Mailbag time and it's more grief for the man Formerly Known as The Genius and his merry band of defensive players.
We can try and figure out how Bill Belichick went from being able to stop Peyton Manning with a secondary of Earthwind Moreland and Troy Brown to being shredded by guys like Ryan Fitzpatrick with semi-regularity, but that's almost a waste of time at this point. The only question that really matters when it comes to the fate of the 2010 Patriots is this: Can Belichick turn one of the league's five worst defenses -- at least through three weeks --into a serviceable group?
We'll get into that and more in the mailbag, where we weigh in on the "Is Wilfork overrated?" debate, wonder if Logan Mankins is ready to apologize publicly, take a look at what happened to Lori Singer and chase the elusive Grand Slam of media suckitude.
To the 'bag we go …
Good report card but I don't get the B+ for the coaching staff. Belichick put together a game plan that allows almost 400 yards and 30 points to the worst offense in the NFL. And it seems you give him a pass for that because the "players aren't good enough?" I agree that the game plan for the offense was superb the whole way through, but for me the coaches have to take some of the blame for the way Fitzpatrick was able to go up and down the field.
A: What scares me, Dave, is that the defense made adjustments during the game -- gave the Bills a lot of looks -- and still couldn't do anything. Lots of movement before the ball was snapped by the Bills, as we saw in Week 1. They blitzed and gave up plays, they stayed in a soft zone and gave up plays. Didn't matter which players were on the field, either. I just can't believe that Belichick has totally forgotten how to coach a defense. Right now the personnel just isn't up to snuff. The only players on the defense that have played a consistently high level in 2010 are Pat Chung and Jerod Mayo. That's it.
I've been saying it for years … Wilfork is overrated! Never understood why there was so much love for him, I think it's partly because the media likes him and because people on TV tell us he's great some people believe it. He's a good player but not worth the huge contact. Another terrible decision by BB.
A: Look, there are definitely people in the media who always give Wilfork a free pass, and they almost always play the "You just don't understand football" card when they do. We don't understand it wasn't his fault when Matt Birk pancaked him to open the hole for Ray Rice's TD in the playoff loss. We don't understand why it means nothing that his numbers have gone down the last couple of years. We don't get it. And I get Wilfork's value, no question about it. He commands double and triple teams and when he's right (Week 1 vs. Cincy is a prime example) the guy it a force. But Wilfork stunk on Sunday. Zeros on the stat sheet (I can't remember Wilfork even close to making a play) and the Bills ran for 5.6 yards per carry. Very good in Week 1, nothing since. And this defense is DOA if Wilfork is a non-factor.
Tough to call BB a genius anymore. This defense is a joke -- saying that they are young is just an excuse. Scoring 38 vs. the Bills is fine, but what happens when they run into the Steelers or Ravens or Colts?
A: They are young, that's the thing. Brace, McCourty, Chung, Cunningham, Butler, Spikes -- first and second-year guys playing a ton of snaps for this defense. The problem is that this is a Super Bowl-caliber offense, ready to win right now. And it's not like Brady and Moss are 24 years old and can wait a couple of years for the defense to mature. The clock is ticking for these guys.
I think Logan Mankins has officially lost all leverage in any negotiation with the way the Pats o-line has been playing. Have to wonder if the Pats are just going to stash the money for an upgrade on the defensive side, rather than float him another offer.
Also, everyone is jumping all over the defense, but this is clearly a rebuilding year for the Pats D. While the defense is extremely young, they are still fast and explosive, however error ridden. While they are too young and inexperienced now, you have to like the future of this defense with Chung, McCourty, Spikes, Cunningham and Meriweather. Remember, the Pats built the defense of their 2001 Super Bowl team in '95-'96 drafts (McGinest, Johnson, Law, Milloy, Bruschi).
A: I can't imagine Belichick's top priority is locking up Mankins at this point -- the O-line has been nearly perfect the first three weeks. I know one guy is an All-Pro and the other guy is Dan Connolly but to me I just have not seen anything close to a real dip in production at left guard. Is Mankins better than Connolly? Of course. Would Mankins give the Patriots good value if he signed at $56 million (assume a third or so guaranteed)? I think so. But it's not crazy to think that the money could be better spent on the other side of the ball.
Again, the fans don't want to hear about a rebuilding year. You know when a rebuilding year would be OK? After Brady and Belichick are gone. As long as those two are around the fans expect to be in the Super Bowl mix. I don't think they are paying $300 for a ticket and 42 bucks for a mac and cheese at the CBS restaurant at Patriot Place to watch Devin McCourty learn on the job. Brady is a top-five all-time QB in the autumn of his prime, and there's a decent chance he won't see another Super Bowl because his coach has done a suspect job putting this defense together.
5-11 this year, I can't see how they do any better than that with this "D", sad. BTW, anyone watch Clay Matthews last night? WOW! We must not be allowed to sign players like that.
A: A 3-10 finish is a reach, I think, but I get the point.
Matthews is a freaking beast, no doubt about that. He's played 19 NFL games and has 16.0 sacks. A total game-changer, and there were more than whispers that Belichick was interested in taking him with that 23rd pick in 2009 -- but he traded that pick to the Ravens for a first-rounder (26th overall) and fifth-rounder. I remember watching the NFL Network's draft coverage and someone suggested that the Pats moved back to the 26 spot just to take Matthews. But Belichick traded the pick to the Packers -- who of course took Matthews -- and used the extra picks he received in the deal to select Darius Butler and Brandon Tate. Let's duck the glare of the trio of Super Bowl rings and call that trade not what it looks like but what it already is: A disaster, a stifferoo, Pitinoesque. If Scott Pioli were in that draft room he would have never let the Pats pass on Matthews (I have no idea if that's true, by the way, but based on everything I've read and heard over the last three weeks Pioli was the brains behind the dynasty, so why not throw the Matthews mess into the mix?)
