Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Free Agency Looms for the Patriots

With Gostkowski Tagged, What’s Next for the Patriots?

            Yesterday the deadline for franchise tags was due and the Patriots had two strong candidates that could’ve received this designation: kicker Stephen Gostkowski and free safety Devin McCourty. Both players are widely considered top tier players at their position, top 3 in the league for both in my opinion. We all know what the Patriots need to do this year in free agency and number one on that list is sign the guy that put you over the top, Darrelle Revis. Number two on that list is to sign McCourty. Giving McCourty the franchise tag, to me, seemed like a good likely option as it would lock him up for a year and give the team more time to focus on Revis in the coming days and figure out McCourty’s long term future later on. While the tag for McCourty would have been upwards of 9 million dollars, a little bit of an overpayment, I think that it would’ve been well worth it.

            But just hours ago, it was announced the Pats placed the franchise tag on Gostkowski. While it’s crazy to say that the All-Pro kicker isn’t worth the 4.5 million dollar tag, it’s just weird to think that the Patriots of all teams will be paying a kicker 4.5 million dollars this coming year. This action by the Patriots shows how much Belichick values Gostkowski. Obviously a kicker is immensely important to football, I mean shit we won two Super Bowls because of Vinatieri’s magical leg, but tagging Gostkowski was a mild surprise to me. To me, this action means one of two things: the Patriots are ready to let McCourty walk in free agency March 10th or they are closing in on a long term deal that could be done before he even hits the market.

            I’ve been saying it all along since the season ended, all I want from the Patriots this offseason is to retain Revis and McCourty, no matter what it takes. These two players are the most important to the defense and what it was able to do last season in terms of scheme. Now, if the Patriots do lose McCourty and retain Revis it certainly isn’t the end of the world, because well, that means we kept the best corner in the game, but losing McCourty is a lot bigger than some fans think. How many safeties in this league would you trust to do what McCourty does? All season Belichick left him single high on his own island to cover a ton of ground and you rarely saw him get beat. If McCourty does go elsewhere, who replaces him? Duron Harmon has shown promise, but let’s be realists here people. All-Pro safeties don’t grow on trees. Finding an equal replacement for McCourty will be very tough to say the least. If the Patriots do lose McCourty, a lot of their ability to be very aggressive in defensive scheming is lost, which is huge. Now I’m not trying to say that McCourty is a more important guy to sign over Revis because that’s just ludicrous. All I know is I’ve seen and heard some fans claim that McCourty is replaceable and nothing special and I couldn’t disagree more. The only free safety I would take in the game over DMC is Earl Thomas. Hopefully the Patriots don’t even let DMC hit the market and have a deal in place that will be signed in the coming days.

            And for Revis, well, not much needs to be said here: SIGN THE GUY. I don’t care about his age and possibly overpaying him in 4-5 years. We are sitting here with Tom Brady at the age of 37 still somehow playing like he’s in his prime. The Super Bowl window is WIDE open and keeping the best corner in the game almost puts us right back in the Super Bowl next year. Who cares about Revis possibly being overpaid at the end of his deal if we go out and repeat next year with him or even win two more?! It took ten freaking years to finally get the fourth ring and Darrelle Revis was arguably the most important piece on the team that got us over that hump. There should be absolutely no reason why Revis isn’t a Patriot next season in my eyes. He’s been open about returning and said he’s enjoyed his time here. If you offer him market value, he will happily return. Can we repeat without Revis? Of course, I mean we still have the GOAT himself around so anything is possible, but repeating is 5 times harder without Revis. Also, it’s not like there’s any good backup plan in free agency at cornerback. The 31 year old Antonio Cromartie is the best free agent corner if Revis does leave. I don’t care if it takes the largest deal for a corner in NFL history, Bill Belichick must make sure this deal gets done and Revis never leaves New England.

