Things to consider while wondering if maybe Reche Caldwell, Bethel Johnson, Tony Simmons, Vincent Brisby and Harold Jackson are sitting home ready to come in and catch 60 yard touchdown bombs as well:
*This wasn’t just a football game. It was your classic Animal Planet display of male dominance. This was the young buck, sensing vulnerablity in the Alpha and challenging him for supremacy of the herd only to get beat down and put in his place. And the Pats showed that they’re still the ones with the biggest tusks, the sharpest claws, the strongest forelimbs and the brightest feathers. All Houston could do was stand by, ears back, tail down in the submissive stance and watch the Patriots get all the mares pregnant right in front of them.
*And no one, but no one showed he’s the one with the most velvet on his antlers better than Vince Wilfork. You just know he was sick of hearing all this JJ Watt DPOY talk and wanted to establish that he’s still the top of the food chain in this ecosystem. Switching from a 3-tech to a 2-shade he consistently overpowered people and spent more time in the Houston backfield than the referee.
*On the opening drive when he beat Ben Jones to get a tackle-for-loss. On the next possession he slid through the A-gap for another negative play. On the 3rd drive he penetrated to knock down a pass. Late in the 2nd quarter he fought off a wham block by Duane Brown, dwarf tossed him aside and recorded another TFL. On a 3rd & 13 he used Jones as a blunt instrument and beat Matt Schaub over the head with him and slapped the ball loose. If this had been a game of Clue, the solution would’ve been “Captain Wilfork, in the Backfield, with an O-lineman.”
*Though that’s not to overlook the show of strength the ultimate Alpha Male put on. You know this was one of those games where Brady loves to smack down the Next Big Quarterbacking Thing, like he did against Andrew Luck last month. He played like he could’ve run this offense holding the ball in one hand and giving Vivian her 9 o’clock feeding with the other.
*I get that Gruden is a cartoon character, but was he kidding us with this ragtime about the Texans offense hurting because they couldn’t run their 2 tight end sets minus Garrett Graham? While the Pats were putting up 42 points without the best tight end the league has ever seen? I mean I’d assume he was going for irony, but he’s not exactly O Henry. Or Alanis Morrisette for that matter. I think he was just going for “dumb” and he nailed it.
*No disrespect intended for Michael Hoomanawanui, who made a slew of nice blocks, but they’re operating a 2 TE offense with only one pass catching tight end and they’re dominating with it. I’m sure even the Patriots wouldn’t be able to survive the loss of an all world TE like the immortal Garrett Graham though.
*While I’m on Hoomanawanui, if he’s going to play this much, can we just give him a nickname already? So TV guys don’t keep blowing out their ACLs trying to say his name and I don’t have to keep looking up the spelling? Since he moves around everywhere and picks up all his blocks, until further notice I’m going with “Hoomba.”
*There aren’t a lot of tight ends in the league nimble enough to have recovered that red zone fumble the way Aaron Hernandez did. He went after it like Rocky chasing a chicken and if he hadn’t come up with it we probably would’ve had a ball game. Then Wade Phillips had Bradie James, a 31 year old LB, trying to defend him solo on the flag route he ran the next play, Phillips worse decision since he benched Doug Flutie before the Music City Miracle.
*On Hernandez 2nd touchdown he was left so alone he should’ve put a bloody handprint on the ball and called it “Wilson.”
*That was some of the best cornerbacking we’ve seen here in years out of Aqib Talib as he shadowed Andre Johnson. To the best of my recollection, Belichick never does that with a CB, prefering to keep them to a side. The last time I can remember him mirroring a corner to a receiver was Ty Law against Marvin Harrison. Though Matt Chatham Tweeted me I’m wrong; it was matching body types, a longer corner to a big receiver, a mix of man and zone and not that unusual. I’ll defer to the man who’s actually been in the meetings and practices over the tired, hungover, slapdick with a laptop. Either way, I don’t miss that 4th round pick they traded for the man iPhone autocorrect still calls Aqua Taliban.
