Tag Archives: Trey Flowers

Music City Meltdown, Titans Thump Listless Patriots 34-10

Steve Balestrieri
November 11, 2018 at 6:11 pm ET

Pats Start Bye Week Early with a No-show

The New England Patriots needed to get out to a fast start this week against the Tennessee Titans and put the pressure on the offense which has struggled to throw the ball. That was our initial thoughts on the game but it was the Titans who whipped the Patriots from the opening kickoff until the final gun.

Tennessee dominated every phase of the game, offense, defense, special teams, and the Pats were left searching for answers as they head into the bye week at 7-3 after a really ugly 34-10 pasting by Mike Vrable and the Titans.

The handwriting was on the wall for this one right from the first play. The Patriots won the coin toss (the only matchup they’d win all day) and Tennessee promptly ran the kickoff back 58 yards to start the drive in Patriots territory. Things just got progressively worse from there.

Nothing was really working, Tennessee which came in averaging 16.8 points per game on offense, had 17 in the first 10 minutes of the game. So, rather than try to sugarcoat things or put a dress on a pig…here are our observations from this.

Brady is Struggling:

The game plan this week was to come out flinging it against a team that is really good at defending the pass. That’s the first clue that things were going to go awry. By the time they attempted a run, the Titans had already scored but they never gave the running game a chance and it showed in the output. The Patriots got 40 yards rushing….40 against a team, that although better lately is hardly stout. But I digress. Back to Brady.

How can you tell when Tom Brady is struggling? It is easy. He locks on to his primary target and forces the ball in there. And Brady is struggling right now. Granted the running game was awful, no Gronk and the offensive line resembled 2015 with constant shuffling, but this was bad.

Brady locked on to Julian Edelman who played a heckuva game (and took a worse beating) on 4th and 6. That was courtesy of Marcus Cannon who jumped on 4th and 1. Edelman was blanketed by Logan Ryan. James White was open and Chris Hogan was wide open after juking Malcolm Butler on a double move.

Brady was off all game and despite heavy pressure, had several throws go haywire when he had time to throw. He seemed to be shutting Hogan and Dorsett out. That isn’t good. Most of the passing yardage went to Edelman or Gordon. Edelman finished with 104 yards, while Gordon had four catches for 81 yards, but on 12 targets.

McDaniels Gives Butler A Pass:

Remember all of the pre-game talk of Butler being a sucker for the double move? The Patriots avoided Butler today for much of the game. Either they thought he’d morph into vintage Darrelle Revis this week, or they felt like he had too much help over the top. But they avoided him like he had the plague. Granted he didn’t play a ton, but when he was in the game, you would think he’d be the guy that they’d target, even in zone coverage.

Instead, they forced the ball all game long against Adoree Jackson and Ryan. We’ll have to go back and watch the tape again, but for Josh McDaniels to barely challenge Butler given the struggles he’s had was puzzling at best.

Hopefully, the answer will be inside the All-22 tape.

The Offensive Line  Was Constantly Shuffling and Awful:

Brady was under duress all game long, and Tennessee wasn’t exactly known as a big pass rush team. Shaq Mason was out, Marcus Cannon was in and out. Ted Karras got exposed a bit as did LaAdrian Waddle on Sunday. So with the pass blocking a negative, the run blocking was worse.

There was precious little running room against the Titans as the Pats barely averaged two yards a carry. Once Dwayne Allen got hurt, it made things worse. The only good runs were cut loose when James Develin would hit someone at the point of attack.

The Patriots never seemed to have a plan to run the football this week. And they didn’t.

Special Teams Play Was Abominable:

The STs units of Joe Judge have been uncharacteristically inconsistent this year. This was the worst they’ve looked overall in many years. How bad?

Tennessee started three drives in Patriots territory….in the first half. Stephen Gostkowski missed a 52-yarder wide left, the coverage units were awful and they did very little in the return game. The best starting field position for the Pats was the 35.

Shoddy tackling, blown assignments, and penalties….nope it can only go up from here.

Gilmore Lays an Egg:

Stephon Gilmore has been outstanding all season, since minicamp. But he was awful today, the Titans went after him with Corey Davis, and Davis totally dominated that matchup. Davis torched the Pats (and mostly Gilmore) all day long.

Gilmore got flagged twice for interference and was beaten cleanly for a touchdown. Obviously whatever malaise was infecting the other 45 players today, had an even bigger effect on the Patriots star corner. He had that kind of rough outing.

He was hardly alone, the defense was gashed by Marcus Mariota who constantly made very good throws. The Titans came in averaging 178 yards per game thru the air.

So with this kind of outing, the Pats chances of getting the top seed just took a huge blow. They limp into the bye week at 7-3 after not really ever showing up for this one. The coaches need to do a lot of self-scouting and having the team come out flat three times …all on the road this year is a coaching issue.

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 11-11, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, and a Happy Veterans Day to all our veterans. If you are reading this in English today, thank a veteran. Here is your Sunday Patriots news 11-11, & AFC East Notes.

Some Quick Hitters this morning… just a quick reminder that you can check out our key matchups to the game here as well as our players to watch here:

Orange shorts?  Apparently, Patriots players are pretty fond of their gray workout shorts. According to Mike Reiss, the players (as well as former players) were taking them all home, instead of leaving them at the facility. So, the team issued the players those ugly orange ones in an attempt to stop the stealing. The hot take artists on sports radio that always cry that “the Patriots are cheap” will have a field day with this one!

Did you Know? Since Tennessee beat New England in 2002, the Patriots have won all five regular-season matchups and two playoff games against the Titans. In those seven games, Tom Brady has thrown 16 TDs and one INT.

Did you Know Pt.2? With a win today, the Patriots will be .500 or better for the 18th straight year, moving past the Browns for second place all time. The Dallas Cowboys had 21 straight years of playing over .500 football from 1965-1985.

Road Warriors- since Robert Kraft purchased the team in 1994, the Patriots have the league’s best road record, by far at 123-73 with a winning pct of .629. The next best is the record belongs to Pittsburgh at 111-84-1.

“The Closer” Duron Harmon is tied with Harrison Smith of the Vikings with 10 interceptions in the fourth quarter of games since the 2013 NFL season. Richard Sherman is tops in the league with 11.

Dink and Dunk?:  With his 55-yard touchdown pass to Josh Gordon on Sunday night against the Packers, that gave Tom Brady 42 touchdown passes of 50 yards or more since 2001. Only Drew Brees has more with 43. Other notable names include Eli Manning with 39, Aaron Rodgers with 36, and Peyton Manning and Tony Romo both with 35 TDs of 50 or more yards.

Heating Up in the Colder Weather:  Since 2001, the Patriots are 101-29 with a winning percentage of .784 on or after Thanksgiving. That is the best in the NFL. Under Bill Belichick, Patriots teams always seem to get better as the season rolls along.

Melifonwu Signing Was Looking Toward the Future :

When the Patriots signed Obi Melifonwu, they didn’t just have the stretch run of 2018 in mind. The big (6’4, 225) uber-athletic safety wowed the crowd at the 2017 NFL Combine but a series of injuries and misuse in Oakland ended his tenure there after only a little more than a year.

The Patriots scouted him in college and visited with him prior to the draft. How will the team use him? Bill Belichick said that it is still up in the air. They’ll no doubt try him in practice in a bunch of roles….deep safety, in the box safety, big nickel linebacker and see where his strengths lie. With his size, speed, and athleticism he may be perfect for helping out with opposing tight ends.

But he signed a two-year deal. It is just like Belichick and the Patriots to lock down an intriguing player with next year in mind. With both Pat Chung and Devin McCourty getting older, they may be giving Melifonwu the opportunity to carve out a future role for himself with the team. With just a couple of days of practice, I wouldn’t expect him to be active today. But it will be interesting to see a hometown boy suit up for the Patriots.

The key for Melifonwu is obviously staying healthy and on the field. Hopefully, his injury bug has been left behind in Oakland. He’ll have to learn the defense and find a role for himself. We should see him play some against the Jets after the bye week.

Titans Week Means More Malcolm Butler SB Discussion:

If there was anything that I think we’ve all heard enough of in the last nine months was the decision by Bill Belichick to bench Malcolm Butler in the Super Bowl. It has been played out ad nauseam since February but with the Patriots-Titans meeting this afternoon, it has taken on a new life.