            So like I said, the objective for the Pats this offseason is pretty straight forward: sign Revis and McCourty. Seriously, if they can do this, then I don’t care what happens after that. They have a very young and deep core, actually the youngest team to win the Super Bowl ever, so they really don’t have many holes to fill. Keep all the player signings in house this season. Last offseason, we saw BB come out of his shell and go on a spending spree for outside talent. This is a time where I won’t complain if he sticks to his guns and just focuses on bringing back our own free agents like Branch and Ayers. The next week will be very interesting to see what happens with both of these high profile players. As of now, I’m sadly not too confident that the Patriots will retain both Revis and McCourty after the tagging of Gostkowski, but I hope that I am wrong on this one.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Initial Thoughts About... THE GAME

I'm ecstatic to see my Patriots finally get their shot (maybe last one) at a fourth ring. I'm not even going to mention this Deflate Gate shit, because that's exactly what it is, shit.

My initial thoughts about the matchup with Seattle:

·         Really wanted the Packers to win. I really think Belichick played a soft scheme vs. Rodgers in their regular season meeting and I fully believe Bill would've had a much more aggressive game plan for the Pack. If the Pack had won, I would've been very confident in the Pats getting them back in a revenge game. The Patriots would've been more than ready for Green Bay in a rematch.

·         But, sadly, that isn’t the case and Green Bay found a way to lose Sunday, so we play Seattle. This is a much tougher matchup for the Patriots and a really intriguing one to say the least.

·         The most important factor heading into February 1st is the offensive line, as it always seems to be. A big reason for the last two Super Bowl failures and most recent postseason failures has been the offensive line not performing very well. Seattle's front 4 is dirty. I mean dirty. The O-Line will certainly have their hands full for this one. The health and possible availability of Stork will be huge. While Kline at RG has been fine in Stork's absence, the O-line was at peak performance with Stork in there. If the offensive line can protect Tom, I trust him to pick apart the tough secondary for Seattle.

·         Another big thing that needs to happen is the Pats need to get the run game going, or at least a little bit. The Pats need to stay balanced. The best way to combat the great pass rush of Seattle would be to get Blount some nice carries and have those rushers worrying about the run a little bit to take half a step off their pass rush. I’m not saying we need to go ground and pound on Seattle, because that is bold. But Blount should definitely see at least 12-15 carries into the teeth of the defense and if it gets going and is successful, then don’t stop it.

·         With my man Gronk healthy, I’m actually not that afraid of the Seattle secondary. I don’t think Thomas, Chancellor or Sherman can cover Gronk one-on-one so there’s the advantage. Gronk demands multiple defenders and even then he can get off. Pete Carroll isn’t stupid like other coaches. He will make sure that Gronk does not get free releases off the line, so this is a game where Edelman, LaFell and Amendola need to step up. And I have faith in all three to do so. Seattle’s 2nd and 3rd CBs don’t scare me. They are good, yes, but I do think Jules and JoJo are talented enough to get open on them.

·         Dealing with Sherman I think there are two options. We could one, throw a decoy out there like we have seen other teams do and not even test his side, or we say screw him he’s overrated and trot Gronk out there right across from him. I’ll take the latter idea. I say test Sherman early and often. He may not be 100% for this one and Gronk’s size can abuse Sherman’s skinnier frame if Brady can put the ball in the right spot.

·         On defense, to put it in simple terms, be aggressive. I’ve said it ALL season. When I see Collins and Hightower over the center blitzing a lot and the corners are man up on their guys, this defense makes things happen. I want to see a lot of McCourty as a single high safety, Arrington and Revis manned up outside and then eight in the box with Bronwer and Chung as the 2 other linebackers. I would love to see Seattle try and throw 40+ times on us, but that won’t be the case. Marshawn Lynch carries this team and he’s priority #1 to stop.

·         That is why my X-Factors on defense for this one are Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower. Personally, I think Collins should be assigned Russell Wilson for the entire game. BB should tell him “Jamie, you got Russell. I don’t care whether it’s a pass or run, he’s your guy. Don’t lose contain on him”. Collins has the speed to keep up with the elusive QB and he’s the best tackler on the team. That’s how we should handle Wilson if you ask me.

·         From there, tackling Lynch is going to be a bitch. He’s one of my favorite runners in the league and he’s already haunting me. Sometimes this defense has trouble tackling and this guy doesn’t play so I can see him really hurting us in this one. Obviously, the easy solution to stopping him and getting some great penetration from Vince, Siliga and Branch so Collins and Hightower and shoot through the gaps and shut it down, but not really easy to do.

