Things to consider while learning that in the AFC East, you’re either the butcher or you’re the cattle:
*So it is fair to say that we can put a pin in all this “Fading Dynasty” talk for now? That the Anti-Patriots Lobby is going to have an uphill climb this week convincing us Belichick hung Brady out to dry once again with no talent around him? That this is not a good time for the Negativity Trolls to try to whip up hysteria about how Brady is miserable in this cheap and arrogant organization?
*They’ve scored 80 points in their last two games. Brady’s passer rating has gone from 59.9 in that Brazilian he got at the hands of Kansas City to 110.7 last week to 139.6 yesterday. He completed 27 passes to 10 different receivers. TEN! With the same personnel around him he went into the season with. Now I’ve been called a shameless Patriots fanboy suck up – in fact it’s on my business cards – but that sounds to me like a team that was struggling early so they’ve put in the time, worked hard and figured out how to get this precision instrument up & running. That’s the coaching staff, the quarterback, the receivers, the O-line. Everybody.
*Made more impressive by the fact that it was on the road, against a division opponent on a supposedly big emotional day. But what do I know? I’m sure everything’s way worse than it looks right now. Who’s up for wild trade speculation? Or some good Brady-body-language talk? Anybody get a look at how far away he stood from Jimmy Garoppolo in the pregame stretch? Let’s focus on what matters.
*THE most gratifying part of all of this is the ten different receivers. It was like the championship years when Brady had his core, hella-reliable go to guys like Troy Brown or Deion Branch, but wouldn’t hesitate to hit a check down to a Dedric Ward or a Larry Centers. And yesterday he distributed the ball like an old guy feeding pigeons from a park bench.
*The best example obviously being Brian Tyms. A guy who had one of the worst childhoods you can imagine. Who a short time ago was eking out a meager existence working at McDonald’s and living out of his car. But he gets rescued by Coach Dumbledore, brought to Hogwarts and now he’s catching touchdown passes from The Boy Who Lived himself. Because when this offense is at it’s best, it doesn’t matter where you came from as long as you’re open.
*And the amazing thing about that TD was he was the farthest thing from open. Tyms ran a simple post off a Play Action where nobody bit up on the fake. He just simply went up and got the ball in triple coverage with Stephon Gilmore, who is no joke, all over him. Gilmore was a Top 10 pick 3 years ago. Tyms is a nobody fighting for his NFL life. Watching that play I couldn’t help but think of a story Jim Bouton told in “Ball Four” about being a little kid at Yankee Stadium and he went after a foul ball in the empty seats. He got there the same time as another kid who he could tell was a poor kid from the slums, who ripped the ball right out of his hands. Bouton said “The difference is I wanted that ball, but he had to have it…”
*When they first picked up Bradon LaFell I saw him as more of a red zone weapon. A big target who can catch fades in the corner of the endzone and whatnot. But we’re starting to see what he can do in space when defenses are focusing so much of their resources on Gronk and Edelman. LaFell’s first TD was exactly that. On 3Rd & 12 they had Gronk strongside right and LaFell in the slot on the open side. Gronk ran a deep slant that drew a defensive backs’ meeting around him and LaFell went completely unaccounted for.
*Even better was the 56 yarder he caught because the PA system started playing Rhianna’s “S&M.” Perfect, given the abuse the Bills were taking. It was sex in the air and I loved the smell of it.
*I’m not kidding myself though. Every time they needed a crucial play made, the ball came to Gronk or Edelman. Every 3rd & long. Every time they were backed up and needed to flip the field. And it worked time and again. The first play after Buffalo’s touchdown made it a game? A touch pass to Gronk for 33 yards over Duke Williams. On their own 7? Gronk for 8 on 1st down. 1St & 15 with the crowd going bananas? Edelman at the sticks vs Leodis McKelvin. 3Rd & 16? Gronk sits down under the deep middle zone by Preston Brown to move the chains. Even that touchdown that got called back that resulted in the Premature Gronkjaculation. Plays like these showed that when the rubber hits the road, the McOffense still runs through Gronk and Minitron, and the rest are role players. And I couldn’t be more OK with that.
*Kyle Orton’s mustache makes him look like the house invader in every Home Security System ad.
*Still, I’d rather see him coming into my house than Warren Sapp dressed as a pirate. Which is what my nightmares look like.
*I suppose I can’t go any further without mentioning the injuries. Mayo obviously being the biggest one. There are plenty of people in this town who think he’s a disappointment because he “doesn’t make plays” or somesuch nonsense. But take a guaranteed 100 tackles a year out of the middle of your defense… or plays like the perfectly timed run blitz where he blew up a pulling Cyril Richardson AND the fullback and drilled Richardson right into Boobie Dixon who had to fight back to the line of scrimmage… and see how you do. As I’m writing this there’s no word on whether he’ll return this year. But Vince Wilfork doesn’t kiss you on the head if you’re going to be listed as “Probable” any time soon.
*You couldn’t find a bigger Stevan Ridley guy than me if you searched every “Running Back Fetishist” thread on 4chan. But I feel like that’s a blow they can recover from. Once he gets a few reps in, Brandon Bolden starts to get into a groove and becomes a serviceable back. And by the 4th yesterday he was practically BenJarvus Green-Bolden. I have a few concerns about James White because in preseason he seemed to go down at first contact a lot. But by all accounts they’re high on him. And I’m emotionally invested in an interior line of Dan Connolly-Bryan Stork-Ryan Wendell, so hopefully Connolly just got a good old fashioned Bell Ringing, and hasn’t been turned into Brain Soup.
