Things to consider while admitting that, while none of us knew for sure how Tom Brady would spend his time in exile, no one guessed he’d get into cyberbullying:
— I’m going to try to stay positive. I’m going to try not to look at Sunday as the day we lost the hottest new quarterback in the NFL, put a raw rookie with only a few weeks of practice under his belt in charge, and found ourselves one hit away from having Julian Edelman under center. Instead, I’m just going to look at it as Sweet Chicken Teryaki Day. Thanks, Subway!
— But there’s no denying the nightmarish fever dream that is losing Jimmy Garoppolo just as he had the rest of the AFC ready to throw down its weapons and sue for peace. I’m just going to keep reminding myself it’s better to be emotionally attached to the team that has to figure out how to win with a rookie third-string QB than be part of the 31 fan bases that are celebrating the Patriots being in this bind. Especially, God forbid, the Bills.
— I typically get down to the stadium for Patriots Monday around noon. And I fully expect that by the time I get there, the Jimmy G. banner and number 10 will be up on the lighthouse.
— Make no mistake, before he went down, Garoppolo was on his way to one of those Brady-like video-game-number performances. He was all man, fully in command of Josh McDaniels’ offense. Completely familiar with the route combinations. Making the pre-snap reads. Identifying the mismatches. Making quick decisions. It was all there.
— The first touchdown to Danny Amendola is People’s Exhibit A. First of all, he set it up with a perfectly executed motion screen to Martellus Bennett behind great upfield blocks by Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan. Then on the scoring play, Garoppolo motioned James White out to create an empty set. White and Edelman ran “Hoss,” which is a hitch and a seam combo. On the front side, the other three ran a “Ghost” with Bennett going deep, Hogan to the flat and Amendola finding space between Jelani Jenkins and the safeties. Garoppolo got rid of it under the pressure of your classic pincer movement from Andre Branch and Terrence Fede against his tackles. Amendola made the hand catch and got across the goal line under sheer force of will before finishing it off with a helmet-less Maori War Dance. And you just knew Miami was going to have no shot. If. Garoppolo. Stayed. In. The. Game.
— The Bennett touchdown simply was a matter of Garoppolo finding his best option and exploiting it. In this case, Bennett matched up on Kiko Alonso and beat him on a seam route. It was one of those moments where the McOffense is like playing “Go Fish,” except you can see the other kid’s cards.
— The best part about the third touchdown was that the Dolphins tried to test Garoppolo with a 0-blitz, bringing six rushers and leaving no safety help. Even with Koa Misi launching at him like a Koa missile from the side away from the protection unblocked, he knew he had Amendola on a slant in single coverage and hit him for the score. And Miami was never going to challenge him like that again.
— That second scoring hookup by Garoppolo and Amendola tied the record they had set previously: handsomest touchdown combo in NFL history. It’s one that will never be broken.
— The biggest waste of money on the day was the Viagra ad that ran right afterward, with the Pats up 21-0. Believe me, Pfizer. None of us needed one.
— I still say that Jimmy G.’s finest moment wasn’t even a touchdown throw. It was the way he escaped a certain sack. Alonso had him in the basement, handcuffed, dangling from the hot water pipe and was just about to hook him up to the car battery when Garoppolo managed to swing his legs up and snap his neck. Or something. It all happened too fast. Suffice to say he got out of an impossible situation.
— We should have seen the Garoppolo injury coming. The appearance of the one they call Welker was a bad omen. When you welcome a Betrayer in your midst, you’re courting danger, and everything occurred just as the oracle foretold it.
— Still, I’m not at all down on the Patriots’ chances with Jacoby Brissett. To steal the Hooded One’s line, there were some things he needs to do better, but he did some things well. He can’t be messing around with the ball with a free blitzer bearing down on him, obviously. And he missed a couple of short throws to Edelman. But you can’t find fault in his decision-making.
— Brissett looked great on plays like the play-action misdirection where he hit Bennett on the backside for the catch-and-run. Followed by the fake toss to White where he quickly hit Bennett on a tight end screen for a big gain. Add in the scrambles for first downs and that kung fu master-like one-handed snatch of the high snap that could have spelled doom, and you have to feel happy with how the first date went.
