(5-1 Division, 1st in AFC East) 12-4
Lost AFC Wildcard 13-20
Wait, we don’t get to go to the Super Bowl every year? What is this bullshit?
But seriously, I’d like to welcome all of you wonderful readers to this season’s recap of everyone's favorite soap opera, your New England Patriots.
Where to start? How about directly after winning Super Bowl LIII?
Gronk floated the idea of retirement multiple times after winning his third Lombardi trophy.
“You know what number I’m putting up about my chances,” Gronkowski said, via Boston.com’s Nicole Yang. “You guys know my favorite number. That’s the probability.”From nesn.com
He eventually would retire, but not until late March. This caught the always-prepared Patriots front office seemingly off guard, and they scrambled to bring in old friend Ben Watson. This would lead to the Great Tight End Shortage of 2019, as the other rostered TEs accounted for little more than spot plays, and Watson would show every day of his 39 years of age.
Speaking of injuries, I'd like to welcome you to the next soap on our trek through the 2019 season...
We all know football is a contact sport, so of course injuries are going to happen. Some years a team gets lucky and key players stay healthy throughout the season. Or sometimes an injured player gets healthy enough to come back just in time for a playoff run.
Other times, you get the 2019 Patriots:
- David Andrews, starting center:
- placed on IR in August after he was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism(!) and did not return in 2019.
- Isaiah Wynn, starting left tackle:
- placed on IR after suffering a toe injury in week 2. Would eventually return for the week 11 matchup with the Cowboys
- James Develin, starting fullback:
- placed on IR after suffering a neck injury in week 2. Would not return in 2019.
- Jakob Johnson, backup fullback:
- lasted twice as long as Develin (4 weeks) before also suffering a season-ending shoulder injury.
- N'Keal Harry, starting wide receiver:
- battled multiple leg injuries throughout preseason, and was eventually put on IR before the beginning of the season. Would come back with Wynn to play against the Cowboys, and scored his first NFL touchdown in that game.
- Stephen Gostkowski, starting kicker:
- placed on season-ending IR after 4 games with a hip injury. This resulted in a carousel of kickers throughout the rest of the season.
I was originally going to make this a joke too, but the AB saga has just gotten sad. Get help bud, you seem like you're struggling.
Cut from the Raiders for multiple behavior issues, the Patriots signed him shortly thereafter. Even though he was only on the team for 11 days (and one actual football game), it felt like a lot longer due to all the drama surrounding him and his situation. Amid sexual assault allegations, the Patriots released Brown and he hasn't played in the NFL since. He seems to spend his time alternating between apology tours and lashing out at the league, and things seem to be spiraling for the talented but troubled wideout.
There are rumors that Brady and Brown still keep in close contact, but this has come from Antonio's people, so take it with a bucket of salt.
As for the season itself? It went about as you'd expect from a team that had built an offense around a running game that took them to a title last year, only to have the majority of that running offense end up on the IR. As we'll get into in more depth, the offense struggled; many put the blame on an aging Tom Brady not being able to play at a high level anymore. Others pointed to the lack of options around Brady (a makeshift offensive line, injured/inexperienced wide receivers) as a place to lay the blame.
With all that being said, the Patriots started off 8-0, mainly on the strength of their defense wreaking havoc on opposing offenses. Just ask Sam Darnold.
The quest for a perfect season came crashing down in a loss to the red-hot Ravens going into the bye week, but things were looking up. Talented left tackle Isaiah Wynn and first-round draft pick N'Keal Harry would both return in time for the prime time matchup against the highly-ranked Cowboys, and the Patriots would find themselves sitting pretty at 10-1 after beating the top two teams in the NFC East in back to back weeks.
But this is when the season started to catch up to the Patriots. Consecutive losses (which doesn't happen often in New England) to the Texans and Chiefs exposed more weaknesses in the Patriots offense... and some in their vaunted defense as well. A couple of wins over the Bengals and Bills did little to quell those fears for some fans, but the Patriots were still one win away from securing a first round bye in the playoffs going into a home game against the lowly Dolphins.
Wait, back up.
I almost missed yet another soap opera. A film crew associated with the Patriots was "caught" filming the Cincinnati sidelines in a Bengals/Browns game from the press box. This led to a measured conversation about the legality of what happened, and a respectful debate about whether or not this film would actually help a team game plan for an upcoming opponent.
Just kidding, it was the usual shitshow:
...the video in question features more than eight minutes of Bengals footage, fixated on the sideline coaches and substitution procedures. According to the Patriots’ excuse-making 8-ball, Mondillo and friends were just getting B-roll for a “Do Your Job” production detailing the road preparation techniques of an advance scout. The footage seems about as well-suited for that project as would a glance at a Patriots employee legacy award for the Jim McNally episode.Boston.com (et tu, Brute?)
Of course, this was quickly resolved by Roger Goodell in his usual fashion, meting out fair and prompt discipline. Kidding again, As of the beginning of January, the Patriots were supposed to find out their punishment for all of this "in two weeks." That was a month and a half ago.
So the Patriots had survived all of this; all they had to do was win one more game against the Dolphins they had walloped already once this season. But then the season really did catch up to them. The Patriots don't get upset at home very often. And by "very often" I mean to say that the Patriots are 144 - 32 at home when favored to win a football game since Belichick took over this team. But as every NFL fan knows, sometimes there's literally nothing you can do against the force of FitzMagic. The Patriots would lose their regular season finale 27-24, and with it the #2 seed in the AFC. For the first time since 2009, the Patriots would be playing in the Wildcard.
And just like the last time they played in the Wildcard ten years ago, this is where the season would end. The Pats would lose to the Mike Vrabel-led Titans 20-13 in a microcosm of the season: the defense played well, but in the end couldn't mask the deficiencies of the depleted offense. Game over. Season over.
Soap opera over?
Not even close. As in any good soap opera, what comes around goes around. And it seems last offseason's primer of the Gronk Retirement Saga was just the lead-up to this year's offseason drama:
The Tom Brady Free Agency Tour 2020
I am not willing to be a part of this circus any more than I have to be, so I will simply present the facts:
- Tom Brady will be a free agent on March 18th unless he re-signs with the Patriots before that.
- Tom Brady is due $6.5 million in 2020 and 2021.
- If Tom Brady becomes a free agent, the combined $13 million will count towards the Patriots' 2020 cap.
Neither the Patriots or Tom Brady have made any substantive public statements about any of this. Anything you hear otherwise at this point is conjecture.
Offensive production was down across the board this year, to the surprise of nobody. The Patriots offense finished lower in both Passing and Rushing yards on the season, and more alarmingly had significant drops in conversion percentages: especially on 3rd downs and in the red zone. Surprisingly, the Pats still ended up as a top-10 scoring offense, though.
|Total||Per Game||Rank||Vs. Last Year|
|3rd Down Conversion %||38.3%||---||17||(13)|
|4th Down Conversion %||40.0%||---||24||(20)|
|Red Zone %||50.0%||---||26||15|
A lot of talk this season revolved around the decline of Tom Brady. Detractors attributed this to the QB “falling off the cliff,” while Brady defenders pointed to his lack of playmakers in the offense this year. Either way, the numbers support this lack of production, as it was some of the lowest numbers Brady has put up in a while.
|Total||Per Game||Rank||Vs. Last Year|
On the other hand, the Boogeymen on defense put up historical numbers, especially considering the Offensive Era the NFL is currently in. While they didn’t finish the season as strongly as they started, the Patriots defense finished in the top 5 (ish) in pretty much every category. This was hands-down the strength of this team, harkening back to the days of the early-2000s Patriots teams.
Special Teams Statistics
I’ve included special teams rankings in the past because of how important special teams are to Belichick. There’s not a lot to talk about here other than the kicking. Long-time stalwart Stephen Gostkowski started the season looking uncharacteristically shaky, and was eventually put on IR a few weeks into the season. This led to a carousel of kickers, resulting in some of the lowest FG % numbers we’ve seen in quite some time.
|Average||Rank||Vs. Last Year|
|Punt Return Yards
|Kick Return Yards||22.1||17||(2)|
|Field Goal %||79.4%||19||(18)|
The Story of the Season in One Table
What does it look like statistically when you have a great defense who can create turnovers, a solid special teams unit, but an offense who struggles to score points? Glad you asked.
|Average starting field position||Own 32.5||2|
|Drives ending in score||36.8%||14|
|Points per drive||1.99||17|
|Yards per drive||29.9||21|
- Michael Bennett (traded 5th for him and a 7th)
- Bennett was brought in from the Eagles in exchange for a higher-round pick as a replacement on the defensive line after Trey Flowers left in free agency. Bennett didn't produce much (mainly due to not fitting the Patriots system), and was eventually shipped off to the Cowboys for a conditional 7th round pick.
- Brandon Bolden (Free Agent)
- Long-time special teamer Bolden torched the Patriots last season in the Miami Miracle game, so it was nice to see him back as a Patriot this year. Bolden finished the year with 15 whole carries for 68 yards and 3 TDs as a sort of short yardage fill in. He also picked up where he left off as Brady's favorite wheel route target in the passing game.
- Ben Watson (Free Agent)
- The Patriots scrambled when Gronkowski officially retired and eventually settled on old friend Ben Watson. Watson had recently retired from the game, but the Patriots convinced him to change his mind and come back for one more season. Unfortunately, this meant getting suspended for the first 4 weeks, since once you retire you stop paying attention to the NFL drug restrictions. Watson wasn't the version we knew from the first time around, but still had some gas left in the tank.
- Jamie Collins (Free Agent)
- Rob Gronkowski (Retirement)
- Gronk eventually retired late in the offseason, and immediately shed his playing weight and started shilling products. Although why he's not the spokesman for Bud Light Seltzer is beyond me. Find me a better branding fit, I dare you.
- Antonio Brown (Court System)
- We all know what happened with AB, so I won't go too deeply into it out of fear that he'll tweet at me if I do. I'll just say that he wants you to remember he has a Whole Lotta Money.
- Josh Gordon (Seahawks)
- Bet you forgot about this one didn't you!? With all the other turnover that went on with this team, Gordon flew a bit under the radar. He started the season off strong (even scoring the Pats first TD of 2019), but faded as the season went on. And then the Patriots suddenly announced that they were cutting him, leading to talk of another drug-related setback. That didn't stop the Seahawks from picking him up, but only for a few weeks before he decided to "step away" from the game himself.
- Trent Brown (Raiders)
- Mammoth left tackle Trent Brown performed in his one-year deal with the Patriots the season before, letting him hit the open market and get PAID. And the Oakland Raiders were willing to pony up for the big man, giving him top money for his position. Let that be a lesson to left tackles: want to get paid? Protect Brady's blindside in your contract year. Just ask Nate Solder how that worked.
- Trey Flowers (Lions)
- Flowers was another one that got paid thanks to a great contract year. Former Patriot Matt Patricia decided to bring the talented defensive lineman to Detroit, creating large shoes to fill on the Patriots defensive front.
- Cordarrelle Patterson (Bears)
- The Bears probably remembered this play when evaluating what talented kick returner Patterson brought to the table, and offered him a deal that would allow him to do that for their team, instead of against them.
