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Notes and musings from the first of three practices.

Earlier today, the New England Patriots kicked off their 2019 mandatory minicamp. The two-hour session behind Gillette Stadium took place in perfect conditions, and with the world champions’ biggest star in attendance for the first time all spring: quarterback Tom Brady, who skipped the voluntary phase of offseason workouts, returned to join his teammates on the practice fields.

Brady’s return was the biggest, but far from the only story to come out of Foxboro today. Let’s recap the action from day one:

Attendance

8 players were not spotted during the session: RB Sony Michel, RB Nick Brossette, WR Demaryius Thomas, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, OT Yodny Cajuste, DE Deatrich Wise Jr, SS Patrick Chung, SS Nate Ebner (source)

6 players returned to practice after missing the last open session on May 23: QB Tom Brady, OT Isaiah Wynn, DE Michael Bennett, LB Kyle Van Noy, P Ryan Allen, LS Joe Cardona (source)

1 player was present but limited: OT Isaiah Wynn (source)

Injuries

Fortunately, no players appeared to have suffered injuries today.

Offense

The quarterbacks performed as follows during 11-on-11 drills (source):

Tom Brady: 12 of 15

Brian Hoyer: 5 of 9, INT

Jarrett Stidham: 5 of 9

Danny Etling: 8 of 9

The quarterbacks performed as follows during 7-on-7 drills (source):

Tom Brady: 5 of 8

Brian Hoyer: 3 of 4

Jarrett Stidham: 4 of 4

The quarterbacks performed as follows during 4-on-4 drills (source):

Tom Brady: 4 of 4

Brian Hoyer: 3 of 4

Jarrett Stidham: 2 of 3

Danny Elting is the clear-cut number four on the quarterback depth chart at this point in time.

Wide receiver Braxton Berrios made the ‘play of the day’ when he made a diving catch down the right sideline on a pass from Brian Hoyer with Joejuan Williams in coverage. The second-year pass catcher had a good session. (source)

Speaking of ‘good sessions,’ Maurice Harris and Stephen Anderson also were among the standouts. (source)

After standing out during the lone open OTA session, N’Keal Harry was more inconsistent today. (source)

With Isaiah Wynn still limited, Joe Thuney again started at left tackle. Ted Karras, meanwhile, lined up at left guard. (source)

Tom Brady had a side-session at one point with just N’Keal Harry, Benjamin Watson and James White. (source)

With Sony Michel out, Damien Harris saw considerable reps. (source)

Defense

The following players registered pass deflections: J.C. Jackson, Kyle Van Noy, Duke Dawson Jr, Keion Crossen. (source)

Ja’Whaun Bentley registered the lone interception during 11-on-11 drills, off a pass tipped by Kyle Van Noy. (source)

All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore saw some time against first-round rookie N’Keal Harry today, winning the battle. (source)

Chase Winovich’s effort stands out. (source)

Special teams

The following players practiced punt returns: WR Braxton Berrios, WR Phillip Dorsett, WR Maurice Harris, WR Gunner Olszewski, WR Julian Edelman (source)

While Jake Bailey has a better hang-time than Ryan Allen, he also fumbled a snap and had a touchback. (source)

Fourth-string quarterback Danny Etling saw time as a personal punt protector at one point. (source)

Miscellaneous

Undrafted rookie Gunner Olszewski was the first player spotted on the field today. (source)

Ex-Patriots Troy Brown and Deion Branch were present to assist the coaching staff. (source)

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The 2003 Patriots opened up the season with a horrific 31-0 lost to the Buffalo Bills. They would come back 16 weeks later to crush the Bills by the exact same score at home.

In the Patriots 18-year run at being at the top, there have been plenty of memorable wins along the way. On the topic of revenge, the one victory that comes to mind the most is during the 2003 season. The Patriots started that season 0-1 after taking a brutal 31-0 loss to the Buffalo Bills. 16 weeks later the Patriots would return the favor by not only blowing out the Buffalo Bills, but doing so by the exact same 31-0 score.

