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Patriots vs. Redskins: Fan Notes from the Game

Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots’ 33-7 victory over the Washington Redskins.

NFL: New England Patriots at Washington Redskins Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

As I get ready to break down the time-honored rivalry that is Tom Brady vs. Colt McCoy, allow me to first take a moment to wish everyone a happy October. October is probably the best month on the sports calendar; baseball playoffs, the NFL is in full swing, hockey and basketball are back. Usually this time of year brings with it Red Sox postseason baseball, and odds are if you’re a Pats fan you’re a Sox fan as well, so there’s a case to be made that this October isn’t quite as exciting as years past. But the Patriots are 5-0, which is a nice change of pace from their usual 2-2 around this time every year, so we can’t really complain too much.

And believe it or not, I wrote that last sentence before yesterday’s game even started, which is very unlike me. But I don’t think I was ever as confident in a victory as I was yesterday, so I’m giving myself a pass.

It wasn’t perfect, and there are for sure some causes for concern regarding just how banged up this team is this early in the season, but a win is a win is a win.

  • I was traveling around running errands for most of the morning yesterday, so I’m sorry to say that I had to duck into an unfamiliar sports bar to watch this game. And let me tell you: had there been a record playing when I walked in dressed in my Patriots long-sleeved tee, it would have scratched and everyone would have turned to stare at me. I kept waiting for a particularly surly looking fellow to elbow off the bar, ping the spittoon with a large wad of chaw, and let me know that folks don’t take too kindly to my type around here. Giants fans from wall to wall.
  • Luckily, the Patriots were playing the Redskins, so it was an enemy of my enemy situation and we all had a good time. Plus, Giants fans, for some odd reason, don’t seem to have any problem with the Pats. It’s almost like how much you hate New England is directly tied to the Patriots beating up on your team a lot or something.
  • For the record, this bar was no Paddy’s. That’s still the best bar in the city and it isn’t even close. If you’re ever in town and want to catch the game, I can’t recommend it enough.
  • Especially when it comes to a game like yesterday’s, which was kind of a bore. There were a few moments, but did anyone, at any point, actually think that the Patriots were going to lose?
  • Even when the Redskins took the lead on a 65 yard trick play scramble that the Patriots inexplicably decided to defend by doing their best impression of the pieces on those vintage electric football board games, I was never worried. I mean come’s Colt McCoy.
  • To that end, I have absolutely no idea what it is about McCoy that Jay Gruden loves so much. Colt either has compromising pictures of the entire Gruden family or he just has some kind of magnetic hold on Jay - the Tammy to his Ron Swanson. Why not put Haskins in, see what you have? Anyway...
  • Jake Bailey finally kicking off. Zero returns, all touchbacks. The legend grows.
  • I think my favorite moment of this entire game was Bill Belichick calling a timeout before the game has even started. That’s just next-level trolling. If you didn’t think the game was over before it even started, you knew it was in the bag then.
  • I’ve had friends blowing up my phone for the entire offseason asking if the Patriots were ever going to utilize Sony Michel as a receiving back, as if I have some kind of direct line to Bill Belichick. As I’ve said before and as I’m now required by the state of New York to say, I do not have Belichick’s number and I am no longer trying to acquire it. But they got their answer yesterday, as Michel had his most productive day as a receiver. He caught all three targets for 32 yards, including some key first down pickups. If Michel can emerge as a legit receiving threat, that will open up the entire offensive playbook.
  • Other than that one scoring drive where everything just kind of broke down, the most yards that Washington put together on any one drive was 25. Otherwise, it was six sacks, a pick, and a fumble recovery. Even as the offense continues to struggle, it really doesn’t even matter.
  • I mean we’re only five weeks into the 2019 season and I’ve kind of run out of superlatives for this defense, particularly this linebacking corps. They’re running all over the field, timing blitzes perfectly, and jamming the middle for the edge rushers. I also now know why Dont’a Hightower didn’t play last week: he was clearly putting the finishing touches on he clonea of himself that also took the field yesterday. That’s the only way to explain how he managed to be three or four places at once.