2019 Draft & UDFA
After a 12-4 regular season and a first round playoff loss, Patriots nation has gone mad. Everyone and everything is under a microscope and the drafting of the team has been the subject of particular scrutiny.
If you are looking for hot takes you should stop reading now. Between the 2000 and 2017 drafts there have been 540 1st round picks and 212 of them have been invited to the Pro Bowl. That is roughly a 39% rate and it does not take into account how many of those Pro Bowlers were drafted before pick #20 each year. That same rate when applied to second round draft picks drops to under 17%.
|1||32||N’Keal Harry||WR||Arizona St.|
|3||101||Yodny Cajuste||T||West Virginia|
Rd. 1, No. 32: N’Keal Harry, WR - Going into the draft Harry was largely considered to be a second round pick that could sneak up into the late first round. And that is exactly what happened. Here is a quote from his draft profile on nfl.com.
Back-shoulder boss who thrives with contested catch opportunities outside the numbers but lacks explosive traits. Harry’s ability to body-up opponents and win with ball skills is undeniable, but his inability to find a threatening top gear or shake loose from tight man coverage must be accounted for within his new employer’s scheme. His experience playing inside should help and teams will love his impact as a run-blocker. His competitiveness and ability to come down with the ball could make him a productive member of wide receiver trio in short order.
Sound familiar? Here is an article from PFF that highlights his ability to make plays in space, something we saw flashes of throughout the year.
Harry was placed on IR to begin the season with ankle and hamstring injuries. His first game ended up being in week 11 and he played all 7 remaining regular season games starting 5 of them. He also got the start in the playoff loss against the Titans. Let’s look at his stats.
I know I’m not alone in thinking there should be one more TD in the stats. Here is the clip you animals. And then some highlights that I like: back shoulder TD, diving catch downfield, jet sweep with a stiff arm, good adjustment to the ball down the sideline, and making plays in space featuring TB12.
Obviously, the production was not what the team had hoped that it would be. It made it all the more difficult to watch other rookie WRs perform well with better numbers. However, this was only half a year of football and N’Keal had a major injury. Despite that, he showed impressive athleticism with the ball in his hands and made some contested catches that made him a stand out in college. If he can stay healthy and become a more consistent receiver, I think he has a good shot at being one of those 39% of first round picks to make a Pro Bowl. Tom Brady made an IG post that seems to agree with that sentiment. Choo, choo.
Rd. 2, No. 45: Joejuan Williams, CB - Joejuan, like N’Keal, was mostly seen as a second round guy that could sneak into the first. Daniel Jeremiah had him going 28th overall to the Chargers in his final mock. And if Rap is to be believed the Pats considered picking him at 32. He seemed to be climbing up draft boards late in the process. For the first time in many years the Patriots took a DB in the second round that wasn’t considered a reach by the community at large.
The team was stacked at corner this year so he was activated for just nine games and saw just 82 snaps this season. I think it says more about him that he did not get the Foxboro flu and still saw the field in a highly competitive position group. Here he is making a play on 3rd down (top of the screen).
Unfortunately, he was arrested January 17th and charged with drug possession after being stopped for speeding. The second round DB jinx looms over Williams, I think. It is hard to predict his future, espcially with the pending legal situation, but hopefully he will build on last season and continue to learn how to use his size. As it stands now, he is still behind proven veterans on the depth chart. It will take a couple of changes for him to see significant playing time.
Rd. 3, No. 77: Chase Winovich, DE - Alright, full disclosure, Chase Winovich was one of my biggest draft crushes this year. I thought the team might draft him when they traded up to 45. Luckily, he was still around in the third and the Pats actually drafted a player who I was crushing on.
Chase was active for all 16 games and while he didn’t start any of them he saw snaps in every one averaging 29% of the defensive snaps per game and 56% of the special team snaps per game. He even had a special teams TD! Let’s look at his stat line.
Winovich has become somewhat of a fan favorite due to his luscious long hair and relentless motor on the field. It helps that he has a solid social media game as well. You know what, you should just watch this nearly 12 minute highlight video of his from the 2019 season. TL;DW - How about a few sack highlights then. With some key players on defense as free agents I think there is a good chance that Winovich will look to start in 2020.
Rd. 3, No. 87: Damien Harris, RB - Before the draft Daniel Jeremiah had Harris as his 4th best RB in the class and his 66th best player overall. Tthe Patriots were also returning an excellent running back group in 2019 which makes this pick looks like a best player available move.
Harris had a similar season to Joejuan in the fact that he was kept on the roster in a stacked position group and did not get the Foxboro flu. He was active for only two games in 2019 and only saw touches in one of them. It seems like the team is stashing him for now. None of the RBs are free agents this year so I have to think that Harris stays low on the depth chart until something changes.
Rd. 3, No. 101: Yodny Cajuste, T - We didn’t get to see anything from Cajuste this year. He was placed on the non-football injury (NFI) list on July 21st.The NFI list always scares me as we usually don’t get any indication of what is going on. Shades of Antonio Garcia in 2017 anyone?
Rd. 4, No. 118: Hjalte Froholdt, G - Froholdt saw a lot of snaps in the preseason and seemed to play well. Unfortunately, he sustained a shoulder injury in week 4 of the preseason and was placed on IR shortly afterwards. I lean more towards a Foxboro flu situation on this one. We will really see what is going on next season as Joe Thuney and Ted Karras are free agents and the team looks for interior linemen to potentially replace them.
There is a documentary out on youtube about Hjalte’s path from Denmark to the NFL. Check it out. It is about 17 minutes long and worth the watch.
Rd. 4, No. 133: Jarrett Stidham, QB - Studham is the future. He beat out Brian Hoyer to become the backup QB this year. What more do you want? I say, either get on the hype train or don’t say anything at all. Stidham saw 15 snaps all year and his most memorable play was a pick 6 in garbage time against the Jets. I look forward to seeing his connection with Meyers shine again next preseason.
Rd. 5, No. 159: Byron Cowart, DT - Cowart had some hype in camp and then in the preseason. Here he is shedding a block and making the play in the first preseason game of the year.
Byron was active for five games and saw 41 snaps with most of his action coming in week 2 against Miami and week 9 against Baltimore. Both Dany Shelton and Adam Butler were ahead of him on the depth chart and are free agents.
Rd. 5, No. 163: Jake Bailey, P - Buckle up everyone, the hype train is about to reach top speeds. I was a big fan of Ryan Allen. I thought he rightly deserved to be in the discussion for Super Bowl MVP. Then the Pats draft a punter and let the two have it out in camp. Bailey emerged victorious, earning the spot and shocking people like me all over Patriots’ nation. (Side note: How did it take half the season for another team to pick up Ryan Allen?)
Bailey certainly showed his ability to flip the field over the course of the season. He did have some hiccups, as you would expect from any rookie. I think the future is bright for him and would love to see him improve his consistency. He finished the 2019 season ranked 7th in the league for inside the 20 percentage.
Rd. 7, No. 252: Ken Webster, CB - Webster was released during final roster cuts on August 31, 2019. The Dolphins picked him up shortly afterwards. He played in 8 games for them, starting 5, beforing landing on the injured reserve list.
- Jakobi Meyers, WR, North Carolina State:
The hype train for JaGOATbi might have been the biggest one of this draft class. He showed up in preseason and in camp in a big way. In the first preseason game against the Lions he had 6 catches for 69 yards and 2 TDs. After that kind of performance the internet was going crazy. Meyers suited up for 15 regular season games and started one with 422 offensive snaps throughout the year which was good enough for third most by a WR on the team. Let’s look at his stats.
Not great but not bad, especially for a UDFA. Meyers was generally the fourth or fifth receiving option in the games he played in. In that role he showed a knack for the contested catch and seemed to understand how to get open in the offense. I think he can improve a lot with a full off-season but I don’t know if it will be enough. He will likely have an uphill battle in camp with whoever they draft or bring in through free agency. I just can’t imagine the team being okay with Jules, Sanu, Harry, and Meyers. Jakobi saw his snap count drop in the last four weeks of the season and then didn’t play at all in the playoff game. They will bring in plenty of camp bodies and some other WR will make things interesting. This hype train is currently not in the best shape but I’m ready to hop back on at the first signs of life.
- Gunner Olszewski, WR, Bemidji State:
Gunner had his own hype train in the preseason, albeit not nearly on the same level as Jakobi. Olszewski was largely seen as a punt returner and he was given a shot to do just that after making the team and playing in eight games. He was placed on IR with ankle and hamstring injuries after missing two games in a row.
Gunner “Gun Show” Olszewski showed a great work ethic and toughness this year but he will likely have to beat out Sanu and Jakobi and whoever else they bring in. As things stand now, it will be a tough road for Gunner in training camp.
- Jakob Johnson, FB, Tennessee:
Alright, so Jakob was not part of the 2019 draft class technically, he was part of the 2018 class. But no one drafted him or put him through a camp in 2018 so I’m claiming him here. He deserves to be mentioned. The importance of the full back position in this offense became clear when the team lost not only James Develin but this guy right here. Check out this block from the preseason.
Johnson was active for four games and started three. He also became the first player in the NFL to make an active roster via the International Pathway program.
In 2020, Jakob will likely return to the practice squad, backing up James Develin.
The Patriots defeated the Lions, Titans, and Panthers before losing to the Giants. Brady played only a few series; Stidham played the majority of the snaps. The Patriots also received standout performances from rookies Chase Winovich and Jakobi Meyers. On the negative, starting center and team captain David Andrews was lost for the season due to blood clots in his lungs. Other players suffered multi-week injuries or caught the Foxboro Flu.
More interesting than the games, though, were the joint practices. For the preseason this year, Patriots Prime (New England) scheduled joint practices with both Patriots North (Detroit) and Patriots South #2 (Tennessee). Both South #2 and North beat Prime during the regular season last year and there are certainly some snarky comments about revenge games and important preseason records available.
For example, did you know that the Patriots had never beaten the Tennessee Titans in the preseason? They were 0-6 before they won this year (Now 1-6). Do you know the record former Belichick assistants not named Bill O’Brien have against the Patriots? It is pretty good.
Titans Coach Mike Vrabel spent 8 years with the Patriots and was a crucial member of the first three Patriots super bowls. He is one of the people that know both Bill and Brady and understand how they work. This contributed to the Titans winning 34-10 in the 2018 regular season.
How does Tom Brady respond? He has the Patriots rookies sing Mike Vrabel happy birthday. Vrabel yells at Brady for not hustling. Brady presents former teammate Vrabel with a trophy displaying the 34-10 scoreline. This was the fun of the preseason and it definitely had no impact on any future interactions between the Patriots and Titans.
There is a metaphor here somewhere about Matt Patricia and the Detroit Lions.
With the preseason finished and roster secured, the Patriots are ready to begin their title defense.
Season Recap Games
Let’s get this season started. The defending Super Bowl Champions New England Patriots start off their title defense with a home game matchup against the Steelers, who beat the Patriots 17-10 last year. The Soap Opera Steelers had divested themselves from Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. Brown then proceeded to divest himself from the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders and join the Patriots one day before this game, although he was not eligible to play. Without some of their highest profile players, Pittsburgh sought to prove that they can still compete with the best teams in the NFL.
