If you've learned anything from all the shitty movies with desperate, D-list stars on the downside of their careers that your wife/girlfriend has been watching nonstop on Hallmark Channel all month, it's that the holidays are a time for sharing. For opening your heart with love and honesty, and becoming the best version of yourself.
So let's share. Honestly. Because apparently it's the only way to finally end up with your soulmate who annoyed you at first because they were your total opposite but then you find out they're the perfect one for you on a snowy night while a holiday song plays and the credits roll. Dean Cain;s filmography wouldn't lie about that.
And in the spirit of honesty, admit to yourself you're worried about the Patriots offense. To beat the metaphor to death, your concerns lie somewhere on the worry spectrum between "I'm Facing Yet Another Holiday With My Parents Asking Why I'm Not in a Relationship" and "OMG, Dinner is a Disaster and the Family Dog Chased a Cat Under the Table and Made a Huge Mess of Things." But you're worried. Everybody is. You can hear it in their voices. See it in their eyes as they reflect the light of three straight scoreboards with 20 points or less.
The Patriots are a lowly 5th in the league in Points Scored. A dismal 8th in Passing Yards. A depressing 7th in Rushing Touchdowns. An a disastrous middle-of-the-NFL-pack in Passing TDs and Passer Rating. And the general mood is so unholidayish that no amount of booze, tryptophan, watching the Detroit Lions get throttled and napping on the couch in front of "A Hobo's Christmas" can pull you out of this funk.
So let's let that job fall to this anonymous NFL executive who talked to Mike Sando of The Athletic (paywall), who warned everyone not to get too far out over your skis counting on Tom Brady's attack to struggle the rest of the way:
What you do all week in this league is you try to find weaknesses and then try to sell them to your players. You’d better not tell them you are going to go in there and kick Brady’s ass because he’s not what he used to be, his stats are down and the film shows him going down in a heap, pulling a string on the ball and sending it into the dirt.
“Don’t be fooled. This guy’s got a couple missed throws and they have had some issues weapons-wise where they are not quite as explosive, but this guy is completely deadly in two-minute of either half, four-minute and select times when they can really move the ball.”
If you're convinced there is no hope for this thing to improve, you're being ignorant of history. Recent history. I'm not going all the way back to 2003 or whenever. Though I will, if it'll help me make the point. That is the Pats team this edition is being most often compared to. They gave up the fewest points in the league while scoring the 12th most. Scattered throughout the season were games when the scored 0, 17, 17, 9, 12 and 12 points. And went 17-2, beating co-MVPs Steve McNair and Peyton Manning in the playoffs and scoring 32 in the Super Bowl to beat Carolina, their 3rd highest total of the season. They did so with the same quarterback, the same head coach and essentially the same offensive system.
But this doesn't require a lesson in ancient history from a time when today's college freshmen were still in diapers. Just look at this year. When the Patriots have had bodies at wide receiver, they've scored points. Many points. And by bodies, I'm talking specifically about bodies that have spent time in this system. Antonio Brown is a bit of an outlier just because of his freak athleticism, and even he disappeared for a stretch in that Miami game because he and Brady were not fully synced up. But almost without exception, when he's had receivers with time in this system, the yards and points have come.
I've used this comparison before, and it's never seemed more appropriate than right now. The Erhardt-Perkins system the Patriots employ is a high-performance, precision-engineered, German driving machine. As such, it needs a lot of maintenance. Once it gets going, it's the finest vehicle on the road, but you can't just toss the keys to the Jiffy Lube guy and sit in the lounge drinking Keurig. It takes work from the best mechanics to make it run right.
And yet the wide receiver spot has been in a constant state of flux, with Julian Edelman as the only constant. Between him and Phillip Dorsett, you've got the experienced wideouts you need. Mohamed Sanu took to it quickly, with 10 catches in his first game. In N'Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers, you've got two physically gifted rookies who last week found themselves having to be your No. 2 and No. 3 in just their second and tenth games, respectively. In a monsoon. Against a quality opponent. That's a big ask. And yet they delivered to some extent. It wasn't flawless, but what kind of delusional crackpot would you have to be to expect more?
Give Brady back his veteran 2 and 3 receivers. Give Harry more time facing live fire and Meyers back his role as the 10-snap a game guy on 5-wide sets. Mostly give them this elite defense and Special Teams that puts them in a position to win the turnover battle every week just so long as the offense continues to do its share taking care of the ball, and all the pieces are in place to get them back to scoring 30 every week like they were in the first month and a half.
As this exec said, don't be fooled. On second thought, I think it'd be much better for us if everybody let themselves be fooled. Please disregard and go back to thinking they're doomed. Please and thank you.