Could not better illustrate a picture being worth a thousand words. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Is it ever possible for the Patriots to lose a game that doesn’t leave me feeling the need to kick through my TV screen and toss it into oncoming traffic while my body deals with an elevated blood pressure than rivals the Hulk?
Sunday tells me not. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want the Patriots to lose. At all. Ever. But when they do does it always have to be so soul crushing? I realize this was only week two of the regular season but in this game I went from optimism (first few minutes), to concern (second and early third), to begrudging acceptance of a loss (Down 20-9 in fourth quarter), to maybe there’s a chance (Gronk’s TD with a little over two minutes left), to HOLY S*** THEY FUMBLED IT! (pretty self explanatory), to HELL YEAH WOODHEAD, followed quickly by several expletives about replacement officials (When Gronk was called for holding on what would have been the game winning touchdown), to calming down and realizing a field goal wins in (next couple plays) until we finally arrived at soul-crushed when Stephen Gostkowski missed a 42-yarder effectively ending the game.
At the end of it all the Patriots lost their first home opener at Gillette and fell to 1-1.
But that wasn’t the only horrendously terrible thing to happen in the game. Early in the first quarter the second member of the Patriots’ unbelievable tight end tandem, Aaron Hernandez, suffered an ankle injury and was taken out of the game. Now he is going to miss ‘a few weeks’. And there is no way we will know how long that is until he is on the field in whatever week he returns. Seriously, the Patriots should be giving the White House and CIA lessons on how to protect confidential information with how open they are about personnel and injury updates.
So all in all Sunday was a pretty terrible day for Bill Belichick and Company that left Patriots fans with more concerns than the previous week.
It’s not as awesome when wide left happens to your team (patriots.com)
Primary among those is on offense. With the return of Josh McDaniels to offensive coordinator (the same guy that coordinated the record crushing 2007 squad) to an already Heisenberg-blue-crystal level potency and the addition of Brandon Llloyd going into this season it seemed like the Patriots were set to have one of the best passing offenses ever or at least in the NFL this season.
So far the results have been less than spectacular. The Patriots are ranked eighth in the NFL so far this season in passing yards and on Sunday yet again looked out of sync. Tom Brady just doesn’t look as sharp as we’re used to seeing. He’s missing passes he usually hits and although he threw for 316 yards, in the first half he didn’t look like he would get to 200. Brady also seems to be trying too hard to spread the ball around, especially to Llloyd who he consistently threw to even when No. 85 wasn’t exactly open.
Wes Welker finally got into the game after not starting once Hernandez went down which is also a concern. I am not one to believe it has anything to do with his contract situation but is it possible that Wes has lost a step? That the squad liked what they saw from Julian Edelman more in the preseason? I am not sure but I am honestly expecting a 12-catch 140-yard effort from Wes in one of the next few weeks causing us all to do a complete 180. Until that happens though I’d be lying if his lack of playing time wasn’t concerning.
Then there is the Patriots suddenly ardent reliance on the run. The game against Arizona was one of the more conservatively called games by the offense I’ve seen in a long time. Stevan Ridley erupted in week one and suddenly Belichick’s handing him the keys to the offense? Quite often it seemed like the Patriots would get a good drive going and then just stall on third down because they would run a draw out of the shotgun on third and eight. That kind of play calling was a major contributor to why the Patriots lost despite out gaining Arizona (387-245) and picking up more first down (25-16) as the team went just 1-for-3 in the red zone.
I just don’t understand it. As the team’s one touchdown drive showed this team can be positively unstoppable on offense when it wants to be. Even though he hasn’t looked as stellar until proven otherwise Tom Brady is one of, if not the best quarterbacks in the NFL. But the Patriots don’t even have to worry about that because he is unquestionably the best player on the Patriots. Why then is he not allowed to chuck the ball around the field like he did on that last drive while using the run as a compliment? Now some people might be confused because Brady threw the ball 46 times in the game while the Patriots ran it 28 times. However 20 of those pass attempts came in the fourth quarter which just happened to be the only quarter the Patriots offense scored a touchdown.
Chandler Jones is the Truth…wait someone already has that nickname. (patriots.com)
It makes no sense. The 90s Bulls weren’t pounding the ball in the low post to Luc Longley and waiting until the fourth quarter to let MJ start shooting jump shots and dunking on fools. To me a simple way to win is to give the ball to your best player.
The head-scratching offense took away what should have been another week of praising the retooled defense. Hernandez’s injury, Welker’s playing time and Brady’s slow start have all been much more prominent than a Patriots defense that is currently ranked second in the NFL in total defense. Granted the Patriots have played the Titans and Cardinals (who despite being 2-0 I still think aren’t very good) but that is still a marked improvement from last season. Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower have been as good as advertised and Jerod Mayo continues to just pile up tackles while the return of Brandon Spikes has been a welcome sight. The secondary is still a bit suspect but Patrick Chung and surprisingly Tavon Wilson have played well at safety and it needs to be reiterated that the Patriots gave up 20 points to the Cardinals with one touchdown drive coming from two yards out and it still took the Cardinals three plays to get in.
Normally I don’t mention special teams but that was really what lost the game but also what kept the Patriots within striking distance. Gostkowski’s missed field goal hurts but he nailed 4-of-4 before that including a 53-yarder. Should he have been able to knock in that last one? Yes but without him the Patriots aren’t close in that game. The blocked punt though was inexcusable. It led to a the touchdown that was the difference in the game. That blocked punt doesn’t happen and the Patriots win this game, in ugly fashion, but still win it.
So while this loss hurt and certainly didn’t make New England fans feel great some perspective helps. This loss was an ugly one where the Patriots played pretty terribly, at least offensively, and a big part of that might have been the loss of Hernandez messing up the original game plan. Even with all the errors and bad play the Patriots still probably should have won this game. Losing sucks but remember that you lose four times in a season you still end up having a great year. This to me just seems like one of those four.
What’s your level of concern for the Patriots? Let us know on Twitter (@seeuinoctober) or in the comments.