*Still, this was one of those wins Pyrrhus of Epirus was talking about when he said “If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.”
*Didn’t Brandon Spikes promise two wins over the Patriots this year? I’m not sure if he even played yesterday. Then again, it was partly cloudy with temperatures in the 60s in Buffalo, so he probably couldn’t get his car out of the driveway.
*I mean, did you see Spikes on Brady’s QB keeper? Wendell fired out, Brady rode him like they were doing the Wheelbarrow Race at the company picnic, and Spikes just backpedaled. Like he was completely disinterested in stopping a play everyone in the Ralph knew was coming. Maybe all those years of being a slave in Foxboro finally broke his spirit.
*I’ve got a couple of Patriots I owe apologies to. First is Patrick Chung. When they re-signed him, I wasn’t very Christian about it. I had too many memories of Euclid there taking terrible angles on balls and letting guys fly past him or trying to drill ballcarriers with highlight reel hits instead of wrapping up. But he’s been really disciplined this year. Maybe it’s because Devin McCourty has held the back of the defense together so Chung is free to come up into the box and be physical, I don’t know. But he made back-to-back run stuffs on 1st & 2nd on one set of downs, then on 1st & goal came flying in for a 4 yard loss. And while neither he nor anyone else could solve the Scott Chandler problem, overall he hasn’t cost them in coverage. So for now when I say “Everybody Pat Chung Tonight,” I’m saying it from the heart.
*Another guy I’ve ridden a little bit is Rob Ninkovich. I just felt like he hadn’t made an impact play all season. But he was relentless. Getting into the backfield to disrupt runs. Picking up coverage sacks through second and third effort. And on 2nd & 20 in the 4th he just dwarf tossed Cordy Glenn to the ground with one hand to get his third sack with only a 3-man rush. Well I’m happy to stand corrected.
*But the play of the game was Chandler Jones strip sack and fumble recovery. There he just got an initial punch on Glenn, straightened him arm to knock him off balance and used his speed to turn the corner. That’s the kind of play, on the road with your team scuffling late in the half, that separates the good players from the difference makers. And after the gift Jones handed the offense, for them to gain zero yards there and have to settle for the field goal felt like the time my son’s friend’s dad offered me a beer and when I said “Sure!” he handed me a Michelob Ultra. (True story. I was aghast. I’ll never go over their house without bringing a cooler again.)
*If there is one banana up my tailpipe in this world, it’s punters who can’t drop a short one down inside the 20. You’d think it’d be the easiest thing in the world. Just don’t kick it as hard as you normally do, right? Like a knockdown shot in golf, except you don’t need to get it tight to the pin and the green is 53 1/3 yards wide. But yesterday we saw three kicks from midfield go for touchbacks. At some point wouldn’t it make more sense to just let say, Wilfork boot it as far as he can for 30 yards instead of watching Ryan Allen kick it 50 yards into the endzone on the fly?
*One major concern I had going into the year was the Pats had exactly one backup linebacker on the roster. They then activated Deonte Skinner, who was a dumpster fire in coverage on the first drive in Miami until they pulled him. Yesterday he played better. That blitz where he came clean and Orton froze like a squirrel in the road was perfect. But once again the Pats allowed themselves to go into a season woefully thin at one position, and once again the Injury Gods were angered and are making them suffer.
*It is me, or has every, single replay review gone against the Patriots this year? It’s like if the games were actually played in slow motion they’d never successfully complete a play. Remember the one where Gronk caught the ball , fumbled it and then recovered? But they ruled it incomplete even though before he dropped it he hauled it in, carried it, made dinner reservations, took it out for a nice meal and a movie then walked it home? What I think they need to work on is that hurry-up to the line before the other team can throw the challenge flag. Because as soon as they run up to snap the ball, the flag comes out regardless because it’s a dead giveaway the play was close. What they need to work on is scrambling up to quick snap the ball, but do it in a casual way. So no one notices. Like maybe try whistling, with your hands in your pockets or something. Get working on that, McDaniels.
*The next time a network runs that video of Belichick handing Brady a game ball and them hugging, they need to run a “viewer discretion is advised” warning. I cried like I was watching the end of “Rudy” on pepper spray. It took me a whole quarter to gain my composure.
*Does New York state have a Lemon Law? Like can that new owner get his money back after watching this? What if he saved the receipt?
*This week’s Applicable Movie Quote: “Well, welcome to the Majors, Mr. Hobbs.” – The Natural
*My non-football note of the week: We can argue whether Christopher Columbus was a good historical figure or a bad one. We can debate whether he discovered the New World or if the Vikings got here first. But what exactly did Amerigo Vespucci do? Seriously, what was his role in all of this that he gets not one but two continents named after him? And why did he use his first name? Why aren’t they North and South Vespuccia? Do you realize if his first name was William we’d all be living in the United States of Billerica?
*With all the injuries and facing a short turnaround to Thursday night, thank God for the Jets. This is the perfect time for a bye week.