I felt a sense of deja-vu and I couldn't figure it out. This game felt like one that happened before and it took me awhile to figure it out. @Browns, 2010? Jets in the DivisionalRound? @Steelers, 2011?It's definitely Jets in the Divisional Round. The Pats had beaten them weeks earlier 45-3 and were welcoming the Jets back to Foxboro, so widely-favored to win another lop-sided victory over another one of the other teams in the AFC-East. The early interception on a short pass Patriots vs Ravens coverageis what came to mind when Brady's pass to Edelman was tipped in the air at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by Patrick Peterson. A prayer answered? Luck? No, just any given Sunday. It was the first play and then it became obvious that Welker wasn't amongst the starters, just like in the Jets game where he was benched for making some rather-indirect jokes about feet.
Aaron Hernandez going down on the 3rd offensive snap is what I think really threw a wrench into the gear-works of the offensive game-plan. Nearly their entire game-plan, which features Aaron Hernandez at a half-dozen different positions, had to be scraped. Like I needed any other reasons to be down on Edelman.
I thought the Pats D was good although I would like to see them stop surrendering points in the first drive, even if they're just field-goals. Brady's first throw from deep in Pats territory just had to be tipped and miraculously picked-off because that happens sometimes. The Pats D still did not surrender a touchdown here, instead holding the Cards to another 3 points. In fact, on the 10 points the Cards got off of their 2 turnovers, their drives accumulated a pathetic 9 yards. SI still has the Pats ranked as a top-5 unit on D. They produced another 2 turnovers, kept their running-backs in line, and managed to hold Fitzgerald to 1 catch. Todd Heap, doing his best Heath Miller 2011 Week 8 impersonation, had the best receiving numbers with 5 catches. He was followed by Early Doucet who had a trio of catches. Devin McCourty looked more like the DMC of 2010 than 2011, and really has looked that way except for the blatant non-called PI in Week 1's opening drive. The D did a great job, even if I expected a higher sack-total for Jones. I might want to see more Tavon Wilson over Steve Gregory, maybe someone challenging Arrington for snaps, and I might want to see more pass-rush to help out Jones working the blindside but I can't complain about the unit they have. The D can hardly be blamed, it's everything else.
This is not going to be the last game of the season where the Pats are heavily-favored, so maybe it's good for them to get this out of their system now. I'm not sure what to make of players blaming the bad week of practice except maybe they didn't take the Cards seriously. If so, they ruined the home-opening record that was in place for a decade. The early interception, the blocked-punt, and Hernandez going down are the kinds of factors which, if combined with others, could give underdogs like the Cards a chance. They earned it but the Cards shouldn't have won this game. It shouldn't have come down to a 42-yard FG, it shouldn't have come down to praying for a miraculous turnover, and it shouldn't have come down to a 2-point conversion, and it shouldn't have come down to accumulating most of our points off of FieldGoals. In fact, of 18 points scored, 12 are from field-goals. That should be 28 points for the Pats, not 12 from those drives.
After the 2nd Jones forced-fumble recovered by a rookie in as many games, the first easy-sack on Brady came either because of Nate Solder pulling too far inside or because Mr. #47(huh? who?) the FB just wasn't fast enough to pick the rusher up. Hard to say but Solder didn't seem to think it was his guy. It's the first real 34-front the Pats have faced since last season so for some guys this is the first time working together against this kind of front. The 2nd sack was entirely on Donald Thomas who got up and outside in Cannon's way, making me really wonder if he has the intelligence to be considered starting-calibre. I don't understand why he tried picking up Cannon's guy, but he gave Cannon no chance to step in and stop the interior-rusher that should have been Thomas's guy. Horrible play by Thomas. Absolutely horrible. The Defender was given a completely open shot at Brady
The next sack on Brady was partly his own fault as he rushed up the middle. Either the coverage was that good or he was feeling the hits or both.
The blocked-punt is all on rookie Nate Ebner who faced a decent rusher in Quinton Groves. They're not kicking it straight down the field, they're trying to kick it away from PP, so that factors into it. But Ebner really should have made a harder-punch to keep the rusher back. The good thing about Ebner is no one will give him a harder time than himself as he is a very coachable young man.
The Cards 1st TD pass, after the blocked-punt drive, was on Sterling Moore's and Patrick Chung's side. It was Moore's guy, and I don't think Chung would have had a chance to get off the block on him, so it's probably on Moore who should have recognized the play.
But the worst of the next TD-drive by the Cards, a more legit one that didn't begin at the goal-line, came as a result of Kyle Arrington. Arrington's guy gets open in-between the numbers, but thankfully Mayo is there to clean up. Kolb then runs for his life from the pass-rush and throws towards the far-end of the line of scrimmage to his safety-valve. Kyle Arrington flies in on the safety-valve and completely misses the tackle leading to a huge run along the sideline. What's worse, a bunch of penalty yardage gets tacked on. Then Arrington's guy gets open, this time out-wide. Hightower and Mayo both may have missed game-changing plays in the run-game to stop the TD, but it was coming at this point anyways.
On the Pats TD-scoring drive, that sack is on Brady. He saw pressure that wasn't there and stepped too far into the pocket. A DLineman may have been in the way of a timed-route and Brady may have decided to not test the potential of another tipped-pass, but either way, the sack is on Brady. The pass-protection wasn't faltering.
As for the Wes Welker situation, the RG/RT situation, the dropped-balls, and the bad week of practice, and whatever the heck else is going on; losing this game should really humble people in that organization from players on up. The only good I can muster from this is that the last time the Pats lost a home-opener they began a dynasty.
The Good List:
Gostkowski. He made 2 FGs from over 50 yards out, and accounted for two-thirds of the only stat that matters in a game.
Chandler Jones. He brought pressure all day, kept the edge sealed, and came dangerously-close to tipping the Cards 1st TD-pass. Thus far in two games he has proven consistent at generating pressure, sealing the edge, and causing turnovers.
Brandon Spikes. I knew he would come back in this game. I won't be surprised if Mayo soon has his turn of the 3 LBs in having a monster game. I didn't like the penalty call on him but he made good plays all day and gave the Pats a miraculous chance at stopping disaster.
Devin McCourty. Did I really write that? He's looking more 2010 than 2011.
The Run-D. Beanie Wells was held to just over 3 YPC in 14 rushes, Kolb in 6 rushes(some planned some not) barely had over 3 YPC, and Ryan Williams was held to less than 1.5 YPC on 10 attempts. Change-of-pace guys Patrick Peterson and Stephens-Howlin had the only success against this unit.
Danny Woodhead. The only good run he had was erased by penalty. They drafted Shane Vereen for a reason, and went out to secure Jeff Demps for a reason. God must love Danny as fate seems to actively help him keep his job.
Donald Thomas. His play at RG did no favors for RT Marcus Cannon, who's not really much of a RT anyways.
The run-blocking in the second half.
Kyle Arrington. If he makes that tackle, Cards only get Yards through the penalty on Spikes/Gregory.
Losing Hernandez until after the bye.