Yet again, the Patriots’ defense and special teams led New England to victory, as they prevailed 13-9 over the Dallas Cowboys (6-5) during a wet and cold afternoon in Foxborough.
This victory improves the Patriots to 10-1 on the season and keeps them atop the AFC through 12 weeks.
Here are some takeaways from yesterday’s game.
1. A defensive masterpiece
Bill Belichick’s defense came to play yesterday, as they absolutely stifled the NFL’s top offense and kept them out of the end zone. Dak Prescott entered this game with 3 straight 400 yard performances, but was held to 212 yards, without any touchdowns. The weather obviously had an impact on Prescott, as he was seen changing his gloves on several occasions, but the Patriots were able to take away his top weapon in Amari Cooper. Stephon Gilmore continued his campaign for Defensive Player of the Year by blanking Cooper, who was targeted only twice. Cooper’s first target resulted in a Gilmore interception that set up the Patriots’ second score.
Other than a 59-yard catch and run by Randall Cobb, the Patriots were able to limit big plays and mostly held Dallas’ secondary receivers in check. Due to the inclement weather, most analysts expected the Cowboys to utilize Ezekiel Elliot early and often, which was evident, as he averaged 4.1 yards per carry during a 86-yard performance. The Patriots will need to shore up their run defense, as rushing the ball will likely be a point of emphasis for opposing offenses.
2. The offense was efficient, if not explosive
In the eyes of many “experts”, yesterday’s game adds to the narrative that Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense are no longer elite. Of course, these people won’t mention that Brady outplayed an MVP candidate in inclement weather, and did so without two of his top targets in Mohamed Sanu and Phillip Dorsett. The offensive line was fortified by the return of Isaiah Wynn, who shook off a rough start (which included a strip sack of Brady), en route to a group performance that was a far cry from the debacle in Philadelphia.
For the first time in several weeks, the team eclipsed 100 rushing yards, as Sony Michel accumulated 85 yards off of 20 carries. With the absence of Sanu and Dorsett, the Patriots got a major contribution from Jakobi Meyers, who had 4 receptions for 74 yards. Julian Edelman was his usual self, with 8 receptions for 93 yards, including a huge catch on 3rd & 20 that helped extend a drive in the second half. N’Keal Harry had his first professional touchdown on a fade route in the red zone, with his athleticism on full display. At the same time, Harry still has room to improve, as evidenced by a couple of dropped passes.
The Patriots’ offense still has a long way to go, as they cannot continue to depend on their defense and special teams to win them games as the season progresses. If Brady continues to build chemistry with Meyers and Harry, the Patriots should be able to have a solid 5 receiver rotation that helps take pressure off of Julian Edelman. In addition, Michel’s performance is something to build upon, as having a balanced attack will open up the field through play action.
3. Special teams was game changing once again
Throughout this season, the Patriots’ special teams unit has been able to make momentum shifting plays, and yesterday was no different. Perennial All-Pro Matthew Slater added to his stellar season with a blocked punt in the first quarter that led to Harry’s touchdown. Jake Bailey wasn’t as effective punting the ball, as he did shank some punts, but he was able to pin the Cowboys on his last attempt.
As I mentioned earlier, special teams shouldn’t have to elevate the Patriots on a weekly basis, but it is definitely appreciated by Bill Belichick and the coaching staff when it does happen.
Passing: Tom Brady – 17/37 for 190 yards, and 1 touchdown
Rushing: Sony Michel – 20 carries for 85 yards
Receiving; Julian Edelman – 8 receptions for 93 yards
Defensive: Jamie Collins – 10 total tackles
Passing: Dak Prescott – 19/33 for 212 yards, and 1 interception
Rushing: Ezekiel Elliot – 21 carries for 86 yards
Receiving: Randall Cobb – 4 receptions for 86 yards
Defensive: Jaylon Smith – 8 total tackles
What’s next?: The Patriots head down to Houston to take on Deshaun Watson and the Texans (7-4) on Sunday Night Football.
It’s not much of an exaggeration to call tomorrow’s matchup with the Dallas Cowboys (6-4) the ‘Game of the Year’, as it pits the NFL’s best team against its most popular team in a nationally–televised game.
Here are some things to consider entering this Week 12 game.
1. Can the banged-up offense deliver?
The Patriots’ offense was shaky at best during their win against the Eagles, with a porous offensive line making it hard for Tom Brady to find any sort of rhythm. Tomorrow’s task won’t be any easier, as the team is likely to play without receivers Mohamed Sanu (ankle) and Phillip Dorsett (concussion), which will thrust N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers into larger roles. Meyers had some clear miscommunication with Brady during the game against the Eagles, which they have hopefully been able to iron out throughout the week at practice. Dallas’ secondary has struggled in recent weeks, so it will be imperative for the Patriots’ receivers to find separation
The X-factor for this game should be the return of Isaiah Wynn to the lineup, as he replaces the struggling Marshall Newhouse as the protector of Brady’s blind side. Wynn will be tested right away, as the Cowboys have an incredibly talented defensive line, with pass rushers such as Demarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn. Michael Bennett will also be making his return to Foxborough after being traded to Dallas a few weeks ago, following a disagreement with the Patriots’ coaching staff. Wynn’s return should help fortify the offensive line, and help boost the offense as a whole, as his agility will be useful in run-blocking and setting up screen passes.
The team’s running backs will also be essential, as the forecast is calling for rain throughout the game. Look for Sony Michel and James White to be involved early and often as Josh McDaniels looks for ways to take pressure off of Tom Brady.
2. Can the defense lockdown the NFL’s best offense?
The Cowboys’ offense has been humming lately, with Dak Prescott solidifying his place amongst the favorites for MVP, due to a handful of dominant performances. Prescott has been able to silence the narrative that he’s reliant on Ezekiel Elliot and the running game, as the passing game has carried Dallas as of late. Prescott is protected by one of the league’s best offensive lines, and has a bevy of weapons at his disposal, including Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Randall Cobb, and Jason Witten. The main matchup of this game may be Cooper vs Stephon Gilmore, as Cooper has been Prescott’s top target throughout the season. If Gilmore is able to lock up Cooper, it would go a long way in helping the Patriots stifle Dallas. In addition, Jason McCourty and Jonathan Jones will need to be able to limit Gallup and Cobb, as the two are capable of lifting Dallas when Cooper isn’t as successful.
Even though Ezekiel Elliot hasn’t been as effective this year, he is still capable of shredding the Patriots’ defense if he has lanes to run through. Due to the rainy conditions, it wouldn’t be overly surprising to see Dallas try to get Elliot going, either as a rusher or a pass catcher. Hence, the Patriots’ defensive line and linebackers will have to be alert if they want to slow him down.
Ja’Whaun Bentley (knee) – Questionable
Tom Brady (elbow) – Questionable
Marcus Cannon (illness) – Questionable
Patrick Chung (heel/chest) – Questionable
Phillip Dorsett (concussion) – Questionable
Nate Ebner (ankle/back) – Questionable
Julian Edelman (shoulder) – Questionable
Damien Harris (hamstring) – Questionable
Jason McCourty (groin) – Questionable
Mohamed Sanu (ankle) – Questionable
John Simon (elbow) – Questionable
Matthew Slater (hamstring) – Questionable
Leighton Vander Esch (neck) – Out
Joe Thomas (illness) – Questionable
Donovan Wilson (illness) – Questionable
Connor Williams (knee) – Questionable
Prediction: Patriots27, Cowboys23
Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Week 12 games (excluding Thursday Night Football).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Following their Week 11 bye, the Patriots head to New Jersey to take on their hated rival, the New York Jets (3-7). The Pats hope to regain their momentum and keep pace with the Chiefs and Steelers with a win tomorrow.
Here are a few things to consider entering tomorrow’s game.
1. The offense needs a pick-me-up performance
Tom Brady and the offense did not have a great performance during their last outing, as they were utterly stifled by the intense pass rush of the Tennessee Titans, which resulted in a mere 10 points. In order to be successful against the Jets, the Pats will need to rely on a steady balance between their passing and rushing attacks, in order to ensure that an already banged-up Brady is able to stay up right and have a great performance (the return of Shaq Mason should help in this regard). Getting Rob Gronkowski back after 2 games (and the bye week) will help elevate the passing game, as it will allow weapons such as Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon to have more separation. Rex Burkhead will also be returning (he has been on the injured reserve since Week 1), which will definitely boost the offense and reduce the burden on the primary duo of James White and Sony Michel.
Having a good performance against the Jets will be helpful in helping the Patriots turn the corner as the season comes to an end.
2. Defensive rebound?
Just like the offense, the Pats’ defense was miserable against Tennessee, as they gave up 34 points, and could not come up with a crucial stop when it mattered. Luckily enough for them, the Jets will be playing without their rookie quarterback, Sam Darnold, and will have Josh McCown under center. The Pats will need a constant and reliable performance from their defensive line in order to ensure that they can dictate the pace of the game and force New York to play from behind. The secondary should be elevated by the debuts of rookie cornerback Duke Dawson Jr. (drafted in the second round out of Florida) and recently-signed safety Obi Melifonwu, who will help to provide some much-needed youth and speed in the backend of the field.
With games against the likes of Minnesota and Pittsburgh coming up, the Patriots’ defense needs to drastically improve to give the team a good chance of winning.
Dwayne Allen (knee) – Out
Tom Brady (knee/illness) – Questionable
Nate Ebner (knee) – Questionable
Rob Gronkowski (ankle/back) – Questionable
Shaq Mason (calf) – Questionable
Sony Michel (knee) – Questionable
Sam Darnold (foot) – Out
Marcus Maye (shoulder/thumb) – Doubtful
James Carpenter (shoulder) – Doubtful
Brandon Copeland (elbow) – Questionable
Robby Anderson (ankle) – Questionable
Prediction: Patriots24, Jets13
Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Week 12 contests (excluding their slate of games on Thanksgiving)