Tag Archives: Bill Belichick

My Thanks to the 2015 Patriots

Payton Manning vs Tom Brady (Photo: Forbes.com)
Payton Manning vs Tom Brady (Photo: Forbes.com)

Well, it’s finally settled in now. The Patriots lost a hard fought AFC Championship game in Denver last Sunday. It gives Patriots Nation a chance to look back on the season as a whole and see what helped, or hurt, leading up to the playoff loss.

The first thing that comes to my mind is the choice to rest banged up starters, and play “preventative” offense week 17 in Miami, seriously, if you aren’t going to the big dance, why rest them right? Nah, Bill was setting the team up for their best shot at a repeat SB run. Face it, we are spoiled as fans of the greatest NFL team over the better part of 2 DECADES…. ( yes decades, plural ) that is insane! In a time of parody within the league (trying to move the best to the bottom, and the worst to the top) Belichick has continued to have the Patriots in playoff position almost every year since he started as head coach.

Chew on this for a minute, have you ever noticed as a fan, whenever the Patriots lose, we catch flak from the opposing fanbases? You know why? (That’s right, they expected the Pats to win) That’s what they’ve been doing and what they will continue to do as long as Belichick’s system is run like it has been run. (In case you haven’t heard…. he’s a genius)

Belichick is on to 2016 and so am I, the Superbowl is in a couple weeks, and I don’t really care who wins. My thoughts are that Denver will get embarrassed on the biggest stage once again, but I’m really starting to be rubbed the wrong way by Cam Newton’s antics and attitude, so it wouldn’t bother me if they called the game at 0-0 after 40 over times and declared both teams losers.

Bottom line is I’ll always be a Patriots fan, I was a fan when they couldn’t play their way out of a wet paper bag, and this year’s team played their asses off, overcame most of their injuries and came up short. Hell there’s 28 teams that didn’t do as good as the Patriots did! I WANT TO THANK THE 2015 PATRIOTS  AND THE STAFF FOR A GREAT SEASON!! AND WISHING THEM ALL THE BEST IN 2016!! #GOPATS

New England Patriots: Manning-Brady, It Was Meant To Be

Patriot fans had mixed emotions as the hated Pittsburgh Steelers played the arch-enemy Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning.  Who to root for? That was the issue. Pittsburgh wins and the Pats play one more game at Gillette. Denver wins and the historic Brady-Manning debate begins again.

Payton Manning vs Tom Brady (Photo: Forbes.com)
Peyton Manning vs Tom Brady once again (Photo: Forbes.com)

And The Winner Is…True Football Fans

With Denver’s late comeback win over the Steelers, it’s on to Sport Authority Field at Mile High. C’mon now, admit it. The thought of one more Manning – Brady battle is intriguing. This is it…the probable last chance for these two great QB’s playing in a crucial play-off game…just one step from the Super Bowl. Both are approaching the end of their football journey, one with a whimper (Manning) and the other with the roar of a lion (Brady).

  • Have the reports of Peyton’s demise been exaggerated
  • Can Brady, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s evil villain,  once again defeat America’s favorite pizza/insurance/ESPN etc, etc, etc spokesperson
  • Is the home field advantage enough to propel Denver, a flawed team, into the awaiting arms of Arizona or Carolina
  • Will the emotional return of Julian Edelman for a second game carry over and allow the weak offensive line of New England to actually keep Brady upright long enough to use his weapons in victory.
Kansas City Chiefs free safety Husain Abdullah (39) and defensive back Tyvon Branch (27) push Tom Brady (12) out of bounds short of the goal line (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Kansas City Chiefs free safety Husain Abdullah (39) and defensive back Tyvon Branch (27) push Tom Brady (12) out of bounds short of the goal line (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

More Questions Than Answers

Unlike the NFC contest between the clear-cut favorites, Arizona Cardinals & Carolina Panthers, this AFC duel is somewhat surprising. Most “experts” raved about the Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers (who backed in when the J-E-T-S choked) as the “hot” picks as the play-offs got underway.

KC had won 11 straight when they travelled to Gillette and were pummeled by New England. Pittsburgh overcame adversity and headed to the Mile High City after a back-yard brawl in Cincinnati, to lead for most of the game before falling to the Manning led Broncos.

The Patriots and Broncos both stumbled into the bye-week with a sigh of relief.  Denver was debating who their QB would be, while New England was hoping their long list of critical injuries to key players would heal enough to field a representative play-off team.

Yet here they stand, still with serious questions, on the precipice of the AFC Championship Game.  Denver, a late Sunday victor, ready to prove they have a great defense that can carry them to Super Bowl 50 despite the health of their eventual Hall-Of-Fame QB…and New England, the team other team’s fans love to hate, trying to once again rise above the noise and win their 5th ring during the Brady-Belichick era.

Peyton Manning hands off to C.J. Anderson in Broncos win over the Steelers(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Peyton Manning hands off to C.J. Anderson in Broncos win over the Steelers(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

This Week In The Media

All week leading up to Sunday you will read about the history of these two teams and their great QB’s. There will be a plethora of articles filled with facts and opinions (probably write one myself) on why New England/Denver should/will win and go on to glory in the 2015/2016 Super Bowl. Meanwhile…..

Follow me on Twitter @SnowdonBob

…and enjoy the banter. On Sunday, January 24th at about 6:30 PM the AFC questions will be answered and fans will be either on the edge of their seat, or grumbling at the dog, while waiting to see who the opponent will be from the NFC.

Patriots Fans: Don’t Hit the Panic Button

Thirty-one franchises across the league are given a four game preseason to get their teams ready for a four month long grind, consisting of sixteen games a bye week somewhere in the middle. Teams battle across eight divisions looking to win a hat and t-shirt made by some six year old over in Uganda that crowns them champions of their division. Being from New England, hat and t-shirt day is basically an annual holiday. We’ve come to expect that we will see grown men wearing their hats sideways with a t-shirt draped over their shoulder pads, and Matthew Slater chanting his typical “How do we feel, about another AFC East title” when he breaks down the team. There are drastic highs and drastic lows throughout the year for every franchise. Some teams, like the Colts, said winning a week four game against the Titans is the best day of their lives. Yes, this is coming from a coach who was there for his daughters being born, oh and yeah the guy beat something called cancer as well. The Indianapolis Drug Lord, whom has blocked me on all social media, already made the move of the off-season by resigning Pagano AND Grigson until the next decade begins. Can we get a slow golf clap for the Indianapolis franchise?

