How about those Patriots, eh?
Another week, another game mailed in. To make things worse, it was a nonfactor game to close out the year with back-to-back divisional losses that cost New England home field advantage throughout the playoffs. If you're like me, you're back at your desk this morning after a long and relaxing holiday break, and thus you're already on the suicide watch list as it is. Now, on this most depressing day of the year, we all get to slather a little spicy mustard on our crap sandwich as the Patriots drop four of their final six and come hobbled and limping into the postseason with absolutely no momentum whatsoever and far more questions than answers at this stage in the game.
Not to worry, though. All is not lost. Ultimately, this game wasn't as important as it may feel this morning. It's just tough to be too positive when it's January and it's 30 degrees and those of us stupid enough to live in the northeast have three straight months of freezing weather to look forward to. But brighter days ahead!
- Never too hard to convince New Englanders to head to Miami for a Pats/Fins game in late December/early January. Good for the away fans for showing up. At least there were a few folks in Patriots jerseys yesterday who wanted to be there.
- And good for the Patriots for deferring the kickoff until the 2ns half. This was a nice way to close out my holiday break, regardless of the outcome.
- New England opened up with a base nickel package with Patrick Chung in coverage on Jarvis Landry. They then shifted to 3-4 with Jamie Collins on Landry. Not sure if that was a strategy to mix it up or they just needed people who were upright to line up.
- I don't think the Patriots threw the ball beyond their own line of scrimmage more than twice for the entire first half. The plan was to just run it and then run it some more. My hope is that this strategy was twofold; get the ground game going for the playoffs, and keep that clock running so that bye week can start.
- Speaking of running, I really have to question why Miami didn't run the ball more, based on the success of their opening possessions.
- To those willing to give the Patriots a pass on the run D because of the injuries, keep in mind that Miami was missing three starting offensive linemen as well.
- I also don't think that Lamar Miller runs as well as he does against New England 14 games a year. I guess there are just certain players who, for whatever reason, are always going to have an absolutely monster day against the Patriots. If Shaun Hill, Lamar Miller, Scott Chandler, Fred Jackson, and Jerricho Cotchery ever end up on the same team, may as well chalk that one up as an L.
- That Miami was only up three midway through the second quarter when the Patriots had run all of nine plays for 27 yards should tell you all you need to know about how their season went.
- How about Steven Jackson having himself a day? At this point you can clearly see the moments where the Jackson of old would have punched through the hole for a big gain, where 2015 Jackson was only able to pick up three or four yards, but he still knows how to grind it out.
- It's also nice to see a Patriots back wearing the number 39 who actually attacks the hole instead of dancing around in the backfield like Carlton Banks.
- I don't want to tell you how many times I said "That's it. Mail it in. Get Brady out. I've had enough of this" yesterday...but I was screaming it after he folded up like an accordion following that Suh hit.
- Brady was limping visibly after that hit, and was limping at his postgame presser as well. We'll never know how serious it is because, unlike what some folks want to believe, Tommy B is as tough as nails. But if that ankle is hurt to the point where he can't push off his throw...well, let's just move on.
- Thank goodness for Miami penalties - best offensive weapon the Patriots had all game.
- I don't know if you can really attribute Tommy B's inaccuracy to the lack of personnel on the field, to be honest. I mean it doesn't really matter who is wearing the jersey; you still have to put the ball in the vicinity. I guess having a bunch of large, aqua-clad men immediately in your face less than three seconds after you snap the ball has something to do with it as well.
- I thought I had seen the most vanilla Patriots offense possible last week against the Jets. Well I stand corrected. Runs and screens and some more runs and a few more screens.
- Supplements that with some more runs and another screen or two, and you have the Miami defense right where you want them! Time for a deep pass to LaFell! Nobody will ever see that coming!
- Seriously - how many times has that deep post to LaFell worked? I remember one catch all season.
- I haven't griped about the Red Zone Channel too much lately, so I'd due for one. This week's? The exorbitant amount of time spent on the completely meaningless Giants/Eagles game. In a Week 17 rife with games that had playoff implications, why they decided to show such an abundance of Eli Manning's dumb face is beyond me.
- The first half of this game was two teams who were playing the NFL equivalent of the "who can stay quiet longest?" game that parents trick unruly kids into playing when they are getting out of control and the adults just need some quiet time. The winner, based on the 10-3 score after two quarters was Miami. The loser was everybody else.
- On the plus side, usually when the Patriots look this flat and are trailing at the half in a game where they haven't threatened even a little bit, I'm a lot more angry and worried and despondent and pessimistic and all that good stuff. But everyone in New England was just so far gone it was almost infectious.
