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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Report: Ex-Patriots WR Danny Amendola to re-sign with Lions

Report: Ex-Patriots WR Danny Amendola to re-sign with Lions

Scratch that Danny Amendola-Patriots reunion.

Peter Schrager of the NFL Network reports the free-agent wide receiver is re-signing with the Detroit Lions, where he spent last season and had 62 catches for 678 yards. Former Pats defensive coordinator Matt Patricia will enter his third season as Lions coach in 2020. 

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The 34-year-old left the Patriots after five seasons to sign with the Miami Dolphins in 2018 and may have burned a bridge or two with Bill Belichick. 

It had been speculated that perhaps bringing in a former reliable Tom Brady receiver might be part of a plan to lure Brady back to New England, with a report in late January that Amendola could come along to wherever Brady lands in free agency, but a Brady-Amendola reunion in Detroit isn't happening, either. 

Next Pats Podcast: Will Patriots go mobile at QB if Tom Brady leaves?

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Next Pats Podcast: Will Patriots go mobile at QB if Tom Brady leaves?

There's one big question that New England Patriots are facing this offseason. Who is going to be their starting quarterback in 2020?

For the past 20 seasons, the team hasn't really had questions at the position. It has always been Tom Brady's job. But with the 42-year-old set to hit free agency, the Patriots can't necessarily count on him returning unless they want to pay him what he's worth.

So, now the question for the Patriots becomes, what will life look like if Brady departs?

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On the latest episode of The Next Pats Podcast, which returns for its first episode of the 2020 offseason, Phil Perry is here to explore that question. And really what it all boils down to is what the Patriots are looking for in a potential successor.

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As Perry notes, it's likely to be one of two types of quarterback: The traditional pocket passer or a more mobile athlete in the mold of some of the recent success stories at the position.

Do the Patriots look for the next Brady? Uber-accurate, somebody who's going to sit in the pocket and absolutely dissect every little aspect of the defense that he is looking at. Or, do they go a different route? Do they go with an athlete? Do they get more mobile? Because talking to people this offseason, I'm getting a whiff -- I'm getting a scent that people believe the pocket passer might be dead.

Perry is joined by guests including Pro Football Focus' Steve Palazzolo, Greg Cosell of ESPN and NFL Films, and NFL Network's Kurt Warner to answer questions about Brady's future and what his game has looked like in recent seasons.

For more thoughts about the Patriots offseason, check out the latest episode of the Next Pats Podcast, available as part of the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network.