Things to consider while reminding everyone that our BB unit is still the smartest, most capable coaching droid in the galaxy:
— To be clear, I would rather sit through a New Year’s Day marathon of diabetic foot nerve pain ads than have to write about an excruciating loss to the Jets on a controversial call by Bill Belichick. But this is the business I’ve chosen. And it’s after the tough losses like this that we separate the fanboy bloggers from the professional fanboy bloggers.
— Simply put, I disagreed with Belichick’s call to kick off in overtime. I would have preferred the ball at the start if for no other reason than a touchdown wins the game. That alone makes it the safe, logical, conventional wisdom choice.
— But at the same time, I can respect the decision. Because it comes from the same unsafe, illogical, unconventional wisdom that has defined this dynasty. Most of us wouldn’t have kicked in the same way we wouldn’t have given the ball to Peyton Manning in OT three years ago. Or taken the intentional safety in Denver back in the day. Or run the ineligible receiver plays that beat Baltimore in the playoffs last year. Or replaced Adam Vinatieri with Stephen Gostkowski. Or drafted Sebastian Vollmer in the second round. Or any of a million other risky, against-the-grain decisions that have made this team great for 15 years. Playing it by the book is for other, lesser teams. Patriots fans will support Belichick when these gambles fail because they respect that the same thought process that made the call to kick is the one that opted not to call time out in the Super Bowl with Seattle second-and-goal from the 1. It won’t always work out. But we understand that like with all belief systems, our deity works in mysterious ways and it’s times like these that you need to keep your faith.
— And besides, this is what genius does. Every once in a while true, creative genius will leave you sitting there saying “WTF was that all about?” No one ever appreciated a stupid fart joke the way Mozart did. Ben Franklin believed in taking “air baths,” where he’d just walk around bollocky in front of open windows in the middle of the day. Francis Ford Coppola is responsible for the last 20 minutes of “Apocalypse Now.” Michael Jackson … well, you get my point. Belichick will get an ‘F’ in every report card this week. But New Englanders still will respect that we are dealing with a man who’s not doing Next Level thinking, he’s operating at the level above Next Level. And we’ll accept it, even when we don’t understand it.
— The one thing we can grasp, because it’s so obvious at the moment, is that the coaches have little to no faith in the offense right now. It’s the only explanation for why they’ve chosen to bleed the clock at the end of halves. And why they trusted the defense to win a field position battle in overtime rather than give Tom Brady the ball.
— And it’s hard to blame them, given the state of things. Every week they’re paying for yards with lives. I feel like Josh McDaniels made every adjustment he could make against the Jets, but when every time your quarterback takes a five-step drop he’s in the bear rape scene from “The Revenant,” your options are fairly limited.
— That explains all the gadget plays in the second quarter. They weren’t out of arrogance or McDaniels auditioning for a head coaching job. It was pure practicality. Nothing else was working, especially after Vollmer went out. So there was no choice but to dig deep into the back of the playbook where you keep the stuff you really only drew up to use in Madden. The jet sweep to Brandon LaFell with Brady blocking. The I formation where Brady splits out and it’s a direct snap to the upback. And the flea-flicker, which almost worked. In spite of the fact Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts made it out like Darrelle Revis had blanket coverage on the play, Rob Gronkowski had a step and Brady could have connected. And if he had, we’re not talking about coin flips and making lame Matthew Slater-Steve Harvey jokes.
— One play I can live without, though, in addition to anything that includes Tom Brady road grading upfield on a reverse, is that third-and-1 handoff to the fullback. The Patriots tried it with Joey Iosefa in the first, and it extended its own Most Consecutive Attempts Without Ever Converting the First Down streak, which now stands at 2,482. I’m going to hack into their files and delete that play if I have to get a job with the St. Louis Cardinals to do it.
— Without Sea Bass, Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, with no real push from the offensive line and with almost no time to throw, the Patriots offense was limited to trying to stretch the New York defense horizontally, which wasn’t working. The Jets’ screen recognition was outstanding and there was nothing there all game. So the Pats adjusted by having the receivers start sitting underneath zones. That moved the ball well enough, but it severely limited their yards after catch and made for a lot of third downs they couldn’t convert.
