Miraculous Patriots dominate in Miami!

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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.

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(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. 

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(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!

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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.

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(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.

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(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.

Beantown reacts to Tiger’s big win!

Tiger Woods captivated most of the sports world this past weekend, as he finally ended his long major drought with a big win at the Masters.

Here’s how members of the Boston sports community reacted to Woods capturing his 15th major championship.

 

Super Pats stifle the Rams to win their sixth title!

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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.

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(Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports)

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.

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(Photo via Getty Images)

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.

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(Matt Rourke/AP)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • 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)

Rams

  • 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!

 

 

Duel at the ATL: Who will win Super Bowl LIII?

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.

(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

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.

  (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
3. Can Brady and his weapons dice up the Rams?  

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.

(Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
 
4. Can Belichick & Flores out-scheme McVay?

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.

(Photo via CBS Sports)


Injury Report:

  • Patriots: No players listed
  • Rams: No players listed

 

Prediction: Patriots 31, Rams 28

Here are some of my other predictions for the Super Bowl

  • X-factor on offense: James Develin
  • X-factor on defense: Trey Flowers
  • MVP: James White

 

 

The Pats march past the Chiefs in OT to advance to Super Bowl LIII!

 

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What a game!!!

The Patriots secured a berth in Super Bowl LIII yesterday, as they triumphed over the Kansas City Chiefs (13-5) 37-31 in a thrilling contest that went into overtime. The Patriots dominated the Chiefs in the first half, as they grabbed a 14-point lead going into halftime, but the Chiefs roared back, led by their young phenom Patrick Mahomes, and gave the Patriots almost all they could handle.

Here are some takeaways from yesterday’s AFC Championship Game. 

1. TB12 and his weapons came up clutch again!

When the Chiefs took the lead just under 8 minutes to play in the fourth quarter, it appeared as if the Pats had squandered their chance to advance to the Super Bowl, as they had just turned the ball over (due to a drop by Julian Edelman), and watched their lead evaporate in just 10 seconds of game time. The Pats were able to answer the Chiefs by driving down the field, partly aided by an incredible one-handed catch by Chris Hogan, which was upheld following a challenge by Andy Reid. After the Chiefs retook the lead, Tom Brady and the offense had to drive 65 yards with just under 2 minutes left in the game. For a moment, it appeared as if the game was over, as an errant pass went off the hands of Rob Gronkowski and was caught by Charvarius Ward, who seemed to have clinched the AFC for the Chiefs. However, the Pats were aided by the left arm of defensive end Dee Ford, which was over the line of scrimmage, and gave the Pats a second chance. They didn’t waste their opportunity, as their next play was a 25 yard pass to Gronk that got them to the 4-yard line. The Pats quickly scored, but the Chiefs answered, which sent the game to overtime.

Similarly to Super Bowl LI against the Atlanta Falcons, the Pats won the coin toss, and never looked back, as they methodically marched the ball down the field against the Chiefs. A common criticism of the Pats this season has been that their main targets (Gronk and Edelman) were too old and banged up to have an impact on a game. They changed the narrative last night, as the duo came up big on 3 consecutive third downs, which enabled the Patriots to win the game.

A vintage performance by Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, & Rob Gronkowski has the Patriots in prime position to win another Super Bowl.

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(Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

2. The running backs were impactful!

The  Pats employed a similar game plan to their Divisional Round victory against the LA Chargers, as they came out running the football during their opening drive that went on for over 8 minutes, and resulted with a touchdown by Sony Michel. Michel and James White were a big part of the offense during the first half, as they were utilized to run the football constantly in an effort to burn the clock and keep the ball out of Patrick Mahomes’ hands. In the second half, Rex Burkhead was primarily used, and he definitely delivered, as he scored 2 touchdowns, including the eventual game winner. 

The Pats will need another solid performance by their running backs if they want to have a good chance of winning Super Bowl LIII.

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(Denny Medley / USA TODAY Sports)

3. The offensive line was simply remarkable

I don’t believe that any unit in this game had more of an impact than the offensive line for the Patriots, as their brilliance was unmatched last night. Kansas City entered this game as the NFL’s top sacking defense, with superstars on the defensive line, including Dee Ford, Justin Houston, and Chris Jones. The Chiefs’ pass-rushing duo never got close to Brady during the game, as they were utterly and completely neutralized. The Chiefs had zero sacks and only hit Brady once. 

