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A New England Patriots Community Blog

Updated: 2018-01-23T06:00:01-05:00


Patriots in Super Bowl LII: We’re going back, back, back again


Yep, that’s right. After a nail-biting AFC Championship game that nearly put the King on his deathbed, the Patriots are headed back to the Super Bowl for the third time in four years. Here we are again, for the third time in four years. It’s amazing, isn’t it? The Patriots are headed back to the Super Bowl. They battled through a testing playoff game at home on Sunday (one in which they didn’t play particular well … at least not until the end), got knocked on their butts a handful of times, looked completely lost and confused, like they were all just playing together on the same field for the first time. But they never threw in the towel, they rallied behind Tom Brady as they always do, and they just barely snagged victory out from under the feet of the Jacksonville Jaguars. It was a truly entertaining AFC Championship game, one that I fully intend to watch a couple more times (thanks to the amazing powers of DVR) during the next two weeks leading up to Super Bowl 52 in Minneapolis. Blake Bortles and the Jaguars came to play, and they competed about as hard as you could’ve asked. They had the Pats backed up against the wall for basically the entire game. Believe me, it was a stressful 60 minutes. I watched the game at my apartment, on my couch, just as I usually do. I broke out my red, white and blue Brady throwback jersey for the occasion. And here’s a quick story about that: for last week’s divisional round game against the Titans, I wore my blue Gronkowski jersey. In the Gronk jersey, the Pats ramrodded Tennessee and cruised to a lopsided 35-14 victory. In the throwback Brady jersey, the Pats barely survived the Jags, winning 24-20, and Gronk left the game with a concussion. So you can guess which jersey will be worn during Super Bowl 52 on Feb. 4. It didn’t take long for me to start regretting my choice of jersey for the AFC Championship game. After Bortles completed a four-yard touchdown pass to Mercedes Lewis, followed by Leonard Fournette’s four-yard touchdown run to put the Jaguars up 14-3 halfway through the second quarter, I felt like I had made a terrible mistake. But I can never bring myself to change jerseys during a game. I feel like choosing your game day jersey is like choosing your favorite team. Once you choose it, you’re stuck with it until the end. So I kept the Brady throwback on. And then when Gronkowski was involved in a head-on collision with Jags safety Barry Church late in the first half, which caused Gronk to leave the game with a concussion and probably forget the last five years of his life, I was really, really, REALLY regretting it. I felt like Sam Winchester after he unintentionally released Lucifer from his cage. I caused this, didn’t I? I doomed us all! Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images Rob Gronkowski collides helmet-to-helmet with Barry Church, giving himself a concussion and giving the King a heart attack. Of course, I didn’t actually cause it. My jersey choice had nothing do with anything that was happening in the football game. I just wanted to make excuses and find something to put the blame on. However, I felt a little better shortly after. Brady found Brandin Cooks for 12 yards, then James White rushed one yard into the end zone to bring the Pats back into the game. Halftime score: Jaguars 14, Patriots 10. Well, I guess being down four is better than being down 11, right? As a fan, it was time for me to regroup. The Pats played a really bad first half. They were getting kicked around in an AFC Championship by the Jacksonville Jaguars of all teams. Blake Bleeping Bortles was outperforming Tom Brady at Gillette Stadium in an AFC Championship game. I had to collect all of my thoughts, and try to keep calm. The Jags would be receiving the second half kickoff, but if the New England defense could somehow get a stop (something that had been hard to come by so far), the Patriots would then be in perfect position to regain their composure, take back the lead and put this Jacksonville team away for good. Sounded easy, rig[...]

