Welcome back to football!
The New England Patriots came out of their bye week with a solid road victory over the Philadelphia Eagles and now sit at 9-1 on the year, still firmly in control of the #1 seed in the AFC. Of course, it wasn’t a good enough win, because no win is ever good enough for the Patriots, but that’s just fine with me. They can amass all the lousy, useless wins they want for all I care.
- I have no idea if there was any talk of the previous Patriots/Eagles Super Bowls over the past week; I milked my bye for as long as possible and ignored the league completely until 4:25. But I for sure got a week’s worth of it before the first quarter was even over, and if I needed any reminder as to why I don’t care as much about football anymore, I certainly got it right away.
- It was good to see the defense get back on track. After their loss to Baltimore, in which they got embarrassed on more than one occasion, it was obvious they came out of the gate much in the same way that a boxer who gets rocked early tries too hard to answer back with a killshot of his own. Guys were overcommitting, too quick on the reads, and jumpy up front, and the result was a 16 play, 95 yard scoring drive that ate up almost an entire quarter and left a lot of people sweating a little more than usual.
- I mean seriously; all we heard for the first eight weeks was that the defense hadn’t faced anybody at all, and the first real test of the season was a beatdown. Now here come the Eagles, minus their offensive weapons as it is, and they march right down the field at will? If you weren’t looking for a new pair of shorts after that first TD drive, you’re far braver than I.
- However, once the defense settled down, is was back to the unit we fell in love with early in the year. Interior runs are still something to be concerned about, but this secondary is simply on another level, and with the athleticism of the linebackers, everything is just gooey and delicious. It was weird to watch the Eagles offensive line dominate the way it did early, when Philly had 6OL and 2TE on some of the runs, but when New England countered with a bigger package (heh) and played more outside press in the secondary, it seemed to take away the safe option and forced Wentz to read more than he was used to.
- On offense, though...
- There appears to be a large contingency, seemingly led by none other than Tony Romo himself, who somehow think that the return of a 2nd year offensive lineman who has played less NFL games than Tom Brady has Super Bowl rings is going to magically make the offense unstoppable again, open up the running game, restore Brady’s trust in his blocking scheme, expand the playbook, give out free foot rubs, and predict the winning lottery numbers for the upcoming PowerBall. And I hope that’s the case. I truly, truly do. But I’m sorry if I just can’t buy it. Absolutely nothing Isaiah Wynn has shown me thus far in very limited action gives me reason to believe that he’ll stay healthy or anchor an offensive line with a lot of problems. I know that LT is one of the most crucial pieces of any offensive line, and right now we’re stuck with the NFL equivalent of Scrappy Doo (name a worse addition to a classic show. I’ll wait), but I just think the offensive woes go beyond that.
- Although “woes” might be a strong word, because the offense is still productive when it needs to be and is doing enough to win games. And when you’re used to your team scoring points at will for almost an entire decade, it’s a bit of an adjustment. So I don’t want to pile on too much here. But this offense isn’t scaring anybody right now and, 11 weeks into the season, there’s not all that much time to turn it around.
- People have been ragging on Josh McDaniels’ playcalling a lot this season, but I think that yesterday’s game was a great example of his ability to adjust mid-game. The Patriots opened the game with a lot of screens and quick in passes to mitigate the Philly front line. Philly adjusted to it well, which opened up the middle of the field for seam routes and post patterns. Results were mixed, but much of that had to do with solid defensive play and some drops by receivers.
- As well as more than a few Tom Brady throws that were flat out terrible. New England seems to have incorporated a new play into their playbook this season, one they run at least twice a game, where Tom Brady throws the ball sharply into the dirt at the feet of James White as he comes out of the flat. Not sure whether it’s a way to get into the defense’s head or what, but maybe they should phase “HB Right Dirt X Delay” out of their playbook.
