Tag Archives: Stephon Gilmore

Players To Watch Patriots-Chiefs SNF Week 6

Steve Balestrieri
October 12, 2018 at 9:07 am ET

“It Feels Like We’re Playing Kansas City”  

The New England Patriots are playing the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday Night Football in a much-hyped game for Week 6 in the 2018 NFL season. Except for Bill Belichick that is. Belichick wasn’t buying into all the talk for playing for AFC supremacy, home-field advantage or anything else. On Thursday at his press conference, he was asked a few times about how he feels about the significance of the game. Belichick’s not-so-surprising response… “it feels like we’re playing Kansas City.”

But make no mistake it is a big game for both teams. The Chiefs have been on a roll and are 5-0, they want to continue their dominance and build upon that. But they also know they were in a similar position a year ago when the wheels came off. The Patriots started badly at 1-2 but have played much better the past two weeks and now it begins a very tough stretch of games for them.  

This game features two very intriguing QBs, Tom Brady, the reigning MVP and winner of five Super Bowls and Patrick Mahomes, the second-year player making just his seventh start in the NFL who has been lighting the league on fire for the first month plus. Their skill sets and strengths are pretty different and each will have the chance to showcase their talents again on the big national stage on Sunday Night.

So, from a Patriots perspective, here are our Players to Watch on Sunday:

Sony Michel:

The Patriots rookie running back is actually questionable to play with a knee injury and was limited in Thursday’s practice session. It isn’t known if this latest injury is a continuation of his knee that was drained of fluid during training camp or it is another new injury that he suffered during the Thursday night game against the Colts.

Michel in the past two weeks has gained over 200 yards and has been really rounding into form after missing all of the preseason games this summer. He has begun to show the form that he exhibited in college that attracted him to the Patriots this spring and gives them a dynamic back who gain can break a small run into a big one.

He should be (if he’s good to go), a big part of the game plan this week. The Patriots will look to stay balanced and run the ball, controlling the clock and keeping Kansas City’s pass rushers off balance. And the best way to do that is running the ball right at them.    

Josh Gordon

The Patriots newest wide receiver has still only been a member of the team for about a month and is still learning the playbook and the route tree for the Patriots wide receivers. So far, the results while encouraging, have been small in relation to what his potential can be. Gordon has been saying and doing all the right things and his teammates seem to be completely behind him.

This might be a week where the coaches try to get him a bigger piece of the game plan and try to stretch the field more vertically. We saw last week, the Jaguars try to the same thing time and again, and while it was successful a few times, their protection didn’t hold up enough to make it viable.

The Patriots could opt to do some of the same, especially if Eric Berry and Justin Houston are out. Gordon has the size and athleticism to be a huge target down the field, opening up all kinds of room for guys like Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski to work the middle of the field.

James White:

Assuming everyone is healthy (or reasonably so) and on the field, White could be the Patriots “X-Factor” this week in the passing game. As we wrote in our keys to the game earlier this week, with the Chiefs having to cover Gronk, Edelman, and Gordon, it opens White up as the movable chess piece for Brady to use in the air.

While Michel is the valuable piece in the ground game, White is the Swiss Army Knife for the passing game. Look for Brady to put him in motion and try to isolate him on a linebacker where they can possibly get a mismatch.

White is one of the most dependable, versatile players on the Patriots offense. He can do it all, run between the tackles, catch out of the backfield, and pass block. He and Michel will no doubt feature prominently this week.

Tom Brady:

With all of the league abuzz, and rightfully so over the early season excellence of Patrick Mahomes, Brady is usually a player that will use that fact as fodder to motivate himself to elevate his game this week. Not that he should need any extra motivation. The past two games against Kansas City have ended badly for New England.

Brady started slowly this season, but the past two games, he’s looked much better and is getting hot at just the right time. The Patriots will need a big game out of him, and with many questioning, whether New England is ripe to fall, this game against the undefeated Chiefs will be a big measuring stick.

Brady will look to start quickly this week, something he did against the Colts where he went 9-9 for 75 yards and a touchdown pass to Cordarelle Patterson. KC’s defense has given up a ton of yardage but has been very stout on 3rd down, which will automatically be something that will bear watching this week.

Pat Chung/Kyle Van Noy:

The Patriots defense has a pretty heavy task in front of themselves this week, in trying to scheme a way to slow down the high flying Chiefs’ offense. To do so will require a total solid defensive effort but a couple of players must have strong games on Sunday night. And it starts with Chung and Van Noy.

The Chiefs’ RPO (run/pass option) game is strong and gave the Patriots fits last year, not only against the Chiefs but in the Super Bowl against the Eagles. No doubt Andy Reid took note of that. Van Noy will need a big game this week. KC likes to fake the run and get Travis Kelce that deep open space behind the linebackers with lots of room to move. Van Noy will have to get the depth and take away those easy passes.

Chung is outstanding in run support and he’ll probably draw the task of covering Kelce much of the time. It will be an interesting chess match. It won’t be an easy one to win but they should have a good game plan in place.

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.

New England Patriots News 10-07, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
October 7, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, Here is your Sunday Patriots news 10-07, & AFC East Notes.

With the Patriots playing on Thursday night, today we get to relax and watch a nice slate of games on tap for the remainder of Week 5.  

Robert Kraft and the coaches were sporting the new Nike Air Force 1 Ultra Fly Knit Low RKK on Thursday night. The new shoe design commemorates Kraft’s 25th anniversary of owning the team. And proceeds from the sales will benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Boston. And for $160 bucks, you too can sport these.

“This shoe will get us over $2 million to the Boys & Girls Club of Boston,” Kraft said. “So whenever you can do something you love, you wear it, and you can do good in the community, it’s a win all around.”

Josh Gordon had an interesting comment after the game on Thursday night, as he spoke with Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston. According to NBCSB Curran asked Gordon how it felt to NOT be the focal point of the offense. And Gordon replied it was a relief. Curran, as relayed from Phil Perry said that Gordon said he liked watching the other players do their thing and he’s happy just to contribute right now.

Jason McCourty is enjoying a fantastic start of the season. It wasn’t that long ago, we were talking about him being on the roster bubble in training camp after a lackluster showing was moved to safety.

So now at the Week 5 mark, where is McCourty now? He’s the fourth-rated CB in all of the NFL according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). McCourty has allowed only 13 catches on 26 attempts for 116 yards with three passes defensed. On Thursday night, McCourty allowed just 4-10 passes for 44 yards with two passes defensed, one of which should have been an interception.

J-Mac has gone from the bubble to one of the team’s best defenders in just a few short weeks. And after going thru the travails of a 0-16 season in 2017, McCourty is loving his time in New England.

Belichick Sings Praises of Brady:

Tom Brady was given extremely high praise by Bill Belichick this week after achieving two milestones, throwing his 500th TD pass and setting the record for having the most receivers catching a TD from him (71), both on the same play to Josh Gordon.

“It’s tremendous,” Belichick said of Brady hitting 71 different receivers, via quotes distributed by the team. “That’s a lot of touchdown passes to a lot of different guys, too,” Belichick added, never one to downplay the historic aspect of NFL history.

“There’s no quarterback I’d rather have than Tom Brady,” Belichick said. “He does a great job week in and week out, year in and year out, all of the situations. He does a great job.”

Belichick even commented on the big play itself, giving both Brady and Gordon kudos for improvising.

“It wasn’t really the way we drew it up, but it ended up being an extended play with two great players making a great play,” Belichick said. “Josh has worked hard. Tom has spent extra time working with him and really all of the receivers, backs and tight ends, as well. It’s good to see that hard work pay off.”

When asked about Brady’s place in Patriots lore, Belichick gave the media another tidbit.  “There’s a lot of people who have meant a lot to this organization, but certainly nobody more than Tom Brady,” Belichick said.  

Gordon and Edelman Helped Passing Game Get Back in Sync:

It was tough to tell that Julian Edelman hadn’t played a meaningful game since the Atlanta Super Bowl on Thursday night. After missing all of 2017 with a torn ACL, the Patriots WR, fresh of a four-game suspension to boot, appeared to be his normal self, quick, making fast, decisive cuts and finding the open spots of the Colts zone defense.

