Nov 24, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski (3) kicks a field goal against the Denver Broncos in the fourth quarter at Gillette Stadium. The New England Patriots defeated the Denver Broncos 34-31. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
We start today’s Patriots news round up with Antonio Smith – or “Tones-stradamus” as he has named himself. After announcing himself ‘very suspicious‘ of how the Patriots were able to adjust to the Texans defence in the second half on Sunday, the defensive end (part of a Texans defence coordinated by Wade Phillips, who regularly loses to Brady and Belichick) has now done what most people do when they say something dumb and face a backlash: he’s said it was all a joke – which, according to some of the people quoted in the USAToday story, he didn’t seem to be at the time. Brady, meanwhile, is taking the high line, and not discussing it. The Texans are playing-off with the Jags for the number 1 pick, we’re going to the playoffs, again. Let’s move on.
Having taken the Texans defence apart on Sunday, the offence appears to be getting back on track. There are a few areas of concern. Stevan Ridley getting benched is something that, hopefully, won’t have to happen again – though Coach Belichick has said that it wasn’t ‘sending a message‘, it clearly was. The wide receiving corps is getting stretched as the season goes on and the little injuries start to mount – there’s only so long we can have Julian ‘Minitron’ Edelman being not only the best punt returner in football but also Brady’s most consistent, and healthy, target.
On the defensive side of the ball, there are plenty of problems for Patriots fans to fret over. The run defence (or lack thereof) being primary among them. As someone who got crushed in Fantasy by Ben Tate this week, I was especially annoyed at the size of the holes the Texans run game opened. This is an issue that needs to be remedied heading into the playoffs. As this piece from NESN points out, it isn’t just the D-line that is the trouble, but their struggles against the pass affects every other part of the defence. The pass defence isn’t terrible, as long as the corners all stay healthy (Alfonzo Dennard, I’m looking at you) and keep Kyle Arrington in the slot, but if teams can run for 250 yards and 4TDs a game, they don’t need to throw it.
One positive though: the Patriots might just have one of the best kickers in the NFL.