The Patriots locker room went through a bit of turmoil the week before that game with the Buffalo Bills. The team was coming off a disappointing 9-7 season that had them miss the playoffs due to a weaker record against the division than the Miami Dolphins. On top of that, Bill Belichick made what was at the time a very controversial move by releasing safety Lawyer Milloy just five days before the start of the season. Milloy was a huge part of the previous Super Bowl championship, a team captain, and one of the most respected leaders of the locker room. Such a move now would barely make a dent in the locker room, but before Belichick established himself as the greatest coach and personnel guy of all time it had more reverberating consequences.

Milloy would sign a 5-year deal to join the Bills just two days before the game, joining former Patriots star QB Drew Bledsoe. Bledsoe went 17/28 for 230 yards, 1 TD, and INT while Milloy had 5 tackles and a sack of Tom Brady. Brady himself would have the worst performance in his otherwise legendary career, throwing 4 interceptions. One of those was a 37-yard pick-six to defensive tackle Sam Adams, who measured in at 6’3” 350. The game itself sparked up a lot of controversy, including one ESPN on-air idiot declaring that the team “hates their coach”. The team would ultimately move on that game thanks to respected veterans such as Willie McGinest and Rodney Harrison leading the way and the Patriots would only lose one more game in September before going on an NFL record 21-game winning streak.

The Patriots got their chance for revenge in the final week of the season. Even though they had already secured home field advantage of the playoffs the previous week, the stench of the 31-0 defeat lingered in that locker room. They came out of the locker room with a purpose that day and quickly built up a 31-0 lead early in the 4th quarter. Brady had a more Brady-level performance, firing 4 first half touchdown passes to 4 different receivers. The Patriots defense was equally as dominant, forcing 4 Bills turnovers and holding them to just 256 yards for the game. The Bills were driving late in the 4th quarter, but Larry Izzo was able to pick off a Travis Brown pass in the end zone to seal the 31-0 shutout of the Bills.

Memorable Moments: A 2003 Patriots shutout victory over the Buffalo Bills - YouTube

While the game itself did not have any impact on the AFC standings for the 2003 season, it allowed them to move on from one of the more turbulent chapters in the franchise’s history. The Patriots ended the regular season with 12 straight victories and primed for the playoffs. They would go on to win three more games that season and capture its 2nd Super Bowl championship in a back-and-forth game with the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII. This story also serves as a reminder that Belichick does in fact have a plan for building a football team and coaching it when we ever read or see dumb tweets that BB the GM is hurting BB the coach and Tom Brady’s legacy.

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Related: 6 stories to watch as the Patriots open their mandatory minicamp

The New England Patriots’ mandatory minicamp will be kicked off later today and every healthy member of the team’s 90-man roster will be present. This, in turn, means that we will get to see plenty of competition over the next three days: roster spots may not be won in early June, but players can position themselves well when it comes to carving out roles and leaving a positive impression as the team heads into its six-week summer break.

In this article, we take a look at six battles that we will keep a close eye on this week. As you will see, not all of the positions up for grabs are included — there is a simple reason for that: minicamp, like all offseason workouts before training camp, are of the no-contact nature. This means that the play of linemen on offense and defense cannot be properly evaluated at this point in time; the same goes for blocking tight ends or pass-protecting running backs.

As a result, the battles will be primarily about the passing game positions: quarterbacks, pass catchers, defenders in coverage — they will take center stage this week.

Quarterback

What is at stake: The backup role(s) behind Tom Brady

Who is competing: Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham, Danny Etling

With the starting spot in Tom Brady’s Hall of Fame hands, the other three quarterbacks on the roster will have to fight for the backup roles behind him. Based on the only open OTA practice so far, Brian Hoyer appears to have the inside track with fourth-round rookie Jarrett Stidham and second-year man Danny Etling as more developmental options at this point in time. Nevertheless, a lot can change over the this week and into training camp — especially with the higher-ceiling rookie Stidham gaining more experience.

