A win is a win. There were some ugly bits and there were some good bits. It was ugly because our overall yardage was abysmal and 4th quarter third down conversions were almost non existent. It was good because despite a number of absent key starters, our backups stepped up and made plays when they needed to. That's encouraging. Just think what we could've done had the starters been in.
First, let me get this out of the way: I do not believe Randy Moss is "Back". For that to be true, he'd have to have "Left". As I've said before, when Moss's production droops below superhuman, MSM pundits declare him dogging it and begin hammering him senseless. When faced with real evidence, they retreat into "Well, what can be seen on the game tape that I can't see on TV?" Well, that answer alone proves how pathetic these guys are. Asking that question means you have no clue, Mr. MSM Pundit, and are summarily dismissed.
There were a slew of positives, one of the more important ones being a phenomenal tip toe catch by Mr. Moss. It was extremely important because it was a touchdown, but even more importantly it likely gave Randy an emotional boost, a boost he so sorely needed. It was key to get his head back in the game and I'm glad Belichick and Brady worked to insure he was relevant to the win.
On defense we were missing a number of key starters: Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork, and Myron Pryor. This put us in scramble mode. How did Belichick handle it?
Around the locker room yesterday, no defenisve players would divulge the name of the defense they used on third and long yesterday, when the Patriots used six defensive backs, no defensive linemen, and five standing linebackers strewn around the line of scrimmage. "I'll pass on that one," linebacker Ron Ninkovich said, which was representative. Adalius Thomas offered "organized chaos," but that is a description more than a name.
Bill Belichick didn't have an answer today, either. But he did have an idea.
"We can do a fan poll," he said. "See what you can come with."
If you remember, we commented during the game threads that it looked like the 5 linebackers were milling around, not sure where they were supposed to be. In reality, that was defensive genius. On more than a few occasions, Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick looked at bit confused. Once it was too late to make any offensive adjustments, the Patriots defense settled into its formation. I love it!! Keep that up. This from Rob Ninkovich:
"We had more speed out there, more confusion – Who’s coming? Who’s going? Who’s rushing? Who’s dropping?" another rush linebacker, Rob Ninkovich, said. "It worked out for us. Hard for them to figure out who’s the Mike, where they’re sliding to, basically. It worked well for us."
One of the highlights for me was the makings of a pass rush. Tully Banta-Cain showed up HUGE for this game:
"We knew they had some changes on the O-line and a different quarterback," linebacker Tully Banta-Cain said after posting three sacks. "So we knew if we gave them some different looks and mixed up the pressures, it could cause some confusion. I think we were able to try it out early in the game and we got some success on it and it carried through the rest of the game."
Yeah, 3 sacks and a lot of pressure. I have a feeling Tully will have a spot on the 2010 roster if he wants one. I thought the defensive play calling was pretty good up front. We still need a TON of work wrapping up during tackles as Brandon Meriweather continues to go after the big hit, but overall we're a better unit than in previous outings.
The offensive story of the game was, for once, NOT Tom Brady and Wes Welker. Sure, the QB/WR duo came up huge on a third down conversion to essentially ice the game, but this was a game won on the ground. Despite an abysmal third down conversion rate in the 4th quarter, we managed to mix it up in the air and on the ground; not abandoning the run game was crucial and Laurence Maroney has stepped up nicely as the feature back in this backfield-by-committee. 23 for 81 yards and a TD will never get you "elite status" labels, but it certainly was just what we needed when we needed it. LoMo was turning his upper body and slicing through holes - very cool. He was also pounding into defenders and making them pay for daring to tackle him; maybe he has a headset wired to Fred Taylor.
Most importantly, this is a division win. With both Miami and NE at 4-2 in the division, that potential tie breaker is eliminated, moving us to common games. In essence, we clinch the division with any NE win or any Miami loss. Seeding gets a bit more complicated and is explained here. Both the Jaguars and Texans could be tough games for us, but we take on Jacksonville at home - the more likely win. Miami closes the season with the Texans and Steelers, both in Miami.