You can't truly appreciate the color white, until you've seen black. With that in mind, if it was the Patriots plan to make us fully comprehend Troy Brown's legacy by giving us a shining example of everything he was not, then today's game can be considered a rousing success. Dropped passes, garish special teams errors, failing to capitalize on an opponent's mistake... Today's game was the complete antithesis of what made Troy Brown such a special, special player.
Welcome to the Patriots Hall of Fame, Mr. Brown. We apologize for the punch situation.
I only have so much energy at the moment, so we're going to go bullet-point style and avoid the grades like last week. Just know that everyone that wasn't playing defense today deserves at best a D-.
- First things first, I hope the ankle's ok, Aaron. This game was not lost because you were out of commision, the Patriots should've beaten the Cardinals regardless. Still, your loss was a stinging blow and definitely something that's a major concern with Baltimore around the corner. Luke sends you his regards and wishes you a speedy recovery.
- Belichick has got to do something about this O-line. Brady was feeling way too much heat all day and the amount of pressure he's receiving is clearly keeping this offense from being as prolific as it could be. You do realize that the Patriots are playing Bernard Pollard next week, don't you? I'm going to be waking up in a cold sweat every night this week with nightmares about Brady's ACL.
- Stevan Ridley is the best back this team has had since Clock Kill'n Corey Dillon. That being said, just because we got him, doesnt mean we have to use him. I thought Ridley's large amount of carries last week was simply due to the Patriots amassing a big lead and a subsequent desire to both kill the clock and limit the amount of film other teams could compile on the passing game. This week, Ridley still played well, but it came at the expense of the offense getting into any type of real rhythm. The NFL has become a PASSING league. We have perhaps the best PASSER in the league. The default play call has got to be Brady chucking the ball to one of his myriad of weapons. This team went a combined 27-5 the past two seasons, was the top seed in the AFC twice, and went to one Super Bowl. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
I am ecstatic that the Pats have Ridley to fall back on when the passing attack needs some help. This season's Ridley would've been a huge help in New England's two losses to the Giants last year. He probably would've prevented Buffalo from overcoming that 21-0 deficit in Week 3 last year. But today, with the Patriots stalling out drive after drive, it just seemed like they would've been better off taking more shots through the air and connecting on one or two than trying to methodically work their way down the field like they did in Tennessee.
- Way, way, way, way, way too many dropped passes today.
- Brandon Lloyd definitely needs some more time to gel with Tom Brady, but he certainly showed how special the tandem of him and #12 might become. This is the second week in a row that Lloyd hauled in a ball in Stretch Armstrong-like fasion. That grab where he slid across the field on his tip toes for for five or six feet didn't seem humanly possible.
- If you want a silver lining, Welker appeared to have woken up in the second half.
- Hats off to the defense. The Pats surrendered 20 points. Three were off of Brady's interception. Another seven were off the blocked punt. All in all, they gave up only 10 legit points. Even then, seven of those were thanks to totally flukey/horrendous play where Kolb scrambled out of a near sack, hit a receiver, who everyone missed tackling, until Steve Gregory decided to wail on him out of bounds for a 15 yard penalty. All in all, it ended up being a 42 yard gain that was about a half second away from being a sack for a loss.
Bottom line, this loss can get pinned on a lot of things, but the Pats defense isn't one of them. Wilfork, Jones, Hightower, Mayo, and Spikes were monsters out there today. And that fumble they forced on third down, when the game seemed all but over... Well, that was just Troy Brown-esque. That reminded me of the 2006 Divisional playoff game against San Diego where Brady threw a game-ending INT, only to have Brown wrestle the ball out of the defenders clutches and keep the game alive. If only...
- And here's where it gets really hairy. These replacement referees were flat-out huuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrible today. Everyone is going to focus on the missed field goal, but what about the game-winning TD run by Danny Woodhead that got called off by a phantom holding call on Gronkowski??? Just awful. It was the cherry on top of the hot poop sundae these refs were serving us all afternoon. There were so many bad spots of the ball, ridiculous off-side calls, and head scratching moments. Disgraceful. This is the greatest sport in America. Why is Roger Goodell so dead set on doing everything he can to ruin it?
- I am forever cursed with hoping that the New England Patriots will one day recapture the lightning in a bottle of 2007. Every year, I hope and pray that this team can somehow put together that undefeated season that elluded us all those years ago. I thought we could do it again in 2008 with that ridiculously easy schedule, only to have Tom Brady knocked out seven minutes in. I thought we had a decent shot last year, coming off of a 14-2 season with guys like Gronk, Hernandez, and McCourty in their sophomore seasons. The defense said otherwise. This year, the table seemed primed again with a relatively easy schedule and no glaring holes on the roster.
The thing with an undefeated season is that you almost never can do it without some sort of majorly huge break. In 2007, it was Rex Ryan calling time out right before the Patriots got stuffed on 4th and 1 against Baltimore. For a few minutes there, it seemed like that Cardinals fumble on 3rd and game might have been this team's major break. At least that's what went through my head until Woodhead's touchdown got called back and Gostkowski went two zipcodes to the left. And that is what made this loss such a stomach-punch.
In the end, this loss shouldn't be what keeps the Patriots from an AFC East title and a #1 seed. It's one loss. If they don't accomplish those goals, it will be because they had some much larger screw up(s) down the road. If it takes a key injury, a muffed punt, the refs stealing a touchdown, and an inexplicable missed field goal to take this team down, then the Pats are in pretty good shape. But perfect, they will not be, and it will be another nagging year until I can dream about them reaching 16-0 again.
- One final consolation. The last two meaningful games played in Gillette Stadium ended on shanked field goals. If you believe in karma, then maybe the Patriots just had this coming to them. Still, if New England had to be on the botched end of one of those kicks, I'm glad it was today and not January.
Same end of the field, about 5 yards closer than today's, a nearly identical trajectory... Crazy.
Doesn't that make you feel a little bit better though? At least I could provide you with that relief as a gift for making through my massive rant.