December 3, 2016

Bullet Dodged

by Scott Benson
[email protected]

So much for the 24 point spread, huh?

Random thoughts from last night’s narrow 31-28 Patriots win over the upstart Eagles:

*First, all due credit goes to Philly for this one. I don’t know about you, but I sure underestimated them. The Eagles probably had more success carrying out their game plan than the Patriots did.

*I’m sure we’ll hear how the Eagles have given the rest of the league a blueprint on how to beat the Patriots. News flash: the Patriots won. Lost in the blueprint stuff will be the fact that for the second time this month, the Pats took a solid punch and remained standing. That’s twice in the last four weeks they’ve rallied to win in the fourth quarter, with late plays being made on both sides of the ball. Oddly, you might think more of the Pats for winning this kind of game. That they walked out of there winners after looking like upset victims all night says everything about their mental toughness.

*I have to thank the Eagles, though – last week, I was having a hell of a time staying with that rout over the Bills. Didn’t have that problem last night.

*Slants and in-cuts – THAT WAS THE GAME! It all started with the Philly o-line – they rolled the Pats d-line pretty good in this one, and AJ Feeley had plenty enough time to find the holes in the Pats secondary, of which there seemed to be many. The Pats never mounted a consistent pass rush, and they left their defensive backs to take a pummeling. I thought John Madden was extra sharp on explaining how the Pats would give away the inside to protect against the big play. The Eagles were happy to take it, and it almost won them the game. When they tried to get to the perimeter late, the Pats took the ball away twice. Why did the Eagles do that, by the way, when they had owned New England between the numbers?

*The Eagles were intent on stopping Randy Moss, and did so admirably, which had a trickle down effect on Tom Brady and rest of the Pats offense. Philly put a lot of heat on the MVP quarterback (three sacks) with their typical array of blitzes, which disallowed any of the deep throws that had been the Pats hallmark through the first ten games. The end result? The high flying Pats offense was held to – gasp – just 24 points.

*Speaking of Moss – do you think the NFL came right out and said to their officials, “Mr. Polian wants you to call more offensive pass interference penalties on Randy Moss,” or did they try to straight-face it with some ‘general’ language instead?

*So with the chips down, Wes Welker saved Brady and the Pats (Jabar Gaffney with the assist). Remember there were a few days there after the trade when we fretted over whether New England really had to give up the second rounder for Welker? Seems even more ridiculous now. Didn’t he go over EIGHTY receptions last night? Would the Patriots have won without him? Oh, and one more thing: LOVE the little screen play with him coming in motion and then taking the quick pass behind two receivers on the edge. That’s as good as a running play.

*Which they otherwise had little interest in pursuing. The Pats had 13 carries by people not named Tom Brady (who was the team’s best runner on the night). I liked how Laurence Maroney hurled himself at the end zone for the winning points, but on the final possession, he seemed to think he was helping by being tackled as quickly and as passively as possible. He couldn’t be less of a factor in the Patriots offense.

*Both Rosevelt Colvin and Randall Gay left with injuries, which figures since the Patriots went into the game the healthiest they’ve been all season. Gay’s injury forced Eddie Jackson into regular action after a long layoff, and it showed. Ellis Hobbs and Rodney Harrison both hobbled off as well, but both returned. We’ll hear a lot about New England’s secondary being “exposed”, I think (despite three picks, two by Asante Samuel), but again, I go back to the pass rush. I’ve said it before – there’s a good bit of the team’s money tied up in that front seven, and as a result, they’re the ones who have to make the plays. They didn’t tonight, for the most part.

*So the Pats have clinched the AFC East and, at mimimum, the third playoff seed (they can’t finish behind West leader San Diego now). In the race for the first seed, it comes down to this – the Colts and Steelers have to hope the Pats lose three of their last five if either is going to have a shot. I suppose they’ll look at tonight’s result as evidence it could happen, but as mentioned above, I think they would be reading that entirely wrong.

*Back on ice for another week, antique Dolphins. You AND your champagne.

Comments

  1. I thought the same thing about the Moss interference call. It reminded me of guys who win the Gold Glove in baseball…not based necessarily on what they did that year but on the cumulative ‘body of work’. He’s pushed off a lot more than that before.

  2. The Eagles have looked ok on occasion this year. They were going for a feast or famine plan, and the breaks went their way. I guess if you’re playing the Pats you should just be aggressive and take chances – if they go for you then you have a chance, if they go against you .. giving up the onside kick, turning the ball over after passing up a field goal then you’ll get blown out, but if you don’t take chances you’ll get blown out anyways.

  3. Agree on the Moss issue. I came away saying they played a C game against a team that was flying from the start and still were one judgement call from 38 points. The O-Line penalties and the drops tell me they were not eating their HUMBLE PIE this last week…should get a large dose of it this week though.

  4. I almost feel bad about what’s going to hit the Ravens next week, after the humbling, mere three point win, last night.

    The Randy Moss touchdown takeaway was just plain bogus, and we all came to the same conclusion at the time — that the officials were instructed to call Moss if there were any contact whatsoever. Hey, we’ve survived bad calls before, right? At least they made the right call against the Eagles on the neutral zone infraction, giving the Pats a first down.

    A game ball should also go to Logan Mankins. Take a look at Laurence Maroney’s touchdown again when you get the chance. Mankins practically pushes him into the endzone for the score. We replayed that one a few times, as well as earlier when Mankins was blocking three defenders at once. How good is this guy?!? He’s a beast!

  5. I think the whole ‘blueprint’ thing is overblown. It’s one thing to have the blueprint and quite another to have the personnel necessary to carry it out. Philadelphia had both the plan and the execution to nearly pull this one off, but the remaining eight teams that we’ll face (presuming we’ll get to the Super Bowl) need to execute as well as–and better than–Philadelphia did for New England to lose. Simply handing over a ‘blueprint’ won’t do the job.

  6. jamesgarnerisgod says:

    The fact is, the Patriots o-line was overwhelmed for most of the game — not so overwhelmed that Brady couldn’t move the ball, but overwhelmed enough that the offense couldn’t impose its will as we’ve become accustomed to seeing. Part of that was because the offense looked like BC’s in the first half, totally one-dimensional. While the passes were working, they also served to alert Jim Johnson to the fact that Brady would be going out there empty in the backfield, so he should keep up the blitzing. That also worked.

    The game reminded me of the first round of Hagler-Leonard, where both men just came out slugging and, eventually, one was going to weaken.

    I wasn’t surprised by the outcome: Point spreads are sometimes mistaken for a scientific analysis of a team’s ability, when in fact their simply tools to influence betting behavior: Had gamblers jumped on the 23 point spread, or whatever it was, early on, the spread would have quickly dropped to the teens or maybe even 10 or so — would that mean Philadelphia had suddenly gotten better? Of course not — it just would have meant the vigarish (sp??) would have been getting closer to his desired 50-50 split of Pats and Eagles bettors.

    What was surprising, though, was the strength of the Eagles o-line, and a savvy game plan of having Feeley get rid of the ball ASAP inside the numbers, as Scott points out.

    Bad news: The Pats weren’t their usual dominant selves. Good news: The Pats have proven they can win the tough ones this year.

  7. Its amazing that the Pats almost lost to a girls field hockey team they pulled off the bus from Cranston. Oh, you mean the Eagles are an actual NFL team with a .500 record. You would have never known it listening to the post game “experts”. The old adage that if you give ANY NFL quarterback enough time, he’ll kill you was never more on display than last night.

  8. jamesgarnerisgod says:

    “They’re simply tools to influence betting behavior.” God save me from my own poor spelling in the blogosphere.

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