September 13, 2013
A Hideous, Ugly Victory For Patriots
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
FOXBOROUGH -- A win is a win. We'll take it. I'd rather win ugly than lose pretty. 2-0 is better than 1-1.
Fine. Patriots win, 13-10. Enjoy the win, Patriots.
But Bill Belichick has some work to do over the next week and a half. The first thing he may have to do is to send Tom Brady off to an anger management therapist. Next, he should give every member of the Patriot defense a 50 percent pay raise, and maybe double Julian Edelman's salary too. Then, when he himself has settled down, figure out what to do about getting these young receiver bucks on the same page with the best quarterback of this generation.
In a slopfest Thursday night at Gillette Stadium which featured a second half downpour (as correctly predicted by the weather folk), the Patriots made it clear that they can still win games they have no business winning. Meanwhile, the Jets should be ashamed of themselves, not being able to win a game like this with the Patriot offense in its current dilapidated state. The Jets suffered four turnovers, Geno Smith was sacked four times, and the Jet receivers suffered perhaps as many drops as the Patriot receivers did.
The Patriots may be one of the worst 2-0 teams in recent history. Aaron Dobson got everyone jacked up early with a ridiculously easy 39-yard touchdown catch on the first drive of the game, his first NFL catch. Getting his second one proved to be very difficult, as he was to this week what Kenbrell Thompkins was to last week, except worse. Dobson was targeted ten times and made only three catches, including a hail of drops which made Brady at times look like Carl Everett versus Ron Kulpa. Thompkins was targeted seven times and made only two receptions.
Stevan Ridley, in Belichick's doghouse thanks to two fumbles last week at Buffalo, had to play thanks to Shane Vereen's injury. Ridley did not fumble, but the Jets stuffed him very well. He gained only 40 yards and averaged 2.5 yards per carry. On five occasions the Patriots ran Ridley on first down and he was stuffed for either no gain or a loss. His inability to gain consistent yardage and burn clock helped the Jet defense key better on Brady and his rookie receivers.
Edelman would perhaps be the leading candidate for, as they say in soccer, Man of the Match. He took the Wes Welker/Danny Amendola part well, making 13 catches for 78 yards and being the only dependable offensive weapon for the Patriots. Edelman also had six punt returns for 72 yards and a 12-yard average.
There was a stretch in the first quarter which pretty much foretold the rest of the game, although the heavy rain had an effect on the second half. On their second offensive possession of the game, Smith hit Stephen Hill on a nice deep middle pattern for 34 yards. But Aqib Talib stripped the ball from Hill, and Devin McCourty recovered the loose ball and rumbled 44 yards to the Jet 8-yard line. With first and goal, Brady overthrew Edelman in the back of the end zone on first down. Ridley gained five yards on second down. On third down, Brady rolled right and had to throw the ball away. Nate Solder was called for holding, so any touchdown would have been wiped out. The Patriots settled for a 21-yard field goal, but not getting a touchdown changed the game from that moment on. The Jets outscored the Patriots 10-3 for the remainder of the contest.
It was clear that the Patriots were going to need their defense to win the game, and it did. Smith showed some flashes of his projected greatness, but overall he looked like a rookie out there with some ill advised throws. Talib had two interceptions, Alfonzo Dennard had one, and Kyle Arrington had a good game overall against Santonio Holmes. Chandler Jones had two of the four sacks of Smith, and the Patriot defensive line had pressure on Smith all game long. Donte Hightower and Rob Ninkovich also had strong games at linebacker, with each player having a team high four tackles.
The Jets had an edge in total yards (318 to 232) and time of possession (34 minutes to 26), but the Patriot defense had the stops when needed. Following their only touchdown of the game in the third quarter (3-yard run by Bilal Powell), the final Jet drives went like this: three and out, interception (Talib), three and out, interception (Dennard), interception (Talib). It once again shows that the Patriots still know how to win better than most of their opponents, and on this occasion, win when they bring their "D" game to the table.
The game featured several outbursts on both sides of the ball. As earlier mentioned, Brady had moments of complete loss of composure on the sidelines. In his postgame press conference, Brady acknowledged that he needs to "work on my body language, which right now isn't one of my strong points". He was especially hard on Dobson and his drops, and he also was rude to Thompkins after an apparent touchdown was negated on a replay review. Brady has to know that he has players with bright futures who merely need to find their feet and learn the playbook, but Brady the competitor won out over Brady the teacher and Brady the example setter. It's hard to find fault with Brady in this case, especially with all the offensive material he lost in the offseason. But Brady needs to keep his cool with the tougher opponents coming up down the road.
After the second Talib pick sealed the win with 32 seconds left, Talib took his sweet time jiggling on the field before running out of bounds at the Jet 32. As he went out of bounds, Nick Manggold cut Talib at his knees, drawing a personal foul penalty. He then started shouting at the Patriot bench, which precipitated a quasi-brawl which resulted in the ejections of D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Willie Colon. Manggold's hit on Talib may draw league action, as it could have severely injured Talib. The Jets had to be frustrated at game's end for not being able to overcome their hated rival on a night where the Patriots looked like the Jaguars or the Panthers.
The Patriots now get ten days to prepare for an opponent they know well, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They played the Bucs in Week 2 of the preseason after scrimmaging with them all week long. Ten days for the Patriots to try and work the wideouts into the system, ten days for Brady to decide exactly what kind of leader he wants to be, ten days to let the defense rest and stop panting like an overworked hunting dog.
Any win is great. Any win over the Jets and Rex Ryan is doubly great. Patriot Nation can rest easy, for now.
But make no mistake, this is not a Patriot team that will go deep into January. Maybe not even December. At least not right now.
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