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The New England Patriots were once again victorious on Sunday with a 27-10 beating of the Washington Redskins. The Pats road the legs of LeGarrette Blount, but its the leg of fellow running back Dion Lewis that the New England faithful now turn their eyes towards. Lewis left in the middle of the third quarter with a knee injury. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Lewis’s ACL was “loose, (which is) a bad sign” but added there was “[no] swelling yet, (which is) a good sign.” An MRI on Monday will help determine the severity of the injury.
In his stead the Patriots used special teams player Brandon Bolden who caught his first career touchdown pass in the game. The Patriots were well balanced on the day running 76 plays for 460 yards, 39 passes and 37 runs. Tom Brady threw two more touchdowns but threw an uncharacteristic interception in the red zone. The pick marked the first time this season that New England did not score when they entered the red area. New England’s offensive line again dressed only six players, and when Sebastian Vollmer left the game with a head injury, it thrust second year player Bryan Stork to right tackle and Cameron Fleming left tackle. The moves marked the first time Fleming has played left tackle in his career and the first time Stork has played tackle since college.
From the Practice Squad to the Blind Side
Cameron Fleming was a surprise cut after the fourth preseason game. Fleming who was drafted out of Stanford in the 2014, played a key role in helping the Patriots win a championship. Fleming was released and ended up on the Practice squad. When Nate Solder was placed on season ending injured reserve, Fleming was promoted to the active roster. With injuries to Marcus Cannon and Sebastian Vollmer, Fleming has been thrust into a starting role. Fleming has done well at right tackle, but his move to left tackle Sunday was impressive. Fleming was part of a patchwork line that didn’t allow a sack. Fleming represents the exact phrase that the Patriots live for, “next man up.” The extent of Vollmer’s head injury is not known, but we can bet that if he has to start next week against the Giants he will be ready The bigger question is the fact that the Patriots have carried only six offensive lineman the last three games. In two of those games, injuries have dropped the Pats down to just five players for five spots. The Patriots may need to bring in another tackle. Currently they have rookie Blaine Clausell on the Practice Squad.
NFL Sack Leader Chandler Jones
When the Patriots moved up in the 2012 NFL draft to select Chandler Jones, Patriots fans were ecstatic with the possibility of a sack master. Jones in his fourth year out of Syracuse is now in full fledged sack mode. Jones picked up another sack on Sunday. His ability to get after the quarterback has been one of the reasons the Patriots have been able to cope with a no name secondary. Jones had his fifth year option picked up in the offseason and his play in 2015 is leading him to a big payday. The Patriots would be smart to sign the young pass rusher. The decision this past March to not sign Darrelle Revis was met with much fan disappointment, however a longer view into how the team is built shows that this was a calculated move. The Patriots defense has been very strong this season, and Jones, Donta Hightower, and Jamie Collins are all a huge part of this. All also will have their contract expire after next season. With the Pats bypassing paying Revis they now have a real chance to resign all three.
On Sunday Collins was out, and Hightower was quiet. Yet these three represent the youth movement that has kept the Patriots defense strong. The front seven has been extremely stout against the run. The pass rush has been outstanding at times. With the Patriots secondary to face the Giants and Broncos and their offensive weapons in the coming weeks, the Patriots pass rush will be needed to slow down their big targets.
New England has improved to 8-0. The scary thing is they haven’t played great ball yet this season. For all the stats, all the high scores and all the big wins, the Patriots are not playing up to their potential. The Patriots might be undefeated, however they have not yet been tested. They faced Pittsburgh and Dallas with both teams not at full strength. The rest of the schedule has been full of tomato cans to this point. The 2015 Patriots can be great, but they do not have the same gambit to run as last years team. The test will begin next week in New York, they must vanquish the demons that are the Giants. Every championship team must go through adversity and develop resiliency, if the Patriots can win in New York, they will take their first steps to becoming that championship team.