Yet again, the Patriots’ defense and special teams led New England to victory, as they prevailed 13-9 over the Dallas Cowboys (6-5) during a wet and cold afternoon in Foxborough.
This victory improves the Patriots to 10-1 on the season and keeps them atop the AFC through 12 weeks.
Here are some takeaways from yesterday’s game.
1. A defensive masterpiece
Bill Belichick’s defense came to play yesterday, as they absolutely stifled the NFL’s top offense and kept them out of the end zone. Dak Prescott entered this game with 3 straight 400 yard performances, but was held to 212 yards, without any touchdowns. The weather obviously had an impact on Prescott, as he was seen changing his gloves on several occasions, but the Patriots were able to take away his top weapon in Amari Cooper. Stephon Gilmore continued his campaign for Defensive Player of the Year by blanking Cooper, who was targeted only twice. Cooper’s first target resulted in a Gilmore interception that set up the Patriots’ second score.
Other than a 59-yard catch and run by Randall Cobb, the Patriots were able to limit big plays and mostly held Dallas’ secondary receivers in check. Due to the inclement weather, most analysts expected the Cowboys to utilize Ezekiel Elliot early and often, which was evident, as he averaged 4.1 yards per carry during a 86-yard performance. The Patriots will need to shore up their run defense, as rushing the ball will likely be a point of emphasis for opposing offenses.
2. The offense was efficient, if not explosive
In the eyes of many “experts”, yesterday’s game adds to the narrative that Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense are no longer elite. Of course, these people won’t mention that Brady outplayed an MVP candidate in inclement weather, and did so without two of his top targets in Mohamed Sanu and Phillip Dorsett. The offensive line was fortified by the return of Isaiah Wynn, who shook off a rough start (which included a strip sack of Brady), en route to a group performance that was a far cry from the debacle in Philadelphia.
For the first time in several weeks, the team eclipsed 100 rushing yards, as Sony Michel accumulated 85 yards off of 20 carries. With the absence of Sanu and Dorsett, the Patriots got a major contribution from Jakobi Meyers, who had 4 receptions for 74 yards. Julian Edelman was his usual self, with 8 receptions for 93 yards, including a huge catch on 3rd & 20 that helped extend a drive in the second half. N’Keal Harry had his first professional touchdown on a fade route in the red zone, with his athleticism on full display. At the same time, Harry still has room to improve, as evidenced by a couple of dropped passes.
The Patriots’ offense still has a long way to go, as they cannot continue to depend on their defense and special teams to win them games as the season progresses. If Brady continues to build chemistry with Meyers and Harry, the Patriots should be able to have a solid 5 receiver rotation that helps take pressure off of Julian Edelman. In addition, Michel’s performance is something to build upon, as having a balanced attack will open up the field through play action.
3. Special teams was game changing once again
Throughout this season, the Patriots’ special teams unit has been able to make momentum shifting plays, and yesterday was no different. Perennial All-Pro Matthew Slater added to his stellar season with a blocked punt in the first quarter that led to Harry’s touchdown. Jake Bailey wasn’t as effective punting the ball, as he did shank some punts, but he was able to pin the Cowboys on his last attempt.
As I mentioned earlier, special teams shouldn’t have to elevate the Patriots on a weekly basis, but it is definitely appreciated by Bill Belichick and the coaching staff when it does happen.
Passing: Tom Brady – 17/37 for 190 yards, and 1 touchdown
Rushing: Sony Michel – 20 carries for 85 yards
Receiving; Julian Edelman – 8 receptions for 93 yards
Defensive: Jamie Collins – 10 total tackles
Passing: Dak Prescott – 19/33 for 212 yards, and 1 interception
Rushing: Ezekiel Elliot – 21 carries for 86 yards
Receiving: Randall Cobb – 4 receptions for 86 yards
Defensive: Jaylon Smith – 8 total tackles
What’s next?: The Patriots head down to Houston to take on Deshaun Watson and the Texans (7-4) on Sunday Night Football.
It’s not much of an exaggeration to call tomorrow’s matchup with the Dallas Cowboys (6-4) the ‘Game of the Year’, as it pits the NFL’s best team against its most popular team in a nationally–televised game.
Here are some things to consider entering this Week 12 game.
