New England Patriots Week Nine Report Card

The New England Patriots won a convincing 24-6 victory over Christian McCaffrey and the Carolina Panthers on Sunday afternoon. The Patriots have now won three straight games.

New England by no means played a perfect game, but they were able to rise to the occasion when it needed to be, and there are a lot of positives to be taken from this one.

Straight to the point, here are my position notes this week from the Patriots-Panthers game.

Quarterback: C-

Mac Jones wasn’t really good at this game, but he wasn’t really bad either. He was just inconsistent.

Sounds fair, right?

The score in the box will tell you that Jones was good enough to win the game. He scored 12/18 for 139 yards, one touchdown, and he threw an interception at old friend Stephon Gilmore. This means he has completed 66% of his passes.

His touchdown pass to Hunter Henry was a strike. The ball was thrown perfectly to a place only Henry could catch.

There was a play in the second quarter where Jones threw a big throw pass to Brandon Bolden for a big win.

At halftime, Jones had 121 passing yards. So throwing just 18 yards in the second half is a bit of a concern.

The point is, the box score doesn’t tell the whole story.

The Patriots didn’t rely so much on their passing game, choosing to play it 39 times instead. However, when they asked Mac to throw the ball, he made a few mistakes that led to two turnovers.

“I think in hindsight there are only recurring themes in terms of communication and I can do a better job with that. Part of it is just inexperience, but there is no sorry for that. I’ve been here for quite a while now and I can take in the looks that I’m not used to seeing, and go from there. But, we’ve made progress in every game that I feel like “The most important thing for us is not to return the ball and I had two turnovers today so it’s not good enough. I’m going to look at that and see what I can do better.”

We all have to keep in mind that Jones is a rookie. All rookie quarterbacks have their ups and downs. As for his ups and downs, he struggled with pitch accuracy last week against the Chargers, and this week it was his decision making that was more of a concern.

The running backs: one

The Patriots used a three-headed monster to get back to Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson and Brandon Bolden. All three running backs exhibited for 220 of New England’s 273 total yards.

Harris had the peloton’s quiet day, taking 15 races for just 30 yards. However, he found the end zone for the fifth game in a row. Harris now has seven rushing touchdowns this season.

In just 17 offensive shots, Stevenson led the team in rushing and rushing yards, carrying it 10 times for 62 yards and catching two passes for 44 yards.

Stevenson showed his physique in the second quarter with a powerful stiff arm to Panthers safety Sean Chandler that set him back five yards.

His biggest highlight was his 41-yard catch and run that set a Damien Harris score.

Brandon Bolden did a terrific job replacing James White as the Patriots’ third fullback. He also continues to make big plays. For example, in the second quarter he did an 11-yard run in the middle, then the next game he did a 12-yard run. Later, in the 4th quarter, Bolden converted a 4th and a 2.

“He has a big role – protecting the passes, the running, some of the litters he took – he did a good job and he always continued to keep his role in the kicking game that took off. Also been good, Belichick said in a post-game press conference on Sunday. “But yes, Brandon stepped up every week, and Rhamondre, and obviously Damien, and JJ [Taylor] last week, so I hope these guys continue to help us. “

It should be noted and watched that Harris and Stevenson both left the game with injuries.

Wide receivers: D

Have large receivers even appeared? We can at least confirm that they were in the stadium. The only reason I don’t give them an F is because the game plan was clearly focused on managing football.

Kendrick Bourne was the team’s most productive receiver on Sunday, catching three passes for 34 yards.

Meyers didn’t play a big role in this game. He hit an eight-yard reception and failed to score the first down. Yet that was it. He didn’t catch another pass the entire game.

It was a very calm day for Nelson Agholor, he didn’t catch a single pass and wasn’t hit once.

Tight ends: C

Hunter Henry continues to step up when the Patriots need it. His first capture was a key conversion in the third down. His second catch was a seven-yard touchdown to give the Patriots a 14-6 lead. The chemistry between Jones and Henry also continues to grow. Jones has joined Henry for a touchdown in five of the last six games.

Henry doesn’t produce the flashy pro bowl type of numbers, however, he’s on the verge of matching or setting a career-high in touchdown receptions. In 2016, Henry caught eight touchdowns and last season with the Chargers, Henry caught four touchdown passes. Henry is at least in the process of offering clutch plugs when his name is called.

Jonnu Smith remains badly used. In 28 snaps, he made a four-yard transfer and caught a two-by-two pass thrown at him on four yards, but that’s it. He then left the game with an injury.

Offensive line: C +

The offensive line has committed too many penalties. In the first drive of the match, Isaiah Wynn made a false start, then Ted Karras was flagged for detention.

Things didn’t improve much in the first trimester. The offensive line as a unit had a brutal first quarter. Four penalties and two sacks. Mike Onwenu was caught out of position and barely got his hands on Brian Burns on a strip sack.

Things would work out eventually. The Panthers finished with just two quarterback hits on Jones, which is a big improvement over previous weeks. Meanwhile, the Patriots continued to dominate the running game, finishing with 39 carries for 151 yards.

It wasn’t ideal at times, but the offensive line is showing signs of improvement.

Defensive line: A

The defensive line, led by Christian Barmore, was once again strong. Barmore has played more than any other Patriots defensive lineman in each of the past two weeks.

The New England front has been given a big job trying to limit one of the best running backs in the NFL in Christian McCaffrey. They did, holding him to 52 yards on 14 carries.

On top of that, this group harassed Darnold. Deatrich Wise came up with a QB hit and a tackle for the loss, while Barmore struggled with a pair of passes.

Linebackers: B +

Jamie Collins pulled off one of the most impressive athletic interceptions you’ll see a linebacker make.

“The game Jamie made,” Belichick said of the interception, “I don’t know how many players in the league could make this game. Not a lot. It was a great game.

The linebacker squad as a unit did a good job of slowing McCaffrey down in the running game and keeping him in check in the passing game. They helped limit him to just four receptions for 54 yards.

Matthew Judon made three tackles and added to his sack tally on a day when he was an obvious problem for the Panther blockers. Meanwhile, Kyle Van Noy made his presence known with two tackles and he landed an early key pass to force a punt.

Dont’a Hightower showed his strength when he blew up Panthers guard Mike Jordan during a transfer from McCaffrey to the right side of the offensive line. Jordan rushed at Hightower as soon as the shot was taken in an attempt to block him, and Hightower vengeanly pushed him back.

Hightower also faced tight ends on another running game, but tight ends were unable to move Hightower, which blocked McCaffrey and allowed Judon to make the tackle for minimal gain.

Secondary: A

It was a dominant performance for the Patriots in the cover. They limited Carolina receivers to just five catches for 40 yards on 13 targets.

JC Jackson added to his collection with another interception. He now has five picks on the season.

Jalen Mills had a nice pass break and Myles Bryant made his presence a big hit on DJ Moore.

Special teams: B-

Nick Folk missed a field goal 54 yards. On top of that, he scored three extra runs and scored a 37-yard field goal.

It’s hard to blame Folk for missing out on this peloton, given his talent throughout the season.

Gunner Olszewski had a tough game. He put the ball on the ground once, but luckily the Patriots were able to recover.

He also left the game in the second quarter, having received a hard blow from linebacker Frankie Luvu and immediately fell to the ground. He appeared dizzy and had to be helped up after the collision.

Jake Bailey had another solid game, averaging over 50 yards per punt.

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