As the 2015 season wound down, Bill Belichick made some decisions that, looking back, turned out to be questionable (I know, that is heresy in New England, but look at the results). After winning their first eleven games the Patriots started to wilt. With a bunch of walking wounded, a beat up Tom Brady and the play-offs with home field in game-one guaranteed, he rested some key players and went to a non-existent running game against the J-E-Ts and Dolphins. For the 1st time in may years the Patriots seemed to be playing not-to-lose.
Well, as we all know (so why am I reminding you????) the Pats lost both those games and went into the play-offs having lost four of their last six games. They never completely recovered from those decisions. After winning a home play-off game against the Chiefs (27-20) they traveled to Denver and lost to the ultimate Super Bowl Champion Broncos (20-18) in the Conference Championship game.
How Different Is 2016?
Now, with two games remaining in the 2016 regular season, New England faces the same two teams, NY J-E-T-S and Miami, in a similar situation. The J-E-T-S are out of the race, but always give the Patriots a good fight…and the Dolphins continue to fight for a play-off spot.
So…why does it feel so different? Here are 5 reasons:
The 2016 Patriots are now playing their best football of the season, unlike 2015, when they were unsure if the defense or offense could hold up
Tom Brady won’t be going into these games already bruised & battered thanks to Dante Scarnecchia and a rejuvenated OL (yeah, I know he’s back to limited practice & on the injury list…but he’s still in better shape than last year)
The running game is at it’s peak, with LeGarrette Blount rushing for 15 TDs and over 1,000 yards…a healthy Dion Lewis..a solid #3 with James White and the impressive blocking of James Develin. Last year neither Blount nor Lewis were playing due to injuries
The defense is #1 in points against in the NFL. I’ll say that again, the defense is #1 in points against in the NFL
Bill Belichick seems completely confident in all aspects of the Pats game. He’s willing to trust his defense (say what?), offense or special teams to make the crucial play at the end of the game. That’s something that has been missing for many years
Same Decision = Different Results
So, that said, what if Belichick makes the same decisions this year that he did in 2015? If he does, the results should be completely different.This team is tough and in no way resembles the 2015 version of the New England Patriots.
They don’t have Rob Gronkowski or Danny Amendola and both are big losses. However, they do have a bruiser in Blount, a quick Lewis plus new heroes in Chris Hogan (highest yards-per-catch in the NFL) and the speed of rookie WR Malcolm Mitchell. Add in tough TE Martellis Bennett and, oh yeah, a well rested Tom Brady!
With a defense that is starting to click without Chandler Jones or Jamie Collins…but is lead by Trey Flowers, always reliable Rob Ninkovich, Chris Long and, suddenly rejuvenated Jabaal Sheard, Malcolm Butler, Devin McCourty, Dont’a Hightower and a host of others…they are a formidable bunch.
Congratulations to Brady, Slater, Hightower & McCourty on their selection to the 2016 NFL Pro-Bowl. Hopefully none will be able to play as they prepare for the Super Bowl
Condolences to Malcolm Butler, Blount and Marcus Cannon (can’t believe I’m saying this), who all deserved a shot too
The NFL is always fair & objective…just look at their recent “punishment” to the Giants & their Head Coach for being caught cheating! #Integrity
This has been an outstanding year for Patriot Coaches Belichick, Josh McDaniels, Matt Patricia and Scarnecchia
Tom Brady is being penalized again! Many are saying he doesn’t deserve the MVP because he has played 4 fewer games than the others in the running. King Goodell strikes again
The Patriots are the only team in the NFL who have not lost a road game this year. Despite that, the advantage of playing in Foxborough in the playoffs is huge.
Hard to believe, but, 14 games down (12-2) with just 2 more before the real season begins. This season has flown by.
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.
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.”
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:
They were facing Payton Manning in his prime and didn’t want to give him the ball with an opportunity to win
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
Botched on side kick = TD. Coaching blunder
Blocked punt = TD. Missed blocking assignment
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)
83 yard punt return for Daryl Sproles = TD. Patriot special teams part the waters as he scrambles to the end zone.
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..
Despite the big lead in the 4th quarter the Eagles still were ready to
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.
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.
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
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 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
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
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