Tag Archives: Vince Wilfork

Tale of Two Halves

Nothing like a 52-point beatdown to get those spirits up. (patriots.com)

It was the worst of times and then it was the best of times.

For the first half and beginning of the third quarter in Sunday’s game against Buffalo the Patriots looked as if the wheels were seriously falling off and that despite all the talent on the roster, a 1-3 start was in the future. Then someone flipped on a switch and suddenly that same Patriots team that could only manage seven points in the first half erupted and laughed it’s way to a 45-point half.

All in all the game ended with the Patriots getting back to .500 with a 52-28 thumping of the Bills that included a 31-point outburst in the fourth quarter.

The usual suspects were involved in the offensive onslaught. Tom Brady looked like the Tom Brady completing 22-of-36 passes for 340 yards and three scores. He made throws all over the field. The short dumps to Woodhead and Welker. The deep throws to the outside to Brandon Llloyd and the deep seams to Gronk. He even dazzled us with his glorious mobility and speed with a whopping FOUR yard rushing touchdown in the third quarter.

Speaking of Welker, I guess all that hoopla about him being phased out was just that. In his last three games he has 22 receptions for

Only three catches, for 50 yards and a touchdown for B-Llloyd. But that was really all that was needed. (patriots.com)

366 yards including the nine-catch, 129 effort he had against the Bills. Some people will mention that his production has only gone up with Aaron Hernandez and Julian Edelman out but  it’s looney tunes to think that Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels decided to put more trust in a guy who was getting arrested for groping chicks last season than Wee Wes, the man for whom a 100-reception season is just another Thursday.

Production wise Gronk looked like his old self again as well. In fact we even got a GRONK SPIKE in this one. He caught a 28-yard pass early in the fourth for the score and with all his momentum carrying him into the end zone he just did one of the sprinting spikes. That is my second favorite type of spike he has done with the top one being when he shakes the ball a little, does some sort of stanky leg impression and then hurls it at the turf like the Hulk taking care of Loki at the end of The Avengers. In the first half though Gronk looked a little lost. He dropped a few passes including a sure touchdown (albeit he was hit during it) and fumbled. He also caught five of 11 total targets. Still it was nice to see him be a tight end and not just a very expensive decoy.

But where the offense continues to be surprising is in the running game. Really this game was won with a balanced offensive attack. GASP. Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden seemingly ran wherever and whenever theywanted all day on that expensive Bills defense. What’s that Mario Williams? Oh this undrafted free agent from Ole Miss is just going to light it up for 137 yards and a touchdown with a stunning 8.7 yards-per-carry average.  Meanwhile Ridley will punch it in twice and pick up 106 yards himself.  The production of these two has me forgetting all about the LawFirm (who by the way is averaging 3.5 yards per carry in Cincy).

Defensively fans need to get used to this team giving up too many yards and third down conversions. It just seems like the way Belichick has this team playing, where it doesn’t allow anything deep and then tightens up in the red zone is how its going to be. Getting lit up for 438 total yards (350 passing) against Ryan Fitzpatrick who couldn’t throw a 20-yard out pattern if he was playing Madden, is concerning but it seems to be more scheme than ineffectiveness.

Where the team has excelled is against the run where the Patriots currently rank eighth in the NFL. Against Buffalo the team allowed the Buffalo backs to pick up only 3.6 yards per carry while giving up only three runs of 10 or more yards and four first downs on the ground. Also a major strength has been the defense’s ability to wait for a team to make a mistake and pounce. Like when Vince Wilfork got a rare clear shot at a ball carrier when the Bills ran a screen pass. Usually Big Vince his still scrapping with an offensive linemen with his right arms while dragging a running back or whoever has the ball down with the left. On that play though he had a wide open shot and absolutely blew Donald Jones Up. Brandon Spikes also needs to get alot of credit in this game as he forced two fumbles while Devin McCourty had a 2010-type game with a pair of interceptions.

Here comes the BOOM! (patriots.com)

In rookie watch, Chandler Jones continues to be a beast. The rook had five tackles including two for a loss and a sack. Dont’a Hightower had a less impactful game (two tackles) than were used to seeing but with how well Spikes played it wasn’t as big a deal.

So the Patriots are now 2-2 and tied for the top spot in the East (with the circus that is the New York Jets and the same Bills team they just ripped to shreds). Hopefully this begins a period of best of times that lasts until early February. The next step for that involves some guy named Peyton and the Denver Broncos.

-Phil

Relieved to see the Patriots look so dominant, even it was for just one half? Let us know on Twitter (@seeuinoctober) or in the comments.

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What Has To Be Done

This game means more than that trophy. (Photo credit: patriots.com)

Our loyal readers may have noticed that all this week this blog has been dedicated to why the Giants are going to win the Super Bowl this Sunday and to slamming the Patriots left and right with exclusively anti-New England trash talk. These readers may have been thinking; Where is that guy that writes about the Patriots? Why is he taking this lying down? Has this just become a blog about New York sports?

