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Patriots Progress Report 2019 – Halftime

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What do you even say at this point?

The Patriots somehow managed to dominate the competition even more thoroughly in the season’s second quarter. The last four games have seen New England ruthlessly dispatch every team they faced, never winning a game by fewer than two touchdowns and often winning by more than three.

This team is 8-0 and has yet to really break a sweat. There’s no question that the schedule gets more difficult from here on in – you’d think that there would have to be some regression eventually, particularly on the defensive side. And yet … will there? We’ve never seen anything quite like it.

And if the Pats should fall back to Earth a little going forward, well – we’ll always have the first half.

On to the Progress Report.

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Offense – B+

On the surface, this looks a little weird. Why not an A? How else could you grade a team that leads the league in scoring? Over 31 points per game on the season? Slightly better than that over the last four? That’s an A. Tom Brady continues to be ageless; he’s averaged just shy of 300 yards passing per game over the last four, throwing six TDs against three INTs. Not the most spectacular numbers, but plenty good. Julian Edelman remains the stalwart among the pass catchers; his last four have seen him catch 32 balls for just shy of 350 yards and three scores. Losing Josh Gordon will hurt, but the acquisition of Mohamed Sanu should ease some of the sting. Running back Sony Michel has come on strong; roughly two-thirds of his season production has come in the last four games. But the truth is that a significant chunk of their scoring has come courtesy of the defense – in terms of actual offense, the Patriots are middle-of-the-road (seventh in passing yards, 23rd in rushing, 16th overall). Have to ding them a little – and only a little – for that.

Defense – A+++

What more can possibly be said about this group? We can talk about how they’re breaking fantasy football – the Patriots defense is currently scoring in the top-10 overall, which is unheard of. They’re giving up just over a touchdown a game – 7.6 points, a number that has actually RISEN slightly since the last time. They still have yet to give up more than 14 points in a game; opponents are averaging just 234 yards of total offense against them. Over the last four, they’ve allowed seven, 14, zero and 13 points. They lead the league in sacks. Oh, and they have a STAGGERING number of takeaways; a league-leading 19 interceptions and six fumble recoveries. There are a handful of players having elite seasons on the defensive side. Devin McCourty remains the league leader in interceptions even though teams have tried to steer clear of him. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore remains one of the league’s best in coverage; his three picks have him tied for third overall. And Jamie Collins continues to be an all-around beast, forcing fumbles and sacking QBs and tackling everybody he sees. This crew is in the “best-ever” conversation.

Special Teams – B

Losing kicker Stephen Gostkowski to injury was tough, but journeyman Mike Nugent has offered up a solid, albeit unspectacular performance in his four games thus far, making five of his eight field goal attempts and all but one of his 16 extra point tries. Rookie punter Jake Bailey has been right around the middle of the pack in terms of performance, but has ticked up in recent weeks. He’s put nine of his 21 kicks inside the 20 with just a single touchback; only six have been returned for a grand total of just 25 yards. Brandon Bolden has been serviceable returning kickoffs; Gunner Olzeski has been a touch better than that on punt returns. The coverage teams – led as always by special teams stud Matthew Slater – have looked as steady and prepared as ever.

Coaching – A+

So this quarter of the season ended with Bill Belichick getting the 300th win of his coaching career (regular season and playoffs) – and doing it against his former team the Browns, no less. He’s only the third coach to ever reach the milestone, behind Don Shula and George Halas. This season could potentially wind up being his best yet. He lost a number of coaches from his staff over the offseason and decided to just take the reins of the defense himself. You know, the one that is one of the best-ever to this point in the season? Schematically, the Patriots have looked nigh-unstoppable. All aspects of the team are humming along. That kind of efficiency starts at the top; there’s no reason to expect that to change any time soon. As always, in Belichick we trust.

Last modified on Tuesday, 29 October 2019 06:45

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