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The Patriots are officially back. Tom Brady is back to making the throws he needs to make. The offense is back to being able to do enough to win games. The defense is back to being that opportune Belichick defense that will let up yards, but will make the stops when they are needed. It’s all back. It might not be quite 2007, but it feels a lot like 2004, and one of those years ended on a good note.
The offense will only get better as Brady finds his rhythm with the new receivers and the return of Wes Welker was just what the doctor ordered. Jerod Mayo will make his return soon, which will only help a defensive unit that has been impressive so far. Sunday was a complete team performance as both the offense and defense did enough to give the team a chance to win the game. I have no doubt in my mind that this team will win the division and will spoil another team’s perfect season next week.
Obviously this was meant as a joke (OK not so obvious to all people), but I think what Rodney Harrison was trying to say was that it is ridiculous how much QBs are protected in this league.
If he wasn’t making that point then I will. The last time I checked, quarterbacks are football players too, so let them play like one. I’m not blaming the referees because they are calling what they see; even if they are doing it very inconsistently. Who we need to blame here is the competition committee and the owners because all they care about is the sport as a product and a business. Who brings in the most money and viewers? All-pro quarterbacks. So what does the league do? Protect them.
Listen, I’m all for protecting helpless players from getting their clocks cleaned, which happens to be quarterbacks more often than not, but it’s not fair that a 340-pound lineman can get pushed, fall into a quarterback’s knees, try to avoid hitting the QB, and then still get flagged for a 15-yard penalty. How do you think wide receivers feel about these calls when their jobs require them to go across the middle and absorb hit after massive hit from linebackers and safeties? Injuries are a part of the game and if the NFL isn’t going to protect all players from receiving season-ending injuries, then quarterbacks shouldn’t be the exception. The league needs to let the players play the game.
Side note: Tony Dungy can shut up about the league being too easy on quarterbacks. If I recall, wasn’t it him and GM Bill Polian who led the charge to enforce the “no contact after five yards” rule for his pass-happy offense? Oh, by the way, that defensive penalty is the most often called defensive penalty and many times it is not deserved. Much like these ridiculous roughing the QB calls, the illegal contact penalty is called with no consistency. So Dungy, do us all a favor and don’t talk about the how easy the quarterbacks have it in the NFL, because it’s all your fault.
You want to talk about situational defense, Butler made the most of his time on the field as he directly stopped two touchdowns and broke up a 3rd and 4 pass to Derrick Mason on the final drive of the game. On the first touchdown, he stopped he made a very athletic play by jumping over the Ravens receiver in the end zone to knock the ball down. The second came on the final drive of the game when Flacco looked for Mark Clayton in the corner of the end zone. Butler played the fade route perfectly and knocked the ball out at the last moment. Two plays later, Butler knocked another ball out of Derrick Mason’s hands on third down and four. With Leigh Bodden, Shawn Springs and Jonathan Wilhite already in the mix, Butler is just another piece of this improved Patriots secondary, and it’s starting to show in the play calling as they are blitzing more, leaving the secondary on its own to cover receivers.
It’s true. If you read my Pats reaction from last week you would know that I already think Bodden is more important to this defense than Jerod Mayo, and after this week my love is only growing stronger. Don’t look at the one tackle because that indicates to me that the ball is not getting thrown in his direction due to great coverage. The play of the first half was when Bodden made that great sideline interception to keep the Ravens off of the scoreboard. The defense has been much better than expected and it starts with the much improved secondary. He is the leader. He is the savior. He is Leigh Bodden!
These four guys accounted for 24 of the Patriots’ 65 tackles on Sunday. Not only that, but Mike Wright and Gary Guyton were in Flacco’s grill all day as both of them recorded three QB hits each with Wright recording two sacks. These guys are really stepping up big with injuries to Mayo and Vince Wilfork, and it really shows how great of a coaching job Bill Belichick is doing to find and develop these cast offs into viable starters for his defense. Of these four leaders on the defense (Guyton, Wright, Brandon McGowan, Brandon Meriweather), only Merriweather was drafted! Can you believe that? Look deeper into the starting lineup and you will see that five players, who are playing significant time on this defense right now, were undrafted. I would like someone to name me another top 10 defense like that.
I love the diversity that this backfield brings to the offense. It is impossible to game plan against them because of the options. This is great for the Patriots offense, but worthless if you own any of them in fantasy football (which you shouldn’t). They have Sammy Morris, Fred Taylor and Laurence Maroney, all who can carry the ball 20 times in a game if needed and can also catch the ball out of the backfield. Then they have Kevin Faulk, who is arguably the best third down converter in all of football. Seriously. They all have different strengths and by looking at Sunday’s box score you can see the Patriots rushed 30 times for 85 yards and two touchdowns. Not great, but the two biggest numbers there are the 30 carries and the two touchdowns. You don’t need to get a lot of yards against that Ravens defense, but the Pats pounded the ball 30 times to wear the Ravens defense down just enough to keep them honest and score 27 points.
Week 4 may have marked the end of Joey Galloway’s career with the New England Patriots. Sunday he was marked as a healthy inactive, which does not sound very promising for his future. Depending on where you look, he is listed from third to fifth on the Patriots’ depth chart, but it is clear that the team is ready to move on with Sam Aiken and Julian Edelman because they are more reliable targets for Tom Brady. Galloway has struggled all year to learn the offense and Brady was clearly frustrated with him at the end of the first half against the Falcons. Something made the Patriots keep the veteran over Greg Lewis, so maybe they are just giving him the week off so he can stay in his room and study, but at 37 years old you would think he knows by now how to adapt and adjust to a new offensive system. Needless to say, I don’t have much hope for a comeback.
Tags: Brandon McGowan, Brandon Merriweather, Darius Butler, Fred Taylor, Gary Guyton, Joey Galloway, Kevin Faulk, Laurence Maroney, Leigh Bodden, Mike Wright, Patriots, Rodney Harrison, Sammy Morris, Tony Dungy