Patriots coaching tracker: Matt Patricia expected to become Lions head coach; Josh McDaniels expected to become Colts head coach


These teams have openings at their head coaching positions. Original story Happy 2018! Not-so-happy Black Monday – at least for those coaches around the NFL who have lost their jobs today. Among them is the Detroit Lions' Jim Caldwell, who was fired by the team today after four seasons. Detroit ended 2017 with a 9-7 record and out of the playoffs, which led the franchise to dismiss one of its most successful head coaches of the Super Bowl era. To fill the vacation, the team is looking east to the New England Patriots. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Lions have requested to interview defensive coordinator Matt Patricia: Lions now have submitted a request to interview Patriots DC Matt Patricia for their HC job, per source. Patricia serves as the Patriots’ defensive coordinator since 2012. During his tenure, the team never finished outside of the top 10 in scoring, with 2016’s Super Bowl winning unit leading the team in the category. The 43-year old has consistently been among the top head coaching candidates but so far has not left New England. This might change with Detroit, led by former Patriots Director of Pro Scouting Bob Quinn, knocking. The Lions are not the only team taking a look at Patricia. According to Schefter, the New York Giants are as well. The team has also requested interviews with him as well as Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels: Giants now have submitted requests to interview Patriots’ DC Matt Patricia and OC Josh McDaniels for their HC job, per source. This could be Patricia’s landing spot. McDaniels in his second tenure as New England's offensive coordinator. As is the case with Patricia, his units are consistently among the best and most productive in the NFL. His 2007 and 2012 units led the league in scoring, while no other of the Patriots offenses that had McDaniels as coordinator finished outside of the top eight. While no formal request has been filed by the Indianapolis Colts as of yet, the team is also expected to ask New England for permission to interview McDaniels (per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport). The Chicago Bears, who ousted John Fox today are also candidates to take a look at the 41-year old. With the Patriots having secured a first-round playoff bye both McDaniels and Patricia, if the Patriots grant teams' requests, will have the time to conduct interviews. Time will tell whether or not any of the two will actually leave New England. Updates Update I: Patricia is a favorite for the Lions job because he could provide continuity for the offense by retaining the staff. Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Arizona Cardinals have also asked to interview Patricia. Rich Hill called the Cardinals the best landing spot for Patricia last week. The Colts have also officially filed a request to interview McDaniels, per Schefter. Update II: The Cardinals have also requested to interview Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores, per Schefter. Update III: The Bears have officially asked to interview McDaniels, per Ian Rapoport. Update IV: McDaniels is expected to interview with the Colts on Thursday and the Bears and Giants on Friday, per the Globe’s Ben Volin. Update V: According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, McDaniels might be on the Tennessee Titans’ radar in case the team exits the postseason on wild card weekend. Update VI: After the Titans Wild Card round victory, the team’s ownership issued a statement of support for head coach Mike Mularkey, removing Tennessee from McDaniels’ list of potential suitors. Update VII: The Bears have hired former Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, which removes them from contention for Josh McDaniels. Of the teams still waiting to hire a head coach, only the Giants and Colts have interviewed the Patriots offensive coordinator. Update VIII: It appears as if Matt Patricia is the frontrunner for both the Giants and the Lions head coaching positions. The Patriots' defensive coordinator reportedly prefers the New York gig and “all signs” point to him taking over the Giants. Update[...]

New York sources are now pretending like the Giants didn’t want Matt Patricia as their head coach



Sounds about right.

Roughly two weeks ago, New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia was considered the favorite for the New York Giants head coaching job according to the New York Daily News, going so far as to declare Patricia “prefers the Giants to the Lions.”

Patricia is the presumed choice for the Detroit Lions head coaching position, so the NYDN report clearly fell short. Where did that report go wrong?

According to NYDN’s Gary Myers, “Patricia indeed was the Giants’ first choice and the source added that there was discontent in the organization that it didn’t go their way.”

In other words, the New York Giants are upset that the coaching candidates didn’t believe they were the best available opening.

While I thought Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels would have been a fine coach for the Giants because of his presumed ability to pick and groom his franchise quarterback, Patricia would be walking into a tough situation. The Lions make a lot more sense with an established franchise quarterback in Matthew Stafford and two great wide receivers in Golden Tate and Marvin Jones.

