It started with a banner ceremony and ended with a banner win as the Patriots kicked off the regular season at Gillette Stadium on Sunday night. The defense put on a show, and Tom Brady was his usual self as the Patriots defeated the Steelers 33-3. Here’s what we can take away from the game.
1. James White - Reliable and versatile are the words that come to mind when describing James White on Sunday night. White had 60 yards from scrimmage in the first quarter alone. Just two weeks ago, Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears told reporters that White has only scratched the surface of his potential. Based on Sunday night’s performance where White rushed for 24 yards on three attempts and went 5 of 7 for 56 yards in the passing game, Fears was right. White was crucial to the Patriots offense.
2. Defense - With a loaded secondary and plenty of reinforcements at linebacker and defensive end many had high expectations for this Patriots defensive unit. On Sunday they lived up to their preseason billing. They held the Steelers to just three points and 2-for-10 on third down. The Patriots defense’s versatility and different looks had the Steelers offense confused all night. At one point in the second quarter, the Patriots had seven defensive backs out on the field. What was most impressive was the quality tackling the Patriots defense displayed. Stephon Gilmore stood out as well. The cornerback did just about everything from covering, tackling to setting the edge. It’s also important to note that the Patriots were without one of their top linebackers in Kyle Van Noy. The defensive performance shows just how much depth the Patriots have on that side of the ball.
3. Phillip Dorsett - Dorsett had his best game as a Patriot. It was the first time the wide receiver scored multiple touchdowns in an NFL game and both catches were impressive. In the first half, after connecting with Edelman on two consecutive passes, Brady looked deep to Dorsett in the end zone. Two Steelers defenders were in coverage, but Brady floated the 25-yard touchdown pass perfectly to Dorsett. In the third quarter, Brady connected with Dorsett once again, this time it was a deep 58-yard pass to extend the Patriots lead to 27-3.
4. Offense - Heading into the regular season, there were some glaring holes for the Patriots on the offensive side of the ball. With N’Keal Harry going on IR and some unproven tight ends looking to take on larger roles, it was legitimate to question how the Patriots offense would produce this season. However, Brady and company quickly put those concerns to rest. Brady was 24 of 36 for 341 yards on the night. A receiving corps that had a lot of questions heading into the game showed that when called upon, each can produce. Edelman was 6 of 11 for 83 yards. Gordon had three receptions and a touchdown. Dorsett had two touchdowns, and even rookie Jakobi Meyers snagged his first NFL reception.
1. Ted Karras - With David Andrews out for the year, it looks like the starting role belongs to Karras, at least for now. The fourth-year center struggled with his shotgun snaps to Brady. He threw several floaters, and occasionally, Karras struggled with timing. It could just be a matter of Karras getting used to the new role and building his chemistry with Brady so this is a very nit-picky stock down.
2. Injuries - Marcus Cannon went down in the fourth quarter. It appeared that the right tackle hurt his arm/shoulder. After spending time in the blue medical tent, Cannon did not return to the game. Joe Thuney moved over to right tackle after Cannon went down. Jermaine Eluemunor entered the game at left tackle. With Eluemunor, Isaiah Wynn, and Karras, the Patriots offensive line was operating with essentially three players in new roles.
3. Sony Michel - Michel did not do much tonight. He rushed for just 14 yards on 15 carries. During training camp, Michel was much more involved in the passing game. Tonight, he was not involved at all. Rex Burkhead and James White were very effective in the running game tonight, but Michel struggled.