The New England offense makes the Sports Center highlights and creates the headlines, but it is their defense and special teams that carried the team on their shoulders to victory Sunday against Miami. With the win the Patriots clinched the AFC East title, which is the Pats sixth straight division title and 14th since Robert Kraft became the team’s owner. When the game was still in doubt it was the defense and special teams that created a 14-3 lead, before the offense shook off the cobwebs from the two-game road trip and six-game gauntlet against some of the best teams in the NFL.
Miami opened the game with a 50-yard pass completion to Mike Wallace, but the Patriot defense stood the Dolphins up on three running plays to force a 41-yard field goal attempt. Jamie Collins blocked the kick and Kyle Arrington scooped up the ball, returning it 62 yards for a touchdown. While one usually does not classify a play on the first series of the game as a turning point, this play was a ten-point swing and certainly a critical play. Coming on the heels of Brandon Bolden’s key block last week at San Diego, you have to tip your hat to the Patriot special team players and ST coach Scott O’Brien. Even though this was a field goal attempt and not a punt, an ancillary benefit going forward is that opponents will be more careful in their protection going forward, which should open things up for the Patriots on their returns.
The New England defense was just getting started. In the second quarter Ryan Tannehill threw a pass just a bit too high, and the Patriots took advantage. Duron Harmon was in position to offer support, and as it turned out he was in perfect position to catch the tipped pass. Harmon returned the ball 60 yards to set up a touchdown three plays later, giving the Pats a 14-3 lead. As it turned out that cushion was very important as Miami came back at the end of the half to cut the lead to 14-13.
The Patriots have won 77 times in a row when leading at halftime at home, going back to 2000. As has been the case in all but three games this year, the Pats poured it on on both sides of the ball after the break. The Pats scored on the opening drive of the third quarter to up the lead to eight, forced a three and out on defense, and then scored again. Stephen Gostkowski’s 35-yard field goal gave him 1,160 career points, breaking Adam Vinatieri’s record as the franchise’s all-time scoring leader.
On the first play from scrimmage after the ensuing kickoff the defense came up big once again. Patrick Chung intercepted a tipped Tannehill pass at the Miami 37, and returned it to the 27-yard line. One play later Brady hit Gronk down the seam for another score, and just like that the Patriots were up by 18 points, 31-13.
The New England Patriots have long excelled on special teams and at forcing turnovers. Those traits helped mask deficiencies in their pass rush and pass coverage in the years following the Pats last Super Bowl victory. Now that New England has improved their pass rush as well as assembling one of the best defensive secondaries in the league, Pats fans have legitimate reasons to be very optimistic of this team’s chances in the post-season. The current offense may not rival that of the record setting 2007 squad, but overall this team is more well balanced and more difficult for an opponent to game plan for than any other Patriot team since the one that won the franchise’s third championship in a four-year span ten years ago. That’s great news for Pats fans, and bad news for all 31 other NFL teams.
– With the victory, Bill Belichick got his 229th career win. That ties him with Curly Lambeau for the fourth-most combined regular-season and playoff wins by a head coach in the history of the NFL. Belichick is big on the history of the NFL, so even though he may not say so publicly, you know this has to mean a lot to him to reach this point on the all-time leader board.
– Rob Ninkovich had a sack, giving him three straight seasons with at least eight sacks. Nink is the first Patriot to accomplish that feat since Hall of Famer Andre Tippett did so from 1984-87. Not bad for a guy who fans are calling for the team to replace and upgrade on an annual basis.
– Rob Gronkowski was shut out in the first half and finished with only three receptions, but they were good for 96 yards. That puts him at 1,093 yards for the season, and makes him the first tight end in franchise history to have two seasons with 1,000 yards receiving.
– Chandler Jones was active for the first time since the week 7 game on October 16 against the Jets, when he injured his hip. Jones was a dominant presence, and registered 7 tackles (4 solo) and 1½ sacks on the afternoon.
– The Dolphins had early success throwing to tight end Charles Clay. The Patriots – who have often had trouble with opposing tight ends – adjusted by having Devin McCourty cover Clay; Clay was not a factor from that point on.
– Brandon Browner picked up two more pass interference penalties. Browner now leads the Patriots with 14 penalty calls against him.
– Kyle Arrington left the game with a hamstring injury in the first half. His replacement, Malcolm Butler, was beat twice on long passes. I wouldn’t be surprised if the secondary’s forgotten man – Alfonzo Dennard – replaces Butler on the active roster next week.
– Dan Connolly left the game with a neck injury, and was replaced by Josh Kline. No offense to Kline, but I would much prefer to see Connolly out there.
With all that has transpired in the last few days, we need my friend Zeus to put the current state of the NFL and Patriots Nation into proper perspective.
This and That (Train Wreck)
After much anticipation, Sunday was a rough day but what followed on Monday was even worse. I’d much rather talk about football than the other b.s. that’s been going on but I guess that’s just not the way life works anymore.
1. Opening Day found the local fans a bit overwrought, with the stubborn drought of sports related adrenaline continuing unabated since the winter. It’s been a more than a decade since the Patriots dropped their opener, so the game proved to be nerve jangling to say the least. I spent a good bit of the fourth quarter pacing in front of the gigantic television shrieking obscenities, something that I fear has prompted our new neighbors, a lovely young couple from the UK, to seek alternative housing arrangements. (Sensing my obvious distress, they wanted to get help but couldn’t decide between calling 911 or an exorcist.)
The outcome plunged New England into a pit of black despair. Any strengths we hoped that the team possessed had quickly evaporated. And our darkest fears about aging, infirm, unathletic players and senile, incompetent coaches had grown exponentially to become far worse than even the most dire pessimist might have imagined. Such torpor will continue at least until the next decisive victory.
2. Cant’ Block, Can’t Tackle, Can’t Win – Schemes and game plans can’t overcome poor fundamentals, mental errors and stupid penalties. After a respectable (and perhaps underrated) first half, the wheels came off in Miami. The third quarter alone was as bad as anything we’ve seen since Rod Rust’s team played that way on a weekly basis. It was an odd twist that the more Dolphin players left with injuries, the better Miami played, prompting the question as to whether they were playing the right guys in the first place. That’s two loses in a row at Miami. Let’s not forget that at home last year, the Patriots had to come back from a 17-3 halftime deficit to win 27-17 in a game that Miami had under control. A disturbing trend against an AFC East rival to say the least…
3. Not Ready for Prime Time – Was Bill Belichick’s biggest objective in preseason getting his team to September in one piece, perhaps prioritizing health over preparation? Given the assorted torn ligaments, dislocated joints, shattered bones and vibrating crania being reported league-wide throughout training camp, it’s hard to argue with this approach. So players like Gronkowski, Mayo, Easley and Dobson saw little or no action, while healthy veterans (Brady, Revis) played only sparingly. It’s fair to wonder if the lack of preseason game action was a contributing factor in the uneven play we observed Sunday, not so much from a conditioning standpoint, but with respect to the team’s ability to execute on a cohesive basis. It’s a tough choice, but if you’re going to try to win a War of Attrition, you might as well show up with as many able bodies as possible.
4. Half and Half – The Patriots were not alone in what appeared to be a nearly league wide epidemic of Trick or Treat Football that saw teams play well in one half and abysmally in the other. Much like the Patriots, many teams were not ready to play 60 minutes of football on Opening Day.
5. Roger Goodell took over as NFL Commissioner on August 8, 2006 as a self-professed hard-ass. Goodell’s justice is characteristically harsh, haphazard and capricious. He has taken a hard line with players for indiscretions large and small. He stomped on the Patriots for a technical rule violation that even he acknowledged provided little if any competitive advantage. His excessive punishments in Bountygate required intervention from his retired predecessor, Paul Tagliabue, who vacated all of Goodell’s player suspensions.
Might the players who have been on the receiving end of Goodell’s autocratic dictates be wondering what happens when The $44 Million Man publicly screws up in such a monumental fashion? What little credibility Goodell still had with the rank and file is shot to hell. Today’s NFL demands discipline and accountability, but I guess that only applies to The Hired Help.
6. Train Wreck – The NFL is at the pinnacle of its popularity and profitability. Were the league a publicly traded stock, Warren Buffet would be buying by the boatload because the business right now is so fundamentally sound that no amount of mismanagement could possibly derail the cash-laden freight train. The sad fact of the matter is that the owners regard this unprecedented success as giving them carte blanche to do whatever they want whenever they want. Ethical or criminal misdeeds by the owners themselves are barely recognized, let alone punished. Business partners such as the broadcast networks are treated like servants and the ticket buying fans are a mere afterthought. Every possible aspect of the game is being monetized and sold to the highest bidder, even the Super Bowl half-time show.
It is hubris of the highest order.
Mark Cuban is right – The Hogs Are at the Trough and they are getting fatter by the minute. The fatter they get, the stupider they get. It’s a huge train wreck waiting to happen.
