Patriots

Patriots place three players on Pro Football Focus's team of the PFF Era

Patriots place three players on Pro Football Focus's team of the PFF Era

The Patriots have been the most dominant team over the last two decades, so it stands to reason that the New England would be well represented when Pro Football Focus put together its Team of the PFF Era (since 2006).

And while two of the choices were no-brainers (Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski), the third might be a surprise for Pats fans. First, let's get to the obvious choices.

Brady earned a grade of 94.9 for his 2016 season, which is the best rating for a QB in the 13 years that PFF has graded players. 

Including the postseason, Brady had a completion percentage of 66.9 while throwing for 4,691 yards, 35 touchdowns and only five interceptions, which translates to a 108.6 QB rating. PFF points out that Brady's negatively graded play rate of 6.9 percent in 2016 is the lowest out of 388 instances for a QB with at least 300 dropbacks in a season since 2006.

Gronkowski's 2011 campaign grades out as the best for a tight end in the PFF Era, as he racked up 1,585 yards (743 after the catch) and 20 touchdowns over 19 games. According to PFF, Gronk dropped just eight catchable balls all season long, and his passer rating when targeted was an obscene 138.5.

Now, for the surprise of the bunch. If you had to think of the best season by a Patriot defender over the last 13 years, you might guess Vince Wilfork, Dont'a Hightower, Richard Seymour, or Jerod Mayo.

But the New England defender who made PFF's All-Era Team was Asante Samuel — and a reminder of his dominant 2006 season demonstrates why he's on the list.

According to PFF, Samuel allowed only 57 completions on 112 targets in '06 and he finished the year with 12 interceptions, translating to a miniscule 31.0 passer rating allowed, the third-lowest for a cornerback in the 13 seasons that PFF has been crunching numbers.

The Patriots were the only team with three representatives on PFF's All-Era Team, while the Rams, Bears, Ravens, and Eagles all placed two.

Who makes Phil Perry's 53-man Patriots roster projection?

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Patriots' point differential among best in NFL history through 3 games

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USA TODAY Sports Photo

Patriots' point differential among best in NFL history through 3 games

Over the two decades of the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era in Foxboro, the Patriots have gotten used to setting records. And late in the third quarter of Sunday's win over the Jets, it looked like they were well on their way to another.

Following a season-opening 33-3 win over the Steelers and a 43-0 shutout of the Dolphins, the Pats had rolled to a 30-0 lead, giving them a +103 point differential on the season, which would have been the best in NFL history through three games.

And despite late New York touchdowns on both special teams and defense, New England still has a +89 point differential this season. While it's not a record, it's still the third-highest for any NFL team since 1940.

The previous best point differential for a Patriots team through three games was +79 in their undefeated season of 2007.

And while those two late Jets scored ruined the Pats' chances at setting the NFL record for the fewest points allowed in the first three games of the season, they still set a new franchise-record in that department by a healthy margin.

New England's 17 points allowed through three games shattered the team's previous best mark — 33 points allowed through the first three games of the 1979 season.

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Tom E. Curran's Patriots Takeaways: WR injuries mar win over Jets

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AP Photo

Tom E. Curran's Patriots Takeaways: WR injuries mar win over Jets

First impressions go a long way. And the early-game onslaught of points and efficiency the Patriots put on the Jets Sunday will mask the fact, as the game went along, yards and points became harder to come by.

After getting in the end zone on their first possessions and building a 20-0 lead in the first seventeen minutes, the Patriots had five straight five-play drives. Four of them ended with punts. The final one with a 37-yard field goal after a drive that lost two yards.

They didn’t get in the end zone again until 3:07 remained in the third when Tom Brady — pissed off after an intentional grounding call — completed a 20-yard laser on the sidelines to Josh Gordon on third-and-12 to set up a Rex Burkhead touchdown and make it 30-0.

Gordon made the catch with a taped-up left hand courtesy of a painful finger injury suffered before halftime when he may have dislocated some digits on a helmet.

