Tag Archives: Matt Patricia

New England Patriots: Confidence Is Soaring As The Season Winds Down

2015 Ended Poorly

As the 2015 season wound down, Bill Belichick made some decisions that, looking back, turned out to be questionable (I know, that is heresy in New England, but look at the results).  After winning their first eleven games the Patriots started to wilt. With a bunch of walking wounded, a beat up Tom Brady and the play-offs with home field in game-one guaranteed, he rested some key players and went to a non-existent running game against the J-E-Ts and Dolphins. For the 1st time in may years the Patriots seemed to be playing not-to-lose. 

11-29-brady-hit-high-after-releasing-the-ball-no-penalty-on-this-play
2015 Brady got beat up in Denver

Well, as we all know (so why am I reminding you????) the Pats lost both those games and went into the play-offs having lost four of their last six games. They never completely recovered from those decisions. After winning a home play-off game against the Chiefs (27-20) they traveled to Denver and lost to the ultimate Super Bowl Champion Broncos (20-18) in the Conference Championship game.

How Different Is 2016?

Now, with two games remaining in the 2016 regular season, New England faces the same two teams, NY J-E-T-S and Miami, in a similar situation. The J-E-T-S are out of the race, but always give the Patriots a good fight…and the Dolphins continue to fight for a play-off spot.

So…why does it feel so different?  Here are 5 reasons:

  1. The 2016 Patriots are now playing their best football of the season, unlike 2015, when they were unsure if the defense or offense could hold up
  2. Tom Brady won’t be going into these games already bruised & battered thanks to Dante Scarnecchia and a rejuvenated OL (yeah, I know he’s back to limited practice & on the injury list…but he’s still in better shape than last year) 
  3. The running game is at it’s peak, with LeGarrette Blount rushing for 15 TDs and over 1,000 yards…a healthy Dion Lewis..a solid #3 with James White and the impressive blocking of James Develin. Last year neither Blount nor Lewis were playing due to injuries
  4. The defense is #1 in points against in the NFL. I’ll say that again, the defense is #1 in points against in the NFL
  5. Bill Belichick seems completely confident in all aspects of the Pats game. He’s willing to trust his defense (say what?), offense or special teams to make the crucial play at the end of the game. That’s something that has been missing for many years

Same Decision = Different Results

So, that said, what if Belichick makes the same decisions this year that he did in 2015? If he does, the results should be completely different. This team is tough and in no way resembles the 2015 version of the New England Patriots.

malcolm-mitchell-vs-sf
Mitchell vs 49ers courtesy of Boston Herald.com

They don’t have Rob Gronkowski or Danny Amendola and both are big losses. However, they do have a bruiser in Blount, a quick Lewis plus new heroes in Chris Hogan (highest yards-per-catch in the NFL) and the speed of rookie WR Malcolm Mitchell. Add in tough TE Martellis Bennett and, oh yeah, a well rested Tom Brady!

With a defense that is starting to click without Chandler Jones or Jamie Collins…but is lead by Trey Flowers, always reliable Rob Ninkovich, Chris Long and, suddenly rejuvenated Jabaal Sheard, Malcolm Butler, Devin McCourty, Dont’a Hightower and a host of others…they are a formidable bunch.

NOTES:

  • Congratulations to Brady, Slater, Hightower & McCourty on their selection to the 2016 NFL Pro-Bowl. Hopefully none will be able to play as they prepare for the Super Bowl
  • Condolences to Malcolm Butler, Blount and Marcus Cannon (can’t believe I’m saying this), who all deserved a shot too
  • The NFL is always fair & objective…just look at their recent “punishment” to the Giants & their Head Coach for being caught cheating! #Integrity
  • This has been an outstanding year for Patriot Coaches Belichick, Josh McDaniels, Matt Patricia and Scarnecchia
  • Tom Brady is being penalized again! Many are saying he doesn’t deserve the MVP because he has played 4 fewer games than the others in the running. King Goodell strikes again
  • The Patriots are the only team in the NFL who have not lost a road game this year. Despite that, the advantage of playing in Foxborough in the playoffs is huge.

 

Dante Scarnecchia

 

Hard to believe, but, 14 games down (12-2) with just 2 more before the real season begins. This season has flown by.

Follow me on Twitter @SnowdonBob

 

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New England Patriots: The Survival Of The Best Coached Team In The NFL

The NFL is a game of attrition and teams know that coming into every season. It’s not shocking when players start going down…and it happens to everyone. Some teams use injuries as an excuse and fall by the wayside. The best teams use a step-up mentality and overcome the adversity.
Dion Lewis went down for the season in the win against Washington (Photo Patriots.com David Silverman)
Dion Lewis went down for the season in the win against Washington (Photo Patriots.com David Silverman)

 Survival Of The Best Coached

Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia and Bill Belichick ( Photo: salemnews.com)
Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia and Bill Belichick ( Photo: salemnews.com)

To this point in the 2015 season the New England Patriots, with arguably the best coaching staff in the NFL,  have clearly  taken the second approach, and it has paid off with a 9-0 record.

All NFL teams are forced to  dig into their back-ups, make trades or move players around to help fill the holes created… and New England has done that with the best of them.  What seems to be the biggest difference between the Patriots and most other teams is (drum roll please) they always seem ready for everything, and that, my friends (I hope) is  all about coaching.

Bill Belichick has always liked players with versatility and, in  2015, it has paid off. As injuries piled up we’ve seen players we never heard of (alright, maybe a slight exaggeration) playing positions they  never played in the NFL!

