Archive for September, 2010

Reactions to New England’s 38-30 Win Against the Bills

What I loved:

  • I loved the focus and intensity shown by Tom Brady. He was very crisp all day, completing 21 of 27 passes and 3 touchdowns. His decision-making and execution was exceptional.
  • The offense’s second half woes were halted this week, as the Patriots seemed to be efficient throughout the game. I loved to see the no-huddle play calling as the half began, along with the fact that the play calling was much better overall this week.
  • The running game came up huge in this game. Many people talk about balance, and the Patriots had it Sunday. A team that has averaged 85 yards per game so far this season ran for 200 yards on 38 attempts. This balance and rushing potency could help next week against a very stout Miami defense.
  • Young players continuing to step up. Aaron Hernandez has developed a solid chemistry with Brady, showing how versatile he can be in this offense. His progression and dynamic abilities have been fun to watch. While Devin McCourty has been taken advantage of at times in the redzone, he is playing very well for a rookie corner. He is one of the best open-field tacklers on this defense already, and has played very good man coverage so far in his first 3 games. With continued practice in coverage techniques, he could have a chance to make some plays and stop a few of those touchdown receptions.

What I was concerned about:

  • 30 points. How do you give up 30 points to the Buffalo Bills? That question will puzzle and haunt me for the next week but that is this team’s harsh reality. The Patriots need the offense to show up in all of their remaining 13 games. This young defense will struggle all year until these players grow.
  • Poor tackling. The entire defense seemed to have a problem-wrapping guys up during the game. James Sanders, one of the teams better tacklers, also seemed to struggle to highlight the issue. This will need to be resolved before next week, when the team faces a very good running game against the Miami Dolphins.
  • Lack of pressure. Even though the Patriots seemed to get to Ryan Fitzpatrick when they brought a heavy blitz, the defense could not get much, if any penetration against a Bills offensive line that is terrible. The team needs to be able to put pressure on opposing QBs with 4 players at least every once in awhile.

Overall, it’s definitely great to get a win against a division rival, but it’s also nothing to celebrate about. More positives than negatives in the game this week, but still some concerns for the whole team. As the Patriots go on the road against a tough Miami Dolphins team next week on Monday night, it’s another early divisional game that could have serious implications in the latter part of the season.  Hopefully the team can put together a solid week of practice and execute in Florida next week.

What were your thoughts after this week’s game?  Drop me a comment on your own reactions to Sunday’s win over Buffalo.

A Head-Scratching Loss

Disappointment. The one word I would use to best describe the outcome of the Patriots loss to the New York Jets on Sunday. The Patriots let themselves and the fans down after a solid start, plain and simple. It is easy to point fingers; the fact of the matter is, the Jets outplayed the Patriots in the second half.

After a great victory in week one, the questions regarding the Patriots team have come back to haunt them.

  • The team cannot seem to win on the road.
  • After the first half, the team seems to disappear; along with their leads.
  • The Play calling was abysmal.
  • The defense cannot make stops when it truly counts.

Now, in all fairness, the Jets are a very good football team and the Patriots were on the road against a division rival. However, the team was simply outplayed and outscored 18-0 in the second half. There was more pressure on the Jets to win this game after losing week 1 to the Baltimore Ravens, but I am not making excuses.  Neither should anyone else.

Belichick’s team has been outscored 38-14 in the second half through two games so far this season.(PHOTO:Icon/SMI)

In case you are keeping score at home, the Patriots have been outscored 38 -14 in the second half this season in two games. Not to mention, one of those touchdowns was a Brandon Tate kick-off return.

Very few positives can be taken from this week’s loss. Randy Moss bested Darrelle Revis. Aaron Hernandez had a stellar day, showing he was a steal as a fourth round selection. Devin McCourty looked like he had another good day, although he was taken advantage of in the end zone.

If the Patriots duplicated there first half performance in the second half, Patriot nation would be singing a different tune. Unfortunately, that was not the case on Sunday. Mental mistakes and undisciplined play hurt the team.  As a result they’ll need to put a lot of work in this week as they go home to face the Buffalo Bills.

It’s still early in this 2010 NFL season, but the Patriots have work to do.  Many people made a knee-jerk reaction after week one, so let’s not do the same after this week. The team has shown flashes of brilliance along with their disappointments. In the end, the fate of the team is up to the players to execute on the field. An exciting victory, followed by a letdown should make an intriguing week 3.

Running Backs in Focus

In light of the Laurence Maroney trade, I figured now would be a good a time too bring the running back position into focus.

