Five thoughts from Patriots-Jets: Gronkowski a force in return to action


Five thoughts from Patriots-Jets: Gronkowski a force in return to action

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Here are five quick-hitting thoughts from the Patriots' 24-17 victory over the Jets on Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium . . . 

1) Rob Gronkowski looked just fine in his return to action after missing last week's win over the Bucs due to a thigh injury. His two-yard score at the end of the first half tied the game, but it was perhaps his easiest grab of the afternoon. Matched up on shorter defenders like safety Jamal Adams (6-foot-1) and Darron Lee (6-foot-1), Gronkowski used his size advantage to pick up big gains that included a long pass-interference call on Adams that set up Dion Lewis' second-quarter score. Early in the third quarter, Gronkowski beat Adams for a short grab that turned into a 33-yard touchdown after he turned on the afterburners to out-race Jets defenders to the front corner of the end zone. On a day when Tom Brady's accuracy wasn't quite what it has been for much of the season, having his big tight end back in the fold made a significant difference for a Patriots offense that struggled to get into the end zone in Tampa. 


2. Dion Lewis finally got his opportunity to run wild. As usual, he looked like the most elusive back the Patriots had in uniform. He consistently found running room when it looked like there was none. Early in the third quarter he spun out of traffic and out-ran a defender for 11 yards. In the second quarter he had a three-yard run that should've gone for zero or less. Once Mike Gillislee fumbled in the first quarter, Lewis took over the lead-back role and produced. Gillislee got back onto the field in the third quarter, but Lewis still beat his previous high this season for snaps (18) and carries (7) easily: He ran 11 times for 52 yards and a goal-line score. 

3. Tom Brady's accuracy didn't seem to be quite at the level it has been for much of the season. Hard to tell if he's been hampered by the left shoulder injury that has limited him in practice, but there were a handful of throws that looked uncharacteristically off the mark. Two passes to Chris Hogan over the middle (one of which was caught) were thrown well behind Brady's intended target. He choked one pass to Danny Amendola that fell incomplete early in the second quarter. He was picked by Buster Skrine deep down the middle of the field on a throw to Phillip Dorsett, and he should've been picked by Skrine on New England's previous drive when he missed Gronkowski badly on an out-route. There were really well-thrown passes to Brandin Cooks (a 42-yarder dropped in the bucket to set up Gronkowski's score at the end of the first half) and Gronkowski (a 25-yarder in the second quarter that Gronkowski plucked off of the top of Darron Lee's helmet), but Brady wasn't as consistently pinpoint as he has been for much of the season. 

4. The Patriots benefited from an unusual call midway through the fourth quarter when Austin Sefarian-Jenkins appeared to plow over the front corner of the end zone for a touchdown. But the entirety of MetLife Stadium knew something was up when the review -- which happens in New York following every score -- took longer than expected. It was ruled that Seferian-Jenkins lost the football before crossing the goal line and was not able to re-establish in bounds before falling out of bounds with the ball secured. Therefore, it was ruled a fumble out of the end zone, leading to a touchback and a change in possession. Given the time of the game and the score at the time (24-14, Patriots), it was huge swing. Credit should go to Malcolm Butler for punching out the football late in the play. That may end up being one clip that Bill Belichick uses in the future to explain why exactly players can't give up on plays at any point in a given down. 

5. While Josh McCown was able to pick apart the Patriots secondary for chunk plays throughout the course of the game, Belichick's run defense was as stout as it has been all season. The Jets came into the contest with a top-15 running game, statistically, yet they were held to about three yards per carry. Malcom Brown and Lawrence Guy were particularly effective in terms of swallowing up Jets backs in the middle of the Patriots defensive line, finding themselves involved in multiple run stuffs of two yards or less. The Patriots were 29th in the league in rush yards per attempt allowed (5.0) coming into Sunday. 


Will Tua Tagovailoa start at QB for Dolphins in Week 1 vs. Patriots?

Will Tua Tagovailoa start at QB for Dolphins in Week 1 vs. Patriots?

