Good effort on both sides. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Cyrilp has been requested that I continue "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" series from last season. So, without further ado, let's begin!
Wes Welker is close to having one of the most incredible stretches of receptions in NFL history. As of now, he sits with 536 receptions over the past five seasons. That's exception and he's currently second all time for a five season stretch.
563 Marvin Harrison
536 Wes Welker (active)
524 Jerry Rice
515 Chris Carter
499 Torry Holt
Welker will have to average 9 receptions a game to close out the season to match Marvin Harrison's incredible run at the beginning of the century. The names Welker's listed with are pretty good company.
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will always be compared to Saints tight end Jimmy Graham- right? Well, Gronkowski is 22 years old. Graham is 26. Surprising, right? It's something to think about, especially when you consider that Graham is closer in age to Vernon Davis (27), Kellen Winslow Jr. (28), and Jason Witten (29), than to Gronkowski.
Also, the Patriots are the only team in the NFL with two 1000+ yard receivers. Welker and Gronkowski.
Another fun fact with age- Rob Gronkowski is the second youngest player in the league to record 50+ receptions. The youngest? Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez with 59 receptions. When you consider that rookie stud receiver A.J. Green is older than the Patriots tight ends, it seems as if the Patriots are in pretty good shape for the future.
This next fact is from Erik Frenz (follow him if you don't already do):
Lost on everyone in Patriots win over Redskins was that Bill Belichick became the first head coach ever to post 10-plus wins in 9 straight seasons.
Jeff Triplette - Let's start off with the referees. There were horrendous calls on both sides. Andre Carter was called for roughing the passer, when he went for Rex Grossman's midsection. After he launched himself, Grossman stumbled backwards after throwing off his back foot and Carter hit Grossman's thighs. Questionable. Then, with what appeared to be a "make-up" call, London Fletcher was pinned with a roughing the passer on a Tom Brady slide. While Tom Curran may believe that Fletcher could have avoided it, fact is- it's a sketchy call when the referee says it's contact to the helmet, when it absolutely is not.
Then, Vince Wilfork was tagged with an unnecessary roughness call on a dump pass. The running back went to the ground, was trying to get up, and Wilfork plowed him into the ground. A player is free to run until he's touched (Rob Gronkowski), so it makes sense to get the player on the ground. The ref said it was an arm to the head, when Wilfork went arm first into his back- not his head.
At another time, Matt Light was tagged with a hold on Brian Orakpo. It was a run play and Matt Light pulled to block the outside. He gets a hand and hits Orakpo's shoulder (not even from behind) and Orakpo goes down to the ground. Light gets tagged with a holding?
All questionable calls that, in such a close game, could have changed some outcomes. Not a good way to insert yourself into the game, Jeff.
Defending Roy Helu - The Patriots needed to treat Roy Helu like LeSean McCoy. Helu was the engine that powered the Redskins offense and the defense let him run wild. At the beginning of the game, the Patriots appeared stout in run defense up the middle. However, no one could set the edge. Rob Ninkovich and Dane Fletcher were asked to set the edges and both had their good and bad moments.
However, Kyle Arrington was abysmal in run defense and was consistently washed out of the play. There were no players eliminating cutback lanes. Fletcher's job was to take away the initial hole for Helu, which he did numerous times. However, there always appeared to be another lane for a big gain. The Patriots missed Brandon Spikes in this game more than any other game. Oh, and the Redskins were able to run the ball up the gut with ease at the end of the game.
The Patriots Safeties - The Patriots need safety help. The revolving door continues as Matthew Slater was benched for Nate Jones in the second half. They were not in position to help cornerbacks in coverage, they struggled to stop the run and, while injuries are awful, James Ihedigbo needed to come off the field far too often. The Patriots need Pat Chung back quickly because the safety position is making the defense far too vulnerable. When Ihedigbo bit on the trick play and missed the tackle, and when Slater tripped over Ihedigbo, I feel like that summed up the safety position for the season.
Tom Brady - Brady didn't have an awful day. He had a bad day. He had some excellent throws that became incredible due to Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker, and Aaron Hernandez. He also had an alarmingly high number of terrible throws. He was not on the same page as Deion Branch. He was throwing behind Wes Welker all game. He was throwing far ahead of Aaron Hernandez all game. He was trying to force balls into double coverage with Rob Gronkowski. Players are allowed to have bad days. Brady had one of them. He wasted far too many red zone opportunities.