·         If the Patriots can completely shut down the read option (which I don’t see happening), then this game could get ugly in our favor. Like I said, our secondary should have no issue with their WRs. If the Pats can make Seattle’s offense one dimensional toward passing, we have a great shot at this one.

Of course I would love to see the Pats destroy Seattle as they did to the Colts, but that just isn’t going to happen. I see this game being one of the best Super Bowls of all-time. I expect this game to be a one score affair from start to finish. It feels like the game will be defensive minded, low scoring and hard hitting. The Patriots have a great shot at winning this one if they get a great game plan together and execute it. Seattle is a team that won’t let you play around, so the Patriots cannot afford a slow start or dumb mistakes in this one. I will add my one comment about Deflate Gate right here: This is only going to piss the Pats off more. This team, especially BB and TB, does not need anything extra to be playing for at this point, but this BS is doing exactly that. It’s only going to fuel them up to kick ass. This team will be playing angry and relentless February 1st, I can guarantee you that.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Could This Finally Be the Year?

Is this the Year the New England Patriots get over the Championship hump?

So here we are another New Year and another first round bye for the Patriots. This time around they have home field advantage throughout and have their best shot to reach and win the Super Bowl since 2011. All year we have heard about how great this team is. We've heard how this year's team is different from recent years past. This season the Pats have a complete team. All three phases of the game are strong for this team. The talent on this team is the best it's been since 2007. So is this the season the Patriots FINALLY get over the decade long hump and capture the elusive fourth ring?

For ten years, I have sat back and defended Tom Brady and Bill Belichick as the best QB/Coach combo in NFL history, and still honestly think that this argument is true. But it is very hard to sit back and defend these two repeatedly when we are on a decade long title drought. I understand that this makes me sound super spoiled as a fan, but I'm sorry, if I'm going to claim these two are the GOATs then another title is needed. I know it's amazing to think about, but if Brady and Belichick retired today, I would have to classify their overall body of work as a success but also a real disappointment. Just plain and simple. Again, I know it sounds spoiled but it's the truth. When you want to be called the greatest ever, a ten year title drought just is not acceptable. Back in 2004 after the Patriots won their third Super Bowl in four seasons, people wondered just how many we could win. Well who would have imagined it then that we would be sitting here in 2015 still with just three rings. That’s why if the Patriots don’t get another title I will call them a disappointment. Were they still a success? Hell yes. Of course. But the overall expectations wouldn’t be met in the end if we can’t capture number four.

Now of course we must take into consideration that if a mere three plays do not happen in two separate Super Bowls, the Patriots could easily have 5 rings and there would be no debate whatsoever. If only Asante made the pick. If only Harrison somehow knocked it away from Tyree. If only Welker caught the ball. Sadly, all those things didn't happen and the Patriots have not gotten the job done.

This season the Patriots need to get the job done. As we know, the window for Brady is rapidly closing whether we want to accept it or not. This defense has playmakers and has shown that they can ball, same with the offense. But of course, down the stretch, the Achilles heel of this team came to light again: the offensive line. Go back and look at every single postseason loss from 2007 and on and you will see a trend. The Patriots lost the game in the trenches on both sides of the ball in all those games. The offensive line was a big reason for the horrid 2-2 start to the season as well. If they do not hold up and protect Brady and create running lanes, we can kiss our shot at a title goodbye. The Patriots have drawn a nightmare matchup, in my opinion, in the Ravens this weekend. With all of the issues on the O-Line, the last thing we needed to see was Suggs and Dumervil. If Brady is protected, winning shouldn't be tough, but protecting Brady vs. that defensive line is a daunting task.

Don't get me wrong now; this season is VERY different from previous ones. For the first time pretty much ever, the Pats have a healthy Rob Gronkowski for the playoffs. Last season the team was dismantled with injuries. Gronk wasn't available for the Super Bowl in 2011 or the 2012 AFC Title. Having #87 at full speed this January automatically gives the Patriots a huge advantage. The other big difference this season is this defense. The Patriots now have a defense that I trust to get off the field. The playmakers on the defensive side (Revis, Browner, Collins, Hightower and Jones) all are things the Pats really haven't had in seasons. This defense is a Super Bowl caliber legit defense. Darrelle Revis has been everything I expected and then some in changing this team. With all of this Hall of Fame type talent on one team, it’s almost inexcusable to not win a ring.