They were also heavily efficient in the running game, as they were able to constantly produce gaping holes that enabled their running backs to run rampant through the Chiefs’ defense.

The Pats’ offensive line will need to maintain this performance for them to succeed in the Super Bowl.

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(Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports)

4. The defense did enough to win

As I mentioned in my preview for this game, the Pats were not going to stop Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, due to the immense talent permeating throughout their offense. However, they did succeed in slowing him down enough for the offense to grab an early lead, which allowed them to weather the second half explosion by Mahomes and the Chiefs. The Pats were able to get after Mahomes consistently, as they sacked him 4 times and hit him 10 times. Kyle Van Noy was extremely efficient in the first half, as he sacked Mahomes twice (including a strip sack that ended the half). The Pats had a great performance against Tyreek Hill (1 catch for 42 yards) and Travis Kelce (3 catches for 23 yards and 1 touchdown) who were virtually non-existent for the majority of this game. However, Sammy Watkins and  Damien Williams caused problems for the Patriots, as they were essential in sparking Kansas City’s comeback. 

I think that Bill Belichick and Brian Flores did a remarkable job in crafting the game plan, as they shut out the Chiefs for the first time at home during the Reid era. As mentioned by Tony Romo, Mahomes is a unique quarterback who is extremely hard to defend against. Hence, I don’t think that we can be too hard on the performance of Belichick’s defense.

For the second time this season, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs scored 31 in the second half against the Patriots, but New England’s first half heroics ensured that they would emerge victorious.

In order to prevent the result of last year’s Super Bowl, the Pats’ defense will need to be at the top of their game.

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(Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 30/46 for 348 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions
  • Rushing: Sony Michel – 29 carries for 113 yards and 2 touchdowns
  • Receiving: Julian Edelman – 7 receptions for 96 yards
  • Defensive: Kyle Van Noy – 10 tackles (including 2 sacks)

Chiefs

  • Passing: Patrick Mahomes – 16/31 for 295 yards and 3 touchdowns
  • Rushing: Damien Williams – 10 carries for 30 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Receiving: Sammy Watkins – 4 receptions for 114 yards
  • Daniel Sorenson – 14 tackles and 1 interception

 

What’s next?: The Pats head to Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII (on February 3rd at 6:30 EST on CBS), where they’ll take on the Los Angeles Rams (15-3) in a rematch of Super Bowl XXXVI. It’ll be interesting to see how the Pats match up against the likes of Aaron Donald and Todd Gurley, while coaching against the wunderkind Sean McVay. 

Battle at Arrowhead!: Who will advance to Super Bowl LIII?

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.

sony michel v chiefs ccgp.jpg
(Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

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.

mahomes v pats w6
(Photo via SI)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • No players listed

Chiefs

  • Dorian O’Daniel (ankle) – Out

 

PredictionPatriots 35, Chiefs 31

 

Here is my pick for the NFC Championship Game. 

Last week: 3-1

Rams at SaintsRams

Balanced Pats bolt past the Chargers!

TEAM

1

2

3

4

T

LAC 7 0 7 14 28

NE

14 21 3 3 41

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.

Sony Michel, Kyle Emanuel
(Elise Amendola/AP)

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.

 BRADY V CHARGERS DP19.jpg
(Charles Krupa/AP)

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.

RIVERS V PATS DP19.jpg
(Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • 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

Chargers

  • 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
  • Defensive: Jahleel Addae – 12 tackles

 

What’s next?: The Pats head to Kansas City to take on the red hot Chiefs (13-4) for the AFC Championship Game. This is a rematch of the wild Week 6 contest that ended with a 43-40 victory for that Pats at Gillette Stadium. It will be interesting to see how the game differs during a cold night at Arrowhead Stadium.

Brady vs Rivers: Is the eighth time the charm for #17?

This Sunday, the Patriots welcome the fourth-seeded Los Angeles Chargers (13-4) to Gillette Stadium for their AFC Divisional Round matchup. There’s no doubt that the Chargers will be a formidable opponent for the Pats, and in order for New England to reach their 8th straight AFC Championship Game, they’ll have to be at their best.

