December 7, 2016

Patriots Continue to Have All the Answers

I don’t want to make too big of a deal about this.

But isn’t it about time that we hear a little less about what’s wrong with the Patriots, and a little more about what’s right?

If it isn’t the holdout, its the wide receivers, or the inside linebackers. If it isn’t them, its the rookie kicker, the injured list, the aging running back, the fatso defensive lineman, and the ones that got away.

Meanwhile, in two pre-season games at home, the Patriots have outscored their opponents 71-3.

Tonight, they outplayed and outclassed the Washington Redskins in every respect of the game, winning 41-0. The Patriots starters (and Washington’s) played about 40 minutes, and New England simply demolished every square inch of the Redskins. Washington was barely competitive, and the Patriots did what they wanted, when they wanted. Anticipating the regular season as I am, all I could think of the entire time was “how’d you like to be a Redskins fan tonight?” Maybe it won’t end up being that big of a deal for them in the long run, but I also know what it would be like around here if the Patriots had been on the wrong end of a skunking like this.

There was just no comparison between the two teams. One looked disinterested, underprepared, and ultimately, unarmed, despite being only days away from their opener. The other – despite an allegedly bumbled off-season and a camp marred by a dispute with one of its most talented, productive players – looked for all the world like a Super Bowl contender.

My ass the Miami Dolphins are winning this division this year.

But if you insist, focus on ‘The Questions’ all you like. Whip together your most fervent fretting. I’ll just point out that many of these ‘questions’ are already being answered. On the Gillette Stadium scoreboard.

So in closing, let’s hear a few good things about the Patriots:

Josh McDaniels isn’t having a bad camp, huh? His offense is averaging 450 yards a game, and tonight they scored touchdowns on five of their seven red zone possessions. They’ve dominated with the running game and the passing game. Deion Branch is one of my favorite players, and there’s no question he makes the Patriots better, but I’ll be damned if I can see where his absence has had any adverse effects. McDaniels ought to get some credit for that.

Of course, his quarterback might be the best player in the league. I mean, for God’s sake. When Tom Brady retires, I think I’m just going to go ahead and give up football altogether. It’ll never be as good as this.

Rodney Harrison took live snaps in a football game tonight, his first since that gut-wrenching day in Pittsburgh. I feel pretty stupid now for worrying that he’d never make it back, but I’m thinking Rodney Harrison’s made a lot of people feel that way. He was one of the first starters to leave the action, but how long he played isn’t that important. He had to start somewhere, and that somewhere was tonight. That’s good enough for me.

Ace pivot man Dan Koppen and franchise end Richard Seymour also saw their first action of the pre-season. Seymour even wiggled in to block a first-half John Hall field goal, saving the shutout.

The New Guy, Junior Seau, started with the first team and, honest, he’s a little crazy out there. A lot of energy, let’s say. He got a freaking taunting penalty in a pre-season game. He did make one nice play, slashing through a row of blockers to dump a Redskins back for no gain. And by the way, notice Junior popping that hat kinda quick? What did I tell you? That guy’s a pip.

It’s not that Ben Watson runs free on half of his routes that makes our pulse quicken. It’s that on the other half, he’s drawing holding penalties. They can’t stop Ben Watson, they can only hold to contain him. This guy may be the rare player that actually ends up being as good as everybody says he is. Who said the Pats don’t have a number one receiver?

In fact, Old Friend Troy Brown was having such a good night that they finally had to start hauling him down too.

The Pats didn’t want to run the ball in the first half, but after the starters bowed with a TD drive halfway through the 3rd, they plowed it to Washington. Kevin Faulk averaged 6 yards a carry. Patrick Cobbs suddenly started peeling off 30 yard runs. Heath Evans got eight carries and moved the pile an eighth of an inch, but he held on to the ball and the clock. The Pats have a solid duo at the top, but their running back talent doesn’t end there. How does Patrick Pass make this team?

I can’t say enough about Rosevelt Colvin these last two weeks. I don’t know that he hasn’t been the Pats best defensive player over those eight quarters, in which they’ve held opponents to a single field goal. He has been a holy terror off the edge. I think Patriots fans have always been paranoid about Colvin, even before he got hurt (“He’ll be nuthin’ without URLAC-AH”), and there wasn’t much patience as he slowly came back from a near-crippling hip injury. I’m thinking he’s all the way back now. In fact, he may be better than ever.

Seven sacks from the Patriots defense tonight. Mike Wright, who can play, had two. Meaning we really don’t have to care whether Marquise Hill is a bust or not.

Hey, Asante Samuel had his consecutive-games-with-an-interception streak broken. But he held down one side of a defense that held Washington QB’s to under 50% passing. Speaking of the defensive backs, have you noticed how infrequently quarterbacks throw towards Ellis Hobbs?

Like I said earlier, the third pre-season game is generally viewed by most teams as a dry run for the season opener. So how about it? Have the Patriots coaches and players done a fair job of preparing their team this month? Look, they still have to play the games, and anything can happen when the season starts on September 10. We’ll see how it works then, but right now it would be hard to ask for anything more from the Belichick & Co. They’ve obviously had a very good camp, one and all.

Just to show we can ‘go negative’ (for you conflict junkies out there), we should mention that Tebucky Jones went down in the 4th with what appeared to be a serious right leg injury. If Jones is sidelined for an extended period, neither of the two imported special teams aces (Bucky and former Saint Mel Mitchell) will be able to help at all.

And Reche Caldwell. In the second half, starter Caldwell was left out there to work with Team Cassel in the game’s latter stages. And he finally did something, making two nice grabs. But when the first team was whipping up and down the field earlier on, Caldwell was a non-factor. I don’t think it necessarily means he can’t play, but I think it means not everybody walks off the street and into New England’s playbook without a hitch.

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