  • As for the offense...
  • Yesterday (or should I say the first half of yesterday) was a textbook example of crappy execution. The schemes were fine, and McDaniels’ play calling made sense given the defense the Redskins were showing, but nobody really stepped up. There were a few drops, the entire offensive line struggled, and Brady sailed a few high.
  • If I was a betting man, I would have bet my house that Mike Nugent was going to miss his first ever PAT as a Patriot. That’s going to be an issue all season, and if come January or February we’re all able to trace the results of the 2019 campaign back to a missed extra point in a critical situation, I won’t be surprised. Maybe the Patriots should take a page out of Carter (Friday Night Lights) book and just stop kicking completely.
  • That the Redskins were able to get consistent pressure only rushing three early on is incredibly concerning. They don’t have any world-beaters on their front line, but guys were getting through on the second push all day. “Rush with three, drop eight” has always been how you beat the Patriots. I’m very, very glad I’m not a Patriots offensive lineman in a team meeting this morning. It would be easy to point the finger at Newhouse, who deserves said finger in said face, but I don’t think there was a single member of the line who had a solid game yesterday. There were communication issues, rushers weren’t passed off on stunts, and the ‘Skins managed to almost equal their entire season total for sacks in just one game.
  • Usually, I’d be screaming into the rafters about why THEY NEVER RUN THE GODDAM QB SNEAK ANYMORE ON 4TH AND SHORT. But with the offensive line what it is, I guess I get it.
  • I guess.
  • Allow me to congratulate Montae Nicholson for the absolutely perfect coverage on Julian Edelman that somehow drew a PI call. The refs set a new record in nincompoopery with that one.
  • This Pass Interference challenge rule has got to go - I’m sorry. Valiant effort, but I think the remedy isn’t slowing the game down further wasting challenges on plays that could go either way. It’s better referring from the get-go.
  • As anyone who is questionable to return with a hamstring ever actually come back in the game?
  • Everyone remember Jakobi Meyers? That guy we were all so sure was going to have a big year? He had a single catch for six yards yesterday. Somewhere out there on the interwebs is a stat that shows how Malcolm Mitchell has a quiet first half of the year and then blew up in the second. If you want to post that in the comments section so I feel a little better about letting myself get burned, yet again, by a preseason darling, that would be awesome.
  • This offense was so off in the first half that I found myself kind of just hanging out waiting for the defense to make a big play that set the offense up with good field position. And that big play came with six minutes to go in the first half, when Trey Quinn fumbled and Jamie Collins recovered.
  • The offense, of course, thanked the defense for their efforts by giving the ball right back on an interception that everyone is absolutely murdering Tommy B on today.
  • Was it a horrible pick? 100%. No denying that. But have we been seeing Brady throw two or three of those a year for the last decade plus. Yes we have. It just kind of comes with the package. When you’re in love with someone, you accept them for who they are, warts and all. Part of our relationship with Tom Brady means that occasionally a defense is going to get right into his face, he’s going to start feeling the pressure, throw off his back leg while falling down, and it will get picked off.
  • But of course, the defense held, and the Patriots got the ball back with a ton of time on the clock and a chance to double dip before the half.
  • They immediately went three and out.
  • Thank Tebow for Colt McCoy, who must have realized there was something wrong with the universe yesterday and did his part by throwing an even worse pick than the one Brady threw.
  • If at least one McCourty can get an interception a game, I’ll be very happy. Maybe that was actually Devin and they switched jerseys on the sly. I mean who would ever know?
  • And the Patriots STILL couldn’t find the end zone. Now I know how it feels to participate in the Slippery Stairs Challenge.