But now sources tell the New York Post that Patricia wouldn’t have been able to handle the pressure of the New York market. Sure.

“The people I spoke to that work with him and know him didn’t think he was ready for a high-profile job,’’ the source told The Post. “They thought it would be Detroit or Arizona, where he could kind of cut his teeth, they didn’t think he was ready to leave the nest yet.’’

This sounds a like a case of the regrets from these sources as they try to save face after hiring Pat Shurmur, who the NYDN considered the team’s “second or third choice,” depending on where McDaniels ranked.

Now that the Giants didn’t get either Patriots coordinator, it seems like they’re trying to sell why Shurmur was the better option- which is totally fine and reasonable. I just have a hard time believing that people were considered about how Patricia would handle a job in a big market after having worked in New England.

Sure, New York is a different beast, but Patricia is a very personable and likeable guy that gives a good enough quote. So long as he won- which is the caveat for any head coach in any market- he would have been fine.

Snap Count Report: Patriots’ roster flexibility on display with James Develin and Patrick Chung in AFC Title Game


Weekly snap counts report from the Patriots’ 24-20 win over the Jaguars in the AFC Championship Game. Below are the Patriots’ snap counts on offense and defense from their 24-20 win over the Jaguars in the AFC Championship Game. OFFENSE The Patriots shortened the bench for Sunday’s AFC Championship Game on the offensive side of the ball. In all, only 16 Patriot players saw the field on offense, and running back Rex Burkhead and wide receiver Phillip Dorsett played limited roles only seeing the field for three snaps each. Entering Sunday’s game, one of the major matchup talking points was which personnel packages the Patriots would go with against the stingy Jaguars defense? There was statistical proof that heavier packages involving an extra tight end or fullback gave the Patriots a strategic advantage over the Jaguars. The injury to Rob Gronkowski may have forced the Pats away from some of the two tight end sets they had planned for Sunday, but their usage of fullback James Develin, especially early on in the game, was notable. Develin only played 15 snaps in the game, but the Patriots were able to keep the Jaguars defense off-balance by flexing Develin out wide in a spot traditionally occupied by a wide receiver. What this allowed the Patriots to do was keep the Jaguars in their base defense while still spreading out the formation, and if the Jaguars brought an extra defensive back on the field, then Tom Brady could audible at the line of scrimmage into a traditional fullback look with two players in the backfield. The Patriots were in 11-personnel (three wide receivers) 74.1% of the time on offense and averaged 5.6 yards per play in that grouping, according to fellow Pulpiteer Brian Phillips. But they averaged nearly nine yards per play (8.8) the 17.2% of the time they were in 21-personnel with James Develin on the field. DEFENSE On the defensive side of the ball, the Patriots loaded up on the line of scrimmage to stop the Jaguars’ running game and running back Leonard Fournette. In fact, there were long stretches of this game where the Patriots were primarily in a goal-line defense, daring Jags quarterback Blake Bortles to beat them through the air. As you might expect, with the run defense being a top priority defensive tackles Malcom Brown and Lawrence Guy saw an increase in playing time, as well as run-stopping linebacker Elandon Roberts. The 58 snaps for defensive tackle Lawrence Guy were a season-high, and Brown’s 58 snaps were his second-most in a game this season. And Roberts played 52 snaps after playing just 20 against the Titans in the Divisional Round. However, the unsung hero of the Patriots’ defense on Sunday, and maybe of the last few seasons, was safety Patrick Chung. Chung doesn’t get the recognition around the league like the more decorated players of his ilk, but his formation flexibility makes him one of the most essential Patriot defenders. In Sunday’s AFC Championship Game, Chung lined up all over the defense, logging snaps at linebacker, slot corner, edge defender, outside cornerback, and safety, which is something that he has done all season. Despite being listed as a safety, Chung essentially played linebacker for a majority of Sunday’s AFC Championship Game. In fact, 31 of Chung’s 74 snaps came with him playing linebacker, and he logged eight more snaps as an edge defender. Chung’s ability to play different roles in the Patriots defense, and play well in coverage and against the run, allows the Pats to keep his athleticism on the field while still loading up to stop the opponents rushing attack. You will hear a lot about Eagles Pro Bowler Malcolm Jenkins over the next two weeks, who’s similarly a swiss army knife in the Philly secondary, but Chung deserves a seat at the table of the elite hybrid safety/linebackers that have taken over the NFL in recent seasons. [...]

