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.

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Ravens' John Harbaugh worried about Zoom hacking in virtual NFL Draft

Ravens' John Harbaugh worried about Zoom hacking in virtual NFL Draft

Stop us if you've heard this before: John Harbaugh is paranoid about another team breaking the rules.

The NFL told clubs Monday that the 2020 NFL Draft will be "fully virtual" with team facilities still on lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

That means team personnel will be sequestered separately in their homes and must rely on phone calls and Zoom video conferences with fellow coaches and executives to make their draft picks.

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Harbaugh sees a potential danger with that setup, though: Bad actors who could hack into the Baltimore Ravens' Zoom calls and steal their draft secrets.

“Yeah, big concern,” the Ravens head coach told reporters Monday in a Zoom call (ironic, right?), via the Baltimore Sun.

“Every time I read something in, like, the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times that talks about how messed up Zoom is, or some of these other deals ... I immediately text it to our IT people, and [director of football administration] Nick Matteo’s one of those guys, and they assure me that we are doing everything humanly possible."

We don't envy Matteo, who apparently has to calm Harbaugh down every time the coach reads an article about Zoom.

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In fairness to Harbaugh, Zoom has experienced hacking and harrassment issues (you've probably heard of "Zoombombing" by now) since social distancing measures caused an explosion in the software's usage.

He's not the only NFL coach or executive with the same concern, either: Los Angeles Rams COO Kevin Demoff worried aloud to NBC Sports' Peter King about the security of Zoom calls, while ESPN's Adam Schefter said Tuesday morning that several teams have raised security concerns about Zoom.

Zoom has beefed up its security in recent days, but those measures apparently haven't placated Harbaugh, who pointed out that supposedly high-security banks have had data breaches.

"I really wouldn’t want the opposing coaches to have our playbook or our draft meetings," Harbaugh said. "That would be preferable, if we can stay away from that."

Patriots fans are familiar with Harbaugh being on edge about unfair advantages, of course: The Ravens coach famously griped about the "deceptive" formations New England used in its 2014 AFC Championship Game win over Baltimore.

If you want to go there, you could argue Bill Belichick's Patriots are prime candidates to sneak onto another team's Zoom call and snag some intel.

It sounds like Harbaugh is on high alert for any shenanigans, though.

Why Bucs' uniform reveal was a bit awkward for Tom Brady, Chris Godwin

Why Bucs' uniform reveal was a bit awkward for Tom Brady, Chris Godwin

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers enlisted their star wide receiver to help unveil their sharp new uniforms.

Makes sense, right? It did ... until Tom Brady showed up.

Buccaneers wideout Chris Godwin joined linebackers Devin White and Lavonte David to model new threads for 2020 that the team revealed Tuesday in a hype video.

The one issue: Godwin is wearing No. 12 in the video -- the same No. 12 he allowed Brady to take when the former New England Patriots quarterback signed with Tampa Bay in free agency.

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This discrepancy didn't go unnoticed on Twitter, which let the Bucs have it over their mix-up:

The blowback was enough for the Bucs to set the record straight: They filmed this hype video before Brady signed, and before Godwin had switched to No. 14.

This checks out, as all photos on the team's website feature Godwin rocking No. 14 in the new uniform.

We don't know how long ago the video was filmed, but the fact that Godwin appears wearing No. 12 is a good indicator the Bucs really weren't serious suitors for Brady until the final few days before free agency.

It sounds like there's no hard feelings between Godwin and Brady over the jersey change, though -- and both No. 12 and No. 14 should sell very well on the team's website.