This was the banner night for the Patriots and they played like it. New England took an early lead with a little trickery from Edelman and never looked back, putting up a 20-0 scoreline at half. The Patriots defense showed how strong they would be all year; the Steelers offense showed how ineffective they would be all year. No Steelers drive in the first half went for more than thirty yards. Donte Moncrief caught three million dollars worth of passes on ten targets for a mighty seven yards, had three million dollars of drops, and also had five yards of penalties. The Steelers Center was definitely not the one at fault on this play (Clip with sound).
There were two concerns that came out of this game for Patriots fans. The first was Sony Michel achieving a very unimpressive fourteen yards rushing on fifteen attempts. It should be acknowledged that he was hit at the line of scrimmage almost every rush, but his inability to juke defenders or break tackles is a major concern. The second was a shoulder injury to right tackle Marcus Cannon on top of a lingering ankle injury from the preseason. Nevertheless, New England fans were excited by a dominant opening game and the team already looked poised to make a push for the playoffs and even contend for the championship.
The Steelers would play at home (and lose) against the Seahawks the next week among a truly disfunctional start to the season. The Patriots got ready to compete against their 2018 not-defensive coordinator (but basically the defensive coordinator) Brian Flores in the September Miami heat.Watch highlights on youtube Highlights and Stats
Nobody expected the Dolphins to compete for the playoffs this year. Flores could deny it as much as he wanted, but the front office had committed to the tank. Yet not everyone picked New England to win this game. Although the Dolphins had lost by nearly 50 points to the Ravens and the Patriots beat the Steelers by 30 points, there was still an undercurrent of unease. The Miami heat is notoriously tough for Patriots or any visiting team to play in. Belichick seemingly gives a single freebie win to all of his former assistants. And the Dolphins started Ryan Fitzpatrick, with the potential of encountering Fitzmagic.
The Patriots offense had a few mishaps to start. Gostkowski started missing field goals and extra points. Patriots Legend Antonio Brown was force-fed the ball early and caught a touchdown but only managed four catches on eight targets.
For Miami, it turns out that Fitztragic played this game. The Patriots defense accumulated four (1, 2, 3, 4) picks, seven sacks, and altogether a shutout of the Miami Dolphins. There are a couple caveats on that. First, Miami went for it on 4th down several times instead of taking field goal pity points when down big. In this regard, the Dolphins should be respected more for being shutout than not. Second, there were two consecutive passes from Josh Rosen that were perfectly dropped in the lap of open receivers, both of which were dropped from the laps onto the ground. If caught, at least one would definitely have gone for a touchdown.
Here ends the illustrious playing career of Patriots Legend Antonio Brown. He would be released before Week 3. Isaiah Wynn went down with an injury in the first quarter. Cannon missed the entire game, with Newhouse filling in. Miami strikes again, just not on the scoreboard this day.
With two games down, some wondered if this Dolphins team was the worst team in NFL history. Did anyone know if they would join the 0-16 teams of Detroit and Cleveland? I was too confident in Flores as a coach to see the Dolphins go 0-16, but it would be a while yet before they did win a few games. The Patriots looked to be the complete opposite of the Dolphins and dominated both games played. Furthermore, The Patriots have a reputation for playing their best football late in the season. If “Early-Season-Struggles” Patriots were this good, how good would December Patriots be?Watch highlights on youtube Highlights and Stats
Darnold out with mono, no offensive line, Gase as head coach; this 0-2 Jets team really had no chance to compete with the 2-0 Patriots.
The Patriots scored touchdowns on each of their first three possessions. The Jets achieved slightly more than 100 yards of offense all game. The game was so cleanly in hand that Brady took a seat before the end. Jamaal Adams’ 61 yard pick-six of Jarrett Stidham was almost more yards than the Jets’ offense 69 net passing yards. If you’re a Jets fan, that is not nice. The Jets offense managed less than ten yards on all but four drives and none went for more than 26 yards.
Not all was dandy for the Patriots, though. Despite a solid game against the Dolphins, Michel fell back to a single yard per carry. Fullback James Develin was confirmed to miss the rest of season. The Newhouse experience was in full swing. The Patriots had only three sustained drives; every time it seemed something positive would happen, there was another untimely incompletion or stuffed run. For a team granted incredible field position by a historically good defense, one would think a Tom Brady-led offense could score just a little more.
Well, that’s just September struggles, right? Surely the Patriots offense will figure it out by November or December. The Jets got a Bye Week to prepare for Philadelphia. The Patriots had to prepare for a top of the AFC clash against the surging Buffalo Bills.Watch highlights on youtube Highlights and Stats
I feel that I disrespected Buffalo Coach Sean McDermott when I wrote the 2018 Week 8 Patriots vs Buffalo recap. For the same reasons I trusted Flores to put together some wins, I should have respected the 2018 Bills a bit more. The 2019 Bills proved why, with a top-tier defense, an improved offense, and a 3-0 record ready for this Orchard Park contest.
In many respects, I anticipated this game to follow a similar path to last year’s: a tense defensive battle in which the team that made fewer mistakes would win. Last year, it was a fourth quarter pick-six by McCourty to secure the game. This year, Allen appeared to be playing hero ball and threw three (1, 2, 3, 4-Barkley) interceptions. Two McCourty’s are still better than one, and One Bill is still better than 53.
This game had major controversy too. The Buffalo offense moved the ball fairly well all game (turnovers notwithstanding), but during one scramble at the start of the fourth quarter, Jonathan Jones knocked Josh Allen out of the game with a hit to the head. The Bills looked nowhere near as effective after it. Could Buffalo have won if Allen played the whole game? It is certainly possible.
As a testament to the Bills defense, the Patriots offense scored an unimpressive nine points this game. The remaining seven came from a blocked punt. Frank Gore showed that the Patriots defense might have some deficiencies in defending the running game. The Bills lost this game but showed they are legitimate playoff contenders. For the Patriots, September is over. No more early season excuses. They are 4-0 and it is time to put the pedal to the metal.Watch highlights on youtube Highlights and Stats
Fresh off a beatdown of their AFC East opponents, the Patriots looked to begin a beatdown of the NFC East. First up is winless Washington, a team whose owner makes some of the other most hated owners in sports look pretty good in comparison.
So naturally, the game begins with Washington rookie WR Steven Sims breaking free on a rush attempt for 65 yards and scoring, going up 7-0. This apparently offended the unbeatable sensibilities of the New England defense because Washington only made it past midfield once more before garbage time. The sacks just kept coming.
The sacks came for Brady, too. Washington blitzed fifteen times, picked up four sacks including two drive-ending sacks, and hurried Brady another five times. Sony Michel had a strong game, albeit against a bottom-five rushing defense. Nevertheless, this looked like an October Patriots football game. Mike Nugent was doing his best Gostkowski impression (Gostkowski was placed on IR after the Bills game), and kindly missed his first XP attempt. If there is one thing to note, it appeared that McDaniels did not trust the run game in his playcalling. 47 dropbacks versus 27 rush attempts despite holding a lead for most of the game.
Washington fired head coach Jay Gruden after this game. Losing to an undefeated Patriots team was evidently too much. Perhaps the front office wanted their new coach honeymoon phase just in time for their matchup against another Miami. The Patriots returned home to face off against the New York Giants.Watch highlights on youtube Highlights and Stats
So long, Eli, this is the Daniel Jones era now. May you enjoy riding the coattails of Tom and Peyton as you inspire endless arguments about the Hall of Fame. Will Jones lead the G-Men to victory? Against this Patriots defense? Not likely.
This game began with a howling wind and a matching pair of turnovers. The entire blocking unit could not save Sony Michel and convert a 3rd and 1, and then also failed to convert a 4th and 1. The Patriots defense was ready to bail out the offense some more as Jones and Brady traded interceptions. The first points came on special teams with a blocked punt caught and walked into the endzone. The Giants returned a fumble for a touchdown to make the game 14-14.
The Patriots moved the ball well most of the game, with the caveat that the Giants were another bottom five defense. The defense continued to dominate week after week, give the offense myriad opportunities, and even score sometimes too. In this game, the Patriots defense let up their first passing touchdown of the year.
The Patriots still have not quite figured out their offense. While the surface stats look great (75% completion, 330 yards, 40 minutes of possession), something under the surface is lacking. On the positive, their defense is still utterly scary to play against and mostly healthy. The Patriots head off to the Giants’ home to play against the other New Jersey football team.Watch highlights on youtube Highlights and Stats
Darnold had recovered from mono and the Jets played their best game of the year, picking up their first win against the Dallas Cowboys. Although most football fans would predict the Patriots to win this game, many believed the Jets would put up a far better showing than their Week 3 blowout.
Unfortunately for the Jets, Bill Belichick was already on to Halloween. Via some type of devil summoning, Bill turned this Patriots defense into boogeymen, phantoms, and other sorts of monsters (Or maybe just ghosts). Darnold was completely rattled and threw four (1, 2, 3, 4) interceptions. On one play, he missed the snap and only barely recovered in time to smartly commit a safety, preventing a Patriots defensive touchdown.
This is also the game where Belichick screwed around with clock-wasting penalties to troll the Jets. This was ostensibly to try to get the rule changed (Which it should this offseason. My preferred solution is to have the coach get to choose a running or stopped clock when accepting or declining penalties). More likely, it is because Bill does not like the Jets.
Akin to the Giants game, the Patriots offense looks far better in the box score than in the game. There was, admittedly, conservative playcalling once the Patriots were up 24-0 early in the second quarter. However, when you have 40 minutes of possession, benefit from six turnovers, and have the GOAT QB, one would expect at least a couple more points on the board.
Nevertheless, this was another dominant Patriots victory. Their next game was against the Browns in a rainy Foxborough.Watch highlights on youtube Highlights and Stats
The Browns were the offseason darlings. A set of moves caused optimism throughout Cleveland that had not been seen since Peyton Hillis. Unfortunately, none of the moves panned out nearly as well as hoped. Now the Brownsing Browns came off a bye to face off the current best team in the NFL.
One noteworthy matchup to watch was Sony Michel vs. Nick Chubb. Two Georgia running backs; Michel picked first and Chubb dominating play. Only two things could stop Nick Chubb this game: The torrential rains falling across Massachusetts that day and Cleveland Head Coach Freddie Kitchens. First, the weather: Chubb’s first carry around the right side of the line of scrimmage slipped out. Hightower picked it up for a touchdown. Unwilling to accept defeat, Chubb took the next play from scrimmage and broke through four tackles for a touchdown…except for the part where Jones knocked the ball loose and McCourty recovered. I’ll give Kitchens some credit here. If Belichick were coaching, Chubb would be benched for the day. But Kitchens trusted him enough for twenty more carries in the game. The way Chubb was running, it probably should have been forty.
