New England Patriots and RAS

The New England Patriots RAS score is in the good hands of Bill Belichick’s dog Nike.
(Credit: The Boston Globe)

The New England Patriots bring us back to the realm of RAS, or Relative Athletic Score. This team remains an interesting one from the front office perspective. Bill Belichick has been the head coach/GM of the Patriots since he was hired in 2000. He had split some of the duties with Scott Pioli before he left, but Belichick was still the head guy with final say. With all that being said, there is no reason to go back to 2000. Draft strategies change, so we’ll look back to 2016.

You can find previous parts here: https://atbnetwork.com/author/bmaafi1125/

Quarterbacks:

Generally quarterbacks and RAS scores are kind of unimportant outside of maybe a team here or there. Most teams want a guy who can at least move around the pocket a little and could get a few yards if a play breaks down.

With that, let’s take a look at the Patriots. Since 2016 they have drafted four quarterbacks: Jacoby Brissett, Danny Etling, Jarrett Stidham, and Mac Jones. Etling was the most athletic with a 8.31 RAS score and Brissett was the lowest with a 4.53. All four average out to a 6.38, which ironically enough rates average overall.

In fact, it’s a pretty common average; most teams are around there or slightly higher. All four have been at least 6’2 and 217+ pounds. Essentially, New England likes solid sized QBs, which is also pretty normal among NFL teams.

Running backs:

The running backs for the Patriots are kind of interesting. Belichick has drafted only three since 2016: Sony Michel, Damien Harris, and Rhamondre Stevenson. Michel had the highest RAS score of the three at 8.96, but Harris and Stevenson both rated under 6.5.

At this position, it would seem overall athleticism is not that important to Belichick. All have similar size (between 5’10”-5’11” and 214-230), yet they don’t have any testing numbers that stand out. For example, Michel was the fastest of the three in the 40-yard-dash, clocking in at 4.54. So it would reason pure speed is not that important to them, especially since they all demonstrate average agility.

Tight Ends:

Since 2016 Bill Belichick has drafted only three tight ends: Ryan Izzo, Dalton Keene, and Devin Asiasi. All three are 6’3″-6’4″ and weigh between 253-257. Just going off this, and given the former Gronk factor, the Patriots like larger tight ends. As for RAS scores, this position once again rates average overall at 6.66.

Keene is a freak athlete with a 9.34 RAS score, but Izzo and Asiasi are both in the below/average range. It does look like they want tight ends with decent speed as Asiasi and Keene both run in the low 4.7’s. They all test at least average in explosion factor. All three are average to excellent in their 10-yard splits, so this might be something to watch.

Wide Receivers:

They Patriots have drafted five receivers since 2016: Malcolm Mitchell and Devin Lucien in 2016, Braxton Berrios in 2018, N’Keal Harry in 2020, and Tre Nixon in 2021. The average RAS score of them is a solid 7.58. Even better, three of the five are above an 8.0. Four of them measure between 6’0″-6’3″ and weigh 187+, with two of them currently over 200 pounds.

Outside of Berrios, they seem to prefer bigger receivers. They appear to factor in vertical jump as four of the five registered a 36″ vertical or higher. 40-yard-dash speed does seem to be something they key in as well. Harry was the slowest at 4.53, while the others were under 4.5, including three in the 4.45 range. Four of the five also scored at least average in agility testing.

Offensive Line:

One position the Patriots have made sure not to avoid is definitely offensive line. They have drafted 11 offensive linemen since 2016. Seven of them were interior offensive linemen, specifically guards. There was a solid average RAS score of 7.15. The guards even averaged a 7.51.

tackles:

The tackles averaged a 6.66, but that was mostly brought down by Justin Herron’s 3.99. The other two tackles were Antonio Garcia (7.29) and Conor McDermott (8.7). As to their size, the tackles varied from 6’4″-6’8″, but their weights did not show a lot of variety; they ranged from 302-312.

