-2, the Patriots took a delay of game penalty, likely looking to give punter Jake Bailey a little more room to work with to pin the Jets in deep yet again.

Adam Gase declined the penalty, which seemed to amuse Belichick.  It then appeared Belichick ordered Brandon Bolden to commit a false start penalty, hoping to again move them back.  But Gase, again, declined the penalty.

From there, cameras caught Belichick smile, knowing he was still out-thinking Gase even at this point in the football game.  It was an absolutely terrific sequence and certainly will likely go down as a moment that will be mentioned years from now once he walks away.  Fortunately, all of us got to watch it happen in real-time.

https://twitter.com/espn/status/1186477725328072704

It was all-in-all a great night and the Patriots will now return home to get to work as they’ll next face the Cleveland Browns at Gillette Stadium this weekend.

Patriots Boogeymen Bedevil, Whitewash the Jets 33-0

Steve Balestrieri
at 7:32 am ET

In the end, it wasn’t any more contested or closer than the first meeting. The Patriots’  defense flummoxed, frustrated, and dominated the Jets from the opening bell. They throttled the Jets in a 33-0 embarrassment in front of a national television audience on Monday Night Football.    

Just a week after Sam Darnold made a triumphant return from an illness and was the AFC’s Offensive Player of the Week, the Patriots had him literally “seeing ghosts” in the first half, forcing him into 5 turnovers. Darnold, who is one of the up and coming young quarterbacks in the NFL was left tonight looking silly and quite unprepared. 

But if Darnold was left seeing ghosts or Boogeymen in his sleep tonight, he didn’t have the worst game on the New York side. Head Coach Adam Gase was taken to the woodshed by Bill Belichick, his team looked completely unprepared and Gase made no adjustments that could be seen and left his young quarterback in far too long in a game that was decided in the first 30 minutes. 

The Patriots put a stamp on this one early. After receiving the opening kickoff, Tom Brady led a methodical, perfectly executed, time-consuming, soul-sucking drive that covered 14 plays and ate up nearly nine minutes of the first quarter. The much-ballyhooed return of MLB C.J. Mosley was nonexistent as Brady and the offense converted 3rd downs of 7, 10 and 5 yards before Sony Michel finished it off with a 3-yard touchdown on 3rd and 2. 

The Jets’ first possession took just two plays for the defense to force its first turnover of the night, one of six in total, five of which belonged to Darnold (four interceptions and a fumble). On 2nd and 8 from the 10-yard line, the Patriots overloaded a blitz on the right side and Darnold, under pressure lobbed the pass too high and it was easily picked off by Devin McCourty. 

What a difference a week makes. After Darnold picked apart the Cowboys, the confidence level was running high in New York. Darnold was talking about finding the weaknesses in the Patriots’ defense and exploiting them. He even added that once  TE Chris Herndon returns the Jets offense would be “unstoppable.” Not exactly bulletin board material, or overly cocky, but he and the Jets offense had no answers to what was to come. 

Gase, in another move that will be dissected for a long time to come, allowed his young quarterback to be mic’d up before the game, perhaps allowing himself the fleeting thought that after last week, this was to be the changing of the guard in the AFC East. Late in the first half, ESPN ran a clip of Darnold on the bench where he looked lost and admitted he was “seeing ghosts out there”. That clip, unfortunately, will follow him for a long time to come. 

What the Patriots did on defense was simple in its plan and yet brilliant in its execution. They blitzed the woeful Jets offensive line with the linebackers (Boogeymen) running free and forcing Darnold to throw off his back foot all game long. Or they would show the blitz and drop seven into coverage and give him nowhere to throw the ball. 

The Jets never adjusted, and never found an answer. While the Patriots only had one sack for 13-yards last night, the pass rush was the biggest factor for the defense. They had Darnold throwing off his back foot where the ball was continuously sailing on him. Darnold finished the game just 11 of 32 for 86 yards with four interceptions and a fumble. His passer rating for the game was just 3.6. He threw as many interceptions as the Jets were able to pass for first downs. They averaged just 2.7 yards per game.

Le’Veon Bell had a nice game with 15 carries for 70 yards including a couple of really nice runs where his patented patience allowed him to bust a few where it appeared he had nowhere to go. But in truth, he was a total non-factor. 

Robby Anderson, fresh off his big game against Dallas was once again relegated to a milk carton by Stephon Gilmore. Anderson had one catch for 10 yards while being targeted eight times. Gilmore had one of the Patriots’ interceptions. Demaryius Thomas who was chirping at the Patriots and Bill Belichick last week, made it sound like a big revenge game fell flat on his face. Targeted nine times, he had just three catches for 42 yards. 

If there was one downer on the defense, it had to be that cornerback J.C. Jackson was being singled out by the referees for flags. He was whistled for three penalties on the night.

But back to the offense. For all the hand-wringing the fans and much of the media are doing, they scored 31 points, (the defense scored two on a safety), and when the game was still in doubt, put 17 points on the board in the first quarter.

Was it a well-oiled machine? Hardly. But missing two key offensive linemen including the left tackle, two fullbacks who are key to the running game, both tight ends, their “X” wide receiver (Josh Gordon) and their most productive running back (Rex Burkhead), they did what they had to do. 

The Patriots’ two tight ends hadn’t played a snap this year but despite the lack of playing time and timing, both Ben Watson and Eric Tomlinson played a significant amount of snaps. Jakobi Meyers is building his trust factor with Brady more every day and was targeted five times and had five catches for 47 yards. He also drew a pass interference penalty on Trumaine Johnson that would’ve been a touchdown. Johnson bit on a double move and had to grab him or get burned. The usual suspects, Julian Edelman and James White each had seven receptions. 

Tom Brady had a so-so night number wise but ran the offense efficiently and utilized everyone at his disposal, completing passes to eight different receivers. His two best throws were a nice 28-yard back-shoulder throw to supersub Brandon Bolden and a beautiful 26-yard touchdown pass to Phillip Dorsett who dusted Johnson in coverage.

Sony Michel had little running room, finishing with just 42 yards on 19 carries, but added three short touchdown runs. Edelman chipped in with a few jet sweeps. And linebacker Elandon Roberts, known for his downhill run-thumping style, was pressed into service as a blocking fullback for goalline and short-yardage. He did very well. 

