Things to consider while debating whether I put the Christmas lights up a little too early:
*I speak from experience when I say this. In Bill Belichick’s America, there are no bad wins against the Jets. With him, style points don’t matter. These games are binary. A pass/fail test. You have either lost or succeeded. And whether the game is close or a blowout, whether the Jets are below average or truly awful, either way Belichick is jumping up and down on his bed afterwards singing “Pocketful of Sunshine” into his hairbrush.
*That said, this win is good for certain Patriots haters. I divide anti-Patriots jihadists into two subgroups. You’ve got the “Belichick Only Wins Because of Tom Brady” sect and the “Brady Only Wins Because of Belichick” faction. And this was a big game all around for the former.
*On a day when not much was going right, from coaches’ decisions to the defense to the Special Teams. When Brady himself was clearly having problems with his knee that affected accuracy. Missing his most important weapon. Against a defense that is lousy with first round talent. He once again came up huge when he absolutely had to. And demonstrated why all defensive coaches believe that if they stare into a mirror in the dark and say his name three times, when they turn the lights on Brady will be standing right behind them. But none has ever dared try.
*Pick any of a dozen plays. The 25-yarder to Chris Hogan that set up the game-winning touchdown. The Jets had Calvin Pryor back as the Single High Safety, against Julian Edelman and Hogan both running Go routes. Brady stared down Edelman until Pryor was Jedi Mind Tricked into sneaking over to his side. And once the middle of the field was open (MOFO), Hogan stemmed his route off into a Post and Brady hit him in the numbers.
*And let’s not sleep on the first touchdown to Malcolm Mitchell, a broken play that was supposed to be a Jet Sweep to Edelman until the handoff hit him in the hip and landed on the ground. Brady had wherewithall to dribble the ball, get set, look up court, let Mitchell come free on the baseline, then deliver the perfect pass under the basket for the score.
*But if I had to pick a less dramatic, celebrated and way less sexier play as the key to the game, I’d take the one where he drew Muhammad Wilkerson offsides. It was a fourth-and-1. With the game tied. And the Jets selling out to stuff the inside run we all knew was coming. Brady drew an All Pro veteran into a neutral zone infraction that gave him a fresh set of downs and set up the field goal that gave the Pats their first lead. Of course Trent Green accused TB12 of exerting his Brady Privilege. But it’s small, subtle, unspectacular plays like that one that decide games and lead to championships.
*If Brady never again puts himself out in front to lead block for a running back, it will be too soon. I had a near death experience watching that play. And for all you theologians, you can use the fact that not one of the Jets thought to truck him all the way to the IR as proof of an all-good and omnipotent God.
*It should be lost on no Patriots fan that Brady’s favorite receiver all day was Whoever Darrelle Revis is Covering. That first Mitchell touchdown I mentioned came with Revis trailing two steps behind him. On that go-ahead drive, facing a second-and-10 at the Pats 17, Edelman beat Revis for 24 yards on exactly the kind of skinny post route he used to eat for breakfast. And Mitchell’s game-winner was one where Revis was originally on Edelman outside, but Brady motioned Minitron into the slot. That left Revis on the rookie, who ran to the pylon and caught a pass no quarterback in the league would’ve dared throw pre-2015 out of fear it would be a Pick-6. And this is all without mentioning the dozens of times per game you can catch Revis shying away from contact, staying with blockers instead of disengaging them and trying to make tackles.
*That’s what the Jets are getting for $39 million guaranteed. Revis Island is now Shutter Island accomodations at Nantucket Island prices.
*Still, I’ve got to hand it to the man. He’s still somehow has the the engine room in the Darrelle Revis Media Apology Machine operating at 105 percent capacity. You know he’s getting torched repeatedly when Green says “We haven’t mentioned Darrelle Revis much today…” If he was still batting down passes or [checking my Cliche’ Generator app] “taking away one side of the field,” we would never have heard the end of it.
*Annnddd while we’re talking about bad defense … We all just have to get used to the idea that what we’ve seen out of the Patriots’ D is who they are. They will never make any quarterback look bad. They will win the 2016 Terrible QB Club’s “Good Guys” Award. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw six interceptions against Kansas City in Week 3 and had a 100+ yards against the Pats in the first quarter yesterday. That is the reality we find ourselves in.
*Troy Brown always called it the Get the Fuck Back defense. And while the name doesn’t carry the same menace as say, The Steel Curtain or the Purple People Eaters, it is accurate. The Pats defend the field like the Russians did against Napoleon and Hitler. Fall back, give up meaningless territory, toughen up when you get to the important areas in the Red Zone, and have the advantage when winter comes. It’s worked before, I suppose. Just try telling that to Malcolm Butler when he’s got Brandon Marshall in solo coverage in the end zone or the Soviets who had to eat their relatives to survive Stalingrad.
