I ate a lot of McDonald's as a kid. I still do, but when I was little, I really got after it. My local Micky D's was especially great, because sometimes they would get one of the Happy Meal characters to come to the restaurant to hang out with you while you were eating. Every once in a while it was the big man himself, Ronald McDonald, but usually it was one his underlings like the Hamburglar or one of the Fry Guys. Regardless, there's nothing quite like trying to wolf down your Happy Meal before some black mask-clad jerk comes over and tries to swipe your hamburger. They just don't do it like that anymore, unfortunately.
Ronald, the Hamburglar, and the Fry Guys were all well and good, but for my money, nothing beat a Grimace appearance. That big blob of goo was the best thing coming; just kind of waddled around, happy as can be, making sure everyone has a good time and not feeling a thing if I wanted to sneak up behind him and kick his big purple behind when he wasn't looking. A McDonald's visit was always great, but a Grimace day was something you circled on your calendar.
Until, of course, the time when I was seven and spent the entire week counting down the minutes until the night when once again Grimace would be visiting my neck of the woods. I was sure to be as annoying as possible until my parents completely gave up and drove to the restaurant at 6 PM on the dot so I would be the first in line to say hello to the ORIGINAL big purple monster (get the hell out of here, Barney). We got to McDonalds, I opened the door... and there, sitting by himself in a booth, was some random guy in purple facepaint with a cheap plastic Grimace hat on.
I don't know who looked more miserable at that moment, me or that poor schlub who likely drew the short straw when the real Grimace bailed and the rest of the employees had to figure out how to salvage the evening - a task in which they failed spectacularly. I mean come on - how is some guy in a Grimace hat even close to the real thing? They would have been better off just canceling the event altogether. Regardless, I never forgot that moment, and while that hasn't stopped me from eating McDonald's, I've never been able to look at Grimace quite the same again.
And in a way, that's pretty much how I felt for last night's preseason game. I sat down expecting Grimace, and what I got was some bum in a purple sweatshirt. I wouldn't be so foolish as to call it a disappointment on par with that one fateful day at Mickey D's, because at the end of the day it was good coaching and effective team management; I completely understand and applaud where Belichick was coming from sitting his starters and giving the backups and bubble players extended reps. And plus - it's preseason, so who really cares? Still though, it just wasn't the same, was it? Even for a preseason game, that one was sloppy and relatively low energy. The good news is that there were definitely a number of things to take away from that game, both positive and negative, and before I was lulled to sleep by the replacement refs trying to figure out where to place the ball on almost every single down, I was able to jot down a few thoughts.
Notes after the jump.
- 20 New England starters on the bench for this game. Thank goodness the NFL charges regular season prices for preseason matches - we don't want the league to go bankrupt now, do we?
- I still say that LeSean McCoy is the best running back in the NFL. You can AP and Arian Foster me all day, but his speed, cutting ability, blocking awareness, and pass catching makes Shady number 1 in my book.
- Didn't stop Shady from getting lit up by Brandon Spikes, though, did it?
- Ryan Mallett takes a long time between his windup and his release - as evidenced by the number of pass breakups from Philly's DBs. He needs to get the ball out more quickly after he makes his decision.
- The McDaniels offense was on display last night, as evidenced by the large number of screens the team threw.
- New England's running backs had to make a tackler miss immediately almost every time they got the ball - just zero run blocking from the O Line.
- Nate Solder got absolutely worked up and down the field all night. It was almost like Trent Cole, Cullen Jenkins, and Derek Landri stood in a circle around him at recess and just kept bouncing him back and forth between them while he looked around desperately for a teacher to bail him out.
- In fact, the whole offensive line struggled again last night - and I'm sure we'll be hearing about it plenty. The theme of a lot of articles today is going to be "offensive line woes continue."
- That said, I'm still not worried at all about the offensive line. I think that they will be absolutely fine once the season starts; getting Logan Mankins back will be huge, I still think that Brian Waters will be back, and I'm not even close to ready to give up on Sebastian Vollmer yet. Plus, Dante Scarnecchia has done more with less in the past, so let's nobody panic.
- I will say this, though: none of the Patriots backup offensive lineman did themselves any favors last night. Not a whole lot of reliable depth there.