7. Shame – Ray Rice’s disgraceful assault on Janay Palmer speaks for itself. I hope the Rices get the help they need and I think it is counterproductive to say that a 27 year old man doesn’t deserve a second chance. However, Rice and his enablers are off to a terrible start. Knowing what actually happened, the attempt by Rice, his despicable attorney, the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL to foist any degree of culpability for the assault onto the victim was a cowardly and cynical a thing as I have seen in my lifetime. The stink from this shameful act will not go away any time soon.
A very special thank you to Zeus for his much needed unique perspective and analysis.
Some people have taken notice to the many roster moves of the New England patriots,and chided Bill Belichick for the seemingly random nature of the very many personnel transactions, as if there was no plan and no logical explanation for these maneuvers. Perhaps the primary example for this is CB Marquice Cole, who has been has been signed four times and released three times this year – including four roster moves in a recent ten-day span.
On the surface these appear to be random moves that indicate an inability to form an opinion, and lack of decisiveness. Nothing could be further from the truth; in actuality Belichick is working the system to his favor.
Jason at Over The Cap (a great guy by the way; don’t hold his being a Jets fan against him) uncovered the rationale for these seemingly aimless roster moves.
What New England is doing is essentially using loopholes in the CBA to basically put Cole on their own version of IR with the designation to return while protecting their own financial interests. By waiting until the end of the week to release Cole, Cole receives his full salary, $42.058.82 per week, and will never miss a game check provided they continue re-signing him to a contract after Sunday’s game.
Termination pay is that guarantee everyone always talks about when a veteran player makes the week 1 roster. In Cole’s case he would be eligible to receive the balance of his $715,000 salary, which at the time of his first release was $546,765 and this week would be $504,706, once released. However, because Cole never misses a game check he is ineligible to claim Termination Pay following the season.
If New England did what many would think is the normal routine of releasing a player and then re-signing him when he is expected to contribute the Patriots would have to pay Cole both the balance of his Termination Pay plus his salary on the new contract. So if they had released him outright last week and waited until week 8 to bring him back Cole could file a claim to receive his $546,765 and collect 8 weeks of salary on top of that amount. By releasing him after Tuesday the most he could have earned is the $546,765. This is why he will likely be back by next Wednesday and if he still can not play be released by Friday. If New England placed Cole on IR his season would be over, which they don’t want to have happen.
The risks for New England are minimal with this strategy. Cole does not need to clear waivers until after the trade deadline and its unlikely any team would sign him if he has a minor injury anyway, so there is a great chance that Cole is always going to re-sign with New England once asked. In fact it is probably agreed upon before the release that he will be back and not entertain offers from other teams. The team most likely will replace him with a Practice Squad player who will need to clear waivers once released, but considering the player has been free for any other team to sign off the Practice Squad anyway, waivers are not a concern. If a team wanted him that badly they would have made an offer before this time.
So it’s a small but neat little aspect of roster management going on in New England right now that ensures they have the players they want at the price they want for the remainder of the season.
While other are playing checkers, Bill Belichick is playing chess.
I wasn’t particularly surprised that the Patriots lost yesterday, although I did not expect the offense (1-12 on third down) to struggle as mightily as it did. It is very difficult to win back-to-back games on the road, especially when one or both of those opponents are decent teams. Yes, the Bengals lost to Cleveland, but look at the entirety of their work and the talent on their roster; Cincinnati is a very solid ball club. Their loss to the Browns was a classic ‘trap’ game: it was sandwiched between an emotional win over Green Bay and a game against a team that has not had a losing season in 13 years.
Here is a look at how NFL teams have fared in consecutive road games this year:
Won both games
4-1 Indianapolis (beat San Francisco and Jacksonville)
3-2 Miami (wins at Cleveland and Indianapolis)
4-1 Seattle (beat Houston, lost to Indianapolis)
4-1 New England (beat Atlanta, lost to Cincinnati)
3-2 Detroit (lost at Arizona, beat Washington)
3-2 Chicago (beat Pittsburgh, lost at Detroit)
3-2 Baltimore (lost to Buffalo, beat Miami)
3-2 Cleveland (lost to Baltimore, beat Minnesota)
3-2 Tennessee (beat Pittsburgh, lost to Houston)
3-2 Arizona (lost to New Orleans, beat Tampa Bay)
2-3 San Diego (beat Philadelphia, lost to Tennessee)
2-3 Philadelphia (lost to Denver, beat the Giants)
Lost both games
2-3 St. Louis (lost at Atlanta and Dallas)
1-3 Minnesota (lost at Detroit and Chicago)
0-5 Jacksonville (lost to Oakland and Seattle)
0-5 New York Giants (lost to Carolina and Kansas City)
Of the 16 teams to play consecutive games on the road only two have won both games. Seattle is probably the best team in the National Football League, and they were unable to complete that task. There are other good teams that were unable to pull off the the feat as well, like the Bears, Lions – and yes, the Patriots. Indy defeated an injury-riddled 49ers team and then was gifted with a date in Jacksonville, while Miami had the good fortune of playing Cleveland prior to the Browns turnaround. The bottom line is that the Pats loss should not come as a shock; a win would have been the exception and not the norm, even for a good NFL team.
New York Jets (2-2) at Atlanta Falcons (1-3)
Monday October 7, 2013 at 8:30 pm ET on ESPN
Mike Tirico (play by play), Jon Gruden (gushing), Lisa Salters (sideline eye candy)
Falcons favored by 10; over/under 44½
Following the Saints 26-18 victory against the Bears, Atlanta is in danger of falling four games behind New Orleans in the NFC South should they lose Monday night. The Falcons are a double-digit favorite despite a less than stellar showing last week against the Patriots in a game in which they only scored one touchdown in six trips to the red zone. The Jets have performed better than what many expected them to do thus far this year thanks to quality play from both lines and a defense that is allowing just 283 yards per game (2nd best in the NFL).
The Jets get Chris Ivory (hamstring) and Mike Goodson (suspension) back, to compliment Bilal Powell (4.4 yards per carry, 292 yards rushing) at running back. The Patriots dominated the line of scrimmage a week ago and Rex Ryan would be wise to attempt to do the same Monday night; the Jets running game versus the Falcons run defense is a mismatch that favors Gang Green. Expect Atlanta to stack the box and dare Geno Smith to throw the ball; the rookie quarterback already has nine turnovers (eight picks, one lost fumble) through four games and a scarcity of targets. Smith will be without his best option, WR Santonio Holmes (hamstring) and Atlanta CB Asante Samuel, who has missed two of the four games, returns from a knee injury looking for a pick-six.
Atlanta is still without RB Steven Jackson and probably don’t want to test the Jet run defense, which is limiting opponents to an NFL-best 3.0 yards per carry. CB Antonio Cromartie will match up with Atlanta WR Julio Jones; the problem for New York is the rest of Matt Ryan’s options in the passing game. TE Tony Gonzalez is a matchup nightmare for the Jets, and doubling up on him leaves more room for WR Harry Douglas.
I think the Falcons will be fired up as they are in desperation move; they cannot afford to fall four games behind the Saints. Geno Smith and the Jets have not played nearly as well on the road (0-2, outscored 51-23) as they have at home (2-0) while Mike Smith’s Falcons have never lost three straight games. Despite last week’s loss, Matt Ryan is still 34-6 at home in his NFL career and the Jets don’t have the personnel to mount a comeback once they fall behind. I think the Jets defense may be good enough to hang around and keep this game close for awhile, but the Falcons will pull away in the second half.
The Atlanta Falcons continued their tour of crap on Sunday Night Football and they looked every bit as terrible as those old Falcons, pretty pitiful overall, in their attempt to beat a quality opponent that was severely handicapped. This team is now 1-3, reeling, and looking like the end of an Era because this team looks as lifeless as a dead jellyfish. Half the stadium was empty in the 4th quarter of a nationally televised game. More to come on the garbage that was, but for now, give your take if you can hold the vomit at bay……….
With Falcons rushing three and dropping eight, Brady had enough time to read a book before tossing a 26-yard dart to Kenbrell Thompkins (who?) for the first down.
F — Offensive Line: Sam Baker tried to go. But it was no surprise when his left knee buckled and he had to depart the game. Baker is a fighter, but he stalled one drive on his own. Holmes was pressed back into action and doesn’t seem to fight very hard after the initial contact. Right guard Garrett Reynolds got knocked back into the ball carrier on one play and some guy named Joe Vellano got a key sack while coming between the Reynolds-Peter Konz gap. The line received a break with Vince Wilfork’s injury, but couldn’t take advantage of the backup.
F — Defensive line: Has anybody seen Osi Umenyiora? The great ones come up with a sack when the team needs one. On the third-and-19 from New England’s 12, the Falcons needed a sack. He didn’t get it. Also, after the game he was nowhere to be found. He must be embarrassed by his play as he’s been regularly been hiding out from the media. Come on Osi! Defensive line coach Ray Hamilton’s crew had no sacks and just three quarterback hits. They also were not stout in the run game.
