Tag Archives: Todd Bowles

Players To Watch Patriots-Jets Week 17 

Steve Balestrieri
December 29, 2018 at 7:30 am ET


Last Chance For Tune-Up Before Postseason

The New England Patriots close out the regular season just where they began it, at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro where they take on the Jets at 1:00 p.m. with a chance to secure a first-round bye in the playoffs.

A Patriots win guarantees them a ticket straight to the divisional round and while they still have a chance at the #1 seed, that would require both the Chargers lose on the road in Denver and for Chiefs to lose at home against the Raiders, which while not impossible,  are pretty remote.

The Jets come in at 4-11 and it is probably the last game for Todd Bowles as their head coach. But a bright spot has been the play of QB Sam Darnold, who has turned it on since coming back from an injury the past three weeks.

Yesterday we posted our keys to the game and key matchups where we broke down the game positionally.

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

Tom Brady:

Normally this would be kind of low-hanging fruit but with the passing game uncharacteristically scuffling late in the season and questions persisting that Brady is playing with a hurt knee, this late-season game puts some of the focus directly on #12.

Last week Brady had season lows in attempts, mainly because the running game was tooling up the Bills defense for 275 yards until a couple of kneel-downs at the end. At one point they ran the ball ten straight times. But with a ground game gashing the Bills as such, one would think the play-action passing game would have been wide open. But it was not and on top of that, the pass protection wasn’t as good as we’ve come to expect.

The Jets have the 26th rated run defense and the 26th rated pass defense, however, they are #2 in 3rd down defense in 2018, so there is that to consider. And Brady has been bailing out of some of his throws, which has led to the injury questions. We’ll be watching pass distribution, movement in the pocket and to see if they can generate any kind of passing game this week.

Trey Flowers:

The Patriots best defensive lineman may be playing in his last regular season game as a Patriot on Sunday. Flowers is a free agent and will no doubt draw plenty of interest around the league, however, right here and now, the problem is getting pressure on Darnold without overcommitting and allowing scrambling lanes.

The Jets offensive line has been doing a much better job of protecting Sam Darnold lately and the Patriots will be trying to get some pressure on him and trying to force some mistakes.

We’ll see how the team does overall at getting after Darnold tomorrow, but they’ll look to Flowers, who does a lot of things very well to lead the way there.

Sony Michel:

The Patriots rookie running back still has an outside shot at rushing for 1000 yards but would need another big game against the Jets this week. Michel has 881 yards rushing in 12 games this season and would need 119 tomorrow.

Regardless of personal accomplishments, Michel is the key cog in the Patriots offense right now. With the passing game struggling, the Patriots have leaned on the running game to get things going and that is primarily on Michel’s shoulders.

While the Jets run defense hasn’t been great, they know the Patriots are going to try to run the ball, so they’ll be trying to do what the Patriots normally do, make their opponent one-dimensional and it will be up to Michel to ignite the ground game.  

J.C. Jackson:

The Patriots have found another gem in the UDFA market with Jackson. He has come on in the second half of the season and playing some very impressive football at corner for the Pats. The tall (6’1) rookie from Maryland has been steadily improving during the season and has impressed his teammates and coaches, starting the past four games.

Bill Belichick was asked about his ascension this week and was praising Jackson’s work ethic. “Just steady grinder, one day at a time, just trying to get better,” Belichick said. “If he makes mistakes, he’ll try to correct it. He works at it, usually shows some improvement in that area, go on to something else. But, his durability, his consistency and just being out there every day practicing, doing things, getting corrected, getting better, working on them the next day. I mean, that’s really how you improve. So, practicing and being durable and being consistent, it goes a long way.”

Opposing QBs are completing just 43 percent of the passes they attempt in his direction and their passer ratings when targeting Jackson is just 31.3 which is tops in the league at his position. With both Quincy Enunwa and Jermaine Kearse out for the game, covering the Jets top WR Robby Anderson will fall to Stephon Gilmore. Jackson may draw speedy return man Andre Roberts, UDFA Deontay Burnett or STs player Charone Peake.

Chris Hogan:

The Patriots wide receiver was initially looked at as one of the guys who would take up the slack once Josh Gordon was gone. However, last week while playing more than 60 snaps on offense, Hogan wasn’t targeted once.

Hogan hasn’t caught more than two passes in a game for more than two months. He’s suffering thru the biggest freeze out “since the big man joined the band” and it doesn’t show any signs of easing. The Patriots need to get everyone left involved in the passing game. That includes Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, James White, Cordarrelle Patterson, Rex Burkhead, Phillip Dorset as well as Hogan. Once the playoffs start, targeting only one or two of those players isn’t going to get it done.

We’ll be watching Hogan this week, who has been getting open, but will the QB and offensive coordinator?

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 11-25, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
November 25, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, we hope that everyone had a terrific Thanksgiving and that you were surrounded by the Four “F”s, friends, family, food and football on this very American holiday. Here is your Sunday Patriots news 11-25, & AFC East Notes.

Some Quick Hitters this morning

No Brady? Don’t Count on That:  Friday, was a very rare occurrence where Tom Brady missed the practice and was listed as Questionable for today’s game against the Jets. He popped up on the injury report with a knee injury from the Titans game. Other than his 2008 ACL tear in Week 1, Brady hasn’t missed any games due to injury. He did miss 4 games in 2015 due to the Patriots playing in cold weather.

Bob McNair, the owner of the Texans passed away on Friday at the age of 81. He was the driving force to bring the NFL back to Houston after the Oilers left for Tennessee in 1996. The team didn’t announce the cause of death, but McNair had dealt with several various forms of cancer in the past.

Did you Know? That with 252 yards passing today, Brady will have surpassed 3000 yards passing for the 16th time in his career. He will tie Drew Brees and Peyton Manning for the second most seasons. Brett Favre had 18.  

Did you Know Pt.2? With three touchdown passes, Brady will tie Favre for the second-most TD passes in the regular season with 508, (Manning has 539), and he’d tie Manning for the most TD passes for both the regular and postseason combined with 579.

Did you Know Pt. 3: Since 2015, James White is second in NFL running backs with receptions with 222, Theo Riddick leads the NFL with 227 (and added 7 more on Thanksgiving Day).

“Friends” Thanksgiving Video: The Patriots took a step back in the nostalgia machine by compiling a Thanksgiving montage of the show Friends best Thanksgiving moments and superimposing Patriots’ heads on them… a bit corny but well done.

New England continues to live rent-free in Lane Johnson’s head. After winning a SB with Philly last year, he talked about NE incessantly during the offseason and now with the champs at 4-6 continues to talk about the Patriots…file under: fix your priorities.

Gordon Still Has a Lot More to Contribute:

Pats WR Josh Gordon has helped stretch defenses out since signing here and is averaging a big 18.3 yards per reception with 26 catches for 477 yards and two touchdowns in 7 games. That projects out to a 60-catch, 1100-yard season over 16 games which isn’t bad considering he’s essentially missed nearly three years.

Gordon, however, told MassLive.com that he’s capable of much more and is hoping to show that down the stretch. Granted he was learning a new offense on the fly and was dealing with a balky hamstring during most of that time. Now both of those issues should be fixed although his chemistry with Brady is still a bit of a work in progress.