Ten years. It has been ten years since the almighty New England Patriots last won a title. They are the favorites to make it out of the AFC this season. It is time to finally get over the hump and recapture the Lombardi. This is the most talented and healthy team we've seen in seasons. The window on obtaining a fourth ring is closing and this may be the best chance left to get it. It’s time to end the debate on whom the greatest QB/Coach combo is. Let’s get that 4th Championship!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Week 14 Report

Patriots vs. Chargers

The Patriots finished the 'Gauntlet' last night in San Diego with another win. Before this six game stretch many people said the Pats would be lucky to go 3-3. Well the only slip up was the Green Bay game last week. Last night's game was far from perfect, but the Pats got the job done and came away with a huge road victory to hold onto home field for now. The defense was outstanding last night even with the absence of Hightower and Jones. The offense was very inept at various points in the game, but in the end did enough to win.

For the second straight week, we saw the offensive line struggle and it really affected Brady and the offense. The O-Line played its worst game since the KC game. Brady took consistent pressure at times. The O-Line also got dominated in the run game as well. The first drive was very promising as Blount was running through the Chargers D, but from there, he averaged like 2 yards a carry. The Chargers were in the backfield all game not allowing anything from the run. The O-Line gave Brady time on some plays, but really will need to be a lot more consistent if they want to go deep into the playoffs.

Tom Brady had a really bad game for his standards. The obvious play that sticks out is the horrible pick at the end of the half. Similar to the Colts play at the end of that half, Brady had Gronk open on the play but just failed to make the throw. He was getting pressured on the play and didn’t step into it and the ball floater way short giving Gronk no chance. If anything, Brady should've taken a sack there and use the timeout and take the 3 points. It was a horrible play but good idea. If Brady puts something on that pass, it's a TD for Gronk. Brady also struggled throughout as he missed some easy ones and short armed others leading to inaccuracy. His TD to Gronk was a beauty though and a couple other passes were nice, but overall his play was lacking and he knows it. The Pats had 4 straight 3 and outs in the third quarter with great field position. The offense hasn't been on its game the last two weeks and has a lot it needs to work on.

The receiving corps got a huge boost from the gritty play of Edelman. He made a couple clutch third down catches and had the play to ice the game on a 69 yard TD where he broke a couple tackles. On a night where LaFell was quiet, and costly (the fumble), Edelman stepping up to make plays saved the team. Gronk had his usual production, but I still think Brady is not getting him the ball enough. He can turn a five yard out into a thirty yard gain. Gronk should be getting 15+ targets a game if you ask me. Teams continue to put single coverage on him and Brady needs to take advantage of that.

The defense was the real MVP of the night. They held the Chargers under 250 yards and only gave up 7 points. There are so many guys to talk about playing well as the entire unit was amazing. Revis is just the best CB in the game hands down. Keenan Allen still has yet to be found in San Diego. Revis gave up one catch for two yards on the night, outstanding. Brandon Browner showed his vulnerability on the Floyd TD, but overall the rest of the night was amazing as well. He also wins the award for getting jobbed the worst on his obliteration of LaDarius Green. The
refs completely blew the call saying it was helmet to helmet, when clearly Browner put his shoulder right into Green's life. Thankfully this called back pick six by McCourty didn't affect the outcome. The call was horrendous and could've cost the Patriots a win. Outside of that it's worth mentioning the continued great play of Arrington as he shut down Royal all night (surprising me). The Patriots of course drew up a great game plan to slow down Gates as he was held to 35 yards. This secondary can go toe to tie with any offense in the league.

Without Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower, I thought we were in trouble Sunday night. Hightower has been a great piece playing out of his mind and his absence, I thought, would have been noticeable on the field. Jamie Collins made me completely forget about him. What a freaking animal Collins is. He was beyond amazing Sunday. He led the team in tackles and had two sacks o Rivers. He was doing it all. His size, speed and playmaking ability make him such a crazy talent. If he can continue this kind of play the defense will shut down everyone.

