Mailbag Time and folks still aren't ready to punt when presented with a chance to talk about the fourth-and-1 (Get it?) failure in San Diego.
So we'll put the finishing touches on that, take a look at how I screwed up the report card, figure out if Bill Belichick is now a genius again, count the numbers of ways people have told me I suck and get an answer on when a spoiler is no longer a spoiler.
To the 'bag we go …
I think Belichick was mostly wrong to not go for it in the past. Not just not going for it on fourth and short, but they should have been doing more runs to take time off the clock.
However, in this case I think punting was a better call, given they were only up three and at midfield. Asking San Diego to go far in less than two minutes is quite different from asking Payton to deliver a touchdown.
Even down 17, it took them over four minutes to get that touchdown.
A: Each situation is different. There are times when I absolutely think going for it on fourth-and-inches in that spot is the right call. I just don't think Sunday was one of them. Again, the Pats had held the Chargers to six points in the first 53 minutes of the game. OK, a couple of fluky turnovers helped, but the fact that the Chargers are the kind of team that shoots itself in the head is just another reason to punt and take your chances.
Another call made out of stupid hubris instead of good football sense. The Pats were only saved this time because the Chargers are eternal chokers and they proved that reputation yet again. Worst case scenario out of a punt is that it goes into the end zone and the Chargers now have to drive from the 20 on a touchback instead of the 50. That is 30 extra yards. I’m certain that virtually any other team converts that 30 yard gift into at least a FG to force overtime. However, typical that because they won the game this time, it was the “right” call, but when they lost the game last year, it was the “wrong” call. Football genius, my butt.
A: I'm not sure the worst-case scenario of a punt is that it goes into the end zone, Shawn. I mean, we did watch Jake Ingram chuck a couple of worm-killers at Zoltan Mesko. And I don't buy the "hubris" argument with Belichick. Never have. Does he have an ego? Sure. But I don't think he lets that get in the way of winning a game.
It was a stupid call, period. Why give SD a short field that could’ve very easily turned into a TD instead of a failed FG?
By punting, you pin them back inside the 20 and make them go 50-60 yds just to get into FG position. Plus our soft offensive line stinks, especially on the left side…Why you would go all in and run behind Matt Light is beyond me.
All Belichick did there was increase the likelihood that SD would win. Got lucky with the bumbling Chargers pure and simple.
A: Some people are on board with going for it and some are against it, but it seems that we are all in "Hands Across America" level of harmony when it comes to the actual play-call. Not a whole lot of imagination and the left side of the line was awful all game long.
I get that he's not a classic fourth-down back, but I would have had Danny Woodhead on the field if I'm going for it in that spot. I know Green-Ellis is more of a move-the-chains guy, but you know if he's on the field the Pats aren't throwing. With Woodhead the possibility of a play action has to at least be accounted for.
Absolute right call to go for it, just as it was last year in Indy, but as was the case last year it was a horrible play call and horrible execution by the offense that cost them. Brady says it about as cut and dry as it gets and makes an inarguable point, it’s not the decision to go for it that put them in a tough position it was the execution, and based on that I’ll put my trust in a coach and QB that know a little more about football than the talking heads and internet posters.
A: So you don't like it when the talking heads call out Belichick for going for it on fourth down because he knows "a little more about football" than we do but it's OK when you call him out for the play-call? Come on, all I ask for is a little consistency guys.
One other reason to punt -- the chance of a dopey penalty from the Chargers. This is a team that had a killer personal foul penalty that gave the 15-play Pats TD drive a huge boost, and of course there was the false start before the FG attempt. To punt is banking on a Norv Turner team imploding, and that strikes me as a decent bet.
I like the WEEI approach -- so-called analyst/reporter writing columns that did not even watch the games.
So many errors:
-- Deaderick first career start? WRONG, he made his first career start last week.
-- Brady under-throw Welker? It was a play broken up by the charger rush ..
My gosh, these guys still have jobs?
A: We all know I suck, that's not exactly This Just In material. You Suck now joins Kirk Sux, Kirk M Sucks, Kirk Sucks and Minisuck as contributors to the mailbag. Thanks guys. Maybe we can get one of the giants of journalism, a Charlie Rose, a Mike Wallace, a Tom Brokaw or a Mike Mutnansky to host a roundtable discussion as the group looks at which of my moments of suckage rank highest during my 26 months at WEEI.com.
(My personal nomination? It would either be the time I tried to make the case for keeping Matt Cassel and trading Tom Brady or when I suggested that Tony Romo might be better than Brady. Both were shameless attempts for page view grabs and display a complete lack of character. Keep that in mind when I pull out the old "Manning over Favre" or "Jim Rice isn't a Hall of Famer" card for the 25,000th time. What a fraud.)
I whiffed on Deaderick -- he did start last week. But Brady DID under-throw Branch on that double-reverse, one of about 10 lousy throws he made in the first half. And when he makes those throws you begin to wonder if the Pats made the right move in trading Cassel or how anyone could ever put Brady ahead of Manning on a historical scale. Oh, and Jim Rice couldn't carry the jock of Dwight Evans.
I don't agree with the "C" for Tom Brady, as he finished with an above-average QB rating against the league's #1-ranked defense. No turnovers and a solid second half performance should be more than enough to bump him up to a B- in my mind at the very least. How many QB's could be able to perform as well as Brady did on the road against that D? Not many. But I guess because of the high expectations we have for Brady, I can understand why you'd give him the C.