So while the pundits will continue to decry about the Patriots opponents or lack thereof, they don’t care. They’ve enjoyed this one for a moment and are already moving on the Browns.  After that they will face the Ravens, Eagles, Cowboys, Texans and the Chiefs. One at a time. Those games will ultimately define their season. But they are 4-0 in the division, including 3-0 in the division on the road, 4-0 on the road overall where they were just 3-5 last year. 

Sleep well Patriots fans, and even though Halloween is still 10 days away (nine since it is officially after midnight), but remember Boogeymen do exist. I think they’ll be haunting the dreams of Mr. Darnold for many nights to come.  

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Check back with PatsFans.com for all of our pregame and post-game analysis. And if you’re a wiz at predicting the NFL slate straight up, register for our message board and then post your picks every week. We’ll see who is the top dog at the end of the season. That page can be found here: https://www.patsfans.com/new-england-patriots/messageboard/picks/

 

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

 

Patriots Players To Watch, Week 7 MNF  Against the Jets

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

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

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

Tom Brady: 

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

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

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

Jamie Collins:

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

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

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

Julian Edelman/James White:

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

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

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

Adam Butler:

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

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

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

Ben Watson: 

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

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

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

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Check back with PatsFans.com for all of our pregame and post-game analysis. And if you’re a wiz at predicting the NFL slate straight up, register for our message board and then post your picks every week. We’ll see who is the top dog at the end of the season. That page can be found here: https://www.patsfans.com/new-england-patriots/messageboard/picks/

 

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

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

 

Patriots Week 6 Report Card, 35-14  Win Over the Giants

Steve Balestrieri
October 14, 2019 at 7:37 am ET

 Patriots Improve to 6-0 but Got Banged Up On Thursday

Time to clean out the notebook from the Giants and begin to move on to Week 7.

The Patriots are 6-0 and remain with the impressive 49ers as the only undefeated teams in the NFL. The landscape changes so much from week to week that winning is far from guaranteed regardless of the competition.

The Patriots were favored by as much as 17 before the game and won by 21 but this game appeared to be anything other than a blowout until the final 8-9 minutes. Six different players were injured and five didn’t return, so the extra off time will prove to be a needed respite this week. 

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

Quarterback: B-

Tom Brady had another interception in the first half where it seemed like either he and Julian Edelman were way off of the same page or the wind affected a deep pass where it was easily picked off by Janoris Jenkins. He also suffered a strip-sack that was returned for a touchdown.

But in the second half, at one point he completed 15 passes in a row and finished 31-41 for 334 yards with an interception. He also scored two touchdowns on quarterback sneaks. Considering that he was playing without Josh Gordon and Phillip Dorsett and had UDFA wide receivers Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski as his #2-3 WRs, things weren’t as bad as some were painting the situation.

Running Backs: B-

The favorite whipping boy for much of the media and the fan base, Sony Michel was bottled up all night until his final run at the end of the game. He finished with 86 yards on 22 carries, a 3.9-yard average. But the blocking for him just wasn’t there at all. 

James White was stuffed on his two rushing attempts, while Brandon Bolden scored the game’s first touchdown and had 23 yards on three attempts. Brady scored on the other two touchdowns on the ground.

Overall, the Patriots ran for 114 yards on 34 carries [3.4-yard average] which isn’t good enough. And they lost another fullback Jakob Johnson who is going on IR. 

Wide Receivers: C+

Julian Edelman had his second 100-yard game in a row [9 catches 113 yards] and was his normal pain-in-the-backside self to the defense. With no Gordon or Dorsett, the Giants knew they had to stop him but couldn’t. He had two drops that hurt considering the circumstances. 

Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski both contributed with 4 catches for 54 yards and 2 catches for 34 yards respectively. Both are normally working more with the scout team than the offense in practice, so they get high marks for their night. But although the team got by on TNF with them as the #2-3 WRs, this isn’t sustainable. 

Josh Gordon had one catch before getting injured. James White had nine catches on nine targets but for only 46 yards. Michel and Bolden each chipped in with a pair of catches out of the backfield.

Tight Ends: C-

Matt LaCosse was hurt again and left the game in the first half. He has been largely MIA all season. Ryan Izzo gave up the edge on the strip-sack TD on Brady and has not been good on those outside zone runs where the team has been stuffed nearly every time this year [18 outside zone attempts, 21 rushing yards this season]. 

Izzo caught two passes for 31 yards including a 20-yarder where he was able to shake free when Brady had all day to throw. Due to LaCosse’s injury along with others, the team was forced to play in only “11 personnel” [1 RB, 1TE, 3 WRs] for the entire second half on Thursday.    

Offensive Line: B-

The offensive line, with the exception of the aforementioned Izzo sack and Marshall Newhouse, had a very solid night of pass protection. The Giants, and rightfully so, targeted Newhouse’s side for their pass rush and were successful. Newhouse has allowed too many sacks and the coaches are going to have to give him some help, especially with the blitz-happy Jets on-deck.

The run blocking remains very much hit or miss, they run well between the tackles but those outside zone runs and sweeps aren’t getting any traction. Short yardage runs are still a sore spot. 

 Defensive Line: B

The defensive line once again was very good. The Giants running game was predictably held in check with no Saquon Barkley with 52 yards on 16 attempts. Lawrence Guy was solid as always upfront and played more than everyone else as they rotated bodies on a short week. 

Deatrich Wise had two QB hits, but the Giants OL did a very good job of limiting pressure from the DL. Michael Bennett’s playing time continues to dwindle, he played in only 11 snaps late in the game and is now the subject of trade rumors, something to keep an eye on with the October 29th trade deadline upcoming.

Linebackers: A-

The Patriots linebackers didn’t dominate the way we’ve seen in the past few weeks, but they were still excellent although they lost Dont’a Hightower in this one. But Kyle Van Noy was the man once again for this unit. Van Noy had the team’s only sack, two QB hits, six hurries and scoop and recovery of a fumble that he returned for a touchdown that put the game away. 

Jamie Collins snuffed out the screen pass to Jon Hilliman and put a big hit on the back jarring the ball loose on the fumble, which Van Noy returned. Hightower, before being hurt had three tackles and a QB hit. 

