Things to consider while telling Hollywood I know just the guy to play the handsome, sensuous, ultrasexy male lead in “50 Shades of Grey”:
*Remember when every team in the AFC East was 3-3 and we were reading all that stuff about parity had finally arrived because the Pats had slid back to the pack the division was up for grabs? Yeah well, about that… I’ve got to admit as much of a shameless homer as I am, back then even I didn’t think they’d have the division wrapped up before I started my Christmas shopping.
*In the postgame I heard some talk that this win “wasn’t pretty,” but I’ll have none of that. This was exactly the kind of game I’ve been hoping to see. Where the McOffense struggles and they lose the Special Teams battle so the defense steps up and carries the day.
*But also, that given the chance to put the game away, the offense does just that. In all 3 of their losses and a couple of those close-call wins that almost put me in the ICU, it was the offense’s failure to do so that hurt them as much anything the D did. But yesterday that 16 play, 14 run, 7:17 Ground-&-pound-a-palooza was EXACTLY what a championship team does. That drive was the football equivalent of the part in “Saving Private Ryan” where Steamboat Willie slowly slips the bayonet into Mellish’s heart and shushes him while the life drains out of his eyes.
*So I guess now thousands of kids in Nigeria will be getting a shipment of “Miami Dolphins 2012 AFC East Champions” merchandise?
*The best unit on the field for either side was the Patriots D-line who, minus their two best pass rushers, still managed to control the game. Kyle Love was relentless, mostly facing RG John Jerry. Early on Brandon Deadrick beat a double team out of a 3-man rush to chase Ryan Tannehill out of the pocket. And it seemed like every time they run-blitzed a guy or had one of the linebackers step up into a gap, it pulled a double off of Vince Wilfork and Richie Incognito just couldn’t handle him 1-on-1. There was a 3rd & 6 in the 2nd quarter where they sent Mayo, and Incognito had no chance, VW got a pressure that forced a throwaway and killed the drive.
*Let the Toyota Tundra pull Vince through the streets of LA, then I’ll be impressed.
*But without question Trevor Scott keeps the game ball. I don’t think there’s a guy with “Dolphins O-lineman” on his business cards who didn’t get abused by Scott at some point in the game. He and Mathew Slater were the first men through the line on the botched punt. He had a nice inside rip move on Jonathan Martin for a sack. He beat Nate Garner with your basic outside speed rush for the strip sack that Vince recovered. I heard Jonathan Kraft in the pregame say that in their locker room, there’s no panic when someone gets hurt, just a feeling of “Next man up” and Scott personified it.
*Somewhere, Jermaine Cunningham was flipping through a medical pamphlet titled “PED Cycling, Masking Agents & You” trying to figure out where he messed up.
*The only really bad play I can remember from a D-lineman was Rob Ninkovich on Tannehill’s TD. He had the edge set, but bit badly on the play fake and went after Daniel Thomas like your dog going after the tennis ball when you fake-throw it.
*Far be it for me to question a pro football player’s toughness. But when Jimmy Wilson hurts himself running into a punter, it’s fair to think he might be more of an “indoor” person.
*There’s not a team in the NFL more qualified to use injuries as an excuse than the Patriots. They simply don’t. I can’t quote the stat exactly, but last year they ran 2-TE sets something like 77% of the time, and this year, with first Hernandez out and now Gronk, it’s been like half that. Yesterday I’d guess they went with a combo of Hernandez and Daniel Fells maybe 65% of their snaps, but Fells is a non-factor in the passing game. Brady targeted him just once on that seam route that missed. I mean no disrespect to the guy because he plays hard and had some key blocks in out of the 2 TE overload as they iced the game. But if Gronk was an Escalade (note: he is), Fells is the Ford Escort the repair shop loans you.
*After watching the SEC Championship and this game it hit me that THE best thing about the deep South is that the 80s are alive and well there. Every cheerleader still has the hair and makeup of the chicks who used to make the audience on “Married With Children” go “Whooooooo!!!”