F — Linebackers: The Falcons tried to use their 3-4 with Osi and Joplo Bartu (as Biermann) as the outside linebackers. Akeem Dent and Paul Worrilow started as the inside linebackers. Worrilow got the start over Stephen Nicholas. The Patriots gashed the run defense for 132 yards on 31 carries for a respectable 4.3 yards per carry. Blount’s 47-yard touchdown run was inexcusable. Dent got hurt on the play and had to receive medical treatment after the game. It could be Nicholas and Worrilow at inside linebacker against the Jets.
F — Defensive backs: Kenbrell Thompkins caught six passes for 127 yards. Who is Kenbrell Thompkins? According to Wiki he’s “an American football wide reciever for the New England Patriots of the National Football League (NFL). He played colllege football for El Camino Community College from 2008 to 2009 and Cincinnati from 2011 to 2012.” That’s bad. I went to Cincinnati’s College of Law and I didn’t know him until Sunday. The Mighty Bearcat caught six passes for 127 yards and a touchdown. Julian Edelman had his way with nickel back Robert McClain as he caught seven passes for 118 yards.
Remember those stat folks who said the Falcons wouldn’t win as many close games this time around? The 2012 team was 7-2 in one-score games. The 2013 team is 1-3 and has already lost as many regular-season games as the 2012 Falcons – and also the 2010 Falcons. And it wasn’t as if the Falcons stunk out the joint against New England: They gained 457 yards against a Bill Belichick defense and made only one turnover. They made some plays; they just didn’t make winning plays. A year ago, the Falcons made winning plays even on days when they probably shouldn’t have won.
Some in Atlanta may be wishing that the Falcons had re-signed backup tackle Will Svitek:
After offensive tackle Lamar Holmes faltered in three regular-season games, the Falcons finally saw enough. Veteran Jeremy Trueblood replaced Holmes as the starter at right tackle Sunday night against New England in the Georgia Dome.
The Falcons entered training camp short on experienced offensive linemen. Holmes struggled at right tackle during the exhibition season but the Falcons waited until the eve of the regular season to sign Trueblood.
Holmes, Atlanta’s third-round draft pick in 2012, said he’s still confident in spite of getting benched.
The jury had been out on the Patriots, who had raced out to a 3-0 record against the likes E.J. Manual, Geno Smith and Josh Freeman, who’s been benched in Tampa Bay.
This was the Patriots first test against a marquee quarterback in Matt Ryan, but the Falcons defense could not hold up against a power-running game and slew of Brady passes to the likes of Kenbrell Thompkins and Julian Edelman. And Ryan couldn’t pull out another miracle finish.
Ryan’s record dropped to 34-6 at the Georgia Dome. With a victory he would have tied Brett Favre for most wins by a quarterback in his first 40 home games.
The Falcons did another second-half flop.
Over the last six games, they have established a pattern of playing strong in the first half before fading. Over those last six games, including the playoffs, the Falcons have been outscored 110-46 in the second halves.
New England returned home as one of three 4-0 teams in the AFC, though Miami could become the fourth with a victory Monday at New Orleans.
Unlike the Falcons, who have sunk to 1-3 while struggling to overcome the losses of running back Steven Jackson, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, cornerback Asante Samuel and defensive end Kroy Biermann, the Patriots keep winning.
Two-time Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski has yet to make his season debut because of back and forearm injuries. Receiver Danny Amendola and running back Shane Vereen have been out since Week 1
At the Georgia Dome, the Patriots lost Vince Wilfork, their five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle, to an ankle injury on Atlanta’s opening drive.
Patriots receiver Aaron Dobson left the game midway through the third quarter after colliding with Falcons free safety Thomas DeCoud in the end zone.
But none of these setbacks slowed down New England.
Honestly, losing to the Miami Dolphins on the road wasn’t that shocking to me. Losing to the Patriots at home, however was. I just expected the Falcons to play much better than they did on Sunday night.
While I think people far too often go to the well of “bad play-calling” as a reason for why an offense stagnates, I do think Dirk Koetter is open to some criticism. At least in the sense that he needs to find ways to get the ball into the end zone when the Falcons get into the red zone. The Falcons were downright atrocious in the red zone against New England, only scoring touchdowns on 1 of 6 trips there. It’s a results-oriented business, and Koetter needs to do whatever it takes to get better results. Whether that means he has to change his play-calling remains to be seen, but the Falcons have to do better. The Falcons seemed to have little to no interest in running the football, with only 1 of 18 red zone play calls being runs against New England, and them having a 30:70-percent run-pass balance through the first three quarters. It should be noted that the game was within one score throughout that period, and thus it’s not as if the Falcons were throwing just to catch-up.
Defensively, the Falcons simply gave up too many big plays. That 3rd-and-19 play where Kenbrell Thompkins gained 26 yards was a killer. The very next play they gave up a 47-yard touchdown run to LeGarrette Blount. Not to mention the 49-yard bomb to Thompkins earlier where he made William Moore look like Haruki Nakamura, the 44-yard play to Julian Edelman where he beat Robert McClain on an option route on 3rd-and-8, and the 34-yard bomb to Edelman where he blew past Joplo Bartu deep down the middle. You just can’t get gashed for big gains like that and expect to win.
The Falcons pass rush is non-existent. The early returns on the Osi Umenyiora signing haven’t been promising, even with a two-sack effort against Miami. Nobody else is really stepping up, and it’s not as if the Falcons are going to be able to sign a player off the street tomorrow and think he’s going to add much of anything. Frankly, the Falcons are hanging their hat that the current players pick things up or maybe they can fleece some team out of a promising young pass rusher as we approach the trade deadline at the end of October. I’d love it if the Falcons could get their hands on Lamarr Houston, Michael Johnson, or Brandon Graham, butthose guys are probably unlikely to get traded or the price tag will be a bit too high. But regardless how this season plays out, the Falcons are going to have to look very long and hard at pass rushers in next May’s draft. At this point, I don’t see how the Falcons couldn’t use their top pick on a lineman on either side of the ball.
And that is the main issue the Falcons have had: they can’t win in the trenches. That just doesn’t cover this season, but goes back multiple years.
One fan site wants to use the injury excuse for the Falcons loss. Are you kidding me? Apparently they didn’t bother to look even as far as across the line of scrimmage in that regard.
The Atlanta Falcons came into Sunday Night Football in dire need of a win. They didn’t play like it in a 30-23 loss.
We’re at a point where this team’s troubles need to be acknowledged. We can’t keep pointing out what this team has done in previous years, because thanks to injuries and ineffectiveness, this team bears little resemblance to the teams that were perennial playoff contenders from 2008-2012. The Falcons are playing uninspired football, they look anemic and sloppy on defense and they hurt themselves on offense constantly with penalties and poor execution. There’s a ton of talent on this team, but there’s also major weaknesses along the lines, and ultimately those are swinging relatively close games into the “crushing loss” column.
The injuries are absolutely getting ridiculous, sure, but unfortunately there’s nothing the Falcons can do but play through them.
The second half of the Week 13 NFC East primetime doubleheader kicks off tonight at 8:30 ET as the 7-4 Giants visit the 5-6 Redskins. After losing three in a row to fall to 3-6 Washington appeared to be done, but two division wins since the bye have them in the hunt for a wild card spot – or possibly even a division title if they can knock off the Giants. Robert Griffin has thrown a total of eight touchdowns with only one pick in the last two games, completing 34 out of 43 passes (79%) for 511 yards.
Last time the two teams met Washington ran for 248 yards; behind phenomenal rookie Alfred Morris the Redskins are averaging an NFL second best 163 yards per game on the ground. The Giants’ strength is with their pass rush, so expect large doses of Morris in this game.
The Redskins’ biggest issue continues to be with their pass defense; they rank 31st in the league, allowing 301 yards per game through the air. They have communication issues (blown coverage on Victor Cruz‘ winning TD in the last game between these two), and unlike New York, they don’t get much pressure on opposing quarterbacks. RB Andre Brown is on IR with a broken leg, and rookie David Wilson has seen little action since fumbling the ball away earlier this season (just 24 carries all year). Tom Coughlin likely does not want to wear down Ahmad Bradshaw with a post-season run in mind, so expect Eli Manning to be throwing the ball quite a bit against that porous Washington pass defense.
Odds: depending on where you shop, the Giants are listed as 2½ or 3-point road favorites, and the over/under is 50½ most everywhere.
While I do agree that I found it to be quite odd that Cameron Wake and Jared Odrick were not on the field during the Pats’ long fourth-quarter drive, let’s give the Patriots just a little bit of credit here.
Dave Hyde also chimes in that the Dolphins “made Brady mortal … confused, indecisive“. Again, I agree to an extent; but let’s also not forget that there were plenty of drops and other self-inflicted wounds by the Pats. The Miami defense is good, but they are not the second coming of the ’85 Bears.
