Patriots vs. Browns: Fan Notes from the Game

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots'

So...should we be happy this morning, or what? How should I be feeling right now?

Should I be happy that the Patriots won, or should I be depressed over what the Patriots lost? Should I be celebrating the mental toughness and attitude of this team, or should I be lamenting the latest injury to yet another crucial piece of the offense? Should I be psyched about how this team is 10-3, or should I be worried about how easily they could be 3-10?

In the words of Ron Burgundy, I'm in a glass case of emotion right now and don't really know how I'm supposed to be feeling. It's Monday, it's cold, it's raining, I haven't seen a pair of yoga pants in a month, and Rob Gronkowski is the latest VIP at Club IR. But at the same time, the Patriots once again proved that they refuse to bow down to the will of the football Gods and are playing with as much grit and toughness as you will ever see across any sport. So I'm going to just roll with that.

We better get to the notes before Stephen Gostkowski breaks his ankle in the shower this morning and is done for the year.

  • I actually always liked Jason Campbell; I know he has never done much as an NFL starter, but I feel like he has always inherited a nightmare of an offense and never really got a fair shot. That's why I'm glad that we can now add Campbell to ever-growing the list of career scrubs that look like All Stars against the Patriots defense.
  • Then again, if you're a QB playing against a run defense that just can't stop anyone and has Dont'a Hightower as a coverage linebacker, it's a lot easier to have a good game.
  • Looks like we are officially back to the 2011 bend but don't break style of defense - give up yards at will between the 20s, stiffen up in the Red Zone, and force field goal attempts while finding ways to generate turnovers. Except for the whole "finding ways to generate turnovers" and "stiffen in the Red Zone" part, the New England defense looked pretty good yesterday overall.
  • Speaking of turnovers - you guys blew the whistle a little quick there on that Greg Little fumble, refs. That was such a fast play that you could make a case for whether or not that was even a complete pass.
  • In general, there was a good amount of inconsistency regarding when exactly a play was dead. For example, on the 3rd and short in the 2nd quarter in which Willis McGahee was stopped in the backfield, held up, and spun around for what looked like a first down, the refs took their sweet time in calling the play dead. McGahee was stopped for a much longer time than Little was, but they let the play go on.
  • You know what I want for Christmas? A Patriots touchdown on their opening drive.
  • How come teams don't use ridiculous cadences when calling audibles at the line? I mean tell me what's more confusing: "Eagle Buckeye 12! Oklahoma 38!" or "Stinkfart Upwind! Red Clown Slaptastic! Hut!" To me, it's not even close.
  • The Cleveland Browns are a bad team. The Houston Texans are a bad team. The New York Jets are a bad team. The first half New England Patriots are a bad team. I think I'll just start tuning it at halftime from now on.
  • I'm usually nervous enough as it is for Patriots games; that I now have to find a way to calm myself down every time Stevan Ridley touches the ball can't be good for my blood pressure.
  • Who would have thought the catch of the day would come from James Develin? A quick wheel route down the sideline, a one-handed grab, and a huge gain after bowling over some defenders. Two straight weeks with two of the best plays you'll see from a fullback.
  • I'll fully admit that I somehow deluded myself into thinking that the Patriots would be going into the half with a lead in this game. You figure a Cleveland team with QB issues at home in a potential hat and t-shirt game would be the perfect recipe to get your act together. Silly me.
  • Who in the NFL do you think Hightower is capable of covering? Think he'd be able to match up against Vince Wilfork one on one? Maybe Randy Bullock?
  • I made a joke a little while ago about the NFL holding a secret meeting in which they decide to stop calling PI on Patriots receivers. I'm starting to think I was onto something there and if I get much more vocal about it I'm going to be walking down Park Avenue one day and a van is going to pull up, throw me in the back, and I'll never be heard from again.
