Descending in MetLife: Will the Pats continue to neutralize New York?

On Monday, the Patriots make their annual trip to the Meadowlands to play their hated rival, the New York Jets (1-4) for the second time this season. The two teams squared off in Week 3, with the Pats easily winning by 16 points, but this week’s game could look drastically different, as both teams will be starting players that missed the matchup in September.

Here are some things to consider entering this Week 7 contest.

1. Can the defense continue to dominate?

The Patriots have been able to overpower their opponents with surgical and physical defensive game plans, which have been mostly successful in neutralizing what opposing offenses do best. This week, they face off against an offense that shocked the league with their ability to dice up an usually competent Dallas defense. New York’s resurgence on offense can be attributed to the return of their starting quarterback Sam Darnold, who was sidelined due to a 4 week bout with mononucleosis. Darnold clearly ignited something in Adam Gase’s much maligned offense, as he combined with Robbie Anderson and Jamison Crowder to dissect Dallas’ secondary. It wouldn’t be overly surprising to see Stephon Gilmore matched up against Anderson once again, as he has had success covering him in recent years. Another Jets’ receiver that the Pats will likely pay attention to is Demaryius Thomas, who made headlines this week for complaining about how Bill Belichick and the Pats’ front office cut and re-signed him, before shipping him to New York (due to the failed Antonio Brown experiment). Thomas will likely be motivated to prove that New England made a mistake in trading him, so the Pats should be careful to not lose him in coverage.

In order to emerge victorious, I believe that the Pats will need to neutralize Le’Veon Bell once again, and force Darnold to beat them with his arm.

pats d v darnold w7p19.jpg
(Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

2. What will the offense look like?

The Patriots’ offense has been decimated by injuries and turmoil over the last few weeks, which has limited their effectiveness in recent games. Unfortunately for Tom Brady, he will be without yet another weapon on Monday night, as Josh Gordon will be missing the game due to knee and ankle injuries. Gordon’s absence will likely result in increased snaps for Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski, who were effective in small doses in Week 6 against the Giants. Phillip Dorsett has been able to practice all week after sitting out Week 6 due to a hamstring injury, and is likely to suit up on Monday, which will help take pressure off of Brady, and Julian Edelman.

The Pats’ offensive line has struggled in recent weeks, and Monday’s matchup with the Jets won’t be any easier for them, as New York will have C.J. Mosley and Quinnen Williams on the field (both defenders were not active in Week 3). Hopefully re-signing Ben Watson will give the Pats a slight improvement in blocking, and help Sony Michel find some lanes to run through.

Facing a defense coached by Gregg Williams is never easy, so the battered Patriots’ offense will need to be at their absolute best to leave MetLife Stadium with a win.

tb v jets w7p19.jpg
(Photo via Getty Images)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Josh Gordon (ankle/knee) – Out
  • Ryan Izzo (concussion) – Out
  • Matt LaCosse (knee) – Out
  • Rex Burkhead (foot) – Questionable
  • Patrick Chung (heel/chest) – Questionable
  • Phillip Dorsett (hamstring) – Questionable
  • Julian Edelman (chest) – Questionable
  • Gunner Olszewski (hamstring) – Questionable

Jets

  • Albert McClellan (concussion) – Out
  • Henry Anderson (shoulder) – Doubtful
  • Kelvin Beachum (ankle) – Doubtful
  • Trenton Cannon (foot/ankle) – Doubtful
  • Christopher Herndon (hamstring) – Doubtful
  • Neville Hewitt (neck/knee) – Doubtful
  • Kelechi Osemele (shoulder) – Doubtful
  • Alex Lewis (neck) – Questionable
  • Nate Hairston (knee) – Questionable
  • Ryan Kalil (shoulder) – Questionable
  • C.J. Mosley (groin) – Questionable
  • Steve McLendon (hamstring) – Questionable
  • Darryl Roberts (ankle) – Questionable
  • Demaryius Thomas (hamstring) – Questionable
  • Brian Winters (shoulder/knee) – Questionable

 

Prediction: Patriots 20, Jets 13

Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Week 7 games (apart from Thursday Night Football)

Last week: 6-8

Raiders at Packers: Packers

Rams at Falcons: Rams

49ers at Redskins: 49ers

Texans at Colts: Texans

Vikings at Lions: Vikings

Jaguars at Bengals: Jaguars

Cardinals at Giants: Giants

Dolphins at Bills: Bills

Chargers at Titans: Chargers

Ravens at Seahawks: Seahawks

Saints at Bears: Bears

Eagles at Cowboys: Cowboys

The Pats take away Danny’s Dimes en route to a win against the Giants!

TEAM

1

2

3

4

T

NYG 0 14 0 0 14

NE

7 14 0 14 35

Even though the Patriots were able to defeat the Giants (2-4) by 21 points, yesterday’s game was much tighter than the scoreboard may indicate. The 35-14 victory improved the Pats to 6-0 on the season, and has them on top of the AFC, as the conference’s only undefeated team.