NY Pats Fan
A: That's exactly it. If Brady gets hurt two hours before the game and Brian Hoyer comes in and puts up the same exact numbers in a 23-20 win he probably gets an A minus or B plus. Managed the game, didn't turn the ball over, made plays when he had to, all that. But Brady is on Mount Rushmore and when he completes 6-of-16 passes for 36 yards in a half (and can only turn four turnovers into 13 points) it's tough to give him much more than a C. But I still think he's the NFL MVP to this point -- no one has done more with less.
I think the grade for the secondary is too low. There were a good number of occasions, especially in the first half, where Rivers was flushed out of the pocket and needed to throw the ball away, presumably because coverage was good. They continued to not give up too many big plays, even if they are weak on third down. Considering the lack of experience, a C is a pretty harsh grade. Rivers is still a threat and has enough weapons.
A: Fair enough. I was grading giving some weight to the idea that Rivers was able to put up big numbers (336 yards on 68 percent passing) without Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd and with Antoino Gates stumbling around like Roy Hobbs in the last 15 minutes of "The Natural." But a lot of what Rivers was able to do came against the soft zone. I should have focused more on the first 53 minutes vs. the final seven. I'd agree that was a miss on my part -- I'll bump them up to a "B." See how magnanimous I can be when I receive a thoughtful comment?
I'll be the first to admit, I knee-jerkingly predicted a 5-11 finish for this team, but WHY do we go into soft zone scheme each time we build a lead? Play aggressive, "to win the game" as Herm said. That was too close for comfort Sunday. Matt Light, he needs to be moved to right tackle asap. It's inevitable, just get it over with. Brady can get away from the guys he can see coming much easier than the guys he can't. Still happy with the defensive team-speed. It's coming together slowly.
A: One argument for going for it on fourth-and-inches? If the Pats were going to play the soft zone they might've given up a field goal anyway. The prevent drives us all nuts, I don't care that it eats some clock and takes the big play out of the picture. Nobody likes the prevent but you have to have it sometimes -- it's the brussels sprout of football.
And Matt Light is a goner after this year, from left tackle anyway. Can't move Vollmer there in-season, but that's where he'll be in the 2011 opener.
You were dogging Belichick after the first three games saying he might no longer be a "genius," now he's your Coach of the Year? How about a little consistency Mini?
A: I think he's got me on this one. Looks like this could be more fodder for the "Champion of sucktitude" crowd. OK -- here's what I wrote after the Jets loss in Week 2:
"A question: What what you be thinking if you watched a Wade Phillips coached team blow another second-half lead while A) abandoning what worked in the first half on offense B) refusing to change defensive personnel or scheme and C) committing a trio of inexcusable penalties. I know what I'd be thinking -- "That team is never going to win a Super Bowl with that head coach."
Obviously we know different with Belichick, but it was another shaky big-game performance to add to a growing list that has seen the head coach go from the kind of guy people like David Halberstam writes books about to the kind of the guy that people like David Halberstam used to write books about. It's been a slow downhill descent since 18-1, but it's more than fair to enter a Five Star game and wonder if it's still a lock that the better coach is on your sideline. I'd still take him over any other coach in the NFL today, but the idea that he's still capable of playing mind games with an opposing QB is pushing it. How many times do we need to see a Mark Sanchez or Chad Henne or Kyle Orton handle the Pats defense before we halt the genius talk? Mark Sanchez literally cannot operate a headset on the sideline without four IT guys and Fireman Ed helping him and he breezed through anything tossed his way by the Pats coaching staff.
The truth is probably a lot closer to this: Belichick is really smart when he has Lawrence Taylor and Carl Banks and Ty Law and Richard Seymour and Rodney Harrison and Tedy Bruschi. You need the tools to be a genius, I suppose. And a lot of other coaches have had those players and not won Super Bowls. But that doesn't mean a whole lot in 2010. Bill Belichick the GM has failed Bill Belichick the coach the last few years. I don't think Belichick woke up on a Tuesday in May of 2005 and suddenly knew less about defense.
But it's been a long time since The Genius was on the sideline. He's been replaced by a guy trying to get Darius Butler to play like an NFL cornerback.
And there's the problem."
I stand by about 98 percent of what I wrote there. I'd take back the idea that you might want the other coach in a big game and that's about it. The defense has improved way faster than anyone could have guessed. Sorry, after that Bills game no one was saying or writing that these young guys were about to turn the corner. But when Pat Chung and McCourty and Cunningham and Spikes and Deaderick started playing better Belichick got smarter. That's how it works. When he has talent he will win, and that's what separates him from any other coach in the league. Lots of coaches have talent and win eight, nine games. Not Belichick -- he's going to win 11-13 every time. And he is Coach of the Year right now -- 5-1 while rebuilding a defense and trading Moss.
RE: TV Spoliers
Read your mailing last week and wanted to share my spoiler rule. 72 hours after the show ends and it's fair game. Why? If someone is a big enough fan to get that worked up over finding out what happened there is no chance they go three days without watching the show. So you were wrong by posting the "Mad Men" news, but just by a day.
A: Perfect. And that solves that. Everyone clear? That means no one can send me any "Glee" spoilers until Friday night. If I see the name "Finn" on an email before then it's going to get ugly. FYI, my favorite "Glee" episode is the one when they all sing and then the lady with the sweat suit makes fun of them. Should have more of that.
Enjoy the return of Moss and a four-pick day from Ol' Sextslinger. 34-20, Patriots.