Patriots

Tom E. Curran's takeaways: Patriots put Steelers defense in a blender in Week 1 win

Tom E. Curran's takeaways: Patriots put Steelers defense in a blender in Week 1 win

The banner dropped and so did the boom on the Pittsburgh Steelers. That’s the main takeaway from Day 1 A.B. (after Antonio), this Patriots defense is as voracious as we thought it might be.

Pittsburgh managed just four first downs in the opening half and went 1-for-6 on third down. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 65 yards on 9-of-14 passing, the longest being a 19-yarder to Juju Smith-Schuster who was locked down effectively by Stephon Gilmore.

The Patriots – who were gashed on the ground by Pittsburgh in Week 15 last year – were outstanding and aggressive against the run this time. Two plays in particular stood out in the first half. The first was a third-and-1 run stuff by nose tackle Danny Shelton who stopped James Conner inches short of the sticks.

The second was a third-and-1 toss to Conner that Jamie Collins diagnosed right away (maybe because the Steelers tried to run it three times in a row). Shooting through traffic, Collins dropped Conner for a 4-yard loss and if he hadn’t made the play, fellow linebacker John Simon would have.

Toss in a fourth-and-1 pass breakup by Patrick Chung on Donte Moncrief just after the two-minute warning and you can see why Roethlisberger came out in the second half with a “Screw it, I’m throwing deep” mentality.

Forget Roethlisberger’s final passing line. A lot of it was compiled well after the matter was decided. Look instead at the fact Pittsburgh could manage just 32 yards on the ground on 13 carries. Bottled. Up.

PUTTING THE STEELERS D IN A BLENDER

Takeaway 1A? With his offensive game plan for this opener, Josh McDaniels showed why he deserved every bouquet thrown at him in last week’s “Do Your Job” special.

And while that game focused on the tail-end of 2018, McDaniels and Tom Brady have been conjuring so much chaos for defenses since the middle of last year when they were drastically undermanned that it’s become accepted that they just put defenses in a blender with regularity.

The first drive was five straight runs with two backs on the field for each of them. The second drive was no-huddle shotgun with virtually every combination of backs, wideouts, tight ends and formations all executed in hurry-up. A double-pass that went for 32 yards was mixed in there as well. That drive ended with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Josh Gordon on a simple crossing pattern that Pittsburgh misplayed, allowing Gordon to build a head of steam and step out of a tackle at the 2 before bulling in.

The Patriots second touchdown was another piece of formation, motion and play-action chicanery that ended up freezing the Steelers defense and letting Dorsett get a step down the seam for a touchdown that made it 17-0.

By the time the second half came, the Steelers were due for their semi-annual “Let’s leave a guy totally uncovered and see how it goes…” defense. They let Dorsett run unchecked past defensive back Kameron Kelly who appeared to have a communication breakdown that ended with Dorsett catching a 58-yard touchdown. And that was on a third-and-10. On the Patriots next drive, they wound up with linebacker Vince Williams covering Gordon who wound up pulling in a 44-yard rainbow from Brady while taking a big hit. By then it was elementary.

PLENTY OF WORK FOR GORDON

Josh Gordon played way more snaps than I thought he would. His wind last season was a big issue when he came over from Cleveland and he looked to be carrying some extra weight when he got to camp but he didn’t appear to need any tapping out in the opener.

WINOVICH THE IRRITANT

Chase Winovich is going to be a season-long irritant for opposing offenses. He’s generally lining up outside the left tackle in a two-point stance and comes off the edge like the Tasmanian Devil. He got within a reaching distance of Ben Roethlisberger a few times and celebrated after the resulting incompletions enough to get Roethlisberger glaring at him. He also drew a hold on left tackle Alejandro Villanueva when Winovich got very small and left Villanueva wrapping up the rookie and falling on him. Villanueva wasn’t psyched.

STRONG START FOR SPECIAL TEAMS

Smooth start both for kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who drilled all three of his field goals and snuck in a fourth and rookie punt returner Gunner Olszewski who had returns of 20 and 15 yards and cleanly fielded three fair catches. Olszewski’s ability to cleanly and confidently field punts can’t be overstated (Chris Harper) nor can the impact he will have in keeping Julian Edelman out of harm’s way on fourth downs.

DISRUPTIVE DBs

The Patriots were outstanding at ball disruption on the Steelers receivers. Patrick Chung , Jonathan Jones and Jason McCourty (twice) all drove the ball out of the grasp of Steelers receivers on what would have been relatively easy receptions if they hadn’t gotten there with so much aggressiveness. It’s little things like that – arriving on time – as opposed to a heartbeat late as we’d seen in prior years that make a massive difference in getting off the field on third down.

A SLOW NIGHT FOR SONY

Sony Michel had what appears to be a depressing game statistically – 15 carries, 14 yards. He didn’t get a lot of clearance up front to work and – one ray of light – three of the 1-yard runs picked up first downs in second and third-and-short.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

NFL Rumors: Patriots, RB Lamar Miller agree to one-year contract

NFL Rumors: Patriots, RB Lamar Miller agree to one-year contract

The New England Patriots added a veteran running back to their roster on Monday.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, ex-Miami Dolphins and Houston Texans RB Lamar Miller reached an agreement with the Patriots on a one-year contract.


Download the MyTeams app for the latest Patriots news and analysis

Miller, 29, missed the entire 2019 campaign after suffering a torn ACL in the preseason. In 2018 with Houston, he rushed for 973 yards and five touchdowns in 14 games and was named to the Pro Bowl.

Miller's most productive NFL season came in 2014 with Miami when he tallied 1,099 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.

