Here are a few random thoughts after re-watching Sunday’s
game debacle against the Arizona Cardinals.
After several years of watching the team’s defense deteriorate in front of our eyes, that unit has really turned things around. Yes, I know the Arizona offense will never be confused with the Greatest Show On Turf, but for the second time in as many weeks they played very well. The Pats D held their opponent to only 245 total yards, stopped ten out of fourteen third down attempts, and for all intents and purposes responsible for allowing just 13 points.
Yes, the referees did not have a good day. While the hold on Rob Gronkowski was indeed ticky tacky, at the same time he should have more situational awareness. When you extend your hands like that there is a good chance that you are going to draw a flag.
That being said the Pats should not have been in a position of needing that touchdown, nor should they have been in a position of needing that last field goal; they should have had a comfortable lead at that point. They didn’t do enough all day long to deserve a win.
I am a bit troubled by the play calling leading up to that field goal. A 40+ yard FG is by no means a sure thing; the pats should have been looking to get closer to the end zone or even score. It reminded me of a nearly identical situation with Tampa Bay several years ago, with Tony Dungy calling for three runs into the middle of the line to set up a 40+ yard field goal by Martin Gramaticca at the end of the game. The kick sailed wide, the Bucs lost, and that meant they played the first game of the playoffs on the road rather than at home – which of course they lost. At least this game was in the beginning of the season rather than week 17, but I still didn’t like the decision.
On the other hand I do understand the decision to punt at half time rather than attempt a Hail Mary to the end zone. The Pats OL was getting beaten badly by the Arizona pass rush and it looked as if they were more likely to allow a strip sack than give Tom Brady enough time for the receivers to get downfield before throwing the ball.
Earlier in the game there was a 3rd and two from the Arizona 11 yard line. It appears that Danny Woodhead made the wrong read and missed what looked like a large hole to his right; instead he ran right into the back of Donald Thomas. The Pats had to settle for a field goal; rather than taking a lead that tied the score at six apiece.
In the third quarter Thomas was beaten badly by Darnell Dockett. On a third down from the Arizona 30 yard line Thomas performed an olé and Dockett tackled Danny Woodhead for nine yard loss. What was most unfortunate about that was that it looked as if the Pats were set up pretty well with downfield blocking on the sweep if Dockett had not had they free lane right into Woodhead’s path. While the plays at the end of the game will be much more scrutinized, this may have been the play of the game. Down 13-9, it took the Pats out of field goal position and forced them to punt.
Speaking of Dockett, he was the Player of the Game. Four tackles including that one for a loss, plus he got his hand up to tip a pass that ended up being intercepted by Patrick Peterson. he’s as good as advertised. If he and Calais Campbell are not the best defensive end tandem in the game today, they’re close to the top. Linebacker Daryl Washington was not a player that I was familiar with coming into the game but he had a very good day too; thirteen tackles, including one for a loss.
On that first offensive play from scrimmage, when I first saw it I thought Thomas was beaten by Docket, but after re-watching the play I think it was more that he simply did a good job of getting hi hand up – and that Brady threw the pass a bit low. Of course the most noteworthy part of that play was the injury to Aaron Hernandez. Once he was unavailable they did go four wide a few times with noticeable success. I’ll be curious to see if they use more of that next week, or stick with the standard two tight end formations. Without Hernandez in the lineup the Pats were much more pass-heavy than last week, which is an indication of his role in the running game. Against Tennessee the Patriots ran the ball 35 times and threw it 31 times; against Arizona the Pats ran 28 times and threw it 46 times.
Coming into the game I felt the Patriots would be able to take advantage of what I considered to be a mediocre and inconsistent Arizona offensive line. Stat-wise the Cardinals did not do much offensively, but they did allow only one sack, with no yards lost on the play. Though the Pats defense did play well overall – Chandler Jones in particular looked good once again – it was a bit of a disappointment that they didn’t get more sacks or turnovers.
On the plus side Devin McCourty did an excellent job on Larry Fitzgerald. The all pro was targeted five times, with only one of those passes being completed – and it went for just four yards. On the other side of the coin the Pats struggled a bit with yet another tight end; Todd Heap had a 28-yard gain and their tight ends caught six passes (on ten attempts) for 69 yards.
The Pats offensive line ended up allowing four sacks. That’s something that needs to improve. Perhaps it is time to pay Brian Waters whatever it is that he wants.
I have no idea why Sterling Moore was out there on defense rather than Ras-I Dowling. There was one play in particular when Moore looked very confused: the time Arizona lined Patrick Peterson up in the wildcat. Peterson ran for a 17-yard gain right in the area that it looks as if Moore should have been.
September 18, 1970:
Jimi Hendrix is pronounced DOA at St. Mary Abbot’s Hospital in London at the age of 27 after choking on his own vomit. To this day some still question whether his death was an accidental overdose, a suicide, or murder pulled off by his manager who was upset that Hendrix wanted to get out of his contract.
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