Totally Biased NFL Recap: 10 Observations From the Patriots Trouncing the Titans
Justin breaks down the top 10 headlines surrounding the Pats’ victory over the Titans.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time again. “What time?” you may be asking, and rightly so! It’s time for Totally Biased’s own Bearded Wonder to hit you with a bitch-slap of truth! In this new weekly column, my colleague Kris and I will be breaking down the weeks Patriots outing, going over, what we feel, were the 10 biggest story-lines of the game, whether certain players were injured, how the Pats stood up to adversity, who emerged and had a big game, etc. etc.
The plan, thus far, is for me to take the odd weeks (1, 3, 5, 7…) while Kris takes the reins for the evens (2, 4, 6, 8…), switching off every other week to give you more perspective and more insight into our beloved Pats.
And with that out-of-the-way, let’s dive in.
10. Turnovers Overturned
I’d like to start this piece off by addressing something I know a lot of New England sports fans have problems with (NBA refs, anyone?): the officiating. These replacement refs are awful. Straight up. Plain and simple. Awful. That being said, it’s not their fault. They’re just the replacement refs, and the league is trying to institute some pretty ridiculous regulations and rules for the “professionals” that are currently on strike. Just the same, though, that doesn’t excuse the no-calls being as inconsistent as they are. Still. I’m pretty sure Stevie Wonder was sitting somewhere with the game on, saying, “man, he didn’t see that shit?!”
The two most egregious instance were, of course, the overturned turnovers, both the Devin McCourty INT and the Nate Washington fumble. As usual, both were controversial, but both could probably have been argued either way. We were very fortunate the turnovers didn’t kill momentum for us and that the Titans were unable to capitalize on the call reversals with TDs. It’s a plain and simple fact, we will not always be that lucky.
Despite all the bitching, the new rules as far as all TOs being reviewed is going to be both a blessing and a curse. It probably cost us a few points and a few minutes in Time of Possession in this game, but it’ll probably end up saving our game at some point down the road. Still, these refs needs to GTFO. And until they do, bush league refs will make bush league calls.
9. The Secondary Needs Work…
It’s very important to me that I preface this entire segment: we played Jake Locker, of the Tennessee Titans. It’s not like it was Aaron Rodgers under center. Or even Tony Romo. That being said, I’m very happy with the secondary’s play on Sunday. Why? Read on.
There’s something about this unit that just sits well with me. Perhaps it’s the addition of rookie Tavon Wilson, who notched 4 tackles and a rather miraculous INT in his first game, the return of Ras-I Dowling, or the fact that these guys actually had a full off-season of training camp, there’s just something there. The unit just meshes well. That cohesion resulted in a few turnovers, several of which were overturned, but the fact that the turnovers occurred at all is something to be happy about.
With the good stuff out-of-the-way, we need to maintain the focus and the intensity we saw from this crew this week. McCourty had, possibly, his strongest game since his rookie season, with 7 tackles and an overturned INT, but also looked rather Devin McCourty-like and got a very lucky a no-call in the red zone.
We sit squarely in the middle of the league, at 16th, in terms of Total Passing Yards allowed per game, which is still way ahead of where we sat last year, but obviously, not a great place to be sitting after playing a lackluster Titans offense. Don’t forget, this is the secondary that Dan Orlovsky, fucking Dan Orlovsky, tore apart for 353 yards in week 13 last season. So, anything is an improvement at this point.
8. …But the Front 7 Look Greatly Improved. So Far.
Darth Bill “gets it.” Probably better than any other coach, he understands where personnel can be placed so they can play to their strengths while masking their weaknesses. Case in point: Rob Ninkovich moving to DE, and the change to a 4-3 scheme. This not only helped bolster run defense to a league best 2nd place (20 YPG), it also helped create opportunity to establish the pass-rush. Nink was always one of our best pass-rushers as a LB, but as a bigger LB, his positional change to DE makes sense in that he’ll be faster than most offensive linemen, while still being able to tie up a block and open lanes for other guys to fill.
