Patriots

Curran: Patriots offense lacking but team is still great in its totality

Curran: Patriots offense lacking but team is still great in its totality

If you were expecting 30-point blowouts every seven days like it was your birthright, well, that’s on you.

The Patriots don’t have the horses on offense to pull that off right now and there are teams – like the Buffalo Bills – who can give resistance.

What you saw Sunday in the Patriots 16-10 win was a Patriots team that played exactly as they are equipped right now. On offense, they don’t have the wideouts, the tight ends, the rhythm or the bodies to just hang touchdowns on teams whenever they want to.

Especially on the road against a team with a capable defense – and Buffalo’s surely is that.

Maybe the Patriots will get there. They always seem to. But right now, they aren’t close – as Tom Brady’s been warning everyone about since training camp. They are inexperienced at wideout when you get past Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett. They are wafer-thin at tight end. Their running game without fullback James Develin and a backup named Marshall Newhouse playing left tackle isn’t very scary.

There are plenty of teams they can roll out of bed and give a whipping to anyway. They saw two of them to start the year and put 76 points up.

But since scoring touchdowns on their first three possessions in last week’s win over the Jets, the Patriots have had 22 offensive possessions resulting in 16 punts, two field goals, two interceptions and two touchdowns. It’s a full-fledged funk and a defense like the Bills was able to shine a light on it.

The other thing brought to light? This defense isn’t just good enough to make bad quarterbacks look really bad. It’s also good enough to smash the propaganda around a purportedly improving quarterback like Josh Allen and leave him throwing passes that look like punts.

Had it not been for the erratic Allen and his overcaffeinated, game mismanaging, ready to fight everyone head coach Sean McDermott, maybe Buffalo could have won this one.

Against the 2018 Patriots, they probably would have. They held the Patriots to 5 of 18 on third down and addled Brady to the point he had a half-dozen throwaways, a number of high throws caused by busy feet and a bad pick in the end zone.

But even as the Bills took over with 3:09 left needing a touchdown, there was no sinking feeling that Matt Barkley was going to orchestrate some heart-stopping jaunt to the end zone to put the Bills in first place and the Patriots left explaining what in God’s name happened to the team that was maybe going 19-0?

At some point, they were going to short-circuit. And they did, courtesy of Kyle Van Noy.

The Patriots are just so much better than other teams in their totality – coaching, game management, special teams, quarterback, defense – that one unit can be almost totally ineffective and this year, they will get away with it. Even against a decent team in a hostile stadium.

The Patriots have the Redskins next and that means they either get Dwayne Haskins, Case Keenum, Colt McCoy or Billy Kilmer. None of the above have a prayer of putting up double digits on this defense and a lame-duck coach like Jay Gruden isn’t going to get a blood-and-guts performance from his guys. The Patriots are as good as 5-0 without even taking the trip down there.

Four days later, they’ll turn around and host the Giants on Thursday night and eviscerate them. So 6-0 is nigh, despite the offensive “things to work through.”

After that, the games get more interesting. What relevance will this Bills game have by then? Will it have been a wakeup call or a sign of things to come?

Best & Worst from Patriots' Week 4 win>>>>>

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Awesome NFL video highlights all 36 turnovers forced by Patriots defense in 2019

Awesome NFL video highlights all 36 turnovers forced by Patriots defense in 2019

The New England Patriots defense ranked among the NFL's best in 2019, and a huge reason for this unit's success was its ability to force turnovers.

The Patriots forced the second-most turnovers in the league with 36 during the regular season. They also led the league with 25 interceptions and a plus-21 turnover differential. Veteran cornerback Stephon Gilmore tied for the league lead with six interceptions and was named AP Defensive Player of the Year.

It's safe to say the Patriots defense was aggressive and opportunistic throughout 2019, and it certainly helped overcome some of the team's offensive struggles during the second half of the campaign.

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Check out all of the turnovers forced by New England's defense last season in the video below:

The Patriots' Super Bowl title defense ended surprisingly early with an AFC Wild Card loss to the Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium. The defense played pretty well, holding the Titans to just 13 offensive points. Tom Brady and his offense couldn't generate much of anything versus the Titans defense, though, and the Patriots lost 20-13.

New England's defense could look much different in 2020. The unit has several key players eligible for unrestricted free agency, including safety Devin McCourty, linebackers Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy, and defensive tackle Danny Shelton, among others.

Curran: Where things stand for Brady, Pats a month from free agency

Chris Simms' Tom Brady-Ryan Tannehill take may grind Patriots fans' gears

Chris Simms' Tom Brady-Ryan Tannehill take may grind Patriots fans' gears

We can understand Derrick Henry supporting Ryan Tannehill amid speculation that Tom Brady may consider joining to the Tennessee Titans.

Tannehill is Henry's quarterback, after all. He's not going to throw him under the bus.

But Chris Simms has no stake in the game -- and still believes the Titans would be better off with Tannehill than the six-time Super Bowl champion in 2020.

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Here's Simms on Wednesday's edition of NBC Sports PFT Live with Mike Florio:

 

"Everybody out there: You're crazy!" Simms said. "Tom Brady is not better than Ryan Tannehill right now! I'm just sorry! 

"I know Tom Brady is arguably the greatest quarterback ever, certainly the most accomplished. (He's) the man. But that doesn't mean he's the best in 2020."

Simms didn't stop there, suggesting the Titans may not have defeated the Patriots in the AFC Divisional Round if Brady was under center instead of Tannehill.

"The Titans weren't a team that had weapons galore," Simms said "They didn't have great weapons (either). We didn't really know about A.J. Brown until Ryan Tannehill got in there."

Got all that, Patriots fans?

This kind of take is nothing new from Simms, who ranked Brady as the NFL's ninth-best quarterback last summer and put Matthew Stafford ahead of the 14-time Pro Bowler at the midseason point.

He's also not wrong that Tannehill was excellent last season, leading the NFL in yards per attempt (9.6) and ranking second in touchdown percentage (7.7 percent) while going 7-3 as Tennessee's starter.

But 10 starts do not an elite quarterback make -- especially a QB who had the NFL's 2019 leading rusher (Henry) taking the heat off him.

Were Brady's numbers worse than Tannehill's in 2019? Sure. His 6.6 yards per attempt were the second-lowest of his career, while his 3.9 touchdown percentage represented his lowest rate ever.

As Patriots fans will tell you, though, Brady also helped a team with a revolving door of mediocre offensive weapons score the seventh-most points in the NFL while finishing 12-4.

All debates aside, the money could prove Brady's worth compared to Tannehill: The former may command north of $30 million in free agency, while the latter might be several million below that number.

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