David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Notes, musings, and observations from New England's 41-28 victory over the Houston Texans.
I may have touched on this already in one of my past articles, but I don't really consider myself an emotional guy. I'd like to think it's because I'm tough and always in control, but the truth is that I'm just too damn immature to handle what I'm feeling or express myself. Sure, I always cry when I watch Pit Bulls and Parolees, but that doesn't count; anyone who doesn't cry at a good dog story simply doesn't have tear ducts.
So it's fairly understandable that I am completely incapable of handling everything I'm feeling this morning. I'm going through pretty much every possible emotion on the Emotion Tree; I'm happy and sad and nervous and relieved and upset and elated and pretty much everything in between, and I have absolutely no clue how to deal with it.
Of course, I'm also really, really hung over, so who knows how much weight I can put into it.
After the initial elation of yesterday's huge playoff win over the Houston Texans wore off, some of the realities of what happened in that game started to set in. Rob Gronkowski is out for the rest of the year. Danny Woodhead injured his thumb. Chandler Jones was hurt and didn't return to the game. There is some uncertainty surrounding a few key players that likely won't get answered until the Pats take the field next Sunday night.
But I don't want to dwell on that now; we're in the AFC Championship! We have once again proven that no team in the NFL is as consistently dominant as the Patriots are. Besides, I have all week to overanalyze everything and get myself even more worked up for Sunday's AFC Championship Game. Let's just get to the Fan Notes.
- About 15 seconds before kickoff, my friend Nate - a diehard Chiefs fan -sent me the following text: "So how many points will the Patriots win by today? 30+?" I seriously considered turning the TV off at that point and just going to bed. Hey Nate, if you're reading: I hate you.
- I really, really hope I'm never in a high pressure situation. If I get as nervous as I did for the start of yesterday's game in an actual, real-life situation, I'm absolutely screwed. Note to the internet: if you ever hear the phrase "Alec Shane will be your EMT this evening," seek medical help elsewhere.
- I also think I'm at the point where I will get nervous anytime I see Phil Simms, no matter what the situation. Why does he call so many Pats games?
- That start sure didn't do much to help my nerves any. What's the deal, Enbner?
- Credit to Devin McCourty on that tackle, though. I'd say I was surprised to see a player trample over Manning like that, but it happens during pretty much every postseason.
- WIDE OPEN receivers on Houston's first offensive drive. Shaub could have scored on second and third down easily. Everyone just needed to settle.
- Any rich Pulpiteers out there? How much do you think it would cost to broadcast an entire Patriots game commercial free? I'm willing to kick in $16.00.
- Is it me, or was there not all that much emotion emanating out of the offense to start the game? I can usually tell when New England is fired up, and I just didn't get that vibe right away. It's like when I ask my girlfriend if she's OK, and she just responds "fine." I know damn well that absolutely nothing is fine, but since I don't know what's going on there's nothing I can do about it.
- I want to hate the "it's my lucky seat" Bud Light commercial, but it hits a little close to home. I totally have a lucky seat.
- There are 5 minutes gone in the first quarter and New England doesn't have a huge lead. What gives?
- I had a whole commentary on why the Patriots weren't getting Stevan Ridley any early touches, but I think that was all part of an early game plan to test Houston's ability to cover receiving backs. Well the test results are in: FAIL.
- Gronk hurt once again on a fairly useless play. Woodhead out, too. CRAP.
- Wes Welker's drop streak continues! That was not only a huge 3rd down conversion, but Welker had about 10 yards of open space in front of him.
- Houston's "great on 1st down, awful on 3rd down" strategy may not be a long-term recipe for success.
- Keep blitzing, Houston. It's just a matter of time before Tommy B figures you out.
- I wonder who the first person to use the term "LET'S GO!" when they got excited after a big play. Whoever it was, I hope they are getting royalties.