- Jermaine Cunningham's hit on Michael Vick reminded me of that internet video where the dancing rapper gets hit my an ice cream truck. Another solid game from Cunningham.
- These replacement refs are just awful. The holding on Kyle Love on the play where Vick got rocked by Cunningham was flagrant and occurred about 10 feet from one of the ball judges. I hope Evan Mathis bought Love breakfast this morning, and he better call him later.
- I actually feel like a lot of holding calls went unnoticed for both teams. I usually would say that's a good thing, as holding is one of those penalties you can call on every play, but I know that once the real refs come back that's going to change, so it's a bad precedent to set.
- Marquice Cole got the nod at cornerback tonight. That's really the only thing I can say about him; didn't really do much one way or another.
- Chandler Jones had a good game - didn't have as many direct pressures as he did against the Saints, but completely deflated the left side of the pocket and provided ample blitzing lanes for the linebackers.
- Very impressive touchdown drive from Mallett to finish the first quarter and start the second. He started to find his rhythm and his accuracy improved.
- Overall, however, Ryan Mallett just isn't an overly accurate QB right now, which you simply can't have in a pocket passer. Pocket quarterbacks are like peeing into a Coke bottle while driving: very impressive and able to get you out of even the most dire situations, but inaccuracy is a recipe for absolute disaster. He needs to step it up.
- I watched it at least six times, and I don't think I'm crazy: offensive lineman Darrion Weems is wearing 74. Kyle Love is also 74. I don't think that's a great sign for Weems.
- Not a great game from Jeremy Ebert. His overall performance tonight gets two thumbs down.
- I'm really sorry about that last joke; that was pitiful. Clearly I'm still shaking off some preseason rust as well.
- Eric Kettani with a phenomenal block on the 2 point conversion. Took two Eagles out of the play by himself. That's the kind of running I'd love to see more of - the whole stadium knows the Pats are running it, but it's still effective.
- Trevor Scott still generating pressure. Another good day from the veteran.
- Interesting to see Will Allen getting time at safety along with Ebner.
- On the Eagles' second touchdown play, Nate Ebner made a very nice bump on the receiver and then cut off McCoy in the flat for what was pretty solid coverage. The man at fault there was Mike Rivera, who looked totally lost on the play.
- Pretty rough night for Rivera overall as well. Weak in coverage and looked confused out there several times, plus was the man in coverage on two Philly passing TDs.
- Marcus Cannon needs to work on getting off the line faster. The good news is that that's something that can be taught.
- These roughing the passer calls are the worst.
- I think that at one point in the second quarter, the only Patriot on the field who didn't have dreadlocks was Brian Hoyer.
- In the competition between Deion Branch and Donte Stallworth, Branch had the edge last night. Stallworth had a lot of trouble getting separation and was unable to pull in any of the deep balls thrown his way.
- I can't shake the feeling that the refs met up before the game started and said to themselves, "when in doubt, just throw a flag. We'll figure out what it's for later."
- Last night's game was incredibly slow - and it wasn't just because of the number of Patriots starters that didn't see the field. Everything just took longer, from getting the ball in place to reviewing the scoring plays.
- EBNER! I don't think I've ever cheered that hard for a preseason play before. That pick made me smile like I just saw a fat guy fall down a handicapped ramp. The best part about it was the way he lowered the shoulder and flipped into the tackle to end the half. Ebner's folk hero status just took another stride forward.
- Not a huge fan of Tommy B leaving the stadium before the game even started, to be honest. I really feel like he should be on the sidelines with the team. I won't be reading too much into it like I'm sure a lot of people will do, but I still say Brady should have been there.
- Of course, if I was going home to Giselle, I wouldn't have been there either.
- King Dunlap is an absolute behemoth. Good Lord.
- I liked what I saw from Jake Bequette. He still takes a very wide angle with his pass rush and seems to get to the play half a second too late, but he was definitely a disruptive presence in the second half. He may still be a year away from being a steady contributor, though. We'll see.
- The fourth quarter of preseason games is pretty depressing. It's like some weird combination of watching those college and high school washups that take their low intensity YMCA basketball league seriously and seeing a 12-year-old kid with a cigarette in her mouth.
- I think I saw Ebner come across the field with a flying knee late in the 4th quarter. God I love that guy.