The moral of the story here is that one franchise is annually gifted a twenty game preseason. They play down at 1 Patriot Place and have successfully secured a first round bye for the millionth year in a row. Football doesn’t start in New England in September. It starts when the playoffs start, and that is all that matters. Am I a bit concerned with the play of this team over the last six weeks? I’d be lying if I didn’t die and had my family start planning funeral arrangements when our hero got his ankles rolled up on by that monster Suh. Remember when Pete said, “Oh No!” when Wilson threw the ball into Butler’s arms on the final play of the Super Bowl? Well that was me hiding under a blanket seeing Brady go down on Sunday. I resembled a child watching a scary movie for the first time. You saw the pain in the post-game press conference as well. Granted he is in Miami, and Tom Brady can wear whatever he wants in Miami, but the guy forgot his belt. Unless that is some new fashion power move that I can’t wrap my brain around, he also had a stiff limp to go along with it, which concerned me. Now, if it means wearing no belt with the shirt tucked in is the way to go, I’m throwing every one of my belts in the trash the second I get home.

But as I’ve said countless times in the past, not all heroes wear capes. It has been well documented Brady has some personal trainer, Alex Guerrero, who has been compared to Mr. Miyagi. Sources have confirmed Brady was seen walking in the locker room yesterday with ZERO limp. Explain this one to me. How does arguably the most violent defender in all of football roll up on you, murders your ankle, and you’re “fresh as lettuce” two days later? If this doesn’t have Alex Guerrero’s finger prints all over it then call me crazy. Maybe Brady loaded up on avocado ice cream? Maybe he didn’t have his “trickle of tomato” that month. Those who have zero clue what I am talking about, Brady swears off fruit because it has too much sugar and tomatoes cause inflammation. Brady’s cheat day consists of a banana. I can’t begin to wrap my head around the Brady family diet, and I don’t want to. It seems like a very scary place.

The play of this team shouldn’t cause much of an alarm compared to prior Super Bowl winners. Each of the last five Super Bowl winners haven’t exactly set the world on fire going into the playoffs. Belichick had his team back to the facility yesterday, while Denver is waiting until Thursday just for meetings. Is there any merit to that? No, but I’ll take Bill’s word over The Werewolf who coaches in Denver. The Patriots will be prepared, a bit more healthy, and ready to roll. Remember the last time someone called them dead? Well I do. It was Trent Dilfer after getting shoved into a locker on Monday Night Football by Kansas City. We came back the following week, against a team we very well may be hosting here next week, and threw a forty spot up on them. Then we head to Denver, if they can get by whomever they have to play in the first round. We all know Manning is starting over the kid from Twilight, and I’d rather murder Peyton again and send him to the grave once and for all. It is going to be a great month of football regardless of which team you root for. Grab yourself a handful of lentils and treat yourself to some avocado ice cream and enjoy the ride.

New England Patriots: Break Out The Lifeboats?

The question is: Did the Patriots stink-up the joint in their last 2 games. The answer is, without a doubt, YES. But it’s not time to jump ship.

Entering the stadium you didn't see the usual fire in Tom Brady's eyes (Photo: AP Lynne Sladky)
Entering the stadium you didn’t see the usual fire in Tom Brady’s eyes (Photo: AP Lynne Sladky)

So, what has been the reaction from fans all over the world? If you read social media after the game Sunday (Facebook or Twitter) a full-blown panic had set in. It was time to get the lifeboats out, because, the number of fans jumping from a “sinking” ship was astounding…and relatively short lived.

How Soon We Forget

It’s hard to believe this is the team that started the season 10-0. Well, maybe not the same team, as injuries have decimated what looked like a sure Super Bowl 50 contender. Key players fell in every game, yet somehow the “genius” of the coaching staff, from Bill Belichick on down, was being lauded, as the “next man up” philosophy seemed to be working beyond belief.

Hell, even ESPN, the propaganda arm of the NFL, caved in and finally acknowledged what the Patriots and Tom Brady were doing was miraculous.  People who always picked against New England were actually debating whether this team could go undefeated.

New England’s fan base increased as the wins continued to pile up despite the off-season slander of deflategate. Commissioner Roger Goodell was noticeably quiet when it was announced Tom Brady jerseys had become the hottest product in the NFL.

Then Was Then…And Now Is Now

Steven Jackson scored his first TD as a Patriot (Photo AP - Lynne Sladky)
Steven Jackson scored his first TD as a Patriot (Photo AP – Lynne Sladky)

So, what happened to suddenly make this team draw these and many other negative comments from fans:

 

 

  • “couldn’t beat my high school team”
  • “I was embarrassed”
  • “The team was 10-0 because of the schedule, not because they were any good”
  • “Injuries aren’t an excuse”

Thank goodness Monday rolled around and the emotions of Sunday’s loss to a terrible Miami team had calmed down. Reality set in. People started to look forward and they had some legitimate concerns.

So, now that a little time has passed since the loss (and 4 of their last 6), let’s look at 10 somewhat hard to take facts:

  1. Bill Belichick had the team playing “safe” once they clinched everything but the #1 seed. They didn’t seem to care about the regular season and started preparing for the play-offs.  Winning would have been nice, but not critical. Was this a good strategy? We’ll know in a few weeks.
  2. The team that lost to the Eagles, J-E-T-S and Dolphins will not
    Linebacker Geneo Grissom (92) sacks Ryan Tannehill (17) (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
    Linebacker Geneo Grissom (92) sacks Ryan Tannehill (17) (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

    win many play-off games with those units. Game planning seemed almost non-existent and players were not playing to their strength, but being plugged in to cover for losses. Coaching was a big reason in all three losses, but even then the team had opportunities to win…right up until Miami.

