Patriots-Bills Film Review: Defense Bails Out Uneven Offensive Performance

The New England Patriots typically aren’t the type to underestimate opponents, as if that’s not clear.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick raves about the next team up on their schedule every week in part because he wants his own squad to believe they’re in for a serious challenge.
But the Patriots obviously knew they could beat the Buffalo Bills with little semblance of a rushing attack Monday night. That’s why Cordarrelle Patterson — a wide receiver and kick returner by trade — started the game at running back and led the team with 10 carries for 38 yards. And they were right. The Patriots won 25-6.
But because the Patriots weren’t exactly threatening an underrated Bills defense with their run game, New England’s offense sputtered, especially in the red zone.
The Patriots were just 1-of-3 in the red zone with their lone touchdown coming on a 1-yard burrow by running back James White. The Patriots settled for four field goals to start the game.
So, New England needed its defense to bail them out this time. And that they did. The Bills never even go inside the red zone and only kicked two field goals. The Patriots forced two turnovers, one of which was a scoring play. They still allowed 333 net yards and 287 through the air, but “bend but don’t break” never worked so effectively as it did against the lowly Bills offense. Buffalo was led by 35-year-old journeyman quarterback Derek Anderson until New England predictably knocked him out of the game.
The Patriots’ first turnover came with 3:04 left in the third quarter on first-and-10 from Buffalo’s 33-yard line. Van Noy played most of the game at inside linebacker but lined up on the edge in the Patriots’ big nickel defense. Van Noy simply ran past Bills left tackle Dion Dawkins and stripped Anderson in 2.9 seconds. It was the quickest sack of the season for the Patriots. Safety Patrick Chung hopped on the ball, and the Patriots suddenly were in good field position.

Watch out for @KVN_03.#NEvsBUF | #GoPats pic.twitter.com/mZ9L47f7aK
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) October 30, 2018

They wound up kicking a 25-yard field goal to go up 12-6.
The play of the game came in the final quarter.
The Bills were on the move, trailing 18-6, when Anderson seemingly hit tight end Jason Croom for a 25-yard touchdown. Chung was in close coverage and noticed Croom juggled the ball while going to the ground. The call was reversed to an incomplete pass. Tight end Charles Clay was charged with a false start on the next play, pushing Buffalo back to the 30-yard line.
Anderson attempted to target Clay with Chung in coverage while the Patriots were in a two-deep safety look. McCourty stayed patient, showing he was dropping back in coverage until the moment Anderson had fully committed to throwing to Clay. McCourty jumped the route, snagged the ball out of the air and ran it back 84 yards for the touchdown. He reached speeds of 22.05 mph on the play, becoming the fastest NFL ball-carrier this season.

[email protected] | #NEvsBUF | #GoPats pic.twitter.com/sdklTG23UX
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) October 30, 2018

Not bad for a guy who “lost a step.”
Some interceptions are lucky accidents. This one wasn’t. McCourty knew exactly what he was doing on the play, made a good read and showed the speed and quickness to not only wait until the last moment to jump the route but also bring the ball back for the score.
Here’s what else we noticed from our film review:
— Trey Flowers had one of his best games of the season. He was using his length to his advantage on several plays.
Arm extended:

Tackle for loss.

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Arm extended:

Quarterback pressure.

Arm extended:

Tackle for loss.

You can watch that full play here:

@iii_flowers | #NEvsBUF | #GoPats pic.twitter.com/OTORYCn1gJ
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) October 30, 2018

Arm extended:

Run stuff for no gain.

Technique: It’s important.
— Your James White season-end projections update: 110 catches, 918 yards, 12 touchdowns, 96 carries, 408 yards, four touchdowns. Obviously, there have been more impressive overall seasons by running backs. Marshall Faulk and Roger Craig each had seasons with 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards. But for a third-down back, those numbers would be fairly unbelievable.
— Julian Edelman had his best game of the season with nine catches for 104 yards. He and White were the biggest offensive stars of the game, though Chris Hogan made two nice catches, as well.
— It was a down game for the Patriots’ offensive line. They were due. And they’ll surely come back strong against the Packers.
— Fans will remember Elandon Roberts’ dropped interception, but he was flying around in the run game. His dropped interception still counted as a pass breakup and forced a punt.
— Not much else can be said about Stephon Gilmore. He’s playing like an elite, lock-down cornerback right now.

