Archive for September 20th, 2010

The Day After, This One Still Stings

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.


Brady and the offense were shut out in the second half on Sunday.

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.

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Jets Unfortunately Get Their Swagger Back

If you’re a Patriots fan, it’s hard to feel good about what happened down at the Meadowlands on Sunday. 

It’s even worse when you consider the fact that the Jets 28-14 win over New England has New York’s players in their locker room – along with their head coach -  feeling pretty confident heading into their meeting against the Miami Dolphins next weekend.

After Sunday’s win over the Patriots, the Jets are now 1-1 and appear to be over their opening night home loss to the Ravens.  In an article with the New York Post they claim they’re back to believing they’re the team to beat in the AFC.  How quickly one game has changed their outlook. 

“We’re back to being who we think we are,’’ Rex Ryan told the media after Sunday’s win over New England.
 
“We did a lot of talking, but at some point you’ve got to prove it (and) that’s what it was about today,” Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson said.

“To hear everyone say we were pretenders not contenders, that pissed us off,’’ Jets receiver Braylon Edwards said. “Today showed who we really are.’’

Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez told the newspaper that Sunday’s game is “just the beginning” for his team, and said this win was just what they needed to get their confidence back after their rough start.

“This is just the beginning for us,” Sanchez, who completed a career-high 21 passes in his 30 attempts, said. “It’s tough when you lose that first game; it feels like you’re 0-10. This game couldn’t come soon enough for us.”

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady told the media after the game that the fact they couldn’t do anything right and ended up letting the Jets back into the game was the reason they deserved to lose.

“We couldn’t run it. We couldn’t throw it. We just sucked,” said Brady. ”That’s what it comes down to.”

Like the Jets, the Patriots are also 1-1 and facing a Bills team next Sunday that is coming off of a 34-7 loss to Green Bay. This one will sting for a while, but even Randy Moss admitted they’ll need to handle adversity better than they did – because the Jets managed to do it better during this one.

“They’re a little cocky and arrogant at times, but you really got to commend a team when they talk the talk and walk the walk and prove it on Sunday,’’ Moss said. “The Jets handled adversity the right way and we handled it the wrong way. This one hurts. We had a lot of expectations coming into this game.”

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Positives & Negatives From Patriots and Jets

Sunday’s loss to the Jets was a tough one, as there were plenty of things that went wrong in this one which ultimately contributed to this loss. Here are some things that stood out, with only a few positives to talk about after this one was over.

Unfortunately, the negatives are higher than normal in this one.

Positives:

  • Aaron Hernandez: finished with 6-catches for 101 yards. Hernandez got things started after he made a 7-yard reception for a first down inside the 20, which helped set up their first touchdown pass to Wes Welker. Hernandez also had a 46-yard reception which helped set up Moss’ 34-yard one-handed touchdown reception.
     
  • Gerard Warren: He had a good afternoon, putting pressure on Mark Sanchez and finishing with two sacks. It’s the 2nd two-sack performance of Warren’s career.
     
  • Jermaine Cunningham: The Patriots got a good performance from the rookie linebacker, who continues to improve in his second NFL game. Cunningham sniffed out an end-around play and made the stop early in the 2nd quarter, and overall showed better instincts in this game.

Negatives From Sunday:

  • Randy Moss: he may have won the battle, but Darrelle Revis and the Jets ended up winning the war. Sunday’s game was like a baseball player swinging for the fences every time up to bat. Brady and Moss swung for the fences several times during Sunday’s game, hitting a home run once on their 34-yard touchdown. Otherwise they more or less just struck out, as Moss’ only other reception was for just 4-yards, and the other 8-times they failed to connect. During those plays Moss simply seemed frustrated about the tight coverage he was dealing with.
     
  • Brandon Tate: He was called for illegal formation on just the second play of the game which negated a 38-yard run by Fred Taylor. He later got away with one when he failed to line-up on the line of scrimmage but it didn’t get called. If you can’t even line up correctly, obviously there are problems.
     
  • Zoltan Mesko: for not getting the snap off in time on the first field goal attempt, which cost them three points after Stephen Gostkowksi missed the second attempt, which was his third “official” field goal miss in a row. Mesko gets the blame because he’s the holder, and unfortunately that’s how it’s officially scored.
     
  • Devin McCourty and Darius Butler: We all knew that these two would eventually have their fair share of growing pains, and that’s exactly what happened on Sunday against Braylon Edwards & Jerricho Cotcherie. The two may not have racked up a lot of yards, but they both reached the endzone twice, with Butler being the one victimized both times – although McCourty had his struggles as well. However, these two can’t get better without games like today, and long-term I feel good about how this will turn out.
     
  • Tully Banta-Cain: He finished with 8-tackles and a sack, but he made the late hit out of bounds after Butler knocked Jerricho Cotcherie out of bounds. Belichick took him out after that play. Mental mistakes on the road aren’t good, and it lead to 15 additional yards that ultimately could have been the difference in what ended up being a touchdown drive for the Jets. Butler got beat by Edwards on the touchdown catch on that drive, with Edwards getting called for taunting. The Jets were 3-of-3 on that draft on third down on that first scoring drive.
     
  • Kyle Arrington: Was called for making contact on a fair catch. Not a smart penalty on his part since instead of the ball at the Jets 6, they started their drive at the 21-yard line and it squandered a great punt by Zoltan Mesko. Fortunately New York didn’t capitalize.
     
  • Rob Ninkovich: Was at the right place at the right time throughout Sunday’s game, but his inability to wrap up was costly at times and ended up being a factor on several critical Jets drives. One example was that he could have had Tomlinson for a short gain, but failed to wrap him up on a 31-yard gain which set up a touchdown to Jerricho Cotchery
     
  • Tom Brady: For someone who seems intent on spreading the ball around, there was far too much of an emphasis on trying to get the ball to Randy Moss. Brady targeted Moss 10 times but only connected twice, but I thought his presnap reads were terrible in the second half considering what was at stake. They didn’t do a good job trying to take advantage of the match-up problems that guys like Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkwoksi could help them create, and Brady is usually better about realizing when he’s got a tight end or a receiver lined up on a linebacker and being able to exploit it. Brady said after, “We just sucked”.  That about sums it up.
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