With our first lost now behind us, there are a couple of things I am now worried about. This post might be a little bit of an over-reaction, I'll admit that myself - but that doesn't mean there aren't real, serious problems that were highlighted in today's game.
The first and the most obvious is the offensive line. I don't know about you, but coming into the season with 4 legit receivers, a top-5 all time qb and decent run game I figured we would be an offensive powerhouse. 30+ every game should be easy, and 40s and higher not out of the question. Maybe even a few 50s mixed in there. Right now, it seems thats not going to be happening.
And if theres anyone problem you can point to as to why the O hasn't played as expected, I think its clearly the line. Mankins is better then last year, but thats about it. We need Waters back, or if Waters can't come back, someone else to take his place. Can we win games with this line? Certainly. But, as I said before, Waters being here vs not being here could well be the difference between 16-0 and 10-6.
Until our O-line improves, I'll go on the record saying I have more confidence in our D then our O. Its as if the two have almost switched rolls - the O seems to lack consistency and to a lesser extent chemistry, capable of one drive scoring in two minutes and 4 plays and on the next slowly marching down the field only to stall out just outside of field-goal range. On the other hand, our defense seems highly consistent, almost perfectly gelled together, and possibly even clutch. We're not all that great on the back end, but I'm not sure I've seen another D that makes as many plays in the backfield or limits YAC as much as we do. Maybe I'm over-reacting - as I said, its perfectly possible that I am - but our D line and linebackers seem top of the league.
Now focusing on the broader picture, I think this will lead to more close, almost ground-and-pound games. We are no longer a finesse team - the run game is the best part of the offense, and the defense is a strength if not the strength of the team. I expected us to turn into this type of team eventually, but not so soon.
And so, with this in mind, I feel like we just missed out on possibly our best chance to go undefeated. Some of you are probably going to hate on me for bringing this up, but as far as I can tell there is no reason not to discuss it. IMO, it wasn't out of the realm of possibilities to say our entire team - defense, offense, and special teams - were better this year in then in 2007. Our schedule was also a hell of alot easier. Next year we'll probably be without Welker, and Brady will be a year older. Unless we get some big name WR in the offseason, I don't think we can manage it and it just becomes less and less likely from that point on.
Now onto this game itself, I pretty much see three things: As said above the O-line was bad. Thats the big picture reason for the loss. The D was great, and kept us in the game like no other Patriots D of the last 5 years would have. Forcing a turnover at that point in the game on that part of the field was just so hot and clutch I really thought we'd done it. With the undefeated season in mind I thought back to the Baltimore game of 2007 - we had that lost, but the other team gave us another chance. That time we came out on top and this time, thanks to a terrible kick, we didn't. Obviously no excuse for missing that kick. It also seemed like we were running too much in the early part of the game, though this may have been because of the bad O-line play. The run game did look good though, and IMO should have been used on the 2-point conversion. Hopefully Hernandez isn't injured too bad.
Speaking of Baltimore and injuries, do we have to play against them? We're no longer undefeated but will probably make the playoffs win or lose. Call me crazy, but I just don't feel like seeing another elite member of our O get knocked out by Pollard.
So yea. Like I said this might be a little overly dramatic, but I think all the problems mentioned are real problems. Everything had to go wrong for us to lose that game, and pretty much everything did. I'm not really mad like I would be if we were 14-0 and lost or lost the SB, but just find it a little hard to believe. Arizona played well, and, while I feel we ultimately beat ourselves, thankfully there were no real bad calls that I noticed or anything you could call bullshit. Kinda feel like its all a dream and I'm just going to wake up....