Victory comes at a huge price for the Patriots
FOXBOROUGH – Instant analysis from the Patriots’ 27-10 victory over Washington:
■ In the short term, this was a nice win on Sunday. The Patriots were shorthanded along the offensive line but still gained 461 yards (including 162 on the ground), won by more than three touchdowns, and improved to 8-0. But the 70,000 fans in the stands sure didn’t feel like celebrating after the game.
The Patriots lost yet another offensive lineman when Sebastian Vollmer went out with a head injury in the first half. And the offense may have suffered a big blow when electric running back Dion Lewis went down with a knee injury in the third quarter (severity unknown).
The Patriots finished with only five healthy offensive linemen and Brandon Bolden catching passes out of the backfield. The Patriots are unstoppable when healthy, but these injuries could be hurtful for the big games this season — when they have to go to Denver at the end of the month, and in the playoffs.
■ Once Vollmer went down, the offensive line was (left to right): Cameron Fleming, Shaq Mason, David Andrews, Josh Kline, and Bryan Stork. That’s a fourth-stringer at left tackle and last year’s center playing right tackle. You could tell Tom Brady just wasn’t very comfortable behind that line, as he misfired on several pass attempts and threw often from his back foot. The Patriots also couldn’t get the ball downfield much, settling for quick screens and other gimmick plays that get the ball out of Brady’s hands quickly.
They need to get Marcus Cannon back from his toe injury and hope Vollmer’s injury isn’t too serious. The offense is a lot more pedestrian when Brady isn’t getting protection and isn’t comfortable in the pocket.
■ Nice performance by LeGarrette Blount, churning out 129 yards behind a patchwork offensive line. Blount still isn’t great on the goal line, but he ran through a lot of arm tackles and averaged 4.4 yards per carry, even when Washington knew he would be getting the ball a lot.
■ Uncharacteristically sloppy day for the Patriots. After turning the ball over just three times in their first seven games, they had two in the first half. Julian Edelman coughed up a fumble, and Brady threw his first real interception of the season, misreading the defense and throwing the ball right to Keenan Robinson. The Patriots also had two drives stall inside the 5-yard line, in addition to Brady’s red zone interception.
■ Got to give the defense a lot of credit, though. Yes, it was Washington, but holding any team to 10 points is a big accomplishment, especially with Jamie Collins out for the day with an illness. Malcolm Butler shut down DeSean Jackson for just three catches for 15 yards, Logan Ryan had a very nice game against Pierre Garcon, and came away with his fourth interception, and tight end Jordan Reed only had three catches for 18 yards. Of course, it helps when the Redskins drop five or six easy catches, and when quarterback Kirk Cousins is erratic with his accuracy.
■ The Patriots’ run defense was excellent as well, holding Washington to 37 yards on just 15 carries. Alan Branch had another solid game clogging the middle of the defense, and forced a fumble that was recovered by Rob Ninkovich. The run defense has been surprisingly good without Vince Wilfork.
■ Interesting to see Jonathan Freeny get the start and most of the snaps in Collins’s place. Jerod Mayo ended up playing a decent amount — the coaches took Dont’a Hightower out for much of the second half, perhaps as a precaution — but Mayo has fallen pretty far down the depth chart at this point.