Guys like Big Vinny. I tell you, I’m not sure there’s someone in the league that plays the position as well as he does. Perhaps Suh is the only other guy playing at this level. It’s unfortunate there’s no stat for indirect QB pressure or backing up linemen and collapsing the pocket like they routinely did on Sunday, because Big Vinny, Kyle Love, and Chandler Jones would all have impressive Week 1 stat sheets.
The most important thing to take away from this, though, is again, they weren’t playing against a high-powered offense by any means (and no, there’s zero potential coming from CJ2YPC these days, so you can’t argue “well, if CJ2YPC gets going…!” because that is not going to happen), which should keep us anticipating the chance to see how we fare against a stronger offensive unit. Until then, at least, we don’t have to feel totally helpless with our improved defense.
7. The Boston TE Party
I mean… what else can be said? They’re freaks. Mutants. Unnatural. These guys are an uncoverable 1-2 punch and create mismatches on every. single. defense. around. the league. They simply cannot be accurately accounted for by opposing defenses. Gronk’s ability to block makes him almost as valuable as his ability to score, although he’s an absolute physical freak, whose sheer size makes him almost impossible to cover. DBs are too small to be effective covering him, and LBs are simply too slow, as evidenced by his 6 for 60 performance, iced with a freak-deaky TD catch. Brady’s accuracy means he can put the ball in places only Gronk can get to with his massive reach and those monstrous Mickey Mouse hands.
On the other hand, Hernandez’ skillset makes him into a more agile, athletic receiver, almost into an Andre Johnson-type, who can shed blocks and get open with quick-footed moves, as evidenced with him hauling in the rock 6 times for 59 yards. His stature as a TE makes him bigger than what most DBs can handle, creating the same sorts of mismatches Gronk does. Doesn’t hurt he’s got a fantastic TD celebration, too.
6. Don’t Mess Up Brady’s Upcoming GQ Cover
It’s a plain and simple fact: you don’t go fuckin’ up a man’s nose, especially not no man married to Giselle. Period. Don’t they know he’s got modeling gigs to show up for? What’s he gonna do now? Takes shots of his left side? That’s his weak side. Or is that “blind” side?
People just don’t have any dignity or respect for another mans work or livelihood. It’s ok, though. TFB came out and threw a couple of TD passes after the sack, just to show them who they were dealing with. Ya know… In case they forgot…
5. The Running Game Will Be Fine
Going into this season, especially after the preseason, one of my biggest concerns was the run game. I was always very displeased with the loss of Law Firm (eat one, J-Rock!), whose perfect ball-protection *knockonwood* served the Pats time and again. So, needless to say, I was ecstatic when Ridley looked like a good starting RB. So good, in fact, he posted some of the best numbers (20 for 121 with 2 REC for 26) of any RB in the league: better than Skittles, better than LeSean McCoy, better than AP, better than MJD, even better than my main man, Arian Foster, catapulting the Pats to 3rd place in Total Rushing Yards. Not bad for last year’s 3rd stringer behind Law Firm.
On a related note, the diminutive Danny Woodhead has basically established himself as the new Kevin Faulk, and had solid, consistent contributions and played well when taking over as the 3rd-down back. We still have yet to see Shane Vereen in any sort of significant capacity, and the chances of him being counterproductive to the point of negating what the other two can do are slim-to-none. Bottom line, Darth Bill wouldn’t have let Law Firm go if he thought Ridley and Co. couldn’t deliver the goods, which they proved on Sunday, that they can in spades.
4. Belichick’s Drafting Wizardry Continues
I could have spent time talking about our first round draft picks while discussing the front 7, but I felt these guys played well enough to deserve their own spot, higher on this list. Their level of play is already making this defense a lot more than it has been in more than a season or two. Our pass-rushing hasn’t been this strong since the era we were a dynasty. And Chandler Jones is just manhandling offensive linemen. Manhandling them. Chandler Jones is like playing Grand Theft Auto, with all the cheats on, all the time. Plain and simple. He went into beast mode on Sunday, and his play-making seemed almost contagious to the rest of the front 7.