Will he ever again be that burner that people used to sit back and marvel at? That is still up in the air, he possesses very good speed but it has been quite a bit off of what we saw back in 2013. And his catch percentage of 53.1 percent could use improving but it is about where it has been his entire career.

The Patriots could use a productive Gordon down the stretch and the wide receiver is anxious to play meaningful games for the first time in his professional career in December and January.

 “It’s different, that’s for sure. It’s exciting, though,” Gordon said to MassLive. “It’s motivational for me, for everybody. I’ve never really had the opportunity before, considering the circumstances. So it’s great to have the opportunity now. It’s a blessing.”

Pats Hoping For Vintage Gronk Down the Stretch:

With the Patriots offense scuffling in Tennessee, the bye week came at a perfect time to let Rob Gronkowski have some extra time to heal up from the back woes that have sidelined him for three of the past four games.

Gronkowski is expected to suit up today and play and at his press conference on Friday was proclaiming himself ready to go. In just 7 games this season, Gronkowski has just 29 catches for 448 yards and one touchdown, numbers far less than his normally stellar production.

He made the trip down to Nashville, but the team held him out, probably to give him an extra two weeks to get ready with the bye week last Sunday. A healthy Gronkowski means the rest of the offense operates at close to peak performance. Tom Brady is happy to hear that the big man is returning soon.

“Absolutely. I’ve played a lot of football with him, and I think I have a lot of trust and confidence in a lot of the things that have happened over the years,” Brady said. “When he’s not there, there’s a different level with other players. Sometimes we don’t try things because Gronk isn’t in there. Sometimes we do.

“Obviously, the more dependable, consistent players you have on the field, the more productive and efficient you’ll be, which leads to more points, which leads to better opportunities to win the game, which is ultimately the reason we’re all here.”

Burkhead Return Should Be a Great Help to the Offense:

Much like Rob Gronkowski, getting Rex Burkhead back for the Minnesota game should be a significant boost to the offense. Burkhead went on IR after the Lions game due to concussions but now he’s been back at practice and we haven’t heard about any setbacks in his rehab, so things are looking up.

Burkhead has been (when healthy) a valuable, versatile part of the team’s offense. While he doesn’t run as well as Sony Michel, nor catch the ball as well as James White, he does both of those things quite well, so when he’s on the field, the opposition doesn’t have a clue as to what the Patriots will do.

If he continues on with his rehab and is ready for a stretch run for the Pats, along with  Gronkowski, the offense will be much harder to stop. The team hasn’t had a full offensive roster at any time this season.

Who You Have This Week? NFL Week 11 Predictions:

Last week: 8-5 Season 104-55-2 Bye Week: Chiefs, Rams

Thursday night’s picks  Bears, Cowboys, Saints 3-0

Cleveland at Cincinnati: Bengals
San Francisco at Tampa Bay: 49ers
Jacksonville at Buffalo: Jaguars
Oakland at Baltimore: Ravens
Seattle at Carolina: Panthers
New England at NY Jets: Patriots
NY Giants at Philadelphia: Eagles
Arizona at LA Chargers: Bolts
Miami at Indianapolis: Colts
Pittsburgh at Denver: Steelers
Green Bay at Minnesota (SNF): Vikings
Tennessee at Houston (MNF): Texans

Thursday Early Pick: Saints over Cowboys

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Josh Allen Returns for the Bills Against Trash-talking Ramsey:

The Buffalo Bills take on the Jacksonville Jaguars today at New Era Field, the first time the teams have met since the Wildcard game of 2017 where the Jags held off Buffalo in a very ugly 10-3 win. But both teams learned that being the hunted is not so easy. The Jags started off 2-0 but have since gone 1-7. The Bills are also 3-7 and seasons of high hopes for both teams have gone up in smoke.

Now Josh Allen returns from an injury and his job is to the get the Buffalo offense going. And he is going to have the luxury of working thru much rust after missing a month. Allen was not very accurate before his elbow injury and facing one of the better pass defenses in the league will be a daunting task.

The Bills and OC Brian Daboll kept things simple for Allen in the early going and it will be interesting to see if he takes the training wheels off for the rookie this week. After Jalen Ramsey called Allen “trash” and a “stupid pick”, you think the Bills coaches wouldn’t love to see their top draft pick light up the Jags secondary (and Ramsey) with a big game today?

All About the QBs Today for the Dolphins/Colts:

The Miami Dolphins hit the road for Indy today and face the much-improved Colts in a big game for both teams. Today it is all about the signal callers for both teams and how well (or not) each plays which will determine who walks away with a win.

The Dolphins defense has to find a way to slow down Andrew Luck, who has been on a roll lately for the Colts. Luck knows his go-to guy, T.Y. Hilton will be locked up with Xavien Howard all day and that will be a battle to watch. But while other teams do that, Luck has leaned heavily on TE Eric Ebron who is leading the Colts in receptions, touchdowns, and targets. Covering him will be safety, big nickel LB, Minkah Fitzpatrick. The rookie will have his hands full today.

Ryan Tannehill has missed a month and the Dolphins offense without him has looked…at times, awful. Like Allen, Tannehill will have no time to work thru the rust factor. The Fins are 4-6 and have zero wiggle room left if they want to make a playoff run this year. The time is now or never for Tannehill, and the pressure is on him to produce. Not next year, or next month, or even next week. For Tannehill, the playoffs start today.

Jets Look to Follow the Blueprint to Beat New England:

The New York Jets have seen the Jaguars, Lions, and Titans blast the Patriots this season, and they know the key is getting off to a fast start as the Patriots have struggled in the first quarter of the road games they’ve lost this year. And getting their 29th ranked offense and 32nd ranked 3rd down offense off and running quickly. Just like the Titans did two weeks ago.

Sam Darnold won’t play but the wily veteran Josh McCown, played a very solid game in the Meadowlands last year where they Jets converted 9 of 17 third downs. Tennessee scored 17 points in the first 10 minutes, more than they were averaging over 60 minutes and the Jets know that starting fast is imperative.

They also will be getting Gronkowski back against them this week. Gronk has traditionally been a thorn in the Jets backside. In 13 games against Gang Green, Gronkowski has 60 catches for 738 yards and 8 touchdowns. Plus, he’s a very good blocker in the running game. They will look to put a lid on Gronkowski and force Brady to look elsewhere in the passing game.

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

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

Patriots-Jets Week 12, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
November 23, 2018 at 6:45 am ET

The New England Patriots come off their bye week and take on the New York Jets on Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. Both teams are coming off a needed rest after getting beaten badly the week before.

With the teams moving in different directions, this one will take on a familiar feel. The Patriots are gearing up for the stretch run while the Jets are trying to save Todd Bowles job. But the last several games against the Jets, especially on the road have been very close encounters.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, November 25 at 1:00 PM ET and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Ian Eagle will handle play-by-play duties with Dan Fouts as the color analyst. Evan Washburn will work from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (7-3) are coming off of a much-needed bye week. Prior to that, they traveled to Nashville and were beaten by Tennessee. Now they’ll look to right the ship and prepare for a stretch run

The Jets (3-7) are also coming off of a bye week after a disastrous 41-10 drubbing by Buffalo. The Jets have lost four in a row and Coach Todd Bowles is on the hot seat.

