Patriots

Patriots

The Patriots have now allowed 20 points defensively through five games. I updated folks at the quarter-pole last week that the stingiest defense in NFL history over a 16-game season -  the 2000 Ravens that allowed 141 points defensively – had already allowed 44 after four games.

And the Patriots are at 20 through five? They allowed seven points Sunday against Washington and their per-game average went up from three points per game allowed to five.

They are so far ahead of the pack statistically it’s mind-boggling. Take a look at the top-scoring defenses over 16-game seasons and where they were after four games

2000 Ravens: 55
2000 Titans: 64
2002 Bucs: 47
1992 Saints: 44
1986 Bears: 52
1978 Steelers: 39
1985 Bears: 69
2005 Bears 59
2006 Ravens: 33
2019 Patriots: 20 (through five games)
 
Is the Patriots defense as a whole historically great after disemboweling the Steelers, Dolphins, Jets, Bills and Redskins? Probably not. I don’t know how many of these guys are headed for the Hall of Fame.
 
Are they authoring the most dominant start to a season in modern NFL history? Yes. Yes they are.

 Against overmatched Washington there were six more sacks, a pick, a fumble recovery and the defense held the Skins to 1 for 11 on third down. On third down, opposing offenses are 8 for 65. They have 24 sacks. They have 12 takeaways.

The touchdown Sunday was a fluky 65-yard reverse by Cam Sims that only happened because Kyle Van Noy lost contain, Devin McCourty missed a tackle, Jason McCourty missed a tackle and Duron Harmon missed on a shoestring tackle attempt.

 

This week, it was Donta Hightower’s turn to dominate. He had three consecutive plays with tackles behind the line of scrimmage in the first half including a sack. He wound up with four tackles for loss and a pass defensed. Even though Van Noy had the gaffe on the Sims touchdown, he again had a game where he was a major nuisance. So did Ja’Whaun Bentley. And Danny Shelton. And Michael Bennett had a sack. And Chase Winovich. And Adam Butler again who is probably playing as well as the top defensive linemen in the league.

In short, you just can’t find the guy who’s not doing Richard out there. And the only question I have is? Who’s calling this defense?

A ROUGH FIRST HALF FOR THE O-LINE

Yeah, it was better for the offensive line in the second half but who among them didn’t flounder in the first half? There was Ted Karras with a hold, Marcus Cannon with an overall porous day, Shaq Mason getting worked a bit in the first half and Marshall Newhouse allowing two of the four sacks of Tom Brady on the day when he got turnstiled. The Redskins came in hellbent on getting pressure on Brady figuring he just didn’t have enough firepower at receiver to make them pay by getting the ball out quickly. And that’s the flip side when the skill guys are not mismatch players. It takes longer for them to proceed through their routes to get open and things have to be schemed up.

WHY NOT HAVE BAILEY HANDLE KICKOFFS?

After watching Jake Bailey pound all seven of his kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks, I still don’t get the logic behind having 35-year-old Stephen Gostkowski handle kickoff duties throughout most of training camp and the preseason and into the regular season.

Especially if his hip situation was nagging at him since the summer as NFL Media’s Mike Giardi alluded to. It’s great to pin teams inside their 20 by hanging kickoffs high to the goal line and Gostkowski helped the Patriots have success doing that for a long time. But that success waned last season and disappeared this year. Nothing’s more strenuous on a kicker than kickoffs – the run-up, the full swing, the follow-through and then covering the kick. If the mileage on Gostkowski could have been saved by letting Thunderleg Bailey do it, the Patriots should have done it. Because …

NUGENT DIDN'T LOOK SO HOT

… The loss of a proficient kicker is going to be like a horsefly buzzing around the Patriots’ heads all year. Obviously, the way Gostkowski was hitting it, he wasn’t a proficient kicker this year. But seeing Mike Nugent spoon his first PAT off to the right was the kind of thing that’s going to crop up in the mind’s eye when it comes time to make a decision on kicking or sticking. It did on the Patriots second drive when they had fourth-and-1 on the Redskins 42 and tried a direct snap to James White that got stuffed.

 

Now, one thing that will offset any kicker anxiety they may experience is the fact the Patriots are so good defensively they can give the ball over on their side of the field and still have a reasonable chance of not allowing points. But against more potent offenses than Washington? It will be a factor.

GIVE SONY ROOM, HE'LL MAKE THE YARDS

I’ve been screaming that it wasn’t Sony Michel that was the problem but the blocking in front of him. I feel like the second half on Sunday proved my point. Give him room, he makes yards. He’s not Barry Sanders or Dion Lewis who can make people miss in a phone booth. But get him two steps clean and a seam and he’s getting 4 to 6 yards. Also, the Patriots broke some tendencies with Michel by hitting him with his first three passes of the year good for 32 yards. Bill Belichick said last Monday on WEEI’s OMF that he was confident Michel would make an impact there and that – had it not been for the modest number of offensive plays the Patriots ran – they may have gotten him the ball through the air. Defenses will have to at least respect it now. They’ll also have to respect to a degree the tight ends as Matt Lacosse and Ryan Izzo combined for three catches on six targets for 61 yards. Izzo was not covered at all on either of his receptions.

GORDON'S KNEE BOTHERING HIM?

Brady and Gordon failed to hook up on a post in the first quarter when Gordon split the safeties and Brady put it out in front of him. To me, it looked like a play on which Gordon could have left his feet to go and get it. Others thought it was desperately overthrown. I don’t think it was a lack of effort but fatigue. The Patriots had been playing up-tempo and Gordon immediately tapped out after the incompletion. Later, on a play when Julian Edelman drew a pass interference, CBS’ Trent Green said that Brady was looking at Gordon but it appeared to Green that Gordon didn’t run the route with “intensity” and that Brady would likely have a talk with him. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the combo of the knee issue that bothered Gordon during the week and his conditioning was a factor.

OTHER THOUGHTS

Bad calls: Izzo. Edelman. Bentley
 
Shared contact as two guys extend their aims. Not worth challenging because it had to be over the top obvious it wasn’t going to be.
 
Edelman drop after that PI. Dorsett down.
PP: Julian Edelman clutching at his rib area. Was doubled over briefly. Hit the turf as that pass approached. Limited in practice this past week with a rib issue.
 
Green: PI to Edelman. Brady will have a conversation with Josh Gordon. He wanted to go to Gordon but he wasn’t running with the same intensity that Brady hoped.
Hightower diagnosing after his run stuff.

 

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