Patriots notes: Trey Flowers continues to provide heavy impact
DENVER — Trey Flowers has been the Patriots’ most-used defensive end over the last month because of his dependability and versatility.
But he has also emerged as the Pats’ best edge rusher this season, and he added two more sacks yesterday during the 16-3 win against the Denver Broncos. Flowers leads the Patriots with seven sacks, all of which occurred in the last seven games.
Flowers had eight quarterback hits in the first eight games, so he has done a nice job of getting close. But now that he is finishing the job, he has emerged as one of the Pats’ better playmakers.
“Just continuing to push,” Flowers said. “I hadn’t really changed a lot. Obviously, work a little harder, the scheme of things and being blessed with the opportunity to go out there and contribute.”
Flowers’ teammates haven’t stopped gushing over his ascension.
“Trey has been outstanding. He’s one of our best players,” Chris Long said. “I think he has seven sacks, and he’s pretty much done it all rushing inside. That would make him a pretty elite rusher.”
Flowers’ potential is a complete unknown. The 2015 fourth-rounder’s rookie season was essentially wiped out by injuries, but he quickly rose up a crowded depth chart this season. And their replacement for Chandler Jones has blossomed in the second half.
Logan Ryan has been clamoring for an interception all season, and the cornerback finally ended the drought when he jumped Trevor Siemian’s underthrown out route to Emmanuel Sanders in the red zone.
“He threw an out route to me,” Ryan said. “He threw a similar route to me earlier, and I just felt like I wanted to play the sticks a little bit. I went with my gut and it paid off.”
Ryan was having fun with it in the locker room near fellow Rutgers alums and defensive backs Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon, who were chirping at him during his responses to questions from reporters.
“Man, it was a long time coming,” Ryan said. “I was the last one of the group (to get an interception). It didn’t even make sense. I honestly was questioning life and why I was the last one to get it. Now everything makes sense, and they know I’m back in the race.”
At one point, while discussing the defense’s progress, McCourty yelled over to Ryan, “Remind them they said we sucked.”
Ryan added, “We were doubted all year. They said we sucked. And we heard about their secondary and their defense, and we wanted to come out here and prove something.”
Broncos safety T.J. Ward made a huge mental mistake with 3:46 remaining in the fourth quarter by slamming wide receiver Julian Edelman to the ground after a third-and-3 incompletion. Ward was flagged for unnecessary roughness, which gave the Patriots an automatic first down and allowed them to eat up nearly two more minutes of clock.
Ward then turned toward the Patriots bench and flexed, despite the fact that the Broncos were trailing, 16-3.
Tight end Martellus Bennett summed up the Patriots’ sentiment.
“I was just like, ‘Idiot,’” Bennett said. “But in that situation, Julian doesn’t want to back down, so we’ve just got to take care of our own and make sure we don’t get an offsetting penalty because that’s a big play for us in that period in time. I thought we were smart about it. We knew there were going to be some plays like that throughout the game, and we had to keep our composure. I thought our team did very well. We never back down from anyone. We always bring the fight with us. We aren’t looking for trouble, but we aren’t running from trouble, either.”
Edelman was heated after the play but didn’t believe Ward was acting maliciously.
“It’s football,” Edelman said. “Competitive juices are going. I know T.J. He is a buddy of mine. He wasn’t trying to hurt anybody. He didn’t know I didn’t have the ball. That just happens. That’s football. That’s part of the game.
“You don’t want to back down, but you’ve got to be smart and composed to not put your team in jeopardy and get a 15-yard penalty that would make things interesting.”
Return to duty
Edelman recaptured his role as the punt returner and handled all seven boots against the Broncos, returning three for 21 yards, fair catching three and allowing one to be downed.
“It was good. I had fun,” Edelman said. “Those are fun plays. It’s like Frogger, a bunch of bullets just going everywhere. Those are the fun plays. I’ve played a lot of that, and it was good to get back there and also make smart decisions and do the right decisions. It was good to get back there.”
Cornerback Cyrus Jones was inactive after fumbling for the fifth time last week. Receiver Danny Amendola, who is the Pats’ leading punt returner this season, missed his second game with an ankle injury.
So the Pats turned back to Edelman, who noted the importance of ball security.
“That’s the No. 1 priority as a punt returner, to deliver the ball to the offense,” Edelman said. “It’s an exchange. That’s your No. 1 job is to catch the ball. If you can get 10 yards, that’s a win.”