*What’s most maddening is about the GTFB defense is it doesn’t take away the deep ball. It’s so soft, a guy who knows what he’s doing like Fitzpatrick will find a Quincy Enunwa beating Pat Chung on a simple slant for 31 yards. Or consider the three plays of over 38 yards Russell Wilson exploited it for. This D is only designed to take away the quick strike home run pass. The Super Wicked Very Deep Happy Fun Ball. The intermediate, short and check down routes are there all day long. And I’m sorry to say, will continue to be.
*Your base Pats defense now is five defensive backs (yesterday with Eric Rowe at outside corner and Logan Ryan in the slot, as opposed to the three safety look they’d been going with), and the line playing an unbalanced “under” front. Meaning they slide away from the strong side of the offense, usually with Alan Branch shaded on the weak side A-gap, with Vincent Valentine and Malcom Brown at the tackle spots. And while they didn’t give up many big runs, it was hard to watch them keep getting the initial stop only to see the Jets ball carriers stay with it and find seams to sneak through to keep moving the chains.
*It was an up-and-down game for Branch. He was stupidly drawn offsides (bad Deadpool), but blocked the field goal (good Deadpool). But overall played well enough that they’re going to miss him once he inevitably drops his appeal for blazing. I just don’t think they have another 2-gap stuffer like him and his absence will hurt. I don’t care if he bakes like James Franco in “Pineapple Express.” Just don’t get caught.
*It looked to my untrained eye like the Pats were in straight man coverage most of the day. Maybe some of it was the Pattern Match stuff they use, which involve zone principles until the receiver makes his break, then you’re supposed to identify the route and play it like man. But none of their troubles looked like blown coverages; just guys losing one-on-one matchups. And as much as I want to see Matt Patricia science the shit out this, I don’t see how you coach it up when guys can’t cover other guys.
*Chris Long earned his entire (way under market) paycheck with that strip sack. First of all, he got a great initial punch on Ben Ijalana to get him off balance, then countered it with a great swim move to get both arms outside the tackle’s body, then used his closing speed. Long’s play is currently up against Butler’s hustling, Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Punch forced fumble on Robby Anderson for the Pats’ Defensive Play of the Year.
*I’m glad Belichick re-signed Gronk’s younger brother. He needs a compatible donor for when he starts harvesting organs to keep Gronk in the lineup.
*Why do we need Viagra Single Packs, exactly? What’s the hook on those? Is the target demo guys who aren’t really generous in bed? “Viagra Single Packs: For the gentleman who simply wants to nut and then be done with it.”
*The only rational response of a sane man to Stephen Gostkowski’ problems is full blown, 5-alarm panic. But it does no good. He’s not going anywhere. He will not be replaced this year. We just have to deal. Men are not wired to do this, but sometimes you have to accept that some troubles are beyond your power to solve. Gostkowski right now is the kicking equivalent of ice dams I was having at Stately Thornton Manor winter before last. (This was before I had the awesome Patriots lights, obviously.) You want to fix it. You want to do something to stop it from fucking raining in your living room. But you just have to just keep moving the buckets and wait for Nature to do it for you.
*That said, Belichick is without a doubt coaching around the Gostkowski Problem. There’s no way they would have passed up a go-ahead 54-yarder to go for it on fourth-and-4 a year ago. Fortunately a great connection between Brady and James White made it a genius move.
*The clock management at the end of the half, not so much. Why they let the clock bleed down to 12 seconds after Hogan got the ball into the red zone is beyond me. They should have had two shots at the end zone instead of one shot and a missed field goal. There. I’m done criticizing Belichick for the week. I’m going to be sore tomorrow for sure.
*This week’s Applicable Movie Quote: “Conan, what is best in life?” “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of the women” – “Conan the Barbarian”
*The good news is this Patriots offense still hasn’t reached its full potential. Not anywhere near it. And this latest wrinkle Josh McDaniels has put in, with James White and Dion Lewis together activating their Wonder Twins power, has the chance to be unstoppable. There are simply not enough linebackers capable of covering two backs with their skill sets, plus whatever combination of tight ends and wideouts you put out there with them. With those two, there’s no need for Viagra anything packs.
*If Jets fans agree with Green that they got screwed at any point in this game, I refer them to the non-call against Gronk when he was clearly interfered with. The only way that doesn’t get called is if it’s against Gronkowski or if the NFL has decided they’re observing The Purge.
*Ryan Fitzpatrick might have gone to Harvard, but he looks like the guy committing the breaking & entering in every home security ad.
*Next week Tom Brady goes to set the all-time record for career wins by a quarterback against the team he beat to become a legend. And the NFL Commissioner will not be there because he is a spineless, despicable, lowlife, feckless, conniving weasel without the balls to show his face to the paying customers he has lied to, the franchise he has tried to destroy or the gold standard of quarterback excellence he has dishonored. God knows I’m no fan of Castro. But as far as Patriots fans are concerned, the wrong oppressive, cowardly despot is rotting in Hell right now.