Meanwhile, by the time Gordon made that catch, Julian Edelman was gone from the game having suffered a chest injury when he was piled onto after catching an inside screen before halftime.

When the Patriots play next week at Buffalo, it’s likely Gordon and Edelman will both have spent the week on the injury report with their respective injuries. Meanwhile, tight end Matt LaCosse, who did not play Sunday, is still working through his high ankle sprain and fellow tight end Ben Watson will be serving the final game of his suspension.

So the Patriots are strapped and this means that the week preparing for the Bills will likely be spent with Brady and Jakobi Meyers getting up to speed even further as the rookie scales the depth chart.

So injuries are accumulating at wideout and on the offensive line while tight end depth remains shallow.

The presence of Antonio Brown caused some people to theorize this was the best collection of wideouts in NFL history. It wasn’t then. And it sure isn’t now.

It may be weeks before the Patriots defense goes against an offense equipped to even annoy it. But Brady’s concern about building connections at wideout isn’t lessened just because of three blowout wins. To get where they want to go, they’re going to need everyone. And it won’t be a shock if they make a move this week to get some depth out there.

PUNT AND CENTER

I loved Ryan Allen. You loved Ryan Allen. After a preseason and then three games of Jake Bailey, it’s very easy to see why Ryan Allen is no longer here. The rookie fifth-rounder and Matt Slater are working together like a dog owner with his Yellow Lab. The difference is Bailey’s sending up punts instead of tennis balls and Slater is down there waiting for them when they arrive.

Bailey punted five times in the first 55 minutes of the game. Four were inside the 20. They all had to be fair caught by returner Braxton Berrios. There was one touchback and that came because of a terrific play by the Jets returner to keep Slater off the ball before it trickled into the end zone. He averaged 48.4 yards on those punts.

The cherry on top came with 4:46 left when Bailey dropped a 39-yard punt at the 1 that Slater shoveled back so it could be downed by Jonathan Jones. Really remarkable in terms of pinning the Jets with awful field position. Bailey shanked his final punt with 1:39 left so Bill Belichick has that 29-yarder to pummel him about.

TAKES A LICKING, KEEPS ON TICKING

Josh Gordon’s a big, strong dude but with that package comes some otherworldly toughness too. Earlier this season we saw him take the hammer shot down the seam against the Steelers. Sunday, he made an attempt on the sideline that left him writhing after he fell hard on his hip and butt cheek. He drew a pass interference on that play and repaired to the sideline where he was attended to for several minutes.

When he came back, he appeared to dislocate a finger while blocking. He had that attended to before halftime and got the pinky and ring finger on his left hand taped together. After halftime, he came out and made a stupid-good catch along the sidelines. It was semi one-handed and included a difficult heel drag to stay in-bounds. Might be becoming my favorite player.

GO EASY ON GUNNER

I’ll not hear any Gunner Olszewski slander. He’s fielded 19 punts in three games. It’s very unfortunate that the 18th went off his chest inside the 10, got batted around and turned into a Jets touchdown, ruining the Patriots’ shutout and putting Jets backers in position for a backdoor cover.

Happens. But look at this…

The kid’s been better than fine except for that gaffe. Not a bad decision or a bobble in the mix. Relax.

KICKIN' IT

Another special teams observation? Three PAT misses by Stephen Gostkowski in two weeks and a missed field goal. Yow. That’s concerning. But a quick whiparound the NFL will tell you to lose the tunnel vision and realize that the kicking devil you know is better than the one you don’t.

DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE 

So let’s roll through some of the Patriots defensive stats through three games. Opposing offenses are 5 for 39 on third down against them. They’ve got six picks, 13 sacks, haven’t allowed an offensive touchdown and have given up 111 yards on 48 carries.

DÉJÀ VU

Jarrett Stidham felt the same wrath from Bill Belichick that Matt Cassel did back in 2007. Cassel came on in relief of Brady during a blowout in Miami, threw a pick-6 and was immediately replaced. Watch Postgame Live to see our guy go into detail on that!

Best & Worst from Patriots' 30-14 win over the Jets>>>>>

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