Here are some takeaways from this Week 6 contest.

1. The Pats’ defense was great once again!

Facing a short-handed Giants offense definitely played into the Pats’ hands, as they were able to stifle New York for most of the game. Stephon Gilmore arguably had his most active game of the year, as Daniel Jones opted to target him 6 times, which resulted in only 1 completion for 8 yards. The other 5 passes turned out to be an interception by Gilmore, a deflected pass that was picked off by John Simon, and 3 incompletions. Duron Harmon caught the second of Jones’ three interceptions, after an effective pass rush by Danny Shelton forced an errant throw. The Pats were able to confuse Jones with their coverage, and they sacked him 1 time, along with 8 QB hits. Jones is known for being mobile, but he was limited to 8 rushing yards off of 2 carries. However, the Pats were beaten by Jones on one play, when he lofted a perfect ball to Golden Tate that resulted in a 64-yard touchdown (and the first passing touchdown for a Pats’ opponent all year). Obviously, Bill Belichick won’t be happy seeing that play on film, but there was nothing that Jonathan Jones could do on that play, as Daniel Jones beat his perfect coverage with perfect ball placement. 

The Pats’ vaunted ‘Boogeymen’ linebackers struck again yesterday, as Jamie Collins Sr. and Kyle Van Noy combined for a forced fumble that was returned for a touchdown. This score was initially ruled out of bounds, but overturned after the referees took a second look at it. Van Noy’s touchdown came at a crucial point in the game when the Pats were only up by a touchdown, and ensured that New York wouldn’t be able to mount a comeback.

The Pats’ defense continues to play at a high level, and will need to be at their absolute best as the schedule ahead begins to get more difficult.

pats d v giants w619.jpg
(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

2. Another inconsistent outing for the offense

The Pats’ offense once again looked anemic for most of yesterday’s game, as it took them six drives to score a touchdown. In addition, Tom Brady had 2 uncharacteristic turnovers, with his first one being an errant throw that missed a wide-open Julian Edelman and was caught by Giants’ CB Janoris Jenkins, and the second one being a strip sack that was caused by Brady holding the ball for far too much time. That strip sack resulted in a Giants touchdown (which tied the game at 14 apiece), but was almost far more costly for the Pats’ offense, as Josh Gordon’s knee bent awkwardly when he went to tackle Markus Golden. Fortunately for New England, Gordon avoided a serious injury (although he didn’t return to the game), but the injury scare only seems to highlight the sudden need for another dynamic target at wide receiver. Edelman was his normal self yesterday, as he had 9 receptions for 113 yards, with his main highlight being a marvelous 36-yard catch, where #11 dove to get the ball. In the words of Rob Gronkowski: The furry Edelman fought to get his nut once again! 

Due to Gordon’s absence, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski were thrust into the limelight, and performed adequately when called upon. After the game, both Belichick and Brady mentioned that the sudden lack of players at wide receiver forced the Pats to stick with one personnel grouping throughout the game. It was another subpar outing for the Pats’ rushing attack, as Sony Michel only mustered 86 yards off of 22 carries, with a good chunk of it coming from a 26-yard run during garbage time. It’s hard to deny that New England’s most successful running back last night was a player by the name of Tom Brady who had 7 carries for 6 yards, along with 2 touchdowns, which both came off of QB sneaks at the goal-line. 

As I mentioned in my preview for this game, any sort of success for the Patriots’ offense would be predicated on the success of the offensive line to protect Brady and help out Michel. Unfortunately, the offensive line was not at its best yesterday, as Brady was sacked 3 times, and was hit an additional 6 times. Throughout the game, he did not have enough time to effectively survey the field, which killed a few drives in the process. 

All in all, the Patriots need to find an answer on offense, as riding the coattails of their defense and special teams will not be a recipe for success during the tail end of their schedule.

jules catch v nyg w619.jpg
(Elise Amendola/AP)

3. Yet another mixed bag for special teams

One of the major talking points entering yesterday’s game was the potential impact of the gusting winds in Foxborough, and the wind did not disappoint! On a number of drives in Giants’ territory, Bill Belichick opted to go for it on fourth down, instead of attempting field goals, due to the obstacle presented by the wind in the stadium. Mike Nugent missed a 40-yard field goal which hit the upright, but was able to convert on 5 extra points.

Special teams was responsible for the Pats’ first touchdown of the game, as a punt by Riley Dixon in the first quarter bounced off of his teammate’s helmet, and landed in the hands of Chase Winovich, who proceeded to run into the end zone for his first career touchdown.

