September 30, 2016

Gut Check – The Debacle vs. Ravens

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

In less time than it took for Wes Welker to crutch-walk off the field after the coin flip, the home team trailed 7-0 and looked about as alert as a sloth on a hot day. Just a terrible game all around.

Yeah, we felt sick too, Bill.

New England tried to make a game of it (although “tried” may be too strong a word). In the end, though, their mid-game improvement failed to make up for their awful start in the 33-14 loss.

Some notes, if you’re up for them…

An Inferior Brandon: Just how many tackles is safety Brandon Meriweather supposed to miss? Whether on Ray Rice scooting for 83 yards or Willis McGahee barreling for a first down, Meriweather failed to support the run defense.

Oh Brother, O’Brien: Horrible offensive play-calling by Bill O’Brien, and continued missteps on special teams courtesy of coach Scott O’Brien. While the former showed Wile-E.-Coyote-like persistence in calling unsuccessful screen and draw plays, the latter put out a kick-return team that struggled to get the ball past the 20 in the first half and gave up a 30-yard return in the second.

Fare Thee Welker: Oh, hell. It looks like Wes Welker really was the team MVP.

Upbraiding Brady: Sure, he was under pressure. Yes, his coaches made play calls as if they were consulting a Magic 8-Ball. In the end, though, Tom Brady never got his timing and never rose to the occasion, finishing 23 of 42 for 154 yards, two TDs and three INTs, as well as a lost fumble. That’s four turnovers if you’re keeping track at home.

Of course, some of his lack of production can be put on the less-than-Atlas-like shoulders of…

No Moss, No Moss: What a quitter Randy Moss turned out to be. Zero receptions in the first half. An apparent lack of effort throughout. Maybe he’s hurt, but with his half-assing it, we could never tell.

If a football game resembles a street fight, the Ravens were the Warriors while the Pats were the cast of “West Side Story.” One was prepared for anything while the other looked like it expected the same rehearsed song and dance. Randy Moss just joined the chorus and failed to stick out in any discernible way.

A Shiny Julian: With his six catches for 44 yards and two TDs, at least Julian Edelman came to play. He and Kevin Faulk (14 carries, 52 yards; six catches, 37 yards) provided the only semblance of competency on offense.

Die, Dynasty: It’s over, and that’s just fine. Now, New England can focus on improving their defense while adding tough-minded offensive guys who can actually play the grind-it-out game that Brady alluded to earlier this season.

Yes, PD friends, it’s over. But when one thing ends, something better gets the chance to begin.

To our readers, thanks for checking out Gut Check this year, and thanks to Scott, Bruce and the entire PD gang for all the support.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

Comments

  1. Michael Mancini says:

    It’s past time to consider a new head coach. Like the great Paul Brown the NFL has passed Bill
    Bellicheck by. You cannot play either effective pass defense or run defense with a three man
    front. At the very least if you don’t blitz your linebackers, you have three men rushing against a
    minimum of 5 blockers A blitzing linebacker is outweighed by at least 75 pounds. A fourth
    defensive lineman weighing 300plus pounds would completely change the entire dynamics of
    both the run and pass defense. That aside almost every key decision he made during the course of the 2009 blew up in his face. Some of his decisions were downright stupid. I don’t know if I’m the only one whose noticed but in the last several years the Patriots continually blow late game leads
    while failing to rally when trailing late. A high school coach would do a better job calling plays than the Patriots braintrust .

    The responsibilities of the GM should be assigned completly to someone else. Trading top players
    like Richard Seymore and allowing great defensive backs like Assaunte Samuel to go elsewhere is
    not condusive to maintaining greatness. Yes, I realize that the Pats have won three superbowls under his direction, but that was yesterday. I’m concerned that he, like Paul Brown is stubborn and
    not receptive to change and as long as he remains at the helm the Patriots glory days are behind us..

    • I have to disagree Michael – Seymour was traded to prolong future success of the team. Seriously, a 1st rounder for Seymour? From the Raiders? For a guy you’d lose to FA at the end of the season anyway? A steal. And as for Samuel, he was let go because he would cost approx 9/10 million a year (which is what Philly is paying him), and he’s just not worth 8% of a teams salary cap.

      Football is a game of peaks and valleys. Look at the 49ers and Cowboys – in the 90’s they were on a tear – 5 super bowls between them, and this last decade, they were terrible. That’s the game, it’s meant to be that way.

      What Kraft and Belichick are trying to do is buck that trend, and while short term decisions may leave us scratching our heads, they’re thinking of the long term. I wouldn’t go throwing anyone under the bus quite yet!

    • Nice post Michael… at least you’re not overreacting or anything.

      I mean, wow, dude. You reference stubbornness by Paul Brown??? I bet if you thought hard enough you could come up with a more outdated reference.

