By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Patriots had an uneven first half but completely rolled in the second, resulting in plenty of choices for "ups" and "downs" in a mostly dominant 33-7 road win over the Redskins.
Tom Brady gets an "up" this week after throwing for 348 yards and three touchdowns. He threw a bad red-zone interception in the second quarter but mostly looked sharp other than that, as did his receivers. The Pats also got the run game going a little bit and enjoyed another dominating effort for the defense.
-- WR Julian Edelman. No. 11 looks like he's still really battling the chest issue that's had him on the injury report for the past two weeks. But Edelman is one of the toughest players in the NFL, so obviously he's soldiering through this one and he looked mostly vintage on Sunday. Eight catches for 110 yards and a touchdown in his best game of the year so far.
-- LB Dont'a Hightower. On another dominant afternoon for the Patriots defense, Hightower was all over the place. He finished with eight tackles, 1.5 sacks, two QB hits, four tackles for loss, and a pass breakup in his return from being inactive in Week 4 with a shoulder injury. Hightower looked to be at full strength for this one, though - virtually unblockable. They needed others to step up and make plays without Patrick Chung and Hightower delivered. Honorable mention goes to the Patriots' other main linebackers, Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy, in a ferocious performance for that group.
-- RB Sony Michel. Finally, Michel got rolling in the run game with 91 yards on 16 carries with a score. His 14-yard touchdown run showed good strength and balance as he stiff-armed a defender and kept his feet all the way into the end zone. Michel is decisive and hard to bring down once he gains momentum, which can't come when the run-blocking is poor in front of him - he got a little more blocking in D.C., and so he showed what he's capable of. Michel also made three catches, so it's a positive sign that he's becoming more of a factor in the passing game.
-- TE Ryan Izzo. The Patriots had their most success on offense with two tight ends on the field, so props are due for both Izzo and Matt LaCosse. But Izzo gets the nod here after an improved day as a blocker up-front and his marked impact in the passing game. When the Patriots have schemed him open, he's done his job on the other end. The Redskins left Izzo wide open on a touchdown in the fourth quarter that essentially put the game out of reach. For a Patriots team that seemingly needed to get Ben Watson back, this was an encouraging performance for both remaining TEs.
-- C Ted Karras. Pretty much every offensive lineman, except possibly Joe Thuney, did not have their best days. They cleaned it up a bit in the second half, but the game was way closer than it needed to be due to a sloppy first 30 minutes. Karras missed multiple blocking assignments and occasionally got straight-up beat, and also committed a holding penalty that negated a first-down Brady run.
-- RT Marcus Cannon. The Patriots' struggles on the offensive line have mainly been to the right side, despite the personnel issues at left tackle. Outside runs still aren't working like they did last year, and some of that is due to Cannon and the tight ends' sloppy blocking. Cannon got beat in pass protection on Sunday in an uneven day overall for everyone on the line.
-- K Mike Nugent. Well, the Patriots' new kicker did make his only field goal attempt and went 3-for-4 on extra points. But that PAT miss did feel like an important play throughout the first half, and one of his makes doinked off the left upright and took a fortuitous bounce through. This could be a bit of an adventure.
-- S Devin McCourty. Reaching a bit here, but if not for McCourty's poor tackling (among others) that sprung Redskins running back Steven Sims for a 65-yard touchdown, the Patriots could have grabbed their second shutout of the season. Someone has to take the fall for easily the Patriots' worst defensive breakdown of an otherwise excellent season so far.
More ups and downs coming after the Patriots play the Giants on Thursday Night Football.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].