Tag Archives: Steven Jackson

New England Patriots: What Needs To Happen Before The Play-Offs

The focus on Julian Edelman’s return to the Patriots line-up has rightfully been the center of attention since the season ended with the New England offense looking more like the Cleveland Browns than the juggernaut that started the season. His week 10 broken foot against the Giants crippled not only the player, but the entire Patriots offense.

Why Edelman’s Return Is So Critical

There are many reasons why his return will help rejuvenate a stagnant Patriot offense.

Julian Edelman broke his foot in this game against the Giants (AP Photo/Gary Hershorn)
Julian Edelman broke his foot in this game against the Giants (AP Photo/Gary Hershorn)

  1. He is, by a wide margin, the man Tom Brady trusts most (my apologies to Rob Gronkowski) to be in the right spot at the right time
  2. He seldom drops a pass and often makes the hard catch look easy
  3. When Edelman is in, defenses have to adjust, giving others – like Gronkowski – more space to make the catch
  4. The weakest part of the New England offense, the offensive line, is exposed less with Edelman playing because Brady has that security blanket available for his quick release. No one else filled that role during his absence. Danny Amendola did his best, but it wasn’t quite good enough.

Don’t underestimate the importance of #4. The bye-week does give time for the big guys up front to rest. However, at it’s best, this season it was mediocre…even when rested.

The return of Sebastian Vollmer helps, but even when he was playing Brady was getting hit hard and often. The most consistent players have been perennial back-up Josh Kline (per Mike Reiss 77.4% of offensive snaps) and rookie David Andrews (68.5%), which shows just how bad things have been.

Other Critical Pieces Of The Puzzle

The return of Edelman alone is not a cure-all. Although it should make a huge difference on offense, the defense needs to get back to the dominant group that intimidated QBs throughout the league. The return to health of some key defensive players should take a lot of pressure off the offense, allowing wins while falling short of scoring 30+ points a game.

Dont'a Hightower sacks Cowboy's QB Weeden
Dont’a Hightower sacks Cowboy’s QB Weeden

  • Dont’a Hightower

Remember three years ago when we were all questioning Hightower’s ability to diagnose offenses and actually make the big play? As we’ve seen over the past two seasons, he has dispelled any doubt…he was a great 1st round draft pick (25th overall) in 2012!

Arguably the most valuable player on the defense, Hightower has played injured for a while now…and it has shown with his hesitancy on the field. Hopefully this bye-week gets him confident that he is OK and he’ll return the All-Pro that he was prior to getting banged up.

One of 12 1/2 sacks by Chandler Jones (photo: Keith Nordstrom NewEnglandPatriots.com)
One of 12 1/2 sacks by Chandler Jones (photo: Keith Nordstrom NewEnglandPatriots.com)

  • Chandler Jones

When Hightower got injured Jones production suffered, despite the help he got from Jamie Collins and Jaball Sheard. At one point it felt like Jones was going to smash all Patriot sack records, but by seasons end he had an injured toe and was struggling to get to the QB. The two weeks off (he sat the last game) should re-energize his motor and the combination of Jones, Hightower, Sheard, Collins, Akiem Hicks, Malcom Brown and, old faithful,  Rob Ninkovich will have opposing teams scratching their head when they have the ball.

…And Let’s Not Forget

  • Danny Amendola

If Edelman hadn’t been out Amendola wouldn’t have played (injury)  at the end. No one can ever question his toughness to me. Here’s hoping fans appreciate how much he has done this year, beside building a car port in an upper class area of Rhode Island. The trio of Gronkowski, Edelman, Amendola along with  James White, Brandon LaFell (yes, as 4th receiver), Steven Jackson and Keshawn Martin should keep defenses on their heels, cutting back on the pressure being put on Brady.

  • Tom Brady

    Down goes Brady and it hurts
    Down goes Brady and it hurts

No, he’s not an afterthought. When he limped off the field in Miami, Patriot’s Nation held their collective breath and looked to the sky. Why, oh why, was he even playing? Despite the (high?) ankle sprain sustained on a low hit (no penalty?) by arguably the dirtiest player in the NFL (Ndamukong Suh) you know #12 will be on the field doing anything it takes to win.

…And No More Injuries, Please!

It seems every day something new pops up on the injury front. Whether it was Chandler Jones last week or Nate Ebner Thursday, enough is enough.

In case you forgot, the non-playing Injured Reserve list for the Patriots includes these names we were counting on to help get to Super Bowl 50:

  • Nate Solder & Ryan Wendell from the OL
  • Running backs Dion Lewis (sigh) & LeGarrette Blount plus FB James Develin
  • Oft injured DL Dominique Easley

There are more, but those six were key players.

So, everyone else, please, stay healthy for the 1st real game of the season, January 16 at Foxborough…as the next step to ring #5 commences.

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