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Patriots Progress Report - First Quarter 2019

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Ho hum – another year, another undefeated start.

Someday, the New England Patriots are not going to be watch-settingly excellent every season. Someday, fans of the team will be left to wonder whether their beloved squad will have what it takes to make it to the postseason. Someday, the regular season outcome will be in doubt.

Today is not that day.

Tom Brady and company have once again started the season by winning their first four games. This initial quarter of the season could not have gone any better, with a trio of dominant performances followed by a hard-fought victory against a Buffalo team that is going to be considerably better than anyone really expected (on the defensive side, especially).

In basic terms, the fundamental goal in football is to score as many points as you can while giving up as few as you can. Simple. And after four games, there’s not one team in the NFL that can say they’re better at those two things together than the Patriots. As good? Maybe. But better? Not a chance.

Welcome back to the Progress Report.

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Offense – A-

Hard to argue with the results here. Through their first four games, the Patriots are averaging over 30.5 points per game. That’s a top-five number. That said, their scoring seems to have outpaced their actual production in some ways. They’re basically square in the middle of the pack in terms of yardage, putting up just over 362 yards a game – more than a hundred behind league-leading Baltimore. Tom Brady’s passing numbers sit in that middle range as well – 265 yards per game, a completion percentage of just over 62 – though his 7-to-1 TD/INT ratio is solid. The run game is even less impressive, sitting in the bottom third of the league. We’ll see if Josh Gordon can get going or if Sony Michel figures it out. Still, they’re scoring points – and ultimately those are the only numbers that matter.

Defense – A+

We expected the New England defense to be pretty good this year, but no one could have anticipated just how hot they would be coming out of the gate. The Patriots are by far the best defense in the NFL in terms of scoring prevention – they’ve allowed 27 points in four games. That’s 6.8 points per game – less than a touchdown. They’ve given up the fewest total yards per game – a scant 243 – thanks to sitting second in both passing (181.8) AND rushing (61.3) yards allowed. They lead the league in interceptions and passes defensed are tied for the lead in sacks. The secondary is otherworldly – they have 10 picks on the year already, with Devin McCourty alone picking off a pass in each of the first four games. Jamie Collins has been an absolute monster – 23 tackles, 3.5 sacks, three picks (one for a touchdown). This is a special group.

Special Teams – B+

This is usually an easy A for the Patriots, but Stephen Gostkowski has had kind of a rough go of it to kick off the season. He was the NFL’s most reliable kicker for a long time, but he’s shanked a few extra points, missing on four of his 15 tries. He made all but one of his eight field goal tries, though, so it might just be an anomaly. Rookie punter Jake Bailey looks like a find – he’s not a boomer, but he’s put almost half of his kicks (10 out of 22) inside the 20 and just eight have been returned. The return game is fine – Branden Bolden has looked good on kicks and Gunner Olszewski is OK on punts. The coverage units – led by special teams legend Matthew Slater – are as strong as usual.

Coaching – A+

What else is there to say? This team has managed to be one of the highest scoring teams while also giving up the fewest points – they excel at the two things you ultimately seek to do in a football game. And much of the credit for that goes to Bill Belichick and his staff. They have assembled a first-rate team, one that once again manages to be far more than the sum of its parts. The game planning has been excellent, as have the personnel decisions (well, aside from the short-lived Antonio Brown experiment). It’s as good a start to the season as anyone could have hoped. The road will get rougher, but as far as this first quarter goes, the Patriots are the best team in the league … and the best-coached.

Last modified on Tuesday, 01 October 2019 12:24

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