That's pretty much how I looked for the last nine minutes of the Dolphins game. It was nearly psychic, the way I envisioned the Patriots unraveling to throw away their fifth straight road game. I kept telling my wife, "Here we go again!" "What are they doing?" "They're going to blow this one!" Then again, the way this team folded was so eerily similar to their performances against New York, Denver, and Indianapolis, that you would have needed to be blind to not see it coming. I waited a while to gain a level head and cool off before I sat down to write this article. About five minutes after the game would've probably written a tirade for the ages. Instead, I've managed to regain some of my senses, lull myself into comfort with the fact that our final four games are against Carolina, at Buffalo, Jacksonville, and at Houston. On the other hand, Miami has a notably tougher road ahead with at Jacksonville, at Tennessee, Houston, and Pittsburgh. Also, unlike last year, 10-6 should certainly get you a Wild Card slot. The Patriots had already killed their chances at good playoff positioning. This loss just lowered the coffin. Barring a massive meltdown, there will be post-season football for the Patriots. The real question is whether it even matters...
I don't know what to make of this team any more. The old Patriots - if they got a lead, it was over. They knew how to put the boot on your throat and end you. These Patriots have become notorious for letting teams back into games. They were up seventeen on Baltimore at one point before winning by six. They blew a 10 point lead against Denver. There was the notorious 17 point collapse against Indy. The next week, after being up 21-0, they let the Jets back within ten. Then they blow a 14 point lead today. It's absolutely digusting.
It would be so easy to blame these losses on the young defense. After all, the offense obviously did something right to put the defense in a position to blow the lead. However, when it comes time to account for this miserable season, its blood will be found on the hands of every single person on the Patriots' sideline. The Patriots were up 14-0 just seconds in to the second quarter. How is there any excuse to score only seven more points the rest of the game? And honestly, those additional seven points came on a very fluky 71-yard touchdown reception by Sam Aiken. Their lack of production the rest of the way is simply inexcusable. The same way it's inexcusable to get blanked in the second half against the Broncos and the Jets. The same way it's inexcusable to completely sputter out against the Colts when simple first downs will ice the game. The same way it's inexcusable that the Patriots have now lost two games due to turnovers in the endzone. The same way its inexcusable that they've lost two games by going for 4th downs when convention says to kick.
You lose a game here or there due to an iffy play call, a bad bounce, a defensive meltdown - fine. That's why only one team out of thousands has ever finished with a perfect record. The difference is that, in New England, they're making a habit out of it. It's the same stupidity over, and over, and over, and over, and over. This team had a two point lead - TWO POINTS - a lead that would be erased by a simple field goal, and yet they're running plays in the fourt quarter like they're up 14 points. Why was a running play called on 3rd and 6 when we desperately needed a first down mid-way through the fourth? This isn't time to kill the clock! It's time to put up some points! Why is Brady taking two 40 yard shots down the field on critical drives where the key is to just keep the chains moving? On the Patriots final three drives, the went three and out for 4 yards, three and out for -1 yards, and then three plays for 11 yards ending in the game-clinching interception. This is the New England frick'n Patriots. Tom Brady. Randy Moss. Wes Welker. That's how your final three drives pan out in a TWO POINT game? Give me a break.
So yeah, this loss goes on the defense for blowing yet another double digit lead. This loss goes on the offense for failing to do anything of worth, outside of one freak play, for the better portion of three quarters. This loss also goes squarely on the shoulders of Tom Brady for two completely idiotic game-costing interceptions. But more than anyone, this game gets pinned on Bill Belichick. Last year everyone raved about how getting a Matt Cassel-led team to 11-5 may have been his best coaching job ever. Well if that's the case, then he's followed up his best with his worst, hands down. I have easily seen more bone-headed play calls this season than all the previous years of this decade combined. It's not even close. The people calling the plays (a.k.a. Bill Belichick) just seem to have absolutely no concept of how to manage a game. The clock management both in Indy and this afternoon absolutely submarined any chance the Patriots had for pulling out a victory.
Also, this recent stretch of going for it on 4th down - it's become maddening. I've already dissected the 4th and 2 call against the Colts and the extenuating circumstances regarding that call, so I won't beat that dead horse, but there's a time and a place to take a chance and go for it on fourth, and they are as follows:
A. When you're too far away to kick a field goal but a punt will barely net you any yards.
B. When you're trailing at the end of the game with barely any time left.
C. When you're inches away from a first down in your own territory.
Notice that neither A, B, nor C stated something like: When you're up by seven late in the first half against an inferior team, needing to pick up a solid yard to get the first, and could easily have a double-digit lead at halftime if you just kicked the field goal. Yet Bill Belichick just had to go for the touchdown and came up empty. Instead of a 10 point lead, the Patriots found themselves up only four at halftime. If Belichick feels the need to take chances against the Saints and the Colts, that's understandable. Taking chances against the Dolphins is only going to get you beat. The Patriots didn't need a lucky break today, they just needed to play football. Instead, they rolled the dice for no reason and got snake eyes.
It's been the same old story all season long. The Patriots have jumped out to early leads and when the defense makes adjustments to their one-dimensional offense, they get shut down. Leads are blown. Objects get thrown around my living room. The Patriots lose. It's still the responsibility of the players to execute, but in my book, the buck stops with Belichick for not giving them the calls they need to succeed. The man is a genius, no doubt, but he's a defensive genius. How we have no true offensive coordinator is beyond me. It's not like we didn't know that Josh McDaniels was a top head coaching candidate going into the off-season. Belichick's best seasons have been when he's had an offensive schemer like Charlie Weiss or McDaniels. How is it that we had more success a few years ago when an aging Troy Brown was our #1 option as opposed to having both Moss AND Welker?
Bottom line, this is not a championship team. Period. The personel on the field is there for a championship team, but - and I can't believe I'm saying this - it's not there on the sidelines. There is absolutely no sign that our offense is in any type of capaple hands. This team has lost far too many important games, including three out of their last four, in some of the most astoundingly stupid ways. I just don't see how it turns around. Belichick has certainly earned a free pass, and I'm not about to suggest anything extreme like firing him. Let's please just get him an offensive coordinator next season, and get rid of Dean Pees on defense while we're at it. Our current coaching situation just isn't gonig to cut it. Charlie Weiss is available. So is Romeo. Let's fire up the only coaching trio to ever bring a Super Bowl title to Foxboro and kiss the stupidity goodbye.
Robert Kraft, I'm begging you. Make it happen. Cause this burns.