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

 

TEAM

1

2

3

4

OT

T

KC 0 0 7 24 0 31

NE

7 7 3 14 6 37

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.

gronk v chiefs 19ccg.jpg
(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.

sony v kc 19.jpg
(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.

offensive line v kc 19ccg.jpg
(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.

mahomes fumble 19ccg.jpg
(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

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2

3

4

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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.

The Pats end the regular season on a high note by grounding the Jets!

TEAM

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NYJ 3 0 0 0 3

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7 14 7 10 38

The Patriots continued their dominance over the Jets (4-12) yesterday, as they eviscerated Gang Green 38-3. The Pats performed well in all 3 phases of the game, and generally made life miserable for the Jets. This victory improved the Pats to 11-5 on the season and helped them secure the second seed in the AFC.

Here are some takeaways from yesterday’s game.

1. The offense was remarkable

The Patriots offense has had its fair share of criticism in recent weeks due to uneven performances by Tom Brady and the passing game, which led the team to rely on Sony Michel and the other running backs for production. That narrative changed yesterday, as Brady caught fire early and dissected the Jets secondary for 250 yards and 4 touchdowns. Over the last week, there were several reports which stated that Brady had sustained a knee injury which would hamper his effectiveness. If that’s true, Brady did not appear to be any slower than usual, as demonstrated by the mobility he showed on his touchdown pass to Phillip Dorsett in the second quarter. All in all, Brady was sharp (except for some errant throws and a missed read in the red zone), and he was able to distribute the ball to receivers who had struggled to make an impact in previous weeks, such as Dorsett (5 catches for 34 yards and a touchdown) and Chris Hogan (6 catches for 64 yards). Julian Edelman was his usual effective self, as he corralled 5 catches for 69 yards and a touchdown. Rob Gronkowski (2 catches for 24 yards) showed some of the explosiveness he had lacked in recent weeks, especially on a 30 yard catch and run that was wiped out by an offensive penalty.

The offensive line was able to produce gaping holes at the point of attack which enabled the Pats to rush for over 130 yards, with Sony Michel (14 carries for 50 yards) and James White (4 carries for 30 yards) leading the way.

Jules v jets s17.jpg
(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

2. The defense was otherworldly

Many analysts expected the Jets offense to put up a fight against the Pats, but that never happened due to the strong performance of the defense. The Jets scored a field goal on their second drive of the day, but couldn’t sustain a drive after that. The defense was extremely opportunistic, as they forced 3 fumbles, including a 46 yard scoop and score for Kyle Van Noy, which made it hard for the Jets to score points even after getting good field position. Sam Darnold was rattled early, and was forced to consistently play from behind, which didn’t help his production. The Pats had a consistent pass rush which resulted in 4 sacks and Van Noy’s touchdown. Apart from Deontay Burnett, none of the Jets receivers crossed 30 receiving yards, which speaks to the dominance of the secondary.

This performance was a confidence booster entering the playoffs, but we should monitor the condition of Devin McCourty who left the game with a head injury.

kvn v jets w17.jpg
(Charles Krupa/AP)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 24/33 for 250 yards and 4 touchdowns
  • Rushing: Sony Michel – 14 carries for 50 yards
  • Receiving: Julian Edelman – 5 catches for 69 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Defensive: J.C. Jackson – 7 tackles

Jets

  • Passing: Sam Darnold – 16/28 for 167 yards
  • Rushing: Elijah McGuire – 18 carries for 41 yards
  • Receiving: Deontay Burnett – 5 catches for 73 yards
  • Defensive: Jamal Adams – 11 tackles

 

Bonus: 

(a) Here’s the complete playoff picture following the completion of the regular season

NFC

  1. New Orleans Saints (13-3)
  2. Los Angeles Rams (13-3)
  3. Chicago Bears (12-4)
  4. Dallas Cowboys (10-6)
  5. Seattle Seahawks (10-6)
  6. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)

AFC

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)
  2. New England Patriots (11-5)
  3. Houston Texans (11-5)
  4. Baltimore Ravens (10-6)
  5. Los Angeles Chargers (12-4)
  6. Indianapolis Colts (10-6)

 

(b) I began making predictions for every NFL game during Week 3, and my final record for the games I picked is 139-71 (0.662) 

 

What’s next?: The Pats have secured a first-round bye which means that they won’t be playing until January 13th when they take on either the Texans, Ravens, or Chargers at 1:05 PM. 

