By: Russ Goldman
Every week I like to mention thoughts that are on my mind about the team. I apologize for missing last week. However, I certainly have plenty to write about now.
Last Sunday the Patriots hung on for a 38-30 victory against the Bills. Any victory against a division opponent is important, and this week I will be commenting about this game and other Pats related topics.
As always here are my “Ten Things I Think About The New England Patriots”.
1. I feel a win is a win. I have been reading and listening to criticisms all this week about how the Patriots played in their 38-30 victory against the Bills. I need to say in my best Roosevelt Colvin impression, “everyone just needs to calm down.”
The Bills have traditionally played the Patriots tough. In fact, last year the Pats almost lost to the Bills at Gillette Stadium. It might not have been a convincing win, but I don’t think it is an indicator of how this team is ultimately going to play by week 10.
On offense I think the Pats were sharp, and could not really be stopped. The defense did not play well, but I am going to call it growing pains. It should not be assumed that the defense is going to be the same by the end of the year. I just don’t believe in that scenario. I heard the same criticisms of Matt Cassel when he first became a starter for the Pats. It took him to the latter part of the season to blossom into a good quarterback.
I will say this until I am blue in the face, please give this defense a chance to learn from their mistakes and get better. In my opinion, a judgment on them right now is just unfair.
No matter how you feel the Pats played they ultimately won the game. That is the goal. Now, let’s see if they can build on this win this week in Miami.
2. Mental errors on defense hurt the Patriots against the Bills. The Patriots defense over the years is best when everyone is doing their job and in position to make plays. What I noticed on Sunday was poor tackling and taking bad angles to the ball.
Rob Ninkovich had bad tackling technique on one play that led to a nice run for the Bills. I also witnessed other occasions of poor tackling. On top of that I saw bad angles to the ball carrier on many occasions. Brandon Meriweather is the best example of this issue. He took the wrong angle on a play near the goal line that led to a touchdown.
These issues of mental errors can be fixed in practice. It is not a talent problem. It is simply doing your job correctly.
3. I don’t agree with all the criticism towards Bill O’Brien. He does not have the title of offensive coordinator, but he is the coach calling the plays.
He is only in his second season in calling the plays. It took Josh McDaniels I think two seasons to really be proficient in play calling. I have already noticed improvements from game to game. The offense has been incredibly diverse in three games. I think O’Brien has something to do with that. Let’s see where the offense is in week 10. I have a feeling they will be in rare form.
4. Bill Belichick is not past his prime. This topic has come up the past few weeks on the local talk shows that maybe the game has past Belichick by.
I think that is completely ridiculous. He is dealing with a very young team that will take time to grow. This is a rebuilding year. No one wants to say it but I will.
To think because other coaches careers have ended badly means this will happen to Belichick is absurd. Every coach is different, and I don’t think age has anything to do with it. Belichick can be the coach of the Patriots for as long as he wants in my eyes. I have seen no evidence that the game has passed him by.
5. I don’t think the loss of Scott Pioli is hurting the Patriots. I heard this argument yesterday on the Felger and Massarotti show by a caller. I think Pioli had terrible drafts his last few seasons with the club.
I actually think Nick Caserio has done a tremendous job the last two seasons drafting players that have real potential to help the Patriots now and in the future.
Pioli is responsible for drafting Chad Jackson, Laurence Maroney, and Garrett Mills. He might be doing a nice job in Kansas City right now, but it is too early to say that he has turned that franchise around. I think Pioli leaving, in the future will look like good decision for everyone involved.
6. I don’t buy this notion that the recent draft picks are not getting better. This is a topic I disagree with Michael Felger on. He has been mentioning lately on his talk show that recent Patriot draft picks are not improving. In my opinion he is pointing the finger at Brandon Meriweather and Darius Butler.
Brandon Meriweather and Darius Butler have not had great starts to the season. However, I thought Meriweather made strides to improve last season. I will give him until the second half of the season to make any judgement on him. Darius Butler is still learning and needs more time to improve. I would give him a full season before I have any real opinion his progress.
I think Patrick Chung has improved tremendously. I also think Ron Brace is starting to show flashes of a player getting better. How about Brandon Tate on offense? He is starting to show glimpses of a potential go to wide receiver in the future. Sebastian Vollmer I think has already established himself in his second season with the Patriots as a solid contributor on the offensive line. We should also not forget the great play of the young tight ends.
The 2009 and 2010 drafts are a few years away from making judgements on. However, I would say right now though their are several members of these draft classes that have contributed solidly to the Patriots. How can you say most of the young players are not getting better? I just disagree with this argument.
7. Danny Woodhead could be a nice change of pace option for the Patriots. I am not putting him in Canton yet, but he could give the Pats a nice option to keep teams on their toes.
Woodhead has already shown to be very effective on draws. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him utilized on third downs. He certainly has the quickness to be a nice change of pace player. It is just another option for Tom Brady to make the Pats offense even more diverse.
8. Dan Connolly deserves a good amount of credit for his play so far. I have noticed him several times making great blocks that have opened holes for the Patriots running backs. He has also been solid in pass protection.
I want Logan Mankins back with the team, but I haven’t noticed a huge drop off. It is time someone gave Connolly some praise for his fine play.
9. Ron Brace is starting to show improvement. We barely saw him on the field last season. I have seen him in on some plays so far this season. Most important though he is being trusted to be playing in meaningful situations with the team.
In three games he has 6 tackles. It is not a huge number but it is a start. He actually had 4 tackles against the Jets. If Brace does become a solid contributor on the line, that will be another young player to watch out for in the future.
10. I am predicting a 35-24 upset victory for the Patriots in Miami. Playing in Miami is traditionally a difficult place for the Patriots to play. However, I think this result will go differently than probably most experts think.
I think Tom Brady is ready to really break out in Miami. I have watched the Dolphins so far this season and their defense I think has holes. Dustin Keller did a job on Miami on Sunday Night. I see the tight ends having a huge night for the Patriots. If the Jets can put up a huge amount of points on Miami, I have no question the Patriots can do that as well.
On defense, I think the Patriots can hold Miami to 24 points. This will be a huge challenge for the young defense. Miami still runs the ball to win, and that is why I think their scoring may not be as high as many people think.
In the end I just think it will come down to too much Tom Brady and no Jason Taylor. His loss on Miami is bigger than most experts think for that defense.
What part of the Patriots offense or defense is on your mind? I’d love to hear from you, so be sure and post your thoughts in the comments section located directly below this post.