Tag Archives: Tom Brady

Whitewash in Miami, Patriots Defense Rocks in 43-0 Blowout

Steve Balestrieri
September 15, 2019 at 8:49 pm ET

No miracle finish this time, and for the Miami Dolphins, the only thing close to a miracle was that the Patriots were missing both of their offensive tackles or else this one could have been much, much worse.

The Patriots dominated this one from start to finish, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Miami managed only 184 yards of total offense, with the vast majority of those coming well after this game was over.  In the first two games of the 2019 season, the Patriots have allowed just three points. 

The only big downside to the blowout win was the loss of left tackle Isaiah Wynn to a foot injury at the end of the first quarter. He didn’t return. With right tackle Marcus Cannon missing this one with a shoulder injury, it definitely affected the play of the offensive line overall. Marshall Newhouse, the 11-year veteran had been on the team for all of three days, stepped in to play left tackle. This situation will bear close watching. 

Here are some of our observations from the blowout win. While it won’t exorcise all of the demons of playing in Miami, it has to feel pretty good for the team as they improve to 2-0 on the season.

  • The Patriots sacked Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen seven times and intercepted four passes, returning two of those for touchdowns.
  • Stephon Gilmore had the first pick-six of his career. As Fitzpatrick rolled to his right, he tried to force a short pass to DeVante Parker. Gilmore stepped in front of him and picked it off and sauntered into the end zone for a 54-yard touchdown. 
  • Gilmore also caused the first interception of the day. On a deep pass down the right sideline, he went up and deflected the ball which went straight to Devin McCourty.
  • Jamie Collins had a monster game. He made five tackles, [one for a loss], had a sack and then had an interception that he returned 74 yards for a touchdown. On the last play of the game, Collins intercepted Rosen and then took the ball straight into the Patriots locker room. 
  • Rookie Chase Winovich made two tackles, one for a loss and had 1.5 sacks
  • Antonio Brown did play and scored a 20-yard touchdown on a nice back-shoulder throw from Tom Brady to him in the end zone. Brady was impressed with Brown’s quick grasp of the offense and said after the game that he had “good snap” off the line early in this one. Brown finished the game with four receptions for 56 yards and the score.
  • Brady finished 20-28 for 264 yards with two touchdowns passing and one rushing. 
  • Sony Michel had 85 yards on 21 carries with a touchdown. He also had a fumble lost later in the 4th Quarter. Rex Burkhead was once again impressive as he had 68 yards combined rushing and receiving on just seven touches. 
  • Julian Edelman had four catches for 51 yards. Josh Gordon had two catches for 19 while Phillip Dorsett had three catches for 39. His catch on third and 18 was a beauty, however. He went right to the sticks and dove for the hard pass from Brady.
  • James White didn’t get a ton of touches in this one [3 rushes for 10 yards, 3 catches for 19 more] but had a too easy touchdown late in the game. Miami sent a blitz at Brady and the screen pass had three offensive linemen with no one to block as White sauntered into the end zone. 
  • Miami has saddled former Patriot DC Brian Flores, their new head coach with a truly awful football team and their performance in their first two games have played that out. They have been embarrassed on their home turf for two weeks in a row. First by the Ravens and then again 43-0 against the Patriots, the first time in their history that Miami has been shut out at home by New England. 
  • Stephen Gostkowski had a rough, rough day, missing a field goal and two extra points. But for all of Patriots fans calling for him to be immediately cut, we’ll ask this. Replace him with who? While it certainly is a concern moving forward, it is not going to cause him to be jettisoned that fast. Bill Belichick will work with him this week and they’ll try to get him back on track. Calm your jets folks…

Miami gained only 42 yards on the ground on 15 carries which worked out to just 2.8 yards per rushing attempt. In two games the Patriots have allowed 74 yards on the ground an average of 37 per game. Fitzpatrick completed just 11 of 21 passes for just 89 yards with three interceptions. His passer rating was just 23.8. Rosen came in with just over eight minutes remaining in the game and completed 7-18 for 97 yards with an interception. His passer rating was just 33.8.

Overall, the Dolphins QBs were 18-39 for 142 yards with 0 TDs and 4 INTs with seven sacks for 44 yards. Fitzpatrick was under duress all game long with nowhere to throw the ball due to the blanket coverage. 

Offensively, with both tackles out, it made both running and passing the ball more difficult but the team still rolled up 381 yards of offense, 126 on the ground and 255 more thru the air. Brown only had a handful of practices this week, but he has already shown how effective he can be once he gets on the same sheet of music with Brady. 

As always I find it amusing that national writers accuse Belichick of running it up but last week, after scoring 42 points in the first half, the Ravens ran a fake punt…crickets. And as to why Brady and Co. were still in the game late into the 4th quarter. Brady said, Belichick’s message all week was to play solid for 60 minutes. In Bill’s mind, football players play football so, while some a few people were lamenting seeing the starters in there, the coach wants to see them continue to work to get ready for the long season ahead.

For now, the team is 2-0 and rolling very impressively defensively. Next week they return home to take on the New York Jets who play Cleveland on Monday Night Football 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 myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news.

New England Patriots News 9-15, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 09-15 and AFC East notes this week. 

Game Day, and a return to football… hopefully, this afternoon. This past week has been a ridiculously, needless testament to what the news has become in this country. The Antonio Brown saga has been in full-blown TMZ mode all week to where the Patriots opening season big win over the Steelers and the upcoming game at Miami were swept aside like unnecessary backdrops. 

“Should Belichick Release Him?”, “When did the Patriots know?” “Why Didn’t the Patriots Know?” “What Number/Helmet/cleats is AB wearing?” Non-stop since Tuesday.

You know it has gotten ridiculous when CNN fixes a GPS map finder to someone’s car so that he can find Gillette Stadium and then attempt to harangue Bill Belichick with the same question three times like they would third rate politicians as if that is really going to make him answer. 

*Hint for today* – When the team releases a statement stating they are aware of an investigation and will not comment further until there is a resolution…and you ask once, you are doing your job. Ask the same thing twice and you’re getting into rude territory. Push it a third time by talking over the coach saying “you didn’t answer it”, then you’re just a jerk who is making this about yourself…but they have a penchant for that. 

The only thing missing was for Harvey Levin to have one of his dweebs outside the stadium with a video camera. “We got Belichick coming out at 2 a.m. after meetings and film study. ‘So Bill, do you really like football?’” 

So, for a few hours, we can watch the game(s) and not have to be subjected to the same “All Antonio, All the Time” drivel non-stop. Unless Brown does play and has a big game…

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

Malcolm Mitchell – opened up to NBC in an interview on how difficult it is to move on to life after football. His career ended prematurely due to numerous injuries and it was derailed just as it should have been taking off. 

“I guess I knew I would have this breakup with football, someday. I just didn’t know how bad it would be on my mental health. It’s like I’ve been reincarnated, as somebody else. And I don’t want to be anybody else,” Mitchell said. 

“I have to move on,” he added. “I know that. I have to come out of this grieving phase, and I’m working on that. I can’t stay here, because if I do, I’m as good as dead.”

