No matter how great the season, the end is painful. This year, extra painful in light of a surprisingly successful regular season and loss to a loud and bitter rival who soundly outplayed you 2 out of 3 times this year. Yet if we don't learn from history, and our mistakes we are destined to repeat them. So what did we learn about the Pats this year? A few thoughts after the break
1. Bellichick is a terrific teacher, coach and talent evaluator.
For all the success this year, the recurring trend is troubling - The Pats are no longer a team that deals with adversity well. In game adjustments were much better this year on the whole, but in general the Pats since the '07 superbowl have not been able to withstand highly competitive opponents. Giants in the SB, Ravens last year, Jets twice this year. When the Pats start getting outplayed, it's troubling to watch how difficult it is for them to make the plays to swing momentum. Much of this is not on coaching, but a good deal is on preparing and motivating your players
2. Tom Brady is a tremendous QB, but like any other QB, he can not win games entirely on his own in the post season.
Perhaps this is where the the motivation point needs to be addressed, as good as Tommy has been this year motivationally - he was not able to fire the team up enough yesterday.
3. The Defense is young, improving and could be very good next year. But it's leader and identity still need to be established.
Vince and Mayo are getting closer to this level but there is no defensive leader established yet. No Bruschi, McGinest, Bryan Cox or Bart Scott for that matter has been established on the D side yet. Brady needs balance, the offense needs balance and the D needs it's backbone and personality to step up and take over. That's a big next step for this D. Personally I think a physical backer like Spikes could really step into this role, if he can stay on the field, next year.
4. The offense succeed once again without high priced, high pick talent.
In the wake of Randy Moss, the Pats offense returned to it's roots of no name small players defying the experts and succeeding. It was great fun to watch, and every successful as well, but...
5. For this fan, the lack of dedication to the run is the undoing of the team once again.
The Zone coverage was stunting the passing game significantly. They were moving the ball on the ground, yet they never came out with a run focused drive until there was 7 minutes left in the game and they were down 10.
Is Mark Ingram or a big time back required? I didn't think so prior to this game given the years of Benny, Woody and the success of the offense but I believe differently now. I think the reality of the situation is while they are both good players they are not "feature backs" and thus are too easy to discount when the fit hits the shan .
Benny on had 9 carries yesterday. He averaged 4.8 yrds per carry. Good numbers, but he's not a back that you build a game plan around, that makes you think "we've got to feed him the rock, we've got to get him going" That was Correy Dillon, that is the benefit of a lead back.
They prevent your offense from getting to far off course in your balanced attack. With a slippery back like Woody, it's too easy to audible out of what looks like a tough run into a play action pass or pure pass because he's a great receiver and match ups may present themselves.
At the end of the day the Pats really, really needed to punch the jets in the mouth with a running game. They needed a back who required the ball fed to him, required multiple carries that would have got the Jets out of their zone coverages, force them to adjust and allowed the Pats to dictate play. As good as Benny and Woody are, they simply do not carry the stature required to keep Tommy in balance, in check and to help sustain offense within a tough game.
Sorry that was a long point.
6. The pieces are in place for this to be a very, very good football team next year and into the future.
The Jets are not going anywhere and I think the Phins are going to be tougher then we'd like as well. Things are looking up here, but buckle up kids, the entire AFC east is here to stay.
7. Two requests for the off season - feature back and a leader on defense.
The back I believe you need to acquire, via draft or trade (no idea who's available)
You need to be able to run in the playoffs - and for the Pats it really seems like they need a feature back that requires them to remember this fact. 40% run/pass in a game where you are trailing by two possessions at most for the majority of the game is unacceptable for me.
In terms of defensive leadership, this one can come more naturally and without knowing who is a UFA not sure who could even be signed as step in leader. I like Spikes for this role more the Mayo. As good as Mayo is he just doesn't seem to have the fire I like in my defensive leaders.
So there are a few observations and learnings...thoughts?