Patriots

Five quick thoughts: Patriots make quick work of Titans

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Five quick thoughts: Patriots make quick work of Titans

FOXBORO -- Here are five quick thoughts from the Patriots' 35-14 romp over the Titans during their Saturday night Divisional Round boogie down at Gillette Stadium . . .  

PATRIOTS 35, TITANS 14

1) The Patriots took advantage of the Titans by turning to "space plays" time and time again. Because Tennessee's second-level defenders aren't all that quick, and because the Titans in general aren't great tacklers, the Patriots seemed to be intent on stretching their opponents horizontally to give them some one-on-one matchups in space. If they could force a missed tackle or two, they'd end up with chunk gains? The results of that approach paid dividends in the first half. On the first play of the game, Brady hit Danny Amendola on a quick-hitter for six yards. Dion Lewis caught a 31-yard screen, putting his skills to use in the open field. James White's touchdown catch -- a little flip from Brady -- was an end-around play that stressed the edges of the Titans defense. Brady hit Cooks short on the sideline for a long gainer after he ran by Adoree Jackson's horrendous tackle attempt. 

2) The Patriots had breakdowns on multiple levels during Tennessee's first touchdown drive of the game. The Patriots came into the game knowing they'd have to stop the run. They also knew that they'd have to contain Marcus Mariota and keep him in the pocket. What happened on the second Titans drive of the game was that Mariota broke free for two key first-down runs and 22 yards combined. Then, when the Patriots were able to keep Mariota in the pocket and dare him to throw, they lost their matchups in coverage too often. Delanie Walker broke free for a 36-yard gain on a coverage bust. Rishard Matthews picked up a key third down. And Corey Davis hauled in a nifty one-handed touchdown off a stop-and-go move with Malcolm Butler on him in coverage. If they Patriots were going to let Mariota try to beat them from the pocket, they had to be better on the back end. 

3) Chris Hogan made his presence felt in the first half. He caught just one pass for four yards on three targets, but his catch was a four-yard touchdown and it served as an example of how he and Tom Brady see things through the same set of eyes. Running his route across the field, he saw an opening to the back left corner of the end zone and made a beeline. With Rob Gronkowski smothered despite a pick-play combination with James White, and with White doubled at the goal line, Hogan was wide open. On the previous play, Brandin Cooks read his defender's leverage incorrectly on the back end line. Brady threw to where Cooks should've been, and the pass fell incomplete. To have Hogan -- who also threw a vicious block on Wesley Woodyard during a Dion Lewis catch-and-run -- back in the fold clearly gives Brady an option he trusts. 

4) Why would the Patriots receive after winning the coin toss before the opening kick? Don't they always defer for the double-score opportunity at the end of the first half and the start of the second? Look no further than the flags atop the goal posts. With the wind playing a very real factor on Saturday night, Bill Belichick wanted to be able to decide which way his team would be headed when they had the football in the fourth quarter. By taking the football in the first quarter, they would be able to choose their direction at the start of the third. Predictably, when the start of the second half came around, the Patriots chose to defend the closed end of the stadium. That meant that in the fourth quarter, their offensive drives were moving away from the lighthouse end of the stadium. Kicking (and throwing) is typically a little bit easier when headed away from the lighthouse. 

5) The Patriots defense grabbed this game by the throat about midway through the third quarter. First Ricky Jean Francois (who got the nod to play in this one over Alan Branch) beat guard Quinton Spain clean for a first-down sack. After the play, Spain complained to left tackle Taylor Lewan that he should've had help. On the next snap, Lewan quickly looked to his left and saw Marquis Flowers hanging out. Flowers had been a Mariota spy for much of the game to that point, and so Lewan likely didn't see a rush threat. As a result, Lewan turned to his right and helped Spain -- the guy who had just been whining. As soon as Lewan took his eyes off of Flowers, the Patriots linebacker rushed and hit Mariota unimpeded for a second straight sack. Lewan never had a shot. That's what he gets for trying to be a good teammate.

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Protoypical Patriots: What they want on the O-line - Smart, tough, athletic

Protoypical Patriots: What they want on the O-line - Smart, tough, athletic

Before the Super Bowl, Dante Scarnecchia spoke to a small group of reporters and laid out exactly what the Patriots look for in their offensive linemen.

"We covet three things when we look for offensive linemen," Scarnecchia said. "They have to be smart, they have to be tough, and they have to be athletic enough."

PROTOTYPICAL PATRIOTS - Previously in the series:

While there's certainly more to it than that, those are the basics. Check those off the list, and you'll have a chance. Someone like Cole Croston -- an undrafted rookie out of Iowa -- was able to spend the entirety of the 2017 season on the active roster with the Patriots because he met New England's criteria. 

The Patriots have a clear need for depth at offensive tackle after Nate Solder signed with the Giants, but are there players who can come in to be an immediate stopgap on the edge? If so, who are they? And if not, which developmental prospects could be fits?