Secondary: A-

The secondary continues to stick like glue to the opposition’s receivers. Stephon Gilmore continues his outstanding play and Daniel Jones would have been wise to avoid his side of the field. Gilmore was targeted six times and had an interception and five passes broken up. He had another pick right in his hands but couldn’t hold on. He also deflected another that was intercepted by John Simon.

Jonathan Jones battled Golden Tate in the slot all night and gave up the Patriots first touchdown receiving this year. But even on that play, he had tight coverage and got his hand on the ball. But it was a great throw by Jones and a super play by Tate who was able to corral it and haul it in. 

Jones completed less than 50 percent of his throws and had a passer rating of just 35.2 on the night while the defense intercepted him three times. Nuff said.

Special Teams: A-

Mike Nugent had a miss of a field goal that doinked off the upright but the replay clearly showed that holder Jake Bailey didn’t rotate the laces away, so we’ll cut him some slack there. Also, the extra points were all good this week…small steps.

Jake Bailey had to contend with the gusty wind and averaged only 40.7 yards on his punts. The Giants Riley Dixon, also with a strong leg averaged only 39.2 on the night. 

But the STs struck a big blow again when Mr. Do-Everything Brandon Bolden made a tremendous play, pushing Nate Stupar into the punter Dixon, causing the punt to carom off of his head. It was scooped up by Chase Winovich who scored his first NFL touchdown. 

Coaches: A-

The Patriots coaching staff made the adjustments they needed to make offensively, out of necessity on Thursday night when injuries forced Josh McDaniels to operate out of one personnel grouping for the entire second half. Brady mentioned after the game it was the first time he ever remembers the Patriots doing that in his 20 years here. 

Defensively they pushed all the right buttons and limited the Giants to just the one big scoring play and nothing else. They rolled their coverages and created mixed presures that kept the Giants off-balance.  

 

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.

 

Injury-Riddled Patriots Move to 6-0 With 35-14 Win Over Injury-Riddled Giants

Steve Balestrieri
October 11, 2019 at 7:13 am ET

Mini-Bye Week Comes a Great Time for NE

The Patriots are 6-0 and defeated the New York Giants 35-14 but this one went unlike most had envisioned on Thursday night at Gillette Stadium. Most had this one as a blowout which the final score indicated but in reality, it was anything but. 

Ah, the joys of Thursday Night Football…

With solid play and timely stops by their defense, the Giants were very much alive in this game with about nine minutes to play, with the score just 21-14. Then the Patriots defense, which was outstanding again, turned the game into the Pats’ favor for good. Jamie Collins jarred the ball loose from running back Jonathan Hilliman, where Kyle Van Noy scooped the ball up and rolled for a touchdown. Game over, thanks for coming, drive safely down Route 1.

New England could breathe a sigh of relief as this one was effectively over. Tom Brady added a final touchdown on a one-yard quarterback sneak to finish off the scoring, his second rushing touchdown of the game to put a bow on it, making the score 35-14.

It was the Giants who entered this game beat up missing three of their top offensive players [Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram], but it was the Patriots who limped out of this one. New England entered the game missing two of its own offensive performers, wide receiver Phillip Dorsett and running back Rex Burkhead. But they then suffered a slew of injuries during the game.

Josh Gordon left after awkwardly twisting his ankle/knee and didn’t return. Fullback Jakob Johnson also left with an injury, as well as tight end Matt LaCosse who left early in this one. These losses would affect the way the offense was able to line up the rest of the game. With only one tight end and no fullback, the Patriots ran only 11 personnel grouping [3 WRs, 1TE, 1 RB] for nearly the entire second half. 

Gordon’s loss hit an already thin wide receiver position and forced undrafted rookie wide receivers, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski, into prominent roles in the offense. 

On defense, Pat Chung, Dont’a Hightower, and J.C. Jackson left with injuries, although Jackson was able to return later. So, the mini-bye week with 10 days off before playing on Monday Night Football against the Jets, couldn’t come at a better time.

Other observations from tonight’s game include:

Defense Steps Up Again With Four More Turnovers:

The Patriots defense continues to play stellar team defense with great coverage in the secondary while generating turnovers. On a night where they generated just a single sack, the defense forced four turnovers with the aforementioned fumble and score by Van Noy and three interceptions by Duron Harmon, John Simon, and Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore almost had a fourth but dropped it when he jumped a route to Golden Tate on a third-down near midfield. 

The coverage was sticky all night long against a game but depleted Giants WR core. The defense did give up its first passing touchdown of the year, a 64-yard scoring pass from Daniel Jones to Tate, although Jonathan Jones had tight coverage and actually got his hand on the ball. But credit Tate with an outstanding play, he was able to keep his concentration and still able to haul it in for the score. 

But the defense limited the Giants to just 213 total yards [52 rushing, 161 passing] while being outstanding once again on third down, holding the G-men to just 2-10. 

You Think Bringing Back Brandon Bolden Was Worth It?

At the time Brandon Bolden was re-signed and brought back after a year with Miami, there were many who panned the signing,[including a hot-take dolt on the air] saying that Bill Belichick signs too many players with Special Teams talent only. As the Southwest Airlines commercial says, “Want to Get Away?” No, the return of Bolden has done nothing but pay dividends. 

Back in minicamp, I spoke with RB coach Ivan Fears prior to practice and asked him about bringing back the popular teammate inside the Patriots locker room. And what Fears said has rung true this season.  “No matter what we ask him to do, Brandon will do it, and do it well,” Fears said. 

In the last three games, Bolden has scored three touchdowns and figured prominently in a fourth. Bolden had a rushing touchdown against Buffalo, caught a 29-yard score from Brady against the Redskins and ran one in against the Giants in short-yardage tonight. But he caused the blocked punt in the first half which resulted in a Chase Winovich touchdown. 

Bolden rushed in on a punt block and drove Nate Stupar backward where Riley Dixon’s punt went off Stupar’s head. The ball bounced backward where Thor scooped and scored. This was all because of Bolden’s work while out on the field. 

Daniel Jones Can Sling It: 

What? you say, are you kidding? And a look at Jones’ numbers would seem to play that out. How so when he completed only 15 of 31 for 161 yards which was only good for 5.2 yards per pass and three interceptions?  

Granted Jones’ numbers weren’t good, nor his passer rating of 35.2, but his depleted receiving core was blanketed all night long and he frequently had nowhere to go with the football. 