Edelman brings that energy and “in-your-face” attitude that the team has lacked. The energy he brings to the table is infectious. The offense took the opening kickoff and marched right down the field, where Brady was 9-9 for 78 yards and the Patriots offense had the sparkplug in the slot that they’ve lacked.

With Gordon, he is still learning the playbook so he’s just beginning to scratch the surface on what his potential can be in this offense. So far, he’s doing and saying all of the right things. He brings the element of size, freakish athleticism and speed that opposing defenses must honor and the fearlessness to go over the middle and do the dirty work.

With Edelman just back, Gordon still in the early stages of learning the playbook and Sony Michel just finding his feet in the offense after missing all of the preseason, there is a reason for optimism for this offense, that just two weeks ago appeared bare of weapons for Brady.  

Patriots Offense Will Have to Add Another RB Soon:

The Patriots pair of running backs with Sony Michel and James White is looking to be a dynamic 1-2 punch for the offense. But sometime soon they’ll have to add another back to the mix.

White is an established, battle-proven member of the offense who has continued the team’s legacy of excellent 3rd down backs who are versatile and tough. His value in the passing game is ridiculously high every year despite the number of WRs who constantly get the focus as well as Rob Gronkowski at tight end.

Michel was a first-round draft pick (31st) overall in this year’s NFL Draft. While many people normally (including the Patriots) eschew taking a running back that high in the draft, they made an exception for Michel. So naturally, (hey this is Boston after all), everyone jumped all over Michel and despite him missing all of the preseason games, he was hearing the “bust” label after just two games.

He’s just starting to scratch the surface on the potential that the Patriots saw in him. In the past week (Sunday/Thursday games), Michel has 223 yards rushing, including a highlight reel 34-yard TD run with a major league stiff arm. He’ll eventually get more involved in the passing offense, the Patriots are taking their time with him and not wanting to put too much on his plate too soon.

But if anything were to happen to either White or Michel, the team would really be in a bind. Does 2015 ring a bell? The team was banged up and brought in Stephen Jackson who was ready to retire. And it hurt them, especially in the playoffs. Look for them to add someone soon. Kenjon Barner’s number still on speed dial?

Fast Starts Are Nothing New for the Chiefs:

One game this week, that we’ll be watching closely is the Chiefs-Jaguars matchup. Kansas City is New England’s next opponent on next Sunday night. The KC offense under Pat Mahomes has been off the charts thru the first month of the regular season.

But much like the slow starts that the Patriots have regularly suffered and have had no adverse consequences, the opposite is true for Kansas City who are known for getting off to fast starts. The following is just for an example of some hot starts by the Chiefs.

1996: 3-0
2003: 9-0
2010: 3-0
2013: 9-0
2017: 5-0

What is remarkable about every one of those seasons? Not one of those resulted in a playoff win. This year’s Chiefs’ team is 4-0 and maybe the outlier of that stat. Mahomes is off to a historic start to his career. Which is why today’s game vs the Jaguars will be a must watch game before the Chiefs come to Foxboro next week in primetime.

And we all remember how their last visit to Foxboro went in the 2017 season opener.

Who You Have This Week, NFL Week 2 Predictions:

Last week: 12-3 Season 38-23-2 Bye Week: Bears, Bucs

Thursday night’s pick Pats over Indy 1-0


TITANS AT BILLS – Tennessee
FALCONS AT STEELERS – Pittsburgh
BRONCOS AT JETS – Denver
JAGUARS AT CHIEFS – Kansas City
PACKERS AT LIONS – Green Bay
RAVENS AT BROWNS – Baltimore
GIANTS AT PANTHERS – Carolina
DOLPHINS AT BENGALS – Cincinnati
RAIDERS AT CHARGERS – LA
CARDINALS AT 49ERS – Arizona
VIKINGS AT EAGLES – Philadelphia
RAMS AT SEAHAWKS – LA
COWBOYS AT TEXANS – Houston
Monday Night Football
REDSKINS at SAINTS – New Orleans

Early Thursday Night Prediction: Denver over Arizona

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Need a Big Offensive Effort to Get Things Turned Around:

The Buffalo Bills offense was particularly awful last week in a 22-0 loss to the Green Bay Packers and if they’re going to challenge the Titans today that must change. It should begin with getting LeSean McCoy and the running game going. McCoy had four…not a typo, four attempts against the Packers last week. That is not the way to protect a rookie quarterback.

Speaking of rookie QBs, Josh Allen really looked like one last week. With no running game and a leaky offensive line, he’s feeling the heat. And he’s falling into bad habits that come with the territory. He bailed too early in the pocket, took far longer to get the ball out of his hands and had a truly awful game.

In a good bit from the Buffalo News, Zay Jones, the Bills WR who leads the team with 10 catches for 144 yards. Of those 10 catches, nine of them for 127 yards have come with the Bills trailing by 17 points or more. Some production while the game is in doubt would be appreciated.

Dolphins Banged Up Before Big Game Against the Bengals:

The Miami Dolphins have about a dozen players banged up before their game against the Cincinnati Bengals today. Key among them is DE Cameron Wake who didn’t practice this week. With Andre Branch out as well, the Dolphins will roll with Robert Quinn and Charles Harris.

Back up QB Luke Falk (wrist) was placed on IR, CB Bobby McCain was injured against the Patriots and is out. DeVante Parker is also expected to miss today’s game. TE A.J. Derby is out today and the team will go with rookie Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe, and the recently activated Nick O’Leary.

But the good news is that safety Reshad Jones is looking like he’ll return this week after missing the last few games, which is good news for a defense that is a banged-up unit.

Darnold’s Confidence Still High Before the Jets Take on Denver:

The New York Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold is looking to turn the corner this week against Denver. Darnold shined in the opening game against the Detroit Lions but has struggled for three games in a row. But that doesn’t have him down, in fact, quite the opposite is true.

Darnold is confident that the offense is getting ready to break out, and not the Taylor Price variety. “As a team, I feel like we are really close,” Darnold said. “And for me personally I feel like I’m just on the edge. I’ve just got to continue to find completions, hit my guys deep when they are there. It will come, it’s just a timing thing. It’s going to click one of these games, I know it is. It’s just kind of waiting on that opportunity.”

Darnold, according to his coaches, is seeing the field better and recognizing what opposing defenses are trying to do against the Jets offense. That means an increase in the way follows his progressions and ultimately getting the ball out faster and more accurately. One good sign was the Jets were allowing him to use the entire field and throw the ball down the field for the first time and with that trust, he’ll have to start delivering. The coaches believe too that he’s on the verge of breaking out as well. Today at MetLife Stadium may be a great place to start.

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.

Best Of Social Media: Week 5 Colts vs Patriots

Robert Alvarez
at 4:30 am ET

Coming off a short week, the New England Patriots entered Thursday nights matchup with the Indianapolis Colts seeking to continue their dominance over their rivals and get back above .500  on the season.

The Colts came into the game winless in their last seven meetings against their AFC rivals, losing by an average of 19 points per game.

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Focus

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And it begins… #LFG

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Mood. #GoPats

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Thursday nightlights #patsnation #darkside

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Legends.

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In the first quarter, Tom Brady wasted no time getting his favorite target involved for the first time since Super Bowl LI as Julian Edelman hauled in the first pass of the night.

Brady found Cordarrelle Patterson for the second week in a row to put the Patriots on the board first at 7-0 after one quarter.

For the second straight week, the Patriots pash rush came out strong, getting in Colts quarterback Andrew Luck’s face and causing disruptions early.

In the second quarter, the trademark “Brady Leap” touchdown made its first appearance in four seasons as the Patriots jumped out to a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.

After a Colts field goal to cut the deficit to 14-3, the Patriots under two-minute scoring came through again as Brady found James White to extend the lead to 21-3 with 1:34 to go in the half.

The defense continued to make plays as Patrick Chung recorded an interception of Luck that led to a Stephen Gostkowski 45-yard field goal to bump the Patriots lead to 24-3 at halftime.

Chung’s celebration after the pick may have been more memorable.

https://twitter.com/LooseChangePod/status/1048044815093571585

In the second half, tight end Rob Gronkowski continued to re-write the Patriots record books.