Arm length seemed to vary from 33 1/3″ – 34 3/4″. Explosion grades were at least average, while 40 and 10-yard splits were all average to a little slow. Agility testing does not seem to be something that they value at tackle; while two had poor agility testing, McDermott tested well.

guards:

The guards heights vary from 6’3″-6’5″, but weight wise there was a lot more variety. The lightest was Dustin Woodward at 295 and the heaviest was Michael Onwenu at 344. Another area that had a big range was arm length, which was between 31 1/4″-34 1/3″.

All of the guards tested at least average in explosion testing, specifically the broad jump. Speed does not seem to be a priority; the 40 speeds range from 4.95-5.34. As to agility testing, it seems that they prefer at least average agility. Only one drafted guard tested poorly in this area: Ted Karras.

Defensive line:

From 2016 to 2021, New England has drafted only three defensive linemen: Vincent Valentine, Byron Cowart, and Christian Barmore. The three of their RAS scores average out to a 6.6. They all do have similar height (6’3″ or 6’4″), while weight varies a bit from Cowart’s 298 to Valentine’s 329. It does look like they value arm length in their DL; the shortest is 33 1/8″ and longest is 34 3/4″.

There’s no explosion testing from Barmore, but Cowart and Valentine tested well, especially on the broad jump. Straight line speed does not seem to a priority here. Barmore ran fast, but his 10-yard split was just average. Meanwhile, Cowart and Valentine did not run well. All three had average to poor agility testing, so that might not be a priority either.

Edge:

Since 2016 the Patriots have drafted six edge defenders: Derek Rivers and Deatrich Wise (2017), Chase Winovich (2019), Anfernee Jennings and Josh Uche (2020), and Ronnie Perkins (2021). There are only RAS scores for four, and they collectively average out to an athletic 7.9. There does not seem to be any threshold on height with Uche at 6’1″ and Wise at 6’5″.

A similar feature comes from weight – Uche was the lightest at 245 and Wise being the heaviest at 278. Outside of Wise, they appear to trend more on the light side; the rest are between 245 and 256. Arm length does seem somewhat important to them; the shortest arms tested were 32 7/8″ with Wise the longest at 35 5/8″.

They do seem to have a threshold as far as explosion testing, as all of them tested at least average or above. Straight line speed does seem to have some importance to them. Outside of Wise, everyone ran a 4.7 or faster with two running 4.6. They also seem to like guys with good or better agility.

Linebackers:

The Patriots have drafted five linebackers since 2016. Despite this, only three of them have RAS scores. The average RAS score of those three is a pretty solid 7.04. Height wise, they seem to like shorter linebackers, with all between 5’11” and 6’1″. There is some range in weight (two guys at 234 and the the other 248).

Arm length does not seem to be particularly important to them, ranging from 31 1/2″ to 32 1/4″. There does seem to be something to them liking their linebackers with decent speed as they all ran sub-4.75 in the 40-yard-dash. Their agility testing is average, though explosive testing isn’t of importance since they range from bad to very good.

Defensive backs:

The one position the Patriots have loaded up on is defensive back. Since 2016, they’ve drafted eight in this area, with three coming from the safety position. Although this is a trend with most NFL teams, it also seems to be a position where testing scores are more dependent.

The RAS scores on all but one came back with a good average of 8.37. Duke Dawson and Cyrus Jones do bring the average score down a bit; both tested about average (6.62 and 6.45, respectively). If one averaged out strictly the cornerbacks, this score actually drops to a 7.87. Two of the three safeties scored over 9.5, with only Joshuah Bledsoe failing to provide a score.

When it comes to height, three out of the four corners are 5’9″ or 5’10”, so they may have a preference for shorter corners. Of course the fifth is Joejuan Williams, who is 6’4″. With the safeties there is some variety from 5’11” to 6’2″. Weight wise, all eight players ranged from 197 to 217. This position, however, is where explosion testing mattered immensely.

While Cyrus Jones tested poorly, the rest all tested above average to elite. They also seem to like their defensive backs fast, and yes there are teams that do not prioritize it. Outside of Kyle Dugger, all run a 4.49 or faster, while the 10-yard splits are all varied.

In regards to agility drills, the Patriots want their defensive backs to have at least good agility. Of all these players, Duke Dawson was the only one with poor agility scores. Also, the 3-cone drill might be a little more important than short shuttle.

