Let's see... failure to convert in the RedZone...check. Failure to finish (ie: consistently score in the 2nd half)...check. Defensive backfield getting burned by what was to be considered an average passing offense...check. HoF QB throwing critical interceptions...check.
First, credit where credit is due. Miami did a good job of exploiting the mistakes made by this Patriots team and turning them around to their advantage. Behind most of the game, the Dolphins made big plays when they needed to and turned this game around for Miami. However, I am here to focus on the myriad of "fails" plaguing this New England Patriots team.
I normally can't stand columnist Ron Borges. He's cut from the same cloth as Dan Shaughnessy, which is to say they both hammer away at the team they're covering, claiming "the point everyone is missing...", in order to sound like the smartest guy in the room. I normally can't stand Borges, but in this column, I think he's right:
Years ago, Chuck Fairbanks said it best. "It’s not about X’s and O’s. It’s about Jimmys and Joes." For half a decade with the Pats people believed otherwise. In Bill We Trust became the motto, but does anyone honestly believe Bill Belichick forgot how to coach? A guy who has been watching game film since he was 6 now can’t break down film and discover a team’s weaknesses?
Bill Belichick didn't suddenly become stupid. He didn't wake up one morning with an IQ 50 points lower than what it was the day before. No, as Ron Borges claims, it's not about Belichick (at least, not all of it) but about the onfield talent. I haven't brought this up before, but it's been on my mind for the past few weeks or so: there's just not as many playmakers as there used to be. The players are simply not executing. Is the coaching staff showing them what to do? I would assume so; it's relatively the same staff as in previous years with the obvious exceptions of Scott Pioli and Josh McDaniels.
But if coaching were to be blamed, it would be in the Belichick player acquisition strategy. For years, Belichick has been known as a guy at the top of his game in finding "value" players, at piecing together a team with a sprinkle of seasoned vets as well as using later rounds in the draft to shore up the ranks for the future. But has this turned out to be the best approach for this team? Sure, Randy Moss and Wes Welker were brilliant moves, no question. Fred Taylor? The jury's still out as we need to see more playing time from him. But along with the brilliance have been some big whiffs, ones that have cost us dearly. Joey Galloway, Shawn Springs, Greg Lewis, Derrick Burgess, Adalius Thomas... all were relatively big money acquisitions that left this team digging into the young up-and-comers to fill the gaps.
Look in the past, at the years on the banners hanging at Gillette Stadium. You could name scores of big playmakers. Troy Brown, Corey Dillon, Deion Branch, Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Rodney Harrison...all of them ready to step up when it was needed. Who do we have now? Wes Welker, Sebastian Vollmer (when he's playing), Julian Edelman (when he's playing). Who else?
Ok, enough of that. Let's get back to the debacle known as Patriots @ Dolphins. The whole is usually the sum of its parts. There's rarely one part that is the cause of a catastrophic failure. But, like a car, enough blown gaskets can seriously derail the vehicle.
- 4th and 1 on Miami 6 - We could argue all day about whether or not to go for it on this 4th and 1. I get the whole "play to win vs. play not to lose" argument. But I'm conservative. Unless you're about to lose the game if you don't score a touchdown, go for the field goal. But that's not what I consider to be the biggest gaff of that series. Brady hands the ball to Sammy Morris who encounters, guess what, a stacked Miami line. Why Brady didn't hand it off to Laurence Maroney, who was right behind Morris, is beyond. He had more room and could've a) built up a bigger head of steam or b) had a chance to choose another hole. And how about being creative? Maybe fake handoffs to the backs and slip it to Wes on a reverse? Welker can dodge cruise missiles never mind defensive backs.
- 2nd and 5 on Miami 5 - With a running game that appears to be doing fairly well, what does Brady do? He tosses a floater to the right-hand corner of the endzone, forcing it to a blanketed Randy Moss. Miami's Vontae Davis makes a great play on a guy who has 5 inches on him and comes down with the pick. What does Randy do? He watches. How about, you know, KNOCKING THE BALL AWAY!!! Put in some effort, Randy.
- Chad Henne's 51 yard march - After a failed NE series culminating in a desperate 4th and 11, Chad Henne marched down the field to put Miami kicker Dan Carpenter in range; Carpenter nailed a 41 yarder to go up by 1. As mentioned above, where were the playmakers? Where were the guys coming up with big stops on defense? Henne did a great job of connecting with is receivers, something our defense couldn't prevent and our own offense couldn't do.
- Final Brady interception - This may have aggravated me the most. Chances are it wouldn't have made a difference, but EAT THE BALL!!! Instead, Tom Terrific decides to, I don't know what, and Channing Crowder intercepts. That was not the Tom Brady I've come to "know". That was a desperate, rookie move. I hate to say it, but he looked like Mark Sanchez on that one.
Now that you're all depressed, let me leave you with some good cheer. In 2007, there was this 10-6 team who squeaked into the playoffs as a wildcard, won out in the playoffs by the hair on their chinny chin chin, and defeated an 18-0 juggernaut by 3 points to win the Super Bowl. Well, maybe that didn't cheer you up that much, but think about it this way: if they can do it, why can't we?