The team’s blowout playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens after the 2009 season represented the lowest point in the Belichick era, with boos wafting through a half-empty stadium. Three months later, the turnaround started with New England’s first two draft picks: Devin McCourty and Rob Gronkowski.
Belichick started to hit on his early picks: Gronk, McCourty, Nate Solder, Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley (on I.R), Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower, and Jamie Collins were all taken in the first two rounds of drafts between 2010-2013. They have turned into stars or quality starters, helping to define this era of Patriots dominance.
But we wouldn’t expect the Patriots to collapse without Brady. While September has historically been the Patriots’ toughest month, it’s all relative. They have won 72.7 percent of games in September over the last 10 years — best in the league. This is also the same franchise that went 11-5 with Matt Cassel under center in 2009.
Patriots defensive tackle Alan Branch, who was facing a four-game suspension, has had his ban rescinded, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported per agent Blake Baratz. Branch had been planning to appeal his suspension, but it was rescinded before the appeal and wholesale jerseys and the Patriots were informed Saturday, Rapoport added.
Branch had been notified in late November that he was facing a four-game ban for violation of the league’s policy on substances of abuse. His unexpected return will be welcomed by a Patriots’ defense that was facing the prospect of replacing Branch with a combination of inexperienced defensive linemen.
Lewis has been so electric in the open field that Blount described him as an unfair matchup for opposing safeties.
Don’t expect Lewis to immediately replace James White as Tom Brady’s sidecar in spread-attack formations just yet. Although Garafolo senses that Lewis is making a case to play Sunday night, the expectation is that it would be in a limited role as he’s eased back into the backfield rotation.
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.
Floyd was released this week by Arizona following his Monday arrest on DUI charges. The 27-year-old pass catcher was previously arrested in 2011 for driving under the influence.
Landing in New England, Floyd — set to become a free agent this offseason — will look to rescue a troubled 2016 campaign that has seen him post personal lows in catches (33) and yards (446) with a career-high in drops.