Tag Archives: Stephen Gostkowski

New England Patriots: 2016 – A Season Of Surprises

If nothing else, 2016 has been a season with many surprises for the New England Patriots. Some have been pleasant…and some haven’t turned out too well. Despite all the changes, this year’s team is once again a legitimate Super Bowl contender and are, at 10-2, right where most expected them to be. Here are my 5 biggest surprises as the season progressed.

#1 BRADY ACCEPTS 4 GAME SUSPENSION

tom-brady-accepts-suspensionHe gave it a gallant fight, but TB finally got tired of deflategate and moved on. Many were disappointed, but it was time to play football. He never acknowledged any guilt despite the Brady detractors using his acceptance of the 4 games to claim it a “win” for the NFL. Nothing about deflategate was a win for anyone…the NFL, Brady, the Patriots or fans anywhere.

#2 – DEFENSE

As the season started fans and prognosticators (my $50 word for the day) were saying the 2016 defense would be top 5 caliber. In one way people were right. As of now they are tied with their next opponent (Baltimore) for 2nd in the NFL for least points allowed (17.2 PPG), trailing only the Seahawks.

Well, we now look at the defense and wonder if it is capable of making the big stop once the playoffs come around. Bill Bodell  wrote  back in August ” The Patriots have at least five guys on this defense who could potentially make the Pro Bowl in Malcolm Butler, Jabaal Sheard, Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower, and Devin McCourty.” 

The big surprise from that group has been the departure of Collins, benching of Sheard and under performance by all but Butler. Overall the defense has not been as bad as it seems to the naked eye, but it certainly still hasn’t proven itself to be an elite unit.

The team is currently ranked in the top 10 in 4 key categories, but considering the weak offenses they have faced, questions still abound :

  • #2 points allowed (207)
  • #9 total defense
  • #12 passing defense
  • #10 rushing defense
  • #9 yards allowed
  • #14 sacks

It is a must for this unit to improve if the Patriots are to go far in the playoffs, let alone win the Super Bowl. Monday Night vs Baltimore will be a true test

#3 OFFENSIVE LINE

Shock would be the word I use to describe how well the OL has performed. Dante Scarnecchia’s goal coming into the season was to solidify a unified unit of 5 to play most snaps…and he has been highly successful with (LT) Nate Solder, (LG) rookie Joe Thuney, (C) UFA David Andrews, (RG) Shaq Mason, (RT) Marcus Cannon. Just how good has this group been?

  1. Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett have been sacked just 26 times while throwing 417 passes
  2. LeGarrette Blount has rushed for 957 yards and 13 TDs

dante-scarnecchiaAdd in that Marcus Cannon, who I have been known to chastise in the past, just had his contract renewed and is having his best season ever in his 6th year as a Patriot = you have realize just how much of a surprise this unit has been. Thank you “Scar.”

#4 – ROOKIE WR MALCOLM MITCHELL

The Patriots drafting of wide receivers has been beyond bad, but this year they hit a home-run (sorry for the baseball analogy) with 4th round pick (112th overall) Malcolm Mitchell. He has quickly gained Brady’s trust and has grown game-by-game while exhibiting his toughness, route running, speed and sure hands. Just look at what he has done over the past 3 games:

  • 8 receptions/82 yards vs Rams
  • 4 receptions/98 yards/1 TD vs 49ers
  • 5 receptions/42 yards/2 TDs vs J-E-T-S

Malcolm Mitchell.jpgThis young man will only get better. He needs to continue to improve with the loss of Danny Amendola & Rob Gronkowski for the offense to control the game. Mitchell is this year’s Dion Lewis. 

#5 – KICKING GAME

The inconsistency of the kicking game has truly been a surprise. This was consider an area of strength when the season began, but has been erratic throughout the first 12 games.

  • Stephen Gostkowski has been AFC special team player of the week twice, including last week against the Rams, but has missed 4 makeable field goals and 3 extra points…not good enough for the highest paid kicker in the NFL.
  • Ryan Allen (no, not Logan Ryan as identified during the Fox telecast Sunday) has given the Patriots great field position throughout his 4 year career in the NFL. This year he hasn’t been consistent, shanking some and leaving opponents in good shape. His net average is fractionally his highest ever (40.8 vs 40.4 for his career), but of his 52 punts only 17 have been inside the 20 yard line.

Playoff game are usually won and lost by field position (I have no data to prove this, but let’s net let facts get in the way of the story), so both Gostkowski & Allen need to be on-their-game as that part of the season rolls around.

Honorable Mention: LeGarrette Blount – read My Apologies to LeGarrette Blount

Follow me on Twitter @SnowdonBob

 

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