Wide receiver

What is at stake: The roles and spots behind Julian Edelman and N’Keal Harry

Who is competing: Phillip Dorsett, Maurice Harris, Braxton Berrios, Demaryius Thomas, Dontrelle Inman, Damoun Patterson, Ryan Davis, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski

New England has only two locks at wide receiver (three if you include special teams captain Matthew Slater), which means that every other player on the position depth chart needs to fight for his roster life this summer. Some like Phillip Dorsett have better chances due to their experience in the system, while others such as the trio of undrafted rookies — Ryan Davis, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski — are underdog options. Realistically, no more than four men will survive the battle and the first steps towards that will be taken this week: if a player can build a rapport with Brady, his chances at making the team improve drastically.

Tight end

What is at stake: All of the positions

Who is competing: Matt LaCosse, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Benjamin Watson, Ryan Izzo, Stephen Anderson, Andrew Beck

With Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen and Jacob Hollister no longer part of the equation, the Patriots are starting from scratch at tight end. Naturally, this makes for an intriguing competition with the current cast of characters offering a wide range of skills: Matt LaCosse and Benjamin Watson are more well-rounded, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Stephen Anderson better receivers, Ryan Izzo and Andrew Beck better blockers. What the Patriots value at the position post-Gronkowski remains to be seen, but it is safe to assume that no more than three spots are available.

Linebacker

What is at stake: The roles and spots behind Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy

Who is competing: Elandon Roberts, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Jamie Collins Sr, Christian Sam, Calvin Munson, Shilique Calhoun, Terez Hall

Of the seven men competing at the linebacker position, only one can realistically be called a roster lock: second-year man Ja’Whaun Bentley, who showed plenty of promise before a biceps injury forced the Patriots to place him on injured reserve last year. What Bentley’s role will look like, however, will depend on his performance this summer and against players like Elandon Roberts and Jamie Collins — neither of whom is guaranteed a spot on the team.

Cornerback

What is at stake: The roles and spots behind #1 Stephon Gilmore

Who is competing: J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, Joejuan Williams, Duke Dawson Jr, Keion Crossen, Ken Webster, D’Angelo Ross

The Patriots have arguably the deepest cornerback group in the NFL right now, but not all of the players currently under contract can make the team. Stephon Gilmore is safe, and the same can also be said for J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, Joejuan Williams, and likely Duke Dawson. While this does not leave a lot of room for the other corners on the team, the competition will still be fierce: Can Keion Crossen, Ken Webster and D’Angelo Ross surprise? Who will win the starting roles opposite Gilmore? How will Duke Dawson fit into the equation? There is only one thing we already know: few positions will be as fun to watch this summer as cornerback.

Punter

What is at stake: A job

Who is competing: Ryan Allen, Jake Bailey

In 2013, Ryan Allen joined the Patriots as a rookie and beat out incumbent Zoltan Mesko for a roster spot. Six years later, Jake Bailey tries to the do the same: come in as a rookie and take the job from the veteran. When it comes to talent and versatility — Bailey can also work as a kickoff specialist — the youngster certainly has the tools to beat out the three-time world champion. Consistency, however, will be the key to one of the most exciting battles on the team: two men enter, only one will come out again.

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Daily news and links for Tuesday

TEAM TALK

LOCAL LINKS

NATIONAL NEWS

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New England kicks off its three-day minicamp today; here’s what to look for.

Later today, the New England Patriots will open their 2019 mandatory minicamp. Over the next three days, the team will continue working on teaching and implementing early schematic concepts and taking the next step in its development. The main difference to the other offseason workouts, of course, lies in the name: while OTAs are voluntary, all healthy players on the world champions’ 90-man roster will be present for this week’s mandatory . practices.

Let us therefore take a look at some of the most intriguing storylines as we head into minicamp:

What will Tom Brady look like?

When we last saw the greatest quarterback of all time, he led the Patriots offense to ten fourth-quarter points in his team’s Super Bowl victory against the Los Angeles Rams. Since then, the 41-year-old opted to follow the pattern he implemented last year: he stayed away from voluntary workouts and instead trained on his own — not without inviting wide receivers Julian Edelman and N’Keal Harry at one point, though.