Patriots vs Titans Observations

patriots vs titans
Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images

Good teams win games they are supposed to win. The Patriots did exactly that vs a depleted Titans roster on Sunday. The expectation was a feisty Titans team that wasn’t going to simply roll over for the Patriots.

The Patriots won vs the Titans in a game that somehow felt closer than it was and yet never like it was that close. They have stretched their win streak to six games. They continue to play Patriots brand football with all three phases able to pick up the team at any moment. Football season usually doesn’t start until after Thanksgiving in the Northeast and this year’s rendition of the team is trying to make that true again.

Observations

Defensive

  • A week after Kyle Van Noy put his fingerprints all over a game, it was J.C. Jackson’s turn to take the spotlight. Jackson’s forced fumble early in the third quarter was a huge momentum shifter for the teams. After that play the Titans would drift away from their dominant ground game. It was a pure hustle play by Jackson and one that could not have been timelier.
  • Jackson added an interception later in the game on a goal line stand to effectively end any chance of a Titans comeback. The interception was Jackson’s 7th of the season and 24th of his career. For how impressive the career total is only four years into his career takes a historical perspective. Jackson is now tied with Richard Sherman and Kenny Easley for the third most interceptions through a player’s first four seasons. Jackson has five more games to add to that total. His 24 career picks is a team record through four seasons, beating Hall of Fame corners Mike Haynes (22) and Ty Law (18).
  • The Pats again got a hand in the hidden yardage department on JC Jackson’s goal line pick. Had the ball been incomplete, the Patriots would’ve taken over possession at their own two. In a game that the running game was struggling, the added 18 yards from the touchback on the interception was extremely understated.
  • The Patriots continued their blistering pace during this win streak winning by 23 points. Over the six-game win streak the Pats have outscored their opponents 211-63 with an average margin of victory of 25.2 points. They have allowed opponents 26 combined points over the last four games.
  • Matt Judon added another sack on Sunday bringing his season total to 11.5. The Patriots sacked Tannehill twice and hit him five times.
  • A big key to the winning streak has been the turnover battle. The Patriots have 17 takeaways, including four more Sunday against the Titans, over the last six games against only 4 turnovers. They won the turnover battle just once during their 2-4 start.

Offensive

  • Mac Jones threw for a career high 310 yards while adding 2 touchdowns and no turnovers. He continues to be accurate, completing 71.9% of his passes. One area that Jones can improve is his identification of second level threats. A week after struggling against blitzes from the defensive secondary against the Falcons, the Titans utilized similar concepts with success against the rookies. The Pats have faced eight or more defenders in the box on 46.7% of their runs.
  • Titans safety Kevin Byard had some words for Mac Jones leading up to Patriots vs Titans: “(Mac Jones) can dink and dunk it as much as he wants. If they don’t get in the red zone, we’ll be good. We’ll try to take away some of those options and some of those deep balls from him so he can keep checking down to running backs and stuff like that.” Jones responded on the field Sunday with completions of 41, 38, 22, 21, and 20 yards. He went right at Byard for the first touchdown of the game.
  • Kendrick Bourne had himself a game catching 5 passes for 61 yards and 2 touchdowns. When Bourne caught the ball on his 41-yard touchdown the play had a 0.3% of resulting in a touchdown according to Next Gen Stats. Bourne added 29 yards after the catch than expected.
  • Jonnu Smith enjoyed his best day as a Patriot totaling 58 yards on 4 touches. The Patriots’ attack is balanced and multifaceted before Smith gets involved. They could become a “pick your poison” offense to defend if Smith’s role continues to grow.
  • As for offensive efficiency on Sunday? 10 drives, 1 punt. While the bye is right around the corner, Jake Bailey has enjoyed a couple light weeks recently.
  • Mac Jones joins Russell Wilson as the only rookie QB’s to win three straight games by 20 or more points. Seems Mac finds new good company to keep every week.

