Things to consider while still waiting for the NFL to stop the game and recognize Tom Brady for setting the career passing record:
–Don’t take this game for granted. God promises no man a 2-touchdown win on the road against a division opponent. And don’t let anyone else take it for granted either. The people who just dismissed 38 points against the best defense in football at Chicago and a win over unbeaten Kansas City but then swallowed their tongues in panic over a bad loss to Tennessee don’t get to just say this win is meaningless because the Jets suck or whatever. This game had high stakes. If they’d lost it, we’d be looking at an extinction-level event out of H.P. Lovecraft’s darkest fever dreams (without all that messy White Supremacy stuff), with the Jets as our Cthulhu. Instead, the Patriots are 8-3, currently holding the No. 2 seed (thanks to an early Christmas present from the Steelers at Denver) and the tiebreaker over No. 1 Kansas City.
–So yeah, anyone who tries to say none of it matters is a dark, sinister, soulless Dementor full of bad intent who’s trying to suck the soul right out of your mouth and not worthy of your attention. This Pats team they’ve been trying to get declared legally dead all year has homefield advantage within their grasp and still hasn’t come close to playing up to their full potential.
–Yesterday at the Jets was no exception. If we were going by Figure Skating rules, they’d have scored high in Artistic Impression but we’d be killing them on Technical Merit. Too many stupid penalties and unforced errors like false starts and illegal motions. Poor Sony Michel seeing enough big gains called back his teammates might have cost his mom a “My Son Was AFC Offensive Player of the Week” bumper sticker. And for yet another week they were guilty of the most unPatriot sin of losing the field position battle on special teams before they finally wised up and had Stephen Gostkowski boom it into the end zone so they can spend the week trying to work on their coverage. Yet again. To circle back a bit, in skating terms, they were two-footing landings and turning quads into doubles, but at times they looked like gorgeous ice princesses doing it.
–Give credit to Josh McDaniels for his game plan. He resisted his natural urge to go with weirdo formations, save for a few with James Develin aligned at “Big Split” four yards outside the numbers and Cordarelle Patterson at H-back. He kept a paper clip on the Gadget Plays section of the playbook, aside from Patterson’s goal line runs and Jet Sweeps, which is really the only way use Corduroy. And instead he attacked with a power running game aided by the most effective intermediate passing game we’ve seen in weeks.
–The Jets defense still has elements of what Rex Ryan used to run against the Patriots. Shrex would attack their preferred 1 RB, 3 WR sets with brilliantly disguised blitzes, forcing the back to stay home and effectively taking the running game out of it. So the Patriots put Michel behind Develin in the “I” and a healthy O-line and simply overpowered them. It was beautiful.
–And none of those 21-personnel plays they ran was better than the one that opened the 2nd half. Out of the power I, Dave Andrews and Joe Thuney doubled the nose tackle, Mike Pennel, Develin went to the second level to neutralize Frankie Luvu while Trent Brown shoved Nathan Shepherd back like he was in Heelies. The play looked like it was designed to go behind Develin through the 2-hole, but Michel cut it back between Thuney and Brown and ripped it for 31.
–One that was just as good was the 33-yarder by Michel late in the game in which Patterson motioned in to seal off Morris Claiborne (Note: the Z-receiver motioning in from the called side to block is referred to as “ZIP” in their scheme, if anyone but me gives a shit), Develin took out Darron Lee, and Shaq Mason pulled to blow up Luvu. That one was made all the more impressive because you, me and every being watching the game thought Michel was done for the season – if not for life – earlier when Pennel pulled him backwards like his spine was a lobster tail Pennel was trying to crack open. Question Michel if you must, but never doubt that kid’s toughness again or you and I will have pistols at dawn.
–The Pats have had a half dozen or so near disasters like that already this season. Scares where it looked for all the world like a guy was not getting up or was looking at a future with robot parts, but they immediately bounced back. Plays like Julian Edelman falling four feet straight onto his elbow where it looked like he’d shattered his upper arm but it turned out just to be his funny bone. For me personally I’d take the shattered arm any day because the funny bone is my one true weakness. Known to the ancients as “Jerry’s Bane.” But Edelman shook it off like a champ without missing a play. Now add to it that long catch and run where he Matrixed over Darryl Roberts, plus the touchdown where he spun and bowled over Jamal Adams as proof that our worst fears from his PED suspension, that he’d come back a shadow of himself, are clearly not going be realized.
–Another area the McOffense was really successful at was utilizing crossing routes, something we’ve seen far too little of. A couple of back-to-back crosses set up Gronk’s TD, the first by Josh Gordon when he got a step on Avery Williamson in zone and Brady led him away from the coverage for 23. Followed by a 20 yarder, again against zone, this time with Chris Hogan behind the linebacker level for 20. Last week I wrote a list of things the Pats need to fix during the bye week and rediscovering Hogan was one of the biggies. I’m happy to say they found him. And I promise all my neighbors that as soon as it stops raining, I’ll get out there and take all the flyers down off the utility poles.
–Call it the Gronk Effect, I suppose. But those angles just become more available when he’s on the field, whether he’s running routes or staying in to block, which he did quite a bit of. No matter how he’s used, he’s got so many skills that multiple defenders have to account for him, from the pass coverage guys to the rushers to the run stuffers. On his touchdown, the Pats ran a “Stick,” which is a 3-man route combo in which Gronk ran up the seam while Hogan and Edelman ran square-ins underneath him. Claiborne bit on the shallow routes leaving Williamson alone. His only hope was Claiborne getting back in the play and punching the ball out and he made a valiant effort. But against Gronk it was like the time Sky Low Low fought Andre the Giant and he had no shot. Gronk is definitely not as fast as he was when healthy last year. But he’s still the game-changing factor no other tight end is.
