Patriots

Michael Bennett miffed by lack of playing time in Patriots-Giants

Michael Bennett miffed by lack of playing time in Patriots-Giants

The New England Patriots have been historically dominant on defense this season. Must be because of the Pro Bowl defensive end they traded for in March, right?

One would think. But Michael Bennett was mostly a spectator Thursday night at Gillette Stadium, playing just 11 defensive snaps and failing to record any defensive stats in New England's 35-14 win over the New York Giants.

That snap total, Bennett's lowest of the season, continued a curious trend of decreased playing time for the talented veteran. Here's a look at Bennett's defensive snap totals by week, via Pro Football Reference:

Week 1: 37 (55 percent of total defensive snaps)
Week 2: 25 (40 percent)
Week 3: 19 (38 percent)
Week 4: 24 (30 percent)
Week 5: 14 (25 percent)
Week 6: 11 (22 percent)

Bennett has played in a lower percentage on New England's snaps every week since starting in the season opener. So, what gives?

Even Bennett isn't sure.

"I don’t know what’s happening,” Bennett told Greg Bedard of the Boston Sports Journal after Thursday's game. “You have to ask (head coach) Bill (Belichick). I wish I knew. If I had a better answer, I would tell you."

“You’ve got to ask them, man. I’m just trying to do what they ask me to do."

That doesn't sound like a guy who's thrilled with his current role.

Belichick commended Bennett earlier this week for "embrac(ing) what we've asked him to do," and suggested Bennett's reduced role is simply a byproduct of the team's deep defensive depth chart.

"We rotate a lot," Belichick told reporters Tuesday. "I mean, we’ve played 20 players on defense the last four or five weeks. So naturally, when you start splitting it up between 20 guys, that’s what you’re going to get. Show me how many teams play 20 players on defense."

Defensive ends Deatrich Wise Jr., Chase Winovich and John Simon all out-snapped Bennett on Thursday night. And in truth, the Patriots' defense hasn't really needed him: The unit has allowed just three defensive touchdowns amid a 6-0 start.

It's possible New England is keeping Bennett fresh for its much more challenging schedule down the stretch. Bennett probably is hoping that's the case, as he's not really earning his two-year, $16.75 million contract from a statistical standpoint right now.

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Did Eagles pump in crowd noise vs. Patriots? Tom Brady 'didn't notice'

Did Eagles pump in crowd noise vs. Patriots? Tom Brady 'didn't notice'

Philadelphia Eagles fans gave Tom Brady and the New England Patriots an expectedly rude welcome Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

But did "The Linc" take matters into its own hands to make that welcome a little more rude?

As Brady took the field for the Patriots' first drive, 98.5 The Sports Hub color analyst Scott Zolak made an interesting observation on the radio broadcast: From his vantage point in the booth, it sounded like the Eagles were pumping in artificial crowd noise.

A stadium playing fake noise through its speakers is a punishable offense; just ask the Atlanta Falcons, who were fined and docked a 2016 fifth-round NFL Draft pick for a similar offense in 2015.

The Eagles haven't formally been accused of anything, as we only have Zolak's speculation as of Monday morning. But WEEI's "The Greg Hill" show still asked Brady about Zolak's observation Monday morning, and the Patriots quarterback seemed pleased by what Zolak may have uncovered.

"Good job, Zo! I like it," Brady said.

Alas, the 42-year-old QB couldn't corroborate Zolak's story.

"I didn’t notice, but again, those are not the things I would notice. Loud is loud. At one point when you can’t hear, basically it’s like 'loud' and then 'louder,' but you’re really not going to notice the difference much."

Brady and the Patriots offense also rely on silent snap counts and hand signals during road games, so if there was some extra crowd noise, he wasn't rattled by it.

"Once it’s to the point where we have non-verbal communication, it kind of is what it is," Brady said.

Brady and the Patriots offense did just enough to grind out a 17-10 win over Philly and improve to 9-1. They're on to next week's matchup with the Dallas Cowboys, while we'll have to wait and see if anything more comes out of Sunday's "loud" crowd in Philly.

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NFL playoff picture Week 11: Patriots, Ravens in exciting race for AFC's top seed

NFL playoff picture Week 11: Patriots, Ravens in exciting race for AFC's top seed

The New England Patriots protected their lead atop the AFC standings in Week 11 with a 17-10 road win over the Philadelphia Eagles, improving their record to 9-1.

The defending Super Bowl champs suffered their first loss in Week 9 with a lackluster 37-20 defeat to the Baltimore Ravens, but they recovered nicely after a Week 10 bye to keep their grip on the conference's No. 1 seed. Tom Brady and Co.'s margin of error remains razor thin, though, because the Ravens have the tiebreaker advantage as a result of their head-to-head win two weeks ago.

If it wasn't already clear Baltimore is a legit Super Bowl contender, quarterback Lamar Jackson made it quite evident Sunday by leading a 41-7 trouncing of the Houston Texans.

Both the Patriots and Ravens have tough Week 12 matchups on deck. The Pats will host the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys, while the Ravens will face the defending NFC champion Los Angeles Rams on the road.

The Texans dropped from the No. 3 seed to the No. 6 seed as a result of Sunday's defeat, but they lead the Oakland Raiders for the second wild-card spot because of the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Raiders extended their win streak to three games with a 17-10 victory versus the winless Cincinnati Bengals.

The Colts earned a comfortable 33-13 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars to move back into the AFC South lead.

The Kansas Chiefs have the AFC West lead over the Raiders (via the head-to-head tiebreaker) entering their Monday night matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers. It's basically a must-win game for the Chargers, who are 4-6.

The Buffalo Bills continued to ride a soft schedule to a potential wild card berth. Buffalo beat the Miami Dolphins 37-20 on Sunday.

The NFC race is going to be absolutely wild down the stretch. There are five teams with an 8-3 record or better, and the fight for the top two seeds -- which mean a first-round playoff bye -- will be a lot of fun to watch. The best game of Week 12 is a matchup between the Chiefs and Green Bay Packers on "Sunday Night Football" that will impact the playoff race in both conferences.

Here's the updated NFL playoff picture after Sunday's Week 11 games.

AFC
1. New England Patriots, 9-1 (AFC East leader)
2. Baltimore Ravens, 8-2 (AFC North leader)
3. Indianapolis Colts, 6-4 (AFC South leader)
4. Kansas City Chiefs, 6-4 (AFC West leader)
5. Buffalo Bills, 7-3 (First Wild Card)
6. Houston Texans, 6-4 (Second Wild Card)

In the Hunt
7. Oakland Raiders, 6-4
8. Pittsburgh Steelers, 5-5
9. Tennessee Titans, 5-5

NFC
1. San Francisco 49ers, 9-1 (NFC West leader)
2. Green Bay Packers, 8-2 (NFC North leader)
3. New Orleans Saints, 8-2 (NFC South leader)
4. Dallas Cowboys, 6-4 (NFC East leader)
5. Seattle Seahawks, 8-2 (First Wild Card)
6. Minnesota Vikings, 8-3 (Second Wild Card)

In the Hunt
7. Los Angeles Rams, 6-4
8. Philadelphia Eagles, 5-5
9. Carolina Panthers, 5-5

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