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Sunday 7: How Patriots defense is different with Brian Flores leading way instead of Matt Patricia

Ryan Hannable
December 02, 2018 - 6:06 am

1. One of the bigger storylines with the Patriots heading into the season was how would the defense be different with Brian Flores leading the way instead of Matt Patricia. As a whole, it hasn’t been that different. “It’s the same, just different personalities,” cornerback Stephon Gilmore said this week. It’s appeared the Patriots have blitzed more, but that isn’t really the case. According to Pro Football Focus, the Patriots are blitzing 30 percent of the time, which is only two percent more than last year when they blitzed 28 percent of the time. “I wouldn’t say blitzing more, I would just say the coaches are putting us in positions more to make more plays,” Gilmore added. The more plays aspect is true, as the defense has picked its spots to blitz better it’s seemed. According to NFL Research, opponents have a 48.1 completion percentage when the Patriots blitz, which is the lowest in the NFL. The unit has forced 18 turnovers through 11 games when it forced 18 all of last season. Part of that is because the play calls have allowed for the defense to make plays. The Patriots safeties have blitzed quite a bit more and that shows confidence in the rest of the unit, especially the corners to hold their own. While it cannot be calculated with a stat, the Patriots defense appears to be playing more free and loose under Flores, which is backed up with the number of plays being made.

2. For those who were concerned with the big bruise on Tom Brady’s right knee showed on the CBS broadcast last Sunday, don’t be because it no longer exists. But, it’s worth noting it seemed Brady was walking with a slight hitch in his step Friday favoring his left leg, which reportedly was the knee he injured against the Titans and was once again limited in practice with this week. “I feel like I’m ready to go,” Brady said Friday. “I’m excited for the game. It’s a big game for us, big game for them. But, I feel good. I think everyone’s dealing with different things, but I’m able to go out there and play and hopefully play well.”

3. There’s no doubt the Patriots offense has dealt with injuries all season long, but the good news is they are getting back to full strength at the right time. With Rex Burkhead slated to return against the Vikings, Sunday will be the first time Burkhead, Sony Michel, Josh Gordon, Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski have been on the field together all season. It’s worth noting the Patriots are 4-0 and average 33.3 points per game when Gronkowski, Edelman and Gordon all play. 

4. Between Weeks 13-15 NFL teams will hold their “My Cause, My Cleats” game at a select home game. Since the Patriots will be away the next two weeks, they will hold their game this Sunday. Most players had their special cleats at their lockers all week and posed for pictures while explaining their meanings. Here’s a list of all Patriots players participating and what charities they are supporting. This is one of the best weeks in the NFL for players as it gives them a chance to showcase causes close to their hearts.

5. One of the more under-appreciated players on the Patriots defense this season has been Kyle Van Noy. The outside linebacker has a team-high 71 tackles, which are 10 more than the second-highest on the team (Patrick Chung). Van Noy has been asked to do a lot of different things, lining up all over on the defense, and has done them all well. Bill Belichick also indicated earlier in the season that he’s emerged as one of the leaders of the unit and that has showed up as well. Getting Van Noy for roughly $3.5 million this year and under $6 million next year seems like a steal.

6. Belichick’s Friday press conference had a lot of draft talk centered around undrafted players. Late in the draft sometimes it’s not all about talent, rather it comes down to selecting players because of a fear they will get grabbed as an undrafted free agent and then not selecting players based on a belief they won’t get drafted and become undrafted free agents. “Some guys you know are going to get drafted based on the amount of activity or whatever you determine,” he said. “There’s a lot of places to get information from however you get that information. It doesn’t mean you’re right. You’ve got to go with what you go with, so sometimes you go with that. Sometimes you think a player’s not going to get drafted and you have a shot in free agency. We’ve been right and we’ve been wrong on that. Matt Cassel – we thought he definitely would have gotten drafted or signed with somebody else had we not drafted him even though we didn’t really think he was going to get drafted. He threw 30-something passes in college, but there was enough activity on him and certainly people know about him that had been at SC that were in the league that had shown interest that had a prior relationship with him, which we didn’t. As an example, we drafted him because we didn’t think we’d be able to get him as a free agent.”

7. Get ready for a lot of talk of the Patriots’ recent struggles in South Florida this week and not letting it happen again. New England is 1-4 in its last five games played on the road against the Dolphins. Miami will be playing for its playoff lives, but as a very early prediction we just cannot see Belichick allowing another loss in Miami to occur. This topic will be exhausted by the time next weekend rolls around.

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