This past weekend was somewhat of an historic event for me. I found myself down in Washington, DC to visit some friends and attend the opening of the long overdue Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument. While the boys and I got a bit of a late start Sunday morning and didn't exactly have the best view of the ceremony, the sense of community and hope was palpable yesterday and it served as a nice reminder that we all need to appreciate the sacrifices of those who have come before us.
Yesterday was also historic for a significantly less important reason, as it marked the first time in almost 4 years when I didn't watch the Patriots game live, choosing to DVR it instead so I could spend more time in our nation's capital. While Tivoing a game is great for skipping through commercials, halftime, and Troy Aikman's inane blathering, it also meant I had to shut out any and all communication to avoid hearing the outcome. It didn't take me long to realize that adhering to a self-imposed media blackout is all but impossible in this day and age; not only does every billboard, radio station, and cell phone offer live scoring updates on pretty much every sporting event known to man, but my ragtag crew of idiot friends have this wonderful habit of texting me every time anything happens in the game, be it good or bad. I will admit, sometimes what they have to say is either astute or witty and I completely gank their comment as my own in the fan notes you all enjoy reading so much every week. But mostly, I am forced to endure a bunch of nonsensical drivel written exclusively to rile me up. My only defense against such wanton jackassery is to just turn my phone off altogeter. So, for the first time in who knows how long, I spent half of my Sunday completely devoid of both football and my Blackberry - the Alec Shane equivalent of the "showing up to class naked" nightmare.
But as my grandfather used to say to me before he passed on, good things happen to little girls who are patient (that he thought I was a girl for the last few years of his life is an article for another day). I didn't get a chance to sit down to watch the game until about 9:30 last night, and as Sunday slowly bled into Monday morning, I was glued to the TV watching the Patriots pull out a gritty win over the Dallas Cowboys in a style that can only be described as Vintage Belichick. I don't have as many notes as usual today, as I got a late start on today's article and I spent most of the game away from my computer, pacing back and front of the TV like a lunatic. But I was able to take a few things away from yesterday's win, some good, some not so good, that should hopefully give Patriots Nation enough to chew on heading into the bye week.
Game notes after the jump.
- The Gillette home crowd seemed uncharacteristically loud yesterday. My Gronk cheer must be catching on.
- Good ol' Tony Romo. He's always good for at least one bone-headed play per game.
- What was the name of the head referee calling the game? I really hope he makes some extra money in the offseason in the voice-acting role of "crotchety old man" in any number of cartoons.
- How about those two offensive powerhouses, New England and Dallas, in that first quarter, eh?
- What the hell was that pad on Tommy B's throwing arm in the 2nd quarter? That was just to keep it loose, right? RIGHT???
- I lost count of how many times New England had Dallas's backs stopped for a loss and they somehow managed to pick up positive yardage. These no-pads practices are wreaking absolute hell on our ability to finish tackles.
- Questionable Roughing the Passer call on Brady there in the 2nd Quarter. Let ‘em play.
- The Patriots utilized a lot of no huddle, empty set formations. They also used a lot of big sets to generate the running game and try to protect Brady. I remember reading on Pats Pulpit last week about how a good way to neutralize Dallas's pass rush was to operate out of the empty backfield and balance it with some bigger sets. Whoever wrote that article is a freaking genius.
- I also remember reading on Pats Pulpit that Chad Ochocinco was primed for a big game. Whoever wrote that article is a freaking moron.
- Oh, Chad. I defended you so hard this past week. At least run in the right direction, will ya?
- Bill Belichick is on a challenge flag hot streak right now.
- Tsk Tsk, Pat Chung and Gary Guyton. You can't let Dez Bryant light both of you up like that. That was embarrassing
- That was a great drive by Dallas towards the end of the half; ate up a lot of clock and ended with a touchdown. It's drives like that that make me legitimately concerned about some of the stronger teams in this league.
- I wonder what BenJarvus Green-Ellis's no-fumble secret is. I'm not going to look up when the last time Benny fumbled in a meaningful game is, because I don't want to spook it. If you know when the last time he fumbled was - just keep it to your damn selves.
- Did I see a Shane Vereen appearance?
- In the preseason, I mentioned how there seem to be about 2 games every season to which the Patriots basically just don't show up. Yesterday was one of them. I got that vibe from the opening snap yesterday. They just weren't there mentally. I'm sure a lot of it was Dallas's defensive schemes, but I didn't sense the same kind of energy from this team that I usually feel. The entire game, up until the end, was about as bland as my girlfriend's cooking.
- If she's reading this - just kidding, sweetheart. I look forward to your Sloppy Joes with relish.
- Gary Guyton's pursuit of ball carriers, and how easily he gets juked out of his jock strap, is leading me to believe that he fell for the old "there's something on your shirt" gag quite a bit as a youth.
- I wish I could say that this defense turned a corner yesterday, but they definitely didn't. Romo switched to the no-huddle and just ripped them to shreds.Not only were the Cowboys able to pick the Pats' D apart, but they were able to do it while eating significant chunks of clock.
