The Pats’ Mighty D drowns out the Cowboys!

TEAM

1

2

3

4

T

DAL 0 6 0 3 9

NE

7 3 0 3 13

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.

gilly v cowboys w1219.jpg
(Matthew J. Lee/Boston Globe)

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.

jules harry w1219.jpg
(Nancy Lane/Boston Herald)

 

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.

slater block v cowboys.jpg
(Elise Amendola/AP)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • 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

Cowboys

  • 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.

Blockbuster Matchup: Can the Pats knock off America’s Team?

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 nationallytelevised 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.

jules v cowboys w12p19.jpg
(Mike Stone/Getty Images)

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.

witten v pats w12p19.jpg
(Mike Stone/Getty Images)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • 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

Cowboys

  • Leighton Vander Esch (neck) – Out
  • Joe Thomas (illness) – Questionable
  • Donovan Wilson (illness) – Questionable
  • Connor Williams (knee) – Questionable

Prediction: Patriots 27, Cowboys 23

Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Week 12 games (excluding Thursday Night Football).

Last week: 12-1

Dolphins at Browns: Browns

Lions at Redskins: Lions

Raiders at Jets: Raiders

Giants at Bears: Bears

Panthers at Saints: Saints

Seahawks at Eagles: Eagles

Buccaneers at Falcons: Falcons

Broncos at Bills: Bills

Steelers at Bengals: Steelers

Jaguars at Titans: Titans

Packers at 49ers: Packers

Ravens at Rams: Rams

The Pats’ Boogeymen haunt Darnold and shutout the Jets!

TEAM

1

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T

NYJ 0 0 0 0 0

NE

17 7 2 7 33

There were many pundits who expected yesterday’s game between the Patriots and Jets (1-5) to be competitive, due to the Pats’ injuries on offense, and the return of Sam Darnold to the Jets’ lineup. However, a dominant performance on both sides of the ball enabled the Pats to cruise to a 33-0 victory and their fourth straight season sweep of New York. This win improved the Pats to 7-0 on the season, and keeps them atop the AFC through seven weeks.

Here are some takeaways from yesterday’s game.

1. Another defensive masterpiece!

The Pats’ defense was remarkable yet again, as they shut out the Jets on offense for the second time this season, and limited them to 154 yards of total offense. Following a dominant performance against the Cowboys that netted him the AFC’s Offensive Player of the Week award, Sam Darnold was utterly neutralized by Bill Belichick’s defense, as he mustered only 86 passing yards, with a QBR of 0.7. Darnold’s first pass of the game was intercepted by Devin McCourty, and appeared to set the tone for the rest of the game, as the Pats used an effective pass rush to throw off Darnold’s timing and force turnovers. Darnold threw 4 interceptions and lost a fumble, en route to the worst performance of his professional career. Darnold’s frustration can be summed up by him mentioning how he was “seeing ghosts” on the field.

Demaryius Thomas was arguably the only efficient receiver for the Jets, as he managed to eclipse 40 yards, and drew several flags against J.C. Jackson, which enabled New York to extend multiple drives. Le’Veon Bell was effective on the ground, as he totaled 70 yards off of 15 carries, after being limited to 35 yards in Week 3’s matchup in Foxborough.

The Patriots’ defense has been the catalyst for the team’s unbeaten start to the season, and will need to continue to play at this level as the schedule begins to become more difficult.

d mac v jets w719.jpg
(Al Bello/Getty Images)

2. A good offensive rebound!

The Pats’ offense entered this matchup with several questions regarding their ability to overcome their perceived lack of depth at certain positions. Tom Brady and the offense opened the game with a drive that totaled nearly 9 minutes and culminated in a touchdown by Sony Michel. After a few weeks of uneven offensive performances, the Pats were able to sustain drives and move the ball against a physical Jets’ defense. The offensive line was much better at protecting Brady, as he wasn’t sacked, and was hit only 3 times. Due to injuries at fullback, Josh McDaniels enlisted several players to fill the void at the position, with linebacker Elandon Roberts being a notable example.

The Pats were able to spread the ball around, as Brady completed 31 passes to 9 different receivers, en route to 249 passing yards. Brady’s top weapons in this game were James White (7 receptions for 59 yards), Jakobi Meyers (5 receptions for 47 yards), and Julian Edelman (7 receptions for 47 yards), with Phillip Dorsett also pitching in with a 26-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. Sony Michel didn’t have his best game of the season, but he was effective when the Pats needed him, as he was able to score 3 touchdowns (for the first time in his regular season career).

The Patriots’ offense wasn’t as effective in the second half, but another dominant performance by their defense gave them a high margin for error. The Pats should be encouraged by how they were able to push around a physical defense, but they will need to find more consistency as the season progresses. Luckily for the offense, they will likely get N’Keal Harry and Isaiah Wynn back soon, and today’s trade for Falcons receiver Mohamed Sanu should also give the passing game a boost.

sony v jets w719.jpg
(Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 31/45 for 249 yards, 1 touchdown & 1 interception
  • Rushing: Sony Michel- 19 carries for 42 yards and 3 touchdowns
  • Receiving: James White – 7 receptions for 59 yards
  • Defensive: Jonathan Jones – 6 tackles

Jets

  • Passing: Sam Darnold – 11/32 for 86 yards and 4 interceptions
  • Rushing: Le’Veon Bell – 15 carries for 70 yards
  • Receiving: Demaryius Thomas – 3 receptions for 42 yards
  • Defensive: Darryl Roberts – 8 tackles

 

What’s next?: The Pats head back to Foxborough to face Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns (2-4) for a matchup that promises to test Bill Belichick’s defense, as they face off against an offense with weapons such as Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry.