Curran: Patriots' ugly win vs. Jets doesn't ease concerns moving forward

Curran: Patriots' ugly win vs. Jets doesn't ease concerns moving forward

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Seattle lost on Sunday. Went down 14-5 at Tampa Bay.

I mention this early on because it’s evidence that the league is whacked. Seattle’s the only team to beat the Tom Brady-led Patriots this season. They put up 31 against the Pats and they needed a late goal-line stand and a couple of uncharacteristic breakdowns (Julian Edelman’s fumble, Brady’s QB sneak bungle) to escape that night.

In other words, with a different outcome that night and the absence of a BS suspension for Brady to start the season, the Patriots would be 11-0.


And the Seahawks' loss to Tampa, contrasted with their win over the Patriots, shows that it’s a matchup league, any given Sunday and all that.

I understand that the curb appeal of the Patriots 2016 season is pretty impressive.

It’s when you get up close and really get a good look at the innards of what’s going on that you have a more fatalistic view about what’s been going on, what continued to go on Sunday against the Jets.

Even allowing for a compressed week, and a return from the West Coast burning up their Monday, and a gimpy quarterback, and a division game on the road against a team that knows it well and puts the effort switch in the “ON” position when it sees the Patriots, there’s nothing we saw Sunday that allays the concerns that have been burbling for weeks.

In all three phases and on the sidelines, there are areas of concern.

Offensively, it’s not dire. The main concern is the health and well-being of Rob Gronkowski, who left before the first quarter was done with a back injury to accompany his chest injury. But Brady’s banged up and so is Martellus Bennett. Julian Edelman’s workload is increasing and the wear-and-tear on his 30-year-old frame has to be managed. Those issues are mitigated by the emergence of Malcolm Mitchell, the growing body of outstanding work from James White, the re-emergence of Dion Lewis and greater competency on the offensive line.

But if the offense goes south or Brady goes cold, the Patriots defense appears no closer to the upward arc of improvement it needs to be on to shut down teams and carry the day.

The Patriots will close the season against the Ravens, Broncos, Jets and Dolphins. The Ravens and Broncos are both top-five in yards allowed per game, the Jets are – as witnessed Sunday – a pain in the ass and the Dolphins have gotten themselves to 7-4 and will be no picnic to play against in the South Florida heat on New Year’s Day.

The sledding’s going to get tough for the Patriots offense. And given the relative comfort and ease that Ryan Fitzpatrick had guiding the Jets offense for a big chunk of Sunday, what quarterback wouldn’t be rubbing his hands together after watching film of the Patriots non-existent pressure and difficulty stopping wideouts?

Tack on the consternation being caused by Stephen Gostkowski as he missed another field goal on Sunday – this one from 39 – to run his misses total to seven (four field goals) and the impact that’s going to have on December football.

The sideline decisions are getting harder. Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia didn’t hatch anything exotic to make Fitzpatrick seem even remotely confused. And the game-sealing strip sack by Chris Long was a well-timed play that also had a whiff of “Well, they had to make a play sometime . . . ” They just picked an opportune time to make it. It doesn’t cover for the fact that they still seem to be spinning their wheels. Meanwhile, Gostkowski’s troubles are going to figure into strategy more and more. And the team’s clock management weirdness at the end of halves continues to be puzzling.

What they have going for them – what they always have going for them – is mental toughness when the poop is hitting the fan, and Brady.

“I thought the last seven minutes of the game, we did a lot of good things and played our best football,” said Bill Belichick. “That’s always important. It’s good situational football. It’s solid football in the fourth quarter. I liked the way our team competed. We didn’t start well, but we hung in there and battled all the way and made the plays we needed to make at the end. That’s what it’s all about.”

The three longest plays of the day for the Patriots offense came with less than 10 minutes left. There was a 25-yard find to Chris Hogan to put the Patriots at the Jets 8 with two minutes left. There was the 24-yard dart to Edelman on the second play of the game-winning drive. There was a 23-yarder to Hogan with 9:37 left to jumpstart a field goal drive that trimmed the deficit to 17-16.

Bigger than all of those was the fourth-and-4 completion to James White that extended the game-winning drive.

“He made a great play because the ball was thrown short of the sticks, and if we don’t make that play it’s hard to win the game,” acknowledged Brady. “We still had three timeouts and they would’ve gotten the ball and maybe we could’ve stopped them but that was a game-winning play, championship-type play that James made. So he did enough to shake off the tackle and get the first down. it was just a great play. There were a lot of great plays that we did there in the last seven minutes of the game there. It wasn’t our best effort, but that’s just what happens in these games sometimes.”

A few weeks back, we were talking about the Patriots’ margin over their competition and how they weren’t playing as much against opponents but a personal standard of perfection. That’s not as much the case now. They were life-and-death with the Seahawks and they died that night. They were life-and-death with the Jets Sunday and survived.

December and January football are all that’s left. The record looks great. The team really doesn’t.

What are the Patriots getting in Cordarrelle Patterson?

What are the Patriots getting in Cordarrelle Patterson?

The Patriots have made a trade with the Raiders to acquire receiver and special teamer Cordarrelle Patterson, according to a source. The deal, first reported by Pardon My Take, is an interesting one because it lands Patterson with the team that passed on the opportunity to draft him back in 2013. 


Bill Belichick dealt the No. 29 overall pick to the Vikings that year in exchange for four selections, including a second-rounder and a third-rounder. The second-rounder became Jamie Collins, and the third became Logan Ryan. The Patriots also took Josh Boyce with a fourth they received in the trade, and the fourth pick (a seventh) was traded to Tampa Bay in exchange for LeGarrette Blount. The Vikings took Patterson. 

Patterson's career to this point has been a mixed bag. One of the top athletes in the 2013 draft, the Tennessee product never quite panned out as a go-to No. 1 receiver. He has not missed a game in five seasons, but he has never cracked 600 offensive snaps in a single season. The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder has turned himself into more of a gadget receiver as well as one of the game's best special teamers. 

Here's what the Patriots are getting in Patterson . . . 

TOP-TIER SPECIAL TEAMER: Patterson has solidified himself as one of the NFL's best kick-returners. In five seasons, he's ranked as the top returner in terms of average yards per return three times. He's never been outside of the top 10 in the league in that category. Last year he was sixth in the NFL with a 28.3 yards per return average. Patterson has also become a highly-effective gunner on punt units, a role he thrived in once he embraced it, and he has kick coverage experience. Patterson has not been a punt-returner. He has just one punt return under his belt compared to 153 kick returns. Patterson has been named a First-Team All-Pro twice for his work in the kicking game. 

INCONSISTENT RECEIVER: Patterson has never been able to take his explosiveness and translate that into consistent production offensively. He's not thought of as a precise route-runner, and he has a reputation as a "body-catcher." Yet, because he's so dynamic with the ball in his hands, offenses in Oakland and Minnesota have found ways to get the ball in his hands. He'll align in the backfield, take reverses and catch screens just to try to get him the ball in space where he can let his natural abilities take over. If he gets a crease, he can create a chunk play in a blink. 

THE COST: Patterson is in the second year of a two-year deal he signed with the Raiders last offseason. He has a base salary of $3 million and a cap hit of $3.25 million. The Patriots will be sending a fifth-rounder to the Raiders and getting a sixth-rounder back. (As an aside . . . The Patriots have used one fifth-round pick in the last six drafts. It was spent on long-snapper Joe Cardona. Why are they constantly dealing fifths away? Inside the Pylon's Dave Archibald did an interesting piece on that topic about a year and a half ago. The gist is that a) there's a significant drop-off in your chances of finding a star in the fifth compared to the fourth, and b) the talent in the fifth round, by some metrics, hasn't proven to be all that different from the sixth or seventh rounds.) 

THE FIT: Patterson is a relatively low-risk acquisition because of his cap hit (which on the Patriots slots him in between Shea McClellin and Chris Hogan) and because of the draft capital required to nab him. Trading for a player like Patterson as opposed to signing another team's free agent has the added benefit of not impacting the compensatory-pick formula. Patterson also fills a few needs. His abilities as a kick-returner will be more than suitable with last year's primary kick returner for the Patriots, Dion Lewis, out of the mix. What Patterson can do as a gunner and in kick coverage will also be useful with Johnson Bademosi now elsewhere. There's also a chance Matthew Slater plays in a different city in 2017, in which case Patterson's contributions as a gunner and in kick coverage could be critical. With Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman and Hogan all established in the Patriots offense, Patterson won't be expected to take on a heavy role in the Patriots offense. However, if he can pick up a new system, perhaps he could take on a role as a No. 4 or 5 wideout who benefits from plays designed to get him touches in space. Malcolm Mitchell, Phillip Dorsett and Kenny Britt -- now alongside Patterson -- will all be competing for time in New England's offense. Former Patriots coaching assistant Mike Lombardi seems to believe it's unlikely Patterson contributes offensively


Patriots acquire WR Cordarrelle Patterson in trade with Raiders

Patriots acquire WR Cordarrelle Patterson in trade with Raiders

The Patriots have acquired wide receiver and kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson in a trade with the Raiders, NBC Sports Boston's Phil Perry confirms.

Pardon My Take, a podcast by Barstool Sports, first reported the news.

Ian Rapaport of NFL Network reports the Patriots sent a fifth-round pick to Oakland and received a Raiders' sixth-rounder along with Patterson.

More to come...