The bottom line, Belichick did what he thought was in the best interest for the team to win. Even Butler has admitted his performance and focus was off prior to the Super Bowl. Belichick made a similar move in the 2014 Super Bowl, benching Logan Ryan and putting in an undrafted rookie (Butler) who barely played during the regular season.

The situation last year got to Butler, who felt the Patriots should have paid him and not Stephon Gilmore the big contract. It affected his play all season as he tried to do too much, trying to play his way into a big money deal. This nightmarish season has been the opposite. Butler got paid but is now trying to justify his deal on every snap, again overplaying things and getting caught by double moves, forgetting how he got here in the first place.

Mike Vrable and the Titans’ coaching staff just need to get Butler back to his fundamentals, which are much better than what he’s been showing this season. He’ll get it figured out. But enough with the Super Bowl already.

Who You Have This Week? NFL Week 8 Predictions:

Last week: 10-3 Season 89-43-2 Bye Week: Ravens, Broncos, Texans, Vikings

Thursday night’s pick  Carolina over Pittsburgh 0-1 (yikes)

New Orleans at Cincinnati: Saints
Atlanta at Cleveland: Falcons
Detroit at Chicago: Bears
Arizona at Kansas City: Chiefs
New England at Tennessee: Patriots
Washington at Tampa Bay: Redskins
Buffalo at NY Jets: Jets
Jacksonville at Indianapolis: Jaguars
LA Chargers at Oakland: Chargers
Seattle at LA Rams: Rams
Miami at Green Bay: Packers
Dallas at Philadelphia (SNF): Eagles
NY Giants at San Francisco (MNF): 49ers

Thursday Early Pick: Seahawks over Packers

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills To Start Matt Barkley Over Peterman:

The Buffalo Bills seem to be making a statement about the future of QB Nathan Peterman by giving the start on Sunday against the Jets to Matt Barkley. Barkley was signed by Buffalo on October 31. Rookie QB Josh Allen is still out with an elbow injury and Derek Anderson is still out with a concussion.

Peterman has been a turnover machine in his brief time with the Bills. He’s thrown 12 interceptions in just 130 passes attempted for an interception percentage of 9.2 against just 3 touchdowns.

Barkley becomes the fourth Bills starting QB in just the past five games. Bills coach Sean McDermott said on Monday that if neither Allen or Anderson could go, that Peterman would get the nod. Now, he’s changed his mind. So either he had a bad week of practice or decided that his team, already offensively challenged, can ill-afford any more turnovers. Barkley has hardly lit the world on fire either. In six career starts, he’s thrown 8 TDs and 14 INTs.

Dolphins Offensive Line, Beat Up Before Packers Game:

The Miami Dolphins know that they’ll need a big effort from the entire team to beat a Green Bay Packers team desperate for a win after losing two in a row on the road. But protecting Brock Osweiler the Miami offensive line may have only one starter who was on the field in Week 1.

Tackles Laremy Tunsil and Ju’Wuan James are both dealing with knee injuries this week. Both will be game-time decisions on whether or not they’ll play. Ted Larsen, who replaced starting left guard Josh Sitton (IR), is dealing with a neck injury and is listed as doubtful for today’s game. Starting center Daniel Kilgore is on IR. That leaves only right guard Jesse Davis as the lone Week 1 starter that may play this week.

They won’t know until 90 minutes before kickoff where they are at health-wise, but it obviously isn’t the way you want to be preparing for the Packers on the road. Which will put even more pressure on a Dolphins defense that needs to really step up their play this week.

McCown Gets the Nod This Week For the Jets:

The New York Jets take on the Buffalo Bills today and veteran Josh McCown will get his first start of the season at quarterback for Gang Green. Rookie Sam Darnold has a sprained foot and probably won’t even be active this week. The Jets activated QB Davis Webb from the practice squad as the emergency backup.

It has been feast or famine for the Jets who are entering the game at 3-6. In their three wins, including opening night, they’ve scored 34 points or more. In their six losses, they’ve scored less than 17 points including just 33 in the last three weeks combined.

The Jets offense is dealing with a dearth of playmakers, an inconsistent rookie quarterback (which is expected) and a shaky offensive line. With the running game stuck in neutral, the passing game is having to carry the show and thus far they are 0-5 if Darnold attempts more than 30 passes in a game. This will be a good game for McCown to come in and see what he can do with the offense.

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.

Players To Watch Patriots-Titans Week 10

Steve Balestrieri
November 10, 2018 at 6:45 am ET

Big Game Before the Bye

The New England Patriots head down to Nashville to take on the Tennessee Titans on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. If it seems rare to have a Sunday afternoon game, it has been. The Patriots have played four of their last five games in primetime, something Bill Belichick mentioned and remarked he was glad to be finished with.

The Titans are 4-4 and are an intriguing matchup. What immediately jumps off the page is the former Patriots on the other side. With Head coach Mike Vrable, Logan Ryan, Dion Lewis, and Malcolm Butler, there are plenty of familiar faces there.

Tennessee isn’t a prolific scoring team. They are big on both sides of the line. Their game is to keep things close and get into a smash-mouth four quarters football game. Obviously with a team ranked #30 in passing yardage, the Patriots want to get out to an early lead and force them into playing catchup.

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

Sony Michel:

The Patriots first round draft pick is said to be playing this week. If he does and is healthy, he’ll give the Patriots a huge boost offensively as when he’s been on top of his game, he gives them the balance that makes them very hard to stop.

Tennessee’s run defense was poor early in the year but has improved recently. They held Ezekial Elliott to just 61 yards rushing on Monday night. But with the weapons the Patriots and Tom Brady have in the passing game, they can’t overload the box and dare them to throw.

Michel just prior to getting hurt against the Bears was really getting into a groove. We’ll have to see if there is a rust factor after missing more than two and a half games this week. But I’d expect the Patriots to use him early in this one to try to set the tone.

Trey Flowers:

The Patriots very versatile and talented defensive lineman had another standout game last week versus Green Bay. The Patriots kicked him inside to bring extra pressure on Aaron Rodgers. He was outstanding and has really elevated his game the past few weeks. He’s heating up at just the right time.

This week, they’re facing another mobile quarterback in Marcus Mariota, someone Belichick said this week is more mobile than anyone they’ve faced this season. While that may be a bit of a stretch, Mariota can definitely make plays with his feet. So, not only will the Patriots be looking to pressure Mariota but to contain him in the pocket as well.

This will be an interesting matchup, Flowers is heating up and facing an OL that has allowed 26 sacks on the season. If the Pats can force the Titans into being one-dimensional, it will allow Flowers and other edge players to be a bit more aggressive in their pursuit.

Josh Gordon:

The Patriots will be facing two of their former corners this week in Ryan and Butler and everyone is assuming Gordon will operate opposite of Butler this week. I actually believe it may be Ryan, but regardless, whoever it is, will have some help over the top and will have their hands full taking on the big and talented Pats wide receiver.

Gordon right now is just beginning to get healthy, he’s been bothered by a bad hamstring since he was in Cleveland. He was removed from the injury report and like Flowers, he’s getting hot at precisely the right time. He had his biggest game as a Patriots last week and the Patriots will be looking to get him involved and test their deep part of the field this week. If it is against Butler, look for the Titans to give him help over the top.

If he’s facing Ryan, look for a couple of jump balls down the sidelines. Brady and the Patriots remember the Super Bowl against Seattle where he had issues defending those and was replaced…by Butler. Familiarity works both ways.

Kyle Van Noy:

The linebacker who is so valuable (and so unpopular for some strange reason with one Boston radio station) has been also elevating his game of late and is one of the Pats most versatile defenders.

Van Noy does just about everything well and is very versatile. With a 1-2 punch of Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis at running back, the key for Tennessee is to get Lewis in space where he’s always been so elusive. It will be up to Van Noy to see that doesn’t happen this week.

Look for Brian Flores to use Van Noy to mirror Mariota this week and possibly use him for some A-Gap blitzes to force some mistakes in the passing game. This will be a big week for the defense that has been much better of late and will be looking to continue the trend.

Julian Edelman:

The Patriots slot receiver had a fantastic game against the Packers, (71 yards receiving, 28 yards rushing, 37 yards passing) and is one of Brady’s most trusted receivers. He’ll probably face the Titans talented corner Adoree Jackson this week and that promises to be a great matchup to watch.

With Rob Gronkowski’s status in doubt, (we don’t think he’ll play this week), the Patriots will use Edelman to do the dirty work underneath along with James White to keep the chains moving. Pound-for-pound, Edelman is one of the toughest players on the Patriots and he’ll be looked to a lot in this one to set the tone against a tough, defense that is #1 in points allowed and #1 in the red zone.

We’re looking for those rub routes and shallow crossers to target the linebackers and getting them to move off the spot this week.

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

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

Patriots-Titans Week 10, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
November 9, 2018 at 7:00 am ET

The New England Patriots head back out on the road and are going down to Music City as they take on the Tennessee Titans on Sunday afternoon for a rare 1:00 p.m. start time. A win this week before the team’s bye week would ensure that the Patriots would finish with a .500 record or better for an 18th straight season.

A win would give the team seven wins in a row heading into their bye week and keep them firmly entrenched into the #2 spot in the AFC a game behind Kansas City, but the Patriots own the tiebreaker. Tom Brady is only 3 TD passes shy of Peyton Manning’s record of 579 (regular season and playoffs). Manning owns the record in the regular season with 539, Brett Favre is next with 508, Brady has 505.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS 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 (7-2) defeated the Packers on Sunday Night Football 31-17. Tom Brady threw for 294 yards and was a perfect 6-6 in the 4th quarter for 104 yards and a touchdown while holding Aaron Rodgers to 2-7 for 15 yards. The Patriots outscored the Packers 14-0 in the final stanza for the win.

The Titans (4-4) defeated the Dallas Cowboys 28-14 ending a three-game skid. But it didn’t start off well, Tennessee turned the ball over the first two times they possessed it in the game but in the end, they easily bested a poor Dallas team. Marcus Mariota led the Titans to their highest output of the season, points wise.

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

Series History:

The Patriots and the Titans history go back to the beginnings of the old AFL when the Titans were the Houston Oilers. But the Patriots have had the better of the matchups overall with a 25-16-1 record dating back to the early ‘60s. New England has won the last seven games between the two teams including a divisional playoff game last year in Foxboro 35-14 and the last time the two teams met in Nashville 34-13 on opening day in 2012.

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 Titans Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game is expected to get back Sony Michel this week which will be a huge boost. But despite missing the rookie, the Pats received a shot in the arm by WR Cordarrelle Patterson filling in ably using his speed to his advantage. James White and Kenjon Barner have also been active.

The Titans have been much better against the run in recent weeks after having issues earlier in the season. On Monday night they held Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott to just 61 yards while the Cowboys averaged just 3.8 yards per rush.

Look for the Patriots to mix it up to keep the defense guessing and not able to pin their ears back. The key obviously is having Michel back and healthy for this one. The Titans have been much better lately against the run, but having an offense as diverse as the Patriots will present some problems. Look for Michel, White, and Patterson too to have a solid day running the ball between the tackles.

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

The Patriots passing game has been getting better despite missing Rob Gronkowski and Michel in recent weeks. They’ve had to get a bit more creative about spreading the ball around. Josh Gordon and Julian Edelman have stepped up and each had big games against the Packers. Edelman had 71 yards receiving, 28 yards rushing and 37 yards passing, while Gordon had 130 yards including a 55-yard touchdown.

The Titans have the #1 scoring defense in the NFL allowing just 17.6 points per game. They also have the #8 pass defense allowing just 226.2 yards per game. The Titans sacked Dak Prescott five times on Monday night and picked him off. They have former Pats Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan on the outside with Adoree Jackson at the nickel or slot corner, with Kevin Byard and Kenny Vaccaro at safety.

We don’t expect to see Gronkowski again this week as they’ll give him an extra week before the bye to get healthy for the stretch run. Edelman and Jackson will likely be paired off, while Gordon will likely match up against Ryan. That leaves Chris Hogan/Phillip Dorsett against Butler outside. As always, the “X-Factor” is White out of the backfield. Until last week, the Titans had troubles getting after the QB with just 15 sacks. If Brady gets time to throw, as good as this defense has been, NE will be successful. Look for the Pats to spread them out and pick their way down the field.

Next up the Tennessee offense:

Titans RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Tennessee

The Tennessee running game has a pair of talented backs with big Derrick Henry and the elusive Dion Lewis but it hasn’t translated into the success that they envisioned this season. Henry averages just 3.3 yards per rush while Lewis is averaging just 3.7. Overall the Titans are averaging 3.9 yards per rush with QB Marcus Mariota bumping up that number with 217 yards rushing.

The Patriots have been much better against the run in recent weeks being able to slow down the opponents’ best rushing weapons. However, last week, they went to a much lighter package up front, basically daring Green Bay to run to help with the pass rush on Aaron Rodgers. Don’t expect that to continue this week.

Look for old pal Dion Lewis to give the Patriots some issues this week. He had a pretty solid game against the Cowboys last week and with the chance to show something against his former team, he’ll be very motivated. The NE defense has been good at setting the edge lately, but I’m looking for Lewis to have a good day inside.

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

The Titans passing game has been mired in neutral for much of the year, averaging just 178.2 yards per game. Mariota has been completing 67 percent of his passes but has just 1270 yards on the season with 5 TDs and 5 INTs. His biggest targets have been Corey Davis and Lewis out of the backfield. Tennessee quarterbacks have been sacked 26 times this season. Mariota was outstanding on Monday night in Dallas, spreading the ball around to nine different receivers and his ability to throw to a spot on the field well before his receivers were cutting was very impressive.

The Patriots secondary has been improving each week and held Aaron Rodgers to 259 yards and 17 points a week ago. They’ll be looking to continue that trend by forcing Mariota into obvious passing situations and bringing some pressure on him. Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn have stepped up their games in recent weeks and look for that trend to continue.

One way to get the 30th ranked passing game into sync is throwing the ball more early on downs and that is what I’d expect Tennessee to do. Look for Mariota to target Lewis out of the backfield and on screens early. And although their tight ends (Luke Stocker, Jonnu Smith) have combined for just 15 catches, I expect Mariota to try to get them involved early and often. The Patriots front seven will have to be aware of Mariota’s scrambling ability and try to keep him contained in the pocket.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots special teams were excellent on Sunday night. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski and Ryan Allen always give them outstanding production in the kicking game. Cordarrelle Patterson had two solid returns a week ago and the return game is beginning to look more and more dangerous if teams opt to not boot it out of the end zone. The coverage units have been inconsistent but the team just added STs ace, Albert McClellan

The Titans counter with Ryan Succop and Brett Kern (47.1 average), they also use Darius Jennings on kick returns and he has a 94-yard touchdown this season but have also allowed a 102-yard return.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This should prove to be a very interesting matchup. Mike Vrable will be the first former player of Bill Belichick’s to face his as a head coach. There is a lot of familiarity in the Tennessee locker room with Butler, Ryan, Lewis, and Vrable. How much that plays into this week, will remain to be seen.

Butler is the strange case here. Last year he wasn’t good as he was trying to overplay everything in trying to win a big contract. After the Titans paid him big money, he’s been worse this season as he’s now overplaying everything in trying to justify his money. Vrable will have to get to him to remind him to just play in the manner that got him here. But I would expect Brady to test him with double moves this week. You think Vrable will give him help this week? You betcha.

Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective this week:

Start Fast: Last week was a big win for the team, it was obvious in the pregame and post-game reactions by both players and coaches. They can’t allow themselves to let down now. Getting off quickly is a must against Tennessee. They are tied for 29th in scoring with just 16.8 points per game. They aren’t built to play from behind.

Force Tennessee into Passing Situations: The Titans are #30 in passing. They don’t have the type of passing game that can afford to get into a shootout with Tom Brady. If the Patriots can keep the pressure on them to score and do it thru the air, it is a win-win for the visiting team.

NE Must Win on Third Down/Red Zone: The Titans are the #1 defense in the red zone in the NFL. The Pats can’t be kicking a bunch of FGs and allowing the Titans to hang around late in the game. They’ll have to find ways to convert this week, especially if they don’t have Gronkowski, who always draws a lot of attention there.