Further credit to Kitchens: he tried to be creative and make something happen. Allow me to explain what was supposed to happen: On the snap, Mayfield fakes a handoff to Chubb running left. The ball is then tossed to Jarvis Landry, moving from slot-left to the right. He follows the Left Tackle who was pulled to assist in blocking on a run to the right. What actually happened, though, was that Lawrence Guy saw the tackle being pulled, burst into the backfield, and beat Landry to the spot the ball was going. This gave him probably the easiest interception of his life. The Patriots defense forced three turnovers on three consecutive Browns’ plays.
For the Patriots, newly acquired WR Mohamed Sanu struggled to make a major impact, though he did make two clutch catches. Kicker Mike Nugent’s low kicks proved to be a problem as one was blocked. He would be dropped in favor of Nick Folk. The Browns headed off to Denver, the Patriots went into Baltimore to face their hardest test of the year against a surging Ravens team and a ridiculous Lamar Jackson.Watch highlights on youtube Highlights and Stats
In his first year, Lamar Jackson was a backup to Checkdown Flacco. He took over the starting role and showed himself as a dangerous runner on running and option plays, but a skittish and sloppy pocket passer. Nevertheless, he managed to turn a bad Ravens season into a playoff berth before losing to the Chargers. In the offseason, Harbaugh then went all-in on a Lamar Jackson offense. Lamar himself improved greatly too. Now, he was a pretty good pocket passer and a nigh-unstoppable runner. Seriously, there would be a defender standing at the LOS in front of Lamar with no blockers. Then Lamar would simply run around the defender like he was not there. For the undefeated Patriots squad, Lamar and the Ravens were a challenge unlike anything they had faced yet.
As they were coming off a Bye Week, the Ravens were well rested and prepared to take on New England. How would this Patriots defense stop the MVP? In the beginning, they wouldn’t. The Patriots run defense showed holes once again (See: Buffalo, Cleveland, Washington) and could stop neither Lamar nor Ingram. The Ravens scored on their first three possessions while the Patriots had three 3-and-outs. Baltimore dictated the play.
The game did get much closer in the middle. The defense put it together for multiple Ravens drives. The offense and special teams started chugging away. Sanu had his best game of his Patriots tenure, catching 10 balls for 81 yards. In the third quarter, the Patriots trailed 17-13 but seemed poised to take the lead on a long drive. Momentum was swinging in Patriots favor. In another universe, this was the turning point of the game as the Patriots made a statement win. But then the Edelman fumble happened.
Marlon Humphrey picked up the fumble and ran it back 70 yards for the score. This completely rejuvinated the stagnant Ravens team. In one play, the game went from a fiercely contested comeback to a stylish Baltimore Blowout. The Patriots did score to make it 24-20, but Baltimore followed that with two 14-play drives, each for a touchdown.
Instead of a statement win for New England, this game was a statement win for the Ravens. They would also not fall into the trap of playing their best football against the Patriots and following it up with a stinker the next week against a much worse team: Even though they celebrated pretty hard after this game, Baltimore won each remaining regular season game too. For the Patriots, they had a lot of film to look over their Bye Week.Watch highlights on youtube Highlights and Stats
The Eagles came in with a mixed bag of games. They had quality wins against the Bills and Packers but bad losses against the Lions, Cowboys, and Falcons. New England, on their part, came into Philadelphia off their bye week, ready to resume the beatdown of the NFC Least. The Patriots had N’Keal Harry back, they were soon to have Wynn back, and are well known for being one of the best teams coming off a bye.
Instead, the Patriots came out flat. It was expected that White, Burkhead, and Michel would struggle against Philadelphia’s top-tier run defense. It was not expected that Brady would struggle to get anything going against Philadelphia’s less capable pass defense. The Eagles got an early 10-0 lead on this interception overruled to a touchdown. New England slowly recovered and chipped away at the lead with three consecutive field goals, including one off of a fumble recovery just before halftime.
While the Patriots offense failed to find the end zone, their defense continued the beatdown in their stead. Following the touchdown that Bill thought should have been a turnover, the defense forced seven punts and a fumble including three 3-and-outs. The offense, unable to find the endzone through standard means, went back to the Edelman double pass. As the Eagles got more desperate, their second-best drive ended up with Agholor dropping the potential touchdown, something that would be a theme for the Eagles’ season.
It was anticipated that the Patriots would come out of the bye week strong with their offensive kinks worked out and firing on all cylinders. Instead, it seems the ignition timing of this 1964 Bel Air Chevrolet was not four degrees before top dead center. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.Watch highlights on youtube Highlights and Stats
This was the tripping penalty game. I am going to address this immediately; I had the sound off watching this game because other things were going on. When they showed the replay of the Travis Frederick trip, I thought ‘That’s a pretty soft holding call’. It wasn’t until after the game that I learned it was not one but two tripping calls that I didn’t even see on broadcast.
The Patriots began the game missing Dorsett and Sanu. Edelman was limited by an injury. Even Brady was suffering from an injury to his throwing elbow. Wynn and Harry had both come off the IR, the latter playing in the Eagles game too. The Cowboys had one of the best offenses, which some people found impressive, and the best record in the NFC East at 6-4, which is decidedly less impressive. Combined with the heavy fall New England rains, the game would be defined by the Patriots defense picking up the slack once more.
The run blocking for Michel was much better this game, the special teams unit got into the action again, and N’Keal Harry picked up his first touchdown on a beautifully executed back-shoulder fade. Both teams accumulated decent yardage, but a combined 5-27 third-down conversions and three missed field goals resulted in a 10-6 halftime lead for New England.
The third quarter was a trade of punts and the Patriots picked up another field goal early in the fourth to go up by seven points. It is the decision making from Garret in the subsequent series that dominated the postgame talk. The Cowboys were down seven points. A touchdown, with the extra point, is worth seven points. If a team is down seven points and kicks a field goal, they will be down four points and still need to score a touchdown regardless as to whether the FG is good or not. Therefore, if you are down seven points with little time remaining, you should go for it on fourth down to try and score a touchdown for seven points. So when the Cowboys had their only good drive of the second half reach a 4th-and-7 from the Patriots 11 yard line, they naturally decided to kick a field goal for three points.
The Cowboys did manage to get the ball back, but they still needed a touchdown and their drive was effectively ended when the aforementioned tripping call overturned a third down conversion. The Patriots had made it to 10-1, including a perfect 4-0 against the NFC East. They were carried by their defense once again. Meanwhile, the Ravens were on their heels at 9-2 and held the head-to-head tiebreaker. The next game for the Patriots was the other Texas team, this time in Texas.Watch highlights on youtube Highlights and Stats
It has been eight games across nearly a decade since the Texans last beat the Patriots, five games winless for head coach Bill O’Brien, and two games winless for Deshaun Watson. Bill O’Brien is the exception to the rule that Belichick must lose one game to his former assistants. However, Watson’s first game against the Patriots was an electrifying near-win and his second game was a rusty affair coming back from an injury. It seemed more likely than ever before for Houston to break that streak.
The Patriots began this game grinding their way to a Kai Forbath (the fourth kicker for the Patriots this year, Folk had a sudden case of exploding appendix) field goal. Brady followed that drive up with a bad pick. You can see N’Keal Harry stumble in the route, allowing the defender to jump it. Brady never threw the ball his way again this game. The Texans immediately capitalized and Watson was unstoppable the following drive too.
In the second half, the Patriots found themselves down 14-3. In the second game all year that the defense could not hard carry, a fire was finally lit under the Patriots. The ball started moving. The points started coming. Somewhere, a falcon cry of anguish could be heard. But it was just too little, too late. The Texans hold on to win this one. Bill beats Bill for the first time and the Patriots drop to the second seed in the AFC.
Seeing the last three drives made New England fans wonder where that proficiency was all year, and especially the last few games. Twelve out of sixteen quarters of offensive ineptitude is not a normal event for Tom Brady. The Houston Texans, unlike the Ravens, would fall into the trap of playing one of their best game of the year against the Patriots and follow it up with a stinker against a worse team, getting slapped by the Broncos. The Patriots returned to Foxborough for a top of the AFC Clash and AFC Conference Championship rematch against the Kansas City Chiefs.Watch highlights on youtube Highlights and Stats
Despite having the best quarterback of the NFL’s next generation, the Chiefs were somehow flying under the radar this year. This was a combination of factors: Partly due to Mahomes’ injury, due to his regression from ludicrously good to
average slightly less ludicrously good, due to shiny new car Lamar Jackson taking the spotlight, and due to this game not being pegged as the potential AFC championship matchup like last year’s matchup was. Regardless, the Chiefs could still make it to a playoff bye only if they won this matchup to claim the tiebreaker over New England.
Kansas City may not have had the barn burning offense they had last year, but they were still by far the most explosive offense in the NFL. For this game, it was seventeen points in the second quarter that provided a 20-7 lead. The Patriots defense settled down and stifled the Chiefs for the rest of the game. The offense brought the game to two scores.
Before I get to the fourth quarter, I want to acknowledge that the Patriots get the benefit of the doubt on a lot of calls. There were the tripping calls in the Cowboys game. Brady gets the occasional soft RTP call (See: 2018 AFC Championship Game Patriots at Chiefs). I recognize that each call in a vacuum is of only middling incompetence rather than worst of the year candidacy, and that the Patriots have benefitted from similar calls in the past few years. But never before have I seen so many in such a short window of time. Even the most ardent Patriots hater would begrudgingly acknowledge how badly the zebras screwed New England in a single drive.
Let us begin in the last few seconds of the third quarter. Mahomes completes a third-down pass to Kelce, who then fumbles it. Gilmore picks it up and has one blocker to deal with Mahomes and a single offensive linesman. There is roughly a 75% chance that Gilmore scores a touchdown on this play. If not, he still gets 30-40 yards on the return. But wait! The referee has called the runner down by contact. Bill challenges, the play is easily overturned, but that is a lot of lost yardage or points.
Well, one bad call does not a ruined game make. Shortly afterwards, N’Keal Harry takes the pass and muscles his way in for a touchdown!. Nope! His foot was on the line. The Patriots had used up their challenges fixing earlier screwups and could not overturn this one. That’s okay, because the Patriots would score (again) on a pass to Jakobi Meyers. But the zebras would strike again: all scoring plays are reviewed. As impartial as I can be, overturning this touchdown was probably the right call. But after getting screwed over twice already in a single drive, this was a slap in the face.
The defense is still playing well and the Patriots get the ball once again. And on third down, Dorsett gets completely clobbered before the ball arrives. Easy DPI, right? Nope! No call. TB1k somehow salvages the situation, but the Chiefs do just enough to stop the Patriots from scoring.
There were other things that happened this game, like the Chiefs sending their equipment to the wrong state and it barely arriving in time for the game, the Chiefs getting called for 100 more yards of penalties than the Patriots, this really sweet flea flicker, New England going 0-3 against the 2018 AFC first place teams, and the Chiefs breaking the Patriots’ 21 game home win streak. Yeah, none of that really mattered because literally the only thing people could talk about were the refs.
We’re on to Cincinnati.Watch highlights on youtube Highlights and Stats
Nothing like a nice matchup against the Bengals to cool your head after a rough loss to the Chiefs. Optimism was relatively high for the Bengals after a narrow loss to the Seahawks in week one, but quickly drained to rock bottom by this point in the season as they held the worst record in the NFL. Also, there was the illegal filming incident from a guy doing the videography for the Patriots’ advance scout team documentary last week. The media jumped at the opportunity to spit some more garbage. I’m not going to talk more about it.
This game had many similarities to the Patriots’ matchups against Washington and New York Giants. The final score shows a dominant beatdown of a weaker team by a stronger team, but it belies a narrow halftime margin and passing game struggles. At least in this game, there are clear pieces of the box score that lead to such a conclusion. Brady had a near-50% completion percentage including a combined 4-13 passing to an injured duo of Edelman and Sanu. McDaniels instead turned to the run game to pick up yards. The Patriots had their best ground game performance of the season.
Also similar to earlier games this season: The defense. They picked up another four-pick game (1, 2, 3, 4). The defense also showed that they were still vulnerable to a strong rushing game. In fact, both teams had more rushing yards than passing yards. Patriots had 175 rushing to 128 passing; the Bengals 164 rushing to 151 passing.
Most fans would be delighted to see their team score 34 points. Somehow, this game felt more like a dull drudge than it felt like a three-score blowout. The Bengals had all but clinched the first draft pick. The Patriots clinched a playoff spot. Next week, they had the opportunity to clinch the AFC East with a home win against the Buffalo Bills; Buffalo was a single game behind the Patriots.Watch highlights on youtube Highlights and Stats
With a win, the Patriots would secure the AFC East for the eleventh consecutive year and seventeen of nineteen years in the Brady-Belichick era. The Bills could tie the Patriots in the standings with a win, and thus sought their first win against Brady in Foxborough since a meaningless Week 17 game in 2014 (Buffalo did beat the Patriots in 2016 during Brady’s suspension and twice in Buffalo in 2003 and 2011).
But winning in Foxborough is no easy feat. The Patriots picked this game to have arguably their best offensive game of the year. Brady had by far his most efficient passing game, Michel had one of his most efficient running games, the offensive line gave up no sacks and very little pressure. The team put up nearly twice as many yards (414) as they did against the Bills in the Week 4 matchup (224).
The defense also had a strong showing (again). They did not force any turnovers, but did hold the Bills offense to 2-11 third-down conversion, 50% completion percentage, under 100 yards rushing, and just over 20 minutes of possession. In the closing minutes of the game, Buffalo overcame a missed facemask and made it to first and goal with a chance to tie (or win) the game. The defense held strong and secured the win.
With the AFC East locked up, the Patriots had only one game left to secure the second seed in the AFC. All they needed was to win at home against the Miami Dolphins or have the Chiefs lose against the Chargers. With the loss, Buffalo was locked into the fifth seed.Watch highlights on youtube Highlights and Stats
This Dolphins team was a far cry from the group faced in Week 2. While the Patriots started undefeated through eight weeks, the Dolphins were winless. Starting in Week 9, however, both teams had four wins. Flores had his group playing competent and disciplined football. Now, there are normally a peculiar set of circumstances that can cause the Patriots to lose a game. I can only conclude that the Football Gods got confused between which game against Miami was actually IN Miami.
This game story followed multiple previous Patriots games. The defense carried the game as best they could, but the offense could not get it going. Miami’s first drive moved effectively and when faced with a fourth down, Flores called for a fake punt. It did not convert, but it showed that Flores would not play scared. Former Patriot Eric Rowe got a pick-six on Brady to put Miami up 10-0. Going into halftime, an anemic offense barely covers the score against what should be a weaker team (See also: New England’s games against all of the NFC East and Cincinnati).
For the second half, Miami unleashed Fitzmagic on the Patriots. Miami’s second-half drives were twice as good as their first half. Even though the Patriots offense showed life in the second half and even took the lead, Fitzmagic would not be denied. For the first and only time all season, the Patriots defense could not get a stop or turnover when they needed it to secure the game. Fitzpatrick put together the only fourth quarter game-winning drive against the Patriots in 2019 and scored with 30 seconds remaining. The Patriots tried a desperate lateral play, but this was not in Miami and there would be no miracle.
This loss, combined with Kansas City’s win against the Chargers, kicked the Patriots down to the third seed and their first Wildcard Weekend game since 2009. There they would rematch against preseason foe Patriots South #2 in Foxborough.Watch highlights on youtube Highlights and Stats
Season Recap Games
If I told you that this game would be characterized by a dominant Patriots pass defense that was vulnerable to the run, an anemic Patriots offense that just could not get anything going this game, and an approximately or actually tied score at halftime, would you believe me? Well, the joke is on you! This game WAS different! The Patriots offense started off strong this game and acquired an early lead. And then became anemic sludge in the second half. That’s totally different. But let us start at the beginning.
The Titans began the season with a 2-4 record. Their whole season turned around when genuinely good person Marcus Mariota was benched in favor of Dolphins castoff Ryan Tannehill. Starting in Week 10, Derrick Henry popped off. By the time the playoffs rolled around, the Titans were one of the hottest teams in the league. The Patriots had lost three out of five and it might be the first time under Belichick that the Patriots had a losing record in December. There is also a possibility that Titans Head Coach Mike Vrabel held some kind of grudge after the snarky 34-10 trophy given to him this preseason and badly desired this revenge game, or something like that. Winning in Foxborough is still one of the toughest feats (even though KC and Miami both did it this year), but Vrabel has nearly a decade of experience with winning in New England and won three Super Bowls in Foxborough. He would know better than almost any other coach how to do it.
In their first two offensive drives, the Patriots resembled their best performance of the year. They picked up first downs and kept moving the ball all the way to the end zone. The Titans were no slouches either and bracketed a pair of three-and-outs with touchdown drives defined by Derrick Henry gashing the Patriots defense over and over. By halftime, the Titans held a lead of one single point, 14-13.
Neither offense would score again for the rest of the game. The Patriots would only cross midfield once more, and that was only due to a Tannehill interception. Instead of trying to push the score, Vrabel chose to burn the clock away with Henry. He limited opportunities for the Patriots defense to force a turnover and kept the ball in Derrick Henry’s hands for the vast majority of the second half. Vrabel would also mimic Belichick’s Week 7 punt shenanigans and burn two minutes of clock time on a single play.
Brady got the ball back with no timeouts and half a minute remaining. Even the king of fourth quarter comebacks could not pull this one off,
and the clock expired resulting in a 14-13 defeat former Patriot Logan Ryan picked off Brady in the final seconds and scored it, resulting in a 20-14 Titans victory. The Patriots were knocked out of the playoffs for the first time since the 2015 AFC Championship game and lost in the wildcard round for the first time since 2009, the last time they played in it.
Much postgame talk was about Henry’s 182 yards of rushing. Some saw it as a type of defensive failure. But the Titans had only 31 minutes of possession and 14 offensive points scored. Had the Patriots won this game, people would sing Belichick’s praises for such a clever defensive gameplan. Instead, it is when the Patriots punted on 4th & 4 with only three minutes remaining in the game that should be harshly criticized. It did not matter if the fourth down play failed. Based on the game time, the Patriots needed to force a three-and-out on defense regardless as to whether the drive began at the Titans 10-yard line or Patriots 40 (Read: Punting vs. Failed 4th down conversion). The Titans got a single first down and ran the clock down to half a minute.
The Titans, to their credit, would win their divisional round matchup against the Baltimore Ravens too. Perhaps the Ravens and their fans got a little too confident before the game and did not prepare. Or perhaps it was an injury to Ingram that sunk Baltimore’s offense. The Titans fell to the eventual Super Bowl Champions Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship.Watch highlights on youtube Highlights and Stats
Coaching Staff Review
Head Coach: Bill Belichick
Bill Belichick good upvote on left
Offensive Coordinator: Josh McDaniels
Let us talk for a moment of the boy who cried wolf.
- In 2008, that guy from underneath my bed (what the fahk he’s theah?) tore Tom Brady’s ACL. Coming off a record setting year in 2007, some people questioned whether Brady would ever recover to be half as good as he was before the injury. He was.
- In 2014, the Chiefs dominated the Patriots in a blowout. Overreacting pundits believed that this, surely this, marked the end of the dynasty. Is Brady too old? Meanwhile, the Patriots were on to Cincinatti.
- In 2014 playoffs, Deflategate occurred. An (admittedly very small) amount of people attributed the success of the Patriots offense to cheating, and now that the league would be keeping a very close eye on the Patriots, New England would not see nearly the same success. Malcolm Butler disagreed.
- In 2018, the Patriots lost five times on the road. They looked genuinely bad in four of those losses. The offense struggled for many of them. Please, continue to bet against us.
When you have the greatest quarterback of all time, offensive challenges are temporary setbacks, not systematic problems. Something happens, people cry wolf, and everyone comes running only to see the Patriots in another Super Bowl. If there is one thing you can count on, it is that the Patriots will figure it out.
Come 2019, the wolf finally arrived. A series of injuries at every facet of the offense crippled this team. Neither Brady nor McDaniels figured it out. Through it all, many Patriots and Non-Patriots fans alike thought the wolf was fake. After all, the boy cried wolf many times in the past. Why is this time different?
After the Tennessee Titans defeated the Patriots in the playoffs, Cleveland, New York, and Carolina considered McDaniels for their Head Coaching positions. They went to Kevin Stefanski, Patriots Special Teams Coach Joe Judge, and Matt Rhule respectively.
McDaniels will be the Offensive Coordinator for another year in New England. I personally am confident that the Patriots will see an offensive rebound next year. Even if Brady shows his age, it is simply unlikely that so many injuries occur again. Furthermore, Josh even acknowledged that he put together poor gameplans with the personnel available. I predict an offensive improvement even if Brady declines, or even if Brady chooses another team in free agency.
Special Teams Coordinator and Wide Receivers Coach: Joe Judge
The New York Giants hired Joe Judge to be their Head Coach this offseason.
I wrote the coaching section last year and did not give proper acknowledgement to Joe Judge. In fact, I barely mentioned him. Part of this is due to Bill Belichick’s well-known love of good special teams. As such, I subconsciously attributed the perennial quality of the Patriots special teams to Belichick rather than acknowledging Judge’s contributions. For the same logic I praised Ivan Fears last year, I must doubly do so with Judge. Bill Belichick does not tolerate bad special teams play and he certainly would not tolerate bad special teams coaches. Ergo, Joe Judge is an excellent special teams coach.
Indeed, the Patriots special teams continued to be excellent this year apart from FG and XP kicking. Jake Bailey proved to be great at both punting and kickoffs and earned multiple Special Teams player of the week awards. Matthew Slater proves on and off the field why he is a team captain.
Last year, I gave a ringing endorsement of Brian Flores as Head Coach for Miami. Although public opinion of coaches can change drastically from year to year and Flores might struggle next year, I feel vindicated in my assessment. I am hesitant to give such praise to Judge.
Joe Judge took over duties for the Wide Receivers due to the departure of Chad O’Shea. His first opportunity to develop players came with first-round pick N’Keal Harry and preseason darling UDFA Jakobi Meyers. Neither developed into a reliable offensive option and this reflects poorly on Judge.