In the third quarter, the Patriots struggled with some ugly drops that led to Colts interceptions.

The Colts would cash in on one of them as Luck found his tight end Eric Ebron to cut the lead to 24-10 at the 9:40 mark of the third quarter.

Needing to regain momentum, Devin McCourty delivered with a familiar play.

The Colts made things interesting to start the fourth quarter when Luck found Eric Swoop for another score to make it a seven point game at 24-17.

Needing to reclaim control, enter Josh “Flash” Gordon.

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For the first time in his Patriots career, Josh Gordon put the Patriots back ahead two scores with an incredible “Moss-Like” catch that brought the lead back up to 31-17. The touchdown was Brady’s 500th for his career.

Leading by two scores, the Patriots defense stepped up again, with Jonathan Jones snatching a pick.

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Hell yeah @getitonjones31

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The interception would lead to a Sony Michel game sealing 34-yard touchdown run to put the Patriots up 38-17.

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A garbage time Eric Ebron touchdown made the score 38-24, but the Patriots would walk away with their eighth consecutive win over the Colts and move to 3-2 on the season. A date with the 4-0 Kansas City Chiefs awaits them Sunday night October 14th.

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2 of 3!! Sensei!!

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W

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Back home. #W

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Patriots  Week 5 Report Card, New England Downs Colts Again 38-24

Steve Balestrieri
October 5, 2018 at 11:29 am ET

The Patriots were facing a short week and a familiar nemesis or perhaps that is a harsh term, foe may be a better description. Other than the ones who began the entire Deflategate fiasco with the league, the Patriots have owned the Colts for the previous seven games winning by an average of about 20 points.

Thursday night began much the same way, the Pats were up by 21 at the half and it looked like they may hang a 50 burger on a very shorthanded Colts team. And by all accounts, they should have.  But sloppy ball control in the second half cost them and due to the outstanding effort of Andrew Luck, the Colts narrowed the score to 24-17 and it was a game.

The Patriots quickly responded and put two more scores up to put it back up by 21 before Luck led a late drive to make it seem respectable at 38-24. This was Thursday Night Football in a microcosm. Dropped passes on both sides, five turnovers, players getting hurt. Not to mention those god-awful all blue monstrosities that pass for uniforms. Hell Indianapolis couldn’t even field an entire 46-man team last night. But hey Commish, tell us again how the players’ safety is #1 in your book.

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

Quarterback: A

Tom Brady was totally in control last night and was meticulously picking the Colts zone defense apart from start to finish. He started the first drive of the game by going 9-9 and throwing a touchdown pass to Cordarrelle Patterson. Of his first 13 passes, the only incompletion was a drop by Julian Edelman.

He did miss a few throws to Josh Gordon, but we chalk those up to be still working on their chemistry and timing together. But last night one got the feeling that the Colts defense wasn’t going to stop them, and it was correct. He threw for 341 yards and three TDs while completing 34-44,  and it could have been even more.

His two picks were not only preventable but right in the hands of his receivers, one of which looked more fumble than interception…but whatever. Brady passed two big milestones becoming the 3rd member of the 500 TD club and the only one to do it with one team.  He also set a new record by passing a TD to 71 different receivers, more than anyone else.

Running Backs: A-

The Patriots running backs had another very productive night. Sony Michel just missed a second 100-yard outing getting 98 yards on 18 carries. His 34-yard touchdown run was stuff we saw from him in college. In the past five days, Michel has gained 223 yards on the ground.  And he’s getting better every day.

James White was a guy we highlighted to have a big game and we were spot on there. White caught 10 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown and is so valuable in the Patriots passing game.

Michel needs to get better, and will, in the short-yardage running game, but that isn’t really his strength. James Develin continues to amaze as a blocker in the running game.

Wide Receivers: B

The wide receivers are now finally all in place, and you know what, you can stop lining up at the Tobin because “Bill doesn’t give Tawmmy enuff weaponz”. This group looked very dangerous and they’re just scratching the surface of their potential.

Julian Edelman is back and answered the questions as to whether he’d still have the quickness that we’re accustomed to seeing. He made his mark on the game right off the bat, catching three passes on the opening drive.

Gordon is still learning the offense and was only targeted a few times but had two big catches including the highlight reel 34-yard touchdown pass from Brady. Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Patterson are now the complementary guys and as such their production was just fine, 8 catches, 70 yards, and a touchdown. Hogan had the one brutal drop for a pick.

Tight Ends: B

Rob Gronkowski was obviously hobbled and in pain last night, one could see him limping several times after the play. But Brady and offense didn’t go thru Gronk and his numbers were OK, 6 catches for 75 yards. On the dropped/interception/ fumble, which we thought was a fumble, had it stood up he would have ended with 7-90, and yes we would gladly take that on a bad ankle.

Offensive Line: A

The offensive line was once again outstanding last night. The Colts entered the game with 17 sacks in the first four games and Brady’s pass protection was, for the vast majority of the game terrific. They had just 4 QB hits and 0 sacks.

Michel had room to run again and the boys up front did a fantastic job. Rewatch Brady’s 500th TD to Gordon, and he had an unreal amount of time to throw the football.

Defensive Line: B-

The defensive line did an okay job of stuffing the sputtering running game against the Colts. They had a big run at the end of the first half and some yards late in the game, but overall, it was good enough to force Luck to have to pass 60 times.  

The team only had one sack, a nice play by Trey Flowers in the first quarter. Adam Butler made a nice play of recognizing a screen pass and stuffing it for a loss. Adrian Clayborn had his best game of the season and was getting a lot of pressure on Luck. His pressure caused the Chung interception.

Linebackers: B

This wasn’t the fantastic day they had on Sunday but it was good enough. The linebackers were tasked with covering the running backs and they did a decent job of it. Nyheim Hines led the Colts with 22 receptions and he made 7 last night but for just 45 yards, which while solid enough numbers, wasn’t what the Colts needed with an injury-depleted roster.  

Hightower got beat by Eric Ebron on their final touchdown with a minute and a half to go when he bit hard on a run fake.

Secondary: B

The secondary wasn’t quite as bad as some were pointing out last night. Luck put on a nice show and threw for 365 yards and was dropping some really nice throws that was belying the hot take that his arm strength was suspect.

He also threw 60 passes so he was averaging less than six yards per pass. His passer rating was around 84 so that wasn’t great either. Jason McCourty had another strong game and is quickly becoming a very solid as the second corner. Stephon Gilmore was solid all game long, he was burned on one deep route but the receiver dropped the ball.

Jonathan Jones had a rough night and Luck was picking on him. Luck’s best target was TE Eric Ebron who gave Devin McCourty fits. Pat Chung also shared coverage responsibilities with Ebron. The two safeties got low marks for that, however, Chung was making plays all over the field and had 11 tackles, an interception, and a QB hit. McCourty forced a turnover too, so again, it wasn’t as bad as Twitter would have you believe.

Special Teams: B

Stephen Gostkowski was 5-5 on extra points and nailed his only field goal attempt. Ryan Allen averaged 48.3 yards per punt but did outkick his coverage on one and it allowed the Colts to return it 32 yards. Julian Edelman was returning punts and looked very good. The Colts weren’t allowing Patterson to return any kickoffs and boomed them away.

Coaches: A-

Faced with a short week, was there any doubt which team was the most prepared to go on Thursday Night Football? Bill Belichick had the team ready to go and they had a good gameplan and the offense looked like a house on fire racing out to a 24-3 halftime lead.

After Luck and the Colts narrowed it down the one score early in the 4th quarter, the Patriots put them away with two big scoring drives.

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.

Patriots Down Colts 38-24 in Sloppy TNF Win, 3 Up-3 Down

Steve Balestrieri
at 6:49 am ET

Is the rivalry back on? For the first half of tonight’s game, it certainly didn’t seem so as the Patriots throttled the Colts to a 24-3 advantage at the break. But the team played a very sloppy third quarter and the Colts narrowed the lead down to a single score before the Patriots behind a strong game from Tom Brady pulled away to win 38-24 in front of a packed house in Gillette Stadium.

