It would appear that news of New England's demise have been greatly exaggerated.
After suffering their first opening day loss in over a decade, the Patriots were, according to pretty much everyone, completely done. Nothing went right. Nobody was happy. No one played well. The offensive line was a mess. Brady was furious. Fans were grumpy. Borges and Shank were doing cartwheels in the streets. The overall mood was as dour as dour can be.
Cut to today.
All seems to once again be right with the world in Patriots Nation, as New England dominated in all three phases of the game en route to a 30-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. And while the overall stance may be swinging a little too far in the opposite direction in that some people seem to be already making their hotel reservations in Arizona, I'd much rather have people overreacting after a win than overreacting after a loss.
- Nothing quite like being absolutely terrified over a game against the Vikings where AP isn't even playing, eh?
- I'll always have a very soft spot in my heart for Matt Cassel - that 2008 season was a lot of fun, in retrospect. It also gave the Patriots haters plenty of fuel in that the team went 11-5 against a terrible AFC East, a terrible AFC West (despite losing to the Chargers and Broncos), and a flat-out abysmal NFC West, as it allowed them to say "The Pats went 11-5 without Brady and the Colts went 2-14 without Manning." And if it weren't for Patriots haters, I don't know if I'd enjoy football nearly as much.
- I'm not going to lie: watching Minnesota's first drive coupled with New England's first drive was as despondent as I have been as a Patriots fan in a long time. I was starting to wonder if maybe the Patriots just weren't that good a team this year, that maybe they had some talented players, but not a good team. I felt like on that first drive, both the Vikings and the Patriots were all still in their pajamas - the only difference was that the Vikes sleepwalked into the end zone and the Patriots were still in bed, facedown with a pillow over their faces. Luckily for us, someone remembered to set the alarm and the Patriots woke up.
- Bill Belichick rocking a navy hoodie instead of the cut-off gray one makes me way more nervous than I should be.
- Amazing what happens when they put Chandler Jones back on the edge where he belongs. Absolutely monster day from #95. The Patriots still used a fair amount of 3-4, but in this case the personnel was where it should be and Jones spent most of his time as a 3-4 OLB who came in on the 7 technique and more or less had his way. Yesterday was most likely his best game as a pro, and I honestly still don't think he has reached anything close to his peak.
- Brandon Fusco - another great O lineman name. Although odds are he'll be spending the next few nights waking up in the middle of the night in a sold sweat screaming "Jones!"
- Who the hell is Skinner? Isn't he an old-school wrestler? Whoever he is, it didn't take Cassel long to find him and realize that he can neither cover, run, or tackle.
- When one injured LB means you're calling guys who can't cover up from the practice squad, you have what we call in the industry "depth issues."
- But to the coaching staff's credit, they didn't hesitate to send Skinner back to the fiery depths of the practice squad where he belongs (which I hope Bill Belichick did like this) and use a lot more of a nickel hybrid with a third safety - namely Pat Chung - up close to the line. Last week the would have just left Skinner in there and hoped for the best.
- My early season frontrunner for most annoying NFL Commercial of 2014: the Kenny Rogers Gambler Geico commercial. That song is irritating enough as it is without having to hear it every 15 minutes or so.
- I'm sorry to see that the cameras caught Matt Patricia pulling the "who farted" face that looks so good on Rob Ryan. The good news is that, unlike Ryan, who seems to just bask in the ambiance, Patricia opened a few windows and cleared out the room like he was supposed to.
- Sat Stevan Ridley this week in fantasy. You're welcome, Patriots Nation.
- I'm loving all of these turnovers over the past two weeks - but I really don't want the defense to rely on them. Punts are good too. But when I'm complaining that the defense is picking the ball off instead of forcing a fourth down, I'm unlikely to get any sympathy.
- Marcus Cannon...you're a lineman. Nobody should have any idea who you are. Enough.
- Penalties. Penalties, penalties, penalties. At the worst possible time, too, all game. That's mental, and something I'm sure Belichick will be addressing ASAP.
- Holy Jeez Sealver Siliga is SLOW. Would love to see a footrace between him and Tommy B. That would be a photo finish.
- What's the deal with the heavy dose of Brandon Bolden? Is Ridley back in the dog house for scoring TDs and not fumbling?
- So...what's the difference between what Aaron Dobson did to draw an offensive pass interference call and the one Wes Welker did to take Aqib Talib out of the AFC Championship game? Was there a rule change in the offseason? Do they only not call the pick play if you take your man out?
- I hope somewhere there is a still photo of Xavier Rhodes laying out and completely whiffing on that 3rd and 14 completion to Julian Edelman. He was airborne for enough time to hold up a Wyle E. Coyote style sign saying "Crap" as Edelman zoomed right by him.
- As sweet as the Edelman fade TD was, credit needs to go to a great dummy route from Brandon LaFell to draw the linebackers and safeties up. I guess if you aren't going to be making any catches, getting any looks, or reminding anyone why the hell we signed you, you may as well go out there as a decoy and be the decoyest decoy you can be.
- Can we have an NFL equivalent of The Purge, where for one game absolutely anything goes?
- Saw a Pats fan in the crowd yesterday with a #47 John Lynch jersey. Credit to that guy for capitalizing on those 45 seconds or so when Lynch was actually on the team.
- Logan Ryan more than held his own against Cordarrelle Patterson yesterday. Other than that one 20+ yard gain, Patterson was rendered mostly ineffective. Ryan also had a very aggressive pick that was far more proactive than reactive, which is what you like to see from your corners.
