Cole Strange gives clutch performance in Patriots' Week 2 win vs. Steelers

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Rookie Cole Strange gives clutch performance in Patriots' win vs. Steelers originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The New England Patriots received plenty of criticism for selecting Cole Strange with the No. 29 pick in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay even laughed when the pick was made, although he later put out a statement saying he meant no disrespect and his comments were "misunderstood".

Well, through the first two games of Strange's career, doubters have gotten pretty quiet because the former Chattanooga left guard has played quite well.

Perry's Report Card: Offensive changes pay dividends in Pittsburgh

Strange more than held his own in the Patriots' Week 2 road win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. He was matched up 1-on-1 multiple times against All-Pro defensive tackle Cam Heyward and more than held his own. Strange also did not allow a sack or commit a penalty. The offensive line as a unit gave up zero sacks, allowed quarterback Mac Jones to be hit just three times while helping the rushing attack pick up four yards per attempt.

Strange also was featured prominently on the Patriots' final drive in the fourth quarter when they ran behind the rookie guard on several plays to run out the clock and secure the 17-14 victory.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick praised Strange and the entire o-line for keeping Jones' pocket mostly clean Sunday.

"Well again, Heyward played defensive end a decent part of the game. I don’t know what the exact numbers were on that, but certainly more than he did in the past and more than he did against Cincinnati, when they were in their three down lineman nickel," Belichick told reporters Monday morning. "He played the defensive end on the tight end side and they flipped 56 [Alex Highsmith] back to the weak side. He did play inside some.

"There were some matchups in there, certainly a good test for Cole to go against a player of that quality. I thought we were competitive. Heyward was disruptive, but certainly seen it worse, so we’ll probably take it. Less disruptive than he was against Cincinnati a week ago, that’s for sure, so that was a good thing. Generally speaking, our pass protection, again, was pretty good, width of the pocket was good, depth of the pocket was good. We had a couple of plays where we got edge, had a holding penalty, had a couple hits on the quarterback, but overall, I’d say the pocket was pretty clean."

Here's a roundup of social media reaction to Strange's brief two-game pro career: