Happy New Year, everyone!
It’s tough to think of a better way to close out one year and start off another one than with a win over the New York Jets to clinch the #1 seed in the AFC and homefield advantage throughout the NFL playoffs. For what seems like the sixth or seventh straight week, the Patriots didn’t look great, but they were certainly good enough to get the win and made enough plays to cruise to an easy victory in a game that was more or less over by halftime.
It’s more probable than not that most of you are at least generally aware that you may have possibly had a few drinks last night, which means that we may all be dragging a little bit this morning. So I’ll spare you a lengthy intro here and get straight to the Fan Notes.
- For the second year in a row, the Patriots closed out the season against an AFC East opponent with homefield advantage on the line. And for the second year in a row, I watched this one from a bar in Jamaica while all the normal people with a brain were on the beach enjoying some sun. I get very few vacation days every year, and I spent a good chunk of one of them watching a regular season football game alone. I need help.
- I do use the word “alone” somewhat loosely, though, as there were actually a fair number of Patriots fans at the bar by kickoff. This fan base is as inescapable as we are insufferable.
- There were some British fans at the bar before us to watch the Arsenal match, which didn’t end until about 1:15 or so; however, not to be deterred, everyone harnessed their inner Masshole and hovered awkwardly around the Brits. Unfortunately, it didn’t work, and we missed an opening drive complete with a 4th down conversion and an excellent mix of run and pass as Lewis and Amendola (another great name for a traveling road show) put on a clinic.
- I don’t think that Brandin Cooks is used to playing in this cold weather. New England’s second drive stalled on Cooks slowing down on the deep post and then dropping a screen in which he had blocks.
- I’d love to know what percentage of the sacks that Tommy B has taken this season has come on 3rd down. I feel like it’s a lot.
- I’d also love to know what it is about early in games and a complete inability to set the edge. Once the Patriots figured out that they might be better off ensuring edge defenders play contain and funnel the ball back towards the middle, the Jets didn’t really move the ball for the rest of the game.
- I wonder what the air pressure of the footballs were yesterday? It was freezing cold and the balls were hard as rocks…
- I actually love cold weather games. I was at that AFC Divisional game against the Titans in 2004 and distinctly remember ordering a beer only to have it freeze before I could finish drinking it. I wouldn’t do it every week, but I think that everyone should go to a late-season game at Gillette at least once in your life.
- I’d like to be among the first to commend the Patriots offense for continuously doing absolutely nothing and going three and out a bunch so as to allow this defense some more meaningful reps to get themselves ready for the playoffs.
- Was Tom Brady wearing a wetsuit yesterday? I think he was.
- One real bright spot for the defense over the past few weeks is Lawrence Guy. In the absence of Alan Branch, Guy has lined up on the nose and more or less dictated the line shift while getting decent penetration. He’s also adept at passing linemen off to ensure gap integrity.
- I’ll be very, very curious to see what the Jets do with Mohammed Wilkerson next year. He’s a phenomenal talent when he’s motivated - but he’s a real malcontent who is unhappy with his current situation and viewed by his current team as a real detriment. In other words, the perfect candidate for the Patriots.
- The number of deep shots the Patriots took yesterday is indicative of the depth issues they have at receiver. The routes that Edelman, White, and even Malcolm Mitchell excel at just aren’t there right now.
- At the same time, the Patriots knew they had a coverage mismatch on the Jets corners and exploited that weakness early to set up the run late.
- Marquis Flowers has really come into his own as both a stunting linebacker and for under zone coverage. And I’m not entirely unconvinced that he isn’t doing it just to tempt me with a whole bunch of terrible, terrible flower puns. I’ll resist as long as I can, I promise – but if and when Tre and Marquis combine on a sack, all bets are off.
- Defensive holding is…well, it’s basically the same as DPI and a catch and illegal contact and professional football in general, so who the hell knows.
- As New Englanders, we regularly live through blizzards, hurricanes, massive storms, biting cold, and Kelly Clarkson. But to this day, nothing strikes fear into our hearts like Thomas Edward Patrick Brady as the lead blocker on an end around.
- When the Patriots took a 21-3 lead into the half, I relaxed considerably. There’s just no way that Bryce Petty can come back from a three score deficit on the road…
- I’d like to thank the Jets for running up the middle after having so much success on the toss and sweep plays. They aren’t the first team that has abandoned the edge run later in the game, which leads me to believe that the Patriots defense is presenting a pre-snap look that invites attacking the A gaps. It’s the only thing I can think of as to why opponents don’t just run toss plays every down.
- How much would I have to pay you to take an open field tackle from James Harrison in 15 degree weather?
- Overall, you have to be happy with what you saw from Harrison. He saw more action yesterday than his entire season with the Steelers, and played like a man with something to prove.
- My DirecTV People Who Enjoy Crappy Things power rankings: 1: caught in turnstile guy, 2: walk into glass door guy, 3: sat in gum woman, 4: shopping cart guy, 5: crowded subway woman. That commercial keeps growing on me.
