By: Russ Goldman
The Patriots lost on the road 25-17 to the Steelers in their last game, and now are getting ready to to face the Giants at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.
There’s certainly plenty to talk about, so here are some thoughts for this week ranging from my thoughts on the recent loss, along with my thoughts on the upcoming game against the Giants.
1. Credit needs to be given to the Steelers in their victory over the Patriots. Lost in all of the discussions this week has to be how well the Steelers played in this Patriots loss.
I know the sports media here is focused on what went wrong with the Patriots, but the Steelers deserve much more praise in this game than I believe they are getting.
The Steelers had great game-plans on both sides of the ball, and controlled the game. Ben Roethlisberger tore apart the Patriots, and the Steelers defense really got after Tom Brady. They deserve the victory. Why are they being short-changed in the discussions about this game?
The Patriots are going to lose games, and sometimes the other team is just better on that given Sunday. There might be a different result if these teams meet again in the play-offs, but in this last game the Steelers earned their win.
2. The Boston sports media is so over-reacting to this loss. It is one loss, and the media are treating the Patriots like they are a 5-11 football team. Two weeks prior, the media were praising their back to back efforts against the Jets and the Cowboys. This week, the Patriots are doomed in the play-offs according to more than a few in the Boston sports media.
It is a long season and much can happen from now until the end of the year. I know their are issues on the defense, but I saw this same exact situation happen after the Cleveland loss last season, and that was a team that did not make the play-offs.
I believe the team can improve over the course of the season on both sides of the ball, and I am not making a final judgment on the 2011 Patriots after 7 games. Let’s see where they are in December going towards the play-offs to really have an indication which direction they are trending.
Brandon Spikes remains a work in progress. (FILE:Icon/SMI)
3. Brandon Spikes is still a work in progress. I do believe the future is bright for Spikes, but you saw some of his limitations in the game against the Steelers. He did blitz several times, but seemed to be a half a second too late. He also got beat in passing coverage a few times.
His lack of speed is an issue, but when Mayo is back at full strength, I think you will see some more improvement from Spikes. Mayo will probably be taking over some of the responsibilities that have gone to Spikes.
I still think he is solid against the run, and has the potential to get to the quarterback. Don’t give up on Spikes as I think he is only going to get better as one of his teammates gets back to health.
4. The Red Zone Defense was a positive against the Steelers. For all of the issues the Patriots defense had against the Steelers, they were pretty good in the red-zone. The Steelers were only 2-5 in this area of the field, and that is something the Patriots can feel good about.
5. When will the Patriots start being aggressive and stop being passive on defense? This is my biggest issue with the 2011 New England Patriots. At this point, I don’t think the Patriots have anything to lose with Coach Belichick letting the reigns off of the defense.
The “read and react” defense is very passive, and protects you against the run and the big play in the passing game. Look at the best defenses in the league right now and they all have an aggressive style.
It is time to play man press coverage in the secondary, and start shooting the gaps for the front seven of the defense. I can take getting beat once in awhile deep as long as they are aggressive up front, because I feel that will pay bigger dividends in the long run.
6. Danny Woodhead’s role on the Patriots could be limited the rest of the season. I don’t think Woodhead has been the same player since his concussion and that is unfortunate. With Kevin Faulk being back, I think you might see less of Woodhead moving forward. They both play the same role, and Woodhead might be expendable.
7. Could we possibly be seeing more of Taylor Price in the near future? Ever since the pre-season, I have been waiting to see Price playing some significant snaps at the wide receiver position.
Against the Steelers, he was out there, and actually on one play beat his man deep, but Brady under-threw the pass, and it was incomplete. He has the potential to make an impact, and at this point I think the Patriots have nothing to lose in giving him a shot.
Offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien mentioned to the media this week that we could possibly see Price playing some more. I think that would be a “no brainer” for the Patriots.
8. Why does it take Bill O’Brien take so long to make in-game adjustments to the offense? O’Brien has really put together some great game-plans this season.
However, when he needs to make adjustments during the game, either he seems to wait too long, or in some cases make no noticeable changes whatsoever.
One of the reasons Charlie Weis was so special was his ability to adjust the offense, after the defense made their moves. O’Brien just doesn’t seem to be great at this skill.
9. The offensive line protecting Tom Brady continues to be a concern. This is now 3 weeks in a row that the offensive line has done a below average job of pass protection.
It will not get any easier against the Giants so this is a situation I will be focused again on this Sunday. The offensive line did a nice job in the first few games, but has struggled lately. They are definitely going to need to play better when January rolls around.
10. The Giant will be good opponent but a team the Patriots should beat. I have watched more than a few Giants games this season, and they have been inconsistent at times on both sides of the ball.
Offensively they can be explosive with their wide receivers, but can Eli Manning play mistake free football? On defense, they can really get after the quarterback, but are very suspect in the secondary.
I expect a battle from the Giants, but the Patriots should be able to pull away in the fourth quarter. It is always fun when a New York team comes to town.
Those are my 10 thoughts for week 9, but feel free to leave some of your thoughts or concerns on this upcoming game in the comment section below.