But several of his throws, including the touchdown to Tate and another pass to Tate on a third-down slant were delivered in very tight windows, quickly and accurately. If you look past the boxscore and rewatch the tape, Jones did as well as could be expected given the circumstances.

The Giants, as we pointed out in our key matchups piece, would move Tate into the slot to take him away from Stephon Gilmore and have him battle Jonathan Jones. It was a good hard battle all night long.  

Jones had plenty of bad moments and plays to be sure, but he looks to be a good QB who was just placed in an unwinnable situation

Offense Needs Help But They Weren’t Quite As Bad As Believed:

  The Patriots struggled on offense for much of the night and had to claw and scratch for everything they got. The play of the offensive line continues to be suspect at times and they seem to be scuffling along in search of an identity. 

But at the end of the day, the generated 424 yards of offense and held the ball for nearly 40 minutes, which really tired out the Giants’ defense. 

Tom Brady struggled in the first half but ended up 31-41 for 334 yards. He scored on two short QB sneaks but threw a weird interception in the first half. While attempting a deep post to Julian Edelman, the ball was well behind Edelman where Janoris Jenkins picked it off. Was it miscommunication or the wind?  Edelman was outstanding with nine catches for 113 yards including a beautiful diving catch which set up Brady’s last TD dive. 

Sony Michel struggled for much of the night but ended up with 86 yards on 22 carries. The Patriots ground game, which struggled for much of the night ended up with 114 yards. But the offensive line and wide receivers need help. 

TE Ryan Izzo has really struggled with blocks to the edge which is supposed to be his strong suit. LaCosse can’t catch a break, or stay healthy, he’s hurt again. With the injuries to Dorsett and Gordon, an already hurting WR core was stretched mighty thin. Kudos to UDFA rookie wide receivers Meyers and Olszewski who both contributed in the passing game. Meyers had four catches for 54 yards including a nice 23-yarder where he high-pointed the ball and had the awareness to raise it over the defender to keep it from being knocked away. Olszewski chipped in with two catches for 34 yards. 

But within the next 10 days, they have some decisions to make. Even if Gordon and Dorsett are back, they should probably look at adding some help. One thing to keep in mind, 1st-round draft pick N’Keal Harry can begin practicing on Wednesday and return in another two weeks from then. 

And with LaCosse hurt again, it may be time to explore bringing in another tight end. The offense is getting by for now but with the meat of their schedule upcoming with Baltimore, Philadelphia, Dallas, Cleveland, Houston. and Kansas CIty yet to come, they need to get the offense figured out. 

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Patriots – Giants Week 6 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
October 10, 2019 at 7:00 am ET

The Patriots return home on a short week to take on the New York Giants on Thursday Night Football. The team has the opportunity to begin the season 6-0 and will have 11 days off before facing the Jets next week on Monday Night Football.

This week’s game will be broadcast by Fox on Thursday, October 10 at 8:20 p.m. and can be seen locally on WFXT Fox  25. Joe Buck will handle play-by-play duties with Troy Aikman as the color analyst. Erin Andrews and Kristina Pink 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 (5-0) beat the Washington Redskins 33-7 with the defense getting six sacks and an interception while Tom Brady threw for 348 yards and three TDs.

The Giants (2-3) lost to the Minnesota Vikings 28-10. Daniel Jones threw a beautiful 38-yard touchdown pass but missed too many open receivers. The Giants run defense was gashed on the day to the tune of 211 yards.  

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 Giants have met 29 times in the preseason including 15 years in a row. But they are meeting for just the 11th time in the regular season. The Patriots lead the overall series 6-4, but the G-men can lay claim to two Super Bowl victories over Brady, Belichick and the Patriots after the 2007 and 2011 seasons.  

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 Giants Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game finally showed some signs of getting itself untracked against an albeit awful Redskins run defense which entered the game allowing 147.5 yards per game. Sony Michel churned out 91 yards, most of which in the second half as the run blocking got much better after halftime.

The Giants got chewed up last week and are allowing an average of 130 yards per game. The big men up front led by rookie Dexter Lawrence are playing well, but they were victimized by zone running plays that tested their speed and athleticism. They should get linebackers Alec Ogletree and Tae Davis back this week, which should help the run defense. 

With the quick week coupled with the travel, and the weather where it is expected to have heavy rains and winds over 20 mph, the Patriots may opt to further wear down a run defense that took a beating on Sunday. Look for plenty of Michel and Rex Burkhead, if he’s able to go tonight.           

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

The Patriots passing game ended up having a very solid Sunday as Brady passed for 348 yards and three touchdowns after getting sacked three times in the first half. Julian Edelman was nearly uncoverable where Washington had no one that could stick with him. The running backs out of the backfield made big contributions with James White doing his normal solid work and Brandon Bolden hauling in a 29-yard touchdown. 

The Giants pass defense has been bad, allowing over 280 yards per game and allowing opposing QBs to post a 106.8 passer rating. Rewatching the tape of the Vikings game showed the play-action passing and crossing routes were giving them fits. However, the way to beat Brady and the Patriots offense is to bring pressure up the middle. That’s where Lawrence comes in. He has the ability to throw a monkey wrench into the Patriots plans. 

Look for the Patriots to utilize Edelman on those shallow crossers as he’ll take on Grant Haley in the slot. There will be no Phillip Dorsett, so Josh Gordon will be working against Janoris Jenkins. Look for the Patriots to run a lot of those two-back “Pony” sets with James White and Burkhead. Play action passing will be huge here to slow the pass rush and get the open man quickly.

Next up the Giants offense:

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

The Giants are missing the outstanding Saquon Barkley and his backup Wayne Gallman this week. Barkley suffered a high ankle sprain and is week-to-week and Gallman suffered a concussion against the Vikings. Now they’ll go with former practice squadders Jon Hilliman and fullback Eli Perry.  Perry is an intriguing player, tough physical, can carry the ball a bit and make the occasional catch. 

The Patriots front seven has been very good against the run. Last week, they had a single breakdown of a 65-yard jet sweep where the secondary missed tackles but other than that, they shut down the Redskins ground game. Danny Shelton, Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, and Michael Bennett have been excellent at slowing things at the point of attack and allowing the linebackers to clean up. Unlike previous years, the Patriots are doing a much better job of setting the edge with John Simon and Jamie Collins doing a tremendous job. 

