Tag Archives: 2019 NFL Playoffs

Despite Patriots Loss, End of Dynasty Talk Can Wait For Some Other Day

Bob George
January 6, 2020 at 10:29 am ET

End of an era?  Save that for March when some famous quarterback’s contract expires.

It doesn’t feel like it, but it’s over.  No more football in New England until this summer.  The 2019 season came to an abrupt end on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium, as former Patriot Mike Vrabel led his Tennessee Titans to a hard fought 20-13 win over the former Super Bowl Champion Patriots, sending his charges to Baltimore to take on the top-seeded Ravens next weekend.  Derrick Henry rushed for 182 yards last night, but the Titans’ defense may give up 282 rushing yards to Lamar Jackson next week.  That’s Tennessee’s problem, not New England’s.

What is their problem is what to do moving forward.  This team turned out to be one of the worst 12-4 teams in recent NFL history.  This season was clearly mischaracterized by the ridiculously easy early first half of the season, where the Patriots went 8-0 and beat teams that woebegone UMass might have given a good game.  Once the good teams started lining up on the opposite side of the ball, things began to change.  The last two games, home losses to Miami and Tennessee, revealed to the pro football world what the 2019 Patriots really were.  Key injuries, key retirements, and a general misjudging of the talent on this team all combined to lead to their early playoff exit, something not seen around these parts in exactly a decade when Baltimore came into Gillette Stadium and blew out the Patriots, 33-14 in the last Wild Card round game this team has played until last night.

That said, here are the five main reasons why the team crashed and burned and saw their Super Bowl championship come to an end last night.

#5 – Offensive line needed more than just Coach Scar

 This was a bad year for the offensive line, period.  David Andrews was lost in training camp for the season due to blood clots in his lungs (more on him later), which got things off to a bad start.  But basically, this unit never jelled at all.  For much of the season, the line started guys like Ted Karras, Marshall Newhouse and Jermaine Eluemunor.  Starting tackles Isaiah Wynn and Marcus Cannon missed significant playing time.  Wynn came back for the Dallas game, but the team went only 3-4 after he came back.   Cannon had a substandard season at right tackle when he did play.  Karras is simply no Andrews, and Newhouse and Eluemunor were stopgap fill-ins, nothing more.  Except for a few nice runs by Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead here and there, this line had a bad year.  Tom Brady’s pass blocking protection this year was mostly non-existent (his season passer rating of 88 was his lowest since 2013).  If Brady either retires or winds up leaving the Patriots, one has to wonder if the bad performance of the offensive line will be a major factor.

#4 – A vastly overrated defense, totally exposed in the end

 They were being held up there with the 1985 Bears, 2000 Ravens and 2002 Buccaneers as one of the best one-season defenses in NFL history.  They were 8-0, and fantasy owners who had the Patriot defense (Yours Truly included) enjoyed astonishingly high numbers.  Then along came Lamar Jackson and everything changed.

Granted, Jackson has made a lot of defenses look like a combination of matadors, young guys suddenly looking old as dirt, and befuddled dopes who would have problems stopping a high school option offense.  But the Patriots always seemed to have an answer for everything.  They were powerless to stop Jackson, but that soon begat getting shredded at home by Patrick Mahomes and Ryan Fitzpatrick, and bludgeoned by Mark Ingram, Ezekiel Elliott and Derrick Henry.  They could not stop a final scoring drive at home from Miami with a first-round bye on the line.  All-Pro Stephon Gilmore suddenly looked like 1997 top draft pick Chris Canty when trying to cover Devante Parker in that hideous regular season finale.

Explaining the offensive line was easy.  Explaining the collapse of the defense isn’t.  Granted, the unit played okay Saturday night and allowed only 13 points, but stopping Ryan Tannehill (previously 0-6 lifetime against the Patriots) is like Dietrich Wise or Adam Butler trying to stop a six-year old kid from entering a candy store.  Henry won the game for Tennessee Saturday night, not Tannehill, and they even allowed some Harvard grad named Anthony Firkser to catch a touchdown and make a key third down catch late in the game.  There was no clutch in this group down the stretch, and all the big plays that are usually made were not made this year.