  • I should probably retract that last note after what happened at the very end of the game, but I won't. Why? Because I have absolutely no clue what constitutes PI anymore. You can dropkick a guy in the end zone and not get a flag, but some light contact on the sideline gets the laundry out. Maybe instead of flags on passing downs, the refs should just throw coins; heads it's PI, tails it's not.
  • One thing I think that all NFL fans can agree on is that this has to be one of the most poorly officiated NFL seasons of all time. All season long, critical referee errors have cost teams games and affected the landscape of the league adversely. This comes a season after the officials went on strike and made a list of demands that the NFL met in order to save us from the incompetent replacements. I know that bad calls are going to happen here and there, but the sheer volume, and how many come in huge moments, is very troubling.
  • Is there a reason the Pats stopped running Blount early? Cleveland was having a very tough time stopping him and the passing game wasn't getting anything going early, so it seems like giving the ball to Blount would have made a lot of sense. Then again, it was the first half, so maybe the Pats were just trying to remain consistent.
  • Sweet juke, Josh Boyce. Now you have to work on catching it more.
  • Is there a single player in the NFL that gets more sideline camera time than Tom Brady? I'm surprised CBS didn't do a split screen of the game and Tommy B on the sideline.
  • Great Mrs. Doubtfire reference, Steve Tasker.
  • 10 points combined in four first halfs...that's playoff-ready football, right there.
  • Ryan Wendell is having a really rough season.
  • So is Logan Mankins, if we're being honest about it.
  • Hell, who am I kidding...this offensive line is having a really hard time getting their act together. I don't really understand it, as this line has played better with less talent in the past. And it's not like Tommy B is taking a lot of coverage sacks; guys are just charging right through and taking him down. At this point in the season, you have to think it is what it is.
  • What's a good play for 2nd and eleventy-seven? Run a few screens? Alrighty.
  • The highlight of this game for me was the picture of Webster Slaughter on the all-time Browns receiving list. Now THAT'S how you take a profile picture.
  • Sure am glad we traded for Isaac Sopoaga.
  • I can't remember being as frustrated watching a Patriots game as I was yesterday. Absolutely nothing went right for 55 of the 60 minutes of that game, and absolutely nothing seemed to go right in slow motion. It's like how they say after a few years in the league, the game starts to slow down; well I guess I finally had my breakthgrough yesterday - the Pats crapped the bed and I saw every miserable second of it.
  • What the hell happened on that first Browns TD? Everyone except for McCourty just seemed to stop and watch the play as if they were so sure that the flag was against Cleveland. You know, since New England has been getting so many flags as of late.
  • There's a whole lot you could point the finger at regarding yesterday's performance, but perhaps nobody deserves as much blame as Robert Kraft and his decided lack of pink tie in the owner's box. Nobody's fault but yours, Bobby.
  • Not a lot of Blount, not a lot of no-huddle, not a lot of protection, not a lot not dropping the ball...not a lot of points.
  • The human knee is totally meant to bend that way, right? Right, Gronk?
  • Hey, at least Gronk only shattered his knee and didn't take a hit to the helmet. Thanks for the safety enforcements, NFL!
  • Plus, Gronk is so short that there really isn't any room between his helmet and his knee and the defender had absolutely no choice but to go low there. That wasn't even a dirty hit, either; just a guy trying to make a play within the new league parameters.
  • Where does "Gronk out for the year, Brady fumbles on the next snap" rank on the all-time worst Patriots sequences? That has to be number one, right?
  • Welp...Matthew Mulligan, it's up to you bud. I think you're literally the only TE left on the roster.
  • Along those lines...anyone know what Aaron Hernandez is up to? Think maybe we could get him to come in for a workout? Maybe some kind of work release program?
  • How is it that every time we're facing a third and long, we run a screen for six yards, but every time the opponent is facing a third and long, they run a screen for a first down?
  • New England's first trip to the red zone didn't come until late in the third quarter, and it ended with a field goal. I think we should all get ready for a lot more of that from here on out.
  • What's Hightower's 40 time? 8 seconds?