The Colts, however, were equally as sloppy and the game was mired with five turnovers and after being treated to several good Thursday Night Football contests, fans were given more of what we’ve come to expect from these mid-week games.

Julian Edelman returned to his first game action since the Super Bowl against the Falcons and didn’t seem to miss a beat. The Patriots made sure he was immediately targeted on the first play from scrimmage. Edelman had three catches on the first drive where Brady went 9-9 and finished it off with a TD pass to Cordarrelle Patterson.

Edelman finished the game with seven receptions for 57 yards and was back returning punts as well. On the Patriots second drive, as they were again moving, Brady hit him wide open down the sideline and he dropped it. It was a scenario that would return…for both teams.

Brady had a record-setting night and broke two milestones with just one pass. In the fourth quarter after the Colts had pulled within seven at 24-17, Brady led the Pats on a very nice drive and at the Colts 34, with seemingly all night to throw, he aired it out to Josh Gordon for a 34-yard touchdown. It was both the 500th of Brady’s career making him just the 3rd player to do so, but it also broke another record. Gordon’s TD reception made him the 71st player to catch a TD from Brady, breaking the record he shared with Vinny Testaverde. He finished 34-44 for 341 yards with three TDs and 2 INTs.

The Colts were a banged up team on Thursday and couldn’t even field a full team of 46 active players, they could only dress 44. Please remind us NFL about how important player safety is again. And while the Colts defense is much better, and yes they were missing several players, the Patriots could have easily, should have easily dropped 50 on them.

The Edelman drop certainly cost them points and Brady’s two interceptions were both in the hands of Patriots receivers who dropped them. Chris Hogan had a Brady pass right in his hands at the 23-yard line and into Mathias Farley’s hands ending another scoring drive. On the ensuing drive, Brady hit Rob Gronkowski down the seam that would have given the Pats a 1st and goal at the five. Instead, the ball was ripped out, (seemed more like a fumble) and Najeh Goode returned it to the 20.

However, also on the plus side was the solid game by Sony Miche who racked up 98 more yards on 18 carries and he’s getting better and better. His 34-yard touchdown was a nice one where he got free on good blocking and then burst down the sideline untouched for the score.

Andrew Luck seems all the way back from his injury and his arm strength which some were questioning before the game, seems fine, thank you very much. He dropped some dimes all over the field and lasered a few passes into tight window coverage as well. Luck finished with 365 yards passing with 3 TDs and 2 INTs, but after throwing 62 passes on Sunday, he threw 59 more last night and they desperately need a running game or he’s going to get killed out there.

Eric Ebron had a huge game for the Colts and had his way all night long, despite being a bit gimpy himself at times. He finished with 9 catches for 105 yards and 2 TDs. Nyheim Hines had a solid game for Indy, he got 45 yards on the ground on 15 carries and added 45 more thru the air on seven catches.

The Patriots defense had a solid first half and was gashed pretty well by Luck in the final 30 minutes. The Colts short passing game kept the chains moving as Indy rolled up 439 yards of offense. These are some troubling developments and much will have to be cleaned up considering their next opponent. The defense has 10 days to prepare for Kansas City’s passing game, and they have a lot of work to do.

So who was up and down tonight?

Three Up:

Tom Brady – The Patriots QB was his normal, unflappable self against the Colts, and he seemed to be able to carve them up at will. The Colts were only able to stop the Patriots passing game on the drops/interceptions in the second half.

And to break two big milestones on one pass was pretty special. His touchdown pass to Gordon was reminiscent of a TD that he threw in 2007 to Randy Moss against Miami. That broke the record he shared with Testaverde. And it was also his 500th, making him just the third player (Brett Favre, Peyton Manning) to do so. Drew Brees is next on the list with 496. Brady as always gave the credit to his teammates.

“Things like that, milestones and so forth, there are so many people who contribute,” Brady said. “I just think of all the people who have really worked hard. A quarterback doesn’t throw them to himself. He needs people to catch, and block, and the defense to make plays, and coaches to coach. These are all great team awards. Pretty cool.”

Sony Michel/James White – The Patriots 1-2 punch at the running back position was huge again for the team. Michel gave them 98 yards on the ground, including the 34-yard touchdown and one catch for 12 yards. White, on the other hand, was a thorn in the side of Indy’s defense catching 10 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. He just two carries 0 yards, but one of those was a key 3rd and 1 conversion on the Patriots first drive of the game.

The duo was fantastic and they each bring something to each element of the offense. Michel will eventually become a bigger factor in the passing game and we know White is able to contribute in the running game.

We wrote earlier this week that with Edelman back and teaming him with Gronk and Josh Gordon would open up some room for White underneath. Tonight’s game was a testament to that.

Jason McCourty – The Patriots cornerback has continued his strong play this season and he was very solid again tonight. He made two excellent plays, back-to-back breaking up passes including one in the end zone to Zack Pascal.

J-Mac also had a nice play where he knocked the ball out from Pascal again and Jonathan Jones intercepted it to seal the game. The very next play, Michel rolled in from 34 yards to put the Pats back up by 21.

Considering the way, the summer started, it looked like J-Mac was on the bubble. Now, that thought seems a bit ludicrous.

Down:

Devin McCourty/Pat Chung – The Pats safety had an up and down night, he made a couple of big plays that helped turn the ball over to the Pats. He broke up a pass intended for Hines on a key third down stop and stripped the ball from Jordan Wilkins after a short gain and took the sting out of the Hogan drop/pick

And yes, he was given fits all night by Ebron who had the biggest game of his career and was constantly in trail. But the touchdown that Ebron scored against him was scheme driven. He was playing inside leverage and Ebron broke outside….oops. Great play call by Indy.

However, it wasn’t D-Mac’s greatest game but it wasn’t the worst as some fans would think. Chung struggled to contain Ebron as well. Tip your hat to him and get back to work on the KC gameplan I guess. Chung otherwise was strong with 11 tackles, a pick, and a QB hit. 

Jonathan Jones- The Pats nickel corner had a pretty rough night. He seemed a tad slow off the snap all night long and was getting beat consistently and was resorting to a lot of grabby work which can result in a flag fest. Something that was mentioned in the broadcast.

The Colts picked on him pretty consistently all night. We’ll have to rewatch the tape later today but it didn’t look like Jones’ best night either. But as with McCourty, Jones did get the pick on the interception.

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Patriots – Dolphins Week 4, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
September 27, 2018 at 7:47 am ET

The New England Patriots return home after a 0-2 road trip and having been soundly defeated in both contests by Jacksonville and Detroit. While it early, since we’re still in September to call anything a “must-win” game, but it is rapidly sh

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Kevin Harlan will handle play-by-play duties with Rich Gannon as the color analyst. Steve Tasker 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 (1-2) lost to the Detroit Lions 26-10 on Sunday Night Football as they couldn’t get anything going offensively or defensively. Tom Brady threw for just 133 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

The Dolphins (3-0) had a late big comeback to defeat the Oakland Raiders 28-20.  Ryan Tannehill passed for 289 yards and 3 TDs while Albert Wilson also threw for a 52-yard score.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2018 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game.

Series History:

The Patriots and the Dolphins are meeting for the 106th time in their history. Miami holds the overall edge 54-51 with each team holding big advantages at home. Against the Dolphins in Foxboro, Tom Brady is 14-1 with the only loss coming in 2005 when he was pulled in the first quarter of the regular season finale.

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 Dolphins Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Miami

The Patriots running game has taken two big hits in the injury department losing both Jeremy Hill and Rex Burkhead to IR. That leaves only Sony Michel, James White, and the recently signed Kenjon Barner. What was looked upon as a deep position just a few weeks ago is now thin.

The Dolphins run defense has been much improved in 2018. They’ve done a great job of keeping opponents from running the ball effectively and the front seven has been very solid. Last week, they did a very solid job of bottling up the Raiders Marshawn Lynch which was particularly important when the Raiders were trying to run the clock in the second half.

The Patriots run blocking has not been up to their usual standards and they’ve struggled to consistently run the ball. The team has made a concerted effort to get Michel going after he missed nearly a month of practice. Look for the Pats to just try to mix things up this week and keep Miami honest. But not a lot of room to run this week.