  3. Young fans under 30 have never seen this team look so inept and not seem to care. It was the first time this had occurred during the Belichick-Brady years.
  4. There is legitimate reason for concern (not panic).  The belief that all will be well when Julian Edelman, Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower, Sebastion Vollmer and the rest of the walking (or limping) wounded return is optimistic at best.
  5. Let’s face it, the offensive line scares the bejesus out of every Patriot fan… on every play.  Brady threw just 5 passes in the 1st half Sunday and still got crushed when he dropped back. The OL could well be the Achilles Heel that ultimately brings this team down.
  6. The 10-0 start was a little deceptive considering the weak schedule, but, that said, it is still difficult to go 10-0 if you are not very good. The Patriots that started the season had outstanding weapons to confuse defenses along with a young, solid defense of its own. Dion Lewis was far better than Shane Vereen, who he replaced. Brady, Edelman and Gronkowski had established a trust that takes years to develop. The defense was young and aggressive, despite the loss of Darrelle Revis.
  7. Injuries are part of the game. They are not an excuse, they are a fact. It’s a game of attrition and, eventually, if you lose enough quality players you just aren’t as good.
  8. The Patriots aren’t built for trick plays, yet they continuously outsmarted themselves and it cost them. C’mon guys, a drop kick on a kick-off!
  9. Even Tom Brady looked disinterested toward the end. The fire in his eyes wasn’t there when he came on the field the last few weeks. The number of hits he took this year had an impact as the season wore down. We like to call him “Super Tom,” but must be real…it hurts to keep getting hit.
  10. The special teams were below Patriot standards. Yes, the loss of
    Stephen Gostkowski (3) gestures after missing just his 3rd field goal of the season in the 20-10 loss (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
    Stephen Gostkowski (3) gestures after missing just his 3rd field goal of the season in the 20-10 loss (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

    Edelman (the most effective punt returner in the NFL) hurt, but it was more than that. Players took bad routes and missed tackles resulting in teams getting better field position. The kicking game remained strong, but other areas seemed to suffer.

 

What’s-Up, Doc?

An almost two-week lay-off between games is a Godsend. It may not be a cure-all, but no one can deny it is desperately needed. The early bye-week was a long time ago and many players are playing tired.

New England’s next game will be Saturday, January at 4:35PM (CBS)at Gillette Stadium. There are 3 teams they could face: Cincinnati, Houston or Kansas City.

Quotes after Sunday’s loss:

  • Bill Belichick: “Right now we have one game that we have to win. The next game, we don’t even know who it’s against yet. All our attention, focus and energy will be on that…”
  • Tom Brady on his leg: “pretty sore, but I’ll be alright”
  • Steven Jackson on his TD run: “Inside zone, I bounced the play outside and had a [defensive back] there, so I just had to lower my pads to get in the end zone.”
  • Devin McCourty: “hit the reset button”
  • Tom Brady again: “…Nothing over the last six weeks is going to matter. Nothing over the last 16 weeks is going to matter. What’s going to matter is how well we play in two weeks.”

And that Brady comment, my friends, says it all.

Follow me on Twitter @SnowdonBob

 

 

New England Patriots: Belichick Lost Faith In Brady!

You can disagree all you want, but if, as Bill Belichick claims, he meant to kick-off starting O/T against the New York Jets Sunday there can only be one reason. He lost confidence in Tom Brady’s ability to pull off another miracle comeback, and that’s sad. Brady has made a career out of pulling the team out of the fire, often with limited resources.

The officials meet New York Jets' Darrelle Revis (24), teammate Calvin Pryor (25) and New England Patriots' Matthew Slater (18) and teammate Rob Ninkovich (50) for the coin toss before the overtime period resulting in highly questionable Patriots decision (AP hoto/Peter Morgan)
The officials meet New York Jets’ Darrelle Revis (24), teammate Calvin Pryor (25) and New England Patriots’ Matthew Slater (18) and teammate Rob Ninkovich (50) for the coin toss before the overtime period resulting in highly questionable Patriots decision (AP Photo/Peter Morgan)

Those making the claim that he was playing it smart because the defense was playing well (428 yards) and the offense looked stagnant are missing the point. You probably are right in his reasoning, but how many times does Brady have to carry the team on his back to victory for the Head Coach to trust him to do it again?

Instead, by electing to kick, Brady never had a chance to touch the ball. No one can predict what would have happened if the Pats had elected to receive. They may very well have still lost…but at least you gave it your best shot by putting the ball in the hands of the greatest QB in NFL history.

After the game Belichick stuck by his call and said he wouldn’t have changed his decision. “We just didn’t play good enough defense.”

No one takes Rob Gronkowski (87) down one on one ( New York Jets' Antonio Cromartie (31) (AP Photo/Peter Morgan)
No one takes Rob Gronkowski (87) down one on one ( New York Jets’ Antonio Cromartie (31) (AP Photo/Peter Morgan)

Always outspoken Rob Gronkowski had this to say “You always want a shot to score,”  “It is what it is.”

And finally, the always politically correct Tom Brady said “Whatever coach decides, that’s what the team does,”

Jet’s receiver Brandon Marshall was shocked by the call. “After the game Josh McDaniels came up to me, my old ball coach in Denver, and I asked ‘What were you guys thinking?’ Marshall said, via CSN New England. He explained to me the situation a little bit but I didn’t believe him.”

As the Head Coach said “I clearly thought that was our best opportunity, so that’s why we did it. I didn’t like the way it worked out, but to me that was the right decision for our team at that time.”

History Repeats Itself

It reminded many Patriot long timers of a call Belichick made on November 11, 2009. New England was ahead of Indianapolis 34-28 with 4th and 2 at their own 28. With just over 2 minutes remaining common sense said punt, but instead the Head Coach went for it… and failed on a controversial call. The  Colts took over and scored an easy TD to win 35-34.

Later Belichick said “I thought it was our best chance to win (sounds familiar). I thought we needed to make that one play and then we could basically run out the clock. We weren’t able to make it.”

A few other factors came into play in that game:

  1. They were facing Payton Manning in his prime and didn’t want to give him the ball with an opportunity to win
  2. The New England defense was struggling after the offense built a 17 point lead (In other words he didn’t trust it to hold the lead)

Former Patriots disagreed vehemently with the call – Rodney Harrison called it “the worst coaching decision I’ve ever seen Bill Belichick make.”