Hopefully Nugent will be able to rebound over the next few weeks, and having touchdowns via special teams will continue to help the Pats win games!

wino td v giants s619.jpg
(Elise Amendola/AP)

Bonus:

1. TB12 passes Peyton Manning for the second-most passing yards in NFL history!

Here’s the pass that broke the record:

https://twitter.com/Patriots/status/1182455343466602499

Here’s the team congratulating him in the locker room after the game:

2. Gronk makes his Fox Sports debut!

Yesterday’s game also marked Rob Gronkowski’s debut as a member of the Fox Sports, which featured some classic Gronk moments, such as this breakdown of Julian Edelman and Tom Brady.

3. Color Rush!

It’s always a sight to behold when the Pats wear their Color Rush uniforms, and last night’s victory improved them to 5-0 in their alternates.

tb cr w619.png
(Photo via Getty Images)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 31/41 for 334 yards and 1 interception
  • Rushing: Sony Michel – 22 carries for 86 yards
  • Passing: Julian Edelman – 9 receptions for 113 yards
  • Defensive: Jason McCourty & Jonathan Jones – 4 tackles each

Giants

  • Passing: Daniel Jones – 15/31 for 161 yards, 1 touchdown & 3 interceptions
  • Rushing: Jonathan Hilliman – 11 carries for 38 yards
  • Receiving: Golden Tate – 6 receptions for 102 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Defensive: David Mayo – 13 tackles (including 0.5 sacks)

 

What’s next?: The Pats head over to Metlife Stadium to play New York’s other team, the Jets (0-4), for the second time this season, under the bright lights of Monday Night Football. Unlike Week 3’s matchup, Sam Darnold will likely be playing for New York. 

 

The Patriots overcome a sluggish start to crush the Redskins!

TEAM

1

2

3

4

T

WAS 7 0 0 0 7

NE

6 6 14 7 33

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.

pats secondary v redskins w519.jpg
(Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

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.

jules v redskins w519.jpg
(Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports Images)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • 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
  • Defensive: Dont’a Hightower – 8 tackles (including 1.5 sacks)

Redskins

  • Passing: Colt McCoy – 18/27 for 119 yards and 1 interception
  • Rushing: Steven Sims – 1 carry for 65 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Receiving: Terry McLaurin – 3 receptions for 51 yards
  • Defensive: Cole Holcomb – 10 tackles

 

What’s next?: The Pats have a short week as they welcome Daniel Jones and the New York Giants (2-3) to Foxborough for a matchup on Thursday Night Football.

Heading up North!: Will the Pats knock off the undefeated Bills?

It’s not too often that the Patriots are tied with another team in the AFC East after three weeks of action, which is why tomorrow’s matchup with the Buffalo Bills (3-0) is extremely intriguing, as the victorious team will take first place in the division. The Pats haven’t lost in Buffalo since the 2011 season, which ironically also occurred in Week 4, with both teams being undefeated at the time.

Here are some things to consider entering this Week 4 contest.

1. What will the offense look like?

The Patriots’ offense has changed dramatically over the last few weeks, due to the addition and subsequent release of Antonio Brown, and the injuries sustained by offensive linemen Marcus Cannon & Isaiah Wynn, and fullback James Develin. In addition, Week 3’s game against the Jets tested the limits and versatility of the Pats’ receiving corps, with Julian Edelman getting knocked out of the game with a chest injury. Luckily for the Pats, Edelman was able to make the trip to Buffalo, and is expected to play. As this is only Week 4, having Edelman sit out wouldn’t be the worst idea, as another injury could jeopardize the team’s chances of contending down the line. If Edelman does play, I’d still expect the Pats to be cautious with his number of snaps, which would likely expand the importance of Josh Gordon and Phillip Dorsett in the offense.

Another important focus for the Pats should be ensuring the success of Sony Michel and the ground game. Michel hasn’t had the greatest start to the season, and the absence of Develin wasn’t exactly helpful for him against the Jets. If the Pats are able to sustain their running game, they can take pressure off of Tom Brady, and keep the Bills off balance with a well-balanced offensive attack.

The Bills’ defense has been stingy thus far, which means the Patriots will need to have a great offensive performance to emerge victorious tomorrow.

jules v bills w4p19.jpg
(Photo via USA Today)

2. Can the defense contain Josh Allen?

Josh Allen is one of the most perplexing quarterbacks in the NFL, as he has flashed brilliance with his ability to throw and run, while also displaying a great deal of recklessness with the football. Looking at Allen’s highlights so far, it’s fair to say that one of his greatest assets is his ability to run the ball, as it forces opposing defenses to keep an eye on him at all times. I believe that the Patriots’ key to victory will be bottling up the Bills’ running game, and putting the ball in Josh Allen’s hands. Allen has struggled with accuracy down the field, which plays right into the Pats’ hands, due to their excellent secondary. In addition, forcing Allen to throw a lot would enable Bill Belichick and Jerod Mayo to dial up the pass rush on the young quarterback. If Allen becomes rattled, he may throw some ill-advised throws, which could lead to takeaways for the defense.

