Patriots

Patriots make do on offense without Rob Gronkowski and Sony Michel

Patriots make do on offense without Rob Gronkowski and Sony Michel

There’s a lot to process from the 29:51 the Patriots had the ball against Chicago. But the biggest takeaway is that the offense made do with what it had. 

They were Gronkless to start the game and lost Sony Michel with what looked to be a significant knee injury in the first half. 

Kenjon Barner and James White as the only running backs and Dwayne Allen as the lone tight end is no way to go through a game, but the Patriots still put up yards and points so there’s no need to nitpick too long on the 24 points the offense put up. 

Tom Brady had by far his most accurate game of the season, chewing up the underbelly of the Bears Cover-2 defense by hitting James White, Chris Hogan and Julian Edelman for a combined 19 catches and 156 yards. 

WHAT WE SAID BEFORE THE GAME

But those numbers paint the picture of the way the offense needed to operate -- 8.2 yards per catch is the epitome of the kind of death-by-one-thousand-papercuts style the Patriots were happy to play as the Bears gave Brady easy throws. 

The only blemish on Brady’s day -- and it was a significant one -- was his lone interception. Lobbing a balloon to the flat to fullback on third-and-2 from the Bears 35 with 6:31 left was an awful idea and the Bears gave Brady what he deserved by picking it off and then turning it into a touchdown to make it 38-31 and set the stage for unnecessary drama in the closing minutes. 

It was Brady’s seventh pick of the year and –- for a player who’s never thrown more than 14 picks in a season -- he's been dogged by uncharacteristic lapses with ball security. Against the Chiefs last week, the walkabout fumble he burped up led to a third quarter touchdown for Kansas City that made it 27-26 and put wind in the Chiefs sails. 

He finished 25-for-36 for 277 with three touchdown passes. Plenty adequate. And really, he’s going to be the least of the Patriots concerns. 

What will be a concern is running back. As brilliant as White is as a pass-catcher/chain-mover/red–zone-savant, he’s not built for a between-the-tackles pounding. He carried 11 times for 40 yards on Sunday. The carries are a career-high topping the 10 times he carried against the Chiefs in the 2017 opener. 

The 10 carries for Barner was a career-high for him as well. He’s more solidly built than White but that’s not his forte. 

With former Patriot Mike Gillislee still unsigned, he seems a logical option. 

The Patriots running game in recent weeks keyed the performance of an offense that averaged 40 points the past three games. The loss of Michel means more heat on the wideouts so it’s fortuitous that Hogan had by far his best game of the season with six catches for 63 yards on seven targets. 

Meanwhile, Gordon had his longest reception of the season – a 55-yarder that set up a touchdown – and also made an acrobatic and powerful catch on the right sideline when he elevated and plucked a pass from Bears corner Kyle Fuller for a 19-yard gain on a fourth-and-1 from the Bears 42. He did have a drop, though, and Brady missed him along the sideline with a poorly placed pass. 

The performance of the Patriots offensive line was probably the biggest bright spot. Brady got only modest pressure – he was sacked once and the Bears were credited with three quarterback hits. Dealing with a diminished Khalil Mack didn’t hurt the Patriots chances for success but the Patriots were getting the ball out so quickly to open spots he probably would have been rendered mostly moot. 

The Patriots were able to get by with their 24 offensive points because their special teams put up 14 of their own. 

But there will be bigger challenges posed than the one Mitch Trubisky brought for the Bears on Sunday. For example, Aaron Rodgers looms in two weeks. 

With the running game now plunged into some doubt, the Patriots best offense would be a good defense. That has only been seen in tiny glimpses. 

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Eminem name-drops Tom Brady on his just-released album

Eminem name-drops Tom Brady on his just-released album

Tom Brady appears to have a kindred spirit as his career continues into his 40s.

Eminem name-drops TB12 on the track "Premonition" off the album "Music To Be Murdered By" which he released on Friday.

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The song takes on the critics of the 47-year-old rapper from Detroit and compares the critiques he gets to ones leveled at LeBron James, 35, and the Patriots quarterback, who'll turn 43 in August. 

Here's part of the song:

“Revival flopped, came back and I scared the crap out ‘em

But Rolling Stone stars, I get two and a half outta

Five, and I’ll laugh out loud

‘Cause that’s what they gave BAD back in the day

Which actually made me not feel as bad now, ‘cause

If it happened to James

It can happen to Shady

They do the same [expletive] to Brady

More people hate me than love me

This game will make you go crazy.”

It's not Eminem's first reference to Brady in one of his songs. In 2013's "Baby", he raps, "I'm what Tom Brady is to the Patriots of rap. Not a man, a weapon."

And it's just the latest Brady reference that has dotted hip-hop and rap since the mid-2000s when the QB led the Pats to the second and third of the six Super Bowl titles they've won. Other artists such as Drake, Lil Wayne, Gucci Mane and Kanye West have referenced him as a symbol of excellence. 

Brady told the Boston Globe last year before the Super Bowl he appreciates it.

 “That’s always really cool,” Brady said. “I’m a big fan of so many of those guys. I have a lot of friends [in music] that I’ve met over the years that are fans of what we do, too...I think that mutual appreciation or admiration is really flattering.”

Aaron Rodgers describes how 'Belichick effect' has impacted the NFL

Aaron Rodgers describes how 'Belichick effect' has impacted the NFL

The Green Bay Packers are preparing for a battle the San Francisco 49ers on the NFL's championship Sunday. The two will square off in the NFC Championship for the right to advance to the Super Bowl.

While Aaron Rodgers and his teammates are doing what they can to be ready for the game, they still aren't exactly sure what to expect from the 49ers.

And Rodgers credited Bill Belichick's influence for that.

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Rodgers explained in a post-practice interview that not knowing what to expect from opposing defenses is something that has been popularized over the course of the past five years. And he called the defense's ability to change up week to week "the Belichick effect".

"I think that’s the NFL in the last five years, especially, it’s kind of the Belichick effect where teams are more reluctant to really try and scheme up opponents instead of relying on their base defense," Rodgers said to reporters.

"There’s less and less teams like the Lovie Smith Bears defenses over the years that say ‘Hey, screw it, we’re going to play four-man front, play Tampa-2 the entire game and make you go the whole field, and strip the ball and tackle securely and stop the run with a six-man, seven-man front.’

"There’s more teams that are scheming specifically up for teams. I think the tough part is it might be different than you saw on film. The drawback from that is a lot of these teams are used to playing coverages they’re not used to playing, they’re not super-comfortable playing, they don’t have a lot of reps in and that can cause some confusion at times."

Rodgers hit the nail on the head as the NFL's best defenses have become more versatile and game plan-dependent in recent seasons. Having multiple defensive looks is essential to success in the modern NFL and Belichick's ability to adjust week in and week out played a big role in kicking off the trend.

Though the Patriots won't have a chance to out scheme anyone on the defensive side of the ball until next season, they can be thankful that they have a forward-thinking coach at the helm. His ability to adjust on defense as well as Josh McDaniels' ability to change the Patriots offense look to match their best weapons have helped to make the team difficult to figure out.

And that's a big part of the reason that they have been able to make multiple deep postseason runs in recent seasons.

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