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Patriots Unfiltered Q&A: On to the Playoffs

20191231-UnfilteredQandA-PDC

I haven't heard much about Jarett Stidham and Damien Harris as of late. Could Harris make an appearance as a "secret weapon" during the playoffs? Is Stidham seeming to make any progress to the point he might be an option should Brady retire? Francis Friel

I hate to burst your bubble on this, but I would not expect to see Damien Harris this season. I believe this is more or less of a rookie "redshirt" year for the running back. The Patriots need all the help they can get on offense, and if Harris could've provided any sort of help, we would have already seen him this year. As for Stidham and his progression, we don't have access to watch practice after the media viewing portion. Typically this includes stretching and maybe one other drill. It's hard to really tell where Stidham is at without being able to watch him play. Megan O'Brien

Do you think Tom Brady can lead the Patriots past the Ravens if they meet again and have another Super Bowl run this season? Brett Shartner

Hold your horses, Brett. The Patriots have to get past Tennessee first. Then, the team needs to find a way to win at Kansas City before they have a chance to play the Ravens. A lot is up in the air with this team. Right now, I think the Patriots would be lucky to have an opportunity to play in the AFC Championship game. Megan O'Brien

It seems like the Patriots offense has become very easy to defend. As long as the opponent covers Edelman, the Patriots can't do anything. Why isn't Rex Burkhead playing more? He makes the offense less predictable.Alberto Gonzalez

I am with you, Alberto. The offense looks much better with Burkhead out on the field. He is running better than any of the other backs on the roster. I would expect to see more two back sets with Michel and Burkhead against Tennessee. Burkhead can also be a threat in the passing game. Hopefully the Patriots can take advantage of Burkhead's skills on Saturday. Megan O'Brien

With just under two minutes left in the first half the Patriots let the clock run out. The offense had just gone down the field and scored, then the defense just stopped the Dolphins and they had the ball in not bad field position. Usually, like 99% of the time they go for more points. Why would the Patriots remove a chance to potentially put more points on the board? Greg Findlay

I am not so sure, Greg. I too was wondering the same thing. The only reasonable explanation I can come up with is perhaps the coaching staff looked at the previous game against the Bills. At the end of the first half, the Patriots tried to go for extra points. The offense was unsuccessful and gave the ball back to Buffalo. The Bills were then able to score prior to heading into the locker room. Perhaps Belichick and his staff used that game as a lesson and didn't want to risk Miami having another opportunity? Like you, the play call confused me. Megan O'Brien

The number of drops from Patriots wide receivers greatly concerns me. In your opinion, are the dropped passes related to a mental or skill issue? Ceasar Smith

In my opinion the dropped passes could be a result of playing with a little fear. With the exception of Edelman, the receivers lack experience in the Patriots offensive system. They seem like they are playing tight because they are afraid of making a mistake and losing Brady's trust. I think if they had more experience, the number of drops would decrease. Megan O'Brien

Both the Bills and the Dolphins marched down the field on their last possession. Is the defense running out of gas late in the season? The Titans offense looks pretty sharp as of late and I'm a bit worried heading to the wild card weekend. Jacob Clausem

Jacob, I feel the same way. The defense has not been playing like the "boogeymen." The pass rush has been virtually nonexistent. The secondary was consistently beat on Sunday. Granted, the secondary is dealing with some injuries. Jason McCourty did not play on Sunday. Jonathan Jones did not look 100%, and Patrick Chung has been beat up all season. The defense will need to play a near perfect game on Saturday against the Titans to find a way to stop Derrick Henry, AJ Brown and Corey Davis. Megan O'Brien

What do you think the Titans do well that could be problematic for the Patriots? Michael Makowski

The Titans offense presents a tremendous amount of problems for the Patriots. It all starts with Derrick Henry who has rushed for over 1,500 yards this season. Ryan Tannehill finished the regular season atop the NFL's passing charts with the highest passer rating in the NFL. On top of all that Tannehill has done in the passing game, he's the team's third leading rusher. Rookie AJ Brown has been outstanding.  He's caught for over 1,000 yards including eight touchdowns. In addition to Brown, Corey Davis has given the Patriots problems each time they have seen him. Last year he caught seven passes for 125 yards and a touchdown against the Patriots. The defense will have to bring everything they've got to slow down the Titans offense. Megan O'Brien

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