Overall Notes

  • Incredibly the Patriots are 4-0 when the opponent rushes for more than 250 yards. The games are the Patriots 36-13 victory vs the Titans on Sunday (270), the 24-point comeback in 2013 against the Broncos [Pats won 34-31] (280), a 2011 41-23 beatdown of the Tebow-led Broncos (252), and a 2002 27-24 victory against Miami (256).
  • The Patriots came into the game having rushed for 120-yards in seven straight games and holding opponents to under 100 yards rushing in three straight and five of their last seven. Both streaks would come to an end against the Titans. The Patriots would rush for 105 yards while the Titans racked up 270.
  • Looking ahead at the Patriots remaining schedule: at BUF, at IND, vs. BUF, vs. JAX, at MIA. The next four weeks will settle much of the debate surrounding current AFC playoff seeding.
  • A note from the “Patriots always get advantages from the league office” department. The Patriots head into their bye after a Monday night game against the Bills, already cutting the usual 14-day bye to 13 days. The NFL then flexed the following game against the Colts to a Saturday night prime time affair, trimming the Patriots bye week to twelve days. The Patriots already had the latest bye possible and now are losing valuable rest days. For comparison’s sake, the Bills are getting a scheduled ten days off between their Thursday night game against the Saints and their Monday night showdown with the Patriots. This on top of their full 14-day bye week earlier in the season. Nothing to be done about it but just an astute observation.

Patriots Stay Hot Against Falcons

Patriots vs Falcons
Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

It wasn’t sleek. Or shiny. Or really that sexy. But if you’re complaining about the Patriots’ 25-0 drubbing of the Falcons on Thursday Night Football, you were probably the kid that complained they didn’t get enough presents on Christmas. Don’t be that kid.

While it may not get many points in the style category it certainly beats a “pretty loss.” The Patriots handled their business on a short week against the Falcons an unfamiliar opponent. And if you think New England should have beat them by more, just look at the results from Sunday and appreciate the W.

The Bills got dominated by the underdog Colts. The best team in the conference, the Titans, lost to the worst team in the conference, the Texans. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: a win is a win is a win. Doesn’t need style points.

Patriots vs Falcons Recap

Here are 14 observations from the Thursday Night Shutout.

1.) Kyle Van Noy was the lead story. He’s been coming along slowly throughout the season before erupting against the Falcons. He had 8 total tackles, 2 sacks, 2 tackles for a loss, and one interception return for a touchdown. On a defense full of playmakers, one of the original boogeymen is rounding into form. Bad news for 31 other offenses.

2.) The Pats had 12 QB hits on Matt Ryan, a season high. That pressure goes a long way in explaining the team’s recent success on third downs. The Falcons were 2-11 on third down. The Browns were 1-11 a week before. Games are won on third down and the Patriots defense has been dominating opponents on the money down in recent weeks.

Over the last four games, the defense has pressured opposing QB’s on 48.5% of their drop-backs. Ryan was pressured on 59.4% of his drop-backs against the Pats.

3.) It’s a poorly kept secret that here at Around the Block Sports we’ve had a bit of a crush on Christian Barmore. He continued to be disruptive despite a quiet stat line (1 tackle for a loss). If you want teaching tape on what interior pressure does to an opponents’ passing game, watch Barmore against the Falcons.

4.) Staying with the big fellas up front, Carl Davis had himself a great game. He re-established the line of scrimmage in the Falcons backfield multiple times, including the critical fourth-down stop sequence in the third quarter.

5.) The Pats’ use of “big nickel” is a big reason for their defensive success and ability to match up with opposing offenses. In a typical nickel defense, a third corner enters the game, for the Pats they’ve been putting a third safety on the field. Devin McCourty has played 92.3% of defensive snaps this season, Adrian Phillips 81.5%, and Kyle Dugger 80.9%.

A big reason this defensive personnel package has found success is the hybrid ability of all three players. Phillips played primarily linebacker for the Pats last year. Add in Dugger’s train wreck level collisions and you aren’t losing a lot of physicality with the extra DB on the field. Not only does Dugger hit hard, but he shut down Kyle Pitts one on one in multiple instances Thursday night.

6.) The Browns scored 4:55 into the first quarter of their game against the Pats. Since then, opposing offenses have had 19 possessions with zero points. In that same time, the Pats have scored 70 unanswered points.