Wow.  First Fitzpatrick, and now Firkser.  Let’s send some more Patriot scouts to Cambridge from now on.

#3 – Brady cannot totally blame his receivers for lack of chemistry

 Late in his career, the Celtics allowed the late, great John Havlicek to report to training camp late.  He simply needed more rest at his advancing age.  Problem is, the last two Celtics teams he played on were knocked out of the playoffs by Philadelphia, and failed to make the playoffs in his final season.  Was Havlicek reporting late the reason why?  Certainly not, as the front office made one bad trade after another and by 1978, the team was so bad that perhaps Red Auerbach could be forgiven if he yelled “Russell is not coming through that door!  Neither is Heinsohn, Cousy, or anyone named Jones!”

For the last two offseasons, Brady has missed all of the voluntary OTAs.  He is spending more time with his wife Gisselle and his children, consorting with his personal trainer, Alex Guerrero, and working with his personal quarterback coach, former Red Sox lefty reliever Tom House (whose only other claim to fame is catching Hank Aaron’s 715th career home run in 1974 in the Atlanta Braves bullpen).  At Brady’s age, you have to figure that he’s earned it.  He’s the GOAT, and he doesn’t need all this voluntary offseason stuff that the younger, more mortal players need.

But as the Ghost of Christmas Past told Ebenezer Scrooge in one of the many versions of A Christmas Carol (this is the version that stars George C. Scott as the Humbug Homey), “You have shown me what you have gained!  Now I will show you what you have lost!”

Brady gains valuable family time, and is totally comfortable with Guerrero and House, as most of us all know (especially if you watched that Facebook feature Tom Vs Time two years ago).  But his not attending the OTAs meant that he didn’t get a chance to build a rapport with Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers, N’Keal Harry, Gunner Olszewski and Matt La Cosse.  In past years, this was why a Wes Welker could be cast aside and a Danny Amendola or Julian Edelman could be groomed to take his place.  By not attending the OTAs, Brady never got that time in.

As a result, in most of the games played, all defenses had to do was account for Edelman and James White, and that was that.  Brady was never on the same page with anyone other than those two veterans.  You can’t count Antonio Brown in this discussion, as he was only here for one week.  But his choosing to spend time away from Foxborough in the offseason did have some repercussions.

#2 – Injuries to Andrews and Develin were not overcome

 Andrews, as previously stated, had blood clots in his lungs and was declared out for the season in training camp.  That left all his responsibilities to Karras, and the dropoff was noticeable.  The center does a lot more than snap the ball.  He calls out blocking assignments and sets the line for the next play.  Of course, he also has to be a good blocker.  In both areas, Karras simply did not account for the loss of Andrews.  Dante Scarnecchia had plenty of time to develop either Karras or some other player to at least hold down the fort in Andrews’ absence.

Develin’s injury may have been even more damaging.  His lead blocking for Michel and Burkhead might be seen by some as overlooked, but not by those who really know the game.  Linebacker Elandon Roberts turned out to be the replacement for Develin as Jakob Johnson also went down with an injury.  Roberts was much like Karras in that he did okay but was clearly no Develin.  Roberts was called upon to try and convert a third and one on Saturday night but was stuffed for no gain.  He did crack off some nice lead blocks, but the failed first and goal at the one exposed the absence of Develin at a time where a touchdown was badly needed but a field goal was all they got.

#1 – Gronkowski was never replaced, even slightly

 Rob Gronkowski retired last March, and kept true to his word.  Several experts predicted he would come back around November, but he never did.  He is still trying to become a comedian on the Fox pregame show rather than trying to surprise Patriot Nation with a late return to the Patriot lineup.  He is done with football.  Period.

The Patriots did not draft a tight end.  All the Patriots did was to bring in La Cosse and ancient former Patriot Ben Watson, who had to be talked into coming out of retirement.  Even Jacob Hollister was cast adrift, now catching tosses from Russell Wilson for the Seattle Seahawks.