If one is even more pessimistic, they could say that Judge had too many responsibilities to adequately handle both special teams and wide receivers. That might be a delusional take, but if it is remotely true, then it bodes ill for the Giants as Judge would be responsible for the entire team.
As much as some Patriots fans (or many, or most) wish to see the Giants be terrible forever, there are many reasons to be optimistic about this hire. Joe Judge is an excellent special teams coordinator. Joe Judge has hired an array of very experienced and capable coordinators and assistant coaches. This means he can delegate responsibility and not be overloaded in work. The very good coach John Harbaugh was a special teams coach too before being a head coach. Pat McAfee was optimistic about the hire in this video. Does this mean that Joe Judge is the same as John Harbaugh? Apparently, yes. Yes it does.
I cannot give the same level of endorsement to Judge as head coach as I gave Flores last year. However, I do believe that he will be a capable and reasonably successful coach.
Not With the Patriots: Chad O’Shea
Chad O’Shea was the Wide Receivers coach for the Patriots in 2018. He left with Brian Flores to Miami last year. Like Joe Judge, I did not give a proper review last year.
The most important loss from O’Shea to Judge was that Chad O’Shea was responsible for putting together the red zone report for the Patriots offensive game planning. This showed more than anything else in the coaching departures. The Patriots red zone offense was bottom-5 in 2019. As the offensive coaching staff adapts to the changes and (hopefully) fewer players get injured, this should improve for next year.
Some fans hoped that O’Shea would return to the Patriots after being dismissed by the Dolphins, but he instead chose a job with Cleveland.
Offensive Line Coach: Dante Scarnecchia
Dante the Hog Whisperer is arguably the best Offensive Line Coach in the game. This year tested that assessment more so than any other year. Dante had his hands full with seven injuries (One of which was Foxborough Flu), four of them to starters. The Patriots desperately searched the streets for whomever they could get their hands on to play the Tackle position.
The offensive line gave up 21 sacks last year. This year, the Patriots offense surrendered 28 sacks. That is fifth-best in the League for 2019. Certainly, some of that is a result of Tom Brady being very good at avoinding sacks. The sack numbers exclude pressures, hurries, and throwaways. Brady did have the most throwaways of any quarterback in 2019, which one could translate as a dozen or so sacks added to the total. 40 sacks was league average.
The offensive play design also challenged the line to make holes for the RBs. Last year, the FB and TE group (read: Develin and Gronk) dominated defenses. With neither around, the line was unable to pick up the slack and lead to a 25th ranked rushing by Y/A.
The problems the Patriots had with their offensive line is as much about perception and timeliness as it is reality. To say that the offensive line was terrible in 2019 is an overstatement. Rather; as a testament to Scarnecchia’s coaching ability, it was merely inconsistent and unreliable.
After the season, Dante announced his (second) retirement. Belichick will certainly have his hands full putting together a full coaching staff after the past two years of coaching exodus. This also raises concerns about the development of rookie linesmen Froholdt and Cajuste. Assuming Thuney departs in Free Agency, one of them (most likely Froholdt) will need to step up to that gap. Interestingly, Scarnecchia has joined the Patriots coaching staff at the Combine.
Running Backs Coach: Ivan Fears
Last year, Sony Michel had a breakout performance as a rookie. That was behind the blocking assistance of Gronk, Allen, Develin, and a much healthier offensive line. Sony suffered from a sophomore slump when he had LaCosse, an old Watson, and linebacker Elandon “Run Through a Motherf***'s Face” Roberts as blockers. He struggled to break tackles, juke defenders, and develop as a pass-catcher. All three need to improve for Michel to be a legitimate RB threat and it falls to Fears to ensure it happens.
Burkhead, White, and Bolden were far more effective in their limited running opportunities (combined for 100 fewer rushing attempts than Michel) and vastly more effective as receivers. Teams never had to worry about Michel as a passing threat while they regularly prepared for White as a receiver. Despite this, White was a far more effective receiver.
Fears is likely to prioritize the development Michel and 3rd-round pick Damien Harris this offseason.
Not With the Patriots: Greg Schiano
Schiano was hired to be the Defensive Coordinator for the Patriots. He resigned before training camp. This led to speculation about who would take charge of defensive playcalling duties. The options were Bill Belichick, Steve Belichick, and Jerod Mayo.
Safeties and Secondary Coach: Steve Belichick
Always two there are, the master and apprentice. Which is only if you ignore Patriots coaching assistant Brian Belichick; he makes three.
Steve Belichick is the most senior member of the defensive coaching staff. As such, he was the second-most likely candidate for playcalling duties after Bill. The Patriots spent several weeks in 2019 hiding who was actually making defensive playcalls before several players admitted in interviews that it was indeed Steve in charge of the defense. It is possible that Bill promotes Steve to defensive coordinator this offseason. Alternatively, Bill may leave the situation as-is and have the Patriots go three straight years without an official defensive coordinator.
Under the guidance of Bill and Steve, the Patriots secondary proved to be the best in the league. These were the ghosts, the boogeymen. They led the league in interceptions, forced the lowest opponent passer rating, and allowed the fewest touchdowns and second-fewest yards/game. Even if you wish to argue that the Patriots benefitted from a soft schedule (which it admittedly was) to inflate their stats, the Patriots were still a top tier passing defense.
The greatest concern for the Patriots secondary is their age. Chung, Harmon, and both McCourty’s are 32. The Patriots second-round defensive backs are a meme at this point for their inability to make it to the field. Right now, Jonathon Jones and JC Jackson are the best young options. The secondary is unlikely to be quite as dominant (regression, cuts, and potential retirements) next year, but should still be a strength of the Patriots defense.
Inside Linebackers Coach: Jerod Mayo
Jerod Mayo was the first round pick of the Patriots in 2008 and spent his entire playing career with New England. His playing accolades include Team Captain 7x, Defensive ROY, First Team All-Pro 1x, Super Bowl Champion 1x, and Pro Bowl 2x. According to the Pro-Football-Reference Approximate Value statistic, he is the 22nd most valuable player of the entire Brady-Belichick dynasty. You can see some of his highlights compiled by u/_amnesiac in this post
With a wealth of playing and leadership experience, many fans loved the decision to hire Mayo. He is someone who spent his career in the Belichick system and led the defense from the field for years. This is why some fans speculated that Jerod would be the defensive playcaller despite being in his first year as a coach. For several weeks, the Patriots played into this uncertainty by having Jerod appear to give playcalls during games.
It is probable that Jerod contributed to playcalls. As a player, Mayo was known for his incredible work ethic and constant film study even during offseasons. If Mayo saw something the defense could take advantage of, he almost certainly would have conveyed that to the players on the field.
Jerod is a rising star in the New England coaching staff and likely to see quick promotion in the system. Depending on the situation with Steve Belichick, Jerod could be a defensive coordinator within a few years.
Outside Linebackers Coach: DeMarcus Covington
Mayo was responsible for inside linebackers and evidently playcalling while Covington had the outside linebackers. That might change for next year. Brendan Daly was the Patriots D-line coach in 2018 and joined Kansas City for the 2019 season. New England had no official defensive line coach in 2019 and their run defense was clearly a step below. Before coming to the Patriots, Covington was a defensive line coach and co-DC at Eastern Illinois. Something that could happen this offseason is Covington moving to a D-Line role while Jerod drops the “inside” tag as a linebackers coach.
Tight Ends Coach: Nick Caley
For his first two years as a TE coach, Caley had Gronk. Gronk was already great before Caley joined the Patriots, and now having completed a single year without Gronk, it is still unclear how good of a TE coach he is. If the Patriots draft a quality TE this year or if Lacosse and Izzo improve, then Caley will prove himself at developing talent and raising player’s skill levels.
Director of Player Personnel: Nick Caserio
Caserio holds a very unusual position in the Patriots hierarchy. He started as a scout, spent a season as an offensive assistant coach, went back into personnel, spent 2007 as the Wide Receivers coach, then became Director of Player Personnel in 2008, the position he still holds. He is effectively ranked just behind Belichick in the front office. Despite his front office role, he is a constant presence at Patriots practices too. He regularly takes part in drills as quarterback (the position he played in college) or other roles. He also takes part in film study and joins Ernie Adams in the booth for games.
After a snafu with the Houston Texans allegedly trying to poach Caserio for their GM role, Caserio surprised the football world when he signed a contract extension to remain in New England. I have no source for the following statement, but I would guess that he was promised the GM role if Belichick retired akin to how McDaniels was allegedly promised the head coach position in the same condition. Let me reiterate that it is pure speculation and not based on any known facts at this time.
As of this writing, the Patriots website lists several other coaches:
- Assistant RB Coach Cole Popovich (2 years)
- Assistant QB Coach Mick Lombardi (9 years)
- Cornerback Coach Mike Pellegrino (5 years)
- Assistant Special Teams Coach Cameron Achord (2 years)
- Strenght and Conditioning Coaches Moses Cabrera (9 years) and Deron Mayo (2 years)
- Director of Skill Development Joe Kim (27 years)
- Coaching Assistants Brian Belichick (4 years) and Carmen Bricillo (1 year)
Coaching in 2020
The fact that the Patriots are missing so many positional coaches is a major concern going forwards. The Patriots currently do not have a Wide Receivers coach, Defensive Line coach,
Special Teams Coordinator, and Offensive Line Coach. Two of those (WR, O-Line) were the greatest weaknesses of the Patriots in 2019. The defensive line, while capable, was a distant third relative to the incredible LBs and DBs.
Updated as of February 21st: The Patriots hired Joe Houston and Vinnie Sunseri as special teams assistants. Both previously worked with Nick Saban at Alabama; doubtlessly Saban recommended both to Belichick before they were hired. It is yet unclear if any of Houston, Sunseri, or Achord will be promoted to special teams coordinator.
If receivers like Harry and Meyers cannot make a sophomore surge, if Sanu cannot get a mastery of the system, and if Edelman loses a step coming back from injury, then the Patriots offense might be in trouble next year. Without a dedicated WR Coach, any of the list may happen.
The offensive line, defensive line, and special teams are less concerning. As mentioned earlier, the Patriots do have a coach with defensive line experience on the roster. Bill Belichick can always get involved in any defense or special teams aspect. The O-line is most concerning of the three; the starting five should be good, but a lack of Scar implies a lack of depth.
Even accounting for the holes, the Patriots will go into 2020 with the best head coach in the NFL, a top tier offensive coordinator, and two of the best up-and-coming defensive coaches whom could plausibly reach the defensive coordinators in a couple years. Although the coaching holes are troubling, the Patriots still have one of the best collective coaching staffs in the NFL.
- Tom Brady
- Jaret Stidham
- Cody Kessler
Quarterback. The face of a franchise. Head of a team’s image, likeness, and someone who all criticism or praise is laid upon. Tom Brady has been the face of New England, along with Bill Belichick, since essentially 2000. There will be books written, statues made, and a gaping hole in sports after Bill and Tom hang things up. Our quarterback situation, other than 2008, has been tops in the league. Next year, if things fall to Jaret or Cody, sound the alarms fellas/gals.