Tedy Bruschi said, “The decision to go for it would be enough to make my blood boil for weeks. … I would look at this decision as a lack of confidence in our ability as a defensive unit to come up with a big play to win the game.”

Sorry fans, but it was a bad call in 2009 and just as bad Sunday!

On To Miami

The good news is, the loss really didn’t cost the Patriots their chance to host all their post-season games up to the Super Bowl. A win Sunday in Miami and the season has been a complete success no matter what happens between the Broncos and Bengals. Achieving 100% of their goals for the regular season is astounding considering the injuries they have overcome.

Game Notes:

  • The Patriots sat their walking wounded with the exception of Dant’a Hightower. It cost them, but was worth it to give Devon McCourty, Patrick Chung, Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman another day of rest.
  • The loss of McCourty & Chung was noticeable throughout the game and particularly in O/T when confusion in the secondary resulted in a 48-yard completion to Jets receiver Quincy Enunwa on the second play of overtime
  • Not a bad game by Brady, but also not one of his best. 22 for 31, 231 yards, 1 TD & 1 bad interception when he and Gronkowski seemed to be on a different page.
  • Steven Jackson made his 1st appearance in a Patriot uniform. As expected he looked a little rusty, carrying the pigskin 7 times for 15 yards
  • Brandon LaFell was the forgotten man with just 1 reception for 9 yards
  • James White had the only TD by the offense (leading to Belichick’s O/T thought process?)
  • A strip sack fumble caused by Jabaal Sheard resulted in 7 by the
    Jabaal Sheard (93) strips the ball from New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
    Jabaal Sheard (93) strips the ball from New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

    defense when Jamie Collins recovered the ball and ran it 14 yards for New England’s 1st TD

  • The Patriots were 1 for 10 on 3rd down, leading to their demise (hurry back Edelman & Amendola)
  • The defense gave up 428 net yards while the offense could muster just 284

So, now it’s time to move ahead. It will be interesting to see who suits up against the Dolphins. With Sebastian Vollmer going down the offensive line is once again in shambles, so it is anyone’s guess as to who (whom???) plays where.

Sebastian Vollmer (76) is carted off the field during the first half (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Sebastian Vollmer (76) is carted off the field during the first half (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Follow me on Twitter @SnowdonBob

 

 

Jets Drop the Patriots in OT: Three Takeaways

Look, if Bill Belichick told me to light myself on fire and play Russian Roulette in the process, the first thing I’d ask if where is the match and who has the revolver? Did I scowl at the notion that he instructed Matthew (AC) Slater to kick off in overtime rather than receive? Absolutely, it is my job to question decisions like that. I love how the four letter network (ESPN) is talking more about Slater’s call than Peyton and his wife being part of some HGH drug cartel. Is Mark Brunell crying yet? Regardless, our boys dropped a close one yesterday. A few things became very apparent in yesterday’s loss to the New Jersey Jets. Before anyone jumps down my throat on this one, they play in New Jersey, not in New York.

Numero Uno – Belichick didn’t trust the Patriots offense. Plain and simple. Our hero spent more time on his back than he did on his honeymoon with Giselle. He was harassed all day and Marcus Cannon resembled a turn-style at times. Sea Bass went down with some sort of ankle injury, and it just snowballed from there. I can’t count how many tackles and offensive linemen this team has blown through, but the count is climbing by the week. You brought back the exiled Chris Harper, Brandon Lafell was virtually a non-factor, and Gronkowski was the only guy Brady really trusted throughout the day. And the running game resembled something you’d see from a Pop Warner team running east to west instead of north to south. Combine that with the defense playing fairly decent in the fourth quarter, Bill rolled the dice and lost.

Second – Malcolm Butler Gets Beat…. A lot. Look, the guy never has to buy another drink in the New England region ever again. He made the biggest play in Super Bowl history and murdered the Seahawks in the process. However, he is CONSTANTLY out of position, struggles against bigger/physical receivers, and really struggles in press coverage. Having said that, he is the best cornerback they have and will be an important cog in the defensive machine come January. He is a young player and he should grow into a top tier cornerback. But let’s not anoint him the next Deion Sanders. He is a glorified James Sanders at this stage of his career, minus the murder of the Seahawks.

Lastly – Winning The Coin Toss Means Squat – I love the kill them, go into halftime, and kill them again trick as much as the next guy. We’ve seen it more times than I can remember from Brady and the Patriots. I still can’t wrap my head around sitting on the ball at the thirty-five yard line with two time outs before the half. Isn’t the point of deferring to get an extra possession to end the half and start the second half with the ball? This is the fourth time, FOURTH, that they have done it this year. I don’t want to hear injuries are a part of this either. You have the best quarterback and best kicker on the planet, whom very rarely let you down. Put some stock in them and let them do what they do best.

But let’s bring things back to reality for a second. The number one seed is still well within reach. Indianapolis went down there and beat them with a guy who has a ponytail. Yes, he has a legit ponytail. I’m hoping Miami crawls into their off season hole by halftime and we can see Jimmy G sling it for a bit to close out the game. Pittsburgh is on the outside looking in and Kansas City all but wrapped up the five seed. More than likely they will be heading to Houston and the Jets will head to play the Bengals or the Broncos. I could care less who ends up where, because if this team gets healthy, Giselle and the other wives should just start booking wine tastings in Napa now for the first week of February.

New England Patriots: Forget Gronk, Who Is This Leonard Johnson Guy?

Let me start by saying it was great to see Rob Gronkowski back on the field. There’s no doubt he made a big difference in the Patriot offense as they destroyed the Houston Texans 27-6 on Sunday Night Football. The win & Miami’s Monday night loss to the Giants gave New England the AFC East Division title once again.