The Pats prepare for battle against the Vikings!

Tomorrow, the Patriots welcome the Minnesota Vikings (6-4-1) to Gillette Stadium in what promises to be a clash between two of the NFL’s elite talents. The Pats enter this contest with a 8-3 record and the AFC’s #2 seed, and a win on Sunday will keep them ahead of the Texans and Steelers in the playoff race.

Here are some things to consider entering this Week 13 matchup.

1. The offense is facing an aggressive defense

Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense were quite efficient during last week’s victory against the Jets, as they were able to rebound from an early deficit and dictate the pace of the game due to Sony Michel’s strong performance on the ground. The offensive line was also able to protect #12, allowing him to find targets such as Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, and Josh Gordon throughout the game.

This week’s game presents a unique matchup for the Pats, as they face off against a Vikings team they almost met in Super Bowl LII. Minnesota has had one of the NFL’s best defenses over the last few years, with a dominant pass rush leading the way. For example, the Vikings constantly got after Aaron Rodgers last week, as they limited him to 198 yards. Unfortunately for the Pats, the Vikings have been able to get after the quarterback without bringing an additional rusher, which allows them to be better prepared in pass coverage. Games such as Week 2 at Jacksonville and Week 10 at Tennessee have demonstrated what an effective pass rush can do to the Patriots.

The Pats will need to rely on their running game, in order to take pressure off of Brady and stretch the field with play action, which will give them a good chance of winning this game.

Julian Edelman, Harrison Smith
(Ann Heisenfelt/AP)

2. The defense is also facing a tall task

The Pats defense has had a long road throughout the season, as they’ve been able to rebound from early clunkers and have solid performances against good offenses. This week will test them again, as they face off against a talented group in the Vikings. Led by quarterback Kirk Cousins, Minnesota has been able to frequently dissect opposing defenses and put themselves in good position to win games. A major part of Minnesota’s offense is the duo of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, who are arguably the best combination of wide receivers in the league. It will be interesting to see how the Pats plan to cover Thielen and Diggs, as most teams have failed to neutralize the duo. My guess is that Stephon Gilmore will be shadowing Thielen, while Jason McCourty notches the assignment of covering Diggs. The Pats will need to be able to generate constant pressure and get after Cousins, to ensure that he’s not comfortable in the pocket. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bill Belichick and the defensive staff have looked at Minnesota’s losses against the Rams, Saints and Bears, as all 3 games have shown what an effective pass rush can do to Cousins and the offense, as they can be forced into uncharacteristic mistakes.

Another major point of emphasis will definitely be trying to stop the rushing attack led by Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray, who can shred the defense if they’re not careful.

An effective performance against a talented Vikings offense will be huge for the Patriots as they enter the home stretch of the season.

VIKINGS OFFENSE W13P.jpg
(Bruce Kluckhohn/AP)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Dwayne Allen (knee) – Out

Vikings

  • Chad Beebe (hamstring) – Out
  • David Morgan (knee) – Out
  • Stefon Diggs (knee) – Questionable
  • Xavier Rhodes (hamstring) – Questionable
  • Mackenzie Alexander (knee) – Questionable
  • Brandon Zylstra (foot) – Questionable

 

Prediction: Patriots 28, Vikings 24

Here are my predictions for the rest of the NFL’s Week 13 contests.

Last week: 8-4

Panthers at Buccaneers: Panthers

Ravens at Falcons: Ravens

Bears at Giants: Bears

Bills at Dolphins: Dolphins

Colts at Jaguars: Colts

Browns at Texans: Texans

Broncos at Bengals: Broncos

Rams at Lions: Rams

Cardinals at Packers: Packers

Chiefs at Raiders: Chiefs

Jets at Titans: Titans

49ers at Seahawks: Seahawks

Chargers at Steelers: Steelers

Redskins at Eagles: Eagles

Balanced Pats fly past the Jets!

TEAM

1

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3

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NYJ 7 3 3 0 13

NE

7 3 10 7 27

The Patriots had a messy win today against the New York Jets (3-8), as they triumphed 27-13 over their longtime rivals to move to 8-3 on the season. Despite of a bevy of penalties, the Pats used a balanced offensive attack in order to pull away from the Jets in the second half, and improved to the #2 in the AFC with Pittsburgh’s loss in Denver. 

Here are some takeaways from today’s victory.

1. Michel and White lead the way for the offense!

Sony Michel and James White collaborated for a dynamic performance today, as they combined for over 200 yards on the ground (Michel had 133 yards off of 21 carries and a touchdown, while White had 73 yards off of 9 carries). Michel was clearly the best player on the field, as he made good use of the gaping holes provided by the offensive line and raced past hapless Jets defenders. Luckily enough for the Patriots, Michel avoided a serious injury when he was bended backwards in the third quarter during an awkward tackle, which left him writhing in pain on the field. 

If Michel and White continue to play at this level, it will be hard for opponents to stop the Patriots over the rest of the season.

micel v jets w12.jpg
(Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

2. Strong bounce-back for the passing game!

Week 11’s loss at Tennessee was especially ugly for the passing game, as Tom Brady could not get anything going due to the constant pressure coming through the middle. Today could not have been more different, as the offensive line rebounded with a great performance and gave up zero sacks against a stout Jets defensive line. Rob Gronkowski had an efficient return from injury, as he had 3 catches for 56 yards and a touchdown. Julian Edelman (4 catches for 84 yards and a touchdown), Josh Gordon (5 catches for 70 yards), and Chris Hogan (2 catches for 47 yards) also had good contributions, as they helped stretch the field for the Patriots.

This was an encouraging performance by the Pats’ passing attack, as they overcame great coverage by the Jets’ secondary to be successful throughout the game.

brady v jets w12.jpg
(Matthew J. Lee/ Boston Globe)

3. The defense had a steady performance

The Pats’ defense bounced back from Week 11 in a big way, as they clamped down on New York, and allowed only 3 points in the second half. Trey Flowers led the way for the Patriots’ pass rush, as he constantly got after Josh McCown, with 3 hits and 1 sack. Being able to get after the quarterback made it easier for the secondary to perform with confidence, with Stephon Gilmore being the clear star in the backend of the field (he only allowed 1 catch for 17 yards off of 5 targets, and had an interception). The Pats also limited Isaiah Crowell to 30 yards off of 6 carries on the ground. 

The defense still has room to improve, but this was definitely a step in the right direction.

mccown w12.jpg
(Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

4. Are penalties an area of concern for the Pats?

The Pats definitely had a messy performance against the Jets, as they were called for 11 penalties that resulted in 105 yards. This was out of character for the Patriots, as Bill Belichick is known for preparing his team to avoid such mistakes. Constant penalties allowed the Jets to stay in the game, as Patriot drives were halted, while New York drives were extended.

The Patriots played well enough to overcome their messy performance, but they will not be so lucky if they continue to be penalized like this.

NFL: Houston Texans at New England Patriots
(Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 20/31 for 283 yards, and 2 touchdowns
  • Rushing: Sony Michel – 21 carries for 133 yards, and 1 touchdown
  • Receiving: Julian Edelman – 4 catches for 84 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Defensive: Patrick Chung – 13 tackles

Jets

  • Passing: Josh McCown – 26/45 for 276 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception
  • Rushing: Isaiah Crowell – 6 carries for 30 yards
  • Receiving: Quincy Enunwa – 4 catches for 73 yards
  • Avery Williamson – 11 tackles

 

What’s next?: The Patriots welcome the Minnesota Vikings (5-4-1) in a game that will test them, as Minnesota features a stout defense and a talented offense.

 

 

Music City Blues!: Pats get pounded by the Titans

TEAM

1

2

3

4

T

TEN 17 7 3 7 34

NE

3 7 0 0 10

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.

offense v titanw s10.jpg
(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.

pats defense v titansw10.jpg
(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.

special teams w10.jpg
(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.

vrabel brady.jpg
(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.

The Pats tame the Bears in thrilling game at Soldier Field!

TEAM

1

2

3

4

T

CHI 10 7 7 7 31

NE

7 14 10 7 38

The Patriots outlasted the Chicago Bears (3-3) in a back-and-forth game at Soldier Field, with a 38-31 victory that improved them to 5-2 on the season. Playing without key contributors on offense and an inconsistent defense, the Pats relied on special teams to pull out their first road victory of the year.

Here are some takeaways from today’s game.

1. The offense was brilliant once again without key playmakers

The Pats took on the Bears without Rob Gronkowski, who didn’t make the trip to Chicago due to back and ankle injuries. They started the game hot, as they dissected the vaunted Bears defense en route to a Julian Edelman touchdown on their opening drive. However, things went downhill from there, as their third drive resulted in Sony Michel suffering a knee injury (which did not look good) and a fumble that helped Chicago take a 17-7 lead. The Patriots displayed their mental fortitude as they were able to bounce back and regain the lead in the second quarter. Tom Brady was his usual self, as he threw for over 270 yards and 3 touchdowns, along with an interception. James White and Kenjon Barner served as a serviceable running back duo, as they helped spread the field for the Patriots. Without Gronk in the lineup, the Pats relied on their trio of receivers in Julian Edelman (5 catches for 36 yards and 1 touchdown), Josh Gordon (4 catches for 100 yards), and Chris Hogan (6 catches for 63 yards). The offensive line performed well against the talented Chicago pass rush, as Brady was only sacked 1 time, and was not touched much throughout the game.

 Sony Michel’s injury is concerning for the rest of the season, as he had proved himself to be a valuable contributor, and the combination of Michel and White was extremely potent for Josh McDaniels’ offense. There hasn’t been any word on the severity of his injury, but let’s hope that he isn’t out for an extended period of time. I also believe that the Patriots shouldn’t rush Rob Gronkowski back into the lineup, as I think that it’s important to allow him to recover and stay healthy as the season progresses.  

White v bears w7.jpg
(Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

2. The defense had another up-and-down performance

Following their dreadful performance against the Chiefs, it was interesting to see how the Pats’ defense would rebound against Mitch Trubisky and the Bears offense, and the best word to describe their performance is inconsistent. Early on in the game, they were able to shut down Chicago’s passing game, but they could not contain Trubisky outside of the pocket, as he frequently scampered for first downs off of big gains. Trubisky had a 8-yard touchdown run, and also had a 39-yard run during which he maneuvered around hapless Patriots’ defenders. Despite their inability to stop Trubisky from running the ball, the Pats were able to make life hard for his receivers, as only Trey Burton (9 receptions for 126 yards and 1 touchdown) and Tarik Cohen (8 catches for 69 yards and 1 touchdown) had great performances. Another area of concern for the Pats was their number of penalties (4 penalties for 29 yards), which helped to extend drives for Chicago. 

The Pats were able to make up for their early miscues, as they forced Trubisky into 2 second half interceptions and most of Chicago’s fourth quarter yardage came in garbage time. Today’s game ended in thrilling fashion, as the Bears’ Hail Mary attempt resulted in Kevin White being tackled at the one-yard line, due to a wall of defenders led by Duron Harmon.

pats bears hial mary
(Photo by John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)

3. Special Teams came up big!

The Patriots’ special teams did not start very well today, as Cordarrelle Patterson fumbled a kickoff which gave the Bears fantastic field position and led to them snatching the lead. Patterson was able to recover from his miscue, as he returned a second quarter kickoff for a 95-yard touchdown, as he outmaneuvered the Bears’ kickoff unit and helped the Patriots trim their deficit to 17-14. In the third quarter, Dont’a Hightower blocked a punt, which led to a touchdown by Kyle Van Noy which gave the Patriots a lead that they would never relinquish. Interestingly enough, this was the first game in Patriots’ history that featured the men in blue score on a blocked punt and a kickoff. It’s always heartening to see special teams step up when the team requires a spark in order to emerge victorious. 

patterson kickoff w7
(Photo by Barry Chin/ Boston Globe)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 25/36 for 277 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception
  • Rushing: James White – 11 carries for 40 yards
  • Receiving: Josh Gordon – 4 catches for 100 yards 
  • Defensive: Patrick Chung – 6 tackles

Bears

  • Passing: Mitch Trubisky – 26/50 for 333 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions
  • Rushing: Mitch Trubisky – 6 carries for 81 yards, and 1 touchdown
  • Receiving: Trey Burton – 9 catches for 126 yards, and 1 touchdown
  • Defensive: Danny Trevathan – 10 tackles

 

What’s next?: The Pats head to Buffalo to take on their rival, the Buffalo Bills (2-5) on Monday Night Football.  

 

 

Patriots storm into the Windy City!

On Sunday, the Patriots head to the Windy City to face Khalil Mack and the Chicago Bears (3-2), with hopes of improving to 5-2 on the season. Chicago is coming off of a demoralizing overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins, and will definitely bring their A-game against Tom Brady & Co.

Here are a few things to consider entering this Week 7 contest.

1. Brady vs Mack: Who will prevail?

The marquee matchup of this game will be between Tom Brady’s offense and Khalil Mack’s defense, with both units being considered to be among the best the NFL has to offer. Brady and the offense are coming off of a brilliant performance against the previously undefeated Kansas City Chiefs, during which they dictated the pace of the game and unrelentingly dissected the hapless Chiefs defense.  Unfortunately for the Pats, they will have to face a brilliant pass rush led by Mack, which has made a habit of getting after the quarterback and making life difficult for the offensive line. To be successful against the Bears defense, the Patriots should take a look at what Miami did last week, as backup quarterback Brock Osweiler was successful in leading the Dolphins to score 31 points. Also, Mack is still dealing with a lingering ankle injury, which may hamper his effectiveness. Look for the Patriots to use their speed at receiver and running back to take advantage of matchups against the Bears.

brady v bears 14.jpg
(Photo by Jim Davis/Boston Globe)

2. How will the Patriots defense perform?

Last week against the Chiefs, the Patriots’ defense was absolutely porous, as they gave up 31 points in the second half, which was a result of frequently busted coverages in the secondary. It’s sad for me to admit that I expect them to struggle once again this week, as they are facing off of a team that is led by Matt Nagy, who was the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator last season. Nagy has a reputation of being innovative on offense, and has definitely modeled his offense on that of the Chiefs, with the usage of dynamic running backs, athletic tight ends, and speedy wide receivers. Hopefully, Bill Belichick has come up with a game plan to deal with the Bears’ weapons, such as Tarik Cohen and Ryan Howard. One key takeaway from last week’s game is that the Patriots were able to win because they tricked Patrick Mahomes into making mistakes in the first half, and that will be essential this week when they face off against another young quarterback in Mitch Tribusky. 

howard v pats prese.jpg
(Photo via Getty Images)

Injury Report:
Patriots

  • Malcom Brown (knee) – Questionable
  • Julian Edelman (heel) – Questionable
  • Josh Gordon (hamstring) – Questionable
  • Geneo Grissom (ankle) – Questionable
  • Rob Gronkowski (ankle) – Questionable
  • Jacob Hollister (hamstring) – Questionable
  • Sony Michel (knee) – Questionable
  • Eric Rowe (groin) – Questionable
  • John Simon (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Deatrich Wise (ankle/knee) – Questionable
  • Marcus Cannon (concussion) – Questionable

Bears

  • Khalil Mack (ankle) – Questionable
  • Allen Robinson II (groin) – Questionable
  • Prince Amukamara (hamstring) – Questionable
  • Marcus Cooper Sr. (hamstring) – Questionable
  • Eric Kush (neck) – Questionable

Prediction: Patriots 34, Bears 27

Here are my predictions for the rest of the NFL’s Week 7 contests

Last week: 8-5

Broncos at Cardinals: Broncos

Titans at Chargers: Chargers

Panthers at Eagles: Panthers

Vikings at Jets: Vikings

Bills at Colts: Colts

Texans at Jaguars: Texans

Browns at Buccaneers: Browns

Lions at Dolphins: Lions

Saints at Ravens: Saints

Cowboys at Redskins: Cowboys

Rams at 49ers: Rams

Bengals at Chiefs: Chiefs

Giants at Falcons: Falcons

 

The Pats outlast the high-octane Chiefs in Sunday Night thriller!

TEAM

1

2

3

4

T

KC 6 3 17 14 40

NE

10 14 3 16 43

What a game!

Last night’s Week 6 contest between the Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs (5-1) definitely lived up to the hype, as the two teams flexed their offensive might in a game that had 83 combined points. The Pats eventually prevailed on a Stephen Gostkowski field goal that gave them the 43-40 win. 

Here are some takeaways from last night’s game.

1. The Pats offense was sensational!

A mere three weeks after looking absolutely inept on the offensive side of the ball against the Detroit Lions during a Week 3 clunker, the Patriots went toe to toe with one of the NFL’s best offenses with Tom Brady and Sony Michel leading the way. Brady was pretty unflappable throughout the game, as he had 340 passing yards and 1 passing touchdown, along with a jaw-dropping 4 yard touchdown run (only 15 yards away from 1,000 career rushing yards!). Sony Michel continued his stretch of dominance as he gashed the porous Chiefs defense for 106 yards and 2 touchdowns off of 24 carries. Michel demonstrated the quickness and agility he had at Georgia, as he was able to find his way through holes and pick up huge chunks of yardage. The Pats also enjoyed solid contributions from Julian Edelman ( 4 catches for 54 yards and 1 touchdown), Chris Hogan (4 catches for 78 yards), Josh Gordon ( 5 catches for 42 yards), and James White (6 rushes for 39 yards, and 5 catches for 53 yards). Rob Gronkowski was quiet for most of the game, but he came up clutch when the Patriots needed big plays to seal the deal. For instance, he had a huge 42-yard gain on the drive that increased their lead to 7 (which was aided by an impressive stiff arm!). On the game-winning drive, Gronk also had a 39 yard catch which put the Patriots in range to finish off the Chiefs. #87 finished with 3 catches for 97 yards).

More than anything, I would say that this game showed the mental toughness of the Patriots’ offense, as they were able to shake off losing their 15 point halftime lead, and miscues (such as Tom Brady’s fumble) and still have the ability to drive down the field at will. The Pats were able to win this game because their playmakers came up big when they were required to do so. 

gronk stiff arm vs chiefs.jpg
(Photo by Stephen Senne/AP)

2. The defense had its moments…

It’s hard to fault the Patriots’ defense for giving up 40 points, due to the explosiveness of their opponent, but the Pats were absolutely dissected by Patrick Mahomes and his assortment of weapons.

The first half was very efficient for the Pats defense, as they were able to get after Mahomes, and force him into 2 interceptions. The pressure in his face also forced him to miss wide-open receivers on what would have been sure-fire touchdowns. Limiting the Chiefs to 9 points in the first half was definitely a victory for the Patriots.

The second half was a completely different story for Mahomes and his offense, as evidenced by their opening drive, when Kareem Hunt torched the secondary for a 67-yard touchdown. To be fair to the Patriots’ defense, the next two touchdowns they gave up were not completely on them. The first one was due to a Tom Brady fumble deep in Pats’ territory, while the second one was due to a brilliant kickoff return that set them up mere yards away from the end zone. At the same time, the Pats’ secondary (especially the McCourty twins) could not seem to stop the blazing fast Tyreek Hill who burned them for 7 catches for 142 yards and 3 touchdowns. The secondary’s performance could be epitomized by Hill’s final touchdown, when he was open down the field and outran everyone in the secondary to tie the game at 40. Luckily enough for the Pats’ defense, the Pats’ offense had their back, as they used up the rest of the clock en route to a game-winning field goal.

The Pats defense should not be demoralized, but they can’t depend on the offense to score more than 40 points and bail them out every time they fail to stop their opponent. An example of this could be Super Bowl LII where both defenses struggled, with Philadelphia winning the game due to a strip-sack of Brady on what could have been a game-winning drive. 

mahomes v pats w6.jpg
(Photo via SI)

3. Playoff implications?

It’s never too early to talk about playoff implications in the NFL…

With a win last night, the Chiefs would have given themselves a great opportunity to eventually seize home-field advantage in the AFC. due to victories over the Jaguars, Steelers and the Patriots. However, due to the fact that the Patriots won last night, they will gain a head-to-head edge over the Chiefs, which will definitely come in handy if the two teams finish with the same record. 

Regardless of who finishes with the better record, it would be very entertaining to see these teams battle once more in January.

tb v chiefs w6.jpg
(Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

Passing: Tom Brady – 24/35 for 340 yards and 1 touchdown

Rushing: Sony Michel – 24 carries for 106 yards and 2 touchdowns

Receiving: Rob Gronkowski – 3 catches for 97 yards

Defensive: Trey Flowers and Elandon Roberts with 7 tackles each

Chiefs

Passing: Patrick Mahomes – 23/36 for 352 yards, 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions

Rushing: Kareem Hunt – 10 carries for 80 yards

Receiving: Tyreek Hill – 7 catches for 142 yards and 3 touchdowns

Defensive: Anthony Hitchens – 14 tackles

 

What’s next: The Pats head to the Windy City to take on Khalil Mack and the fearsome Chicago Bears (3-2)