Brady missed Gronk big time.  Yes, the Patriots did win Super Bowl LI with that biblical comeback without Gronk in the lineup.  But over an entire season, the Patriots had no Martellus Bennett this year.  Without Gronkowski or Bennett to worry about, defenses double teamed Edelman with no qualms or trepidations.  They didn’t worry about Dorsett, Harry or Meyers.  This all combined to throw Brady off kilter and reduce the Patriot passing attack to something merely mortal.

Patriot Nation certainly knew what it had with Gronkowski.  Sometimes Bill Belichick can get away with personnel magic, but he couldn’t this time.  Both Brady and Gronkowski made it to the NFL Network’s Top 100 list at their respective positions (as did Belichick).  It could be that Belichick didn’t restock on tight end because perhaps he thought Gronk would come back in November.  Didn’t happen.

Add it all up, and it’s someone else’s turn this year.  Any talk about the end of the dynasty can wait for some other day.

Five Thoughts Following the Patriots Playoff Loss to Tennessee

Ian Logue
January 5, 2020 at 1:17 pm ET

Saturday night’s loss to the Titans was certainly disappointing, leaving the Patriots on the outside looking in and marking the start of an offseason full of questions.

Here are some thoughts following this one:

1) A lot of the headlines this morning centered around Titans running back Derrick Henry’s performance Saturday night, who finished with 182-rushing yards during the Patriots frustrating Wild Card playoff loss to Tennessee. However, as good as Henry was, give the Patriots defense credit for eventually settling down and limiting the damage after a fast start.

Henry picked up 49-yards on the first drive on 7 carries and finished the first half with 106-yards, but New England’s defense did a decent job in the second half, coming up with several stops that were key in keeping the game close, including a big turnover thanks to a fourth-quarter interception by Duron Harmon. However, the biggest issue in this game was the simple fact the Patriots couldn’t come up with the plays they needed to score touchdowns instead of kicking field goals.

New England was 1-for-3 in the red zone Saturday night, including just 1-of-2 on goal to go. Considering this one was being played at home, it was surprising to again see them struggle the way that they did.

Anytime a Tom Brady led team has a defense hold the opponent to 14-points, that should be good enough to win the game. Saturday night, it obviously wasn’t but as much as people will talk about Henry’s performance, the defense gave it their all out there and just didn’t get any help on the other side of the football.


Brady and the offense got into the end zone just once Saturday night.

2) The 1st-and-goal from the 1-yard line early in the first half was a frustrating sequence, especially when they tried three times and couldn’t punch it in.

The first play saw running back Sony Michel dropped for a 1-yard loss, followed by a run by Burkhead that picked up a yard and put them back at the 1-yard line. However, on 3rd-and-1, they tried running Michel again and Tennessee’s defense was able to break through and drop Michel for a 2-yard loss.

Oddly enough, that was the first time all year the Patriots failed to punch it in facing a 3rd-down on the opponents’ one-yard line, with the offense having scored all three times on their three previous attempts. Brandon Bolden scored in the second quarter back in their October meeting against the Giants on a 3rd-and-1, while Michel scored twice in the same situation in a road game against the Jets a couple of weeks later, with 1-yard TD runs in the second and fourth quarter.

For whatever reason, this year’s offensive line just wasn’t able to provide the same push as last year’s group, which was also obviously missing Rob Gronkowski’s terrific blocking ability. But their inability to score at that point in the game was probably one of the biggest moments in the contest because instead of going up 17-7, New England settled for just a field goal. That took the pressure of Tennessee, who ended up marching down the field and punching it in on their next possession, which gave them their final offensive points of the evening and it ended up being enough to win the game.

3) This has been mentioned before but one of the most frustrating aspects of the later part of this season was the fact the Patriots just didn’t have the offensive skill players to come up with big plays in key situations, which was probably the most notable difference from past seasons.

