After re-watching the Pats 34-13 victory at Tennessee, here are a few random reactions to that game.
While there was a lot of talk about Chris Johnson heading into the game, my biggest concern was Kamerion Wimbley. Yes, Wimbley did take Brady down and bloody Tom’s nose, but other than that one play he was well contained; the Pats use of the running game effectively neutralized him. Jurrell Casey had a decent game for the Titans but nobody else on their defense particularly stood out.
Speaking of Chris Johnson as everybody knows by now the Pats held CJ2K to just four yards rushing. The only noteworthy play he made was a 14-yard reception on a 3rd and one in which it appears that Brandon Spikes sold out on the run and was burnt. Considering that this was a player that averaged 157 yards from scrimmage per game just three years ago, we can certainly live with one 14 yard gain.
While on the subject of third downs, the Pats defense stopped Tennessee nine out of fourteen times on third. Considering where the Pats third down D has been the last couple of years, that’s an encouraging sign. The number converted (5) and percentage (35.7) are middle of the pack (17th in both cases), but it’s a whole lot better than what we have been used to seeing early in the season the last couple of years.
The Pats do indeed have a running game. Stevan Ridley showed a lot of burst and decisiveness. But let’s pump the brakes just a bit here. Ridley was quite effective running outside, following his tight end’s lead – but he and the other backs got absolutely nowhere when running between the tackles. On those plays it seemed as if it was at most a gain of one or two yards. The issue did not appear to be Ridley, but the members of the offensive line; on interior runs they continually failed to seal their defenders, leaving the running back with no lane to run through and no place to cut back to.
Tavon Wilson earned much praise for his athleticism and interception, but we need to pump the brakes on him as well. There were a couple of plays that he simply appeared flat footed and unsure of where he was supposed to be as the play unfolded – the result being that another defensive back was hung out to dry, expecting him to be there but he was late arriving. If this sounds all too familiar then it should: safeties being out of position and late helping out corners was the biggest problem in pass coverage last year that resulted in the Pats allowing 294 passing yards per game. This is something that Wilson and his coaches can rectify; fortunately as a dime back he is not being heavily counted on at this point.
The Play Of The Game was extra special because it involved the two first round draft picks: a strip sack by Chandler Jones scooped up by Dont’a Hightower for a six yard touchdown. The play put the pats up 14-3 and the Titans never got closer than the eleven point differential the rest of the way. Jones’ speed was noticeable all game. Vince Wilfork was his usual pro-bowl self also; the Titans didn’t really have an adequate response to containing him.
The offensive line – which over the course of six weeks had gone from a positive to something of an unknown if not outright weakness – more than held it’s own. When I watched the game Sunday I barely noticed Marcus Cannon – something that one would not have thought possible in August. Cannon alternated with Sebastain Vollmer at right tackle, and also played some at right guard; this time around with no egregious errors. What’s the saying, you know an offensive lineman had a good day when you don’t notice him? Nate Solder looked better than he had in preseason as well. I would still much prefer if Brain Waters returned though. The Pats rightfully don’t discuss injuries any more than they are obligated to by the league, but the news of Dan Connolly possibly having a concussion is unsettling. Perhaps I am reading too much into it but I keep thinking about Mike Wright; he was a vital cog on the defensive line and his loss really hurt the entire defense for two years. The primary concern is of course for Connolly’s personal health, but after that I think of how much he means to this unit. Hopefully I’m over reacting and he is fine.
On defense the standard formation was as follows: LDE Rob Ninkovich, DT Vince Wilfork, DT Kyle Love, RDE Chandler Jones; WLB Jerod Mayo, MLB Brandon Spikes, SLB Dont’a Hightower; LCB Devin McCourty, RCB Kyle Arrington, SS Patrick Chung and FS Steve Gregory. In nickel situations Arrington moved in to cover the slot receiver and was replaced at CB by Ras-I Dowling with either Spikes or Hightowe heading to the sideline; in a dime formation Love was replaced by safety Tavon Wilson.
Offensively the Pats mixed it up a bit with Cannon and Vollmer alternating two series on and two series off. The Patriots used a three TE set on about a dozen plays, with newcomer Michael Hoomanawanui on the field for both pass protection as well as running plays. The Titans seemed to be a bit baffled with tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez lining up all over the field, sometimes on the same side, sometimes opposite, sometimes in a three point stance and other times standing up. Though Wes Welker was not targeted nearly as much as he usually is I’m not reading much into it; let’s wait and see what happens over the next few games.
That’s it for now … next up for me is a viewing of the Seahawks – Cardinals game to see if I can get a better understanding of what to expect next Sunday.
On this day in 1966 NBC broadcast the premier episode of The Monkees television show. Much maligned as a corporate manufactured ripoff of the Beatles, they actually had some very good songs.
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