Early on in today’s game against the Washington Redskins (0-5), the Patriots found themselves behind 7-0, which was the first time they trailed in a game so far this season. The Pats responded by scoring 33 unanswered points, en route to a 33-7 victory which improved them to 5-0 on the season.
Here are some takeaways from this Week 5 victory.
1. The defense continues to dominate!
On Washington’s second drive, Steven Sims outran most of the Patriots’ defense on his way to a 65-yard touchdown which gave the Redskins their only lead of the game. Following that play, the Patriots were able to completely neutralize Washington’s offense, as they held Colt McCoy to 119 passing yards, and forced 2 turnovers (1 interception and 1 fumble). Other than Sims’ big run, the Redskins were held to 80 rushing yards, with Wendell Smallwood accounting for the brunt of it. The Pats were able to make McCoy uncomfortable all game long, as they sacked him 6 times, and also accumulated 8 QB hits.
Although the Redskins were definitely an inferior opponent, the dominance of the Patriots’ defense cannot be questioned, as they once again held an opponent to single digits, and gave up only 220 total yards of offense.
2. Great rebound by the offense!
The Patriots’ offense was sluggish in the first half, as they were held to 9 points, with several of their drives ending with punts due to the inability of the offensive line to protect Tom Brady, who was sacked 4 times and hit an additional 9 times. As the second half started, Brady and the offense were able to dissect Washington’s defense with ease, and he ultimately finished with 348 passing yards, to go along with 3 touchdowns and an interception. Julian Edelman (8 receptions for 110 yards and a touchdown) and Josh Gordon (5 receptions for 59 yards) were Brady’s top targets throughout today’s game. Unfortunately, the Pats lost Phillip Dorsett to a hamstring injury, which makes it interesting to see if Bill Belichick and the front office will consider adding another receiver to an increasingly thinning receiving corps.
Even though Brady and the passing game were remarkable, the most encouraging aspect of today’s victory was Sony Michel finally having his breakout game. Michel finished with 16 carries for 91 rushing yards and a touchdown, and was helped out by rookie fullback Jakob Johnson, who was able to effectively clear lanes for him. Michel had been struggling prior to today’s game, so any sort of success should hopefully give him confidence as the season moves along.
Even though the Redskins’ defense didn’t challenge the Patriots down the stretch, it was impressive to see the Pats overcome their anemic start and finally meet their potential on offense after two uneven performances.
Passing: Tom Brady – 28/42 for 348 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception
Rushing: Sony Michel – 16 carries for 91 yards and 1 touchdown
Receiving: Julian Edelman – 8 receptions for 110 yards and 1 touchdown
I’m not sure that most fans or casual viewers were expecting a defensive slugfest when they tuned into Super Bowl LIII, but that ‘s what we got yesterday, as the Patriots prevailed 13-3 over the Los Angeles Rams (15-4) to win the Super Bowl for the sixth time in the last seventeen years. Although points were at a premium in this game, Julian Edelman capped off his impressive postseason with a performance that earned him the Super Bowl MVP Award.
Here are some takeaways from Super Bowl LIII.
1. Defense wins championships!
As most Patriots fans lament, the New England defense was the weak link the last time the team was in the Super Bowl, as they didn’t have an answer for Nick Foles or the Philadelphia Eagles who dropped 41 points on them. Following that dreadful performance, not much was expected of the defense, with most people overlooking them throughout the season and also leading up to this game, as pundits felt that the Rams had the edge against Bill Belichick’s defensive unit. That was not the case last night, as the raw physicality and ferociousness of the Pats’ defense sent the high-flying Rams crashing down to earth. Whenever Tom Brady and the offense struggled to finish off drives, the defense had their back, as they didn’t allow Jared Goff and the Rams to gain any sort of momentum.
Belichick and Brian Flores ensured that Goff would never be comfortable, as they consistently sent pressure after him which caused the young signal caller to either rush throws or absorb vicious hits. In total, the Pats sacked Goff 4 times and hit him an additional 12 times, with Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy playing a huge part. The Rams were one of the NFL’s best offenses due to a steady balance between their rushing and passing attacks which allowed them to either stretch the field with play action or punish their opponent with the speed and power of Todd Gurley. Neither facet of their identity was in play yesterday, as Gurley only got 11 touches, and Goff was forced to drop-back more times than he was accustomed to. This resulted in the Rams being shut out in the first half for the first time under Sean McVay.
In the second half, the Rams had a chance to take the lead, as Brandin Cooks was wide open in the end zone due to a busted coverage, but a second’s hesitation by Goff resulted in a wobbly ball that allowed Jason McCourty to cover 10 yards and dislodge the ball from Cooks’ hands. Later on in the fourth quarter, with the score at 10-3 in favor of the Patriots, the Rams were driving to tie the game, and Goff lofted a perfect pass to Cooks that was knocked out by Duron Harmon to save a touchdown. On the very next play, Harmon came on a safety blitz that caused Goff to panic and float a ball in the vicinity of Cooks that was picked off by Stephon Gilmore to all but seal the victory.
The game plan constructed by Belichick and Flores was absolutely remarkable, as it befuddled the normally impervious McVay, and knocked the Rams out of rhythm. As the Pats proved last night, defense wins championships.
2. The offense was clutch when it mattered
As the final score indicates, the Patriots’ offense left a bunch of points on the field, as Wade Phillips’ defensive unit were able to consistently make stops in order to ensure that the Rams were in contention throughout the night. Tom Brady had a nightmarish start to his night, as his first pass was intercepted (due to a bad read on his part), which wiped out a promising opening drive that appeared to be destined for points. Julian Edelman (10 catches for 141 yards) was a consistent mismatch for the Patriots, as the Rams could not cover him regardless of who was on him, with Nickell Roby-Coleman and Aqib Talib being burnt on several occasions. Edelman was Brady’s security blanket throughout the night, and was especially clutch on third down.
In the fourth quarter, the Pats got the ball back with just under 10 minutes left, and Tom Brady relied on his old friends, Edelman and Rob Gronkowski, on a 5 play, 69 yard drive that helped the Patriots drive down the field. Gronk turned back the clock on this drive, as he first beat Samson Ebukam on a 18-yard catch and run, and he set up the Pats deep in the red zone with a diving 29-yard catch. On the very next play, Sony Michel pounded the ball in for the game’s only touchdown to give the Patriots a 10-3 lead that they would never relinquish.
I also feel that the penultimate possession by the Patriots was equally impressive, as they were able to use Gilmore’s interception to milk the clock. They rushed the ball from their own 4-yard line all the way to the Rams’ 24-yard line, with Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead leading the way to set up Stephen Gostkowski’s 41-yard field goal to make it a two possession game.
One of the headlines leading into this game was the matchup between the Rams defensive line and the Pats offensive line, who were amongst the NFL’s best at their respective positions. I think it’s fair to say that the Patriots’ offensive line performed much better than people expected, as the Rams only sacked Brady once (the first and only time he was sacked during the postseason) and hit him 4 times. The duo of Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh were limited to 2 combined QB hits.
Brady did look erratic at times and he was hardly his best self, but it is hard to deny that #12 and the rest of the offense were absolutely clutch when it counted.
3. Special teams was remarkable!
Apart from Stephen Gostkowski’s missed field goal in the first quarter, the Pats’ special teams unit had an unblemished performance, with Ryan Allen constantly booting impressive punts that resulted in the Rams being pinned deep in their own territory. Matthew Slater also played a big role, as he was responsible for downing Allen’s punts and stopping punt returns before they could become deadly.
Gostkowski made up for his early miss with a late field goal that made it all but impossible for the Rams to mount a comeback.
Passing: Tom Brady – 21/35 for 262 yards, and 1 interception
Rushing: Sony Michel – 18 carries for 94 yards, and 1 touchdown
Receiving: Julian Edelman – 10 catches for 141 yards
Defensive: Jonathan Jones – 8 tackles (including 1 sack)
Passing: Jared Goff – 19/38 for 229 yards, and 1 interception
Rushing: Todd Gurley II – 10 carries for 35 yards
Receiving: Brandin Cooks – 8 catches for 120 yards
Defensive: Cory Littleton – 10 tackles
What’s next?:The Patriots enter the offseason as champions, but will need to quickly turn their attention to the draft and free agency, as they may end up losing key contributors to either free agency or retirement. It will be interesting to see how this team looks during the 2019-20 season.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Pats may end up hosting the Chiefs, Steelers, Cowboys, or Browns for their season opener.