Getting after Josh Allen would go a long way in ensuring another successful outing for the Patriots’ defense.

josh allen v pats d w4p.jpg
(Photo via the Democrat & Chronicle)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Michael Bennett (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Rex Burkhead (foot) – Questionable
  • Nate Ebner (groin) – Questionable
  • Julian Edelman (chest) – Questionable
  • Marshall Newhouse (illness) – Questionable
  • Dont’a Hightower (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Matt LaCosse (ankle) – Questionable

Bills

  • Tyler Kraft (ankle) – Out
  • Corey Thompson (ankle) – Out
  • Maurice Alexander (knee) – Questionable
  • Jon Feliciano (neck) – Questionable
  • Robert Foster (groin) – Questionable
  • Taron Johnson (hamstring) – Questionable
  • Spencer Long (ankle) – Questionable
  • Isaiah McKenzie (ankle) – Questionable
  • Devin Singletary (hamstring) – Questionable

 

Prediction: Patriots 24, Bills 13

Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Week 4 games (excluding Thursday Night Football).

Last week: 10-5

Redskins at Giants: Giants

Chiefs at Lions: Chiefs

Titans at Falcons: Falcons

Browns at Ravens: Ravens

Raiders at Colts: Colts

Panthers at Texans: Texans

Chargers at Dolphins: Chargers

Buccaneers at Rams: Rams

Seahawks at Cardinals: Seahawks

Vikings at Bears: Bears

Jaguars at Broncos: Jaguars

Cowboys at Saints: Cowboys

Bengals at Steelers: Steelers

Will the Pats continue to be a source of turbulence for the Jets in Foxborough?

It has been nearly 10 years since the last time the New York Jets (0-2) won a game in Foxborough, as the Patriots have utterly dominated their long-time rival during their recent matchups in Gillette Stadium. Week 3 won’t be any easier for New York, as they bring an injury-riddled roster to the home of the champs.

Here are some things to consider entering this game.

1. What will the offense look like without AB?

Much of the conversation surrounding the Patriots’ offense in recent weeks was about the addition of mercurial wide receiver Antonio Brown who made his debut for the team during last week’s blowout victory against the Dolphins. However, due to Brown’s decision to send intimidating text messages to a woman accusing him of sexual misconduct, the Patriots opted to part ways with him on Friday.

Brown getting released just 2 days prior to the game likely throws a wrench into Josh McDaniels’ offensive game plan, as he’ll have to adjust the formations and sets he would’ve called if Brown was on the field. I’d expect McDaniels to focus on three receiver sets using Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, and Josh Gordon. The Pats’ rushing attack will likely be less effective on Sunday, as they’ll be missing their lead blocker, fullback James Develin who won’t be playing due to a neck injury. Another key issue will be depth on the offensive line, due to injuries sustained to Isaiah Wynn and Marcus Cannon.

If the offensive line is able to keep Tom Brady upright, they’ll give the Pats a great chance to win this game.

pats receivers pw3.jpeg
(Photo via the New England Patriots)

2. Will the defense finally give up a touchdown?

The Patriots’ defense has been on a remarkable stretch over their last 3 games, as they haven’t given up a touchdown since the AFC Championship Game against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. Remarkably, they also haven’t given up a touchdown to the Jets in Gillette Stadium since October 2015. The Jets will be playing without their starting quarterback Sam Darnold due to his bout with mononucleosis. Instead, they’ll be going up against third-stringer Luke Falk who will be making his first career start. The Pats are definitely aware of the danger Le’Veon Bell presents as a rusher and a pass-catcher, which means that their linebacking corps will likely be tasked with covering/shadowing him. Stephon Gilmore and the secondary will need to neutralise Jameson Crowder, Robby Anderson, and the rest of New York’s receivers.

Bottling up Bell, clamping down on the receivers, and pressuring Falk will put the Pats in a great position to emerge victorious.

pats defense pw3.jpg
(Photo via Getty Images)

 

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • James Develin (neck) – Out
  • Shilique Calhoun (not injury related) – Questionable
  • Marcus Cannon (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Ryan Izzo (calf) – Questionable
  • Matt LaCosse (ankle) – Questionable

Jets

  • Sam Darnold (illness) – Out
  • Jordan Jenkins (calf) – Out
  • C.J. Mosley (groin) – Doubtful
  • Demaryius Thomas (hamstring/knee) – Doubtful
  • Quinnen Williams (ankle) – Doubtful
  • Kelvin Beachum (ankle) – Questionable
  • Josh Belamy (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Trenton Cannon (ankle/hamstring) – Questionable
  • Steve McLendon (hip) – Questionable
  • Rontez Miles (hip) – Questionable
  • Ty Montgomery (not injury related) – Questionable
  • Kelechi Osemele (knee) – Questionable
  • Brian Poole (groin) – Questionable
  • Brian Winters (shoulder) – Questionable

 

Prediction: Patriots 35, Jets 9

Here are my picks for the NFL’s other Week 3 contests.