Patriots vs. Jaguars: Fan Notes from the AFC Championship


Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots’ 24-20 victory over the Jacksonville Janguars. I can’t keep doing this to myself. Just one time, I’d like for the New England Patriots to play an entire postseason without having to overcome a double-digit deficit. Just once, I’d like to spend the month of January not vacillating back and forth between overheating as I sweat through my recliner and freezing as the icy wind blowing through the window I had to open in order to keep my apartment from exploding gets me sick. Why can’t they just mow people over 75-0 every week so I can relax for a change? Because that’s not how the Patriots do business, that’s why. They are a team that exhibits patience, that knows a football game is 60 minutes long and it’s all about being in the right position as the clock winds down. As we’ve seen time and time again, when a Patriots opponent doesn’t play until the final whistle, New England will find a way to win, and that’s exactly what happened yesterday as the Pats took everything the Jaguars had and then some, only to mount a late comeback led by Tommy B and Danny Amendola to send them to yet another Super Bowl. The Jags played almost perfect football for three quarters of the AFC Championship game...but against the greatest quarterback (and the refs! BLAME THE REFS!) of all time, three quarters ain’t gonna cut it. If you didn’t see the John Malkovich teaser before the game started, drop everything you’re doing and watch it now. One of the best football promos I have ever seen. Malkovich has to be a pretty weird dude. Definitely the kind of guy who talks to his plants. Who the hell is Phillip Phillips? Is that his real name? Did his parents actually name him Phillip Phillips? Tommy B’s hand is yet another example of the media taking a non-story and blowing it up into a full-fledged emergency. Part of me wonders if, in those situations, the Patriots would be better off just disclosing the state of the injury in order to avoid all the nonsense, but if they did that the storyline would just be “Patriots uncharacteristically transparent about Tom Brady’s injury; is it just more deception?”, so what’s the point. The bottom line is If Torry Holt can catch passes with this finger, Tommy B can throw the ball with his thumb. As evidenced on the first drive of the day, where Brady dropped an absolute dime to Amendola on 4th and 2 to set up a field goal. I don’t want to start gushing about Amendola this early on in the Fan Notes, though, so I’ll just leave it at that. If I had to guess, I’d say that the one area of the field where Tommy B takes the most sacks is on 3rd down from inside the 20 yard line. It makes sense; clear passing down, limited field for the receivers to run, and more urgency from the defense to get a stop. Patrica moved Lawrence Guy to the edge in order to go bigger along the defensive line, using Kyle Van Noy to add speed across the edge, with Trey Flowers and Eric Lee on the other side. The Bear front is designed to jam up the middle, make it harder for backs to break to the outside, and keep passing plays in front of the secondary. The weakness of the Bear front is if the running game is effective and the playaction starts working, the middle of the field is wide open. And that’s exactly how Jacksonville played yesterday. “The Patriots haven’t given up an opening possession TD drive in 16 straight home games.” I was convinced the very next play was going to be a 60 yard touchdown pass as soon as that stat flashed across the bottom of the screen. Everyone totally predicted that Brandin Cooks would be the one getting the bulk of the looks early on, right? On the other hand, Jacksonville’s gameplan was exactly what we all expected: run-heavy, lots of playaction, and high percentage throws. That JAX was able to execute it so well early on speaks volumes about their coaching and preparation. [...]