Scouting The Packers: 4 Things To Know About Patriots’ Week 9 Opponent

The New England Patriots will play their fourth primetime game in five weeks this Sunday night at Gillette Stadium. Their opponent: the Green Bay Packers.
Here are four things to know about the Packers, who enter the weekend with a record of 3-3-1:
1. We’ll see a rare Brady-Rodgers matchup
Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are two of the greatest quarterbacks in history, and they’ve squared off just once, not including a relief appearance the latter made against the Patriots back in 2006. That lone meeting came at Lambeau Field in 2014, with Rodgers’ Packers prevailing 26-21 on the back of a 368-yard, two-touchdown, no-interception performance by their star QB.
This will be the Rodgers’ first regular-season visit to Gillette, as he was injured when Green Bay last came to Foxboro in 2010.
Rodgers has posted a triple-digit passer rating in four of the Packers’ seven games this season — including each of the last three — and has thrown 13 touchdown passes with just one interception. His weapons are a mix of veterans (Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, Jimmy Graham) and relative newcomers, like third-year pro Geronimo Allison and rookies Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown.
2. They nearly upset the undefeated Rams on Sunday
The Packers clung to a one-point lead late in the fourth quarter at the Los Angeles Coliseum but couldn’t hold on. Greg Zuerlein booted a field goal with 2:05 remaining to put the Rams ahead 29-27, and running back Ty Montgomery lost a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, infuriating his teammates and allowing L.A. to drain the remainder of the clock.
Rodgers, who’s engineered many a late-game comeback in his career, including two this season, never got the ball back, and the Rams escaped to improve to 8-0.

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3. They were busy at the trade deadline
The Packers made two significant trades Tuesday, sending starting free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to the Washington Redskins and Montgomery to the Baltimore Ravens.
Though his play has declined since his Pro Bowl nod in 2016, Clinton-Dix had played every defensive snap this season for the Packers and led the team with three interceptions before the trade. He’ll likely be replaced by some combination of Kentrell Brice, Josh Jones and Jermaine Whitehead.
The Montgomery trade — which came two days after his costly gaffe in L.A. — solidified Green Bay’s backfield tandem of Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. Jones has been particularly efficient this season (NFL-best 6.2 yards per carry) but has carried the ball just 44 times in five games, for which head coach Mike McCarthy has faced criticism. He logged a season-high 12 rushes against the Rams, though, finishing with 86 yards and a touchdown.
4. Bill Belichick is very high on the Packers’ rookie cornerback
Had Jaire Alexander slipped to No. 23 in the 2018 NFL Draft, Isaiah Wynn might not be a member of the Patriots organization right now. Belichick was incredibly complimentary of Alexander, whom the Packers drafted 18th overall out of Louisville, during his conference call with Green Bay reporters Tuesday.
Asked what stands out to him about Alexander, Belichick replied: “Everything.”
“He’s a great player,” the Patriots coach said. “He’s going to have a great career in this league. We thought that was an excellent pick. It was a little bit ahead of where we were picking. He was certainly one of the top players on the board. He’s a great kid, has great energy, loves football and has great football skills. … He’s got a great future in this league. I think he’ll be one of the top corners in the game for quite a while now.”
Alexander had the best game of his young career against the Rams, breaking up five Jared Goff passes and playing every defensive snap.

How David Price Lifted Nathan Eovaldi’s Spirits After Game 3 Loss

David Price’s eyes welled up when asked after the Red Sox’s World Series-clinching game what it means to him to be a good teammate.
“A lot,” the left-hander said after gathering himself. And if you think Price’s selflessness as a teammate is being overblown, Nathan Eovaldi likely would be happy to prove you wrong.
Eovaldi was tabbed with a heartbreaking loss in Game 3 of the World Series, which saw the right-hander toss 97 pitches over six innings of relief on the heels of two stellar appearances in the first two games of the series.
The Red Sox rallied around Eovaldi after the 18-inning loss, but Price went the extra mile to ensure that the right-hander’s spirits remained high in the face of defeat.

