Patriots Regress in Win Versus Texans

Watching the Patriots on Sunday afternoon in Houston, it’d be easy to forget that this is the same squadron that took on Tom Brady and the Buccaneers and almost won. In a narrow 25-22 victory against the Texans, the Pats looked uninspired. Early on in the game, rookie quarterback Davis Mills was able to walk all over the Patriots D. He had a surprisingly impressive performance, tossing for 312 yards and 3 TDs. Give him credit, he played well. The best a rookie ever has versus Bill Belichick. But I blame the Patriots defense for being so weak more than I think Mills did anything amazing. The Steve Belichick/Jerod Mayo unit just looked lost through the entirety of the first three quarters. After getting an 18-play, 10-minute long touchdown drive dropped on them in the first quarter, they simply rolled over.

Offensively, their ailments weren’t exactly what you’d expect out of a team down 4 of their starting 5 offensive linemen. Rookie quarterback Mac Jones was only sacked once. The things that costed them were ghosts that have haunted them all season; ball security. This game all went sideways for the Patriots when running back Damien Harris, whose health and job security are now in jeopardy, fumbled a touchdown in the endzone to allow the Texans to start to pull away ahead of halftime. And following a brutal Jakobi Meyers drop that cost the Patriots a score, instead of going into halftime tied at 15, they were down 15-9 following a Nick Folk field goal. Then opened the third quarter down 22-9.

Why It’s So Troubling

Patriots: Damien Harris' fumbling issues put his status as bell cow back in  question

This is a Houston Texans team headed by players who probably wouldn’t make it as an everyday starter on other teams in the league. Some of whom are familiar to the fans of New England. A Texans team that is without their superstar quarterback Deshaun Watson, and their serviceable backup Tyrod Taylor. Yet they still almost let a third-round pick steal the game away. While on the opposite side, their first-round pick struggled to get anything noteworthy going.

It’s been a bit slow out of the gate for Mac Jones. The coaching staff hasn’t quite given him the opportunity to shine as fans had hoped. His biggest highlight so far is completing 19 consecutive throws against Tampa. Most of which, were easy check-downs and just making simple reads. Which have their worth, but the lack of explosiveness is a deep concern. A concern that lies at the feet of Josh McDaniels and his play calling.

Looking Ahead

Texans vs. Patriots: Everything we know about the 25-22 heartbreaker

Defensively it’s almost double the concern. If Davis Mills is able to walk all over New England with a sub-average level of talent around him, just imagine what the Dallas Cowboys will be capable of. With Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and a solid offensive line? Let’s just say they should hope for a gigantic return to their week four form next weekend.

It doesn’t get much easier for the Patriots moving forward. Following the Cowboys, the Patriots get the Jets at home, the Panthers in Carolina for a Stephon Gilmore revenge game, the Chargers in Los Angeles, and then the Browns in Gillette. You have to wonder at 2-3 if the Patriots can run the gauntlet necessary to get into the playoffs. If this were a Tom Brady team? I wouldn’t be hitting the panic button just yet. But it’s not. And that red button looks really tempting right about now. Let’s see how this team handles themselves fully healthy before we panic though. There’s still plenty of football left to go.

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Plank or Plunder: Week 4

Lavonte David, handing out the game balls he secured. Photo: Kyle Zedaker/Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers escaped a blustery Foxboro with a victory, but the margin of victory was as wide as an NFL goalpost. The offense had a difficult time slinging the rock in the on-again-off-again rain. Tom Brady had arguably his worst night in a Tampa uniform; the infamous week 9 Saints game is the only other time Tom has failed to score a TD while wearing a Tampa uniform. In this week’s Plank or Plunder, none of the usual offensive stars make an appearance. Instead, it’s the much-maligned defense that earned the team a victory.

Plunder: Richard Sherman, CB

Photo: Tori Richman/Tampa Bay Buccaneers/Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Richard Sherman stepping onto the field on Sunday after being signed off the street on Wednesday is a miracle. That simply doesn’t happen in the NFL. Sherman, the former Seahawk all-pro, led the team in solo tackles (7) and recovered a fumble in the victory. Sherman did not play all-pro football, but anyone who expected him to is out of their mind.

Antonio Brown struggled mightily in his week 9 debut against the Saints last year, and he ended up just fine. Yes, a DB’s role is more complicated than a WR’s, but Sherman’s debut showed that he is not misplaced on an NFL field. We can expect more from him as he learns more about this defense and his role within it.

Plank: The rest of the Bucs’ Cornerbacks

The only other unit in the NFL with as many key injuries as the Bucs’ Cornerback unit is the Raven’s Running Back squad. Bill Belichick, noted Sith Lord and devoid of all emotion, took no pity upon the Bucs while making his game plan. The Patriots played assignment football all night. WRs were in tight bunch formations, pick plays were plentiful, and every snap featured a WR in motion to confuse the new faces in the Bucs’ secondary. This forced confusion created an open man for Mac Jones on nearly every pass play. Jones dinked and dunked his way through progressions on his way to completing over 75% of his passes. New England only ran the ball eight times, and they exited the game with negative rushing yards. The Bucs’ depleted CBs will certainly continue to be the focal point of opposing offenses until the three injured starters at the position are healthy.