The much anticipated matchup with Barkley won’t happen this time around and with the G-Men on their third and fourth options, I don’t see them running a consistent rushing attack against a unit allowing 78 yards per game. 

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

The Giants passing game has shown definite signs of life with Daniel Jones, who was impressive here in August for the fourth preseason game. But he’s missing his top WR in Sterling Shepard as well as his top tight end Evan Engram who are hurt. He still has the talented Golden Tate and Darius Slayton but will that be enough? 

The Patriots pass defense has been on an absolute roll this year. With a deep and talented secondary with 11 interceptions, an excellent group of linebackers and a pass rush that has already generated 24 sacks, they are playing outstanding football. They are tops in the league allowing just 160.4 yards per game through the air and just 6.8 points per game. Despite the short week, the Patriots defense will have a slightly easier time to prepare for the Giants passing offense as it bears many of the same looks as Washington’s. 

Jones has mobility but look for the Patriots to continue to be aggressive and attack the Giants offensive line while rolling their coverages to try to confuse the rookie QB. Jamie Collins may be a spy on Jones if he starts to hurt the defense with his legs. But with a depleted pass receiving core, this matchup should easily favor New England.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New York

The Patriots Mike Nugent missed his first extra point attempt but then was perfect on his next three while hitting two chip shot field goals. Rookie punter Jake Bailey has been outstanding. While the return game has been hit or miss with rookie Gunner Olszewski. 

Meanwhile the Giants Aldrick Rosas hasn’t missed an extra point and has only one field goal miss although his long is only 36 yards. Punter Riley Dixon has been excellent and is averaging 47.5 yards per punt. Corey Ballentine has done a good job on kick returns, while Golden Tate and T.J. Jones handle punt returns. 

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

The Patriots are playing on a short week, but get this one at home, which always helps on Thursday Night Football. The Giants are beat up physically and missing several key skill position players on offense. Their defense has been allowing over 400 yards and over 25 points per game.  

Bill Belichick has been kryptonite for rookie QBs when facing them for the first time and Tom Brady has an 11-1 record in Thursday games. 

Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:

Running Game Center Stage – Look for the Patriots once again to try to establish the run against a team that is struggling to stop it. Sony Michel should see plenty of work along with Burkhead [if he is active], James White with some Brandon Bolden mixed in. 

Getting in good position on early downs will open up the entire offense. On the flip side, with no Barkley and Gallman, the Patriots should be able to shut down the run. 

Do a Better Job on Third Downs – The Patriots offense struggled again on third down going just 5-15 last week in Washington. That stat has to improve. With a strong running game, it will open up play action especially in third and short situations. The running backs in the passing game along with Edelman will be third down keys. 

The Patriots defense has been outstanding on third down and held Washington to just 1-11 last week. They will look to continue that as well as limit big plays by the Giants offense. They should be able to stifle them from making the long ball-control type of drives, so the Giants may have to hit some big chunk plays to keep pace. 

Turnovers, Turnovers, Turnovers – The Patriots have been crazy good at creating turnovers defensively with 11 interceptions and one fumble recovery. Look for them to try to keep creating a favorable field position for the offense. With a young, rookie QB, they may be able to bait him into making a mistake or two.

Brady has made two red-zone interceptions in the past two games, both of which were poor decisions. Those have to be cut out as well as maintaining good ball control on a night where the weather conditions are predicted to be bad. 

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This should be a game, [on paper] where the Patriots should roll easily. The Giants offense is missing their top two rushers and their top two pass receivers. Going against a defense that has been playing as well as New England’s while facing a rookie QB, it has the potential to get away from the away team quickly. That’s why they play the games. 

It will be interesting to see Josh McDaniels’ approach for the offense in this one. But with Sony Michel and the running backs in the passing game, along with Edelman and Gordon, Brady should have plenty of targets to go after a suspect Giants defense. Patriots 27-6

The “Knocking on Seven’s Door” tour heads to New Jersey and a Monday Night Football matchup with the New York Jets next week. 

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

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

 

Patriots Week 5 Report Card, 33-7  Win Over the Redskins

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

Patriots Sitting Pretty at 5-0, Despite winning against ugly competition

The Patriots are 5-0 and one of [at this time] two undefeated teams left in the league. The Redskins are in a complete tailspin and are now 0-5 and have fired Head coach Jay Gruden. So, while the Patriots aren’t a perfect team at 5-0, their opponents at this point of the season are 5-15, with just the Bills being a good team thus far of their opponents. 

The Patriots started out slowly and actually trailed for the first time in the 2019 season. By halftime they led by only five at 12-7. After halftime was a different game and they outscored Washington 21-0, completely dominating the game and improving to 3-0 on the road. It should be noted that the team has already won as many games on the road as they won in all of 2018. 

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

Quarterback: B

Tom Brady had an overall very solid day, throwing for 348 yards and completing 28 of 42 passes while tossing touchdowns to three different receivers. He also had another very bad red zone decision that resulted in another awful-looking interception. Early in the game, the Redskins pass rush disrupted things, but Brady missed a golden opportunity and overthrew Josh Gordon who had cleanly beaten the coverage. 

But despite losing Phillip Dorsett early to a hamstring issue, Brady spread the ball around to nine different receivers. His throw to Brandon Bolden for a 29-yard touchdown was a beautiful touch pass and the one just before that to James White was aces as well. Brady may not an easy touchdown as the one he threw Izzo. The Redskins cleared out to each side and nobody was within the same area code as Izzo. Easy six points. 

Nice comeback week for Brady after a rough outing in Buffalo. Completing 67 percent of your passes, throwing three touchdowns and 348 yards with a QB Rating of 106? Nothing wrong with that. 

Running Backs: B+

The Patriots got the running game started [read Sony Michel] by going back to the power running game between the tackles in the second half. Once they got the running game going, everything fell into place and the Patriots blew them out. Michel had 91 yards on 18 carries, including a 14-yard touchdown and chipped in with three catches in the passing game for 32 yards. That is something we have been clamoring for and if they can keep it going, then this offense will be much less predictable. 

James White turned in a classic JW28 performance with 72 yards combined rushing and receiving, helping keep the sticks moving. He does everything so smoothly, it sometimes looks too easy. Veteran RB Brandon Bolden scored on a beauty of a 29-yard touchdown pass from Brady. It was a carbon-copy of the same route and throw he and Brady connected against the Skins four years ago in Foxboro. 