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“Price would not leave Eovaldi’s side,” Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci writes. “He joined him in the training room, where he sat with him as Eovaldi had his arm “flushed” of inflammation by a trainer as part of his normal postgame recovery. He sat next to him on the team bus back to the Pasadena hotel. The next day Price even took adjoining soaks with Eovaldi in the hot and cold tubs.”
Eovaldi didn’t take the gesture lightly.
“Nobody’s ever done anything like that for me,” Eovaldi told Verducci. “He’s a great teammate.”
Red Sox players haven’t hesitated to show their appreciation for Price, but it will be the fans’ turn Wednesday when the 2018 World Series champs roll around the city of Boston for a celebratory parade.

These Teams Are Winners, Losers Of Extremely Active NFL Trade Deadline

Tuesday was a crazy day in the NFL.
There was a total of five trades made before the 4 p.m. ET deadline, with the two biggest names changing jerseys being wide receivers Golden Tate and Demaryius Thomas. To go along the them, 2015 No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler Jr. and now-former Green Bay Packers Ty Montgomery and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix also are on the move.
With the season halfway over, some teams made moves to give them a shot at the playoffs, while others failed to do so. Here are the winners and losers from the 2018 NFL trade deadline.
Winners: 
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images
Houston Texans
In Week 8, Deshaun Watson and the entire Texans offense started to look like they did before an ACL injury ended Watson’s season last year. Watson tied his career-high with five passing touchdowns, and he became the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to have multiple five touchdown pass games within his first two seasons. Although the offense looked good, Houston lost Will Fuller V for the season to an ACL injury of his own. Rather than regressing, the Texans went out Tuesday and traded the Denver Broncos a 2019 fourth-round pick and a swap of seventh-round picks for Thomas, a four-time Pro Bowler to fill the void left by Fuller.
With the presence of DeAndre Hopkins, Thomas most likely won’t have to face off against the No. 1 defensive back each snap as he often has. The Texans didn’t have to give up much, but still gave Watson a reliable veteran weapon to add to his arsenal. If the two can sync up quickly, Thomas could find himself crossing the 1,000 yard threshold for the first time since 2016.
Raj Mehta/USA TODAY Sports Images
Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles were third in the NFL in points per game in 2017 with 28.6, but have not been as successful this season averaging a meager 22.3 points per game. To counteract this problem, Philadelphia went out Tuesday and acquired Tate for a 2019 third-round pick.
Tate has torched opposing secondaries this season with 44 receptions and 517 yards in just four starts and seven games total. The Eagles are 11th in the league in receiving yards per game (281.8), but now add a surefire weapon to pair with Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Zach Ertz. The defending champs haven’t looked the same this season, but maybe the addition of Tate will help jumpstart the offense.

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Douglas DeFelice/USA TODAY Sports Images
Los Angeles Rams
The rich just keep getting richer. The undefeated Rams have been the best team in football this season and potentially got even better Tuesday with the acquisition of Fowler from the Jacksonville Jaguars. The team gave up a 2019 third-round pick and 2020 fifth-round pick. The Rams now can pair Fowler alongside five-time Pro-Bowler Ndamukong Suh and 2017 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald to form one of the most ferocious front sevens in football.
Losers:
Brad Mills/USA TODAY Sports Images
Green Bay Packers
The Packers currently sit in third place in the NFC North (3-3-1) and traded away two veteran players Tuesday. Green Bay traded Montgomery to the Baltimore Ravens for a 2020 seventh-round pick and Clinton-Dix to the Washington Redskins for a 2019 fourth-round pick.
Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports Images
Denver Broncos
The Texans made a great move snatching Thomas up from the Broncos, but it wasn’t as good for Denver. The Broncos are receiving a fourth- and seventh-round pick for Thomas.
The Broncos haven’t been the same since the retirement of Peyton Manning, and this move is sure to bring the team down further.
David Kohl/USA TODAY Sports Images
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Unlike any other team on this list, the Buccaneers actually didn’t make a move Tuesday, but they probably should have. The Bucs are in last place in the NFC South (3-4), but actually have had a solid offense this year. Tampa Bay ranks first in total yards per game (467.6) and passing yards per game (376.3), but have been atrocious defensively.
The Buccaneers are giving up the fourth-most yards per game (415.3) and second most passing yards per game (318.4). If they want any chance of making the playoffs, something has to change on the defensive side of the ball. If they went out and got a good defensive back or someone to pressure the quarterback, that could’ve been the person they needed.

