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Knee Jerk Reactions to Week 3: Patriots vs. Jets

Things to consider while realizing what you can accomplish in this country when your showrunners halfass it, turn beloved, complex characters into monsters or one-dimensional weaklings for no reason, abandon storytelling in favor nonsensical fight scenes, leave major plot threads dangling, ruin 10-year character arcs with lazy writing, betray their cast, crew, fans and source material and satisfy no one:

–This defense. This fricking defense. Look, I don’t need to be reminded these aren’t the 2013 Broncos they’ve been facing. Nevertheless, offenses in this modern era of Arena League football aren’t supposed to get disintegrated like the Patriots have been doing. Jerod Mayo has been the de facto coordinator for three games now and his defense has given up three points, total. I was told there’d be no math on this test, but I think that’s a Points Per Game average of 1.0. That’s incomprehensible no matter what schedule you were handed in the Spring.

–And the damned thing of it is, I think they’re still following their usual modus operandi of keeping it fairly basic at the beginning of the year and adding layers as the season goes on. That annual cycle of reasonably vanilla looks that they put on film early, then add sprinkles, fudge sauce, whipped cream and nuts as they go and opponents start to adjust. In other words, to repeat what Bill Belichick said in his postgame, there are still things they can do better. As hard as that is to imagine after three weeks like we’ve witnessed.

–For the most part they’ve been a 3-4 front, going to a 2-4 in their base nickle. Against the Jets the focus was on stopping Le’Veon Bell by 2-gapping the tackles, with the idea of occupying their blockers rather than get caught reacting to Bell’s first move as he does that slow motion thing Zach Snyder patented and he perfected. They limited the damage Bell did when they weren’t hammering him in the backfield, like that first possession play where he was gang tackled by John Simon, Danny Shelton and Pat Chung. Or that 1st quarter A-gap blitz by Chung that dropped him for a 7 yard loss. And it’s when they created passing down situations that the real fun began.

–Right now Jamie Collins is as close to unblockable as any defender the Patriots have ever put out there. Period. I don’t say that lightly.

They’re moving him all over the formation, though primarily at the ROLB spot. Where on the same series in the 2nd quarter he blew up Jamison Crowder to drop Bell for a loss, then set the edge against Kelvin Beachum on a Wildcat run for another loss. (Sidenote: Has the Wildcat worked once since Tony Sparano first sprung it on the Pats back in the Late Cretaceous Period?) But then on passing downs they’re letting Collins off the leash with stunts and games in combination with other rushers. On the Jets second drive he and Simon teams up for a linebacker cross that freed him up for the sack. The Collins 2.0 software patch is looking as much like an upgrade as the Chung 2.0 was. And the improvement is a feature, not a bug. At this point I can’t wait to see how good Malcom Brown or Trey Flowers are when they inevitably re-sign here at a huge discount.

–And as well as Shelton has played, just overpowering the middle of the Jets line, to me the Pats best down lineman has been Adam Butler. He’s typically the only man with his hand on the ground on obvious passing downs when the Pats employ the State Worker defense, and has been the biggest beneficiary of the confusion it causes the blocking assignments. And not just in the middle. One time they used it with Butler in a 3-point stance from 5-technique where he pressured Luke Falk and Kyle Van Noy picked up the sack. And my favorite alignment of the day was a 3rd & 18 when everyone was standing, including Butler. Before the snap, Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower were arguing like an old married couple shopping at IKEA. Hightower got penetration and as Kelechi Osmele slid over to pick him up, Butler spun into the vacated hole and finished off Falk. Like I said last week, what I’d hoped Dominique Easley was going to be, Adam Butler is.

–As usual, Stephon Gilmore was in solo coverage against Robby Anderson the whole game. Which is why, once again, Anderson had zero impact on the game. Gilmore neutralizes a lot of good receivers, obviously. But he make Anderson disappear like Snuffleupagus.

–I have to admit, I thought losing their most physically gifted receiver thanks to his own mentally ungifted dumbassery was going to have an effect on the offense. I honestly expected them to come out and [Cliché Alert] establish the run early on. I thought that first drive was going to be about pounding the Jets into submission with Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead, as opposed to writing Antonio Brown out of the game plan they’d practiced all week. So naturally, they went shotgun, spread the field and threw on every down. Stupid me. I should’ve expected Tom Brady to target Brandon Bolden twice for first downs and hit an undefended Ryan Izzo for 41. How could I not see that coming?

–If you expecting Brady to mope around in his bathrobe listening to James Blunt on constant shuffle, bemoaning the loss of the new best buddy he was doing sleepovers with, you had another thing coming. He played Gregg Williams’ defense like he had the Cheat Codes to it.

–Which he pretty much did since he’s been seeing the same scheme for most of his career. Williams played his usual zone in the middle of the field, switching to man in the red zone. And Brady was pressing the usual buttons on his controller. Spreading the ball around. Doing that “Alert!” thing where he checks to run or pass depending on the pre-snap look. What few misses he had were safe ones, either leading someone out of bounds hoping they’d make a play or bouncing some of the low throws he was otherwise connecting to Julian Edelman on. I mean, it says everything when you saw his 1st quarter numbers were 11-for-13 for 154 yards and a touchdown and his only incompletions were a throwaway and a ball that hit Edelman between the “1”s.