*Are we asking too much that ESPN just find a Faith Hillian smokeshow to sing their opening and be done with it? Last night was some swing band, of all things. Right, because don’t want some MILF in a minidress. We want to tap into our heartfelt nostalgia for that byegone era when Swing was King: 1997.
*Is it hyperbole to say Jerod Mayo played the best game of his career? I think he’s criminally overlooked as it is. He gets pigeonholed as a guy who doesn’t make a lot of impact plays, when I think their scheme is predicated on the occupying blockers and spilling the play to the Will backer. And Mayo reacts to the ball on those as well as anyone in the league. And has the tackle totals to prove it. But last night they had him attacking the LOS more than any game I can ever remember. Last in the game when they were crushing what little morale the Texans had right out of them, he read a Ben Tate run, shot the gap clean and blew him up in the backfield the split second he got the ball. If I had time to watch the game again I feel like I could name a half dozen other plays like it, but I don’t. Suffice to say he was tremendous.
*I hate to be Debbie Downer, but Brandon Lloyd still only had 1 YAC on that touchdown bomb. And he’s still got 0 Yards After Fumble Recovery on the season.
*As if we didn’t have enough reasons to love Danny Woodhead, he even fumbles like a winner. I still believe somewhere in the NFL Films vault there’s “Hard Knocks” footage of the Jets coaches saying “We know this kid Woodhead can help us. But we get to call John Conner “Terminator” and you gotta admit that’s pretty cool!”
*One thing we didn’t need was Mike Tirico saying Donte Stallworth’s catch was “a killer.” Too soon, Mike.
*One play I did make time to rewatch was Ridley’s TD run. Brilliant call, perfect execution. 3Rd & 4, and they came out in a double wing alignment, with Hernandez and Hoomba (I like that already) in Y-flexes and the receivers in tight. Houston was playing pass, with that one-gap 3-4 front Phillips favors and quarters coverage. Hoomba motioned across to block (YAP in their playbook; if the Y motions across to release, it’s “YAC”). Logan Mankins let Antonio Smith come through to be sealed off by Hoomba (that’s really starting to grow on me) then bounced up to the 2nd level to block Barrett Ruud. Solder came up with him and took out Jesse Nading. Ridley split those two perfectly and went in practically untouched. If the Texans had any will left, it was gone at that point.
*JJ Watt does come as advertised, regardless of his stat line and gave Dan Connolly in particular all he could handle. He’s strong, but not overpowering. He looked to me more of a guy who beats you with quickness off the ball and really good footwork to get you off balance and get through. He flipped sides once to beat Nate Solder and it was one of those times when Solder doesn’t dip his hips, gets upright and gets beat underneath. But the plan of attack seemed to be getting the ball out before Watt could cause a ruckus. It did take him out of the game at the expense of a lot of incompletions and 2nd & 10s.
*Possibly my favorite shot of the game was Brady walking off at halftime with a 21-0 lead but after 3 straight 3 & outs and he had this look in his eye like every henchman who’s ever tortured Mel Gibson in a movie. Like he couldn’t wait to come out in the 2nd half, hang the Texans from a heating duct and hook a car battery up to their nipples.
*There was a sighting of Rajon Rondo hanging on the Patriots sidelines wearing a Wes Welker jersey. I believe God wears one too.
*I’d be fine if they moved Devin McCourty back to corner. But there’s no denying he’s just a better player facing the QB. He’s got the athleticism to cover all 53 1/3, he takes angles like Euclid and he doesn’t get burned. He’s a natural born safety.
*Applicable Movie Quote of the Week, tie: “So this is planet Houston.” and “Is there no one on this planet to even challenge me?” – General Zod, “Superman II” (thanks to Barstool legend Uncle Buck)
*It’s almost unfair Stephen Gostkowski got a full game check to just boot some balls into the endzone and a handful of extra points. I think he should at least have to count it as a personal day.