Looking at Sunday's performance against the Steelers, the Patriots once again did a good job of getting to the quarterback and creating pressure.
New England's defense delivered seven quarterback hits on Ben Roethlisberger Sunday, with Chandler Jones and Andre Carter hitting him three times each during the Patriots 55-31 blowout win over the Steelers. They also racked up five more sacks, with Jones sacking Roethlisberger twice on Sunday, while Carter got his first sack of the year since joining the Patriots prior to last week's game. Rob Ninkovich and Dane Fletcher also each had a sack during the victory.
Carter also saw an uptick in his playing time, going from 20 snaps in last week's win over Miami, to playing 45 snaps Sunday against the Steelers. The good news is he seems to be getting more productive each week, and that can only be a positive for the Patriots as they try to finish strong over the final two months of the season.
Looking at the numbers overall, Sunday's performance puts the Patriots with 58 total quarterback hits on the season for their defense, and their sack total is now at 29. On the other side, the Steelers hit Brady six times on Sunday and sacked him three times. Overall Brady has been hit 46 times so far, and he's been sacked a total of 26.
Fortunately the offensive line has started to do a better job of protecting him. After getting sacked four times in week 5, five times in week six, and four times in week seven, the offensive line has only allowed three sacks each over the last two games. It's still not great, but at least it's an improvement from the beating he took over the previous three games. He's still on pace to be sacked 46 times this season, but hopefully that total begins to drop in the coming weeks now that the offense is beginning to click.
Moving back to the defense and looking at their totals, Chandler Jones is now up to 8.5 sacks on the season, while Chris Jones is next with 4.5 on the year. Rob Ninkovich is beginning to work his way into the mix and after his one sack Sunday is now at three on the season. He's now had a sack in each of his last two games, with his last one being a half-sack during their week five loss out in Cincinnati.
We'll be adding a chart with these stats over the bye week, so stay tuned for that among some other additions that will be coming over the next 10 days here as well.
BALLARD GIVEN ANOTHER SHOT IN NEW ENGLAND:
Former Patriots tight end Jake Ballard was hoped to be a welcomed addition to New England's offense, and even more so following the arrest of Aaron Hernandez and the subsequent delay in Rob Gronkowski's return to the field. Instead Ballard still appeared to be hampered during his continued recovery from knee surgery and didn't make it out of training camp and was released, with Zach Sudfeld and Michael Hoomanawanui as the two players the Patriots initially decided to go with. Sudfeld eventually was let go and replaced by Matthew Mulligan, but Mulligan's been quiet in recent weeks while Hoomanawanui has had a few good moments here and there but still not a lot of production.
As a result the Patriots appear to still be exploring their options. After Ballard recently decided he was healthy enough to play, he apparently gave the Patriots one more chance to see where he was at after Field Yates of ESPN Boston reported that Ballard was actually here Monday for a workout. It's tough to say exactly how the workout went, but Ballard didn't end up back in Foxboro and instead opted to sign with Arizona.
THOMPKINS GETS A VOTE OF CONFIDENCE:
Despite being inactive for Sunday's game against the Steelers, head coach Bill Belichick was very supportive of Kenbrell Thompkins during his press conference on Monday, saying he felt the rookie is making progress while continuing to work hard.
“I think [Kenbrell Thompkins] is still making good progress and is working hard,” said Belichick. “I haven’t seen any letup in his effort level or trying to do things that he knows he needs to do. I think he’ll continue to improve and help our football team. Just the way things went with our game plan and our opponent and a combination of factors, we felt that we activated the 46 players that we felt would give us the best chance to win."
Belichick also said he hasn't lost confidence and feels Thompkins will continue to make progress over the rest of the year.
“I don’t think anybody has lost any confidence in KT, I certainly haven’t," said Belichick. "I think he’s made a lot of improvement this year. He continues to work hard and I think will continue to make it.”
DOBSON UP FOR PEPSI NEXT ROOKIE OF THE WEEK:
Patriots rookie receiver Aaron Dobson had quite the performance on Sunday, hauling in five receptions for 130 yards and two touchdowns, including one that went for 81 yards. As a result he's up for the "Pepsi Next Rookie of the Week", and fans can vote here to help him achieve that honor this week.
ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
Tom Brady, offense find true purpose - Jeff Howe - Howe writes that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and the offense seemed to find a time machine and hit the "way-back" button and revived the output of old offensively.
Kenbrell Thompkins receives vote of confidence - Jeff Howe - Howe files his notebook this morning which leads off with wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins getting a vote of confidence from head coach Bill Belichick during his press conference yesterday.
Patriots report card: All is not rosy - Ron Borges - Borges files his report card for this week, and gives his grades for this game, but doesn't have good things to say about their special teams unit.
Play-action game finds its groove - Mike Reiss - Reiss looks at the Patriots production using play-action against the Steelers on Sunday.
Source: Pats work out five players - Field Yates - Yates has an article on five players the team worked out yesterday, which included former tight end Jake Ballard and former defensive end Justin Francis. They also worked out a running back, wide receiver, and linebacker.
Brady hits 50 with Amendola TD - Field Yates - Yates put together a list of players who have caught touchdown passes from Tom Brady over his career, with Amendola being the 50th player to make that list.
Tom Brady, Patriots passing game at familiar crossroads after blowout of Steelers - Christopher Price - Price has an interesting read focusing on past seasons where the Patriots have had a breakout performance, and looks at how each one finished.
What we learned: Patriots continue taking steps in right direction - Christopher Price - Price has his usual "what we learned piece", including the fact he feels good things happen when you give Stevan Ridley the football.
Patriots at their best in dismantling Steelers - Rich Garven - Garven writes that while it hasn't gone as planned, the Patriots have plenty of reasons to feel good about themselves as they enter their bye week.
Aaron Dobson latest to grow into Patriots' system - Rich Garven - Garven has an article on Dobson, who he writes is the current poster player for being "coached up".
It's a good bye for the Patriots - Glen Farley - Farley writes that the Patriots will now get to enjoy some extended free time during their bye week, with the players now off from Wednesday through next Monday.
PATRIOTS NOTEBOOK: Thompkins sat down, but Belichick says he’s seen no letup - Glen Farley - Farley files his notebook this morning, which leads off with Belichick's comments on Thompkins being inactive on Sunday.
Gronk spikes Pats back into the elite - Bill Burt - Burt has a column this morning on how meaningful the return of Rob Gronkowski has been to their offense.
Bill Reynolds: Patriots are always ready to move ahead - Bill Reynolds - Reynolds has a bizarre column this morning that basically about the fact that Bill Belichick has the ability to create an alternate universe that has eliminated the "elephant in the room" in Hernandez - who is obviously in jail.