      But I mean you’re right, it has been TWO WHOLE years since the team when undefeated!! Time for change!!!!!!!!

  2. Dude, step away from the ledge! Look, I’m as disappointed as anyone else – stunned, more like, but let’s face it, this was a rebuilding year, always was. You just can’t lose the names on D like that and function at the same level. You certainly can’t replace the leadership. It now appears painfully obvious that you can’t replace a coach like Josh McDaniels either, overnight, at least. For proof of how valuable coaches are, look at the Giants D this year – they didn’t do too well after losing Spagnulo (sp?)

    One thing is for sure – the team needs a few impact players, difference makers, game changers, particularly on D. We simply don’t have the personnel to play a spread offense, either. Did we forget that in 2007, when Welker/Moss were covered, Gaffney and Stallworth were more than capable threats.

    The good news is, we’re well set to rebuild. We still have a franchise QB, an up and coming tackle, some potential in the younger players and coach Belichick. Most importantly, we have draft picks.

    4 picks in the first two rounds (including good spots from Jags/Titans), two first rounders the following year (including one from the Raiders – a team that’s in a perennial rebuilding mode!), and a good 6 years with Brady at the helm. We didn’t finish in the top 8, so we won’t be restricted in the free agency market this off season.

    Now, there are questions to be answered – some key positions that need to be extended, including Brady and Wilfork. The coaching staff needs to settle and grow.

    In the past, this team was built to beat the Colts – which made sense, but now we’ve got to rebuild, to beat resurgent Jets/Dolphins teams. I don’t know about you, but I trust Belichick and Kraft to build for sustained future growth. Hey, I’m an optimist!

    Cheers

  3. Several primary concerns from Sunday’s debacle:
    1. Inability to stop the opponent’s offensive strength. It was evident to practically everyone that the Ravens were going to stay on the ground the entire game, especially given Flacco’s struggles of late and the emergence of Ray Rice. Handcuffing the opposition has always been a hallmark of Belicheck defenses — vs. Rams in 2001 and bracketing Tony Gonzalez against the Falcons, for example, was one lone success this season — more probably due to the quality of the Atlanta team.

    Even if the first snap play is a busted scheme (Meriweather, again?), there were several chances such as at the end of the first half where the Ravens owned the line of scrimmage and ran out the clock. It seems like every Ravens interior run ended up with Rice or McGahee falling forward for 5-6 yards.

    This was a recurring theme throughout this season. Not being able to stop the backup Houston RB last week was just another example. See also: getting blown out of the water at New Orleans and their air attack.

    Is it me, or do other team’s linebackers seem more physical than the Patriots’ group? Mayo is either hurt or undersized. Guyton looks lost and gets blown off the line. Seau’s great for fist-pumps and mentoring but doesn’t strike fear into anyone. Thomas and Burgess are clear under performers. What does it say that the team’s leading pass-rusher in Banta-Cain was a 49er castoff?

    2. Offensive play-calling. I’m sure Brady’s hurt. Moss is hurt and/or disinterested. Welker’s out. Our first-round RB can’t hold on to the ball or pickup the blitz. Our left tackle is aging. Our TE’s can’t gain any separation or hold on to the ball.

    Still, this is relatively unchanged personnel from the last 2 seasons. McDaniels clearly had a knack for dialing up the right plays and his loss is most significant.

    The plays were so predictable. Gee, let’s try that WR bubble screen again even though half the Ravens D is lined up on that side of the formation (sarcasm). Let’s try to slide the pocket and get Brady killed. It didn’t count, but Edelman’s 4th down catch was even covered well by the defense. It’s been this way all season.

    Simms remarked in the broadcast that Ray Lewis spent time listening to Brady’s snap counts from earlier in the season and claimed he knew what was coming. How can this not get changed up for the playoffs?

    Part of the reason why Brady is such a target is that the pass plays seem to take too long to develop, and then it’s Welker or bust. It seemed like going to a short-pass, rhythm approach finally started to work for a short time, keeping the Baltimore D on their heels.

    It pains me to see all the young TE’s in the league — Whitten, Celek (PHI), Finley (GB), etc. — and New England has something like 2 catches for 5 yards from the position. Again.

    3. Outside of a predictable offense, a common thread is personnel (or lack of it). Check the previous drafts for the last few years since 2006 — outside of Gostkowski, Ingram, Mayo (who maybe is still hurt) and Meriweather (who is too aggressive). Credit the team for getting Edelman and Vollmer this year, but the rest seems like a wash. Maybe he will improve next year, but Chung playing special teams as a first-rounder?

    More than ever, success in the NFL is based on getting peak performance from players under their first contract.

    At least the draft debate can start now.

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