Yesterday, Brady already arrived at Gillette Stadium for his physical. Today, he will hit the practice fields for the first time this offseason. His highly anticipated return is arguably the biggest story of the Patriots’ minicamp, so naturally all eyes will be on the future Hall of Famer. Anything but him looking as sharp as he usually does during practice would be a huge surprise, though. Expect to see vintage Tom Brady over the next three days.

Which other previously absent players will return?

So far this offseason, the Patriots held only one practice open to the media — and Brady was just one of the absentees: thirteen other men were also not spotted.

RB Sony Michel, RB Nick Brossette, WR Demaryius Thomas, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, OT Isaiah Wynn, OT Yodny Cajuste, DE Deatrich Wise Jr, DE Michael Bennett, LB Kyle Van Noy, SS Patrick Chung, SS Nate Ebner, P Ryan Allen, LS Joe Cardona

The list of players missing New England’s OTA practice on May 23 is filled with core members of the team — including lead running back Sony Michel, presumed starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn, and four de facto starters on defense in Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise Jr, Kyle Van Noy and Patrick Chung. Furthermore, punter Ryan Allen and long snapper Joe Cardona were also not present.

This week’s mandatory practices should give more clarity about all these players’ respective statuses and, in the case of previously injured players — Isaiah Wynn, Yodny Cajuste, Demaryius Thomas, Patrick Chung (who was present during an earlier OTA session) and Wise Jr. — their rehabilitation processes.

How will the offseason acquisitions fare in this setting?

The Patriots invested heavily at multiple positions over the course of the offseason either via trade or in free agency and the draft. Players like defensive linemen Michael Bennett and Mike Pennel, tight ends Matt LaCosse, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Benjamin Watson, and the team’s draft picks — particularly first-round wide receiver N’Keal Harry — will likely see heavy reps over the next three days. The team has to hope that they adapt quickly to life in New England to develop into the players they were brought on board to be.

How will the position battles develop?

Despite seeing some considerable talent depart this offseason — from tight end Rob Gronkowski to left tackle Trent Brown to defensive lineman Trey Flowers — the Patriots have, on paper, one of the deepest rosters in the entire NFL. Naturally, this makes for some intriguing position battles when it comes to securing roles and roster spots. Minicamp is the time when some early favorites can emerge (think of J.C. Jackson last year).

The fiercest competitions are expected to take place at wide receiver behind roster locks Julian Edelman and N’Keal Harry, at tight end, along the defensive edge, at linebacker behind top-two Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy, and at what might very well be the deepest cornerback group in football. There will also be a battle, of course, at punter: Ryan Allen will have to fend off fifth-round rookie Jake Bailey to keep his job.

And while position battles will not be decided this week, players can position themselves well on the depth chart as the Patriots head into their summer vacation.

Will any surprise contributors emerge?

The aforementioned J.C. Jackson — an undrafted rookie who emerged during offseason workouts and ultimately earned not just a roster spot but a starting cornerback role — is just one example of a player standing out in minicamp and using his performance as a foundation to carve out a role on the team. Who this year’s Jackson will be is impossible to tell at this point in time, but players like undrafted rookie wide receiver Ryan Davis or third-year defensive edge Keionta Davis certainly are in a position to surprise.

Who will play left tackle?

With Isaiah Wynn and third-round rookie Yodny Cajuste both unavailable due to previously suffered injuries, and with veteran free agency addition Jared Veldheer deciding to retire, the Patriots were forced to make a change along their offensive line during organized team activities: during the lone open session, the team moved starting left guard Joe Thuney to the tackle spot on his outside shoulder, with a variety of players filling his original position.

With neither Wynn nor Cajuste a safe bet to return to the practice fields this week, the Patriots could again turn to Thuney as their left tackle. Maybe, however, another player emerges over the next three days — be it versatile Cole Croston, journeyman Dan Skipper, or undrafted rookie Tyree St. Louis. Either way, left tackle will continue to be a spot to watch this offseason.