Patriots Baby Boom  – Last week Kyle Van Noy was inactive for the Steelers game due to his wife going into labor and then welcoming his son into the world. On Friday it was reported that James White wouldn’t travel as his wife was giving birth as well. But on Saturday it was reported that he indeed did travel to Miami. However, it seems like there may have been a slight boom during the post-regular season time frame. Perhaps, it was across the region as well. 

Rob Gronkowski – The big man remains in the news as he’s been doing interviews and promoting his new business [CBD Oil] which he claims has healed him. Gronk told an interviewer this week, that despite nine surgeries, he had at least 20 concussions of which five were “total blackouts”. He did add that although not yet a father, he would allow his son to play football as long as he was made aware of the risks involved.

Obi Melifonwu – After being let go with the addition of Antonio Brown, the big safety from Grafton cleared waivers and the Patriots brought him back onto the practice squad. And the team did him a big solid. While the bottom line for pay for practice squad players is $8000 a week, the Patriots frequently pay more and in Melifonwu’s case, much more. The team brought him back at his regular salary of $645,000 or in this case $37,941 a week. When people talk about “how cheap” the Patriots are…remind them of this little tidbit. Melifonwu may still fit in the team’s long-term plans with Pat Chung and Devin McCourty possibly retiring soon. 

Week 1 Overreaction? Say it ain’t so – After the Patriots dismantled the Steelers on opening night, optimism was running very high in New England, and why not? Despite some uneven play at times, they dominated from start to finish, but let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. First, it is one game, and we all remember the horrific opener against the Chiefs a few years ago, right? And second, despite the optimism emanating from Western PA, the Patriots have owned the Steelers in Foxboro. 

That said, the defense played as advertised and the offense despite going 0-3 in the red zone looked much better than advertised. It is a good, no, very good start. But remember, today is another day and let’s wait to see how they play in Miami, where they traditionally lay an egg. FWIW, I still believe Pittsburgh wins their division.

The Patriots Passing Game Now a Position of Strength? You Bet:

The strong showing by Tom Brady and company on Sunday night, plus the addition of the aforementioned Antonio Brown definitely played a hand in the trade of WR Demaryius Thomas to the Jets. We’ll get to more of that below. But as of right now, the passing attack is, at least for one week, much farther along than we would have believed just a few short weeks ago.

With Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers at wide receiver and James White along with Rex Burkhead out of the backfield, the offense has plenty of weapons for Brady to utilize. This is before even adding Brown, running back Damien Harris, rookie WR N’Keal Harry (IR) and veteran WR Cameron Meredith (PUP) to the mix for depth purposes later in the year. Now the possibilities are very optimistic. 

So even though the situation at tight end is far from perfect with Matt LaCosse banged up and Ryan Izzo more of a blocker, there are still plenty of options for Brady to target. Ben Watson can return after the Bills game and he should help there. 

But in Thomas’ case, I received a DM on Twitter asking, “if the Patriots had known about the AB claims, would they still have traded Thomas?” It is a good question, but my answer is yes. The passing game was clicking and even without considering Brown, they still have Harris, Harry, and Meredith. So, they really didn’t need him, and were able to unload his contract so there is no dead money involved. 

But their choice of trading partners was really intriguing. I was also asked what I thought of the choice of the Jets for his landing spot. Bill Belichick has traded with 30 other NFL teams since taking over the Patriots. Until this week, the only team he hadn’t traded with was the Jets. 

My feeling is, and this is strictly just an opinion, that they didn’t feel that Thomas was ever going to recapture enough of his game to be a viable receiver once again. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have traded him to the Jets…we’ll see next week. 

Time to Get Michel More Involved in the Passing Game:

The Patriots will be looking to get Sony Michel more involved in the running game today and get him untracked but they can help in that regard by getting him more involved in the passing game. Last week the Steelers keyed off of Michel’s being on the field by crowding the box and playing the run. And in that, they were very successful as Michel had only 14 yards on 15 carries.

According to my feeble math skills, with Michel on the field, the Patriots ran the ball nearly 75 percent of the time. Pittsburgh, having watched the postseason tape of the Patriots played run-heavy and was able to stuff it time and again. After rewatching the game tape, when the Patriots passed with Michel on the field, they were very successful. Now I get it, it is a minuscule sample size, but they averaged about 15 yards per play. 

Getting Michel more involved in the passing game just removes some of the predictability that other teams will have noticed and make this offense that much harder to stop. Today would be a perfect time to start giving opposing defensive coordinators even more to consider. 

Bulked Up Josh Gordon “In the Best Shape of My Career”:

Josh Gordon is playing at nearly 240 pounds this season as he may be in line for some of Rob Gronkowski’s work in the slot. Gordon’s bulked up presence may have been by design to take on the extra workload of Gronk’s absence. He played only about 10 percent out of the slot in 2018. On Sunday it was around 35 percent.

Gordon spoke about his workload and how he feels physically this week and he’s very optimistic of his long-term outlook. NFL Network’s Mike Giardi asked him if he’s in the best shape of his career and Gordon was quick to agree.

“Oh yeah, by far. By far,” Gordon told Giardi. “I don’t have any injuries this year, fortunately. Me and [strength and conditioning coach] Moses Cabrera have been in the training room every morning getting after it and continue to grow. It’s only Week 2. I’m excited, we’re all excited to see what happens halfways toward the end of the season. I think it’s going to be a huge upside at that point.”

Gordon’s upbeat attitude is definitely a plus and we can expect him to get even more looks in the passing game as the season winds on today.

NFL Schedule Week 2, Who Are Your Winners:

How are you feeling about the games this week? We have a post on our PatsFans Forum where our readers can predict the slate of games for that week. I did it on our weekly Sunday column here and will post it up below. Here is the link if you’d care to pick your own: https://www.patsfans.com/new-england-patriots/messageboard/picks/

Last Week: 11-4-1

TNF Carolina over Tampa Bay 0-1 

Dallas over Washington
Tennessee over Indy
Pittsburgh over Seattle
Buffalo over NY Giants
Patriots over Miami
Houston over Jacksonville
Green Bay over Minnesota
LA Chargers over Detroit
Cincinnati over San Francisco
Baltimore over Arizona
Kansas City over Oakland
Chicago over Denver
LA Rams over New Orleans – Rematch of the NFC Championship
SNF Philly over Atlanta
MNF Cleveland over NY Jets

Early Thursday Night Football pick Tennessee over Jacksonville

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Need to Slow Down Saquon Barkley Today:

The Buffalo Bills can go to 2-0 by winning in the same stadium on the road, two weeks in a row. The Bills scored 17 straight points by beating the Jets in MetLife Stadium last week and take on the Giants today. But they face a very talented back in Saquon Barkley and he’ll be a big difference in who wins or loses.

The Bills pass defense is the strength of their team and they’ve allowed 217 yards or less for nine straight weeks, heading back to last season. And the Giants are banged up at WR. So, it stands to reason that the Giants may opt to feed one of the best RBs in the business in Barkley.

