Eight plays for 20 yards or more. Do I need to say anything more than that in this recap?
Probably not. The Patriots' performance last night against New Orleans has to rank among the all-time worst in the Belichick/Brady era. I don't want to fall into the trap of claiming that the event that "just happened" is the most extreme example we've ever seen, but I'm hard pressed to come up with a more embarrassing loss off the top of my head. The Pats got roughed up a few times against San Diego and Indy in 2005 when they had a horrible run of injuries. Those were bad, but again, the team was pretty banged up. Miami's Wildcat game comes to mind as does the turnover-fest later in the year against Pittsburgh. Matt Cassel was was the quarterback of those games, though.
Last night, the Patriots were relatively healthy and the Saints were battered. It was the Patriots who had important playoff positioning on the line. It was the Patriots who desperately needed a validating win on the road. It was the Patriots who had the legendary coach and quarterback. And it was the Patriots who looked like a pathetic bunch of amateurs as the Saints stampeded over them en route to their 11th straight victory. It was a humiliating display to say the least. I don't ever remember Brady getting pulled in the 4th quarter because it was the Patriots who had been blown out. When I saw Brian Hoyer march out of the field, I turned the TV off. I couldn't watch it any longer.
I'm a bit crunched for time and there's plenty of areas that I'd like to touch on in-depth when I roll out the Patriots Quarterly Report next week, so I'm going to skip a blow-by-blow analysis of all the team's weak points. Instead, here are some quick key bullet points of why New England failed so miserably.
- Laurence Maroney - He had a tremendous first half and then disappeared. Perhaps the lone bright spot yesterday. Unfortunately, his fumble to start the second half negates pretty much everything good he did. In our two biggest games, he's shown a penchant for fumbling at the most inopportune times
- Moss/Welker - Most teams can't contain them. New Orleans did. In 2007, when teams had Moss and Welker covered, Brady had a third option like Donte Stallworth or Jabar Gaffney. After the failed Joey Galloway experiment, the Pats haven't been able to spread the ball around, which used to be their calling card
- Bill Belichick is a ballsy coach. We all know that. However, it seems like he's getting into a dangerous habit of putting the game in the hands of one big play. 4th and 4 deep in the Saints territory was still probably the right call. It would bring the Patriots within a touchdown. However, the Pats failure to convert was devastating. Maybe it's less about Belichick being ballsy, and more about having a defense that can't stop good offenses.
- Why didn't the Patriots make sure they were in field goal range before taking all those shots at the end zone at the end of the 1st half? Make sure you've got three points in the bag before you start flinging 30 yard passes to try and get the seven. Three extra points on a made Gostkowski field goal and three more points instead of 4th and 4, and the Pats are down only eight points and still in this game late in the fourth quarter
- Bottom line - fumbles, poor offensive execution, bad coaching decisions - they all pale in comparison to the way the Patriots' secondary got knifed for huge play after huge play. They may as well have stuck me out in coverage last night. I'll let a wide receiver run right past me for half the price of Jonathan Wilhite's salary.