While preseason sensation A.J. Derby is playing meaningful snaps for the Broncos, the Patriots are bemoaning their lack of quality tight-end depth. A month after drawing praise from Tony Gonzalez as the greatest tight-end duo in NFL history, Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett were too injured to do much damage Sunday. Gronkowski never returned after exiting with a back issue late in the first quarter. Bennett appeared to aggravate an ankle injury that has been dogging him since Week 5. If the dynamic tight-end duo isn’t healthy, Brady’s offense devolves into a methodical, dink-and-dunk horizontal attack with little margin for error.
This game displayed the yin and the yang of Ryan Fitzpatrick as Todd Bowles’ chosen quarterback. Fitzpatrick kept the score competitive against the AFC’s dominant superpower, making a handful of big throws to Quincy Enunwa and Brandon Marshall. He was also stripped by Chris Long with the game on the line, symbolic of a Jets two-minute offense that has yet to produce a point this season. Even with the spate of untimely miscues the past two months, there’s no question Fitzpatrick runs a smoother, more variable offense than raw second-year signal-caller Bryce Petty. Can Bowles sell Petty to his veteran locker room before mid-December in a lost season?
Don’t expect Floyd to take a ton of reps behind Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Hogan, but it’s a chance for the Pats to take the 6-foot-2 receiver for a test drive. With a playoff spot already clinched, New England has the luxury of getting Floyd some work in the last two weeks of the season to see how they might utilize the newly acquired receiver during their postseason run.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reports that the Patriots are expected to use Floyd as a reserve receiver today versus the New York Jets, per a source informed of the situation. Floyd was deemed ready to play in limited fashion after joining the team last week.
On paper, Garoppolo’s first career start looks like the Patriots’ most challenging matchup of the season. The Arizona Cardinals have one of the most loaded rosters in the league, especially after trading for New England pass rusher Chandler Jones in the offseason. They are always tough playing at home.
Arizona, coming off a 13-3 season, makes life difficult on opposing quarterbacks and offensive lines with an array of creative blitzes. They only figure to be more aggressive with an entire offseason to prepare against a first-time starter.
So maybe the next time they play — though another Super Bowl meeting this season appears unlikely for the Giants — everyone should take a tip from Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who revealed that he hums a song in his head to block out the cacophony just before he kicks a critical field goal. He may never have kicked one as critical as the one he booted Sunday night, a 54-yarder that sailed narrowly into the night to nip the Giants 27-26 with one second remaining, preserving the Patriots’ unbeaten season.
It was the defining moment of Gostkowski’s career, which had been in need of one, because despite his steadiness and reliability, he is routinely overshadowed by the brilliance around him. But because of Gostkowski and his quirky pre-kick ritual, it is no longer too early to wonder if the Patriots can complete it this time, especially since they are showing resourcefulness common to them and uncommon to the rest of the league.
While the Patriots will be tempted to chalk this up to “one of those days,” there are real concerns about this Patriots offense. Tom Brady was hit 13 times in the game. Many of his mistakes — including his pick six — came from rushing a throw. He rarely seems to be on the same page as Brandon LaFell, who is exceptionally inefficient on deep throws. Take away all the big plays and the Patriots’ frenetic finish, and these teams looked rather even until midway through the fourth quarter. That’s not a great sign for New England.
Chip Kelly said he would make some changes after the long post-Thanksgiving stretch, and he notably used DeMarco Murray less. Darren Sproles was more active early in the game. He had 19 touches and wholesale nhl jerseys and Murray had 8. Murray had fewer carries and yards than Kenjon Barner!
It’s fair to wonder if Danny Amendola could be on his way out, but New England has done this before, stocking up on receivers and keeping those who mesh best with a New England playbook that asks plenty of its wideouts. The team also has Julian Edelman, Keshawn Martin and Aaron Dobson on the roster, but we still expect coach Bill Belichick to consider adding a bona fide speed element in next month’s draft.
Washington, in theory, gives the Patriots a downfield target who can line up outside after catching 47 balls for 658 yards and four scores with the Texans last season. At 33, though, he’s no savior for a team seemingly happy to dink-and-dunk their way to another double-digit-win season with Tom Brady at the wheel.