7.) The red zone defense is another reason this team has found success. They are allowing touchdowns on 48.3% of opponents’ trips into the red area. Last year they surrendered touchdowns on 65.3% of opponents’ trips, good for 28th in the league in red-zone defense. The Pats have 9 red zone stops this year, good for tops in the league.

8.) Going into the game, the theory was the Pats may revert to their roots in man coverage as the Falcons had struggled against it more than they had against zone. The Pats didn’t care. They played zone on all but 6 defensive snaps against the Falcons. It might have caught the Falcons by surprise as all three quarterbacks on their roster threw an interception.

It was the first time three quarterbacks on the same team each had thrown an interception in a single game since 2000. Current Michigan Head Coach Jim Harbaugh was one of the offending parties for that Chargers team.

9.) Receiving stats since October 24: JC Jackson- 4 INTs, 91 yards, 1 touchdown. Odell Beckham Jr.- 3 catches, 24 yards.

10.) Belichick’s love for special teams had a palpable effect on the game. The Falcons’ average starting field position was their own 21-yard line. The Pats’ average starting field position was their own 33-yard line. A significant advantage in hidden yardage for the Patriots.

11.) Mac Jones is completing 83.7% of his passes over the last two games. Jones now has seven games on the season where he has a completion percentage north of 70%. No other QB has more than four.

And before we start screaming to the masses that Mac is a dink and dunk QB, his yards per attempt is greater than Patrick Mahomes’ or Justin Herbert’s.

12.) Despite his accuracy and usual good decision-making, he did struggle to identify multiple Falcons’ defensive looks on Thursday night. The Falcons were able to fool him with multiple defensive back blitzes. His interception may have been a case of misreading a post-snap coverage roll as well.

13.) The good news for the Pats having sustained success as the weather turns colder is their pair of absolute bruisers at running back. Damien Harris played 25 snaps while rookie Rhamondre Stevenson got 22. Stevenson had more touches than Harris, 13 to 11. Not a lot of defenses will enjoy seeing this team in the frigid northeast later this season.

Especially behind massive Trent Brown and human wrecking ball Shaq Mason. 104 of the Patriots’ 134 rushing yards against the Falcons came behind that destructive duo.

14.) The Patriots played the Bucs on a Thursday Night in 2017. The Buccaneers kicker missed three field-goal attempts that night and wouldn’t play in the NFL for two full years after being released the next day. That same kicker is now 25 of 27 on-field goals this year including going 4 for 4 Thursday night against the Falcons. Incredible comeback for Nick Folk.

Can Patriots Extend Win-Streak to Five Against Falcons?

Patriots
(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The Patriots made a statement last Sunday, beating the Browns handedly at home, and announcing their return to legitimate contender status. The Pats are riding high on a four-game win streak. They will look to stretch it to five with a win over the 4-5 Falcons.

While the Pats are gaining attention as one of the hottest teams in the league, the Falcons seem to be caught in purgatory. Each Falcons win has been by a single possession, their largest margin of victory being 7 points over the Jets. They feature two losses by a single possession but also three more by 23-points or more. The Falcons’ record has them just outside the NFC playoff picture despite low ratings from advanced metrics.

The Falcons are 32nd in total VOA, 29th in OVOA, 31st in DVOA, and 32nd in STVOA. VOA is an advanced metric that measures total team (total VOA), offensive (OVOA), defensive (DVOA), and special teams (STVOA) value over average. Frankly, the Falcons are rated as the worst team in football. Particularly incredible when you see them on the bubble of the NFC playoff picture. The average winning percentage in single possession games is .500, meaning the Falcons have found some luck in these games which have boosted their win percentage.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Patriots are 5th in total VOA, 16th in OVOA, 5th in DVOA, and 8th in STVOA. This is including their slow start to the season on offense and special teams. Despite recent trends, a short week against an unfamiliar opponent can cause problems. If the Pats want to be viewed as a good team, they need to handle their business against the Falcons. A repeat of the Houston performance would show an immature team that isn’t ready for success.

Without further ado, the game preview written in “who has the advantage when…” format.

