Patriots pass rush comes to life with seven sacks vs. Dolphins


Patriots pass rush comes to life with seven sacks vs. Dolphins

FOXBORO -- The Dolphins couldn't have forgotten about Trey Flowers, right? The guy who bust onto the scene last year and put together a 2.5-sack performance in the Super Bowl? The guy who's been on the field for about 90 percent of the defensive snaps for Bill Belichick and easily his top pass-rusher?

That's what it looked like late in the second quarter when Flowers sprung past left tackle Laremy Tunsil and into the Dolphins backfield to sack Matt Moore. It might've been the easiest of the six sacks Flowers has recorded this season. 

But that play, Flowers explained, might have been more than just a lapse in concentration on Miami's part. It might've been the byproduct of the Patriots throwing varied rushes at opposing offenses for the last few weeks. 


"That's just one of the things, you give them different looks, you confuse the offensive line, and they don't know who's coming," Flowers said. "It might've been a lack of communication on their end, but that's just the different looks and the different things we throw at them to have them have to communicate. If they're not on the same page, then we get pressure."

The Patriots are short on man-power in the front-seven -- particularly when it comes to the edge-defender spot -- but they've been able to use some deception as a means of slowing down quarterbacks lately, and during their 35-17 victory on Sunday they sacked Moore seven times for 61 yards. 

"You want to mix it up a little," Flowers said. "Throw different guys at him. And we were able to execute as far as the different pass-rush games and things like that. Preparation, execution."

The Patriots have dialed up the head games after incorporating it most noticeably during their win over the Chargers in Week 8. They will at times show linebackers at the line of scrimmage, then drop them. Other times, 'backers will remain at the second level and rush. Ends will mix up their tendencies, rushing on one play and then dripping into coverage on the next. The Patriots have even started bringing corners to pressure, and one of their sacks came late in the fourth quarter courtesy of Jonathan Jones. 

Game flow helped the Patriots generate as much pressure as they did. With a big lead, they knew the Dolphins had to throw -- especially late. Four of their sacks came in the fourth quarter, and two came late in the third with the Patriots up three scores.

"I think the score had a lot to do with that," Belichick said after. "Anytime you can get ahead in the game, most of the second half, probably middle of the third quarter, the last third of the game was a lot of passing, a lot of pass rush with the lead, so it gives you an opportunity to rush the passer better. 

"Guys did a good job. We had contributions from a lot of different players, got some pressure from our linebackers, from our secondary and from our defensive linemen. But, yeah, I think being ahead in the game certainly helps the pass rush."

Having players who understand the system also helps. They can get a little more exotic when players know where to be and how to cover for the player who just vacated his area to get after the quarterback. 

Flowers had two sacks, as did Elandon Roberts (one of which came when the Dolphins mistakenly ignored his rush from the second level). Kyle Van Noy chipped in with a hard-earned sack, fighting through a holding penalty, immediately before he left the game with a lower-leg issue. Even newcomer Eric Lee got in on the act, notching his first-career sack just days after being signed off of the Bills practice squad and added to the 53-man roster in New England.  

"A lot of people understand the game plan," said Flowers, who left the game in the third quarter with a rib injury. "When you get a lot of people to understand the scheme and understand what we're trying to do, you can mix it up and have a lot of different looks. We get the game plan, we prepare well, and you've got a lot of people comfortable where you are."


Kraft quick to show support in wake of Weymouth officer's death

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Kraft quick to show support in wake of Weymouth officer's death

Tragedy struck the city of Weymouth Sunday morning when police officer Michael Chesna was killed in the line of duty and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was quick to offer his condolences.

According to WCVB, Kraft stopped by the Weymouth Police Department Headquarters around noontime on Sunday and gave them “words of encouragement.”

Chesna, 42, was killed responding to a call regarding an erratic driver near South Shore Hospital and words of support have been quick to come from all corners of the state, and beyond.

“His death is a senseless tragedy & I ask you to keep his family in your thoughts and prayers,” said Gov. Charlie Baker via Twitter.

Police have identified a suspect in the shooting as 20-year-old Emanuel Lopes from Weymouth has been taken into police custody.

Chris Long doesn't put stock in Brady-Belichick drama. "It took everything to beat them."

Chris Long doesn't put stock in Brady-Belichick drama. "It took everything to beat them."

In an interview with The Big Lead, Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long spoke on the drama surrounding Tom Brady and Bill Belichick

It's safe to say he doesn't put much stock into it

I just think any NFL team, any NFL locker room under a lot of stress over a year period, there are going to be storylines people can choose to kind of blow out of proportion or not pay attention to. I think everyone’s going to pay attention to sometimes really small issues. Whatever people are alluding to going on up there hasn’t affected their play, it hasn’t affected their bottom line. It hasn’t affected how they executed on Sundays. 

Long played with the Patriots during the 2016 season and won Super Bowl 51 with them before signing a two-year contract with the Eagles. The Eagles then went on to beat New England in Super Bowl 52. If anyone outside of the Patriots' locker room has an idea of the culture inside the past two years, Long has to be one of them. 

It took everything for us to beat them. It took a heroic performance by Nick Foles and we had to play our best game. So while everybody likes to always point to the Patriots as being under duress or there’s some drama in the locker room, there’s drama in every locker room that you could blow out of proportion. They’re just on top and those stories sell because they’ve been so great.

ESPN's Seth Wickersham released a story detailing some of the issues that arose in New England over the past few years in January, and with Brady missing almost all of the Patriots' voluntary workouts last month, some have started to wonder whether this is the end for one of both of Brady-Belichick. 

While their hasn't been much public acknowledgement from either side about the drama, but Long certainly doesn't see much substance to the noise.