Setting the Stage
Even without the services of Tom Brady , The Gronk and other Patriot Super Bowl heros, the Pats are still a sound, well-coached football team under Bill Belichick's expert guidance. The departure of Brady and the signing of Cam Newton gives the Pats a less-heady but more athletic QB who has blown up Cardinal defenses in the past.
Mix in a healthy dose of wintery NE weather, and this figures to be a very tough contest for the Cards.
Cards were outplayed by Seattle last Thursday and are in an NFC - West catfight for a playoff birth.
Most Recent NE Game
Started off seesaw, but Houston opened up a 21 - 10 lead at halftime and hung on to prevail 27 - 20. Key NE highlight was a 42-yard bomb from Cam Newton to Damien Byrd. Only other 2H scoring by either team was via the FG route. Houston QB ( Deshaun Watson) was reponsible for three 2nd half TDs (i.e.which could mean that Cardinal QB Kyler Murray figures to have a big day against a Pat defense that had trouble containing an opposing QB.).
NE 8:08 Damien Harris 9 run (Nick Folk Kick) NE 7 - Hou 0
Hou 11:24 Randall Cobb 3 pass from D Watson (Fairbairn Kick) NE 7 - Hou 7
NE 6:28 FG Nick Folk 45 NE 10- Hou 7
Hou 11:06 Deshaun Watson 4 run (Ka'imi Fairbairn Kick) Hou 14 - NE 10
Hou 14:50 Keke Coutee 6 pass from D Watson (Fairbairn Kick) Hou 21 - NE 10
NE 6:46 Damiere Byrd 42 pass from Cam Newton (Nick Folk Kick) Hou 21 - NE 17
Hou 12:56 FG Ka'imi Fairbairn 36 Hou 24 - NE 17
NE 7:21 FG Nick Folk 36 Hou 24 - NE 20
Hou 10:49 FG Ka'imi Fairbairn 46 Hou 27 - NE 20
Final Score - Houston 27 - New England 20
"Unofficial" Depth Chart
QB ...01 Newton...04 Stidham...02 Hoyer
RB...37 Harris...34 Burkhead (inj...26 Michel)
RB..28 J White...47 J Johnson (FB)...42 JJ Taylor
WR... 15 Harry...16 Meyers...18 Slater
WR...10 Byrd....80 Olszewski...84 I Ford
TE...85 Izzo... 83 J Thomas
LT...76 Wynn...74 Cunningham
OC...60 Andrews....66 Ferentz
RT...71 Onwenu...72 Eluemunor
LDE....91 Wise...50 Winovich
DT ...93 Guy...70 Butler...98 C Davis
DT....99 Cowart...94 Mack
RDE...55 Simon..96 Bower
LB...53 Uche...59 Hall
RCB...24 Gilmore...31 J Jones...33J Williams
LCB...30 J McCourty...27 J Jackson...41 Bryant
S....21 Phillips...35 Dugger...29 Bethel
S...32 D McCourty...25 Brooks...22 Davis
H ...07 .Bailey
Total Points - Cards 28.7 (7)...NE 20.9 (26)
Rush Yards/Game - Cards 157.7 (2)...NE 153.6 (4)
Pass Yards/Game - Card 256.6 (12)...NE 210.2 (26)
Rush Plays - Cards 45.3% (9)...Pats 50.7% (3)
Pass Plays - Cards 54.7% (23)...Pats 49.3 (29)
Points Per Game - Cards 23.8 (13)...Patriots 23.8 (14)
Rush Yds/Game - Cards 124.7 (21) ...Pats 121.8 (13)
PassYds/Game - Cards 243.0 (18)...Pats (236.1 (16)
Murray 241 of 353 for 2644 yds...68.3%...19 TDs...8 Ints...Sacked 16 Times...98.7 Rating
Newton - 169 of 248 for 1900 yds....68.2%...4 TD 7 INT Sacked 15 Times...84.4 Rating
Drake 146 for 641 yds 4.4 YPA 5 TDs
Murray 92 for 619...6.7 YPA...10 TDs
Edmonds 64 for 315....4.9 YPA...1 TD
Harris 96 for 514...YPA 5.4 ...TDs 2
Newton 83 for 341...YPA 4.1...9 TDs
Burkhead 67 for 274..YPA 4.1.....3 TDs
Hopkins 72 for 912..., 4 TDs
Fitzgerald 43 for 336... 0 TD
Edmonds 36 for 297 3 TDs
Kirk 31 for 477... 6 TDs
White 33 for 267 yds 0 TDs
Byrd 32 for 469 yds 1 TD
Meyers 31 for 391 yds 0 TDs
Burkehead 25 for 192 yds 3 TDs
J Jones 52
D McCourty 40
Baker...Blackson...Phillips...Kennard 2.0 Apiece
Simon, Calhoun 2 ea
Wise & Rivers 1.5 ea.
