This was obviously an absolute abysmal performace by the Patriots on the whole. I will say the Patriots were decent for most of the game on defense, but their offense was so inept and punter so pathetic, it made little difference. I actually had to slog through the tape of this disaster again to write this article. I can watch a replay of a decent, close, competitive loss. But this was just torture. They were that bad. And to be fair, Miami was that good. It wasn’t as close as the final score.
QUARTERBACK: I have a hard time blaming Tom Brady too much for the horrendous offensive performance. Sure, he didn’t do much to lift the team’s performance. But he had little time. Hammered, harrassed and hurried all game, there was not much he could do. Surprisingly he avoided any interceptions, though he did lose one fumble. It was hard to even really evaluate his performance, he was that under badly under pressure all game.
RUNNING BACK: This was actually a pretty decent performance. Corey Dillon ran well and, had it been a closer game, probably would have piled up even more impressive stats. Kevin Faulk did a pretty good job in blitz pickup on a number of occasions. He’s gotten pretty good at that. And Patrick Pass filled in without any major errors. Probably the best unit amongst the offense were the backs on Sunday.
WIDE RECEIVER: Not good. Reche Caldwell had his worst day in weeks and could not get open. Admittedly, the Dolphins were doubling the outside receivers. This should have created chances for Troy Brown, but he only managed a bit of production. He did have one nice play where he barrelled into a Dolphin defender and showed nice attitude, as he always does. But overall, the unit was ineffective and it didn’t appear they were making adjustments to blitz calls nor getting open when they were one on one.
TIGHT ENDS: Another terrible performance. Daniel Graham had a big fumble that hurt. Ben Watson had a big drop on what could have been a big play over the middle. David Thomas did nothing. The blocking, with maybe a couple of exceptions from Graham, was non-descript. Bad job from this unit.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Now this was where we really saw some putrid play. The run blocking actually wasn’t bad. We’ll give them a thumbs up there. But the pass blocking was so bad, and inconsistent with what we know of the Patriots—confused looking, Brady never had a chance. As a consequence, neither did the Patriots. Matt Light is a pretty good player. He is tough. He has good technique. He works hard. He is a powerful run blocker. But he is simply not athletic enough to match up against top speed rushers. They kill him every time. Jason Taylor did it again Sunday. Aaron Schobel from Buffalo reguarly does it to him. John Abraham used to as well. They simply have to find a way to give Light more help against teams with speed rushers such as these and its been too often a problem for them not to any longer. The rest of the line was also horrendous, especially Nick Kaczur. Watching this unit stumble, bumble and get overpowered on tape nearly made me want to puke. Its just not what we’re used to seeing. Sure, guys get beat sometimes. But to watch them bump into each other trying to slide over to pick up a blitz and then miss the guy, getting Brady killed, well it was a particularly bad day at the office one might say.
DEFENSIVE LNE: Its a broken record, but Ty Warren is having an outstanding season. The line was pretty good Sunday, at least until Vince Wilfork got hurt and an out-of-position Mike Wright had to fill in. But overall, this wasn’t really the problem Sunday.
LINEBACKER: Again, a decent day here. Tully Banta-Cain was more active than the week before and showed progress. The new middle of Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrable seemed more comfortable. Only Roosevelt Colvin was a little disappointing as he has been off and on this year.
SECONDARY: Not bad, except Chad Scott. I had loved Scott’s play this year. He really was playing outstanding. But then he got hurt and has now been back a couple games and hasn’t been the same. Sunday, he was beat pretty consistently and it costs the Patriots on numerous occasions. He looks a step slower than earlier in the year. One wonders if he is still injured. James Sanders continued his improvement, however, and seems to be coming more confident and a factor in both coverage and run support. That’s encouraging.
SPECIAL TEAMS: We all know Bill Belichick is a great football coach. He has made few errors since he’s been here. But he isn’t perfect and makes them occasionally. One of the most Herm Edwards-esque things Belichick has done, and believe me its a rare day when he does anything as awful as to be put in Herm’s category, is his strange devotion to Ken Walter, a punter unqualified to punt for Foxboro High, nevermind in the NFL. Here’s the thing that gets me about Belichick’s infatuation with Walter, it goes against the grain of one of the core philosophies he believes in. And that is consistency. See, here is the thing with Water. He had a pretty good year in 2001. He had a unique ability to place the ball inside the opponents twenty and did a great job at that. In general, his punts were high and he didn’t give up many returns. We saw the first slight slippage of his performance late that year, but overall, a pretty good year. And a Super Bowl winning year at that. Thank you Mr. Walter.
But here is the rub. He has sucked since then. I mean monumentally. He was terrible in 2002. Even worse in 2003 and then finally the team cut ties with him in 2004. Only to see him reappear like a bad memory you just can’t shake. The man is a menace. I maintain it is some type of football miracle that should be studied by Franciscan Monks to see if some type of divine intervention occurred that they won the Super Bowl in 2003 with Ken Walter as their punter. I mean he repeatedly kicked the team into trouble and, somehow, the defense would bail him out time and time again. I remember the Houston regular season game in 2003 when Walter just kept shanking them off the side of his foot and the defense would actually gain yardage back when put into this awful field position caused by Walter.
And what leaves me scratching my head is this. I am not saying Walter never gets off a good kick. I’ll even acknowledge the strength he has that Belichick seems so enamored of and that is, when he kicks it how he wants, he gets nice height and avoids big returns. The guy has a BB gun of a leg compared to the bazookas other NFL punters have. But occasionally he gets one nice and high and forces fair catches. And, oh yeah, he’s a hell of a holder and a terrific guy as well. Great.
But he’s inconsistent. For every high punt you get, you’re just as likely to get some low liner that causes trouble or a straight up in the air 23 yarder or one of the side of his foot. He doesn’t give you straight line performance. And that is the thing that puzzles me about Belichick’s decision to keep him around. Usually he values consistency. You don’t have to be an All-Pro to be a Belichick player. You can just be a solid guy who does his job and he’ll find a place for you. But under any other circumstances, he at least demands some type of consistent result. You can’t grade out at a 9 one opportunity and 3 the next all the time. Yet that is exactly what you get from Walter. A crap shoot. Sure, he gets those nice high ones that seems to fascinate Belichick. But you get more 24 yarders than I see at half time of the pass, punt and kick competition, 12 year old division, as well. Its pathetic. And Sunday, Walter killed the Patriots kick after horrible kick. It was ridiculous. And its time to end the Walter era in Foxboro once and for all. Mr. Belichick and Mr. Pioli, do everyone a favor. Do Ken Walter a favor. End his football career. He couldn’t kick for King Philip Regional. Get him off the new sod at Gillette. Do it now. And don’t let him come back without a ticket. Because I’m sorry, its killing you. And it’ll continue to kill you because its all he’s displayed since 2002.
Next week Houston. They better play well for a change.