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Sunday 7: How sideline play card may have helped Cordarrelle Patterson on punt unit vs. Dolphins

Ryan Hannable
December 16, 2018 - 7:17 am

1. There was something different on the Patriots sideline last Sunday in Miami: play cards similar to what you’d see in a college game (see below). One of them was held up on the Patriots’ second punt of the day. It had the Road Runner cartoon with the number 84 next to it. It’s not a surprise that Cordarrelle Patterson (No. 84) was on the field for the play, taking the place of Jonathan Jones as the gunner along with Matthew Slater. “I mean that was my first time ever on punt,” Patterson said this week. “I don’t even know what was going on. I don’t know why they did it. [Special teams coach] Joe Judge, who is a freak of nature man. He’s so smart. … It was kind of good. It was kind of different. It was something I haven’t seen before. I am hoping we continue to do it.” Patterson actually knocked the ball loose on the play, but Danny Amendola was pretty much already out of bounds and the ball went out of play as well. It is unclear what the meaning if the card was, but we wouldn’t be surprised if it had something to do with Patterson’s job on the play since it was his first play on the punt unit this year. “Some of the stuff it can can relate to you, or sometimes it don’t,” he said of play cards. “I don’t know. I don’t even think we had the cards when I was in college.” Jones was back for the final punt of the game for the Patriots, but it certainly was worth looking into the play card as not only is it unusual for the NFL, but especially the Patriots. 

2. Speaking of Patterson, he’s done a nice job in his first year with the team to make an impact doing a number of different things. Everyone knows his kick return ability and athleticism as a receiver, but he also carried the ball a lot with Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel dealing with injuries. On NFL Network Saturday morning, NFL Media’s Mike Garafolo, had a few nuggets on him. “The Patriots seem to have the right feel for when to use him and in what role,” he said. “He is kind of developing a little bit. I will tell you this, when they made that trade this offseason, I am told the Patriots were a little bit nervous because he came in a little out of shape, No. 1. No. 2, also had never been in an offense this complex. So what they did was every morning, Chad O’Shea, the wide receivers coach, he would come in at 6 a.m. to work with him — during OTAs. He finally got acclimated. They are starting implement him even more right now. Even when he’s not making a catch or running the football, he’s used as a decoy. I feel like he can be a real key for them down the stretch.” 

3. The fan portion of Pro Bowl voting has concluded and the Patriots did not have any players lead their respective positions. A total of 17 teams had a player finish as the leading vote-getter at his position, but not the Patriots. The biggest surprises may be cornerback Stephon Gilmore and guard Shaq Mason. Of course, the fans don’t make up the entire vote as players and coaches have a say as well. The Pro Bowlers will officially be unveiled this Tuesday night on NFL Network.

4. It is really hard to look past the Patriots’ struggles on the road this season. Going into Sunday’s game against the Steelers, they are 3-4 and have not had a losing road record since 2009 when they went 2-6. Everyone knows that was one of the worst teams Bill Belichick has had in New England where he famously said on his “A Football Life” he couldn’t get the team to play the way he wanted to. So, what does Tom Brady think of the road issues this year? "Again, it’s just a different team this year. We’ve put a lot into it and we’re trying to obviously do great in both,” he said Friday. “It just hasn’t turned out that way but we’re hanging in there. We’re hanging in there.”

5. James White hasn’t been the same the last several weeks, really since getting a little banged up against the Packers in Week 9. It really stood out last week when he only received six touches, and two of them came on running plays on the last drive. His production directly relates to the success of the team. In the four losses, he averages nine targets/carries, but in the nine wins, 16.7. Perhaps, the Patriots are preserving him for the playoffs, but it does seem something has changed with White in recent weeks.

6. Specific to this game for the Steelers, there’s a real chance Mike Tomlin is coaching for his job. After this week, the Steelers go on the road to New Orleans and with losses to the Patriots and Saints, they could realistically be looking at five straight losses and missing the playoffs. With the roster the Steelers have had of late and only making the conference title game once in the last seven years, Tomlin’s time may have run out. Right now, he’s the fourth-longest tenured coach, having started with the Steelers in 2007.

7. Much of the next three weeks will be breaking down playoff scenarios and the Chargers’ win over the Chiefs Thursday night made things a lot more complicated. If the Chiefs would have won that would have clinched the AFC West and all but wrapped up the No. 1 overall seed. Now, both teams are in contention for that along with the Patriots and Houston. Specific to the Patriots, they need to win out to guarantee themselves at least the No. 2 seed and then hope for at least one more loss from the Chiefs and Chargers to potentially get homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

Related: Patriots-Steelers preview

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