Patriots

Postcard from Patriots Training Camp: Phillip Dorsett and Maurice Harris leave early

Postcard from Patriots Training Camp: Phillip Dorsett and Maurice Harris leave early

NASHVILLE — It was a piping hot morning on the outskirts of Nashville when the Patriots and Titans took the field for the first of two joint practices this week. When the sun ducked behind the clouds it was actually pretty mild but when it came out, it was oppressive. A number of Patriots players were clearly feeling the heat early in the fully-padded practice. In particular, center David Andrews who battled some dry heaves toward the end of the first hour of work.

ROLL CALL

Jamie Collins was absent from practice which was a surprise. Bill Belichick spoke to the media prior to practice so there was no chance to ask him about that. Also a bit of a surprise was seeing rookie wideout N’Keal Harry on the field and suited up. But he was only out for a moment at the start of practice before peeling off.

Isaiah Wynn continued to work his way into being a more regular participant, splitting reps with Dan Skipper at left tackle. The 6-foot-9 Skipper was dealing with the after-effects of the heat following practice sitting in the medical tent with ice on his neck.

Rookie running back Damien Harris, who missed the preseason opener against Detroit, was a full participant.

DORSETT DOWN

There are three practice fields here at the Saint Thomas Sports Park facility and the teams split their work with the entire New England offense toiling on the far right field against the Tennessee defense and the Patriots defense going with the Tians offense on the far left. Wide receiver Phillip Dorsett left practice midway through after hauling in a pass down the seam from Tom Brady.

Dorsett wasn’t limping as he left the field with trainer Jim Whalen, but he was walking slowly after crashing to the ground with the reception. Later, the Patriots saw Maurice Harris leave the field with an unknown malady. For a Patriots wideout crew that’s already without Harry, the loss of Dorsett and Harris — even for a brief time — puts extra pressure on the group.

VRABEL STILL THE SAME

During an early-practice passing period with three receivers going against four defensive backs, Patriots tight end Ben Watson came up howling about being grabbed by Titans DB Dane Cruikshank. Vrabel agreed that Watson had his shirt grabbed and spoke to his player but ordered Watson to “get his old ass back in the huddle.”

Vrabel oversaw the Titans defense for much of the practice while Bill Belichick kept watch on the Patriots defense. There was no intermingling between the two which was interesting to note.  

In a touching tribute, Belichick sent the Patriots rookies to sing “Happy Birthday” to Vrabel, who turned 44 on Wednesday.

NOTEWORTHY

• Rookie quarterback Jarrett Stidham had a couple of mishandles at quarterback on shotgun snaps and took a lap as a result. One appeared to be on him, the other was just a bizarro snap from James Ferentz.

• Prior to practice, Tom Brady limbered up with injured wideout Demaryius Thomas for a few minutes. Thomas was in shorts and a t-shirt. It was interesting to see Julian Edelman standing behind Brady holding his right hand on Brady’s right hip and left hand on Brady’s left shoulder to remind the quarterback to keep from opening up too soon on his throws.

• Titans running back Derrick Henry didn’t practice, but worked out with a trainer on the middle field and he is an enormous human. Imagine if Jabaal Sheard played running back? Same general size.

• The Titans’ exuberance was much higher than the Patriots, especially in the early portion of practice. It wasn’t that the Patriots weren’t into it, it was just that Tennessee was REALLY into it. There was nothing remotely close to scrapping in the first hour, however.

• Brady didn’t have a lot of time to throw in the semi-competitive 11 on 11 drills I watched and most of his completions were coming with rushers buzzing around him but unable to make contact. Still, his completion percentage in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 was high as he continues to appear locked in during this camp.

• One big play for the Patriots was a deep downfield throw from Brian Hoyer to James White, who leaked out on a wheel route.

• In general, the Patriots defense had a very strong day against the Titans offense, forcing a number of throwaways by Marcus Mariota. Second-year corner J.C. Jackson in particular was solid. Jason McCourty got beaten over the top on a pair of plays, once by rookie A.J. Brown and later by Taywan Taylor.

Malcolm Butler recalls Edelman's trash talk at practice>>>>>

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Officials mistakenly penalized Chiefs five yards for a 10-yard penalty vs. Patriots

Officials mistakenly penalized Chiefs five yards for a 10-yard penalty vs. Patriots

Referee Jerome Boger and his crew are receiving plenty of criticism Monday after an awful officiating performance in Sunday's Week 14 game between the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs.

There were plenty of missed calls throughout the evening.

