Patriots: Patriots win the old fashion way, with a solid running game and great defense

Photo courtesy of Jon Bazemore/AP

If style points were important in football then the Patriots would have lost today. Today’s game in Carolina wasn’t pretty but the Patriots got the job done in a 24-6 win over the Panthers.

The Patriots collectively rushed for 154 yards on 36 carries, their fifth straight game of over 100 yards rushing. Rookie Rhamondre Stevenson paced the rushing attack with 62 yards on 10 carries. Stevenson was also the team’s leading receiver with 2 catches for 44 yards.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick talked about the running backs impact on the game today after the offense started slow.

“There are 11 guys out there, so when we were able to work well together, we had more production. We put ourselves in some long-yardage situations with the penalties which are definitely a problem. First-and-15, first-and-20, second-and-25. Those are tough situations. Those pre-snap penalties are definitely our fault. There’s no other way around it, we’ve got to coach better and we’ve got to be able to run plays without that stuff happening.”

The running game did settle things down for the Patriots offensively today. The passing game was a non-factor as Mac Jones completed 12 of 18 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown pass. He also threw an interception to old friend Stephon Gilmore. Jones has been subpar the past two weeks but it hasn’t hurt the Patriots as the defense has risen to the occasion and supported the offense.

The defense was dominate today. They limited Carolina to 250 yards of total offense. Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold was seeing ghosts again as he was picked off three times, including once for a pick six by J.C Jackson. It was a dominate performance for a defense that is rounding into form.

Belichick thought the defense played well and credited the defensive line and linebackers for getting a consistent pass rush.

“It was great. I thought the d-line did a good job, linebackers had good pressure on the quarterback. They had a couple runs on us there, they had a couple of wildcat runs, and a bounce out there. They’re a good tough, hard-nose football team and they showed that defensively. Those two guys on the edge are really fast, really explosive. They’re a problem. [Brian] Burns and [Haason] Reddick and [Derrick] Brown inside, those three guys are hard to handle but we kind of stood in there and battled them. But defensively, it was a good effort. We were able to put the quarterback under some pressure. Two of the turnovers we batted a couple of balls but both of J.C. [Jackson’s] interceptions both looked like they came with some pressure on them, just a couple of balls [Sam Darnold] had to throw away. He’s a tough guy to get down, we missed him a couple of times in the pocket, but that’s the way it’s going to be with Sam [Darnold] – he’s a big, strong kid that you’ve got to wrap up back there. But I thought our defense came to play today and played well, helped our offense out and saved some points on the two turnovers – held them to three points on both of those. Those were both good kicks by [Zane] Gonzalez. We pushed them back a little bit but not quite far enough.”

Christian Barmore was once again a disruptive force inside for the Patriots. Barmore consistently collapsed the pocket and forced Darnold to vacate and throw on the run. That is when Darnold usually makes his worst decisions and throws the ball up for grabs.

After the game, Belichick talked about the growth of Barmore as a player.

“Oh, a lot from where he was in the spring. He’s worked extremely hard. I’ve got to give that kid a lot of credit: he comes in early, he stays late; he works on his flexibility, his strength, his technique. He’s really applied himself and he’s just gotten better and better every week in the running game, in the passing game, more discipline, use of hands, recognition of plays. He’s done a good job for us and he’s a big man.”

The Patriots are starting to look like we thought they might when the season started. While their style of play isn’t exactly sexy, it works. Running the football and playing good defense is a tried and true formula. A formula that wins championships. This team is starting to look like a team that can contend.