Patriots win AFC Championship against the Jaguars in familiar fashion


New England is no stranger to coming back from huge fourth quarter deficits. Been there done that. The New England Patriots did not enter unchartered territories when they found themselves down 10 points early in the AFC Championship Game's final quarter. Still, when the Jacksonville Jaguars took a 20-10 lead with 14:52 left in the game it was fair to question whether or not the Patriots – having lost their best offensive skill position player to injury earlier – would be able to come back. But of course they did. And they made it look oh so familiar because by now it is: Seeing Tom Brady rally the troops in the fourth quarter of a playoff game to stand up to the challenge ahead is nothing new. The Jaguars are just the latest opponent to find out. Like the Atlanta Falcons before them. Or the Seattle Seahawks before them. Or the Baltimore Ravens before them. Overall, Brady has now led 11 game-winning fourth quarter or overtime drives in the postseason – the most of all time and the same number as Hall of Famers Joe Montana and John Elway combined. He completed comebacks when his team was down by double digits entering the final period in his last two Super Bowl appearances, and against Jacksonville it was not much different – at least partially. Brady and the Patriots offense did what they do, they came through in the clutch. Together with his most trusted target, wide receiver Danny Amendola, and a defense that rose to the occasion in the second half, New England was able to fight its way back into the game from a 20-10 deficit to a 20-17 deficit to a 24-20 lead. In this regard, the comeback did not look much different than others. Still, there are some differences to past comebacks as the circumstances were different than in the past. For one, the Patriots were without tight end Rob Gronkowski, who exited the game in the second quarter with a concussion – another blow to an offensive depth chart that was already without some important protagonists from past comeback playoff victories. Furthermore, New England went up against one of the best defenses in the NFL: No other unit allowed as few points or yards per drive as Jacksonville's, which also ranked in the top four in every important passing category during the regular season from yards to touchdowns given up to interceptions. And despite all that, the Patriots were able to lead two scoring drives behind a quarterback that completed 9 of 14 pass attempts for 138 yards and two touchdowns. The combination of all that plus the fact that a) Brady played with an injured right hand, and b) Dion Lewis lost a fumble early in the fourth quarter with the score still 20-10 in the Jaguars' favor makes for a unique comeback that differs from past ones like the Super Bowl victories over Atlanta or Seattle – even though that another aspect did not change when compared to either of those: The defense and special teams units played lights out when it had to. Against the Falcons and Seahawks, New England's defense was able to make big plays to help spark or complete the comeback wins. Against the Jaguars it was the same. Following Lewis' fumble, for example, the unit was able to create a quick three-and-out to set up the first of the touchdown drives in the final period. The unit then gave up only one first down on its next two series as it watched the offense march to the lead. It was then on the defense again – and once more it delivered to stop a last-gasp 4th and 11 pass from being completed and taking the football away on downs. Being in this position was also made possible by some strong performances in the kicking game: Be it Danny Amendola's 20-yard punt return that set up his go-ahead touchdown or perfect ball placement by Ryan Allen on his fourth punts, the Patriots played perfectly when there was little room for error. In that case, it is a story told many times before: New England found itself in a “do or die”-[...]

How Ryan Allen’s final three punts vs. Jaguars helped pin Patriots in Super Bowl territory


