FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Quick thoughts / notes on the New England Patriots and the NFL:
1. RBs who drop the ball: Things were looking so good for the Patriots running backs in the preseason that reporters asked coaches Bill Belichick and Ivan Fears about the “shame of riches” at the position.
The perspective has changed rapidly.
Drop the “of riches,” and that aptly describes where things are as New England (2-3) gears up for Sunday’s home game against the Dallas Cowboys (4:25 pm ET, CBS). Patriots running backs have lost four fumbles this season, easily a league record based on ESPN’s Statistics & Information research.
Both of starter Damien Harris have been daggers, costing the team a chance at a season-opening win against the Miami Dolphins, and then he scored an off-board touchdown last week against the Houston Texans. Rookie Rhamondre Stevenson was benched for three games after losing a fumble in Game 1, and sophomore running back JJ Taylor was a healthy scratch last week after losing one on a decisive play in Week 4. against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings are the only other teams whose running backs have lost multiple fumbles (two each). Thirteen teams have had a running back fumble. That leaves 16 teams, half the NFL, with no fumbles from their running backs.
Fears, the veteran running back coach who is now in his 31st season in the NFL and 25th with the Patriots, didn’t sugarcoat things this week when he said, “That’s our reputation right now. It will take us all year to get that out of people. mind. “
Six weeks ago, things looked so promising for the running back that the Patriots traded Sony Michel to the Los Angeles Rams. Belichick had mentioned it as the kind of situation any team wants to be in: a glut of good players.
They have since lost James White to a hip injury that is expected to end the season, could be without Harris on Sunday after he sustained a rib injury in Houston, and he has not been able to hold out. to the ball consistently.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys (4-1) are one of the last teams fumble-prone teams want to see. They have forced multiple turnovers in nine straight games, tying their second-longest streak in franchise history. His 12 finishes, 10 interceptions, two fumble recoveries, are second in the NFL behind the Buffalo Bills (15).
It highlights one of the keys to victory and future success for the Patriots, which can be summed up in five words.
To hold. Upon. For. The. Ball.
2. Harris was left behind: One sign that Harris might be limited against the Cowboys, or possibly unavailable at all, was that he did not return with the team after last Sunday’s win in Houston. Harris went to a local hospital after the game after being knocked out with a rib injury, and traveled back to town separately from the team charter. Those decisions are often preventive in nature from a medical standpoint, but they also reflect the pain Harris was managing.
3. Mac and Dak: The efficiency of rookie quarterback Mac Jones is one reason the Patriots are optimistic about his future growth and success. He is only the third quarterback since 1950 to have four games with a 70% completion percentage in his first five starts. Others? Chad Pennington (2002) of the New York Jets and the quarterback on the opposite side on Sunday: Dak Prescott of the Cowboys (2016).
Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs, who leads the NFL in interceptions with six, isn’t surprised Jones has joined that company. He saw it when they were teammates in Alabama.
“He’s very smart. With him, you have to be careful because he can do all the pitches,” Diggs said. “He comes from where I come from, so I know what kind of person he is, what kind of heart he has.”
4. Folk knee: Veteran kicker Nick Folk’s left knee injury, which has limited him in practice for the past two weeks but doesn’t appear to have a negative effect on him in games, is more than a passing note. It was a factor in the club bringing in kicker Riley Patterson for a second practice Friday, and the expectation is that he will soon be added to the practice team. Kickers are rarely associated with toughness, but those close to Folk see him gutting him and respect for him grows much higher.
5. Belichick and Brandt: Belichick said he was reviewing his notes on the Cowboys and looking at them over a period of years, and what stood out was their high Pro Bowlers total and a veteran staff that has “more than 500 years of NFL experience.” He added, for effect: “That’s five centuries. It’s amazing. This is not a young group. [and] I say this with respect for the work they have done. “
Belichick’s respect dates back to Gil Brandt, the longtime architect of the Cowboys teams who was included in the 2019 Professional Football Hall of Fame. Respect is mutual.
“I didn’t have to do this, but I’m sitting on stage in Canton, and suddenly someone touches my left shoulder. He’s backstage, and on a break, he comes to greet me.” Brandt said. “I get a lot of notes from him. They are not typed notes, they are handwritten notes. That always surprises me.”
6. Review the memories: Did cornerback Darrelle Revis enjoy his 2014 season in New England? “No. I didn’t,” Revis said in the “IM an athletepodcast. You know, I’m happy about the routine and the hustle and bustle. Winner of Super Bowl XLIX. But waking up every day, walking into the facility, and having to deal with stress; You see why they have been to 10 Super Bowls … but at the end of the day, there are other philosophies to win. It does not have to be this way. When you’re dealing with things up there, it’s exhausting. “
7. Reporter’s perspective: For the first time this season, Belichick held an opponent video conference with reporters from the Dallas area. And Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy’s conference call with New England reporters was the first of its kind this year. Belichick seemed to like the change on Friday, at one point complementing a question. Then, after Belichick talked about Dallas’ offensive pace and the balance for a young cornerback between aggression and patience, one of the Cowboys reporters came up behind the scenes to say, “Covering Bill seems like a good opportunity to learn about soccer”.
8. Devin’s motivation: About his “Double coverageOn the podcast, Patriots veteran safety Devin McCourty said his performance last week was one of the worst of all time. Leadership starts with performance, and he said that’s what hurts on a day like that. McCourty relayed part of a conversation he had with safety coach Brian Belichick on the subject: “You set a standard as a player, you have to bring it in every week. When you don’t, it creates a sense of urgency. You want to get out there again and leave it behind “.
9. McDaniels on the scrutiny: Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels understands why his plays are sometimes scrutinized (e.g. why so many screens in the red zone ?!), and he doesn’t take offense, saying he’s human and there’s no a game where every call is correct despite your best intentions. He joked last week that even his wife, Laura, hurts sometimes. “Frustration,” he said with a smile, “I get it.”
10. Did you know? This year marks the first time the Patriots have lost three straight home games to Belichick since 2000. The last time the Patriots lost more than three straight home games was in 1993, when they went on a five game winless streak at the then Foxboro Stadium.