New England played better than Miami. The Pats executed with the game on the line. They won, and they deserved to win. End of story.
I will say this though: at least the Dolphin fans are, for the most part, not celebrating as if this was some sort of moral victory – a marked difference from how a good portion of the Jets’ fan base was responding to their three-point loss to the Patriots six weeks ago.
In case you missed them, a handful of post-game observations:
“Crunch Time Running Game– This was the four minute offense that the team has been searching for and they did it surprisingly mainly on the ground where in the first half they treated the running game as a communicable disease.”
The defensive quietly has been getting better and better each week, especially in the secondary. Some of this improvement comes from the overall defense playing more “loose” and blitzing more. Once again Bill Belichick devoted much of his time on the sidelines with the defense, sometimes paying no attention to the offense and speaking with the defense. His adjustments worked, especially dialing up more pressure.
What basically won the game for the Patriots over the long haul was the inability of the Dolphin offense to consistently maintain any rhythm in their own right and take advantage of their stout defensive effort. Head coach Joe Philbin at one point called for a punt on fourth and one at midfield in the third quarter, and his defense did indeed hold thanks largely to a holding call on Daniel Fells. But his refusal to go for it was also an indictment of the Miami offense.
“It’s good, especially when the offense struggled, it’s a chance for us to showcase how special we are on defense,” Wilfork said. “We went out there, we didn’t give up a lot of points today. We had some three-and-outs, made some plays. The offense is allowed to have a bad game here and there. They’ve done so much for us. The one thing we want to do around here is always play as a team. The three units, the special teams, offense and defense, if one is slacking the other two help pull them up.
“When you have two and three slacking, that’s when you get problems. But today, the offense got it together, they started running the ball more. And as a defense, I love to see my offense run the football because I know we have great running backs and we have great blockers. We face those guys all the time in practice and when we started running the ball, I was excited to see from my end so I was kind of pumped up on the sideline.”
That’s probably the best and most simple way to put it.
They didn’t do anything especially well. They didn’t do anything especially poorly. There were no game-breaking highlights that you’re dying to re-watch this morning (although it was nice to see Aaron Hernandez in the open field, and Welker/Ridley both go over 1000 yards for the season). There’s no one player particularly deserving of week-long media stoning (although it would be cool if Stephen Gostkowski chilled out on the Scott Sisson impression).
Basically, all the Pats did this week was go down to Miami and earn a solid, division road win against a solid NFL team.
Like I said, they took care of business.
At this point, what more can you ask for?
This Day In Patriots History
December 3, 1961: Boston Patriots 28, Denver Broncos 24 at Bears Stadium
Larry Garron‘s 51-yard touchdown reception gave the Pats a 4th quarter lead, and they held on to improve their record to 7-4-1. With the victory the Pats were now 5-1-1 since Mike Holovak replaced Lou Saban as head coach.
Billy Lott scored two touchdowns to give the Pats a 14-0 first quarter lead, but Denver took a 17-14 lead early in the 4th quarter when they returned a punt 55 yards for a TD. Garron’s touchdown pass from Babe Parilli put the Pats up by four, and then Parilli scored on a 7-yard run to increase the lead to 11. Denver returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, but the Pats held on for the victory. Don Webb had two interceptions for the Pats, and Tom Addison had another pick.
December 3, 1972: Miami Dolphins 37, New England Patriots 21 at Schaefer Stadium
The Dolphins rushed for 304 yards as they moved closer to a perfect season, upping their record to 12-0. Honor Jackson‘s two interceptions were the only bright spots for the New England defense, and on offense Brian Dowling passed for one touchdown and ran for another.
December 3, 1978: Dallas Cowboys 17, New England Patriots 10 at Texas Stadium
Roger Staubach‘s two second half touchdown passes gave the Cowboys a come-from behind win, giving both teams a 10-4 record. Sam Cunningham ran for 93 yards, scoring on a 52-yard run for the Pats.
December 3, 1989: New England Patriots 22, Indianapolis Colts 16 at Sullivan Stadium
John Stephens‘ 10-yard touchdown run with 25 seconds left to play gave the Pats a come from behind victory. The Pats had taken a 15-10 lead on five field goals by Jason Staurovsky, but the Colts went ahead on a TD by Eric Dickerson before Stephens’ game-winner. On a 3rd-and-21 from his own 26 Marc Wilson completed a 30-yard pass to Eric Sievers, and then a 17-yard pass to Irving Fryar; two plays later Stephens, who ran for 124 yards, scored the winning TD. Hart Lee Dykes had six receptions for 114 yards for the Pats.
December 3, 1995: New Orleans Saints 31, New England Patriots 17 at Foxboro
The Saints broke open a 4th-quarter tie with two 60+ yard touchdowns to drop the Pats to 5-8. Curtis Martin rushed for 112 yards and two touchdowns, and Ben Coates had seven receptions for 90 yards.
December 3, 2006: New England Patriots 28, Detroit Lions 21 at Gillette Stadium
Corey Dillon rushed for three touchdowns as the pats avoided a huge upset to two-win Detroit. The Lions had taken a 21-13 lead before Dillon scored midway through the 4th quarter, with a 2-point conversion knotting the score at 21. On the next drive Roosevelt Colvin strip sacked Jon Kitna and Mike Wright recovered the fumble with 5:57 to go; the Pats drove and scored the game winner with 2:33 left to play. Reche Caldwell and Kevin Faulk both had eight receptions for the Patriots.
December 3, 2007: New England Patriots 27, Baltimore Ravens 24 at M&T Bank Stadium
The Pats had their closest game of the year but won once again, improving to 12-0 in a game Baltimore fans still whine about to this day.
The Ravens’ lack of discipline was the difference in this game, as they were penalized 13 times for 100 yards and Bart Scott completely lost his composure at the end of the game, resulting in two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. The game was also noteworthy for being one when the Ravens seemingly stopped the Patriots on a 4th down, but DC Rex Ryan called timeout before the ball was snapped, giving the Pats another chance – which they converted. The winning score came with 44 seconds left to play on an 8-yard pass from Tom Brady to Jabar Gaffney.
A few thoughts after re-watching the Pats thrashing of the Jets as a tasty desert to Thanksgiving dinner:
– I will readily admit that I was concerned when I read that Marcus Cannon would be starting in place of Sebastian Vollmer. Even though the Jets had only one player among their front seven that I considered to be a serious threat (Mo Wilkerson), I had flashbacks to Cannon looking as if he was on ice last August, constantly being beat. Dante Scarnecchia and his ability to make the offensive line perform at a high level regardless of who is or is not available is nothing short of phenomenal.
– The Mark Sanchez butt-fumble had me laughing so loudly the wife asked me to quiet down. Freakin’ party-pooper. I expect that play to follow him around for the rest of his life, like Joe Pisarcik and his last-second fumble in the Medowlands from a generation ago.
– Yes the game was over early, but let’s not forget that the much-maligned (and deservedly so) defense that has been so prone to allowing big-yardage plays did more than create turnovers. The Jets did not have a single play of more than 15 yards until more than 35 minutes had been played; at that point the Pats were up 35-3. Some folks are saying you can’t judge the Pats D in this game because it was over so early. I disagree, and thought the defense played exceptionally well.
– Unfortunately the gloom and doomers will instead seize upon the stats that show that the Pats allowed four more plays of 20+ yards and that they allowed yet another scrub QB to pass for 300 yards. All I can say to that is that stats are deceiving; remove the final drive with four minutes remaining and Sanchez’ stat line changes from 26-36-301-1-1 to 21-30-221-0-1. The stat line of course does not include the six-point fumble, or the fact that the Jets were scoreless on their first five possessions and had all of three points in their first eight possessions.
– Back to the OL: Donald Thomas did not look good on the first possession, but was fine after that. Wilkerson was a non-factor. If you didn’t know Cannon was starting you wouldn’t have even noticed – which is pretty much what you want from an offensive lineman. In a league where you are limited to how much you can do in terms of depth due to the salary cap, winning this easily with 40% of your line out – regardless of the opposition – is very impressive. NFL games are still won or lost in the trenches.
– Back to the defense: forcing a punt is nice; getting a turnover is better. Time for people to stop acting as if a defensive turnover is the equivalent to finding a 20-dollar bill in the parking lot. It has just as much if not more to do with the defense doing something right as the opponent gifting you with a present. The Bears are lauded for forcing turnovers, but the Patriots are simply lucky Huh?
– I wasn’t a fan of his in his rookie season, but Brandon Spikes is a freakin’ beast that has been unleashed.
– After a couple of games where he seemed to be a bit sluggish at times, Vince Wilfork was very productive. Brandon Deaderick got a lot of playing time; I’d like to see him continue to get enough snaps early in the game so that Big Vince can be effective rather than worn out in the 4th quarter.
– Dont’a Hightower played really well.
– Definitely nice to see Shane Vereen playing well, giving the Pats another viable option at RB to their offense.
