No Answers on Defense As Slide Continues
The Patriots almost pulled off another crazy finish thanks to Tom Brady and the offense but that was only half the story. The Patriots defense is officially a mess. The season is a quarter done and they haven’t put out a 60-minute effort yet that is close to being anything that they’ll need to sustain any kind of post-season hopes or deep run. It has been a disaster so far at the quarter pole, no other way around it. Facing bottom rung offenses with OL issues the past two weeks and to be eviscerated like this? Not good.
So, we’ll start with the offense and the players can come forward to pick up their grade sheets.
Tom Brady was once again on top of his game despite being under duress all game long. And once again, he led the Patriots back from two scores down to tie the score at 30 late in the fourth quarter. Had the defense been able to make a stop on the Panthers final drive, there is little doubt that he’d have put the team in position to win again.
He missed on a few passes, one to Cooks down the seam and another deep pass to Dwayne Allen, come to mind right away but those had more to do with the pressure and not being able to step into his throws than him just plain missing. Still, he was able to throw for 300 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Running Backs: B
The backs weren’t bad in the running game with Mike Gillislee doing the majority of the work and running well. But down two scores in the fourth quarter, they had to pretty much abandon the run and go with the passing game.
James White was very good once again with 10 catches, although for only 47 yards. Many, however, were just enough to keep the sticks moving. And James Develin chipped in with a pair of catches as well as Dion Lewis with one.
Wide Receivers: B-
The wide receivers didn’t have big statistical days but much of that had to do with the pressure the Panthers were getting on Brady. They weren’t able to stretch the field much as Brady had little time to get the ball down the field. Chris Hogan had just five catches for 60 yards, Brandin Cooks chipped in with three for 38 and Phillip Dorsett had a single catch for 17 late in the game.
Danny Amendola was solid although his numbers too weren’t eye-popping, 6 catches for 42 yards but several were tough catches, including one at the sticks where he was hit hard. He caught a nice touchdown in the back of the end zone. But the WRs didn’t get to assert their will in this game as they’ve done in others.
Tight Ends: B
Rob Gronkowski had a very good day, catching four passes for 80 yards and providing outstanding support in the running game. He called for a ticky-tack offensive pass interference penalty in the first quarter. He also drew a defensive pass interference call on a hilarious over the top selling job. The officials were already throwing the flag but couldn’t have taken yards away with that awful selling job. Troy Aikman on the telecast laughed and said Gronk watches too much WWE. Spot on. Dwayne Allen is still looking for his first catch. They made a nice call and had him running down the seam all alone. But the pressure got in Brady’s face and the throw was woefully short. They also tried to hit rookie Jacob Hollister in the end zone but that throw was high.
Offensive Line: C-
The offensive line had a pretty rough afternoon. Carolina was pushing the pocket all day. It seemed like Brady was throwing in a phone booth most of the afternoon. With the number of hits he’s taking, the passing offense isn’t sustainable. Julius Peppers picked up a pair of sacks and was putting pressure on all day. The push up the middle was the alarming thing since Brady couldn’t step up into his throws. It cost them a couple of possible touchdown throws. The run blocking was a bit better on Sunday and they were able to pick up a couple of those third and short yardage runs. But the unit has to play much better.
Defensive Line: C-
The Patriots defensive line once again was gashed on the run, allowing 140 yards and especially difficult was the way Carolina ran in the second half of the game. They were opening big holes in the middle and their double team blocks were getting their backs to the second level.
The pass rush was once again inconsistent although Trey Flowers had a few pressures as did Cassius Marsh. Dont’a Hightower returned from a knee sprain and notched a sack. Deatrich Wise had a tremendous play and a sack at crunch time deep in Carolina territory with the score knotted at 30 wiped out with a penalty.
Kyle Van Noy notched a sack and had a QB hit. But the linebackers aren’t filling the correct holes in the running game, aren’t helping well enough in coverage and too often out of position and in chase mode… (see Roberts, Elandon). David Harris and Harvey Langi a Patriots nation turns its lonely eyes to you…. (Simon and Garfunkel voice)
Is there any way to put a bow on this and pretty it up a bit? No. It was ugly. Actually it was beyond ugly. This unit has been discombobulated for eight straight games (4 preseason, 4 regular season). We cut them some slack during the summer because we thought the guys on the 2nd and 3rd team weren’t getting on the same page….well now we know it wasn’t just them. They’ve been getting burned and badly for two months. And the truly maddening part is, they are getting beat physically. They’re beating themselves because they’re never all in the right position. Busted coverage abound and they make awful offenses look like juggernauts. Cam Newton hasn’t had a big game in nearly two years, yesterday he was MVP-like. Changes have to be made, and should be coming. But with a short week, we’ll have a Thursday Night Game to marvel over this crew before they get a 10-day break to self-scout and make corrections.
Special Teams: B
Stephen Gostkowski made a career long 58-yarder at the end of the first half as he doinked it off the upright and through. He was 3-3 in FGs and in extra points. Ryan Allen was okay with a 45 yard average for his punts. The coverage units struggled a bit on the punt unit, allowing Christian McCaffrey to more than double his season average on the day. Kickoff coverage was good. Return game was incomplete….on kickoff return and no punt returns.
Josh McDaniels saves this crew from a bolo. While it wasn’t perfect, whenever you put up 30 points at home against a good defense, you should win the game. They had their issues but the offense, while not pretty, gutted it out.
What’s up with Matty P? Does the “P” stand for passive and piss-poor? Because that is what this defense has been since the Jacksonville preseason game. These mistakes keep happening and it isn’t a talent issue, it is a mental one where the players and coaches aren’t “doing their job.” The defense is passive and isn’t doing a thing to make the opponent react to them. They rush three or four and always from the same place and it is so easy to predict. When was the last time they sent a safety or a corner blitz? Anyone? Bueller? Is it an arrogant decision to keep doing the same things week after week where things obviously are not working and expecting everything to fall into place? There’s precious little time to do much this week with a Thursday Night Football game to play. But right after that, these coaches need to do some serious self-scouting and get this mess fixed.
Bill Belichick deserves just as much blame for this. How can you not have your team, especially on the defensive side (his specialty), ready to play.? A week or even two is understandable…this is inexcusable for a coach with his pedigree.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2017 Patriots Season Bill Belichick Chris Hogan Danny Amendola Dion Lewis Dont'a Hightower James White Malcolm Butler New England Patriots NFL Patriots edge rushers Rob Gronkowski Tom Brady Trey Flowers