There are a few days on every calendar that are rightly lambasted as the worst days of the year. The two most infamous, in my opinion, are the first workday in January after the holidays and the Tuesday after Labor Day - both of these day represent the very beginning of a long, three day weekendless slog through dark skies, cold weather, and nothing all that fun on the horizon. Show me somebody who's glad to be here on January 3rd, and I'll show you someone who knows a doctor with a generous disposition regarding the ol' prescription pad.
For some reason, though, the Monday after the Thanksgiving weekend flies under the crappy day radar and I don't quite know why. Maybe it's because it's the start of the Christmas season and everyone is feeling holly and jolly. Maybe it's because there are only a few weeks left in the year before everything shuts down for a week. Whatever the reason, nobody really talks about the misery that comes with rolling out of bed early for the first time in almost a full week, squeezing into work pants that are suddenly much tighter than they were a few days ago, fighting rush hour traffic, and getting back to a desk where all the crap you decided to put off until after the holiday drops a Randy Savage elbow on you the second you sit down. I know I'm feeling it this morning; hopefully none of you are.
You know what makes it better, though? Beating the Jets. It's always tough to be in a bad mood on the Monday after a win over the Jets, and today is no exception. Sure, I could be a typical Patriots fan this morning, lamenting how ugly that game looked and how this 9-2, #1 overall seed in the AFC has absolutely zero chance of winning a Super Bowl, but I'm not going to do that. The bottom line is that, as we've seen every single year, you can more or less throw everything out the window when the Pats and Jets play and yesterday's game was 100% indicative of what we should expect each time these two teams face off. New England could have been 10-0 coming into yesterday's game with 0 points against on the entire season and we still would have gotten a similar result; that's the beauty of divisional matchups and why it will always feel good to beat the Jets. They gave the Patriots one helluva game, but New England came away with a win, on the road, in back-to-back away games, coming off a West Coast trip, against a divisional opponent. If that doesn't make you happy, I don't know what will.
- I'd like to thank all of the Patriots fans who showed up to yesterday's game vs. the Jets. I only wish the team hadn't waited until the 2nd quarter to join you guys, as I know you paid money to see the Pats play.
- I always get nervous for Jets games, perhaps more than any other regular season game on the calendar, as it's always a game that the Patriots should win, but could always very easily lose. And to have to wait until the afternoon slate, watch the Jets defer, and then the Patriots go three and out was undoubtedly the low point of a weekend that was more or less one giant gravy stain.
- To make matters worse, Tommy B burned an early timeout that gave the Jets enough time to get a first down overturned and force a punt. That's what Bill Belichick refers to as "situational football."
- Overall, this was a game where the defense adjusted and stepped up when it was needed, which was a refreshing change of pace from earlier in the year. And given the fact that, with the exception of a 4th quarter drive that needed some absolutely perfect throws from Ryan Fitzpatrick to score a TD, the defense kept the Jets off the scoreboard for most of the game, I'm not going to get too deep into the D today. I think I'll just lump all my defensive complaints here in one spot and then move on.
- I'm getting really, really sick of scoring drives that don't even look like the opposing team had to earn it. If an offense makes plays and earns the yards they get, then fair enough. But at this level that it looks so effortless so often is just plain infuriating.
- At one point, after a booming Ryan Allen punt, I found myself thinking, "It's kind of getting to the point where I don't know whether or not to root for great punts. On the one hand...field position battle won! On the other hand...it just means that the ensuing scoring drive is going to take a lot longer than if Ryan Allen had just shanked it short."
- I know that Malcolm Butler's stat-line doesn't look great this morning. Passes thrown his way were all caught, six of six for 106 yards and 2 TDs. And on a few of those completions, he either got beat or mistimed his jumps. That said, he was up against some bigger, stronger receivers and was alone in coverage on those guys. Furthermore, a few of those passes were beautifully thrown and the receiver made a spectacular catch on them. Butler isn't a complete shutdown corner, but I'll still take him and gladly so.
- Butler also made the play of the game, in my opinion, when he punched the ball out of Robby Anderson's hands to force and recover a fumble that would lead to a Patriots touchdown. Up until that point, the entire Patriots looked like me at about 6:30PM on Thursday night, and absolutely nothing was working on either side of the ball. The team needed someone to step up, ignite a spark, and get everyone motivated, and Butler was the guy.
- And when I say nothing worked early, I mean absolutely nothing. No running game. Short passes immediately smothered. Deep routes overthrown. The Jets were getting all kinds of pressure and the pass rush was so fierce that there wasn't enough time for the receivers to get any separation. Brady got hit and rattled early, and we all know what that means.
