As expected today was "Pile on the Patriots Defense" day by all those who seemed shocked that this group of rookies and second/third year players are not instantly a shutdown defense. Yes, letting the Bills put up as much offense as they did was a little scary, but not entirely unexpected, unless you still thought Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, Ty Law and Willie McGinest were playing for New England.
As far as all the pundits are concerned the vaunted Miami Dolphins offense is going to hang 77 points on the Patriots next Monday night, and New England's only hope of winning will be to score 80.
The Patriots defensive woes have been just one of the few storylines that we've been getting hammered with ever since we stopped beating teams by forty points. Personally I'm just sick and tired of all the lazy journalism, the uniformed opinions, and faux outrage about all things surrounding the new Patriots.
I take a Vollmer-sized swing at all the moronic analysis after the jump...Myth #1: Bill Belichick is a Genius
I'm as big of a hoodie head as they come but all this talk of "should Bill Belichick still be considered a genius??" is stupid. He's not a genius. He's an excellent football coach. He was in training since he was a kid to be a football coach. He's got a very direct style, and the ability to focus on only the most important thing within the moment. It's a very zen philosophy of coaching. He has the ability to bring men together in pursuit of a common goal. But if you're expecting miracles you're looking to the wrong person.
Calling him a genius takes away from how good of a coach he is. As if he's a genius and he's just got a magic touch that no one else has and every player he lays his hands on will instantly be a Pro Bowler. He's been coaching football longer than most of us have been alive, so don't expect his teams to magically be amazing no matter who is wearing the Flying Elvis helmet. Most NFL teams that undergo a total transition on one side of the ball are in the bottom five of the league. You need to have faith in great coaching, it's not instantaneous or automatic with every player. But eventually great coaching trumps everything and Belichick is still a great coach.
Myth #2: The Patriots Defense is Hopeless
I knew how this season would go from a fan/media perspective. It's kinda how it always goes. You win, you're unbeatable. You lose, you're never winning another game. That's magnified when you're playing so many young guys and that's why I've been trying to preach patience with the young Patriots defense. It's sad that many cannot appreciate the fact that we're getting a hand picked defense by one of the greatest coaches in NFL history. They just expect that because he picked them that they should instantly be championship caliber.
Defense in football is so much more than just putting talented players on the field. That's really the easy part of the equation. The hard part is getting them to work together as one on the field. While the Patriots defense was gashed by the Bills last week, it is very possible that they could actually look good against the Dolphins. No one seems to understand that. Everyone wants to judge the team on a handful of performances, and write their epitaph based on what they've seen the last two weeks.
Building a defensive synergy takes time and experience. But the good news is that the great majority of this defense is locked up long term and they're loaded with talent. Every win, every third down stop, every interception are just steps in a growth process, the end result of which will be a top notch defense. Try to enjoy it. You'll be far more fonder of these players having watched them progress from hopeless to stout.
Myth #3: The Patriots Need a Pass Rusher
Perhaps this was already explained above but it's still the Patriots' weakness buzz word. You'd think from the way most people talk that the Patriots are in their 3-4 defense every snap of the game and have only two outside linebackers who ever rush the passer. The fact is some games they're barely in their 3-4 defense at all. A lot of times that's solely their run-stopping defensive formation. Yes, the pass rush can improve, but as I've written many times before you don't need a 20 sack player to be a contender.
What you need is that synergy I spoke about earlier. There needs to be consistent pressure that forces the quarterback to get rid of the ball quickly. That includes defensive lineman like Mike Wright and Myron Pryor. Saying they need a pass rusher is an oversimplified criticism, but one that is made because it's hard to describe defensive synergy in tangible ways. So when Belichick says "we just need to play better", annoying and vague as it is, he's right. It's the little things, everyone doing their job together as one unit, that make a great defense.
Myth #4: Tom Brady Has Gone Hollywood
Bill Simmons has been the latest to hop on the "Brady's gone Hollywood" bandwagon. Personally I don't listen to anything Simmons has to say about football because it's clearly not a passion of his. Guess what he was doing while he was watching all those basketball games as a kid, laying the foundation for the encyclopedia he would later write? Not watching football.
He thinks that Brady's wife has transformed him into something different than the laser focused quarterback he was before he met her, and that the fans are growing tired of Brady's new act. Now Brady has a house in Los Angeles, and he's not in Foxboro during the off-season, and he's even grown his hair long. Oh the horror! He's gone off the deep end.
The fact is that Tom Brady has been the most stand-up, earnest and professional leader in the history of the organization, and perhaps in all of sports. Brady met Gisele in January 2007, seems to me if a new lady in your life is going to take you off your game it's far more likely to happen in the infatuation stage during the first six months you start dating. OK, well that was the 2007, I think we can safely say he wasn't too distracted that season.
Now he's married with two kids, one of whom lives in Los Angeles. I have no problem with Brady wanting to live near his son in the offseason. In fact, isn't that kind of a good thing? Something he should be commended for? Not to mention he grew up in California, but anyways...
When Brady was young there was surely more he needed to learn about being an NFL quarterback. Being in Foxboro back then made sense. Now? All he really needs to do is stay in shape, and maybe work with the receivers he doesn't know yet. He still makes it back to Foxboro throughout the off-season, so what's the big deal?
Lastly, I personally like long haired rock star Brady. Imagine Peyton Manning trying to pull that off. No way. No how.
Despite his appearance or where he spends his free time Brady is still an elite quarterback in his prime. Enjoy this too, might be a while before we get another one of those after he's gone.