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 New England Patriots and New York Jets will meet for the 119th time, including three postseason games, since the series between the AFC East rivals began in the old AFL in 1960. New England leads the series 63-54-1 overall. The Patriots are 29-29 all-time on the road against the Jets, including 5-3 at MetLife Stadium. Since Robert Kraft purchased the team in 1994, the Pats have owned a 34-16 record against Gang Green. Last year the Pats earned their 18th series sweep over the Jets
with a 24-17 road win on Oct. 15, followed by a 26-6 victory at Gillette Stadium on Dec. 31 to close out the regular 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 Jets Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game has been decimated by injuries this season. Jeremy Hill and Rex Burkhead were placed on IR, Sony Michel sustained an injury in the preseason, then again versus Chicago but has returned and should give the team a great boost. When he’s been healthy, he’s been very good, averaging 4.3 yards per carry.

The Jets are kind of in the middle of the pack defensively against the run, they are 20th in rushing yards allowed but 13th in yards per attempt. It begins with the big men in the middle with nose tackles Mike Pennell and Steve McClendon. They have to be stout at the point of attack. If they are, inside linebackers Darron Lee and Avery Williamson are free to make plays.

With getting Shaq Mason back and Michel an extra week of getting back into the fold will help matters for the Pats running game which has been inconsistent. Look for Michel to get a lot of work between the tackles this week with Cordarrelle Patterson to see a few snaps as well.

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

The Patriots passing game has also suffered thru bouts of inconsistency this season but getting the offensive line back healthy will definitely help their protection issues and TE Rob Gronkowski is slated to return this week. If he’s anything close to 100 percent, he is a force multiplier for the NE offense. He scored two TDs in the first meeting last year in NJ and he’ll see a lot of Jamal Adams in this one. Tom Brady knows he has to do a better job of spreading the ball around to his receivers, Josh Gordon, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, and Phillip Dorsett.

The Jets defense is currently tied for 15th in the league against the pass allowing an average of 242 yards per game. But they have been outstanding on third down and have the 2nd best 3rd down defense in the league allowing only 33 percent of opponent’s 3rd downs to be converted.

Watching the matchup between Gordon and Morris Claiborne and Edelman and Buster Skrine in this one closely. How well each of these goes for the Patriots will greatly determine how successful the offense does on Sunday. Of course, Gronkowski’s health and status are of major significance. Brady should have a good game throwing against the Jets secondary, but the difference between another close one and a comfortable win is having a healthy Gronkowski. Look for James White to be targeted a lot in the red zone this week.  

Next up the J-E-T-S offense:

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

The Jets running game has been a mirror image of how their games have gone. When they’ve won, they ran the ball extremely well including a season-high 323 yards against the Denver Broncos in their blowout win. When they don’t run the ball well, including their last four games, they’ve lost. They use Isiah Crowell as their feature back since Bilal Powell went on IR. If Sam Darnold is able to suit up (foot injury), he’ll be someone to monitor for scrambling out of the backfield.

The Patriots have been better against the run lately, although they gave up 150 yards on the ground against Tennessee. Kyle Van Noy has really stepped up as well as Lawrence Guy. But the team really needs a much better, consistent effort from Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton.

This is the key to the game offensively from a Jets perspective. They have to protect Darnold who struggled before his injury. They want to keep the game close and pound the ball with Crowell to keep Brady and the offense off the field. It will also allow for better 3rd down situations as well as open up play-action passing down the middle.

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

The Jets passing game is currently mired in 29th in passing yardage averaging just 206.1 yards per game. However, as we saw in Tennessee if the Patriots defense doesn’t show up ready to play, they can be abused quite easily. Darnold has been learning on the job as a rookie, completing 55 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. His two biggest targets are banged up, Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson are both dealing with injuries and even if they play won’t be 100 percent.

The Patriots are 26th in yardage allowed thru the air, but that statistic is just a bit misleading as they are currently 10th in opposing passer rating. However, the inconsistent pass rush (just 15 sacks) can haunt them at times. Facing a less than stellar offensive line this week that has allowed 29 sacks, the Pats have to dial up some pressure and perhaps force Darnold into some errors.

The Jets will look to target the middle of the field and attack the linebackers in space. That’s where opponents have been most successful. If Darnold is able to go, the Pats defense will try to mix up their looks and show him some different things he hasn’t seen before. It will be interesting to see if Obi Melifonwu is active and sees the field this week. He could help with covering TEs and possibly play the “big nickel” safety/LB role that the Patriots like to use. This would be a good week in easing him into the system.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New York Jets

The Patriots special teams, specifically their coverage units have been uncharacteristically poor this season. This is an area where the Jets, like the Titans, can take advantage. Andre Roberts does the work for the Jets in both the punt and kickoff return games, where the NE coverage units rank 29th and 31st respectively.

The Jets coverage units have been good and that too will be an area to monitor as the Patriots return game has been steadily improving this year.

Next up, who wins and why…


This rivalry goes back to the earliest days of the old AFL before the merger and the old cliche “throw out the records of each team” is an apt description. These games are usually close, rarely with a team winning by more than 10 points. So with that in mind…

Keys from a Patriots perspective this week: And if they look similar to the Tennesse game, that is because they are.

Show Up Early, Start Fast: We keep harping on this while on the road, but the Patriots have been awful in the first quarter (outscored 58-16 in road losses) of road games this season. In Nashville, they allowed the Titans 17 points in the first 10 minutes of the game, and that team was averaging less than that for an entire game.

This Jets team is free falling right now. They’ve lost four in a row and are openly talking about playing for their jobs for next season. They’re ripe for the plucking, which also makes NE ripe for another kick in the teeth. Another slow start and allowing the Jets to either hang around or take the lead is a disaster waiting to happen. They’ll feel an upset coming on and will play accordingly. It will also get the crowd, loud and boisterous.

The Pats need to actually show up ready to play in the first quarter and put the Jets on their heels and get them playing catchup.  

Force The Ball into Darnold’s Hands: The Jets are 29th in passing (yes I remember the Titans were #30). They aren’t built from playing from behind. The Jets offense isn’t prolific throwing the ball and have turned it over a lot. Darnold and McCown have tossed 16 interceptions this year.

Putting them into a position where they have to throw will allow Brian Flores and Bill Belichick to dial up more pressure for the pass rush and hopefully generate a turnover or two.

Third Down/Red Zone Woes Have to Cease: The Jets have the #2 defense on 3rd down in the NFL, getting into 3rd and manageable is key for Brady this week. And while they’ve moved the ball well most of the year, the red zone play on both sides of the ball has to improve. Defensively the Patriots need to force the Jets into three and outs.

They need to get aggressive on both sides of the ball this week and force the issue with the Jets. Something to consider, despite the games being close in score, Tom Brady is 25-6 against the Jets during his career.

New England will rediscover their running game with Sony Michel and force a couple of turnovers to pull away late in the game.  Patriots 27-14

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.