Patriots rookie wide receiver N'Keal Harry dove toward the pylon early in the fourth quarter for what looked like a touchdown. The officials ruled Harry stepped out of bounds at the 3-yard line even though replays clearly showed he hadn't. The officials likely cost the Patriots a touchdown shortly before the Harry mistake when they ruled Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce down by contact and blew the play dead despite a clear fumble and recovery by New England cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who had a clear path to the end zone.

Despite those glaring errors, the worst mistake from Boger's crew might have been its inability to penalize the Chiefs the correct amount of yards on an illegal hands to the face penalty in the third quarter. Chiefs guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif committed the penalty, which was the correct call, but Boger announced the infraction as a 5-yard penalty when the rulebook states it's a 10-yard loss (click here to watch Boger incorrectly announce the penalty).

Mixing up penalty yardage would be understandable in most cases because the crew still has time before the next play is run to correct the referee and ensure the proper yardage is enforced. That didn't happen, though, because none of the seven officials on the field noticed the error. The Chiefs, as a result, moved back from their own 44-yard line to their own 39-yard line. This Kansas City drive ultimately ended in a punt, which New England blocked to set up great field position for a possession that resulted in a Brandon Bolden touchdown run.

The Chiefs ended up winning 23-16 despite a late comeback attempt by the Patriots.

This kind of penalty mixup is inexcusable for any officiating crew, but especially for an experienced official like Boger, who's in his 13th season as an NFL referee.

Patriots react to officiating mistakes made in loss to Chiefs>>>

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NFL playoff picture: Three likely scenarios for Patriots on Super Bowl LIV path

NFL playoff picture: Three likely scenarios for Patriots on Super Bowl LIV path

The New England Patriots' chances of earning the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs took a massive hit with Sunday's Week 14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, but the defending Super Bowl champions still control their own destiny when it comes to securing a first-round bye.

All the Patriots have to do is win their final three games and they'll lock up the No. 2 seed, assuming the No. 1 seed Baltimore Ravens don't have a complete meltdown over the next 21 days. ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI) gives the Ravens a 96 percent chance of securing homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

So, assuming the Patriots win their final three games of the season and earn the No. 2 seed as AFC East champs, here are three of the most likely playoff scenarios confronting them.

Scenario #1
Divisional Round
: vs. Kansas City Chiefs
AFC Championship Game: at Baltimore Ravens

The Chiefs are the No. 3 seed and should stay in that spot through the end of the regular season. ESPN's FPI projects the Chiefs to finish 11-5, or one game ahead of the Houston Texans for the No. 3 seed. Kansas City, as the No. 3 seed, likely would play the Pittsburgh Steelers or Tennessee Titans at home on Wild Card Weekend. The Chiefs would be favored over both of those teams, and even though they lost 35-32 to the Titans in Week 10, it's hard to imagine Tennessee beating KC again (and at Arrowhead Stadium).

If the No. 3 seed wins on the first playoff weekend, that team automatically would go to Foxboro for the Divisional Round. The Patriots would need to earn their third playoff win versus the Chiefs since 2015 to set up another rematch in the AFC Championship Game versus the Ravens.

Scenario #2
Divisional Round
: vs. Houston Texans
AFC Championship Game: at Baltimore Ravens

The Chiefs are no lock for the No. 3 seed. Kansas City should win its final three games (home to Denver Broncos, at Chicago Bears, home to Los Angeles Chargers), but if the Chiefs slip up at all and the Texans or Titans finish with the same record as them, the AFC South winner would take the No. 3 seed. How so? Well, the Titans and Texans both beat the Chiefs earlier this season, so they own the head-to-head tiebreaker.

The Texans did beat the Patriots 28-22 at NRG Stadium in Week 13, but Houston is an easier opponent for New England than Kansas City. The Texans, compared to the Chiefs, have less playoff experience and are by most accounts not as elite at both quarterback and head coach. The Texans have also never won at GIllette Stadium. Houston is 0-7 versus New England on the road since the two franchises first played in the 2003 season. The Texans also play in a stadium with a roof and would be more susceptible to being negatively impacted by any frigid/snowy January weather conditions in Foxboro.

Scenario #3
Divisional Round
: vs. Houston Texans
AFC Championship Game: vs. Kansas City Chiefs

The most likely best-case scenario for the Patriots would be the Texans coming to Gillette Stadium for the Divisional Round, combined with the Chiefs beating the Ravens in their Divisional Round matchup. The Chiefs actually are the only team to beat both the Patriots and Ravens in 2019.

This scenario would set up, assuming the Patriots beat the Texans, another New England-Kansas City showdown in the AFC title game. The Patriots beat the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in last season's conference title game, but this matchup would be in Foxboro, and New England is 7-1 all-time (6-1 in the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era) in AFC title games played at home.

Updated NFL playoff picture, standings entering Week 15>>>

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