Ryan Fitzpatrick led the Dolphins offense and beat the New England Patriots in Week 17 of the 2019 season, but will he still be the starting quarterback when Miami makes its next trip to Gillette Stadium?

The Patriots and Dolphins will open their 2020 schedule with a Week 1 matchup in Foxboro.

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Fitzpatrick did well to lead the Dolphins to a 5-4 record over their final nine games of last season following the team's abysmal 0-7 start. There's no guarantee he'll be the starter next season, though, because the Dolphins selected Alabama star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with the No. 5 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Tagovailoa, if healthy, has a chance to be Miami's first franchise quarterback since Dan Marino, who retired in 2000. The debate isn't whether Tagovailoa is the quarterback of the future in Miami, it's when should he get his chance to shine.

It's possible that opportunity could come right off the bat against the Patriots in the 2020 season opener. Here's what Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman wrote in his 10-Point Stance column Wednesday:

The more compelling question isn't whether Tagovailoa starts at some point this year; it's whether he will start at the beginning of it. And according to every coach I've spoken to, it's a forgone conclusion that he will beat out veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick and start Week 1 against the Patriots on Sept. 13.

Tagovailoa has incredible talent and would pose some challenges for the Patriots defense with his dual-threat skill set, but in terms of leaving Gillette Stadium with a win, history is not on his side.

Bill Belichick is 20-5 overall and 13-0 at home versus rookie quarterbacks in his career as Patriots head coach. The most recent rookie QB to lose to the Patriots was Daniel Jones of the New York Giants at Gillette Stadium in Week 6 of last season.

The Dolphins, however, will be confident in Week 1 against the Patriots regardless of who starts at quarterback. They upset the Patriots in Foxboro in their last meeting, and Miami then spent the summer upgrading its roster in a major way through free agency and the draft.

Tagovailoa should get a chance to shine in 2020, and there would be no better way for him to kick off his NFL career than beating the Patriots in their own backyard.

Patriots players should relate to Bucs lineman's Tom Brady observation

Patriots players should relate to Bucs lineman's Tom Brady observation

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are getting the greatest quarterback of all time -- and the media circus that comes with him.

Tom Brady's offseason move from the New England Patriots to the Bucs has heightened the seemingly constant attention he attracts.

Brady's new teammates also are feeling that attention, as Tampa Bay went from mediocre obscurity to an exciting franchise with lofty expectations.

Just ask Bucs offensive guard Ali Marpet, who's been with the Bucs since 2015 and has never seen this much hullabaloo.

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"There’s certainly more media coverage than there ever has been since I’ve been on the team," Marpet told reporters Wednesday, via "There’s certainly a lot of media coverage so there’s expectations, those you see on NFL Network or whatever and then there’s also our own internal expectations and those, for me, have always been the same.

"It’s always, are we going to the Super Bowl? That’s been the same conversation I’ve had with guys since being here."

Marpet's observation should sound familiar to Brady's ex-Patriots teammates: If No. 12 is on your team, expect to be in the news every day, and expect talking heads to debate your Super Bowl chances on a daily basis.

The Bucs aren't exactly shying away from the hype, though. Linebacker Shaquil Barrett said he believes Brady makes Tampa Bay an "automatic" Super Bowl contender, while Marpet also is excited to block for the six-time Super Bowl champion.

The team's starting left guard doesn't plan on changing his approach with Brady under center, however.

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"I’m fired up to be able to play with someone who’s had so much success in the NFL,” Marpet said. "But I think with how I approach each game and blocking for him, it’s not like whether you’re blocking for Jameis [Winston] or blocking for Brady it makes that much of a difference.

"For me, I’m always doing the best job that I can, and that’s what I’ll continue to do whether it’s Jameis or Brady or [Ryan Griffin] or Blaine [Gabbert]."

Bill Belichick's Patriots expertly managed expectations under Brady by downplaying hype and emphasizing the "Do Your Job" mantra.

Can the Bucs do the same in 2020, or will the hype machine work against them as some predict?