There is a perfectly good explanation for why the Patriots boasting and trash talking has been mute from this site. As much as it pains me to say the New England Patriots do not have anything to stand when it comes to verbal volleys with the Giants and their fans. In the last two games these teams have met the Giants have won including the excruciating loss in Super Bowl 42. It doesn’t matter if the Patriots won three rings earlier in the decade or that they have the better record this season. The Giants have the wins and the Patriots don’t. If the Patriots were playing the  49ers or the Packers or any other team I’d have no problem spouting out profanity laced insults against the the other team and claiming the game for New England. But not in this one. It sucks but that’s how it is. No matter how many jabs any New England fan takes at Eli, Coughlin or any other member of Big Blue it doesn’t mean anything unless the Patriots win on Sunday.

Make no mistake this could quite possibly be the biggest sporting even in Boston sports since the Red Sox took the World Series in 2004. (Okay not exactly the longest stretch ever but you get my point). There is so much hanging in the balance in this game. Eradicating the ghosts of the 18-1 debacle is the first part. (Granted this game will not make up for that Super Bowl loss but it will certainly make it less painful to remember). Then there is the legacy of Tom Brady. Brady is a lock for Canton and will go down as one of the top five QBs of all time regardless of the outcome. However Brady has not played well in the playoffs (except for the evisceration

It's all on Brady in this one. (Photo Credit: patriots.com)

against that JV squad from Denver) since that Super Bowl I’m tired of mentioning. A loss here won’t destroy his reputation by any means but it won’t help it either. On the other side if Brady wins he becomes only the third quarterback in NFL history to win four Super Bowls and essentially takes the mantle as best quarterback in the last decade, if not all-time.  Then there is the legacy for coach Bill Belichick, who is already hands down the best coach of the last decade. However a win here brings the Hooded One into the discussion of the all-time great coaches, not just in football but in American sports history. Auerbach, Wooden, Jackson, Lombardi, Connie Mack, Casey Stengel, La Russa you know those kind of names.

With all that said it has been a week of hell for me. I have tried as best I could to avoid all coverage of this game because ever ytime I think about it I get that heart in my throat feeling that should be reserved for a game ending drive or the bottom of the ninth in Game 7 of the World Series. I didn’t want to hear about predictions or stats that favor one team or another or what matchups are most important. I just wanted to ignore the game until 6:29 p.m. Sunday.

A major reason for this is, as much as it shames me to say this, I don’t have any confidence entering this game. I said similar things against Denver but I hand more of an inkling of dread in that one that went away in the first quarter. Not in this one. The Patriots are 13-3 this season but didn’t beat any team over .500 until scraping by the Ravens in the AFC Championship game in which Brady played horrendously. The defense has looked better but is still allowing too many yards and that was against Tim Tebow and Joe Flacco not Eli and the three headed receiving monster in New York. On top of that the Patriots already lost to the Giants this season, at home, when New York was not riding the momentum of three straight playoff wins.  Now they’ll be playing the G-Men in a stadium that according to most reports will be filled with Giants fans and venomous Colts fans who hate New England.  That doesn’t exactly spell favorable circumstances. So its not a matter of why the Patriots will win its what do they need to do to win.

Protect Brady

This is paramount. Jason Pierre-Paul called out Brady this week for being affected by pressure that wasn’t there in the regular season matchup this season. The Patriots have a stellar offensive line and its needs to keep the suddenly hot Giants pass rush at bay because, and correct me if I’m wrong, the last time these teams met in the Super Bowl the defensive line ran wild and kept the then perfect Patriots offense to just 14 points.

Gronkowski has to be healthy

A few Gronk spikes this weekend would be nice. (Photo credit: patriots.com)

I realize this isn’t something that can be controlled but Gronk has got to play, or at least be on the field.  The Patriots offense is significantly worse if Gronk doesn’t play. He is so vital in the passing game and the running game. He is dangerous in the red zone and with the Giants not exactly stacked at linebackers will be able to get open to help ease the pressure on Brady. Yo Soy Fiesta? Si but yo quiero healthy ankle. (My spanish is a little rusty).

The defense has to force some turnovers

The Patriots defense has been better recently and that’s encouraging but it is still built on a bend don’t break philosophy and without creating some mishaps by the Giants there may be a lot more break than bend. Whether it’s a fumble or an interception at some point the Patriots will need to force the Giants to make a mistake.

Wilfork must continue to plug up the middle and the D-line has to get pressure

This includes wrapping up players at the line of scrimmage and giving no extra yards. The Patriots really need to make the Giants one dimensional by taking away the already weak running game, and then must hobble that one dimension by getting after Eli. With the receivers the Giants have and the porous secondary of the Patriots if he has time they will get open.

The Patriots can’t settle for field goals

I’m not saying if its fourth and seven on the 28 that New England should be going for it but New England can’t win this game unless the offense is clicking and lighting up the scoreboard. The Patriots defense isn’t strong enough (or at least it hasn’t been yet) to hold three  point leads.

All these things pale in comparison to the No. 1 one thing the Patriots need in this game.

Tom Brady has to kick the awfulness of the game against Baltimore. He has to come out and stand up in the pocket and make every throw. He has to hit every open receiver and make the definitive statement that Brees might have gotten the record, and Rodgers might be the MVP but I am the best quarterback in football.  He must be the Tom Brady that throws five touchdown passes in a half and looks as if he is toying with the defense. Not whatever version we saw against Baltimore and last time against the Giants.

So now to the picks. I say picks because I am making two.

The impartial pick- Giants 28 Patriots 20.