- I will say though - while they may not have turned a corner, at least they are on the sidewalk. Standing in the middle of the road is a recipe for getting flattened.
- It might just be wishful thinking here, but I feel like I saw a glimmer of a pass rush yesterday.
- I really want to hate Tony Romo - but I don't. I wish I did, but there's something about him that reminds me of Leopold "Butters" Stotch from South Park. And who doesn't love Butters?
- Good to see you again, Andre Carter.
- Welcome back, Gerard Warren.
- Why is Stevan Ridley returning kicks in Julian Edelman's absence? Does he really have that kind of speed?
- To wax negative for a moment: I'm honestly not sure whether or not this team, as it stands right now, is good enough to win a Super Bowl. I know there is a lot of football to play and all that stuff that we tell ourselves to keep the wool over our eyes for a little bit longer, but it's Week 6 and there are some real issues with this team. Looking at some of the better squads in the league - Green Bay, Detroit, Baltimore, New Orleans - I'm not sure New England has enough in them to hang with these teams in the playoffs.
- To Mr. Belichick: if you would like me to blow up the above note, laminate it, and mail it to you, c/o "Locker Room Poster Board Material," I'll be happy to do it. I'll even pay for postage.
- I was told, by my friend who was at the game, that the Patriots' cheerleaders were dressed up in Halloween costumes. Yet I have no idea what those costumes were, as Fox opted not to show us ONE camera shot of the cheerleaders. Not cool, man.
- Matt Light completely dominated DeMarcus Ware for all but 2 plays of this game, both of which resulted in sacks on Brady. What's the stat that everyone is going to take away from this game? Demarcus Ware's 2 sacks.
- I'd like to see New England run that Trips Bunch formation a little more. There are just so many options from that spread.
- 1st and 10 in the 3rd quarter follwing the Rob Gronkowski 3rd down conversion. Brady hurries the offense to the line and calls an off-tackle run to BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Benny saw that Gronk's block wasn't fully sealed off, so he bumped the run outside for a gain of 8. Not a huge play, but a great testament to Benny's gap vision and smart running.
- Zoltan Mesko must watch a lot of soccer. That dive would have made the Italian national team proud.
- I've decided that this defense can give up all the yards that they want as long as they come up big when it matters.
- Fantasy advice of the week: start whatever kicker is playing against the Patriots.
- Leaving points on the board makes me feel like I just went to the bathroom but had to zip up before I could get that final shake in. Just really uncomfortable.
- It's official: Rob is the only Ryan I fear.
- Our defense won us this game.
- Our defense won us this game.
- Yes, I know I wrote that note twice, but when was the last time I was able to say that? Yes, the offense made plays when they needed to, but this game was kept competitive because of our defense. New England needed a defensive stop in order to get the chance to win the game. New England got a defensive stop, and as a result we won the game.
- Just how big did our D come up on Dallas' last offensive drive? Here's how that 3 and out went: tackle for a loss, tackle for a loss, false start penalty, 8 yard gain on 3rd and 18, punt. You can't ask for much better than that.
- You have my heart on a string, Mr. Thomas Edward Patrick Brady. That fist pump after the go-ahead touchdown to Aaron Hernandez may have fixed the economy and solved global warming.
- If Rob Ryan's face after that winning touchdown cannot be described as "who farted?" then I don't know what it is.
- You know what really blows my mind? In 15 years, when I'm watching TFBN, the special channel that the NFL is going to launch strictly to show Tom Brady highlights, that final drive against Dallas probably won't even make the cut. He has had so many drives like that, where he puts the team on his back and engineers another game winner, that ultimately yesterday's game is just going to go down in history as a New England win.
- Not to me, though. What that drive represented to me was Tommy B getting back to his roots. He's tried the spread offense. He's tried the long hair. He's tried going pass-heavy. All that's over now. Time to turn the radio back to classic rock. It's back to coming up huge where it matters and throwing with such unbelievable pinpoint accuracy that you have no idea whether the pass is complete until the referee signals for the first down.
- People are going to say that Wes Welker had a quiet day yesterday. He caught six passes for 45 yards and a touchdown. Someone tell me he shouldn't be in the conversation for best wideout in the league right now.
As ugly as this game was, and as upset as my downstairs neighbor is with me, and as many years off my life as that game took, this is EXACTLY the kind of win that I was hoping to see from New England all season. Brady wasn't perfect. The offense looked flat and sluggish for most of the game. Dallas is a solid opponent with a formidable defense and a quality quarterback. But New England made big plays when it mattered and the defense had some crucial stops all throughout the game, limiting Dallas to field goals and then coming up huge on that 3 and out that gave Tommy B the ball back. We were able to generate a lot of momentum going into the bye, which I think couldn't have come at a better time for this team, and I'm hopeful that our defense is about to turn over a new leaf. It's time to relax, recharge, focus on the positive, correct the negative, and come into Pittsburgh ready to impose our will on the rest of the league.
Hell, I need this bye week, too. Yesterday's game took a lot out of me, and I'm probably going to have to put in a lot of face time with the girlfriend to make up for that little dig about her cooking.