Maroney, a 2006 first round draft choice, was traded along with a 2011 sixth round pick today to the Denver Broncos for a fourth rounder in 2011. After everything that’s transpired with him over the past year, I believe a fresh start was needed for both Maroney and the Patriots. He never really matched the expectations he brought with him from the University of Minnesota.  He was strongly criticized about his inability to “hit the hole” and could not seem to get rid of the injury bug during his four years here in New England. Despite Maroney’s career 4.2 YPC (Yards Per Carry) average, the majority of fans seem to be especially critical, I am one of them.

His career YPC average is misleading. The first two years of his career he had averages of 4.3 and 4.5. These last two years, Maroney has averaged fewer than 4 YPC each year at 3.3 and 3.9. Putting that aside, I am not going to say he has a fumbling problem as many critics will say. He did put it on the turf 4 times last year, but previous to that, he had fumbled once in his whole career – his rookie year.

Overall, he has frustrated many fans over the course of his four-year career and I believe the team made a good choice to go in another direction. With this trade, the Patriots seem ready to turnover the position much like they did with tight ends this past off-season.

Considering how valuable he is, New England will likely keep re-signing Kevin Faulk until he’s ready to retire. (PHOTO:Icon/SMI)

All current running backs on the Patriots roster have expiring contracts at the end of the season. I would expect them too bring in or retain a veteran running back, and also draft one or two young players to create that roster turnover. I would not be surprised to see Fred Taylor back after the season, if he can stay healthy and have a productive season this year.As for Kevin Faulk, I think he will continue to sign one-year deals with the club until he decides to retire.

Personally, I have been hoping for a new running back regime for a few years. Maroney never seemed to impress me and I am still mad they chose him over one of my favorite running backs DeAngelo Williams of the Carolina Panthers. Hopefully, the Patriots can us one of their first four picks in the 2011 draft too select a young stud for this offense to use. A dynamic, home-run-hitting running back would do wonders for not only the offense but also Tom Brady (keep an eye on Ryan Williams of Virginia Tech and Mark Ingram of Alabama). I am convinced that as Tom Brady gets older, a solid running back will take some of the pressure off of him. This also allows the team to add a new dimension to their overall game plan while having the ability to close out games.

With the four running backs currently left on the roster, Fred Taylor is 34, Kevin Faulk is 34, Sammy Morris is 33, and Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis is 25. While age might be a factor for 3 of 4 for these running backs, lack of experience is the story for Green-Ellis. If this unit, most importantly Fred Taylor, can stay healthy, they should have no problem supplying a consistent run game.

Depth could be an issue at times during the year, which happens to be the only issue I have getting rid of Maroney at this time. If Fred Taylor can consistently give a performance much like he did against the Bengals, the Patriots potent offense should stay well balanced. There is always a chance the team acquires another player to help for the future. Certainly an intriguing position to monitor throughout the year.

REPORT CARD: Patriots Make a Statement in Week 1 Against the Bengals

For many spectators around the league, the New England Patriots season opener would act as a measuring stick for the 2010 season. The team passed with flying colors in a 38 – 24 victory against the Cincinnati Bengals. The team put on an impressive display in all three phases of the game; offense, defense, special teams. Here is my teams report card for week 1.

Offense Grade: A –

The offense looked potent and balanced throughout the game. Fred Taylor, Kevin Faulk, Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis, and Sammy Morris toted the rock as Laurence Maroney sat out with a thigh injury. Fred Taylor did most of the running and looked fresh; if his production can stay at the same level, the offense really opens up.

Tom Brady proved yet again why he deserves to be the highest paid player in the NFL Sunday. (PHOTO:Icon/SMI)

Wes Welker was the story of the day however. He was all over the field, back to his usual slot machine self totaling a team high 8 receptions and two touchdowns.  Everyone seemed to play a role in the offense and the play calling overall was absolutely superb. Tom Brady had a fantastic game, throwing three touch down passes; proving yet again, why he deserves to be the highest paid player in the NFL.  I believe that the optimism Patriots fans had about the offense is legitimate.

Special Teams Grade: A

Special teams played a large role in the game as well. The only real disappointments were two missed field goal attempts by Stephen Gostkowski. As many fans saw in the pre-season, the returns were fantastic. That continued today as Brandon Tate had an excellent return to start the second half. I thought that was the best way to continue the momentum that the team created from the beginning of the game. The kick coverage was also great and this phase of the game should not be overlooked.

