|Connelly’s Top Ten: Patriots Win By Less Than a FOOT||Panic Mode in Full Effect, Minutemen are Struggling||Patriots Survive Gritty Challenge From Jets||Smart Era Gets Off to a Good Start with Win over T’wolves|
New England 31, New York 14. That is what you call a statement game and it’s exactly what the Patriots needed to do after their crushing loss to the Colts just a week before. There was a lot to like in this game whether it be Brady’s fifth 300-yard passing game in as many games, Wes Welker’s career day, or Leigh Bodden’s three “fair catch” interceptions.
In addition to the much needed win, the Patriots also got extremely lucky with the Steelers and Bengals both losing to inferior opponents in the Chiefs and Raiders so now the Patriots find themselves back into the mix for the No. 2 seed (and second playoff bye) and have a tough challenge ahead of them as they travel to New Orleans to face the undefeated Saints on Monday night. My five thoughts:
In Week 2, the Patriots dropped a game to the Jets because of their inefficiency to put the ball in the end zone. I have talked about how much of a difference Welker makes in the red zone and it is obvious that his presence on the field makes Brady more comfortable in the pocket. Welker finished Sunday’s game with career highs in receptions (15) and yards (192) and while he didn’t find the end zone, it was clear that Brady was focused on him the entire game while Randy Moss and Darrelle Revis were battling on their own island.
Welker is a nightmare to cover because he can line up anywhere on the line of scrimmage and has some of the surest hands in the NFL. The Patriots really missed him in their first matchup with the Jets and now I will raise the question: Is Wes Welker a top five wide receiver in the NFL? In fantasy sports you look solely at the numbers to determine value. Well, Welker doesn’t disappoint in that area as he ranks first in the NFL in receptions (79), fifth in yards (854), tied for 18th in touchdowns (4) and leads all wide receivers in yards after the catch (366) despite missing two weeks.
However, I believe the real value with Welker is his versatility, which is something you can’t see in the numbers. He is a very smart player who rarely makes a mistake on the field. He is a great leader and his versatility is unmatched by anyone on the team other than Kevin Faulk. I would say Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Randy Moss and Reggie Wayne are more talented than Wes Welker, but after that it is a pretty close race for number five.
Revis has really shown his value as he has basically shut down Randy Moss in their two meetings this season. You have to give credit where it’s due and with a combined nine catches for 58 yards and a touchdown, I would have to say Moss has been held in check. It’s fair to note that the most important area where Revis has dominated is on long throws because that is how Moss beats you, and in his two games against the Jets, his longest catch was for 13 yards.
Last week, I wrote about how the Patriots cannot seem to close games out on the road. Well, Sunday’s game also showed another trend that is happening on both the road and at home. The Patriots have struggled to put games away in the second half – both away and at home. On Sunday, the Patriots went into halftime up 24-7 and the game pretty much in control. The Jets took their first drive in for a touchdown to cut the lead to just 10 points, and the Patriots did not score again until there were five minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Obviously the defense played well in the second half, but they also received to gift interceptions from rookie QB Mark Sanchez.
At first it was funny that grown men who play in the NFL would get so easily offended after a loss to the Patriots, but now it’s starting to get annoying. In 2007, we had the whiners that claimed the Patriots were running up the score and that they were offended and disrespected. Now in 2009, we have Joey Porter whining about the Patriots mocking his ineffectiveness on the field, Rex Ryan taking a late deep pass to Moss personally, and Donald Strickland calling a massive block by Mark LeVoir dirty.
I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems to me that it’s becoming a trend for losing teams to call the Patriots cheaters or dirty or disrespectful. And sometimes teams don’t even have to lose to the Patriots to mouth off against them. After the Patriots blew the game against the Colts, there were players from the Colts’ locker room calling Bill Belichick’s decision on fourth down disrespectful to the defense. Shocking.
There is a lot of buzz around college football this week about what’s going to happen to Charlie Weis after Saturday’s game with Stanford. While I think he should get at least one more season (Notre Dame is 21 points from being undefeated), if he gets canned would you be surprised to see him calling plays for Bill Belichick next year? The two are still friends and it’s unlikely that Weis will get a premier head coaching job somewhere else and he won’t need the money because Notre Dame will owe him $15 million for the rest of his contract. This is pure speculation, but I think it would be a great fit for both Weis and the Patriots to reunite and return to the glory days of 2003-04.