A source with the Patriots tells me Bill Belichick ordered the field crew to place these thermometers inside the Jets tunnel so New York is reminded how cold it is. Mental warfare. #Patriots pic.twitter.com/I7IwcZQZXf
— Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) December 31, 2017
It’s 10 degrees out and Bill Belichick just walked onto the field in shorts and a t-shirt pic.twitter.com/wH4oHOAsZt
— Mark Daniels (@MarkDanielsPJ) December 31, 2017
Things to consider while being grateful Global Warming hasn’t meant the end of Belichick Diablolical Mindfuck Weather:
*Like last week, we’ve had a entire holiday since the game so I’m taking the Google Earth view here instead of the usual Google Street view look at it. Because frankly, in the big picture scheme of things, this was a throwaway game. A game plan based on the opponent, the available personnel and the need to be ready in two weeks, as opposed to something we can draw any conclusions from. If the Patriots were a band, this game would be a deep cut that would be part of some “Sessions” CD, released during the holidays as an easy money grab, not anything that’s making a Greatest Hits or being played on tour.
*And yet, there was a lot here that, in broad strokes, was sort of the season in microcosm. Defensively they gave up way more yards than they had any business doing, but nothing on the scoreboard. (On the season they gave up the 4th most yards in the league but the 5th fewest points.) Offensively, they were a blend of runs, screens and deep shots downfield, with very little of the quick-shot, high percentage passes they lived and breathed in years past. And special teams gave them field possesion most of the game. (Eight of the Jets’ 13 drives started inside their own 25, with the last three inside their 4.) This has been more or less the recipe for the 13-3, best record in football culinary spread that won them 2017 Regular Season Top Chef yet again.
*And while I’m under no delusions about the Jets, the Pats won by 20 with the most depleted roster we’ve ever seen. They had two running backs. Kyle Van Noy was back but barely played so Elandon Roberts was their only middle linebacker. Gronk was, for all intents and purposes, a healthy scratch; given a mental health day he won’t have to use any of his personal time for. They were missing three of the four wideouts who won them the Super Bowl. And yet they essentially had the game put away by halftime.
*For the second straight week, it was mainly thanks to Dion Lewis, who continues to get better with reps. I never envisioned him to be what Merrill Hoge always like to call “a factor back,” but that’s exactly what he’s become. He had 50 rushing attempts in the last two weeks in a league where 25 is the new 35. And still, he’s not just making people miss, he’s running through arm tackles and dragging guys across the yellow line when he is wrapped up. And like Jim Nantz and Tony Romo have been pointing out, he’s added that Le’Veon Bell slow motion move to his arsenal. But I’ll go a step further and say at times he’s less like Bell than he is Kyre Irving. There was one run with the Pats up 21-3 where he was pinned two yards deep with no holes open, so he took a step back, dribbled, came around a pick, switched hands, changed direction, drove the lane, penetrated and laid it high off the glass for 17 yards. I was thinking I’d like to see him get back to his usual 12-15 carries per game, but now I say screw that. I’d rather they give him a shot to see if he can carry the team past teams in the playoffs like he has in December.
*The other back I want to see only because I know he’s the human victory cigar. Brandon Bolden is a tremendous core-4 special teamer and he’s had some chunk plays in mop up duty this season. But I never want him in the backfield with the game still undecided, ever. He not only dropped the most undroppable pass ever thrown on 3rd down, he twice got blown up in blitz protection on Demario Davis, once for the sack and again to force an incompletion. Again, he’s an essential part of special teams. But offensively he’s that free t-shirt you got from the radio station giveaway that you only wear when literally everything else you own is in the laundry.
*Also for the second straight week, the best non-Dion Lewis unit on the field was the interior defensive line. Malcom Brown played another monster game in a breakout season for him. But the best player in their front was Lawrence Guy of all damned people. Working mostly against Dakota Dozier, he put the middle of the Jets line into the Pit of Misery all game long. Starting with two tackles on the first two plays from scrimmage, through penetrating the A-gap to drop Elijah McGuire for a loss to force a field goal on the second possession, to a back to back tackles for loss on their second drive of the 2nd quarter, one setting the edge against Ben Ijalana, Guy was everywhere on running downs. I don’t need to be told this isn’t the Jets O-line of D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Vlad Ducasse and Nick Mangold. But I remind you, I’m still talking about Lawrence “Just a” Guy. Who has been Bill Belichick’s Obscure Discovery of the Year for 2017.
*And Guy’s runner up for that honor is Marquis Flowers, who’s become the latest out of that Droid Factory that produces surprisingly versatile front line guys who can be moved inside and out and make impact plays. The one that gave us Tully Banta-Cain, Mark Anderson and Jabaal Sheard. This game gave Flowers 3.5 sacks in two weeks and 4+ tackles for the fourth time just since Mexico City. The fact that I still can’t come up with a reasonably good line for the fact they’ve got two stud edge defenders named Flowers continues to haunt me, but it’s a good problem to have.
