Let’s just get this out of the way before the BAMA AIN’T PLAYED NOBODY crowd jumps in:
Martinas Rankin (OT)*
Julién Davenport (OT)
Nick Martin (C)
Zach Fulton (G)
Senio Kelemete (G)
*replaced right tackle Sentreal Henderson in the second quarter after Henderson suffered a broken ankle and they shuffled some tackles around so eventually two tackles were playing tackle. Whatever. Some teams are into that.
I swear that those are all real, live NFL offensive linemen and none of those names are from the Key and Peele college football sketches.
That being said, if you were finally catching your second wind (or first wind, for that matter) after staying out too late on Saturday night right around game time on Sunday, you may have thought to yourself at one point or another during the game when Texans QB Deshaun Watson was having an “Oh, FML” moment as he got swarmed by blue jerseys, “Man, it looks like the Patriots are getting pressure, like, every other time he goes back to pass!”
Your day drinking self would be correct!
Pass rush pressure, you say? It’s so...beautiful!
Seeing that kind of pressure again as a Patriots fan must be what those people doing Whole 30 or whatever feel like when it’s finally over and someone puts a half pound burger and a plate full of fries in front of you. It’s just the way life was meant to be lived.
Now, as our fearless leader Rich Hill pointed out yesterday, the run defense is...well, so far...not great. Part of that is the D-line personnel that the Patriots were putting on the field expecting the Texans to abandon the run after going down 18 points, and then the Texans kept pounding the rock for 7 of 10 snaps against a smaller New England line, so, all strategery aside, that’s going to happen when teams keep pounding the rock without more Pats run-stuffers in the game.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the pass rush some more!
What should make this a big F’ing deal for a Patriots pass rush that couldn’t buy a sack if they had an American Express Black Card in the Super Bowl is that it’s not like they were just beating up on one overmatched offensive lineman, like *some* people criticized Adrian Clayborn for in his six-sack game against Dallas last season. The Patriots were bringing the rush from all areas of the field and against all those Texans offensive linemen we mentioned earlier.
(Side note re: Adrian Clayborn’s sack totals from last season being “inflated” because of that one Dallas game: beating up on bad offensive linemen is what you’re SUPPOSED to do)
Check out where the heat was coming from, courtesy of CLNS’s Evan Lazar’s advanced stats:
Trey Flowers: 7 total pressures - 4 hurries, 1 QB hit, 2 sacks
Deatrich Wise: 4 total pressures - 2 hurries, 2 sacks
Keionta Davis: 3 total pressures - 2 hurries, 1 QB hit
Adrian Clayborn: 3 total pressures - 3 hurries
Kyle Van Noy: 3 total pressures - 3 hurries
Malcom Brown - 3 total pressures - 2 hurries, 1 QB hit
Lawrence Guy - 2 total pressures - 1 hurry, 1 QB hit
Danny Shelton, Dont’a Hightower, and Pat Chung also all chipped in with one quarterback pressure apiece. Not too bad for a defense that normally gets shredded at least once before most people are thinking about their Halloween costume!
Everyone on defense joining the pressure party is one way to look at it, anyway. The optimist in every Pats fan will see that and say that at least most of the guys here can bring the heat in the right situations; since nobody in New England is an optimist for more than 5 minutes, though, the flipside is that outside of Trey Flowers, nobody really dominated their matchups here, at least not in a Khalil Mack playing tether-ball with the Packers kind of way.
And that’s OK! After the Patriots did their usual “Is that your mock draft? That’s cute” and didn’t take a defensive player with either of their two first-round picks, or their second-round pick, and actually didn’t take a D-tackle or defensive end in the draft at all, saying this defensive line wasn’t scaring anybody over the summer would’ve been an understatement. Sure, there were some good flashes in the preseason, like Keionta Davis’s patience finally paying off with his first NFL sack, but that’s preseason, right? Wait till the real football starts, right?
So far, real football is a whole lot more fun when your defense is the ones DOING the barbecuing and not getting barbeCUED by Alex Smith in week 1.
Especially when Deatrich Wise is just making up his sack celebrations like going bowling as he goes along. Imagine what will be coming out of this man’s imagination after the bye week.