I used to think I was pretty good at Street Fighter II. I got it, along with a Super Nintendo, one glorious Christmas morning in the 90s, and I played that bad boy until my thumbs looked like Peyton Manning's forehead and my parents started to wonder if they made a very grave mistake buying their baby boy such an addictive machine. My favorite character was Guile; I was kind of an army nut at the time, and he just looked so badass. I learned all the moves, figured out all the combos, and Sonic Boomed and Flash Kicked my way into what I thought was immortality. I could beat the entire game on the highest difficulty without losing a single round. I considered myself one of the elite players on the planet, and I was ready to show off my skills to the world.
Back when they actually still had local arcades, mine was called Pip's. It was more of a summer hangout, but there were a few of us diehards who spent a lot of weekends and after school afternoons there wasting our allowance on Ski ball so we could get enough tickets to win some slap bracelets and Garbage Pail Kids posters. I rolled into Pips on a chilly February Saturday with a confident swagger that only a 13 year old can have, and I made a beeline for the arcade version of the game I had spent the last three months dominating. There was a bit of a line, but I didn't care; I was ready to wait. After all, once I got on the joystick, there was no knocking me off.
My turn finally came. My opponent was a lanky Italian-looking kid of maybe 16 or 17. He had won his last two games, but in unimpressive style. He barely eked out the last one against some scrub who did little more than just mash buttons, so I wasn't worried about it. I put in my quarter, selected my main man Guile, and got ready to put on a clinic.
The only clinic that was put on that day was the one that specializes in shattered egos, because that guy mopped the floor with me. It wasn't even close. He backed me into a corner from the getgo and relentlessly beat me into submission before I was forced to skulk away a broken shell of a man. It was the walk of shame against which I would measure every walk of shame I make for the rest of my life - and trust me when I say there have been plenty. And while I walked out of Pip's that February afternoon a little wiser, it's not an experience I'd ever want to have again.
And that's kind of what happened to the Miami Dolphins last night. They came in to Foxboro having absolutely dominated their last two games and seemed well poised to make a statement on national TV. What happened instead was a shellacking of epic proportions, and a supreme beatdown on the team that, back in August, was slated to usurp the Patriots as kings of the AFC East. But just like me all those years ago - nope. No way. Not happening.
Let's get to the notes so we can all get back to slacking off on this fine Victory Friday.
- I can't even begin to describe how great it feels to have a screen on third and long go for a first down while the defense tries to figure out what happened and the Patriots are on the winning side of it for a change.
- Enough with the undefeated Tommy B on Thursday night stuff, everyone. The football gods have been lying dormant so far this season, and I'd really, really like to keep it that way.
- Not a horrible first drive for the Patriots. Ran the ball well, set up the playaction, used a lot of quick passes, and hit Gronk for a 40+ yard TD catch and run. That's what I like to call imposing your will and was exactly what New England needed to do. Sometimes when your little brother starts strutting around, you need to smack him down.
- Phenomenal block by LaFell on that Gronk TD run to spring him. Broke off his assignment after diagnosing Gronk's angle and attacked the defender with the best chance of stopping him.
- Geneo Grissom showing up in a big way early with an explosive first step and swim move to set up Tannehill's first sack of the day.
- What do you think is more emasculating as a defensive player? Getting dragged for 10 yards by Gronk or getting your ankles, shins, knees, things, and hips shattered by Dion Lewis when he jukes you out of your jock strap and you come up hugging air?
- 3rd and 1, run play to Blount, he gets stuffed. What a shocker!! WHY DO THEY KEEP DOING THAT??
- The Tommy B QB sneak is the NFL equivalent of a going up for a fourth helping at Old Country Buffet: you know its coming, you can't stop it, and you feel like an idiot when it's over.
- I wonder what the best way is to cram as many commercials as possible between an absolute bare minimum of actual football. We're all well-versed in the touchdown/commercial/play review confirmation/commercial/kickoff for touchback/commercial superstrike, but there has to be a way to beat that, right? How about a injury timeout/commercial/called timeout/commercial/play/end of quarter commercial break/controversial touchdown/commercial/score confirmation/commercial/touchback/commercial/called timeout commercial mega whammy? You can do it, NFL!
