Happy Football, everyone!
While normal people everywhere were out enjoying a beautiful September Sunday, doing whatever it is that non-football fanatics do, I was inside in my boxers in front of the TV screaming like a madman as the Patriots opened their 2012 season against the Tennessee Titans - the way Nature intended.
And what an opener it was.
Before I get to my fan notes, let's do a quick recap of some of the preseason's biggest storylines. If I remember correctly, the Jets offense was completely useless, the Bills defense was primed to shatter every record currently in existence, New England's offensive line was a serious question mark, the Eagles were finally ready to make the leap to offensive powerhouse, Adrian Peterson was going to be eased slowly into the Vikings offense, and Andrew Luck is a demigod that we should all be bowing before on a regular basis.
And while we can't completely throw all of those stories out the window - it's only Week 1 - yesterday's games only served to enforce the fact that you should only trust the preseason as much as you trust your local weatherman. What you can put in the books, though, was a fantastic first outing from Tommy B and the entire New England squad. The offense looked great, the defense looked solid, and I was even pleased with all phases of the Special Teams unit. I'd be remiss if I didn't pat myself on the back as well; my previously immaculate Man Cave was an absolute wreck of beer bottles and shame by the time this one was over, and I'm proud to say that my La-Z-Boy butt groove is already in mid-season form. 2012 is off to a stellar start.
Fan Notes after the jump.
- It took Phil Simms less than four minutes to say something that made me laugh. Before the game even started, Simms busted out this gem: "What can you say about Tom Brady, you know he's going to the Hall of Fame, but he is with a new offensive coordinator this year, Josh McDaniels." Hadn't thought of that, Phil; there should be a real adjustment period there.
- I like the base 4-3 lineup the Patriots opened this game with -good mix of size and speed.
- Well...so much for my fantasy of New England not allowing a 1st down all season. Locker has some nice zip on his throws and showed good poise on his first series.
- I'm very curious to monitor whether or not the home crowd will have any impact on these replacement refs. If we end up seeing a lot of late flags thrown, I'm going to start questioning.
- As much as I hated to see it -absolutely loved the playcalling by the Titans on 4th and inches in the 1st quarter. Great throw, great catch, and staying aggressive.
- That actually was a PI call on Devin McCourty breaking up the pass which led to the first FG of the game. Didn't turn around, made contact before the ball got to the receiver.
- Why do they ALWAYS have to bust out all of these stats inviting the wrath of the football gods? Pats have won their last 8 season openers. All QBs making their first start against New England have lost...come on, guys. Give me just one quarter to get my feet under me before making me bust out the jinx radar.
- Pocket collapsed IMMEDIATELY on Brady's first play from scrimmage, and then the line settled and was fine for the rest of the game.
- That deep play to Lloyd was a classic case of a receiver still learning the sexy nuances of his QB. Not to worry: that play will come. Oh yes... it will come.
- When was the last time Wes Welker dropped back to back passes?
- Latest sign that I'm embarrassingly out of shape: I was completely exhausted after my very first Air Hump Touchdown Dance of the season. It's still early, and I'll be in football shape before long.
- And of course by "football shape," I'm thinking more Kyle Love than Devin McCourty.
- The best part of the Tavon Wilson pick was watching the ball bounce right of Kyle Arrington's face.
- Brandon Lloyd makes me tingley. That is all.
- I hate RB toss plays. McDaniels loves them, and they were effective overall yesterday, but injury potential to you O Line is higher and the plays are just more likely to get blown up in the backfield.
- Chandler Jones with the strip, Dont'a Hightower with the fumble recovery for a touchdown. Yup. That's right.
- The most impressive part of that defensive touchdown was the awareness. Jones had a beautiful rip around Michael Roos and then Hightower had the wherewithal not to just fall on it. That's great work by a rookie.
- How happy were all the Tommy B haters to see his nose taped up? How many obnoxious idiots are going to be all over the message boards talking about how Bwady's pwetty widdle face is all bwoosed? Hate on, haters. Enjoy your crappy no-name quarterback.
- I really wish, maybe just for one half, that I could watch New England operate out of the no-huddle as a an impartial observer. I personally think that it is currently one of the paradigms of beautiful football, but I'm clearly biased.
- Question of the week: who the hell was the long-haired dude in jean shorts sitting behind Bon Jovi in Bob Kraft's owner's box? And how the hell do I steal his seat?
- Aaaaand Gronk completely whiffed his first spike of 2012. The best part of that whole moment was the look of genuine confusion on his face. I could almost see the thought bubble that read, "Gronk confused! Gronk had ball in Gronk hand and now Gronk no have ball in hand. Where Gronk ball go? Hey look, cheerleaders!"
- I really, really hope that's his new TD dance. To go for a monster spike, then lose the ball and whiff it. That would be awesome.
- Phenomenal solo tackle by Nate Ebner on the ensuing kickoff. Literally stopped him in mid-air.
- Wasn't too impressed with Rob Ninkovich's day. Got stood up at the line a lot and couldn't generate pressure.
- Looks like Devin McCourty will be returning kicks in Jeff Demps's absence; good thing I wrote that whole article breaking down who I thought would be back there. Top notch analysis by me right there.
- I don't want to get too excited -but Stevan Ridley looks absolutely phenomenal. Patient, instinctive, decisive, and seems to have really matured in his ability to make his cut and go.
- I guarantee you that Welker's relatively quiet day will spark some articles along the lines of "are the Patriots preparing their offense to move on without Welker?" I think that they were just saving him so he can break Troy Brown's record at home next week - when Brown is coincidentally being inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame.
- What do you think goes through a quarterback's mind when he sees Vince Wilfork barreling towards him with his hands in the air? I don't think "oh crap" even begins to describe it.
- My favorite defensive moment yesterday: late 3rd quarter, 3rd and 15 after a holding penalty negated a Jake Locker 20 yard scramble. Patriots completely shut down the play and force a punt. Last year that would have been a 16 yard gain after Locker sat in the pocket for 7 seconds.
- Well, it's official: I will never, ever get sick of seeing that Adam Vinatieri game winner in Super Bowl XXXVI. When I'm dying of a heart attack in 3 or 4 years and my life flashes before my eyes, I hope that's the last thing I see.
- Call me insensitive if you want, but I loved that monster hit on Nate Washington that took him out of the game. I'm all for player safety - but do you know what a hit like that used to be called? Sunday.
- The fact that the Patriots can combine the no-huddle offense with a clock-killing, run-based scheme is nothing short of remarkable. That's something I'm going to examine a little closer later in the week.
- What happened to Matt Hasselbeck on Tennessee's last drive? Three straight passes into the dirt.
- 11 rushes for 4 yards...maybe we should change CJ2K's name to CJ4Y.
- Reason number 3,245,875 why I'm glad I have NFL Sunday ticket: if I didn't have the package, I would have had to watch women's tennis as soon as the Pats game is over. Not that I'm not a fan of women's tennis...but ever since Anna Kournikova retired, it just isn't the same.
- Right before the game ended, the camera cut to four Patriots fans holding up four different cutouts of Tommy B's face. Who do I talk to in order to get the wheels in motion for replacing that outdated Mount Rushmore?
Can't ask for much more out of a season opener than that. Everything I saw from the Patriots that I didn't like- communication breakdowns, slight throwing inaccuracy, ineffective tackling angles from rookies - are all issues that are easily resolvable as the year rolls on. Absolutely nothing I saw yesterday raised any major red flags.
Bring on the Cardinals!