– Hopefully the ten days off will be enough for Julian Edelman to not have to miss any games. With Gronk out and Deion Branch gone the Pats could really use his continued presence.
– I haven’t been a fan of Steve Gregory all season, he seemed to constantly be out of position. Whether it was the Jets or playing alongside Devin McCourty rather than Patrick Chung or Tavon Wilson, he looked like a completely different (and obviously much better) player Thursday.
– It didn’t affect the outcome, but yes, I am beginning to wonder about Stephen Gostkowski. I was willing to write off the earlier misses but it’s starting to become a pattern.
– There was one pass by Brady to Danny Woodhead near the sideline that was woefully short; I re-watched and couldn’t figure it out. Maybe he was just throwing it away? Overall he wasn’t particularly sharp, with several other incomplete passes to seemingly open receivers.
– The refs screwed up on the call on Aaron Hernandez; fortunately it didn’t matter. Definitely nice to see Hernandez back on the field though.
– Speaking of refs, don’t blame them for the stupid call in the Lions game. Those guys are charged with enforcing the rules as they are written; the blame falls on the usual suspects in the Competition Committee.
– Hilarious look on Fireman Ed‘s face during the game; cherry on top was him leaving early and then deleting his twitter account.
– Am I alone in thinking that was a big WTF moment when they showed the picture of Woody Johnson with … who was she? His wife? Daughter? Granddaughter? Sorry, but I just found that to be creepy.
– With each week that goes by I feel better and better about the Pats chances against either the Texans and/or the Ravens.
– As anybody that ever makes it to the bottom of these columns knows, I’m a big fan of old time rock and roll. However, I really did not care for the networks half time entertainment choices. Lenny Kravitz was meh; Kid Rock was an abomination in the first game. There are plenty of more current rock and roll acts that I would have much preferred to see and hear. Note to the suits: go ahead and get younger with the music, us old fogeys won’t mind one bit.
– Gary Myers of the New York Daily News: thanks so much for declaring that the Patriots would surely lose because Rob Gronkowski was used late in the game against the Colts on an extra point. Your lame excuse to yet once again bring up spygate in order to generate web views is duly noted.
– Sad news about Hector Camacho. Just a reminder to all of us how precious life is, and to tell those who matter to us how very much they mean to us while we still can.
This Day In Patriots History
November 23, 1962: Boston Patriots 21, Buffalo Bills 10 at Nickerson Field
Tom Yewcic completed over 70% of his passes and threw for three touchdowns as the Pats improved to 7-3-1.
After Jack Kemp scored on a 6-yard run to give Buffalo an early lead, Yewcic hit Jim Colclough with a 31-yard TD and then connected with Ron Burton on a 69-yard pass to give the Pats a 14-7 halftime lead. The Bills closed to within four with a 3rd quarter field goal, and then Yewcic threw an 18-yard 4th quarter touchdown pass to Gino Cappelletti to finish the scoring. Yewcic ended up with 231 yards passing, Burton had 133 total yards from scrimmage and Colclough finished with 72 yards receiving.
November 23, 1969: Boston Patriots 35, Buffalo Bills 21 at Alumni Stadium
Mike Taliaferro threw three touchdown and Carl Garrett had 226 all-purpose yards as the Pats rallied in the 4th quarter to beat the Bills.
Taliaferro threw two first quarter touchdowns to Charley Frazier, and then in the 2nd quarter hit Ron Sellers (5 catches for 102 yards) on a 35-yard TD to give the Pats a 21-7 lead. However, Buffalo came back on a pair of touchdown passes from Jack Kemp to Haven Moses and the score was tied at 21 entering the 4th quarter. Jim Nance found the end zone on a 2-yard plunge and then Garrett scampered 65 yards for the final score.
The Pats defense did an excellent job, picking Kemp off four times; Ed Philpott had two interceptions, and Larry Carwell and John Charles had one each. Garrett finished the game with 96 yards on 13 rushes, two receptions for 26 yards, a 63-yard kickoff return, and a 41-yard punt return.
November 23, 1975: Buffalo Bills 45, New England Patriots 31 at Rich Stadium
Sam Cunningham ran for 100 yards and scored three times in a see-saw battle in Buffalo.
Joe Ferguson‘s 77-yard touchdown pass to J.D. Hill gave the Bills an early 14-0 lead, but the Pats tied it on two scores by Cunningham: a 10-yard run and an 11-yard pass from Steve Grogan. After Buffalo regained the lead Grogan connected with Russ Francis on a 21-yard touchdown pass to cut the Bills’ lead to 24-21 at halftime.
Cunningham’s third touchdown of the day gave the Pats the lead but O.J. Simpson (who had scored earlier on a 2-yard run) caught a 3-yard pass from Ferguson to give the Bills a 31-28 lead after three quarters. John Smith‘s 34-yard field goal tied it but Simpson scored two more times, on a 1-yard run and a 3-yard pass, to win it for Buffalo.
For the Patriots Grogan finished the game with 365 yards passing, Cunningham had 100 yards on 19 carries, Francis had 7 receptions for 125 yards, and Randy Vataha had 5 catches for 96 yards.
November 23, 1980: New England Patriots 47, Baltimore Colts 21 at Schaefer Stadium
The Pats ran for 245 yards and the defense forced five Baltimore turnovers – returning three of them for touchdowns – as the Patriots steamrolled the Colts in Foxboro.
The Patriots led 10-0 at halftime, and then Rod Shoate picked off a pass and returned it 42 yards for a touchdown; after a Colts TD and a John Smith field goal the Pats led 20-7 at the end of the 3rd quarter.
Rick Sanford recovered a fumble and returned it 22 yards for a touchdown to give the Pats a 20-point lead, but two touchdown runs by Baltimore’s Curtis Dickey sandwiched around a 9-yard TD pass from Matt Cavanugh to Carlos Pennywell cut the lead to 33-21. Don Calhoun (19 carries for 106 yards) then scored his second touchdown of the game, and Allan Clark finished things off with a touchdown on a 15-yard fumble return.
Defensively Steve Nelson and Roland James each also had an interception, while on offense Vagas Ferguson joined Calhoun with 100 yards rushing of his own; the rare feat of two New England players rushing for 100 yards in the same game would not be repeated until 2012, against the Bills. Coincidentally the three-touchdown returns was a record for both the Pats and the Colts; it would be repeated 32 years later in the Pats 59-24 win over the Colts in 2012.
November 23, 1986: New England Patriots 22, Buffalo Bills 19 at Sullivan Stadium
Greg Baty‘s 13-yard touchdown pass from Tony Eason gave the Patriots a come from behind win, for the Pats sixth consecutive victory and a 9-3 record on the season.
The Pats seemed to be in control early, scoring on a safety, a Craig James run, and a pair of Tony Franklin field goals before a Scott Norwood field goal got the Bills on the scoreboard as the Pats led 15-3 at halftime.
The Patriots couldn’t get much going offensively in the second half and Buffalo kept chipping away. Norwood booted three more field goals and then Jim Kelly threw a touchdown pass to give the Bills their first lead of the game, 19-15, before Baty’s game-winner.
Tony Collins had 8 receptions for 84 yards t lead the Pats offense. Defensively Raymond Clayborn and Ronnie Lippett each had an interception while Johnny Rembert had a pair of sacks, and Don Blackmon, Larry McGrew, Steve Nelson and Brent Williams had one sack apiece.
November 23, 1997: New England Patriots 27, Miami Dolphins 24 at Foxboro
The Pats jumped out to a 24-3 halftime lead and held on to beat Dan Marino and the Dolphins.
In the 2nd quarter a wide open Troy Brown scored on a 35-yard option pass from Dave Meggett to give the Patriots a 10-3 lead. About three minutes before halftime Larry Whigham picked Marino off and returned the ball 60 yards to put the the Pats up by two scores. Miami drove down the field and with 20 seconds left on the clock Jimmy Hitchcock one-upped Whigham, returning an interception 100 yards for another New England touchdown. Adam Vinatieri kicked what turned out to be the game winning points on the opening drive of the 3rd quarter with his second field goal of the game. Miami scored three times on one-yard runs by Karim Abdul-Jabbar but the Pats were able to hang on for the win, despite Miami recovering two onside kicks. With the win the Pats moved in to a second place tie at 7-5 with Miami in the AFC East.
November 23, 1998: New England Patriots 26, Miami Dolphins 23 at Foxboro Stadium
On Monday Night Football the Patriots rallied for a 4th quarter victory on Shawn Jefferson‘s 25-yard touchdown reception from Drew Bledsoe in a game which took second billing to news that the Patriots would be moving to Hartford in 2001.
The winning touchdown capped a 15-play, 80-yard drive with Bledsoe gutting it out after jamming his finger on his throwing hand after slamming it on a helmet, converting two 4th-and-10’s on the drive.
The Pats abandoned the run in this game, throwing the ball 54 times while running it just 19 times. Bledsoe finished the game with 423 yards passing; Jefferson had six catches for 131 yards and one TD; Ben Coates had nine catches for 78 yards and a TD; and Adam Vinatieri was 4-for-4 on field goals of 25, 44, 45 and 24 yards.