Here are some things to consider entering this playoff game.

1. Will history repeat itself?

As the title of this article suggests, Philip Rivers has never defeated Tom Brady, with Brady and the Pats emerging victorious during all 7 of their matchups (including 2 postseason games in 2007 and 2008). The last time these two teams faced off was last year in Week 8 when the Pats fended off the Chargers for a hard-fought 21-13 victory.

Let’s hope that history is on Brady’s side this week.

W2ST2873.JPG
(Matt West/Boston Herald)

2. Road warriors vs Dominant hosts

The Chargers have been one of the NFL’s best road teams throughout the season, as they’ve gone 8-1 away from the Dignity Health Sports Center, with their only road loss coming against their brethren, the LA Rams. Hence, the Chargers have been undefeated outside of Los Angeles, with victories at historically tough venues such as Arrowhead Stadium, Heinz Field, and CenturyLink Field. The Chargers’ dominance outside of LA can be matched by the Pats’ record at home, as they went 8-0 this season at Gillette Stadium.

It’s going to be interesting to see which team triumphs and extends their respective record.

gillete dp.jpg
(Photo via the Kraft Group)

3. How will the Pats account for Ingram and Bosa?

The Chargers had a masterful defensive performance during their Wild Card Weekend victory against the Baltimore Ravens, with Melvin Ingram leading the way in clamping down on rookie phenom Lamar Jackson. The Chargers had 7 total sacks in the game, and forced 3 total turnovers (2 fumbles and 1 interception). Los Angeles was able to throw the Ravens off course by stifling their time-consuming rushing attack. Luckily for the Pats, they are not as dependent on one particular phase of the offense, which will make it tougher for the Chargers to catch them off-guard if they are able to have success on defense. If the Pats do want to have success on offense, it will be absolutely imperative for them to account for the duo of Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa at all times, because they will make life hard for Tom Brady if they’re able to get after him. Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and the rest of the receivers/tight ends are going to have tough individual matchups this week, as they go up against the vaunted Chargers secondary, which includes some of the NFL’s best defensive backs in Derwin James, Desmond King, and Casey Hayward. Based on last year’s matchup between these two teams, I believe that the Pats will have to channel the crux of their offense through their stable of running backs (whether it be through rushes or passes), as they can win matchups against the Chargers’ linebackers due to their speed and agility.

If the Pats want to advance, the offense will need to be a well-oiled machine on Sunday.

brady vs chargers dp.jpg
(Photo via NBC Sports Boston)

4. Will the Pats slow down Rivers and company?

The Pats defense is going to face one of its toughest tests of the season this week, as the Chargers possess one of the NFL’s most prolific offenses. Throughout the season, the Pats have struggled to stop the run, which does not bode well for Sunday, as the Chargers have a great stable of running backs in Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekeler, and Justin Jackson. One of the highlights of last year’s meeting between these two teams was a 87-yard rushing touchdown for Gordon, where he simply outran every Patriot defender in sight. Fortifying the line of scrimmage will be important, as it will allow the Pats to rely on the strong half of their defense, which is definitely their secondary. I would expect Stephon Gilmore to have the assignment of shadowing Keenan Allen, with J.C. Jackson and Jason McCourty being the ones guarding Tyrell Williams and Mike Williams, respectively. The Pats will also have to account for the veteran tight end Antonio Gates, who continues to have an impact at the age of 38. It will be interesting to see if the Chargers’ other tight end, Hunter Henry is active tomorrow, because he could pose a problem for the Pats’ safeties, who have struggled to cover tight ends effectively. Getting after Rivers also has to be a priority, because giving him a comfortable pocket is not a strategy for success.

The Pats’ defense needs to be at its best tomorrow to have a good chance of winning this game.

rivers v pats dpp.jpg
(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Deatrich Wise (knee) – Questionable

Chargers

  • Brandon Facyson (concussion) – Questionable
  • Derek Watt (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Kyle Wilson (concussion) – Questionable
  • Hunter Henry (knee) – Questionable

 

Prediction: Patriots 30, Chargers 28

Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Divisional Round games.

Last week: 2-2

Colts at Chiefs: Chiefs

Cowboys at Rams: Cowboys

Eagles at Saints: Saints