Got a chance to see this one in person. We were very far away, but here are some quick hits and general impressions.
First, our offensive line is very banged up. Vollmer missed four or five series at the end of the first half. Mark LeVoir filled in for him (and absolutely crushed cornerback Donald Strickland -- you could hear the helmets crack in the upper deck -- if anyone Tivoed it, please post!), but it was clear that we're in dutch if we don't have a healthy Sebastian Vollmer. Protection suffered. Dan Connolly started for the injured Stephen Neal. Nick Kaczur got banged up pretty good late in the game -- his knee I think. He gutted it out and I was impressed because I don't think he should have been walking on it, much less playing football. Hopefully he and Matt Light and Vollmer will all be serviceable for the Saints game.
Almost, but not quite, this far away. Using the field lights at the bottom of the image, count 3 stanchions from the right, then down three rows of seats. They must've known I write for electronic media.
Tom Brady didn't actually look that sharp (for Tom Brady). There were a couple of instances when he went to Moss in a seemingly predetermined way when Welker or a check-down were wide open. His side-line throws are still off the money (thinking here of Moss's missed opportunity in the first quarter, for example).
Kevin Faulk's drop of what would have been an outstanding third down catch could have been a difference-maker and was reminiscent of Green-Ellis's bobbled touchdown a couple of weeks ago.
Laurence Maroney was fair, and aggressive, but still isn't seeing the cut-back. Perhaps the only virtue of watching the game with a nosebleed and vertigo is the coach's-camera view it affords. He's never going to have big-time vision and we're all just going to have to get used to it. I wish they'd get him the ball in screens/bubbles/swing-passes more often because he'd be very dangerous in that role.
Still no pass rush. It's making it very hard for our backfield, which I think played only well enough to win. The Jets were plenty open, but have a bad quarterback. Next week is going to be an adventure.
Our second-half offense is crap. It's the exact opposite of what you want to see from a team bound for the playoffs: we didn't sustain a single drive after the first half. (Four punts, with a touchdown drive of 28 yards (!) off of Meriweather's pick [do we have a sarcasm font yet?].) The play-calling was dumb: looking for plus-10s inside our own 10, wasting plays, mental mistakes, poor execution (way too many 2nd-and-10s). It's not like the Jets were stoning us. Bad play selection and decision-making. It does not give me a warm and fuzzy feeling.
Speaking of mental mistakes, the end of the second quarter was vomit-inducing. First the miscue on the punt for a gift of points. Then a miscue at the other end with a delay penalty which forced a kick which Stephen Gostkowski missed. Ragged.
Sat in section 326, three rows down from the top. That's about as far away from the action as you can get and still be in the stadium. Plus, I think we actually parked in Wrentham. Aside from the fact that cheering from that location is purely for self-gratification and warmth, I was struck by how much things improve from seemingly marginal changes. Just walking to the bottom of the stairs made the field seem significantly closer. Watching from the rail near the concessions was a marked improvement over that. Walking over the bridge was like actually being at the game and when we exchanged seats with friends in the fourth quarter to stand in section 133, it was like having them play right in the living room (totally awesome, in other words).
Watching Vollmer rev up the diesel and drive the defender off the ball was breath-taking. I think every ex-player harbors the belief that "if only" etc. and etc. Well f*ck that. There's no way I want to be within 15 yards of that guy when he gears up to run block. Impressive. He's tall and rangy which is not a run-blocking advantage. But he shows much-improved flexibility at the hip and knee, he gets low and really arches his back. And he's mean. If Light can handle moving to the right, I'd love to see the Vollmer-Logan Mankins freight train heat up through the playoffs.
All-in-all, though, I have to say that we do not currently have the look of a team that will go very far in January. We lack rhythm on offense and consistency on defense. Lack of a pass rush is becoming a very serious issue. Special teams have become an adventure and we are making a ton of mental mistakes at really inopportune moments.
It makes me miss the old Patriots, who rarely dazzled but never screwed up and grinded their opponents down through precision, patience and mental strength. We better find some of that in a hurry or it's going to be a short January.