Look for Josh Gordon to continue his hot streak with Tom Brady. He may not have eye-popping numbers but we expect him to put in another solid effort this week. White and Michel will be key for the Patriots to pull out a road win by contributing both on the ground and in the air. Trey Flowers figures prominently again this week.

New England enters the bye week with a hard-fought, tough road win.  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.

Best Of Social Media: Week 9 Packers vs Patriots

Robert Alvarez
November 7, 2018 at 11:04 pm ET

For just the second time ever, Tom Brady and Aaron Rogers were set to square off at Gillette Stadium on Sunday night.

The Patriots came into the prime time match up at 6-2 and were seeking their sixth consecutive victory.

View this post on Instagram

Showtime

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

View this post on Instagram

Sunday night fight. #LFG #GameDay

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/BpxpYe8BIhH/?utm_source=ig_twitter_share&igshid=1ohpzshaahaak

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bpw4Nt1A7jL/

Before the game, the Patriots welcomed the World Series champion Boston Red Sox into Foxborough for a special pregame ceremony on a duck boat.

https://twitter.com/ac13alex/status/1059115750449995776

https://www.instagram.com/p/BpyBVnQnSgS/

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bpz_Z1cnHM9/

The Patriots opened the games scoring first as running back James White continued his hot streak with an eight yard touchdown run for an early 7-0 lead.

A Mason Crosby 29 yard field goal cut the deficit to four after one quarter of play.

In the second, the Patriots offense put together two straight highlight reel plays but could only come away with a field goal by Stephen Gostkowski from 28 yards out. 10-3 Patriots.

Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams responded with four minutes to go in the half to tie the game at 10.

The tie didn’t last long, as wide receiver turned running back Cordarrelle Patterson found the end zone just before halftime. 17-10 Patriots heading into the break.

https://twitter.com/BleacherReport/status/1059276021973770241

In the third quarter, the Packers again responded with a game tying touchdown. This time Rodgers found tight end Jimmy Graham from 15 yards out to knot the game at 17 after three quarters.

https://twitter.com/SNFonNBC/status/1059284019161063424

In what became a recurring trend on this night, the Patriots defense made big plays when needed most.

Looking to regain the lead, the Patriots pulled off a some more trickery to keep the Packer defense off balance.

https://twitter.com/patspulpit/status/1059599241830522880

The Flea Flicker by Brady and Edelman setup James White for his second touchdown of the game and a Patriots lead they wouldn’t relinquish again. 24-17 New England with 10 to play.

Nursing a seven point lead, the Patriots defense stepped up yet again, as Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn shut down the cheese offense.

Getting the ball back with seven minutes to play, Brady found Josh Gordon deep to put the game away, a 55 yard touchdown reception and a 31-17 victory, their sixth in a row.

https://twitter.com/thecheckdown/status/1059300772024700931

https://www.instagram.com/p/BpzoPgdBnzI/

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bp0yJ9DhbZL/

https://twitter.com/BleacherReport/status/1059304827631558657

View this post on Instagram

GREATNESS.

A post shared by New England Patriots (@patriots) on

https://twitter.com/LG_Blount/status/1059303421075963904

View this post on Instagram

Hey Tom. Good game. #12 #also12

A post shared by Brock Holt (@brock_holt) on

View this post on Instagram

LET’S GOOOO.

A post shared by New England Patriots (@patriots) on

View this post on Instagram

#ForTheGram

A post shared by New England Patriots (@patriots) on

https://twitter.com/985TheSportsHub/status/1059300658237583361

View this post on Instagram

W

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

View this post on Instagram

No one’s catching the ⚡️! #PatsDub

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

View this post on Instagram

Naw son

A post shared by Patrick Chung (@23patrickchung) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bp0KhaehJlq/

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bp0GPbqlIm2/

 

Patriots  Week 9 Report Card, New England Downs Green Bay 31-17

Steve Balestrieri
November 6, 2018 at 6:46 am ET

The Patriots won their sixth game in a row and in impressive fashion defensively downing Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers 31-17. The win, while not quite as big as the one over Kansas City was a big one nevertheless, given the pregame hype that was dropped on this.  

Missing three of their key players on the offensive side of the ball, the Patriots defense rose up to play their best game of the year, holding the Packers to their season low in points and making Rodgers and the explosive Packers to earn everything they got.

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

Quarterback: B

Tom Brady, despite missing Rob Gronkowski, Sony Michel and RG Shaq Mason on offense, and going thru a rough stretch in the third quarter still managed to put up 31 points on offense which should not be forgotten.

After struggling thru the third quarter and with the game on the line, Brady delivered and led the Patriots on two huge drives to get the winning touchdown and then put it away. Facing a 3rd and 7, he whistled a nice 17-yard pass to Phillip Dorsett that got the drive going. It finished up with the James White touchdown to take a 24-17 lead.

On the 55-yard touchdown pass to Josh Gordon, Brady expertly baited the young Packers corners, by staring down Julian Edelman, who waved for the ball. The corners bit and then Brady lasered a pass over their heads to Gordon who was wide open. Once he made the one player miss, it was an easy touchdown reception.

Rather than downplay the meeting of two HOF QBs this week, both Brady and Rodgers embraced it and engaged in a mutual admiration game where it is clear that they both greatly respect one another. Much to the chagrin of the national “Brady may be done” crowd, he outperformed Rodgers going 22-35 for 294 yards, with 1TD for a 99 QB rating.

Running Backs: B+

James White was injured in the 2nd quarter of the game and for a few minutes, all of New England was holding their collective breath. He had 31 yards on the ground and caught 6 passes for 72 yards and after the game seemed fine meeting with the media in the locker room, something the Patriots normally don’t allow if a player is hurt.

Cordarrelle Patterson had another solid game, the wide receiver is filling in for Sony Michel while he’s injured and showcased his tremendous speed while bursting off the line and contributing 61 yards. He scored a touchdown after ripping of a number of impressive runs on a drive where he appeared to be shot out of a cannon. He’s embraced his chance to help out the team and again deserves high marks.

Kenjon Barner had just one carry but on a blitz pickup, he’s sure to get praise from Brady when he leveled Clay Matthews who was coming straight up the A-Gap.

Wide Receivers: A-

The wide receivers had a solid night overall but were led by Josh Gordon. Gordon has given the offense the player that can go high and catch those jump balls that they’ve lacked. He high-pointed a 29-yarder over Bashaud Breeland down the sideline in the first half that was a beauty. He had another that was ruled out of bounds but was one on second glance that the Patriots should have challenged.

In our pregame matchups this week we wrote that this game was tailor-made for Julian Edelman. And we hit the nail right on the head for that one. Edelman caught six passes for 71 yards, he added 28 more on two very well disguised Jet sweeps. And then he dusted off his old Kent State throwing arm and completed a double pass to James White for 37 yards. Simply outstanding all-around effort.

Phillip Dorsett had that huge drive starter for 17 yards with the score tied in the fourth quarter. Chris Hogan wasn’t a big part of the game plan this week.

Tight Ends: B

Rob Gronkowski was out this week with ankle and back injuries and Dwayne Allen was the lone Patriots tight end…again. His value is mainly as a blocker and he’s very good at that and he once again proved his worth there. But on Sunday night, he chipped in with a big 21-yard reception on a pass down the right sideline. That bumped his grade up a bit.

Offensive Line: B

The offensive line had a nice comeback night after their down week in Buffalo. With both teams daring the other to run, the Patriot offensive line was able to open some holes against the Packers defense. They ran for 123 yards without Michel and utilizing a true ground game committee.  

The pass protection overall was very good, but they did have their lapses in communication with Ted Karras in there that allowed two sacks.

Defensive Line: A

The defensive line was immense in this one. Despite the fact that the Patriots blitzed very little, they pressured Aaron Rodgers on nearly 50 percent of his throws Sunday night. The coaches moved Trey Flowers inside and he wreaked havoc all night long. Don’t be swayed by the fact that they only had one sack. The pass rush in this one was consistent and effective all night long.

Flowers was everywhere, he topped off his best game of the year last week with an even better one against the Packers. He and Adrian Clayborn combined for a sack, but the overall play of the defensive line was outstanding. Danny Shelton and Malcolm Brown barely played as they went lighter with Adam Butler and Flowers inside trying to create some interior pressure.

