Patriots

Turning Point: No apparent weakness as Patriots get Sam Darnold to see ghosts early

Turning Point: No apparent weakness as Patriots get Sam Darnold to see ghosts early

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ -- The "Turning Point" in the Week 7 matchup between the Jets and Patriots might've actually happened on Thursday. That's when Sam Darnold confidently stated that his offense would find the weakness in the Patriots defense and hammer away at it on Monday Night Football. 

Patriots players heard it. They didn't appreciate it. The second-year quarterback -- who was stating what the Jets and all offenses around the league try to do on a weekly basis -- ended up having his comments used as the centerpiece of Devin McCourty's pregame speech.

That might've been all the Patriots needed to make sure that they wouldn't overlook the Jets coming off of their first win of the season the week prior. After a 16-play offensive drive that resulted in the Patriots taking a 7-0 lead, the Patriots defense was on the field for just two snaps before Darnold threw one to McCourty, giving the Patriots the football at the home team's 16-yard line.

That pick, which led to a field goal and continued a run of 33 unanswered points in New England's rout of their division rival, is what we'll call the Turning Point. It was early, sure. But this one was over early. It fits. 

The Patriots showed an all-out blitz on a second-and-eight snap from the Jets 10-yard line. Aggressive, but that's what they did early on to Darnold's former teammate Luke Falk to get him flustered back in Week 3. The Patriots ended up dropping Duron Harmon from the line of scrimmage and into the short middle of the field to make it a six-man rush. Still, Darnold felt the heat. 

Both Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower came through the line unchecked, and Darnold flipped a pass toward the boundary in the direction of slot man Jamison Crowder. Darnold knew that Crowder was in one-on-one coverage -- with no safety in the middle of the field, the Patriots were in Cover-0, which is a man-to-man look -- but he didn't anticipate McCourty falling off his man to jump the route and make the pick. Because McCourty knew there was going to be pressure on Darnold early, he knew the ball had to come out quickly, and he capitalized. 

The Patriots continued to vary their pressure packages throughout the remainder of the game, toying with Darnold's mind. After throwing a pick to Harmon in the second quarter, Darnold came to the Jets sideline and admitted he was seeing "ghosts." On the Harmon pick, his second of four on the night, Darnold wasn't really pressured. The Patriots brought five, but he had a pocket from which to throw and didn't step up or into it. Multiple Darnold interceptions on the night came on throws off his back foot. 

Bill Belichick and his defense are 20-0 in their last 20 games against first or second-year quarterbacks. They held Darnold to 11-for-30 passing for 86 yards (a 2.9 yards per attempt average), four picks and a 5.6 quarterback rating. They'll see second-year passers Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson in the next two weeks. 

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Crazy stat highlights crazy contrast in success between Patriots, Knicks since 2018

Crazy stat highlights crazy contrast in success between Patriots, Knicks since 2018

The New England Patriots and New York Knicks are at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of well-run sports franchises. 

The Patriots are the gold standard with 19 consecutive winning seasons, nine conference championships and six Super Bowl titles in the last 20 years. They are the NFL's greatest dynasty, and the party isn't over yet as Tom Brad and Co. sit atop the AFC standings with a 9-1 record entering Week 12.

The Knicks, meanwhile, have been an absolute disaster. Since the start of the 2001-02 season, New York has reached the playoffs just four times with zero conference finals appearances over that span. The Knicks haven't played in the postseason since 2012-13, and after an abysmal 3-10 start to the 2019-20 season, don't expect Madison Square Garden to host any NBA playoff games in the near future.

If you think that's bad enough for the Knicks, we're about to make it even worse by dropping a crazy stat. Since 2018, the Patriots and Knicks have won the same amount of regular season games despite New York playing in 69 more of them!

The worst part about the Knicks' situation is the misery doesn't appear to be ending any time soon. The Knicks don't have any generational talents (sorry, R.J. Barrett fans) despite consistently finishing near the bottom of the standings this decade. They also haven't been able to lure free agents despite the advantages the New York market provides, and the biggest failure might have come this summer when Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving took their talents to the rival Brooklyn Nets instead of MSG.

The Patriots have set a tremendous example for other teams in all sports to follow, and it would behoove the Knicks and other poorly run franchises to look toward New England for guidance.

Updated NFL playoff picture entering Week 12>>>

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Watch out, 2000 Ravens? Patriots defense still on pace to make history

Watch out, 2000 Ravens? Patriots defense still on pace to make history

Tom Brady admitted Monday morning that the New England Patriots' strengths are their defense and special teams.

He's not wrong -- especially about that defense.

The Patriots allowed just 10 points to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, holding Carson Wentz and Co. scoreless in the second half to escape with a 17-10 win.

That's the sixth time in 10 games New England has allowed 10 points or fewer, dropping its points allowed per game to 10.8, easily the lowest in the NFL. (The San Francisco 49ers are second at 15.5 points allowed per game.)

The Patriots' defensive effort Sunday also means they're very much in the running to have one of the best defenses in NFL history, even after giving up 37 points to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 9.

Courtesy of Boston Sports Info on Twitter, check out how New England's defense sticks up with the 1985 Chicago Bears and 2000 Ravens -- widely considered the two best defenses of all time -- through 10 games.

The Patriots have allowed just three fewer points through 10 games than the Ravens, whose 165 points allowed during the 2000 season are the current NFL record.

And the 2019 Patriots — led by All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore and the "Boogeymen" linebacker corps of Dont'a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins — lead both the '85 Bears and '00 Ravens in point differential, opponent passer rating and touchdown passes allowed.

New England has feasted on some subpar competition, and keeping this historic pace won't be easy: Their next three opponents — the Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs — all rank in the top 10 in points per game.

But the Patriots haven't had it much easier than either the '85 Bears or the '00 Ravens. Per Boston Sports Info, here's the combined winning percentage for each of these teams' first 10 opponents:

2000 Ravens: .440
1985 Bears: .420
2019 Patriots: .400

That data suggests the Patriots very much have a chance to make history if their defense keeps playing at this level. But here's the stat Bill Belichick and Co. probably care most about: The '85 Bears and '00 Ravens both won the Super Bowl.

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