The-I-Can’t-Pick-Against-My-Team-In-The-Super-Bowl-Because-I-Still-Somehow-Believe-Pick- Patriots 23 Giants 20.

May the Hooded One strike me down for my lack of faith but that is how I’m feeling.

By the way I’m watching this game in New Jersey with a room full of Giants, and Eagles fans still sore about the 2004 Super Bowl. Win or lose I may not be alive on Sunday.

-Phil

Who’s winning the Super Bowl? Is my lack of faith disturbing? Let us know on Twitter (@seeuinoctober) or in the comments.

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The Pro Bowl Roster

This year two of the four SeeYouInOctober teams are in the Super Bowl. We couldn’t have asked for a better match up than a Super Bowl 42 rematch. There have been some tremendous individual performances from players on all four teams and many have been rewarded with selections to this year’s Pro Bowl. Let’s take a look at who will dance the hula in Honolulu.

New England Patriots

With a 13-3 record this season it is no surprise that eight players were selected for this year’s Pro Bowl. Anyone who has paid attention for the NFL for even a second this season could name at least three without even having to think about it: Tom Brady, Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski. These guys proved lethal in New England’s high octane passing offense with Welker finishing second in the league behind Calvin Johnson for most receiving yards and Gronkowski setting a record for touchdowns by a tight end in a single season. For Mr. Brady it was just another stellar season in his hall of fame career. He was second in yards (Drew Brees was first), third in quarterback rating and fourth in touchdowns. Of course for skill position players to have such success it starts with a solid line. Guards Logan Mankins and Brian Waters were each honored for their play this season.

However none of this really matters. The best offensive players in the NFL will all be watching this game as the continue to prepare for the Super Bowl next

Gronk has been a smash hit for the Pats.

Sunday and with Belichick you know there will be a ton of prep. Brady was replaced by the AFC’s rookie phenom the Red Rifle aka Andy Dalton, while his tight end Jermaine Gresham will replace Gronk. The receiver slot vacated by Wee Wes Welker will be taken by the Chargers’ Vincent Jackson and the two guard spots went to Ben Grubbs of Baltimore and Brandon Moore of the Jets, whom we will talk about a little later.

Despite the massive amount of yards given up by this defense, the Patriots were in the middle of the pack in terms of scoring defense. Their “bend but don’t break” style of play has rewarded them as they only play better in the playoffs and down the stretch in the regular season. Would you believe that with as many injuries and yards as they suffered the Pats have two guys named to the pro bowl on the defensive side of the ball? One is fairly obvious: Vince Wilfork. The big man was nominated for a Like a Boss award last week for his stellar performance against Ray Rice (Pro Bowler) and the Baltimore Ravens. This season the nose tackle was a beast up the middle getting pressure on quarterbacks and stuffing the run at the line. He even had two interceptions and treated fans to his running skills on a 28 yard run back. Defensive end Andre Carter also got the nod for the Pats. He collected 10 sacks this year, including a four-sack-feast of the Jets Mark Sanchez. It’s Indy for these two so Paul Soliai of the Dolphins will fill in for Wilfork and the Texans’ Antonio Smith will cover for Carter.

New York Jets

The Jets were a disappointment this season. A disappointment to Rex Ryan, everyone who picked them to the Super Bowl and all their fans. The only people who weren’t even a little disappointed were Patriots fans. Maybe Santonio Holmes, who didn’t seem like he cared much about anything at all. Despite their lack of success, four Jets will suit up this weekend for one last game. None of their skill position players made the cut with an extremely poor offensive output this year and it is surprising any players were named from the offensive side of the ball. Three of the Jets’ linemen were named with D’Brickishaw Ferguson,

Really? Three of these guys are Pro Bowlers? Why not just put them all in?

Nick Mangold and Brandon Moore making the cut. It is difficult to judge how well offensive lineman really play, especially for the fans. Experts have time to pour over hours of footage and watch specific match ups to see who is the best, but it would seem to me that Mangold and Ferguson made the roster based on reputation. You always make the pro bowl one year too late (Victor Cruz) and one year longer than you should, I heard an analyst say on ESPN. With an offense that struggled to run the ball and gave up the fifth most sacks in the league, it is difficult to imagine there were three Pro Bowlers on that line. Unless you put it all on Sanchez and the play calling, which many people do.

For the Gang Green defense Darrelle Revis will be the lone representative. Even though Revis Island was a little more luxurious this season, he still had a very good year. Out of the 21 passes he defended, Revis came away with four picks and only gave up one touchdown.

New York Giants

The Giants have had an extremely inconsistent season placing themselves squarely behind the eight ball with an upcoming contest against the Cowboys for an NFC East division title. The entire team has caught the injury bug and suffered through the season with a patchwork offensive line, a revolving door secondary and rookie receivers making a big splash. All of these factors in addition to the fourth quarter comebacks gave quarterback Eli Manning the edge over Tony Romo, Cam Newton and Mathew Stafford for the third spot on the roster. There is no argument about the two guys ahead of Manning as both Brees and Rodgers are equally deserving of the MVP this season, but the snubs can be argued. Manning has thrown for more yards than both Stafford and Romo, but lacks in almost every other statistical category. However, without a running game or a pro bowl pass catcher, Manning has shown he is a leader and made more with less talent. The third roster spot previously occupied by Manning went to rookie phenom Cam Newton. So Stafford got double snubbed? Not any of our concern really.

