Ryan L. Fox
And so it begins folks, the 2019 NFL season for the New England Patriots. Last year, they were coming off a Super Bowl loss to the Philadelphia Eagles with so many questions. How was the offense going to look with WR Julian Edelman suspended for the first 4 games of the year? Can the defense rebound after getting torched by a backup QB and their best defensive back rotting on the bench? Was there strife between QB Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick? This year, the only question the Patriots are facing is who is going to face them in Super Bowl LIV?
As Patriots fans and media both celebrated and cheered as they raised banner number 6 up in Gillette Stadium, the team itself squared off against the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night.
The Patriots opened up the game by receiving the opening kickoff as KR/RB Brandon Bolden brought the kickoff back from the New England 5 to the 20. However, the Patriots offense stalled and were forced to punt. Luckily, the Patriots defense stymied the Steelers offense as the team got back the ball on their own 18.
At first the offense looked like it was about to struggle yet again. After a 17-yard pass from QB Tom Brady to RB Rex Burkhead, TE Ryan Izzo drew a offensive pass interference to back their own 25. They were able to get up to their own 40 before facing a 3rd and 5. Brady was able to find WR Phillip Dorsett for an 8-yard pass to the New England 8. After that, the Patriots went into no-huddle as on a gadget play, WR Julian Edelman found RB James White for a 32-yard catch-and-run down to the Pittsburgh 20. After that, Brady found WR Josh Gordon over the right side for a 20-yard touchdown pass, the first Patriots touchdown of the 2019 season. K Stephen Gostkowski booted the extra point through as the Patriots enjoyed an early 7-0 lead.
After forcing the Steelers to punt again, the Patriots got the ball back on their own 38. Brady led the offense down the field as the Patriots finished the 1st quarter with a 2-yard run by RB Sony Michel on 3rd and 1 to Pittsburgh 29.
When the 2nd quarter began, the Patriots were on the move again. They were able to get down all the way to the Pittsburgh 7. However, after back-to-back incompletions, the Patriots had to settle for a Gostkowski 25-yard field goal to push their lead to 10-0.
After the team exchanged punts with one another, the Patriots got the ball back on their own 20. Again, Brady led the charge down the field. Once they got into Pittsburgh territory, Brady found his receivers on back-to-back long balls. First, he found Edelman for a 24-yard pass to the Pittsburgh 25. Then he found Dorsett along over the right side for a 25-yard touchdown. Gotskowski’s PAT after then made it 17-0.
With the game starting to slip away, the Steelers tried to answer back. However, they ended up turning the ball over on downs, which gave the Patriots excellent field position at their own 47 with under 2 minutes left in the half. They were able to convert the turnover on downs into a 41-yard field goal by Gostkowski to go up 20-0 into the half.
The Steelers opened up the 2nd half with the ball, starting from their own 25. QB Ben Roethlisberger was able to guide the Pittsburgh offense down the field for the first time in the entire game as it seemed the Steelers were starting to find their groove. Unfortunately for them, their opening drive of the half began to stall once in the red zone as they got as far as the New England 1. Faced with a 4th and goal on the 1, the Steelers decided to kick the field goal instead of going for it. K Chris Boswell booted the 19-yard try through the uprights as the Steelers got their first points of the game, making it 20-3.
It didn’t take the Patriots too long to answer back.
Rather it took just 4 plays to do so, including a 58-yard bomb by Brady to Dorsett down the right field for the final score of the drive. Gostkowski booted the extra point through as the Patriots took a commanding 27-3 lead with a little under 8 minutes left in the quarter.
Then for the remainder of the game, Patriots defense smothered the Pittsburgh offense. The next 3 Pittsburgh possessions were a punt, a turnover on downs, and then an interception by S Devin McCourty for a touchback. The Patriots were able to add 2 more Gostkowski field goals during that same stretch to push their lead to a commanding 33-3.
The Steelers drove one last time down the field, trying to get at least a touchdown to break double digit points. However, with 6 seconds left in the game and at the New England 26, Roethlisberger found TE Vance McDonald at the New England 5 instead of the endzone as the clock read 00:00.
The New England Patriots fans and media began to cheer with joy as their team got the home opener victory and enjoyed the misery of the Pittsburgh Steelers players and their fans.
QB Tom Brady: 24-for-36 for 341 yards and 3 TDs for a QB Rating of 124.9
RB Rex Burkhead: 8 carries for 44 yards, 5 catches (on 7 targets) for 41 yards
WR Phillip Dorsett: 4 catches (on 4 targets) for 95 yards and 2 TDs
WR Julian Edelman: 6 catches (on 11 targets) for 83 yards, 1-for-1 for 32 yards
WR Josh Gordon: 3 catches for 73 yards and 1 TD
K Stephen Gostkowski: 4-for-4 on FGs, 3-for-3 on PATS for a total of 15 points
S Devin McCourty: 6 tackles (5 solo, 1 assist), 1 INT, 2 passes defended
CB Jason McCourty: 7 tackles (6 solo, 1 assist), 3 passes defended
Numbers! Numbers! Numbers!