Last week: 9-6

Dolphins at Cowboys: Cowboys

Bengals at Bills: Bengals

Lions at Eagles: Eagles

Falcons at Colts: Falcons

Raiders at Vikings: Vikings

Ravens at Chiefs: Chiefs

Broncos at Packers: Packers

Panthers at Cardinals: Panthers

Giants at Buccaneers: Buccaneers

Saints at Seahawks: Seahawks

Texans at Chargers: Texans

Steelers at 49ers: 49ers

Rams at Browns: Rams

Bears at Redskins: Bears

Miraculous Patriots dominate in Miami!

TEAM

1

2

3

4

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MIA 0 0 0 0 0

NE

7 6 10 20 43

Unlike last season’s matchup in Miami, today’s game between the Patriots and Dolphins (0-2) didn’t come down to the last play, as the Patriots cruised to a 43-0 victory, improving them to 2-0 on the season.

Here are some takeaways from this Week 2 contest.

1. Brady and the offense were efficient

The Patriots’ offense had another good performance today, as they had a well balanced attack which constantly caused problems for Miami. Tom Brady threw for 264 yards and 2 touchdowns, as he completed 20 passes to 7 different receivers. Today also marked the debut of Antonio Brown as a Patriot, and he made an impact from the get-go, as he caught 3 passes on the game’s opening drive. Brown ultimately finished with 4 receptions for 56 yards and 1 touchdown. Brown’s superior route-running was in full display, but it is obvious that he and Brady still need to work on their timing, due to a few instances of miscommunication between the duo. Julian Edelman (4 catches for 51 yards), Phillip Dorsett (3 catches for 39 yards), and Josh Gordon (2 catches for 19 yards) has relatively quiet performances, but came through when Brady needed them. Sony Michel (21 carries for 85 yards, and 1 touchdown) and Rex Burkhead (5 carries for 21 yards) combined to form an effective rushing duo, and Brady even added a rushing touchdown with his traditional quarterback sneak.

If the Pats continue to play like this on offense, they will put themselves in a great position to win more contests.

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(Lynne Sladky/Associated Press)

2. The Patriots’ defense was simply remarkable!

For the third straight game (including Super Bowl LIII), the Patriots’ defense did not give up a touchdown, as they absolutely smothered Miami’s offense. The Pats pitched their first shutout since Week 3 of the 2016 season, and were able to limit the Dolphins to 184 total yards. Stephon Gilmore and Jamie Collins led the way for the defense’s dominant performance, as both of them made life difficult for Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen. Gilmore forced an interception in the third quarter, when he tipped a ball into Devin McCourty’s hands, and also had a 54 yard pick-six in the fourth quarter when he read Fitzpatrick’s eyes on a 3rd & 2 play. Collins had his own pick-six on the following Miami possession when he snagged a ball juggled by Dolphins HB Kalen Ballage with one hand en route to a 69 yard touchdown. He also picked off Rosen on the game’s final play, hence securing the shutout. The Pats hit Miami’s quarterbacks 12 times and also had 7 sacks. Kenyan Drake haunted the Patriots last year with his speed during the Miami Miracle, but he was rendered non-existent today, finishing with under 50 total yards from scrimmage.

The Patriots’ defense has proven to be the team’s superior unit over the last two weeks, and will definitely solidify themselves as one of the NFL’s best units if they continue to play like this.

jamie collins w2.jpg
(Photo via Getty Images)

3. Stephen Gostkowski had a dreadful performance

Stephen Gostkowski has typically been reliable for the Patriots over the years, but he was dreadful today, with 1 missed field goal and 2 missed extra points. Ironically, he missed kicks on the same day as other prominent kickers such as Adam Vinatieri, Dan Bailey, and Matt Prater.

Gostkowski’s job is clearly not in jeopardy, but he will need to turn it around for the Patriots to succeed as the season progresses. 

gostkowski w2.jpg
(Matt Stone/Boston Herald)

 

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 20/28 for 264 yards, and 2 touchdowns
  • Rushing: Sony Michel – 21 carries for 85 yards, and 1 touchdown
  • Receiving: Antonio Brown – 4 receptions for 56 yards, and 1 touchdown
  • Defensive: Jamie Collins – 5 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 1 touchdown

Dolphins

  • Passing: Josh Rosen: 7/18 for 97 yards, and 1 interception
  • Rushing: Kenyan Drake – 6 carries for 19 yards
  • Receiving: Preston Williams – 4 receptions for 63 yards
  • Defensive: Jerome Baker – 12 tackles

 

What’s next?: The Patriots will host their hated rival, the New York Jets (0-1), who will be missing their starting quarterback Sam Darnold due to his mononucleosis diagnois. It will be interesting to see if Antonio Brown will be on the Pats’ roster next week, as the NFL will be meeting with the woman who accused him of sexual assault in the coming days, and Roger Goodell has reportedly not ruled out putting Brown on the league’s exempt list if necessary.

The Pats flatten Pittsburgh on Sunday Night Football!

TEAM

1

2

3

4

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PIT 0 0 3 0 3

NE

7 13 10 3 33

The Patriots once again showed that they are still amongst the NFL’s elite with a 33-3 drubbing of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Pats were dominant on both sides of the ball, and also thoroughly out-coached the Steelers.

Here are some takeaways from yesterday’s game.

1. Gordon and Dorsett lead the way for the offense!

Entering this season, wide receiver was one of the major question marks for the Patriots, but last night dispelled those doubts, due to the brilliant performances of Josh Gordon, Philip Dorsett, and Julian Edelman. Gordon’s first catch of the season was a awe-inspiring 20-yard touchdown, where he broke through multiple tackles en route to the end zone. Gordon followed that up with an amazing 44-yard reception down the field where he absorbed a brutal hit while corralling the ball. Phillip Dorsett finished the night with 2 touchdowns, including a 58-yard score, where he was completely wide open down the field. Julian Edelman was his usual reliable self, as he consistently got open to serve as Tom Brady’s safety blanket. Edelman also helped provide a spark with his arm, when he perfectly executed a double pass to James White.

The Patriots have demonstrated over the years that they have no issue changing their offensive identity, and last night was no different. New England primarily depended on their passing attack, as the team’s stable of running backs combined for only 99 yards.

josh gordon w1.jpg
(Photo via SI)

2. Tom Brady was effective as per usual

Tom Brady started off the game erratic, with several misthrows that derailed the Patriots’ first drive. Following Edelman’s double throw, Brady got back into routine, as he proceeded to dissect the Steelers defense for 341 yards and 3 touchdowns. A major factor for Brady’s brilliant performance was the offensive line, who only gave up one sack despite the season-long absence of center David Andrews and the injury of OT Marcus Cannon. Most importantly, LT Isaiah Wynn was spectacular at covering Brady’s blindside in his professional debut.

tom brady w1.jpg
(Photo via SI)

3. The defense absolutely suffocated Pittsburgh’s offense

Yesterday was the third straight game where the Patriots shut out their opponent in the first half. Ben Roethlisberger was never allowed to be comfortable, as the Patriots were able to apply constant pressure on him. In addition, New England’s corners clamped down on Pittsburgh’s receivers, with Stephon Gilmore winning his matchup against Juju Smith-Schuster. Donte Moncrief was targeted a team-high 10 times, but only managed 3 catches for 7 yards. The Steelers’ lone offensive highlight was a 45 yard pass to James Washington. The Patriots also completely neutralized Pittsburgh’s rushing attack, as James Connor only managed 21 yards off of 10 carries.

Continuing to perform like this will solidify the Pats defense as one of the NFL’s best units.

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(Photo via CBS Sports)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady- 24/36 for 341 yards and 3 touchdowns
  • Rushing: Rex Burkhead- 8 carries for 44 yards
  • Receiving: Phillip Dorsett- 4 receptions for 95 yards and 2 touchdowns
  • Defensive: Jason McCourty- 7 tackles

Steelers

  • Passing: Ben Roethlisberger- 27/47 for 276 yards and 1 interception
  • Rushing: James Connor- 10 carries for 21 yards
  • Receiving: Juju Smith-Schuster- 6 receptions for 78 yards
  • Defensive: Devin Bush- 11 tackles

 

What’s next?: The Patriots will head down to Miami for the first time since the ‘Miami Miracle’, where they’ll take on a lowly Dolphins team (0-1) that gave up 59 points in a loss to the Ravens. This game should also mark the debuts of Antonio Brown and Demaryius Thomas as Patriots. In addition, Kyle Van Noy will likely make his season debut, as he missed yesterday’s game due to the birth of his first child.

Antonio Brown signing with the Patriots

In a shocking turn of events, the Patriots are signing newly released wide receiver Antonio Brown whose antics in Oakland wore out the patience of Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock.

Here are the details of Brown’s contract, as detailed by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

I’d like to caution Patriots fans from being overly excited about this news, as Brown’s actions over the last month, including his helmet fiasco and his near-altercation with Mayock have proven that he requires a short leash in order to be successful. Brown’s arrival in Oakland was celebrated by the Raiders organization and their fans, and it clearly blew up in their faces due to his unwillingness to be responsible and behave like a professional.

