Patriots

Turning Point: DeVante Parker goes up and over Stephon Gilmore to propel game-winning drive

Turning Point: DeVante Parker goes up and over Stephon Gilmore to propel game-winning drive

FOXBORO -- The Patriots had plenty of chances to stop the Dolphins on what eventually turned into a game-winning drive. But when Bill Belichick's defense needed a stop, even his best player wasn't up to the task.

This week's Turning Point came late. It occurred when the Dolphins snapped the football for the first time after the two-minute warning. 

On a second-and-12 play, with the Dolphins on their own 47-yard line, Ryan Fitzpatrick looked to his left, drawing defensive attention to that side of the field, then came back to his right and lofted a pass up to No. 1 target DeVante Parker. Stephon Gilmore was with Parker -- his assignment for the day -- stride-for-stride. Gilmore was "in phase," meaning his job on the play is to go up and play the football as a receiver would. 

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But Gilmore's timing was off. Rare as that has been this season, Gilmore appeared to never see the football coming. By the time he looked up to make a play on it, Parker was already in the middle of his leap and making the 24-yard grab. It was the chunk gain the Dolphins needed on their 13-play, 75-yard series. 

Five plays later, Fitzpatrick found Mike Gesicki for a five-yard touchdown that gave the Dolphins the game. 

"He made some plays," Gilmore said of Parker. "I feel like I let 52 other players down today, but he made some plays. It is what it is. I can handle it. I know the type of player I am. I know I’ve just got to go back to the practice field and practice harder and get ready for the (next) game."

According to Next Gen Stats, Gilmore aligned across from Parker on 40 of 45 routes. Parker caught seven of his nine targets with Gilmore on him for 119 yards. Per Next Gen, no receiver has had more receptions or yards going against Gilmore since the Patriots signed the corner in 2017.

“He made big catches," Gilmore said. "He made some tough plays. He had a better day today.”

Parker's catch was the biggest during the game-winning drive, but Miami was able to string together more than a dozen plays to drive the field . . . on the road . . . against a defense that started the year on a historic pace. And Fitzpatrick did it through the air -- he completed 9 of 12 passes for 77 yards and a score -- which has been the strength of the Patriots defense all season.

"They attacked everything," Devin McCourty said. "We didn't get a stop. I've come up here numerous times (and said), 'That's what we want -- a chance to play defense to end the game and we didn't get it done today.' You guys watched it. It wasn't like they attacked one thing. Spread the ball around. We didn't get any stops that we needed. When you don't do that on the last drive of the game and you let the team drive the field and score, that's what you get."

Fans overwhelmingly prefer Patriots go Stidham-Hoyer in 2020

Fans overwhelmingly prefer Patriots go Stidham-Hoyer in 2020

Why in God’s name do I keep reading and hearing “Cam Newton” and “Patriots” in the same sentence?  

Or Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton or any other backsliding veteran on the free-agent quarterback market?

Are people insane? Were they slumbering for the past 19 years? Or just a little forgetful?

The lead mule pulling their wagon for the past 20 years was a sixth-round pick. The only guy that filled in for the aforementioned sixth-rounder over an extended period was a seventh-round pick. The guy who was supposed to succeed the sixth-rounder was a second-rounder from a Div. II school.

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Tom Brady, Matt Cassel, Jimmy Garoppolo were all overlooked, undervalued and brought into the Patriots laboratory where they turned into either good, really good or legendary quarterbacks. The Patriots brew their own quarterbacks, thank you very much.

And with a one-year hitch in salary cap jail hanging over them, they are not going to be in the market for someone looking to make a seven or eight-figure salary who just flunked out of a lesser team’s program.

The Patriots make their own brew, thank you very much.

Bill Belichick has the helmeted heads of so many first-rounders and first-overall picks mounted on his wall that suggesting he’d be in the market for a live one makes no sense.

During Tom Brady’s long goodbye, I was told by team sources the Patriots weren’t going to be chasing a veteran “name.” And their actions since have signaled that.

They are going with their fairly-promising fourth-rounder, Jarrett Stidham, and they have Brian Hoyer (undrafted free agent who came into the league with the Patriots in 2009) to take the reins if the Coronavirus-marred offseason means Stidham’s not ready.

And, thanks to our Quarantine Question of the Day posed Monday morning on Twitter, it’s clear most Patriots fans think that’s the right approach.

Of the 5,148 votes cast in six hours, 64.6 percent of respondents chose “Ride with Stidham/Hoyer” as the preferred Patriots approach for 2020.

Meanwhile, 12.2 percent felt that bringing in a rookie to compete with Stidham was the move to make. I suggested either Tua Tagovailoa or Jordan Love in the poll. Others suggested different options to battle Stidham as Brady’s successor.

I jokingly included an option to trade with the Bucs for Brady. A significant portion (17.4 percent) of the populace thought that was a capital idea (even though Brady has a no-trade clause).

There was a suggestion I didn’t hate -- grabbing Niners backup Nick Mullens to come in and push Stidham.

The least popular option was recycling someone like Newton. That option drew just 5.8 percent of the vote.

And one respondent had a hard time making his selection at all.

It happens. We’ll be back later in the week with more QUARANTINE QUESTIONS OF THE DAY!!!!

Patriots QB Jarrett Stidham 'has a lot of great qualities,' says Matthew Slater

Patriots QB Jarrett Stidham 'has a lot of great qualities,' says Matthew Slater

Matthew Slater is the latest New England Patriots player to give a positive review of young quarterback Jarrett Stidham.

The Patriots selected Stidham in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, and after not getting many regular season reps as a rookie, he's now the leading candidate to replace Tom Brady after the six-time Super Bowl champion left to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency.

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Taking over for the greatest quarterback in NFL history will be an enormous challenge for Stidham (or whoever wins the starting job for Week 1), but Slater is optimistic about the 23-year-old's talent and mental makeup.

"He's a great kid, and I think that’s the thing that is going to matter the most with any player – who is he as a man, who is he as a person, what’s he motivated by? He’s just a great kid to be around," Slater said Monday during a media conference call. "He brings a lot of positive energy, he’s always got a smile on his face, and you can tell he’s very appreciative of the opportunity that he had last year and the opportunity that he’ll have going forward. So, certainly he has a lot of great qualities that can make him a good player at the quarterback position. Coach Belichick and his staff wouldn’t have brought him in here if they didn’t think he had those qualities.

"I think at that position, almost more than any other, it’s going to be the intangibles that get a guy to maybe a successful position. So, I think he’s got some good traits. I think he’s going to be a good player. His attack, his approach is going to have to be one day at a time, just like any of us. I think it’s important, and I’ll certainly encourage him, just to be himself – be himself, continue to be the person that he is, continue to be the teammate that he is, and we’ll just take this thing one day at a time."

Slater isn't the only Patriots player who's given a positive review of Stidham of late. Veteran safety Devin McCourty praised Stidham's poise and maturity (among other qualities) during a recent episode of his "Double Coverage" podcast and on a media conference call last week.

Stidham showed flashes of his exciting potential during last year's training camp and preseason, and now he should get the opportunity to prove he's capable of being a quality starting quarterback in the NFL. Even though this will be a brand new and difficult challenge for him, he does have some good experience to help him. Stidham played against SEC competition for two years as Auburn's starting quarterback before spending all of 2019 learning from Brady and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

Patriots fans will love Slater's mindset on the team's 2020 goals