Tom Brady
Tom Brady explains to the officials why the call should be against Houston (AP Photo/George Bridges)

Tom Brady was efficient (22/30, 255 yds, 2 TDs, 0 ints). Heck, he even helped the officials out with a call (see photo). James White continued to show promise, Danny Amendola was solid and, once again, Brandon LaFell had the drops (caught 5 of 8 passes)…but make no mistake, this game was…

All About The Defense One of 6 sacks as Brian Hoyer is brought down by Dominique Easley with help from Ninkovich. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

One of 6 sacks as Brian Hoyer is brought down by Dominique Easley with help from Ninkovich. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Yes, the offense put up 27 points against what was a surging Texan’s defense, but this was a game dominated by the Patriots D. There was never a time when you felt Houston could score enough points to win from their opening 3 and out to Tom Brady kneeling to kill the clock over the last 2 minutes.

Keshawn Martin (82) fumbles a punt during the second half (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Keshawn Martin (82) fumbles a punt during the second half (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Even when Keshawn Martin muffed a punt (this is beginning to become a habit) and Houston recovered the ball on the Patriots 22 with 10:32 left in the 3rd quarter there was no concern. New England was up 20-6 at the time and, despite their recent troubles with 14 point leads, you just knew this team would not blow another double digit lead.

Obviously Houston Coach Bill O’Brien had no confidence in his team’s ability to move the ball long distances when he ignored the opportunity for a chip-shot field goal and went for it on 4th and 4 at the Pats’ 15 yard line. An incomplete pass from Brian Hoyer to Nate Washington, who was covered by Leonard Johnson, and the D had done it again.

It’s easy to question the decision to chase points that early in the game, and I have to confess I did. The game was within reach and putting any points on the board would have given the Texans a lift with most of the second half still to play. He proved to be right though, as that was the last time Houston had an opportunity to score.

So, Who Is Leonard Johnson

Leonard Johnson, a  previously unknown cornerback, played 42 snaps (courtesy of Mike Reiss) and had a solid game as the #3 CB behind Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan.  The Texans were 0-3 throwing in his direction and he had one of the better break-ups in the game. Johnson  joined the team this week after being released by Tampa, and Bill Belichick jumped at the chance to bring him in and sign him to a 2-year contract.

Belichick is slow to give praise to any player, let alone one who had just joined the team, but he had this to say about the 4th year undrafted free agent:

“He worked really hard this week,” “It was a long week, a lot of extra work, a lot of extra meetings, some good competitive time on the practice field. Got to give him a lot of credit — he came in, learned and his teammates embraced it … .”

As the year started everyone had concerns about the Patriots’ secondary, but, to the surprise of all, it has been pretty solid through the first 13 games. Butler has had some great and some not-so-great games, Logan Ryan has grown into a sold #2 and now it looks like (I know, it was just one game) Johnson brought the final piece to the puzzle.

It’s Nice To Be Back On Top

Everything fell into place on this Sunday as the Patriots went from the #3 AFC seed back to #1, aided by Cincinnati and Denver losses. Once again they have control of keeping an important bye-week in the play-offs and home field advantage throughout. With 3 games left (Titans at Gillette next week, J-E-T-S and Dolphins on the road) they could, and should, finish with another 14 win season and a healthier team when they play the real games.

Game Notes:

It wasn’t all good news though, as the injuries continue to mount.

LeGarrette Blount was on his way to a big game before injuring his hip early (99 J.J. Watt) (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
LeGarrette Blount was on his way to a big game before injuring his hip early (99 J.J. Watt) (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

LeGarrette Blount (Hip), Devin McCourty (Ankle), Dominique Easley (Thigh) and Jonathan Freeny (Hand) had all left the field with injuries by the end of the game.

Blount is walking with the aid of crutches and is reportedly out for the season, Freeney has a cast on his hand and McCourty has a high ankle sprain. Easley was put on season ending IR Tuesday

  •  Jerod Mayo had his best game of the season, leading the team with 7 tackles
  • Defensive Lineman Akiem Hicks,  acquired in a trade from the Saints for TE Michael Hoomanawanui , was outstanding with 2 of the Patriots 6 sacks and was credited with 6 tackles.
  • Jabaal Sheard seemed to spend the entire game in the Houston backfield, as he had 2 forced fumbles, 3 QB Hits, 2 sacks and 5 tackles
  • J.J. Watt was a non factor except for one late hit on Tom Brady long after he had released the ball
  • The Patriots clinched a playoff spot for the 17th time in the 22 years Robert Kraft has owned the team.
  • This is the 7th straight year the Pats have made it to the postseason
Rob Gronkowski's 10th TD catch (Photo: Patriots.com Keith Nordstrom)
Rob Gronkowski’s 10th TD catch (Photo: Patriots.com Keith Nordstrom)
  • Gronkowski notched his 10th touchdown, marking the fifth time he’s done that in his career. That’s the most 10-plus touchdown seasons for a tight end in history (From Paul Perillo)

The Patriots have already had their trap game (Philadelphia) so should not let up as they take on the hapless Titans in Foxborough this Sunday

Follow me on Twitter @SnowdonBob

New England Patriots:Moving On Without Any Excuses

I am a Patriot fan and have been since the original Boston Patriots came into existence in 1960, so now you know I’m REALLY old. Hell, I remember when Elvis was still The King. Those following this now great franchise are as loyal as you will find anywhere, and more so than most.

Boston Patriots 1960

Now that I have that out there, I have to admit that I’m getting tired of the whining.  A team of mostly battered and bruised players at almost every position (I know, no player in the NFL is 100% healthy right now) in a meaningless game, an offensive line (and, yes it is offensive!) that can’t block, one of the youngest defenses in the NFL and a usually reliable group of special teamers gave away two games they should have won. As a result many (not all, but a lot) Patriot fans are ready to hang the officials, blame Roger (Mr. Integrity) Goodell and, worst of all, start doubting the team.

Hey, they are 10-2 and still control their destiny. New England is positioned to get a bye throughout the play-offs by winning their last 4 games against teams they should beat. Calm down…Sunday was about as bad as it will get. Bill Belichick said after their worst loss in Kansas City last year…It’s “on to Cincinnati” … this year it’s “on to Houston.”

Worst Loss Of The Belichick Era?

This was perhaps the worst loss of the Bill Belichick era. No, not in term of importance of the game, but just how bad the coaching was, lack of adjustments made and overall team performance. At least the loss to the Chiefs last year was against a decent team. Not the case Sunday. The Eagles were ready to cave when the Patriots went up 14-0. And then something happened that had occurred a few times early in the season.  The Pats decided they needed to pour it on and the world turned upside down (someone please explain to me what that means…but it seemed to fit here).