Many have argued that Manning does have a pro bowler to throw to in rookie Victor Cruz. Number 80 out of UMass has been singled out as one of the biggest

SNUB!

snubs on the NFC side of things as he has had an amazing first year. Cruz is currently third in the league in yards with 1358 behind only Wes Welker and Megatron (both pro bowlers) and ahead of Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Smith (also pro bowlers). His eight touchdown receptions place him in the top 10 in the league for touchdown receptions among wide receivers as well. The problem for Cruz is that he doesn’t have the pedigree and while he may have out performed the guys chosen ahead of him, on some level it is a popularity contest. Maybe next season Cruz will do the hula instead of the salsa and then everybody will know he deserves the selection.

Defensively Big Blue will send one player to Hawaii and it is no surprise and nobody will argue with the selection. Jason Pierre Paul has been a monster for the Giants pass rush and he was rewarded for his outstanding season. JPP has a signature moment to go along with his 15.5 sacks when he blocked the potential game tying field goal in Dallas. He has become a household name this season and gotten a lot of talk on Sports Center. It’s tough to ignore the speed, strength and long arms that make quarterbacks scared to take the field on Sunday. The Giants have produced yet another pro bowl defensive end as JPP has had to pick up the slack with Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyora both MIA due to injuries or poor play. Similar to Manning he has carried his squad and helped bring the Giants to the Super Bowl and unlike Cruz, in his second year people were keeping an eye on JPP. Too bad offensive lineman still can’t stop him. Julius Peppers will be playing in JPP’s stead (If you can’t get JPP might as well go for JP).

I’m sure Victor Cruz is feeling a lot better about the snub since he won’t be able to play in the game anyway with the impending Super Bowl. None of the G-Men will suit up this Sunday and that is just fine. Who would have guessed when the roster was announced that out of Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Eli Manning it would be Manning who would have to miss the game because his team was going to the Super Bowl? Not many. While Big Blue only had two Pro-Bowlers this season, they are tied with the Patriots for most Super Bowlers and that is something nobody would trade.

Buffalo Bills

Not surprisingly the Bills, who are out of playoff contention, failed to have a player make the pro bowl roster. If their were a first half pro bowl Buffalo would have had a quarterback and running back on the starting squad. As it is the AFC looks particularly weak at signal caller with Philip Rivers taking the third spot

Injury cut short a Pro Bowl year for Fred Jackson

behind Tom Brady and Ben Rothlisberger. Ryan Fitzpatrick is 10th in the league with 22 touchdown passes, one better than Big Ben. The biggest difficulty Fitzmagic has had is differentiating between his receivers and opposing defenses. Fitzy is atop this category with 19 picks on the year tied with Rivers among others. If the Bills hadn’t taken such a nose dive in the second half of the season it would have been a close competition between Rivers and Fitzpatrick for the third spot.

If is the key word for the Bills this season. If Fred Jackson hadn’t gotten injured, he would have been the starting running back for the AFC. Before breaking his leg Fred-Ex delivered yards both on the ground and through the air and was atop the league in combined yards. He was having a great season and could have been considered a contender for the illustrious conversation of non-quarterback MVP candidates. He carried the Bills to their hot start then when teams  started taking him out of the game, the entire team struggled. With Fred-Ex sidelined CJ Spiller has a chance to step up as the feature back. Perhaps next year Spiller will be the pro bowl candidate.

Does anybody even watch the Pro Bowl? We won’t be watching this year with the Pats and G-Men headed to Indy! Let us know if you’ll be watching via our twitter (@seeuinoctober) or leave us a comment.

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Like a Boss Championship Edition

Both the Patriots and Giants took care of business and now are preparing for a Super Bowl rematch. Neither team dominated in the Championship game, but both ground out victories over two of the NFL’s top defenses. The games were hard fought with exhilarating finishes. The teams had to will their way to a win through grit and determination, so when it came to crunch time who led their team just like a boss?

Vince Wilfork- That’s right a defensive player earning a Like a Boss nomination. The question all season has been if Tom Brady has an off day can the rest of the team win a game for them? The answer is: Where there’s a Wilfork, there’s a way. NFL.com lists the nose tackle at 6′-2″ and a whopping 325 lbs. That seems a little light. Against a good rushing team Wilfork clogged up the middle keeping Ray Rice in check and giving Joe Flacco a serious case of Cacomorphobia. Vince was busy on Sunday making six tackles including three for a loss and one sack. When Wilfork walks on the field it’s hard not to notice him and when he speaks, I’m sure his teammates listen.

Eli Manning– The quarterback for the New York Football Giants has answered his critics time and time again this season and yesterday could be his signature performance. Manning took abuse from media and fans for most of his career and yesterday he showed that not only do sticks and stones not hurt him, but neither do Pro Bowl linemen. The running game was non-existent and the offensive line looked like they were out to lunch for half the game, but Manning stood strong in the pocket. He took some shots, threw some questionable passes and in the end led his team to victory. He may not look the part he may not sound the part, but he has this young receiving core reaching their maximum potential and his team in their second Super Bowl.

