Things to consider while trying to work through whatever subtle, coded message SportsCenter was trying to get at with this tweet:
— Because the game took forever, including that third quarter that dragged on longer than ‘The Hobbit’ trilogy and the fact I got in late from doing an appearance for WEEI Springfield (Marshawn Lynch voice: “Shout to my real Irishmen at Nathan Bill’s…”) this will have to be an abbreviated Knee Jerk Reaction. So if it seems shorter than it normally is, let’s just call it an “inadvertent ending.”
— Another week, another costly victory. By this point, the Patriots are the Confederate army. Meaning they’re winning every battle through great leadership and gutty fighting, while slowly losing the war due to high casualty counts and attrition. By no means am I suggesting the Pats are fighting to protect slavery or the right of Bo and Luke Duke to outfit their car like a-holes. Also, the Army of Northern Virginia got much better treatment in the national press than the Patriots do.
— So now the sad reality is that Tom Brady has to go into Denver next week and score points with an iPhone screen protector-thin backfield behind him and a wide receiver corps-like substance on the outside. This offense that looked undefendable a month ago is now a car that only Brady can operate because only he knows how to jiggle the shift to get it in gear, rev the engine so it doesn’t stall at red lights and hold the handle just right to make the blinkers work.
— I’d like to think they’ll figure out a way to make this work still. Maybe go back to more of that joker scheme that utilizes both tight ends more, like when they still had Piper Chapman running routes for them. But even that scheme relied heavily on a competent slot receiver Brady could trust so who knows? I just can’t shake the feeling Danny Amendola‘s injury was the final loss they can’t overcome.
— And once again they lost a guy to an injury on a benign, non-contact play. Though the way he was playing I suspect Amendola’s knee was hit by his massive, bell clapper-like cast iron penis.
— Just because the Patriots pulled this game out is no reason to keep that inadvertent whistle out of the Pantheon of Terrible Officiating, right up there with the push in the back call against the Jets a couple of years ago and the groundbreaking pass interference non-call on Luke Kuechly in that Panthers game. It’s one thing to not see a penalty committed or to misinterpret a rule. But who blows a whistle for no reason? Did the line judge cough? Hiccup? Yell, “Down in front!” to Rex Ryan and forget the thing was in his mouth? I don’t mind the NFL using officials that have day jobs. I just don’t want those day jobs to be WWE referee.
— I have to confess for a second there I assumed the official who blew the whistle was Sarah Thomas and she was calling a penalty on something a guy did three weeks earlier. (Sorry. I’m not myself today.)
— Every so often this needs to be said: Rex Ryan can scheme himself a defense. At least once a year he manages to put together a great plan of attack, usually against the Patriots, and Monday was that game. It was right out of his family DNA. That thread that’s run through the Ryan’s from the Bears of the 1980s to the 2000 Ravens through the Jets and now to the Bills. The 3-3 stack with the multiple blitzes coming from multiple formations sending rushers from multiple slots, virtually every one of them unrecognizable even to the quarterback who’s faced them more than anyone. Yes, Rex is a buffoon in a lot of ways, but one who’s capable of brilliance. He’s like Zach Galifanakis counting cards in ‘The Hangover.’
— It looked to me like Rex went with a lot more fire zone than he ever has, meaning blitzing with three deep zone defenders and three underneath, thus giving him all the benefit of the blitz while minimizing the risk. The zone coverage certainly was how they contained Rob Gronkowski who in week two was a Rancor against them, and Monday night more of a Tauntaun.
— I want to go easy on the Pats‘ offensive line because so many of those guys are coming off injuries and probably had no time to have contact in practice before facing one of the most talented and expensive fronts in football. But it’s hard to put a shine on some of those sneakers. Marcus Cannon simply couldn’t match up against Jerry Hughes and gave him about as much resistance as an EZ Pass toll lane gives a car with a transponder. And on the other side, Sebastian Vollmer looked a step slower than usual and when beat, as he struggled to get his go-to upfield push against Mario Williams that has bailed him out so many times before.
— They tried more combinations on the o-line than a mom trying to hack her teenager’s laptop password. The line that began the game with Cannon-Shaq Mason-David Andrews-Josh Kline and Vollmer, tried Bryan Stork at right guard and Kline at left, tried Cameron Fleming at right tackle and finished with Stork at center. No combination seemed to do appreciably better than any other. Most concerning were the miscommunications, with unblocked blitzers coming up the middle unobserved. I thought Brady’s best throw all night was the deep crosser to Amendola with Corey Graham coming through the a-gap all up in his business. I mean, that kind lax security is fine if you’re guarding the White House. But we need Brady protected at all costs.
