Sunday proved to be a hectic day across the league, with one of the biggest games being in New England when the Houston Texans came to town.
The Deshaun Watson led Texans pulled out a tight match, leading the game until under the 30-second mark when Tom Brady was able to narrowly find Brandin Cooks for a toe-dragging touchdown to go up by 1 point. For Brady, it was his 5th Touchdown of the day to go along with 378 yards. Cooks himself caught for 131 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Patriots offense eventually grabbed the team it’s second win of the season.
On the defensive side of the ball, there was a bit more of a struggle. Deshaun Watson was able to throw for 301 yards and 2 touchdowns in his second start and run for 41 more yards. After the Saints were able to score well week 2 and the Chiefs could score at-will week 1, the defense for the Patriots is becoming a bit of a concern.
The secondary for the Patriots is playing stellar. The problem thus far has been the front 7 for the Patriots. They have not been able to provide much pressure giving quarterbacks time in the pocket to make a play. Against Cincinnati last week, Watson looked like the definition of a rookie. This past week, he looked like a starting QB in the NFL. That may just be him getting comfortable playing on the big stage, but I think the front 7 deserves some blame.
Of course, there have been changes in the rotation. The linebacking core is starting David Harris and Kyle Van Noy; one was cut from the Jets and the other was a back-up last year. Hightower is playing strictly middle linebacker as opposed to outside linebacker. This tells me they’re not comfortable putting someone else at middle linebacker, it’s too much of a risk.
The defensive line has a lot of fresh faces as well, but it’s the linebacking core that is most concerning.
Last season the Saints, Chiefs and Texans were ranked within the 10-20 range by PFF for offensive line rankings by the end of the year. These middle-of-the-pack offensive lines have been able to fend of the Patriots front 7 very well. What will a game be like against an elite offensive line?
The Panthers were also middle of the pack last year, so it’d be wise to expect similar defensive play next week. For Brady and the offense, continuing to work the defense and score shouldn’t be too much of an issue. This Panthers team has lost a lot of the edge they carried in their championship run. Containing McCaffrey and holding Cam Newton in the pocket and eliminating his run option plays will be some of the biggest keys to this game, both of which fall to the responsibility of the front 7.
Let’s hope they figure it out as the season goes on.