Patriots Earn Homefield Advantage In 26-6 Win Over the Jets

Steve Balestrieri
December 31, 2017 at 8:42 pm ET

The Patriots took care of business on Sunday and will be at home in the playoffs as long as they keep winning. But stifling the Jets on Sunday 26-6 in a frigid Gillette Stadium, they earned home-field advantage for the entire AFC playoffs. So the AFC’s road to the Super Bowl goes thru Gillette.

This is the seventh time that they’ve had home-field advantage in the Belichick era. In the previous six, they’ve made the Super Bowl five of those times. So there is plenty of room for optimism there.

On Sunday the offense was missing several of their players and Rob Gronkowski was nothing more than a big decoy. The Patriots didn’t target Gronk once in the game and finished the season with a Gronkowski smile-inducing 69 catches. Dion Lewis was not only the star of the game but the Patriots workhorse gaining 93 yards on the ground and another 40 thru the air.

This one won’t get many style points by the players and the coaching staff, especially on the offensive side of the ball. But defensively they gave up a pair of field goals and that was it, although Bryce Petty had a few good moments. Our other observations include:

It Was Not a Day To Be Outdoors: The field conditions for both teams was borderline miserable, the temps on the field were hovering between 10-12 with the wind chill making it below zero. Ball security was not a big issue for either team which was a plus for both teams.

It was the second coldest home game for the Patriots in the divisional playoff game with the Titans being the coldest. But it was the coldest regular season game ever at Gillette. So put the kettle on, it is a hot tea, cocoa, coffee kind of night.

Lewis Continues to Be the Focal Point: What a turn around since the midseason for Dion Lewis. The small in stature but big in moving the pile back had another really big game as he had a career-high 32 touches for the offense.

Lewis was doing his best Le’Veon Bell imitation as he was stopping behind the line of scrimmage and then bursting thru minuscule gaps to garner nice yardage after contact. Lewis’ confidence level has to be sky-high entering the playoffs and rightfully so.

Defense Held the Jets to 40 Yards Rushing: This was one of the better days for the Patriots run defense. Bilal Powell, fresh off a big day against the Chargers last week, had just 46 yards on 13 carries. Other Jets runners had six carries for minus six yards. The Jets running game averaged just 2.1 yards per carry.

Other than that one 24-yard run, the Jets running game had a grand total of 18 carries for 16 yards. Regardless of who you are playing, that is some pretty good run defense there.

Secondary Had a Decent Game As Well: Entering the game, a little-known fact was that the Patriots’ third-down defense had the fifth best opposing QB rating at just 80.3. (thanks to Remarkable for that). That number will surely get better as the Jets went 0-12 on third down Sunday.

Bryce Petty had some nice moments. His 46-yard bomb to ArDarius Stewart was a beauty, throwing perfectly in stride and gave Jonathan Jones in coverage no chance to make a play. He and reserve TE Neal Sterling had some good chemistry with Sterling had five catches for 74 yards.

Petty though, showed poor touch on several short throws. He finished 19-36 for 224 yards with no scores and no interceptions.

Belichick Breaks Trend wins Toss Elects to Receive: For the first time in quite a long time, the Patriots won the coin toss and elected to receive. It worked out well for the Patriots as they took the opening kickoff and went 75 yards in 13 plays for a 7-0 lead. That drive was their best of the game.

With a chance to put the Jets in a 14-0 hole on their second drive of the game, Brady had Brandin Cooks deep and he had a step in the coverage. But thinking the ball wasn’t going to him, he stopped running and the pass fell incomplete. It was that kind of day for the offense.  Cooks also had a drop but he hauled in five catches for 79 yards as well as drawing a 42-yard pass interference penalty. The Jets defense killed themselves with third-down penalties.

I understand the coach’s decision to not risk Gronkowski to injury but why have him out there at all if you’re not going to throw him the ball. Already missing a slew of skill position players, it put the offense behind the eight-ball further.

Brady Had Pedestrian Numbers on a So-So Day: Missing a plethora of weapons, and having Rob Gronkowski as only a decoy wasn’t conducive to Tom Brady having a big statistical day. But the offense overall had some communication breakdowns and a few bad throws. Brady ended the day with 18 completions on 37 attempts for just 190 yards with two touchdown passes.

This kind of regular-season finale will no doubt light a fire under Brady as they head off to a bye week and self-scouting. But getting Chris Hogan, Rex Burkhead and James White back as well as having Gronkowski a target again will no doubt help the matter.

Welcome to New England James Harrison: Early in the game, it looked like Belichick and Matt Patricia were using Harrison, who has only been in town a week in running situations as an outside linebacker as he’s not had much time to learn the defense.

But he played about 25 snaps and at the end of the game got to show what he can do in the pass rush department. Harrison notched two sacks and forced a fumble in what I’m sure the coaches hope of things to come.Especially if the Chiefs end up coming to town again.

Harrison had a couple of big hits on the field and didn’t look lost out there at all considering he only had a few practices this week. Early returns are promising, the next time they take the field, they’ll need that kind of performance.

Special Teams, Allen Standout: The coverage units, notably the punt coverage team had a fantastic day. Ryan Allen pinned the Jets inside the five-yard line three times, all in the second half, making Petty go the length of the field.

Stephen Gostkowski missed an opportunity to take the league lead in points for record sixth time. The Patriots lined up for a 52-yard field goal which if successful would have given him the record. But they took a timeout, and then punted.

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

Up Next: Jets Likely Looking For Redemption After Previous Tough Loss to Patriots

Ian Logue
December 25, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

With the Bills now in the rearview, the Patriots find themselves set for a rematch against the New York Jets to close out the season for their final regular season home game next Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

Their original meeting down in New York wasn’t exactly easy, with New England walking away with a 24-17 at MetLife Stadium back on October 15th. In that game, Jets quarterback Josh McCown had a pretty good performance, finishing 31-of-47 for 354 yards and two touchdowns. However, the big difference in the game ultimately came down to turnovers, with McCown throwing two interceptions, one to both Devin McCourty and Malcolm Butler, both of which amounted to a total of 10 points for the Patriots.

The game had a similar feeling to the Pittsburgh game after the Patriots caught a break thanks to the rule that saw Austin Seferian-Jenkins’ would-be fourth quarter touchdown get called back as a fumble that went out of bounds. That call was crucial because it would have pulled the Jets back to within 3 points and kept the pressure on New England. Instead, it was called a touchback and the ball went back to the Patriots, which killed New York’s momentum and ended up being one of the big keys in the loss.

“It’s difficult to take the loss,” said Jets head coach Todd Bowles after the game. “It’s not the just the one play. We lost the ball game. They made more plays that us. You have to give them credit. They’re great for a reason. We’ll go back to the drawing board and play better.”

Some numbers that stand out from that game with McCown was the fact he had a terrific second quarter, completing 8-of-11 (73%) for 86 yards and a touchdown, but did commit a crucial turnover. His interception came just as he had guided his team to midfield with an opportunity to take a 21-7 lead, but Malcolm Butler picked him off and set up a 6-play, 63-yard touchdown drive by Tom Brady and the Patriots to knot the game at 14-14.

