If the Patriots (and their fans) had any swagger left after the Monday night miracle vs. the Bills, it was blitzed into the ground by the Jets on Sunday.
This is not going to be a “Get ready for 8-8 and it’s all because Belichick is an unfeeling jerk” column. If that’s what you need after the loss, I promise you there will be no shortage of journalistic victory laps from professional BB haters. You know exactly where to go to read them, I suspect. I think this coach and team have earned at least a month to get things in order before the 2009 obituary is written.
But let’s be fair: Sure, it’s only been two weeks, but this is a football team that appears to be absolutely lost on the offensive side. The days of a weekly 56-10 beating of a helpless opponent seem like, well, about 2007 years ago (trust me, by Wednesday you’ll be longing for the days when the only topic on WEEI was if the Patriots were right in running up the score). Were it not for Leodis McKelvin, you’d almost certainly be looking at an 0-2 record (with both losses in the division). And while you don’t really believe that this team is on a collision course with 8-8, the idea of 12-4 seems a more than a little optimistic.
Who knows? Maybe the Patriots will figure it all out this week and blast the Falcons on Sunday and grab a little bit of that swagger back. But, to be fair, the possibility of a 28-10 loss also looms as a possibility. Such is life when you are in the middle of the pack. And that is where your football team currently resides.
A few questions to ponder while wondering if this loss spoiled the Emmy Awards for Belichick (and we know how much he loves "Flight of the Conchords”) …
DID DREW BLEDSOE GET TOM BRADY’S GAME CHECK?
He should. Now I finally see how the gunslinger from Walla Walla might have been Brady’s mentor after all. Tipped passes, lousy touch and shaky footwork when under pressure would have been enough to give him lead singer status in a Bledsoe tribute band. But the three delay of game penalties — including one out of a timeout — sealed it as a “Drew in 1999” kind of effort. So far, I think it’s safe to say that Brady has been tentative in his return. The two TD passes vs. the Bills were vintage, but as a whole something just seems to be off. A little rust or a legitimate concern? Time will tell.
IT IS OK TO RUN THE BALL, RIGHT?
I wonder. Seems to me that 45 passes a game is almost required at this point, regardless of score or success. Would it have killed the Patriots to use Fred Taylor (eight carries, 46 yards) a little more?
Belichick clearly has zero confidence in the running game right now, and I can understand why. Maroney is hopeless (it’s simply not going to happen, he’s now a first-round pick that is best served as an average kick returner) and they never convert when they run on third-and-short. But giving up on the run already really does increase the chances of a Brady injury. We’ve now seen the blueprint, and every defensive coordinator worth a nickel is going to blitz until the Pats figure it out.
(And why isn’t Kevin Faulk catching six or seven passes against a never-ending blitz? It seemed like a perfect spot for him, and he only touched the ball four times — three rushes. Strange.)
SO YOU ARE ASSIGNING NO BLAME TO THE PATRIOTS DEFENSE FOR THE LOSS? NONE? DID THE DEFENSE NOT MAKE MARK SANCHEZ LOOK LIKE A 15-YEAR VETERAN IN THE SECOND HALF?
I guess you could talk me into giving the defense 10-15 percent of the blame, but that’s about it. The Jets scored one TD in the game and finished with 254 net yards of total offense. Not exactly the 2007 Patriots. Do the Pats pressure the QB enough? Not even close. Is there a “playmaker” on that defense, a real game-changer? I don’t see one. But in the first two weeks the Pats have been solid, a top 10-15 defense. And I think every fan (and probably Belichick) would have signed on for that.
No, the problem has been the offense, no question about it. Maybe comparisons to the 2007 Patriots are unfair, but I heard plenty of them before the season started. Raise your hand if you think that team would have scored just nine points in the first half with the kind of field position the 2009 Patriots had yesterday: started one drive at the NYJ 49 (punt), another at the NYJ 17 (FG) and one at the NE 40 (FG).
(And a memo to the folks at CBS: Next time you run a graphic titled “Key Offseason Losses for Patriots Defense” make sure the name “Ellis Hobbs” isn’t on there. I guess there wasn’t room for Mike Richardson.)
WAS I HALLUCINATING, OR WAS DAN DIERDORF PASSABLE IN THE BOOTH?
OK, so he’s always going to sound like he’s trying to talk and eat a 96-ounce steak at the same time, but I’m giving Dan a 'B+' for Sunday’s effort. He noticed Moss slowed down on the route that led to the INT before the replay was shown, and I thought he was correct in his first-half criticism of the Jets offense (too conservative) and the second-half criticism of the Pats offense (not enough of the run game). And Greg Gumbel was fine calling play-by-play, I thought.
A few other media-related thoughts from Sunday on CBS (and FOX) …
- If Erin Andrews is trying to get America to hate her, popping up in that ping-pong commercial with Justin Timberlake and the reclusive Peyton Manning is a nice start.
- Looking at the reviews, it would appear that Andy Reid has a good chance to land an Oscar nomination for “The Informant!”
- Admit it, you didn’t miss having a sideline reporter, did you?
- My favorite deleted scene on the DVD of “Cocoon: The Return” was when Wilford Brimley bribed the CBS executive to let Dick Enberg announce the Ravens-Chargers game.
SO, IS THIS A RIVALRY NOW?
Why not? The Jets have won two of the last three, right? And Mark Sanchez has never lost to Tom Brady (just like Steve Spurrier will always hold a 1-0 edge over Belichick).
The Jets are always fun to have around, and it seems like a good time to renew this thing. Nobody’s buying the Dolphins, and the Bills are the Bills, so the Jets are what we’ve got in terms of an AFC East rival. And if you’re a Jets fan I think you should be hugely optimistic. Rex Ryan may look like every assistant general manager in Papa Gino’s history but the guy clearly can put together a defensive scheme. And Mark Sanchez looks to be as advertised — NFL-ready with every throw in the book. Now I know why Pete Carroll looked so peeved at Sanchez’ press conference to declare. So, yes, I think a rivalry is in the beginning stages. Need a few classics and some genuine (not manufactured, like the Jets were selling last week) dislike before we can elevate it.