Tom Brady goes to celebrate with Brandon Bolden after he hauled in a nice touchdown catch replacing the injured Dion Lewis. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Last week I talked about how spoiled we are in New England basically being able to pencil the Patriots into the AFC Championship every year. This week was another prime example of just how good we have it here. The Patriots handled the Redskins all game and the win was never in doubt. Tom Brady finished just one yard shy of 300 for the day and threw for two more touchdowns. The defense played as good as they have been the past few weeks. Even with all that it was a bad game by Patriots’ standards.

– Tom Brady put up another solid performance with 299 yards, going 26-39 with two touchdowns. He had a very uncharacteristic interception that made me do a double take to make sure it was Brady throwing the ball. It was a rare instance where he didn’t read the defense correctly and just never saw linebacker Keenan Robinson playing zone. Credit to Robinson for reading the play and making the interception, but that was a bad pass by Brady. Again, that’s how great it is to be a Patriots fan. These awful plays are so few and far between that it’s actually shocking when it happens. Continue reading Notes and Observations, Week 9: Patriots Beat Redskins 27-10 to go 8-0 for 2nd Time in Team History »

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It became official on Monday what many in New England had feared following Sunday’s game: Patriots running back Dion Lewis will be out for the season with a  torn ACL. Lewis, who had been a major contributor out of the backfield for the Patriots, will undergo surgery with the goal of being ready for the start of next season.

Throughout the Bill Belichick/ Tom Brady run in New England, the Patriots have always had a shifty pass catching running back who can make key plays in the passing game. First it was Kevin Faulk and then Shane Vereen. With Vereen’s departure this past offseason, the team looked to fill that hole and had Lewis competing with James White for reps. Lewis won the competition and quickly established himself as an important component of New England’s offense. His ability to break tackles and maneuver through crowded areas made him very difficult to match-up with. On several occasions, Brady would target Lewis over Rob Gronkowski or Julian Edelman based on favorable match-ups.

This is not to say that losing Lewis is on the same level as losing Gronkowksi or Edelman, but he proved to be much more than just a safety valve out of the backfield and he will be missed. James White and Brandon Bolden will need to step up in order to shoulder the load left by Lewis. Bolden filled in admirably against Washington, but he does not have the speed or shiftiness of Lewis and White has had trouble cracking the lineup in recent weeks.

With Lewis out, the Patriots will need to hope either Bolden or White can fill his role. It can’t be expected for either one of them to play at Lewis’ level, but they will need to produce. If they cannot, the Patriots offense will have more difficulty moving the ball.

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stork IR

The Patriots on activated Bryan Stork of the short term injured reserve on Saturday. Stork was recovering from a concussion. By rule, the center’s placement on short term IR meant that he had to miss the team’s first eight games. In a corresponding move, the team placed offensive lineman Ryan Wendell on season ending injured reserve.

Both moves highlight the health issues the Patriots have had along the offensive line season. Wendell and Stork were both starters on last season’s Super Bowl XLIX champion team. New England will also be without starting left tackle and Super Bowl XLIX winner Nate Solder the rest of the season due to injury. With only a limited number of healthy linemen, the Patriots may choose to get creative in their approach.

Undrafted rookie David Andrews has filled in well in Stork’s absence, but Stork is the better player and would play center if everyone else was healthy. This could still end up being the case, but with the injuries up front the Patriots could choose to play both at the same time with Stork kicking out to guard or even tackle.

Stork, in his second season, began starting in week four last season and remained the starter through New England’s Super Bowl victory. As well as starting experience last year, he also has experience playing with rookie guard Tre Jackson, both were on the Florida State team that won a National Championship in 2014.

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Tom Brady continued his dominance on Thursday adding four more touchdowns. He celebrates this one with Julian Edelman. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

One of the best things about being a Patriots fan is having this luxury of knowing you’re going to the playoffs every year. Even more than that, you’re probably going to watch your team in the AFC Championship just like the past four years. In only week eight, the Patriots have basically wrapped up the AFC East. After emasculating the Dolphins on Thursday night they now have wins against each of their AFC East opponents. What’s more impressive is that score could have been a lot worse. The offense left a lot of first half points on the field as the defense was shutting the Dolphins down. That’s really nitpicking though as 36 points is nothing to bat an eye at.

