Another win in a hat and T-shirt game for the New England Patriots. 11 division titles in a row is amazing and true testament to the way the whole football operation is run. What is more exciting is the Patriots played their best game of complimentary football all season. The offense is showing signs of life, and this Patriots defense will go down as 1 of the 3 best in team history.
Looked sharp and in rhythm from the jump. The early success running the ball led to good pass protection, which in turn led to Brady spreading the ball around to multiple receivers. The power run play action game gives me hope they have some answers on offense for playoff success. The lack of red zone touchdowns is an epidemic with this team, so much so Brady tried running it in. Please stop doing that unless it’s a QB sneak. Great job, now ice that elbow.
RUNNING BACKS: B+
The fumble by Burkhead too some steam off a very good start. He atoned with smart running behind his offensive line in the screen game, and tough goal line running to give the Patriots the lead late. It’s amazing to me how many people give up on Sony Michel week after week. He’s pretty good when the O-line gives him some space to operate, and it also allows for him to take fakes in the play action game.
WIDE RECEIVERS: B
Mohammed Sanu has had some issues and fans will be tough on him, however, he is one of the best wide receivers this team has. All you can hope for is that he’s learning from his mistakes which will lead to making plays down the stretch. N’Keal Harry is coming along and the team is finding different ways to get him the ball. And Julian Edelman is tougher than a $2 dollar steak. I hope he can get some rest soon.
TIGHT ENDS: A-
Overall a good job in the running game by both Matt LaCosse and Benjamin Watson. The LaCosse touchdown looked like an old Gronk play. Productive day for these two.
OFFENSIVE LINE: A
A great job by all 6 jumbos as Marshall Newhouse replaced Marcus Cannon and did a nice job. Tom Brady was only hit 4 times, wasn’t sacked, and the offense ran the ball for nearly 150 yards. Big difference in the interior push on the inside running game with center Ted Karras back in the lineup. The versatility and athleticism of this group has allowed the end around runs with N’Keal Harry to develop, and those runs are important to the future of the regular running game.
DEFENSIVE LINE: A
Lawrence Guy had a day against this interior of the Buffalo offensive line. His presence in the middle was felt both in run defense and pass rush. Danny Shelton did what he does best, clog up the middle to allow Don’ta Hightower make plays. John Simon did a nice job of working contain and forcing plays back inside. The formula for this group is pretty simple, clog and contain. Mission accomplished against the Bills.
The reason the Patriots defense was so magnificent on 3rd down, was because of this unit. The pressure that Jaime Collins, Kyle Van Noy, and Hightower were able to get on Josh Allen was consistent in crucial situations. And since he’s listed as a linebacker, great job on offense by Elandon Roberts. Whether it’s in the middle of the defense, or lined up staring at Brady’s caboose, Roberts embraces the physical nature of both roles.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: A-
The touchdown to John Brown in the 3rd quarter was a great route, but I think there was either a miscommunication between Stephon Gilmore and Devin McCourty, or McCourty got beat. Either way, that was THE big mistake on the back end. J.C. Jackson knocked down a couple of balls. At times he looks like Malcolm Butler in coverage with the ‘Trail’ technique. He closes very well. Little to quibble with here.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B
The reason this grade isn’t higher is because Buffalo gained some yards in the return game. Andre Roberts is as good a returner as there is in the NFL, and while he didn’t get many chances, he did some damage with the ones he did. Nick Folk built some confidence making some winter weather kicks in Gillette.
3 Things to Watch For
- If the Patriots get a big lead against Miami, to sit Brady and Edelman in the 4th quarter if possible.
- The Patriots to build in the running game off this weeks performance.
- I’d sit Stephon Gilmore this week. The Patriots won’t. But I would.