Bonus:Check out this sweet Disney World promo featuring Brady and Edelman!
The Patriots have their second opportunity to seize their sixth championship this Sunday when they take on the formidable Los Angeles Rams (15-3) in Super Bowl LIII. Everything the Pats have worked for this season, from overcoming injuries and suspensions, to silencing their doubters, has led to this moment. The Pats will undoubtedly face one of their toughest tasks of the season, as the Rams are a team that can dominate on either side of the ball.
Here are some things to consider entering the Super Bowl.
1. Will the offense continue to dominate the time of possession?
One of the key strategies the Pats have employed this postseason is to control the time of possession in the game by consistently and strategically running the ball with Sony Michel, who has been remarkable this postseason. This tactic was heavily efficient against both the Chargers and the Chiefs, as it wore down their defenses, and limited the number of drives for their explosive offenses, hence enabling the Pats to dictate the pace of the game. With regards to the Rams defense, they were extremely porous against the run in the regular season with teams like the Seahawks running the ball down their throats. However, they have stiffened up in the postseason, with their most efficient performance in the Divisional Round where they held Ezekiel Elliot to under 50 rushing yards.
Running the ball effectively with Sony Michel will be key for the Patriots if they want to have a chance of winning the game.
2. Can the Pats limit Donald to give Brady a chance?
All 3 of the Patriots’ Super Bowl losses with Tom Brady have featured effective pass rush down the interior, with the Giants consistently getting after Brady with their 4-man rush, and the Eagles sealing their victory with a strip sack in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately for the Pats, they’ll be facing the NFL’s best pass rusher in Aaron Donald, who has 20.5 sacks on the season, and can change the course of a game with his unmatched prowess as a pass-rushing defensive lineman. The Pats will also have to contend with Ndamukong Suh and Dante Fowler Jr. who were instrumental in the Rams making the Super Bowl. So far this postseason, the Pats have absolutely dominated the line of scrimmage and protected Tom Brady who has only been hit 1 time and still has not been sacked. The offensive line led by David Andrews and Trent Brown will need to figure out how they decide to block Donald, who will likely draw multiple blockers, which would challenge the other Ram defenders to win their one-on-one matchups on the line of scrimmage.
Giving Tom Brady enough time in the pocket will be essential for the Patriots to emerge victorious.
The Patriots offense has been on a tear this postseason, scoring 41 against the Chargers and 37 against the Chiefs, in contests that could be described as offensive clinics. Apart from 2 interceptions against the Chiefs, Tom Brady has been at his best during the playoffs, as he has made the most of the clean pockets provided to him by the offensive line in order to dissect the opposing defense. Brady has been historically successful against zone defenses, as he is adept enough to find the soft spots in the defense, and deliver strikes to his receivers. As I mentioned earlier, this week could prove to be a tiny bit more difficult for Brady due to the daunting test of going up against Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, and the rest of the Rams’ pass rushers, who are the best interior pass rushing defense in the league. Throughout this season, Brady has struggled against interior pass rushers, who have been able to rattle him. To counteract the threat of Donald and Suh, Brady will need to get rid of the ball in under 2 to 3 seconds.
Brady will need his playmakers, such as Julian Edelman, James White, and Rob Gronkowski to be at their absolute best on Sunday, as winning their individual matchups quickly would allow Brady to get rid of the ball quickly without being overly worried about about the threat of Donald. I think that White and Rex Burkhead will be extremely vital for the passing game, because they will likely be covered by the Rams linebackers who struggled to cover Alvin Kamara in the NFC Championship Game. Using screen plays would likely challenge the Rams to counter the Patriots’ speed at running back and receiver, with effective tackling.
If the Pats want to have a chance of succeeding, they will need to have big games from their receivers and running backs in the passing game.