A 41-yard average won’t get you to the Pro Bowl, but Ryan Allen’s helped get New England somewhere else. Fifty-yard punts help raise the average, but the ones that dropped Ryan Allen’s Sunday helped send the New England Patriots to Minneapolis. “Ryan’s done a good job for us all year, and again in a game like this,” head coach Bill Belichick told reporters in his postgame press conference, via “I don’t know how many times we punted – more than we wanted to – but he had a lot of big plays for us.” Off Allen’s left foot bounced a total of six punts for a 41.3-yard clip against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Such a mark would’ve ranked last in the NFL this regular season. Given the field position, such a mark likely couldn’t have mattered less to special teams coordinator Joe Judge and assistant coach Raymond Ventrone. And yet, seeing how Allen finished the 16-game schedule tied with Sam Martin and Bradley Pinion for third-to-last, such a mark was only fitting in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Distance means little without the benefit of context. A line-drive punt that goes 65 yards and is returned for 20 doesn’t hold as much weight as a lofted 35-yarder that becomes a fair catch inside the 10. It’s not always a matter of swinging for the fences. It can be about touch, too. Allen’s afternoon at Gillette Stadium was case in point. In the first half, the 27-year-old by way of Oregon State and Louisiana Tech punted a 42-yarder out of bounds at Jacksonville’s 24, had a 53-yarder fair caught at Jacksonville’s 23, and saw a 46-yarder roll out at Jacksonville’s 25. The Jaguars showed some two-deep return looks then, limiting directional kicks as Belichick would go on to note, and went on to respond with two touchdowns on those ensuing drives. Though in the second half, there was less room to work with. The Patriots’ punt-coverage team never stepped on with ball on their own side of the 50. Those decisions intensified with New England down 17-10 and then 20-10. But those decisions put trust in New England’s defense to get stops against a more conservative approach, and in Allen to set the stage for one – or two or three. His final trio of punts did that, landing within a yard of each other as the likes of Matthew Slater, Johnson Bademosi and Nicholas Grigsby closed in. ALLEN’S SECOND-HALF PUNTS 37 yards, fair caught at the Jacksonville 10 37 yards, fair caught at the Jacksonville 9 35 yards, fair caught at the Jacksonville 10 Jaguars rookie Dede Westbrook could do nothing more than throw his hand in the air as each fell into his grasp within 10 yards of his own end zone. There’d be no touchbacks – Allen had three all regular season on 58 punts – just drives that saw Jacksonville start in the shadow of their own goal post. NFL Game Pass “Yeah, in each of those situations we did what we felt was best in that situation at that time,” said a coy Belichick, whose offense departed on fourth-and-4 from the Jaguars’ 47, fourth-and-2 from the Jaguars’ 46, and fourth-and-2 from the Jaguars’ 45 over the last two quarters. A three-and-out, a field goal, and another field goal would follow for Blake Bortles, Leonard Fournette and Co. over that span. So would an opportunity for Tom Brady, Danny Amendola, Brandin Cooks and the rest of New England’s offense to rally, 24-20. “He had some good punts when we were backed up and needed the field position,” Belichick added of Allen, a 2013 undrafted free agent and two-time Ray Guy Award winner, “and then we had some plus-50 punts in the second half that he executed really well, which is like we did in the Jets game a couple weeks ago. We were able to maintain the field position that we had, so it was key for us.” This wasn’t the New York game of Week 17, when Allen posted a 42.3-yard average with five punts in[...]

Brian Flores projected to stay with Patriots as Cardinals expected to hire Steve Wilks as head coach



It appears as if New England might keep its defensive coordinator in the waiting.

The New England Patriots' coaching staff is expected to see significant turnover after the Super Bowl. Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia is all but certain to leave the team to become the next head coach of the Detroit Lions, while both offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and special teams coordinator Joe Judge are also candidates to leave the team for free jobs elsewhere.

Also on the list of potential losses is linebackers coach Brian Flores. The 36-year old, who has been with the Patriots his entire coaching career and worked his way up from coaching assistant to his current role, was in the running for the Arizona Cardinals' vacant head coaching job – “was” because if a report by AZ Central's Kent Somers is to be believed, it appears that he no longer is.

According to Somers, the Cardinals are expected to hire Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks to fill the shoes of former head coach Bruce Arians.

Hiring Wilks would have a trickle-down effect on the Patriots: Flores being out of the race for the Cardinals' head coaching spot would mean that he could now stay in New England to take over as the Patriots' new defensive coordinator once the Patricia leaves for Detroit. Of course, a lot can change in the next few weeks but as things stand right now, the Patriots should be pretty happy to see the Cardinals hire Wilks.