It was a wild and windy Monday night for the New England Patriots, who know hold sole possession of both first place in the AFC and AFC East. As they now enter their Week 14 bye, we will immediately enter this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag:
@JuanShip98 Serious question: Where would you rank this most recent win among Belichick’s best coached games? Obviously passing only three times and still pulling out a victory in a hostile environment is a huge show of his coaching abilities, among many others
OK, let’s talk about this Patriots game plan from Monday night — and there's a lot to unpack here. First of all, it worked, I understand that. But, the entire offensive game plan was extremely conservative Monday night, even in the weather conditions with a rookie quarterback.
Bill Belichick basically told us that his run game is good enough that they will produce more points than whatever Sean McDermott, Brian Daboll, and Josh Allen will cook up. Belichick has never seen to be a fan of Allen’s play, so he might just not have been worried about the Bills’ offense against his elite defense in ferocious winds. It should also be noteworthy that they never trailed in Monday’s contest.
BUT, scoring just 14 points was still a risky play by the Patriots, as the Bills put together several drives that reached the red area in the second half, before being shut down by the Patriots defense (the unit that truly dominated the night). It’s hard to imagine mixing in a few short passes or screens would have hurt the Patriots offense that much — especially with Buffalo consistently playing nine to 10 guys in the box on defense.
Just see how open Jonnu Smith was on his one play-action target in the first half:
The Patriots had chances to add points to the scoreboard with perhaps a more aggressive approach, but stuck true to their run, run, run game plan. The end of the first half was a prime example, as they had the ball at their own 42-yard line after a Damien Harris 17-yard run. With two timeouts, roughly 1:40 remaining on the play clock, and the wind working on their side, the Patriots ran the ball three straight times and punted to end the half - wasting an opportunity to extend the lead to two scores and ultimately ending the game.
So, when reviewing the McDaniels/Belichick game plan, again, it was unique and successful, while risky as well. But to raise the idea that it belongs in Canton (looking at you Mr. Rapoport) is silly in my opinion.
@meatface55 Are you concerned about the lack of trust in Mac from the coaching staff in last nights game?
After reviewing Monday night’s game plan, questions about the trust in Mac Jones in those conditions are more than fair. After all, he did throw just three passes.
We all know Jones is no Josh Allen, who whipped the ball through the winds 30 times on Monday. Jones has never had the rocket launcher on his right arm like Allen, as he is known more for his accuracy and touch. So, it made sense entering Monday the Patriots would rely on their strong run game in those conditions against a Buffalo defense that has recently been gashed on the ground. However, as we just mentioned, the Patriots offense likely would have benefitted a little more from Jones throwing the ball even if it all was within 10 yards.
To me, the Patriots trust Mac Jones, but they also know his limitations. If he truly can't handle those conditions, then we should be worried here in the Northeast. He’ll certainly get another opportunity in poor weather, so we will have to wait and see what happens when he needs to throw the ball.
@scrumasterflash Davon Godchaux, most under rated addition to the Pats roster this year? The guy absolutely smashed it on Monday night. Just how high does he rank in the pantheon of the Pats defence of the last 20 yrs? How good could he become?
It’s way to early to talk about Godchaux in terms of all-time Patriots’ defenders, but the interior defensive lineman seemed to have his coming out party Monday night for the Patriots. Godchaux posted a career-high 10 tackles, five run stops, a hurry, and received a 90.4 run-defense grade by PFF against Buffalo.
@ChauxDown pic.twitter.com/ccBGQFCRHL— Brian Hines (@iambrianhines) December 9, 2021
It was clear the Patriots needed to get better against the run after last season, and Godchaux was one of the several defensive lineman they brought in to make an improvement — signing him to a two-year, $15 million deal this past offseason. He definitely is one of, if not the most, underrated addition to the roster, as his play continues to get better down the stretch.
Highest graded Interior DL over the last three weeks— PFF NE Patriots (@PFF_Patriots) December 9, 2021
Aaron Donald: 94.4
Jonathan Allen: 90.1
Davon Godchaux: 88.6 pic.twitter.com/jSmuujHksx
@pats300levelpod Any update on Adrian Phillips injury? Assuming since we haven’t heard any news it’s probably not a significant injury like ACL? But still concerned since he has been such an integral part of this defense this year
@scorp1180552443 Any news on how Dugger is doing?
As the Patriots are on bye this week, they do not have to release an injury report, meaning we have no news on the injured/sick Patriots. We assume no news is good news on Adrian Phillips, who appeared to receive the on field ACL test by team trainers Monday night. Phillips did share this tweet shortly after Monday’s game, which could be a positive sign:
THANK YOU GOD!!— Adrian Phillips (@Phillips_17) December 7, 2021
As for Dugger, we again will just have to wait and see until the safety produces two negative Covid-19 tests.