  • Credit to Joe Thomas for completely winning the one on one battle vs. Chandler Jones. There aren't many linemen in the NFL that can completely take Jones out of the game all by himself, and Thomas did so with ease.
  • I can not say the same, however, about Will Svitek. Of the complete sieve that was the offensive line yesterday, Svitek was the sieviest. I'm not ready to make the obvious Will Sievitek joke just yet, as he has been a mixed bag so far, but if Marcus Cannon is going to miss a lot of time and we're completely out of tight ends that can block, I don't know what the next step is.
  • I don't know when or how exactly this game became the Shane Vereen Show, but I enjoyed it immensely and can't wait for the next episode. Walter White has nothing on Shane Vereen.
  • Of course, when Cleveland marches down the field converting 3rd downs at will and scores to go up 12 with two minutes left, you have to wonder if it was a wise move to slot "The Shane Vereen Show" in between "Holes in the D" and "Can't Stop a Nosebleed." The execs probably want to play around with the format there.
  • Luckily, we can always go to reruns of Edelmania. That touchdown drive to pull within 5 was one of the best drives of the season. I don't know what it is about Tommy B and must-score situations, but the man has only one weakness: receivers that drop passes. Edelman is no such receiver.
  • Who here had that onside kick working? I know I didn't. But could Stephen Gostkowski kicked that ball any better? I don't think so.
  • Thank God Ghost kicked that one down the middle; had it been all the way to the outside, it would have blown right by Kyle Arrington and Cleveland probably would have returned it for a touchdown.
  • OK, let's talk about the PI call on Josh Boyce. Was it interference? Maybe, by the definition of the term in the NFL rulebook. Have defensive backs gotten away with much, much worse this year? Absolutely. Have they been flagged for much, much less? You bet they have. Should a penalty flag decide the end of a game? Never. Has it decided the end of several games this year? Yes it has. Is it nice to finally be on the receiving end of a questionable call to end the game? Indeed it is. The Pats have gotten screwed by the refs as much as anyone this year, and so I'm going to take this one as a makeup call for being the only team in NFL history to get flagged for a push on a FG attempt and for having a blatant PI in the end zone flag picked up because a ref who wasn't even assigned to watch the play sprinted over from 30 yards out and overturned the call.
  • After Ammendola scored on 1st and Goal, I actually groaned to myself; the Pats had left 35 seconds on the clock, which I knew was more than enough time for Campbell to march into FG range. And march he did.
  • Billy Cundiff's kick was right down the pipe. I legit watched that kick from between my fingers like a kid watching an episode of "Are You Afraid of the Dark" on Snick, and for most of the ball's trajectory I thought I was going to vomit. But then it fell short, and the uncontrollable urge to vomit was rapidly replaced by the uncontrollable urge to do some air humping.
  • Thank God the Pats won this one - there was absolutely no way I was going to be able to write a "Coping With Loss" article about a home loss against the Browns in which Jason Campbell passed for 391 yards that cost us a bye and in which we lost Gronk for the year. Not a whole lot I could have said about that one.
  • I know we need to use Gronk's roster spot on a tight end...but maybe we should sign Tim Tebow instead. We could certainly use someone with an in with The Big Guy.

I'm going to be honest: a very large part of me still thinks that the Patriots' season got carted off the field alongside Gronk yesterday. They have now lost their best player at every single level save one, and the team was already pretty much at the tipping point last week in regards to injuries.

However, another part of me thinks that there is simply no stopping the 2013 Patriots. Can't be done. Keep taking out their captains and cornerstones. Keep calling flags against them. Keep praising Peyton Manning. Do your worst. Because this team isn't going anywhere. They are going to circle the wagons, march whoever is healthy enough to play out onto that field, and find ways to win games. We are officially playing with house money at this point, and we may as well let it ride on every hand.

Bring on Miami. Bring on Baltimore. Bring on Buffalo. Bring on everyone. We aren't going anywhere.

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