- I personally couldn’t care less about the NFL MVP award; there’s only one trophy I care about every year. But that said, the mental gymnastics everyone is doing to avoid giving it to Tom Brady in is Olympic-caliber. Since the conversation began this season, it has been Tommy B week in and week out, followed by a rotating cast of players, including Carson Wentz, Alex Smith, Antonio Brown, and Todd Gurley. The only player who has remained in the conversation all year is Brady. But they likely won’t give it to him. Again, I don’t care…but coming off a decade plus where the MVP was given to Peyton Manning in Week 1 every year and went to him by default unless another player just blew everyone out of the water, it’s annoying to see the double standard.
- The 2nd half of this game was completely forgettable, with the exception of the Hall of Fame caliber flop from Johnson Bademosi on that Anderson spike. I’d like to think that LeBron James and Ronaldo saw the replay and shed a single, proud tear.
- I better stop badmouthing Ronaldo before I get more hate mail; those of us who worship at the altar of Tommy B look like atheists and nonbelievers compared to the Venerable Cult of Ronaldo. That guy could shoot a nun in the middle of Mardis Gras and those folks would say they didn’t see a thing. Not a bad side I want to be on.
- I’m not sure what to think about the amount of looks Philip Dorsett got yesterday. On one hand, it’s good to see him integrating into the offense. On the other, did the rest of the receiving corps have that much trouble getting separation against the Jets?
- That’s one area where Malcolm Mitchell will be a huge boon, should he come back. He was one of the better receivers against man coverage last year, and if (if being the major factor) he can return to form in time for the postseason, he alters the entire offensive gameplan (and opposing defense’s strategy as well).
- I’m not a very smart guy. I don’t pretend to be. But I know football, and I know it well. I have been following this game very closely for over 20 years now. And I have absolutely no clue how Dion Lewis does what he does, particularly after contact. He knows how to get small and avoid tacklers at the same time, which is contradictory if you’re a running back. He remains patient while hitting the gap quickly, which makes zero sense. And he’s short and light, which means he should be getting stood up at the line on a regular basis, but he is one of the best in the league at yards after contact. Instead of trying to figure it out, I’m just going to enjoy this.
- For the record, “instead of trying to figure it out, I’m just going to enjoy this” has been the way I conduct my love life. So far, no complaints – on my end, at least.
- I’m going to go ahead and chalk up the lack of offensive production in the 2nd half to the fact that the Patriots had a comfortable lead going into the 3rd quarter and decided to just keep it relatively vanilla.
- I don’t think I have ever seen Brady as inaccurate on the out routes as he has been in 2017. How many times this season has a receiver planted his foot, made the cut, and sprung open towards the sideline, only to have Brady throw it low and into the ground? It happened three times in yesterday’s game alone – one to Amendola in the 2nd quarter, one that should have been a TD pass to Cooks in the 3rd, and then one to Dwayne Allen to stall a drive in the 4th. That isn’t a very hard throw to make, either. Not great.
- Zero turnovers from this Patriots defense yesterday, against one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL. Also not great.
- That the Jets were the first team to score on the Patriots in the 4th quarter in five weeks with that meaningless late-game field goal is one of the most mind-boggling stats I have ever heard. How is that possible?
- I still think that Matthew Slater didn’t deserve a Pro Bowl nod, through zero fault of his own – injuries happen. But given the way he pinned the Jets deep consistently as a gunner, it makes you understand why he has the reputation that he does.
- CBS cut away from the Patriots game to show the Steelers backups taking on the 0-16 Browns with about six minutes left in the game, which means I missed the Eric Lee safety and the James Harrison sacks to close out the game…but that’s OK. This game was more or less over by halftime anyway, so no harm done. I just hope Steelers fans everywhere are rocking back and forth mumbling “it’s just Bryce Petty, its just Bryce Petty” over and over again.
- Shoutout to Anne and Tom, two diehard Pats fans from the Foxboro area, who stayed until the end of the game with me even though it was a beautiful day and the sun was out, which caused the rest of the Patriots faithful watching this game to head to the beach instead. You two are alright by me.
I know the season isn’t over – in Patriots Nation, it hasn’t even really started yet –but the 2017 regular season is in the books. And with another year gone, I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone who has followed me over the past few months and beyond. Each season in the NFL is very different than the one that preceded it, and it’s always fun to take the trip with the Pats Pulpit community. This is a special place, where we can talk football and support the Patriots relatively free from nonsense and mainstream storylines geared exclusively towards clicks and pageviews. As we close the books on a season – and another year in the books – it’s always good to take a moment to reflect on how lucky we all are, in our own unique ways, and make sure the people in our immediate vicinity know that they are appreciated. I appreciate all of you, as well as my fellow writers at Pats Pulpit, and here’s hoping I get to write three more of these Fan Notes.
We’re on to the bye week.