Defense Grade: A

This unit played outstanding. Honestly, I do not think they could have started the year much better. This grade could have been an A+ but, they did ease up in the 3rd quarter and I would have loved to see them finish stronger, but thankfully that job was left to the offense.

Defensively, the team looked fast, fans have heard that the team was younger, but had not really seen the affects of that youth. I thought the team had excellent speed and tackled very well. There are lots to feel positive about on defense, especially the play of the young defensive backs in Darius Butler and Devin McCourty. Patrick Chung seemed to be in on every tackle, flying all over the field. Their overall play has to shed some light on the future.

One aspect I did want to mention though was communication. The team seemed to be talking and was active during the game. This is a Bengals offense with a lot of weapons, and to hold them in check as the Patriots did for most of the day Sunday, says a lot about this young unit moving forward.

Overall Game Grade: A

There were tons of positives to pull away from the opening weekend victory.  In all three phases the Patriots were sharp. Many thought the Patriots would regress this year while some seemed to think they were an under-the-radar threat. New England showed they could handle a very good Bengals team with relative ease in week one and now face the division rival New York Jets in week 2. The camaraderie of the players also caught my eye and I enjoyed watching the team play at a high level while having fun.  That is an aspect should not to be overlooked.

Overall, a great way to kick-off the NFL season and the Patriots certainly made a statement.

Patriots Ready to Take on Early Obstacles Sunday

Still young into the 2010 season, the New England Patriots have already faced multiple obstacles. With only the pre-season completed, the Patriots have already lost two defensive starters from the 2009 season to the injured reserve list and have plenty of questions heading into Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Patriots have already lost CB Leigh Bodden for the season, so it’s time to see if the young guys can step in and carry them through 2010. (PHOTO: Icon/SMI)

Ty Warren was the first to go, weakening an already shallow defensive line that struggled after the departure of Richard Seymour. Then on the first day of roster cuts, Leigh Bodden was placed on IR – which is disappointing after the club just rewarded him with a new 4 year deal earlier in the off-season. The move was a surprise to many fans and analysts throughout the league, but through 37 practices, nagging injuries to his knee and shoulder ultimately disabled him for the year.

Brandon McGowan, although not a starter, played a large role in the team’s defense last year, playing in 72 percent of the snaps. His placement on IR again hurts a very young secondary. The average age of the defense is now 27.5 years old, and losing three savvy veterans in Bodden, McGowan and Warren will only make this defense that much more inexperienced. Not only will this defensive unit start 5 or 6 first or second year players on Sunday, but they also find themselves with the added pressure of potentially deciding the fate of the course of their season.

After an early exit of the playoffs last season, the team seemed to be retooling and reloading. Bill Belichick’s plan was to take more control of his defense, which let the Ravens “pound and ground offense” render them helpless in that ugly game in Foxboro earlier this year. Now a defense obviously in transition, for the first time they need leaders on and off the field.

However, there are a lot of young players on the defense that hold great potential. If these players can live up to it on the field, this could end up being one of the NFL’s best defenses and surprise a lot of people. To this point there’s obviously plenty of doubt after Rams QB Sam Bradford carved the unit in the third week of pre-season, so it seems there is still work to do. But if these young players can put in the time and develop into legitimate defenders, the Patriots defense could be one of the more dominant squads in the coming years.

Other than the loss of offensive lineman Nick Kaczur, the team has not been hit as hard with the injury bug on the offensive side of the football. The unfortunate holdout of OL Logan Mankins has been the only real issue for the offense. It’s a dispute that seems to have no resolution in sight, but after losing Kaczur Dan Connelly has done a great job stepping in and playing well overall. The real test will be at the start of the season, when teams will be game planning and targeting the middle of the offensive line.

Meanwhile with reports that Tom Brady is close to signing, most can assume a deal is in the near future. Randy Moss briefly discussed his feelings for a new contract, but being in a contract year the expectations are he’ll step up and play well. These two players are the lock and key of the offense, and hopefully both can go out to the field and perform despite their uncertain financial situations, with Moss’ future being the only one really in question at this point.

Although the team has faced many challenges so far, the season is still obviously young. How the Patriots respond to these obstacles will say a lot about who these players are and a lot about the future of this franchise. Even though I see this team having a good season, I could see this team going 11-5; but I could also see things turning out the other way. It’s tough because there are so many unknowns facing them, so I have to say I am intrigued to see how they respond.

If this team responds positively and these young players grow, this could be a very deep and talented roster both this year for years to come. I’m excited for the start of the NFL season, as I know many of you are as well. So let’s keep our heads up and hopefully the Patriots can respond the way we all want them to.