FOXBOROUGH – By the end of the season, the Patriot offensive line might be Michael Williams, Scott Chandler, Brandon Bolden, and a couple of big defensive guys trying to be like Troy Brown in 2004.
James White will score the winning touchdown in Super Bowl 50. Tom Brady will find himself throwing touchdown passes to a bunch of Billys and Joes picked up off the waiver wire. Some linebacker trying to be the 2007 version of Junior Seau will make the championship-sealing defensive stop.
Is this how the 2015 season is going to end up for the Patriots?
More injuries, more offensive line combinations, and still the Patriots had a pretty easy time of it on Sunday at Gillette Stadium. The Washington Redskins aren’t a very good team, they may have been stuck with the biggest quarterback draft bust since JaMarcus Russell, and they aren’t exactly the Joe Gibbs gang who used to counter-trey you to death and have more hogs on the roster than most New England pig farmers. The Patriots were able to play uneven, and at times sloppy football and come away with a 27-10 win.
The Redskins looked like the Patriots two weeks ago against the Jets with seven dropped passes, one of which was a sure touchdown, another was an interception, but were never really out of the game until a fourth quarter touchdown pass from Brady to Bolden. Kirk Cousins, who amazingly is this team’s starting quarterback while Robert Griffin III languishes on both the bench and the doghouse, had a fairly decent game even though his receivers let him down most all day. The Washington defense was also not too terrible after the first quarter, as the Redskins held the Patriots to two field goals until the fourth quarter.
But the Patriots will look back on this game with regret thanks to two key injuries. Sebastian Vollmer suffered a head injury early in the contest, forcing Bill Belichick to have to play tight end Williams at tackle for several plays. Dion Lewis, who himself dropped a touchdown pass in the first quarter, left the game in the third quarter with a knee injury and is feared lost for the season.
The Patriots continue to amaze experts with their ability to send the next guy out there and just keep on trucking. LeGarrette Blount rushed for 129 yards on 29 carries, the 29 carries a career high. Bolden had three catches for 27 yards and a touchdown, a fade pass where he beat a linebacker, Perry Riley, in man coverage. The fact that Brady had no sacks with a tight end at tackle and also had a 100-yard rusher with the rest of the line mostly playing out of position is remarkable.
Brady finished with 26 of 39 passing for 299 yards and two touchdowns. His first quarter interception dropped his rating down to 96.0, and it was Brady’s first poor pass in several weeks. Brady was trying to hit Julian Edelman at the Redskins 10 and Robinson jumped the route. Brady should have seen Robinson in the area, and Robinson returned the pick for 44 yards before Brady made a touchdown saving tackle by diving in front of Robinson. Fortunately, the Patriots were not hurt by the pick as Washington went for it on fourth and 11 and Cousins could not hit Pierre Garcon with Logan Ryan in coverage.
Other than the pick, Brady had a comfortable game and only had to deal with a nice job by the Washington secondary that overcame a bad start and covered well thereafter. Edelman and Brandon LaFell led the Patriots with five catches each, but LaFell managed to haul in a 48-yard pass in the first quarter on a blown play by Chris Culliver. LaFell had to wait for the underthrown pass to reach him but still managed the long play. Three plays later, Brady threw the pick to Robinson.
Going forward, the Patriots will be hard pressed to keep their unbeaten record alive. The 8-0 Patriots will have to travel to the Meadowlands next week, but it will be against the Giants, not the Jets. The Giants are a team that has been a bane for the Patriots, having beaten the Patriots in the last three meetings. Two of those wins were in Super Bowls, one of them being the first loss the Patriots sustained in a season (2007). The last Patriot win over the Giants was the 2007 finale which gave the Patriots the first 16-0 regular season in NFL history.
Eli Manning will still be there, and he will probably play way over his head and find some unknown receiver in the fourth quarter for some stupid catch to help seal the win. But the Giants aren’t nearly the defensive powerhouse they were in their championship seasons, even though they were the six seed in 2011 and managed road wins at Green Bay and San Francisco to make it to the two Super Bowls they were in. Even with the offensive line in tatters, Brady won’t have to deal with what he had to in the two Super Bowls, but with Tom Coughlin still there as Giant head coach, you have to be careful.
The Giants will still be without former UMass wideout Victor Cruz. Defensive lineman Jason Pierre-Paul, who did play against the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, may be healthy for next week. Coughlin has coached well against Belichick, his former colleague when both were assistants with the Giants under Bill Parcells. Expect a tough game, and the Patriots will need to play a mistake-free game to win even though they might be a ton better on paper than the Giants.
Still, 8-0 is a wonderful place to be. Three other NFL teams are also 8-0. The 2015 season is developing and unfolding, and you might have one whale of a postseason and a terrific matchup for the 50th Super Bowl. The Patriots continue to be the gold standard of the NFL, still grinding out wins despite injuries and the constant scrutiny from DeflateGate.
You have the Giants, Bills and Broncos over the next three weeks. If they are 11-0 after them, then start thinking unbeaten season. Until then, we’re simply on to the Giants.
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