- Great to see Matthew Slater out there. I was really worried by his injury and irreplaceable isn't even close to the right word for the guy.
- I don't know about any of you, but I am absolutely LOVING this new "do at least one thing per game that makes you look like a bunch of incompetent boobs" strategy that Patriots opponents seem to be employing in 2015. I wish I could credit the Foxboro Faithful last night for the miscommunication that led to the Dolphins safety, but it was as exactly as loud as you'd expect a bunch of people out on Thursday night who probably have to go to work tomorrow would be.
- If this isn't an "oh crap" face, I don't know what one is.
- New England had the opportunity to more or less put this one away by halftime and couldn't do it. A few questionable playcalls, good pressure, and solid coverage from Miami kept the Patriots punting instead of scoring. Those damn Fins made the Patriots wait until the 2nd half to put the game away like a bunch of chumps.
- Credit to the Miami D...but the Dolphins were never in this game. They barely even saw the New England side of the field, and other than that one great drive to open up the 2nd half, they looked like me trying to activate the HBO Go account I stole. Just a bunch of button pressing and confusion.
- Although one of the reasons the Patriots struggled early is because they seemed to get away from the style of play that worked so well on their opening scoring drive and I'm not sure why. Dion Lewis didn't do much after a strong initial outing, there were a lot of weird toss plays to Blount, and Tommy B tried to take it deep on more than one occasion.
- Anybody who is computer savvy - is there any way I can perpetually just have ILLEGAL BLOCK IN THE BACK entered in every one of these articles I write from here on out? I'm getting sick of having to type it each week.
- Brady was inaccurate at times last night - way too high on a number his throws. The blueprint for making him pedestrian has been there for a very long time.
- Holy Tebow did the Pats need that Logan Ryan pick. That drive had touchdown/halftime/touchdown written all over it.
- Why? I have no idea. Just a feeling.
- That was a bad throw by Tannehill, but it was also a great read and run by Ryan. Anticipated the route from the jump and ran it for the receiver.
- Whenever it's fourth and short and Blount is on the field, I'm absolutely terrified.
- Dammit. We all saw that Stephen Gostkowski field goal before the half curve and go in. That's going to launch an investigation. #KickingballGate
- That was the worst first half of football I've seen all year. Thursday Night Football is simply a crap product and there's no way around it.
- There's that back shoulder throw to LaFell we've all been missing. We've also been missing the "catch the ball" part as well.
- Someone - I forgot who - predicted a sloppy, weird, penaltly-ridden Thursday night game. Whoever that guy was deserves a bunch of credit.
- Except, of course, for Mr. Lewis. I think I have to stop calling him Dion from now on. It's Mr. Lewis from here on out.
- Or perhaps Senor Luis? Has he gone international on us?
- It's actually amazing if you chart New England's success last night when Lewis was on the field/involved in the gameplan vs. him being out. I get that there are times in the game where you need to present different looks to keep the defense honest, but when it's working and working really, really well, why deviate?
- On the flip side, when it really, really isn't working, why keep trying?
- I should take my own advice on that one and stop using the "hey, you from around here?" line at bars.
- Since the Patriots are filthy, worthless cheaters, why not focus their attention on rigging the coin toss? I hate watching teams march down the field to start the 3rd quarter. Did Miami even have a third down on that TD drive? Let's focus our cheating ways on getting two-headed coins into the refs' pockets.
- But seriously - what a drive from Miami to open the 2nd half. 5 plays and 80 yards like it was nothing. It's like they went into the locker room at halftime and said, "OK, we're going to take everything we accomplished in those first two quarters and combine them all into one drive!"
- And how did New England answer? They mixed up run and passed, switched to the no-huddle, varied the pace of the game, and looked absolutely fantastic up until the drive stalled just outside the red zone. Would have been good to see a TD there, but offensive versatility was on full display.
- I don't even understand how Mr. Lewis is able to do what he does. Like it doesn't make any sense from a science standpoint. Keep Ted Wells the hell away from that guy.
- I'm always amazed that NFL professional athletes, the pinnacle of sports performance and the ultimate amalgam of technology, physiology, and genetics, still use the same laces that you and I do to tie their shoes. Has shoelace development really gone nowhere in 50 years?
- I have a similar rant about toilet paper development, but that's one for another day.