- Ryan is also one of the best tacklers on the team. Hits hard and hits clean. You should pay attention, Brandon Meriweather.
- I legitimately can't tell whether Dan Fouts really is the way that he is in the booth or he plays some kind of character when he gets in there. Most color guys, you know who they are and what they have to offer, but Fouts remains a mystery.
- Look at Matt Cassel using the ol' Kevin Faulk direct snap! That takes me back.
- Again...Greg Jennings runs into Jerod Mayo, it's OPI. What?
- Some observations from the FG block returned to the house from yesterday's Week 2 matchup between the Patriots of New England and the Vikings of Minnesota:
- Chandler Jones getting a massive push through the hole.
- Chandler Jones with a picture perfect swim move.
- Chandler Jones with great timing and the kind of full body extension that reminded me of watching a grizzly bear stand up to its full height on some unsuspecting hunters.
- Chandler Jones getting both hands on the kick.
- Chandler Jones getting a great bounce and picking the ball up in stride.
- Chandler Jones, the defensive end, outrunning the entire Vikings special teams for the end zone
- Alec Shane finally getting able to bust out the air hump for the first time this season.
- I hate being nervous as to what this team is going to do coming out of the locker room. Halftime adjustments used to be their bread and butter - but even going back to last season, it has been something of an issue. This game vs. last week was night and day, luckily.
- Gronk still isn't 100% - just doesn't have the step or separation he used to have. Let's just hope he can get it back for a few games before he's out for the year again.
- Do you think people who wear crazy outfits to football games shower first? I mean is it like getting ready to go out for the evening in their eyes?
- Hardest I laughed all day was when they brought Mike Carey in for some officiating analysis and they showed us this headshot. I don't even know why...maybe it's the forehead.
- Dont'a Hightower absolutely blew by Matt Kalil on his third quarter sack. What kind off offensive line allows that kind of easy pressure? I tell you...I feel bad for any coach who lets his offensive line get dominated like that. Pretty embarrassing.
- Atta boy, Nate Solder. 3 penalties on two consecutive plays. I didn't even know that was possible.
- That Shane Vereen run to close out the quarter/commercial/Gostkowski FG to open up the 4th/commercial/Gostkowski kickoff/touchback/commercial stretch was almost as long as a regular halftime.
- Robert Griffin is on the USAA insurance policy according to the commercials. Smart move. They are probably the only ones willing to give him a policy at this point.
- Once - JUST ONCE - I want to see a holder brought in on a kickoff to pull a Charlie Brown and take the ball away at the last second to send the kicker ass over teakettle. If it's a blowout and the game is well out of hand, why not? Take the penalty and have a good laugh. I don't think this is the first time I have brought this to everyone's attention, either, which shows I spend far more time thinking about it than I probably should.
- Julian Edelman on a punt return is the equivalent of me sitting in my office in the winter, looking out the window at a frozen patch of sidewalk, and seeing a fat guy waddling towards it completely clueless. Eyes wide open, breath held, excited, a bit nervous, but fully aware that something spectacular could be about to happen.
- Of course, the offense didn't do anything with much of their great field position - which was actually kind of a problem yesterday. This game could have been blown wide open by midway through the third quarter, but penalties and playcalling led to punts and field goals instead of touchdowns. If you take away the gimme TD off the McCourty pick, there was really only that one solid drive from the Patriots offense.
- However, no reason to rain on this Victory Monday parade. Time to enjoy this one and milk the hell out of that "the ship has totally been righted" feeling. I definitely wouldn't go that far, but it was definitely nice to get a statement win on the road after last week's crapfest.
- Vikings Stadium looks like it's going to be badass. I may now actually have a reason to be in Minnesota for a reason that doesn't involve changing planes.
- As of Sunday morning, three of the 32 human beings on the planet Earth who can call themselves NFL starting quarterbacks came up under the Bill Belichick system. I'm not sure how much longer we'll be able to say that.
- Good to see you again, Jenny Dell! Call me any time.
- Most coaches, professional or otherwise, have some kind of punishment in place for players who draw an accepted penalty flag. But what's the protocol when two players have the exact same penalty and only one is accepted? I bet they both get theirs anyway.
- What middle school dance is held on a Sunday night, Verizon? Or a Thursday night, for that matter? And what is J.J. Watt doing there anyway? Isn't that kind of sketchy? Not sure about that one.
- Well...at least Easley is finally on the stat board.
- Right as this game was winding down, I flipped over to the Browns/Saints game to watch Brian Hoyer generate a comeback win which sent New Orleans to 0-2. The storyline of the day on ESPN will most likely still be Johnny Manziel's first NFL pass, though - right before they show some nice stills of LeBron James at a diner.
I'm sure that there will be plenty of talk about how this was a game the Patriots were expected to win and how they still struggled a bit on offense and how they could have scored more and there weren't a whole lot of long, sustained drives that ended in touchdowns and all that good stuff. And I'd be lying if I said there was zero merit to those statements. But I will also say this: yesterday's win was EXACTLY the kind of victory that we saw week in and week out for the Patriots of the early 2000s: a stout defense coupled with an efficient offense that led with a solid running game. No, that isn't the kind of offense that is going to generate 45 points a game and give Tommy B crazy numbers, but it is the kind of offense that will put notches in the W column. And I'll take wins over stats any day of the week.
Back home to face an absolutely reeling Raiders team and a chance to get above .500 and continue building momentum. Yes please.