And the award goes to…

Eli Manning!!! I believe in Eli and so do the Giants players and coaches. He has elevated his game in the playoffs and has absolutely been the MVP of the team. Fans have long hated his “Aw shucks” look after a mistake and questioned his passion. With his performance yesterday Eli showed he can battle the elements and the rest of the team in the most difficult of games. He is the field general. When his receivers run the wrong routes he corrects them just Like a Boss.

-Erik

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Some Way, Shape or Form. Still Super.

Vince Wilfork was big in this one. Well I guess he's always big but you know what I mean.

I feel bad for the people that live in my apartment complex. If they were hoping for a leisurely and quiet Sunday afternoon, that didn’t happen especially between 3 and 6:30 p.m. EST. I went back and forth between thinking the Patriots were definitely going to win to thinking that I wasn’t going to be able to watch ESPN for a  month to avoid glimpsing a highlight from a Ravens win at least 5603195 times or thereabouts.

The worst of it came in the second half. When the Ravens went up 20-16 by scoring 10 unanswered I was sure it was all over. Then Tom Brady looked like he punched it into the end zone and I got that hope back. But that touchdown got reversed so I panicked. A play later on fourth down Brady hopped into the end zone and I unleashed fist pump that was powerful enough to knock out the Hulk. When Brandon Spikes intercepted a pass on the Ravens next drive I started to breathe again, something I don’t think I had done for two hours. However on the next play the Ravens got a ridiculous interception and my breath stopped again. Lee Evans looked like he caught a touchdown pass; heart stops. Sterling Moore knocks it out; still can’t breathe. Cundiff goes up for the game-tying field goal and I begin rationalizing that “We still have overtime.”

Then the kick went wide left.

This was my reaction word for word; “YEEEEEEEEEEEEEES! YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES! HE MISSED IT! HE F**KING MISSED IT! GO THE F**K BACK TO BALTIMORE! YEEEEEEEES!” Words can’t do justice to how loud and long I yelled. I was hoarse for the rest of the day.

I’m still not sure how they pulled it off but I’ll give it a shot.

Next stop: Indianapolis.

First off the Patriots overcame one of the worst performances I’ve seen Tom Brady put together. After putting up a historical performance the week before Brady just looked off. He floated a number of throws including a miss to a wide open Rob Gronkowski that would have been a touchdown in the first quarter. Brady also threw two picks and although one took an incredible play by Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith, neither were great plays. The pick by Smith was particularly bad as the Patriots could have put the game away on that drive.  In other offensive news the entire Patriots offensive attack was almost irrevocably altered when the formerly indestructible Gronkowski went down with a twisted ankle at the hands of none other than Bernard Pollard but Gronk came back and although he’s in a boot should be fine. (At least that’s what I’ll keep telling myself).

The defense was another story. Was it a shutdown defense that didn’t allow an inch? No but for the second straight week it go pressure on the quarterback, limited the Ravens to field goals and even with a four string wide receiver covering Anquan Boldin kept the Patriots in the game when the offense couldn’t. Vince Wilfork played one of the best games of the season and possibly his career. He didn’t let Ray Rice run it in the middle and he kept the middle of the pocket treacherous ground for Joe Flacco. Then there was Sterling Moore who made the two plays on defense that won the game. First he knocked what looked like was a sure touchdown out of Lee Evans hands. Then on the next play knocked the ball away from Dennis Pitta.

Now it might seem like the Patriots didn’t win this game outright with Cundiff missing a give-me field goal but the truth was that the Patriots and Ravens played a tight game that could have gone either way. It happened to go New England’s way and now somehow, some way the Patriots are headed to the Super Bowl. I guess I can wait until the middle of February to start breathing again. Hopefully my neighbors can survive, heck, hopefully I do.

-Phil

Stayed tuned over the next two weeks as we get ready for an all SeeYouInOctober Super Bowl. Follow us on Twitter (@seeuinoctober), on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/SeeYouInOctober) and Tumbler (http://seeyouinoctober.tumblr.com/) for all the insights and trash talk.

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Good News and Bad News

What to say about the Patriots win over the Redskins yesterday? The offense looked phenomenal again putting up 34 points and leading the team to it’s fifth straight win or a game where the offense had to bail out the atrocious secondary that allowed the Redskins to stay in the game far beyond when they should against a team that is a supposed Super Bowl contender? A team that is winning or a team that is frustrated?

Well it’s a mix of both really. The PAtriots yet again won a game against an inferior opponent but with a defense that according to Keyshawn Johnson couldn’t “stop a bloody nose” giving up 27 points to a 4-9 team it is not exactly how you would want to win the game.

The Patriots have a giant flaw. Their secondary has taken more hits this season than seems reasonable and has therefore has looked as if random fans pulled from the crowd could put up 350 yards passing against it. This has made the defense look as if the other team scoring isn’t a matter of execution on the opposing side but a matter of time. However, even with these faults this team is 10-3. The two best quarterbacks they have played this season (Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning) managed to exploit this but no other team has figured out how to pull a victory out of the Patriots. (And it wasn’t as if the Steelers and Giants eviscerated New England. Wins by 8 points aren’t something to be ashamed of, especially against playoff teams). The secondary looked as bad as ever yesterday allowing Rex Grossman to throw for 252 yards but the rush defense was equally poor allowing 170 yards on the ground. So the defense wasn’t pushing the Skins back.