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

The Patriots passing game has been mired in neutral the past two weeks. The wide receivers haven’t been getting open and teams are doubling down on Rob Gronkowski. Losing Burkhead really hurts in the passing game, which means that even more will be put on James White’s plate. Could we see some Josh Gordon this week?

Miami’s pass defense has been generating a lot of turnovers thru three weeks and the pass rush with Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn is a daunting task this week. The secondary has been very good, the Dolphins have invested a lot of draft and free agent capital into improving it. Xavien Howard had two interceptions last week vs Oakland.

Look for Josh McDaniels to switch up the conservative game planning and put the ball where it belongs this week, in Tom Brady’s hands. Yes, they’ve struggled to throw the ball but an offense that is run based and throwing on second and third and long isn’t conducive to winning. Look for much more James White this week. Jacob Hollister probably won’t play this week, (they could use him to take some heat off of Gronkowski) but with Gordon getting into the game, it should open things up for the other wide receivers. Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett are under the microscope this week.  

Next up the Miami offense:

Miami RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Push

The Dolphins running game hasn’t been setting the world on fire (like Detroit) and their running back by committee has not been where they envisioned it yet so far this season. Kenyon Drake and Frank Gore present different challenges and are a good 1-2 punch once they work out the kinks. Last week the duo ran just 11 times for 15 yards against the Raiders.

The Patriots run defense, especially to the opponent’s left side has been awful so far this season. This was supposed to be much improved this year but it hasn’t panned out that way. Things should be improved this week with the team getting Trey Flowers and Pat Chung back from concussion protocol. Flowers is the team’s best defensive lineman and Chung is a very effective tackler in the running game.

Look for the Dolphins to attack the left side, as we’ve seen all three opponents do this season. If they consistently get in those second and three yards or fewer scenarios, then it will be another long afternoon for the Patriots defense. Maybe this week it would bode well for Brian Flores to eschew most of the two-gap responsibilities and allow the DL to attack a bit more looking for some penetration and disruption up front. We’ll see.

Dolphins WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Miami

The Miami passing offense boasts a number of very good pass receivers in Kenny Stills, Danny Amendola, Jakeem Grant, DeVante Parker and Albert Wilson who also threw a 52-yard touchdown on a trick play last week. Ryan Tannehill has been incredibly accurate (73% completion rate) while amassing a 121.8 passer rating. They also have Drake out of the backfield and rookie TE Mike Gesicki.

The Patriots pass defense has suffered from a lack of pressure the past two weeks as both Matthew Stafford and Blake Bortles had all day to throw, frequently in very manageable situations. That has to change this week. Getting back three starters on defense (Flowers, Chung, Eric Rowe) would help.

I’d look for Tannehill to target Amendola a lot in this one. He knows the Patriots defense as well as anyone, he practiced against them every day for several years. They’ll try to move the ball down the field while taking the occasional deep shot with Stills. The matchup with Amendola with Jonathan Jones will be one to watch. Stills will probably be matched up with Stephon Gilmore while Rowe will draw either Wilson or Grant which will the other big matchup to watch.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Push

The Patriots’ Special Teams have yet to find their groove in 2018. The coverage units haven’t been anywhere near where they need to be and the return game has largely been stuck. However, last week, Cordarrelle Patterson opened the game with a 42-yard kickoff return, which is exactly what the team is looking for. Cyrus Jones is back and will be returning punts now and the team could use a boost by him.

Miami boasts the speedy and dangerous Grant in their return units. He had a 102-yard return for a touchdown against the Titans. However, the Dolphins have also given up a 94-yard touchdown return as well. Both teams have gotten solid play in the kicking game from punter Matt Haack and kicker Jason Sanders for Miami and Ryan Allen and Stephen Gostkowski for New England.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This one is a much bigger game for both teams than a normal September divisional game. Miami leads the Patriots by two games, going up by three with a tiebreaker would put them far ahead in the divisional standings.

Tom Brady has been nearly unbeatable at home against Miami and on the flip side, much like Miami has been Brady’s kryptonite, Foxboro has been that for Ryan Tannehill. Miami’s QB is 0-5 in Gillette Stadium and has thrown 5 TDs and 9 INTs in those games where the Dolphins have been outscored 163-61.

While New England has been struggling, we’ve seen this before in the early season. Are we going to fall for the “banana in the tailpipe” again? This is the 2018 Patriots “We’re on to Cincinnati” game. We’ll learn something about each team after Sunday’s game.

We’re looking for Brady to get it done enough on offense this week as they begin to get things figured out. One “X-Factor” for New England may be John Simon, the ex-Colts LB/DE is best suited as a 3-4 OLB than a 4-3 DE, so could we see some 3-4 looks or the other 5-2 fronts we’ve seen in the past to try to confuse Tannehill? Possibly.

Our feeling here is that the Brady/Belichick combination in New England isn’t quite done just yet.    Patriots 24-23

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Patriots  Week 3 Report Card, Lions Crush New England

Steve Balestrieri
September 25, 2018 at 8:33 am ET

The Patriots were beaten badly for the second week in a row, and if possible, this one was more ugly than the last one. We’ve gotten used to these rotten apples in September before and the coaches always seem to get things figured out. But they face pretty much a must-win this week against 3-0 Miami. And there are lots of issues to fix right now on this team.

With no running game, wide receivers who can’t get separation and the inability to stop the run, you have a recipe for losing football. And they were again dominated at the line of scrimmage.  

So, once again the players won’t be rushing up to garner their grade sheets after this one. Burn the game film of this one, this was particularly bad..

Quarterback: C-

Tom Brady was visibly frustrated after the game and seemed to be pointing his finger at Josh McDaniels decision to force feed Sony Michel the ball this week in an attempt, not to shake the rust off, but to burn it off. Brady said, that James White, who had the Patriots’ only touchdown Sunday night needs more touches.  “He’s got to be involved. The guys who can make plays, those are the ones who should be involved.”

Brady badly forced a deep ball to Phillip Dorsett who was double covered and the pass was picked off. And with no one getting open in the short to intermediate game, he was forced to take deep shots down the field.

Running Backs: C-

The Patriots were obviously forcing the issue with Michel, and while he had just 50 yards on 14 carries, on many plays, there was absolutely nowhere to run, (wasn’t that a song by Martha and the Vandellas?). He also had a costly drop in the passing game. Michel will get it going, this is just his second game after missing almost a month of practice and all of the preseason. But the team is limited right now and hopefully, it will be sooner rather than later.

Rex Burkhead was limited again and left with concussion issues…sigh. James White was once again the most dependable back on the field. White made a nice catch in the back of the end zone while the defender had tight coverage…which we’ve come to expect from him.

Wide Receivers: D-

The wide receivers are struggling big time and they’re not winning the one-on-one matchups. After a couple of decent performances, Dorsett didn’t register a catch even though Brady threw to him five times.

Hogan had a couple of catches and Patterson had one along the sideline. But the issue is, they are all complimentary receivers and they’re good ones. But none are able to assume the mantle of a top WR in this offense.

The Patriots get back Julian Edelman after the Miami game and have Josh Gordon waiting in the wings. Will it be enough? We shall see.

Tight Ends: C

Rob Gronkowski was blanketed by the Lions who were treating him and rightfully so as the primary target and they’d be right. He had a detail assigned to shadow him like the President. With Jacob Hollister getting injured this week, it took away another possible weapon for Brady to target. But what Gronk needs is others to step up. He can’t be the only game in the pattern.

Dwayne Allen isn’t used in the passing game as a target and is strictly a blocker, at a time when they desperately need weapons. And he got blown up by Tavon Wilson (remember him?) on a third and short running play.  That one stung.

Offensive Line: C-

The offensive line did a good job in pass protection. The Lions sacks were mainly those of the coverage variety. One sack Brady held the ball for almost 5-6 seconds.

However, the run game blocking was for the most part atrocious. If you look at the stats, 89 yards on 19 carries, it doesn’t look so bad, but that would be a mirage. The Pats have for years ran to the right behind Marcus Cannon and Shaq Mason. And those two were beaten consistently which is troubling.

