In my preview I said the Patriots wouldn’t want to get into another shootout. My bad. The time of the Patriots offense underwhelming us may have passed as it seems with every week the passing game takes another step. While the offense seems to be hitting on all cylinders the defense – more specifically the secondary – still needs a lot of improvement before the Patriots can be taken seriously in the AFC playoff picture. Here are the answers to my pregame questions:
- Can the Patriots stop the wildcat? Led by another monster game by Vince Wilfork and solid support for the linebackers the Patriots defense did stop the wildcat quite well. According to Mike Reiss of the Boston Globe, the Dolphins gained just 25 yards on eight attempts with no pass attempts by Ronnie Brown. Keeping that formation at bay was vital, even though the rest of the offensive formations the Dolphins threw at the Pats seemed to work.
Aside from stopping the wildcat the defense was porous in the secondary. Chad Pennington had another strong game and even rushed for a touchdown. Brandon Meriweather did make a nice interception but Ellis Hobbs was beaten like a rug on a few occasions. The bottom line is that it seemed from the start that whoever had the ball last was going to win and that doesn’t bode well for the Patriots defense.
- How will the weather affect the Patriots? In the end, the weather cooperated as the temps stayed in the 70s and cramps didn’t seem to become an issue. With both offenses marching up and down the field the weather must have not be much of a factor.
- Is this a must win game? With the Bills dominating the Chiefs and the Jets’ win over the previously undefeated Titans, the win over the Dolphins is massive. Not only do the Patriots take over sole control of second place in the AFC East and put a foot in the wild card race, but they also avoid losing a tiebreaker to Miami and secure a big division win. The Pats schedule does have some easy games (Seahawks, Raiders) but also some diffcult ones (Steelers, Cardinals), that’s not to mention a potential epic clash in the final week of the season when the Pats travel to Buffalo.
The partnership evolving between Matt Cassel and Randy Moss is beginning to frighten defenses and Cassel overall is the talk of the league. Back to back 400+ yard passing games is nothing to scoff at, and the presence he shows in the pocket is Brady-esque. The running game still needs to pick up the pace and the aforementioned secondary problems will hurt the Pats in the future, but just when you think Bill Belichick has coached his best game he comes out and surprises you. If the Pats go out and beat the Steelers this coming Sunday at Gillette and move to 8-4, the playoffs will start to look a lot more promising.
Btw, anyone else laugh hystercally when Matt Light grabbed Channing Crowder’s dreds when they got in the scuffle? It’s about time someone did it.
Tags: Bill Belichick, Brandon Meriweather, Chad Pennington, Ellis Hobbs, Matt Cassel, Randy Moss, Ronnie Brown, Tom Brady