–Weirdly the one part of their offense they could never get going was the flat route to James White. He and Brady simply couldn’t connect on it, including one attempt where I swear Pennel was in coverage on him, a mismatch that should work out 1,000 times out of 100. Which is surreal since that been the one constant, reliable staple of their attack. And watching it not work felt like the first time you get Erectile Dysfunction. I think. So I’ve heard. I’m just guessing. Moving on …
–Watching McDaniels on the sidelines, talking to his coaches and quarterback on his headset and running through all the computations in his head is like watching Tony Stark build stuff with his cool hologram thing. That said, it was ridiculous to call three run plays into the line at the end of the half with three timeouts, five healthy offensive lineman and one very capable GOAT. All of a sudden he gets conservative enough to host a show on Newsmax? Brady looked livid coming off the field, just not as livid as I was a couple of 16-ouncers into my afternoon. That’s not the McDaniels that’ll be getting all those job offers even after sticking it to the Colts. Let’s see no more of that.
–Whereas Todd Bowles has a coaching style I can best describe as “Slightly Miffed.” Somewhere halfway between the unhinged rage of a Harbaugh brother and Bill Belichick’s introspective glowering. I just don’t know how you lead a roster with the demeanor of a guy at Panera Bread waiting behind a lady who got to the front of the line without know what to order.
–Defensively, I think the idea was that they were going to load the box with more 3-linebacker sets than we’ve seen all year, trust that Stephon Gilmore could more or less take Quincy Enunwa out of the game, mix and match on the other receivers, and dare Josh McCown to beat them with his subprime arm and prehistoric legs.
–And I’ll admit it wasn’t pretty for a while there. I was hoping to see Duke Dawson get some time in the slot instead of watching Jermaine Kearse come out of a trip set to roast Jonathan Jones on a simple slant for a score. And watching a 40-year-old McCown get Trey Flower to leave his feet and Adam Butler to overpursue and pick up 11 on 3rd & 10 was nightmare fuel. McCown could’ve gotten to the 1st down marker faster if he’d floated his house with balloons.
–It was the stuff of the worst Patriots defenses of all time. Like the infamous Red Sea Defense, so called because a tribe of Hebrews in sandals could’ve walked right up the middle on them. But I’m coming to accept that it’s how they are in the early going of games. That Belichick and Brian Flores have a patience the rest of us don’t to lay back, let the game play out, kind of Rope-a-Dope for a while and then made the adjustments they need. And it’s been working for the most part, frustrating though it may be.
–What we’re getting late in most of these games is a pass rush that gets better into the 4th quarter. My theory is they let these guys, especially Dont’a Hightower, Flowers and Kyle Van Noy, off the leash with Blitz to Formation calls, where they switch assignments post-snap, adjusting to the particular formation. I might be full of crap, but I think that’s what got Wise to beat Spencer Long for the sack to force a punt that for all intents and purposes put the game away.
–With Son of Hochules reffing this game, you could expect a bunch of cheap, ticky-tack penalties. And while I’ll own up to practically all of the Patriots dumbassery – for instance the Roughing the Passer on Deadrich Wise because they’ll call it every time you grab a QB’s legs – that OPI call on White was horrendous. He took two steps over the line, showed his numbers to his quarterback, there was minor contact, and that’s a penalty now? Pickpockets in Times Square need more bumping to lift your wallet. And those guys are professionals.
–Speaking of Wise’s roughing call, yes I did catch Dan Fouts getting in that dig that the rules were changed to protect quarterback’s knees when Brady got hurt in 2008. Which is either him being ignorant of history because it started with Carson Palmer getting knocked out by Kimo Von Oelhoffen in the 2005 playoffs, or it’s just Dan trolling, and I’m not sure which is worse. I just know that I would rather listen to 6ix9ine rapping while getting the much deserved Pedophile Treatment in prison in a way that causes so much friction a rat catches on fire and it sets off all the smoke alarms than ever listen to Dan Fouts call another Patriots game.
–Of course I’m not going to forget this:
–Which leads me to …
This Week’s Applicable Move Quote: “I’ve never seen a guy get picked up by his testicles before. Lucky thing for you that cop passed by when he did. Otherwise, you’d be lifting up your schnutz to tie you shoes. I’m sorry. That’s terrible. Do you have any idea how glad I am I didn’t kill you?”
“Do you have any idea how glad I’d be if you had?” – Planes, Trains and Automobiles
–A quick word on Gostkowski. I don’t get the vitriol toward the guy. His field goal and extra point numbers are as good as anybody’s. And he can do virtually whatever they ask him to on kickoffs, such as dropping them inside the 5 or, as I mentioned earlier, put it through the back of the end zone when the coverage is breaking down. Personally I hope he’s still playing here when he’s Adam Vinatieri’s age. And that’s being objective. I’m not just saying it because we are besties.
–That said, Jason Myers has the best Slasher Movie Villain Name in the NFL.
–Josh Gordon hand catches better than any receiver they’ve ever had. Yes, I said it. Prove me wrong.
–The bye week is great when it comes but good God is that a long couple of weeks. How do people live without Patriots football?
–With the Vikings coming to town, now would be as good a time as any for the Pats to put together that perfect 60-minute game that’s eluded them. It’s not too big an ask.