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With Gronkowski gone, Edelman will be even more important moving forward.

The New England Patriots, who kick off their 2019 mandatory minicamp today, currently have the maximum of 90 players on their active roster. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on August 31 and ultimately make the team. Over the course of the summer, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots defend their Super Bowl title.

Today, the series continues with the most experienced wide receiver on the team.

Name: Julian Edelman

Position: Wide receiver/Punt returner

Jersey number: 11

Opening day age: 33

Experience: 10

Size: 5’10, 200 lbs.

2018 review: After missing the entire 2017 campaign due to a torn ACL suffered in preseason, Edelman’s return to the Patriots had to be postponed. While he did participate in offseason workouts, training camp, and New England’s exhibition games, his regular season debut did not come until week five: the veteran was suspended for the first four games of 2018 following a violation against the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

Despite coming off the suspension and a year-long rehabilitation process, however, Edelman did not show any rust when he returned to the gridiron against the Indianapolis Colts. In his first game back, he was on the field for 69.6% of the Patriots’ offensive snaps and finished the game with 7 catches for 57 yards. More importantly, Edelman again filled the role he held since becoming a starter in 2013: Tom Brady’s go-to guy and safety blanket.

As such, the veteran appeared in all of the regular season contests he was allowed to participate in. Playing a career-high 87.5% of the Patriots’ offensive snaps over that twelve-week span, Edelman reestablished himself as a reliable and versatile weapon, and New England’s top wide receiver: he finished the regular season with 74 catches and six touchdowns, while also registering 850 receiving yards — most on the team despite missing a quarter of the season.

The Patriots did also not shy away from taking advantage of Edelman’s versatility again. He carried the football 9 times for 107 yards, and — being a quarterback in college — was also asked to attempt two passes: both were completed and gained a combined 43 yards. On top of it all, he also saw regular action on special teams and returned 20 punts during the regular season for 154 yards (7.7 yards per attempt).

As well as Edelman played during the regular season, he saved his best for last: the playoffs. During the Patriots’ three postseason games, he elevated his play to another level and showed why he truly is one of the most clutch wide receivers in league history. The numbers — Edelman caught a combined 26 passes for 388 yards while also carrying the football twice for 15 yards — do not tell the whole story of his performance, though.

Against the Los Angeles Chargers, he finished with a season-best 151 receiving yards. One week later, in the AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Edelman caught two 3rd and 10 conversions on the Patriots’ game-winning drive in overtime. And in Super Bowl 53 against the Los Angeles Rams, he was the best offensive skill position player on either side: his 10-catch, 141-yard performance earned him MVP honors — making him the first wide receiver to win the trophy in ten years.

All in all, Edelman’s 2018 season can be seen as a microcosm of his entire career: a story of perseverance, versatility, and — ultimately — success.

2019 preview: Three months after the Super Bowl, the Patriots and Edelman agreed to a two-year, $18 million contract extension that will keep the wide receiver with the club through the 2021 season. The deal also slightly increased his 2019 salary cap hit to $6.08 million — the highest among New England’s pass catchers and as such reflective of what his role this upcoming season will look like: Edelman will again be a key cog in the Patriots’ offensive machinery.

In fact, he might be even more important to the team in 2019 than he already was last season. Tight end Rob Gronkowski decided to retire in late March, after all, leaving Edelman as the by far most experienced downfield threat on the Patriots’ roster — and a player Tom Brady might look for quite regularly while a chemistry with the weapons acquired over the course of the offseason is still developing.

Don’t be surprised, therefore, if Edelman is again on the field for more than 80% of New England’s snaps and ultimately finishes the season among the team leaders in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. Undoubtably, the 33-year-old, who might once more be used as a punt returner as well, is one of the most valuable players on the Patriots’ roster due to intelligence, experience, and connection with Brady.

In a year marked by considerable personnel turnover, those traits will become immensely important yet again for the Patriots offense.

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Goff recently spoke about the Super Bowl, and playing the Patriots.