*With Van Noy limited, the defense was practically playing a base Dime, with a lot of 3-tackle, 2-OLB nickel packages mixed in and Roberts as the only off-the-line LB in the lineup. Early on the Jets moved the ball mostly by gashing them to the outside. To which I Tweeted that if the Pats edge guys (Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise and James Harrison) just start turning those plays back in, the Jets won’t cross midfield again. They did. And the next seven Jets drives ended in New York territory. To answer your question, being right all the time does not get boring, any more than being this good looking does.
*As for Harrison, there was nothing not to love. He seemed to have a play sheet on his belt because he spend more time checking himself down there than Louis CK. My guess is that in the time they had to get him ready, the coaches asked him what he can bring to the defense, what calls he’s comfortable with, and then worked around him. And the results were the best we could have hoped for. He had the two sacks at the end, obviously. And the strip, which was vintage 2008 DPOTY Harrison. But my favorite play he made was on that 3rd & 5 from the Jets 36. Harrison lined up in a Wide-9 and dropped into zone coverage. The ball came to Robby Anderson in the flat, about three yards shy of the chains, and Harrison got him on Missile Lock, came seven full yards downfield to close the gap and dropped him where he stood. It was astonishing to watch that and think there was no room on the Steelers defense for that guy.
*In all, Harrison had 28 snaps, after having 40 total for the Steelers through the first 16 weeks. Belichick has this guy on the rebound after things got supremely ugly for him in Pittsburgh, so I’m expecting to see more of this. In that same way that if you’ve ever hooked up with a divorcee right after a particularly nasty split, you get the best sex you’ll ever see in your lifetime. So by all means, keep yapping, Steelers.
*This Week’s Applicable Movie Quote: “No one understands the lonely perfection of my dreams. I found perfection here. I’ve created it. A perfect organism.” – David, Alien: Covenant
*I appreciated Johnson Bademosi’s flop, I really did. But from the time Robby Anderson hit him in the face with the ball to the time he decided to actually hit the deck you could have hardboiled an egg. He’s on a Belichick-coached team. I bet Ernie Adams has a five minute video file of Anderson spiking footballs and Bademosi has been coached up to take a ball in the face and drop like he just took a Conor McGregor punch, and yet he wasn’t ready. Sorry, bro, but you’re about five NBA All Star appearances from getting that call.
*I watched the game at a buddy’s house and all the way home made the mistake of listening to the radio postgame shows. I suppose there’s no more direct cry for help than calling into a postgame radio show on New Year’s Eve, anyway. But seriously, if you’re calling to agree with the hosts about what a crushing disappointment Brandin Cooks has been on a day when he was your only deep threat, had 79 yards and a touchdown and drew about 500 yards in PI penalties, then just put down the phone and check yourself into rehab. Then again, when you find anything to bitch about in a season that ends 13-3, with the 1-seed and about a half dozen key players scheduled to come back in two weeks, maybe you’re just beyond help.
*The other beef seemed to be about Brady, and while that’s usually fair after a 19-for-40 day, you might want to just hold your wad under these circumstances. Again, Gronk was taking a floating holiday. Kenny Britt is still extremely limited in his grasp of the offense. Phillip Dorsett is primarily a (very good) blocking receiver. Yes, he did overthrown Cooks in the endzone on an out route where he had a step on the coverage. But aside from that one pass to the goal line where Cooks broke off his route because he thought Brady was scrambling, every time he went deep it either connected (that 37 yarder where Cooks stemmed his route off away from the single safety), was dropped (Dorsett’s unnecessary dive) or drew a huge flag. Give him Chris Hogan, James White, Rex Burkhead and – dare I live the dream – Malcolm Mitchell on the 13th and then lets see if he’s completing less that 50 percent for less than 200 yards.
*Even if Brady’s skills decline over the next, say, 12 or so years, his hard count game will just keep getting better. He made no less than 4 of the 11 Jets jump on a play not one Pats lineman so much as blinked. Your average nightclub R-rated hypnotist would kill for a percentage that high.
*I credit my boy Barstool legend Uncle Buck for this particular deep pull. Wet Suit Brady looks like the time on “Sprockets” when we dance. Side note: That remains the best era of SNL to this day and it is not open for debate.
*Assuming they take care of business against either Buffalo, Tennessee or Kansas City, they will be guaranteed to have been home from December 17th through the AFC title game on January 21st. Remind me what the fuck I was freaking out about back in September?
*We’re onto the bye week.