Colin Cowherd Marvels At Longevity Of Patriots’ Continued Success

The New England Patriots are a well of success that seems to never run dry.
After winning their first Super Bowl title in the 2001 NFL season, the Patriots have become one of the most impressive dynasties in sports history, which includes five championships and eight total Super Bowl appearances in the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady era.
New England’s run of success has gotten its deserved publicity, but Colin Cowherd took a moment during Tuesday’s edition of “The Herd” on FOX Sports 1 to really put the stretch in perspective.

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"The fact that the Patriots dynasty continues is unbelievable. This isn't supposed to be this way in professional football. Here's how long this thing has lasted: LaDainian Tomlinson was drafted, played, waited, got inducted into the HOF and it's still going." — @ColinCowherd pic.twitter.com/EtlzYXf1fP
— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) October 30, 2018

The scariest fact of the matter is that this run still has legs. Brady seems dedicated to the idea of playing into his mid-40s, which leads one to believe Belichick will carry on alongside his legendary quarterback. The two likely already have cemented their status as the greatest coach-quarterback duo in league history, and given the landscape of the NFL, it’s tough to imagine another pair in the future prompting a debate.

Celtics Notes: Kyrie Irving Starting To Settle Into Offensive Rhythm

Kyrie Irving has arrived.
With all the star power on the Boston Celtics, it has taken them a little bit of time to get situated into a rhythm on the offensive end early this season. With so many mouths to feed, seldom have multiple players gone off all at once.
So while Irving has posted some respectable performances by his standards so far, Tuesday’s 108-105 win over the Detroit Pistons was his big coming out party for this season. The star point guard dropped 31 points (a season high by nine points) with five boards and as many rebounds in the victory. He shot 10-for-16 from the field, hitting four of his seven attempts from beyond the arc while going 7-for-8 on free throws.
It was a stark contrast from Saturday’s win over Detroit in which he scored three points on five assists, taking just five shots.
The second half was when Irving really started to go off, and the results for the team as a whole showed. He scored 13 points in the third quarter alone, so it hardly was a coincidence that was the frame they went up by 10 after outscoring the Pistons by 12.
It’s no surprise that Irving hasn’t come storming out of the gate considering how last season finished for him. But the way he performed against the Pistons and took over the game was a pretty big indication that he’s starting to feel it again.
And in the inevitable cases that he has off nights, it sounds like there is zero skepticism on his end to utilize the talent around him.

Brad Stevens on Kyrie this season: “When he scored three point he was all about the team…. He’s doing a great job leading the team. The ball will go through the net, that’s inevitable.”
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) October 31, 2018

Brad Stevens points out that Kyrie's comments Saturday night about winning being more important than scoring were 100% genuine. "It wasn't all in the media," he says. "It was on the bench. It was in the locker room."
— Marc D'Amico (@Marc_DAmico) October 31, 2018

The excitement around the Celtics is legitimate, but Irving finding a groove on the attack and acting appropriately when he’s cold is going to be essential if they want to live up to their lofty expectations.

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Here are some other notes from Tuesday’s Celtics-Pistons game:
— Aron Baynes played in his first contest since Oct. 20 due to a tweaked hamstring, and it didn’t take long for him to get the feel of things.
In addition to his routinely sound defensive play off the bench, he scored nine points while grabbing five boards and dishing out one assist. All nine of his points came in the first quarter, and through the first 12 minutes he was the game’s leading scorer.
Three of his nine points came on a 3-pointer, which marked a record for the Australian big man. It was his fourth trey of the year, which is a career high.
Yes, a career high.
Baynes drained three shots from distance last season, which set a career high at that point. Similarly to Al Horford, Baynes shooting threes is by design. He’s establishing himself as enough of a threat from beyond the arc that now teams have to at least keep an eye on him from the perimeter. It has made Horford a far more dangerous player, and while Baynes likely won’t shoot with the efficiency (or volume) his fellow big man does, it adds another thing for opposing defense to think about.
— Marcus Morris has yet to start a game this season, but he’s had a massive impact off the bench.
Morris tallied 15 points on 5-for-11 shooting, reeling in nine boards with three assists and one steal. In seven games this campaign, the forward is averaging 14.4 points and 7.4 rebounds while shooting 49.3-percent from the field and 48.4-percent from 3-point territory.
Boston’s reserves arguably are the best in the game, and Morris is an integral part of that.
— The Celtics have owned the Pistons lately. With the wins over Detroit on Saturday and Tuesday, Boston now has won six of its last seven contests against the Pistons.
— Boston will be tasked next with its biggest contest to date as the Milwaukee Bucks will roll into town for a tilt at TD Garden on Thursday.
The Celtics’ first-round opponent from last season has gotten off to a hot start, going 7-0 to kick off the new campaign. The Bucks won’t play again until they meet the Celtics, meaning their undefeated record will be on the line.