Barkley averaged 10.9 yards per rushing attempt last week in Dallas garnering 120 yards on just 11 carries. Which begs the question, why didn’t they use him more? On the flip side, watch for Bills rookie Devin Singletary to get more work today. The rookie RB had 70 yards on just four carries and added 28 more on five receptions. He was fun to watch. 

Dolphins Minkah Fitzpatrick Possibly Going to Dallas:

The Miami Dolphins agreed this week to allow safety/cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick to seek a trade partner.  And while there will no doubt be several teams interested, one team, the Dallas Cowboys have already publicly expressed interest. 

Fitzpatrick was a first-round draft pick just a year ago, but he’s unhappy with the way he’s being used by the new coaching staff and wants out. Dallas has been trying to upgrade the safety position all year. They courted the idea of bringing in Earl Thomas and Eric Berry but signed neither. They signed George Iloka. But the veteran was released, beaten out by veteran Jeff Heath and rookie Donovan Wilson. Fitzpatrick is a big upgrade over either of those two. So, this will bear watching.

What would be the asking price? Some circles are pointing to DL Taco Charlton who isn’t playing much because of a deep Dallas front seven. This development may have some bearing on how much Fitzpatrick plays today.

Jets Are Banged Up and Now Lose Darnold to Mono:

The New York Jets have already suffered a rash of injuries this season, Quincy Enunwa is out for the year with a neck injury. C.J. Moseley was forced to leave last week’s opener with a groin injury. RB Le’Veon Bell hurt his shoulder and had an MRI on it. But now they’ve lost QB Sam Darnold to mononucleosis, which is expected to keep him shelved indefinitely. And the schedule isn’t doing them any favors.

Trevor Siemian takes over for Darnold and faces a daunting schedule. The Jets play a Cleveland Browns team that was embarrassed last week on Monday Night Football, then head to Foxboro to take on the Patriots, followed by games against the Eagles, Cowboys, and then the Patriots again. That is a tough five-game stretch even if Darnold was in the lineup.

The Jets offensive line will also have to deal with a very less mobile QB than Darnold as Siemian can’t make plays outside the pocket as Darnold can. 

________________

“Yeah, Troy’s done a good job. You know, we have three rookie receivers, and Troy was in the same type of situation when he came. Obviously, that was in a different system, but he’s seen a lot of guys come through that. He did it himself, and I think he can help everybody – from the rookies, the guys who have never played before, to new players, to players who have played here a long time like Julian.” – Bill Belichick on the difference former Patriot Troy Brown has made helping coach the WRs.

________________

“So, how was your week?”

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

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

Patriots Players To Watch, Week 2 Against the Dolphins

Steve Balestrieri
September 13, 2019 at 12:02 pm ET

The Patriots have a game in the books against the Steelers and now head out on the road for the first time in 2019. Away games were the bane of the team in 2019, as the team went 3-5 away from Foxboro. This week they’re traveling to Miami which has been a non-stop bummer for the Patriots since the Dolphins entered the league in 1966.

Slow starts have plagued the team in September in recent years, with a win on Sunday against the Dolphins the Patriots have the chance to begin the season 2-0 and more importantly, win their first divisional game, with two more against the Jets and Bills to follow in the ensuing weeks. 

Here are our Patriots players to watch this week down in South Florida as the Patriots try to break out of the 1-5 slump they’ve had down there the past six visits. 

Sony Michel: 

Michel had an impressive summer and looked like the explosive Georgia version of himself during training camp and in limited reps in the preseason. We were excited to see what he could bring to the table against a very stout Pittsburgh front seven last week. But the Steelers ensured that Michel wasn’t going to beat him and keyed on him and the run when he was in the game. He ended up with only 14 yards on 15 carries.

The Dolphins struggled in run support last week and were gashed for 265 yards on the ground by the Ravens. We expect the Patriots to put some emphasis this week on establishing the run and to also open up play-action passes. 

We’re looking for Michel to get a lot of work early in this one to help spring the offense into high gear. The Patriots offensive line will be also looking to set the tone for this one early. Look for Michel to run behind some good holes in this one.

Phillip Dorsett:

Whenever we discuss the Patriots wide receivers, Dorsett is always kind of an afterthought. But Dorsett and the Patriots are fine if Miami forgets about him as well. He had a huge game on Sunday, catching all four passes thrown his way for 95 yards and two touchdowns of 25 and 58 yards from Tom Brady.

Dating back to last year, Dorsett has caught the last 20 passes thrown in his direction, 19 from Brady, and one from Brian Hoyer. The last time he was targeted and the pass was incomplete was the Miami game in Foxboro during Week 4 in 2018. So, while he doesn’t get targeted a lot when he is thrown to, he makes the catch.

This week should be more of the same, Brady and Josh McDaniels should have some plays where Dorsett is going to be the “forgotten man” by the defense and facing a backup corner. And he will be counted on to come thru. We’re looking for Brady to give Dorsett a few more looks this week in the passing game. It is never a bad idea to ride the hot hand.

Kyle Van Noy:

Van Noy missed last week’s game due to his wife giving birth to a child on Sunday. But it didn’t stop the Patriots’ linebacker to tweet out during the game as he was keeping an eye on the events that unfolded. Van Noy has been an absolute steal since coming over from Detroit. He’s arguably one of the biggest playmakers on the defense. 

The linebacker position is stacked this year with Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower, Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, and Ja’Whaun Bentley. So much so that Roberts, one of the Patriots’ team captains didn’t play a snap. 

Van Noy had a very good summer and was primed to begin the season exactly where he left off last year. After missing the Steelers game, he has to be chomping at the bit to get back on the field. Look for him to have a big impact on Sunday. 

Josh Gordon:

Gordon was/is a question mark heading into the 2019 season due to his repeated suspensions and his struggle to stay on the straight and narrow. Last week, many were questioning whether he’d be sharp as he was suspended from December until late August when he was reinstated. But he played well and chipped in with 73 yards receiving in Week 1, including a 44-yard bomb from Brady. 

If there is a silver lining to the circus surrounding anything and everything Antonio Brown it is that Gordon is now pushed onto a back burner by the media a bit. And he’s free to prepare for Miami without all of the scrutinies that he’d otherwise be subjected to.

Gordon is a tough matchup for the Dolphins, with his size, speed, and athleticism. I’d look for Xavien Howard to lineup opposite him and this should be an intriguing one to watch. Howard is easily Miami’s best cover corner and it promises to be entertaining.

Tom Brady: 

Ah yes, the GOAT. Although he owns a nice 22-11 record against the Dolphins, that number falls to 7-10 in Miami. Brady will no doubt be asked about it, if anyone, …ever decides to ask a football question again [do we detect a pattern here?] and we know Brady thrives on a challenge. 

Forget what happened last week against Baltimore…doesn’t matter. Pundits picking Miami to be the worst team in the NFL? He could care less. The way that game ended last year in Miami and for the Patriots to go home with a loss is a major factor with #12 and it has been festering since last December.

Look for Brady to come out just like this is a playoff game was laser intensity and focus. He’ll approach it as if Miami was trying to take his spot away from him. A big day awaits if they execute well enough.  

