Totally Biased NFL Recap: Ten Observations from the Pats Casualty Courtesy of the Cardinals

Justin breaks down the Top 10 headlines surrounding the Pats’ loss to the Cardinals

Chalk another one up to the football Gods. The Pats’ dominance just wasn’t meant to be. In fact, apparently, accord to the stat sheets, it wasn’t mean to be at all. In any capacity. Just another heart-breaking, soul-crushing loss to a shitty NFC West team. And they are, for all intent and purposes, shitty. Finishing 8 – 8 last season, best for 2nd place in their division, this team has few bright spots. Larry Fitzgerald is the most obvious, with Patrick Peterson being another. Besides that? Nothing. Kevin Kolb? Nope. Quentin Groves? Who? Exactly.  A no-name defense that stifled the Pats’ explosive offense, Special Teams that made ours look like hobbled fools, and an offense that was without it’s primary weapon and, despite the Pats’ 2nd Ranked defense, still managed to outscore us.

Case in point?

Enjoy the humble pie, friends.

Read on to see the 10 biggest things to come out of the game, whether good or bad, and what to expect from them going forward.

10. The Cardinals Came to Play
You can’t take anything away from this Arizona squad: they came into the Lion’s den, destroyed and dismantled the beast, and walked out alive. Not only alive, but with a notable trophy: a win over the favored-to-repeat-as-AFC-Champions Pats. And for that, I give them a tip of the ol’ cap.

To the Pats? I say, “you should be ashamed.” They were outplayed in almost every aspect of the game. The offense has still found absolutely no rhythm through two games. I’ve viewed the Specials Teams play as being somewhere between “mostly decent” to “mildly atrocious,” with a blocked punt that shifted the momentum of the game to the Cardinal’s favor, as well as Gostkowski’s costly missed field goal. But, I’ll touch on that later.

What else is there to say than the fact that the Cardinals had a fire that the Pats, plain and simply, did not?

9. The Re-Emergence of White Wes

“Yeah, I mean, it’s great! You just put your hands up where the ball’s going to be… Not that you’d know what that’s like. At least, for today.”

As refreshing as it is to see our resident White Receivah catchin’ balls again, I can’t help but wonder if it’s been worth it. Welker all but sat out the first quarter, and didn’t see any action until after Hernandez went down with a gruesome-looking ankle injury. I mean, I’m all for White Wes catching everything thrown his way, but his journey thus far this season has been nothing short of bizarre.

Holding out all through training camp, to try and abandon the franchise tag the organization slapped on him, it seems almost as though he’s been punished through the first two games of the season, going only 3 for 14 against the Titans, and, finally, 5 for 95 against the Cards. However, who knows what his place in the game plan really was? As I already mentioned, it wasn’t until #81 went down that Wes saw any extended play and finally started hauling in catches. It’s a good thing he did, too, otherwise we may not have had any chance at coming back to win.

What’s my gut say about the whole situation? I think, up until yesterday, Welker may have been on his way out. Julian Edelman started in the slot yesterday over Welker, which makes it seem as through they’re grooming him to be #83’s replacement, but despite his versatility to the team, Edelman is simply not on Welker’s level yet. Whether or not Wes has landed himself leverage with the contract/trade talks, I don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see, but in the meantime, it’s great to see one of the league’s most productive WRs being productive again.

8. The Defense is Finding Its Identity
Who would have thought that after 2 Weeks into the season, our defense would be ranked 2nd in the league? Not this guy! That’s for damn sure!

True to Darth Bill’s usual defensive game-plan, the Pats’ did an outstanding job taking away the Cardinals’ biggest offensive threat: Larry Fitzgerald, widely regarded as one of the very best WRs in the league. The Patriots secondary positively smothered him the entire game, holding him to 1 catch for 4 yards. That’s it. How did they do it? Devin McCourty. The often shaky, maligned 3rd-year CB had, possibly, his best game ever, stifling one of the league’s most explosive, talented WRs by blanketing him in coverage. “Revis Island?” More like “Devin’s Dimension.” Absolute Pro-Bowl game from the former Pro-Bowler.

