Happy Holidays, everyone!
You gotta love Thanksgiving. An entire day set aside for the sole purpose of eating too much food, getting good and hydrated, and passing out on the couch in front of a football game. In other words - every Sunday at Alec's house. But what makes Thanksgiving extra special - besides that whole spending time with friends and loved ones and being thankful for what you have thing - is that I basically get two Sundays in one week. And who doesn't love Sundays?
I should back up. I'm not giving myself enough credit here. The truth is that, food and football aside, I know that I'm very fortunate to live the life that I do and I definitely took some time out of this past week to be thankful for the very many blessings I've received. I have wonderful parents, a girlfriend that (for reasons I will never understand) loves me just for me, a big screen TV with a comfortable chair, and a DVR that will soon be full of every Christmas special ever produced, starting with Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer tomorrow and finishing with A Christmas Story on Christmas Eve. I write for the best Patriots news website on the web and New England is about to enter the last quarter of the season playing very solid football and well positioned to take a top seed in the AFC. Life is pretty good for ol' Alec, and I'm glad I was able to take a step back and be grateful for it.
All that pie didn't hurt any either, though, I'll say that much.
The only real problem with Thanksgiving week is that I spent so much time stuffing my face that I forgot to get worried about the Philadelphia Eagles. I found myself sitting down in front of the TV yesterday afternoon having not given this one my usual pregame routine of stressing over pretty much everything and making up scenarios where a loss here wouldn't be the end of the world. I mean yeah, it was nice to be able to go into a game stress free, but you can only imagine the terror when I realized that, if I can get so easily distracted by this week's festivities, then maybe the Patriots could, too. Maybe all these young players and undrafted free agents wouldn't be able to get over that holiday hump and keep their priorities in line.
Obviously, and as usual, I was overthinking things. The Patriots absolutely manhandled Philly, all but knocking them out of the playoffs and building a lot of momentum heading into the home stretch of the season. Other than a few long plays, everything went the Patriots' way yesterday and this game was out of hand early on. Good thing too, because my body hasn't fully recovered from the all-out food and drink assault I launched on it over these past few days, and I don't think my overstuffed, bloated tummy would have been able to handle a nail biter. Game notes after the jump.
- CBS, in all of its infinite genius and contractual obligations, decided to show a bunch of commercials instead of the opening kickoff and first two Eagles plays from scrimmage. They cut to the game at the exact moment Vince Young connected with Riley Cooper for eleventy billion yards to set up Philly's first TD. One helluva way to start my football Sunday.
- A new touchdown dance seems to have swept the NFL this past week. I've seen multiple players on multiple teams doing it and I can't quite figure it out. It's a strange circular hand motion that indicates either "the camera's rolling" or "I'm shoveling massive amounts of food into my mouth at a Snooki-esque pace." Whatever it is, I'm not a fan.
- You know what I am a fan of, though? Stevie Johnson's end zone dance against the Jets yesterday. Amazing.
- Killer ‘stache, Ryan Wendell.
- Man, the Eagles were fired up for the start this one. Mosh pit parties after every hit.
- It's really fun to watch Brian Waters on a pulling block. He's surprisingly quick and passes off his assignments very fluidly.
- Was this an official NFL first quarter, or was I watching some 9 year-old play Tecmo Bowl? Vince Young just held down the B button and launched bombs all day.
- I'd yell at our secondary to cover some damn receivers - but I don't know who any of them are.
- New England didn't generate a lot of pass rush, but I think a lot of that was by design. By staying in a base package and playing more of a contain scheme, the Patriots seemed content to keep Vince Young in the pocket and not give up any yards off the scramble.
- How is Danny Woodhead a better return option than Shane Vereen?
- Yesterday's game was a prime example of how important a consistent running game is. Up against a hot, clicking offense that ran two very fast, effective drives that ended in points, slowing the game down and creating offensive balance is the perfect counter. BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran extremely well and helped New England find its rhythm.
- OK. Somebody, please tell me what Taylor Price's deal is. He had a phenomenal preseason, was healthy enough to play, and Chad Ochocinco was inactive yesterday. Yet who got the nod at 3rd receiver? Tiquan Underwood. I'm starting to wonder if the Patriots are actively trying to field an entire team of players I have never heard of.
- On the plus side - Underwood has some wheels. Step 2: catch the ball. Not sure we'll be seeing ol' Tiquan out there again.
- That's twice in 2 games Sebastian Vollmer has gotten completely owned on his way to giving up a sack. I believe the phrase we all like to say is "kick his ass, Seabass!" It isn't, "Ah crap. Sorry, Tommy."
- To those of you who don't know where that phrase came from, stop reading immediately and go watch Dumb & Dumber.
- New England got absolutely rocked with a massive play and quick touchdown to start this game and found themselves down 10 points early. They responded with a long, well-balanced drive that allowed the defense to get their heads back on straight and ended in points. That shows a lot of poise and mental toughness, and it's exactly what playoff-caliber teams do.
- Remember when Stephen Gostkowski was automatic?
- Philly hasn't allowed a single point off of their last 6 giveaways. That's impressive.
- Don't look now - but Rob Ninkovich is very quietly having himself a solid season.
- Tracy White, however...not so much.
- Man - for a group with a reputation for being a bunch of loud, obnoxious, foul-mouthed, violent nutjobs, the Philly faithful shut up and got quiet pretty damn quick.
- Bill Belichick is batting 1.000 on challenges this year. 5 for 5 on the season. Which is nice, because I feel like coach was on a serious challenge cold streak over the past few years.
- Remember in the older Madden games when there was one play that always worked, no matter what the other team did? It was usually something like "Double Outs" or "X Delay." Vince Young hit DeSean Jackson 4 times in a row with the exact same play and there was nothing the secondary could do about it.
- LeSean McCoy is the best running back in the NFL. Period. Great hands, great vision, phenomenal cutting ability, and as explosive a 2nd gear as I've seen in a long time.
- The Patriots held the best running back in the NFL to 31 yards on 10 carries. Boo Ya.
- Not that we can take too much credit for it - why only 10 carries for McCoy? 10 point lead with the ball back in the first quarter, and they don't run once on that drive. I counted only 6 runs in the first half. That's on the coaches.
- I have a funny feeling that Antwaun Molden had no idea what was going on on that interception. He looked about as surprised to see the ball in his hands as any DB I've ever seen.
- I'm never one to call an NFL player a pansy. Those guys are all 10 times tougher than I'll ever be. But DeSean Jackson dropped a gimme touchdown and curled up like a pillbug towards the end of the 2nd quarter because he heard Tracy White's footsteps. Aren't you playing for a new contract, tough guy?
- The Eagles put Nnamdi Asomugha on Rob Gronkowski yesterday. There was an all-pro DB on a tight end and I think that was the most logical matchup for Philly. Gronk is only 22 years old. Yussss.
- Horrible clock management by the Eagles to close out the half.
- I bet one of the hardest parts of yesterday's game, from a television production standpoint, was keeping Dan Dierdorf away from all those shiny buttons and knobs up there in the booth. God forbid somebody started bouncing a ball or playing with a yo-yo up there; we never would have heard from him again.
- Tom Brady in rhythm is one of the most beautiful things you can see. If you are in any way a football fan - even if you hate the Patriots - you can't help but appreciate watching him play. Unless, of course, you're going up against him. That must be absolutely maddening.
- Jesus, Tommy, take care of that knee, will you? I can't go through that again.
- More solid blocking from Nate Solder, especially when he was utilized as an extra tight end. He gets low enough to disrupt multiple blitz looks and I'm especially impressed with his ability to throw an effective chop block. It's just a matter of time before he makes his first reception; I just hope that when it comes, he catches the ball in space so I can a) watch him run, and b) watch defensive backs jumping on his back like Wesley trying to take out Andre the Giant in The Princess Bride.
- Miserable playcalling and execution aside on that failed 4th and 1 at New England's 3 yard line that gave the Patriots the ball back, that was great discipline by the secondary keeping assignments and jamming Brent Celek at the line.
- What was up with that shaky camera angle when the Patriots were backed up inside their own 5? I've never gotten seasick in a recliner before.
- Good Lord, DeSean. You couldn't catch a whiff of BO at a Star Wars convention yesterday, could you?
- Look at Julian Edelman with the cornerback blitz! You stay down, Vince.
- Edelman actually has some chops as a defensive back. Textbook tackling, doesn't bite too hard on playactions, and plays his receivers into coverage like he is supposed to. Maybe he should take Sergio Brown aside and teach him how to take effective angles.
- GRONK! That wasn't your best spike, buddy.
- Latest sign that I'm a horrible human being - I grinned like a redneck at a Monster Truck rally when the camera cut to that little boy in the stands with tears in his eyes. Get used to the feeling, kid - you're an Eagles fan.
- As the game wound down, I looked away from the TV to write a note on the offensive passing interference call that knocked Philly back 10 yards. When I looked back up, I got an eyeful of Tim Tebow as CBS switched coverage away from the game I wanted to watch to the more competitive Broncos vs. Chargers game. I no longer find those shows where they switch out a supermodel with a chimpanzee and some poor blindfolded fool ends up making out with a monkey on national television funny.
- Luckily, DirecTV was on top of it and un-blacked out the game on its allotted channel. Sunday Ticket once again reminds me why I constantly postpone buying a home gym every year so I can afford it.
- Too bad Ryan Mallett was inactive yesterday - would have liked to see him take the reins on mop-up duty.
- Random thought: I would like to get some eye black and wear it to work one day to reduce the glare from my computer. I bet it would catch on, too - just a bunch of suits and office workers wearing eye black every day. It would totally change the office dynamic.
- How many times did Dierdorf bring up New England's 32nd ranked defense?
- What I especially loved was how they flashed the stat that New England has outscored its opponents 109-32 in the last 3 games right after the chart illustrating how many categories this defense was dead last in.
- Too little, too late - but VY put together a pretty nice drive at the end of the game to put a meaningless 7 points on the board. I know it was against soft coverage, but that drive saw a 4th down conversion, some effective scrambling, good vision, and accurate passing. The 3 Eagles fans still in the stadium at that point gave him a rowdy cheer.
If you want to enjoy this win for a little longer, do a quick YouTube search for "Angry Eagles Fan Rant." Apparently people in Philly have been about 2 inches from the edge for a while now, and it would appear that yesterday's blowout caused a good half of the city to completely lose their minds and broadcast their descent into madness online for the world to see. I don't want to play favorites, so I'll just say that there are some real gems out there and it should really get you into the holiday spirit.
As for me, I'm not going to dwell on this one for too much longer. For what it's worth, Pats/Colts week is officially upon us, and although the matchup has lost most of its luster this year, there is just something about this yearly matchup that gets me all kinds of fired up. I know the Colts are 0-11, and I know that New England is going to be the heavy favorite here, but I'm not going to buy into any of that. I'd also like to say that I'm not going to buy into the 50 or so Brady vs. Manning discussions that will arise this week or the dozens of "Best Pats vs. Colts Moments" video clips that we've all seen a million times before - but I know that isn't true. I'm going to be right there mixing it up with anyone who tries to belittle Tommy B or uses this season as the ultimate proof that Manning is the better quarterback. Sure, I have a lot of actual work to do, and I don't really have time to dwell on the Colts game - but I'm still in holiday mode, dammit. I need to finish digesting.
Great win for New England. And that's always something to be thankful for.