(Thank to @RealPatriots for the picture. I have no idea who these people are but I love them anyway.)
Things to consider while hoping everyone had a Very Brady Christmas:
*If ever there was a time to stop grousing about the flaws on this team and start appreciating what we’re witnessing, that time is now. Last season the story of the year in the NFL was Green Bay and how they managed to keep winning while suffering massive amounts of injuries. Don’t the Patriots right now deserve the same credit? I’ll concede the gigantic difference that the Packers lost their QB for a while and the Pats (through the grace of God) haven’t. But the casualties keep piling up everywhere else, they keep making adjustments, keep making substitutions, keep playing hard and keep winning.
*Just this game alone they lose Matt Light who’s having his best season ever on a game time decision. So what to my wondering eyes should appear but Logan Mankins playing tackle for the first time in his career. Donald Thomas, a guy who wasn’t on the team a month ago and who only plays fullback in goal line situations starts in Mankins spot with Dan Connolly, just back off the injured list, at center. Then Mankins goes down in the 1st quarter and they’re left with 2 rookie tackles against a Miami team that’s blitzing from angles you won’t find on a protractor and what happens? The line settles down, the offense gets in rhythm and they dominate the rest of the way.
*Bitch about the secondary all you want. But if that’s all you’re seeing here then you’re missing something special.
*There was a 4-play sequence over 2 possessions where Nate Solder did this: Played tight end left alongside Mankins, came out of the game, went back in at right tackle (on the play where Mankins was hurt) then came out on the next drive at left tackle. 4 plays, 3 different positions. The perfect application of the Belichick principles of “Next Man Up” and “The more you can do…”
*Only the lack of a feisty, headstrong, MILFy foster mom is keeping someone from making a movie about Solder.
*I should note though that on that the play when he was tight end left he got burned by Jason Taylor for a sack. Welcome to the club, kid. Light has your jacket and membership card. Seriously, every time a Pats rookie gives up a sack to Taylor the other linemen should meet him on the sidelines like he’s Henry Hill on the courthouse steps “Hey! You lost your cherry!!!”
*I like to think that in the post game handshake, Brady and Brandon Marshall swapped war stories. Brady telling Marshall how his baby scratched him on the nose and Marshall telling Brady how his wife stabbed him in the abdomen with a kitchen knife.
*I loved checking in on Pats news after the holiday and finding out that Belichick went on an insane, profane tirade on them in the locker room at the half. The conventional wisdom you keep hearing now is that halftime adjustments and club house pep talks are a thing of the past. That these guys get 12 minutes and 11 of them are spent taking leaks getting their ankles taped. But down 17-0 Belichick went all Clark Griswold on their asses…
… I know I’m asking too much, but if anyone wants to get me a belated Christmas gift, I’d like the Patriots All Access video of that rant.
*Last week after getting trampled by Denver in their first 3 possessions, the Pats went to a big, beefy front. And it worked for the most part. This week they opened with a 4-lineman look of Brandon Deadrick and Shaun Ellis at ends outside Wilfork and Kyle Love. That was their base package throughout, mixing the fronts from evens to 5-0-5s with Ellis at the weakside 9 for an under look. Early on they played primarily with James Ihedigbo in the box but by the 4th quarter they had Rob Ninkovich up on the line, switching from his hand on the ground to standing up from play to play.
*It was kind of a curious move. It made sense to bulk up against Denver who was killing them with inside power runs. But Miami’s bread & butter is getting Reggie Bush outside the numbers, which they were able to do. Deadrick had a few plays, one in the 1st where he actually took the snap standing up at OLB, where he had the run stopped intially but wasn’t fast enough to keep Bush from breaking contain.
*I was expecting a lot more out of Ellis than we’ve gotten this year. But this was his best game by far. On the first series, Miami put FB Charles Clay up on the line covering Ellis, who flat out overpowered him for the sack. I assumed Mark Anderson would be the guy to replace Andre Carter, but it’s possible they don’t trust him as a run stopper so the job is Ellis’ to lose? I’m just spit-balling. But it’ll be interesting to watch.
*If the Ellis-Love-Wilfork-Deadrick line becomes the base front the rest of the way, I suggest the nickname “The Beef Curtain.”
*We might as well just get used to the slow starts by this offense. With the exception of the Denver game, it’s become Standard Operating Procedure that the first 2 or 3 possessions, Brady’s going to end up on his back a few times and the offense will misfire. Eventually they’ll make the adjustments, get into sync and be unstoppable. But our 1st quarter is Zoltan Time.
*Mike Nolan must assume he’ll be fired next week because he pretty much emptied the Exotic Blitz section at the back of his playbook early on. On a 3rd & 8 the Pats went with trips right and he overloaded the weakside. Mankins and Stevan Ridley were left to block 3 and Yeremiah Bell came clean for the sack. Later on he left Connolly uncovered, then called a delayed blitz by both ILBs, Kevin Burnett and Karlos Dansby up the middle. Connolly was caught doubling the tackle, Dansby came in untouched and forced an incompletion. Dansby had a sack where the Pats had the right call but BJGE caught air on the block. Overall though the early pressure was great scheming against a line that was having communication/ protection problems.