*The Dolphins defense was who we thought they weren’t. The reports on them was that they were tough to run on out of their base 8-man box, but you could spread them out and gash them. I think Josh McDaniels’ plan was to do just that but Miami held up well, particularly Dansby, Kevin Burnett and Reshad Jones, who was all over the place. It wasn’t until McDaniels just “screw this,” lined up in Jumbo sets and crammed it down their throats did they have any success.
*My favorite play calls, in no particular order:
Welker’s touchdown that caught Miami in a Cover-0 blitz. It was a slip screen that needed only one block, a perfect one by Brandon Lloyd on the corner. Ryan Wendell and Dan Connolly bounced out in front of Welker but had no one to hit and he went in clean.
Ridley’s TD. It was an outside zone where Wendell missed on a reach block on Randy Starks but Ridley slipped him and followed a Donald Thomas trap block in.
The screen to Danny Woodhead off a play action fake to Woody and a fake reverse to Welker. Woodhead caught the pass behind all 3 interior linemen to pick up the first down and 9 times out of 10 a play set up that well will pick up a lot more.
The play action to Hernandez in the 4th. It was a 3rd & 1, the Pats were in Ace formation with Herandez as the Flex-Y tight end and Welker as the weakside H-back. Miami sold out on the run with Dansby blitzing the A gap. Hernandez sold the fake by bouncing off Sean Smith before releasing. Run, catch, with a facemask tacked on to bring the ball to the 2 and the game was for all intents and purposes over.
*And Hernandez had at least 3 of those plays where he catches the ball with his numbers facing Brady, then does a spin move to get away and pick up the 1st down. If I ran the Patriots (and God willing, my shot will come), I’d put Hernandez and Lloyd together like a “Dancing with the Stars” team until Lloyd learned that move instead of going right to the ground after every catch.
*Stat of the day: Bianca Wilfork caught as many balls as Lloyd. I always assume carrying a game ball around in a stadium full of drunks is just carrying a target on your back. But I didn’t see one Dolphin fan capable of messing with her.
*“If Richie Icognito goes out and doesn’t want to be recognized, what does he call it?” – If Rick Reilly did Knee Jerk Reactions.
*Good: I finally got to see Jake Becquette, the 3rd round pick out of Arkansas who’s been a healthy scratch most weeks and pretty much a forgotten man. Bad: What I got to see him do is pick up a Too Many Men on the Field penalty. Baby steps.
*I’m officially done with receivers coming up after and incompletion, looking right at the refs and doing the incredulous, palms-up “Where’s the flag???” thing. Brian Hartline did it yesterday, but the Patriots do it to and it’s out of control throughout the league. Stop it now. America already has one Pau Gasol and one is more than enough.
*It’s safe to say we’ve finally got our secondary: Dennard, Talib, Gregory and McCourty at safety. Arrington is your slot guy. There was the one miscommunication between Gregory and Talib that didn’t cost them, but there’s no arguing the continuity has helped. Last year at this time the backfield looked like the Army of Northern Virginia in 1864, all teenage boys with their uniforms hanging off them and old men with no shoes. In fact, I’m pretty sure Troy Brown made the depth chart. This isn’t perfect, but it’s way, way better.
*Pat Chung comes in dime packages, mostly up in the box at robber. He picked a bad year to have a contract expire. Unless there’s a huge market for subpackage guys who get 7 snaps a game I don’t know about.
*If Yankee Candle came out with an “AFC East” candle, it would smell like one part nice, fragrant popurri mixed with three parts cat throw up.
*This week’s Applicable Movie Quote: “Do you have a dorsal fin? To train ze dolphin you must zink like ze dolphin! You must be getting inside ze dolphin’s head. I am saying to Snowflake, “Akay!… Akay Akay Akay?” und he is saying “AKay Akay!” und he is up on ze tail “Eeeeeeeeee!” und you can quote him!”- Ace Ventura
*So Wes Welker has 1,000 yards and 92 catches through ¾ of the season and set the all time record for 100 yard games. Imagine how good he’d be doing if they weren’t benching him.