Remember though, this was a game on the road and although the Skins aren’t a perennial Super Bowl contender winning on the road is still tough plus Mike Shanahan can make any running back look good. So was yesterday’s game distressing in terms of defense? Yes, but this team knows it’s limitations and although yesterday they were just eight yards from going into overtime they still won the game. However, come playoff time defensive efforts like this won’t be bailed out as easily.

The Patriots giant flaw is also balanced by their ungodly strength. The offense. Very few teams have been able to figure out how to slow down Tom Brady and the Patriots offense. Yesterday was no different. Although they have started slow in a number of games you can pretty much count on 30 plus points from this crew. Brady played well except for his last throw which was picked off in the end zone, an uncharacteristic play from Brady that led to the blow up with offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien.

Gronk catches touchdowns and Vince Wilfork creates turnovers.

My take on the scuffle is this. Brady did throw behind his receiver and knowing how competitive Brady is he was obviously upset. That touchdown would have put the game away and he knew that. So he came off the field fuming and knowing that the defense isn’t something he can rely on probably took it even harder. He then began to rip into the young receiver he was throwing to, Taquan Underwood (who has a grand total of two catches for 17 yards in his career) which may have been more aggressive than he needed to be. O’Brien came over, presumably to defend Underwood and to calm things down, but obviously that didn’t happen. To me it really just seemed like two guys that were frustrated with what just happened getting upset with each other. They both know with how poor the defense is the pressure of the whole game rests in the offense. On top of that it’s good to see that no matter who you are on the Patriots you are not bigger than the team, and I think Brady knows that, or at least got a reminder yesterday. Although we’ll never know exactly how either of them feels Brady defused the situation after the game and I think it really will be a non-issue.

Other than that blow up the offense looked fine. Wes Welker continued his phenomenal season catching seven balls for 86 yards and one touchdown. Those numbers gave him 100 receptions on the season and pushed him over 1300 yards receiving. That’s a Pro-Bowl caliber season through sixteen and Wes still has three to go. Then there was of course the record shattering Rob Gronkowski who had another ho hum day by his standards racking up 160 yards and two touchdowns. Can we finally put who the best tight end in football is debate to rest? Jimmy Graham is great but I can’t recall all the records he’s breaking or consistent dominating performances he’s having.

The Patriots are now at 10-3, and just a win away from an AFC East title and still very much in the hunt for the No. 1 seed in the AFC. But it still doesn’t feel like that. The defense is alarming and it makes one wonder if they can really hack it come playoff time. It is not reassuring to just squeak by a 4-9 team when you are supposed to be a powerhouse. When the Patriots face a defense that might be able to slow the offense (because no one is going to outright stop it) is this defense going to be able to keep them in the game? From what it looks like that answer is no. For now Patriots fans have to just keep repeating this to themselves “In Belichick and Brady We Trust”, because you certainly can’t trust the defense.

-Phil

Do you think the Patriots defense is too awful for the team to overcome? Let us know on Twitter (@seeuinoctober) or sound off in the comments.

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Taking Off the Fourth Quarter

All I do is score points- Gronkowski family proverb

If you just looked at the final score of the Patriots win over the Colts on Sunday yopu might be fooled into thinking the Patriots just escaped with a  victory. That the Colts kept the game close and the Patriots might not have deserved the 20 point spread they were favored by. You would be wrong.

The Patriots dominated the Colts for three quarters, jumping out to a 31-3 lead, and then took the rest of Sunday off. It is rather tiring absolutely steam rolling opponents week in and week out after all. The win pushes the Patriots record to 9-3 allowing them to keep pace with the Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans and Pittsburgh Steelers for the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

On offense the Patriots stuck with the same game plan they’ve been utilizing all season. Hitting Welker a ton, 11 receptions for 110 yards for the NFL’s leading receiver, except when the Patriots neared the end zone then it is strictly Gronkowski time. Gronkowski set the single seas touchdown record for a tight end yesterday by catching two and running one in as well. Just get him the ball near the goal line and he is going to end up putting six points on the board. Tom Brady missed passing for 300 yards (come on

It's not intercepting passes but getting sacks is good as well.

Tom 293 isn’t going to get you past Marino’s record) but that was mainly because in the fourth quarter he was chucking balls deep on many first downs and then handing the ball off on second and third. The rushing attack did leave something to be desired thought amassing only 73 yards on 24 carries. Stevan Ridley had a team high 33 yards in a game in which the Patriots packed it up and just tried to wait out the clock at the end.

Jarod Mayo said he was disappointed with how the defense played in the fourth quarter. The defense did allow to Dan Orlovsky to throw for 353 yards and they did allow 21 points in the fourth quarter. Obviously at the point the game was a laugher and it would have taken a miracle for the Colts to actually come back and win but it is a bit distressing that the defense was that weak even when they could rest on a big lead. You still want to close games out strong because come playoff time you won’t have 30 point leads to rest on.  Patriots fans have to hope that New England just zoned out and went through the motions on Sunday and also hope that it does not happen again. It’s rare to see a Belichick squad look unmotivated and I’m sure Belichick will not let the fourth quarter failures go unnoticed. It was good to see Devin McCourty back in the secondary to strengthen the Patriots flimsy secondary. At some point they might have had to bring in rowdy fans to play zone coverages this season. Mayo and Vince Wilfork looked like the dominating, and veteran, leaders of this team totally a combined 17 tackles with Wilfork picking up ma sack as well and Mayo grabbing an interception.

