Patriots

Matthew Slater: Patriots found physicality against Pittsburgh that needs to be ‘part of our identity’

With more toughness and a few key takeaways, the Patriots carry momentum into Sunday's home opener.

Matthew Slater
Matthew Slater before a Patriots-Chiefs game in 2020. AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

The Patriots looked much more physical on Sunday than they did against the Dolphins. It resulted in a hard-fought 17-14 win for New England.

The offensive line played well collectively in pass protection, allowing no sacks and barely letting Mac Jones get hit. All five offensive line starters played every snap.

Nelson Agholor fought for a 50-50 ball and won it, resulting in a 44-yard touchdown. Jakobi Meyers ran aggressively after his catches. Damien Harris averaged 4.7 yards per carry.

Those are good signs for a team which is still building its identity, special teams ace Matthew Slater said.

“This is going to have to be part of our identity,” Slater said. “We’re going to have to be a physical football team, and we’re going have to stand up to the teams we play. That’s going to need to be an edge for us. And that’s something in this league that’s hard to do because there’s so many physical units and teams that you’re going to go against. But for us, I thought that was our mentality.”

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The Steelers gave the Patriots a gift late in the third quarter, handing New England the ball in the red zone after a muffed punt from Gunner Olszewski.

But the Patriots were still able to execute and ran the ball in for a touchdown.

Mack Wilson dove in time to tip a Mitch Trubisky pass to Jalen Mills, who recorded his first interception in a Patriots uniform.

The interception, along with Brenden Schooler’s recovery on the muffed punt, were the Patriots’ first takeaways of the year.

“It does a lot for your football team emotionally to try to establish a physical presence,” Slater said. “This is a physical game. So any way you can establish a physical presence in a game, especially a game like that, it gives not only those guys confidence but our entire football team.”

Now, with a win under their belts, the Patriots will look to ride that confidence into Sunday’s home opener against Baltimore.

“[Sunday] was very encouraging,” Slater said. “It’s nice to see your hard work, preparation, dedication, sacrifice, pay off. I know that’s a very good feeling for the guys in the locker room. Especially going into that environment like we were in [Sunday] and playing against a strong opponent like we did in Pittsburgh.”

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