It was a rugged but rewarding week for the Patriots.
Reeling from consecutive road losses at Jacksonville and Detroit, the Patriots responded with convincing home wins over the Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts in a span of five days to climb out of an early season abyss.
The Patriots received a 72-hour football furlough after dispensing with the Colts on Thursday night and improving to 3-2. They’ll return to work on Monday, turning their attention to a monumental matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs next Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
“I thought our guys did a really good job this week coming off the Miami game and turning the page quickly and getting ready to go,” coach Bill Belichick said after speeding past Indy. “It was far from perfect, but we certainly played well enough that we deserved to win, so that’s good.”
The biggest takeaway from last week was the emergence of the offense from its September slumber.
Tom Brady & Co. put up 38 points in consecutive games, although it should be noted the defensive competition was suspect. The Patriots hadn’t reached that point plateau in back-to-back games since they scored 40 and 51 in Weeks 2 and 3, respectively, of the 2015 season.
The continued acclimatization of Josh Gordon and the return of Julian Edelman have bolstered a thin receiver position.
Their presence forces defenses to make decisions when it comes to double-teaming tight end Rob Gronkowski and creates favorable matchups for Phillip Dorsett and Chris Hogan as they find themselves aligned against a No. 3 or 4 cornerback rather than one from the top pairing, as had been the case.
The Patriots can stretch the field vertically with Gronkowski, Gordon and Hogan and horizontally with running back James White. They have a sideline option in Dorsett and an underneath option in Edelman.
So they make defenses cover sideline to sideline and goal line to goal line.
Rookie running back Sony Michel continues to struggle in the red zone and has gained two yards or less on 47.7 percent of his carries. But his increased ability to rip off chunk plays can’t be ignored.
Michel had seven double-digit runs on 43 carries in his last two games after ripping off two on 24 carries in his first two games. That included bursts of 23 and 34 yards.
As for the offensive line, it’s been steadied by underrated center David Andrew and the return to health of right tackle of Marcus Cannon, allowing no sacks on 79 drop-backs by Brady against the Dolphins and Colts.
The defense, to put it kindly, remains a work in progress. One gets the sense that’s the way it’s going to be for the rest of the way due a scarcity of talented linebackers and elite playmakers.
The key will be if it can make just enough progress, especially when it comes to consistency.
That was the culprit against the Colts and, if not for a pair of takeaways in the final 30 minutes, might have sunk the Patriots.
The Colts had 3 points, 8 first downs, 141 yards, and a 33-percent conversation rate on third down in the first half. They had 21 points, 18 first downs, 298 yards, and a 58.3-percent conversation rate on third- and fourth-down after intermission.
So all the progress made against the Dolphins and, in the first half, the Colts evaporated in the final two quarters Thursday night.
“We didn’t play as well in the second half,” said de facto defensive coordinator Brian Flores, making no attempt to mask the obvious. “We’ve just got to do a much better job. Once the game changes like that we’ve got to be able to adjust better than we did. Hopefully we learn from that and the next time we get in that situation we’ll be better.”
With an offense that now has the pieces to produce prodigious amounts of points, the Patriots don’t need a defense that’s great — not that that wouldn’t be welcome — but one that is dependably good.
Looking ahead, the schedule now appears to be tougher than it appeared prior to the season due to the emergence of the Chicago Bears and Tennessee Titans.
They’re added to a list that includes the Chiefs, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, and Pittsburgh Steelers. Some of those teams have struggled more than expected thus far, but they all have the talent to beat anyone anywhere.
Yup, it was a rugged but rewarding week for the Patriots. The former isn’t going to change the rest of the way and they hope the same is true of the latter.
Published at Sat, 06 Oct 2018 22:46:06 +0000