Things to consider while wondering if the Red Sox will start saying they’ve reserved 3,000 empty seats for MIA servicemen so they can keep the “sellout” streak alive:
*This will sound strange coming from me, who’s whined and bellyached about the Patriots defense as much as anybody. But I’m not that worked up about it today. Granted they made a ton of mistakes. It was the worst tackling game they’ve had all season. And offsides penalties on Jermaine Cunningham, Rob Ninkovich and Brandon Spikes were inexcusable and almost cost them the game. But as far as the schemes and how they’re being deployed and so on, I’m OK with it.
*I think I’ve just learned to come to grips with what Belichick is trying to get them to accomplish. First, stop the run. Next, take away the big play. Defend outside the hashmarks and the deep part of the field. Keep the play in front of them. When the ball is caught, break on it hard, make tackles and force turnovers. Sure it’s tough to watch. It leaves the area underneath and the middle zone behind the linebackers wide open. It does so much to help the numbers of mediocre quarterbacks like Ryan Fitzpatrick that agents should start sending them Edible Arrangements. But as long as they keep getting the ball back (23 turnovers on the year) this can work.
*I’m just trying to keep trusting in Belichick’s ways I guess. To remind myself that while we don’t always understand his plan, he does have one. And that he’s still our Dumbledore. A mysterious genius in grey robes whose strange methods often confuse and frustrate us. But who has the wisdom to see the Big Picture and in the end it will all make sense to us. Yep. That’s what I’m telling myself.
*Believe me though, on that final drive I wasn’t feeling so chipper. I literally couldn’t even Tweet because my thumbs were shaking so bad. I’m convinced if Buffalo got the touchdown there I would’ve gone off the deep end. Bad. I would’ve made Rick’s insane grief rampage in last night’s “The Walking Dead” look like Mitt Romney on election night.
*After the game some of the offensive players said the defense bailed them out and I think that’s fair. Once again, they had chances to close the sale and couldn’t. A 3 & out in their own end when Wes Welker dropped a guaranteed 1st down. Stevan Ridley running them down to 1st & goal at the 2, followed by a dumbass False Start penalty (and Ridley was lucky he didn’t get an Unsportsmanlike for that thick, viscous loogie he left dangling on his facemask) and having to settle for a field goal. If they’d lost there would’ve been plenty of blame to go around.
*But one group who deserves nothing but praise were the cheerleaders. I’m not sure if those brown numbers they had on were to salute the troops or UPS, but I salute them. Ladies, you don’t want to know what Brown did for me.
*We all love us some Stevan Ridley. The kid’s been a revelation. But he does something I hadn’t noticed until my brother Jack brought it up. Watch how many times he twists his body when the gets to the line. He does it fighting for yards he usually gets, but it leaves him vulnerable and exposes the ball and like Jack said you have to assume the coaches lose their marbles every time he does it.
*That said, the Pats are getting amazing production out of basically the same 3 or 4 running plays. Inside/outside zone, power, stretch and the occasional jab. The Danny Woodhead touchdown run was a perfectly executed inside zone. Logan Mankins combo blocked Marcel Dareus, then bounced up to take Nick Barnett out. Nate Solder kept Shawn Merriman’s Never-Made-a-Play-Against-New-England streak intact by kicking him out. And for some reason the lone safety, Da’Norris Searcy, left Da’Middle of Da’Field wide open when he slid over on Julian Edelman and Woody went in untouched.
*It seems like every week Woodhead comes in and gets 3 straight touches. Yesterday it was: Little inside breaking route out of the backfield for 15, curl to the right flat for 7, then the TD run. You can set your watch to it, but teams either haven’t caught on or can’t stop him.
*Ridley’s TD was a stretch play. I watched it five times and still don’t know where he found a seam to cut back through. But it showed amazing strength getting through traffic. As far as his “Kicking the Door In” end zone celebration: I give it a 7.5 for Technical Merit and an 8.0 for Artistic Impression.
*On some level though I think Gronk going with a straight spike instead of some kind of tribute to the troops was a slap in the face to all our fighting men and women. America needs us all to do our parts, Gronk, and that’s yours.
*Dear Samsung: I’ll make a deal with you. If you want me to buy a Galaxy III, how about showing me the video that guy’s wife makes for him? That naughty little minx.
*I’m with Belichick in that it might be time to just eliminate the kickoff altogether. Seriously how much time in our lives is being wasted on what’s become a useless play? The standard should be this: Get rid of any play that will never make it into a highlight reel. You’re never going to see a DVD called “NFL Films Presents: The Greatest Touchbacks of 2012.”
*I’ll concede that Buffalo has a solid line and two excellent backs. But that doesn’t excuse the shoddy tackling. Two plays stood out. One was in the 3rd on a 1st down inside the Pats 15 Fred Jackson ran it in on a play where he was intially stuffed, but broke free while the Pats front 7 fell all over each other like crabs trying to crawl out of a bucket. The other was on the final drive, 2nd & 10 on the Pats half of the field when Jackson caught a little dumpoff . He cut it across the field and slipped through, in order: Ninko, Wilfork, Mayo, Jones, Arrington and five of the Minutemen before Spikes knocked the ball loose and put him on Queer Street. I mean, tackling’s been one of their strengths all year. But at coming off a bye week they were at times the football equivalent of a “Hoarders” apartment and need to clean that up.
