Patriots

How Patriots defense could struggle with Amari Cooper, Cowboys' receivers

How Patriots defense could struggle with Amari Cooper, Cowboys' receivers

The New England Patriots will face one of their toughest opponents of the season in the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday afternoon.

While the offense continues to struggle, frustrating Tom Brady, the defense has been a game-changer throughout the campaign -- helping New England eke out a 17-10 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles last weekend. 

The only time the defense really struggled this season was when it allowed 37 points to the Lamar Jackson-led Baltimore Ravens in Week 9. With a similar offensive style to the Ravens, Dallas could potentially shred the Patriots defense if given the opportunity.

Wide receivers Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Randall Cobb and Tavon Austin have combined for 141 catches, 2,149 yards and 13 touchdowns this season. 37-year-old tight end Jason Witten also has 41 receptions for 371 yards and two TDs.

None of those receivers would be having such great seasons if it weren't for quarterback Dak Prescott. The 26-year-old's 3,221 passing yards lead all NFL quarterbacks, and his 21 touchdowns rank second behind Russell Wilson -- he'll be just as dangerous, if not more dangerous than the receivers.

The combination of speed and skill the offense brings to the Cowboys' lineup has caused Patriots' cornerbacks coach Mike Pellegrino to take notice. 

“These guys can keep you up at night,” Pellegrino said of Dallas' wide receivers on a Tuesday conference call. 

And it's no surprise as to why Dallas ranks first in total yards per game and sixth in scoring. So, the Prescott-led Cowboys could potentially cause New England some problems -- and Pellegrino alluded to that. 

“We’ve got Cooper, Cobb, Gallup and then you’ve got Austin,” Pellegrino said. “Starting with the coaching staff over there, they’ve done a great job with these guys – the OC, [Kellen] Moore, and the wide receiver coach, Sanjay [Lal]. ... We’ve got our work cut out for us this week and we’re excited for the opportunity to go against these guys. It should be a good challenge for us.”

Although they pose a challenge, the Patriots also have a few notable players with some pretty impressive stats on the defensive side of the ball. Devin McCourty is tied for first in the NFL with five interceptions, while Jamie Collins and Stephon Gilmore (among others) are tied for fifth with three. 

It's clear that Sunday's matchup will be a good one -- especially considering the two are leading their respective divisions. 

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That 617 Life Podcast: Who made who? Bill Belichick or Tom Brady

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

That 617 Life Podcast: Who made who? Bill Belichick or Tom Brady

The people's court is now in session. The topic of debate: Who made who, Bill Belichick or Tom Brady?

The two New England Patriots greats will always be inextricably linked for the success they've had in creating the Patriots dynasty. Together, the duo has won six Super Bowl titles and has overseen the most dominant two-decade stretch in NFL history.

Still, the question of who is chiefly responsible for the team's success has long been a debate among the New England faithful. And this week, Shanda, Cerrone, and Leroy take a deeper dive into the case for both sides on the latest episode of "That 617 Life Podcast".

Cerrone kicks off the "trial" by defending Brady, arguing that his on-field play and his arrival to the team snapped the Patriots out of the funk that they were in for most of the early part of their franchise's existence.

[The Patriots] were the team that nobody wanted to use in TecmoBowl. Now, for everybody in America, you're cheating if you use Tom Brady in Madden.

Furthermore, from Cerrone:

There's teams in the NFL over the past 20 years that still haven't defeated Tom Brady. Still, over 20 seasons. There are organizations and fan bases that still have not seen a victory in front of Tom Brady.

As for the case for Belichick, Leroy laid out a simple case for Belichick and called him "possibly the greatest coach in sports history."

Hear more of the trial and thoughts on the latest Boston sports stories on the latest episode of the "That 617 Life Podcast", which drops every Friday as part of the NBC Sports Boston podcast network.

CURRAN: Are we watching Brady's final day with the Patriots?>>>

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Report: Patriots expected to re-sign Nick Folk on Saturday

Report: Patriots expected to re-sign Nick Folk on Saturday

It's no longer a mystery who will kick for the New England Patriots vs. the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.

The Patriots are expected to officially re-sign Nick Folk on Saturday, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. Folk was released by the team and replaced with Kai Forbath prior to last week's game vs. the Houston Texans after undergoing an appendectomy.

In three games with the Patriots this season, Folk has made seven of nine field goals and all three extra-point attempts. 

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