Primary Menu

New England Patriots

Jun 10, 2021; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (50) talks to offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels during OTAs at the New England Patriots practice complex. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

This isn’t the most exciting topic, but it could go down as the No. 1 reason for who wins between the Patriots and Saints on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

Who can stop the run?

Run defense isn’t sexy. In fact, those piles are more like a dumpster-dive. It’s not going to get the hot take people going. You won’t hear Stephen A. Smith squawk into a microphone for eight minutes about gap control. But to be a tough, winning football team, it’s essential.

The Patriots need to be better at it than they were in Weeks 1-2. And that needs to start on Sunday, against Saints All-Pro running back Alvin Kamara.

“I feel like if you were to maybe try to build a perfect back, he essentially has everything you need: vision, balance, he’s strong, he’s tough,” said linebacker Dont’a Hightower. “However you want to give him the ball, you can give it to him, whether it’s screens, throwing it to him, you want to hand it off, he’s just a really good player, explosive. You can hand off a ball to him and expect maybe a 3-, 4-yard run and he’ll turn it into a 75-yard touchdown. He’s just that type of player.”

New Orleans is coming off a disappointing outing against the Panthers, a 26-7 loss in which Kamara gained just eight yards in five carries and particularly struggled to run between the tackles. But the Patriots have had their issues stopping the run up the middle. So something’s gotta give there.

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - SEPTEMBER 19: Running back Alvin Kamara #41 of the New Orleans Saints runs the ball during the first half in the game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on September 19, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – SEPTEMBER 19: Running back Alvin Kamara #41 of the New Orleans Saints runs the ball during the first half in the game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on September 19, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

On the other side is a Saints run defense that ranks second in the league with only 2.8 yards allowed per carry. They limited Christian McCaffrey to just three yards per attempt last week. In 2020, they ranked fifth in defensive yards/carry (3.9) and allowed the third-fewest rushing touchdowns (11). Defensive tackles Malcolm Roach, Christian Ringo, and Shy Tuttle aren’t household names, but they’re effective, and DeMario Davis is one of the better run-stopping linebackers in the league.

“They’re a physical front,” left tackle Isaiah Wynn said this week. “All their guys on the defensive front, they’re big, they’re long, they’re powerful. They’re just a good defensive front, so we’re going to be looking forward to stepping up to the challenge this week.”

Much of the scrutiny about the Patriots’ run defense has centered on defensive tackles Lawrence Guy and Davon Godchaux, but it hasn’t been much better on the edges, either. The Patriots rank 31st and 32nd, respectively, in average yards allowed per carry to the left end (9.0) and left tackle (7.8), according to NFL Game Stats and Info. Only with runs to the right tackle have the Patriots allowed fewer than four yards per attempt (0.42).

Run defense isn’t really about scheme, like it could be for pass-rushing. It’s about fundamentals and execution. And that goes for everyone on the field. If they can limit Kamara on Sunday, that’ll be a great sign for their overall toughness and effectiveness as a defense.

“It takes all 11,” said Godchaux. “Everybody wants to single out this guy and that guy, but it takes all 11 guys. Like I said, 11 guys get to the football, gang-tackle, and the run defense I think will be good. It’s no individual thing, it’s all about a team and 11 guys. I think If we do that this week, we’ll have a great chance.”

  • Meyers' Light-Switch Moment

    Sep 12, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers (16) runs with the ball against the Miami Dolphins during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Sep 12, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers (16) runs with the ball against the Miami Dolphins during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    When did Jakobi Meyers know he was an NFL-caliber talent? The whole time. When did he know he could execute plays at the level he needed to for his coaches? That took a little longer.

    Meyers had an illuminating answer for a question from NESN’s Zack Cox on Friday, when asked about when the light bulb went off for him as far as his confidence to be a productive NFL receiver. Meyers has always felt he had enough physically to hang in the NFL. But it took time for him to sit back and learn about the mental aspects of the game in order to gain full confidence in himself, and said the switch flipped for him about halfway through the 2020 season, when his snap counts started to take a big jump.

    “I always felt like I could play, but I wasn’t confident as far as executing my responsibility, if that makes sense,” Meyers said. “I knew what type of talent I had, what kind of player I was, but as far as going out there and doing the right thing when the team needed me, that one took a little bit longer. So day 1, I thought I was good enough. It just it took a lot longer to be like, ‘You know what you’re doing, if the coaches just put you in any situation, you can go out there and make that happen.’”

    Meyers has often credited former teammate Julian Edelman, who was also a converted quarterback out of college, for bringing his confidence out of him. He said it’ll be “very cool” to see Edelman honored during a halftime ceremony on Sunday.