With going lighter, they dared the Packers to run and they did …to a degree. But Lawrence Guy provided the turning point of the game with a forced fumble on Aaron Jones which Stephon Gilmore recovered.

Linebackers: B+

The Patriots linebackers initially looked like they were going to be targeted in the passing game, but either thru the coaching of the Packers or solid play, they never became a factor at all. The linebackers were good in run support despite the lighter fronts they were running. But where they truly excelled was in keeping Rodgers in the pocket and not allowing him to scramble for yards.

The containment (which we always harp on) was outstanding. Rodgers ran four times for just eight yards. And when he did attempt to scramble they were contesting everything. The entire front seven made it a very long uncomfortable game for Rodgers.

Secondary: A-

The secondary had another strong game against a much, much better group of receivers than they faced in Buffalo a week ago. Stephon Gilmore goes to the head of the class. He was squared up with Davante Adams for much of this game and shut him down. Against Gilmore, Adams had 2 catches for 15 yards. Overall he finished with six catches for 40 yards after having over 400 combined yards in his previous three games.

The used the defensive backs to blitz a few times and once it worked perfectly with Devin McCourty forcing Rodgers to unload a wildly inaccurate pass. But the other time, Rodgers recognized Duron Harmon coming, it was picked up and he rifled a 51-yard pass to the blistering fast Marquez Valdes-Scantling who beat Jason McCourty off the line.

Pat Chung had some issues with Jimmy Graham but on the touchdown pass, it was one of those plays where the DL didn’t get any pressure and Rodgers had time to wait for Graham to run down the right side and then cut all the way across the field where he got separation in the left corner of the end zone. With Adams pretty much a non-factor and Graham held to just 51 yards, this was the kind of effort the secondary has been looking for.

Special Teams: A-

The Special Teams also made a huge comeback this week. Stephen Gostkowski was automatic …as usual. Ryan Allen, despite only punting a couple of times had an outstanding game, pinning the Packers twice inside their 20-yard line. He averaged 49.6 yards per punt. The coverage units were much improved.

Cordarrelle Patterson had two solid kickoff returns of 36 and 28 yards to go along with his running back duties.

Coaches: A-

The Patriots coaching staff aced this test. With the national media in the excuse making department for  Rodgers after he failed to get the better of Brady, they pointed to the coaching matchup of Belichick versus McCarthy as the difference. And in reality, Belichick can and did coach circles around the overrated McCarthy.

Josh McDaniels coached a fantastic game offensively, despite spitting the bit on a sequence where the Patriots had a 1st and goal at the one and failed to score any points. However, the decision to come out lightning fast immediately put the Packers on their heels. That was a brilliant move and worked to a tee.

McDaniels has a knack for knowing the exact perfect time to unleash those trick plays and they generally work out perfectly. The flea-flicker and the double pass by Edelman were perfectly executed. The latter had the Packers so confused, it appeared that there were no Packers on the left side of the field where White rolled down inside the five before being caught from behind.

Defensively Belichick and Brian Flores had an outstanding game plan, holding the Packers to a season-low 17 points. Rodgers had 259 yards passing but everything, every yard was contested. He averaged 6.2 yards per pass, had a QB rating of 89 and in the fourth quarter? He completed just 2-7 for 15 yards.

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

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

Patriots Down Packers 31-17, Observations, 3 Who Stepped Up

Steve Balestrieri
November 5, 2018 at 7:45 am ET

Mission Accomplished, Role Players Shine

The New England Patriots pulled out a tough victory over the Green Bay Packers 31-17 on Sunday Night Football in only the second meeting between Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, and perhaps the last.

Both quarterbacks looked excellent at times and struggled at others. But Brady rallied his team in the fourth quarter with two touchdown drives and the Patriots pulled away after forcing a fumble where it appeared Green Bay would take the lead.

Defense/Gilmore Steps Up:

The Patriots defense,much-maligned by the fans on social media actually played a very strong game, holding Rodgers and the Green Bay offense to just 17 points. The game plan was to mainly use Stephon Gilmore to shut down Davante Adams. Adams this week, proclaimed for all to hear that he didn’t believe anyone could cover him. And who could blame him? His last three games, he’s had 133, 140, and 132 receiving yards.

Well, Gilmore just put that thought to bed. Gilmore blanketed Adams to where the talented wide receiver was becoming frustrated to the point where the Packers were trying to force the ball underneath to him, just to get him involved. Adams finished the night with 6 catches for 40 yards. Mission accomplished.

The Patriots pass rush had only one sack but were getting good pressure on Rodgers all night long and his mobility didn’t allow him to make as many plays as we’ve seen in the past. Trey Flowers was outstanding and Adrian Clayborn had his best game in a Patriots uniform. Rodgers final numbers? 24-43 for 259 yards with 2 TDs with an 89.2 passer rating. Not bad but not great either. But Rodgers 4th quarter numbers? 2-7 for 15 yards. That is pretty impressive for the Patriots defense against any QB. Much of the talk pregame was “who gets the ball last will win”, well the defense put that to bed as well. Mission Accomplished 2.

Brady and Co. Keep the Packers Off-balance:

Brady finished 22-35 for 294 yards with 1 TD with a passer rating of 99.0. Julian Edelman had one pass and completion to James White for 37 yards. With Rob Gronkowski, Sony Michel, and RG Shaq Mason out, the Patriots had to get creative offensively…and they did. A Flea Flicker, a double pass and using WR Cordarrelle Patterson as a tailback again were just some of the things we saw. Patterson is quickly proving to be much more than the one-trick pony kick returner that the team signed this spring. He carried 11 times for 61 yards and had one touchdown and another taken away when the review showed him down just short of the goal line.

Josh Gordon, dislocated his fingers early in the game but played on and had five catches for 130 yards and a touchdown to ice the game. Julian Edelman had six catches for 71 yards, James White had six for 72 and added 31 yards rushing.

The Patriots got the opening kickoff and went on a blistering pace where they were moving faster than Han Solo when he did the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. They moved easily down the field where the Packers’ defense was having trouble even getting set and never able to catch their breath. James White took it in from the 8-yard line for the first of his two TDs on the ground.

Rodgers answered and led the Packers on a 62-yard drive but only came away with three. It was clear, that although Rodgers and the Packers could move the ball, the Patriots defense was making them earn their way down the field and nothing was coming easy.

The Packers would tie it at 10-10 when Rodgers hit Adams with a 2-yard pass on 3rd and goal after he scrambled away from pressure. But the Patriots answered the bell and Brady led them on a 7-play, 69-yard drive, nearly all of which was on the ground, with Patterson battering his way into the end zone from 5 yards out and the Pats went into halftime up 17-10, because there were no heroics by Rodgers at the end of the half. The defense did their job.

Rodgers and the Packers took the third quarter kickoff and went 76 yards to tie the score. The big play was a 51-yard bomb from Rodgers to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The rookie has incredible speed and cleanly beat Jason McCourty and Rodgers dropped the ball in the bucket. On 2nd and goal from the 15, Rodgers had a ton of time and that allowed Graham to run all the way across the field where Rodgers lasered a pass in the back of the end zone. That tied the score at 17.

Brady drove the Pats down the field but they were stuffed on four attempts after getting a first and goal at the one. The Packers played some incredible defense but the play calling in that sequence was a bit curious, to say the least.

After trading possessions, Rodgers had the Packers moving at the end of the third quarter. After back-to-back great plays by Rodgers and Valdes-Scantling for 50 yards, the Pack had the ball at the New England 34. Aaron Jones carried for six yards, but Lawrence Guy coming up from behind, punched the ball loose where Gilmore recovered. Crisis averted and the momentum switched back to New England.

Brady and the Patriots went 76 yards for the go-ahead score. On a 3rd and 7, Brady hit Phillip Dorsett with a huge 17-yard catch to move the chains. Then they dusted off the double pass from Edelman to White for 37-yards. White powered it in and the Pats had the lead they would not relinquish.

On the ensuing drive, Rodgers was sacked by Flowers and Clayborn to force a three and out. On 2nd and 10 at the New England 45, Brady faked out the Packers DBs, by staring down Edelman in the flat. Two defenders raced up as Edelman waved his hand for the pass. Brady then looked downfield and hit Gordon who was wide open. He loped easily for a 55-yard touchdown. That was it, game over, thanks for coming and ensure your trays are locked and in the upright position. Mission accomplished 3.

