With a win on Sunday against the Houston Texans, Tom Brady has become the all-time leading winner in postseason history. It came against a Texans team who still looked like they didn’t belong at the big kids’ table, as they were handily defeated by a score of 41-28, but it never really felt that close. Overall, there were way more positives than negatives in this contest, but knowing Bill Belichick, there is always something to improve on, and we chronicle that here. Onto the Positives and Negatives.
- Shane Vereen looks healthy (and out of the doghouse), and he got his shot Sunday to showcase why he was a second round pick (taken over Stevan Ridley). The explosive HB was lined up all over the field, gashing the Texans defense and winning one-on-one battles all day long. He finished the day with 124 total yards (83 rec) and added three scores (two rec), including an excellent over the shoulder grab for a touchdown up the left sideline where he beat Barrett Ruud. With Woodhead going down, he is going to play an important role as the Patriots 3rd down and hurry up offense running back.
- Tom Brady was fierce. He finished the day with 344 yards in the air, three touchdown passes, and was 25/40 on passes. Brady avoided all kinds of commotion in the pocket and escaped more than one sure sack. Although he missed some wide open receivers, he still managed to have a great game. Keeping Brady’s pass attempts below fifty in a game the team puts up 41 points is huge, as that lowers the amount of times he takes shots in the backfield, which brings me to my next point…
- The offensive line played fantastically. Nate Solder, in particular, put forth a great effort, pulling around the right side to free Ridley on his TD run with an excellent block in the gap. For the most part, Brady had plenty of time, and that will need to continue throughout the playoffs.
- Wes Welker: 8 Catches. 131 yards. Huge one handed grab up the left sideline. Brady’s third down safety blanket. If the Patriots win this year, I hope they pay him. 3 years, $30 million, $16-18mm guaranteed. Let him finish as a Patriot.
- Aqib Talib had a great game, containing Andre Johnson and logging 10 tackles (9 solo). Johnson was kept out of the endzone and only had a long of 22 yards. For a Houston team that needs to stretch the field on play action, keeping Johnson from getting down field was a key job for the secondary, who looked up to the task. Talib, McCourty, and Dennard all looked healthy and active.
- Best play on the defensive side of the ball came from Rob Ninkovich. Four total tackles and a key interception. He has been opportunistic all year.
- Zoltan Mesko was excellent, as he boomed punt after punt throughout the game. If he continues to flip the field at that rate throughout the playoffs, the Pats will have a great weapon.
- Injuries piled up on Sunday, as the team lost Chandler Jones (ankle), Rob Gronkowski (forearm), and Danny Woodhead (thumb). Gronkowski will be out for the rest of the playoffs after he re-broke his left forearm trying to catch a ball on the sideline. If that was what caused the injury, he clearly was not ready to play yet. Huge loss for the team. Jones also reinjured his ankle and will be questionable for next weekend. Hopefully he can get healthy and come back strong.
- Watching Welker make the kinds of athletic catches he does every week makes every drop of a ball in his bread-basket even worse. He dropped another ball Sunday, one which would have converted on a key third-down early in the game. Without Gronk now, he is going to be counted on even more to make those catches.
- Has anyone ever seen a worse performance from a kick coverage team in Patriots’ history? Great play by McCourty to stop the touchdown on Manning’s 94 yard return, but he racked up 216 yards on four returns; that is a horrible number and will need to improve dramatically in the next game.
- While the secondary played great, they looked very susceptible to speed receivers, as DeVier Posey got behind the defense and into holes too many times. Torrey Smith is a faster and more polished NFL wide receiver and could cause this secondary problems if they don’t get their assignments straightened out.
Overall, an excellent performance by the New England Patriots. After Baltimore beat Denver the day before, they were playing for another home game, and they delivered. Next up is a 6:30 pm (EST) game start on Sunday for an AFC Championship rematch from a season ago (interesting note: Three of the four teams playing on championship weekend were still in it at the same time last season).
Statistics courtesy of NFL.com
Tags: Aqib Talib, Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans, New England Patriots, Rob Ninkovich, Shane Vereen, Tom Brady