1. Can the banged-up offense deliver?
The Patriots’ offense was shaky at best during their win against the Eagles, with a porous offensive line making it hard for Tom Brady to find any sort of rhythm. Tomorrow’s task won’t be any easier, as the team is likely to play without receivers Mohamed Sanu (ankle) and Phillip Dorsett (concussion), which will thrust N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers into larger roles. Meyers had some clear miscommunication with Brady during the game against the Eagles, which they have hopefully been able to iron out throughout the week at practice. Dallas’ secondary has struggled in recent weeks, so it will be imperative for the Patriots’ receivers to find separation
The X-factor for this game should be the return of Isaiah Wynn to the lineup, as he replaces the struggling Marshall Newhouse as the protector of Brady’s blind side. Wynn will be tested right away, as the Cowboys have an incredibly talented defensive line, with pass rushers such as Demarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn. Michael Bennett will also be making his return to Foxborough after being traded to Dallas a few weeks ago, following a disagreement with the Patriots’ coaching staff. Wynn’s return should help fortify the offensive line, and help boost the offense as a whole, as his agility will be useful in run-blocking and setting up screen passes.
The team’s running backs will also be essential, as the forecast is calling for rain throughout the game. Look for Sony Michel and James White to be involved early and often as Josh McDaniels looks for ways to take pressure off of Tom Brady.
2. Can the defense lockdown the NFL’s best offense?
The Cowboys’ offense has been humming lately, with Dak Prescott solidifying his place amongst the favorites for MVP, due to a handful of dominant performances. Prescott has been able to silence the narrative that he’s reliant on Ezekiel Elliot and the running game, as the passing game has carried Dallas as of late. Prescott is protected by one of the league’s best offensive lines, and has a bevy of weapons at his disposal, including Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Randall Cobb, and Jason Witten. The main matchup of this game may be Cooper vs Stephon Gilmore, as Cooper has been Prescott’s top target throughout the season. If Gilmore is able to lock up Cooper, it would go a long way in helping the Patriots stifle Dallas. In addition, Jason McCourty and Jonathan Jones will need to be able to limit Gallup and Cobb, as the two are capable of lifting Dallas when Cooper isn’t as successful.
Even though Ezekiel Elliot hasn’t been as effective this year, he is still capable of shredding the Patriots’ defense if he has lanes to run through. Due to the rainy conditions, it wouldn’t be overly surprising to see Dallas try to get Elliot going, either as a rusher or a pass catcher. Hence, the Patriots’ defensive line and linebackers will have to be alert if they want to slow him down.
Ja’Whaun Bentley (knee) – Questionable
Tom Brady (elbow) – Questionable
Marcus Cannon (illness) – Questionable
Patrick Chung (heel/chest) – Questionable
Phillip Dorsett (concussion) – Questionable
Nate Ebner (ankle/back) – Questionable
Julian Edelman (shoulder) – Questionable
Damien Harris (hamstring) – Questionable
Jason McCourty (groin) – Questionable
Mohamed Sanu (ankle) – Questionable
John Simon (elbow) – Questionable
Matthew Slater (hamstring) – Questionable
Leighton Vander Esch (neck) – Out
Joe Thomas (illness) – Questionable
Donovan Wilson (illness) – Questionable
Connor Williams (knee) – Questionable
Prediction: Patriots27, Cowboys23
Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Week 12 games (excluding Thursday Night Football).
Here are some recent headlines in the world of the Celtics.
1. The C’s unveil their new City Edition uniforms
Ever since Nike took over making NBA uniforms back in 2017, they have made a habit of changing each team’s City Edition uniform on an annual basis. The Celtics unveiled their new City Edition uniforms today, and they are primarily green with gold and black accents, even though the leaked image from Ines Kanter’s Instagram story indicated that they might have been teal (which Kanter blamed on the lightning of his surrounding). These uniforms harken back to the team’s St. Patrick’s Day uniforms from the pre-Nike era, but feature a Gaelic font.
The team has announced that they will wear their City Edition uniforms on the following dates:
November 27th vs Brooklyn November 29th at Brooklyn December 6th vs Denver December 12th vs Philadelphia December 25th at Toronto January 9th at Philadelphia January 16th at Milwaukee January 20th vs LA Lakers January 30th vs Golden State February 13th vs LA Clippers February 23rd at LA Lakers March 3rd vs Brooklyn March 15th at Chicago March 18th vs New York March 20th at Toronto April 3rd vs Orlando April 15th vs Chicago
Personally, I am a fan of this uniforms, but it’s hard not to see them as a downgrade from last year’s minimalistic iteration of the City Edition.