Do we all remember when Jaret went in, in garbage time against the Jets, and immediately threw a touchdown? It was wonderful - for the Jets fans - because Jamal Adams was on the receiving end. Cody Kessler is what he is at this point, and Jaret i’m sure has some upside. We, unfortunately, made have blown through our “Montana/Young” or “Farve/Rodgers” magic-dust when we lost Jimmy G. If timing could have worked out, we’d all be celebrating having Jimmy in the wait.
I digress - Back to the review of 2019. Tom had a “down year.” By down year, I mean putting a traffic cone at left tackle would have done just as much as Newhouse for the first half of the year. New receivers, running the wrong routes, no tight ends, horrible blocking, lack of a running game. If you put every other quarterback in the league in this situation, I don’t think the outcome would be much different. I’d rate our quarterback play in 2019 as “Yeah, well, it was as good as it could have been. What else did you want?”
Running Backs/Full Backs
- Brandon Bolden
- Rex Burkhead
- Damien Harris
- Sony Michel
- James White
- James Develin
- Jakob Johnson
I’ll split this up into two sections of running backs and fullbacks. Let’s get the easy one out of the way - fullbacks.
James Develin was SORELY missed. Look at the years he has been on injured reserve. We have suffered tremendously. His 2018 campaign was outstanding, and led to our power running game being as dominant as it was. Now, losing Gronk/Andrew/Trent Brown/Wynn/etc, were all massive losses. But James Develin was a key loss as well.
Until Jakob Johnson came around. An international player who was assigned to our team, then became a key starter. Jakob has a bright future as an NFL fullback, and had great flashes. Until he, as well, ended up on IR. What did that lead to? That’s right - just as expected - Captain, core special teamer, and starting linebacker, Elandon Roberts as fullback. It was a mess of a position this year, but looks bright moving forward.
Now, the more complicated one, the running backs. James White had a down year. Sony had a down year. Bolden was back on the team and was a shining spot on special teams and also in the offensive scheme. I fully believe our running game issues stem from an offensive line and blocking problem. Simply put, 2019 as a whole suffered from an issue with dominating at the line of scrimmage and with blocking. Look what the 49’ers were able to do with a zone-blocking scheme, tight ends, etc., Even the Ravens, albeit with all-world talent, had great blocking at all positions.
- Phillip Dorsett
- Julian Edelman
- N’Keal Harry
- Jakobi Meyers
- Mohamed Sanu
- Antonio Brown
- Josh Gordon
- Gunner Olszewski
2019 was the year of Julian Edelman and……yep. Now, let’s start off with the bright spots. N’Keal should have a promising future. Jakobi is absolutely clutch, with flashes of Danny Amendola/Chris Hogan in big spots. Mohamed Sanu had little impact but had a high ankle sprain requiring surgery since like 4 minutes after he arrived. Josh Gordon was an adventure, and I wish him the best. AB….man what a wild ride that i’m glad to be off of. Our wide receiver situation was awful. There were games where if the ball didnt get to Julian, it got nowhere. 2019 was one of our worst wide receiver years, and it was also a bad year to have blocking/running issues.
- Ryan Izzo
- Matt LaCosse
- Ben Watson
Not really much to say here. Ben Watson had a few huge catches, Ryan Izzo and LaCosse were pedestrian, to be polite. 2019 was our worst year of tight end play, but also that’s to be expected when you lose a first-ballot hall of famer. Losing Gronk makes you realize how incredible he was on the field. 2018 may have been his worst year, and he was a top blocker on a power running superbowl team.
- Marcus Cannon
- Jermaine Eluemunor
- James Ferentz
- Ted Karras
- Shaq Mason
- Marshall Newhouse
- Joe Thuney
- Isaiah Wynn
- Korey Cunningham
- David Andrews
- Hjalte Froholdt
- Yodny Cajuste
Looking at this list a few names will probably surprise you. As everyone is probably wondering, no - a Yodny Cajuste is not a contagious disease. A Hjalte Forholdt is not a Norweigen insult. I joke, but this is a very diverse list of individuals.
2019 was the year our offensive line fell apart, and was barely above serviceable. We struggled to dominate the line, to set protections, to allow long-developing routes to work their way open. We could not open lanes for running. Towards the end of the year, Wynn was able to stabilize the left side of the line. Losing David Andrews was a huge blow as well. 2019 also showed the value in Thuney and Karras. If we had any other offensive line coach, we would have been screwed. Dante worked his magic, and got the best he could out of this team.
Overall, as you can tell, 2019 was a very bad, no good, offensive year. STILL, with all of the issues, we made the playoffs. We got decimated by injuries, retirements, couldn’t establish the run, couldn’t establish the pass, and still accomplished as much as we did. As you’ll see in the upcoming review of the defense and special teams, the offense was the reason we faltered this year. 2020 has a ton of promise, however, and we should be excited moving forward.
- Adam Butler
- Byron Cowart
- Lawrence Guy
- Danny Shelton
- John Simon
- Chase Winovich
- Deatrich Wise Jr
- Keionta Davis
- Derek Rivers
Our defensive line and linebackers had a ton of overlap in 2019 as in previous years. The depth on our defense allowed Bill Belichick, Jerod Mayo, and Lil’Belichick to get creative with what they called and schemed up. So you’ll see players like Chase Winovich or John Simon listed as DL, but also both played linebacker this year.
Simply put, going into 2019, we had just lost Trey Flowers. A massive presence as a leader and tone setter, there were worries about how to replace him and his production. Well, the 2019 Patriots DL exceeded all expectations. The depth was incredible and the production was outstanding. Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton were absolute studs that anchored the front of the line. Winovich has an amazingly bright future ahead as well. This DL group exceeded all expectations and only had a slight weakness at stopping the run, which was more of a systemic problem of us not being able to play with a lead after the first few games.
- Ja’Whaun Bentley
- Shilique Calhoun
- Jamie Collins Sr
- Dont’a Hightower
- Elandon Roberts
- Kyle Van Noy
- Brandon King
Linebackers. One of our deepest spots on the team in 2019. Getting back Jamie Collins, Ja’Whaun from injury, and having everyone else grow was huge. Kyle van Noy took ANOTHER step forward, Hightower was in prime form this year, and Elandon Roberts is our first three-way player in awhile. This group produced pressure, fumbles, interceptions, and three-and-outs at a historic pace.Our second most important group, behind the group i’ll get to next, and almost all of these players contributed in numerous ways.
- Stephon Gilmore
- Jason McCourty
- Jojaun Williams
- Terrence Brooks
- Duron Harmon
- J.C. Jackson
- Jonathan Jones
- Devin McCourty
- D’Angelo Ross
- Patrick Chung
Our defensive back groups was not only our best group in 2019, but one of the highest rated groups in the NFL this past year. The statistics alone paint a picture as one of the best groups, Gilmore won DPOY, J.C. Jackson was a top ranked corner in the entire NFL, and the year started with talk of “will we allow a touchdown?”
This group was our anchor. The genius of this team was depth and skill. Gilmore took away opposing #1’s consistently, and had 2 touchdowns of his own. J.C. is our typical UDFA steal, but is exceeding every single expectation set forth. DMac anchored our safety position, along with Brooks playing significant snaps along with Harmon. Chung and JMac had injuries but still were great players.
Our defensive backs were the reason we were so good in 2019. They took away the run, the pass, and pressured at an incredible rate. It was an all time defensive performance from these guys.
- Stephen Gostkowski
- Nick Folk
Our notable kickers since 2000. Adam Vinateri, and Gost….and like one other guy? We had 167 kickers in for tryouts this year, and Folk was serviceable. Simply put, our kicking situation got murky due to injuries but Folk stepped up and did what he needed to do.
- Jake Bailey
Jake was an amazing draft pick. He has a cannon for a leg and consistently helped us win the field positioning battle. Punter was not an area of concern for us this year and shouldnt be moving forward.
- Justin Bethel
- Nate Ebner
- Matthew Slater
- Joe Cardona
Bethel and Slater. PB and J. They are incredible together. 2019 saw us acquire one of the top special team players in the NFL from the Ravens and he IMMEDIATELY impacted our unit. Ebner had a great year as well, and there was a difference when he was not out there.
Cardona, our long snapper, was solid as well.
2020 Free Agency & Draft
2020 Draft Picks
The Patriots haven't started their offseason this early in a decade. The last time a Belichick team lost in the Wildcard round (2009) they went on to draft Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski in the following draft. You've been warned.
Note: this doesn't account for any compensatory picks that have usually been given out by the league at this point in the year. The completion of the bargaining agreement is probably holding things up here.
- Tom Brady
- The biggest offseason question for the upcoming 2020 season, NFL wide, is “where will Tom Brady Play?” He is, by far, the best option for quarterback in New England. His stats bear no need of repetition. The biggest question mark here, is if he does indeed come back, will be cost. With so many key free agents, listed below, paying Brady $30+ million will have significant downside.
- Phillip Dorsett
- Trading Brisett for Dorsett was, at the time, viewed as mutually beneficial trade. To date, I think the Colts may have made out slightly better (due to Luck retiring, unexpectedly), however Dorsett has been an asset for the Patriots. Last year, he had; 14 games, 54 targets, 29 receptions, 397 yards, 5 touchdowns. His ability to come up clutch in certain spots has been a shining spot, however he does not consistently show up in each game. If the Patriots can bring him back, it will have to be at a very team friendly deal – Especially with Jakobi Meyers as a significantly cheaper/higher upside player on the team.
- Matthew Slater (ST)
- Almost taboo to label him a wide receiver, I wanted to list this true-to-positions. Matthew Slater has been a dominant force in the Special Team game since his debut in the NFL. If he does not retire this year, He will be in New England almost assuredly. His leadership, voice, dedication, and commitment has made our unit top-notch. Losing Joe Judge and Slater would be a meteoric decline for our ST units. Cost for him also, again, must be favorable to the team due to much of our defensive key free agents.
- Ben Watson
- One of the positions that most critically needs help on the Patriots, will not find that in Ben Watson. More likely than not, he retires and ends his career for real this offseason.
- Marshall Newhouse
- Marshall Newhouse was a last-ditch option of a left tackle for the New England Patriots in 2019. As such, he played up to (or down to?) expectations. After Wynn got hurt, Marshall had tall shoes to fill for NE. The past left tackles were Matthew Light, Nate Solder, Trent Brown. Trent was the only one who was not here for the long-term, as he was a one-year deal and helped us win a Super Bowl. However, Left Tackle for the Patriots has had lofty expectations since 2001. Marshall DID have some positives, when he was asked to fill in for injuries on the line in non-left-tackle positions. If he, by some chance, does come back, it will be on a very team friendly deal and most assuredly not at the LT spot.
- Joe Thuney
- Joe Thuney has been one of the most important players on the New England Patriots since 2016. 74 career games, including playoffs, 74 career starts. As a third-round draft choice, he was the second-best offensive guard in the NFL this past year. 97% pass block win-rate, only behind Marshall Yanda. Second-team all-pro, 1,000 snaps, zero penalties, one sack allowed. Top-10 left guard in the NFL the past three years, top-5 the past two. The concern here is, obviously, cost. New England can and should do all they can to retain him. He has been a key part of our offensive line success and has shown growth year over year. Other teams will more than likely offer him massive contracts that can’t be matched. The likely outcome is he is gone, and this would be a very big issue for the OL group. He is not flying under the radar and if he leaves, he will get a bank-breaking, well deserved, contract.