The Turning Point?

Tom E. Curran of CSNNE disagrees, but the game changed when the Patriots decided to try a play that rivals that used earlier this year by Indianapolis in their loss to this same Patriots team. Their blunder was a fake punt, our was a fake kick-off!

"Now let's see here. Wait, I know...let's try a drop-kick instead of kick-off. That should fool 'em" (Photo: AP /Charles Krupa)
“Damn this high tech stuff. Now let’s see here. Wait, I know…let’s try a drop-kick instead of kick-off. That should fool ’em” (Photo: AP /Charles Krupa)

At that time we mocked the Colt coaching staff for their ineptitude and were thankful our Patriots wouldn’t and couldn’t do anything that dumb. Well, guess what? Bill Belichick just took a step back into the crowded list of coaches who do really dumb things that look horrendous when they don’t work…which is usually the case (ergo the word dumb).

A few weeks back it was an onside kid that the Patriots were lucky to recover (again when up 14-0) and we all laughed and said…smart move. Go for the knock-out punch. Sunday the brain trust on the sideline decided to try…are you kidding me…a drop kick by Nate Ebner, and it was the beginning of the end.

Up 14-0 and having the Eagles ready to concede the game, the brilliant minds of New England’s football team gave them hope…and the ball in great field position. Before you could blink (well, maybe not that fast, but it sure seemed like it) the Eagles had tied the game 14-14.

The botched kick (BB said after the game it wasn’t an on-side kick) and a missed assignment that led to a blocked punt resulted in two TDs for an Eagle team that had been inept up to that point. If it wasn’t an on-side kick than was the attempt being made to give the Eagles a chance? Sorry, not buying it Bill.

Second Half Adjustment?

Throughout this season I have praised the Patriots for their ability to adjust on the fly. Well, for yesterday’s game, I take it back.  Any adjustments they made were either wrong, or just plain arrogant. It seemed like the strategy was, as in last week’s loss in Denver, let’s throw the ball long and let our fleet-footed (huh!) receivers outrun a poor Eagle secondary.

Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin (98) sacks New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during the first half (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin (98) sacks New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during the first half (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
  • Forget the fact that Brady was being hammered in the pocket and long passes take time to develop
  • Who cares if the Eagles are 26th in rushing defense, let’s fool them and pass-pass-pass…Brady threw the ball 56 times.

With the score knotted at 14-14 the Patriots continued to look like the Detroit Lions (that’s about the worst thing I could say), only worse. New England usually owns the second half, especially at Gillette Stadium. Shoot, when they get the kick to start things off after the break fans know something good is going to happen.

Forget that “score at the end of the half and starting the 2nd half” strategy that has worked all year. This time it was, let the Eagles score five (yes, 5) straight TDs without scoring a point and see if you can come back.

How The Eagles Scored

This isn’t pretty, so take a deep breath:

  1. Botched on side kick = TD. Coaching blunder
  2. Blocked punt = TD. Missed blocking assignment
  3. 99 Yard interception = TD. Brady throws into a crowd and looks really foolish trying to tackle Malcom Jenkins as he runs through the entire Patriot team (see featured photo)
  4. 83 yard punt return for Daryl Sproles = TD. Patriot special teams part the waters as he scrambles to the end zone.
  5. Bradford to Matthews for 10 yards = TD. Once again Tom Brady was intercepted on an up-for-grabs long pass intended for Brandon LaFell which was nowhere near him. Wrong route? Bad pass? Only the Patriots know, but bottom line another Eagle TD.

Every Eagle score was a result of a Patriot miscues. The only impressive offensive drive by Philadelphia was after Brady’s second interception. They took over with 2:10 left in the 3rd quarter and marched 80 yards, scoring with 11:14 left in the game to make it 35-14..

Garbage Time

Despite the big lead in the 4th quarter the Eagles still were ready to

Scott Chandler had a nice TD catch ( Photo: Keith Nordstrom Patriots.com)
Scott Chandler had a nice TD catch ( Photo: Keith Nordstrom Patriots.com)

give the game away (this is a terrible team folks). After the Pats went three and out following the Eagles final score, the defense stepped up and forced a Philadelphia punt with 7:54 left in the game. Brady marched the Patriots 71 yards, culminating with a Brady to Scott Chandler 14 yard TD as the clock ticked down to 5:33. 35-21 Eagles

This time the Patriots successfully executed a regular on-side kick and recovered the ball on their 45. Nine plays later Brady scored on a 1-yard run and it was 35-28 with 3:02 left.

Tom Brady scores on a quarterback sneak (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Tom Brady scores on a quarterback sneak (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Many in the Gillette Stadium crowd had already left, but those headed to the exits at this point stopped in their tracks and scampered back to their seats.

Another Brady Miracle Finish?

The Patriots 3rd on-side kick almost worked again, as Philadelphia muffed the kick, but the ball went out-of-bounds as the Eagles took over on the NE 46.

The Eagles again tried to give the game back when, after getting to the Patriots 25, Jamie Collins (he’s back) forced a fumble. It was all in the hands of the greatest QB in NFL history. Well, actually, it was in the hands of the receiving corps, who, after getting 1 first down, had 3 drops and the game was over. Eagles win 35-28.