Jakob Johnson was feeling more comfortable out there on Sunday. He laid some tremendous blocks in the running game and while he’s not James Develin, he’s looking like he’s going to be just fine. And he caught a pass to boot. 

Wide Receivers: B

Julian Edelman had a fantastic day, catching eight passes for 110 yards and a six yard touchdown catch on nine targets. The only misfire was on a drop where Edelman was wide open and had the ball hit him right in the hands. He had a lot of green in front of him there. But his toe-tapping catch along the sideline was superb. He was giving the Redskins secondary fits yesterday. 

Josh Gordon had five catches for 59 yards but the one that got away could have given him a huge game, he blew by his defender and had an easy touchdown and Brady overthrew him. Jakobi Meyers had one catch for six yards

Tight Ends: B

Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo not only got involved in the passing game, but they had their best day blocking as well. LaCosse had one catch for 22 while Izzo had two for 39 including a 10-yard touchdown. LaCosse had a tremendous block on Michel’s 14-yard touchdown run. 

Izzo’s touchdown reception was the first by a Patriots tight end since Rob Gronkowski found the end zone last year. His touchdown was a bizarre play where he went down the seam and the Redskins secondary parted like the Red Sea where there was no one even remotely near him. Izzo will take it, his first NFL touchdown. Hopefully, this is a sign of good things to come, especially with the news that Ben Watson will not be activated and was released.  

Offensive Line: B

The offensive line had a mixed day. In the first half, they gave up three sacks and could only generate about 10 yards of offense in the ground game. But they got things figured out and started clearing out holes in the running game for Michel to run through. Brady despite the pressure threw for 348 yards and three scores. 

Dante Scarnecchia’s group dominated the second half. Now they need to keep it going against the Giants. 

Defensive Line: A-

The defensive line once again was very, very good. They gave up a 65-yard run early but there were missed tackles that they don’t normally commit in the secondary. The Redskins generated some garbage time yards late in the game, but between those two moments, the Redskins were stuffed. Adrian Peterson had 18 yards on seven carries. 

The defensive line showed multiple fronts, gave Colt McCoy different looks and constantly changed up personnel. They helped put a ton of pressure on McCoy, generating six sacks and eight quarterback hits. Danny Shelton and Lawrence Guy are both having excellent starts to the 2019 season. 

Linebackers: A

The Patriots linebackers were once again outstanding. Sunday was Dont’a Hightower’s return to action and he was the player of the game. Hightower was everywhere and the Redskins had no answer for him. Hightower had 8 tackles, 4.5 for a loss, 1.5 sacks, 1 pass defensed, and two quarterback hits. 

Jamie Collins had a sack where it looked like he was shot out of a cannon. Chase Winnovich added his fourth sack of the season while Ja’Whaun Bentley read a screen to Chris Thompson and dropped him with a thundering hit.

Secondary: A-

The secondary had a rather ho-hum day while not allowing a passing touchdown while intercepting an opponent for the 11th time this season [Jason McCourty]. Terry McLaurin was held in check, the backs didn’t produce much in the screen game and the Redskins finished the game with 75 net passing yards and averaged 2.3 yards per pass. It doesn’t matter who the opponent is, that is domination.

Special Teams: B

Stephen Gostkowski err, Mike Nugent had another miss on the first extra point of the day in what seems like Groundhog Day. However, Nugent recovered sufficiently and was fine after that, hitting two chip shot field goals and the three extra points. 

Jake Bailey had another terrific game and punted six times, averaging 47.7yards per punt. Gunner Olszewski returned three punts for 49 yards. And nearly came away with a broken on down the middle of the field. 

Coaches: B

The Patriots coaching staff made the adjustments they needed to make offensively, where Josh McDaniels schemed the running game open. He also picked on the Washington linebackers in the passing game, something we pointed to in our Razor’s Edge pregame matchups. Other than that one play on defense, the Redskins were unable to move the ball at all. 

We’re on to the Giants and Thursday Night Football, with the puke color rush uniforms. The “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door” 2019 tour continues with the Patriots at 5-0. 

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.

 

VIDEO: Episode 3 Of Elite Eats With Kyle Van Noy

Robert Alvarez
October 5, 2019 at 11:30 pm ET

New England Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy is back with an all new episode of his “Elite Eats” web series on his YouTube channel.

In this episode, Van Noy brings along cornerback Stephon Gilmore for brunch at the “Farmers Daughter” restaurant in Easton, Massachusetts.

Patriots Players To Watch, Week 5  Against the Redskins

Steve Balestrieri
October 4, 2019 at 7:31 am ET

The Patriots head back out on the road this week and are taking on the winless Washington Redskins in Landover, MD on Sunday. 

We posted our keys to the game and our positional matchups on Thursday and today we’ll look at the different players from a New England perspective that we’ll be watching if they wish to continue their undefeated run thus far. Bill Belichick has been talking up the 0-4 Redskins all week so that there is no letdown against a lesser opponent. 

Here are our Patriots players to watch this week down in Washington as the Patriots take on the Redskins and try to improve to 5-0. 

Sony Michel: 

The Patriots haven’t run the ball well this year and have averaged just 91.3 yards per game. And Sony Michel has had a rough time of it early averaging just 2.7 yards per rushing attempt in 2019.  Part of the reason the running game has struggled is on the offensive line where they’ve had several injuries. And let’s not forget that last season’s tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen were outstanding blockers. Everything factors in. And of course, perhaps Michel is a tad slow in getting to the hole. 

But this week, the Patriots are facing a Redskins team that is allowing 147.5 yards per game and 4.7 yards per rush. Last week they allowed 164 yards to a Giants team that was missing Saquon Barkley. So, the opportunities are there for him to get untracked this week and start building something for the rest of the season when the schedule gets tougher. 

Look for Michel to get a lot of work this week, especially if the team can get off to an early lead. The Patriots should be able to run the ball effectively and Michel will be one of the key players to watch this week as the offense looks to rebound after a tough week in Buffalo the week before.  Michel’s battery mates, James White and Rex Burkhead should be very active in the passing game…maybe time to get Sony a few looks too, Josh???