P Peterson 3
Baker...Kirkpatrick 2 apiece
JC Jackson 6.0
Cardinals Depth Chart
01 Murray, 15 Streveler, 07 Hundley
41 Drake, 29 Edmonds, 38 Ward 26 Benjamin
WR - 11 Fitzgerald...17 Isabella
WR - 13 Kirk....19 KS Johnson
WR - 10 Hopkins 16 Sherfield
TE - 87 William 82 Arnold 81 Daniels
LT- ...74 Humphries ....79 J Jones...66 Miles
LG - 67 Pugh 73 Garcia
OC- 52 Cole 65 Galliard
RG- 64 Sweezy...64 Murray
RT - 68 Beachum
Defensive Interior Line
DT - 69 Mauro...93 Coley
NT - 90 Peko Sr
DT - 92 Blackson
OLB - 43 Reddick...49 Fitts
ILB - ..59 Campbell 48 Simmons 47 Z Turner
ILB - 58 Hicks 51 Vallejo
OLB - 44 Golden 42 Kennard...45 Gardeck
CB - 21 P Peterson...25 Joseph
CB - 20 Kirkpatrick...33 Murphy
S - 34 J Thompson...35 D Thompson...28 C Washington
S - 32 Baker...31 Banjo. 40 Tillman*
Cardinals Special Teams
P - ...02 Lee
K- ....05 Gonzalez
H - ...02 Lee
LS - 46 Brewer
KR -29 Edmonds
PR - 13 Kirk
(Based on Analysis by SI's Max McAulliff)
Matchup: Pats Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
Newton has proved yet again that he is not the issue when it comes to a lack of points.
(He) made some nice throws during this game, ran the offense well, and threw over 40 passes in the contest. However, what really needs to improve is how he reacts in the face of pressure.
Newton's mechanics seemed to crumble and come apart at the seams when a defender charged towards his face. So that it's hard to deny that Newton kept NE in the game, his passes short of the mark also helped in taking them out of it.
Damiere Byrd finally had his breakout day - went for six catches, 132 yards and one touchdown. He averaged 22.0 yards per catch, a fantastic number.
Both N'Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers had fine performances. Harry did pick up two costly flags. Both made solid catches, especially later in the game.
Communication on the offensive line was not at it's best - they simply could not handle heavy-blitz looks, (& as a result, neither could Newton).
Key Matchups - Simmons, Golden and Reddick vs. Pats OL
Updates - Fitz and Sherfield (COVID) will sit out the NE game. D Thompson placed on COVID Reserve. D-Hop reported to miss practice due to undefined "illness" but returned to practice Thurs. Other Thurs. MIA's - TE Darrell Daniels (ankle), DL Josh Mauro (hamstring) and SJalen Thompson (ankle) were DNP. S Charles Washington (groin), G Justin Murray (hand) and QB Kyler Murray (shoulder) listed as limited.