_________

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

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

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

PHOTO: Tom Brady “On to Miami”

Robert Alvarez
at 11:08 am ET

Despite numerous other stories surrounding the Patriots franchise this week, Quarterback Tom Brady is in regular season “laser focus” form.

On his Instagram Wednesday, Brady shared some images from Sunday’s win accompanied by a caption that read “On To Miami”.

View this post on Instagram

On to Miami.

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

Brady and his Patriots will head down to South Florida as heavy 18.5 point favorites.

Th spread marks the largest for a road team since the 2007 Patriots were also favored by 18.5 in a game against the Baltimore Ravens.

However since 2013, the Patriots have lost 5 of their last 6 games at Hard Rock Stadium.

In what remains one of the most perplexing stats of Brady’s career, he is 7-10 lifetime when playing in Miami, by far the most road losses against one team.

For perspective, Tom Brady has as many losses in Miami since 2013 (1-5) as he does at Gillette Stadium (50-5).

During his Wednesday press conference, Brady acknowledged the importance of an early season divisional win in a place the team has historically struggled.

“It’s a challenging place to play. I think it’s challenging when they come up here; I think it’s challenging when we go down there. It’s just, I think, dealing with a lot of different elements and showing mental toughness. Last year, I thought we played a pretty good game, but what coach reiterates is 60 minutes. In football, a lot of crazy things happen. You can’t assume that – you know, these guys are extremely skilled and they’re great players. So, we just can’t take our eye off of what the goal is, and that’s to play a great 60 minutes of football against a team that we’ve always struggled against there. It’s a division game on the road early in the season, so it means a lot. “

Patriots-Dolphins Week 2 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
September 12, 2019 at 7:50 am ET

The Patriots head out on the road for the first time in 2019 as they travel to South Florida, to take on the Miami Dolphins. The Patriots are looking to get off to a 2-0 start and put behind them the slow starts that have earmarked earlier seasons.

Miami has a new coaching staff in place with Brian Flores, the former de facto Defensive Coordinator for New England serving as their new head coach. He has taken several former New England assistants with him, including Chad O’Shea who is the Dolphins Offensive Coordinator. 

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, September 15 at 1:00 p.m. 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 (1-0) are coming off a convincing 33-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Tom Brady threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns.

The Dolphins (0-1) were shellacked 59-10 by the Baltimore Ravens where Miami’s defense was gashed for 623 yards [265 on the ground, 378 in the air]. 

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

Series History:

The Patriots and Dolphins have been playing each other since 1966. Miami holds the overall edge 55-52 with each team holding a huge edge in home games. Miami is 38-16 at home against New England while the Patriots are 36-17 all-time at home against the Dolphins. Bill Belichick’s record versus Miami with the Patriots is 24-14. In games in Miami, Tom Brady is 7-10, and the team is just 1-5 in their last six games there. 

The teams split last year’s contests with the Patriots blowing out Miami 38-7 at home and then losing 34-33 in December in the “Miracle in Miami” game.

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 New England

The Patriots running game didn’t have a great game last week, but it wasn’t all bad either. The team ended up with 99 yards on the ground against a very good Pittsburgh front seven. They’ll be looking to get Sony Michel untracked this week as he was bottled up against the Steelers last week. 

Miami was gashed badly by the Ravens in the opener to the tune of 265 yards and 5.8 yards per rushing attempt. They were overwhelmed at the point of attack and will be looking to do a much better job. They’ll need their big men up front, nose tackle Davon Godchaux, and ends John Jenkins and Christian Wilkins to be much better. If the Patriots big men in the middle, Ted Karras, Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason can get a push to the second level, the ground game will be successful. 

Look for plenty of the two-back sets with Michel, Rex Burkhead, and James White rotating in with James Develin leading the way. It will be interesting to see if the team activates Damien Harris this week, as he was removed from the injury report and having Brandon Bolden limited with a hamstring issue.

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

The Patriots passing game looked really good passing for 374 yards in the opener against the Steelers. Tom Brady was sharp and was getting everyone involved in the passing game. The pass protection against the top team in sacks from 2018 held up quite well. Isaiah Wynn shined in his first game but the team lost Marcus Cannon to a shoulder injury in the second half. His absence will be a place to watch this week. The team did sign veteran tackle Marshall Newhouse this week. 

The Dolphins pass defense was arguably more miserable than their run defense was last week. Lamar Jackson had a perfect passer rating and threw five touchdowns along with 324 yards passing. His backup RG III came in and was 6-6 for 55 yards with a touchdown. Ravens’ QBs were 23-26 for 378 yards with six TDs. The secondary has some good pieces there with Xavien Howard, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Reshad Jones, and Bobby McCain with a bunch of ex-Patriots, Eric Rowe, Johnson Bademosi, Jomal Wilz, and Ken Webster. 

The Patriots running game should open up play-action passing in this one. Seeing how the Dolphins choose to match up with Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, and Julian Edelman with White and Burkhead out of the backfield will be an interesting part of the chess match. Flores knows the Patriots weapons well and he’ll be trying to counter their moves. The pass rush for Miami is key here. If Brady has time to throw, he should light them up again. It is unknown right now whether Antonio Brown [on Wednesday evening] will play. It may depend on how much of the offense he can learn in practice this week.  

Next up the Miami offense:

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

The Dolphins rushing attack was put on the backburner early last week when they fell behind so far, so early. They have Kenyon Drake and Kalen Ballage toting the rock behind an offensive line with new pieces everywhere. 

Jesse Davis was moved to left tackle from the right side. Michael Dieter and Daniel Kilgore at LG and C respectively are the only carryovers. Right guard Danny Isadora and right tackle Julien Davenport are both new and started last week after coming to Miami after the initial 53-man cutdown. 

The Patriots front seven stuffed the Steelers rushing attack last week holding them to just 32 total yards. James Conner only gained 21 yards on 10 carries. The big men up front Danny Shelton, Lawrence Guy, and Michael Bennett held firm and allowed the linebackers to clean up. 

Although Drake has had success against the Patriots in the past, with this patchwork offensive line, it is tough to see Miami getting much going on the ground without them getting really creative here.  

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

Miami has surprisingly gone with veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick in the early going after they brought in second-year QB Josh Rosen earlier this year. Fitzpatrick has the capability to get really hot for a few games, as we’ve seen in the past, but overall he’s 2-9 in his career with the Bills and Jets against the Patriots. 

The skill players are good with DeVante Parker as their possession guy with Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant as their outside guys with speed to burn. Tight Mike Gesicki will be someone to watch. But this offensive line will decide this matchup. Can they hold up? 

The Patriots defense was outstanding against the Steelers, with the secondary of Stephon Gilmore, Jonathan Jones, and Jason McCourty taking away the outside threats. Look for Pat Chung to cover Gesicki and that will be a great matchup to watch. 

I look for the Patriots left side to attack Miami’s right side of the OL. Davenport who came over from the Texans in the Laremy Tunsil deal gave up 12 sacks, 65 QB pressures and committed 16 penalties last year. Look for the Patriots to bring their pressure attacking the right side. 