— That final drive that would’ve closed the sale were it not for the missed field goal was a championship drive. Yes, it was mostly LeGarrette Blount, who came up huge in a way we didn’t see from a running back all last year. But Brissett moved the chains a couple of times as well. Overall, the coach has to be pleased by that finish, especially after the way he put the whole sideline on blast when the previous possession crumbled under the weight of negative plays, fumbles and Joe Thuney holding calls.
— I’ll put it this way: I find it easier to believe Brissett is capable of beating the Texans on Thursday than Kevin James could be married to that woman in his new sitcom. C’mon, CBS. Like it didn’t strain credulity enough that a fat, doofusy UPS driver would be married to Leah Remini. This chick makes Remini look like … Kevin James.
— Arguably the best player on the field for the Patriots was Nate Solder. It was hard to even tell who was lining up against him because they had so little impact. I’m pretty sure it was Mario Williams a lot of the time, but for all you heard from him, Solder might have found a seam in the turf and stuffed him inside it. It speaks volumes that whenever the Patriots needed Blount to carry the load, they ran tosses to Solder’s side, and time and time again he sealed the edge to spring Blount loose. Like the play when Blount matrixed over Byron Maxwell, Solder put (I think) Jason Jones behind a Jersey barrier to set it up.
— The defense is another story. Or two stories. A Tale of Two Defenses. I don’t know if Jimmy Garoppolo was the Patriots’ most important player or what, but it seemed as soon as he went out their whole approach changed. They stopped being aggressive. They went into this ineffective off-coverage. Maybe it was related to the score. Or maybe they had just lost a couple of one-on-one battles, like the double move Kenny Stills scalded Justin “Weakest Link” Coleman with. Or maybe it was just momentum. But the second half felt like 2012 all over again. And none of us needs that.
— Although, it was fun to see the return of the front where one or two linemen get down into a stance and the rest all just kind of mill around doing nothing. The one I like to call the State Worker Defense. At times it was Shea McClellin showing an A-gap blitz and then dropping into zone coverage. Sometimes it had Trey Flowers at nose tackle. Others it was Chris Long. It’s their variation on the Giants’ NASCAR front, and it had mixed results. It never really produced much pressure on Ryan Tannehill, but he did have to throw a ball away with no one open. Still, it was against that front Miami put its first points on the board just before the half.
— The one thing you can always count on from Miami is that it will do Dolphin-y things. And this game was no exception. Going into this one, I had “Jay Ajayi fumble,” “Snap over Tannehill’s head,” “Personal foul penalty on Bobby McCain,” and “Terrible interception right into Jamie Collins’ sternum.” So I got Dolphins Stupidity Bingo.
— Look, I probably couldn’t tackle Tannehill if I caught him walking down my back steps with my Ted Williams baseball and the Irish Rose’s underpants in his hands. But I’m a rapidly aging writer. Patrick Chung is a professional tackler. When he’s in that film session watching Tannehill truck him on that final drive, it’s going to a “Wanna get away?” commercial in there.
— I thought Long stepped up, particularly with that batted ball after Miami had gotten it out to midfield. If you watch him every play, you see a guy constantly fighting and clawing his way through blockers. With McClellin, I see a guy either getting single blocked out of a play or just dropping back into space and having zero impact. I hope I’m right about Long and wrong about McClellin.
— This week’s Applicable Movie Quote: Tie. Both from “Apollo 13.” “If they could get a washing machine to fly, my Jimmy could land it.” And, “Well, we just had our glitch for this mission.”
— Could anything have been more perfect than the headset in Tannehill’s helmet going out, just as the Pats were dominating? Knowing that the whole country was screaming, “This always happens in Foxboro! Shenanigans! Cheaters! Liars! Take away a draft pick! Retroactively take away the pick from 2014 they used on Garoppolo! Cheeeaterrrs!!!” Only to have it turn out to be nobody on the Dolphins thought to throw in a fresh set of batteries. They’re just lucky it takes AAAs and not those little round specialty ones. Otherwise they’d have had to send an intern down to Radio Shack and ask a nerd for help. That’s a hell of a professional outfit they’re running down there.
— We’re on to Brissett.
Jerry has a book! “From Darkness to Dynasty: The First 40 Years of the New England Patriots” has been called, “The perfect book for any reader who is a die-hard Pats fan.” It’s available now online and at bookstores everywhere. Details and scheduled book signings are at JerryThornton.net.