Of the 106 teams that appeared in a Super Bowl to date, only two failed to score more than three total points. One of them are the 2018 Los Angeles Rams, who were beaten 13-3 by the New England Patriots in early February. The NFC champions, who had averaged 32.9 points per game during the regular season, simply failed to get into a rhythm and string plays together against a defense playing a historically good game.

One reason for that was the performance of quarterback Jared Goff, who completed just 19 of 38 pass attempts for 229 yards with a costly fourth-quarter interception. The Patriots knew that getting Goff and his signal caller — Rams head coach Sean McVay — out of their comfort zone was a key to the game, and they were able to do just that by disguising pre-snap looks and calling numerous pressure packages out of their amoeba front.

Four months removed from the Super Bowl, Goff opened up about his experience on the game’s biggest stage — and about what he and the Rams would do differently if they got a chance for a rematch with New England. “They’re so unique in that they change weekly in what they’re doing,” Goff said. “I think for me personally, if we were play them again, or any team that’s similar to them that can do that, you have to be able to adjust on the fly a little bit quicker.”

“As opposed to waiting for something to happen, you have to actively adjust to what they’re doing, and adjust to what a team is trying to present to you, whether it’s something they showed on film or not,” the 24-year-old told Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer when discussing a potential key to beating New England. A lack of urgency and aggressiveness certainly was one of the factors that doomed a Rams team that held its own against the Patriots for much of the Super Bowl.

“The fact that our defense played the game they did, and Wade [Phillips] coached the way he did, all the plays we made — we got an interception on the first [pass] of the game — and offensively, and me personally, we weren’t able to hold up our end, that’s what really bothered me,” Goff continued. “At this point, late May, early June, I’m able to move past that, and you’re on to the next step of your career and your life. But for a while there, that was the big sticking point in my head.”

Until the fourth quarter, the Super Bowl was a close affair. New England was unable to put more than three points on the board despite dominating the field position game, while the Rams failed to capitalize on the Patriots’ mistakes. In the final period, however, Tom Brady and company finally hit their stride — and when the Rams were forced to answer the game’s first (and last) touchdown drive, they couldn’t.

Down 10-3 with seven minutes left, Goff led L.A. to the Patriots’ 27-yard line but ended the series when he threw what was essentially a game-ending interception on a desperation heave. New England was then able to essentially run out the clock and go up ten points on a field goal that left only 1:12 on the clock. Another score was not in the cards for Goff and his team, however, and the game ended after a missed 48-yard field goal attempt by the Rams.

“I went back and watched it the day after,” said Los Angeles’ quarterback about his first Super Bowl. “Postgame, tried to treat it like any other game where you’re evaluating yourself. [...] And yeah, it took longer than a regular game to move on from, because there wasn’t a game after it to fix what you’d done in the previous game. But it’s part of the process. Every year there’s a team that goes through this. This year it’s us.”

Last year, it was the Patriots and they responded in style by winning their third title in the last five years. For the Rams to do the same, they need to learn from their title game defeat — and apply the lessons in case they run into New England again. But, of course, no two Bill Belichick-coached teams are alike...

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Related: The Tuck Rule Game was revenge 25 years in the making

The ‘Tuck Rule’ is a play that opposing fan bases still complain about. They say that the Patriots got lucky, and that it should’ve been a fumble. We, of course, know that they’re wrong, and the correct call was made. But, what if it hadn’t been?

Before I talk about the circumstances surrounding the play, I want to talk about the actual play, from my perspective. I was at the game with my dad and uncle. It was my second year as a season ticket holder, and my first playoff game. We sit in the end zone, and the Patriots were driving away from us. I saw Charles Woodson coming around the edge unblocked, and saw him take out Tom Brady and the ball pop out. That was it, the season was over.

But then, Walt Coleman got on the mic and said that they were reviewing the play. As he was under the hood, In The Air Tonight by Phil Collins started playing. We all looked at each other, and knew that something special was coming. That this amazing season wasn’t over yet. I still get goosebumps thinking about it. Coleman came out, and all I heard was, “The quarterback’s arm was moving forward,” because the entire stadium collectively lost its mind. Okay, now we can move on. I just couldn’t discuss this play without walking you through that night. It’s one that me, and most Patriots fans, will remember forever.