  1. Offensive lineman goes down – plug-in a tight end
  2. Wide receiver out for a while, go to two and three TE sets and throw in the next man up
  3. Defensive line struggling against the run, adjust the personnel package

Doing It Again

Julian Edelman is out with a broken foot ala Dez Bryant of the Cowboys (Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP))
Julian Edelman is out with a broken foot ala Dez Bryant of the Cowboys (Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP))

So now the Patriots face another hurdle. How do you replace the unique qualities of Julian Edelman? The simple answer is: you don’t! Fans are once again bringing up names (remember Reggie Wayne?) of players who may be available. It’s time to take a deep breath and let Mr. Belichick and his staff do their thing.

Danny Amendola (Feature Photo: Patriots.com David Silverman) has played his best football since becoming a Patriot. No, he doesn’t play the slot, as Edelman does, but here’s where coaching steps in again. The ability to change on the fly has been unbelievable this season…and the Patriots will do it again.

Brandon LaFell is hard to take down once he has the ball (Photo Patriots.com David Silverman)
Brandon LaFell is hard to take down once he has the ball (Photo Patriots.com David Silverman)

Brandon LaFell is back close to 100%, Gronkowski is…well, Gronk, Scott Chandler needs to step up and make catches he’s supposed to (Chandler has just 13 catches for 137 yards and two TDs this season), Keshawn Martin is about ready to come back and has looked good in his short tenure and it’s time to fish or cut bait for Aaron Dobson.

Will The Patriots Still Roll Over Opponents?

Quick answer, probably not. To expect the team offense to continue to perform at their current level minus an offensive line (which returns some bodies this week, thank God), Dion Lewis and Julian Edelman is completely unrealistic. Yes, Tom Brady is Tom Brady, but you could start to see his frustration Sunday against the Giants.

He’ll move on, but his comfort level of always having Edelman there when things aren’t going right won’t be the same with Amendola.  He made that plain in this weeks press conference when he said “ Julian Edelmans just aren’t sitting out on the street or else they’d be playing for another team” As Mike Reiss quoted in an article on ESPNBoston.

Lewis had added something this area hasn’t seen since the days of Curtis Martin, an elusive running back who made tacklers miss. James White and Brandon Bolden don’t come close to filling that role.

Can The Injuries Continue To Pile Up

By December there are very few bodies that aren’t battered and bruised. Most players accept it and are able to play through the pain. Many  just can’t because of the severity of their injuries.

You also have the rookies, who hit a wall around game 12.  No sir, the NFL isn’t quite like college!

  • The intensity is higher (it’s a job now)
  • The players are better and more physical
  • The speed of the game is about twice what anyone saw or played against at their alma mater
  • …and you play more games

So, logic says there may be more decisions to be made as the second half of the season rolls along. Don’t hang me here, but 16-0 may be unachievable, yet, looking at the rest of the NFL the New England Patriots are still the Super Bowl favorites.

Follow me on twitter @snowdonbob

 

New England Patriots player spotlight: Taking a look at Jamie Collins

Image: Boston Herald
Image: Boston Herald

Bill Belichick has worked with some pretty dynamic defensive players: Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson, and Willie McGinnest to name a few. But none might be as dynamic as Jamie Collins. Collins is the ultimate chess piece; the player that can literally play every defensive position and play it well. In 2014, his first as a starter, he recorded 116 tackles, 4 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and 2 interceptions. Already this year, he has 22 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles…IN THREE GAMES. Barring injury, Collins is ready to not only cement his position as the best LB on the Patriots, but the best LB in the league.

At Southern Mississippi, the school that famously gave the world Brett Favre, Collins played defensive back (both corner and safety), linebacker and defensive end. The fact that he excelled at defensive back, standing at 6’3, 250 pounds is a test to show how freakish of an athlete Collins truly is. Also a standout track & field athlete, Collins was a state track qualifier. At the 2009 3A South State Meet, he earned first-place finishes in the shot put (51-6) and discus throw (156-0 or 47.80m), while also placing second in both the high jump (6-4 or 1.93m) and triple jump (43-10.5) events.* While at the 2013 Combine, he ran a 4.59 40 and had a broad jump of 11 feet, 7 inches, which was a combine record; Not just for linebackers or defensive players, but for EVERY player that has ever participated in the NFL Scouting Combine (this was recently beat this year by CB Byron Jones, but Collins’ record still stands for linebacker).

Image: NE Patriots draft
Image: NE Patriots draft

The interesting thing about Collins is where he lines up along the Patriots front. Teaming with fellow stud LB’s Donta’ Hightower and Jerod Mayo, the Patriots can make an argument for the best LB corps in the league. But again, he has lined up at defensive end, defensive tackle and some deep safety this year already. He joined in the effort against Buffalo with 8 sacks of Bills QB Tyrod Taylor. As the season goes on, expect Collins to start taking more of a dominant role and other teams will have to know where #91 is.

Belichick has tried before to add a player similar to Collins’ skill set (Adalius Thomas anyone?) but he struck gold here. Seeing Collins all over the field shows the amount of respect Belichick and Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia have for his ability and they will work to put him in the best position. His ability to cover TE’s (having to guard the best TE in the league in practice doesn’t hurt things) has made him indispensable and now is increasing his pass rush. His ability softens the blow of the loss of CB Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. Creating an intense pass rush helps average CB’s look like Pro-Bowlers. After all, the Giants won two Super Bowls with this philosophy.

Collins, with all his ability and skill, has to prove going forward that he can sustain the level of success he needs to become an All-Pro. With good coaching and strong leadership around him, Collins has the ability to step up and be the best at his position. By giving arguably the best defensive mind in the last 20 years an invaluable addition shows how far ahead the Patriots are of other teams and how they are still the team to beat in the NFL in 2015.