September 20, 2009
Patriots Reduced To Ordinary Status
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
E. RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Patriot Nation is in for a new brand of football for 2009.
What kind of football? We'll give you a hint. The Red Sox magic number to clinch the AL Wild Card is seven and they historically do well in the playoffs against the Angels. We say that because in October, that's who you will be paying your attention to.
Not the Patriots, if Sunday is any indication of how this season is going to go.
Without Wes Welker to make the clutch catches, without Jerod Mayo to stop the Jets from making those ridiculous third down conversions in the second half, combined with all the star players the Patriots have lost within the past few months, it was asking too much for the Patriots to pull one out Sunday against the Jets.
The Jets trash-talked all week long, and knew what they were doing all the way. Led by new head coach Rex Ryan, who obviously knew all along that his own and his players' yap-flapping wasn't as stupid as everyone in the northeast thought, the Jets came out and dominated on defense all game long, then finally took the shackles off of rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez in the second half. The Jets beat the Patriots, 16-9 on Sunday at Exit 16-W, but the game wasn't as close as the final score indicated.
The Patriots were made to be something they haven't been since 2000, which was the year in which the Jets last beat the Patriots at Giants Stadium. They became an ordinary team. While Richard Seymour and Mike Vrabel toil for their new teams, while Tedy Bruschi sits at home and watches Gary Guyton look more like Monty Beisel than himself, while Rodney Harrison sits across the Hudson at 30 Rock and watches guys like Chansi Stuckey, Jerricho Cotchery and Dustin Keller look like Jerry Rice, John Taylor and Dwight Clark, the guys who still wear the Patriot uniform simply don't have the look or chemistry as their championship older brothers did.
And that's just the defense. Tom Brady still looks completely out of sync out there, and even committed three delay of game penalties, which was a big Drew Bledsoe problem. Brady was flushed out of the pocket all game long and was clobbered at most every chance he could have been, as the Jets showed the league further evidence of what wonderful things they can do if they can make Brady run. Rookie Julian Edelman, who came into everyone's consciousness in the first preseason game at Philadelphia, led the team in catches and receiving yardage but could not deliver the big catch Welker so often does.
The Patriots got lucky last week against Buffalo. They simply could not overcome their own mistakes and the talent deficit with the Jets this week. The Jets are new and improved, and were impressive in going out and backing up all their talk. Usually that kind of talk is suicide against the Patriots, but it further underscores how ordinary the Patriots are in that the Jets went out and did exactly what they said they would do, and the Patriots were powerless to stop it.
The Patriots did lead at the half, 9-3. That was the case largely because the Jets kept Sanchez under wraps and the Patriots choked and gagged in the red area three times. The Jet defense was gassed at the end of the first half, but once the Jet offense decided that it was finally time to play football, the defense got their rest and looked much better in the second half.
The Patriots more or less blew this game on their third offensive possession. Leon Washington had just fumbled at his 17 yard line and Leigh Bodden recovered (Ryan tried to get the call overturned on replay but it was denied). But the drive that followed was ruined by holding calls on Stephen Neal on first down and former Jet tight end Chris Baker on second down. Stephen Gostkowski hit the first of his three field goals from 45 yards out, but when you recover a fumble at the opponent's 17 yard line and the drive nets a total of minus-11 yards, the other team owes you a huge thank-you note.
The next Patriot possession ended with a curious interception. Brady fired a deep ball from the Patriot 41 to Randy Moss, but Moss slowed down part way through his route and the ball looked overthrown. Darrelle Revis leaped up and picked off the pass, a pass Moss could not have possibly caught. One has to wonder if this was a case of Moss not hustling, although he has used this technique before to make his defender think he has fallen asleep. But Brady was throwing to a spot, and Revis was at that spot, not Moss.
The next drive saw the Patriots march all the way to the Jet 7, thanks to a 29-yard catch by Edelman on a crossing pattern. But on third and goal at the 7, Brady had Edelman wide open in the left flat and an easy touchdown, but Brady simply misfired and led Edelman too far. Gostkowski made the chip shot, but this drive again should have ended in a touchdown and didn't.
Edelman again figured prominently on the next drive, both positively and negatively. He caught a 19-yard pass to get the Patriots to the Jet 32 yard line. Facing second and three at the Jet 11, Edelman again had a possible touchdown in the left flat, but this time Brady did find him and the rookie bobbled the ball and dropped it. Another Gostkowski short field goal ended the drive, and the Patriot scoring for the afternoon.
The Patriot offense was a study in exasperation the rest of the day. The first drive was a three-and-out, the second drive being derailed thanks to two delay of game calls on consecutive plays. The third drive had perhaps the most teeth-gnashing end of them all. With the Patriots at their own 38 yard line, facing third down and 1 and now trailing 16-9, the situation screamed for a Brady sneak or maybe a play-action pass. Earlier in the contest, the Patriots had been called for illegal formation on Brady quick sneaks on third and short. This may be why the Patriots called for a toss to Fred Taylor off left tackle. But the slow developing play was blown up by Shawn Ellis, who caught Taylor from the rear and dropped him for a one-yard loss. Again, this was third and one, which is usually a Brady sneak.
Credit the Jets for playing a completely sound football game, but this was more about a lot of mismatches which went in the Jets' favor. Sanchez finished with 14-of-22 passing for 163 yards, a touchdown pass to Keller, and a rating of 101.1. Leon Washington and Thomas Jones combined for 102 yards rushing. Cotchery had four catches for 87 yards, including the 45-yarder on the first play of the second half which signaled the turn of momentum in this game. Jonathan Wilhite was late in getting over in coverage, and it pretty much set the tone for the second half.
Brady was, well, ordinary. He was 23-of-47 passing for 216 yards, the one interception and a passer rating of 53.1. The only real bright spot for the Patriots was that they averaged 4.2 rushing yards per carry as a team, with Taylor getting 46 yards on eight carries. But the Patriots could not establish the run as consistently as they would have liked, and in the end Brady had to try to win the game through the air, and on this day, he could not do so.
The Patriots are 1-1 and very fortunate not to be 0-2. They have a lot of figuring out to do, especially with former BC quarterback Matt Ryan and his Atlanta Falcons coming to Foxborough next weekend. The Patriots must find a way to attack Ryan without giving up a lot behind them, and to protect Brady better.
Otherwise, it will be a long season for the Patriots. The Jets got their way this week in every sense of the word. The Jets are taking off, while the Patriots right now are ordinary.
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