The defensive line was very good Sunday as Siliga finally returned to action. The run defense struggled early on and his presence was noticed from there on out as the Chargers didn't have much room running the ball. Rob Ninkovich made a couple nice plays in this game as well. The biggest difference seen from this week's defense as opposed to last week was the aggressiveness in play calling. We saw multiple blitzes and different rushing schemes on defense whereas last week the defense only brought 3-4 rushers every play letting Rodgers sit back. That's been the key to this defense all season. It seems they play at their best when they get after it. This defense is going to be disgusting when Jones and Hightower return. The blitz schemes are going to ruin quarterback's days and our secondary will give teams no room to budge.

Sunday night was another example of how this team can wins in many different ways. The defense pitches a shutout in the second half to save the offense's ass and the offense shows life when needed. The Patriots now have 12 straight 10 win seasons and finish off the season vs. the AFC East opponents. They should win all three of these games and clinch the 1 seed and the ever important home field throughout the playoffs. If the offense can get back to what it was doing before and the defense continues to grow as players return, then this team will be unstoppable.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Week 12 Report

Patriots vs. Lions

Another home game in November for the Patriots, yep, must have been a victory. And it was, again. The tear continues for the Patriots as they have abused every team so far on this 6 game "gauntlet". People were saying this team would be lucky to be 3-3 after the so called gauntlet; well the Pats are 4-0 so far on it winning every game by 20+. Pretty damn good. This team isn't just good anymore. They are scary good. After winning last week with the running attack, the Patriots played to the Lions weakness and destroyed them in the passing game. This ability to adapt week to week to fit whatever team they are playing makes this Pats team so dangerous. The defense can matchup with any offense in this league. The Patriots are looking at the best team they've had since 2007 and maybe even before.

The key to yesterday's game was to protect Brady from the Lions ferocious front 4 and the offensive line answered the call in that area. Brady was not sacked once yesterday and had clean
pockets to maneuver all day for the most part. Enough can't be said about the improvement of this group from Week 1 to now. Ryan Wendell is someone that needs a personal spotlight. He held his own vs. Suh and his play at right guard all season has been a complete 180 of last season's struggles. While the pass blocking was good, the run blocking struggled but this was expected as Detroit boasted the NFL's best run defense. Blount's return to New England was a good one has he powered in 2 TDs and racked up some garbage time yards. Only in New England with BB do you see a guy picked up off the street and days later runs for 2 TDs. Jonas Gray, who ran for 200 last week, did not play a single snap only furthermore showing the Patriots variety on offense. I expect to see some Gray and Blount this week though as a nice 1-2 combo of power from here on out though. Both players are similar when it comes to power, but Blount is more capable of breaking the big one, while Gray hits the hole with more authority and gets the tough yards.

Tom Brady was on his game yesterday. He made a couple bad decisions, especially on the blatant forced pick in the red zone, but overall he ripped apart the Lions secondary for 350 yards. The biggest thing that needs to be mentioned for Tom is the new mobility aspect to his game. His second TD pass to Wright was set up by Tom buying himself time in the pocket to find the open man. If he continues to do this to aid his OL, then the offense will continue to be a machine.

Brandon LaFell has been an awesome signing for this Patriots team as he has developed a great rapport with Brady. His length on the outside gives Brady a lot of room to work with and we've seen him make some great catches the past couple weeks. For the money he is making, LaFell has been a good bargain which BB loves and has certainly worked out here. Julian Edelman had a very good game Sunday with 11 catches as Brady's to go target. The pass offense has great variety with the big man Gronk, taller LaFell and shifter Edelman. Add Tim Wright as a nice red zone threat and the pass game is very good. It would be nice to see another guy on the outside step up whether it is Tyms or Dobson I would like to see one of them start making plays for us.

The defense again is the real talking point as they held Stafford to a career low completion percentage Sunday. The Revis price tag continues to sky rocket as he held Stafford to 1-10 throwing at him with four passes defended including two third downs stops. Golden Tate ended up with a nice stat line, but really was no difference maker outside of two big plays from the screen and blown zone coverage. Brandon Browner also did a great job with help from McCourty most of the day on Megatron. The Lions also had a lot of dropped passes that needs to be mentioned. Arrington, while playing great, was beat twice by Fuller who missed a chance on two easy TDs. The Lions also had a dropped pass by the TE in the end zone early on. The secondary overall played great and again it needs to be mentioned how important Chung has been to this team. The talent in the secondary allows them to go single high safety a lot of the time, which lets Chung pretty much play in the box much of the time. All aspects of his game have improved this season thanks to the scheme and talent around him.