- There are certain players, across all sports, who are judged by a different set of rules. These are the greats, the ones who help sell tickets and make a lot of people a lot of money. Brady is one of those players. So was Peyton Manning. LeBron James is another. Ronaldo and Messi come to mind. Derek Jeter had the most fluid strike zone I'll ever see. It's the reality of sports whether you want to admit it or not. Rob Gronkowski is also one of those players, except it's a sort of reverse scenario where his greatness forces officials to not make as many calls on him than they probably should. A fair number of guys who cover Gronk would be getting a visit from Chris Hansen under different circumstances, but Gronk has played himself into that category. We just have to accept it.
- We also just have to accept that he's always going to be hurt. He's the best TE in football when he's on the field, but he isn't going to be on the field for an entire season. I know the whole "bubble wrap Gronk until the playoffs" thing is a joke...but I'm starting to think that maybe it kind of isn't.
- I'm also starting to wonder if the football gods are playing the cruelest of cruel jokes on the Patriots and will ensure that Gronk's TD total as a Patriot is forever 69. Perhaps the scariest thought is that I think Gronk would be OK with that.
- I would absolutely love to know what Ryan Fitzpatrick does to get himself into GOAT mode whenever he comes in for an injured/benched quarterback. I'd also love to know why Todd Bowles doesn't bench Fitz every other drive just to keep that momentum going.
- I'm trying to think of a single first-half Tom Brady throw that I was happy with yesterday and can't come up with one. It was either a high percentage throw that gave the receiver the chance to make a play or some inaccurate, questionable decision.
- I really, really want to blame that inaccuracy on his knee, because I more or less refuse to acknowledge that Tommy B is capable of having an off day. And I'll allow some of the blame to fall on that knee's shoulders, if a knee actually had shoulders. But I also think that Brady just kind of came out flat and is, in fact human.
- I mean seriously - the best throw of the first half came from a receiver, it fell incomplete, drew a PI flag and that play ultimately resulted in a field goal attempt from inside the 10. I can probably stop writing now.
- That said...Brady got it done when he needed to and the Patriots found their rhythm offensively and defensively. His two touchdowns on the day both went to a rookie who was covered by Darrelle Revis, which makes for a double whammy of awesomeness that almost erases all the bad stuff that happens every day.
- Seriously, Revis, what gives. You may as well just play in sweats and a t-shirt at this point. I have seen that much slacking off since my high school days.
- Pro: the Patriots finally got aggressive before half and ran some plays with urgency so they could score. Con: horrible, inexplicable clock management, when they had a timeout to work with, kind of short-circuited the drive. Pro: they were still able to get into field goal range. Con: Ghost shanked it.
- You guys member when Ryan Fitzpatrick threw six interceptions in one game? I member!
- Listening to Trent Green try to spin every call that went New England's way as some kind of illuminati favoritism society remains an absolute joy for me.
- I also enjoyed listening to Greg Gumbel talk about that Malcolm Mitchell TD that wasn't, where Tommy B overthrew him a bit and Mitchell couldn't pull it in as he laid out for the ball, as if Brady put it right on the numbers and it was a gimme. I really wish I knew if some of the commentary that goes on across the league is premeditated or if there's just an irreversible correlation between holding a microphone while watching a football game and idiocy.
- One thing I noticed yesterday was that Tommy B rarely stepped up into the pocket as the pass rush came in. You have to attribute some of that to the interior Jets line and the push they got, but that is one area where I think that the knee actually did hinder Brady.
- One very pleasant surprise from yesterday's game was how little Matt Forte did. I expected him to go off, but he only registered 60 yards combined. Instead the tight ends and receivers had a field day, but it was good to see the Patriots not get burned by a receiving back.
- To that end, it looks like the Patriots finally figured out a way to beat that RB wheel route: just rely on the receiver to drop the ball.
- I know that Fitzpatrick wasn't sacked at all yesterday...but did the Patriots even come close at any point? I don't think that New England even got to him until the strip sack that put the game away.
Chris Long has been something of a wash this year. He looked great in preseason, then kind of vanished as the games started to matter. But that strip sack was a fantastic individual effort and what we were all hoping to see all year.
- What is it about Pats/Jets, Thanksgiving weekend, and butts playing a major role in the game?
- After the Patriots scored with a lot of time on the clock and then that two point conversion got overturned, who here thought that the Patriots were actually going to hang on? Put your hand down, everyone.
- When the Patriots did recover, however, and Blount got the first down to seal it, Belichick should have gotten Brady the hell out of there. The last thing he should have been doing on a gimpy knee is kneeling down.
Home game against the Rams coming up, then it's a potentially brutal stretch of games in December that will really test this team's mettle. Everyone better get healthy and motivated ASAP.