With Miller now in the fold, he joins a Patriots running back depth chart that also consists of Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White, Damien Harris. Michel underwent foot surgery in May and was placed on the PUP list earlier this month.

Fantasy football 2020: Projections for Tom Brady, other Bucs players

Fantasy football 2020: Projections for Tom Brady, other Bucs players

Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski leaving the New England Patriots to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn't just send a shockwave through the NFL. It also altered the fantasy football landscape.

The fantasy values of both the Patriots and Bucs' skill players will be much different in 2020 following Brady and Gronk's departure from Foxboro. We've gone over what to expect from the go-to guys in New England's offense, so now it's time to go over Tampa's weapons.

The obvious benefactors -- at least one would think -- of Brady becoming a Buc are his primary wide receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. But will their numbers, along with Brady's, see a significant increase as expected, or should we pump the brakes on the hype?

And then there are the running back and tight end positions. Can Tampa's intriguing rookie running back take over the starting job? What can we really expect out of Gronk after a year off from football?

Download the MyTeams app for the latest Patriots news and analysis

Here are our projections for the Bucs' key offensive players with Brady and Gronk in the fold:

Tom Brady, QB
Projected Stats
: 4,300 yards, 29 TD, 9 INT
Projected Draft Round: 5-7

Brady is set up to be a really solid starting quarterback in fantasy football this year. That being said, those who expect Brady to put up elite numbers and draft him any higher than Round 5 are just asking to be disappointed. There are going to be some growing pains in Bruce Arians' offense. Sure, having his old pal Gronk around as a security blanket will help, but it's going to take time for the six-time Super Bowl champ to get comfortable down in Florida. There's little doubt Brady's numbers will be better in nearly every category now that he has some real weapons at his disposal, just make sure you don't reach when plenty of other QBs will do just fine in the middle rounds.

Ronald Jones II, RB
Projected Stats
: 650 yards, 4 TD
Projected Draft Round: 7-9

Jones was an OK flex play at points last season, but overall he simply hasn't been the running back Tampa Bay has hoped for these last few seasons. That led to the Bucs selecting Vanderbilt product Ke'Shawn Vaughn on Day 2 of this year's NFL Draft. Jones is the No. 1 guy heading into camp, though it doesn't look like that will be the case throughout the 2020 campaign. Wait until the mid-to-late rounds to take Jones, and maybe even consider passing entirely to take Vaughn if you're so inclined to take a Bucs RB.

Ke'Shawn Vaughn, RB
Projected Stats
: 550 yards, 3 TD
Projected Draft Round: 8-10

Speaking of Vaughn, he could be a major difference-maker for the Bucs in Brady's offense this season. He rushed for 1,028 yards and nine touchdowns for Vandy last season and was pretty effective through the air too, tallying 270 yards and a TD. It's always tough to count on a rookie, but it's worth the risk and the ceiling definitely seems to be higher with Vaughn than it is for Jones. The addition of McCoy, however, makes Vaughn's fantasy outlook a bit murky.

LeSean McCoy, RB
Projected Stats
: 400 yards, 3 TD
Projected Draft Round: 8-10

It's impossible to now as of right now how the Bucs backfield is going to shape up in 2020. Although McCoy is a shell of what he once was, Bruce Arians definitely should find some sort of role for the 32-year-old veteran. The obvious question is whether that role will be more significant than Jones' or Vaughn's. If you're really that compelled to draft a Bucs running back, something I'd avoid entirely, it's a total toss-up and a matter of personal preference.

Mike Evans, WR
Projected Stats
: 75 receptions, 1,250 yards, 7 TD
Projected Draft Round: 2-3

There's no question the Brady-to-Evans connection is going to excite people heading into the new season. However, I'm somewhat skeptical about how their playing styles will mesh. Brady isn't one to take many risks, and Evans made a living out of catching Jameis Winston's ridiculous jump-balls downfield. It really is impossible to know how that'll work itself out, but nonetheless we're believers in Evans' elite talent and project him as a solid WR1 again in 2020.

Chris Godwin, WR
Projected Stats
: 90 receptions, 1,350 yards, 10 TD
Projected Draft Round: 2-3

Godwin was the breakout star of the 2019 fantasy football season as he put up absolutely ridiculous numbers with Jameis Winston under center. Now, the question is whether he can do it again with Brady. That may seem like a silly question, but again we have no clue what to expect from Brady in Arians' offense and how it will differ from what Godwin thrived in a year ago. Regardless, he definitely should be one of the first WRs off the board.

Rob Gronkowski, TE
Projected Stats
: 50 receptions, 700 yards, 5 TD
Projected Draft Round: 6-8

How do you make stat projections for a guy who took a year off from football to party in Miami and join the WWE? With injury concerns to boot, that makes drafting Gronk in fantasy football an extremely risky move. Obviously, with that high risk could come high reward as Tampa's offense has the potential to be one of the best in the entire NFL and Brady is going to look to Gronk early and often as a security blanket. Draft the former Pats tight end in the middle rounds, long after guys like Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and Zach Ertz are off the board.

O.J. Howard, TE
Projected Stats: 25 receptions, 450 yards, 3 TD
Projected Draft Round: 8-10

The Bucs are going to run two-tight end sets in 2020, so don't think that Gronk's presence will limit Howard's production. In fact, it could even help it. Howard was a huge fantasy disappointment in 2019 and is out to prove he isn't a bust this year. There's also still a chance he gets traded to a TE-needy team and benefits from a change of scenery. Either way, you could do worse than Howard in the later rounds of your draft.