The first thing to know is that, even if the refs had wanted to make the right call, they may not have been able to. When the Patriots got the ball back (after a three-and-out by Oakland) with 2:06 left in the game, they had alreadyused all of their timeouts. The ‘Tuck Rule’ play happened on the other side of the two-minute warning, when 1:50 were left on the clock. Back then, the automatic challenge for a turnover wasn’t yet in effect. That means, if the situation had occurred just two plays earlier, the Patriots wouldn’t have been able to challenge it at all.

Also, even though the ‘Tuck Rule’ call had been made before, and was made after as well, there’s always a chance that the refs didn’t get it right. There have been tons of instances where a play is challenged, and the refs still don’t come away with the right call. This could’ve been another one of those examples.

If either of these scenarios had happened, and the Tuck Rule had never been enforced, the Patriots obviously wouldn’t have won Super Bowl 36, because they would have lost to the Raiders that night.

The real question is: How would that loss have impacted the rest of the Patriots dynasty?

The legacies of the greatest quarterback of all time, and the greatest kicker of all time, would certainly be altered forever. And Tom Brady, who had led the Patriots to a playoff berth and first round bye, would have lost his first postseason start, without throwing a touchdown pass. Would his performance during the regular season have been enough for Bill Belichick to make the same decision to trade Drew Bledsoe and roll with the young gun? I think it probably would have been, but how would the team have responded? This is something that I discussed in further detail in my Bledsoe ‘What If...’ article, so I’m not going to go into much detail here.

How much of the Patriots’ success was driven by a confidence in knowing that, in the biggest moments, their players were going to come through? Did that have an impact on the way the Patriots approached big games in the future? It isn’t a stretch to assume that having early success could’ve led to them having consistent success in later years. Without that early success, it’s possible that the entire dynasty looks completely different.

Remember that, up until 2001, the Patriots had never won a Super Bowl. They weren’t the cream of the NFL’s crop. In fact, other than the 1985 and 1996 season, the Patriots really weren’t winners. Combine that with their performance in 2002, and everything might be very different.

It definitely changes what might very well be the most untouchable record in NFL history. Tom Brady started his NFL postseason career 10-0. I can’t imagine another quarterback ever winning his first ten playoff games again. Right now, there are great up-and-coming QBs in the league, such as Patrick Mahomes and Jared Goff, who have already lost to Brady in the playoffs, and therefore don’t have a chance at breaking his record.

It’s amazing how much of this Patriots dynasty may rely on a fortunate, but correct, ruling by the referees. For those haters out there that say the Patriots were gifted that game, please remember that the Raiders went three-and-out the drive before that, including being stuffed on 3rd and 1. Then Adam Vinatieri has to make arguably the greatest kick in NFL history to close out the ‘Tuck Rule’ drive.

Then, in overtime, the Patriots converted on 3rd and 5 twice, and on 4th and 4 as well. The Raiders had a ton of opportunities to win that game, before and after the ‘Tuck Rule,’ but, in the end, the Patriots made the plays and they didn’t. The ‘Tuck Rule’ may have kept the eventual world champs alive, yes, but the team certainly earned its win that night.

It’s impossible to know what exactly would be different here in New England had the ‘Tuck Rule’ not been called. The Patriots obviously wouldn’t have won Super Bowl 36. Would they have still won Super Bowls 38 and 39? How would the team have handled Belichick replacing Bledsoe with Brady? Would Brady and Belichick still be considered the greatest of all time? Something tells me the answer to the last question is still yes, but I’m glad we don’t live in a world where we need to find out.

Be on the look out for next week’s installment into the series: a look at the worst loss in sports history.

Pat is a host of The Patriot Nation Podcast

Interact with him on Twitter @plane_pats

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The three-time world champion’s career will be the subject of a new documentary.