2. Tatum earns PG13’s respect
Jayson Tatum was unbelievable during the Celtics’ 107-104 overtime loss to the Clippers on Wednesday night, as he led Boston with 30 points. Tatum’s main highlight came late in the fourth quarter when he broke Paul George’s ankles, and hit a three-pointer to tie the game.
3. Kyrie Irving’s “homecoming” may not be happening
One of the most anticipated games on Boston’s 2019 schedule was the return of ex-Celtic Kyrie Irving, with his new team, the Brooklyn Nets. Due to a shoulder injury, Irving’s status for next Wednesday’s game at the TD Garden has been in question, which may deprive the Boston faithful from giving him a “warm” welcome.
4. The front office makes the team’s core untouchable
The Celtics are consistently mentioned as a team willing to make a move when there’s an opportunity to improve its roster, due to their vast array of assets (whether it be players or picks). However, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst is reporting that the Celtics have made it clear to other teams that key members of the team, such as Gordon Hayward and Marcus Smart are “absolutely not available.” This likely means that the Celtics would have to give up draft picks if they wanted to procure an improvement at center.
Yesterday’s game between the Patriots and Eagles (5-5) was a far cry from their high-powered matchup in Super Bowl LII, as the two teams combined for just over 500 yards in a game that featured 16 punts. The Patriots prevailed 17-10, and improved to 9-1 on the season, which keeps them atop the AFC through 11 weeks.
Here are some takeaways from yesterday’s victory.
1. Don’t count out the Patriots’ defense!
The Patriots’ defense didn’t get off to the greatest of starts in this game, as the very first offensive snap for Philadelphia resulted in a 49-yard pass interference penalty by Jason McCourty, which led to a field goal by Jake Elliott. The Eagles followed this up by driving 95 yards in over 9 minutes to extend their lead to 10-0 on a touchdown by Dallas Goedert (which was initially ruled an interception). The turning point of this game came shortly after, as the Eagles lost their All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson to a concussion, which enabled Bill Belichick and the defensive staff to dial up the pressure on Carson Wentz. The Patriots were able to sack Wentz 5 times (including a strip sack by Danny Shelton), and prevented him from gaining any sort of momentum.
On Philadelphia’s penultimate drive, they were able to drive the ball down the field before failing to advance past the Patriots’ 26-yard line. Wentz threw 4 straight incompletions to end the drive, including a shot to the end zone that was dropped by Nelson Agholor on fourth down. Almost fittingly, this game ended the same way as Super Bowl LII, with the losing team launching an ill-fated Hail Mary attempt that wound up incomplete.
This a great rebound for the Patriots following their debacle in Baltimore, but there is still a great deal to improve on as the season progresses.
2. Offensive struggles continue
Once again, the Patriots’ offense appeared to be out of sync, and I think that much of their struggles can be attributed to the stout performance by Philadelphia’s defensive line. The Eagles feasted on a weak offensive line, and were able to consistently get after Brady, which forced him to scramble around on several occasions. The Eagles were able to sack Brady once, and hit him an additional 6 times. At the same time, Brady cannot be absolved from his poor performance, as he appeared to lack rhythm from time to time. For instance, the first double pass attempted by the Patriots could have resulted in an interception, as the throw by Brady was behind Phillip Dorsett.
With the Patriots floundering in the red zone, and trailing by a point in the opening frame of the second half, Josh McDaniels dialed up a trick play, which resulted in Julian Edelman throwing a touchdown to Dorsett. Following this, the Patriots executed a two-point conversion to give them a 17-10 lead they would not relinquish. In his first game as a pro, N’Keal Harry had 3 receptions for 18 yards, and will hopefully play a larger role in the offense as he becomes more comfortable in the system.
This was definitely an ugly performance by the Patriots’ offense, as they were able to move the ball, but struggled to maintain drives that could have put the game away. If not for spotty play-calling and execution, the Patriots easily could have won this game by double digits, due to the strong performance by their defense. As evidenced by a frustrated Brady during his press conference, the team is definitely aware that something needs to change on offense as they get closer to the postseason.