13 – The number of regular season games the Patriots and the Steelers have played against one another in the regular season during the Brady-Belichick Era
.615 – The winning percentage of the Patriots against the Steelers (8-5) during that same span
1.000 – The winning percentage of the Patriots after leading by 20 points or more at halftime (62-0)
520 – The total number of career touchdown passes Brady has, tying him 2nd all-time with New Orleans QB Drew Brees
1 – The number of career multiple touchdown games WR Phillip Dorsett has had for his career (tonight’s game was his first)
30 – The 2nd largest point differential in a loss for the Pittsburgh Steelers during the Roethlisberger Era (the largest was 31 points in a Week 3 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles (34-3) in Week 3)
341 – The total passing yards by Brady, the most by an NFL QB 42 years or older during the Super Bowl Era
2 – The number of NFL players 42 years or older to throw 3 TDs in a single game (QB Tom Brady and HoF QB/K George Blanda)
505 – The total career receptions for WR Julian Edelman in a Patriots uniform, placing him 5th all-time in the franchise (WR Wes Welker 672, WR Troy Brown 557, WR Stanley Morgan 534, TE Rob Gronkowski 521)
AB84 to New England
Yep, this was the biggest news that rocked both Boston and the NFL world.
Disgruntled, spoiled, and diva WR Antonio Brown was cut this past Saturday by the Oakland Raiders and was signed by the New England Patriots almost instantly. The term of the deal was a 1 yr/$15 million with $9 million guaranteed as that propelled the Patriots not just the favorites out of the AFC to be in the Super Bowl but practically assured a 7th title.
Now on paper, Brown is a phenomenal talent. He has had 1,000+ receiving yards in 7 out of 9 years in the NFL, including going over 1,500+ yards 3 out of the last 5 years. Not to mention that Brown has had 10 TDs or more in 4 out of the last 5 years too. He has the speed and ability to get separation, something that the Patriots receivers on the roster lack (good route running and hands but no separation speed).
But the problem with Brown isn’t talent, it’s character.
Brown has had multiple issues within the locker room with teammates and coaches in Pittsburgh to the point where he was traded away for almost nothing to the Oakland Raiders. But even in a new environment, Brown continued to butt heads with Raiders management (i.e. the helmet incident), the frostbite on his foot (self-inflicting), posting notices and private team matters onto social media, and the infamous argument this past Friday with Raiders GM Mike Mayock where he called him derogatory names, including a racial slur, in front of the entire team. After that, the Raiders voided his contract, Brown became a free agent, and then was scooped up by the Patriots.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Patriots will use Brown as well as keep him in line. Under the Belichick regime, the Patriots have been notorious for jettisoning players that they deemed as ‘troublesome’ or ‘detrimental’ to the Patriot Way. Although they have brought in players with some character issues either by free agency or trade (i.e. RB Corey Dillon, WR Randy Moss, and most recently DE Michael Bennett) or the draft (CB Alfonzo Dennard, TE Aaron Hernandez), they never dealt with somebody like Brown.
He will say all the right things, say he’s a ‘changed man’ and has ‘learned from his mistakes’. But it’ll only be a matter of time before Brown gets popped for arguing with teammates, having a shouting match with either Brady or a coach, or use social media when he should not be.
Fox Fist Bump
The first Fox Fist Bump of the 2019 campaign goes to the entire Patriots defense. People forget, 2 years ago, the Patriots had their banner night in Foxborough as they hosted the Kansas City Chiefs that year. The Chiefs then proceeded to drop 41 points on the Patriots defense, humiliating them on their special night.
This time around, the defense took care of business. They held the Steelers to just 3 points for the entire game, they shut down the Steelers run game (32 total yards), forced multiple turnover on downs, and kept Roethlisberger under wraps the entire game.
The first meatball of the 2019 goes to C/G Ted Karras for a couple of his snaps to Brady that just made you wince or raise your blood pressure just a bit. But I'm not gonna kill the guy for it. He's not the usual starting center for the offense (C David Andrews is out with blood clots in his lungs) so hiccups are bound to happen. But if Karras doesn't fix this soon, it's gonna be a long season for him.
Play of the Game
Since this is opening week, I'll give you Patriots fans a special 'Two-For-One' deal:
Raise That Beautiful Banner
The First Patriots Touchdown in the 2019 Season
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