Things to consider while still pining for the days when the Raiders were still the ultimate power in the universe:
*I don’t even know where to begin pointing out the problems with this offense. Since the turn of the century you could count on the fingers of one hand (without using your thumb) how many games they’ve played as bad as they have in all three games of 2014. I mean, aside from one ex-Kent State quarterback who’s playing out of his tits, the whole entire unit is enough of a disaster to qualify for FEMA relief.
*And the frustrating thing is this is essentially the same unit that was 3rd in the league in points last year. They’ve returned every starter except the one they traded and upgraded the wide receiver depth chart. And that’s it. Except they’re healthier now than they were last year. I always, in the deep recesses of my subconscious, kept this vision of how things might look when the offense finally jumps the shark and goes all “The Offense: Season 9” on us. I just always assumed that Brady would their Steve Carrell, not Logan Mankins.
*Simply put, aside from Edelman and occasionally Gronk, they’re not winning any 1-on-1 battles. Whatever success they have is by catching the defense in the wrong set. If the D is playing run and the Pats run, the D wins. If they’re in a pass set and the Patriots pass, the D wins. That was the case all day long yesterday. There were some gains on a few play actions, but any time the Pats just tried to challenge them and win on pure talent, it went nowhere.
*If you’re not scared already, consider these unfun facts: Coming into yesterday Oakland was allowing 200 yards a game on the ground which was the most in the league, and the Patriots rolled over them to the tune of 2.4 yards per carry. And through the air they are now next to last in football in yards per pass play (4.78). Let me remind you this is not a Jacksonville Jaguars blog you’re reading. This is the team whose offense carried them to the last three AFC Championship Games and the Super Bowl three seasons ago.
*I’ll say the worst thing I’ve probably ever said about them: For most of the game it looked like the Raiders were playing the Raiders.
*If you’re to assign blame (and I am) I suppose it’s fair to start with the O-line. Last week I gave them credit for a great game, but there’s not enough water in the world to put out the dumpster fire they were yesterday. It goes all along the line but Nate Solder was especially bad. If looks into a mirror today and says “Bloody Mary” three times, Justin Tuck will be standing in back of him.
*And I say that as a staunch defender of Solder’s, the guy who has the blind side of the guy who has Brady’s blind side. Solder’s most loyal soldier, if you will. Whether it was Khalil Mack quick-twitching him for a sack in the 3rd, Tuck swatting his hands down then knocking him off balance with a swim to crush Brady and force a FG, or the last sack where Solder never touched anyone as Stevan Ridley took the outside rusher and CJ Wilson came inside (through Marcus Cannon), it was a miserable performance.
*But there was plenty of blame to go around so the other linemen don’t need to be left out. Jordan Devey got pulled in favor of the rookie Brian Stork. Dan Connolly threw a grounder to Brady in the red zone. And even in jumbo packages with Cameron Fleming and Hooman, they were getting beat by 4-man rushes. I’d rather be getting a blood transfusion in Ebola country than an O-lineman watching film in Belichick’s meeting room today.
*You know it’s bad when the best block the Patriots made all day was thrown by Brady. I would’ve preferred it if Brady went “See, Solder? That’s how you do it!”
*Maybe our worst fears are realized and they really couldn’t replace Dante Scarnecchia. But the guy coached here for 40 years. In all that time, did no one ever jot down what he said?
*None of which should absolve anyone else. Brady missed throws. Like the misdirection that left Gronk wide open scraping behind the Raiders front, and Brady missed him by 3 yards. Even the ball in the endzone that Rod Woodson tipped and should’ve been caught by Gronk was off target. And he missed Danny Amendola on the goal line. Granted that’s one of those Pick-6 passes you HAVE to lead the guy with, but in spite of the crowd boos and Ron Borges’ scapegoating Amendola, he had no chance on that one.
*In spite of all the evidence to the contrary, I still have a hard time thinking no one beside Edelman and Gronk is capable of getting open. Are Amendola, LaFell, Wright – guys who’ve all had seasons of 50 or so catches in terrible systems – really unable to free themselves from coverage? Or is it that they score somewhere in the Joey Galloway-Ochocinco percentile on the McOffense Comprehension Test? And if so, can’t McDaniels and Brady come up with a way to get them involved?
*I read a while back that Rex Ryan’s defensive system is too complex for everyone. So when they’re faced with say, a Kris Jenkins not grasping all the concepts and everyone’s assignments, they’ll give him one specific hole to hit and tell the guys who do get it to fill in around him. If being the 4th option on the Pats is so IKEA-instruction complicated that you have to be Neil Degrasse Tyson to function in it, can’t you just take Amendola and tell him to run a slant instead of rendering him useless? Is that so hard?