- To be honest, I'm a bit surprised that the Patriots didn't just say screw it and pull Brady at halftime. They had a great excuse - the ankle was fine, but no need to risk further injury, so in comes Jimmy G. But they kept Tommy B in there. I guess he wanted some more practice handing the ball off to Brandon Bolden on 2nd and long.
- Of course the very first play of the third quarter saw a Dolphin diving around Brady's knees.
- Holy Jeez James White. So...more touches for him now? Yes? What more does he have to do?
- The Dolphins only rushed four on a fair number of snaps and the Patriots were still in max protection, and Miami was able to get pressure. That isn't going to get any better, folks. This is what we're going to have to win with.
- On the flip side, I was extremely impressed by Miami's pass protection yesterday. New England brought a lot of stunt pressure and disguised their rush, and were really only able to get to Tannehill a small number of times. Miami receivers were relatively open downfield; Tannehill just overthrew a lot.
- When was the last time Gronk drew a DPI call? I can't for the life of me remember.
- Last week I was joking when I said that the Patriots only ran about 10 plays all game. After watching yesterday's performance, I'm starting to legit think that New England only has about 10% of the playbook at their disposal and there's nothing they can do about it.
- I don't think that football players get enough...credit, I guess?...for flopping. It's such a brutal sport, and everyone who plays it is so tough, that when a player (usually a receiver, but not always) takes light contact and then violently falls to the ground, nobody thinks much of it. But some NFL players rival soccer and basketball players in terms of floppability.
- Jamie Collins getting burned on that wheel route came off the exact kind of pick play that Keyshawn Martin got flagged for a few weeks ago to call back a huge James White catch and run. Again, if you're going to call it, fine - just be consistent. I will tolerate a lot if it's done consistently.
- The same thing goes for the Greg Jennings catch/non-catch/catch in the 3rd quarter that PC Principal had to challenge. That seemed as obvious as could be in real time that it was a catch.
- And that probably the biggest question in the league is "did he catch that?", you should probably address that in the offseason.
- Has Mike Carey ever been right once when they ask him what he thinks? And I'd like to extend that question back to when he was actually a ref on the field as well.
- Good for the Dolphins for deciding to care yesterday. They easily could have pulled a New England and mailed it in, but they didn't. They were crooning and celebrating like the game mattered. You like to see that.
- You got the feeling, as the third quarter came and went, that the only way the Patriots were going to win this game is if the defense made some kind of huge play to set up field position. The offense wasn't going to get it done, and the defense was playing well enough so that it was a possibility. Unfortunately, Tannehill was smart with the football and the Dolphins front four got a good push.
- Getting a few miracle catches in there doesn't hurt either. Man I'm sick of those.
- You know what I'm not sick of, though? You know what I love to see? A Brandon Bolden stretch run! Even better if it goes for negative yards!
- I know that this is ridiculous, but sometimes I get the impression that if the Patriots run a play that works really well one time, they'll keep going back to it over and over and over again even if it really did only see success once. The fullback dive play on 3rd and short is a great example. So is the Bolden stretch run that sealed the game against the Jets last year. The deep pass to LaFell. I could keep going.
- This might be my inner homer coming out, but I felt like Miami got fantastic spots all day, and New England got absolutely atrocious spots.
- Miami was so successful rushing only four that they were able to overpopulate the under zones. As a team with no legitimate deep threat, this strategy limited an already anemic offense virtually invisible.
- When Miami went up 17-10, that was pretty much it. There wasn't really any way the Patriots were going to score 10 unanswered points to get the W with the way the offense was playing.
- These last two weeks were quite indicative of the first 12 or so years of my Patriots fandom - much longer for some of you out there. A lousy offense, a frustrating defense, and getting beaten up by the Jets and Dolphins. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I hope you all have been milking every possible second out of the Tom Brady era and haven't wasted too much energy caring what Twitter and Mark Brunell had to say.
- Almost all of New England's offense yesterday came on a single play to James White. Yuck.
- As of this morning, I'm only really asking myself one question, and that question is this: am I tricking myself into thinking that everything is magically going to be OK once all these injured players come back? I hope the answer is no.
- Because make no mistake about it: the guys who are sidelined with injuries are going to need to come in and make this team SIGNIFICANTLY better. Like leaps and bounds better. Because you aren't going to win many January games with a slowly developing draw play and a toss to Brandon Bolden on 3rd and 12.
- All that doom and gloom aside: everyone calm down. Only Patriots fans would be this negative and despondent over a first round playoff bye and a 12 win regular season. We're just the worst.
Oh well. I'm not going to sit here and say that I don't really care about this loss...but I don't care as much as I would in years past. But you want to end the season strong, and you can't end a year much worse than two consecutive divisional losses to drop out of the one seed and cede it to the Denver Broncos.
We're on to the bye week, and hopefully the Patriots team we all saw earlier on this year.