Patriots

Friday Bag: Why have Patriots struggled on third-and-short?

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Friday Bag: Why have Patriots struggled on third-and-short?

FOXBORO - Every Friday, Phil Perry and Mike Giardi will take your Patriots questions on Twitter and answer them as a joint mailbag - or Friday Bag, as they call it.

Got questions? Tweet the guys using the hashtag #FridayBag. But for now, give the latest edition of the Bag a read.

PP: The short answer, PH? They haven't blocked well. They're not moving people at the line of scrimmage. There's perhaps some blame to place on Mike Gillislee for not being able to create more yardage on his own. He's averaging 1.8 yards after contact per carry this year, which is down from the 3.3 yards after contact per carry he averaged last season. But when he's hit at or near the line of scrimmage, blockers up front need to do a better job. Bill Belichick said on Friday he'd be open to using Dion Lewis in those spots. I like that idea for them. Because he's so quick in tight spaces Lewis has the ability to pick up yardage on his own even when opposing defenses break through the line at the snap. 

PP: Stephon Gilmore is the only new full-time new body in the secondary, but roles have changed since 2016. It goes beyond one corner spot. With Logan Ryan, the Patriots lost their primary slot corner. Now you have Eric Rowe and Jonathan Jones both mixing in there. Duron Harmon is playing about 80 percent of the snaps now after playing 50 percent the last couple of years. Devin McCourty is playing in the box now more than he has in the past. Patrick Chung's still a regular, but his workload has been dialed back a bit. Add it all together and there's a bit more change that they're going through than any of us anticipated. It'll take some time to iron out all the communication back there. As McCourty said recently, it's still a work in progress. 

PP: Paul! Dion Lewis is healthy and I actually disagree with you on the juking business. He hasn't had any ridiculous catch-and-run plays like he did in Dallas in 2015. But he already has two of the more impressive Patriots runs of the season. They've only gone for a combined seven yards, but they should have been a combined loss of two or three. He may never be the 2015 Lewis again, but he's still very shifty. The question is will they start to use him more . . . and when? I wrote about that this morning. 

PP: I'm not sure what the Patriots would be able to get for Lewis in a trade. He just turned 27. He has a long list of serious injuries on his medical report. Maybe there's an offense out there that believes a dynamic back would help take them to the next level, but this is a league that doesn't seem to place a ton of value in that position unless you've got the body type/athleticism of a Leonard Fournette, Ezekiel Elliott or Le'Veon Bell. Lewis is also in the final year of his contract. Add it all up, and what do the Patriots get in return? A fifth-round pick? Less? Never say never with the Patriots, but as of right now, even though he's not playing much, I think he actually has more value on the roster than he'd give the Patriots in a trade. If he stays healthy, he'll play a key role in this offense at some point. They like him. They seem to be managing him to have him healthy for the entirety of the season. Feels like a Danny Amendola-type approach. 


 
TC: Hi Ed. He had a pretty significant limp in the locker room Wednesday. Wouldn’t be surprised if he is able to get out there but I wouldn’t expect 100 percent light-footed nimbleness.
 

TC: Why sure it could!! I just go by what Mayo is telling me. It’s not the talent, it’s the communication and the repetition. When he explains it, it makes sense. Say, for instance, Kyle Van Noy drops toward his assigned area but doesn’t drop deep or wide enough. That means the safety working behind him sees that and moves to narrow the distance between himself and Van Noy. Now he’s slightly moved. That means the corner is a little more exposed. Little things like that should be fixable. Hightower’s return and simple reps will make them play better. Prediction. After the Jets game and going forward, they will be a different defense.
 

TC: Hello, Gorman! I don’t think that’s even really close. Zolak’s head is like a Mardi Gras. This is a photo of Scott as a baby (far right).
 

TC: Obviously, there’s some risk involved. If the player performs well and you lose him in free agency a year or two after signing him you get far less run out of him than you would a player you drafted. But if you’re looking at short-term windows – which the Patriots might be given the age of Brady and the contract status or key players like Gronkowski, Edelman, etc. (all up in 2019) – this is an ingenious strategy. If the Patriots drafted and developed a wideout with Cooks’ speed and experience, it might be three years before he’s as good as Cooks. Meanwhile, they needed the field stretcher in 2017 to take heat off the middle of the field and threaten the third level. It’s a damn good thing they made the move given Edelman’s injury. Great question.
 https://twitter.com/TheFakeSpaz/status/913544998272012290

TC: All great questions. I suggest you get him going now while still pliable. There’s no downside to breakdancing aside from having to carry around a sheet of cardboard and a boom box for impromptu head spins on the sidewalk. Bully for him.
 

TC: Wrong bag.
 

TC: No way, man. I paid full freight every time I went. Two of my sons who went for dings and soreness as well. Not paying was never in the conversation nor should it be. Maybe you could consider the possibility that the guy is good at what he does rather than jumping in the herd and braying about, for instance, the three percent of inanity in Brady’s book (hydration prevents sunburn) rather than the evidence that’s right there in front of you on Sundays.
 

MG: Jacob, he has trained himself how to fall and trains his body to absorb hits but there can’t be anyone in Foxboro all that psyched about the repeated shots Brady took Sunday. This isn’t all on the offensive line either. If the plan is to go vertical more often, that requires Brady to hold onto the football for another half-second here or half-second there. I have to believe the offense will continue to morph as they adjust to life without Julian Edelman and the understand Danny Amendola needs to be on a pitch count but their two receivers who are on the field the most through 3 weeks, Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan, are more downfield guys then they are short to mid-range middle of the field guys. I guess long story short until they find a consistent way to quickly attack between the hashes, expect more hits to pile up.

MG: Brett, they are near or at the bottom of every important defensive category there is. Who the hell saw this coming? Certainly not the guys with the big brains in Foxboro (Hello Bill and Nick and Matt). I think some of this is scheme related. The Pats haven’t fully gone into attack mode with their secondary and all these zones don’t play to the strength of the corners, arguably the strongest part of that unit (on paper at least). In that regard, it reminds me of 2014. They played more zone early on with Darrelle Revis and some (not me) were wondering where the old Revis was. Then Brandon Browner came back from suspension and it changed. Perhaps once they shore up communication issues from front to back, it’ll improve drastically. I also think it’s on players like Stephon Gilmore, Devin McCourty, Alan Branch and Patrick Chung to play better. They’re not at the level expected nor needed.

MG: Apple, they’ve gone into the well a little bit in terms of dealing draft picks and I wonder if at some point they don’t look to recoup one or two of those lost picks/opportunities. That said, you could look at the places where they have depth - running back and…wait, they don’t have many spots with extra bodies. Think someone is going to have to get creative if they want to add a piece in the coming weeks.

MG: It’s not as bad as it looks. He’s a blocker. That’s what he’s here for. He hasn’t been overwhelming in that regard but he hasn’t stunk up the joint either. I will agree, however, that throwing the ball in his general direction has not gone well.

MG: The good doctor checking in. There have been times where the Patriots have deployed a running back or wide receiver in that role of mobile QB to help prepare the defense for the super and sudden movements, but mostly, it’s on the backup QB or QBs to study the opposing QB, adopt some of his mannerisms and playing style and do their damnedest to duplicate it. 

MG: GOAT.

Steelers lock up AFC North with 39-38 win over Ravens

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Steelers lock up AFC North with 39-38 win over Ravens

PITTSBURGH - The Pittsburgh Steelers won one for injured star Ryan Shazier - and wrapped up the AFC North in the process.

Chris Boswell made a 46-yard field goal with 42 seconds left and Pittsburgh's defense overcame a sloppy night to stop one Baltimore's last-gasp drive in the Steelers' 39-38 victory Sunday night.

The Steelers (11-2) trailed by 11 points going into the fourth quarter but capped an emotionally trying week following Shazier's spinal injury to rally for their eighth straight victory and third division title in four years.

Ben Roethlisberger threw for 506 yards and two touchdowns, becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to top 500 yards passing three times. Antonio Brown caught 11 passes for 213 yards, including two long gains in the fourth quarter that allowed the Steelers to recover after blowing an early 14-point lead. Le'Veon Bell had 125 yards of total offense and scored three touchdowns.

Baltimore's Joe Flacco threw for 269 yards passing with two touchdowns and one interception but was strip-sacked by rookie linebacker T.J. Watt on the Ravens' final snap.

Alex Collins ran for 120 yards and a touchdown for the Ravens (7-6).