3. Special teams was otherworldly
It’s not very common for the Patriots’ offense to be the weak link during a victory, but that was definitely the case yesterday, as the team’s special teams unit was spectacular against the Eagles. Nick Folk proved that he could be the team’s answer at kicker, as he was 3/3 on field goals that kept the team in the game during the first half. In addition, Jake Bailey, Matthew Slater, and Justin Bethel combined to form a formidable punting attack, as they were able to give Philadelphia bad starting field position on several occasions.
Passing: Tom Brady – 26/47 for 216 yards
Rushing: Sony Michel – 10 carries for 33 yards
Receiving: Julian Edelman – 5 receptions for 53 yards
Defensive: Danny Shelton – 7 total tackles (including 1 strip sack)
Passing: Carson Wentz – 20/40 for 214 yards and 1 touchdown
Rushing: Miles Sanders – 11 carries for 38 yards
Receiving: Zach Ertz – 9 receptions for 94 yards
Defensive: Nathan Gerry – 10 total tackles (including 1 sack)
Bill Belichick had fun
During his postgame press conference, Bill Belichick mentioned that the team ‘had fun’ during the game, which some saw as a dig at Eagles tackle Lane Johnson, who opined that no-one has fun in New England after the Eagles beat them in Super Bowl LII.
What’s next?:The Patriots head home to take on the Dallas Cowboys (6-4). This matchup will be interesting, as it’ll be the first time they play against Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliot, and the rest of the Cowboys’ young core.
The last matchup between the Patriots and Eagles (5-4) ended in heartbreak for New England, as they lost 41-33 in Super Bowl LII. Fortunately, Bill Belichick’s team was able to rebound from the loss by winning Super Bowl LIII, but there’s no doubt that a win in Philadelphia would mean a lot to them.
Here are some things to consider entering this Week 11 matchup.
1. Can the defense rebound?
The Patriots’ defense has had 2 weeks to digest their disappointing performance against Lamar Jackson and the Ravens, where they gave up 30 points and over 200 rushing yards. This week’s game should be intriguing, as they’ll face off against a dynamic young quarterback in Carson Wentz who is protected by a formidable offensive line. The Patriots should be able to clamp down on Philadelphia’s banged-up passing attack which will be without key weapons in DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery. Hence, it wouldn’t be overly surprising to see Belichick place Stephon Gilmore on Zach Ertz, in an attempt to neutralize Wentz’s favorite weapon.
In consecutive weeks, the Browns and Ravens proved that the Patriots can be vulnerable against a power rushing attack, which may not bode well for New England in tomorrow’s game, as Doug Pederson has proven to be a coach that is committed to establishing the run. With the Eagles having a strong offensive line, and a speedy rusher in Miles Sanders, the Patriots will need to dominate the line of scrimmage if they want to limit Philadelphia’s success.
2. How about the offense?
The loss to the Ravens proved that the Patriots’ offense cannot afford to get off to slow starts, as early deficits can put a great amount of pressure on the team to deliver in the second half. I believe that this is the game where the Patriots’ passing attack will explode, due to Philadelphia’s subpar secondary. In addition, the bye week should have given Josh McDaniels additional time to draw up plays to utilize Mohamed Sanu and N’Keal Harry (if the rookie receiver is active). Either way, I’d expect Julian Edelman to have a huge game in the middle of the field.
On the other hand, the Patriots may have some difficulty running the football, as the Eagles boast the NFL’s fourth best rushing defense. I’d like to see the Patriots attempt to establish their running game, as it would help protect Brady from the likes of Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox.
Patrick Chung (heel/chest) – Out
Damien Harris (hamstring) – Out
Nate Ebner (ankle/back) – Questionable
Matt LaCosse (knee) – Questionable
Gunner Olszewski (ankle/hamstring) – Questionable
Danny Shelton (ankle) – Questionable
John Simon (elbow) – Questionable
Nigel Bradham (ankle) – Out
Alshon Jeffery (ankle) – Out
Darren Sproles (quadriceps) – Out
Jordan Howard (shoulder) – Questionable
Prediction: Patriots28, Eagles20
Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Week 11 games (excluding Thursday Night Football).