Things to consider while using a tough loss as a chance to practice hanging in a Belichick Stance:
*I’m not going to waste my keystrokes telling people not to panic. Even if ¾ of the NFL is 1-1. Because if the last ten years have taught me anything it’s that when you only lose 2 to 4 games a year, every loss has to be treated like it’s the Footballcalypse. So I know the media and rest of the anti-Patriots Jihadists will flip out. They’ll be so offended by this they’ll take to the streets, climb the walls of Gillette and tear down the 16-0 banner and demand the Great Satan pay for this blasphemy. I’m just saying horrible losses like this happen even to the great teams twice a year. Call me a moderate all you want, but I’m not calling for blood quite yet.
*Still, it’s hard not to notice the Pats never lose a game the normal way; just by getting outplayed and beaten because it wasn’t their day like every other team in the league. On the rare occasions they get beat, it always has to be gut-wrenching. An emotional roller coaster where a bird flies in at the last second and smashes their nose across their perfect Fabio face. They just don’t know how to drop a game any other way.
*Anyone who bellyaches about the play calling that set up the final field goal try is just flat out demagoging, which I say while I subtlely roll my eyes in Bill Simmons’ direction. To put it in terms The
Boston LA Sports Guy can understand, setting Stephen Gostkowski up in the exact middle of the field on a day where he’d already hit two 50+ yarders dead solid perfect and asking him to hit a 42 yarder is the equivalent of running a play that leaves Paul Pierce all alone at the free throw line and asking him to hit a jumper. Gostkowski just missed. Blame him. Blame the fact that they only managed 1 TD all day. But don’t blame conservative play calling when conservative play calling gave your kicker a 95% chance to win the game.
*I love Gost. He’s a great kicker. But the Cardinals handed the Pats a winning Powerball ticket, they asked him to hold onto it, and he dropped it down a storm drain.
*Still, he’s not the reason for the loss. Belichick was right all week about how good this Arizona defense is. Their DC Ray Horton came from the Steelers, but the apple fell way far away from the Dick Lebeau coaching tree because his D looks nothing like Pittsburgh’s.
*Lebeau’s D is a straight 3-4 base with tiny, quick-twitch ends like James Harrison. But Arizona played a 4 man front with two down linemen the whole game (Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell) and gargantuas standing up on the outsides (Sam Acho, 257 and O’Brien Schofield, 245). I saw none of the elaborate Zone Blitzes you associate the Lebeau coaching tree, aside from a well-executed “Tex” (tackle-end cross) stunt that sent Quentin Groves in clean. In fact, they rarely rushed more than 4 guys and had the ILBs covering the Patriots backs.
*But the biggest difference was in the coverage. By design, the Zone Blitz plays… duh… a Zone. Six men in coverage, 3 deep, 3 underneath. The Cardinals seemed to be taking the Pats receivers out of the game with mostly 2 deep safeties and the ILB and 3 corners playing a tight man underneath. Most of those Pats stalled drives were the result of no one open on 3rd down and those sacks were Brady wisely eating the ball, not pressure.
*Not to make excuses… oh what the hell, I’ll make excuses… losing Aaron Hernandez was a huge part of that. You can’t put a corner in man coverage on him or AHern’ll be cleaning his teeth with the guy’s bones all day. Once he was replaced with Julian Edelman (no knock on him; he played his undersized ass off), that matchup nightmare was gone and drives kept sputtering.
*As far as my eyes could tell, the way the Pats beat that on that one TD drive was to get Gronk running crossing routes on the LB’s, which they couldn’t defend. That got the secondary playing a deeper shell, then they attacked with hitches and stops and moved the ball. The one time Brady went deep was when they blitzed 6 leaving a Single High Safety and everyone else in 1-on-1. Again, though the coverage was great as William Gay stayed stride for stride with Welker, incomplete. But if they could’ve gotten Arizona out of that tight coverage sooner, maybe Gostkowski wouldn’t have had to lie away all last night staring into the abyss.
*I know I get irrational when a key guy like Hernandez gets helped off the field. I get my hopes up for a miracle when I know I shouldn’t. Like when they called him “Questionable” to return, I probably lost my mind a little. Like I swear a part of me hoped those “Taken 2” ads and Liam Neeson’s general badassery would rub off on Hernandez and get him to instantly heal or something, I don’t know. I told myself how Neeson is, after all, the guy who mentored both Darth Vader AND Batman. And the Pevensy kids for that matter. I’ve come to my senses though. God only knows what I was telling myself when Brady went down in ’09.
*It wasn’t the best day ever for the Gillette crowd. The booing started in the 1st quarter. They ran for the exits while there was still a chance. They weren’t loud to begin with, but once Hernandez went down they lost all their fight. Moping around like they were the Fellowship when the Balrog put Gandalf on the Injured Reserve (Designated for Return) List. The Real Housewives of Foxboro should be glad this one wasn’t on national TV.
*I can’t even look at Logan Mankins now without being ashamed to call myself a man. He played an entire NFL season with a torn ACL. Last week I called in sick to work when coffee burned my tongue.
*Overall, aside from a couple of breakdowns I thought the line was good in protection. Like I said, the pressure that was there was mostly from the coverage. And I like what they’re doing on pitch plays and stretch runs. But they’re struggling with inside zones. Inside zone runs require the O-line to get a push off the LOS with their double teams, so one or more blockers can come off the doubles and hit someone at the second level and open up lanes. When they don’t get that push, the linebacker fills the hole and the play breaks down. After two games that play is the weakest part of their attack.
*”She owes the mob a favor. Now she has to vacuum their rugs, dust their window blinds and clean the toilets. She’s ‘Mob Cleaning Lady’.”