Again, there’s no stat for indirect QB pressure or backing up O-linemen and collapsing the pocket, both of which Jones and Hightower did on multiple, sometimes key, plays. Hightower had a, admittedly, lucky fumble recover for a TD, but still made a great play and had a few key tackles, all in his first game. Certainly nothing to sneeze at, by anyone’s standards.
3. The Offense Looks Mortal While Fundamentals Save the Day…
It’s a strange thing to contemplate. The Pats offense, despite the 34 points, really looked kind of… like a normal football team. Now, hear me out! Consider that the entire WR corps had less than 200 yards. 200. fucking. yards. By comparison, Chicago, Jacksonville, Kansas City, even the fuckin’ Jets had over 200 total passing yards, distributed only to their WRs, not including passes caught on screens to RBs. Yeah, you read that right. All of those teams WRs had better production than the WRs on the Pats’ roster. W-T-Fuck…?
Welker, especially, the training camp holdout, had a particularly quiet game, notching only 3 catches for 14 yards. Certainly not the numbers deserving of a big-time, elite wideout contract. Tom Brady, The Messiah Himself, threw 23 for 31 for 236 yards and only 2 TDs. Not exactly Brady-like numbers. So, how did we manage to win with such “mediocre” production, by our usual, lofty standards?
Fundamentals. And a very key lack of turnovers. Both helped them stay on top with little trouble, including zero picks for TFB and great ball protection by the superhuman QB despite a vicious blindside sack that bloodied his, otherwise perfect, nose. Poor guy. Wonder if I could kiss it better? The defensive score also cannot be overlooked. Any time you can score with your offense on the sideline by taking advantage of TOs, you’re creating a nightmare for the team you’re playing.
By almost any other team’s standards, we played a “pretty good game,” which may not have been electrifying or even “decent” by Pats fans standards, but a win is a win and I’d rather celebrate an ugly win (which this win was not) than a great-looking loss. Not every win will be a blowout, and not every win will have those usual fireworks…
2. …But We Can Expect Great Things From Brandon Lloyd
But, despite that lack of fireworks, Brandon Lloyd played exactly how he was supposed to. He’s just not going to light up the scoreboard like Randy Moss did, since he’s basically a distraction for the defense. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you’ll be happy with his production. Why do you have to be happy with that? Consider this: TFB found 6 targets successfully, none of which eclipsed the 70 yard mark for the game. When you can distribute the ball so evenly, you don’t need to rely on one big-time receiver, because that receiver is opening up the field for everyone else. It’s just a chess game. A chess game the Patriots will generally win. Like Bobby Fischer taking on a drooling, diaper-wearing infant.
That being said, he had a few brilliant catches, and could have easily had a 120 yard game if not for Brady overthrowing him on the opening drive. The potential is there for the Brady & Lloyd Show to go lights out. Let’s hope it does.
1. Blessed Again With Ease of Schedule
We have, again, one of, if not the, easiest schedule in the entire league. While we should look cautiously toward some of the high-profile games when the time comes, we should also be able to notch a few easy wins on the ol’ bedpost. Cardinals next week, anyone?
Those wins won’t come as hard-fought as some of the other teams’ wins in the league, however, and the extra adversity will build those teams up and prepare them better for the long road to football’s greatest game. Take the Giants for example: they seem to always play better when sports media is abuzz about them missing the playoffs, that Tom Coughlin’s on his way out, that the front four have lost a step, etc. etc. Their schedule is easily one of the toughest in the league, and they’ll be battle-hardened and ready for anything come playoff time. Pray we won’t have to meet them again. For now, though, take a page out of Darth Bill’s playbook, and just take it one game at a time. Right now? We’re just thinking about the cardinals.
Thanks for checking out the newest of our columns this year! If you have any comments, questions or concerns or want to share your top stories for the game, make sure you take advantage of the comment box below!