— Rex is one of those guys born with that curse where the madder he gets, the funnier it is. We all have that friend. When he goes on an insane tirade it’s just inexplicably hilarious, and the more you laugh the madder he gets and it’s a perpetual motion machine of anger and humor. Like when Brady finally burned one of those blitzes on the James White screen for a touchdown and Rex had that headset throwing meltdown, he was going for “rage,” but landed squarely on “comedy.” It was one of the moments I’ll be grateful for this Thanksgiving.
— Brady on the other hand, gives great tirade. When he was blasting the offensive line with that Old Man Parker, “You wart mundane noodle! You shotten shifter paskabah! You snort tonguer! Lame monger snaffa shell cocker!” it just made you want to go to Gillette and lay your life down for him.
— As proud as we call can be about this win and a 10-0 record, the Patriots best work was the across-the-board way they flipped the State Bird of Massachusetts at ESPN. For the first time I can ever remember, there was no mention of, “We spoke with Tom Brady last night…” No mention from Lisa Salter that at halftime she spoke to Bill Belichick and he told her they need to play better. And not one Pats player grabassing with Steve Young, Trent Dilfer and Ray Lewis in the postgame. The whole night was like one of those war movies the military won’t cooperate with because it makes soldiers look like drug-addled baby killers or something. That’s the kind of passive-aggressiveness I usually only witness on major holidays with my in laws and I couldn’t be prouder of the Pats outstanding work on that.
— I actually feel bad about waiting this long to point this out, but the Patriots defense that was never going to recover from the loss of Darrelle Revis has given up the fewest points in the league. Malcolm Butler all but pitched a shutout in straight up man coverage against Sammy Watkins. And his play all year has been solid to the point he’s earned a nickname. Forget Revis Island, I’m proposing Cape Butler, because every Masshole knows it’s way harder to get off the Cape than any island.
— With or without the inadvertent whistle, that was just a horrible night of officiating. They couldn’t make a decision without game-stopping, momentum-crushing, sand-on-the-ice conference, no matter how obvious the call was. There is nothing in American society more soul-destroying than meetings, and they were holding the things like they were being catered.
— While the offensive line was mixing-and-matching out of desperation, the defensive line continues to do so by choice. And the results have been as good as we could hope. They are running a surprising amount of 3-4 lately, going from one front that has Dont’a Hightower at Sam and Jabaal Sheard at Will, then on the very next play moving Sheard in to the defensive end spot and Rob Ninkovich on the outside.
— And virtually everyone in the mix is getting the job done, none more than Dominque Easley, who spent more time in the backfield than the back judge. He turned outside zone runs in, teamed with Malcolm Brown on tackles for loss, and on the very first Buffalo possession, hit Tyrod Taylor square in the 10-ring to force an incompletion.
— As disconcerting as the health of the offense is, the D has managed to withstand the absence of their best, most athletic player to and to be the best in the league. Bring Jamie Collins back and this young, gifted, tough, smart and versatile unit might very well be the ride-or-die that carries this team to a championship.
— Jon Gruden Nickname of the Week: “I gotta tell ya, I love this kid Dominique Easley. You look at the first-round picks on this defense they got Jones, they got Hightower. Which is why I call this kid ‘Tackleberry.’ I love those ‘Police Academy’ movies, man. They always crack me up.”
— But as nerve-wracking as it can be to face a Rex defensive scheme, it’s equally comforting to watch his team do things like cluelessly burn a timeout because they’ve got 10 men on the field, draw a penalty because a guy is racing to the line through the Patriots backfield at the snap and bleed time off the clock down a score in the fourth quarter. He master the Patriots McOffense, but counting players and managing the game clock remain unfathomable mysteries to him.
— Hannibal Lecter: “Do you know why he’s called Buffalo Bill? Tell me. The newspapers won’t say.”
Clarice Starling: “It started as a bad joke in Kansas City Homicide. They said… this one likes to skin his humps.” – ‘Silence of the Lambs’
— Bring on Peyton Manning. No. Seriously. I’d really rather face him than any quarterback in football. And I’m sorry I won’t get my wish.
— Seriously, SportsCenter, what gives? Could you not find an tire pump needle emoji?
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