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots Stephen Gostkowski had a really solid game after an uneven preseason. He hit on all three extra points and all four field goal attempts. Jake Bailey hit one boomer and one dud last week. But his holds on the field goals were spot on, something they struggled with a bit in preseason. The coverage units were solid and Gunner Olszewski had a nice debut with punt returns of 20 and 15 yards. 

Miami’s Jason Sanders booted a 54-yard field goal last week in one of the few bright spots of that game. Punter Matt Haack averaged 53.7 yards per punt. Their return game didn’t net much on the day.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

Another year heading to the Patriots House of Horrors? New England is just 1-5 in their last six games in South Florida, including the past two. They always seem to save some of their worst football for games in South Florida. Can they turn that around and start the year off 2-0 and avoid the slow starts that have plagued the team in recent years?

Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:

Be Aggressive and Get After Fitzpatrick – Look for the Patriots defense to be aggressive and attack the Miami offensive line here, while they try to set the tone of this one from the outset. Fitzpatrick isn’t the most mobile of QBs and the OL hasn’t played together for very long. Show them different fronts [Amoeba look with one down lineman] bring pressure and try to generate some turnovers. 

Jamie Collins, Michael Bennett, and rookie Chase Winovich are the players to watch here. They don’t want to lay back and allow Fitzpatrick to get into a rhythm. This secondary has shown it can play blanket coverage across the field, take advantage of it and force the issue. 

Run the Ball to Open up Play Action: The Patriots running game is looking to get untracked this week and this is a perfect time and place to do so. Miami hasn’t sorted things out yet and the ground game can set the tone for this one early. Michel, Burkhead, and White should give them plenty of yardage to open things up in the passing game. With play-action, Brady will have more open room across the middle and allow him more time to hit Gordon and Dorsett on the perimeter. It will be interesting to see if they give rookie Jakobi Meyers more snaps this week. We’re not counting on Antonio Brown playing in this one, but we’ll have to see how that plays out. 

Put Them Down Early: The Patriots have had a bad habit of letting the Dolphins hang around in games down in Miami and those have come back to haunt them. Sunday, they need to come out firing and put the Dolphins in the rearview mirror early. The confidence can’t be high there right now after last week’s debacle. 

Bill Belichick needs to get the team coming out fired up like this is a playoff game and approach it in that way. A couple of quick scores early and have the Dolphins on their heels. They have done that at home against the Dolphins seemingly every game, it is time to do so down there.  

___________

So, a lot of Patriots fans and some media have been playing up the familiarity idea that the Dolphins’ coaches know the Patriots and their system and know exactly how to attack them. And they point, successfully at the Lions and Titans games from a year ago. And it is a valid point…to a degree. 

But this New England team is a better one than took the field last year, and this Dolphins team is frankly, one that is going to struggle to win 3-4 games in 2019. The only thing holding the Patriots back this week is themselves. They should establish dominance early in this one. There won’t be any miracles this time.  Patriots 42-13

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” tour moves back to New England next week to take on the Jets.

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

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

Best Of Social Media: Week 1 Steelers vs Patriots

Robert Alvarez
September 11, 2019 at 9:55 am ET

At long last the 2019 New England season opener arrived at Gillette Stadium on Sunday night.

From the sixth Super Bowl banner ceremony to in-game sights and sounds, check out all of the best social media postings from week one.

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LFG #Week1

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Showtime. #LFG

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https://www.instagram.com/p/B2KHbWDBgav/
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Game Day! #patsnation #darkside

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6 trophies. 6 abs. 1 dent.

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https://twitter.com/SNFonNBC/status/1170858641471225856?s=20

In the first quarter, Josh Gordon hauled in a 20 yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady for the first points of the season.

7-0 NE after one quarter of play.


In the second quarter a Stephen Gostkowski 25 yard Field Goal and a Phillip Dorsett 25 yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady gave the Patriots early separation from Pittsburgh. 17-0 New England.

A Stephen Gostkowski 41 yard field goal gave the Patriots a dominating 20-0 lead into halftime.

In the third quarter a Chris Boswell 19 yard field goal put Pittsburgh on the board, but that would be all they’d get on this night. 20-3 New England.

Phillip Dorsett found the end zone for a second time following a 58 yard bomb from Tom Brady that carved up the Steeler secondary. 27-3 New England.

A Stephen Gostkowski 35 yard field goal put the Patriots up 27 after three. 30-3 New England.

Things only continued to get worse for the Steelers in the fourth quarter.

https://twitter.com/espn/status/1170916198197923840?s=20

Another Stephen Gostkowski field goal extended the lead to 30 at 33-3.

https://twitter.com/ringer/status/1170897021542133760

With the game winding down Devin McCourty iced a dominating win with an interception.

The Patriots would walk away with another dominating win over the Steelers in Foxborough with a 33-3 final score.

The team will head to Miami to play the Dolphins next Sunday at 1:05 EST.

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Season premiere ✔️

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Sunday night vibes!!!! -Dmac

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Ayyyyy turn up @mccourtytwins #ontothenext

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Squadddd

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TheBeginning.

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W.

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Fun night. Good start. Much more to be done!

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forward.

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My goons!

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Patriots Week 1 Report Card, All Systems Go in Blowout Win Over the Steelers

Steve Balestrieri
September 9, 2019 at 11:47 am ET

  The Patriots didn’t show any effects of having a Super Bowl hangover, an aging roster, or facing the last team to beat them, the Pittsburgh Steelers on opening night. The Patriots dominated the Steelers again at home from start to finish in a very impressive win to kickstart the 2019 season.

They looked like a much better-prepared team than their opponents, who after beating the Patriots last December, were looking to erase a lot of bad history when they play the Patriots on the road. Ben Roethlisberger’s only win in Gillette came in 2008, against Matt Cassel as that was the year that Tom Brady blew out his knee in Week 1. 

The Patriots coaches put together a superb game plan and the players executed to near flawless perfection. This was a tremendous win to start the 2019 season, as we’re off and running.  

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

Quarterback: A

Tom Brady, was in midseason form last night as he methodically and surgically picked apart the Steelers’ defense as he’s done so many times in the past  Brady was sharp, slid well in the pocket and was able to manipulate the safeties with his eyes as the offense rolled up 465 yards of offense.

Brady finished 24-36 for 341 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He spread the ball around to a number of different receivers and backs, and Pittsburgh had no answers for. 

His best throw was a dime to Phillip Dorsett for a 25-yard touchdown that was perfectly placed down the seam. Later he Dorsett again for a 52-yard touchdown where the WR was all alone. Dave Brown from the Concord Monitor referenced the hot take artists with his call of “Brady’s macaroni elbow was supposed to be the downfall of this team.” That is classic!

Running Backs: A-

The Patriots running backs were pegged by us as a key component to beating the Steelers last night. We thought they’d have to run the ball effectively and factor out of the backfield into the passing game. They did just that. Running out of a heavy set early, they picked up a couple of first downs before spreading the defense out and picking them apart. 