November 23, 2000: Detroit Lions 34, New England Patriots 9 at the Pontiac Silverdome
The Pats only points came on three Adam Vinatieri field goals as they lost in their second-ever Thanksgiving game.
The game was actually a lot closer than the final score would indicate, with the Patriots leading 9-6 in the 3rd quarter before Detroit took the lead on a 1-yard TD pass by Charlie Batch. Then in the 4th quarter the Lions scored three times. The dagger was set up when a Drew Bledsoe pass was intercepted deep in Patriots territory, setting up a TD; the exclamation point was a 101-yard interception return by Bryant Westbrook off another Bledsoe pick with 4:13 to go. After that turnover Bledsoe was done for the day, replaced by rookie Tom Brady. After the game was over Willie McGinest led a players only meeting, saying that “I told them that I take these games personally. Our team has to be accountable for our mistakes. As a team, this can’t go on.”
November 23, 2003: New England Patriots 23, Houston Texans 20 at Reliant Stadium
The Pats won in overtime for the second time of the year, and won their 7th game in a row as Adam Vinatieri rebounded from one field goal attempt that bounced off the upright and another that was blocked by kicking a 28-yard game-winning field goal. Mike Vrabel had intercepted a pass on the first play from scrimmage in OT but a Texan broke through from the left side to block Vinatieri’s kick. The victory improved the Pats record to 9-2, their best ever after 11 games.
Tom Brady threw for 368 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown pass to Bethel Johnson and a 4-yard TD to Daniel Graham to tie the game and send it to overtime. Earlier in the game Johnson, who got the start due to an injury to Troy Brown, made a nice play to strip the ball away after the Texans had intercepted Brady; his recovery set up a field goal by Vinatieri. Houston had taken the lead when they scored a TD after a fumble by Brady and a FG after a blocked punt. Kevin Faulk had 188 yards from scrimmage, with eight receptions for 108 yards and 80 yards rushing. On defense Rodney Harrison and Richard Seymour both had a sack, and Mike Vrabel had an interception.
November 23, 2008: New England Patriots 48, Miami Dolphins 28 at Dolphin Stadium
Randy Moss scored had three touchdown receptions as the Pats broke open a tight game with 31 second half points.
Matt Cassel was 30-43 for 415 yards and three touchdowns as the Dolphins were able to force the Pats to punt just one time; for Cassel it was his second straight 400-yard game. Moss finished with eight catches for 125 yards, Wes Welker eight catches for 120 yards, Jabar Gaffney had five catches for 88 yards, and Kevin Faulk had 105 yards from scrimmage (53 rushing, 52 receiving). Besides Moss’ three touchdowns the Pats also scored three rushing touchdowns (by Cassel, Faulk and BenJarvus Green-Ellis), and Stephen Gostkowski kicked a pair of field goals.
Brandon Meriweather‘s interception with under 9 minutes to play on the first play from scrimmage after the third touchdown by Moss pretty much sealed the victory, with the Pats up 38-28. Four plays later after a Gostkowski field goal made it 41-28 Matt Light and Channing Crowder got into their famous fight, with both being ejected.
It’s Thursday and I still haven’t been able to find the time to re-watch the Pats win over the Rams in London or see any of the All-22 film on the game so rather than wait any longer I’ll post two very good reviews from that game by a couple of former NFL players that know a whole lot more about breaking down film than I do.
First up is Matt Bowen from the National Football Post. Bowen is a late round draft pick who played safety for seven years in the NFL and does a great job of dissecting what the Rams were attempting to do on defense and then what the Patriots did in response that allowed for them to score on a touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski.
Former Patriot Matt Chatham offers some very good insight on the Patriots win over the Rams in this 14 minute audio interview on WEEI. Chatham points out that the Patriots did a good job of keeping the Rams off balance by not being predictable on offense, avoiding tendencies of typical play calls based on down and distance, field position and formations. He also points out that the Pats did a much better job of capitalizing on opportunities than they have done at times earlier this season. Matt also talks about the distinction between blitzing and getting pressure on the quarterback, and Devin McCourty as a cornerback or safety: two topics of a great deal of discussion amongst Pats fans this year. There’s also discussion on what goes on during the bye week, self-scouting and the secondary; check it out, I found it to be a worthwhile listen.
Chatham also writes two columns per week for the Boston Herald. Tuesday he had some additional analysis of the Pats win in the column Lethal Patriots show zig, zag instead. Again it is good insight into the small, often overlooked things that go into making a play work – which in turn lead to a victory. The column is a more detailed version on how the Pats bucked conventional wisdom with their play calling against the Rams early in Sunday’s game, leading to a touchdown and a lead they would not relinquish.
This Day In Patriots History
Yes, this is a day late. I’ll see if I can’t get back on track later today.
October 31, 1959: Ken Simswas born in Kosse, Texas. The Pats selected the 6’5″ Texas Longhorn with the first overall pick of the 1982 draft. The defensive end was nicknamed ‘Game Day’ because he was quoted as saying ‘I’ll be there on game day’ in response to what was considered lackadaisical effort in practices. Unfortunately for the Patriots his practice habits carried over to Sundays and Sims never lived up to his draft status, though he did play with the team for eight years before he was released after being busted for possession of cocaine during the 1990 off season.
October 31, 1959: Brian Ingram was born in Memphis. The Patriots drafted the Tennessee Volunteer in the 4th round (111th overall) of the 1982 draft, which was acquired from the 49ers in the Russ Francis trade. Ingram was mostly a special teams player as the Pats were deep at linebacker, occasionally getting playing time when Don Blackmon or Larry McGrew were injured or needed a breather. He went on injured reserve after the 4th game of the 1983 season and was never completely the same after that; Ingram played in 39 games over four seasons with the Pats, his last game with the team being in Super Bowl XX.
October 31, 1964: Larry Garron scores on a 52-yard pass from Babe Parilli against the Jets. For Garron it was just one of an incredible thirteen touchdowns of more than fifty yards that he scored in his eight years with the Patriots. Gino Cappelletti (who would be named the AFL MVP that season) also had seven receptions for a career high 147 yards that day but the Pats couldn’t get their running game going and turned the ball over five times, losing 35-14 and dropping to 5-2-1 on the season.
October 31, 1965: Gino Cappelletti scored all but two points for the Patriots in their 22-6 victory over the Chargers at Balboa Stadium. The Pats opened up scoring when Jay Cunningham scored the only points of his pro football career, tackling Speedy Duncan in the end zone for a safety. Cappelletti then kicked two field goals, caught two touchdown passes from Babe Parilli, and kicked both extra points for a total of twenty points on the day. The Pats defense did not allow any points until late in the 4th quarter, and intercepted four passes: one each by Tom Addison, Mike Dukes, Tom Hennessey and Don Webb.
October 31, 1971: Steve Kiner, Randy Beverly and Larry Carwell each pick off a John Brodie pass but the Patriots lose to the 49ers 27-10 at Candlestick Park. Carl Garrett ran for 96 yards on 13 carries and Randy Vataha had a 23-yard touchdown reception from Jim Plunkett for the Pats.
October 31, 1976:
The Patriots defense does its part but the Pats offense can’t get anything going as the Dolphins win 10-3 at the Orange Bowl. Sam Cunningham had 79 yards rushing plus another 25 receiving to lead the Pats, who fell to 5-3. After this game the Pats would go on to win the next six in a row before their season ended in the infamous Ben Dreith game.
October 31, 1993:
The Patriots defense did not allow a single touchdown but the offense sputtered with Drew Bledsoe sidelined and the Pats lost to the Colts 9-6 at the Hoosier Dome. Ben Coates had six recptions for 108 yards while Scott Secules, filling in for Bledsoe, was 25 for 37 for 279 yards – but also threw two interceptions.
October 31, 1999:
The Patriots got just their second Halloween victory in forty years as Drew Bledsoe matched his career high with four touchdown passes for the Patriots, who at 6-2 were off to their best start since 1980. Bledsoe completed 14 of 22 passes for 276 yards and was not intercepted; he threw for three scores in the first half, two to Shawn Jefferson, as the Pats opened up a 20-0 lead. It was the first easy won of the season for the Pats; four of the five previous victories had been by three or fewer points. On the second play of the 4th quarter Bledsoe threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to Terry Glenn to put the Pats up 27-3; heading into the game the Arizona defense had been ranked third in the NFL against the pass.
October 31, 2004:
The Patriots lose their first game of the year, 34-20 to the Steelers at Heinz Field. The loss ended two winning streaks: 21 straight counting the playoffs, and a league-record 18 in a row in the regular season. Bill Belichick‘s game plan was for the Pats to control the ball and the clock behind Corey Dillon, but in warmups he pulled up lame with a thigh injury and could not play. Ty Law was then lost just a few plays into the game with a foot injury and it was the Steelers who controlled the clock, limiting the Pats to just 17:02 time of possession. Without Dillon the Pats were unable to run, averaging less than a yard per rush; the one-dimensional offense became overly predictable and turned the ball over four times.