On third and 1, Mason was blown up by Ricky Jean-Francois (remember him too?), and Michel was stuffed. On another, to the right side the Lions swooped in and blew up the play in the backfield. And this was from a team allowing an average of 179.5 yards per game.

Defensive Line: D

The defensive line was manhandled at the point of attack as the Lions obliterated the right side of the Patriots defense consistently with their running game, their other “supposed” weakness. Frank Ragnow had Malcom Brown on roller skates all night, consistently pushing him deep into the second level. On one play, Brown and Keionta Davis were driven so far to the left that they almost were out of screenshot. So, Kerryon Johnson became the first Lions running back in five years to rush for 100 yards.

The pass rush for the second straight week was MIA. Matthew Stafford had all day to throw. The team missed Trey Flowers but the others have to step up and show something. Deatrich Wise had a lone bright spot, beating Taylor Decker on a nice inside move to sack Stafford when the score was 13-10 and they actually had hope.

The Pats run defense is now second worst in the NFL allowing 143 yards per game….ugh.

Linebackers: D-

This was an absolutely awful game for the linebackers who appeared to be running in cement. They couldn’t cover the backs in the passing game and were late or ineffective at clogging the wide open holes in run support.

Perhaps the most troubling of the players is Dont’a Hightower. He looks really slow right now and he is far from his normally very physical self on the field. They tried to move him around as a pass rusher but he was ineffective there as well. It may soon become the time to question whether maybe his multitude of injuries are catching up with him.

Ja’Whaun Bentley had the only splash play with a nice interception of Stafford when he had excellent position on tight end Luke Wilson.

Secondary: C

The secondary was missing two starters in Pat Chung and Eric Rowe and their defensive approach was obvious because of it. Chung was really missed in run support where he is a sure tackler and that was an area that the defense as a whole struggled with on Sunday.

Stafford wasted no time exploiting rookie Keion Crossen on a third and long, matched up with Marvin Jones. Duron Harmon blew a coverage where he was supposed to take Jones from Stephon Gilmore and stayed put allowing a long touchdown pass. Watching the game tape again, there was no Lions receiver on that side even in the zip code. These simple communication mistakes are correctable but that one stung.

Special Teams: C

Cordarrelle Patterson got a nice 42-yard return to start the game when it looked like they may actually start fast. But the coverage units were a bit leaky again and were fortunate to have a 32-yard punt return called back for a penalty.

Coaches: D-

Where in the world were the defensive adjustments? Bueller? Bueller? They didn’t seem to try much. After being gashed by the run for three quarters they switched up to a 3-4 look for a short time, but by keeping the two safeties back to protect against the deep passing, the Lions ran right at their front seven and dominated totally.

The team played with no urgency, no fire and that is on Bill Belichick. The offensive game plan had some serious question marks and the play calling was very suspect in this one.

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Patriots – Jaguars Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
September 13, 2018 at 7:30 am ET

The New England Patriots head out on the road for their first road tilt of the 2018 season by taking on the Jacksonville Jaguars. The two teams met in the AFC Championship Game and now will meet again in Week 2.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on, at 4:35 p.m. ET and can be seen on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Jim Nantz will handle play-by-play duties with Tony Romo as the color analyst. Tracy Wolfson will work from the sidelines... The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (1-0) took care of business at home and defeated the Houston Texans 27-21 on Sunday in Foxboro. Tom Brady threw for three touchdowns and Rob Gronkowski had 123 yards receiving and a score.

The Jaguars (1-0) beat the New York Giants 20-15 on Sunday. Blake Bortles completed 18-33 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown in the road win.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2018 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game.

Series History:

The Patriots and Jaguars are meeting for just the 13th time overall in their history. New England holds an 11-1 overall record including last season’s AFC Championship Game win over the Jags. The only game Jacksonville has won was a Divisional Playoff game in 1999. The teams met in the preseason a year ago and conducted joint practices together so they are familiar with one another.

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 Jaguars Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Jacksonville

The Patriots running game mixed things up with Rex Burkhead, Jeremy Hill, James White and WR Cordarrelle Patterson last week and gained 122 yards against a good Texans front seven. But Hill is out, done for the season with a torn ACL and his big physical presence will be missed.

In typical overreaction Monday after Week 1, many were saying the Jags run defense was suspect after they gave up 137 yards to the Giants and rookie Saquon Barkley on Sunday. Caveat Emptor. The Jaguars front seven is just as solid if not more than Houston’s. With Malik Jackson and Marcel Dareus inside and Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue on the edges, there are no holes or weaknesses here.

Look for New England to mix things up with Burkhead, White, and Patterson again. The status of Sony Michel this week is still up in the air, he’d be a big positive for the team if he is able to suit up this week. Although I wouldn’t bet on it yet. The team signed Kenjon Barner this week. While he does have experience at returning punts, it is a bit of surprise since he is the approximate size of the other backs at 5’9, 190 and not the prototypical “big” back.

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

The Patriots passing game was just fine against the Texans on Sunday, but although their front seven is outstanding, their secondary continues to struggle. Tom Brady spread the ball around to eight different wide receivers, but the big targets were Rob Gronkowski, James White, Rex Burkhead, and Phillip Dorsett.

The Jaguars have that excellent front seven but they also have an outstanding secondary as well. A.J. Boyue and Jalen Ramsey are arguably the best pair of corners in the NFL right now. They can bring pressure and cover. As we saw last year, they can give elite QBs (Brady, Roethlisberger) fits.

Look for the Patriots to use their RBs as slot receivers again, moving them around and splitting them out wide. Ditto for Gronkowski. The team could use a healthy Michel and Jacob Hollister in the passing game this week. Brady and Josh McDaniels will have to get creative at manufacturing some opportunities this week. But we’ve seen Brady do this for 19 years and he’s up to the task. Patterson may have to be a bigger part of the offense this week and could be the Patriots’ “X-Factor” this week in the passing game.

Next up the Jacksonville offense:

Jaguars RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Jacksonville

The Jaguars had the top-rated running game in the league a year ago, a two-headed attack with Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon. They are a dynamic tandem that helped average 141 yards per game on the ground. Fournette’s status is in doubt right now (Wednesday) because of a hamstring issue he tweaked against the Giants. If he can’t go, it is a big blow to the Jaguars running game.

The Patriots run defense was bad a year ago and they brought in the players to fix it. Danny Shelton is the big, two-gapping run stuffer they need. He and Lawrence Guy inside were solid a week ago. But the combination of Malcom Brown and Adam Butler struggled and the team allowed 167 yards on the ground. While some of it was scheme related, they played a short box and had two deep safeties for much of the second half, the run defense needs to be much, much better.

Look for the Jaguars to run inside this week, regardless of Fournette’s status. This is a problem area for New England who needs better interior play and for the linebackers to step up some more this week. This could be a big problem area for NE this week. But look for them to put a lot more emphasis on stopping the run.

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

The Jaguars passing game lost a lot of talent (sound familiar?) this offseason. Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns left via free agency and Marquise Lee went on IR with an injury in preseason.  Keelan Cole led the team in receiving yards last year and is now the go-to guy. Dede Westbrook and Donte Moncrief round out the WRs with Austin Seferian-Jenkins at tight end.

Bortles is the “X-Factor” this year. He was thought to be the difference between Jacksonville being a very solid team and a Super Bowl contender. But the team believes in him and gave him a three-year $54 million dollar extension in the spring.

The Patriots secondary with Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones with Pat Chung and Devin McCourty is more than capable enough of shutting this group down enough to pull out a win, provided that the front seven keeps the mobile Bortles in the pocket. The Patriots did a very good job of bringing pressure and containing Deshaun Watson in the pocket. They need another similar effort.

Look for the Jaguars to use play action to hit some big chunk plays down the field once they get the running game going. The Patriot will try to force Bortles into obvious passing situations and bring pressure and maybe force a turnover or two.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots’ Special Teams is normally outstanding at kick coverage and last week, they were gashed a bit and allowed a 31-yard average. Look for a much stronger effort in that realm this week. But no such questions arise from the kicking game with both punter Ryan Allen and Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, both logging in very solid performances. Look for Cordarrelle Patterson to maybe influence the game a bit this week in the return game.