Game Notes:

  • If my memory is correct the Patriots last drop kick was an extra point by Doug Flutie against the Dolphins in his last game in the NFL
  • James White was finally given a legitimate chance to make a
    James White (28) runs from Philadelphia Eagles linebackers Brandon Graham (55), Kiko Alonso (50), and safety Walter Thurmond (26) (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
    James White (28) runs from Philadelphia Eagles linebackers Brandon Graham (55), Kiko Alonso (50), and safety Walter Thurmond (26) (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

    difference and he took advantage of the opportunity with 10 receptions (on 13 targets) for 115 yards and a TD

  • The running game, when given a chance was effective. Despite just 13 carries, LeGarrette Blount averaged 4.2 yards per touch while bowling his way to 59 yards.
  • Danny Amendola made a difference with 7 receptions (13 targets) for 62 yards and a TD
  • It looked like Brandon LaFell cut off a long route on Brady’s 2nd interception. He ended up with 9 targets and a poor 4 receptions for a measly 24 yards…and he was the intended receiver on most of Brady’s long throws
  • Brady was sacked 4 times while the Patriots only got to Bradford once. Tom has already been sacked more times than he was all of last season
  • Scott Chandler had one of his better games (that’s not saying much) since joining the team with 4 receptions (7 targets) for 61 yards and a tough TD catch

     Jamie Collins a little late as Bradford releases while getting hit( Photo: Keith Nordstrom Patriots.com)
    Jamie Collins a little late as Bradford releases while getting hit( Photo: Keith Nordstrom Patriots.com)
  • Jamie Collins returned and led the team with 7 tackles
  • Of the Eagles 5 TDs, 1 was on defense and 2 were by special teams
  • Brady, pressured all game, was 29/56 for a deceptive 312 yards, 3 TDs, 2 int’s and  a rating of 71.4. Bradford, with little pressure went 14-24 for 121 yards, 2 TDs, 0 int’s and a 99.3 rating

 Moving On

Get the Philadelphia fiasco out of your head now. Don’t dwell on it, it will just give you a headache. It’s on to Houston to face the Texans, who are suddenly playing some very good football.

Early in the season this looked like a no brainer. When they were crushed by the Dolphins Patriot fans set them aside as a non-entity. That’s just not the case anymore.

Despite losing to the Bills yesterday 30-21 the Texans are in the hunt in the weak AFC South, tied with the Colts for the division lead at 6-6. In case you missed it, the game has been moved to Sunday Night.

Follow me on Twitter @SnowdonBob

New England Patriots: Is Denver Tom Brady’s Achilles’ Heel?

Is it possible the Denver Broncos are Tom Brady’s achilles’ heel? Going into Sunday night’s match-up there was only one team in the NFL TB has a losing record against.  It may be hard to believe, but the best QB in NFL history is 6-7 against the Broncos, 5-5 in the regular season and 1-2 in the playoffs.

So, here it is. Sunday night at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver and Super Tom still has something to prove…one more mountain to climb. The big difference over past years is ( are you ready for this?)  Brady may have a mediocre/poor game and the Patriots still should win. I know, Denver has a great defense…but this year so do the Patriots.

D-E-F-E-N-S-E

The Patriots have allowed the fewest points-per-game (18.2) in the NFL while the Broncos are 18th in scoring (22.2). When you realize how many of the points scored against New England’s defense were in garbage time,  after games were already decided, the figure is decidedly lower.

Meanwhile, the always tough Denver defense is just behind NE, allowing a measly 18.3 PPG of their own.  Yes, the Patriots are 2nd in scoring (32.3), but the days of rolling up points look to be over with a depletion of skill players on offense due to injuries. Danny Amendola and Aaron Dobson will be among the missing (Dobson for the year) leaving Brady with limited options in the passing game. Sure, he still has Rob Gronkowski and Brandon LaFell, but after that there are a bunch of question marks.

Home Field Advantage

Big Edge: Denver

1960 Patriots vs Broncos (Photo: sportspaperinfo.com
1960 Patriots vs Broncos (Photo: sportspaperinfo.com

The Patriots are just 9-19 in Denver since the two teams first met in 1960.  Ah yes, I remember it well, a 13-10 Denver win. (The long-term memory is fine, it’s the short-term that’s a killer).

Here’s a scary stat (courtesy of WEEI’s Chris Price): .842 — Including the postseason, that’s the winning percentage for the Broncos in their last 19 home games against the Patriots (since 1969). Denver is 16-3 in those games.

Yeah, I know. Different year, different players…but still, it has to be on Tom Brady’s mind. He absolutely hates to lose with a passion that is unequaled. I know everyone hates to lose, but he takes it to a new level.  Just a few weeks back he was pounding the ground in anguish when he was sacked and felt it was his fault…and the Patriots won that game easily!

The fire in Tom Brady after getting pulled down in 36-7 win over the Dolphins (photo: Darren Mccollester/Getty Images
The fire in Tom Brady after getting pulled down in 36-7 win over the Dolphins (photo: Darren McCollester/Getty Images

Why The Patriots Should Win

Despite the advantages the Broncos have, as listed above, the Patriots are still favored, although by a very slim margin…and the reasons are:

  • Tom Brady vs Brock Osweiler (No Brainer)

Brady showed his emotion repeatedly in last weeks win against the Bills, and his teammates would rather not face his wrath two weeks in a row.

“I was pretty agitated all night,” Brady told WEEI’s Dennis and Callahan Show, via Boston.com. “For three hours and 20 minutes, I was pretty agitated.”

James White had two TDs against the Bills despite limited touches (Photo: Fansided.com)
James White had two TDs against the Bills despite limited touches (Photo: Fansided.com)
  • More action from James White, who was clutch despite limited touches, in last week’s win over Buffalo. His snap count should increase with a reduction in touches by LeGarrette Blount.
  • The offensive line has to be better (couldn’t be any worse) as the walking wounded continue to return and the revolving door slows down. The Patriots have used 25 offensive line combinations this season, most in the NFL (Mike Reiss)
  • Bill Belichick vs Gary Kubiack (Another No Brainer)
  • Rob Gronkowski is due to have a breakout game. Denver now has Vernon Davis, who had his best game of the year last week, and Gronk won’t take kindly to being outplayed on national TV

Both teams are looking forward to this one. Here are a few pre-game quotes from the Bronco’s camp:

“It will be fun—Sunday Night Football, undefeated team coming in. It will be a lot of fun. It’s great playing against [Patriots QB] Tom [Brady], though. He’s a great competitor.”
– Broncos CB Aqib Talib

They’re really physical. Their defensive line—they’ve been causing a lot of chaos for quarterbacks. They’ve been getting to the quarterbacks. I think [Patriots DE] Chandler Jones  is over 10 sacks at this point in the year. I think they just play extremely hard. They know their scheme inside and out and they execute their scheme.”
Broncos QB Brock Osweiler

Prediction

Patriots squeak out a tough win and go to 11-0

Patriots 21 Broncos 17

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NFL WEEK 11 PICKS

Obviously, the Jaguars beat the Titans on TNF.