@AlmiranteTilla What’s up with J. Jones? Is he done this year?
Yes, Jonathan Jones was placed on the injured reserve with a shoulder injury, that eventually required surgery, back in October.
@Fantasy_Rookie Is Harry developing some trade value and transitioning to a TE?
I would say neither, but that N’Keal Harry has finally found his role. Harry has been awesome this year in the run game, as his 84.9 run blocking grade is tied for first among receivers who have played at least 100 snaps. He has given New England another strong and reliable option to their already strong run game.
@Brian_Neumann Who is the player least contributing now that could make the biggest impact for the remainder of the season? My gut tells me Jonnu Smith
I like the Jonnu Smith answer as well. It just feels like any week now is the week he’ll break out. Another player that came to mind is Nelson Agholor. Agholor has been contributing this season, but I feel they are close on striking the deep ball more and with more consistency.
@JustV18 Why are the Pat’s Trying out wide receivers when they have a speedster in Nixon ( this kid might be a gem Ernie’s gift to the Pat’s his college game highlights are explosive ) & Wilkerson I thought he was pretty good but he caught the dropsies in pre he must still be infected
The Patriots did host wide receiver Matt Cole, who they saw in joint practices over the summer, for a workout on Thursday. At this point in the season, the team is always keeping an emergency list of guys available to them if needed. I would not count on Tre Nixon seeing any time on the active roster this season.
@PeterBashford57 See any big name free agents coming to the pats next year? And what’s your take on JC getting a contract?
The Patriots likely won't be in a position to spend big again this offseason, as they will have to pay several of their own along the defensive side of the ball (J.C. Jackson, Adrian Phillips, Dont’a Hightower, Ja’Whaun Bentley, etc.). New England will also have to secure their offensive line, as Trent Brown and Ted Karras are slated to reach free agency.
A name that would be on my list if they do reallocate some funds is wide receiver Michael Gallup. Gallup would be an intriguing fit into this Patriots offense as the “X” receiver. And as for J.C. Jackson, we broke down a potential contract in last week’s #PostPulpit mailbag which can be found here.
@MacToHenrySZN How y’all feeling about the Super Bowl chances this year?
In the wild AFC, the Patriots truly do have a strong chance as of now. New England has a top two defense in the conference and their offense continues to improve weekly. They now have a Week 14 bye to refuel for the stretch run.
Looking at odds around the league, FiveThirtyEight gives New England a 14 percent chance to win the Super Bowl (third highest), while Football Outsiders provides a whooping 33.7 percent chance (first). The Chiefs still appear to be their top competitor, but New England is trending upward while several AFC opponents are heading in the opposite direction.
@NfamousLee Hello. So, do y’all think the Patriots can get that rematch with Tom Brady & The Buccaneers, in the Super Bowl? This last game was a very close one. Since then the Patriots have gotten way better & can give the buccaneers a run for that Championship. LFG!!!
The Patriots vs. Buccaneers Super Bowl is now the odds on most likely matchup. What a time that would be. I truly do not know if I could handle two weeks of hype leading up to the game. But, if it does happen, the Patriots absolutely would have a chance to win. They almost upset Tampa Bay back in Week 4, and look how different the team looks today. Either way, it certainly would be an all-time game.
@89tremaine Do you remember earlier in the off-season when people questioned whether Belichick’s success was solely due to having Brady?
Yes, yes I do. Quite the times those were.
@JuanShip98 Hi yes, how’s it feel knowing the Patriots are never gonna lose again
In the wise words of Jimmy G...
@Nobody_you_kn0w Do you like fish sticks?
No? Yes? I truly do not remember the last time I ate a fish stick. I think they are tolerable but clearly are not a reoccurring food on the grocery list.
@CaddytotheLama Would you rather fight a chicken every time you got into your car, or an orangutan once a year but you get a sword?
Easy: Orangutan. The pure annoyance of having to fight a stupid chicken every time I got into my car would drive me insane. Think about. A nice cold New England morning, on your way to work, you're running late because you had to clean the icy snow off your car, and then you got to fight a chicken. Pass. Plus, I want to use the sword.
Why?— Abdulkaree〽️ (@HomeChilinn) December 8, 2021
That’s all for this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag. If you have questions you’d liked to be answered next week, submit them on Twitter using #PostPulpit! Make sure to be following @iambrianhines and @PatsPulpit as well!