The Jags counter with kicker Josh Lambo and punter Logan Cooke. Lambo took over at midseason in 2017 and solidified things in the kicking game but the Pats get the edge here with the experience factor.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

Well after the close game at home in the AFC Championship Game where Brady led the Patriots to overcome a 10-point 4th quarter deficit when the schedule was released, many immediately chalked this up as a loss.

Everyone circled it and we heard universally, “this one is a loss.” This plays perfectly into Tom Brady’s hands. You can set your clock on and bet the house that the team has seen all those prognostications as well. Brady loves when people doubt him. It is the extra dose of motivation that many times gets them over the hump. The one thing we’ve all should have learned by now is not to count this team and especially this quarterback out.

His numbers may not be pretty, nor will he have one of his patented ridiculous completion percentage days, but he’ll find a way to get it done. We’ve seen this movie too many times before, “hungry young team ready to feast on the Patriots.” But they forget the guy across the field is well-battle tested and ready.  Patriots 21-17

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Patriots  Week 1 Report Card, New England Downs Texans 27-20

Steve Balestrieri
September 11, 2018 at 7:30 am ET

The Patriots took care of business at home against the Texans and they came away with the 27-20 victory that wasn’t really as close as the score would indicate. There was never the feeling that the Texans could take over and win this game and the muffed punt at the end, while it made it a one-score game, didn’t really change the momentum.

It was a good win, with plenty of positives and also plenty of negatives for the coaches to clean up before they travel to Jacksonville next week. With the NFL showing a ton of sloppy play across the board in Week 1, we’ve become accustomed to most of the teams playing below par since most of the players barely see the field during preseason. So, with that in mind, the coaches will take the victory and move on.

Overall the Patriots looked pretty good and were the better team throughout the game. The combination of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski seems to have not missed a beat and perhaps those missing OTAs sessions weren’t a big a negative as we were told to believe. There is a reason to feel much better about the pass rush this season, although the Houston OL is a bit suspect again. And the OL’s performance can only be described as a ton better than when the two teams met last year.

There were issues with the run defense, turnovers and special teams coverages on the minus side. So, with the season opener in the books, we’ll start with the offense and the players can come forward to pick up their grade sheets.

Quarterback: B+

Tom Brady wasn’t at his very best, as he was quick to point out after the game on Sunday but he was pretty damned good. There was absolutely no rust factor involved with the offense under #12 and he was his normal cool, brutally efficient leader.

All summer we heard the same mantra we’ve heard for what now? Eight to ten years? They have no weapons…the offense will struggle…yada, yada. Brady eats that like M&Ms, (although he probably eschews chocolate). He threw a nice back shoulder throw to Gronkowski for the Patriots first touchdown where the big man then muscled his way into the end zone.

He also had touchdown passes to James White and Phillip Dorsett, who was the 69th player (Gronk approves this message) to catch a touchdown pass from Brady. And his best pass of the day was arguably the one in the fourth quarter when facing a third and long. Brady bought time, slid in the pocket and found his fourth option, FB James Develin for a key first down. He finished 26-39 for 277 yards with 3 TDs and 1 INT.

Running Backs: B

The Patriots went with Rex Burkhead and James White mainly early in the game and then brought in Jeremy Hill later. Both Burkhead, who got the majority of the work in the running game and White were their normal solid performers on the field.

Hill came on and got just a few carries but appeared quick in the running game before going down with what appeared to be a nasty injury. That hit may require the Patriots to make a roster move if he’s out for an extended period, which it appears initially to be. **Update** Hill has torn his ACL and is done for the year**

James Develin provided his always solid game in the running game as a lead blocker but also chipped in with four catches for 22 yards. Develin had six catches all season in 2017 and nearly equaled that on Sunday. That’s nice stepping up. But overall, the running game went for 122 yards on 31 carries which isn’t bad at all.

Wide Receivers: C

The wide receivers entered the game pretty thin with just four on the roster, minus STer Matthew Slater. While their numbers weren’t earth shattering they performed okay for the first game of the season but in the future, they’ll have to step it up.

The bright spot was Phillip Dorsett who had just 12 catches all of last year. He had seven catches for 66 yards and a touchdown. On the final drive before the first half, Dorsett caught the last three passes Brady threw, including the four-yard touchdown. Cordarrelle Patterson had four touches including three carries and one reception.

Chris Hogan’s day was a disappointment. He was targeted five times and had just one catch for 11 yards. Riley McCarron was targeted once and had no stats but he would figure prominently in special teams (more below). The third down conversion rate wasn’t good and it is the WRs who must step up and change that.

Tight Ends: A

Rob Gronkowski is the best, most complete tight end in the NFL and it isn’t even close. The Texans decided that they were going to take him away with an athletic linebacker and a safety. It didn’t work. Gronkowski was the most dominant player on the field on Sunday.

He caught seven passes for 123 yards and a score, despite being the guy they tried to shut down. His 22-yard touchdown was a classic Gronkowski double coverage, back shoulder throw to Brady where he muscled his way in the end zone. At the end of the half, he split two defenders on a deep seam route where he made a fantastic catch despite a defender clearly pulling on his arm.

But Gronk is a force multiplier, he is a great decoy as well. On James White’s touchdown he lined up in the slot on the right and cut left and took all of the defenders with him, White was left with a huge hole in the defense to work in. Dorsett’s touchdown was similar. The guy continues to be unstoppable.

Offensive Line: A-

The offensive line was thought to be a question mark by some even though they had four of five starters returning. They were facing one of the best front sevens in the NFL and one that has a plethora of pass rushers. And for much of the day, Tom Brady could stand flat-footed in the pocket and go thru his progressions.

Trent Brown did a tremendous job on Jadeveon Clowney all game long and the talented pass rusher was invisible for most of the game. He and Whitney Mercilus were relegated to a milk carton in the game. Marcus Cannon did a tremendous job on J.J. Watt who did get a couple of hits on Brady when LaAdrian Waddle came on the second half. The Texans did get a couple of sacks from the interior of the line late in the game.

The only picky thing we can find is that the run blocking was just okay but not great. The team averaged just 3.9 yards per carry, again okay but not where they want to be. However, they did rush for 122 yards on that front seven, so we’re not going to harp on that at all.  

Defensive Line: B

It was a mixed bag for the defensive line on Sunday. They were outstanding at getting after the quarterback and (this time), containing him in the pocket. Trey Flowers had a tremendous game, he’s always an under-the-radar guy. Flowers logged 1.5 sacks, two tackles for loss and three QB hits. Deatrich Wise, in a limited role, due to the rotation, had 1.5 sacks, 1.5 tackles for a loss, and three QB hits. All in just 22 snaps

Unlike a year ago, the Patriots were for the majority of the afternoon, able to keep Deshaun Watson in the pocket and stop him from gaining the edge and making plays with his feet. The rotation of DEs was working and they kept fresh legs out there with Adrian Clayborn and newcomer Keionta Davis playing well too.

Lawrence Guy is the most underrated player on the Patriots. Guy had a great game and provided solid run support as well as pushed the pocket. He forced Watson’s throw that was picked off by Gilmore.

The run defense overall was not good, the Texans were running at Malcom Brown and Adam Butler and that will have to be tightened up. In the second half, however, it looked like the team was going to a smaller box and playing more two deep safeties, but we’ll have to rewatch the tape and see if some of the issues were by design.

Linebackers: B

Kyle Van Noy, rookie Ja’Whaun Bentley, and Dont’a Hightower played the most snaps. Bentley was really good for the most part and moves all over the field pretty well for a big man. He was out of position, however, on the 31-yard run by Lamar Miller in the first half. Elandon Roberts came on in the second half and had one really bad series, where Alfred Blue and the Texans gashed them on the ground. Roberts has a penchant for filling the wrong gaps at times and that series was not good.

But in covering the backs and tight ends, the linebackers had a very good game. The running backs had just two catches and TE Ryan Griffin was shut out. It was a pretty good start to the season, while they have a lot of room for improvement, it was light years better than the start to 2017.

