FOXBOROUGH — The New England Patriots might lead the league in unimpressive blowout victories this year. The Patriots’ 27-10 win over the Washington Redskins on Sunday was the latest victory that could have been even bigger if they had stayed on top of their game for four quarters. It may be rather tedious to nitpick a 17-point victory, but Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is going to be looking for anything he can find to keep his team on edge and pushing to improve.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the Patriots’ eighth win of the season.
1. Patriots can overcome their own mistakes: The hallmark of any good team isn’t its ability to play mistake-free football. No team plays perfect. The true measure of greatness is a team’s ability to overcome its own mistakes.
The Patriots gave up the ball nearly as many times in the first quarter (twice) as they had all season before Sunday (three turnovers prior to Week 9). Thanks to an interception on the Redskins’ first play from scrimmage and a defensive stop on third down, the Patriots’ defense didn’t give up any points following those two turnovers. The Patriots’ offense also responded well by scoring on its next possession after each of those turnovers, with a touchdown drive after Julian Edelman’s fumble and a field goal drive after Tom Brady’s interception. Turnovers are definitely not the norm for the Patriots, but on Sunday, they showed an uncanny ability to shrug them off and keep chugging along.
2. LeGarrette Blount proves his place in Patriots backfield: What a game for LeGarrette Blount. The Patriots’ running back posted 58 yards on 12 carries in the first half, and finished the game with 29 carries for 129 yards and a touchdown. Blount is the first Patriots running back to earn more than 100 rushing yards in a game this year.
The Patriots turned to their running game more and more as the game wore on. Perhaps that strategy had something to do with the Patriots losing offensive linemen at an alarming rate, forcing them to plug interior linemen at offensive tackle spots. Blount’s role got even more important in the second half, when running back Dion Lewis left the game with a knee injury and was promptly ruled out. His role could continue to be equally important in weeks to come, depending on the severity of Lewis’ injury.
3. Chandler Jones has more sacks than the New York Giants: Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones is having one of the best seasons of his young career so far. He was in a three-way tie for the league lead with 8.5 sacks entering Week 9, and with another sack against the Redskins, Jones has already logged 9.5 sacks through eight games. That puts him ahead of the New York Giants over as many games. Jones has not been known as a pass-rushing threat throughout his career, but that might change if his play continues at this high level.
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PHOTOS: Patriots vs. Redskins
4. Malcolm Butler delivers shutdown performance vs. DeSean Jackson: It’s been an up-and-down season for Malcolm Butler up to this point, but the Patriots’ second-year cornerback delivered a strong performance against one of the game’s speediest receivers, DeSean Jackson. On the day, Jackson totaled three receptions for 15 yards. Of course, some of that might be a product of the inaccurate Kirk Cousins at quarterback, but Butler played aggressive, tight coverage on Jackson and didn’t let the burner get behind him.
5. Offensive line injuries leave Patriots paper thin: Bryan Stork at right tackle? Cameron Fleming as the top left tackle? Stork had been out of action entirely until being activated to the roster on Saturday. Fleming has been on and off the roster and practice squad over the past couple months. Yet, there they were, on the ends of the Patriots’ offensive line.
That’s what happens when multiple injuries strike the same position group. With Nate Solder out of the season, Marcus Cannon dealing with a nagging injury of his own, and Sebastian Vollmer knocked out of the game with a head injury on Sunday, the Patriots could use a warm body or two on the line.
Don’t be surprised if the Patriots make a roster move or two to help address their thinning depth on the line.