The front seven continues to play outstanding as well. Alan Branch had his best game with the Pats Sunday in my opinion. Akeem Ayers continues to make us forgot about Jones' absence with his help in the pass rush. Rob Ninkovich continues to be under the radar making things happen for this defense. Dont'a Hightower has been HUGE. His leadership, communication and play on the field have left me speechless almost after seeing how he was on and off last season. Hightower is a very important piece on this defense as he is perfectly filling Mayo's job. The run defense did a great job stuffing Bell most of the day. The defense as whole is championship caliber. They are now getting off the field on 3rd downs consistently. They are hitting teams in the mouth and winning battles. I used to be scared to see the defense out there, now I can't wait for them to touch the field. Paying for the secondary was the best decision BB made in years.

The Patriots continue to roll and rip teams up weekly, but this week may be the toughest game they will face all season. The red hot Packers at home are as unbeatable as we are in Gillette. The defense will face their toughest opponent so far, Aaron Rodgers. This game could be a Super Bowl preview and is another great test for the Pats.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Week 11 Report

Patriots vs. Colts
There was another huge AFC showdown Sunday night for the Patriots and yet another huge AFC victory them. The Patriots continued their tear this season as they were able to earn their first ever victory in the Lucas Oil Dome. Tom Brady had his first down
game in weeks, yet the Pats were able to pull off the dominant victory. A game like this just shows the various ways this team can win games. Against Denver, they spread it out and threw all over them and Sunday against Indy they went into power mode and controlled them at the point of attack. A team like this that can win games throwing or running and playing smash mouth D is very dangerous. This win gives the Patriots a huge inside track on home field advantage in January.
Sunday night the offensive line completely owned the Colts defensive line. All week leading up I was saying we should just spread them out and throw all day (as Big Ben did with his huge 500 yard 6 TD game). The Colts defense isn't strong in any area and I thought our best bet would be to put the gunslinger and GOAT Brady in charge. But, the Colts defensive line was so manhandled that we HAD to run the ball. How could you not give Gray 35+ carries when the holes were wide open every single time? Huge props to the meatheads up front for the blocking and huge props to the undrafted free agent Gray for an amazing performance. He didn't play around at all in the backfield. Every carry he hit the hole with authority and drove the pile for a decent gain. Gray could add something this team has been missing since the Dillon days, the ability to pick up the tough yards. If Gray can consistently do this, there is a whole new layer added to this offense.
As for Tommy B the GOAT, wow what a tough game for him. I don't know what it is about that dome, but it's in his head. His first half on Sunday was downright atrocious. He missed a couple easy throws, made some poor 3rd down decisions (throwing deep to Tim Wright in double coverage with Gronk wide open underneath), and had the two god-awful picks. The first one to Tyms was a good idea, but when Tom saw the pressure getting to him he should've taken the sack or thrown the ball away. Heaving it up into triple coverage when you aren't able to step into it isn't the answer. Then there was the 3rd and 1 audible into the pass, which may be the worst decision Tom has made all year. I don't really mind the idea of changing the play to a play action streak to Gronk, because the play was there. The safety completely bit on the fake and if Brady had time the play was a TD. That's the problem; Brady got no protection and again heaved one up. If he takes the sack, it forced the colts to burn a timeout and we flip field position. Instead, colts get 7 easy points and make it a game at half. But, thankfully Brady woke up at halftime and played a great second half helping down the Colts. Since its Brady, I'm not worried about his play going forward, but that shit definitely can't happen again if we want to beat good teams consistently.
The receivers had a somewhat quiet game with the run game in focus. Rob Gronkowski was an absolute beast blocking however. I legitimately believe he could be a starting tackle for us if needed. His fire out there Sunday was awesome. Seeing him block Sergio Brown into the TV cart was beautiful. He takes no shit, which is something this team needs. His touchdown was amazing as well. The moment he caught it I knew he was going for six. He easily could've stepped out and taken the first down, but he quickly turned and started rumbling past the Colts weak defense. The man is an absolute beast and certainly deserves to be in the MVP race.
I've said this before and I'll say it again: Belichick has Luck's number more than he does Peyton's and that's saying something. Luck is now 0-3 vs. the Patriots throwing at least a pick in all games. This secondary, again, completely owned this Colts receiving group (except for Fleener). Revis took Reggie Wayne completely out of the game to the point where we didn't hear both their names called at all in the second half. Browner again showed plays where his strengths were on display, but also showed play glaring weaknesses as well. Overall, he a huge contributor on D and is a real asset to the new physical image of this secondary, but he needs to limit the mistakes and blown coverages. The boldest move on Sunday was easily seeing BB put Kyle Arrington in man coverage on the dangerous TY Hilton. When I first saw this, I thought we were in trouble, but man Arrington did a great job. TY has held below 30 yards, which is an amazing stat considering the guy puts up almost 100 weekly. Arrington really struggled last season and made many question the value of his contract, but maybe the groin injury he had really did affect his play. This season it's a whole new player. He hasn't made any dumb mistakes in coverage like he used to and has been solid week in and out. This secondary is beyond versatile being six deep with players that would start on other rosters. It's a great luxury to have knowing you can line up with any team and lock them up.
I know that the most talked about thing is how great the run defense played Sunday. I think we really shouldn't get carried away on this though. The Colts have easily one of the worst OL's in football and maybe the back with the worst vision (Richardson).  Yes, they did a great job taking away the run, but I'm not completely sold on them until they stop a runner like Eddie Lacy in two weeks. It's a great sign though to see the dominance. There are so many guys up front contributing. Vince is playing amazing, Alan Branch looked good in his real debut and young guys Jones and Easley have been solid. It also helps that the two LBs behind them, Collins and Hightower, are playing out of their minds. Collins is a tackling machine making a couple great third down tackles on Sunday and Hightower continues to thrive as he steps in for Mayo. These two are playing like seasoned vets even though both are on rookie deals.
Another big thing that needs to be pointed out is that Akeem Ayers has been a beast since coming here. He might not be getting sacks, but he certainly is applying pressure out there and doing a great job making sure we don't miss Chandler too much. I can't wait to see what the defense looks with Ayers and Chandler on the field at the same time. The Pats could develop a lethal pass rush with those two. Only Belichick could trade a 6th away for this guy and get him to be our best rusher.
The biggest takeaway from this game for me is that we shouldn't get too excited about beating the Colts. I don't think this Colts team is there just yet and I said I would be legitimately upset if we lost to them. They match up horribly with us and it showed Sunday. It was a great win, but now the Pats have three real tests coming up starting with a great defense in Detroit. That game will be a great measuring stick for how good our offense really is. But, again another huge win for this Pats team as they are tearing up the AFC contenders and proving all the doubters wrong. Hopefully the tear continues.