– I genuinely hope everyone watching is really appreciating what Tom Brady is doing this season. What he’s doing at 38 years old is nothing short of amazing. On Thursday he went 26-38 for 356 yards, with four touchdowns and no interceptions. That brings his totals on the year to 2,410 yards with 20 touchdowns and only one interception that came off a bobbled pass from Julian Edelman. He’s on pace to throw over 5,500 yards, about 47 touchdowns, and maybe have three interceptions. He’s more focused than he’s ever been and it was never more apparent than on one play in the fourth quarter. With the game already in hand with a score of 29-7, Brady took a sack after missing a read. He then slammed the ball and his fist in frustration. Even though the game was already over Brady wasn’t satisfied. He wants to leave no points on the field. Tom Brady wants to win this season more than he wants anything in the world and I don’t think there’s anyone out there who can slow him down.  Continue reading Notes and Observations, Week 8: Patriots Virtually Clinch AFC East in 36-7 Win Over Dolphins »

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There was plenty of action on the field during the Patriots impressive 30-23 win over the New York Jets on October 25. It turns out that there was also plenty of action going on inside the walls of Gillette Stadium, as two Patriots employees fell under suspicion of Jets and NFL officials.

Prior to the game, NFL officials swept the Jets locker room for listening devices. Although the NFL has said it was part of their usual random checks, reports have leaked out that the Jets requested such a sweep to take place. It was mentioned in two separate news stories in September that several teams suspected the Patriots of bugging locker rooms, but there is no proof and the Patriots have never officially been accused of such activity. Most evidence points to this being a random check, but conspiracy theories are sure to develop.

While the game was taking place, a Jets security official became suspicious of three Patriots employees that were wearing headsets. Both employees were questioned during the game. One of them required a phone call to the league office because the questioner did not believe his story of being responsible for the referees batteries. After questioning, it was determined that no employee did anything wrong and they were allowed to continue working.

Had the Jets security personnel had a better understanding of who is in charge of referee equipment, at least the second part of the second incident could have been avoided. The first part could likely have been a case of Patriots paranoia. It is understandable that a Jets team employee would want to make sure that everything was on the level during his team’s game and in most cases this would not have made many headlines. But in New England, everything is a big deal.

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The Patriots are set to host the Dolphins this Thursday night and one match-up that could come into focus is the Patriots’ offensive line vs the Dolphins defensive line. The Dolphins don’t have the same talent across the board as the Jets, but they have two elite players in Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh. Suh is an excellent interior lineman when he has his head in the game and will be a handful for the Patriots interior offensive line. However, it is Wake who could end up being more of a problem for New England.

Wake already has six sacks this season and the Patriots are hurting at offensive tackle. If Marcus Cannon cannot play, then the starting tackle opposite Sebastian Vollmer will be Cameron Fleming. Miami will likely try to match-up Wake with Fleming as much as possible making this battle of the “Cams” important to the outcome of the game. When teams have beaten a Patriots offense in the last 15 years they have generally done three things” get pressure up the middle, have a good edge rusher, and cover well. Miami is not great in coverage but definitely checks off the other two boxes. If the Patriots line gets beat off the ball consistently, then Tom Brady will not have adequate time to defeat the Dolphins coverage. The battle around the edge is especially important because Brady struggled in the first half against the Cowboys this season and excellent edge rusher Greg Hardy.

Wake is a superior player to Fleming, but Fleming held his own last week against the Jets. The Patriots will also try to help Fleming out by chipping Wake off the edge with running backs and tight ends. Even so, there will be instances where the young tackle has to block Wake one on one. Wake has shown that when he gets going, he can have a monster game. His four first half sacks against the Titans changed how Tennessee played that game and he could do the same to the Patriots.

Miami could move Wake around and have him face off with Vollmer, but the better match-up for them is Fleming. If Marcus Cannon plays he will not be 100% and signs are pointing to the possibility of him sitting out. There is a strong possibility that Fleming will once again be forced into the starting role.  If that is the case, the match-up between the two “Cams” could decide the game.

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Patriots special teams ace and captain spoke out Monday about Thursday night NFL games and how they affect teams. The veteran expressed concern about player safety and injuries.

“I can’t sit here as the player rep of this team and say that I’m a huge fan of it. Obviously it puts our players in a bind. But I understand why it’s being done. I understand that we want to make this game available to our fans as often as possible. But you talk about player safety and health, and it’s hard for us to understand how that is catering toward our players’ safety and health.”

The comments are significant for two reasons. First, the Patriots host the Dolphins this Thursday night at Gillette Stadium in a divisional game. Slater is not the first player to express discontent with playing on only three days rest. Slater was also asked if his teammates felt this way and he said he believes they do.

This is also significant because Slater is the team’s union rep, an important position in the lockerroom. Any concerns players have can be relayed to their union rep who can then broach those topics at union meetings. If there is enough agreement  with a topic, it can become a point of emphasis when negotiating collective bargaining agreements.

Just because players are unhappy with playing on Thursdays does not mean there will be a lockout when the current agreement runs out in 2020, but this topic will likely come up in negotiations and could be a divisive issue. Player safety is a supposed important point for the league, but that can be hard to believe as players play two games in a five day span.

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