Bruins’ Brad Marchand Breaks Down His Pair Of Goals Vs. Hurricanes

Brad Marchand has been struggling to light the lamp this season, but that wasn’t the case Tuesday night at PNC Arena.
Marchand, who entered the Bruins’ tilt against the Hurricanes with two goals on the campaign, potted a pair in Boston’s 3-2 win over Carolina.  After notching the game-tying goal thanks to a sweet Patrice Bergeron feed, Marchand notched the go-ahead tally just over five minutes into the third period on a nifty wraparound.

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Following the game, Marchand caught up with NESN’s Alex Kraemer to break down his two goals. To hear from Marchand, as well as Bergeron, check out the video above from “NESN Sports Today,” presented by People’s United Bank.

Bruins Notes: Jaroslav Halak Dazzles For Boston, Picks Up Fourth Win Vs. Hurricanes

Jaroslav Halak played a crucial role for Boston on Tuesday night.
The Bruins netminder got his sixth start in net against the Hurricanes and made 42 saves in Boston’s 3-2 win against Carolina. Halak remained undefeated in regulation and improved to 4-0-2 on the season.
The 33-year-old continued to capitalize on his opportunities between the pipes. And on a night when the Bruins were outshot 44-31, he gave his team a chance to win.
Throughout his starts, Halak has not surrendered more than three goals and continues to make highlight-reel saves in each of his starts. He’s become an integral part of this Bruins team, seeing as he’s been on the ice for four of Boston’s seven wins this season.
Here are some other notes from Tuesday’s Bruins-Hurricanes game:
— The top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron continued to be a pest for opponents.
Pastrnak had a goal, while Marchand netted two of his own and Bergeron added three assists to his season total. But as dominant as they were in the second and third period, head coach Bruce Cassidy shook things up after a slow start to the first.

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“I had no issue with those three. I just felt some other players were given opportunity,” Cassidy said, as seen on “Bruins Overtime Live. “And I didn’t think they were nearly competitive enough on the puck. We just kind of threw it in the blender a little bit and let some people watch for a while until they found their game.”
— Boston has not lost to the Hurricanes in regulation since Jan. 8, 2017 when the B’s lost in overtime, 4-3. The Black and Gold are 11-0-5 in their last 16 meetings with Carolina.
— Torey Krug made his NHL debut after missing the last three weeks with an ankle injury.
He logged 18:13 of ice time and had an assist in the win.
— Prior to the game, the team placed Charlie McAvoy on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury.
It’s believed the defenseman was injured against the Edmonton Oilers on Oct. 18. There’s no timetable for McAvoy’s return.

Bruce Cassidy Explains Decision To Split Up Top Line In Win Over Hurricanes

The Boston Bruins went against the grain Tuesday night at PNC Arena.
Despite their trio’s brilliant start to the season, the Bruins’ top line of David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand were split up at times in Boston’s tilt against the Carolina Hurricanes. The move paid off, as the Black and Gold rallied to claim a 3-2 victory.

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After the game, head coach Bruce Cassidy attributed his team’s slow start for the reason behind the line shuffle. To hear more from Cassidy, check out the video above from “Bruins Overtime Live,” presented by Ace Ticket.

Bruins’ Jaroslav Halak Makes Timely Save On Warren Foegele’s Breakaway Attempt

It was another fine night in between the pipes for Jaroslav Halak.
Halak, who’s yet to lose a game in regulation this season, made 42 saves on 44 attempts in the Boston Bruins’ 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday at PNC Arena.

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The Hurricanes grabbed an early 1-0 lead and threatened to double their lead when Warren Foegele found himself on a breakaway. Luckily for the B’s, Halak stood tall and denied Foegele before the visitors took control.
To see the TD Bank Save of the Game, check out the video above.