Plunder: Antoine Winfield Jr., FS

photo: Tori Richman/Tampa Bay Buccaneers/Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The former Minnesota Golden Gopher has already become a fan favorite. In just his second season, Antoine Winfield Jr. is developing into a star NFL safety. In week 4, Winfield Jr. logged 5 solo tackles, a forced fumble, and an interception.

Winfield Jr. is a playmaker at the safety position, but he is not a liability to overextend either. Winfield Jr. can man the single high role, he can fill run gaps, and he excels at rushing the passer. This allows Todd Bowles to deploy him anywhere on the field knowing he has an intelligent ballplayer in that role.

Plank: Devin White, MLB

photo: Kyle Zedaker/Tampa Bay Buccaneers/Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Now, before we continue, put down the pitchforks. Devin White is the centerpiece of this defense, and he might even be the best player on the whole team. This week we just think he left a little meat on the bone.

The coaching staff has acknowledged that if Devin wants to continue on his path to being a premier defensive threat he will have to improve in pass coverage. White dropped what looked like a sure-fire pick-six that would’ve sealed the game. While White did register two QB hits, he missed a Mac Jones after screaming through the A-gap by being ole’d like a prized bullfighter. This week is far from a referendum on White’s performance, but he missed an opportunity to close out this game. Fortunately, the Buccaneers have more than one skilled linebacker.

Plunder: Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, OLB

phot: Kyle Zedaker/Tampa Bay Buccaneers/Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Speaking of skilled linebackers, find one Buccaneer player or coach with anything bad to say about Joe Tryon-Shoyinka. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

The rookie out of Washington has flashed speed and flexibility off the edge ever since his preseason debut. In week 4, with JPP still absent due to a shoulder injury, Tryon-Shoyinka was once again a starting pass rusher. Unlike in the Rams game, where he was held in check, Tryon-Shoyinka burst onto the scene with two sacks. Tryon-Shoyinka is a threatening pass rusher, but he doesn’t turn his motor off on run plays, either. He can be found chasing runners from behind on the rare occasion an RB breaks through the Bucs. imposing defensive line.

The 32nd overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft is making NFL GMs look foolish for passing on him. All indications are that Joe Tryon-Shoyinka has the talent to become a star in the NFL. It will be interesting to monitor how many snaps he is given week by week as he continues to grow into his role.

Plank: OJ Howard, TE

photo: Tori Richman/Tampa Bay Buccaneers/Tampa Bay Buccaneers

If you’ve been so keen as to notice, I enjoy exclusively using the photos of established Buccaneers.com professional photographers Tori Richman and Kyle Zedaker. They do an excellent job capturing the emotion and physicality of the game, and they recognize which key players and plays merit being published to the website.

OJ Howard was afforded one single target for zero yards. Gronk was absent from the game from injuries sustained last week. This should have been the game where Howard was able to prove his value. There is no photo of OJ from tonight because he did nothing that merited having his photo taken. This is a contract year, and it looks like OJ will hit the open market.

Plunder: Lavonte David, MLB

photo: Tori Richman/Tampa Bay Buccaneers/Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Lavonte David had a relatively quiet night, at least compared to his standards. With only 7 total tackles and only one TFL, Lavonte struggled to make an impact during the game. Belichick correctly identified the piecemeal secondary as the Bucs’ coverage weakness, so the Patriots didn’t need to test Lavonte in coverage. But, on the Buccaneers’ final defensive snap, a big-time player made a big-time play in a big-time situation.

Bucs’ fans were screaming Lavonte’s praises into the clouds for nearly a decade. Finally, the league is putting some respek on his name.

I cannot stress enough how huge of a play this was. If this pass is completed, which was all but guaranteed, the Bucs may have never even got the ball back. Nick Folk’s 56-yarder with 50 seconds left could’ve been reduced to a chip shot as time expired. Lavonte wasn’t even in coverage on this play. He was rushing the passer and made a heads-up play to swat the ball when he saw Jones’ release. David didn’t stuff the stat sheet, but he made the play the Bucs needed when they needed it most.

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Patriots Need an Easy Win Versus Texans

I can’t remember a time in the last twenty seasons where this sentence has ever been so true for the New England Patriots outside of last season; they desperately need a victory this week. Despite looking impressive last week in a 19-17 loss versus Tampa, the Patriots are still 1-3. They don’t have a win at home despite three of their first four being at Gillette Stadium.

Sure, you could say that if it wasn’t for a Damien Harris fumble and a batted Mac Jones‘ pass the Pats would be sitting at 3-1. But the NFL isn’t huge on hypotheticals. The fact of the matter is the Patriots have put themselves in quite the predicament. Since 1990, only 14.2 percent of teams that start out of the gate 1-3 even make it to the playoffs. I’m not saying that it’s impossible, because nothing is with Bill Belichick. But if there was ever a time for the Patriots to put it together, it’s now.

