I had a conversation with a buddy of mine this past weekend that I wish was broadcast over the web. It would have been on of the few times that I have actually looked intelligent. Too bad.
Anyway, the gist was something like this. He was babbling about how NE might have a tough time with Buffalo because of this, that or the other thing; even going as far as to quote Vic Carucci. My response? "This is the result of an attetion deficit disorder in the media and the public. People have forgotten just how good the Patriots are. The last time was saw them, they were barely squeaking out a win and then they disappeared completely for a week. People have forgotten how great this team is and NE will remind them on Sunday."
On to the thoughts:
* The continued rash of Maroney threads made me actually take note of his runs. The results, of course, left much to be desired from a statistical standpoint, but Laurence actually ran quite well. Here is the breakdown:
1) A nice delayed handoff with the middle opening up completely for the easiest TD of Maroney's career. Just about any capable RB would have scored on that play.
2) A run off LT with poor blocking. Maroney didn't do himself or the team any favors by turtling up. Easily the worst run of the game that I saw.
3) A two yard run that looks bad on the stat sheet, but Laurence had to break three tackles just to get those yards, including one in the backfield.
4) Solid 9 yard run off RT with a blow delivered by him at the end of it.
5) Missed due to bathroom break. The PBP says it was a 4 yarder.
6) No gain through no fault of Maroney. The worst blocked run of his game.
I still stand by what I said before. With the passing offense that NE has, Maroney would have to be on a Brown/Payton type level to warrant equal time, particularly when you consider just how awesome the pass blocking was last night. NE is working him in spots and keeping him fresh for when the really need him. He most certainly wasn't benched and I have no doubt that he would have been available had NE needed him. Also, it should be noted that the run blocking in the second half was much better than it was in the first half.
* On the KO review, why didn't anyone mention that forward progress had stopped and the whistle had blown? Recoveries can happen after the whistle if it is proven the ball came out before the play was really over, but a whistle blowing a play dead due to foward progress stopping trumps this. It should never have been reviewable in the first place.
* This is going to sound a little strange, but it seemed to me that the refs were doing some subtle things to try and keep the game close early on. Losman was given an extra half yard on his sneak and there was another play with a generous first down spot that wasn't measured. Brady's IG call was ridiculous because not only are you allowed to do what he did (it happens at least once per week and I've never seen it called before), but he absolutely was outside both the hashmarks and NBC's red dotted line. The catch that clearly wasn't a live speed that NE had to reivew is another example. I also recall feeling the same about another couple things that are escaping me right now.
* The OL was outstanding in pass protection. Only on a haldful of plays were Buffalo defenders anywhere near Brady. The certainly deserved all the credit Brady was tossing their way.
A side tangent on this. Despite how great they played, Brady himself needs to get some props on this one. He really had his spidey-sense going yesterday. Despite how well the OL played, I would be willing to bet that a QB like Warner or Bledsoe would have been sacked 3-4 times yesterday.
* While typing this last paragraph I recalled a strange little item. NBC showed a replay of Light blocking a Buffalo defender (I don't think it was Schobel). On the play the defender clearly grabbed Brady by the shoulder pads and slammed him to the ground long after the ball was released. Frankly, the ball was gone before the defender even touched Brady. I just found it funny that this wasn't commented on at all.
* A streak that many will find surprising ended yesterday. At 7:59 in the second quarter, Kevin Faulk caught a pass and then fumbled for the first time since the Denver game of 2005. Considering how much grief he has gotten (and still gets in some circles) I thought it was important to note just how far he has come in this area. And the fumble certainly came reasonably enough. I think I might be 6 feet under right now if I took that hit.
* Anyone have any info on why Vrabel was a bit player yesterday?
* AD certainly looks more comfortable on the outside, but I still don't question the move to ILB. While he is at his best outside, the drop from Vrabel's OLB to ILB is bigger than AD's IMHO. I expect him to actually become an excelling ILB by next year.
* Losman is the king of the "completely botch something up, run around like a madman and somehow turn a broken play into positive yardage" play. If he weren't so terrible in just about every other situation it would be completely infuriating. It is easire to swallow when you can take those plays (and the subsequent TD on a bad pass) in stride knowing that he will shoot himself in the foot enough to balance it off.
* That Cribbs KO just before the tying FG might be the most impressive one I have witnessed. Sure it didn't go for a TD, but with very little time remainging, the guy literally dragged 7 players over the final 10 yards (
) to set up Cleveland within 20 yards of FG position. If you haven't seen that play, do yourself a favor and check out one of the 15 or so NFL highlight shows ESPN has on this afternoon. Truly a remarkable play.
(Side note) When I see guys like Cribbs, Washington (Jets) and even McGee terrorize the league with their returns after doing virtually nothing against NE, it gives me a real appreciation for the Pats' coverage teams.
* On to the Colts. I have several things on them today. First, what is happening with that offense? I understand they are going through some turmoil, but that does not explain just how poorly they have performed in the past two games. Earlier this year, that offense looked just as good as NE's, even without Marvin Harrison. And even Addai against TB, whose defense is just about on the same level as SD and KC.
So what is it? Is it Manning? Is Wayne the problem? He clearly isn't Marv's equal (Marv's earlier days, of course), and their is no shame in that, but is he really just a little better than Deion Branch? Is Addai as good as he has looked or is more a product of the guys around him? Is it a combination of all of them or some of them? If one of the combos in Manning, is it time to rethink how great he is? Please don't misunderstand that last question. I phrased it purposely to convey that Manning being a great QB should not be quesitoned. I ask it because common wisdom seems to have taken the stance that once Manning breaks the records now that he has a SB win, that he will/should be considered the best QB of all time. I am just wondering out loud how whether that thought process should be challenged.
An easy fall-guy is the OL. They clearly did not have their best day yesterday, but I thought that they held up fine against SD. Even if we agree that the OL played poorly against KC, I don't think I am alone in saying that I have seen them play that bad while Manning throws for 300+ yards and 3+ TDs. I don't think we can pin this all on them. but I have no doubt that some of the culpability lies with the big uglies.
I guess that my main point can be best phrased in this run-on question: How can an offense with possibly the best QB of all time playing with a WR who most think of as one of the best 5 in the league and a RB who most think is top 5 with passable OL play perform so poorly against two straight good but not great defenses? I will grant you that this could just be a two week funk that the team breaks out of, making me look silly in the process. Of course that is a possibility. But I just find their performance surprising enough to be noteworthy.
* I was one of the ones who preached that Freeney was overrated when they signed him but I have been completely proven wrong on this one. Seeing Freeney beating Light consistently and then completely destroying McNeil (seriously, every rush he had was either a pressure, a sack or he was held) and then watching Indy give KC all day is more than enough proof for me. And this was against the same OL that let Denver's DL overwhelm them just one week prior. I didn't pay enough attention to who Indy trotted out there or what alternated schemes they may have run, but what ever it was, they need to do something else. If they faced a team with even a halfway decent passing offense, they would have lost that game handily.
* I have to say that I was very impressed with Priest Holmes. Surprisingly so.