Patriots

After horrible game, Sam Darnold still can be difference maker for Jets

After horrible game, Sam Darnold still can be difference maker for Jets

The New England Patriots dominated the New York Jets 33-0 Monday night, and Sam Darnold was atrocious. The second-year quarterback finished 11-of-32 for 84 yards, 4 interceptions, and a lost fumble. He posted a quarterback rankings of 3.6.

Tom Curran discussed the Jets quarterback with Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, and it sounds like the blame needs to be put on multiple people -- not just Darnold.

"It's partly Gase, partly the offensive line, partly Darnold," Mehta told Curran on Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast. "You're right, Darnold was terrible. He panicked, his footwork was absolutely brutal."

"I'm not going to blame the offensive line coach and then absolve the offensive coordinator because that, in effect, is what Gase does and you need to work in tandem with your offensive line coach to figure out protections and what particular blitz is going to entail. I'm not saying it's all on Gase, because it's clearly not on Gase. But I can't absolve Gase, I think it's a collective effort. Everybody was at fault."

While everyone is to blame, it's easy to acknowledge that Darnold wasn't great on Monday, and Bill Belichick's defense played a role in the Jets QB's misery.

"He didn't see the field well at all. It really, completely the opposite of the week earlier when he saw the field really well against Dallas," Mehta said. "And as you said earlier, this is a great defense. Clearly it's the best defense in the NFL, better than San Francisco. It was a terrible performance, his worst performance in college or the pros. That doesn't mean he's scarred for life. I think the ghost comment will probably stick for a while."

"From what I saw yesterday, they play such smart football," Mehta said. "I don't know how Belichick teaches it or coaches it, but they had that Jets offensive line confused."

While Darnold had one of the worst games of his career, Mehta still thinks Darnold still will have success in the NFL.

"He's shown enough to me that he can still be a very good player. I'm not going to bury a guy after one horrible performance on national TV just because of what I've seen prior to that. I think he'll bounce back. I think he'll play much better and I haven't moved off my stance all along back when he was at USC. I think this guy can be a difference-making player."

Darnold will need to have a huge bounce-back performance for New York against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday if he wants to boost his confidence.

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Bucs QB coach Clyde Christensen: Narrative of Tom Brady drop-off 'is dead off base'

Bucs QB coach Clyde Christensen: Narrative of Tom Brady drop-off 'is dead off base'

One of the concerns surrounding Tom Brady in free agency was his age. He is set to turn 43 before the start of the 2020 NFL season is the oldest player currently on a roster.

So naturally, that begs the question, is Brady set to take a step back soon? Or has he already started regressing?

In the opinion of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback coach Clyde Christensen, Brady hasn't dropped off one bit in recent seasons.

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On a recent episode of The Pat McAfee Show, Brady's new QB coach spoke to the former NFL punter about Brady's arm strength and accuracy. And Christensen had one takeaway after watching Brady's tape this offseason. He is still doing just fine.

There is nothing on the film that shows he is dropping off accuracy wise, arm strength wise.

And just how is Christensen so sure of that? He went back and watched every throw that Brady has made the past four years to determine it.

I watched every throw of his for four years and couldn’t see any drop off whatsoever. Anyone who says that he can’t [throw the ball] - just is talking. They haven’t watched the film. He makes every throw.

Now, some years they had fast guys and they threw that ball up the field. Some years they didn’t. This year they didn’t and they threw more checkdowns. Any time he got his opportunity, that ball went up and usually extremely successfully.

I think that narrative is dead off base and if I thought that way we probably wouldn’t have gone after him. He is playing at an extremely high level.

Christensen also coached Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck in his time with the Indianapolis Colts, so he would know about QBs playing at a high level. And he could be right about Brady, who still has something left in the tank and, though coming off a down year, isn't very far removed from being an MVP-caliber player.

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While Brady did have one of his worst seasons in 2019, it still wasn't bad. At 42, he completed 60.8 percent of his passes, logged 4,057 passing yards, 24 touchdowns, and eight interceptions as he led the Patriots to a 12-4 record despite lacking weapons on offense.

Brady mainly targeted Julian Edelman, who was nursing a shoulder injury for a good chunk of the season. Mohamed Sanu (also injured), Phillip Dorsett, and N'Keal Harry rounded out his receiving corps. As for his tight ends, they were virtually non-existent.

Brady was markedly better from 2016-18 when he had a capable tight end target in Rob Gronkowski and healthier receivers. In those three seasons, Brady averaged a 66.4 percent completion rate, 4,162 passing yards, about 30 TD passes, and just seven interceptions per season. He also earned three Pro-Bowl nods, one first-team All-Pro appearance, an MVP award, and two Super Bowl rings.

The Bucs are banking on Brady showing that type of production thanks to the strong pass-catching weapons they have in Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard, and Cameron Brate. They clearly believe that he is the right guy at QB and if his arm is still as good as Christensen believes it to be, he should rebound from a down year. 

And at the very least, Brady should greatly improve the turnover woes the Bucs offense had last season with Jameis Winston at the helm. In 2019, Winston became the first NFL QB to post 30 passing TDs and 30 interceptions in the same season.

Patriots' historic dominance vs. playoff teams highlighted in this wild stat

Patriots' historic dominance vs. playoff teams highlighted in this wild stat

Many people have tried to downplay some of the New England Patriots' unprecedented success over the last 20 years by pointing out the AFC East has been among the weakest divisions in the NFL during that stretch. While the AFC East hasn't produced many winning teams outside of the Patriots this century, New England has fared just as well against quality competition around the league.

The Patriots have consistently been well-prepared to face the best teams, and a lot of that credit goes to head coach Bill Belichick. His teams are prepared for any situation, and they tailor their game plan around that week's opponent. This ability to adapt and not stick to one identity has made the Patriots difficult to scheme against. And, of course, it also helps to have had the greatest quarterback of all-time in Tom Brady leading your offense.

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Here's a crazy stat on the Patriots' record against teams that made the playoffs in that season. Even the most die-hard Patriots fans might be surprised at this win percentage.

Despite all of the Patriots' success versus playoff-caliber teams over the last two decades, they were just OK against this level of competition last season.

Here's a recap of those games:

Week 4 at Bills: 16-10 win
Week 9 at Ravens: 37-20 loss
Week 11 at Eagles: 17-10 win
Week 13 at Texans: 28-22 loss
Week 14 vs. Chiefs: 23-16 loss
Week 16 vs. Bills: 24-17 win

One of the many challenge ahead for the Patriots in 2020 is maintaining an absurd level of success against good teams with Brady no longer on the roster. Brady left the Patriots in free agency and signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jarrett Stidham, who was a rookie last season, is the most likely quarterback to start for the Patriots. 

Overcoming the loss of several important players who departed in free agency will be difficult for Belichick and his team, but oddsmakers remain confident in the Patriots' chances of being competitive next season. They have made the Patriots the favorites to win the AFC East division, and also given them the third-best odds to win the AFC in 2020.

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