The run defense was also quite good, holding the Cardinals to just a tick over 105. At this point, none of these stats or standing matter, because we’re still only two games into the season and we’ve only played two decent-at-best teams. Kyle Arrington’s tackling was some of the worst I’ve seen in a long time, muffing tackles left and right and bouncing off guys behind the line of scrimmage to let them run for a gain of 5. One of the brighter spots for the D? Tavon Wilson, without a doubt. He’s got a nose for the ball and meshes in well with Chung and McCourty. The unit gels very well together, and I feel they can only improve. Our LB corps is talented, but frankly, I’m not hearing “Dont’a Hightower” or “Jerod Mayo” enough to be sold on them as elite LBs just yet. The bottom line: what can we take away from this?

The defense is better. After only two games last season, the defense was a clear and glaring issue. While we have that to be thankful for, we also have to start praying the offense finds the same success that most of the defense is currently enjoying.

7. The. Chandler. Mother. Effin. Jones

Meet the newest friend to the Cardinals’ offensive line. And by “friend,” I mean it was more like Godzilla waltzing through the streets of Tokyo.

And who on that defense is enjoying more success right now than Chandler Jones? The monster, freak-of-a-man-child DE is absolutely mocking offensive linemen. He was so effective in hounding Kevin Kolb yesterday, that the Cardinals were forced to double-team him throughout the entire second half of the game. This was problematic on several levels.

Firstly, obviously and most importantly, it limited his effectiveness in the pass rush and kept him from getting the QB once they had an extra man on him. The next problem, that double-team didn’t seem to make anyone else more effective in getting to the Cards’ QB. The other linemen and, especially, the LBs need to step up and attack and press harder while Jones is drawing the attention of two O-Linemen. It’s just that simple. One man can can’t be our only pass rush.

Thankfully, I don’t feel as though Darth Bill will over look this, either, and he’ll whip the boys around a bit this week to prepare them for the Ravens.

6. Does Brandon Lloyd Catch Only the Impossible Ones?
What the hell? This guy is about as confusing as Nicki Minaj’s sense of fashion. He hauls in a beautiful, side-line, toe-dragging catch that was so close Ken Whisenhunt decided to challenge. I mean, really, it could’ve been catch of the game. And almost the very next play? He drops one Brady’s puts squarely on his numbers. It could not have been a better throw. So, what’s he do to celebrate the dropped pass? Makes another side-line circus catch. I just don’t get it.

It’s good at least to see that he can bounce back from a dropped pass like that, and he ended up having a marginally effective day: he caught the rock 8 times for 60 years, and while those aren’t the Moss-like numbers people have been anticipating, I still don’t think he’s tapped into his full-potential. Unfortunately, all we can do is wait.

5. The Boston TE Party, Minus 1

“Gronk sorry, Tom! Gronk catch more balls! Gronk promise cuz Gronk mad now!”

Aaron Hernandez going down was an indisputable blow to the Pats’ offense, but they have the weapons to overcome that. The biggest? Hernandez’s compatriot, Gronk. Although he racked up 6 for 75 with a TD, it still felt like a relatively quiet day for Gronk, whose explosive play-making has made him into the league’s premier TE. Couple that reputation with the fact that he suddenly had to burden all the TE receiving responsibilities, and you would have expected him to come out swinging, snatching passes left and right and scoring at least twice. But he didn’t. And we heard his name only a handful of times. Unfortunately, Gronk was utilized more in the blocking game, trying to create lanes for the Riddler. Lanes that never appeared and never opened.

I mean, call me crazy, but when you have the league’s best receiving TE at your disposal, you should probly be throwing to him. Just sayin’.

4. At Least Tim Donaghey Had  a Reason For Sucking as a Ref
I honestly and wholeheartedly did not want to have to touch on this again this week. I hated having to do it in the Week 1 Recap, and I hate having to do it now, but it’s seriously bad enough to warrant it.

I mean, where do I even begin with this shit? The kick return that blatantly bounced off a Cardinal players head, but was left unregarded, resulting in a loss of 10 or so yards on our return? The game-clinching Danny Woodhead TD run that was overturned by a ticky-tack holding call on Gronk? The real problem is not whether or not that these calls were made, because I believe that good teams can overcome penalties and poor calls. No, the real problem is the inconsistency. The Woody TD-run was unforgivable, because there were almost a half-dozen other holds which were more grievous than that, but which were never flagged. If the refs are going to make these kinds of ridiculous calls, then make them every time.

I don’t care whether or not they’re called for us or against us, as long as it’s fucking consistent… For Christ’s sake!