Secondary: A

Stephon Gilmore continued the outstanding play that he’s demonstrated since the midway point of last year. He had a strong spring and summer and he was matched up with one of the best WRs in the game with DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins had his catches, he ended up with eight for 78 yards but he wasn’t a difference maker in the game. The Texans were trying everything in their power to get him the ball but Gilmore blanketed him all game.

His interception was a phenomenal play. Gilmore ran from the other side of the field when he saw Eric Rowe in single coverage and covered a tremendous amount of field with the ball in the air and went up, high pointed the ball and snagged the interception out of the hands of Rowe.

Rowe had a pretty solid game as well, while Ellington had just four catches for 37 yards. The safeties did a very good job of communication (the opposite of 2017) and the bunch formations that gave the team fits in 2017 didn’t phase them this time around.

Special Teams: C-

The normally solid Patriots special teams coverage units laid a clunker against the Texans who were one of the worst STs units in the league last year. Houston averaged 31.2 yards per kickoff return, not what I would consider anywhere near the Patriots par. But it was the first game of the season and the team did lose a couple of their core special teamers in Brandon Bolden and Jordan Richards while Jacob Hollister missed the game due to injury.

Riley McCarron muffed a punt which allowed Houston to score on a short field to cut the score to a touchdown late in the game, but it was also his first NFL game. He’ll hear it from the coaches this week.

On the plus side, Stephen Gostkowski was perfect on three PATs and both FG attempts. And Ryan Allen had six punts for a 46.8-yard average. Included in that was his last-minute punt that went 55 yards and was downed on the one-yard line.

Coaches: A

Bill Belichick had the team ready to go this season. The Texans tried to replicate their game from last year where they bunched their formations and got the Patriots secondary confused but this time, it didn’t work. The defense was well prepared for it plus the movement of Watson in the pocket.

Dante Scarnecchia had the OL extremely well prepared to face the Texans pass rush and stout front seven. The offense knew they were thin at WR but they worked up a game plan that got everyone involved. Josh McDaniels was still able to find ways to attack the secondary and the Patriots were still balanced in the running and passing games.

Brian Flores and the defense earn high marks of the week. The Patriots defense looked much, much better this week than they did at this time last year. Overall, very high marks for the coaching staff, but an even tougher test awaits this 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 Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Players To Watch Patriots Take on the Texans in Regular Season Opener

Steve Balestrieri
September 7, 2018 at 8:07 am ET

Familiar Faces, Familiar Opponents Face Each Other Again

The New England Patriots open the 2018 regular season against the Houston Texans on Sunday afternoon and the conditions are supposed to be nearly perfect. The blistering heat wave that rolled thru the East Coast is moving off and it is supposed to be replaced by much cooler, drier air which brings a fall feel to the game.

The Patriots and Texans have faced each other often in recent years and very familiar with one another. In 2017, the two teams shared joint practices together before playing a preseason game and then met again in Week 3 of the regular season. Now they’ll renew the competition as each team has sights set for the postseason.

Although the Texans have never won in Foxboro, they are a team that gets great respect from the Pats. If you’ve ever attended a training camp session and watch those coaching assistants wave those big tennis rackets around when Tom Brady throws in drills? That is the J.J. Watt effect, because the uber-talented, but lately oft-injured defensive lineman has a penchant for knocking down passes at the line.

So, from a Patriots perspective, here are our Players to Watch on Sunday:

Tom Brady:

The Pats quarterback is entering his 19th season in the NFL and despite being 41 years old, looks as good as ever, winning the MVP of the league at 40 and then throwing for 505 yards against a very good Eagles defense in the Super Bowl.

Brady lost trusted targets in Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks this offseason and then skipped the OTAs to spend more time with his family. Now with a wide receiver core that is thinner than what they’re used to working with, until Julian Edelman returns, all eyes will be on Brady to see if he can continue to keep the offense clicking.

Houston has a formidable pass rush and sacked Brady five times last year, with a new left tackle (Trent Brown) and a right tackle just getting off an injury (Marcus Cannon), the Texans will be looking to disrupt things and Brady will have to be sharp, move the ball around to multiple targets and get it out quickly. Brady takes a lot of the pressure off of his tackles by getting rid of the ball very quickly and this season begins with a big test to see if the rust is gone from a long offseason.

Phillip Dorsett:

Dorsett was brought over from the Colts last year and was pretty much an afterthought in the offense for most of the year. With Amendola and Cooks gone, Edelman suspended for the first month, and Kenny Britt, Malcolm Mitchell and Jordan Matthews released, the onus of much of the wide receiver production is being pushed on his plate.

Dorsett began the summer hot and was looking like he was ready for the challenge, but as camp wore on, he faded a bit and wasn’t a big factor in the first two preseason games. That changed in the third game as he and Brady seemed to be working on their timing and chemistry against the Eagles.

Now the games are for real and a lot of eyes will be following Dorsett as the tries to be the go-to guy and a reliable chain mover for the Patriots offense along with Chris Hogan and the newcomer Cordarrelle Patterson.

Dont’a Hightower:

The Patriots big middle linebacker is back and looks healthy after missing most of last season. While Hightower isn’t an All-Pro, he is for this Patriots defense and his absence in the Super Bowl had more to do with them losing than Malcolm Butler’s absence did.

Hightower will have to control the running game inside and help out when Lamar Miller or Alfred Blue try to stretch them to the edge or head out in the passing game. With the scrambling ability of Deshaun Watson, the Patriot defenders on the edge will have to contain the mobile QB and keep him in the pocket. If he tries to run up the middle, Hightower will be tasked with minimizing the damage.

Having the big, physical Hightower back in the middle of the field is a huge boost for a Patriots defense that was woeful against the run in 2017. Everything with a Bill Belichick defense begins in the middle. Having Hightower back where he belongs is a big first step.

Eric Rowe:

The Patriots corner behind Stephon Gilmore has taken an undeserved bad rap from Patriots fans and will get a chance this season to erase a lot of those. With Malcolm Butler now in Tennessee, Rowe gets elevated to the top two slot. And despite the perception, he’s ready for the challenge.

The bigger, taller  (6’1, 205) Rowe who is beginning his fourth season has earned the right to be the starter. He had a very good spring and summer and fended off all competition from veterans and rookies alike to earn his way into the starters role.

This week he faces Will Fuller of the Texans who will play opposite DeAndre Hopkins and whose responsibilities fall to Gilmore. But an interesting footnote on Fuller, who is recovering from a hamstring issue and may not be 100 percent. Fuller and Watson developed a great chemistry last season. With both Hopkins and Fuller in the lineup with Watson under center, the Texans averaged nearly 40 points per game last year. Rowe’s season opener will have him facing a tough matchup. It should be a fun one to watch.

Rex Burkhead:

The Patriots brought back Burkhead this season after an injury shortened one in 2017. But there is no doubt when he was healthy and on the field, he was an integral part of the Patriots offense. That should not change in 2018 and in fact, his role may actually increase in the first month of the season with Edelman out.

Burkhead missed the Texans game last year after having a big game the week before against the Saints in the passing game. Look for Josh McDaniels to use Burkhead and James White as movable chess pieces in the backfield. The two will serve as slot receivers at times as they’ll put them in motion and try to create matchup problems.

In our key matchups, we said Burkhead may be the “X-Factor” in the game on Sunday. The Texans will be looking to put a lock on Rob Gronkowski and with him and the WRs clearing out some space, it could mean a big day for Burkhead.

Adrian Clayborn:

The Patriots signed the veteran edge player this spring and he was expected to show the veteran leadership role that befits someone of his standing. Clayborn has been the consummate pro since arriving, always being one of the first players on the field and helping the younger players

The Patriots pass rush and their play along the edge in 2017 was a big issue all season. Now, by adding Clayborn to Trey Flowers and Deatrich Wise and getting Derek Rivers and Keionta Davis back from injuries that robbed their rookie seasons, the team is optimistic that they’ll be much improved.

But it all begins with Clayborn. He’ll be expected, and rightfully so, to lead the way on Sunday against a very good, young, mobile quarterback. It would do wonders for the confidence of a young group to get off to a good start this season.

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