James White and Rex Burkhead were both outstanding in this game, each combining for over 80+ yards on the ground and in the air. White had 5 catches for 56 yards and added 26 more on the ground. Burkhead also had five catches for 41 yards and he added 44 yards on the ground. The team also got Brandon Bolden involved early, the do-everything back had an early carry for seven yards. 

The only downside was that the team couldn’t get Sony Michel involved effectively. The Steelers made a concerted effort to make other backs beat them and Michel was frequently hit in the backfield. He had only 14 yards on 15 carries. 

Wide Receivers: A

Questions, questions, questions about this group before the game last night. Not a peep this morning. The starting trio of Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, and Josh Gordon was terrific last night. The trio combined for  13 catches and 251 yards with three touchdowns.

Combined with the game the backs had out of the backfield, Brady just spread the wealth around nearly equally and the Steelers had no answer. Phillip Dorsett had four catches for 95 yards with two touchdowns [25 and 52], while Gordon had just three catches but for 73 yards and a score. His 20-yarder shows how difficult he can be in the open field to take down and he and Brady combined for a 44-yard bomb later in the game.

Julian Edelman looked in mid-season form, doing the dirty work underneath and across the middle and being a pain in the backside to anyone trying to cover him. He’s virtually uncoverable at times off the line and showed zero signs of the thumb ailment. Edelman had six catches for 83 yards. He had one carry for eight yards. 

Jakobi Meyers played only a handful of snaps but had a nice 22-yard reception where he took a big hit, was able to hold onto the ball and get yards after contact. The Patriots perimeter receivers averaged 23.75 yards per reception last night. Dink and Dunk? And they played without Demaryius Thomas, Antonio Brown, and rookie N’Keal Harry. Let that sink in a second.

Tight Ends: B-

Rob Gronkowski is retired and everyone wants to know “Who replaces Gronk?” The short answer….the wide receivers and backs. James Develin and Ryan Izzo did a good job in the running game but they didn’t contribute much in the passing game. Izzo had one catch for three yards

They should receive a boost if Matt LaCosse is able to go in Miami but I wouldn’t expect bigger things from them until Ben Watson returns.

Offensive Line: A-

The offensive line was a big question mark coming into this game. Isaiah Wynn was playing in his first NFL game and Ted Karras was starting for David Andrews at center after the veteran went on IR. It is safe to say they aced their first test.

Facing a very good Steelers front seven that led the league in sacks a year ago, Brady was able to operate clean virtually the entire game. Overall, the pass protection was excellent. The run blocking was good but not great, but one should remember that Pittsburgh was the sixth-best team against the run last year. 

One thing to monitor is the status of Marcus Cannon who left the game with a shoulder injury and was seen with his arm in a sling. That could be a big loss if he’s out for an extended period of time.

Defensive Line: B

The defensive line was outstanding against the run, limiting the Steelers to just 32 yards on the ground. James Conner had just 21 yards on 10 carries. Jaylen Samuels had a pair of carries for four yards. Last year Samuels had 142 yards in the game at Pittsburgh. The linemen were holding at the point of attack and allowing the linebackers to make plays.

The only downside was the pass rush against that outstanding Steelers offensive line was negligible. The only sack by Deatrich Wise, where he stripped Roethlisberger of the ball was more of a coverage sack than anything else. But an overall very strong effort.

Linebackers: A-

The Patriots linebackers were excellent last night. They filled the gaps in the running game, got some QB pressure and covered the backs well out of the backfield. The defense allowed just 87 yards and four first downs in the first half. 

Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, and Ja’Whaun Bentley were never out of position and consistently disrupting plays. With the top receivers blanketed, Ben Roethlisberger was looking for his secondary targets, and the linebackers helped shut those down as well. 

The front seven was suffocating, Roethlisberger was 27-47 for 277 yards and one interception. Many of those yards came with garbage time drives. He simply had no where to go and no one to throw to.

And their arguably best playmaker, Kyle Van Noy was inactive as his wife was having a baby on Sunday night. Van Noy was watching, however, and tweeted out “How about that defense?!?!?!?!? Them boys hungraaaayyyyyy!! My guys!!!!”

Secondary: A

The secondary has been a source of tremendous optimism since the spring. And they had a fantastic game against a fast and potent Pittsburgh offense. This secondary was lights out and taking away everything the Steelers tried to do. 

Stephon Gilmore was tasked with shadowing JuJu Smith-Schuster and took him out of the game. Don’t be fooled by some meaningless catches long after the game was decided, Gilmore easily won this matchup. Jonathan Jones was terrific in the slot. Jason McCourty similarly was very solid except for one deep pass to James Washington where he inexplicably pulled up, which resulted in a 45-yard completion.

Pat Chung was outstanding and took Vance McDonald out of the equation as well as providing excellent run support down low in the box. Devin McCourty had the only interception of the game. 

Special Teams: A-

The Special Teams had a very solid night. Stephen Gostkowski was a perfect three for three on extra points and four for four on field goal attempts. No issues were detected on the holds for his kicks with new punter Jake Bailey which had been an issue during the preseason. Bailey had one booming punt, one short one and one so-so punt. 

Gunner Olszewski had two punt returns, one for 20 yards and the other for 15 and looks very solid in the return game. The coverage units were solid

Coaches: A

The Patriots coaching staff totally dominated the matchup with Mike Tomlin and his staff. Josh McDaniels had a tremendous game plan, going at times with “20 personnel” [2 RBs, 0 TEs, 3WRs] to make up for the loss of Gronkowski. He constantly kept the Steelers guessing and defensively the plan was to take away Smith-Schuster and make the Steelers beat them with other options. It worked to a tee.

Bill Belichick had the team excellently prepared and it was clear, the preparation on the Patriots side paid big dividends. We’re on to Miami.

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.

Win Over Steelers Proves Antonio Brown Needs the Patriots More than They Need Him

Ian Logue
at 10:15 am ET

One thing Antonio Brown hopefully realized Sunday night is that there’s a stark difference between where he’s been and how Tom Brady and Bill Belichick do things in Foxboro.

Even more importantly, he needs to stay humble and do what he’s told because Sunday night’s beating of his former team should be a clear reminder that the team he’s joining is already pretty solid without him.

The former Steelers receiver created plenty of noise over the past month thanks to his antics in Oakland, which played a large role in orchestrating his way to being released and creating this opportunity. That’s been the topic of discussion for much of the weekend and Sunday night’s beatdown of the Steelers further poked the hornets nest full of the critics outside New England who are frustrated that they’ve added the superstar receiver.

But things will be different here in New England for Brown, who has normally been a player with enough leverage to call the shots since he’s generally been arguably one of the few best players in his team’s respective locker rooms. Here in New England, he’s instead surrounded by guys who collectively are all terrific players, making him just a piece of another potential championship-caliber Patriots team. The mantra here has always been “next man up” and one thing we’ve learned over the years is even when some of the most talented players have fallen, this team continues on and for the most part, doesn’t miss a beat.

As a result, what Brown needs to realize is that he’s fortunate to be here and that he needs the Patriots far more than they need him.