GREAT call on Wilcots and Harlan not knowing about the timeouts. I was watching the game with my Dad and we both couldn't believe it! Wilcots played in the league and Harlan's been doing games forever. I'm not the biggest Jim Nantz/Phil Simms fan going but they would have known what was going on with the back-to-back time-out rule. Just a couple of bone-heads.
A: Scary. There's a reason why this is the No. 6 CBS crew, I think Les Moonves would have any two cast members os "Survivor: Nicaragua" announce the Super Bowl before Harlan and Wilcots.
But don't forget this: Not only did the two announcers not know the rule, the same can be said for the entire Buffalo Bills coaching staff (they sent Fitzpatrick out there with the instruction to run the clock down, try to draw the Pats offside and then call the timeout. You think they wanted to pick up a five-yard penalty and push a FG back?) and all the game officials. Only the Patriots coaches knew a rule had been violated -- which was why Belichick went after the referee with that flurry of F-Bombs. That was the angriest I can remember BB -- he looked eerily like John Lithgow almost slugging Lori Singer in the church in "Footloose."
(I'll save you the time and IMDB Lori Singer. She costarred with Sean Penn and Tom Hanks in back-to-back movies after "Footloose" and that was it for her career, essentially. So where did it go wrong? Well, I'd say signing on to play Don Johnson's wife in 1987's "Heartbeat" was not a career move out of the Hepburn playbook. But I'll give her this: No reality TV appearances, four-episode soap opera guest spots or commercials. Have to think Ren McCormack would be proud.)
Kicking the field goal is exactly what the Bills should have done.
Any other team should have gone for it, but Buffalo has been playing conservative ever since Marv Levy left(just read Gregg Easterbrook's archive), why start now?
A: Gailey not going for it on fourth and and (maybe) six inches from the Pats 16-yard line at the end of the first half Sunday was a great moment in Twinless Coaching History. Throw in his "Our Town" stage manager look and there is no question in my mind that Gailey will be someone's O-Coordinator in 2012.
I've had plenty of problems with the team Belichick has assembled, but I watch Chan Gailey and Marvin Lewis and wonder how anyone could ever want to make a coaching change in New England. This is what's out there, retreads and coordinators we know nothing about.
(By the way, if I were an owner I'd make sure I never hired a head coach who A) wore the kind of glasses that rest on your nose or B) wore a baseball cap on the sidelines. Both really bad looks that almost never lead to long-term success. Did Landry do go with of those looks? How about Parcells or Belichick? Shula or Lombardi? Bill Walsh? Chuck Noll? Paul Brown? You might get a Bill Cowher but the odds are heavily against you. If you go with the "No hat/no Carl Levin glasses" look when you make the hire the chances of a hit go up 200, 300 percent, I firmly believe that.)
Randy Moss is averaging three catches per game in 2010, the same as Joey Galloway. Good luck with that extension, I'm sure he'll get his money somewhere though.
A: Just nine catches so far for Moss, but come on. You know he's going to get his. Here's what Brady had to say about Moss on Wednesday:
"He’s a dynamic player in the passing game. The thing about Randy is – you could fall asleep on him for one play and it’s a touchdown. I think that’s the dangerous part for other teams – you think you got him, you think you got him – and next thing you know, he’s celebrating in the end zone. He’s a big target. He’s a really smart player. He has great hands. He has a great feel. We do certain things with Randy that no one else on the team really does."
Moss is a sleeping giant. Right now Brady has a new toy with Aaron Hernandez, and the number of catches for Moss (and Welker) are down. But as long as Moss is healthy and motivated it's hard to imagine that he finishes the year with anything less than, say, 70-75 catches, 1,200 yards and 12-14 TDs.
I hate the Jets (almost as much as the Yankees), but I became a fan of [Danny] Woodhead during the Hard Knocks show. It was the “feel good” story of the season. When I found out that the Pats signed him, I was really excited! I hope he continues to excel in the offense!
A: No idea with Belichick when it comes to trying to figure out if a guy will stick or not, Woodhead could play the next 10 years in New England or be gassed tomorrow. Who knows? But it looks like Fred Taylor's ironman streak of consecutive games could be over at three (hasn't practiced this week) so maybe that gives Woodhead a couple of more snaps Monday night.
Woodhead was honestly terrified to answer any questions after the game Sunday -- it was if Belichick had pulled an "Innerspace" move and was somehow injected into Woodhead. I felt bad for him -- he didn't even want to say where he watched the Jets-Pats game ("At a hotel maybe? -- "No, I don't think so.") as if telling us that would somehow alter the next 50 years of the NFL.
Wow, you suck as a writer, you suck on the radio and now you suck on a Podcast. The Triple Crown of media suckitude. Too bad no TV station in town knows who you are or you could go for the Grand Slam. I'd ask Rob Bradford to fire you but you must have something unreal over him to have this job in the first place so I won't waste my time.
Kirk M Sux
A: But not one suggestion in that email that I look like Eddie Munster. I'm winning him over! And to say that no TV station in town knows who I am shows how out of the media loop Mr. Kirk M Sux (if that's his real name) truly is -- don't forget I once sat eight seats away from Walt Perkins at a Hall and Oates concert. Never forget that you are dealing with an insider. The chase for the Slam lives on.
Dolphins 28, Pats 24. Why? I trust Chad Henne more than the New England defense.