Patriots showing signs 2019 could be very special season

Ryan Hannable
September 09, 2019 - 4:05 am
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FOXBOROUGH — Typically, when looking at the Patriots and how they start seasons, it’s looked at as just that — a starting point.

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By and large, Bill Belichick’s Patriots are historically slow starters and build up from there. 

If that is true for the 2019 season, look out NFL, this could get out of hand.

The Patriots dominated the Steelers, 33-3, on Sunday Night Football in a game that was over at the half when the home team led 20-0 and only allowed 22 rushing yards, while Pittsburgh did not convert a single third down.

Not only was it a thorough beat down and dominating performance in all three phases, the Patriots did it without Kyle Van Noy (birth of first child), Demaryius Thomas (hamstring) and most of all, Antonio Brown (hasn’t officially signed).

Improving on a 30-point win against an opponent who is expected to be among the AFC’s best, all while adding three major impact players to the mix just seems unfair to the rest of the NFL.

“Well, it's always good to start off the season like that,” Belichick said afterwards. “I thought our guys really did a great job in preparing for a really good Pittsburgh team. We just played well across the board – offense, defense, special teams. We made plays in all three phases of the game, got good field position out of the kicking game and moved the ball and scored points on offense and held them to three points on defense. Just give the players the credit. They were ready to go. They played well.” 

Offensively, Tom Brady threw for just under 350 yards and it didn’t even seem like a vintage Brady performance. Julian Edelman caught six passes for 83 yards and by in large it appeared he and Brady were out of sync a lot of the night. But then Phillip Dorsett has his best game of his career with four receptions for 95 yards and two touchdowns, and Josh Gordon added three catches for 73 yards and a touchdown.

Brady had six passes that went for gains of 20 yards or more and two that went for 40 yards or more. Last year, the Patriots had nine plays all season that went for 40 yards or more. 

Just think of what can happen with Brown and Thomas added into the mix.

Defensively, it was equally as impressive. The unit held a Steelers offense that is considered one of the better ones in football to just three points and completely took Ben Roethlisberger off his game. The secondary rotated a number of players in and out, sometimes going with six on the field at a time. The linebackers were outstanding led by Dont’a Hightower, who as all over the field, and then the defensive line completely shut down James Conner and the Steelers running game.

All that while missing one of the most important players on the unit in Van Noy.

“It was a blast,” safety Duron Harmon said. “Playing for this franchise, playing with this team, playing for this defense is a lot of fun. We’re a close group off the field and push each other all the time — when we are in the weight room, when we’re in the meeting room, when we’re at practice. We push each other to be the best we can and we’re going to continue to do that.”

Without even factoring in how much better the team gets with Brown now on the field, think about the team improving on a 30-point win against a team like the Steelers. This isn’t like the Patriots blew out the Bills or Jets in Week 1, this is a team who has made it to the conference title game in recent years and very good.

Facing teams like the Dolphins, Jets, Bills and Redskins over the next month-plus, Sunday night was a statement win for the Patriots that they mean business.

So, just how good can the 2019 Patriots be?

On paper, if everything goes according to plan and everyone stays on the field, healthy, etc. there’s no doubt it could rival the 2007 team that went 16-0. No offense will ever compare to what Brady did that year, even with Brown’s arrival, but the biggest difference is the defense. 

The 2019 Patriots defense is much better than the 2007 unit was. It’s just that defense looked so good because they were playing with double-digit leads every game and were able to play so much more free and aggressive.

While no team will ever come close to the utter domination of that 2007 squad, the Patriots have the potential to be something special. 

How special?

Patriots fans heading down to Miami this weekend for the Week 2 matchup against the Dolphins should also try and lock down accommodations for the first weekend in February.

Based on what we saw Sunday, there’s a good chance the Patriots will be there.

Related: Some indications this season might be even better for Josh Gordon