McCourty and the Patriots defense were the difference back in October. (USA TODAY Images)

McCown was also 9-of-10 on third down that day with six passing first downs, including a touchdown. McCown’s season may be over thanks to a broken hand he suffered against Denver, but it doesn’t change the fact the Patriots defense will still need to be better this time around in that area.

Unfortunately for the Jets, a lot has changed since their last meeting. At the time, the Jets were still in the hunt for both the division and the playoffs and now, they’re below .500 and their season is all but finished. For New England, playing a team with nothing to lose is always a concern, especially since many of those opposing players would probably like nothing more than to play spoiler for a Patriots team that is heading to the postseason.

Bowles said after their last meeting that the loss certainly wasn’t from a lack of effort and credited the Patriots for simply doing what they needed to in order to come away with the win.

“We played hard. They played hard,” said Bowles. “They made more plays than us. They won the ball game.”

Hopefully the Patriots will make it a clean sweep this weekend.

Who Are Those Jets Tied With the Patriots?, 5 Initial Impressions of Gang Green

Steve Balestrieri
October 11, 2017 at 9:37 am ET

Raise your hand if you saw that coming this summer. Don’t look now but the Jets are in first place. Yes they are, the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets, have overachieved this season thru the first five weeks as Todd Bowles crew has bought into his system and his message.

Many people believed that the Jets wouldn’t win one game in 2017, never mind three in a row as the players have ignored the noise and are gutting out wins. Bowles was saddled with a team gutted by the front office in a total purge of big salaries and most of the NFL pundits believed that they were tanking in hopes of getting the top pick in the 2018 NFL Draft to get the franchise quarterback that has eluded them. But Bowles, who is coaching for his job, not the #1 pick has the team playing hard every week. While their wins, especially last week against Cleveland wasn’t a pretty one, no one cares at the end of the season how many style points you have, wins and losses is the measuring stick.

The surprising Jets are 3-2 and tied with the Bills and Patriots for the top spot in the AFC East, the Dolphins are a half-game back at 2-2. No one would have thought that they would be playing the Patriots in Week 6 with the top spot in the AFC East on the line. They’re playing with house money right now. I’d expect them to come out loose and ready to empty the tank in front of the home crowd in an attempt to steal a win away.

Here are our five initial impressions of the Jets heading into this week:

Sacks Have Been Hard to Come By …For Now:
The Jets have two of the better interior defensive linemen in the league with Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson. And while the two have been solid thus far, the one thing that has been missing so far is the sacks. Neither one has been able to notch a sack this season.

That has been especially frustrating for Williams, a 2016 Pro-Bowl lineman who listed as one of his goals this season was to notch a sack a game. Bowles, for one, isn’t worried about the sack totals per se, “They’re playing hard. I don’t worry about their sacks,” Bowles said on his Monday conference call. “Their sacks will come, but they’re playing hard. They’re taking a lot of doubles up for everybody else, but there are certain schemes that require different things, and they are doing those different things. They are great team players and great individual players, so the sacks will come.”

This week they’re going against a New England offensive line that is giving up far too much pressure and sacks on quarterback Tom Brady. The Patriots quarterback has been sacked more in the first five games (16) than he was in all 12 games of 2016. So, this may be the week where those two look to get off the schneid.

Jets Offense Hasn’t Been Bad in the Early Going:
After releasing so many of their skill position players in the spring and suffering injuries this summer, the outlook for them was really not looking good this season. And while the team is still #26 in terms of yardage in the NFL, they haven’t been as bad as advertised.

The running game with Bilal Powell is in the middle of the pack, 13th in the NFL averaging 111.4 yards per game. The passing game is currently 25th averaging just 189 yards per game. They are scoring an average of 18.4 points per game which is good for 23rd in the league.

Josh McCown, the journeyman QB in his 15th season has played well. He’s completing 71.4 percent of his passes but for only 1020 yards thus far. Translation, he’s doing the things he needs to do and throwing the safe passes underneath for the most part.

But his most impressive drive this year? Last week against the Browns, they stopped Cleveland on their three-yard line and McCown took them on a 97-yard touchdown drive that put the game away. While they’ve struggled at times, they’ve also had some good moments as well. But for the game, they managed only 212 yards and 34 on the ground.

Running Backs Hurting:
As of Tuesday evening, we don’t know if the Jets will be without running backs Matt Forte and Bilal Powell for Sunday’s game against the Patriots. Forte has missed the last two games with a turf-toe injury and Powell is dealing with a calf strain. He exited the game on Sunday with the Browns just before halftime. He’s listed as day-to-day.

If those two aren’t able to go that would leave the job to rookie Elijah McGuire as the feature back and Travaris Cadet as their third down specialist. McGuire is a 5’11, 214-pound rookie out of Louisiana-Lafayette. He’s run well thus far in 2017 carrying the ball 34 times for 176 yards, good for a 5.2-yard average, including a big, 69-yard touchdown run against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He’s an athletic, good runner with good ball security and shows good acceleration in getting to the hole. He has deceptive speed in getting to the edge. He’s also a decent pass receiver out of the backfield and has caught five passes thus far this year.

The Patriots will no doubt attempt to stop the run and force the Jets to beat them via the pass. So, we can expect that the play in the trenches will be key here. As of right now, Bowles told the press that the team doesn’t expect to sign another running back in the interim.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins Should Be a Big Target:
The Jets big tight end should see a lot of action going his way in the passing game this week. With the Patriots primed to slow or stop the run, play action passing from McCown will have to be spot on this week and the Jenkins may be the guy he turns to first.

Jenkins was one of the bright spots on an offense that didn’t have a great day against the Browns a week ago. He was targeted eight times in the game and hauled in six passes. While he gained just 29 yards, many of his receptions were just enough to keep the chains moving including a touchdown that gave the Jets the lead in the third quarter.

Jenkins will get matched up with either a safety (Pat Chung) or one of the linebackers and this will be a big matchup to watch this week. Despite playing in just three games this season, the big tight end has caught 15 passes for 106 yards and a score. Jets tight ends in 2016 caught a combined 18 passes in 2016. The Jets asked him to drop some weight this offseason and he did. He lost 30 pounds and moves much quicker and has shown better hands thus far than he has in the past.

Two Rookie Safeties Helping Turn the Defense Around:
Last season, the Jets defense was a mess and a lot of the struggles centered around weak play from the safety position. So they replaced Marcus Gilchrist and Calvin Pryor this spring by using a first and second-round draft picks to draft Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye respectively this April.

To be fair, Gilchrist and Pryor were far from the only problems on the Jets back end last year. But the team felt they needed a big upgrade there and so far it has worked very well. Adams and Maye became the first rookie starting safety tandem in the league since the AFL/NFL merger. The two rookies have impressed from Day 1 and won their starting jobs this summer and have not looked back.

Last year the Jets surrendered 13 plays of at least 40 yards in the passing game. Thus far in 2017, they’ve allowed one. This week, they’ll face a tough test in the form of Rob Gronkowski who Adams admits was one of the first people he thought of when he was drafted. Adams, in particular, has been very versatile. He’s lined up as a strong safety, free safety, nickel linebacker, slot corner, even splitting out wide as an edge corner a few times. The Jets took some heat drafting two safeties back to back but so far, they are performing even better than they could have hoped for and now offer positional stability for years to come.

