The Day After, This One Still Stings

Ian Logue
September 20, 2010 at 02:01pm ET

NFL notes: Don't be surprised if Wise, Rivers rise up for Patriots
New Patriots DL Danny Shelton preps to hit the hill
Patriots center David Andrews excited with his new Georgia Bulldog teammates
Patriots notebook: Patriots hold bonding time at Children’s Hospital
Guregian: Patriots Hall of Famer Matt Light says there’s more to being a successful offensive lineman than the measurables

They say things tend to look better in the morning if things didn’t go well the day before.

If that’s the case, I’m just not feeling it.

Today still feels like a bad hangover, after yesterday’s Patriots-Jets game left New England beaten and battered, and flat out embarrassed after New York scored 21-unanswered points and completely shut out the Patriots in the second half.

This one had an eery feeling from the start, with their first drive being riddled with stupid penalties and mental mistakes. First wide receiver Brandon Tate gets called for illegal formation for not lining up correctly on the second play of the game - a problem he seemed to have for most of the game and got away with another one later on. Then they get called for a delay of game on a 32-yard field goal, which is something that is extremely uncharacteristic for them to get penalized for. The frustrating part of that sequence of events is the fact that Stephen Gostkowski hit the first one, only to hook the other one left on the second attempt and squander what had been a pretty good opening drive.

Just like that what had been a pretty good seven minute drive left them with nothing to show for it, but it was their second possession that left me feeling like this one may not turn out too well.

In their second meeting against them last season in Foxboro, it was wide receiver Wes Welker who caught 15-passes for 192 yards and was the difference in the game. But in Sunday's game on their second drive, Welker got completely drilled by Jets safety Eric Smith. The hit happened on a 3rd-and-9 play where he was coming across and Brady threw the ball too far out in front of him. Smith came down and leveled him, striking him in the head with his helmet and forearm. Welker dropped to the ground holding his head with both hands, which caused trainers to come racing over from the sidelines to check on him.

At that moment I knew that this one may not turn out too well.

The play caused a 15-yard penalty in favor of New England, but it sent Welker to the sidelines where he was seen with trainers being put through tests. He came back in on the next possession and scored their first touchdown, but it’s likely that Welker did that on pure adrenaline because he wasn’t the same from that point on. He struggled to get open and only had one more reception before the half ended. In the second half he had just two receptions for a total of 5-yards.

Head coach Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady couldn't do much of anything right in the second half of Sunday's loss to the Jets. (PHOTO:Icon/SMI)
That’s not exactly the type of performance you want from one of your “go to” guys, but it’s tough to expect him to be able to perform at the level you need him to when he’s probably seeing stars.

But Randy Moss’ one-handed touchdown grab right before the half against Darrelle Revis appeared to be a positive sign, especially when Revis was seen on the sidelines dealing with a hamstring injury that ultimately ended his day.

That should have been the opportunity they needed, but instead it ended up being just the thing to inspire the Jets. They were the ones who came out and played an inspiring half of football, while the Patriots got away from everything they were doing and played one of the most confusing halves of football in recent memory.

All of the success they had over the middle of the field disappeared after they apparently forgot they were able to have it. Instead they kept trying to exploit a match-up advantage they thought they had with Moss matched up against Antonio Cromartie. But Moss couldn’t beat him on the outside, and the perimeter routes they were running didn’t work. They had success going to rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez early in the game, after he caught four passes in the first half. For whatever reason, they stopped trying to get him the ball after he had just two receptions in the second half.

Later in the game Brady tried to get the other rookie involved when they went deep to Rob Gronkowki, but Brady underthrew him and Gronkowksi couldn’t quite reach back over his man and reel it in. Unfortunately Brady never took another shot at him, which is sad considering how much success they had production-wise at that position.

With Moss taken out of the game by Cromartie and the fact Welker wasn’t himself, we didn’t see an adjustment in the passing game to get anyone else involved. Obviously Brady has guys he feels comfortable with, but the fact that whoever was calling the plays didn’t try and get the ball to anyone other than Moss was just frustrating. Five times in the second half Brady tried to force the ball to him, and all five times he failed, with two of those passes getting picked off.

They say the definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing over and over while expecting different results. I’d have to say that game plan certainly seems a bit more questionable one day later.

“From my perspective, I just have to do a little bit better,” said Moss after the game. “The team relied a lot on me and threw me the ball and I just really didn't make the plays in the second half. It is something that really hurts.”

It does really hurt, and this is one of those games that will leave fans shaking their heads for a while wondering what they’ll be able to do to correct it.

You can blame the defense if you want, but if you go back and look at the time of possession for the second half, they spent almost the entire half on the field because the offense couldn’t sustain a drive. The offense only had the ball for a total of around 10-minutes in the final two quarters of play, which ultimately wore on their defense. When you're tired you tend to do stupid things, and Darius Butler's pass interference penalties obviously weren't his best moments. While Butler will probably admit that it wasn’t his best performance, it’s tough to expect a young secondary to spend 20 of the final 30 minutes of play out of the football field and have them perform at a high level.

Brady said after the game that they’re going to need to get tougher in the coming weeks, because performances like today are going to make for a long season otherwise.

“I think when it comes down to these second half games and our level of toughness, we've got to go out there and play tougher,” said Brady. “There were times where I think we had opportunities to do a better job out there and we didn't.

“That's all of us, starting with me. I have to do a better job of leading this team and certainly execute better when it's crunch time.”

OTHER NOTES: Welker & Faulk Injured

Sunday’s loss will likely have a long-term effect, after a couple of key injuries may be a problem heading into this week’s game against Buffalo and potentially longer depending on their severity.

Wes Welker: One would have to believe that despite coming back in the game on Sunday, Welker is probably going to be dealing with concussion-like symptoms. The blow to the head he suffered was quite a hit, and as tough as he is, he’s probably going to have a tough couple of days while he recovers from it.

Kevin Faulk: He had his legs taken completely out from underneath him on Sunday, and was seen on the sideline with ice wrapped up on his knee. He’s such a critical part of their third down offense, and if he’s out for any length of time he’s going to be missed.

Stephen Neal: Suffered a hand injury and missed some time during yesterday's game, and also seemed to hurt himself making a tackle following a fumble by Brady late in Sunday's game. They're already thin at guard, so if Neal can't go that's going to give them another challenge to deal with.