|Undefeated Mirage Gives Way to Reality of Flawed Patriots Team in OT Loss to Broncos||Gronkowski Avoids Major Injury||Connelly’s Top Ten: Harper Drop, Officials Desperate to be Liked, Run Out Clock||There’s Hope for a Hanley Trade|
– I’ve been saying it all season that the problem with the Patriots, contrary to popular belief, is not the defense, but is this supposedly high powered offense. They showed glimpses of brilliance against the Bills, Broncos, and Titans, but to say they are inconsistent is a huge understatement. They lack an identity.
– One week New England is trampling the Denver Broncos with a no-huddle offense that appears impossible to stop, then the next two weeks their play calling looks suspect at best. Against the Seattle Seahawks, they ran the ball only 26 times while passing a staggering 58 times. You don’t win when you pass the ball 58 times; it screams predictable.
– This week was a little more balanced. They ran 33 times while passing 41 times. However, they were just as predictable with the balanced offense. Too many times they broke off a big run on first or second down, only to go right back to the run and got stuffed at or behind the line of scrimmage. For a quarterback who is as good at play action as Tom Brady is, they barely utilized it in a game that could (and should) have been dominated by it.
– Another thing that grinds my gears about the offense is the amount of at or behind the line passes. With all these weapons on offense, you’d think Brady would be salivating at the idea of throwing down the field, but the play calls just don’t seem to be there. Even just short routes down the field will do the trick. It seems as if they are tinkering with a new playbook every week trying to see what will work in the playoffs. A couple more losses, though, and the playoffs won’t seem like a sure thing.
– All you need to know about the offense in this game is that in the first half they had five offensive drives, only one of which resulted in a score. They punted during the other four. With all they firepower and hype involved in this offense, that simply cannot happen. This game could have been 35-7 at the half and nothing that happened in the second half would have mattered. Instead they let a bad team hang around for four quarters and should have lost the game. Not only did they let a bad team hang around, but they let a bad team who made a ton of first half mistakes hang around. The biggest problem with this offense is their inability to capitalize on defensive stops and turnovers. On the safety and the interception they barely made it to midfield before both drives stalled and they punted.
– Those reasons are precisely why the defense will not receive any blame from me. They did their job and they have been doing it all season. All three losses go solely on the offense not being able to close out games when they need to. Sunday was no different. The defense gave the offense more than enough chances to put the game away early, but instead they gave the ball right back to Sanchez and the Jets offense.
– The front seven of this defense is physical and impressive. However my one qualm with them is that, aside from the Cunningham/Ninkovich double team to end the game, they didn’t generate a lot of pressure on Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. He had plenty of time to sit back in the pocket and wait for someone to get open, and he hit them. The secondary definitely needs to step their game up, but the front seven needs to do their job of putting some pressure on the quarterback.
– Brandon Spikes has quickly ascended to the top of most feared linebackers in the NFL. All season he has been dishing out punishment with his play, and yesterday was no different. He leveled Jets running back Shonn Greene with a clean shoulder tackle and it looked as though Greene was out cold before he even hit the ground. He’s a guy who seems to play angry, but as aggressive as he is, he is also an incredibly smart player. He’s been able to read offensive lines well on plays where his number is called to blitz. There have been more than a few instances this season where Spikes is in the backfield untouched right after the ball is snapped.
– Another linebacker who has played well this season is rookie Dont’a Hightower. Coming off a hamstring injury, Hightower didn’t start on Sunday, but when defensive captain Jerod Mayo went down for a few plays with an arm injury, Hightower stepped in and made some good stops. For the limited time he was on the field, he still managed to register seven tackles. This linebacking corps may be the best New England has had since the heyday of Tedy Bruschi.
– Something needs to be done about this secondary. Everyone knows it, but at this point in the season we are stuck with what we have. Things need to improve, and immediately. I will give them some credit as they appeared to be more physical with the wide receivers at the line. That physicality drew some yellow flags; some warranted, others weren’t.
– Far be it for me to complain about the officials *Ahem* but in overtime Aaron Hernandez was blatantly held right in front of the line judge and all he signaled was incomplete. A couple seconds later the ref closer to the end zone and much further from the play threw the flag calling for pass interference on the Jets. I bring this up because the same line judge who apparently has no idea how to call penalties when they happen right in front of his eyes, once again kept the flag in his pocket when Hernandez was molested on a third down pass that stalled the drive and resulted in only a field goal. Refs aren’t perfect and that was apparent yesterday.
– As great as McCourty’s touchdown return was, the fumble was equally as awful. It’s been one of those years so far.
– Stephen Gostkowski stepped up in a major way yesterday and put a lot of bad memories behind him. Sure the kick against Arizona was awful, but I stand by the fact that if the offense played the whole game instead of the last five minutes they could have easily won that game. Yesterday Gostkowski was called upon for some clutch kicks and he nailed them. The win was because of him picking up where the offense failed.
– Lastly a lot of respect goes to Rob Ninkovich and Jermaine Cunningham. Ninkovich has been making plays all season and just represents what it means to be a defensive player. Cunningham has had a great year as well. He is finally healthy and getting significant reps, and he isn’t letting anyone down. It’s a scary thought knowing how good the front seven is and how much depth they apparently have.
– A win is a win.