This game needs to be looked at with some perspective. Yes the Patriots did not win by 20 points but they did dominate the majority of the game. They just looked uninspired in garbage time allowing the Colts to put up some meaningless points (unless you bet on the game that is). So what to take from this game is that the Patriots are still a flawed team, but that isn’t news to anybody. Everyone in the league knows the defense is weak yet here they are after week 13 with the AFC pretty much locked up and a real chance at the No. 1 seed in playoffs. Plus it’s not as if the other AFC favorites aren’t without weaknesses. (Pittsburgh only managed a 13-9 win over Kansas City, The Ravens offense can look like a middle school team at times and the Texans are starting a quarterback who barely kept an ACC team afloat a season ago). And those teams don’t get to play the Redskins next week.

-Phil

Think the Patriots got exposed even in victory? Let us know via Twitter (@seeuinoctober) or in the comments.

 

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Mid-Season Report- New England Patriots

Pretty good doesn't cut it in Foxborough.

New England Patriots (5-3)

All is not well in Foxborough. That may seem ridiculous considering the Patriots would be in the playoffs as a division winner if the playoffs began today but by Patriots standards Bill Belichick’s crew is in trouble. Perhaps the players and coaching staff won’t admit it (and with how they handle the media you can’t get them to admit if a player is going to miss a game due to injury let alone the feeling in the locker room) but this team is in trouble.

After storming out of the gate putting up ludicrous offensive numbers and coasting to a 5-1 record the Patriots have stumbled, losing two straight to the Steelers and Giants and now find themselves at 5-3 tied with the Jets for the AFC East lead heading into a game with that same team this Sunday night. The Patriots desperately need to bounce back and collect a victory and the Jets should just make that motivation that much greater.

Desperation is not something that’s used to being tossed around when talking about the Patriots, at least since Tom Brady burst onto the seen but that’s exactly what they face. Part of the reason they are in this mess is (I am about to write something sacrilegious, I can barely force myself to type it but I must. Those of weaker constitutions please look away.) Brady’s fault. Brady has put together a very good season. A 100.0 passer rating, 2.703 yards and 20 TDS, but he has also thrown 10 picks this season. Granted some have been tipped but 10 interceptions i a ton for a guy who threw only 4 all last season and has a career high of 14. It can’t just be the tipped balls. Brady has also been inconsistent at times, especially in these past two games. Although he threw for over 300 yards and two scores in the loss to the Giants the majority of that came in the fourth quarter. Before that he threw two picks and led the team to only three

Andre Carter has accumulated 4.5 sacks for a Patriots defense still trying to improve the pass rush or just improve in general.

points. The Patriots were shut out in the first half! That just shouldn’t happen with a quarterback of Brady’s caliber. He will still end up having a great season and it’s not as if he has transformed into Curtis Painter but he has to be better for the Patriots to really contend.

The reason for that is the defense isn’t going to be able to carry this team. It tried and did and admirable job in the Giants game, but when push comes to shove this defense is just not good. It has a few bright spots in Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork and Pat Chung but as a unit they are unforgivably bad. For a coach that is supposedly a defensive guru Belichick sure hasn’t shown it. Perhaps it is the depleted personnel (Sergio Brown isn’t exactly Rodney Harrison) but a team can’t be a legitimate title contender with the worst defense in football. Not the worst among playoff teams or the worst in the division but worst in the NFL. The most frustrating part of watching the Patriots this season has been the amount of back breaking third down conversions they allow. They stop the team on first and second and it looks like they’ll get the offense the ball back and then Heath Miller runs wide open across the middle and catches a 17 yard pass.

Coming into the season the big story was the two bid additions for the Patriots. Or the blue whale sized addition and the reality star addition. Well Albert Haynesworth is gone. The Patriots certainly benefited from his six, that’s right, six tackles and zero sacks. It was a low risk/high reward move and they lost little but it is still a disappointment. Then there is Ochocinco. He can still run and catch right? Well it hasn’t seemed like it. He’s good for one maybe two receptions a game. He always looks out of sink with the offense and with Brady. It’s been eight weeks either you’ve bought in and are going to help the team or not. It’s time for Chad Johnson, nobody playing that pathetically gets to be called by a self proclaimed nick name, to start playing at least adequately. Not great just adequately. Is that too much to ask?

Then there is the off field issues. It’s not normal for the Patriots to be the center of celebrity media controversies. Brady had a child out of wedlock with an actress and then married a Victoria’s Secret model and the most paparazzi coverage he gets is walking in the park or when he decides to dance in Rio. This year Rob Gronkowski was Tweeted photographs of himself with pornstar Bibi Jones and Julian Edelman was arrested for groping a women at a club on Halloween. Gronk has been great all season and I have always said as long as you’re performing you can do whatever you like off the field (outside of something illegal). Well Edelman fulfilled neither of those requirements. He’s been a decent returner and not much else. Neither of these instances seem to have been much of a distraction but it is stille strange for the Patriots to have players caught in such situations. It must mean something.