Monday, November 3, 2014

Week 9 Report

Week 9 Broncos Report

Yes. Yes. Yes. That's really all that describes the latest win for the flaming hot Pats. As everyone was busy hailing the Broncos as the Champs already, the Pats were getting better by the week under the radar. All of a sudden, after laying down the "best" team in the league, Tom Brady is at the top of the MVP ballot with five straight games of greatness. Again this week, the Patriots exceeded my expectations. I expected a tight battle and wasn't extremely

confident in a Pats victory, but they delivered big time. In the biggest game of the regular season, the Pats played their best game of the year and now control their own destiny in playoff seeding. Now there's a lot of time left, but still this tiebreaker over Denver is huge. Getting Manning in Foxboro over Denver is a HUGE difference.

Looking at the offense, the Pats run game wasn't effective all night. Gray and Vereen both carried the ball 10+ times and neither could get more than 3 yards a carry. The Pats, at least in my opinion, really tried to get the run going numerous times, but the O-line was not getting the push they needed and the Broncos D-line was really dominating up front. I didn't expect a good running performance from the Pats anyway as we know how good the Denver rush has been. The offensive line struggled in pass protection at times last night, but overall they played a fine game. The pass protection was much better than the run blocking, however. Solder got killed by stud Von Miller a couple times but Brady's newly found mobility helped keep the play alive. Brady has been in an absolute zone the last 5 weeks and this mobility he's developed has been a catalyst. A play that sticks out was the 3rd and pretty much a mile where Brady rolled all the way out to his right and roped one to Amendola for the first. That play was such a big conversion and a huge example as to why a little QB mobility can be so helpful.

