How ‘bout them Patriots?!
I read a terrific description of the Pats-Lions game from NFL.com’s Dan Hanzus: “The Pats attacked the Swiss-cheese Detroit defense on the ground, while Belichick’s defensive scheme put Jared Goff in a mental blender.” Conor Orr then piles on, “Something about facing Goff brings out the truly sadistic nature of Belichick the game plan designer.”
Based on the matchups between them, I’m not even going to argue his use of the word “sadistic” here. Belichick doesn’t only rent space in Jared Goff’s head, he owns a time share.
The New England Patriots have been difference-makers this season, too. Last week, analysts were explaining how the Pats defense would be ineffective stopping Detroit’s league-leading offense. After the game they were demoted to being called, “the hapless Lions.” Pittsburgh was a force to be reckoned with up until the Patriots beat them, and then Mike Tomlin’s name started popping up on the “coaches hot seat” rankings.
In Week 4, Aaron Rodgers was able to motivate his teammates heading into overtime, declaring there was no way he was going to lose to a third-string rookie quarterback. The fact that the New England was able to take Green Bay to overtime after losing their second quarterback, had the NFL writers putting the Packers on notice.
Next up, the Patriots travel to Cleveland to take on the 2-3 Browns. New England is listed as a 3.5-point underdog. Early previews warn of a tougher challenge than the Lions for the Pats’ defense against Nick Chubb and a strong run game. Of course that description of the Browns’ offense may change, after the Patriots win by 10 on Sunday.
Around the AFC East:
Buffalo Bills (4-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (4-1)
New York Jets (3-2) at Green Bay Packers (3-2)
Miami Dolphins (3-2) vs. Minnesota Vikings (4-1)
New England Patriots (2-3) at Cleveland Browns (2-3)
Baltimore Ravens (3-2) at New York Giants (4-1)
Los Angeles Chargers (3-2) vs. Denver Broncos (2-3)
Indianapolis Colts (2-2-1) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-3)
Cincinnati Bengals (2-3) at New Orleans Saints (2-3)
Pittsburgh Steelers (1-4) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-2)
Tennessee Titans (3-2) -Bye Week
Houston Texans (1-3-1) - Bye Week
Las Vegas Raiders (1-4) - Bye Week
14th - Bryan Fischer (Athlon Sports): As much as the legend of Bailey Zappe keeps growing, the return to a Bill Belichick masterclass on defense against the top-ranked offense in the league is a far more encouraging sign for this season’s outlook. [+8]
15th - Nate Davis (USA Today): Bill Belichick has now coached 400 games for New England ... and won 286 (71.5%) of them. Sublime. [+5]
16th - Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk): The preseason is finally over for the Patriots. [+7]
16th - Mark Lane (TouchdownWire): Even though the Patriots are below .500, it still feels like quite the accomplishment they won two games so far. Bill Belichick found a way to navigate the quarterback issues in Week 5. The challenge going forward will be to keep rookie Bailey Zappe in favorable situations that allows the Patriots’ run game and defense to win games. [+2]
16th - Trevor Land (FlurrySports). [+1]
17th - Conor Orr (SI): Bill Belichick doesn’t need to remind everyone that he’s the greatest coach of all time, but playing Jared Goff certainly helps. Something about facing Goff brings out the truly sadistic nature of Belichick the game plan designer. A humbling week for the high-scoring Lions as well. [+3]
17th - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): They won with rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe making his first start, thanks mainly to the defense. That unit played well in shutting out a good offense in Detroit. [+6]
17th - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): Bailey Zappe didn’t change much at quarterback without Mac Jones as the rookie looked sharp in the run-heavy offense. But how about that defense going old school with young players to throw down a shutout? That’s a big development toward perhaps another surprise wild-card run. [+4]
18th - Ryan Dunleavy (NY Post). [+5]
19th - NFL Nation (ESPN): The Patriots are minus-2 in turnover differential, which is rare territory for them. This season they have 10 turnovers in five games. And it wasn’t a coincidence that the Patriots won the turnover battle Sunday against the Lions and played their best overall game of the season. This will be the first key to New England potentially getting itself in the playoff hunt in an increasingly tougher AFC East — learning how not to lose before it can win. [+8]
