Primary Menu

New England Patriots

Nov 18, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) celebrates after a touchdown pass with center David Andrews (60) and offensive tackle Trent Brown (77) against the Atlanta Falcons in the second quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots tweeted a fresh mic’d up video of the sights and sounds from their 25-0 win over the Atlanta Falcons last Thursday. It’s mostly the same standard peek at the Pats’ sideline, and there’s rarely too much to glean from these beyond a few cool sound bites. But there’s one line from starting center and team captain David Andrews that feels pretty telling.

Andrews hints at one of the big remaining questions for the 2021 Patriots: Have they officially found their identity? To be certain, though, the I-word is a term that can get out of control when discussing a sports team and probably not something that interests Bill Belichick. But based on Andrews during his pregame speech, the Patriots do have an identity, one that they wanted to impose on the Falcons: nobody plays a more physical brand of football.

“Go send a message tonight, that we are the most physical team out there,” Andrews says. You can watch the full video below.

The Patriots are riding the NFL’s longest win streak at five games, and physicality has definitely been one of their hallmarks over the course of the recent surge. Toughness usually starts with running the ball and stopping the run. They’ve amassed the third-most rushing yards (759) and fourth-most rushing touchdowns (8) in the league over the past five weeks.

Defensively, the Patriots have matched the run game by stopping the run up front. Their opposing yards per carry over the course of the winning streak is grossly skewed by a single 75-yard run by the Chargers’ Justin Jackson. When you take out that one play, the Pats jump from 24th in the league to sixth in opponents’ yards per rush (3.86). And that’s including a shaky opening drive against the Browns two weeks ago. On the season, they’re seventh in the NFL with 4.1 yards allowed per attempt on the ground.

In terms of yards per play allowed, the Patriots are second in the NFL over the course of their win streak. That’s in large part because they’re beating the hell out of opposing quarterbacks. They’re tied for the league lead in sacks (15) and rank first in opposing passer rating (51.1) since Week 7.

The guys up front seem to be gelling for the Patriots on both sides of the ball. That’s always where physicality and toughness are born. And the Pats have been arguably the toughest, most physical team in the league in the last five weeks.

That looks to be the identity for this edition of the Patriots, and the “message” Andrews wanted to send. They may not be the most talented team. They may be one of the most inexperienced teams in the league at quarterback. But they’re certainly tough and physical, and if they’re going to slow down at any point, an opponent is going to have to punch back.

Hasn’t happened in a while.

Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster 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? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @mattydsays. You can also email him at mdolloff@985thesportshub.com.