Kyle Van Noy:

The Patriots and Bill Belichick have had a good record of bringing in veterans from other teams and finding a role for them where they either prolong their career or accomplish more than anyone ever thought possible. Van Noy is arguably one of Belichick’s biggest steals. Drafted by the Lions with the 40th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Van Noy was highly thought of as a prospect. But the Lions never used his skills correctly and they unloaded him and a 7th round draft pick for a Patriots sixth-round pick in 2016. 

Belichick has found a way to maximize Van Noy’s talent and his career has taken off in New England. He’s one of their most versatile and important defensive players on the roster. Last week he was the AFC’s Defensive Player of the Week after his game against Buffalo. 

With the Redskins on tap for this week, we look for Van Noy to be a big part in trying to keep RB Adrian Peterson from getting untracked in the running game and for him to play close to RB Chris Thompson who has been very good for the Redskins out of the backfield with 20 catches for 251 yards, [12.6 yard average]. 

Marshall Newhouse:

Bill Belichick made it a point earlier this week to mention Redskins rookie outside linebacker Montez Sweat as one of Washington’s dangerous defensive players. Sweat was a first-round pick by Washington this spring [26th overall] one of two Redskins pick in the first round, [Dwayne Haskins #15]. 

Sweat is still learning his craft in the NFL but after the first two games where he struggled, he’s picked up his game and got his first NFL sack in Week 3 against the Bears. He’ll be rushing from Tom Brady’s blindside on the left. He’ll be taking on veteran Marshall Newhouse on that side. 

When Belichick mentions something, it isn’t normally to hear himself talk, so this area will be a point of emphasis for the team this week. Newhouse is going against an athletic, rookie pass rusher who ran a blistering [4.41] time in the 40 at the Combine. But the Patriots may be looking to run the ball to the left this week away from Ryan Kerrigan. That means Newhouse will be taking on the rookie in trying to get the RBs to the second level. 

Stephon Gilmore:

Gilmore’s rise among the NFL’s best cornerbacks means that he routinely gets the opponent’s best wide receiver. The veteran who always speaks quietly but confidently is the opposite of the many other brash but mostly less talented corners in the game. 

Gilmore has an intriguing matchup this week with the rookie speedster Terry McLaurin from Ohio State who is off to a tremendous start to his career. McLaurin who runs a 4.35 in the 40-yard dash has set a rookie record with at least five catches and a touchdown in each of his first three games. He can be a legitimate big play, deep threat receiver in the league. He missed the Giants game with a hamstring issue but was back at practice this week, albeit in a limited capacity. He may be a game-time decision.

If he does play this week, this will be a matchup to watch. The Redskins know, it will be hard to slowly move the ball down the field against this Patriots defense, they will have to get some chunk plays in the passing game. And Gilmore, who is among the very best in the league will be matched up with the very talented rookie.

Benjamin Watson: 

We were tempted to go with Tom Brady here, since all of the hot-take dolts on the national front drool over the Monday beat whenever Brady has [very infrequently] a bad day. But Brady rarely has two bad games in a row, and we expect him to be sharp this week. So, we’re going with Ben Watson, fresh off his four-game vacation, courtesy of the league office. Watson was back to practice this week, and it isn’t even certain that he’ll play yet, but we’re going on the assumption [dangerous game there] that he will indeed by activated and play this Sunday.

And the Patriots could surely use him too. Julian Edelman is playing with banged-up ribs, Josh Gordon has a knee issue that just popped up on the injury report and … oh yes, the current tight ends have been non-factors in the passing game and haven’t set the world on fire blocking either. 

While Watson was never known as a devastating blocker, he can at least hold his own and in the passing game, although 38 years old, he still runs well and can challenge the seams which should open up things a bit for the wide receivers underneath.   

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Check back with PatsFans.com for all of our pregame and post-game analysis. And if you’re a wiz at predicting the NFL slate straight up, register for our message board and then post your picks every week. We’ll see who is the top dog at the end of the season. That page can be found here: https://www.patsfans.com/new-england-patriots/messageboard/picks/

 

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

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

 

Patriots – Redskins Week 5 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
October 3, 2019 at 8:52 am ET

The Patriots are back on the road in Week 5, as they head to our nation’s capital to take on the Washington Redskins. With a win on Sunday, the Patriots will improve to 5-0 on the season and go 3-0 on the road, where they won only three games away from home in 2018.  

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, October 6 at 1:00 PM ET and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Greg Gumbel will handle play-by-play duties with Trent Green as the color analyst. Melanie Collins 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 (4-0) beat the Buffalo Bills 16-10 behind another outstanding defensive effort. New England had four interceptions and sacked Bills QBs five times

The Redskins (0-4) lost to the Giants 24-3. QB Case Keenum was replaced early in the second quarter for rookie QB Dwayne Haskins. .  

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 Redskins, although frequent preseason opponents, have met on 10 times in the regular season. Although Washington holds a 6-4 advantage overall in the all-time series, the Patriots have won the last three meetings including a 27-10 win over the Skins in Gillette Stadium back in the 2015 season. 

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 Redskins Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game has been mired in mediocrity at the quarter pole of the season. As a team, they are averaging just 91.3 yards per game [24th in the NFL] and a measly 3.2 yards per attempt in 2019. Injuries all along the offensive line have certainly played a part and running back Sony Michel has had precious little room to operate. However, he could hit the hole a tad quicker to help things a bit. 

Fullback James Develin was placed in IR but Jakob Johnson showed some promise in the Bills game. Rex Burkhead was nursing an injured foot last week and had only a single touch against Buffalo after being the go-to guy in the first three games. James White and Brandon Bolden will chip in as well. 

Washington has been really struggling against the run so far this season and is allowing a whopping 147.5 yards per game on the ground and 4.7 yards per rush. Washington plays a base 3-4 front and they are getting pushed around. Although NT Daron Payne is having a solid season. He’s been the bright spot for a defense reeling. Last week Washington gave up 164 yards on the ground to a Giants team without Saquon Barkley.

This will be a good week to get the running game untracked a bit and have Michel getting some positive yardage against a porous run defense. Don’t be surprised to see Brandon Bolden continue to get some play in the mix while Burkhead nurses his foot back to health.               

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

The Patriots passing game had a rough afternoon in Buffalo last week, Tom Brady had the worst statistical game since 2006. The Bills secondary effectively shut down the wide receivers. With Julian Edelman banged up [ribs] and now Josh Gordon limited with a knee issue, the passing game will be a key area to watch on Sunday. 