*It’s never a good look to blame the scab officials, but for the first time that I’ve seen the Refauxrees probably cost a team a game. That holding call on Gronk on the Danny Woodhead TD was Grade A baloney. Gronk himself got held much worse at least twice. And the 27 False Starts on the Patriots, including the ones where Danny Aiken twitched his thumb and Donald Thomas wiggled his ears were garbage.
*That said, it was nice to see Mike Pereira come on Fox to talk about that fumble and extend his consecutive game streak of not telling us anything we couldn’t see with our own eyes to 153 games. He’s now second on the all-time list only to Joe Morgan’s 1,482.
*But at least the Refauxrees still give us the fun of watching them struggle with public speaking. Six games into their NFL careers and they’re still like scared college kids taking the stage at their first Open Mic Night. This particular ref started to say “Arizona has exhasted their challaunges…” But then he caught himself, mere syllables from immortality. Pity. But at this point I welcome back Ed Hercules and his 1,000 word descriptions of a guy’s feet landing in bounds.
*While we’re talking about language, LaRod Stephens-Howling’s name is a gerundial phrase. That’s not interesting or particularly funny. But if Mrs. Driscoll is reading this, she’d be proud to learn I was paying attention.
*Guys Who Gostkowski Can Split The Tin Can With:
–Scott O’Brien. Nate Ebner’s been as advertised so far on Special Teams. But on that blocked punt he just got overpowered by Groves. So I put that on the ST coach who put a 210 lb rookie on the edge against a 4-year veteran with 55 lbs on him.
–Michael Hoomanawanui. He had a decent block on Adrian Wilson to spring Stevan Ridley on the last play of the 1st quarter. But I saw nothing else, unless you count getting swatted aside by a cornerback when Patrick Peterson beat him and got a tackle in the backfield on a crucial play “something.”
–Lex Hilliard. I’m just not seeing it, Lloyd. Three plays (I think): A play action he wasn’t involved in, one where he bounced off Adrian Wilson like a bumper car, and another where he blocked nothing but air. I know they did everything they could to add a healthy fullback. But Hilliard’s been as useful as a Jennifer Hale sideline injury report.
–Brandon Lloyd. He’s made unbelievable catches. That one where he stretched out for the ball while sliding on his toes defied the laws of physiology. It was something you can only do in Toontown. But the next play hit him between the 8 and the 5. Or as we’re used to calling them, the Ocho and the Cinco. Maybe a new number is in order.
*Applicable Movie Quote of the Week: “If he had held the ball, laces out, like he was supposed to, Ray would never have missed that kick. Dan Marino should die of gonorrhea and rot in hell. Would you like a cookie, son?” – Mrs. Finkel, “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective”
*New Guys Who Looked Good:
–Chandler Jones. Pundits who’ve been pining for an elite edge rusher should be wearing condoms to bed right now because this kid is wet dream material. His hand combat is the best we’ve seen since Neo fought Agent Smith. In one sequence he beat D’Anthony Bastiste to bring down Ryan Williams for a loss. Two plays later Bastiste had to hold him. And the next he made Kevin Kolb throw it away in the end zone.
–Tavon Wilson. He seems to be the first DB off the bench in subpackages. And on a 3rd & 6 he was playing up in the box at the Robber spot when they ran a pitch that he read, penetrated and got a tackle for loss. John Lynch credited Vince Wilfork. And I’m pretty sure Dick Stockton gave the tackle to Bronko Nagurski. But it was all the rookie.
–Devin McCourty. OK, so he’s not new. But him playing this well is. The Cardinals move Larry Fitzgerald around a lot, but McCourty had him a lot and he finished with 1 catch for 4 yards. And that stop on the fade pattern in the end zone should be made into a coaching instructional tape. Playing corner is mostly about confidence and hopefully he’s getting his back.
*Speaking of Fitzgerald, I read a thing about how he spends his free time flying around the world giving cattle and farming tools to the poorest of the poorest of the poor. Seriously, in a league filled with wideouts who are selfish, touch-counting, quarterback-taunting, coach-killing divas and criminal misanthropes, this guy is Albert Schweizter and Mother Teresa in Randy Moss’ body. Meanwhile I can’t drop a bag of ripped jeans and ratty old sneakers into the Goodwill bin without thinking I deserve the Nobel Peace Prize. Like with Mankins, I’m ashamed. But for an entirely different reason.
*She owes the mob a favor. Now she’s forced to answer their angry calls politely and resolve all their problems. She’s ‘Mob Customer Service Rep’.”
*I hate to keep ballwashing the Cardinals, but I thought Kolb held up in the pocket better than I was told he would. They talk about him like he’s more afraid of pressure than Shaggy is of ghosts and will run off in panic at the first sight of a pass rush. But he was alright. He still looks like Josh Beckett though and throws like Daniel Bard, which is not alright.
*Was that really Troy Brown? Maybe he’s put on a couple of pounds since retiring or he looks different in a suit. Because to me he looked like Tyler Perry’s Troy Brown.
*If I was running the Cardinals and already had Daryl Washington and Paris Lenon, I’d trade for London Fletcher and try to recapture that Washington-Paris-London magic that whomped so much ass in WWII.
*For the Ravens game next week, I’m hoping the little girl in the Visa ad asks Ray Lewis, “Could clarify your prior inconsistent statements about what happened to the suit you were wearing on the night Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar were stabbed to death?” I don’t like my chances, but it would sure as hell help cheer me up.
*“She owes the mob a favor. Now she’s forced to ask Ray Lewis questions in commercials. She’s ‘Mob Product Pitchgirl’…”