- James Ferentz
- Brought in originally in 2017, James has been with the team for 2 Super Bowl wins. He played in 15 games last year, with 2 starts. He has been great for the depth on the team, and I don’t see another team offering a massive pay-day for him. With David Andrews potentially returning, James would likely be a depth-player at best.
- Jermaine Eluemunor
- Strictly a depth/practice/reserve piece, he has made no significant contributions to the team. Stay, go, this will not be the player that makes or breaks the team.
- Ted Karras
- Ted, behind Thuney as a free agent, is one of our more important pieces on the line. He fills in great for the center/guard positions and has been able to fill in for Shaq Mason when he has been injured. After Andrews was diagnosed with blood clots, Ted was able to fill in and become the starting center. Our pass protection as whole struggled last year, but keeping Ted (and returning Andrews, dream scenario of both and keeping Thuney) will be a net-positive for the Patriots. It will be interesting to see how the Patriots value Ted at a time where there are many key-free agents.
- Danny Shelton
- We have come a long way from Danny Shelton’s first year with the Patriots, when he was a healthy scratch for multiple games for the first time in his career. A former Cleveland 12th overall pick, he exceeded all expectations in 2019. Pair with Lawrence Guy as a core, they were able to lock down the front of our defense. He had resigned on a roughly $1.0 million deal and started 14 games last year after only starting 1 his first year. If we can get Danny on a longer deal, he would be worth keeping paired with Guy for the future. If he commands more money, letting him walk and keeping Adam Butler will suffice.
- Adam Butler
- Undrafted free agent, Adam has been with the team since 2017. He has been on the active roster ever since. He has played in all 48 regular season games. He has shown flashes of talent and has been reliable at the line of scrimmage. It would benefit the Patriots to keep his as a rotational piece and it is safe to assume Adam is not in line for a major payday from another team. If he does leave, it may open the door for Wise Jr. to play more. This group also benefits from having Chase Winovich playing in a hybrid linebacker/DL position, so any losses would be minimized by this.
- Keionta Davis
- An undrafted free agent who spent the first year on injured reserve, Keionta earned a spot on the roster in 2018. He then, again, was on injured reserve this past year again. Typically, we see the greatest jump for players from year 1-2, but so far there has been nothing from Davis to suggest he is a part of the Patriots moving forward.
- Kyle Van Noy
- Kyle Van Noy went from a “bust” on the Lions, a team that didn’t know how to use him, to a key leading figure on the New England Patriots second dynasty of Super Bowls. Since joining in 2016, he has done nothing but improve as a leader, linebacker, and versatile player. He has played in 51 regular season games since his arrival, along with 11 playoff games. This year he contributed with 3 passes defensed, 3 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, and a touchdown. He locked down our linebacking unit with a mix of rushing, coverage, and blitz abilities. Simply put, KVN will not be replaced with one individual. His loss, much like Thuney, will be a critical potential downgrade. At his level, he has only earned $9 million in the NFL. He will absolutely be getting his big money deal this year. More likely than not? He walks, and the Patriots lose a key player. If he was retained, it would be a multi-year deal with good-not-great money.
- Jamie Collins
- Jamies Collins. A familiar face to the Patriots, especially since he was drafted by….the Patriots! After being shipped off mid-season to Cleveland, Jamie got his big money deal. $26.40 guaranteed on that 4-year deal. Joining with the Patriots again in 2019, he signed a one-year deal. He was arguably in the DPOY conversation the first 4-5 games of 2019. 16 games played, 15 starts, 81 tackles, 7.0 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 3 interceptions, 1 touchdown. He was a force. Collins, Van Noy, and Hightower (along with John Simon, ERob, and Bentley) anchored this unit to be one of our deepest and most talented. If Jamie stays, it will be a multi-year deal. If not, it would be a loss that could be replaced. Van Noy is the key linebacker to keep, Jamie can be 90% replaced.
- Shilique Calhoun
- Signed back in 2019, Calhoun has not been a force in the NFL. He played in 15 games last year, and made 9 total tackles. He did, however, anchor our special teams unit with 52% special teams snaps played. He will more than likely be back, as he does not have a market, as a key special teams player.
- Elandon Roberts
- I’ll start Elandon Roberts with this statement; He will be signed to a multi-year deal to start 2020. A 6th round pick in 2016, Elandon Roberts has risen to become a three-way player, a captain, and a force on the football field. Everyone remembers his 38-yard touchdown this year against the Dolphins, but he was a serviceable fullback, linebacker, and special teams player this year. 60 regular season games, here, 10 playoff games, Elandon is not a household name but embodies everything the Patriots look for in a player. Bill Belichick ranks him “among the most unselfish players” which is very high praise. My sense is he will earn a decent, but fair, contract and be a key member of the Patriots next few years.
- Nate Ebner (ST)
- Again, like Slater, this really isn’t a “defensive back” analysis. Ebner is even more of a Rugby player than a football player (I kid, somewhat). But, as a core special teamer, seeing Ebner retained would be a good move. Side note – Watch the documentary on Nate Ebner. He is an incredible person, who has gone through horrific trauma at a young age. His dad, his best friend and idol, was murdered in his youth. They were great members of the community and Nate is a great guy. Back to football – It doesn’t seem like it but Nate has been with the Patriots since 2012! He provides stability to the special teams unit, and a level of leadership and guidance. If the Patriots bring him back, a one-year deal is likely. Because of the addition of Justin Bethel to a two-year deal, the loss of Nate would be minimal. If his play is there, the cost to keep him would be worth the payoff.
- Devin McCourty
- Argued to have had his best year yet, looking past the interception total it was clear the DMac still had it. Not that anyone doesn’t see it, but his resume is impressive. First round pick, 3x Superbowl champion, 2x prowl, 3x all-pro (second team), captain since his second year. He has been a leader of this second half of the dynasty. He has missed 5, FIVE, games since 2011. 155 games, 155 starts, 23 playoff games. He is a rock. Last year? 5 interceptions, 7 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles, 1 recovery, along with 58 tackles. Devin was a key player in our air-tight secondary. That being said, Devin will have to choose between retirement or the Patriots. Like what Slater and Hightower, and even McCourty himself previous did, I think he’ll shop around for deals and the Patriots will match.
- Nick Folk (K)
- 35-year-old Nick Folk was serviceable last year. It looks like Younghhoe Koo was the kicker-to-keep from our tryouts this year, as he is flourishing with the Falcons (Along with Ryan Allen, former Patriot Punter). He was paid just about $1.0 million last year and COULD come back depending on what is going on with Gostkowski. Remember, Gostkowski has been with the Patriots since 2006. Reports (As of February 21st) say Gostkowski could be released to clear up $3.5 million in cap space. I find this doubtful, but the Patriots historically will not overpay at a position when they can get 90% of the production for a fraction of the cost. More likely than not – He accepts a paycut to stay, or another kicker needy team overpays.
Following the 2019 draft for the Patriots, I felt fairly confident that a good portion of the Patriots’ needs were addressed. Unfortunately, many of those picks either started slowly, were essentially redshirted, or have outright failed to pan out already.
Let’s run through the positions of need for the 2020 draft and players I think the Patriots could consider (though I’m almost certainly wrong).
We have no idea if Tom Brady will be back or not. Conflicting reports are flying left and right. So let’s assume he’s not and that we also don’t trade for a guy or sign a guy in free agency. The Patriots could attempt to trade up (though that is highly unlikely) for a guy like Justin Herbert. There are three QB options that I find significantly more likely. Jordan Love and Jake Fromm are options I find intriguing in one way or another. I particularly like Love’s physical traits but I do worry about his accuracy and ability to throw receivers open as opposed to just throwing to wide open receivers. Fromm provides a more poised and pro offense ready option at the expense of the flashy physical tools. He’s my personal favorite of the two for the Patriots due to his apparent knowledge of the game and ability to protect the football.
Everyone knows the Patriots need pass catchers pretty badly. If we bring Brady back I would strongly prefer a veteran of some sort to bring in, but if we go looking for a rookie there are a couple of options I particularly like. Justin Jefferson out of LSU headlines this list for targets that I think are realistic to consider. Jefferson played both outside and in the slot at LSU, excelling in the latter position. He’s an aggressive catcher and extremely elusive in the open field. He’s an average route runner but has the physical tools to improve there. Penn State’s KJ Hamler provides an altogether different option at the slot position. His elite speed is the draw and he is expected to become a solid route runner as well. His major concern is that he is quite small at 5’9”, 178lbs.
The weakest position on the team and unfortunately this draft doesn’t appear as full of talent as 2019 was. Still, there is one guy that it shouldn’t surprise anyone that a Patriots fan would like. Thaddeus Moss isn’t what you’d expect a Moss to be. He’s not a wow athlete or an immensely skilled pass catcher. His best attribute is his ability to block, something the Patriots sorely needed at the position in 2019. He does show extremely reliable hands as a plus, though.
While we do potentially need a couple of offensive linemen to replace Ted Karras and Joe Thuney, I don’t have enough knowledge of the linemen that aren’t slated to go early in the draft to contribute here.
I really only have an opinion on one option here. A.J. Epenesa out of Iowa didn’t exactly impress at the combine, but his tape shows an impressive ability to collapse pockets and generate pressure with consistency.
With the end of the careers of both Pat Chung and Devin McCourty potentially within sight, safety has become a potentially more pressing issue in New England. Xavier McKinney potentially offers a solution to that problem. The versatile Alabama product played deep safety, slot corner, and in the box and played all with proficiency. Versatility is one of the most highly sought traits in New England and McKinney provides it in spades. He could very well be the Patriots’ first pick.
- Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are still in the league. These two have been to 8 straight AFC Championship games. Until they’re gone, it’s hard to see that changing.
- All of these early draft picks who have spent time on IR recently (N'Keal Harry, Isaiah Wynn, etc) come into their own and give the Patriots offense the boost they so sorely needed this past season.
The Patriots draft nothing but WRs/TEs in the upcoming draft and we have a repeat of 2007 or 2011.
- The defensive performance continues to be dominant, providing time for the young offense (outside of Brady, obviously) time to gel. The Patriots hit their stride at the right time
At this point everyone knows what the Patriot system is. The only way we don't see New England representing the AFC in Super Bowl LV is the same as it was last year. And the 18 years before that:
- The exodus that takes place every year finally catches up to this team. New coaches and new players are always a risk, even if the system is strong.
- Injuries to key players. The difference in this offense without their starting FB/LT/C/etc... was blindingly obvious as the season wore on. The depth doesn’t seem to be as good as it used to now that Belichick disciples (Flores, Vrabel, Patricia, etc) are competing for the same pool of players.
- Brady decides that he’s finally too old and retires. Or he actually becomes too old and starts to show signs of his decline, ie. Peyton Manning.
- Roger Goodell prevents the Patriots from playing any postseason games in 2020 as retribution for whatever he can spin as “conduct detrimental to the league”.