by Scott Benson
Spare me the stories about Super Bowl 39. I don’t want to hear them. They don’t have a damn thing to do with that ridiculous display at Dolphins Stadium this afternoon.
This pitiful Patriots team isn’t 12-1 and victims of a late game nightmare hiccup. This Patriots team put up a embarrassingly futile effort from the opening gun, particularly on offense, throwing up (metaphorically, but it might as well have been literally) an inexcuseably weak 21-0 loss to the Dolphins in a game where they could have clinched the AFC East championship. This was a sixty-minute nightmare.
Tom Brady sucked so bad he was benched with five minutes to go in favor of a second year player who’s started but a handful of high school games. And he thoroughly deserved it.
Oh, I forget. Tom doesn’t play well in Dolphins Stadium. The Patriots never win in Miami. Well, why the hell not? How was it that the Packers put up 34 on these guys on this same turf? The Jaguars 24 last week? This Dolphins defense isn’t the 85 Bears, though they might as well be when the Patriots need to win a December game in Miami.
I’m thoroughly disgusted, and so should you be. You want to spin a few SB 39 yarns and downplay this, go ahead. They blew giant chunks, they’re a damn weak looking lot, and you know it. This is December, and this team has responded with two lousy efforts against two lousy teams. They’re no better than the Denver Broncos, the Kansas City Chiefs and the New York Jets, three other mediocre squirrels trying against all hope to get a nut, and for what? An early January playoff exit?
The details aren’t worth going through. Brady and the offense couldn’t throw a pass without looking like the proverbial monkey. They ran the ball with some success (usually with Corey Dillon, right at Jason Taylor) but they could not make a play, especially when they had to depend on the quarterback to do it. The Patriots offensive line, and its pass protection in general, was as bad as its ever been. The wide receivers and tight ends couldn’t have found an open area with a freaking GPS. I’m sick of hearing how ‘tough’ the Dolphin defense is; how about you guys start explaining why you can’t make a freaking first down against a sub .500 team? How about you guys start explaining how you have ended up with a tight-end based offense where neither of the first round tight ends can be trusted to handle the ball?
Seriously, aside from the mini-drive they had with Dillon running left for several gains, did you ever get the sense the Patriots had a real plan today? Did you ever get the feeling they could make adjustments and exploit a hole in the Dolphins defense?
One moment defined the afternoon for me. Trailing 13-0 early in the 4th quarter, the Patriots defense forced a Miami punt from deep in Dolphin territory. The Patriots took the punt at midfield – rare good field position – and prepared to break the log jam and cut the Dolphins lead in half.
Naturally, they went nowhere, even with a 3rd down roughing the passer call that extended the drive. On the next play after the penalty, the Patriots tried some ludicrous Music City Miracle throwback play involving Kevin Faulk and Brady, and the resulting double forward pass (which went for a touchdown to Daniel Graham, but was of course called back for the obvious infraction) was nothing short of a public embarrassment for New England.
The Pats defense shouldn’t be assaulted for eventually buckling under the weight of carrying their dead-ass offense up and down the field. They lost a field position battle that began with the opening gun, and with no help from the other side of the ball, they wilted. The 3rd quarter touchdown they allowed – a 32 yard Joey Harrington pass to Marty Booker, when Atrell Hawkins could not make a play on either the ball or the man – was the death knell for New England.
If you want to nickel and dime the severely undermanned defense for that relatively modest transgression – as compared to the relentless incompetence of their offensive teammates, which left the defense on its own side of the field all day – have at it. They did their level best to forestall it, but it was inevitable. If you’re dogging the defense today, and people like Chad Scott (who was abused all day in relief of Ellis Hobbs), I think you’re missing the forest for the trees.
Punter Ken Walter should be invited to seek another line of work before morning. His lifeless, limp punts – not high nor long enough – continually put the Pats defense on, well, the defensive. I don’t care how well he holds for field goals, he worked himself out of a job today.
We’ll certainly spend the next several days rationalizing this, and by Friday, we’ll have convinced ourselves that this was a minor blip in the road. Just like 2004. Onward and upward from here!
But come on. You know better. You know better.