At the same time, the prospect of Antonio Brown being alongside Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, N’Keal Harry and the rest of the offense is tantalizing to say the least. I’m hopeful that the leadership structure of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will be enough to rein Brown in, as Belichick has proven that he won’t take insubordination from anyone, regardless of their talent, while Brady and Brown have shown mutual respect towards each other over the years. This transaction reminds me of several Patriots’ additions over the years. For instance, their addition of Randy Moss in 2007, an ex-Raider receiver with a troubled reputation who was able to resurrect his career during his brief stint in New England. It is also similar to the Pats signing Darrelle Revis in 2014 who came from the hated Jets on a one-year contract, en route to emerging victorious in Super Bowl XLIX. Other examples of controversial additions that worked out are James Harrison and Aqib Talib who were able to contribute to successful Patriot teams.

In the end, Brown’s chances of succeeding in Foxborough is contingent on his ability to buy into the Patriot Way. Respecting the organization and fans of New England would go a long way in rebuilding his tarnished image, which would allow him to cash in next off-season.

The Patriots vanquish the Vikings!

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The Patriots had a dominant performance today, as they beat the Minnesota Vikings 24-10 to improve to 9-3 on the season. The game was relatively tight until the middle of the third quarter when the Pats took the lead and never looked back. Both sides of the ball performed well which enabled the Patriots to dictate the pace of the game. Continuing to play like this will be essential for the team as they enter the last 4 games of the season.

Here are some takeaways from this Week 13 contest.

1. Tom Brady and the passing game challenged the Minnesota secondary early and often

Tom Brady had an efficient performance against a ferocious defense, as he threw for over 300 yards and 1 touchdown (along with a late interception). The offensive line was able to counter Minnesota’s pass rush, as Brady was constantly held upright, and was not sacked. James White (7 catches for 92 yards) and Josh Gordon (3 catches for 58 yards and a touchdown) led the way for the passing game, with Rob Gronkowski (3 catches for 26 yards) and Julian Edelman (3 catches for 25 yards) having a relatively quiet game. Cordarrelle Patterson played his former team for the first time, and he had a remarkable catch down the field, as he corralled the ball before it hit the ground. The passing attack had its way with Minnesota’s secondary, as they were able to connect on both deep passes and passes across the middle of the field. 

This was an encouraging performance for the passing game, as Brady and his arsenal of weapons were able to overcome a well-coached unit in Minnesota. 

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(Elise Amendola/AP)

2. The committee of running backs had a fine performance

The Patriots welcomed back Rex Burkhead following a 10-week absence, and he helped in relieving pressure off of James White and Sony Michel. Burkhead may not have had the most efficient performance (7 rushes for 20 yards), but he definitely had fresh legs, which allowed Michel and White to get some much-needed rest. Michel had 17 carries for 63 yards, as he was frequently able to find space to get around Minnesota’s talented defensive linemen, while White chipped in with 6 carries for 26 yards. Fullback James Develin had 2 touchdowns on the ground, as he punched it in twice from the one-yard line.

As the weather continues to get colder, it will be essential for the committee of running backs to gain some traction in order for the Pats to control games.

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(Jim Davis/Boston Globe)

3. Defense wins championships!

I’ve been pretty hard on the Patriots defense this season, as I’ve felt that they have not held up their end of the bargain, which has put the offense in tough spots. However, today was remarkable for them, as they utterly stifled the potent Vikings offense. Kirk Cousins was constantly rattled, as the Pats were able to get after him consistently, which helped result in 2 interceptions. Cousins rarely had the time to look down the field, which forced him to look for short completions instead. As a result, Cousins had over 30 completions, but only barely scraped past 200 yards. Stephon Gilmore and the McCourty twins were sensational today as they neutralized both Adam Thielen (5 catches for 28 yards and a touchdown) and Stefon Diggs (5 catches for 49 yards), and forced Cousins to look for his less-reliable targets. 

The one aspect with which the Pats struggled was stopping the run, as they couldn’t stop Dalvin Cook who ran for 84 yards off of 9 carries. As pundits remarked, Minnesota’s play-calling was suspect, as they went drives without running the ball, which was strange because Cook was clearly having success when he got the ball. 

The Patriots may have benefited from spotty play-calling, but there’s no denying that they dominated Minnesota’s offense, which is heartening as they begin to play more talented teams in the playoffs.

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(Travis Ellison/Minnesota Vikings)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 24/32 for 311 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception
  • Rushing: Sony Michel – 17 carries for 63 yards
  • Receiving: James White – 7 catches for 92 yards
  • Defensive: Devin McCourty – 8 tackles

Vikings

  • Passing: Kirk Cousins – 32/44 for 201 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions
  • Rushing: Dalvin Cook – 9 carries for 84 yards
  • Receiving: Stefon Diggs – 5 catches for 49 yards
  • Defensive: Eric Kendricks – 16 tackles and 1 interception

 

Bonus:

1. Brady has a record-setting day!: Tom Brady achieved a remarkable feat, as he finally crossed 1000 career rushing yards in 19 seasons as a starter. He also tied the all-time passing touchdowns record (including postseason) with 579. Brady also moved to 3rd all-time on the passing touchdowns list (regular season) as he tied Brett Favre with 508. 