Ever since Sean McVay became the head coach of the Rams in 2017, the Rams have consistently been one of the NFL’s best offense, featuring innovative play-calling that challenges defenses to be disciplined and not be fooled by the flow of the offense. Under the tutelage of McVay, Jared Goff and Todd Gurley have flourished, with the duo being amongst the NFL’s best at their respective positions.
Bill Belichick and Brian Flores will have their work cut out for them, as out-scheming Sean McVay is easier said than done. Various analysts have said that it wouldn’t be surprising to see Belichick dust off some of his own game plans from games such as Super Bowl XXV and Super Bowl XXXVI. In Super Bowl XXV, Belichick was the defensive coordinator for the Giants against the Bills, during which he crafted a game plan that utterly negated the devastating passing game of the Bills, while allowing Thurman Thomas to run rampant. In Super Bowl XXXVI, Belichick and the Pats faced off against the then-St. Louis Rams, where his defense neutralized the explosiveness of the Greatest Show on Turf, with a focus on physicality, which was not something the Rams were accustomed to.
I think that Belichick will try to use a combination of both schemes, with a primary focus on the plan from Super Bowl XXXVI, because the current Rams bear a pretty significant resemblance to the 2001 Rams, with an explosive running back, and a duo of deadly receivers who can burn defenses with their speed, alongside a young but poised quarterback. With regards to the plan from Super Bowl XXV, shutting down the passing game sounds like a good idea, but having Todd Gurley running at full speed doesn’t sound very comforting.
I think that Belichick and Flores will repeat their game plan from last week against the Chiefs, with Stephon Gilmore drawing the assignment of covering Robert Woods, and J.C. Jackson and Devin McCourty doubling ex-Patriot Brandin Cooks. This would likely result in man-to-man coverage on other Rams receivers/tight ends such as Josh Reynolds, Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett. One of my major concerns in the passing game will be containing Todd Gurley on screens, because he has the potential to score on almost any play. Another major part of the game plan in the Chiefs game was to constantly put pressure on Patrick Mahomes, who was rattled for most of the first half. In comparison to Mahomes, Jared Goff is not as mobile, which could make it easier to bring him down. A key component to Goff’s success this season has been the high usage of play-action passes, which have enabled him to get out of the pocket and find open receivers down the field. Shutting down this part of the Rams’ offense would make life very hard for Goff.
The Rams have had one of the NFL’s best rushing attacks in recent weeks, with CJ Anderson serving as an excellent complementary piece alongside Gurley. An example of their dominance could be from their victory over Dallas where each of them rushed for over 100 yards. Gurley’s health has been under question ever since his limited involvement in the NFC Championship Game. The Patriots were effective in shutting down the Chargers’ dynamic running backs in the Divisional Round, but stopping a healthy Todd Gurley is something else altogether.
It will be interesting to see how the chess match between Belichick and McVay plays out.
Patriots: No players listed
Rams: No players listed
Here are some of my other predictions for the Super Bowl
The Patriots head to Arrowhead Stadium tomorrow to take on the Kansas City Chiefs (13-4) for the right to represent the AFC in Super Bowl LIII. The Patriots will undoubtedly face their toughest task of the season, as the Chiefs usually take it up a notch when they’re in front of their rabid fans at Arrowhead Stadium, which will test the Pats on both sides of the ball.
Here are a few things to consider entering the AFC Championship Game.
1. Will Brady, Michel & the offense deliver?
The last time the Pats met the Chiefs, Tom Brady and Sony Michel were both remarkable, as Brady threw for more than 300 yards, and Michel ran for more than 100 yards. To have any chance of keeping up with the explosive offense fielded by Andy Reid, Brady and Michel will need to be at their absolute best. Bill Belichick and his staff will definitely be looking at the Divisional Round game played between the Chiefs and the Colts, where Kansas City’s defensive line dominated Indianapolis’ previously impervious offensive line. This resulted in Andrew Luck and Marlon Mack being stifled by a Chiefs defense that had been dreadful throughout the season. Hence, I believe that for the Patriots to have offensive success, their offensive line will need to have an assertive performance at the line of scrimmage, as this would allow Brady to have time to deliver the ball in a clean pocket. Rob Gronkowski and James Develin will also need to be at their a-game, as their blocking would enable Michel to have the space required to gash the Chiefs on the ground. Julian Edelman and the rest of the receivers will also need to be as efficient as they were in Week 6 against Kansas City, because they’ll permit the Pats to stretch the field with play action.