NE inactives thru Week 12 - DNP - DL Tashawn Bower (illness), RB Rex Burkhead (knee), DB Kyle Dugger (toe), WR Matthew Slater (knee), RB J.J. Taylor (quad), OT Isaiah Wynn (knee)
Lim Avail - LB Ja'Whaun Bentley (groin), DL Adam Butler (shoulder), DL Byron Cowart (back), DL Carl Davis (concussion, )K Nick Folk (back), CB Stephon Gilmore (hand), DL Lawrence Guy (shoulder, elbow and knee), WR N'Keal Harry (shoulder), TE Ryan Izzo (hamstring, hand), G Shaq Mason (calf), G Joe Thuney (ankle).
Matchup: Pats Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
NE came into this game with a top-five ranked rushing attack in the league, going up against the league's worst run defense. (but) after a hot start on the ground and a Damien Harris opening-drive touchdown, the run game disappeared.
With the Texans committing to the inside run early, some outside tosses worked to get the run game stimulated. However, after Houston started to overcommit towards these outside tosses, the offense never attempted to pound Harris inside.
To make matters worse, the Patriots likely lost Rex Burkhead for the season...Harris and White will split time and only make minor contributions..
Ryan Izzo wasn't asked to block in the heavy run sets this week. Instead, he was unfairly asked to block J.J. Watt at times. Izzo just can't accomplish that task -- everyone knows that.
Peko vs NE OL.
Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Pats Pass Defense
The Pats defense failed to contain Deshaun Watson. (Murray's game is similar to Watson's).
Belichick brought in linebackers and safeties to combat against quarterbacks like Watson and Lamar Jackson; however, Watson has showed that the right formula for stopping him may lie in improved DL personnel.
The only bright linebacker spot was Josh Uche...Both Kyle Dugger and Uche are beginning to become cornerstones of the defense geared to stick in the organization for a long time. Uche appears to be figuring out the game at the NFL level - a very encouraging sign.
Dugger and Phillips struggled with TE crossers all game. Bentley confirmed that for any other formation besides heavy runs, he should not be a primary option at LB. This group also played a hand in the lack of pass rush.
By far the biggest concern for NE is the hot and cool play from the secondary. This group is suppose to be the heart and soul of the defense - but the secondary was roasted and ripped apart by a good QB.
Where they really could not contend were the throws over the middle. Secondary tried to keep up with the speed and explosion of some of the Houston pass catchers, yet mistakes and coverage breakdowns were happening. Watson was getting the ball to his receivers in zone coverage before the coverage could get enough depth..
Hopkins vs. Gilmour... Fitzgerald vs. J McCourty. Arnold vs. D McCourty
Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs. Pats Run Defense
The Pat run defense allowed only 55 yards on the ground to the Texans this Sunday.
Think of Murray as an extra RB who can also beat you with his arm. Drake isn't as consistent a big-yardage threat as the Cards need him to be. Expect the Cards to target Arnold, Edmonds or M Williams ton short routes if they don't feel Drake is getting the job done. .
Murray vs. Uche or D McCourty
Matchup Pats Special Teams vs. Cardinal Special Teams
Return work from Gunner Olszewski has been suspect - After a few little hiccups involving situational awareness and putting the security of the ball in jeopardy, the Patriots might look to someone else soon.
Nick Folk was 2-for-2 on field goals in Week 11. He has really been a solid pickup at kicker.
Edmonds and Kirk have an edge over Olszewski in the return game. Gonzalez/Lee and Folk/Bailey are a wash.
The Pats are soundly enough coached so as to present an ongoing threat to any team that goes up against them. What you go up against NE, what you will just about get every time is the challenge of outplaying a fairly mistake free, fundamentals-sound football team.
The outcome of this game figures to be determined by how well the Cardinals bring high effort, technique-sound and football-smart game to the playing field in New England. (They're not all that consistent in this respect; if they bring their "A" game (& the weather holds up) they have a better than even shot at winning this one).