Patriots

Turning Point: Patriots fourth-down failure opened door for Texans

Turning Point: Patriots fourth-down failure opened door for Texans

The Patriots were a middle-of-the-pack fourth-down offense coming into Sunday's matchup with the Texans, ranking 19th.

Not great.

But not so bad that when facing a fourth-and-one situation with 7:14 left in the third quarter at the Houston 42-yard line that they were afraid to go for it.

Quite the opposite, actually. Down 14-3 at the time, they'd had trouble sustaining drives for more than half the game. They were desperate to keep one going in Texans territory, so they gave it a shot.

Didn't work out. Led to a Houston touchdown that — given the way the Patriots offense was moving — seemed to put the game out of reach.

That's our Turning Point from this weekend's 28-22 loss for the Patriots. The fourth-down play itself, which we'll get to, wasn't necessarily the line of demarcation for where things went wrong for the Patriots.

You could've pointed to Tom Brady's first-quarter interception when he targeted N'Keal Harry for the first and only time that night.

You could've actually pointed to the third-down play before the fourth-down failure. Mohamed Sanu ran a crossing route right at the line to gain for a first down, then attacked Brady's pass as it approached. That's typically what the quarterback wants so his passes aren't undercut and broken up. But Sanu's path to the ball — an aggressive one — actually had him marked short of the sticks when he went down. Had he taken his route a yard deeper, then worked back to the ball, the outcome of the game might be different.

As it was, the Patriots went for it on fourth-and-short. Houston answered with six players right up on the line of scrimmage in the box. They were going to take away the quarterback sneak and any interior run.

The Patriots countered with a play-action pass, faking to Sony Michel in order to draw those box defenders forward and in the process open up the middle of the field for an easy throw.

Texans linebacker Zach Cunningham sniffed out the play-action quickly, though, dropped back to the middle of the field, gave Sanu a shove — which is allowed within five yards of the line of scrimmage before the ball is thrown — and Sanu was disrupted as the ball approached.

The play probably should've been called pass interference on Cunningham given that he was still contacting Sanu while Brady's pass was in the air. But it wasn't. It goes down as a drop and a turnover on downs.

After a long third-down completion to Kenny Stills, Watson had the Texans within striking distance. He had a touchdown pass to Will Fuller wiped off the board after review, but on the very next play, he hit Stills again for a 25-yard touchdown. The coverage by Jonathan Jones on the play was solid, but on third-and-10 the Patriots rushed five and got no pressure on Watson. He spotted Stills in single-coverage — with top option DeAndre Hopkins doubled — and hit him.

That made the score 21-3, putting a stuck-in-neutral Patriots offense in a bind the rest of the way.

The 14-3 lead the Patriots faced before our Turning Point seemed significant enough, but with Sanu dropping the fourth-down play — or running to a less-than-ideal depth on the third-down play before — they made a difficult situation even more so.

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Dolphins' Kyle Van Noy bristles at Patriots comparisons: 'We're our own team'

Dolphins' Kyle Van Noy bristles at Patriots comparisons: 'We're our own team'

You could call the Miami Dolphins "Foxboro South." Just don't call them that in front of Kyle Van Noy.

The veteran linebacker is one of four former New England Patriots who signed with the Dolphins this offseason, joining fellow linebackers Elandon Roberts and Kamu Grugier-Hill and center Ted Karras.

Miami is also led by an ex-Patriot in head coach Brian Flores, who has loaded his staff with New England alums in defensive coordinator Josh Boyer, tight ends coach George Godsey and quality control coach Mike Judge.

But Van Noy apparently is growing tired of those who believe the Dolphins are trying to replicate the Patriots' model of success.

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“I don’t now how many New England guys there are, but we’re going to get away from that,” Van Noy told the Miami Herald's Adam Beasley in a recent interview. “We’re our own team, this is not the New England Patriots. This is the Miami Dolphins. It’s totally different, and I’m excited for that. New beginnings.

The Dolphins began to forge their own identity late in the 2019 season, going 5-4 down the stretch after losing their first seven games. While Van Noy and his fellow Patriots cast-offs weren't there for that turnaround, the 29-year-old can already sense the team's new attitude.

"We’re the Miami Dolphins. We’re here to represent the people of Miami," Van Noy said. "They want it bad. I can sense that. Miami’s a football town."

The Dolphins fired ex-Patriots wide receivers coach Chad O'Shea as their offensive coordinator late in the 2019 season and used their No. 5 overall pick on Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, so perhaps they are intent on moving past those Patriots comparisons.

We'll find out immediately if that new approach pays off, as New England hosts Miami in its 2020 season opener.

Devin McCourty, wife share heartbreaking news of daughter's death

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USA TODAY Sports

Devin McCourty, wife share heartbreaking news of daughter's death

Devin McCourty and his wife, Michelle, endured every parent's worst nightmare last weekend.

The New England Patriots safety shared his wife's announcement Saturday that they lost their third child, Mia, last Sunday as the result of a stillbirth.

"I cry as I type this," Michelle wrote in an Instagram post. "My pregnancy had resulted in a stillbirth at almost 8 months of being pregnant — at exactly 31 weeks 2 days, when we found out that the baby girl growing inside me no longer had a heartbeat after being completely fine the week prior at my last doctor’s appointment.

"We are so heartbroken. We are devastated. We are speechless. We are angry. We are sad. We are confused. We are numb."

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The couple has two other young children: a 3-year-old girl named Londyn and a 2-year-old boy named Brayden.

The McCourtys received an outpouring of support from Devin's current and former teammates after he shared the news on Instagram.

Here's ex-Patriots quarterback Tom Brady: "Love you my brother. So sad for you loss! You are in our thoughts and prayers always ❤️❤️🙏🏼🙏🏼"

And here's Patriots linebackers coach Jerod Mayo: "My prayers and love to your family bro."

Patriots wide receiver N'Keal Harry -- "My prayers are definitely going out to y’all. Love you bro💙" -- Detroit Lions defensive end Trey Flowers -- "Prayers for you and your family! 💪🏾 be strong brother" -- and ex-Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib -- "Praying for ya family brotha!" -- were among many other NFL players offering their support to the McCourtys.

Michelle added in her message that she and Devin "appreciate the love and support we’ve already gotten, and just ask that you respect our privacy during this difficult time, since we have no answers to give anyway."

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