Check out this humorous video produced by the Checkdown!

2. Bill Belichick had an amusing encounter with Adam Thielen: Bill Belichick and Adam Thielen had an interesting chat during today’s game, when Belichick opted to challenge a play in the fourth quarter. It’s clear that Belichick told Thielen to do something that’s not very kind…

Check out their encounter below!

 

What’s next?: The Pats head down to Miami to face the Dolphins (6-6) in a rematch of a dominant Week 3 victory for New England. The Pats have historically struggled in Miami during the Brady/Belichick era, so it will be interesting to see how they perform next week.

 

 

Music City Blues!: Pats get pounded by the Titans

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The Patriots’ 6-game winning streak was snapped today in Nashville, as they were routed 34-10 by the Tennessee Titans (5-4). The Pats fall to 7-3, which increases the gap between them and the AFC leading Kansas City Chiefs (9-1). Tennessee was able to outplay the Patriots in all 3 phases of the game.

Here are some takeaways from today’s loss.

1. Tennessee’s defense dominated the Brady Bunch

The Titans entered this game as the NFL’s top scoring defense, and they did not disappoint, as they limited the Patriots to a season low 10 points. Mike Vrabel and Dean Pees were able to craft a game plan to get after Tom Brady and constantly disrupt his mechanics and timing. Tennessee halted any momentum the Pats’ offensive line had had prior to today, as they were able to frequently penetrate through the middle and stifle the offense.

Julian Edelman was one of the sole bright spots for the offense, as he corralled 9 catches for 104 yards and was frequently a security blanket for Brady. Unfortunately, Edelman took a beating throughout the game, and left the game in the fourth quarter due to an ankle injury. Josh Gordon had 4 catches for 81 yards, but a finger injury suffered last week definitely affected his ability to catch, as he dropped a key pass in the first half that halted a drive that could have allowed the Patriots to tie the game early on. The rushing game was utterly non-existent for the Pats, as Sony Michel had only 31 yards (off 11 carries) in his return from injury.

The Pats need to reevaluate their offensive game plan to ensure their success as the season progresses.

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(Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

2. The defense got overwhelmed

Marcus Mariota had his best game of the season as he had 228 yards and 2 touchdowns. Mariota and Corey Davis (7 receptions for 125 yards and 1 touchdown) combined to make life miserable for the Patriots, as they were able to efficiently stretch the field at will. Following a series of remarkable performances, Stephon Gilmore had a clunker today, as he was frequently beat by Davis, and committed a few penalties.

The defense was not much better at stopping the run, as they gave up 150 yards, with Derrick Henry (11 carries for 58 yards and 2 touchdowns) and Dion Lewis (20 carries for 57 yards) leading the way for Tennessee.

It was disappointing to see the Pats take a step back on defense, but I have faith in their ability to bounce back from this.

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(Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

3. Special teams was dreadful as well

Special teams was a disaster for the Patriots, as big kickoff returns and punt returns enabled the Titans to start drives with great field position. For example, the Titans opened the game with a 58-yard kickoff return on their way to a opening drive touchdown. At one point in the game, the Titans’ average starting field position was at the Pats’ 42 yard line, while the Pats started at their own 24.

Games such as the Pats’ Week 7 win at Chicago can show the impact of a great performance on special teams.

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(Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports)

4. Inability to beat teams with familiar faces

2 of the Patriots’ losses this year have been at teams coached by ex-Patriots ( Week 3 at Detroit and today against Tennessee). Both games were similar, as Brady got constantly hounded, while the defense could not stop the pass or run. It appears as if Matt Patricia and Mike Vrabel are very familiar with the chinks in the Pats’ armor.

This factor makes today’s loss less concerning, even though the Pats definitely have their work cut out for them.

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(Photo via the AP)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 21/41 for 254 yards
  • Rushing: Sony Michel – 11 carries for 31 yards
  • Receiving: Julian Edelman – 9 catches for 104 yards
  • Defense: Kyle Van Noy – 13 tackles

Titans

  • Passing: 16/24 for 228 yards and 2 touchdowns
  • Rushing: Derrick Henry – 11 carries for 58 yards
  • Receiving: Corey Davis – 7 catches for 125 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Defense: Wesley Woodyard – 10 tackles (including 1.5 sacks)

 

What’s next?: The Pats head into their much needed bye week before heading to New York to face the hated Jets (3-7) on November 25th during Week 12.