Sunday night should have proven that. With a chance to make a statement on opening night and potentially come into Foxboro and take control of the AFC, Mike Tomlin and the Steelers were shell-shocked against a Patriots team that completely shut Pittsburgh down and probably left a few players in the Steelers’ locker room wishing they could join Brown here in New England.

It was embarrassing, including one of the most notable moments of the night where, trailing 20-3 to begin the third quarter, Tomlin saw Pittsburgh’s offense come up with a 45-yard play that put them in New England territory. From there, they managed to fight their way down to the Patriots one-yard line and appeared to potentially be on the verge of getting back into the game. But instead of trying to instill some confidence in his club, Tomlin cowered and opted to settle for a meaningless field goal.

The Patriots responded with Tom Brady dropping a bomb on Pittsburgh just four plays later, hitting Phillip Dorsett for a 58-yard touchdown which seemingly blew up whatever was left of the Steelers’ confidence and also shattered whatever reasoning Tomlin may have had for that call.

Reasons like that are why Brown is probably glad he’s finally on the right side of things. But Sunday night should also be a reminder that the machine in Foxboro is already running quite well. Brady finished this one completing 24-of-36 for 341-yards and 3 touchdowns, even without the prolific receiver.

For Brown, his one job will be to potentially make it run a little more efficiently since even despite the 33-3 margin, there were clearly some plays that Brady would likely love to have back that could have made this one even more lopsided.

Needless to say hopefully Brown knows he’s lucky to be here, not the other way around. If he can stick to that realization and play football the way he’s capable of in this offense, 2019 should be a productive year for him.

If he puts in the work and does what he’s told, he’ll fit in just fine and there won’t be an issue. If not, Sunday night should be a reminder that unlike Pittsburgh and Oakland, Brown is now on a train that is running strong and certainly won’t have any issue kicking him off and leaving him behind if he acts up.

Let’s hope, for his sake, that won’t be an issue and he’ll make the most of this opportunity.

6 Thoughts Following the Patriots Win Over the Steelers

Ian Logue
at 10:05 am ET

The Patriots got off to a solid start on Sunday night, making a statement in front of the home crowd after embarrassing the Steelers with a 33-3 win at Gillette Stadium. Here are some thoughts on the victory as New England gets off to a 1-0 start to begin the 2019 season.

1) With or without Antonio Brown, at 42-years old, Tom Brady certainly didn’t show any signs of a drop off to kickoff the season after putting together an impressive outing. Brady threw the football Sunday night about as good as we’ve ever seen him, hitting throws from pretty much every distance on the field, including two long bombs, one of which was an impressive 58-yard strike to Phillip Dorsett that delivered the knockout blow early in the 3rd quarter after it put the Patriots up 27-3. That came just 4-plays after the Steelers, trailing 20-3, fought their way down to New England’s one-yard line, only to settle for a field goal.

It was a nice start for Brady, who finished the night with over 300-yards passing, the 88th time in his career he’s reached that mark. He also completed passes to 7 different receivers. Needless to say, teams around the league should be concerned that New England is about to add Brown to an offense that put up over 30-points on opening night and only appears to be just getting started.

2) Given the amount of talent that Pittsburgh has offensively, you can’t say enough about how well New England’s defense played in this game. They were disruptive all night, getting pressure on Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and they also didn’t show any mercy with Pittsburgh’s ground game, holding the Steelers to just 2.5-yards per carry. But one of the most impressive stats of the night was the fact that they held the Steelers to just five carries of over 3-yards.

The tackling was one of the most impressive aspects of the game, with each of New England’s defensive players really doing a terrific job. There really wasn’t a play all night where a Patriots defender didn’t immediately wrap up and they made some big tackles in key moments, stopping the Steelers for either no gain or a loss on 3 plays, including twice on third down.

As good as the offense was, it was good to see such a terrific performance on that side of the football and one they’ll hopefully continue building on in the weeks to come.


Dorsett had a solid night for the Patriots.

3) Phillip Dorsett has been one of the most reliable receivers for Tom Brady in New England’s offense since he joined the team and Sunday night was another reminder of how valuable Dorsett is to this football team.

One of the interesting aspects for Dorsett is the fact that 2018 saw somewhat of a transformation in his targets, with the veteran receiver really improving on the perimeter part of his game. Prior to last season, one of the knocks on Dorsett was the fact he was often targeted by Brady primarily on deep attempts downfield, which didn’t see the two players have quite the success that they probably hoped for very often. However, Dorsett was used in a larger variety of routes last season, which ended up making him a much more dangerous target offensively.

To take it a step further, the precision in which Brady has found him has been pretty impressive. Brady was a perfect 4-of-4 targeting him last night for 95-yards, including two touchdowns. He’s actually got a solid streak with Dorsett which, not counting the postseason, started in last year’s outing against the Colts in Week 5. Brady finished last year’s regular-season 15-of-15 targeting Dorsett and last night’s performance extends their regular-season streak to 19-of-19.

Needless to say, in a stable of receivers that is pretty crowded at this point, Dorsett continues to make himself a valuable asset. Last night was another reminder of how far he’s come and it’s certainly been fun watching him evolve into such a lethal weapon for Brady and the offense.

4) One of the biggest things that stood out last night was the success the Patriots had on early downs, with Brady doing most of his damage on first down. Brady was 16-of-18 (89%) for 180-yards and two touchdowns against the Steelers’ defense on first down alone, which mixed things up and kept Pittsburgh off-balance.

Between the success Brady had, along with the fact they did a good job running the football, it made life difficult for a Steelers team that never really figured it out. It also left them vulnerable because it opened up opportunities for Brady to hit some deep plays, with the quarterback hitting on a combined five plays of 20+ yards on first and second down.

That success was one of the key reasons why they were able to take control of this one early and play the game on their terms as they got up early on Pittsburgh and never looked back.


Jason McCourty rebounded nicely after giving up a big play.

5) For the Patriots, the only real bad play of the night came on a 45-yard strike from Roethlisberger to receiver James Washington to begin the 3rd quarter. Trailing 20-3, the Steelers appeared to be on the verge of getting back into the game after Washington got behind cornerback Jason McCourty and pulled away, putting the Steelers at New England’s 18-yard line.

It was a frustrating play as McCourty wasn’t able to close on Washington and it appeared as though it could have been a costly miscue. Instead, after getting down to the one-yard line, New England’s defense kept the pressure on and forced Pittsburgh to settle for the field goal, ending the potential scoring threat.

Either way, credit McCourty for shaking it off because he came back and made a terrific play on the next snap against Donte Moncrief and it didn’t affect him the rest of the game. The veteran cornerback put it behind him and continued making plays, playing a key role in holding Moncrief to 3 receptions on a team-high 10 targets for Pittsburgh as the Patriots defense continued the relentless stranglehold they had on the Steelers’ offense.

6) There’s no way to finish this out without giving plenty of credit to Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who quietly finished with a terrific performance.

After a shaky preseason, which also included the transition to a new holder in new punter Jake Bailey, Gostkowski looked back to his old self Sunday night. The veteran went out and drilled all four of his field-goal attempts, hitting kicks of 25, 41, 35 and 39-yards respectively, accounting for 12 of the team’s 33-points.

There was never any doubt in any of his attempts, all of which hit right down the middle. It’s a nice start for a player who last season was a perfect 21/21 from 20-39 yards, with just two misses from 40-49 yards during the regular season, while hitting 2/5 from 50+. He also hit 4/5 during the postseason.

It was obvious in the preseason that working out the kinks was a focus and Sunday night was about as perfect as you could have asked for. In a game where their execution was pretty solid all the way around, Gostkowski certainly did his part in New England’s blowout win.

The Patriots will now spend the week getting ready to travel to Miami to take on the Dolphins next Sunday afternoon.

Patriots Drop Banner #6, Throttle Steelers 33-3, Observations

Steve Balestrieri
at 7:21 am ET

Saying the New England Patriots got off to a good start in 2019 is an understatement. The night began with the team unveiling its sixth Super Bowl banner and then absolutely dismantling the Pittsburgh Steelers by a 33-3 that was every bit as dominant as the score would indicate.

We entered the season just a few hours ago with questions about the offensive line, and how the offense would gel with a wide receiver core that didn’t get a lot of practice time with Tom Brady. Demaryius Thomas and Damien Harris sat this one out with injuries but the remaining cast members were outstanding as the Patriots rolled up 465 yards of offense. 

Isaiah Wynn and Ted Karras both handled their duties excellently as these two were under the microscope going against a very good Pittsburgh front seven that led the league in sacks a year ago. Karras’ shotgun snaps [as many commented on during the game] were fluttering to Brady and while it didn’t set back the offense a bit but it is something that will have to be worked on. 

With aggressive play-calling by Josh McDaniels, the Steelers were reeling almost from the outset and the receivers looked in mid-season form. Pittsburgh had no answer for the Patriots backs out of the backfield while Tom Brady absolutely picked them apart, something he’s done to Pittsburgh every time they’ve played in Foxboro.

Brady finished the night 24-36 for 341 yards with three touchdowns. 

The Patriots defense, which we’ve been excited about all summer long looked as dominant as hoped for. Pittsburgh was unable to mount any kind of sustained offense. Stephon Gilmore rendered the dangerous JuJu Smith-Schuster to an afterthought and forced Ben Roethlisberger to be constantly having to look at his second and third options. Pittsburgh’s ground game was held to just 32 yards, while the Steelers passing game piled up a bunch of garbage time yardage, they were frustrated all night long.

Other observations from tonight’s win include:

Josh McDaniels Play-calling – McDaniels had an aggressive game plan and the players executed it to near perfection. The Patriots ate the Steelers alive with quick throws, utilizing shallow crosses underneath which allowed the receivers to make yards after the catch. Pittsburgh beefed up the middle of their defense this year, but at least for tonight, they didn’t look like they were ready for the Patriots passing game. 

McDaniels dusted off the double pass from Julian Edelman to James White which had blockers out front and netted the team a huge 32-yard gain that set up the first touchdown. Whenever the Patriots spread the Steelers out, they were able to find open receivers all night long. 

Brady Razor Sharp – Rust? Is Father Time catching up? Not any time yet. Brady was methodical in his approach and surgical with his precision, something he’s done to Pittsburgh time and again in the friendly confines of Gillette Stadium. 

Brady’s best throw was a perfectly thrown ball right down the seam, a laser to Phillip Dorsett for a 25-yard touchdown. He put it in just the right place in a tight window for an easy score. Later in the second half, Brady uncorked a 52-yard strike to Dorsett for another easy touchdown when the deep safety blew the coverage and left the middle of the field wide open. With a national audience watching, Brady looked in vintage form. 

Phillip Dorsett – Speaking of Dorsett, he’s often the forgotten man among the Patriots offensive playmakers. But tonight, he made the Steelers remember his name. He had four catches for 95 yards including two TDs [25, 52], and was a thorn in the secondary’s backside considering how many other players they had to cover. 

The last 20 passes that Brady has attempted to Dorsett, dating back to last season have all been completions. Think about that for a second. 

Josh Gordon – The troubled but uber-talented wide receiver was reinstated by the league just a few weeks ago but he too appears in mid-season form. Gordon has had good success against Pittsburgh in the past and tonight was no exception. 

Gordon had three catches for 73 yards and included in that was a very impressive 20-yard touchdown where Gordon ran a crosser, broke tackles and powered his way into the end zone. Later, with the Patriots backed up in their own end, he and Brady connected with a 44-yard bomb right down the middle of the field. 

James White/Rex Burkhead – On a night where the Steelers front seven bottled up and rendered Sony Michel ineffective, White and Burkhead constantly gashed the Steelers in both the running and passing games. 

White had five catches for 56 yards and added 26 more on the ground in just four carries. Burkhead had 44 yards on eight carries and added five catches out of the backfield for 41 more. The versatility and the ability to spread the wealth around bodes very well for games down the road. 

The Secondary is Outstanding – We’ve been beating the drum for this secondary all summer and tonight was a prime example of how good this group can be. They picked right back up where they left off from the Super Bowl. After holding the Rams to just three points, that was all the Steelers’ offense could muster tonight. 

Stephon Gilmore neutralized Smith-Schuster all night long and on every big down, blanketed him like a glove forcing Ben Roethlisberger to look elsewhere. Smith-Schuster had a few catches in garbage time that made his numbers look better than the night he had overall.

Jonathan Jones, fresh off signing a long-term extension was brilliant in the slot, taking away the Steelers’ second options. He’s tough, physical and has excellent speed. Pat Chung was also outstanding, putting Vance McDonald, [someone we pegged as a possible safety blanket for Roethlisberger in our pregame] on a milk carton until the final drive of the game when he caught two meaningless passes. 

Julian Edelman – Hurt thumb? No worries here. Lost in all of the hoopla with the rest of the offensive weapons was the fact that Edelman was his normal uncoverable self tonight, doing all of the dirty work across the middle of the field. 

On the national broadcast, Chris Collinsworth called Edelman “fearless” as he knows he’s going to get tattooed with many of his catches. But it never stops him from completing his routes. With the offense spreading the wealth, Edelman had six catches [team high] for 83 yards. 

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The running game wasn’t as sharp as they had hoped, Michel had only 14 yards on 15 carries. They didn’t finish drives and had to settle for FGs. The pass rush didn’t generate much pressure on Roethlisberger [one sack]. So, the coaching staff will have plenty to pick apart in the film sessions to hammer home the point that they still have a long way to go. But it was a heckuva start.

Consider this, the offense looked as good as it did and they still didn’t have Demaryius Thomas, Damien Harris, and Antonio Brown, who signed with the team on Saturday…just in case you were on Mars over the weekend and hadn’t heard. 

Arguably their best playmaker on defense, Kyle Van Noy missed the game due to the birth of his child tonight [we hope everyone is fine], So, this wasn’t even a fully-loaded roster. 

The march to be “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door” began in earnest tonight and put the rest of the league on notice… the Patriots are back and don’t look like they’re going anywhere any time soon. 

We’re on to Miami.

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