The Pats were able to get the last laugh though, beating Pittsburgh 41-27 twelve weeks later in the AFC Championship Game, en route to their third Super Bowl victory in four years.
October 31, 2010:
Facing Randy Moss for the first time since he was traded the Patriots beat Minnesota 28-18 at Gillette Stadium, improving their record to 6-1 while the Vikings dropped to 2-5. At the time of the trade some felt the Pats were giving up on the season while Vikings fans prematurely booked their tickets for the Super Bowl; as it turned out it was just another Brad Childress loss to Bill Belichick and the last game Moss (one reception for 8 yards) would play for the Vikings. BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns and Moss’ replacement, Brandon Tate, had 101 yards receiving – including a 65-yard touchdown.
The Rams got some sightseeing in during their week-long stay in the England. Among other things, they saw the Tower of London and the Crown Jewels. They saw historic Trafalagar Square and walked the streets of central London. But they didn’t see that red, white, and blue truck that hit them — otherwise known as the New England Patriots.
After a promising start, the Rams were outscored, outplayed and humiliated by the Patriots in a 45-7 loss Sunday before 84,004 at Wembley Stadium. It was a long way to go to play so poorly.
The Rams, now losers of three in a row, fell to 3-5 and have an extra week to stew about it as they now enter their bye before returning at San Francisco on Nov. 11.
The Patriots, who pulled quarterback Tom Brady with 8 minutes 20 seconds to go in the fourth quarter, improved to 5-3. Adding insult to injury, they topped 350 yards of offense for the 17th consecutive game, breaking a record they had shared with the Greatest Show on Turf — the 2001 Rams team they defeated in Super Bowl XXXVI.
Ouch. That last line is like kicking someone who is already down for the fans of a team who thought for sure they were the next great NFL dynasty heading into Super Bowl 36, and have witnessed fewer wins by the team they root for over the last five years than any other NFL franchise.
As for Jeff Fisher personally I have to say I don’t feel bad at all. This is the same guy who was literally jumping up and down in glee after Bobby Wade took Rodney Harrison out and ended his year with a cheap shot when his team was out of it, beaten by the Patriots at the end of the 2006 season. Fisher, who was part of the NFL’s competition committee that directed ‘points of emphasis’ that instructed referees to call penalties more strictly on defenses in response to the Pats physical defense several years ago along with Bill Polian and Tony Dungy, has now been outscored 97-7 in his last two meetings with Bill Belichick.
Whether or not the Patriots would be better off with Devin McCourty playing safety rather than cornerback was a pretty big topic of discussion last year, and it has reappeared in 2012. NESN’s Doug Kyed makes a very solid case for moving McCourty below:
If McCourty transitions to safety permanently, which the Boston Globe’s Greg Bedard and Shalize Manza Young reported was the team’s intention prior to the season and before the Patriots saw a lack of depth at cornerback, that would leave Dennard and Arrington the starting cornerbacks with Dowling or Sterling Moore the nickel corner. Wilson would be able to transition back to the dime role he had earlier in the season — playing a hybrid safety/linebacker position — and Gregory would be the odd man out — once healthy.
Gregory has played four games for the Patriots before suffering his hip injury, and only played a full share of snaps in one of those games. Gregory hasn’t been a factor in special teams for New England yet, but he had experience there in San Diego. Gregory could be a jack of all trades for the Patriots, able to fill in at free safety, strong safety, special teams or covering the slot.
While the Patriots didn’t see immediate dividends from the new scheme, as demonstrated by allowing 300-plus yards through the air to the struggling Jets’ offense, this could be a step in the right direction. Two of the biggest problems the Patriots saw were coverage from linebackers — which a more experienced strong safety could improve — and leaving receivers wide open in the intermediate area of the field — which once again, a more experienced strong safety would improve. The rookie safety Wilson played fine on Sunday, but he was responsible for a couple blown coverages. Using man coverage on the outside, and a cover-one with the safeties plays to as many strengths as possible with the personnel that the team has.
It’s a really well written, well thought out article that goes into a great deal of detail – I highly recommend Pats fans take a few minutes to read the article in its entirety. Doug’s done a nice job at NESN.com, coming over from NEPatriotsDraft and filling in the major void created when Jeff Howe moved from NESN over to the Boston Herald. You can follow him on Twitter @DougKyedNESN.
Apologies for a belated entry on what is now considered to be old news. I wanted to wait watching the All-22 Coaches Film before reviewing last Sunday’s game and unfortunately that is not available until Wednesday; combined with some other circumstances I wasn’t able to get this posted until today.
Unless you have shuttered yourself from any form of media that has anything to do with the Patriots this week, you are well aware that there is plenty of hand wringing and finger pointing going on from fans of the Patriots as well as from the media that cover the team. But after watching the game for a third time (no, I’m not a masochist) it really wasn’t as bad as some are making it out to be. The sky is not falling and I don’t see them destined for their first losing season in twelve years; while there are indeed some issues they seem to be very fixable.
Just like against Denver this game came down to a handful of critical plays. The Broncos made fewer of those big plays in Foxboro and lost; they followed that up with making more of those type of plays in their win against San Diego. Similarly the Pats made a few more important plays to beat Denver, but Seattle made a couple more vital plays to win Sunday.
Big Play #1 (Pats) – 5:59 1st Quarter; Seattle 3, Pats 0 NEP ball, 1st & 10 on Seattle 46 Tom Brady 46 yard TD pass to Wes Welker
The importance of this play goes far beyond the seven points. Welker getting behind a defender means that Seattle’s defensive backs cannot simply crowd the middle of the field near the line of scrimmage, and that should aid the running game immensely.
Patriots take a 7-3 lead
Big Play #2 (Seattle) – 4:25 1st Quarter; Pats 7, Seattle 3 SEA ball, 3rd & 9 on their own 16
A fifty yard pass from Russell Wilson to Doug Baldwin gets Seattle out from deep in their own end and into New England territory.
Big Play #3 (Seattle) – 1:59 1st Quarter; Pats 7, Seattle 3 SEA ball, 1st & 15 on Pats 24 yard line Russell Wilson 24-yard TD pass to Doug Baldwin
The Pats have been criticized for having their corners play too far off opposing receivers but on this play they are up close, and Kyle Arrington knocks Baldwin down at the line of scrimmage. However Brandon Spikes missed on a chip on TE Zach Miller, leaving Rob Ninkovich with a nearly impossible task of covering Miller. Patrick Chung sees this and moves up to help out Ninkovich; that in turn means he is not available to give Arrington any of the safety help he expects after Baldwin gets back up and runs his deep route. Even so that shouldn’t have been an issue as the quarterback should not have that much time for a play to develop. However, Trevor Scott moves inside and does not set the edge; this allows Wilson to roll outside the pocket, buy time, and have a better view than the 5’11” QB would normally have if he was forced to remain in the pocket. Fans pin the blame on Arrington, but it was actually more of a perfect storm of breakdowns by Spikes, Scott, and to a lesser extent Chung that led to the TD.
Seahawks take a 10-7 lead
Big Play #4 (Pats) – 14:49 2nd Quarter; Seattle 10, Pats 7 Pats ball, 1st & 10 on Seattle 38
From the no huddle Brandon Bolden runs 13 yards to the 25. I felt this was noteworthy for three reasons: coming into the game there were questions about how effective the no huddle would be in a very loud Century Link Stadium; there were questions about whether or not the Pats could run on the vaunted Seattle run defense; and in the no huddle the Pats this year had almost exclusively used Danny Woodhead. Going forward that means opponents won’t be able to assume that the Pats will not go no huddle when he is in the game.
The Pats went on to score on a 15-play drive that consumed 6:17 to take back the lead.
Big Play #5 (Pats) – 7:04, 2nd Quarter; Pats 14, Seattle 10 SEA ball, 3rd & 10 on Pats 48
Chandler Jones strip sacks Russell Wilson and Rob Ninkovich recovers the fumble.
Considering the 3rd down woes and lack of pressure on opposing quarterbacks that the defense has had the last few years this play is noteworthy. The positive field position led to a field goal and upped the lead to 7. The success of the New England defense is predicated on forcing turnovers, so this is a very good sign for the Pats.
Big Play #6 (Pats) – 0:48, 2nd Quarter; Pats 17, Seattle 10 SEA ball, 4th & 4 on Seattle 38
New England’s special teams unit comes up with their first big play of the year as Trevor Scott and Bobby Carpenter pounce on a fumble by the Seahawks punter. Unfortunately the play went for naught (see below).