So who stood out in this big team win this week? Lots of people but we’ll narrow it down to just three…

3-UP:

Stephon Gilmore – The Patriots paid Gilmore last year like one of the top CBs in the league. After a slow start to his career here, he was excellent in the second half of the season. This year, there is no doubt the Pats paid the right corner as he’s been simply outstanding since the spring.

Gilmore had the big task of shadowing Adams for much of the night and he did so frequently without any help. And he was outstanding. Adams had over 400 yards in his last three games and had 40 tonight. That is Ty Law/Revis territory folks.

Trey Flowers – This guy is really turning it on the past few weeks. And he was simply overpowering at times tonight. Despite being held frequently, Flowers was a disruptive influence all night long. He did a great job of setting the edge and getting pressure on Rodgers, on one play, beating his man and then a double team before forcing Rodgers to throw the pass off-target.

Flowers is the gaudy stat machine some edge players are…but he’s no less valuable to this defense than any of those players are to their respective teams. Perhaps even more so. He’s going to get paid.

Josh Gordon – Gordon had his fingers get dislocated a few times during the game, but toughed it out, had them jammed back in and kept going. That alone deserves praise. But his ability to go up and grab contested passes is something no other receiver other than Gronkowski is really able to do.

He put the dagger in the Packers with the 55-yard TD catch and run and had his first really big game in a Patriots uniform with 130 yards and a score.

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 11-04, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
November 4, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, Here is your Sunday Patriots news 11-04, & AFC East Notes.

Some Quick Hitters this morning… just a quick reminder that you can check out our key matchups to the game here as well as our players to watch here:

Wasn’t it Just a year ago? Many in the NFL world were predicting that the Oakland Raiders were going to push the Patriots for supremacy in the AFC. Things haven’t worked out that way and now the Raiders are a mess…again and in total rebuild mode.

Did you Know? Julian Edelman, who is one of our players to watch this week is a seemingly good luck charm for the team when he scores. Since 2014, whenever #11 scores, the Patriots are 17-0.

Did you Know Pt.2? That James White, who has 55 receptions thru the first half of the season is on pace to catch 110 passes this season. The NFL record for running backs is currently 102 by Matt Forte of the Bears in 2014. White’s career high is 60 receptions and could surpass that tonight.

He also currently has six TD receptions, while touchdown receptions by a running back of seven or more have only been done in the NFL nine times.

October Was Good for the Patriots as they finish the month 4-0. Since Bill Belichick took over the team in 2000, the Patriots have had 25 undefeated months. The most in the NFL during that span. Who has the 2nd most? Indianapolis with 15. The team also moved to 6-2 for the sixth straight year.

Close Games are usually good news for the Pats, since 2001, in games decided by 3 points or less, the Patriots are an NFL best 43-17 (.717 win pct). The next closest team would be Indy at 42-24 (.636 win pct). So if this game goes down to the wire as many are predicting, that may be good news for the Pats.

Protecting the Football:  How important is not throwing an interception and winning correlated? Since 2002, the Patriots are 124-19 (.867 win pct) when not throwing a pick. The Packers in that time frame are 97-21-2 when not throwing an interception.

AFC “LEAST”? Think Again:  One of the things we constantly hear from the misinformed is how New England “waltzes into the playoffs every year because they play in a joke of a division.” Or a reasonable facsimile thereof …right? There is no doubt that the Patriots have dominated in the division since Belichick has taken over. But they’ve also dominated in inter-conference play. Since 2002, the Patriots are an NFL-best 52-14 (.788 win pct). The next closest team are the Steelers at 45-20-1.

My How Perceptions of Brady Change:

When the 2018 NFL season began we all read and discussed the very thin New England wide receiver core.  Julian Edelman was suspended for the first month, and Malcolm Mitchell, Jordan Matthews, and Kenny Britt were all injured and cut loose. Not surprisingly, the Patriots offense struggled to move the ball and score for the first three weeks.

Then the team brought in Josh Gordon, Edelman returned and the Patriots go on a roll winning five straight, four of which they score 38 points or more. And this week, both nationally with the so overblown “is this the year Brady falls” by USA Today and the “now we have proof!” garbage.

Note to Mr. Ruiz, before you get all worked up, keep in mind that the cherry picking stat that is your “proof” was from an obsessed dink for Western PA who has made it his life’s mission to denigrate everything Brady has ever done, to include Super Bowl comebacks against Seattle and Atlanta.

And locally, I keep seeing how “disappointing” Brady is…really? Has it been perfect? Hardly. Has it been clean? Rarely. When has it been so in the first half of the season? Brady, despite the first month with a dearth of weapons, is on pace for 4400 yards and 32 touchdowns, stats 95 percent of the QBs in the NFL would consider career years.

Pump the brakes. Gordon is still learning the offense, Gronkowski has been banged up all season and they have a MASH Unit at running back. And yet they’ve won five in a row and during those games, they are scoring an average of 36.4 points per game.  “Bill, are you going to evaluate the QB position this week?” 

“It looks like cliff time for Brady again… but really, THIS TIME we have proof!”

Davante Adams Breakout Game Was Against NE:

The Patriots visit to Lambeau Field in 2014 was an intriguing matchup where they tried to plaster themselves to Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson while mirroring Aaron Rodgers and not allowing him to scramble. While they had decent enough success covering those two, and Rodgers didn’t kill them with his scrambling, he had oodles of time to throw. One play having over 10 seconds to survey the field. So, who had a big breakout game? Adams. At the time he was a rookie and Belichick thought if Rodgers was to beat them it would have to be with the rookie.

He responded with a six reception-121 yard game as Green Bay held serve 26-21. This time around Adams is the clear #1 WR of the Packers. While Cobb is still there and very effective, Nelson is now in Oakland. Yesterday, we wrote that Trey Flowers first burst on the scene as a rookie in a preseason game against Green Bay, sacking Rodgers and eventually becoming the Patriots best defensive lineman. Adams had a similar path and is now the Packers best WR. Life in the NFL goes around full-circle.

Gordon Story Gets More Confusing:

Just prior to the Monday night game in Buffalo, we all heard about the report that Josh Gordon was late to the Patriots walk-thru and would be disciplined…missing as much as the entire first quarter. But when the game began, Gordon was on the field for the first snap of the game.

Gordon seemed a tad surprised by the question after the game and deflected questions to Bill Belichick. The coach commented that he didn’t know where that was coming from. On the radio this week, Belichick said, “I don’t know,” he said. “You’d have to talk to Ian Rapoport on that. I’m not really sure where that’s coming from.”

Rapoport doubled down on his story saying he confirmed it with three sources inside the Patriots organization. Mike Giardi from NFL.com reiterated what Rapoport stated but the Patriots have remained mum on this. As for Gordon?

When he was asked if he’s done a good job of staying on time in New England, responded, “If I haven’t, I’ve been helped along the way,” Gordon said.

“So, I’m definitely thankful for all the help I’ve gotten here and I’m definitely appreciative to figuring my way out here.”

So, we’ll all continue to watch this situation but it most definitely seems odd for Belichick to NOT discipline players for being late.

Who You Have This Week? NFL Week 8 Predictions:

Last week: 12-2 Season 79-40-2 Bye Week: Cardinals, Bengals, Colts, Jaguars, Giants, Eagles

Thursday night’s pick  Oakland over SF 0-1 UGH

Chicago at Buffalo –                         Bears
Tampa Bay at Carolina –                 Panthers
Kansas City at Cleveland –              Chiefs
NY Jets at Miami –                            Dolphins
Pittsburgh at Baltimore –                Steelers
Detroit at Minnesota –                    Vikings
Atlanta at Washington –                  Redskins
Houston at Denver –                        Texans
LA Chargers at Seattle –                   Chargers
LA Rams at New Orleans –               Saints
Green Bay at New England (SNF) – Patriots
Tennessee at Dallas (MNF) –           Cowboys

Thursday Early Pick: Panthers over Steelers

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Go Back to Peterman in Nightmarish Season for the Offense:

The Buffalo Bills, as we pointed out last week, have a good defense. And on Monday night against the Patriots, as they have done several times this season, the Bills defense played well enough to win and upset the Patriots. But their offense is pushing historical records for ineptitude. They are just one of 13 teams that have scored less than 100 points in eight games. They may even push their team record for low points scored of 164, that was set in a 14-game schedule.

Now Bills nation turns back to QB Nathan Peterman to try to lead them to a victory over a Chicago Bears team with a good defense and very good pass rushers. To say that Peterman’s career to this point has been awful is putting it mildly. Peterman has appeared in seven games with three starts and has attempted 84 passes but has thrown 10 interceptions in those games. The best he’s done in those three starts? Only 66 yards against the Bolts, when he threw five (5) picks in less than a half.

With Derek Anderson out with a concussion and rookie Josh Allen just beginning to practice again, Peterman has to generate enough offense to give their beleaguered defense a break and not suffer a plethora of turnovers. So far, he’s been able to do neither.  

Dolphins Being Decimated on the Injury Front:

The Miami Dolphins have been hit hard by injuries this season. They currently have eight players on season-ending IR, the latest was CB Cordrea Tankersley who tore his ACL during practice on Thursday and was placed on IR on Friday. Also on IR for Miami, defensive linemen Vincent Taylor and William Hayes, offensive linemen Josh Sitton and Daniel Kilgore, wide receiver Albert Wilson, tight end Marqueis Gray and quarterback Luke Falk.

“We can’t afford anymore,” lamented head coach Adam Gase.

Besides those players, two others, starting QB Ryan Tannehill and DE Charles Harris are already declared as out for the game today against the Jets.  In addition to those two, Xavien Howard with an ankle injury, wide receiver Kenny Stills has a pulled groin and tight end A.J. Derby with a foot injury are questionable.

Jets Try to Halt Two-Game Skid in South Flordia Heat:

The New York Jets had things looking up with a modest two-game winning streak with wins over Denver and Indianapolis but back-to-back losses to the Vikings and Bears have dropped the Jets to 3-5. Now they have a chance to pull even with Miami in the standings with a win in the heat of Miami Beach.

The timing is good for Gang Green, QB Ryan Tannehill is out and the Fins overall are banged up across the roster. But with rookie QB Sam Darnold, the Jets have to do a better job of protecting the future of the franchise. And that means blocking Cameron Wake.

Darnold hasn’t played badly in his rookie campaign, it is a learning curve and while the Jets are 28th in passing offense, the positives are there. Look for New York to continue to try to get the running game going with the occasional play-action pass going to get the offense going. While both teams are still on the cusp of a possible playoff berth, a loss by either team would make that possibility very remote. So, today is a big game for both teams.

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.

Players To Watch Patriots-Packers Week 9 SNF

Steve Balestrieri
November 3, 2018 at 7:49 am ET

“Once More unto the Breach”

The New England Patriots return home and face off next against the Green Bay Packers in yet another primetime game this Sunday night. Remember when the Patriots played on Sunday afternoons? This primetime stuff is getting ridiculous.

A lot of the fun of watching two future Hall of Fame QBs with Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers going head to head against one another is lost when the ridiculous “who’s better” crap gets injected into the equation ad nauseam. Like our politics of today, neither side is going to budge, so just sit back and enjoy the offenses of each doing their thing on Sunday and revel in it. These matchups aren’t going to be around much longer.

This is an important game for both teams, the Patriots have won five in a row and are right in the mix for one of the top teams in the AFC and an all-important first-round bye in the playoffs. The Packers are a much better team than their 3-3-1 record and need to get on a roll. They nearly pulled off a huge upset last week against the undefeated Rams. So, how they react this week will have a lot to say about the rest of their season.

So, from a Patriots perspective if we can tear ourselves away from the Red Sox celebration for a moment, here are our Players to Watch on Sunday:

Stephon Gilmore:

The Patriots very talented corner has been outstanding all season and is now facing arguably his toughest test of the season. Davante Adams is Rodgers go-to guy and he’s having an outstanding season. He’s caught 52 passes for 690 yards and 6 TDs thru just the first seven games of the season. He’s on pace for 118 catches, 1,577 receiving yards, and 13 touchdowns.

Gilmore will have his hands full with the speedy Adams who said this week, he doesn’t believe anyone can cover him. And he may be right, the Patriots may have a plan for Gilmore to cover him underneath with safety help over the top. It would seem to be the normal Patriot M.O of trying to limit the top weapon of the opposition. If it isn’t Adams, Gilmore would draw Randall Cobb, not much of a break there is it?

But regardless, Gilmore has been outstanding since the first OTA session this spring. He should garner some serious Pro Bowl consideration this winter. The soft-spoken Gilmore has drawn Sammy Watkins of the Chiefs, Allen Robinson of the Bears and Kelvin Benjamin of the Bills the past three games. Those receivers combined for a total of five catches for 67 yards in those three games. Opposing QBs have only completed 28 percent of the passes targeting WRs Gilmore is covering. This should be a great matchup.

Trey Flowers:

The Patriots best player on the front seven had a tremendous game against the Bills on Monday night. Six tackles, two tackles for loss, two QB hits and he should have had an interception of Derek Anderson but couldn’t hold on.

This week the stakes and the quarry are much, much tougher. The Patriots remember what Aaron Rodgers did to them in Green Bay a few years ago. The front seven will have to play a very fine balancing act. They have to be able to pressure Rodgers enough to get him to get rid of the ball asap but do so in a way that keeps him contained in the pocket. If he breaks containment, very bad things will happen and all of them will happen to the defense.  

They’ll need a big effort from everyone on the defensive front seven but a lot of the pressure will be on Flowers to lead the way. Flowers coming out party as a rookie featured a sack of Rodgers in Gillette several years ago in preseason. The Patriots will be hoping to see much more of that on Sunday night.

Trey Flowers (74) beats David Bakhtiari and sacks Rodgers in preseason action as a rookie. (SBalestrieri photo)

Ted Karras:

The Patriots will be minus Shaq Mason on the interior of their offensive line this week and Ted Karras who subbed in for Mason when he first got hurt in Buffalo on Monday night. Mason hurt his calf against the Bills and didn’t return.

Karras is the Patriots top backup at all three of the interior offensive line positions but is probably best suited for the center position but he’ll be at right guard this week. And his job will likely entail matching up with Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark, both of whom are having very solid 2017 campaigns.

This will be a big test for Karras, he hasn’t played in a ton of games thus far in his career and the Packers will be looking to test not only his skill but his communication with the other offensive linemen when the Packers stunt, or blitz. There’s no pressure on Karras…right? He’s just on the stage with the two of the best QBs in any era and it is on national television to boot.

James White:

The Patriots Swiss Army Knife has a lot of pressure on him since the injury epidemic has hit the New England running back position hard. Jeremy Hill is gone for the year with an ACL tear, Rex Burkhead is on IR with multiple concussions and isn’t eligible to return until Week 14. And Sony Michel seemed to avert serious injury in Chicago when his knee got twisted during a tackle.

White has been just outstanding out of the backfield catching 55 passes for the Patriots for 459 yards and six touchdowns. His career high is 60 and he could possibly break that on Sunday night with another big game. The Packers at times play a lot of dime packages on defense and they may opt to try to take White away in the passing game by putting a defensive back on him rather than a linebacker which is a mismatch.

But with Michel’s status up in the air this week, (he’s questionable, but we doubt he’ll play this week), the onus will be even heavier on White to produce. We’d expect to see Brady look his way often on Sunday, especially if the Packers begin blitzing.

Julian Edelman:

With Michel’s status in doubt and even Rob Gronkowski who is battling ankle and back injuries this week and is questionable to play, Edelman’s value as a circled member of trust with Tom Brady will no doubt play a big role this week.

With Pettine’s defense which uses the old Rex Ryan overload schemes and multiple blitz packages, there will be times where Brady will be forced to make a decision and get the ball out very quickly. And in the past several years, he and Edelman have been outstanding at working in sync doing just that. Many times they’ll both recognize a look presnap and with just a look between the two, they’ll know right where they plan to go.

Edelman had a big game in Buffalo and this game in Gillette against the Packers could be a tailor-made game for #11. Look for Brady to call his number early and often.

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

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

Patriots-Packers Week 9, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
November 2, 2018 at 7:00 am ET

The New England Patriots return home for a Sunday Night Football game against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. The Patriots finished off a perfect (4-0) October and have won five games in a row. They’ll be looking to make it six against the very explosive Packers who are smarting off a late loss to the Rams.

