I hate writing these.
Continuing with last season's series, after every Patriots loss I'm going to be posting an article about some positives that we can take away from the game. I really didn't think that the first one of 2012 would be coming after the freaking Arizona Cardinals, but what can you do. Any Given Sunday is considered a cliche for a reason, and that's simply why you play 'em. Sometimes you win when you should lose, sometimes you lose when you should win, and sometimes - like Sunday - you lose because you put up a stinker and couldn't get anything going offensively. Tommy B was off. Playcalling was quirky. Communication faltered. The offensive line had trouble with Arizona's defense. And in spite of all that, the team was still in position to steal a victory on a last minute Stephen Gostkowski field goal, but instead of channeling his inner Adam Vinatieri he channeled his inner Scott Norwood and shanked it wide left to drop the Pats to 1-1 in what can only be described as a shocker.
It's never good to lose, it's never good to lose at home, and it's never good to lose your home opener, but it also isn't the end of the world. To be honest, there were actually quite a few positives to take away from Sunday's game. Here are five of them.
Back to Earth. I definitely wish that it had come later on in the season, but this loss brings everyone back into the realm of reality and puts to rest any absurd talks of 16-0 or nonstop dominance. The way some people were talking based on Week 1, the Patriots were primed to win every game by 80 points on their way to once again shattering the history books and asserting themselves as the greatest team ever. The reality is that this is a work in progress, as all teams are early in the year, and they are going to have some hiccups along the way. They looked awful offensively, they lost the game, and now maybe we can start viewing this team a little more objectively and get off the high horse that last week's win brought on.
Affordable Loss. This happens almost every year. Every. Single. Year. New England drops a game early, loses to a team they have absolutely no business losing to, and people completely panic and act like the sky is falling. I even heard a guy on the radio while driving home from the game suggest that the team should start Ryan Mallett next week against Baltimore. What happened on Sunday was that the Patriots played poorly, they couldn't get it done, and they lost a game against a non-conference opponent very early in the season. If you're going to take a loss, you can give me an early loss against a non-AFC opponent every time. Contrary to popular belief, this team is allowed to lose, and as far as losses go, this one won't hurt them any in terms of tiebreakers or playoff implications. This is also an affordable loss in the sense that it makes us appreciate rooting for a team that loses so infrequently every time they do drop one it's always time to freak out.
Defense. I thought that the defense looked great on Sunday. They held Larry Fitzgerald to 1 reception and didn't really give the Cardinals any room to breathe all game. Of the 20 points Arizona scored, 10 of them came on extremely short fields resulting from an interception and a blocked punt, and other than that one longer touchdown drive, the D stepped it up big time. They did everything they could to keep the team in the game and even made the big play necessary to set up the win. Last year there's no way that would have happened, and if this D continues to improve, then we are going to be in great shape. Because honestly: is anyone here really worried about the offense? Is anyone here going to take a bad game with some shoddy play by a patchwork O line as the rule and not the exception? Feel free to vent if you need to, but we all know that this offense is going to be fine down the road, even if Aaron Hernandez does miss significant time. And if the defense keeps playing like this, the Pats are going to be a very dangerous team.
Stevan Ridley. No, he didn't run for 125 yards and a score on Sunday, but Ridley still looked solid. He busted off several big gains, turned a few losses into positive yardage, and banged out short yardage runs when his number was called. People are going to be hammering Josh McDaniels and his odd choice of sweep/toss plays to Ridley on 3rd and short when the offensive line was banged up, but I think that Ridley took what he was given against a pretty damn good Cardinals defensive line and proved once again that he belongs back there as the workhorse back. If the passing game had been clicking, Arizona wouldn't have been able to stack the box so heavily, and so I think Sunday's performance bodes well for the future.
Another jinx out of the way. I don't know how many times I read or heard that the Patriots have never lost a home opener at Gillette Stadium this week. I tried to avoid it as best I could, but it was just shoved down our collective throats everywhere we turned and there was nothing we could do about it. You win this round, football gods. Cross another one off the list. The Pats were going to lose a home opener eventually, and I guess this was just the year. The last time they lost a home opener was 2001, and if I remember correctly, that season ended alright for them. Maybe now the media will have to dig a little deeper for stats that are sure to screw over the Patriots, like New England is 4-0 against teams whose home city only has one "e" in it during primetime when the weather is between 65 and 75 degrees.
This loss hurts, and it really shouldn't have happened. But we've been here before, and we'll definitely be here again. So let's all just relax a bit, take a more pragmatic approach to the 2012 season, and get ready for a monster game this week against the Baltimore Ravens.