The fact that the league has allowed these shenanigans to continue as long as they have is absolutely astounding, and shame on them for not coming to a conclusion sooner than this. Shame on them.

3. Why Can’t We Come Up With a Cool Nickname for Hernandez’ Ankle, Like We Did For “The Gronkle?”

As of the day after the game, “possible high ankle sprain” and “4 – 6 weeks” were the only news on the ankle.

It’s Sunday, 11:30 a.m., and you’re traipsing around your local grocery store, looking for whatever snacks and refreshments you want to enjoy throughout the day, the same as I did last Sunday. It just so happens that I work at the grocery store I was shopping in. And, of course, I stopped and spoke to a co-worker and fellow Pats fan. We mused on the defense looking great against the Titans, Brandon Lloyd’s potential, and Welker’s situation. You know what remark he made? “I hate to say it, but I mean, you almost want to see Hernandez or someone else go down, just to see Welker get those reps back, ya know what I mean?”

Sadly, the man that said that is no longer with us. And no, I have no idea what happened to the body.

What a blow to the Pats offense. An offense that was barely clicking as it was. There’s no denying Hernandez’ value to Brady, especially in terms of a safety net, where Welker’s taking fewer snaps and catching fewer balls with an uncertain future. As W³ proved, however, all is not lost with Hernandez being injured. The pieces are all still there for the team to have a winning record, and even make the playoffs.

Still, wouldn’t hurt to hope Hernandez is back within the 6-week window originally forecast for his recovery. Ya know… Just in case.

2. Gostkowski: What The Hell?!

The embodiment of disappointment. At least, for this week.

Really? Really? You nail 38 straight 4th Quarter field goals, and you miss this one? Against the Cardinals? In the season’s Home Opener?

That’s it. No more man card.

1. McDaniels Is Still Just A Sith Apprentice, Not Quite a Sith Lord
For those of you who’ve followed my Pats related articles for some time, you’ve noticed I’ve got a peculiar nickname picked out for Coach Belichick, one I’ve even dropped a couple of times in the writing of this article: Darth Bill. Why? What’s it mean?

Because, Pats Faithful, to the rest of the league, Bill Belichick is an evil genius, one who’s created an obsessively detail-oriented game-plan for every game he’s coached. He’s the one with the answers. The one pulling the strings. The Dark Lord who bends the Dark Side to his will and whim. Hence, the Sith title of Darth Bill. Even his sideline attire is vaguely reminiscent of Darth Sidious, isn’t it? I thought so, too.

It’s no secret that, despite his absence for a few years, Josh McDaniels is the heir apparent to the Belichick throne, and now that he’s back under the Sith apprenticeship of the Dark Lord himself, he’s being groomed and trained for the role of eventual head coach. Bill trusts him with calling almost all shots on offense, with notable exceptions I’m sure, depending on the situation.

You see what I’m getting at here? Sith Lord.

That seems to be a bit of a problem, so far.

The offense is playing it a little bit too safe, if you ask me. This is a high-octane, super-powered offense that could easily be putting up the biggest numbers in the league. The offense is blessed with, what many would argue to be, the best QB of all time, the best receiving TEs ever, and some of the most talented WRs across the league, and we… run it, for three straight plays…

What?

Tom Brady’s bread and butter is the hurry-up, no-huddle offense. It forces defenses to work without making substitutions and that is where mismatches are created with Gronk, Hernandez and the WRs, and that is where the offense’s power and explosiveness comes from. But, for some reason, McDaniels seems to think that the run-game has to be established before the passing-game. It works both ways, chachski! You think if you don’t nail a few dink-n-dunk passes that the defense isn’t going to prepare for those and open up lanes for the running game? Logic. It’s worth its weight in gold.

The point is, the offense cannot afford to stall out and slow the game down with a running game that’s been inconsistent at best. Establishing dominance with the passing game will open up the opportunities for big runs and vice versa. We wasted three quarters of the game trying to run the ball.

Next time, try and change it up before it gets to be too late. Especially against a much more talented Baltimore defense. This is a game to be wary of, for a very important reason: both teams are coming off a disappointing loss, and both teams will be very hungry to get back into a win-streak.

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And that’s that! Thanks for checking out the article and make sure to let me know what you thought of the game, the Top 10 Stories I came up with, and your thoughts going forward.

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