  • Judon To Appeal Fine

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 12: Owner Robert Kraft jokes with Matt Judon #9 of the New England Patriots prior to the game against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on September 12, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – SEPTEMBER 12: Owner Robert Kraft jokes with Matt Judon #9 of the New England Patriots prior to the game against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on September 12, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, Patriots linebacker Matt Judon was fined $10,000 for an incident with the Dolphins in Week 1. Judon received an unnecessary roughness flag on a punt return, and the Patriots ultimately scored three points on the ensuing drive, but the penalty erased a 14-yard return by Gunner Olszewski.

    “I asked the ref, like, ‘What did you see?’ He was like, ‘Well, uh, it was kind of the long snapper, and I’m pretty sure he put you over here,'” Judon explained. “So, I was wondering the same thing. I do understand, because I couldn’t see it on film, either. Because the film cuts off. But, that’s a mistake and I definitely won’t try to have it happen again. That penalty just cost my team yards, and it was a selfish mistake. Just make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

    Judon said he’s supposed to appeal every fine, presumably as a procedural matter to maintain solidarity with the Players Association. But he truly believes the fine was undeserved. It was an expensive Patriots debut for him.

  • Belichick On Guerrero

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 12: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on September 12, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – SEPTEMBER 12: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on September 12, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Tom Brady’s close friend, personal trainer, and business partner Alex Guerrero had some pointed remarks on the record about Bill Belichick this week. So it was natural to ask the Patriots head coach if he had any thoughts on the matter.

    Chances were slim-to-none that Belichick would say anything at all expansive about what Guerrero said, and it was fair to wonder if he’d spit at the camera. But he was surprisingly cordial to be asked about it in the first place. Perhaps in Week 4, when Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to Foxborough, we’ll finally hear Belichick speak in an outwardly complimentary manner about his former quarterback and six-time Super Bowl-winning partner.

    “I appreciate the question,” Belichick said. “I know there’s a lot of interest for obvious reasons in next week’s game, but we’re focused on Saints here, and on Monday we’ll get to next week.”

  • Expect the unexpected

    CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - SEPTEMBER 19: Quarterback Jameis Winston #2 of the New Orleans Saints talks with head coach Sean Payton before the game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on September 19, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

    CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – SEPTEMBER 19: Quarterback Jameis Winston #2 of the New Orleans Saints talks with head coach Sean Payton before the game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on September 19, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

    The Saints have one thing going for them in a tough road test against Belichick’s Patriots: they are well-coached in their own right. And Sean Payton is known for his attention to detail and nuance in his schemes. Even on special teams.

    Beliichick is well-aware of the challenges associated with coaching against Payton, which will make Sunday’s chess match fascinating to watch.

    “Well, it’s really hard to predict what Sean’s going to do, and they have a huge playbook,” Belichick said Wednesday. “They have a lot to choose from, and he does a lot. You can’t prepare for it all, and then you got to be careful of the things that hurt you that they’ll come back and get you with, but then there’s also a lot of things the Saints do well that are hard to stop, and he has good compliments to all the plays, so if you stop one thing, he’s got something else to go to. It’s hard to stop both of them, so between all of what he has and exposing the defense’s weaknesses from week to week, that’s why they’ve led the league in offense for the last 15 years.”

    Don’t be surprised if the Saints pull a trick play or something unorthodox on special teams. The Patriots won’t.

  • Uche added to injury report

    Josh Uche of the Patriots rushes Jets quarterback Zach Wilson in the second half as the New England Patriots defeated the NY Jets 25-6 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ on September 19, 2021. The New England Patriots Came To Play The Ny Jets At Metlife Stadium In East Rutherford Nj On September 19 2021

    Josh Uche of the Patriots rushes Jets quarterback Zach Wilson in the second half as the New England Patriots defeated the NY Jets 25-6 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ on September 19, 2021. (Syndication: The Record)

    Patriots linebacker Josh Uche (back) was a late addition to the injury report on Friday. He’s questionable for Sunday, along with tackle Trent Brown (calf) and safety Adrian Phillips (non-injury).

    Linebackers Matt Judon (knee) and Kyle Van Noy (throat) have been removed from the injury report, along with running back Damien Harris (finger).

    On the Saints’ side, cornerback Marshon Lattimore (thumb) has been removed from the injury report. He and C.J. Gardner-Johnson (knee) look good to go for Sunday in Foxborough. They will be significant additions for them, and should pose a big challenge for the Patriots’ pass-catchers. It’ll be interesting to see who Lattimore, in particular, draws in his matchup, between Meyers and Nelson Agholor.

    The Saints also ruled out center Erik McCoy, their usual starter. They struggled with Cesar Ruiz starting in Week 2. We’ll see if they’ve corrected their problems, or if the Patriots can take advantage.