Patriots Report Card: Backs pick up receiving slack in rout of Redskins
The Patriots easily took care of business in Washington Sunday, with the defense turning in yet another commanding performance and the offense putting up 30+ points for the fourth time in five games.
And with the receiving corps dealing with an assortment of injuries and playing at less than full strength, New England needed its running backs and tight ends to step up — and that's just what they did.
Without further ado, let's hand out some grades for the Pats' 33-7 drubbing of the 'Skins.
Tom Brady's interception in the red zone was about as bad as it gets. He likely saw that he was going to be engulfed by pressure before the ball was snapped — Washington showed a heavy blitz — and still wasn't able to throw it away, wiping points off the board. He did however, make on-the-money throws to Brandon Bolden and James White for key gains. He also got his tight ends and Sony Michel more involved in the passing game, which should help the entirety of the offense function at a higher level moving forward.
RUNNING BACK: A
Sony Michel averaged over 5.0 yards per carry for the first time this season, picking up a third of his yards after contact on Sunday and doubling the number of tackles he'd broken in 2019 (three versus Washington). James White was once again a critical piece to Brady on third down, and Brandon Bolden provided valuable snaps as both a runner and receiver in Rex Burkhead's absence. As a group, they hauled in 10 passes for 107 yards.
There weren't many bodies contributing at this spot on Sunday, but the ones that did made an impact. Julian Edelman put together a hard-nosed day at the office, grinding through a rib injury to lead the team with eight grabs and 110 yards as well as a touchdown. Josh Gordon checked in with 59 yards on five catches. Neither player appeared to be at full strength and yet both still were factors as run-blockers. Edelman helped spring Sony Michel for an 11-yard run early in the third quarter and Gordon threw a key block on Michel's 25-yarder later in the game. Jakobi Meyers was targeted once by Tom Brady and caught it for six yards.
TIGHT END: B
This was the best game we'd seen from this group all season. It was far from perfect. Matt LaCosse dropped the first pass of the game. But he ended up playing 72 of 77 possible snaps and was a factor both as a run-blocker and a receiver (one catch, 22 yards). LaCosse also helped spring Josh Gordon for a long gain on a high-low crosser route combination where LaCosse created traffic for Gordon's defender, springing Gordon loose. Ryan Izzo had a more narrow role, playing 20 snaps, but he was as impactful as he's been all season as a run-blocker, motioning to get a head of steam going and sealing off defenders for some of Michel's best runs of the day. He also caught two passes for 39 yards, including a touchdown, and he created traffic for Washington's defense, springing Edelman loose for his 31-yard catch-and-run.
OFFENSIVE LINE: B-
It was a tale of two halves for this group as the Redskins were able to pressure Tom Brady on a consistent basis early in the game — oftentimes without bringing extra rushers. Marshall Newhouse, Marcus Cannon, Ted Karras and Shaq Mason were all in the mix when Brady absorbed hits. Joe Thuney allowed a couple of pressures of his own. But in the second half? They were able to bully the Redskins. Thuney and Mason were particularly effective as pullers, and at times they used their athleticism to get to the second level to help encourage bigger gains from the backs behind them. For the team to average 4.8 yards per carry, it needed a big-time effort from its biggest bodies, and that's exactly what it got in the third and fourth quarters.
DEFENSIVE LINE: A
What more can be said about this group? Lawrence Guy was once again stout at the point of attack, taking on double-teams to help keep the Washington running game from getting started. Deatrich Wise (one quarterback hit, two hurries) made a big impact in just 18 snaps. Michael Bennett also got in on a sack in just 14 plays. And Danny Shelton had a sack, a hurry, and a pair of run stuffs from the interior of the defensive line to continue his strong season.
Dont'a Hightower played as though he was shot out of a cannon. He got in on two sacks of Colt McCoy and was had multiple run-stuffs, including a chase-from-behind tackle-for-loss of Chris Thompson on the third snap of the game. Jamie Collins had an easy sack out of New England's "diamond" front, where he was aligned on the center and won his one-on-one matchup. Kyle Van Noy recorded a quarterback hit of his own and had four more pressures; it was his hurry that forced Colt McCoy to step up in the pocket and into Danny Shelton's arms. Nice day overall for "the Boogeymen."
Chase Winovich continues to be productive in small samples (one sack, 16 snaps) and Ja'Whaun Bentley only played nine snaps but sniffed out a screen to put the Redskins in one of the many impossible down-and-distance scenarios they faced over the course of the day. One bad play — the 65-yard run for a touchdown — brought this grade down a tick.
The 65-yard Steven Sims score was a clinic in bad tackling, which took this grade from an "A" and brought it down a notch. The Patriots had nine missed tackles overall on Sunday, and five were on members of the secondary. Otherwise it was another lock-down day for this group. Jason McCourty chipped away at his brother's 4-0 interception advantage with a pick of his own and six tackles to go with it. Jonathan Jones had a timely forced-fumble that gave the Patriots great field position just before the half. The group was in tight coverage for most of the day, one highlight being a third-and-15 throwaway early in the third quarter when their front couldn't generate any pressure.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C+
Jake Bailey had some booming punts, and he stepped into the kickoff role and excelled with seven touchbacks on seven tries. But he shanked his first punt, docking this grade a tad. Mike Nugent missed an extra point in his first game as Patriots place-kicker, which might've forced the Patriots to go for it on fourth-and-one on their subsequent drive. They failed. Some of that is on the special teams unit. The Patriots also had a pair of penalties in the kicking game — a false start on Joe Cardona and a block in the back on Brandon Bolden that negated a solid Gunner Olszewski return — making this a less-than-perfect day of work.