Patriots

Patriots are stacking up wins, but are they improving?

Patriots are stacking up wins, but are they improving?

The 30,000-foot view of the Patriots is beautiful.

They are 5-2.

In a span of four games, they’ve scored 38, 38, 43 and 38.

They obliterated a Miami team that was 3-0 and in first place when the teams met on September 30.

They outlasted a Chiefs team last Sunday that was 5-0 and drawing favorable comparisons to the 2000 Rams and ’07 Patriots.

They’ve got Julian Edelman back. Josh Gordon’s been a weapon on the field and an ordinary, average guy off of it.

Gronk’s dinged and Sony Michel could be gone awhile, but can somebody send up a “Hallelujah!” to the offensive line and can I get an amen on that?

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LaAdrian Waddle . . . I still want to spell your name “L’Adrian Waddle” but that’s on me. Because the consistent work you do in stepping in for the consistently unavailable Marcus Cannon means you deserve to have me not have to double-check all the time. (I used to have the same issue with Le Kevin Smith but you are no Le Kevin Smith).

Nate Solder for Trent Brown could be the shrewdest move of the offseason by any team. James White does precisely what he is supposed to do. Every. Single. Time.

They have the Bills next Monday night and Buffalo is wandering through its season with a “KICK ME” sign stuck to its back.

After that, it’s home against the Packers then the bye.

Hi, we’re 7-2, what’s your name?

But spin the box around. Look at the ingredient list on the back of this delicious run of wins and see the empty calories and poisonous additives. (Yeah, I mixed that metaphor up but good. Carry on.)

The 1,200 yards and 92 points allowed over the last 10 quarters is the easy to spot high fructose corn syrup. But there’s other bad stuff.

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For the second game in a row, Tom Brady (on pace for more picks than he’s ever thrown) made a risky decision with the ball. The lollipop throw to a covered James Develin in the right flat on a third-and-2 with six minutes left was a 50-50 ball when it left Brady’s hand.

After self-flagellating last week about the strip sack he wandered into, it was surprising to see that kind of decision six days later.

Would the Patriots defense bail Brady out? Nnnnnnno.

Just like they didn’t bail out Cordarrelle Patterson after his unforced fumble on a kickoff return, or Michel after he fumbled while getting his knee corkscrewed. Turnovers = touchdowns for the Patriots.

Five straight times going back to the Colts game a Patriots turnover was turned directly into six points. Forget about forcing a punt. They aren’t even forcing field goals.

Defensively, some of the Patriots best players are failing to make routine plays.

I was sitting with former Patriot Rob Ninkovich on Sunday when Mitch Trubisky’s touchdown scramble happened. Ninkovich’s head almost popped off his shoulders because Adrian Clayborn’s rush angle allowed Trubisky to spin away into a pasture of unprotected land. Not only did Clayborn lose contain, he attacked Trubisky’s upfield shoulder, which was an invitation for a huge gain.

Stephon Gilmore dropped an end-zone pick. So did Elandon Roberts. Devin McCourty was on the scene for five touchdowns between the Colts and Chiefs games.

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Same deal with special teams. A punt bounced off Julian Edelman’s face mask. Ryan Allen booted it clean out of the end zone from the Bears 35 with 24 seconds left. (If that was the plan, it was as questionable as having Stephen Gostkowski smother-hook a kickoff last week against the Chiefs.) There was the Patterson fumble on Sunday and the 97-yard kickoff return the week before.

The Patriots took a five-yard delay of game penalty on a kickoff Sunday. At another juncture, they had to burn a timeout on defense because they had 10 men on the field.

You know what’s great about all these mean little nits I’m picking on a 5-2 team? Almost every single one of them is easily solvable.

When the least-penalized team in the league goes on an outside-the-rules binge as the Pats did Sunday, that’s an aberration.

When good players do dumb or ineffective things, you know those are the exceptions and not the rule.

The Patriots have been getting away with it but -- fortunately -- there won’t be any “Bottom line, baby! Survive and advance!” self-congratulations.

“How” the wins are earned is and always has been the standard Bill Belichick applies to his team. You don’t gloss over the dirty details just because you ended up with more points. You highlight them because they need to be eliminated.

It’s not jaw-dropping that there are still things for the Patriots to improve upon after seven games. That it’s the same things that need improving? That’s a surprise. 

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Patriots promote FB Jakob Johnson off practice squad to replace injured Pat Develin vs Jets

Patriots promote FB Jakob Johnson off practice squad to replace injured Pat Develin vs Jets

The Patriots promoted fullback Jakob Johnson off their practice squad Saturday to replace the injured James Develin in Week 3 against the Jets. 

Develin missed all three of the Patriots' practices this week with a neck injury and was listed out on Friday. 

Johnson, an undrafted rookie out of the University of Tennessee and former German Football league player, will dress for his first game in the NFL. 

Johnson was originally recruited as a linebacker out of high school, but he made the transition to tight end while with the Volunteers. The Patriots turned him into a fullback, so the 24-year-old has shown a fair share of versatility over the course of his career. 

The Patriots usually find creative ways to utilize Develin in the passing game while sometimes giving him opportunities to punch in touchdowns on the goal line. There's a small chance Johnson gets that chance on Sunday, but who knows since the game will most likely be over by halftime. 

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Tom E. Curran's Patriots vs Jets Preview

Tom E. Curran's Patriots vs Jets Preview

TGIF. Thank God it’s football. The Patriots and their fanbase spent 11 days holding their collective nose, hoping the on-field magnificence of Antonio Brown would offset his toxicity off of it. Didn’t work. As O.J. Simpson so eloquently said on Twitter, “In any event, I don’t have to worry about that anymore. He’s gone.” 

So the Patriots are back where they were on the Friday before their season opener. Incredibly deep and talented on defense. Shallow at wideout and tight end. The wrinkle injected this weekend as they take on the Jets? The offensive line is banged up and they are missing their fullback. Will it matter to the bottom line? Doubtful. But the product may not look as omnipotent offensively as it did. Defensively? The Patriots can be the first team in the modern era to stop opponents from scoring a touchdown in the first three games.

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