Pats Pass the Ball

Mac followed up two poor showings with his best career game against the Browns last Sunday. Since Week 6, Mac is 9th in the NFL in yards, 5th in TDS, 4th in TD:INT ratio, 2nd in EPA per play, and 7th in average depth of target while the Pats to a 4-1 record and the highest points per game during that stretch. Not only that, but on the season the Patriots trail only the Raiders in plays of 20-plus yards. The Pats had 51 such plays all of last season. In ten games this year they already have 48. While the weather turns colder, it is becoming apparent it’s also becoming “Let Mac Cook” season.

In the past four games the Pats are averaging 37.5 points per game. All around impressive numbers for an offense led by a rookie quarterback who had concerns regarding his arm strength while coming out. 

A large reason Mac has had such great success has been the stellar job of the big guys upfront. The Patriots’ offensive line is allowing pressure on only 15% of Mac’s dropbacks over the last month. That 15% is good for second-best in the league during that stretch. Even more impressive is the competition the offensive line has faced during that time. Premier pass rushers Joey Bosa, Haason Reddick, Myles Garrett, and Jadeveon Clowney were largely nonfactors in games against the Pats.

That’s all good news for the Pats as they face a defense that has struggled against top competition. While the Pats have shut down opponents’ edge rushers, the Falcons Grady Jarrett will present a new challenge. Mac is the prototypical pocket passer. Jarrett is the prototypical pocket penetrator from the interior defensive line. The success of the passing game will largely come down to the trio of Ted Karras, David Andrews, and Shaq Mason keeping the structure of the pocket for Mac. If Mac has time, Mac is going to cook.

Advantage: Pats

Pats Run the Ball

A week ago, the Pats’ top two backs didn’t practice and Rhamondre Stevenson was cleared to play on Saturday. The result was the Patriots’ single-best rushing output this season against a typically stingy defense. This week the Pats cleared Damien Harris from concussion protocol to return the running back room to full strength. After seeing what Stevenson could do as a feature back, having him splitting carries to keep him and Harris fresh is sure to have given the Falcons defense headaches before the game even started.

Toss in a newly returned 6’8”, 360 pound Trent Brown and the Pats are primed to play hardnosed football down the stretch. Last week we saw a Mason-Brown-Onwenu right side of the line average 6.7 yards per carry. The Patriots’ success on first down in the running game has led to the team converting on 46.9% of their third downs this season. That success rate is good for fourth-best in the league, trailing only the Chiefs, Bills, and Buccaneers. McDaniels could go with that grouping all night against the Falcons and have unlimited success. The Falcons are middle of the pack in terms of defending the run. On a short week, a physical game plan by the Pats may make quick work of the Falcons defense.

Advantage: Pats

Falcons Pass the Ball

While Mac has been cooking, Matt Ryan was nowhere near the kitchen last Sunday completing nine, NINE!!!, passes against the Cowboys. The Falcons passing offense was supposed to be a potent, multi-layer attack with the addition of uber-talented rookie tight end Kyle Pitts. Unfortunately for the Falcons, starting wide receiver Calvin Ridley has missed multiple games this season and backups Russell Gage and Tajae Sharpe have not picked up the slack. Backup tight end Hayden Hurst is usually involved in carrying some of the weight of the passing game but will miss Thursday’s game against the Pats.

While Pitts has provided one bright spot for the Falcons, WR/RB Cordarrelle Patterson has provided the other. The return-man-turned-offensive-weapon leads the team with 5 receiving touchdowns and trails Pitts for the team lead in reception by one catch. He’s also the team’s leading rusher. His status for Thursday night will be determined in pregame but an already unfavorable matchup could get downright ugly if he can’t go.

The Falcons have had issues against man-coverage this season, something that does not bode well for them as they prepare to play the league leader in Cover 1 use. The Pats have utilized zone coverage 70.5% of the time over the last four weeks but have always been a gameplan team under Belichick. The Falcons average 4.69 yards per play against man coverage, completing 60.9% of their passes. Those numbers jump to 5.87 and 72.4% against zone. The recent success of the Pats zone coverage should not lull them into a faulty game plan against the Falcons. If Patterson can’t go the Pats can focus resources on stopping Pitts and taking the motor out of this offense.