Here are some names to keep in mind on draft weekend. These "prototypes" have what the Patriots typically look for in terms of size and athleticism up front:

PROTOTYPES IN RANGE
MIKE McGLINCHEY, NOTRE DAME, 6-8, 309


I've been told by evaluators that when it comes to this class of tackles, McGlinchey might be the only one who is truly ready for regular work in the NFL. That doesn't mean others can't develop into starters -- and do so quickly. But it sounds like McGlinchey is already there, particularly in the running game. He has the requisite size that the Patriots look for. Though he's not one of the top athletes in the class (his 28.5-inch vertical is a little under what the Patriots often like), he seems athletic enough (his broad jump, for instance, was 105 inches, which meets New England's criteria). That he comes from a pro-style blocking scheme could also make him a quick fit. Scarnecchia attended McGlinchey's pro day.  

KOLTON MILLER, UCLA, 6-9, 305


Length. Athleticism. Experience in a varied offense. Miller seems to have just about everything the Patriots look for. There seem to be some technique issues that Scarnecchia will have to work with to get Miller ready to go, but he's physically impressive. His 40 time (4.95 seconds) is more than quick enough. Same goes for his 31.5-inch vertical and his 121-inch broad jump. The jumps are significant because they show explosiveness, which for linemen -- who have to operate with force in tight spaces and explode out of their stances in pass protection -- is important. Miller told me at the combine he was scheduled to meet with New England. 

CONNOR WILLIAMS, TEXAS, 6-5, 296 


Williams has been deemed a guard by some because his size isn't necessarily ideal to play on the outside. And if he were drafted by the Patriots to play tackle, he'd be on the smaller side. But at 6-5 he's about the same height as Matt Light, and his arms (33 inches) are just a hair shorter than Sebastian Vollmer's (33 1/4). Athletically, he hits every standard. His 40 (almost five seconds flat) and jumps (34-inch vertical, 112-inch broad jump) were all very good. Belichick has a good relationship with Texas coach Tom Herman, and Williams reportedly paid the Patriots a visit during the pre-draft process. 

BRIAN O'NEILL, PITT, 6-7, 297 


O'Neill, like Miller, is another athletic prospect who will need some time. The former tight end is a little light compared to players the Patriots have drafted in the past. (Even Tony Garcia, whose knock against him was that he was light, weighed 302 pounds at the combine last year.) But athletically there are some eye-popping traits. He ran a 4.82-second 40-yard dash and had a 7.14-second three-cone drill. His jumps were good but not out-of-this-world (28.5 vertical, 107-inch broad). 

BRADEN SMITH, AUBURN, 6-6, 315


How much does arm length matter? If the answer for the Patriots is "a heckuva lot" then Smith may not be deemed a fit. His arms measured 32 1/4 inches, which would be shortest for any tackle they've ever drafted. Otherwise? He's just about what they're looking for. Trusted player in the SEC. Tough. Good height. Good athlete. He ran a 5.22-second 40, benched 35 reps, jumped 33.5 inches and broad-jumped 113 inches. 

IMPERFECT BUT INTRIGUING
TYRELL CROSBY, OREGON, 6-5, 309
 


Crosby measured in at 6-4 and one-half inch, earning him the "6-5" listing by a hair. And his arm-length (32 1/4 inches) are short. But athletically he's solid -- 30-inch vertical, 105-inch broad jump -- and he's considered to have good toughness. Late on Day 2 could be the right time to pounce if he's available. 

JAMARCO JONES, OHIO STATE, 6-4, 299


Jones is short but his arm length (35 1/8 inches) might make up for what he lacks in height. Athletically he's not outstanding. His 40-yard dash time is slower than what the Patriots typically like (5.5 seconds), and his jumps were nothing to write home about (24-inch vertical, 102-inch broad jump). But the Ohio State connection, where the coaching staff has obvious connections to New England and the offense is relatively balanced, could help him get drafted in the middle rounds. 

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Reports: Patriots open with Texans at Gillette

Reports: Patriots open with Texans at Gillette

The Patriots will open the regular season by hosting the Houston Texans at 1 p.m. at Gillette Stadium, according to multiple reports.

The NFL scheduled will officially be released tonight at 8, but Jeff Howe of The Athletic, among others, tweeted the 2018-19 schedule earlier Thursday. 

Marc Bertrand of 98.5 The SportsHub, host of the Patriots radio network's pre- and postgame shows, was first to tweet some of the schedule details, including the opener.

The Patriots beat the Texans 34-16 in an AFC Divisional Playoff game in January in Foxboro and lost to Houston 36-33 in Week 3 of the regular season at Gillette. Rookie quarterback DeShaun Watson threw for 301 yards and two touchdowns in the Week 3 game but missed the playoff game after a season-ending ACL injury in October. He's aiming to return for the season-opener.

The Week 3 Sunday night matchup with the Lions will be a reunion with former Pats defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, now the head coach in Detroit.

The Pats have back-to-back prime-time games with a Monday night matchup in Buffalo on Oct. 29 and a Sunday night game at Gillette against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers Nov. 4.

After a bye in Week 11, the Patriots finish with mainly AFC East opponents in four of their final six games. There's also a rematch with the Steelers at Pittsburgh in Week 15 on Dec. 16, almost exactly a year after New England won there 27-24 after an end-zone interception and controversial reversed call on apparent Steelers TD to help clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

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