This week the Patriots take on the also 1-3 Houston Texans. Last year the Texans shredded the Patriots’ defense, with Deshaun Watson passing for 344 yards and two touchdowns. Unfortunately for Houston, Watson has been under a whole lot of controversy this off-season, and probably won’t play at all for them this season, or maybe ever again. So the Texans are rolling out fellow rookie quarterback Davis Mills from Stanford. The 2021 third-round selection hasn’t been quite as good as his adversary Mac Jones or other fellow rookie quarterbacks. Mills has passed for just 357 yards and two touchdowns for a completion percentage of 56.7 with five interceptions. Leading the Texans to 0-2 in his starts.

If Tyrod Taylor wasn’t injured, maybe this team poses a better threat, but for New England, this is as easy as it gets for a little while. The uphill climb starts now. So let’s not delay any further. Set it up Bailey, and let’s get this one underway.

Three Keys to The Game

Patriots vs. Rams Monday injury report: <a rel=

Key #1: Offensive Line Flexability

It’s been a really tough week for the Patriots’ offensive line. A unit that’s already struggling may be without their starting left guard and left tackle in Michael Onwenu and Isaiah Wynn, who were put on the COVID-19 reserve list on Wednesday. The other starting lineman were out of practice this week as well. I don’t imagine this would be a situation where the Patriots’ offensive line would be made up entirely of backups, but the Pats could very well be reaching into the bag for some new combinations across the line. Mac Jones could be in for another tough game. Where’s Dante Scarnecchia when you need him? Look for Yodny Cajuste and Ted Karras as fill-ins if necessary, and another week of Yasir Durant/Justin Herron at right tackle if Trent Brown still isn’t back. Where’s Dante Scarnecchia when you need him?

Key #2: Confuse Davis Mills

Bill Belichick was able to improve his record against rookie quarterbacks two weeks ago against Zach Wilson and the Jets. A similar game plan should do against the significantly less dynamic Mills. Wilson ended up panicking and throwing four picks to the Pats’ defense. With linebacker Jamie Collins returning and the Boogeymen being in full swing, maybe Mills can be the next kid to see ghosts.

Key #3: Mac Jones Picks up Where He Left Off

I wrote at length earlier this week about how impressive Mac Jones was versus Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. He completed 31 of 40 pass attempts for 275 yards and two touchdowns. He also tied Brady’s record for consecutive completed passes at 19 in a row! Jones already looks like a pro in a whole lot of respects. Impressing a lot of people in his young career. It’s vital that he picks up right where he left off, and the run game has his back this time. Unlike last week where the team posted a total of -1 yards on the ground. Maybe Belichick can let Rhamondre Stevenson out of the doghouse this week?

X-Factor: Chase Winovich

Patriots: These Chase Winovich stats prove he needs a featured role in 2021

Edge rusher Chase Winovich has never been a favorite of mine. Personally, I never saw his ability worth the hype he gets around here in New England, but I can admit this; he’s by far the Pats’ most intense pass rusher. The key to flustering a young quarterback is knocking him around and getting in his face. Winovich has the motor to do just that and can absolutely give Mills a true “welcome to the NFL, rookie” moment. His snap count this season hasn’t been great, not crossing 20 total at all through four games. Give him an easy assignment against an underwhelming pass protection and maybe he can also get out of the Belichick doghouse. I could see the former Michigan Wolverine having a big game if given the opportunity,

Closing Thoughts

Report: Patriots and <a rel=

The New England Patriots said farewell to 2019 Defensive Player of the Year cornerback Stephon Gilmore this week. On a turbulent Wednesday, Gilmore was shipped to the Carolina Panthers for a 2023 sixth-round selection. Unfortunately, contract negotiations just never got going and Gilmore just wasn’t going to return. This was the best move for both parties, it’s just extremely unfortunate that the best Belichick could get was a sixth-round pick. Either way, Gilmore leaves Foxboro a Super Bowl champion, and in an elite class of corners who have come through New England and played at their highest level. I wouldn’t be shocked if there’s a red jacket waiting for him at Patriot Place in a decade from now. He’ll get a shot to stick it to his former team week nine when the Pats travel to Charlotte.

As for the game at hand, I’ve predicted the Patriots would win every game but last week versus Tampa. Where I thought they’d get smoked. The Pats have let me and a whole lot of other columnists down to start the season (like Bill Belichick even remotely cares). But I would like to think even with a shaky offensive line situation, the Pats can pull it off. They almost did versus the elite pass rush of Tampa Bay. I think it’ll be close. More close than it probably should be. But the Patriots will pick up a huge tune-up win before coming home to face a scary Dallas Cowboys team on the rebound.

Final Score27-23, Patriots win (2-3)

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The GOAT Disappoints in Return to Foxborough

Most Anticipated Game Ever?

Sunday night was a quintessential cold and rainy fall night in Foxborough. But the nippy weather didn’t matter to the sixty-six thousand fans packed into a full Gillette Stadium; they were there for something bigger.

For four gripping hours, the entire sporting world stood still in wonder of, perhaps the most hyped up regular season game of all time. In the midst of the dreamlike night, an emotional New England crowd, arms wide open, welcomed back the man who had for so long been the source of their happiness. The GOAT.

But boy did Antonio Brown disappoint.

Despite a respectable box score of 7 catches on 11 targets for 63 yards, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that Brown jealed for a good portion of the game.

Brown’s Middling Performance

Brown saw most of his initial production come on quick hitters while matched up against Jon Jones, the New England Patriots’ primary nickel corner. Despite Jones playing most of his career snaps lined up in the slot, he tracked Brown around the field on Sunday night in a direct man-to-man matchup.

Nearly half of Brown’s yardage came on a single 27-yard deep throw late in the first quarter, during which a perfectly placed back shoulder allowed Brown to separate at the last second from Jones.

After a few more quick throws, Brown had a chance to shine in the red zone before the end of the half. However, he dropped two (admittedly poorly placed) back shoulder bullets that forced the offense to settle for field goals.

On a big third down early in the third quarter, Brown finally made a big play on a 44 yard catch… only for it to be called back due to a hands-to-the-face penalty on the left tackle.

Brown’s return to New England was a filled with missed opportunities. His inability to convert in big moments became most evident on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ last offensive drive.

After a miscommunication on deep throw on second down in the red zone, Brown had a chance to redeem himself. On third down, quarterback Tom Brady (fun fact, Brady used to play for the Patriots) threw a deep strike that surgically hit Brown in the worst place possible: his hands. Of course, Brown dropped the dime, ruining what could’ve been his signature moment in his return home.

Though this will go down in the stats sheets as a routine game for the receiver, there’s no doubt that New England fans will be talking about the disappointment of Brown’s mediocre return for years to come.

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Mac Jones Outshined Tom Brady in Thriller

Wow. Who would’ve thought this is how the game would play out. Not that Tom Brady and the Buccaneers would edge out Mac Jones and the Patriots in Foxboro by a score of 19-17. They were a touchdown favorite heading into it. But that the Patriots would keep up as well as they did. For every punch the Buccaneers offense had to offer, Mac Jones and the Patriots delivered right back. Early on in the game, one could say the Pats had full control. Maybe it was the emotions getting the best of the 44-year old quarterback. By no means was it easy for even the GOAT to walk into Gillette Stadium with that atmosphere and be poised. If it were anybody else, odds are the jitters would’ve lasted the entire night.

Tom Brady left Sunday night with a solid, not great, statline. TB12 went 22/43 for 269 yards and no score, enough to break Drew Brees‘s passing yards record (thanks for the botched celebration, referees). He leaves Gillette Stadium once more victorious. A feeling Brady knows all too well and always tends to end up a beneficiary of a win. But we can’t ignore the rookie on the other sideline. Mac Jones put up an amazingly unpredictable night. McCorkle simply just matched whatever Brady threw at him, going 31/40 for 275 yards and 2 touchdowns (nice to see Jonnu Smith rebound for a score). If anybody wasn’t sold on Mac Jones heading into this game, they likely are now after a strong showing against a strong Bucs team.

Mac Jones Was Beyond Impressive

Sure, we can argue that Tampa’s defense wasn’t at full strength. It seemed like every corner they had would drop like flies at the hint of contact. By the end of the night, the newly signed Richard Sherman was the only starting corner out there. For a while, I thought the Bucs might ask the Patriots to borrow Troy Brown for some snaps at corner. So maybe this is a reactionary piece, but I’m willing to accept the backlash. Mac Jones outplayed Tom Brady in the biggest game of this young NFL season. That’s the take you’ll be seeing among NFL media and being discussed for the next week or so.

Jones showed up to play, looking unphased by all the pressure of the big game. After being hit 12 times and facing the blitz on almost half of his snaps, McCorkle performed his best. Specifically against the blitz, Jones was 15/19 for 156 and a touchdown. Patriots fans have no reason to complain about the quarterback. It’s been a long while since fans could say that their quarterback was better than the opponents. It is only a shocker because the opponent was a seven-time Super Bowl champion.

Moving Forward

Mac Jones outplays Tom Brady as Patriots fall to Buccaneers in instant  classic (5 up, 5 down) - masslive.com

As Tom Brady says a likely farewell to the Patriots and their fans, Mac Jones makes his name household in New England. It may have been a passing of the torch moment. But one thing is for certain; if Bill Belichick is impressed by anybody in this game, my pick is #10 in navy blue. The Patriots may fall to 1-3, but their next three matchups are against the Houston Texans, Dallas Cowboys, and the division rival New York Jets. All seemingly winnable games. If I’m New England, I don’t see any reason to not be confident moving forward. After going toe to toe with the defending champs? Anything is possible with this team. As future hall of fame wide receiver, Julian Edelman would say; “You gotta believe!”

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Patriots Face Goliath This Week Versus Bucs

It’s been a dramatic week for Patriots fans. This game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is a game once thought impossible for many years by fans. Tom Brady, after spending 20 years in Foxboro as the signal-caller for the Pats offense, is making his return home as an opponent. Along with another Patriots legend in tight end Rob Gronkowski.

This game is a pinnacle moment in the “Brady or Belichick?” debate. For a couple of years now fans of the NFL have discussed who is more responsible for the greatest dynasty in all of sports. I maintain that it is still 50-50, but I think the popular opinion is now more TB12 than Bill Belichick. But let’s put that aside. I already discussed how high the emotions are for this game earlier in the week. Now let’s discuss the game itself.

The Patriots are coming off a brutal 28-13 loss against the Saints. A game where they were just smothered offensively and worn out defensively. The Josh McDaniels offense wasn’t able to muster much of anything until the fourth quarter. By the time they got the ball rolling, the defense just couldn’t stop a nosebleed. Mac Jones got pummeled, throwing his first three picks in the process. The matchup doesn’t get any easier against the Tampa Bay defense, with their pass rush being a strength. But tackle Trent Brown should make his return in this game. It’s a big opportunity for the rookie quarterback. The stakes haven’t been higher in his young career. If he pulls out a win here? His confidence should be soaring in the coming weeks. So without further delay, set it up, Bailey! Let’s get this preview underway.

Three Keys to The Game

New England Patriots news 9/16/21 - - Pats Pulpit

Key #1: Really Protecting Mac Jones

Mac Jones is getting killed back there. A consistent element through three weeks of Patriots football is that the pass protection has not been ideal. He was hit 11 times and sacked twice last week. One of his interceptions was directly related to him getting decked and the ball floating to an unintended target. Trent Brown may be returning, but he’ll be facing Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaquille Barrett this week. As for the interior line; Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh. It certainly doesn’t get any easier against the defending champs. But if they can protect their rookie quarterback? The Bucs are on pace to have the worst defense in NFL history as far as yardage allowed. If Mac can be protected good things will happen.

Key #2: Jonnu Smith Has to Catch the Ball

Tight end Jonnu Smith was one of the big free-agent acquisitions this off-season. He was paid handsomely to help fix the Pats’ lowest-ranked tight-end production in 2020. Last week he was more of a detriment than an asset. Smith was targeted six times and only caught one pass. The other five were dropped or bobbled and given to the Saints for a free touchdown. Smith is an amazing talent. But he’s gotta bring those passes in. I have faith that he’ll turn it around because he’s going to have to. Expect McDaniels to throw Smith some balls early just to get his confidence going again.

Key #3: Keeping Up With Tampa’s Weapons

This is probably Tom Brady’s most stacked offense in his entire career. He’s throwing passes to Gronk, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, and O.J. Howard. Along with a fantastic offensive line. Without Stephon Gilmore, the Patriots’ secondary has their hands full. The Bucs are gonna score points. Of that, I have no doubt. So the Pats defense is just going to have to limit those opportunities. This game definitely delivers more pressure on the offense to keep up, but the defense can’t let Tampa drop 50 on their head and expect to win.

X-Factor: J.J. Taylor

Former Arizona running back J.J. Taylor projected as New England Patriots'  2021 'breakout star' - Arizona Desert Swarm

With James White going down with a season-ending hip injury, somebody has to be Jones’s security blanket in the flats. There’s a good chance J.J. Taylor gets the opportunity to show his talent as a third-down back. The second-year player from Arizona is a 5’6 waterbug. He has an incredible burst and has surprising power as a ball carrier. Now he can show if he can catch the football. The Patriots are a little thin at that spot and will need a quick solution. It would surely be nice if that solution is already on the roster. I expect Taylor to get a shot to prove himself worthy and possibly carve out a permanent role for himself in this offense.

Closing Thoughts

Who is more responsible for the Patriots' success, Brady or Belichick? -  The Boston Globe

As we talked about previously, I never thought I’d be seeing my childhood hero in Tom Brady playing against my favorite team. It was all peaches and cream the way I had dreamt it in my head. But alas, some things just don’t work out as smoothly as we would imagine them to. Instead, we get to see a serious masterclass on Sunday Night Football. It’s not just juicy drama, it’s great football. Well, the potential to be great football. Belichick is the coach that knows Brady like no one else. Just like Brady is the quarterback that knows a Belichick defense better than everybody else. 20 years together will really make you get to know a person.

When it comes down to making a prediction, I really don’t want to. My favorite player ever going up against my favorite team doesn’t make this an easy call. But when you compare the two teams; the choice is obvious on paper. The Patriots and Bucs will be close going into halftime. Say a 14-10 lead for Tampa. But the Pats won’t be able to keep up offensively. Brady’s gang will drop three straight touchdowns and we’ll score in garbage time. I hope I’m proven wrong. But through three weeks, the only thing that will keep the Pats in the game with the Bucs is stupid mistakes from them. Which isn’t very likely. We know all too well how smart their quarterback is.

Final Score: 38-17, Tampa Bay (Patriots fall to 1-3)

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Tom Brady Won’t Reminisce, but Fans Will

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady will be hearing the same question for the rest of this week until his primetime matchup against his old team of 20 years, the New England Patriots. “How do you feel about playing up against Bill Belichick and the Patriots, in a stadium you made countless memories in?”. Brady has consistently blocked out the noise. He’s made his pleasantries to Coach Belichick, Robert Kraft, and his former teammates. Acknowledging just how much this game means to the NFL at large. But in typical Brady fashion, he stops it there.

On the other side, Belichick hasn’t exactly given too much to the media either. He often never does play into the hype. But he did give us this nugget about the 2020 free agency, where TB12 took his talents to Tampa Bay. Belichick in his weekly call-in to WEEI on Monday said; “There were a lot of things there that … he looked at his options and made his decision. We weren’t as good an option as Tampa, so I mean, you’d have to ask him about all of that… it wasn’t a question of not wanting him. That’s for sure.”

Fans will always be nostalgic

All storylines aside, nobody reasonable could expect the watchers to just focus on the now. We are nostalgists at heart. From the fans at 50+ to the younger guys like me who only started watching after Super Bowl XLVI (still can’t believe Eli Manning made that sideline throw. Much respect). This week is the perfect time to go down memory lane.

This week I caught myself watching old Patriots games in the background while doing some classwork. I say old, but it’s more like 2015. The Thursday Night Football matchup against the Dolphins to be exact. They started off 6-0 and made it 7 with a dominating win against Miami. It was thrilling to see the prime Tom Brady-Rob Gronkowski connection, along with Julian Edelman being as reliable as ever on third down.

Who is the greatest NFL QB of all-time? A 5th ring for Tom Brady could  change things.

I was dumbfounded when seeing some of the names on the roster that are no longer on the team. Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, LeGarrette Blount, Danny Amendola, Dion Lewis (who was exceptional in that season before tearing his ACL against Washington), among countless others. Sure, roster turnover happens all the time. But for many fans, their childhood Patriots team is being wiped away before their eyes. There are just five players left from the Super Bowl XLIX winning roster on the current roster.

Seeing Tom Brady play against the Patriots isn’t something many Patriots fans fathomed as a reality until the Summer of 2019. Many until the second he tweeted “FOREVER A PATRIOT” with a three-page statement basically ripping the heart out of the tri-state area on St. Patrick’s Day 2020.

Little love lost for Tom Brady from Patriots fans

Still, New England fans are still enamored by their former quarterback. I’m willing to bet at least a sixth of fans in Gillette on Sunday night will be wearing Tom Brady’s new jersey. It’s not often players have that kind of pull when switching teams. Peyton Manning is probably the only name that I can think of where fans followed him from Indy to Denver. The pull that Brady has in the Boston fanbase, one that is typically only loyal to Boston and that’s it, is extraordinary. I’m not saying that the typical Patriots fan left with TB12 to Tampa, but a whole lot of them smiled when he lifted up that Lombardi Trophy for a seventh time. Even if he wasn’t representing the Patriots anymore, he still felt like a major part of our football lives.

Tom Brady's seventh Super Bowl win ends NFL's most challenging year | The  Japan Times

Sunday night football will be loaded with plenty of difficult emotions. As we discussed, for a long time Brady was the only thing some fans knew. Myself included. Seeing him go against the team that we all loved won’t be easy. But ultimately, most of you reading are Patriots fans first. So let’s just hope Tom gives us a good game and we’ll go from there. I wouldn’t be shocked if TB12 and Gronk get a standing ovation from the crowd before kickoff and fans bring signs that read “thank you TB12”. I know it’s easy to say it’ll be all business come Sunday, but we all know that isn’t exactly true.

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Patriots Crushed by Saints, Brady’s up Next

It wasn’t a good game for the Patriots against the New Orleans Saints. Their offense simply couldn’t get the ball moving and it resulted in the Saints’ defense, losing the game 28-13. Despite a late fourth-quarter resurgence where Mac Jones tossed a ball up to Kendrick Bourne for a circus act touchdown, the Pats couldn’t pull off a 15 point comeback after the half. A late touchdown drive capped off by Taysom Hill would seal the win for the Saints.

Reviewing the Game

The Pats’ offense simply couldn’t get out of their own way. Firstly, with Jonnu Smith proving to be more of a detriment than an asset with three crucial drops (one ending in a pick-six), and offensive tackle Justin Herron getting tossed to the ground by Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, a defensive back, the Patriots just never gave themselves a real shot at winning this game. The defense did what they could. I truly don’t have too many complaints about them. Nor do I blame them for the Saints’ final drive. It was simply too little too late, and all of the fingers should be pointed at offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

The play calling was horrific. It has been for quite a handful of recent years. Too often do we see the Patriots at second and long, and McDaniels calls an outside zone run. Or maybe a screen pass to James White (who is now injured) that might get three yards. It’s simply ineffective and predictable. I can see now why McDaniels hasn’t been looked at as a serious head coaching hire since 2018. Simply put, McDaniels isn’t great at his job. Now, I’m not calling him the same as Jason Garrett of the Giants by any means. But what I am saying is that “Mickey Ds” has become stale. It took the Patriots until halfway through the fourth quarter to make anything of this football game because of the poor play calling. Unfortunately, the Patriots couldn’t do anything in the first three and it costed them dearly.

Looking Ahead

As a result, the Patriots fall under .500 and stare at a matchup against the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They roster two of the most familiar faces in Patriot history with all-time legends quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski. Who by the way, have been on an absolute tear to start the season.

Tom Brady is landslide winner so far in Bill Belichick divorce

The Buccaneers roster is talented. Guys like Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, and Leonard Fournette pose a serious threat to the Patriots’ thin secondary. Likewise, on the defense, Ndamukong Suh, Jason Pierre-Paul, Shaq Barrett will certainly tear apart the Patriots’ offensive line in its current state.

It’s hard to imagine a world where the Patriots can keep up with the Bucs. In the current mesh of the roster plus the un-Belichick-like mistakes that have cursed this team, it’s going to be a long week for both fans and personnel. The media has already started calling this game a blowout. Similarly being stated, Tom Brady will get his revenge is sung by all of the big-time writers.

Maybe Bill Belichick and company will surprise us. This is not the first time the media has touted that the Patriots were done and over with. But even I admit the outlook is bleak for week four in Gillette Stadium. I will see you all on Friday with the preview of Tom Brady’s homecoming.

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Patriots Preparation Will Be Tested Versus Saints

The New England Patriots are coming off of a huge win last week against the New York Jets. It was classic Belichick. Disrupting rookie quarterback Zach Wilson and interception him four times. While featuring an offense that didn’t turn the ball over once, playing the safe game to pick up the 25-6 win. This week offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has been under fire for being “too conservative” with his play calls. Not letting rookie quarterback Mac Jones air it out enough. That maybe this proved a lack of confidence in his throwing ability. Though all of these have been shut down by both McDaniels and Jones, maybe they look for something more aggressive this week against the Saints.

Defensively, this game could prove to be a nightmare for Jerod Mayo and Steve Belichick. The two-quarterback system is something that could frustrate the hell out of this Patriots defense. The days of Drew Brees stat-padding in garbage time is now over, with Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill heading a newly imposed dual quarterback system that has given teams nightmares in recent years. It was limited by Brees’s inability to throw a deep ball, but now with Winston, this unit could soar to new heights.

Both of these teams have gone under monumental remodeling in recent years. Especially when discussing the franchise quarterbacks moving on. One thing has remained the same though. Their brilliant coaches have stuck around through it all. Bill Belichick and Sean Payton have a football mind matched by few, and it’s always a fun time when they meet. So without further delay, let’s get this one underway. Set it up, Bailey!

Three Keys to The Game

Mac Jones' 'confidence is on a 10:' Patriots veterans are impressed by  rookie's conviction - masslive.com

Key #1: Don’t Be Suprised By Winston-Hill Interchanging

I am absolutely certain that the Patriots will see both of these quarterbacks plenty in this matchup. Simply because the Pats haven’t seen it before. The last time they played New Orleans was in 2017 and Drew Brees hadn’t totally fallen off the cliff yet. Now it’s a brand new offense to them, and it’ll be interesting to see just how prepared this defense will be, and which Jameis we will see on Sunday. Will it be the Jameis Winston who throws five touchdowns casually? Or the 30 for 30 turnover machine Jameis Winston?

Key #2: Getting Creative Offensively

Although I feel the criticisms of the McDaniels offense can be unjust, they’re not totally wrong. Even if indirectly, Jones hasn’t had a huge opportunity to showcase what talent he might have. He’s been a really good game manager for this offense two weeks in. But there haven’t been too many aggressive shots downfield called for McCorkle two weeks in. I think the Patriots could afford to get a little more creative under center and maybe create some more risky throws for the rookie. They didn’t invest in guys like Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, Jonnu Smith, and Hunter Henry for no reason, right? Let’s see what the kid has. Not at the cost of a win, but don’t get predictable offensively.

Key #3: Protect Mac Jones

It’s been no secret that the Patriots are struggling without Trent Brown on the offensive line. Too many times the Pats’ offense has been shut down on drives off of sacks or immediate pressure. They can’t afford to let McCorkle get blown up as often as he has in recent weeks. He’s not exactly Kyler Murray running around back there. Brown did return to practice this week, and he should be good to go come Sunday, but nevertheless, this offense cannot afford to have the same lackadaisical pass protection that they’ve showcased through two weeks.

X-Factor: Josh Uche

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Edge rusher Josh Uche is going to play a major role in keeping the trio of Winston, Hill, and Alvin Kamara in check. He’s probably the only edge rusher that has the wheels to keep up with Hill and Kamara’s speed. Setting the edge will be a huge part of this game, so Uche and Dont’a Hightower will have their hands full come Sunday afternoon. PFF holds Uche with some of the best edge rushers in the NFL with pressure scores, let’s see those in full effect against New Orleans.

Closing Thoughts

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I for one was delighted to hear that the Patriots would be honoring future hall of fame (yeah, I said it) receiver Julian Edelman at halftime this Sunday. An all-time playoff performer, a third-down specialist, tough as nails. Edelman personifies Patriots football to a tee. When the Pats needed a big-time catch, there’s a reason Tom Brady always looked his way. A legend by all accounts in Boston sports, and hopefully soon, an NFL legend as well.

As for the game at hand, the Patriots can’t let this get into a shoot-out. The offense just hasn’t proven itself capable of winning a 37-35 game. If the Saints get the best of the defense early, this could be a really long day. Especially ahead of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski‘s homecoming next week on Sunday Night Football.

I have faith though that Belichick will be prepared for the things that Payton has in store. It’s not often that the hoodie is caught by surprise. Give me New England in a huge warm-up game ahead of possibly the biggest regular-season game in NFL history.

Final Score: 24-20, New England (2-1)

If you enjoyed this content, or hate it and want to argue with me, follow me on Twitter @KalebEmcee! Feel free to check out the work I do on Foxboro Beat! Also, read up on the rest of the NFL content PFP has to offer here!

Patriots Seek Improvement Versus New Look Jets

The New England Patriots suffered a tough break against the Miami Dolphins in the season opener last week. Just as they were driving down to take the lead late in the fourth quarter, running back Damien Harris committed a sin in the book of Belichick and fumbled the ball. Spoiling a rather impressive debut for rookie quarterback Mac Jones, and ensuring the game would finish 17-16 in a Miami win. Turnovers were a killer for the Patriots last week, losing two fumbles. Ball security was surely a focus in practice this week.

With several days to refocus, they aim their sights on another AFC East rival in the New York Jets. They suffered a bit of vengeance of their own in a 19-14 loss last week to Sam Darnold and the Carolina Panthers. The Jets also debut a rookie quarterback in BYU product Zach Wilson, who is under the tutelage of former 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. The Jets are no longer the Jets of old, again. I feel as though we say this every three or four seasons. Since the days of Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez, the Jets have not been able to figure it out. They’re currently in a 12-year playoff drought, and something has got to give. They sure do make Patriots fans count their lucky stars with the 20 years and six Super Bowls they got out of the Tom Brady– Bill Belichick era.

The Patriots need to make the most of this opportunity. A first-year quarterback, a first-year head coach, and a rebuilding roster. Belichick and company should be licking their lips at this opportunity. Let’s not delay this preview anymore, shall we? Set it up, Bailey. Let’s get this one underway!

3 Keys to The Game

With Mac Jones, Patriots offense looks more Porsche than Civic in season  opener | Chris Mason - masslive.com

Key #1: Ball security

We touched on this a little bit in the introduction. If it wasn’t for a costly fumble, the Patriots would be the leaders of the AFC East right now. Mac Jones did a really nice job playing smart in his debut last week. There are maybe one or two moments where he made some dumb rookie mistake. Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson have to protect the ball though. Stuff like last week cannot continue to happen, and I’m sure Belichick didn’t let them forget it. Let’s not give the Jets a reason to make this a game like last year, where a washed-up Joe Flacco passed for 263 yards and 3 touchdowns. Just be smart, and limit the opportunities that Wilson has to make a big-time play. Don’t let the possession end at the doing of the offense’s own mistakes.

Key #2: Complicate the defense

It’s no secret that Bill Belichick loves to devour rookie quarterbacks. His record against them is almost impeccable (thanks Geno Smith and Tua Tagovailoa). Zach Wilson should be no different in Belichick’s plan to confuse the hell out of young quarterbacks. The defense should look dominant even without linebacker Kyle Van Noy.

Key #3: Don’t underestimate the Jets

Listen, I’m just as big a fan of the Butt Fumble jokes as much as the next. But even the redheaded stepchild of New York can sneak up on the Patriots. New England isn’t in any place to be bragging themselves. Losing their opening matchup because of two fumbles. The Patriots should be chasing perfection just as hard as they usually do. There’s no reason to play down to our competition. They have a flashy wide receiving core that should provide some frustration. The Pats are not the Steelers. They should be treating every opponent with the same amount of preparation. If not more for a division rival.

X-Factor: David Andrews

Why David Andrews has to be a free agency priority for the Patriots - Pats  Pulpit

Center David Andrews is going to play a big role in MetLife Stadium on Sunday. He’s going to be going up against one of the best young defensive linemen in the game with big Quinnen Williams. As the captain of the offensive line, Andrews is going to have his hands full. I’m not a genius when it comes to the technique and skill of being an offensive lineman. But Dirty Dave has it. So much so that he’s a perennial Pro-Bowl candidate and the team captain for the team. If Andrews is able to keep it all together and protect Mac Jones, the Patriots will be sitting pretty offensively against a pretty horrid Jets defense.

Final Thoughts

Marking the anniversary of Bill Belichick quitting the Jets after a single  day

The Patriots and the Jets have a rivalry that almost seems comical at times. Since the days of Parcells, these two franchises have a beef rivaled by few. Sparking by the resignation of coach of two days Bill Belichick because Parcells hid the interest of Bob Kraft and the Pats when he was being promoted. Writing his resignation speech on a napkin just minutes before going up to the podium. This followed with a legal battle and an eventual trade to send Belichick to the Patriots.

Since then, Belichick and the Patriots have won six Super Bowls, 17 AFC East titles, and countless other memories. The Jets’ biggest moments were in the 2009-10 seasons where they made the AFC championship under Mark Sanchez and Rex Ryan. Since then they haven’t done much more than sniff the post-season. I think it’s safe to say New England won that trade unquestionably.

As for the year 2021, I can’t see this game ending in a Jets win. There are too many roster concerns for them, and the Patriots are hopefully coming in as disciplined as ever. I see Belichick’s football mastery being a bit overwhelming for the tag team of first-timers in Saleh and Wilson. Should be a fun day in East Rutherford though. Not a blowout by any means.

Final Score: 24-13, New England (1-1)

If you enjoyed this content, or hate it and want to argue with me, follow me on Twitter @KalebEmcee! Feel free to check out the work I do on Foxboro Beat! Also, read up on the rest of the NFL content PFP has to offer here!