One of the biggest bright spots for the Patriots that has been swept under the rug with all the hoopla around the Patriots this year is the phenomenal season Wes Welker is putting together. Welker currently leads the league in receiving yards (960), receptions (66) and yards per game (120.0). Welker has put up audacious numbers against every corner he has faced even the great Revis Island whom Welker put up 124 yards against after the week leading up it was said Revis would shut him down. It’s not only the numbers though. The word warrior get’s thrown around a little too often in professional sports but Welker has played like one this season. He has played banged up, made catches at the biggest times and been everything the Patriots have needed. He might not get the ‘Best Wide Receiver in Football” talk like Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald, because he can’t catch the fade in the corner of the end zone, but other than that

The Best Wide Receiver in Football.

there’s not much he hasn’t done this season.

Now if you’ve made it this far you may think the Patriots season is over and they have no shot. Not true. This is still a team that will make the playoffs. Brady is still Brady. He will figure things out and the picks will come down and with the production he’s putting up (the Patriots lead the league in passing yards per game) the offense will continue to put up numbers. Furthermore the defense has made enough strides in a positive direction in recent weeks to think they can at least keep the Patriots in games. Much like Sanchez with the Jets the defense won’t win you any games but it can keep you around for the real strength (Brady and the passing attack) to win games.

The Patriots next four games are a roller coaster of talent. They play at the Jets this weekend (very well the biggest game of the year for both teams), then they play Kansas City at home (they lost 31-3 to the previously no win Dolphins last week, something tells me Belichick isn’t shaking in his hoodie), then they travel to Philadelphia (they might not be as good as previously thought but they still have an explosive offense) and finally get a give me game (sorry Indy) versus the Colts. All winnable games. If the Patriots are really a Super Bowl contender they should be 9-3 after this stretch. If not they might just be another team headed for a playoff berth and not much else.

-Phil

Where should the Patriots panic meter be? Are they still the favorites in the AFC East? The AFC as a whole? Sound off in the comments or on Twitter (@seeuinoctober).

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Week 2 Impressions: Bend Don’t Break

New England Patriots 35 San Diego Chargers 21

Bend don’t break.

Patriots fans are familiar with this defensive strategy and that’s just what the Patriots defense has been through two weeks. At no point was that more clear than in the second quarter against San Diego. On fourth down up 10-7 Jerod Mayo made a great play against Mike Tolbert to hold him back and keep the Chargers out of the end zone. Then Tom Brady and the offense put together a 99 yard scoring drive, in a pathetic 10 plays. Long are the days when you only needed one play to go 99 yards.

That stop changed the game. It went from San Diego going up 14-10 to the Patriots going up 17-7. The Patriots then got interceptions on the Chargers next two drives with none better than Vince Wilfork tapping the dump to the flat in the air and doing his best impression of running into Chargers territory. Said Big Vince “I’m a cover-two guy. I like to put my hands on the receiver and get physical at the line of scrimmage.”

Well that’s something the Patriots secondary could learn from as they still got torn up even with the two picks, especially on the underneath. The Chargers consistently dumped off to their running backs for major yards. Chargers running backs had a combined 15 catches for 135 yards. It’s tough to cover the underneath with Vincent Jackson running around (10 catches, 172 yards and two touchdowns) but after awhile even I saw they were relying on that too much. That underneath needs to be sealed up.

The defense did it’s best work against Antonio Gates who is normally one of Philip Rivers favorite targets. He had eight catches last week. This week? Zero. None. Zip. Zilch. (Insert your favorite term for none here). He was targeted just once. A lot of the credit for this belong to Pat Chung. Chung was all over Gates pressing him on the line and hounding him all game. But when’s the last time a tight end was an integral part of an offense?

Oh that’s right in the same game. Patriots tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez caught a combined 11 passes for 142 yards and three touchdowns. Some bad news for the Patriots unstoppable tight end duo was the injury to Hernandez who will miss 1-2 weeks. Despite the injury the Patriots offense looked as dynamic as ever. Chad Ochocinco still look a little awed, but managed to be more involved doubling his receptions from last week, although going from one to two isn’t really that big a jump. Deion Branch caught eight balls and had 129 yards receiving as well. Branch. Branch has had three 100 yard games since returning to New England last season. He had three in his four and  half year stint with Seattle. I guess having Tom Brady throw to you helps a little more than Tim Hasselbeck’s older brother.

Speaking of Brady, last year’s MVP went 31 for 40 in the game throwing for 423 yards and three touchdowns. Yawn. What a let down from last week. Seriously though this season it just looks like there’s Brady and then a few miles below Aaron Rodger and Drew Brees are scuffling over number two. He is on pace for 7,000 yards this season and although he probably won’t get there Dan Marino might as well add single season passing yards record holder to another thing Brady has and he doesn’t.

What more can be said about Brady. He throws footballs better than anyone else. He read defenses better than anyone else. He sells Uggz better than anyone else. He marries supermodels better than anyone else.

Through two weeks two things are for certain. First, Tom Brady is unstoppable. Second the defense has to continue to avoid cracking for the Patriots to keep winning. That’s a tough task this week as they go up against the highest scoring offense in football. That’s right the 2-0 Buffalo Bills who are looking to end a 15 game losing streak to the Patriots.

-Phil

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