Julian Edelman has a pretty good year so far. In January, he played a key role in the New England Patriots reaching the Super Bowl for the fourth time in the last five years. In February, he was named the game’s most valuable player for his 10-catch, 121-yard performance. And just last month, he signed a two-year, $18 million contract extension that will keep him in New England through the 2021 season.

And now, Edelman’s life and career will be the subject of a new documentary produced by Showtime as the 33-year-old announced via Instagram:

I’m excited to finally announce my new feature documentary, 100%: Julian Edelman on @Showtime. Keeping this project under wraps has been tough, a lot of highs, a lot of lows, a lot of surreal moments. Just glad we had a camera rolling so we could make this thing our way.

The documentary 100%: Julian Edelman is expected to show the wide receiver’s recovery from a torn ACL suffered in August 2017 and follow him all the way to the Super Bowl just seventeen months removed from the season-long injury. Along the way Edelman’s unique career from college quarterback to seventh-round draft selection by the Patriots to Tom Brady’s go-to wide receiver and three-time world champion will also be chronicled.

“When injury and controversy threatened Julian Edelman’s NFL career, he returned to his father, an auto mechanic, to fix what was broken,” Showtime released in a statement about the show. “100% is an intimate behind the scenes look at the three-time Super Bowl Champion during a critical juncture in his life. [...] The film joins Edelman as he attempts to overcome the challenge of a season ending surgery and PED suspension all while exposing the unorthodox origins that built him into one of the NFL’s most affable stars.”

Like Brady’s Tom vs Time, which was released last year, the show will be must-watch television for Patriots fans. 100%: Julian Edelman is scheduled to premiere on Friday, June 28 at 9:00 p.m. ET.

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Humphries wonders how many years Brady has left in the tank.

Both of the following statements are true:

  • Tom Brady is older than the regular NFL quarterback.
  • Tom Brady is better than the regular NFL quarterback.

Wide receiver Adam Humphries would probably agree to the veracity of the assertion above, but it sure looks like he is placing a different value on the two: for him, Brady’s age appears to be a more defining quality. How do we know? He told Travis Haney of The Athletic when speaking about the New England Patriots’ quarterback and the role his age played in his decision not to join the team in free agency.

“Obviously, he’s the G.O.A.T. That’s that simple. But there’s so much that factors into a decision. It was a four-year deal. Who knows how many [years] he’s got left? There’s a lot that goes into it,” Humphries said. The 25-year-old, of course, was on the world champions’ free agency radar this offseason as a potential addition to Brady’s arsenal of weapons. The Patriots reportedly even offered a four-year, $30 million contract.

However, Humphries declined and ultimately ended up with the Tennessee Titans on a four-year, $36 million deal. The decision to go to a young and relatively inexperienced Titans team — one that field Marcus Mariota as its starting quarterback — as opposed to the most successful franchise of the NFL’s salary cap era was no easy one to make for one of the most popular wide receivers on the open market this year.

“Obviously the chance to play with [Brady] would have been awesome, but a lot of things factor into that decision,” said Humphries. For the former undrafted rookie, who started his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, those factors included the situations in both Tennessee and New England vis-à-vis the quality of life in regards to family — Humphries hails from South Carolina — and finances.

All things considered, the Titans were his choice: “I felt like I could really contribute and start something new here. [...] At the end of the day, my heart wanted to be in Tennessee.” This decision forced the Patriots to pursue other wide receivers this offseason in order to build a receiving corps around their soon-to-be 42-year-old quarterback (one that has stated numerous times that he plans on playing until he is 45).

New England invested in free agents Demaryius Thomas, Dontrelle Inman and Maurice Harris, and selected Arizona State’s N’Keal Harry in the first round of the draft. Humphries could have altered this picture drastically, but he decided against coming to the Patriots — against joining a team that already has Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman playing a role similar to the one he would have been projected to fill.

“I felt like my talents would be used best [in Tennessee],” he said. “And New England was the same way. That would have worked, too, but at the end of the day, it was a good decision to come here.”

Time will tell whether or not that statement also holds true.

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