- How much would you pay to see a real Snow Day game played in the street with that crew? Holy jeez.
- Watching the Dolphins all swarm at Mr. Lewis like he was Gronk was amazing. He touches the ball and Miami decided to employ the "well, he can't out-juke all of us" approach. The day the Patriots incorporate a Lewis back to Brady flea flicker is going to represent the most wide open any receiver has ever been in the history of the NFL.
- Connfession: first thought when I saw Cameron Wake getting helped off the field was "I really hope that Cameron Wake is OK...starting first thing Friday morning."
- You could tell it was Halloween weekend because there were a whole bunch of grown adults in the stands dressed like complete idiots. You only see that at a football game this time every year.
- Lamar Miller has an absolutely remarkable 2nd gear. Several times last night the Patriots had him what looked like dead to rights and he was able to burst for 3-5 yards.
- Did the Pats get away with one on the Duron Harmon pick? I saw two players collide and was just waiting for a flag. It's DPI, so who the hell knows.
- And hey - great tackle by Tannehill to stop what could have been a pick six. That tackle ended up holding the Pats to...well a touchdown. But they didn't score right away, so there's that.
- That tackle also means that Ryan Tannehill had twice as many tackles as Suh did. In other words: one.
- The good news about Tre Jackson's injury is that if there's one area where the Patriots can totally afford to lose a player, it's along the offensive line. New England's depth there is Kim Kardashian buttcrack-esque.
- I was noticing, as the game wound on, that Brady wasn't even looking Edelman's way for most of the matchup. It got to the point where I think it was deliberate, which sounds crazy - until you see how he went to Edelman right away in the fourth quarter for the TD that more or less put the game away. So it was obviously all part of the plan.
- Is that a ridiculous thing to say? Yup. But I also just made an ironic comment involving Kim Kardashian's booty, so I'm not exactly a bastion of knowledge here.
- The Patriots seem to have shied away from the 4 TE set in favor of a 2 TE set in which Gronk and Chandler line up on the same side of the line and run similar, yet disparate, routes. It usually finds Gronk in the Y slot, but not always. And as Chandler continues to integrate himself into the offense, that formation is going to become more and more dangerous.
- Note to Miami: only run the hurry-up if you know what you're doing.
- When New England has a 22 point lead in the 4th quarter and Blount is on the field, you have to have an idea as to what the Patriots are going to do, right? You wouldn't think so based on how Miami played him late.
- I was a little surprised, however, that the Patriots didn't milk the clock all the way down to .00 once the game was out of hand. There was at least 12 seconds on the playclock on several snaps. That might be the subtle hint we've all been looking for that it's time to Kill Everybody.
- How great was it to see Tommy B, in shotgun, looking to throw late, taking a meaningless sack and being furious with himself over it?
- He made up for it, though, didn't he? Absolute rifle to Edelman to re-ice the game.
- Is that a thing? Can you re-ice a game?
- Man, Jim Nantz with the real hard hitting questions: is Tom Brady motivated by Deflategate? I can't believe nobody has ever asked that before.
- I like that New England kept the pressure on and didn't give up a garbage time score for once. Devin McCourty came in on a beautifully timed safety blitz late in the game to make life very hard for Ryan Tannehill.
- Heyyy and nice little Jonas Gray run to finish this one out. That's sweet.
- New England has beaten Miami 132-47 over the last four games at Gillette. Yikes.
- And Tommy B, in the last four days, is 60 of 92 for 711 yards with six TDs and no picks. Double Yikes.
- Here's a live look at Dan Campbell in the Miami locker room after the game.
- I'll be very curious to see how Miami bounces back from this one. To come out blazing hot before getting absolutely stomped on by big brother on national television has to be as emotionally confusing as seeing the Kris Jenner Vanity Fair cover.
- That's two Kardashian references in one article. Add another personal foul to the Patriots docket. I'll see myself out.
New England now has an absolute stranglehold on the AFC East. At 7-0, they have a three game cushion in first place in the division and seem very well positioned to lock up at least a first round bye. Obviously it's way too early to be talking playoffs, but this was a great win that put the Patriots in great shape. Time for a much-needed mini bye week before the Redskins come to town. Let's all get some rest, get healthy, and watch what is actually a pretty solid slate of games on Sunday.