Patriots

Lewis shows he can still make people miss in return to game action

Lewis shows he can still make people miss in return to game action

You never would have known that Dion Lewis had his knee cut open twice in less than a year. You never would have known that he had returned to Patriots practice less than a month ago. You never would have known that Sunday's matchup against the 49ers was his first game back. 

The only way you would have known was by looking at the snap counts after the game. Lewis played in 21 of a possible 77, indicating that the Patriots wanted to work him back into game action relatively slowly. But what he did in those snaps was reminiscent of what he did in the first half of last season when he established himself as one of the game's most dynamic all-purpose backs in the league. 

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Lewis was on the field to start the game for the Patriots, and he was targeted twice during their first offensive drive. He finished the game with eight touches, including five rushing attempts for 24 yards and three catches for 25 yards. He changed direction quickly and he made three tacklers miss. 

"That's the best feeling," Lewis said after the win. "Being out there with my teammates after you get a big win. I don't like watching. I had to watch a lot of games over the past year. It's always tough watching. I know every play that's going to happen so I watch it from a different angle than everybody else. It's tough from that part. But just happy to be back out there with the guys."

On Lewis' first touch -- a nine-yard pickup -- he made one man miss and scooted ahead for a first down on third-and-three. Lewis flashed his trademark elusiveness again at the end of the first half, when he took a handoff, bounced outside, left a tackler in his wake, and picked up 12 yards for first down. 

He explained after the game that there was no trepidation on his part when it came to putting any kind of stress on the knee that required two surgeries before it was good to go for this season -- one to repair his ACL after it was torn in Week 9 of last year, and one to repair the patella fracture he suffered before training camp. 

"I knew I could do that," Lewis said. "If I didn't think I could do the same stuff, I wouldn't have been out there today."

He added: "Just gotta get used to it. Playing the game, I felt good. My body feels good. I feel the same as I always felt. Just gotta get back in rhythm. The more reps I get, the more comfortable I'll be."

Lewis' addition could end up being a boon for the Patriots offense as he provides the team with one of the more difficult players to tackle in the NFL. Last season, he forced 43 missed tackles -- 24 receiving, 19 rushing, accoding to Pro Football Focus -- in just seven games. He can line up in the backfield as a lone tailback or he can align alongside James White to give the team two receiving options out of the backfield, a formation the Patriots used on Sunday. He can also line up out wide and serve a receiver's role. 

Getting regular-season game reps on Sunday was just another step in the right direction for Lewis as he makes his way back to the form he showed last season. Happy as he was to have been in uniform and competing with his teammates for the first time in a long time, he considered it an inevitability.

"It's challenging, but it can make you or it can break you," Lewis said. "I've been through a lot worse stuff than this. I've been through a lot worse stuff than not being able to play and being hurt. The things I've been through in my life, preparing for this moment, I always push through."

Two years after clutch Super Bowl performance, Malcolm Mitchell retires from football

Two years after clutch Super Bowl performance, Malcolm Mitchell retires from football

The last time Malcolm Mitchell left the site of a game that mattered, he did so nonchalantly. He carried a to-go plate in one hand, a half-eaten wing in the other. 

He'd just caught six passes for 70 yards and helped the Patriots win Super Bowl LI. I spoke to him about how two weeks prior, on the fields behind Gillette Stadium, he hadn't been playing like a guy who would come up with some of the most critical plays in the last game of the season. He'd been dealing with some drops. He admitted they were probably the result of over-thinking his Super Bowl prep. 

Mitchell was thankful, remembering how he flipped the switch, that Tom Brady pulled him aside at the time and told him to focus on one play at a time. Mitchell smiled, strolling through the bowels of NRG Stadium in the direction of the team’s Super Bowl party as one of its most promising young players fresh off a championship.

At that point, who knew how many more big-game performances Mitchell would put together over the course of his career?

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As it turned out, he wouldn’t play in another game outside of a preseason contest in Houston the following summer. Mitchell announced at an event at the University of Georgia this week, more than two years after that clutch performance against the Falcons, that he was retiring from football. 

He followed up his announcement with an instagram post that read in part, “Everything will work out.”

Mitchell’s knees wouldn’t allow him to continue his career after spending a portion of last offseason with the Patriots. Though he’s been gone for almost a full calendar year, his absence is still felt at One Patriot Place. 

The fourth-round pick in 2016 — who fell that far in part because of injury concerns — was the most productive rookie receiver the Patriots had featured since Deion Branch in 2002. Receiver remains among the most glaring needs on the Patriots roster as they work to build around Julian Edelman. 

Mitchell’s football career was short-lived, but his one year in New England — and in particular that one night beating up on Falcons corners — has given him a platform to serve as a literacy advocate. He’s written children’s books and continues to speak about the importance of reading for kids from all walks of life. 

Mitchell may be done with the game for which he’s known, but his retirement announcement certainly won’t be the last we hear from him. 

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Robert Kraft trying to thread the needle with statement/apology

Robert Kraft trying to thread the needle with statement/apology

The septuagenarian speaketh. Or maketh a statement as the case may be.

Which was a good idea.

The stupidity exhibited by Patriots owner Robert Kraft leading to a month all of us gasbagging about multiple ill-fated visits to the Orchids of Asia Day Spa.

It needed input from the guy who made the decision to go there in the first place. Twice. On consecutive days.

Kraft made it clear in his statement that it wasn’t his choice to dummy up and not own his decisions. He said he wanted to do it a month ago. The lawyers wouldn’t let him.

What’s changed?

A few things.

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First, earlier this week, Florida prosecutors offered a plea deal only a drooling moron would agree to.

“We’ll drop the charges if you tell everyone you’re guilty and you know it, clap your hands…deal?”

Then Kraft let it be known that he wasn’t taking that deal and that he was still maintaining he “hadn’t done anything illegal” (a wise semantic dodge, keeping the word “innocent” out of this mess).

Then, Sheriff Buford T. Pusser 2.0 saber-rattled that video of Robert Kraft’s saber-rattling was inevitably going to get out there and that most folks might not like it.

Then, Kraft’s attorneys returned fire Friday intimating that the full legal fury of a multi-billionaire would visit upon the precinct house if that damn video – part of an investigation they allege was illegal – got out.

And of course, the NFL’s Annual Meeting convenes Sunday in Arizona and the image of Kraft scuttling from elevator to meeting room to limousine without comment for four days while his fellow owners had to answer for him was destined to be some of the worst optics since … well, since whatever’s on that video.

So what to make of the statement? I dunno.

Kraft was trying to threading the needle between apologizing without admitting guilt while saying, “I’ve been meaning to tell you this for a long time but couldn’t…” On that front, it worked.  

Also, without saying the women he interacted with were specifically disrespected by him, he at least acknowledged that transactional sex in general isn’t the highest form of love.

Personally, I loathe that he brought up Myra Kraft in the statement. Regardless how important she was in shaping your morals and respect for women and how deep your love for her continues to be, references to her in a statement regarding? What are we doing?

The last bit expecting to be judged by his words and not his actions and working to regain trust? Good. Fine. ‘Nuf said.

We are a long way from reaching the point of, “Remember when Kraft got pinched at the massage joint …” and having a good nostalgic laugh about it, though.

There’s a court date next Thursday. The ever-present specter of the video being released is dangling. The NFL has to decide how it proceeds with punishment.

There are miles to go before we sleep but at least Kraft’s head can hit the pillow tonight knowing he’s publicly acknowledged … something.

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