  • The real problem is that nobody was able to get open yesterday. The scheming wasn’t horrible, and Tommy B had time on multiple occasions. There was just no separation. I guess I can keep chalking it up to receivers not being 100%...but if you want to look at me sideways as I say that, I can’t really blame you.
  • I also don’t know exactly why the running game suddenly started working in the 2nd half. Unless the Redskins were really, really fooled by Jakob Johnson motioning out wide and then coming back behind the line to crash the A gap? Did that motion blow everyone away or something?
  • I can't even say it was that, to be honest, as Michel’s TD drive was mostly out of single back sets. I think it was a shift to a split zone blocking scheme with Izzo and/or LaCosse moving across the flow of the play to handle the backside defender. It allowed for a few large cutback lanes, which is an area where Michel excels. He’s a solid foot-in-the-ground RB, and his 14 yard TD run was the perfect example of that.
  • Or, more simply, in the second half the Patriots just woke up and remembered who they were playing. Either one is fine.
  • But what it honestly was was solid adjusting from McDaniels. The 2nd half saw a good number of 12 and 21 personnel groupings, which got the TEs involved and allowed Brady to do what he does best: exploit matchups. The running game got going, which opened up the play action and allowed the tight ends to run over the middle. It makes you realize why Gronk used to go ham on this Washington team.
  • I’m looking forward to seeing Chase Winovich develop his pass rushing moves. Right now he has a decent rip, but it’s mostly a leverage bull rush that allows him to get home. An offseason of footwork and hand speed drills is really going to up his game.
  • Congrats to Ryan Izzo for scoring his first career TD and becoming the 73rd player to catch a touchdown pass from Tom Brady.
  • And congrats to Tommy B for moving up to Number 3 in terms of all-time passing yards, with 71,923. If he passes for 18 yards on Thursday, he’ll pass Peyton Manning. So you can for sure expect the game to stop and for Peyton or Favre or Dan Marino to come up on the JumboTron to congratulate Tom on his achievement.
  • Technically, Tom Brady could pass Drew Brees this season, who sits at the top with 74,845 yards; Brady throws for 3500-4000 yards every season, so it’s within reach. But I hope that Brees comes back, because the NFL is better with him in it.
  • One thing I never understood is when teams put their backup QB in to give him some meaningful in-game reps and all he does is hand the ball off. And if you’re going to have your backup QB run the ball three times, as least emphasize clock management and ensure he doesn’t snap the ball until there’s a second left on the play clock.
  • Gunner Olszewski is a little fair-catch happy. I’d honestly rather that than pull the Edelman and refuse to wave his arm altogether, but the kid has ability and I’d like to see him use it.
  • Did the NFL stop with the pink gloves and shoes this year?
  • I wish the Patriots would run Josh Gordon on the crossing route more. He gets good separation and a nice step, and watching him stiffer defenders is a joy I never thought possible.
  • I’m going to go ahead and say it: the Patriots need to lose a game and lose a game soon. I think at this point in the season a bad loss is exactly what they need. Maybe the execution issues were the results of complacency. Or maybe the Patriots see this defense and are taking the Alec Shane approach to group projects: let the smart kid do all the work, sit back, do as little as possible, and get the A anyway. I think a loss, and maybe a bad one at that, will really get everyone focused. Plus, with KC losing last night, there’s a bit of a cushion now.
  • What really sucks for the ‘Skins is that this game, particularly the first half, likely bought Jay Gruden a three year contract extension and gave Dan Snyder all kinds of new ideas for how they can revamp their roster this offseason.

Short week, Giants are on the docket on Thursday Night Football for what I’m sure is going to be a highly skilled, not at all sloppy, exciting contest between two groups of players that have had plenty of time to rest and recover from yesterday, led by coaching staffs who have fully been able to implement a solid gameplan.

The good news about the Giants game being Thursday instead of Sunday is that it’s three less days of me having to sit here and think about how the Patriots are going to be holding onto a slim lead late in the game, and then Daniel Jones is going to go down, and then Eli Manning is going to come in and lead the Giants to victory after he somehow manages to land a pass directly down the back of some guy’s pants as he stumbles into the end zone.