19th - Karen Guregian (Boston Herald): Hard to get too excited over beating NFC North punching bag Detroit. But the Pats’ ground game and defense were impressive nonetheless. [+6]
19th - Josh Shrock (NBC Sports Chicago): Is Mac Jones going to get Wally Pipped by Bailey Zappe? The rookie looked like he belonged Sunday against the Lions. [+5]
20th - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): The Patriots hadn’t had a great game on defense this season, unless you count Week 2 against a bad Steelers offense. They were very good on Sunday in shutting out a Lions offense that had been excellent through four weeks. New England will need the defense to keep playing like that if it wants to stick in the playoff race. [+5]
20th - Consensus (BleacherReport): You cannot stop Bailey Zappe. You can only hope to contain him. Forced into action by injuries to Mac Jones and Brian Hoyer, Zappe made his first start Sunday against the Lions. The rookie didn’t light the world on fire, but only four of his 21 pass attempts fell incomplete, though he did throw an interception. Just as they did last week against the Packers, the Patriots leaned heavily on the running game. Damien Harris suffered a hamstring injury, but Rhamondre Stevenson stepped up with 175 yards on 27 touches.
The New England defense did its part as well. Facing a team that led the league in total offense and scoring offense, the Patriots pitched a shutout, forced two turnovers and allowed just 312 yards. It was an impressive all-around effort that was badly needed to keep New England from coming off the rails. Now, with two consecutive matchups against teams with losing records, the Patriots have a chance to build momentum. [+4]
20th - Matt Johnson (SportsNaut): Rhamondre Stevenson deserves a featured role in the New England Patriots’ offense and Bailey Zappe might have a long-term future in the NFL. The biggest takeaway from Sunday’s dominant victory over Detroit, Bill Belichick’s defense is back on track. With the Browns, Bears and Jets ahead on New England’s schedule in October, this team might just have a winning record entering November. [+3]
21st - Dan Hanzus (NFL.com): We no longer live in the days of endless summer in Foxborough, but you have to give the organization — and specifically, Bill Belichick — credit: If you come into New England and aren’t ready, you can still be embarrassed. Case in point, the Lions, who showed up Sunday with the highest-scoring offense in football but headed back to Detroit as 29-0 losers. The Pats attacked the Swiss-cheese Detroit defense on the ground, while Belichick’s defensive scheme put Jared Goff in a mental blender. The Pats are a Week 6 win over the Browns away from getting back to even ground at .500. Will Mac Jones (ankle) be back in the lineup? [+4]
24th - Staff (The Score): 1 Tweet that summarizes each team so far: “The Patriots in games started by a healthy rookie 3rd string QB under Bill Belichick are 2-0, outscoring opponents 56-0.” [+3]
25th - Austin Gayle (The Ringer): Matt Patricia was in desperate need of a get-right game with his offense struggling through the first four weeks. On Sunday he got exactly that against his former team, even while down to his third-string quarterback. For the first time this season, New England finished the week top-12 in offensive EPA per drive while going against the hapless Lions defense. There’s still little reason to buy into the Patricia-led offense long term, even when starting QB Mac Jones returns, given the lack of success the team has had against the better defenses they’ve faced, but a 29-0 win is a nice way to break out of an offensive slump. [+1]
Tier 5/6 - Dalton Miller (ProFootballNetwork): “The Probably Bad Teams” category, but we won’t be sure until the second half of the season.
The Patriots’ offense apparently just needed their top two quarterbacks to go down and to play the Lions to wake up. Bailey Zappe is definitely a gamer, but he will make way for Mac Jones when New England’s franchise QB returns from his ankle injury.
The Patriots’ defense shutting out the Lions was the biggest surprise of the week, considering Detroit had scored the most points in the NFL up to this week and New England’s defense had been underwhelming before Week 5’s matchup. [nc]
AVG RANK: 18.5 [+4.4]