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.

Sunday New England Patriots News 4-2 AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
April 2, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s New England Patriots news 4-2, & AFC East Notes.

Hey, Tom, The Check is in the Mail, Brady Cashes In:
Tom Brady received a nice check on Friday, with his second bonus installment coming due Friday from the new deal he signed last spring. His bonus installment? $14 million dollars. Brady’s extension that he signed a year ago had him receiving the cash in two lump sums, $14 million at the time of his signing and the second installment on March 31.

Not that times are tough in the Brady household these days. Besides his pay and endorsements worth about $6 million in 2016, his wife has a tremendous business portfolio and earned an estimated $30.5 million last year.

That would be a ton of avocado ice cream.

Belichick Ditches League Meetings for Scouting Trips:
When it comes to the league meetings and the coaches’ breakfasts every season, Bill Belichick has always made it clear, he’d rather be having a root canal than attending one of those events.

He typically eschews those and this year had a perfect excuse. Right after the Super Bowl, Belichick said that both he and the Patriots were “about five weeks behind” everyone else’s NFL Draft prep.

Well, he’s been taking care of those items. Shortly after he was seen exchanging pleasantries with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Belichick was seen at a couple of different Pro-Days scouting would-be Patriots. And who could blame him?

The league typically treats a Patriots-suggested rule change at the league meetings like kryptonite. But when someone else reiterates the same rule change Belichick did a year or two later, suddenly it is a wonderful idea. For the latest rule change fiasco let’s ask a Patriots player what he thinks.

Shea McClellin Lets His Feelings Known on the New Non-Leaping FG Block Rule:
One of the most athletic plays you could have seen during the 2016 Super Bowl run was the field goal block by Shea McClellin against the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football. McClellin timed his leap perfectly and blocked a FG attempt by Ravens kicker Justin Tucker for his first and only miss of 2016.

McClellin dusted off his leaping act against the Falcons during the Super Bowl but the officials incorrectly called that he leaped over the center and not the guard and the Patriots were flagged for 15 yards. Now the NFL has deemed those plays illegal under the guise of “player safety”. We won’t get into a long discussion on this other than to say, isn’t it designed to avoiding contact with other players?  Things that make you go hmmm. One thing that won’t is McClellin’s feeling on this which was perfect.

Would the Patriots Kick the tires on Dion Jordan?
Big news out of Miami was the Dolphins released Jordan this week with a failed physical designation and of course, as with any other big name free agent, it immediately set the tongues wagging that the Patriots should scoop him up. But the problem with Jordan has always been, just that. He’s been a big name but not a big producer.

Jordan was the 3rd overall pick in the 2013 draft, and the 6’6, 248-pound edge rusher was all the rage back then. He ran a 4.60-second 40-yard dash, a 7.02-second 3-Cone Drill time, a 4.35-second short shuttle, a 10-foot, 2-inch broad jump and a 32.5-inch vertical leap at the Combine that year.

But his production never matched his hype and he’s only played in 26 games in four seasons. He missed the entire 2016 season with an injury and 22 more due to numerous violations of the performance enhancing drug rules by the league.

The Patriots have been a consistent spot for a number of players to breathe new life into their careers. Could Jordan be the latest? Sure, but something tells me they pass.

Speaking of passing…

Patriots will not Draft Joe Mixon:
The Patriots and Robert Kraft have not backed down from their stance on bringing in domestic abusers, unlike the NFL. According to numerous sources, Mixon isn’t even on the Patriots draft board and will not be drafted by New England later this month.

Speaking to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, Kraft didn’t mention Mixon by name but did say this: “While I believe in second chances and giving players an opportunity for redemption, I also believe that playing in the NFL is a privilege, not a right,” Kraft said.

“For me, personally, I believe that privilege is lost for men who have a history of abusing women.”

Patriots Uniforms Changed Drastically 24 years Ago…for the Worse:
On Friday, the Patriots celebrated a 24-year anniversary on the date they announced a drastic uniform change that altered the way the team would look right up to the present day.

On March 31, 1993, then owner James Orthwein unleashed a new color pattern and logo to go on the helmet and the Flying Elvis was born. Instead of red, white and blue, the Patriots went primarily to blue with silver pants and red numbers and were pretty awful as uniforms go.

The team later tweaked them, changing over to a much better look to what they have now. But no uniform will ever replace the Pat the Patriot.

Kony Ealy Will Benefit Being in the Patriots System:
One of the more interesting notes from the league meeting was a quote about Kony Ealy from his former coach in Ron Rivera. The two questions about Ealy was never one of talent, but one of consistency and his ability to take to coaching. Rivera pretty much hit #2 square on the head.

“More than anything else is just really do what he’s told,” Rivera said. “I think being around a program like what coach Belichick has established in New England will be really good for him. I think it will be an opportunity for him to grow and take another step. I think it’s a good situation. I really do.”

“The biggest thing, more than anything else, is to do things the way coach Belichick wants them done.”

While some have viewed Rivera’s comments as a shot across the bow with his being traded to New England, the final word from his coach seems to point to him needing a fresh start to realize his potential.

“They’re getting a guy, I think, who hasn’t truly tapped his potential,” Rivera said. “He showed it. He flashed it in the Super Bowl. If they can get him back to that point, I think they’ll get a very explosive pass rusher.”

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Hire Image Consultant for Coach Sean McDermott:
The Buffalo Bills have not made the playoffs for 17 straight seasons and that makes for some strange happenings when it comes to the front office. Rex Ryan was jettisoned as Head Coach and Sean McDermott was brought in. Somehow GM Doug Whaley survived the offseason amid pressers where he left media members with the assumption that no one was in charge at the Bills headquarters.

Now with the hiring of an image consultant for McDermott, the new image is that the Bills will have one voice and that will belong to the coach, not the GM and not the ownership.

Whaley’s demotion of sorts is a no-brainer after basically throwing his owner under the bus during the search for Ryan’s successor. Former ESPN exec Gerry Matalon will work with both McDermott and Whaley and it is expected his role will increase.

But more than anything, the Bills need to start winning. Winning immeasurably will help their image.

Miami Signs Safety Tim McDonald:
The Miami Dolphins made an intriguing addition to their defense on Friday by signing former Rams safety Tim McDonald to a one-year contract.

But McDonald won’t be able to make a contribution until November. He’s facing an eight-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. McDonald has vowed that this will never happen again but his suspension may have turned other teams off from signing him.

McDonald, 26, is just entering his prime and is considered a hard-hitting, aggressive safety at 6’2, 217-pounds. The thinking is, Miami, who won 10 games a year ago, will want McDonald for the season-ending stretch and hopefully a return trip to the postseason.

Jets’ Bowles Will Be “Heavily Involved with the Offense” in 2017:
New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles spoke at the league meeting this week and said that for the first time in his coaching career that he’ll be involved with the offensive side of the ball, both during the week and on game day.

“I’ve been in meeting rooms up until this point, and I will continue to be involved,” Bowles told the media in Phoenix on Tuesday. “I’ll be probably heavily more involved than I’ve been since I’ve been here.”