*As a result, they had probably the worst half of football they’ve had all year. You can’t beat a team in more phases than Miami beat them. If they went to the locker room and played Angry Birds the Pats wouldn’t have made it past the first Poached Eggs level.
*But the Pats answer was to move Gronk outside. It’s counter-intuitive to think that you can take the best blocking TE in the game off your line and get better protection, but it worked. Those long 3rd quarter drives were almost exclusively 3X1 sets with 0 TE’s and 1 RB.
*That got the Dolphins back on their heels and opened up the runs. My favorite play of the first TD drive was when they moved Gronk back to the line, He threw a huge kickout block on Philip Merling, Brian Waters pulled and Burnett tried to submarine him to fill the hole. But Ridley cut back to the inside, broke a tackle from Dansby and busted it down the 1.
In the 4th quarter going 5-wide worked like the troop surge in Iraq. Miami didn’t have the numbers to answer it.
*On one play out of the 5-wide, Welker ran a 9-route which drew the corner and the safety. One penalty later, Miami was in Cover-2 and Welker ran another streak, only with Branch running one on the other side. The safety, Tyrone Culver blew his assignment by either looking to Branch or Gronk over the middle because that left only Burnett covering Welker 1-on-1. 42 yards.
*If Belichick didn’t do the insane Griswold rant in the locker room, I’d like to think he at least said “I got a lot of problems with you people! And now, you’re gonna hear about it. You, Kruger. This team stinks! You couldn’t smooth a silk sheet if you had a hot date with a babe…I lost my train of thought.”
*He may have, because no sooner had they come out of there than they got the fumble recovery from Wilfork that changed the game. It’s a Festivus Miracle!
*It’s bad enough the Real Housewives of Foxboro leave the red seats empty for the first 10 minutes of the 3rd quarter. Now they’re vacating on the last drive of the half. They’ve become that guy who bangs in sick the Friday before a long weekend.
*Meanwhile, Mr. Kraft is sitting there outside on a day in late December wearing nothing but a jacket and tie. He doesn’t need to take shelter in some damned indoor buffet and fully stocked bar. He’s got love to keep him warm.
*By the way, nice job by the stadium staff of bringing the Christmas cheer with that holiday classic, the Beasty Boys “Fight for Your Right to Party.”
*I don’t know what to think of Devin McCourty anymore. Two months ago you could say he was a disaster. Last year he was a god send. Now he’s just… bipolar. Great pass defenses followed by getting stripped naked on a stutter step for 40 yards followed by another good play followed by a stupid PI penalty on a ball throw into the Minutemen. Lather, rinse, repeat. He seems to be doing well in zone. And can stay step for step with anyone. But he just can’t get his head around on balls like he did last year. All we know for sure is he’s going to be targeted a lot going forward because Kyle Arrington is playing circles around him. That play he made smothering Clay in the endzone is the kind McCourty used to make.
*This week’s “Who Are These Guys?” Award goes to Alex Silvestro, #69, a D-lineman who, if I’d ever heard his name before, I do not recall it. Which wouldn’t bother me so much except this is my only thing in the world I pay attention to. So either I’m dropping the ball or Belichick is just fucking with me.
*CBS has been pelting us with “Person of Interest” ads all year. Since when did they start mentioning Taraji P. Henson alongside Ben from “Lost” and the guy who played Jesus in the Mel Gibson movie? And why does she need the “P”? To differentiate her from all the other Taraji Henson’s?
*I don’t know who the guy with Dan Fouts was, but you know when you’ve got Miami in December with no playoff berth on the line you’re getting the back of the bench. You’ll never make it to the marquee games with D-material like “Pouncey pounces on it” and “No holding the Mayo that time.” Fouts has to be wondering how he fell so far from that MNF gig.
*48% of Americans don’t pay any taxes. Which means the only certainties in the world are Death and the Long Garbage Time Touchdown Drive Against the Patriots Defense.
*Brandon Spikes has officially lost his job to Dane Fletcher. He’s hitting holes, dropping into coverage better than any LB they have and did a nice job breaking up a long pass to Clay. Fletch lives.
*I’d like to see the Pats pull a Jets and bring Bobby Valentine in to teach Crazy Legs Brady how to slide. Watching him give himself up late all the time is like watching a kid play in the street. It’s terrifying.
*There’s one theory of physics that believes there is an infinite number of parallel universes, all existing simultaneously on different dimensional planes. If that’s so, we live in the only one where a linebacker (Ninkovich) ever got called for a pass interference while covering a quarterback (Matt Moore).
*The Patriots clinched a bye week. The rest of the AFC is stumbling down the stretch. The Jets are imploding. This is truly what Boxing Day is all about.