I believe that the key for victory will be a dominant performance on the ground, as this will allow the Pats to control the time of possession and keep the ball out of Patrick Mahomes’ hands. Also, starting hot will be especially important, because it will be hard to play from behind against a lethal team like Kansas City.
2. Can the defense stifle the high-powered Chiefs?
The last time the Pats faced off against Patrick Mahomes, he torched them for 352 yards and 4 passing touchdowns. Mahomes maintained his explosive performance throughout the season, as he ended up throwing 50 touchdowns, and is considered to be the 2018-19 MVP. Coach Belichick and Brian Flores will have to craft another impressive game plan this week, because the way to defeat Mahomes is to force him to make mistakes in situations when he would normally be unflappable. The reason why the Patriots emerged victorious in Week 6 is because they were able to cause two turnovers in the first half, which allowed them to jump out to an early lead. It is important to understand that the Pats will not be able to stop Mahomes, due to the potency of his abilities, so their strategy for victory will be to slow him down. The way to do this is to get after him with constant and consistent pressure, and to confuse him with their coverages.
The next thing to consider about the Chiefs’ offense is their receivers. The Pats will need to be focused on the big play ability of Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, who can burn the Pats for explosive plays if given the opportunity. In my opinion, the Pats will need to double Hill with either Jason McCourty or J.C. Jackson, and Devin McCourty helping out over the top. Kelce would likely be covered by Patrick Chung, which is not a matchup that would be very favorable for the Pats. However, if I was Bill Belichick, I would rather be burned by Kelce than Hill. Stephon Gilmore would most probably matchup against his old teammate Sammy Watkins, who he limited to 18 yards in Week 6.
Luckily for the Patriots, they will not have to face off against their kryptonite, Kareem Hunt, who has over 400 yards of total scrimmage yards in 2 career games against them. Damien Williams has been quite efficient in replacing Hunt, as he has had over 100 rushing yards in 2 of the last 3 games he’s played in. Stopping the run will allow them to focus in on Mahomes and the passing attack.
Making enough stops and forcing turnovers will give the Patriots a good chance of advancing to Super Bowl LIII.
Contrary to popular belief, the New England Patriots are not dead, as they decisively routed the Los Angeles Chargers (13-5) 41-28 in a Divisional Round game that was not as close as the final score indicates. The Pats took control early by scoring on their first 4 drives and never gave the Chargers a chance of coming back in the second half. This victory improved the Pats to 12-5 on the season and set up a date with the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game.
Here are some takeaways from today’s victory.
1. Michel leads the way!
Sony Michel ended his collegiate career with the Georgia Bulldogs in the College Football Playoffs, where he dominated Oklahoma to set up an appearance in the National Championship Game. Michel didn’t disappoint in his playoff debut with the Pats as he shredded the Chargers for 129 yards and 3 touchdowns off of 24 carries. A week after shutting down Baltimore’s vaunted rushing attack, the Chargers had no answer for the dominant Pats’ offensive line, who were able to consistently open holes for Michel to run through. Rob Gronkowski and James Develin were also essential parts of the rushing attack, as they assisted in pushing back the Chargers.
If the Patriots want to advance further, they’ll need Michel to continue playing like this.
2. Don’t doubt the GOAT and his weapons!
Most pundits entered this game wondering if Tom Brady and his receivers stood much of a chance against the Chargers who featured elite defenders in their defensive line and their secondary. Let’s just say that they were wrong, because the Brady Bunch dissected the Chargers defense early and often. The lethal duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram were neutralized, as they combined for 1 hit on TB12. All in all, the Chargers never sacked Brady and only hit him once, due to the remarkable job done by the offensive line. Julian Edelman had one of his best performances in recent memory, as he corralled 9 receptions for 151 yards. Edelman was consistently a mismatch for the Chargers’ secondary, and was even harder to bring down as demonstrated by an epic conversion on 2nd & 13 when he broke free of a sure tackle to dive for a first down. Edelman’s 9 receptions helped him pass Reggie Wayne for second place in career postseason receptions. James White (15 catches for 97 yards) was a constant problem for the Chargers as he used his speed and agility to get past defenders. White’s 15 catches helped tie a record for receptions in a postseason game, and exceeded the 14 catches he had during Super Bowl LI. Phillip Dorsett (4 catches for 41 yards and a touchdown) and Chris Hogan (3 catches for 13 yards) also pitched in for the passing game. Gronk had 1 catch for 25 yards, but his impact was felt due to his effective blocking and the penalty he drew on the opening drive.
There was no denying that Tom Brady was surgical today, and he will need to be at his absolute best for the Patriots to be successful next week.
3. The defense stifled Rivers & company!
The Pats defense was otherworldly today as they consistently stopped the Chargers and enabled the offense to lengthen their lead. The Chargers had one of the NFL’s best running backs in Melvin Gordon, but the Pats never let him get him settled as they limited him to 15 yards and a touchdown off of 9 carries. Trey Flowers, Dont’a Hightower and the rest of the pass rushers made life miserable for Philip Rivers, as they hit him 7 times and sacked him 2 times. Rivers became increasingly frustrated and emotional throughout the game due to the constant hits he endured. He finished with 331 yards, 3 touchdowns and an interception, with most of his production coming in garbage time.
Stephon Gilmore continued his impressive season, as he rebounded from an early error (which resulted in a 43-yard touchdown by Keenan Allen) by not allowing another completion and also picking off Rivers in the fourth quarter.
The Pats were exceptional in shutting down one of the NFL’s most prolific offenses, and they’ll need to be even better to stand a chance next week.
Passing: Tom Brady – 34/44 for 341 yards and 1 touchdown
Rushing: Sony Michel – 24 carries for 129 yards and 3 touchdowns
Receiving: Julian Edelman – 9 catches for 151 yards
Defensive: Devin McCourty – 7 tackles
Passing: Philip Rivers – 25/51 for 331 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception
Rushing: Melvin Gordon – 9 carries for 15 yards and 1 touchdown
Receiving: Tyrell Williams – 5 catches for 94 yards
The 2018 regular season has flown by, as Week 17 is upon us. The Patriots hope to clinch a first-round bye when they welcome the New York Jets (4-11) to Foxborough. Winning this game would guarantee the #2 seed for the Pats, but they could still gain home field advantage if the Chargers and Chiefs lose this week.
Here are some things to consider entering this Week 17 contest.
1. What will be the focal point of the offense?
Over the last few weeks, the Patriots have had a run-oriented offense, which has helped in relieving pressure from Tom Brady. Sony Michel and the running backs had a brilliant game last week against Buffalo as they totaled more than 250 yards on the ground. I would expect the Pats to continue to lean on the running game, as the Jets come into this game with the 26th ranked rushing defense. Michel had over 130 yards the last time these teams met , which should be an encouraging sign for the Pats. It’ll be important for the Pats to maintain the health of Brady, Gronk, and Julian Edelman because they’ll be essential for the team to make a run in the playoffs.
2. Can the defense stifle Darnold?
In Week 12, the Jets were without their rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, and had veteran Josh McCown start instead. Darnold has had an up and down rookie season, as he’s shown flashes of brilliance while also leading the NFL with interceptions thrown. I would expect the Pats to try to come after Darnold with Trey Flowers and Dont’a Hightower, who are amongst the NFL’s leaders with pressures on the quarterback. Bill Belichick will likely challenge Darnold to beat man coverage or try to fool him with zone schemes. Dominating the line of scrimmage will be essential if the Pats want to stifle the Jets’ rushing attack and force Darnold to play from behind.
Jacob Hollister (hamstring) – Out
Dwayne Allen (knee) – Questionable
Brandon King (knee) – Questionable
Cordarrelle Patterson (knee) – Questionable
LaAdrian Waddle (illness) – Questionable
Morris Claiborne (shoulder/ankle) – Out
Quincy Enunwa (ankle) – Out
Jermaine Kearse (achilles) – Out
Kevin Pierre-Louis (shoulder) – Out
Jordan Jenkins (ankle) – Questionable
Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Week 17 contests.