Big Play #7 (Seattle) – 0:06, 2nd Quarter; Pats 17, Seattle 10 NEP ball, 3rd & 3 on Seattle 3
With the game seemingly about to slip away heading into halftime the Seattle defense toughens up. After an incomplete pass to Rob Gronkowski the Pats elect to take one more shot at the end zone with six ticks left on the clock. With nobody open Tom Brady throws the ball away but is called for intentional grounding on the play, thus ending the half and costing the Patriots what would turn out to be a very crucial three points.
More concerning was the (lack of) clock management leading up to that final play. Wes Welker had made a catch with 34 seconds remaining just prior to this, but inexplicably wasted 15 seconds before calling a timeout.
Big Play #8 (Pats) – 11:49, 3rd Quarter; Pats 17, Seattle 10 NEP ball, 1st & 10 on Pats own 46
With Nick McDonald and Daniel Fells on the field as eligible receivers it’s surely going to be a run play, right? No, the Pats keep Seattle off balance by doing the opposite as expected and Fells redeems himself from last week’s bad game with a 35 yard pass play to the left, all the way down to the 19-yard line. Unfortunately the Seattle defense stiffens again, but at least the Pats do come away with another field goal to take a 10-point lead.
Big Play #9 (Seattle) – 4:52, 3rd Quarter; Pats 20, Seattle 10 NEP ball, 2nd &5 on Seattle 43
Despite the gaffe at the end of the first half the Pats appear to be on the verge of taking the Seahawks out of this game. Deion Branch runs a route on the right side and is blanketed by Seattle’s Richard Sherman. Rather than look for another receiver, check down to his running back or throw the ball out of bounds, Tom Brady throws it to Branch anyways. If that’s what he is going to do rather than one of those other options then it has got to be to a place where only Branch can catch it or it is incomplete – in this case over Branch’s shoulder near the sideline. Instead the pass is short and just the opposite happens: it goes to a point where Branch cannot possibly get to it and Sherman is the only player who can catch it.
No points for the Pats, which could have made it a 3-score lead; no pinning Seattle deep in their own territory; and no rest for the Pats defense: the drive lasted just six plays, half of which were run from the no huddle. Just when it looked like doubt might creep in on the Seattle sideline, their confidence is given a boost.
Big Play #10 (Seattle) – 0:30, 3rd Quarter; Pats 20, Seattle 10 NEP ball, 3rd & 7 on Seattle 34
Jason Jones is called for unnecessary roughness after clubbing Tom Brady in the head. While the penalty gives the Pats a first down on the Seattle 15-yard line, Brady was very slow to get up. I can’t help but feel that his bell was rung to the point where he wasn’t seeing straight and couldn’t properly focus on the next several plays.
Big Play #11 (Seattle) – 13:43, 4th Quarter; Pats 20, Seattle 10 NEP ball, 3rd & 1 on Seattle 6
The Pats smartly ran two running plays after the big hit on Brady, gaining nine yards. Just one more yard and it’s a fresh set of downs; if not it’s a chip-shot field goal and a 13-point lead. Instead the play call is a pass play on which Brady throws slightly high and behind Wes Welker in traffic in the middle of the congested, shortened field, and sure enough it is intercepted. The missed opportunity for at least three more points proved to be costly and the turnover gave the Seahawks some much needed confidence in themselves and their chances in this game.
Big Play #12 (Seattle) – 13:29, 4th Quarter; Pats 20, Seattle 10 SEA ball, 1st & 10 on their own 20
On the very next play Seattle picks up 40 yards on a pass interference call on Patrick Chung. Now the Seahawks are feeling confident on offense as well as on defense.
Big Play #13 (Pats) – 12:43, 4th Quarter; Pats 20, Seattle 10 SEA ball; 2nd & 7 on Pats 37
With momentum decidedly shifting in Seattle’s favor the Pats defense comes up big as Jerod Mayo forces a fumble and recovers the ball after a pass completion to Zach Miller just two plays after the pass interference call.
Big Play #14 (Seattle) – 10:06, 4th Quarter; Pats 20, Seattle 10 NEP ball; 3rd & 2 on Seattle 17
After the turnover the Patriots drive into Seattle territory, picking up a first down on their 25. On 3rd & 2 they hold their ground, stoning Stevan Ridley for no gain. Limiting the Pats to a field goal here keeps this a two-possession game for the Seahawks and has to be considered a victory for them in this circumstance. Seattle was stacked with nine men at the line, selling out to stop the run. Welker and Branch were on the field as H-backs, but they were overmatched to block in the backfield on that play. In retrospect an audible to a pass play would have been the right way to go based on how Seattle lined up.
Big Play #15 (Seattle) – 9:17, 4th Quarter; Pats 23, Seattle 10 SEA ball, 1st & 10 on their own 17
On the first play from scrimmage following that field goal Seattle reverses field position, going from their own 17 to the Pats 17 on a pass interference call on Devin McCourty plus roughing the passer on Brandon Spikes. The play is a huge confidence booster for a Seattle offense that had been stifled since the first quarter.
Big Play #16 (Seattle) – 7:26, 4th Quarter; Pats 23, Seattle 10 SEA ball, 4th & 3 on the Pats 10
The Pats force a 4th down on the following series when Devin McCourty makes a textbook tackle on Golden Tate on the previous play. With time running down the Seahawks have to go for it and they convert a pass to Braylon Edwards in the end zone despite decent coverage by Alfonzo Dennard. Seattle has the momentum and is within a touchdown at this point.
Big Play #17 (Seattle) – 2:48, 4th Quarter; Pats 23, Seattle 20 NEP ball, 4th & 8 on the Pats 43
After the previous score the Pats gained a couple of first downs before having to punt, and then forced a Seattle punt. On this possession though they went three and out as they predictably ran from a formation with no receivers (Dan Connolly at FB and three tight ends) and chewed up a mere 14 seconds of clock as Seattle used their first two timeouts.
Zoltan Mesko‘s punt (39 yards) was not only short despite not being under duress, more importantly it was not high either. As a result Sterling Moore was the only punt coverage player downfield and the Seattle player was able to block him. Leon Washington, who has long been a very good punt returner, took advantage of the situation and returned the punt 25 yards, putting the Seahawks in excellent field position.
The net result of the previous drive was a gain of only 14 yards in field position while using up only 14 seconds of time off the clock.
Big Play #18 (Seattle) – 1:27, 4th Quarter; Pats 23, Seattle 17 SEA ball, 1st & 10 on the Pats 46 Russell Wilson to Sidney Rice for the game-winning 46 yard TD
This time the corners did not get any jam on either receiver, allowing them to run free on their route. The corner passes Rice off to Tavon Wilson, which I do not understand in this situation. In this down & distance it is imperative that he stays with the WR and not force the safety to cover him alone. I don’t know if that was a mistake by the CB or a bad defensive play call, but that just didn’t look right.
As the deep man Tavon Wilson should be solely concerned with the receiver on his side; Seattle had 8-man protection and only two players running pass routes, one on each side. For whatever reason Tavon Wilson was looking into the backfield as if the play was going to be a run. As the sign inside the locker room at Gillette Stadium says, “Do Your Job”. Let the front seven worry about a run; you need to stick to Rice. That slight moment of hesitation means he has to move over a bit more quickly and he crosses his legs to make up for that step. The moment he does that Rice takes advantage, and makes his move inside on the post pattern. Tavon Wilson is beat, the other safety is too far away to help since he’s covering his half of the field, and the corner is of no help since he’s about twenty yards behind the play.
Fans will point their fingers at Tavon Wilson, and rightfully so due to his technique on the play; I just don’t understand what with the CB who had the initial coverage on Sidney Rice at the line of scrimmage. It was either a blown assignment by the CB, or a bad defensive play call in that circumstance.
Overall count up twelve big plays going Seattle’s way to just six for the Pats, and nine of the last ten of those plays favoring the Seahawks. However when re-watching this game I firmly believe that most of those problems are fixable, and the team is not in as dire straits as some fans (and certain radio talk show hosts) would have you believe. With some minor adjustments these seemingly major problems can and will be fixed, as I am confident we will see this Sunday in Foxboro against the Jets. Offense, defense, special teams and coaching all contributed to the loss – but none of the specific issues cannot be corrected.
October 17 in Patriots History
October 17, 1957: Steve “Mongo” McMichael was born in Houston. The Pats drafted the Texas Longhorn in the third round of the 1980 draft, appearing in six games for the Patriots that year. In one of the worst, if not the worst personnel decisions in the history of the franchise McMichael was released after just one season. The defensive tackle went on to have a stellar career, playing 13 years for the Bears, twice being named a first-team all-pro, and becoming an integral part of Buddy Ryan’s famed 46 defense in Chicago.
October 17, 1965: Ron Burton has a career-long 73-yard touchdown reception in a 13-13 tie against the Chargers at Fenway Park.
October 17, 1999: Ty Law and Andy Katzenmoyer both return interceptions for a touchdown, but the Pats still lose to Miami 31-30. It was the only time in the history of the Patriots that a defensive back and a linebacker both returned interceptions for a touchdown in the same game.