Merry Christmas, everyone!
I don't know about any of you, but yesterday was the best Christmas Eve I've had in a long time. The weather was nice, it was the weekend, and the NFL had the foresight to slate the bulk of the week 16 games on a Saturday instead of Christmas Day, knowing that a fair number of us are busy
tolerating celebrating with extended family and relatives we only get to see this time every year.
This Christmas Eve was also special for another reason. Yesterday I got the chance to catch a Patriots game with my father, which doesn't happen as often as it used to back when I still lived with my parents. While Pop is a little more sane and rational than I am in his Patriots fandom, he can stay hydrated with the best of ‘em, and there is always plenty of Christmas Cheer to go around at the Shane household. So, by 1 PM yesterday, the eggs were nogged, the Marys were Bloodied, and the cold activation bars on the Coors Lights (the official beer of the New England Patriots) were as blue as Tommy B's eyes. We also had a lot of family over, including my cousins two-year-old twin boys, so my game watching environment was a bit different from the alone, in my La-Z-Boy, dressed in naught by my skivvies atmosphere I'm used to.
Much like the scene at Ma and Pa Shane's, yesterday's game versus the Miami Dolphins wasn't exactly what I was expecting. But, at the end of the day, the result speaks for itself. After an absolutely horrendous start, the Pats made some key halftime adjustments and scored 27 unanswered points to lock up at least a 2 seed for the playoffs.
You'll have to forgive these notes - this Christmas Eve was especially hectic, and I spent just as much time making small talk and forcing conversation about work and New York and just when am I going to settle down and start popping out some grandkids as I did watching the game. And plus, the way this one started, ol' Alec hit the wet bar a little bit harder than he should have and by the time the Patriots got it together he was having a little trouble typing.
But that's neither here nor there. The bottom line is, for Patriots Nation, Christmas came a little early this year. Notes after the jump.
- Loved that opening comparison between Bill Belickhick and Todd Bowles: 189 combined victories - 188 of them belong to Belichick.
- Matthew Slater didn't get the start at safety, as the Pats went with James Ihedigbo instead. That's a good thing - Right?
- New England used to be pretty solid against the run, didn't they? What happened the past 3 weeks? Did the defense realize that there was still a category where they weren't dead last?
- The first two passes that were thrown Devin McCourty's way, I don't think he was within 8 yards of the receiver - but I still don't blame it all on him, Safeties were nowhere in sight.
- Belichick is just a challenging fiend this year - even though he lost his first of the season, I like the way he allots his red flags.
- Didn't the Patriots sign Tiquan Underwood to help out in the return game? Are we ever going to see someone besides all 5'7" of Danny Woodhead back there?
- I don't know whether to describe Danny Woodhead's running style as "patient" or "hiding behind the big guys."
- Can there just be one facet of the New England Patriots that I don't have to classify as "patchwork?"
- Dane Fletcher is going to keep getting better every week.
- I don't think we're going to see Pat Chung until the playoffs. He has officially become he Patriots' equivalent of "the check's in the mail, I swear."
- Please fill in the blank: "I feel comfortable that the opponent will not convert if it's longer than 3rd and ____." That number for me is 25.
- Matt Moore is a highly underrated quarterback, isn't he? Yeah, that must be it.
- Were there actually fans in the crowd yesterday? It got to the point in the 2nd quarter where I could hear several individual conversations.
- I'm a little embarrassed to say that, after that pass interference call on the uncatchable ball in the 2nd quarter, I was starting to hope that Belichick would bench Devin McCourty in favor of Deion Branch. I fact, I was ready to just see the entire receiving corps out there at defensive back. Wes Welker and Chad Ochocinco just defending passes like a couple of champs.
- Have you ever seen those football breakdown segments where they talk about what constitutes open in football? Usually the amount of separation between defender and receiver is about one yard - not six. Hear that, secondary?
- I'm impressed with the way the playcallers can consistently act stunned and surprised week to week when they announce how many yards teams have racked up against New England. Maybe I should employ that strategy when I weigh myself every morning.
- The opening cheer on the 1st play of the 2nd half to Gronk was pretty amusing. It's reminded me of when you're expecting you're best friend, who you haven't seen in years, to walk through the door - but as you start to cheer you realize it's your mother-in-law instead. But by that point, you're already committed to the greeting and so you just half-ass your way through it.
- Glad to see the Tommy B QB sneak still works, even with this O line.
- When Brady isn't comfortable in the pocket, he becomes a very average quarterback. He has been having accuracy issues as it is - but when you rattle him, everything gets exacerbated.
- Hey, Seattle fans - think you could all fly out to Foxboro and run a tutorial? "How to Cheer for a Football Team - Even When they Aren't Winning."
- Play of the game, in my opinion, was the Stephen Gostkowski tackle on the ensuing kickoff following New England's first field goal drive. He doesn't make that play, the Pats are down 24-3 and the game takes on a whole new face.
- Welcome to the NFL, Marcus Cannon. Cameron Wake is one helluva first assignment.
- I wonder how many potential NFL sponsors owe their sales to commercials we see because of James Ihedigbo going down for a play or two.
- How ‘bout them 2nd half adjustments?
- You wouldn't think that Stevan Ridley is 5'11", 225 pounds. He runs very small. Kind of like all my pants.
- Maybe McCourty should gain 100 pounds and switch to linebacker. He's great against the run.
- MCCOURTY! YOU DID IT, BUDDY!!! It's all downhill from here.
- Matt Moore reminds me of the kid playing blacktop basketball who makes his first six shots, and then decides to just start throwing skyhooks and halfcourt bombs out of nowhere - all of which miss completely.
- Why would you ever put a linebacker on Wes Welker?
- Welp...these practice squad nobodies and rookies got some great in-game
- Do you ever get the feeling that if anyone outside the Patriots organization suggests any kind of move/adjustment/change and Bill Belichick gets wind of it, he will make an active point not to do it?
- "There was no holding the Mayo that time." Pure comedic genius, Dan.
- Is intentional grounding more of a judgment call? What qualifies a receiver in the area?
- You're not going to tackle Gronk with two guys!!! Come on, now!!
- Tebow who??? Tommy B is the only rushing QB I care about. Boo ya!
- I know it's going to be tough gathering any sympathy whatsoever, but it needs to be said: people who say it's easy being a Pats fan don't watch many Patriots games. At least if you're team is terrible you can relax and start getting hydrated when the game is already over at halftime. This up and down play and these constant nailbiters has taken at least 10 years off my life.
- Latest sign that I'm a horrible human being - I cheered like a maniac as Reggie Bush hobbled off the field. On Christmas, nonetheless.
- Anyone who wasn't expecting the Dolphins to score a quick touchdown to bring them to within 3 points after they got the ball back clearly hasn't been watching the team this season.
- When the game is on the line, you go to Wes Welker. Welcome to Franchise Recordsville, my good man.
I asked Santa for a Texans loss, a Jets loss, a Steelers loss, and a Ravens loss. Everyone knows that you don't get everything you ask for, so two out of four ain't half bad. And if you ask me, this was a pretty damn good win. The Patriots exhibited phenomenal resiliency and strong mental toughness, bouncing back from the worst half of football they have played all season to put together a pretty solid second half. I'm still not incredibly happy with this secondary - but hey, it's Christmas! If there was ever a time for forgiveness, it's today. And plus, as they seem to have done all year, the defense came up big when it needed to and the offensive line gave Tommy B the time he needed to remind everyone why he's the best quarterback in the NFL.
Christmas is already off to a great start. Here's hoping you and yours has a great one.