The receivers continue to make plays for the offense as Gronk's health has completely turned this offense into a machine. We saw Gronk go for 100 yards and a TD again which included his amazing one handed catch in the red zone. The best thing the Pats have done this season with Gronk is when they motion him outside. The moment Gronk goes outside it's a complete mismatch. If there's a CB on him, the size is too much. If there's a LB on him, the speed and catch radius is too much. And if you decide to double him, Brady will just tear you apart elsewhere. Last night when Brady motioned Gronk out he was almost amazed as Denver let their rusher Miller go out and defend him one on one. Brady looked happily surprised and knew it was over. Too easy. Just too easy. As for the rest of the group, Julien Edelman had an amazing bounce back game highlighted by an 84 yard punt return and a receiving TD. Like I said last week, JE11 may not be the top option anymore, but when called upon he will deliver. LaFell had a tough game. He's been known for drops in Carolina, and those drops hadn't surfaced in New England until yesterday. If he caught all his passes, LaFell easily would have had over 100 and two TDs. He still ended up with a modest stat line and a decent game, but he needs to focus more and catch all balls coming his way.


The Bill Belichick coached defense yet again handled Manning in this rivalry. Yesterday showed the exact reason why Revis and Browner were brought here. The mixing and matching of coverages yesterday was awesome. Early on,  Revis
struggled giving up 3 passes, but after that drive he gave up NOTHING. I don't think he was targeted again until the 4th quarter when this thing was in garbage time. We saw Revis on both Thomas's and Sanders at various points in the game and same with Browner. Browner played a good game including the pick that fell into his lap. Of course, he picked up a couple of flags in this one, but who is really surprised? The biggest surprise of the season may be the play of Patrick Chung. I had this guy as someone who would be cut or just a backup guy in this defense, but wow he's been playing well. He was all over the field Sunday and his overall play has improved a lot since leaving New England. It's amazing to think he was benched just a couple years ago and BB let him walk in free agency and now he's the starting safety again. Malcolm Butler had a decent game considering he was matched up with Manny Sanders. Overall the secondary played an amazing game. Yes they gave up 400 yards passing but they beat up the Denver WRs and got off the field on 3rd and 4th down, which is something the old Pats defenses wouldn't do.  

The front seven may be the most underrated part of this game by people. In my opinion, the biggest reason why the secondary was so successful against Manning was because early on in the nickel D the Pats were able to stop the run. Last season, we saw BB bait Manning into running the ball 40+ times and the run killed the Pats, but this season early on they baited Manning AND stopped the run. That was huge. Denver had no choice but to pass from there. Wilfork was a monster in the run game and Collins and Hightower were hitting all the gaps needed to stop Hillman. Collins seemed to be all over the field Sunday. He had one bad play on the PI, but the rest was great. This was definitely his best game of the season. Dont'a Hightower continues to look very comfortable taking on the Mayo role in QB'ing this defense. He seems confident in the play calling and communicating with other guys and getting everyone in position. Hightower and Collins both did a great job of blitzing the A-gap throughout the game causing problems for Manning. Akeem Ayers has already been a great pickup by BB has he, in my opinion, had the play of the game sacking Peyton on 4th down late in the first half. If he can continue to gain steam, the pass rush will be very dangerous with Jones back. Rob Ninkovich had himself a game yesterday most notably the interception of Manning. The throw was right at Rob. Either Manning made a really stupid throw, or Nink made a really nice play. Whatever the case, the pick was another huge turning point in this game. There was only one sack on Manning, but pressure was there on numerous occasions, which is a great sign.

This game was the Super Bowl of the regular season. This is the game that is circled first when the schedules come out. The Patriots came out and won the biggest game of the year, so far, decisively. BB yet again drew up a game plan to beat Manning. The Pats know hold their own destiny for seeding and need to take advantage of that. I think it's safe to say as long as Brady, Gronk and Revis are healthy the Pats can play with Denver in Gillette or in their stadium and have a legit shot at winning. The Patriots came out and proved to America that they are legit contenders.