|Notes and Observations Week 15: Patriots Blow Out Dolphins 41-13; Clinch AFC East||Connelly’s Top Ten: Patriots Defense, Special Teams Carry Home Team||Fantasy Football Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em: Week 15||Right Idea? Red Sox Bring in Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Justin Masterson|
Now that’s more like it! The Patriots absolutely destroyed the lifeless Tennessee Titans by the score of 59-0 Sunday afternoon. It was as one-sided a football game can get, but I would take a 59-point blow out over a nail biter any day of the week. There is something about being able to relax and watch your team just dominating every facet of the game from start to finish. Dominating might be an understatement.
As a team, the Titans threw for negative seven yards on 2-for-16 passing and two interceptions. Vince Young and Kerry Collins had a combined QB rating under five. Nate Washington had one reception for negative 22 yards. I missed that play because I was at a wedding on Sunday and had to pull myself away from the bar to do the electric slide and chicken dance (you would understand why if you saw me dance), but I can just imagine what went down on that one reception and it makes me chuckle. Overall, it just proves what I’ve been saying all along that this defense is a lot better than it looks on paper. Really, this team is maybe two plays from being 5-0 and those two plays are on the offensive side of the ball not the defensive side. My five thoughts:
At the beginning of the season everyone would have expected this, but after the Jets’ hot start and the Patriots dropping two of their first five games, it wasn’t believed that we would be atop the division this soon. On Sunday, the Patriots got a huge favor from the Bills as they knocked off the Jets 16-13 in overtime. The Jets really did their best choke job in overtime, Mark Sanchez threw five interceptions, and Kris Jenkins is out for the season with a torn ACL. I can hear the panic in New York now and it’s like music to my ears. Looks like the Patriots’ road to another division title just got a little easier.
Finally! Tom Brady showed us that he still has some 2007 in him. He threw for 380 yards and six touchdowns, while breaking several records along the way. Of course, this performance quiets all the Brady doubters, but should we be totally comfortable going forward? It’s that age-old question: Was he that good, or were the Titans just that bad?
I tend to think it’s a little bit of both. The Titans do not look like a team that has any fight in them this year. They know their season is all but done and if you add awful weather, you can understand why they wouldn’t be motivated to play on Sunday. Sprinkle in two rookies starting at cornerback and you have the recipe for a blowout. Brady threw two completions over 30 yards (not that he needed to), and he made enough great throws into the wind in that second quarter to ease my doubts. I am not going to overreact and say all is well with Brady because of one game against an awful defense, but the next three games (@ TB in London, vs MIA, @ IND) will tell us a lot about whether Brady is completely back or not.
Raise your hand if you are comfortable with Laurence Maroney starting at RB for the rest of the season. No one? Me neither. If Morris’ injury is more serious than we think, then we could be in trouble. Morris lasted just three plays in the blowout thanks to an injury he suffered in the first quarter. Good news is Bill Belichick hinted on Monday that the injury wasn’t too serious and we should see him back sometime in the future, but if we have learned anything from the past it’s that we cannot trust anything Belichick says about injuries. Morris is a special player who can catch the ball out of the backfield, has enough speed to run outside the tackles and has the build to run up the middle and take on tacklers head on. Without him, the Pats will miss the type of versatility he brings to the offense.
As for the Edelman injury, it’s too bad because the seventh round pick was really having himself a nice season. Brandon Tate is finally practicing with the team and should be back soon so look for him to come and fill in the third wide receiver role, which is becoming a very hard role to fill. Another way the Pats could go is by signing Terrence Nunn from the practice squad. Nunn was a pleasant surprise in the preseason, but was eventually beat out by Edelman.
It’s true. The 6’8’’, 315-pound tackle stepped seamlessly into his first starting role of his career. His job? Protect Tom Brady’s blindside, probably the most important job in all of New England right now. Vollmer was matched up against Kyle Vanden Bosch for most of the game and held him to zero sacks and just five tackles. There has been nothing but positive reviews from Vollmer’s teammates about the rookie’s progression this season, which means Matt Light shouldn’t have to rush back.
Much like Joey Galloway’s benching marked the end of his time here in New England, many thought that Thomas’ benching would lead to a trade. Speculation was that the Patriots were going after the Chargers’ Shawne Merriman, but alas, no trade was made at the end of the day. Belichick was quoted as saying this about Thomas’ benching:
“We went with the players we thought would have the bigger role in the game” and “It was one game. We’ll evaluate it this coming week against Tampa like we always do.”
Who could possibly have a bigger role than Thomas on Sunday? Derrick Burgess got the start (don’t get me started on him), but come on! These are not the words you would want to hear about a guy who, in 2007, came to New England with big expectations. So far in his Patriot career, Thomas has 127 tackles, 12.5 sacks and one interception in 30 games. For comparison, in just the 2006 season, Thomas recorded 83 tackles, 11 sacks and one interception in 16 games. I know different stats in different systems, but facts are facts. Thomas has been a disappointment for the Patriots so far and there is no reason to sugarcoat it.
After the game, the Patriots front office had their workout of the week in making several roster moves that stirred several trade rumors. First, the Patriots elected to extend special teamer Sam Aiken’s contract through 2011. Then the Patriots decided to end the Joey Galloway experiment by cutting the veteran loose. It’s like taking a Cinema class, realizing it sucks and then dropping it and taking a “W”, except instead of a letter the Patriots face a salary cap hit. Finally the team unexpectedly cut Tully Banta-Cain only to re-sign him to a longer contract. Now Banta-Cain, who leads the team with three sacks this season, is under contract through 2011.