Things to consider while being proud of how the Defend the Wall metaphor has made it all the way to the top:
*There are times I feel I was sent to your world by the football gods with one mission: To make you appreciate the magnitude of what you are witnessing. For their first 42 years of existence, the Patriots never won 12 games in a season. Not once. In the 14 years since, they’ve done it 11 times, including the last seven in a row. In that time, they’ve won 14 or more an unthinkable five times. And they cap off this season rolling up on a 10-win playoff team by three touchdowns on the road. These things are simply not meant to happen.
*This year they go 14-2 and get the playoff 1-seed despite losing their second most important player to injury and their most important for a quarter of the season to a stupid tinfoil hat conspiracy theory. The sports media cyberbullies can try to spin that any way they want. They can say the Pats haven’t played anybody or somehow magically fell into a year where they faced 16 terrible quarterbacks or whatever. But ask Denver and Carolina how easy it is to stay on top for any length of time. Or San Francisco for that matter. If you try to run down what this Patriots team is accomplishing, you’re just admitting you hate excellence. And you can move to some social utopia where achievement is discouraged, Pinko. Because in my America, we celebrate winners.
*And to fully appreciate what you are watching, you have to consider the unbelievable work Josh McDaniels is doing with this offense. When Gronk went down, it should have been like losing the warp drive on this particular Enterprise. He was the one who drew the double teams, created the mismatches, and was Brady’s uncoverable first option. But instead, McDaniels rerouted the matter/anti-matter reactors through the dilithium crystals and into the impulse engines and … OK, I’ll stop geek sub-referencing. The point is, that minus Gronk, Danny Amendola and Malcolm Mitchell, he’s still able to put up 35 points on the road through a master class of offensive schemes.
*Basically the McOffense is capable of running any type of play out of any personnel group. They dictate what the defense has to defend and then do the opposite. On the first drive, they showed a 2-tight end right, 2-back look and sold the run, only to go play action, with Martellus Bennett firing out from the inside Y-tight end spot and run a shallow cross for a first down. On first and goal, it was three tight ends, and two backs, with Matt Lengel coming in motion. Again they went play action to the weak side, with Bennett slipping into the back of the end zone unnoticed. On the next possession, they spread out four but ran a draw to LeGarrette Blount, with Bennett cracking down on Spencer Paysinger to spring him for 19 yards. With Brady at the helm, every scenario becomes the Kobayashi Maru. (Sorry. I had one more I needed to get out of my system.)
*For all the moralizing and phony outrage over the Patriots signing Michael Floyd, does watching him make huge plays in a big win make anyone feel all hollow and empty inside? Let’s all agree you shouldn’t drive when you’re too drunk to stay awake at a red light. But Bill Belichick’s job is to win Lombardis. And short of a guy being a violent felon, wife beater or murderer, you sign a baller like Floyd when the universe drops him on your lap and let the courts worry about justice. Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and render unto Belichick the things that are Belichick’s.
*It’s astonishing how many plays Floyd was able to make after so little time in this offense. That touchdown where he not only out-fought half the Dolphins defense but made Tony Lippett spit out his mouth guard was exactly the kinds of plays that decide championships. And will win him respect in the prison yard later this year. The block he threw on Lippett to spring Julian Edelman on the 77-yarder was not just the Patriots hit of the year, but might be a violation of his pretrial probation.
*And yet Floyd’s play that might be the most promising going forward was that one where he elevated to high-point a ball on the sidelines and toe tapped to keep a drive alive. It seems like a big opposing receiver makes that play every week against the Pats but it’s a skill set they haven’t had on their side since forever. Miami should’ve signed some Scottsdale cops, because they might be the only ones capable of stopping Floyd. (Seriously, don’t drink and drive. Those preachy highway signs are 100 percent right.)
*ThePats’ defensive line set the tone for this one right from the jump. First play: Alan Branch against Jermon Bushrod and Vincent Valentine on Kraig Urbik pushed the line of scrimmage back about two yards. Second play: Trey Flowers comes off the edge looping behind Malcolm Brown to stuff a run. Third and long: On a 3-man rush, Flowers comes from the nose tackle spot with a rip move on Urbik to get in Matt Moore’s grill mix and force an incompletion with a man open deep. Three different fronts with different personnel, but everyone being too tough, quick and physical for the O-line to handle, and it was that way most of the day.
*The only stretch where it got all 2009-y on us was that last Miami possession of the second and the opening drive of the third. The secondary’s Cover-2 look did a solid job all day of taking away Miami’s vertical routes. The problems came when they got Stay Puft soft on the intermediate stuff and Moore started hitting his check downs. Particularly the crossing routes, which were death by a thousand in-cuts. I think after that second touchdown, the coverage on those underneath routes tightened up and the YAC dropped off to nothing. That scheme can be frustrating to watch and will work miracles on a mediocre quarterback’s completion percentage. But no Matt Moore in the league is going to beat Brady with 14-play drives.
*It takes better than my My First Football Blog by Fisher-Price-level mind to comprehend why defenses can be so streaky when it comes to forcing turnovers. But they are. It’s a fact of life. And the Pats are getting on a roll at precisely the right time. That interception by Logan Ryan was against a Levels concept, which is a nightmare for a defender. It involves running two routes to two different depths on the same side, and the quarterback reads the corner. If he stays with the underneath guy, go deep. If he drops, hit the under. Peyton Manning owes every pizza and insurance dollar he ever makes to that scheme. And Ryan played it perfectly, staying with the shallow route long enough to bait Moore into going long, then dropping down into the passing lane.
*And Devin McCourty playing the Amanda Nunes to the football’s Ronda Rousey was the clutch play that kept an actual football game from ever breaking out.
*This week’s Applicable Movie Quote: “Losers always whine about their ‘best.’ Winners go home and fuck the prom queen.” – Sean Connery, “The Rock”
*The only person who had a worse New Year’s performance than Mariah Carey was Dan “I’m Analyzing as Badly as I Can” Fouts. Seriously, what is his glitch? He seems like a bright enough man. He was a cerebral quarterback. How can he see the same game as the rest of us and get everything so entirely wrong? Jarvis Landry slams his helmet down in the end zone after a score, in what appeared to me to be direct violation of the fairly straight forward No Helmet Slamming Down rule, and yet Fouts is outraged at the injustice. Later Landry gets flagged for motion, and that’s “a call you don’t see made any more.” Which comes as news to me since I feel like Edelman draws one of those a week. But in his worst “take” since he thought Vontaze Burfict didn’t launch at Bennett’s knee in Week 6, Delusional Dan watched Cameron Wake suplex Brady to the ground on the backside of a jet sweep and called it “a hit.” I’m not saying he’s biased. Just incompetent. I just hope CBS didn’t spring for more than the two “The Bird” and “The Beard” t-shirts they plug every week, because I’m not sensing a big consumer demand there. Thank God we won’t have to listen to these twats in the playoffs.
*And thank God there’ll be no games played in Miami, because it’s a disgrace the NFL puts the most important knee ligaments in my life at risk on a field that’s the consistency of a frosted sheet cake. The leading tackler for the Dolphins defense was that shitty turf.
*Speaking of disgraces, it wouldn’t be a Dolphins game without Ndamukong Suh going off the rails. And I’m glad he did because otherwise I would’ve forgotten he was there. When he wasn’t jumping across to put David Andrews on his ass to no constructive purpose (otherwise known as “trying to anticipate the snap count” to Dan Fouts) or trying to goad Blount into a fight, he was being rendered invisible by Marcus Cannon and Shaq Mason. And on Blount’s final touchdown – the F-you score right after they were going at it – Suh watched him go in untouched from his knees after getting submarined by Joe Thuney, completely helpless. Suh used to be an game-changing, feared and respected punk. Now all that’s left is the punk.
*But actually right now Suh isn’t even the worst punk on his own D-line. Jordan Phillips makes him look like Kurt Warner. He’s got to be leading the league self-congratulation. I don’t know how many plays he made, but I know how many he didn’t celebrate with some kind of a dance, and that would be zero. I swear if he made one more tackle for a short gain, he was going to stop the game so he could hang a pinata. But in fairness to Phillips, it’s been a tough time ever since they downgraded him to a planetoid.
*On Brady’s first incompletion, a high throw Edelman couldn’t hang onto, he was ripped. Tearing into Minitron, even though he’d made a great grab on a similar throw over the middle for 20 yards to set up the first touchdown. At times like that I want to feel bad for Edelman. That is, until I realize that’s their relationship. It’s a Dwight Shrute-Michael Scott dynamic. Where Brady can heap whatever amount of scorn and disapproval on him, and it just makes him more dedicated to pleasing the boss. Would Brady rather be feared or loved? Easy. Both. He wants people to be afraid of how much they love him.
*And now the Pats earn a week off to prepare for the weakest, most damaged AFC playoff field I can ever remember. If this is my first Match.com meet up with 2017, I’m starting to think about unprotected sex.
Jerry has a book! “From Darkness to Dynasty: The First 40 Years of the New England Patriots” has been called “the perfect book for any reader who is a die-hard Pats fan.” It’s of available now online and at bookstores everywhere. Details and scheduled book signings are at JerryThornton.net.