Advantage: Pats

Falcons Run the Ball

The Falcons’ issues don’t stop here. Their rushing attack doesn’t crack the top 30 in any advanced metric. The lack of balance on offense has led to a bottom-six team in terms of offensive drives that result in points and a team that trails only the Jets and Lions in offensive drives that result in turnovers.  The Pats were gashed early against the Browns before changing their approach and finding success. The feeling here is the Pats might not need to change much to find success in stopping the Falcons run game. Ja’Whaun Bentley and Dont’a Hightower form a formidable core to the Patriots run defense that should continue to find splash plays against the Falcons.

Advantage: Pats

Special Teams

The Falcons had a punt blocked last week that added to already dismal season performance from their special teams. The Pats had a rough start but have returned to their dominance in the third phase of the game. Last week saw some hidden yards lost in the return game as Jakobi Meyers’ hesitance to field punts led to some favorable Cleveland bounces. Thankfully Gunner Olszewski cleared concussion protocol and should be back to his spot in the return game.

Of note, but not necessarily game impacting, this will be Matthew Slater’s 200th career game with the Patriots. He joins Tom Brady (285), Bruce Armstrong (212), Julius Adams (206), and Stephen Gostkowski (204) to become the fifth Patriots player to do so.

Advantage: Pats

Coaching

The Falcons hired Arthur Smith this offseason in hopes of turning the teams’ fortunes around. He comes to Atlanta from Tennessee where he served as offensive coordinator under Mike Vrabel. Belichick has historically dominated rookie head coaches and with a short week of prep, the hoodie gets all the advantages here. Belichick’s ability to self-scout has taken the Pats from a 2-4 team to one that is 6-4 and looking like a legitimate contender. McDaniels had perhaps his best game of the year against Cleveland and should continue to let Mac cook.

Regardless of coaching the officiating crew tonight is one of the more flag-happy crews in the league. Land Clark will serve as referee. His crews average 17.4 accepted penalties per game, second-most among crews.

One thing to keep in mind in regards to Thursday night games; teams usually stay with their bread and butter plays as they had limited time to install game-specific game plans. The good news is the Patriots’ power-trap run game is one of their staples. It’s been a big part of their offensive success this season and will be again against the Falcons.

Advantage: Pats

Prediction

A unanimous favoring of the Pats in the breakdown should be reflected on the field. However, a year ago the Pats were riding high after a 45-0 beatdown of the Chargers before dropping a dud on Thursday Night Football, losing to the Rams 24-3. A week ago, division rivals, and heavy underdog, Miami Dolphins took down the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday Night Football. Belichick will have focused on the narrow victory against the Texans to have his team focused regardless of the opponent. While the Pats should win big, the ultimate goal is to walk out of Mercedes-Benz Stadium 7-4. A win is a win is a win. Wondered if predicting 28-3 would be taboo. 28 points for the Pats in this one seems low. Pats win 34-13.

Patriots vs Browns: Pats are Back Baby

Patriots vs Browns
Staff Photo By Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald

The weather is getting colder, and the Patriots are beginning to play their best football. It’s a story as true as time in the Northeast. The Pats beat the Browns to take care of business again on Sunday.

After four straight wins, including the dismantling of Cleveland on Sunday, the Pats have put the rest of the league on notice. After starting 2-4, the Patriots are now in the driver seat for a playoff spot. Not just that, but they are firmly in the Buffalo Bills’ rear view mirror for a division crown.

Mac Jones got over a few rough starts and had his best game as a professional. The defense suffocated another opponent. The play calling was dynamic on offense. It was suffocating on defense. The team got contributions from seemingly everyone. Anyone watching hoping to see the demise of the New England football squad was extremely disappointed.

The Pats are back! Just check the socials to see other fans complaining and making new controversies (hello Mac Jones dirty tackle??) and it is clear order is being restored in the football universe.

18 observations from the Patriots’ emphatic win vs. the visiting Browns

1.) Mac recovered from rough games against the Chargers and Panthers. Mac was 19 of 23 for 198 yards and a career-high three touchdowns. He was on his game all day, none more evident than his three third-down conversions during the first drive.