— The sad fact of the matter is that as currently constituted, the McOffense only does a couple of things well — hit the intermediate passes and get Gronk up the seam on occasion. That’s not an offense. It’s two pages of a playbook. It’s what you hand a Tim Tebow or some street free agent QB you signed in an emergency. I’m not saying the situation is dire. But the Pats need to get healthy, fast. Even if it means hiring Ashley Manning as team pharmacist.
— The movie looks like hot garbage, but that “Dirty Grandpa” trailer raises two philosophical questions that have vexed me for years. One, when was the exact moment that Robert DeNiro stopped caring about his career? And two, is Aubrey Plaza hot or not? I feel like she’d be a Dorchester 6, but for some reason is a Hollywood 8, which defies all natural laws. Still, I won’t see the movie to settle either issue.
— This might sound bananas, but I sneaky feel like the guy the Patriots missed most was Pat Chung. Without Chung at the big nickel spot, the Jets were able to gash the Pats’ 4-2-5 base. For at least the first three quarters, Jets offensive linemen were getting up to the second level and sealing off the Pats safeties and linebackers. And Chung at that spot allows them to play a lot more man coverage, which I think they had to get away from at times. Take the 25-yard completion to Eric Decker early on. It looked like the Pats were in a Cover-3 “sky” with Malcolm Butler covering the deep third of the field and Decker got free in front of him. Maybe that’s an example of them missing Devin McCourty more, but I still think Chung has become the indispensable man on that defense. And four years ago I never thought I’d be typing those words.
— Every time Kenbrell Thompkins converts a first down and does his weird, goofy, inexplicable hand-gesture dance, an angel dies.
— By no means did I want to see Thompkins get injured, mind you. But I didn’t want Belichick shaking hands with him. Respect is fine. We just don’t need his magical healing touch helping the opposition.
— The damned shame of that overtime meltdown is that it renders moot one of the ballsiest comeback performances in an era full of them. That fourth-and-9, 26-yard strike to Gronk in bracket coverage was one for the ages. And the way Gronk bounced off that kill shot from Calvin Pryor would be the highlight of the week if there was any justice in the world.
— What keeps bothering me most every time I see that coin flip video has nothing to do with the decision to kick. It’s that when Clete Blakeman says, “Gentlemen, here’s the situation …” no one jumps in to say, “My parents went away on a week’s vacation. And they left the keys to the brand new Porsche. Would they mind? Hmm. Well, of course not …” You only get one chance of that in this life, team captains. And you blew it.
— Jon Gruden Nickname of the Week: “I gotta tell ya, I love this Ryan Fitzpatrick. Did you know he went to Harvard? And he’s got that wild beard, man. And he’s real hard to chase down. That’s why I call this guy ‘Unabomber.’ And he’s doing some real damage to New England, man.”
— As if losing to the Jets isn’t bad enough, this was the week to rub their tampering, conniving little noses in the fact that Butler and Logan Ryan have been outplaying Revis all year. Instead Revis intercepts Brady (a total miscommunication; Revis caught it with all the athleticism of a kid getting a foul ball handed to him by the ball boy) and Butler and Ryan played arguably their worst games of the year. Brandon Marshall had Ryan in a glass case of emotion, and if they never have to meet in the playoffs it’ll be too soon.
— And it’s made worse by the fact that they couldn’t pick off Fitzpatrick, who throws his touch passes like a guy playing the football toss at a Dave & Buster’s.
— This Week’s Applicable Movie Quote: “Certainty of death. Small chance of success. What are we waiting for?” — Gimli, “Return of the King”
— I hope this Knee Jerk doesn’t come off as too dark and tragic. But losing to the Jets does things to me. The bigger picture is that if the Pats can clinch home field and spend the playoff bye getting relatively healthy, none of this matters. The Japanese have an art they call kintsukuroi. It involves taking a broken piece of pottery and gluing it back together with molten gold. Thus improving upon what it was originally. Give them Edelman, Amendola, Chung, McCourty and some semblance of an O-line and watch this coaching staff kintsukuroi the hell out of the AFC in the playoffs.
— I don’t want to seem like a sore loser, so I want to congratulate the Jets on winning their every-other-year Super Bowl. Enjoy it as you usually do.
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