Things to consider while trying to imaging how sad, pathetic and desperate anyone would have to be to spend Christmas Eve writing a stupid football blog:
*This game is one of those “eye of the beholder” jobs. You can look at it as a disappointing effort by a team coming off two big games who thought they could just show up and blow Jacksonville out of the stadium. Or you can give them a lot of credit for toughing out a win on the road against a team that brought their A game by making clutch plays when they had to. Personally I’m looking at it as a game we’ll forget all about once the playoffs start and won’t even merit a mention in the “America’s Game: The 2012 New England Patriots” post-Super Bowl special. I’ll just take the W and keep the hope of a playoff bye alive and not care how ugly it was. I guess that makes me not so much a “glass is half full” or “half empty” type, but more of a “I’ll drink it right from the can” guy.
*This one reminded me of a game that’s on the 2003 Super Bowl DVD when they played a pisspoor, still expansiony Texans team in Houston. The Pats needed a last minute TD to send it to overtime and barely escaped with a win and at the end Gil tells Gino “Let’s get the hell out of here.” So these kinds of near-catastrophe almost-calamity games happen to even the best of teams.
*With all due respect to the Jaguars, who played the game of the year for them, if the Patriots’ games were “Survivor” contestants, this one would be on the reunion show sitting in the back row way to the left that no one remembers and Probst says like two words to.
*And while after 16 weeks of football you can’t use injuries as an excuse, there’s no arguing they were a factor yesterday. The Pats were missing not just 3 important guys, but 3 catalysts. The offense is missing a healthy Gronk, particularly in the Red Zone where he would’ve been uncoverable yesterday. Brandon Spikes is the tone-setter for the entire defense who was missed especially when they were getting gashed up the middle. And Aqib Talib was limited, which cost them their best cover guy moved too many DB’s around to roles they’re not best suited to. I know no one wants to hear about the labor pains, they just want to see the baby. But missing those guys contributed to this one being so close.
*”Chung” apparently is the Chinese word for “Merriweather.”
*I’ve pretty much reached the end of my rope with Chung, who might have had the worst game ever by a guy with two end zone interceptions. I can take him in limited doses, like as the Dime in subpackages or coming down into the tackle box as the Robber when they’re loading up on the run. But at the back of the defense in space? I’m done.
*On Jacksonville’s 2nd possession it was Isosceles Chung’s terrible angle that sprung Jordan Shipley for 36 yards. And while he had a nice hit on Toney Clemons at the end of the half, the “Defenseless Receiver” penalty hit on Cecil Shorts in the 4th was unconscionably stupid. I know it’s the kind of penalty that defensive players whine about because it’s so unfair and they’re taking the hitting out of the game and making it impossible for them to do their jobs, blahbitty blah blah. But these rules aren’t new. They weren’t just implemented so we’re still in the grace period and guys are still getting used to them. Like them or not they’re the rules and if in late 2012 you’re still stupid enough to lay a guy out with a helmet-to-helmet (on a pass that was already broken up by Devin McCourty) expecting you WON’T get flagged, then you’re an idiot. You might as well argue with a cop he’s got no right to give you a ticket for not wearing a seatbelt because the law is too new.
*I’m the first to say there are way too many rules that basically have made good defensive back play a felony offense, but the Defenseless Receiver isn’t one of them. Is it too much to ask that you come in with your pads low and hit a guy in the 10-ring instead of launching at his head? Or better yet, wrap him the hell up? Chung got 5 flags on that one play and they probably could’ve thrown more. That turf should’ve looked like the field after a blown call on “Yellow Towel Giveaway Night.”
*The worst call of the day was unquestionably the non-catch call on Brandon Lloyd’s painfully obvious catch & run. A gawdawful call in a crucial moment that damn near cost them the game. Lloyd took so many steps with the ball even Lebron would’ve gotten called for a travel.
*Every time Jeff Tripplette makes a call I expect him to spit tobacco and tell a carload of teens the place they’re going camping is haunted.
*Lloyd has really begun to step up in Gronk’s absence. But one thing about him is he lacks the size and strength to fight through a real physical corner. Derek Cox pressed, threw a burlap sack over him and filled it with rocks until Mel Tucker inexplicably changed his coverage. From the opening drive of the 3rd Cox started giving a cushion, sat on top of breaks and Lloyd made him pay with slants and stop routes. The switch made no sense but that’s why they’re the Jags I suppose.