*I did detect some rays of hope. Brady connected on a 22 yarder to Wright that I’m convinced was based on a mismatch he read prior to the snap. Because Edelman was uncovered on a crossing route underneath, but Brady held the ball and waited for Wright to come open and hit him with a perfect throw. That’s what I imagined when they brought the kid in, him filling that non-psycho Aaron Hernandez role. They even lined him up at H-back. So hopefully we get more of that before I start washing down painkillers with scotch.
*And while we’re tweaking the playbook, how about they either perfect the illegal pick play, or delete that page altogether? Unless the plan is to keep running it until the refs get tired of throwing the flag and Amendola finally gets to keep the 20 yard gain that keeps coming back.
*If there was one thing I was sure of before the season started, it was that a quarterback starting in his third pro game was not going to keep throwing at Darrelle Revis. Not ever. And certainly not connect the first 5 times he did. Then again, the last two weeks the teams I picked in my Knockout Pool were Green Bay and the Pats, and both lost leads in the final seconds only to have them called back on boneheaded plays. So what do I know?
*Well I do know that Vince Wilfork is tied with Revis in interceptions. “Wilfork Continent.”
*I’m too lazy to do the research, so I can’t confirm that this was the first game in NFL history where all the points were scored by guys named “__kowski.” For all I know, Steve Bartkowski might have won a 6-0 game where he ran in a keeper and they missed the extra point.
*Chandler Jones came up huge again. Not so much in the pass rush, but I think the Oakland playcalling, with a lot of quick throws and roll outs by a surprisingly polished Carr took away those opportunities. But when Jones couldn’t penetrate he got his hands up into throwing lanes and batted a couple of balls. Like last week it was good to see them just keep lining him up on the edge. As long as they keep doing that, I’m willing to cancel the investigation into who’s bright idea it was to move him to tackle in Week 1. As Roger Goodell said, mistakes were made and we’re correcting them going forward.
*But the defensive star was Dont’a Hightower. He wasn’t just on the Brute Squad, he was the Brute Squad. Officially he got credit for one TFL, but to me it looked like he deserved more. He blew up a screen pass in the backfield in the 1st, made a nice read to sniff out a bubble screen before it went anywhere in the 2nd. In the 3rd he even stayed with Darren McFadden on a pass to the goalline (negated by a hold on Logan Ryan). Late in the game he blew McFadden up after a catch. And he and Mayo have been blitzing from the middle pretty effectively. All in all he’s starting to look like the guy the Ravens were projected to draft to replace Ray Lewis before the Pats moved up and stole him away.
*Let’s not kid ourselves: If this wasn’t Oakland, there’s no way the Patriots win playing like they did. Thank God the Raiders have stupidity in their DNA like a congenital disease. How about that sequence early on when they lined up in a Read Option with McFadden at QB and Carr split wide, a trick play so tricky they had to burn a timeout. Then immediately after, they get flagged for illegal formation for the tackle not declaring himself eligible, something you work on in practice. Like literally, tackles have to report to a coach like he’s an official so as not to screw it up. Then, they burned yet another time out. Then their final TO of the half when the Pats had the ball with 6:46 to go. Add to that the obligatory 12-men penalty and bleeding the clock on the final drive when they were down 7. Al Davis might be dead but his dysfunction lives in perpetuity.
*Speaking of which, my favorite story from yesterday was when Al’s goofy kid visited Jonathan Kraft’s office, saw the Lombardi Trophy from the 2001 Super Bowl and said “That one belongs to us.” Then apparently he licked the glass, took out a coloring book and asked if he could watch Spongebob.
*This Week’s Applicable Movie Quote: “Come on, give me that booze, you pumpkin pie hair-cutted freak!” – “Dumb and Dumber”
*One semi personal note. The weirdest thing about being a media whore is meeting people in person that you’ve written about, the good and the bad. For instance, when Donte Stallworth was in that fatal crash and plead guilty to OUI, I (and Dave I believe) wrote positive blogs of support. Not because it wasn’t a horrible tragedy. And not because he was a former Patriot. But because I honestly feel like that it is the ultimate “there but for the grace of God go I” crime and I refused to demagogue it. Well now Stallworth is on the (shameless plug alert) the Comcast Sports NE Patriots pre & postgame show with me. And I can’t imagine how weird and hypocritical I’d feel if I chose to rip him back then like everyone else was. Which brings me to last night, when I was leaving the studio and met, for the first time face-to-face, Dan Shaughnessy. He just kind of pointed and chuckled, and I muttered some kind of “hello” and he kept walking. Normally I love socially awkward moments, but that was off the charts uncomfortable. I don’t know how Portnoy does it, having as many enemies as he does.