*I have no particular beef with Dan Fouts, but he can knock off the righteous indignation about borderline calls going against Buffalo. I don’t remember him getting worked up about ticky-tack pass interference calls when he was quarterbacking the most finessy offense in NFL history. If they called them in his career the way he wanted them called yesterday, he’d be coaching high school ball right now instead of in the Hall of Fame.
*One can only assume Brady went all medieval on Edelman because he was supposed to break off his route or something. On the play Brady took a sack, and it looked to me like it was all on him. Dareus and Kyle Williams perfectly timed his cadence and were off before the snap. Mankins and Ryan Wendell were there but had no chance.
*Maybe Edelman did screw up. The next series they blitzed again, only this time Brady ducked under the pressure and hit Woody for the TD. So you wonder if there wasn’t an element of “See? That’s what you’re supposed to do” going on.
*Mr. Kraft has two kinds of guests in the booth: Either an easily recognizable celebrity like Bon Jovi or Jeff Probst. Or a rich looking white guy of the kind demographers say will make up the entire Republican party in 12 years.
*Jack and I also talked about who the most improved Patriot is from last season to now. We said maybe Donald Thomas or Ridley. But now I’m convinced it’s Cunningham, hands down. On passing downs they line him up in that undertackle spot that guys like Warren Sapp and Keith Millard made their living’s off of (Note: The worst year of Sapp’s was in Oakland when they tried to make him an end, the way Cunningham was), and he’s thriving. He’s got the burst to beat lineman at the snap and on his sack he just bullrushed and overpowered Eric Wood. Plus he disrupted the middle of the pocket plenty, cause a False Start and recovered Wilfork’s forced fumble. Most Improved Patriot. Definitely.
*Kyle Love had a few outstanding run stuffs, not the least of which was towards the end of the half when he lined up in a 2i tech, fought off a double team from Wood and Andy Levitre and still managed to hit Jackson for no gain. It’s fair to say he’s probably the most Underrated Patriots.
*When I was watching the pregame, my 11 year old asked me if that Dan Marino is THE Dan Marino. Meaning the one from “Ace Ventura, Pet Detective.” I don’t know whether to feel sad he’s not a bigger NFL fan or proud he’s a connosuier of hilariously stupid 90s comedies.
*Even though the Pats have a knack for turnovers, there is an element of luck involved. Bryan Scott dropped a pop up that gets caught 99 times out of a 100. Fortunately for Buffalo he’s not Mike Aviles and their coach isn’t Bobby Valentine. Otherwise someone’s feelings might have gotten hurt.
*The offensive play of the game was Welker’s catch & run on the final possession. A bubble screen to the right that was about to be blown up, so he cut back across the field, perfectly read blocks from Gronk, Ridley and Deion Branch, among others and picked up 23. If you draw it up, the diagram of his route will look like Jeffy in “Family Circus” wandering home through a playground.
*Unlike the Rams game, the Pats ran very few blitzes. Marquis Cole came off the slot once. Spikes a couple of times. But as Buffalo was coming back never rushed more than 4. And on the last play, only sent 3. They had 8 back with Mayo playing that Nick Saban deep middle “Rat” position and Fitzpatrick threw into the teeth of it despite having no pressure.
*A forced fumble on the 1 centimeter line and a game winning INT. Let the record show when everyone abandoned him,I always stayed on Team Devin.
*On Veteran’s Day, Belichick lobbing the challenge flag like a grenade was a nice touch.
*Alfonzo Dennard is way ahead of where any of us had a right to expect him to be. He’s making pre-snap coverage calls. Had perfect coverage in the end zone on Donald Jones. He saved a TD by pushing Stevie Johnson out of bounds. He gave up too big a cushion on one play in the final drive, but I’m fine with him being out there. When they get Aqib Talib and Pat Chung comes back it’ll be interesting to see if he’s still taking every snap or replaces Cole in the “Money” slot corner role.
*Why is it that whenever you see Fitzpatrick playing at Harvard, the video looks like local TV news coverage of a high school game? By the way, when Fouts was talking about the “great” Ivy League NFL quarterbacks, that sound you heard was Sid Luckman clawing at the top of his casket for being lumped in with Fitzpatrick and Jay Fiedler.
*My suggestion for the next Lebron James commercial: “Here, take my phone and get a video of me quitting on the Cavaliers in the playoffs.”
*Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder took turns beating the 100 million dollars worth of snot out of Mario Williams. Remember when everyone was talking about the O-line like it was Frankenstorm coming to destroy Brady?
*When they showed that shot of the monument to all from Foxboro who fought in “The World War” and it had about 200 names on it, it was a solemn reminder of how much people have had to sacrifice so we can sit here and agonize over a stupid football game. Also that a few short generations ago, when they put on a battlefield reenactment they called it “World War II.” Happy Veteran’s Day to all. Like the plague says “We Are All Patriots.”