- Looking at Houston's defense on Shane Vereen's touchdown run reminded me of 11 guys who simultaneously woke up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and decided they were going to try and navigate the hallway without turning the light on. And as anyone who has woken up to pee in the middle of the night and stumbled blindly to the bathroom will tell you, it never ends well for anybody. I wouldn't be surprised if half the team stubbed their toes on that play.
- I'm starting to think it's actually just Chandler Jones's running style, because he spends at least 60% of his rushes looking directly up at the sky. They can't miss illegal hands to the face that many times.
- Brady's early inaccuracy was a little unsettling. But then again, so was the quesadilla I ate for lunch. And much like that quesadilla, it passed quickly and fluidly.
- Hey Connor Barwin - how are your ankles? Make sure you sneak a peek at Vereen's booty as he blows by you; he's got a nice one.
- I know what every single person in New England was thinking when that pass to the end zone sailed over Hernandez's head. That was a tight end seam route up the middle. Gronk runs tight end seam routes up the middle! Well no more, I guess.
- I'm detecting a pattern: big first down catch for Andre Johnson, short Arian Foster run, run for no gain, incomplete pass, punt. I fully support this Texans offensive strategy.
- I didn't know that Dont'a Hightower was a wrestler. He straight up Perfect-Plexed DeVier Posey yesterday.
- Along those lines: Bobby "The Brain" Heenan and Gorilla Monsoon would be such an upgrade over Nantz and Simms I'm actually pretty furious there's no way we can make it happen.
- Jesus, Lloyd. There was nobody even around you on your first catch. Get some damn yards.
- See? This is why nobody gets mad when Welker drops a ball here and there. That sideline route to set up New England's second touchdown was probably in the Top 3 best catches I've seen him make.
- So remember earlier this week when Greg posted the question, "What will be New England's X-Factor this Sunday?" I'd like to request that everyone stop reading my contribution to that little round table after the first comma: "I was initially going to go with Shane Vereen and the unique matchup problems he creates." That's it. That's what I meant. The rest is all just filler.
- The Texans finally figured out that Arian Foster runs well to the outside. Dammit - I was hoping that they had forgotten.
- Don't you think it makes sense that the entire football should cross the plane of the goal line in order to call it a touchdown? I never got why one centimeter of ball on the white line equals a touchdown. Although I guess that's also the argument for everyone who ever has to walk the line on a roadside sobriety test.
- That Shayne Graham field goal gave me a very, very bad feeling. Just all kinds of switching up the stank. Or maybe I was just mad that he couldn't seem to hit a long FG when he was on the Patriots.
- Special teams gets a C- from me for yesterday's performance. Not only the opening kickoff, but some weak punting, spotty downfield coverage, and missed tackles on a lot of kicking plays. There really are three phases to football, and you need to have all of them in the playoffs.
- Has any player who left the game early in the 1st quarter come back in the 3rd?
- Great block by Michael Hoomanawanui to spring Ridley into the end zone. We're really going to miss Gronk, but we could definitely miss him a whole lot more.
- You know who's actually pretty sexy? Josh McDaniels. I mean, he's not Tommy B sexy, and he's not even close to Marima sexy, but pretty sexy nonetheless.
- Ugh. That forward progress fumble non-call is the kind of thing that makes me want to vomit.
- I don't see how pretty much everyone except for the Patriots coaching staff knew that Houston was going to utilize the check-down to Foster a lot yesterday.
- That 3rd and 16 Andre Johnson conversion brought up a lot of bad memories. That was the kind of play that was almost guaranteed for the other team for 2 straight years.
- Nink, give Mayo that ball for your pick. He ran all the way across the defense for the edge blitz that forced Shaub to make that crappy throw.
- Did you catch Wilfork celebrating with Nink after that pick? It looked like he was about to jump into his arms and wrap his legs around his waist, screaming, "oh Robert! I just knew you'd catch that ball! Truly I did!"