Mac was on target to all levels of the field, including going 6 of 7 for 103 yards and a touchdown on passes over ten yards. The rookie continues to improve and showed resilience bouncing back from consecutive poorer showings.

2.) It helped the offensive line also had the best showing of the season, allowing Mac to be pressured just once against a fantastic Cleveland front. McDaniels dialed up screens and quick throws to eliminate aid his offensive line. While Wynn wasn’t asked with Garrett one-on-one often, he held his own in a heavy-weight matchup.

3.) What the Patriots did offensively vs. the Browns is even more impressive considering how good the Browns defense is. The Browns entered the game as the 10th best scoring defense, allowing only 21.8 points per game.

The Pats had 24 by half. New England had 452 yards of total offense, which was 142 more yards than what the Browns allow on average. There was the occasional splash play, but the Pats were consistent and smart when they had the ball.

4.) The Patriots’ drives vs the Browns:

Touchdown

Touchdown

Touchdown

Field Goal

Punt

Touchdown

Touchdown

Touchdown

End of Game.

If it wasn’t for kickoffs, Jake Bailey would’ve had an extra bye.

5.) The turning point came in the first quarter after the Pats had answered the Browns opening drive. In 38 seconds of game time the Pats put up 14 points and never looked back.

First-quarter 0:26 left, Mac finds Henry for a 3-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7.

Second-quarter 14:48 left, Kyle Dugger intercepts a Baker Mayfield pass on the right sideline intended for David Njoku and returns it to the Cleveland 5.

Second-quarter 14:43 left, Rhamondre Stevenson score on a 5-yard rush.

The Pats would add 31 more unanswered points.

6.) The next drive was the most impressive we’ve seen from the Pats in quite some time. Taking over at their own one-yard line, the Pats drove 99 yards on eleven plays to take the 21-7 lead.

7.) The Patriots had touchdown drives of 83, 92, 99, and 95 yards. The three drives of 90-plus yards were a first under Belichick. McDaniels’ play calling was masterful from the start of this one.

8.) Rhamondre Stevenson missed practice all week with a concussion, was activated Saturday afternoon, and still ran for 100 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries — against a defense that was allowing only 3.5 yards per carry.

9.) Kendrick Bourne had a great game totaling 141 yards on 7 touches while adding a highlight touchdown catch. Bourne did it all, catching 4 for 98 yards and ran it 3 times for 43 more.

10.) Since the week 6 loss to the Cowboys, the Patriots defense is allowing just 12.5 points per game. Opposing QB’s in those games against the Patriots defense: Mike White- 20/32 for 202 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs; Justin Herbert-18/35 for 223 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs; Sam Darnold- 16/33 for 172 yards, 0 TDs, 3 INTs; and Baker Mayfield- 11/21 for 73 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT.

11.) The Pats allowed 7.6 yards per play on the Browns’ opening drive. The rest of the game they allowed 2.9 yards per play. The defensive coaching staff made some great adjustments.

12.) The defense hit Mayfield nine times, sacking him twice before he left the game in the third quarter. Backup Case Keenum didn’t fare much better getting sacked three times in a quarter plus of action.  

13.) Christian Barmore was quiet on the stat sheet but not in the game. He was again disruptive throughout. He had constant pressure up the middle and forced a fair number of off-target passes. Pats got a steal with him.

14.) The Pats missed Gunner Olszewski on punt returns. More than once Jakobi Meyers let the punt bounce and lost 10-20 yards of field position.

15.) JC Jackson changed his social handles to Mr. INT last week. The name change didn’t help him on Sunday as he dropped an easy one in the second quarter.  If we’re changing names, Hunter Henry might want to apply for Mr. TD. He had 2 more on Sunday, bringing his total to 7 on the season.

16.) Meyers got the first touchdown of his career, and the team could not have been more excited.

17.) With the win, the Pats playoff chances improved to 68% according to FiveThirtyEight. If they had lost their chances would’ve fallen to 32%. Big swing.

18.) The Pats are back. That means hate flowing towards Foxborough from 31 other fan bases. But you kind of have to like this group of guys, right?