Raiders (0) over LIONS –

The Oakland Raiders need this win more than anything.  They are tied with Kansas City in the AFC South, and they MUST win this game if they want to have a chance to make the playoffs.  Detroit is 4th in their division, so they aren’t really playing for anything, except the win.  While the game is in Detroit, the Raiders have more pressure to win the game, and more heart.  I believe the Oakland Raiders will win the game.

 FALCONS (-6) over Colts

This is a MUST win for both teams. The game is in Atlanta, so the Falcons will have home field advantage.  I had a hard time making this pick, however I do believe the Atlanta Falcons will come out with the win.  First off, Andrew Luck is not expected to play, which will make it much harder for the Colts to win.  Second, I just don’t see the Colts defense stopping the Atlanta offense.  It will be very hard to stop Devonta Freeman, who is playing at his best this year.

EAGLES (-7) over Bucs

This is also another MUST win for both teams if they want to have a shot at making the playoffs.  However, I am picking the Eagles to win this game.  While the Eagles have their issues which I’ll explain in a bit, I just don’t see a Jameis Winston led team being able to pull out the win.  Part of the issue is Tampa Bay’s defense which is not great at all.  The Eagles biggest issue is, Mark Sanchez.  There are obviously more factors, but last week the Eagles played a great first half, then Sam Bradford got hurt of course, and Mark Sanchez subbed in.  Then, in the fourth quarter, when you have to be clutch, Mark Sanchez could not finish the game.  I think this will be a very close game, but the Eagles will be able to pull out the win.  Mark Sanchez will throw at least one interception, and I think the reason why the Eagles will win this game is because of their running game, especially with DeMarco Murray in the backfield.

BEARS (0) over Broncos

With the Bears coming off a HUGE road win against the Rams last week, they will be ready to come out and battle the Broncos at home on Sunday.  It will be a lot harder for the Broncos to win without Peyton Manning, as Brock Osweiler will be the starting quarterback for the Broncos.  However, I am picking the Denver Broncos to win the football game.  Many may disagree, however, in my opinion, I think the Saint Louis Rams made some mistakes which caused the Bears to win the football game.  The Chicago Bears will lose this week to the Broncos as reality will set in.

Rams (+2.5) over RAVENS

This may be a difficult game to pick based on the stat sheet, but it is quite easy for me.  I am picking the Rams to win the game.  The Rams are 2nd in their division and need to come out with the win if they want to have a chance at making the playoffs.  As for the 2-7 Ravens, it would be a good win, but it wouldn’t do much as they have very little chance of making the playoffs.

DOLPHINS (0) over Cowboys

I think the Dallas Cowboys are not mentally tough enough to beat the Dolphins.  Each week the players are getting in fights with the media, firing snarky comments at their opponents, and they just lose.  They are currently on a seven game losing streak.  To make matters worse, they are playing on the road against the Miami Dolphins who are not consistent, but are a much better football team in my opinion.  This is an easy pick.  I pick the Miami Dolphins to win the game.

Redskins (+8.5) over PANTHERS

The Panthers will come out with the win this week.  They are the better football team overall, and Carolina is the home team.  Washington is 0-4 on the road so far this season, so I don’t think they can just come into Carolina and win.  I am picking the Carolina Panthers to win the game.

Chiefs (-3) over CHARGERS

While the Chargers are the home team in this game, I still believe the Chiefs will win.  This is a division game, so lots of things can happen, but the Chiefs NEED to win this game if they have any chance at making the playoffs.  I don’t think it will be a blowout, but Philip Rivers and the Chargers just are not playing well at all this year.  I am picking the Kansas City Chiefs to win this game.

VIKINGS  (0) over Packers

The Packers NEED to win this game, and so do the Vikings, but the Vikings are the home team, and Green Bay is 2-2 on the road this season.  Things in Green Bay just haven’t been clicking these last 3 games, and it is time for them to turn it around.  I think it will be a close game, but in the end Aaron Rodgers will have a great performance, and the Packers will get their much needed win.  This is a very hard pick to make, but in the end I am picking the Green Bay Packers to win the game.

49ers (+13.5) over SEAHAWKS

For this game, Seattle is the home team.  The 49ers are 0-4 on the road this season, and Century Link Field is a very hard stadium to play at.  I believe the Seahawks will pull off the win, especially because Colin Kaepernick has been placed on season ending IR, which will make it very tough for the 49ers.  Seattle’s defense will play a great game, and Seattle’s offense will put up just enough points to pull out the win.  However, it should be close.  I am picking the Seattle Seahawks to win the game.

Jets (-2.5) over TEXANS

While the Texans are the home team, and it will be tough for the Jets to win the game, but they will come through.  The Houston Texans just haven’t shown me enough this year.  They are pretty inconsistent to say the least.  And this isn’t the Rex Ryan coached Jets, this is the 2015 Jets, who have proven to be much better than last year’s squad.  I am picking the New York Jets to win the game.

Bengals (+5) over CARDINALS

This is going to be a tough game.  The Bengals lost to the Texans last week, and now they are going on the road to play the Cardinals.  While the Bengals are a great road team, I just don’t see their defense playing well.  Obviously Arizona has a great defense, with Patrick Peterson at the DB and Tyrann Mathieu at safety.  So, I think Cardinals’ defense will make it tough for the Bengals to score points, and it will be easier for the Cardinals to score on the Bengals defense.  I am picking the Arizona Cardinals to win the game.

PATRIOTS (-8.5) over Bills

Rex Ryan is all hyped up about that win over his former team, the New York Jets.  While the Bills did play a good game and got a good win, Rex Ryan gets all cocky when he wins games.  In week one, after Rex Ryan and the Bills got a good win against the Colts, he started talking smack about the Patriots and how he was going to beat them.  Once again, the Bills won the previous week and Rex Ryan is getting all cocky again.  Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots will shut him up, as they did week 2 on the road in Buffalo.  If that isn’t enough, the Patriots are also the home team.  I do think this will be a close game, but in the end, I am picking the New England Patriots to win the game.