“It’s just the way I feel as a coach, and have evolved to, and where I need to be,” Bowles added. “To understand everything from that [offensive] standpoint, I need to be heavily involved.”

With Bowles in the hot seat in his third season after a disastrous 2016, the move makes sense. His predecessor, Rex Ryan, always spoke about getting more involved in the offense for both the Jets and Bills and has now been fired by both.

But first, he really needs to find a quarterback.

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.

Patriots Maul Listless Jets 41-3, Observations

Steve Balestrieri
December 25, 2016 at 8:29 am ET

No Let-down This Year, Team Remains Focused

The Patriots left little doubt this time that there wasn’t going to be a late season swoon against the New York Jets like what happened in 2015. The Patriots dominated in all three phases of the game from the opening snap and demolished a beat up and demoralized Gang Green to the tune of 41-3.

The last time the Patriots won by 38 points was back in the 2014 AFC Championship Game when they throttled the hapless Colts in what became the Def … well, we aren’t going there.

The win was Bill Belichick’s 200th win as a head coach of the Patriots and only four other coaches have that many wins with one franchise. George Halas, Curly Lambeau, Tom Landry, and Don Shula. Some pretty heady company there. It was probably made a bit sweeter being against the Jets.

While every game since the Jets “Butt Fumble” game has been by one score, this one was never in doubt. The Jets barely showed up for the Miami game a week ago, where they were handled with ease. For the most part, other than a few young players looking to carve out a role, this team had already checked out and was ready for their spring vacation.

Coach Todd Bowles was in the hospital on Friday for a combination of kidney stones and gallstones. He was released from the hospital and flew up to meet the team in New England. He did coach from the sideline, but probably wished he stayed put in the hospital back in New York.

With young QB Bryce Petty at the helm, the Patriots decided they were coming after him and the results were startling. Petty was 0-3 with an interception and was sacked twice. He had trouble throwing in the downpour that the teams suffered early in the game. And he was injured trying to recover a fumble. Khiry Robinson on his first carry of the season was hit in the backfield by Elandon Roberts in a terrific collision. Roberts helmet popped the ball loose.

Malcolm Butler was in a position to scoop up the ball, Petty seeing he was too late, tried to tackle Butler and hurt his left, non-throwing shoulder as he bounced to the turf. It was a rough ending for Petty again as he was sandwiched between two Dolphins on a scary hit last week and forced to leave the game.

In came Ryan Fitzpatrick and he wasn’t the guy who seemed to be in control the last time the two teams met. Fitzy has nine lives; every time it seems he’s relegated to the bench and is done, he resurfaces. Yesterday wasn’t a good day for him.

Without the benefit of the All-22 film, which isn’t available yet, other observations include:

Brady very sharp and focused: After a so-so week in Denver, QB Tom Brady wanted to get the passing offense going quickly and he did. Brady was sharp and was getting a lot of time to throw from the pocket. And he continues to move extremely well in the pocket. He did a spin-o-rama like Aaron Rodgers and got away from pressure and scorched a laser to Edelman for a 28-yard gain.

He was getting all of his receivers involved and was picking the Jets apart. On the first series, the Patriots stalled in the red zone but on the third down incompletion, Brady missed Julian Edelman all alone and wide open in the back left corner of the end zone. But all three touchdowns were nice throws, to Bennett, to James White and Matt Lengel. A true MVP type performance

Overall, he had a fantastic day completing 17 of 27 for 214 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. So complete was the blowout, Brady was removed near the end of the third quarter and gave way to Jimmy Garoppolo, his first work since the Miami game.

Malcolm Butler gets Pro Bowl Snub, has a Fantastic Day: Butler the Patriots best cornerback had himself quite a day. One of our players to watch in the game, Butler turned in one of his best performances.

Butler had two interceptions and the recovered fumble and once again played some stellar defense. He’s not Revis in his prime, but he’s plenty good enough and the Patriots defensive system is a perfect fit for him.

Who Is to Blame Now For this Defensive Gem: After all the hand-wringing about the Patriots defense early in the season, they’ve made a remarkable turnaround. Now, every time they put forth a very good effort, the first thing out of the expert’s mouths are the weekly marginalizing of their work by denigrating the opponent. Matt Patricia has done a fantastic job of finding everyone a role and all of the players buying in.

Yes, we know the Jets offense is putrid and Fitzpatrick is on his way out the door. But you play the games on your schedule and if you’re going to line up at the Tobin Bridge when they give up 300 yards and 17 points, then given them credit when the give up three points and 130 yards. Jets QBs were 8-24 for just 128 net yards with zero touchdowns and three interceptions. They were 1-11 on third down.

This defense resembles nothing of the unit that struggled so badly earlier in the season. They’re now the #1 scoring defense in the NFL and haven’t allowed a touchdown in two weeks. So talk all you want about the weak sisters….or “tomato cans” if you will. The bottom line: They’re doing their job. Haven’t we heard that before?

Bowles Timeout Call, A Bad, Bad, Decision: One of the craziest decisions, other than Chuck Pagano’s fake punt from 2015 was the Jets decision to call timeout with under two minutes to go in the half.

The Jets punted and put the Pats on their 13-yard line with a minute and a half to go. The Patriots were leading 20-0 and at that point, the Jets offense had done nothing. The Patriots, due to field position and the fact they’d receive the second half kickoff, were content to run out the clock. They ran Dion Lewis up the middle twice for six yards.

Inexplicably, Bowles called timeout. On 3rd and 4 from the 19 with 46 seconds to go. Brady delivered a nine-yard pass to Julian Edelman at the 28. Then the Patriots called timeout. On first down, Brady delivered a perfect bomb on a post route run by Malcolm Mitchell who had beat two Jets defenders. Doug Middleton tried to prevent a touchdown and grabbed Mitchell’s arm resulting in a 47-yard penalty.

On first down from the 25, Brady hit James White for a 25-yard touchdown pass with 31 ticks left in the half. The Patriots went 87 yards in a minute and six seconds. They went into the half up 27-0. Game, set, match.

Floyd, Lengel Get Into the Act: New Patriots wide receiver Michael Floyd saw his first action as a member of the Patriots on Saturday, getting a few snaps early and then some extensive work late in the game, trying to assimilate into the offense.

He made a nice catch on an early deep ball by Brady, but the throw led him just a bit too far and he made the catch out of bounds. He did make his first catch as a Patriots later in the game, a short six-yard catch from Jimmy Garoppolo.

Backup tight end Matt Lengel made his first NFL catch today on the Patriots fourth scoring drive. The 6’7, 265 blocking tight end was picked up off of the Bengals practice squad earlier this season. On a 2nd and 8 from the Jets 18-yard line, he ran a post. Brady looked elsewhere first but saw Lengel had a step on his coverage. He uncorked a fastball where Lengel hauled it in for the touchdown.

First NFL catch, first NFL touchdown from Tom Brady. The telling moment was watching Brady rush down the field to congratulate the big guy on his first catch and score. Tells a lot about this team. Lengel’s brother Mike took to Twitter and exclaimed, “My Brother Just caught a TD pass from Brady!”