2019 will probably mark the gutsiest performance of Julian Edelman’s career, with the veteran receiver putting forth an unbelievable effort over the final half of the year. While Edelman had a key drop Saturday night, one thing worth noting was the fact that he appeared to suffer a hand injury after making a diving attempt prior to that play.

Edelman finished the night with 3 receptions for 30-yards as well as two carries for 12-yards, which included a touchdown.

But aside from Edelman, the Patriots never had anyone else step up. Rookie N’Keal Harry had some good moments, but he was targeted 7 times with just two receptions. Mohammed Sanu’s performance was a disaster, with Sanu finishing with just one catch on five targets, including the ball going off his hands on their final possession and ending up in the hands of Logan Ryan, who took the interception into the end zone for the touchdown.

Phillip Dorsett became a non-factor down the stretch after suffering a midseason injury and he was a dismal 1-of-4 catching the football Saturday night, with his one reception going for just six-yards.

You can’t win football games that way and it’s just amazing given how deep they were in the preseason that things turned out the way they did. One would have to believe this will definitely be a focus this offseason heading into the 2020 season.


It would be hard to imagine life without Brady.

4) Listening to Brady after the game on Saturday night, he sounds like a player who is really hoping to return next season.

Brady was asked about his future after the game and said that he doesn’t know what the future looks like and also called any chance of retirement “unlikely”. I posted this on our message board last week but going back to before the start of the season, the sense I get is that something was seemingly said during the negotiations that may have upset him, which appeared to lead to the sequence of events where we heard about the “no franchise tag” clause after this season, his house going up for sale, etc. Brady’s an emotional guy and he’s not the type of player to become greedy and selfish, and there were moments for the first few weeks where he was lauded for not appearing to be happy after wins. That makes me think there was possibly something more behind the scenes playing a factor.

It’s been a long, frustrating year and things might have turned out differently had it not been for two players completely blowing up in their face. For Brady, the situations with Antonio Brown and Josh Gordon, two guys who he invested a lot personal time and energy with, were obviously the most frustrating. Both players each imploded in their own ways and both, most notably Brown, would have certainly been helpful Saturday night. Instead, they lacked playmakers and couldn’t come up with key plays to come away with the win.

For now, it sounds like Brady wants to come back but that there might be a concern about whether or not the team wants him back at whatever number he and his agent are looking for. As a result, that will probably lead to an offseason that will likely be fairly interesting.


Will Belichick be here in 2020?

5) Another report after the game that raised some eyebrows came from Greg Bedard of Boston Sports Journal, who indicated that like Brady, Bill Belichick’s future may be in question.

According to Bedard, there are rumblings that hadn’t previously been heard and that any move by the head coach would likely have to come “soon”.

“There have been increasing NFL rumors that perhaps Belichick is not as wedded to Foxborough as many of us, certainly me, thought. Is Belichick setting up a final test on whether he has complete control of the football operations? I think Belichick would be OK with Brady being back, but not at the expense of the rest of the team. There are four openings out there and they won’t last forever. If Belichick is contemplating a move, it would have to come soon. There’s no solid intel, but some rumblings I hadn’t heard before. So I don’t rule anything out,” wrote Bedard.

“For the record, my money is still on Bill and Tom being back together again for Year 21.”

As frustrating as that would be to see him leave, unfortunately, the timing sort of makes sense. If Belichick was to start over with another franchise, making a move now would be the logical choice. At age 67, if he planned on coaching for another 4-5 years, it would make sense to do it now vs in another few years when he turned 70. The big question that we’d have to wonder about is where a potential landing spot might be. Obviously, everyone knows about his affinity for the Giants and the other franchise that seems to be gaining steam appears to be the Cowboys, with many within the Dallas media pushing for owner Jerry Jones to throw however much money it might take to get him there.

Needless to say, this should set up an interesting few weeks. One would have to believe if it is going to happen, Bedard is probably correct in terms of a move needing to be made fairly quickly. Hopefully, it’s just noise but if the unthinkable does happen, hopefully, we’ll at least find out fairly quickly whether or not we’re finally about to experience an end of an era with either of the two greatest pieces of this franchise to begin 2020.