–Honestly, I can’t remember a pass he threw where I thought he’d really missed somebody he should’ve hit. His incompletions were all either risk-free shots, drops, or a bad call by the officials like the obvious catch by Phillip Dorsett they blew and then inexplicably blew again after further reblew. We’ve seen some Septembers when Brady and the offense are clearly still developing, still getting it together and still in extended training camp. This is not one of those Septembers.

–Consider the touchdown to Dorsett. The Pats were in 11-personnel (1 RB, 1 TE) with Michel as the lone back and ran a play action that froze the deep defenders. Dorsett ran a zone beating deep crosser while Brady planted at the mesh point of the fake handoff and paitently waited for Dorsett’s route to develop and hit him at the exact right moment. It looked like simply a blown coverage, but it was more about selling the fake, perfect timing and execution.

–Then look at that touchdown to Edelman. With the Jet in their red zone man, Brady was coming off a beautiful high point fade that went through Josh Gordon’s hands. On this one, he stood in the pocket giving Edelman – split out wide as the X – time to run an angle route, first in toward the post, then breaking out to the flag. As soon as he made his break, Brady hit him with a sort of second baseman turning the double play throw. And hit Edelman right in stride. It was practically Mahomesian.

–A couple of drops by Gordon notwithstanding, he still does things that are nothing short of metahuman. Pats fans are still talking about Randy Moss’ first game here, when he beat triple coverage for a 51-yard TD. Or the game at Miam when he caught a ball between three defenders in the end zone and they all fell like bowling pins. Well yesterday Gordon caught a ball in the middle of FOUR. He beat quadruple coverage. That’s 36.36% of the entire Jets defense was engaged in trying to prevent Gordon from making a catch and he caught it anyway.

–Still, the one he made down the sidelines on 3rd & 22 was the play of the game on either side of the ball for the Patriots.

I wish they showed a better angle but I think the Jets were in Cover-1 and the Pats ran a Dagger concept, where the slot guy goes deep to draw coverage and the weak side receiver runs a Drag to stretch the defense horizontally. Whatever it was, Brady dropped it in the bucket perfectly and Gordon pulled it down like a rebound above the cylinder. Add to those plays the DPI penalties he drew and he’s all the primary receiver you need. Just as long as he can stay healthy – and that was a scary moment when it looked like he’d broken his hand but he manned up – and stay away from the Sticky Green Nasty, this receiver corps will have its best deep threat since Moss.

–Brady pulled on an end around and took out Jamal Adams with a vicious block. That’ll teach anybody that tries to mess with Pat Patriot how we protect our own around here.

–The x-rays on Edelman’s ribs were negative. Which is Earth-shatteringly positive news. Because I don’t care who you are or what your moral code is. When he was done for the day and then it looked like Gordon was out of the game and the Nos. 2 and 3 wideouts were Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski, there’s not a man, woman or child among us who wasn’t wondering if they still have Antonio Brown’s number.

–This Week’s Applicable Movie Quote: “You don’t even like him. There’s your answer right there. Look at it this way: It costs you 20 dollars to get rid of him. He’s out of your life for 20 dollars. You got off cheap. Forget him.” – Sonny, “A Bronx Tale”

–I found it ironic that they kept showing ads for Cologuard, since the Jets pretty much get a thorough and invasive colon exam every time they come to Foxboro.

–The run game needs work to be sure. Personally I think there’s nothing wrong with Michel that getting him back behind Jimmy Neckroll in the next week or two won’t cure. He was taking a lot of contact behind the line of scrimmage:

… whereas Rex Burkhead’s better runs tended to be out of motions and fake end arounds and the like.

–Still, there’s not much to complain about along the offensive line. Brady is being kept clean, more or less. Michel ran behind a Pin & Pull combination where Marcus Cannon blocked down on Kyle Phillips while Shaq Mason pulled to take out Blake Cashman and Ted Karras bounced up to Neville Hewitt on the goal line.

–Burkhead’s touchdown came on a pitch (see what I’m saying about all the motioning on his runs?) where he not only split a nice hole opened up by a Joe Thuney hook block on Tarrell Basham and a kickout by Marshall Newhouse on Darryl Roberts, but Gordon took Cashman out of the play as well. Newhouse is doing everything asked of him. Gordon blocking 240 lb linebackers to spring his back for a touchdown is doing more.

–When I found out Mrs. James White is having a baby two weeks after Mrs. Kyle Van Noy had a baby, I checked out a Date of Conception Calculator. Because I was thinking what you were thinking. But no. They’re not Super Bowl babies. More like mid-December through Christmas babies. But let’s see how well these guys are breeding captivity in six weeks or so. (Yes, this is my life. The things I do for you kids, and I ask nothing in return.)

–Soon OSHA regulations will require that all questions about topics Belichick does not want to address come with warning labels.

I’d step in front of a bullet for that man.

–Next week is an AFC East Battle of the Unbeatens against the Buffalo Bills. I say that only because it’s a sentence you don’t get to type very many times in this life.