*If I’m Matt Patricia and I’m putting together a video to send around to land a head coaching job? I’d leave that 1st quarter out of it.
*i don’t know if it was just the camera angle or the way the game was going or what, but Mr. Kraft and Jonathan have never looked more like Statler & Waldorf.
*I don’t ordinarily comment on what other people say after a game but this week I can’t help it. On the postgame show Andy Gresh went on some rant about how Wes Welker’s not “elite” because of the very thing I just said about Lloyd; that Welker can be taken out of the game by jamming, physical coverage. Which might be the most wrongheadedly wrong thing ever said in the history of wrongness. He’s had more than a season’s worth of 10+ catch games in his Patriots career precisely because he DOES fight through press coverage.
*And yesterday when Aaron Hernandez was rendered invisible and they needed crucial plays… someone to catch a quick outlet in the flat and fight across the goal line, the 2:00 warning when they went to him three straight plays to set up the Woodhead TD, a reverse, a sprawling fingertip grab to the 17… it was Welker who did all the heavy lifting. If that’s not “elite” than “elite” isn’t anything worth being.
*I’m going to go out on a limb and say that sign in the end zone that said “Ryan Mallet – Becquette” was the first in either player’s pro career.
*The Patriots rotated personnel on their Front 7 more than they have all year and I’d be lying if I said I had the first clue how they’re utilizing people. Tracy White seemed to be their passing down coverage backer. But beyond that it was like they were pulling numbers out of a spinning drum at Bingo. Trevor Scott, Justin Francis and Chandler Jones came in & out at end. Rob Ninkovich went from end to Sam linebacker. I don’t know if it’s a scheme thing or a fresh legs thing but there’s no question they were stronger up front at the end of the game than they were early.
*For instance, the play of the game might have been Dont’a Hightower’s sack. It was a simple 4 man rush with him spying Greg Jones. When Jones stayed in to protect, Hightower came on a delayed blitz, flicked him aside like a bug and got to Henne. Great energy play.
*On that note, I hope when Belichick is writing his holiday thank you cards, he sends one to Zach Potter for that false start on the goal line. Something nice. And written in cursive. That was very generous of him.
*Jones has been a shadow of himself since he came back from the leg injury. He’s just not looked strong, like on Montell Owens’ 11 yard run in the 1st when Marcedes Lewis threw a kickout block on him. And he’s lost the burst he had getting around the edge. Having said that, he came up huge with two pressures late that pretty much won the game. Chung should regift those interceptions to Jones right now because they were all his.
*It’s Christmas so I should be charitable and give Chung credit for that runback after his first interception. The way he fought through one tackler after another looked like a Jackie Chan fight scene. Well done.
*Just when the Mayan calendar didn’t kill you, along comes the McRib to finish the job.
*I love when people who hate the Patriots try to argue Pats fans are bandwagon jumpers. After 20 straight years of home sellouts and Jacksonville taking the tarps off more sections of stands than they have all year (3,500 extra seats). Pats fans travel so well we should qualify for a BCS bowl.
*It’s rare that you hate- I mean really hate- a commercial the first time you see it. But that iPad one with the little girl singing a Christmas carol with her ukelele is just such an ad. I know we’re supposed to assume the old guy is her grandfather, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was a chat room. And as soon as the song was done he asked about her panties.
*Can we tap the brakes on this “Steven Ridley-ball control issues” talk? Russell Allen made a great, aggressive play to rip him across the arms before he secured the catch. Granted he needs to clean up how he carries the ball in traffic. So did Kevin Faulk and Adrian Peterson early in their careers. But let’s not talk about him like he’s Tiki Barber fercrissakes.
*Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d type: Justin Francis was the Patriots best defensive player. This kid is the new Kyle Love. Someone who came out of nowhere who manages to be in on the play every time he’s out there.
*This week’s Applicable Movie Quote: “He doesn’t know it’s a damn show. He thinks it’s a damn fight. Now finish this bum and let’s go home.” – Duke, “Rocky”
*So sure, this was uglier than the dark, malevolent heart of the Santa in “Rudolph.” But ask Houston, Pittsburgh, the NY Giants and San Fran if they’d have OK with an ugly victory this weekend. Although it’s been said many times, many ways, “Just win, baby.”