When throwing to Gronkowski, you'll see Brady trying to fire it between coverage. If the coverage is right, why can't Brady just lob it up over the defenders? It seems as if Brady is firing it right at head level of the defenders in double coverage.
Coaching Match-Ups - This was questionable. Why was Jerod Mayo in coverage of Santana Moss more than a couple times? Hopefully the Patriots knew that the Redskins were going to throw it down the middle of the field. Why would they let the linebackers cover the Redskins most explosive playmakers? Also, with the game on the line, why was Julian Edelman in coverage on Santana Moss? The Patriots were lucky that Moss pushed off of Edelman.
On offense, hopefully the Patriots knew that the Redskins were strongest in run defense up the middle and were vulnerable to the outside. Why did they run it up the middle so often? Then, when the Patriots run the ball well, they do it two more times until they get stuffed? Another time, they run to the right side and have success- and then they don't go back to the right?
There were some questionable decisions on both sides of the ball. These issues have to be ironed out.
The Patriots Return Game - Do the Patriots have a kick returner? Danny Woodhead is not a good kick returner. Why does he continue to get the ball? Tiquan Underwood? Dan Connolly? Vince Wilfork? Anyone?
Mark Anderson - Anderson played a fair amount and he played well. He's typically a third down pass rusher, but his role expanded this week. He played run defense and played it extremely well. He also stood up and played 3-4 OLB for a few snaps, as if the Patriots were trying him out. He dropped into coverage, rushed the quarterback, and stopped the run. He had a very solid outing and could continue to build a role on the Patriots defense.
Rob Gronkowski - He's an animal. What else has to be said?
Aaron Hernandez - Hernandez had a great first, third, and fourth quarter. He was great and could have had a better day, had Brady been on target. He's evolving into an excellent 3rd target.
Wes Welker - Typical day at work. Brady missed him a few times as well.
Devin McCourty - I'll say it. I'm not going to give up on him yet. Here's what I saw from the game:
McCourty looked good on Redskins first two possessions.
McCourty was in good coverage on the deep ball. Perfect pass and he made a valiant swipe at the ball. The safety (Slater) was in no position to help. It was almost the exact same play as the Eagles and Riley Cooper made on Kyle Arrington.
McCourty was fantastic in run defense, after a questionable outing last week.
McCourty had a few great pass break-ups and was right on the receiver.
McCourty cleaned up the mess as the safeties and the linebacker struggle to cover in zone, leaving McCourty to make the tackle. There was a time when McCourty had the deep right zone, Fletcher had the shallow right, Ihedigbo had the deep middle zone, and Mayo had the shallow middle. As the receiver ran towards the hashmarks, neither Ihedigbo, nor Mayo engaged with the receiver. He sat down, made the reception, and McCourty had to come make the tackle.
McCourty clearly gets injured at the end of the game making a solid tackle and is trying to push his arm back into its socket. He keeps fighting and finishes the game.
McCourty was turned around in the red zone and gave up the touchdown. Can't afford to turn his head around in the end zone.
McCourty made a bad penalty when he arm barred the receiver on third and long. Could have allowed the reception and made the take down to force the punt.
I think he had more positives this game than negatives. He's still a step away, but he's definitely a step closer.
Jerod Mayo - The biggest concern about Mayo is his lack of impact plays. He's been a tackler, but not an impact player. In the 4-3, it seems as if his ability to have an impact has increased. He's been great with delay blitzes, he's having an impact in the passing game and, while the outcomes have been questionable, the coaches were fine letting him cover Santana Moss for some reason. His impact continues to grow and, with the return of Brandon Spikes or a fully healthy Dane Fletcher, his roles can continue to grow.
Tracy White - White is earning his pay check. He made a few great red zone tackles and had the disruption to force the ball into Mayo's hands to close the game. He truly is a special team player.
The Patriots were lucky to leave with a win. If Brady had a good game, the Patriots could have had five or six passing touchdowns and the game could have been blown open. Hopefully Brady can figure out his issues and the offense can get back on track (even though they still had a solid game). Points cannot be left on the field. The defense gave up seven points to a trick play and forced two field goals from the red zone. They allowed Roy Helu to have one heck of a day.
Discipline should be the key word this week. Hopefully both the offense and defense can show a little more discipline and focus on the little things that have a large impact. No more forced passes by Brady. No more cutback lanes on defense. Once the Patriots can stop the little things, then they'll be able to focus on the bigger picture.
And the bigger picture is now in Denver. Mistakes are not acceptable. Not in Denver.