Running backs are an Eclectic Lot: While the yards per rush wasn’t anything to write home about today, the Patriots once again showed patience in the running game and stuck with, rolling up 114 yards in the process. LeGarrette Blount is having a fantastic 2016 with 1110 yards and 17 touchdowns. The big man has been much better than anyone could have hoped for after suffering a serious hip injury in 2015.

James White is a dangerous back out of the backfield, (see his 25-yard touchdown), he may have had another. On a third down, Brady laid a perfect arcing pass in his hands, as he beat his coverage cleanly, but he dropped it. But Brady isn’t afraid to go right back to him. He’s also excellent in blitz pickup and is improving in that aspect weekly.

Dion Lewis is quickly rounding into form and is looking more and more like the elusive, shifty back we saw in the first half of the 2015 season. For his size, he’s a surprisingly good runner between the tackles and an excellent receiver as well out of the backfield.

The Patriots offense has plenty of weapons for Brady to use. The running back position, something a lot of people (including here) were picking on as not having done enough in the spring to improve has been fantastic.

Well, it is time for Santa to come down the chimney…I hope all of you have a Merry Christmas day with your families.

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.

Five Patriots Players To Watch Against the Jets

Steve Balestrieri
December 24, 2016 at 8:07 am ET

The Patriots return home for their last regular season home game of 2016. The next time fans see the Pats at Gillette will be the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

The Patriots are 12-2 and could clinch the top seed in the AFC today with a win coupled with either a Raiders loss or tie. The team remembers the late season swoon in the final two games, losses to both the Jets and Miami which cost them home-field advantage. They won’t be wanting that to happen again.

The Jets are 4-10 and playing out the string. The season has been a crushing disappointment for Todd Bowles crew. He was admitted to the hospital yesterday in New York with an undisclosed illness and may not be there on the sidelines later today. But they’d love nothing better than putting coal in the Patriots Christmas stocking again this year.

Here are our five players from a Patriots perspective to watch on Sunday:

QB Tom Brady: Brady popped up again on the injury report this week with a thigh injury. Although it is considered minor, anything to do with #12 will bear watching. Brady didn’t have big game numbers wise last week, but a lot of that was by design as the team opted to use a bigger approach to the running game.

This week, look for the offense to get back into their normal balance. And that begins with Brady. The Jets secondary has been suspect this season which the lack of pass rush hasn’t helped.

Look for Brady to try to get the passing game back in gear quickly today. They’ll want to get out to a quick start and to do so will require Brady to be sharp. With plenty of weapons that can be brought to bear, he’ll spread it around.

LB Dont’a Hightower: Hightower is also dealing with an injury, a knee issue that was clearly bothering him in Denver. But it is reported that he’ll play thru it again this week. Hightower is the Patriots main man in the middle of the defense. He’s the guy that cleans up the play after the defensive line slows down the run at the point of attack.

The Jets have been very successful lately at running Bilal Powell with Matt Forte hurting. Powell is a guy that has hurt the Patriots in the past and they’ll want him keeping the pressure off the inexperienced Bryce Petty at QB.

The Patriots will want to naturally put the ball in Petty’s hands and force him to beat them. And that means stopping the running game. Hightower will be a big part of the defense in that aspect. Going against a beat-up Jets offensive line, he’ll be a key player to watch especially if they decide to blitz him up the A-gap.

RB LeGarrette Blount: Blount wasn’t the focus of the Patriots running game last week in Denver, they opted for the smaller, quicker Dion Lewis to go against the Broncos defense. Although Lewis will again get a lot of reps today, look for the focus to be back again on the Pats’ big man on the ground.

With the focus on having the balance back in the offense this week, they’ll want to hammer the ball inside with Blount and keeping the Jets defense honest and keep them from blitzing on obvious passing situations.

Look for Blount to get upward of 20 carries today against the big, physical front of the Jets. And that should be a recipe for success, the more carries Blount gets, it means that the Patriots should be in control of this one.

CB Malcolm Butler: The Patriots secondary has had their issues with the Jets big wide receivers in the past. Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker (IR) and Quincy Enunwa have given them problems in the past. And their first line of defense will be deciding on who Butler covers.

Butler did an excellent job at limiting Emmanuel Sanders last week save for a few garbage time catches. The Jets still have Marshall and Enunwa and with Decker out, Robby Anderson has been a favorite target of Petty. In his last two games, he’s caught six passes for 99 yards and added four catches for 80 yards against the Dolphins.

It will be interesting to see who the Patriots turn their most attention to. But Butler has been their best corner all season and he’ll be the guy they trust the most, regardless if he has over the top safety help…right, Emmanuel?

WR Malcolm Mitchell: The wide receivers other than Julian Edelman were mainly used as decoys a week ago. Mitchell and Chris Hogan were tasked with pulling the Broncos corners away from where they intended to go. With so many weapons, it is a good problem to have. Now they’ll want to get all of them involved in the passing game again.

While Edelman will remain the primary target for Brady on most downs, Mitchell, as well as Hogan will be important players to watch in the passing offense today. The rookie wide receiver from Georgia has been a nice addition to the offense this year. He’s earned Brady’s trust and they know he can be counted upon in crunch time.

Against the Jets last month, Mitchell caught two touchdowns on passes from Brady. The second one, after the two-minute warning, gave the Patriots the win over the Jets. Both coincidentally were against Darrelle Revis. That won’t be forgotten by the Jets, especially Revis as they prepare for this week’s game.

For that reason alone, Mitchell would be a player to watch today, but with him becoming a more valuable role player in the offense, he’ll be looked to by Brady to provide some key catches at important parts of the game.

Stay tuned to PatsFans.com as we’ll have up-to-the-minute breaking news as well as post-game analysis.

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Patriots – Jets II Keys, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
December 23, 2016 at 6:00 am ET

The New England Patriots return to the friendly confines of Gillette Stadium in Foxboro for their final regular season home game to take on the New York Jets. The game is scheduled for Saturday Christmas Eve, at 1 p.m.

CBS will televise this week’s game and it can be seen locally on WBZ Channel 4 in Boston. Ian Eagle will handle play-by-play duties with Dan Fouts as the color analyst. Evan Washburn will work the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The SportsHub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Cappello.

The Patriots (12-2) improved to 7-0 on the road this season with a convincing 16-3 win over the Denver Broncos. Dion Lewis rushed for 95 yards and the Pats got three turnovers while holding the Broncos to just three points and shut them out for the final 53 minutes of the game.

The Jets (4-10) were hammered by Miami last week. Career backup Matt Moore threw for four touchdowns in the win. QB Bryce Petty was hit hard and had to leave the game but is expected to play this weekend.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2016 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 Jets meet for the 116th time on Sunday in an intense rivalry that dates back to 1960. The Patriots hold a slight all-time 60-54-1 edge in the series that has been incredibly even and always tough.

The Patriots hold a 32-25-1 edge overall at home and have won 9 of the last 11 meetings. The Pats won a close 22-17 win in the Meadowlands in the first meeting this season as Tom Brady hit Malcolm Mitchell with the game-winning touchdown pass with less than two minutes to go. Mitchell had a pair of touchdowns in the game.

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

First up is the Patriots offense: