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

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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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A Touch of Optimism in Patriots’ Offense Thus Far

I should preface this all by saying that the New England Patriots’ offense, led by rookie signal-caller Mac Jones, have not scored enough points to be up there with the top offenses in the league. In fact, they are currently 23rd in the league in points scored. This also comes with the help of things like the league’s second best turnover differential (thank you Zach Wilson). Point is, it’s not news to say that the Patriots’ offense has had opportunities to put points on the board, and they just haven’t converted.

Yet, as all the talk has been about conservative play-calling, passive play by Jones, a sloppy body of work from the offensive line, and timely mistakes like fumbles in the red zone, the purpose here is to shift the conversation. The discussion on the offense needs to acknowledge a different point of view, and to focus on how New England moves forward.

Remember what week it is

Now, to start by saying, it is Week 2 and the Patriots are 1-1. Any New England fan doesn’t have to go to far back into the history books here, just to understand the art of Bill Belichick and the slow starts out of the gate. Anyone seemingly perplexed only has to look as far as two out of the last three Super Bowl titles the Patriots have sitting in the trophy case (2014, 2018 seasons).

Yet, to state the obvious, those slow starts were with Tom Brady and teams with many long-tenured veterans. When after all this 2021 team is brand-spanking new. After a rather long 2020 season, and a historically aggressive offseason, New England these days can have five, six players on offense who either play a different position from the year prior, weren’t a full-time starter, or simply weren’t on the roster. When more than half your offense is only still learning the ropes in Week 2, that can be a significant disadvantage.

While certainly, most realize that this is a very new-looking offense for the Patriots, it’s the magnitude of it that is frequently understated. All of that starts with the rookie QB in Jones. Jones is not just new to the NFL, but relatively new to the offense, as he is just really started getting reps with the starters in preparation for week one. With Cam Newton holding on to his job till the very end, Newton managed all the starting reps through summer camps and the preseason, leaving Jones to play catch-up with the starters just before opening their doors to the Miami Dolphins.

In a normal year with Brady, it wouldn’t even be uncharacteristic for things to not click out of the gate. Yet, with all these new faces and unfamiliarity with each other and the coaching staff, it had to be nothing less than expected. With this mere fact alone, anyone overly worried about this offense might just be overreacting. As we all must look at the good from what we have seen so far.

Positive overall message

Belichick addresses media following the 25-6 win over the New York Jets

Belichick’s remarks aren’t a whole lot different than what he normally might say following a good win. Yet, this perfectly encapsulates the message going forward. The team and its fans must take to account that they made improvements from their loss to the Dolphins — even if they are not overly obvious to the naked eye. The team improved and should continue to improve week to week. Individual players showed more and turned in better overall performances. That is not something to simply brush off with a team still trying to find identity and compliment each other.

There are obviously still things that need to be tinkered with (the offense is far from perfect). However, it won’t improve with impatience. We all must acknowledge small wins. Contrasting from last season where the offense struggled to even string together completions, this offense looks not too bad. As it’s abundantly clear that the New England offense and their scheme runs far smoother with Jones and co. under center in comparison to last season’s 7-9 bunch led by Newton (or even what we saw in the preseason). That mere fact alone can be chalked up as a win as the team clearly made improvements at the most important position in the game.

Jones not losing games

Now, while we are not quite ready to anoint Jones the next savior of the franchise and the next best thing since Brady (as those expectations are rather unfair in the first place), it’s clear that he’s delivering the ball with proper timing (a huge problem last season), completing passes, and is doing everything he needs to in order to be successful. This is almost more than you can ask of a quarterback set to start his third career game.

Jones thus far, in a draft with many talented QBs picked ahead of him, has played the part for the best of the bunch so far. After staying put and getting him at the 15th overall selection, that’s phenomenal news as a Patriot fan.

While you can point to him playing passively and playing it a little safe in the early goings, he’s yet to turn the ball over. Games most frequently are won and lost by penalties, field position, and turnovers. Games were lost last year by turnovers at the quarterback position. So far, we have not been able to say that. Chalk this up as another small win and sign of progress. Although, this is something that must keep up.

Turnovers, fundamentals, and penalties

This leads nicely into the turnover department and some undisciplined football from the entire team. However, with a focus on the offense, they came out of the gate with two fumbles in week one. A costly fumble in the red zone by Damien Harris changed the entire scope of the game. Along with that, an uncharacteristically high amount of “silly”, rather basic penalties through the first two weeks for a Belichick-coached team. This team, this offense cannot continue to shoot themselves in the foot and make their gameplan harder to execute. With a slew of mistakes that Belichick and the coaching staff can’t stand taking place, it speaks to the newness of this team and the overall discipline.

Those silly mistakes will likely be cleaned up in due time. By the time that marquee opponents like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roll into town in week four, those silly mistakes will widen point margins very quickly. If one wants to look for evidence of improvement in the offense and overall team, this is one area to look at. As the coaching staff likes to mitigate self-harm as much as possible and do the little things right. Continued struggles in this area would be the reason for concern. As when one cannot do the little things right, how can one do the big things like consistently put points on the board and win games?

New England did not turn the ball over once last week (one area of improvement from the week prior). However, they did have some inexcusable penalties and some minuscule fundamental errors. Again, those should get cleaned up with more time together. With more practice time, in-game reps, and more continuity, they should get there naturally.

Speaking of continuity

One cannot stress newness and a lack of chemistry between the whole offense enough. With that, it couldn’t be more critical than up front on the line. Where all offensive success stems from. Losing Trent Brown early on in Week 1 was less than ideal. Leaving Jones staring at a revolving door at right tackle between Yasir Durant and Justin Herron. Wouldn’t we all love to stare at pressure coming from the right side in our first NFL games?

It’s almost as if the offensive line hasn’t been ready to go. With Brown back in action versus the New Orleans Saints, this should be a missing puzzle piece in the whole offense running smoother. Yet, don’t underestimate the importance of the offensive line needing more in-game reps together as well. The offensive line is a spot that plays off each other. Even with two guys like Brown playing right tackle and Onwenu playing left guard now can sometimes cause confusion for the whole o-line. Again, that all takes time and reps.

So, while guys like Isaiah Wynn haven’t gotten off to the best of starts, don’t slam the panic button yet. This group should be the strength of the entire team. As Brown gets back and we dive further into the season, that should be on display more and more. The plans were just, unfortunately, derailed a few weeks with this injury. Which, on another note, speaks to the importance of keeping Brown healthy.

Playcalling and sideline decision-making

One area that needs improvement is the decision-making from the headset. Josh McDaniels has been reluctant to get aggressive, despite his own claims somewhat indicating the opposite.

McDaniels speaking on conservative play-calling through first two weeks and Jones “playing it safe”.

Big chunk plays here and there are key to moving the ball downfield and putting more points on the board. Those shots just really haven’t been taken. Though this should be rebutted by saying that if you are looking for a high-flying, quick scoring offense, this is not your team. In fact, if that’s your kind of football, you might be better suited updating your old Brady jersey.

-The quarterback they drafted is known for this more conservative style of play. Everyone knew that was his bread and butter coming out of the draft.

-The teams they have played have not given Jones much time to sit back and make decisions. That’s also partially due to the offensive line play.

-The team’s list of deep threats on the team include all of the following: Nelson Agholor and Jonnu Smith. That’s the list.

-The team likes the idea of running the ball with Harris, getting it to guys like James White out of the backfield, and that’s worked thus far.

Through the first two weeks, their defensive opposition has actually been pretty good. Yet, Jones has still managed to complete 74 percent of his passes, Harris has found success running the ball, and White has been great thus far. Draw from those positives and rest easy in the Patriots’ offense seeing improvements from last year in efficiency. While that may cause some to roll their eyes, improvement is improvement, especially when dealing with teams that missed the playoffs.

Playing to strengths

What should be keyed in on with McDaniels is questionable usage with guys like the tight end duo, maybe even Agholor and Kendrick Bourne. He’s struggled to play guys to their strengths, put them in spots to succeed, and dial up some playcalls that draw from Jones’ success in college. For example, when signing Smith and Hunter Henry, the immediate thought was these two are the ultimate remedy for redzone woes. Yet, their usage in the redzone has been, well, pedestrian to say the least.

Another area has been a lack of RPOs, which were arguably what Jones did best in college. Arguably the best slant thrower in the draft, teamed with fellow Alabama man in Harris as his runningback. One would think McDaniels would take advantage. Yet, that wrinkle hasn’t really materialized.

While this is not so much to point holes in the offensive play design, as much as it is to say that players haven’t even come close to reaching their full potential yet. So, reserving judgement on the offense and these big contracts would be wise. Here’s to hope that the team takes advantage of these strengths once all the players gel more.

What to think as we move forward

We must appreciate Jones completing passes and trying to master the simple things before going long downfield. Jones is making quick decisions that protect the football, and putting the ball on target. Not only that, but also doing everything to be successful throughout the week in practice and film. He’s shown a great attitude and a dedication to improve. Jones is the first guy to acknowledge that he can get better and takes responsibility.

Jones watching the film, wanting to stretch the field more, and taking responsibility.

We must all acknowledge that this is a process. Week to week, by each practice, the team looks to get better than yesterday. Now, they head into Week 3 with a contest against the Saints. With a quarterback like Jameis Winston, we will see how the game script unfolds. As it is plausible that Jones could be asked to pass a lot.

Everything will be on display once again, and everyone should be watching to see how this offense gets better. How this offense plays more complementary football. My advice: make sure nothing stands in the way of you kicking your feet up on Sunday and watching the future of New England unfold before your very eyes. It should be exciting to watch this team progress throughout the season, with hopes that this offense can become a perennial juggernaut like we all have grown accustomed to over the years. This offense has many questions to answer, but everyone must take things one game at a time. We’re onto New Orleans.

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)

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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)

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Patriots Can Grab Statement Win Versus Dolphins

The Patriots kick off their season against the Miami Dolphins for the second year in a row this Sunday. What’s also repeating for the Pats is that they’re introducing a new quarterback to the world. After just one season, Cam Newton was kicked to the curb following a disheartening training camp and pre-season. Thus, rookie quarterback, Mac Jones was handed the reins to the offense. An offense in which has been remodeled to an extreme measure. The tight end stable is now Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, two of the best in the league. Then with the wide receivers, some recognizable names have been added with Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne.

In McCorkle’s Patriots debut, he’s not only facing a Bill Belichick protege in Brian Flores, but also his predecessor from his days at Alabama in Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. These divisional rivals are all too familiar with one another, and it usually makes for a fun matchup. So without further delay, let’s kick off this season! Set it up, Bailey. Let’s get 2021 underway for real.

Three Keys to The Game

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Key #1: Mac Jones needs to start strong

Mac Jones has some pretty hefty shoes to fill in Foxboro. After a painful season in 2020, Patriots fans are desperate and impatient to return to their winning ways. Being a first-round pick brings great attention to you in the NFL. I doubt that McCorkle gets as much crap from fans as Newton did last season, but the clock is ticking for results. It will be huge for Jones to come out and at least flash his capabilities in this league. I’m not saying he has to be the 2001 Tom Brady miracle kid, but this team is being slept on for the first time in years. It’s time to wake up the rest of the league from a brief moment of peace without Belichickian dominance. A big win against a good divisional rival will go a long way in doing just that.

Key #2: Stuffing the run

The last time these two teams met, the Dolphins had their way on the ground. Rushing the ball for 250 yards and having a 14-minute advantage in the time of possession, winning the game 22-12, and eliminating the Patriots from playoff contention. With the return of Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy, this shouldn’t be a major issue. This defense has been revamped for this type of matchup. The pairing of Lawrence Guy and newcomer Davon Godchaux will go a long way in stuffing the team of Myles Gaskin, Malcolm Brown, and Salvon Ahmed.

Key #3: Surviving without Stephon Gilmore

So the good news is, DeVante Parker won’t be turning Stephon Gilmore into his son for the third season in a row. The bad news is, the Pats don’t have Gilmore until week seven against the Jets at the earliest.

So who pairs up with J.C. Jackson and Jonathan Jones in the secondary? It looks like it won’t be swiss army knife Jalen Mills, who was a non-participant in practice this week. Could we see JoeJuan Williams in an extended role? Or maybe Shaun Wade gets some real reps after playing a relatively solid game in his Patriots debut two weeks ago in the final pre-season game. If Will Fuller weren’t suspended, the Dolphins air attack would be scary and possibly too much to handle for the Pats thin secondary. It will be interesting to see how Bill and Steve Belichick along with Jerod Mayo compensate for not having much depth in a position where they seemed to often have too much.

X-Factor: Kyle Dugger

LOCAL PRO ROUNDUP: New England's Dugger 'hyped' for 2021 NFL season |  Sports News | hickoryrecord.com

I could very easily just stuff your faces with just how important this game is for Mac Jones and make him the X-Factor, but let’s change it up, shall we? Safety Kyle Dugger has been given the difficult task of replacing Patrick Chung, who retired this past off-season. He will more than likely be given the role to take care of up-and-coming tight end Mike Gesicki. Who will likely serve as Tua’s safety blanket if he’s still not confident in hitting receivers deep downfield. This is the role Chung excelled at, and Rodney Harrison before him. With an already worrying secondary, if Dugger can step up to the challenge, it’s a massive load off of this defense’s shoulders.

I would look towards Adrian Phillips to step up in this role as well. He covered multiple big-time tight ends last season impressively. Dugger and Phillips should make for a strong rotation at the strong safety position.

Closing Thoughts

Bill Belichick's final coaching chapter tied to Mac Jones' performance for  Patriots | Matt Vautour - masslive.com

The Mac Jones era kicks off effective this Sunday in Gillette Stadium. All eyes will be on him. Well, all nine (two with only half) states that won’t have the Chiefs versus Browns matchup on their local channel. Nevertheless, first impressions are always huge. Good or bad, this is our first look at what’s in store for the New England Patriots for the next 10-15 years if all goes to plan. Belichick isn’t getting any younger, and almost every Patriot from the Super Bowl XLIX championship run has either retired or moved on to other teams. It’s saddening to see my childhood team become unrecognizable, but the veterans of NFL fanbases have seen this at least thrice over.

As far as this game goes, I’m confident in the Patriots starting out on the right foot. McCorkle seems to have the team rallied around him. They’re vastly improved on both sides of the ball. Plus for now, there haven’t been any pesky COVID-19 cases to worry about. I see this game being close, as the Dolphins are pretty close to us as far as team development goes, and it will for sure be a preview of what’s to come for both of these squads. A lot will happen between the aftermath of week one and the next time we see them in January of 2022. Let’s get the upper hand early. We’ll need all the wins we can get if retaking the AFC East is in our plans.

Final Score: 31-27, Patriots win (1-0)

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!