This week is the second Patriots prime-time game in a row and the fourth in the past five weeks. They’ve already appeared on Sunday Night Football twice this season. A week three loss to Detroit and the win over Kansas City. Amazingly enough, this is only the second time that Brady and Rodgers will be on the field against each other. That alone will be worth tuning in to watch two of the all-time greats to compete at the same time.

This week’s game will be broadcast by NBC and can be seen locally on NBC 10 Boston. Al Michaels will handle play-by-play duties with Cris Collinsworth as the color analyst. Michele Tafoya 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 (6-2) defeated the Bills 25-6 on Monday Night. The game was actually much closer than that for the majority of the game but two late touchdowns put it away. The offense only scored one touchdown but the defense scored one and held Buffalo to only a pair of field goals.

The Packers (3-3-1)  lost to 29-27 to the Los Angeles Rams last week in what seemed like a home game for them in LA. Packers fans outnumbered the Rams fans but Ty Montgomery’s fumble on a kickoff return sealed it after the Rams kicked a go-ahead field goal.

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

Series History:

The Patriots and the Packers don’t meet very often, this will only be the 12th meeting between the two teams. The regular season matchup is tied at 5 wins apiece. The Packers beat New England in Super Bowl XXXI in the only post-season meeting. Green Bay beat the Patriots in their last matchup 26-21 in Lambeau in 2014. You would have to go all the way back to 2010 since the Packers last visited Gillette. That one was most remembered as the game that Rodgers missed with an injury and Dan Connolly, the Patriots right guard returned a kickoff 71 yards, nearly scoring a TD. It was also, coincidentally the last game the Packers lost that year.

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 Packers Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Green Bay

The Patriots running game had taken off during the last month as Sony Michel has given the Patriots the balance on offense that they were looking for. It worked so well that they were averaging 38 points or better every week for that month. But injuries have really hurt the position.

Jeremy Hill was lost for the year with a torn ACL, Rex Burkhead was placed on IR with multiple concussions, (he can’t return until Week 14). And then Michel went down in the loss to the Bears. They were forced to use WR Cordarrelle Patterson in the tailback role in Buffalo and he, not surprisingly had issues finding holes to run thru.

The Packers have had some issues stopping the run and are allowing 119.1 yards per game and 4.4 yards per rush. Part of that rests with the aggressiveness of the defense, Mike Pettine uses the old Rex Ryan Jets overload scheme and they can be susceptible to the quick hitters to beat the blitz.

With Michel in the backfield, the Patriots would get the nod here, but I tend to think that although he’s back at practice, he probably won’t be able to go this week. That gives the nod to Green Bay.

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

The Patriots have plenty of weapons for Tom Brady to utilize with Julian Edelman back in the fold, although both Josh Gordon and Rob Gronkowski have been slowed by injuries. Brady also has Chris Hogan and the invaluable James White out of the backfield. Gronkowski, just coming off ankle and back injuries was laboring in Buffalo. On a short week, it will be interesting to see if he gets a jump back in his step.

More intriguing is the injury to Edelman. He took a shot to his shoulder/neck area in Buffalo and was in obvious discomfort the rest of the game. He missed practice on Weds. If he can’t go it is a huge blow to the offense, that is already hurting.

The Packers have been very improved against the pass this season. Led by Jaire Alexander, they cover much better and they have 23 sacks thus far. The overload schemes make things very difficult on the opposition. They allow just 221.7 yards per game thru the air which is the 5th best in the league.

One question will be who replaces Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at safety. Dix was traded at the deadline and played nearly every snap this season. He was the team’s leading interceptor (3) and second-leading tackler (27). They probably will turn to Jermaine Whitehead who was their go-to guy in sub packages, but we may also see CB Tremaine Williams at times. When Pettine was in Cleveland, he often would play Williams at safety. They also have 2017 2nd round draft pick Josh Jones, but he’s been mainly a special teamer this year.

If he can go this week, this will be another tailor-made game for Julian Edelman. His ability to make the tough third-down catches and with he and Brady having the chemistry to read presnap what the defense may do, he’ll be invaluable when the Packers blitz. We look for James White to get a lot of looks once again in the passing game. He currently leads to the team with 55 catches.

It should prove to be an interesting chess match between Pettine and Brady. The two have faced each other quite frequently and the GB defensive coordinator will show plenty of different looks trying to confuse Brady. They’ll show six or seven at the line and then drop seven into coverage or overload blitz on one side. With Marcus Cannon and Shaq Mason banged up on the offensive line, the communication between the backups will be key.

Next up the Green Bay offense:

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

The Green Bay running game will scarcely miss Montgomery after his trade. He fell to the third position in their running game by committee group. They have found their man, however, in their 2nd year running back Aaron Jones. While he’s not the biggest guy at 5’9, 208, he is electric with the ball in his hands. Last week his 33-yard touchdown right up the middle sparked the Packers comeback in the second half.

The Patriots run defense has been steadily improving over the course of the season. Last week they held Bills running backs to just 46 yards in 19 carries. Shady McCoy had just 13 yards on 12 carries. The big men in the middle plus improved linebacker play has been the difference. Kyle Van Noy filled in for Dont’a Hightower last week and was outstanding in the middle.

Look for the Packers to feed Jones who had a career-high 12 carries last week more than that on Sunday night. With the Patriots possibly opting to bring A-Gap pressure with either Hightower or Van Noy, it will be the perfect antidote.  

Packers WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Green Bay

The Packers Aaron Rodgers is averaging about 308 yards per game and has a plethora of talented receivers who can all be dangerous with the ball in their hands. It starts with Davante Adams who leads the team with 52 catches for 690 yards and six touchdowns. He’s a threat to take it to the house on every down if he gets free.

Rodgers also has Randall Cobb, TE Jimmy Graham, Geronimo Allison, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling and reserve TE Lance Kendricks who can chip into the passing game. Rodgers remains excellent at making plays with his feet, once he’s flushed out of the pocket. The Packers have given up 24 sacks but coming after Rodgers is a risky proposition.

The Patriots have given up a lot of yardage this season, that won’t change on Sunday but the key is making some stops in the red zone. Going back to that 2014 game, Rodgers shredded the NE secondary but they only scored two touchdowns. They’ll need that kind of effort again. The issue is pressure or lack of it from the Patriots defensive line. They have to squeeze the pocket without losing containment or they’ll get toasted this week.

Look for Rodgers to spread them out and try to run those crossers underneath that drive the Patriots mad every week. Adams and Stephon Gilmore should be a good battle to watch but the key this week is the secondary targets Cobb and Allison going against Jason McCourty. The Patriots will also have to watch Graham closely with Chung and LB help.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots have gotten another very solid season from Stephen Gostkowski but the rest of their special teams play has been wildly inconsistent. After getting two scores from STs in Chicago, they took a step back in Buffalo.

The Packers counter with the normally automatic Mason Crosby but he went thru a rough patch and has only hit 17-22 field goals this year. Their return game is where they miss Montgomery the most. They can either use Marquez Valdes-Scantling or activate WR Trevor Davis from IR.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This much-ballyhooed matchup between Brady and Rodgers who both throw the ball extremely well may come down to which team runs the ball better. The Packers are a much better team than their 3-3-1 record indicates and could easily be a 5-2 or 6-1 team right now. Part of that rests on head coach Mike McCarthy. They’ve come out flat in a few games and they saw that they just can’t show up and win. They came out strong and played an excellent 60-minute game against the undefeated Rams last week and if not for Montgomery’s fumble may have won that one.

Now they travel to Foxboro to take on the Patriots where they are awfully tough to beat. Rodgers has the personnel to do that and the experience to take what is out there. They won’t panic if they get down a score or two because they are so explosive.

Third downs and special teams play may ultimately decide who takes away the win here. While a lot of people are expecting another huge scoring game akin to the Kansas City Week 6 matchup, I see this one playing out like the 2014 game, with scoring in the mid to high 20s.

If this game were in Green Bay, I’d say the Packers and Rodgers would cruise, but it isn’t and Gillette is a tough place to play too. Like last week in LA, a late special teams return will spark New England to bring home a tough, hard-fought win. Patriots 28-27

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.