But Ben Watson should be back in the fold on Sunday, and it couldn’t come at a better time. The Patriots tight ends have been largely invisible for the first quarter of the season. It is pretty telling that safety Devin McCourty has caught as many passes [4 interceptions] as the TE group has caught overall. Look for Watson to attack the seams and open things up underneath. Burkhead and White out of the backfield should see plenty of passes coming their way. 

Washington’s pass defense is middle of the road [251 yards per game, 18th in the NFL] but that is a bit of a smoke and mirror stat since teams have been running the ball on them at will. Without the benefit of a good pass rush other than Ryan Kerrigan, teams are completing 77.8 percent of the passes their attempting. Their third-down defense is allowing a whopping 63 percent of conversions. Of their top four cornerbacks, only Quinton Dunbar is performing well. Opposing QBs have a 29.9 QB rating when targeting him. The others including Josh Norman 121.7, Jimmy Moreland, 131.5, and Fabian Moreau, 112.0 are not getting it done. 

Look for Brady to isolate White and Burkhead on the linebackers frequently and pick his spots with the WRs outside. We look for Jakobi Meyers to perhaps get some looks in the game this week. 

Next up the Redskins offense:

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

The Patriots front seven has been outstanding against the run allowing just 61.3 yards per game [2nd overall]. And despite the big game from the ageless Frank Gore a week ago, most of his production came on two carries where the defense made correctable mistakes, mistakes that no doubt was played in the film room this week. Danny Shelton and Lawrence Guy have been terrific at slowing the point of attack and allowing the linebackers to clean up. 

Washington has struggled to run the ball averaging just 49.7 yards per game, and 2.9 yards per rushing attempt in 2019. Like New England, injuries to the OL have crippled them. Left tackle Trent Williams has been a holdout, center Chase Roullier and right guard Brandon Scherf are banged up. Adrian Peterson has had nowhere to run and is averaging just 2.7 yards per attempt. 

With their QB position in total flux right now, the Redskins are going to have to try to run the ball to take the pressure off whoever gets the start, [my money is on Colt McCoy this week].  With the way the Patriots front seven has been defending the run, I expect New England to win this matchup easily. 

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

The Redskins passing game has been middle of the road [246 yards per game, 16th] but with Case Keenum being benched and questionable for this one due to an injury, the question is who plays on Sunday? Jay Gruden, in a bit of gamesmanship, was asked about their QB plan for Sunday and replied that they didn’t have one. Haskins showed a week ago that he’s not ready. So I believe they’ll go with Colt McCoy.

The Redskins have two speedsters on the outside, rookie Terry McLaurin and Paul Richardson. McLaurin missed the game against the Giants due to a hamstring problem and is questionable for this one. But he’s been outstanding. Washington QBs targeting him thus far have a 141.8 QB rating. Chris Thompson has been a reliable target out of the backfield and has 20 catches for 251 yards. Tight ends Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis are both banged up and may each miss this week.

The Patriots pass defense has been excellent thus far in 2019 allowing 181.8 yards per game [2nd in the NFL] and has racked up 18 sacks and 10 interceptions. Look for the Patriots to unleash the hounds on Sunday. With a running game that can’t get untracked, the Redskins should be in obvious passing situations most of the game. That is a recipe for the defense to attack.  

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Washington

The Patriots Stephen Gostkowski was placed on IR [hip surgery] on Wednesday and as of this posting, the Patriots don’t even have a kicker on the roster. They’re holding tryouts 

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

The Patriots are facing a team that is beaten up physically and reeling mentally. And yet, many fans and media members chuckle at Bill Belichick as he sings the praises of the Redskins as if they are 4-0 instead of the opposite. That’s why the team’s winning percentage is, and continues to be far above the rest of the league for the past 19 years. They rarely, if ever, play down to the level of their competition. In this sense, Belichick is the anti-Tomlin, and the team is much better for it. 

Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:

Running Game Takes Over – Look for the Patriots to try to establish the run early in this game and set the tone for the afternoon. With a strong showing in the running game, it will open up play action passing and should help Tom Brady have a big day throwing the ball. 

On the flip side of the coin, controlling the Washington running game will force the game into the hands of whoever is the QB this week. With the way the secondary has been playing, coupled with the pressure the front seven has been getting, it is a recipe for success. Look for the defense to continue its very aggressive approach. 

Win Third Downs – The Patriots offense struggled last week against an overall excellent Buffalo defense [5-18]. That should change this week. Washington’s defense is allowing an average of 63 percent of third downs to be converted. Even worse, opposing QBs are completing  87percent of passes attempted on third down. If the running game gets untracked, like we envision, that trend will continue. 

The Redskins have struggled on 3rd down offensively converting only 12 of 42 attempts [28.5 percent]. Their inability to run the ball has forced them into too many third and long attempts. Look for the Patriots to dominate 3rd down defensively again. 

***Insane Stat Time*** – The Patriots defense has more turnovers [10] than 3rd down conversions they’ve allowed, [7]. Overall, the Patriots defense has been outstanding on 3rd down [7-52, 13 percent]. 

Keep Creating Turnovers – The Patriots are +6 in the turnover department, while the Redskins are -3. See above insane stat line, the only way Washington can hope to pull an upset is to protect the ball, which is something they haven’t done, and force the  Patriots into some turnovers. 

The way the defense has been playing very opportunistic football, we expect this trend to continue on Sunday as Bill Belichick knows that this team they’re facing is ripe for packing it in, if they get up to a nice lead early. 

___________

This should be a game where the Patriots should take care of business early and win easily. Jay Gruden is definitely on the hot seat in Washington, but with the interference of owner Daniel Snyder, the once prime Redskins job is now one, that won’t be highly sought after. The front office is no doubt pushing Gruden to start Haskins in this one, although he showed last week [and Gruden knew] that he wasn’t ready. Gruden will try to go with Colt McCoy in our opinion but his hand may be forced here. 

Don’t expect a lot of fireworks in this one. I expect a methodical, workman-like approach for the Patriots on offense, as they eat the clock and keep grinding the ball down the field. Look for James White/Rex Burkhead to have a big game catching the ball as the Patriots roll and move to 5-0. Patriots 35-7

The “Knocking on Seven’s Door” tour heads home to Gillette Stadium on a short week to take on the New York Giants on Thursday Night Football.

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