- When the big fat cheesehead guy that has become the Discount Double Check mascot first got to Hollywood, what do you think his dream was? Honestly, I think it was to be the big fat cheesehead guy that has become the Discount Double Check mascot. Good for him - LIVING THE DREAM!
- Welp...looks like we found the secret to getting Brandon Lloyd yards after the catch: blow the play dead and then just let him go for it.
- You know what that drive following the Ninkovich pick reminded me of? There's a scene in Rocky where Duke tells Apollo Creed, "he doesn't know it's a show! He thinks it's a damn fight! Now finish this bum, and let's go home!" And unless I'm mistaken, Apollo Creed went on to knock Rocky out right away and the Italian Stallion faded into obscurity, never to be heard from again. So it's totally applicable.
- For the longest time, I couldn't figure out what else the guy who plays the Captain Ahab tow truck guy in the Audi Quattro commercial was in, and it was driving me nuts. But then it hit me: he was the basketball coach in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. I'm not exceptional proud of the fact that I figured that out.
- McCourty looked upset that he didn't come down with that pick on 4th and short. I don't know what he is so mad about; if he caught that, New England would have lost about 15 yards.
- ARE YOU KIDDING ME SHANE VEREEN.
- ARE YOU KIDDING ME SHANE VEREEN.
- ARE YOU KIDDING ME SHANE VEREEN.
- ARE YOU KIDDING ME SHANE VEREEN.
- I don't know why I'm so surprised by how ridiculous that catch was. After all, guys named Shane are just superior athletes. It's science.
- Bill Belichick's reaction to that Vereen touchdown - an insane, over the shoulder catch made by a running back off a PERFECTLY placed pass from Tommy B - says more about his coaching philosophy than any interview, book, or extended period of stalking him and sifting through his garbage ever could. "OK guys, here's what we need to do to...hold on...touchdown. Great. OK guys, here's what we need to do to..." He'll look back on that touchdown and celebrate after the season is over. Maybe. Probably not, though.
- What the hell is going on with these runbacks? Jacoby Jones must be salivating right now.
- Gostskowski got away with a trip there, I think.
- All I wanted to do with the New England drive following the Posey touchdown was get the clock to eight minutes. What I got instead was a three and out that included two incompletions and a penalty that moved the team backward and took less than two minutes off the clock. Why not just run it three times and punt it at this point?
- Right as Houston began a surgical drive, I got the newsflash that Gronk is out for the rest of the year. I then went to pick up my beer and it was empty. What the hell is going on here? And why can't we have Gronk for just ONE Super Bowl?
- Maybe Belichick got a call from CBS that said "I need you to use a defensive formation that is going to give us a ratings boost. Maybe let them score a few times or something." I get the soft coverage, but come on.
- That onsides kick forced me to change my shorts. Twice. That was nothing but a lucky bounce off a Pat Chung muff and there's not much else to say about it.
- Defensive holding aside, what the hell are you doing throwing on 3rd and 2? This is what you have Jumbo Sets for.
- Please just keep running it. PLEASE.
- Or throw it to Lloyd. That's cool too.
- Was anyone else convinced that Stephen Gostkowski was going to miss that last field goal?
- "Deflated J.J. Watt" is slowly climbing the ranks of my favorite memes. Nothing will ever beat "Manning Face," but it's up there.
- Even up two scores, based on this weekend's games, I wasn't confident in this Patriots win until there was no time left on the clock.
- How great was Simms suggesting that the Texans try for a long field goal?
- To quote Tommy B in his postgame press conference: "Shane had a great game." You too, Tommy. But I can't take too much credit; this was a team win.
- Who would have thought that the Manning who had the best performance during playoff weekend would have a girl's first name? Happy that we don't have to worry about Daneal Manning anymore.
- Peyton Manning: the NFL's All-Time losingest playoff quarterback. Tom Brady: the NFL's All-Time Winningest playoff quarterback. Enjoy your MVP trophy, Manning. Bring on the Ravens!!!