Week 2: The Bright Side of the Moon

Jared Wickerham

As Patriots fans, we know the impossibly high standard that this team is held to by national media, local media, and even some Patriots fans. After their ugly performance last night, we are going to get plenty of articles from the dark side spouting gloom, doom, death and destruction. While those views may be valid, I'm going to give you a little moonshine from the bright side of the moon.

Why the moon?  Partly because everyone knows I'm a little bit out there anyway, but partly because you need to step back once in awhile and look at things from arms length.  Since I'm getting older, I need to move back even further than that for things to come into focus.  Yeah, getting older sucks, but it beats the alternative.  Moving on.

Rookie Receivers:

The obvious bright side is Dobson's first catch was a touchdown which he caught in stride.   Past that Kenbrell Thompkins, who had 4 catches out of 14 targets last week, has 2 catches out of 7 targets.  He kept his 28.6% catch rate intact.  Aaron Dobson was slightly better at 3 out of 10 for 30.0%.  They just couldn't catch the ball.

They did do something that we haven't seen here in a long time.  They got deep, and they got open.  They got open A LOT.  It's obvious that Danny Amendola, when healthy, is our number 1 target, and Julian Edelman is the number 2 man.  When was the last time our number 3 and 4 receivers got open?  When was they last time they did it deep?

Thompkins had a big boy catch in the endzone that was a slight hand position shift from being a TD.  Dobson needs to learn to turn his head sooner out of his breaks.  The guys are getting open, and that's half the battle.  The half we haven't seen in a long time.

The Slot is in Good Hands:

One of the biggest questions coming into this season was, "Who makes up for Wes Welker's ridiculous production in the slot?"  In game one it was Danny Amendola with 10 catches out of 14 targets (71.4% catch rate) and 104 yards.  Edelman's 7 out of 9 catches (77.8% catch rate) for 79 yards was also very Welker-like.   With Danny down, Edelman turned in 13 catches out of 18 targets (72.2% catch rate) against the Jets and 78 yards.

Between the two of them that's 30 catches and 261 yards in two games.  That projects to 240 catches and 2088 yards over 16 games.  The slot position is alive and well in Foxboro.  All we need now is for at least one of them to stay healthy at a time.

Ridley Didn't Fumble:

Oh, I know he bobbled one pitch when he looked downfield before securing the ball.  That play will be in an endless loop on the Belistrator Lowlight Reel.  He was hit early and often as the Jets made stopping the run their first priority.  The biggest difference from last week was two hands in traffic.  He held the ball high and tight each and every run.  In doing so, he helped us win the turnover battle.  We were on the right side this week.

We Have a Defense:

Sure it was a rookie quarterback, but we've all seen the Patriots defense of the past several years turn rookie quarterbacks into the second coming of Dan Marino.  When was the last time you felt comfortable that our defense could hold a 3 point lead?  Probably sometime in the 2004 to 2007 time frame.  They did it last night for 25 minutes.  Over 40% of the game.  By the way, the defense was on the field for 34 minutes.  Over 50% of the game.

They weren't great against the run.  The longest run was 16 yards by Geno Smith when they went all in on the pass rush.  The pressure was inconsistent, but part of that was probably due to the fact that Geno Smith ran 16 yards when they went all in on the pass rush.  There's a downside to losing contain on a mobile quarterback.  They did sack him 4 times and generally made him uncomfortable.  As a result, they were able to pick him 3 times to close out the game.  They are far from perfect, but this is best secondary we have fielded in years.  I know that bar's not real high, right Deltha O'Neal, Terrence Whealey, Jonathan Wilhite, Shawn Springs, Darius Butler, Patrick Chung, Brandon Meriweather ...?

Punting was Improved:

Ryan Allen got a lot of practice last night.  The offense just couldn't get much going in the second half.  Allen punted the ball 11 times.  Eleven times.  Not only that, the Jets chose to not even receive the ball many times, and added the punt receiver to the punt rush.  We had 11 rushers on 10 blockers and Ryan Allen punted the ball 11 times, averaging 46.7 yards per punt.  The punt coverage team downed the ball inside the 20 four times, and managed two touchbacks.

After Allen's poor performance in week 1, the Jets were gunning for him.  Allen stood tall (in the end zone at times), he kicked high and hard, and generally showed that the game isn't too big for him.

This is Going to be a Long Season:

The injuries are piling up.  The upcoming game against Tampa Bay is the last one in a while where the Patriots offense can afford a few misfires and still limp out with a win.  After that we head into a really tough stretch with road games against Atlanta and Cincinatti, a home game against New Orleans, before we meet the Jets again on their turf.

The team is learning to do some things they haven't done in a long time.  Things that were conspicuously missing in some of our playoff losses.

On offense, our strengths are missing: Gronk (or any decent Tight-End target), Amendola (our top receiver), and Shane Vereen (our best flex player).  We are relying on our offensive depth to win games.  Our backup slot player, our rookie receivers, and our backup third down backs have been asked to step up.  Next man up.  It's not pretty, but it is valuable experience.  They aren't doing a lot on offense, but they are doing enough ... for now.

The Patriots haven't had to lean so heavily on rookie receivers for a long, long time, yet it was a rookie receiver that got our only touchdown against the Jets, and another rookie receiver that came close to a second that was called back.  We're moving out of the kiddie pool into sink or swim time and as we do, they are going to be asked to do more and more.  Hopefully, they aren't in over their heads.

On defense, our guys have been given a narrow lead and asked to hold it.  They have.  Both Buffalo and the Jets scored no points in the 4th quarter.  Bupkus, zip, nada, zilch.  Some of that is rookie quarterbacks being rookie quarterbacks.  Some of that is game planning so that rookie quarterbacks look like rookie quarterbacks.  Still, it is great practice for when the games get harder and the weather gets colder.  The defense is developing an attitude and I like it.

I know it's not all sunshine and roses, and we won't turn the corner overnight.  Like me, you might have to rely on a little moonshine to get you through the night.  ;-)

Go Patriots!

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