- I also counted three passes Brady threw that should have been picked, one coming in the end zone on a poor decision to try and hit Sanu as McLeod played the under. I’m more than happy to close my eyes, plug my ears, and chant “IT’S BECAUSE HE HAS NO TRUST IN THE LINE! IT’S BECAUSE HE HAS NO TRUST IN THE LINE!” over and over again, but you have to call a spade a spade sometimes. And the fact of the matter is that you can’t triple stamp a double stamp.
- I had completely forgotten that Jim Schwartz was a) still in the league, and b) the D coordinator for the Eagles. I’ll forever remember him from that Week 3 preseason game against the Lions in 2011 or so where the Lions blew the doors off the Patriots 34-10 and Schwartz literally skipped off the field, beaming and waving to the crowd, like he had just won the lottery.
- Then again...the Lions did manage to lose in the NFC Wild Card round that year, which is a pretty massive achievement for them. So maybe Schwartz was onto something.
- New England seemed to want to attack the outside of the field and operate outside of the hashmarks, with very limited success. The screens worked early, but then never fully developed. Toss plays went for negative yards. Rub routes and quick slants got blown up. And this will all be totally fixed next week when Wynn comes back, right?
- Sony Michel really can’t catch, eh? Are people still calling for more screens to him?
- I’ve been looking around all morning, and I can’t for the life of me find the official rule change that states The New England Patriots must pull out a trick play every single time they play the Eagles. So if anybody can find me the link, I’d be grateful.
- If you’re a Brady hater (a sadly dying breed, alas), you got yourself a nice “the best QB on the field yesterday was Julian Edelman” bone to gnaw on for a while. It’s witty, original quips like that that keep the internet internetting.
- I move that we make “questionable to return” applicable to real life as well. There’s no rhyme or reason to whether a not a player who is questionable to return actually makes another appearance that day, and we all just accept it. Why not do that in reality as well?
- “I’m going out for a cup of coffee, boss. I’m questionable to return this afternoon.”
- “What’s that? Dinner at the in-laws? Mark me down as questionable.”
- “Your deadbeat dad went out for cigarettes 15 years ago. He’s still questionable to return.”
- I find myself liking Baker Mayfield commercials in spite of myself. Good thing, too, as that may be a more viable future for him than NFL QB.
- But of all the commercials I don’t like - and there are legion - I think the saddest story is the rise and fall of the Bud Light Knight. We’re currently living in a culture where if something garners even the slightest modicum of success, we go back into that well over and over and over again until whatever it is that had said success is a useless, shriveled shell of what it once was. TV show reboots and movie remakes. Celebrity reality shows. Knock-off products and shoddy merchandise. It’s horrible to see, and yet there’s no end in sight. Bud Light, for some reason, struck a chord with the phrase “Dilly Dilly” several years ago, and they’re still trying to make it work. You had a good run, Bud Light. Let the Knight walk off into the sunset with Spuds McKenzie and those talking frogs. At this point, he’s the old guy at the club with too much cologne on and a gold chain adorning his open shirt while all the girls laugh at him.
- So far, the Patriots have had the most success out of 11 personnel when they run the hurryup offense.
- I’d love to know what Julian Edelman did to allow people to continue to think he rarely drops passes. There has been a narrative that Edelman never drops passes, and that just isn’t true. Drops are part of his game. It’s like Tommy B and the back foot pick when he gets pressured up the middle. You just have to accept it.
- Just like we have to accept that Julian Edelman is going to get the occasional deep ball. I’m hoping that the 6’4” behemoth the team drafted a few months ago will ultimately replace the 5’10” slot guy who works best underneath, but what do I know.
- Illegal hands to the face is such a garbage penalty, and one you could probably call on every play. If the league insists on enforcing it, they should just make it a five yard penalty and not a completely new set of downs.
- Zach Ertz is so damn good. I miss having a tight end. I don’t know why Gilmore wasn’t on him at all times.
- Speaking of tight ends...I’m sure you know by now that Gronk has a “big announcement” scheduled for tomorrow, which of course means
he’s unretiringannouncing his latest partnership or business venture. For all the meathead jokes, the man is a marketing genius, and he’s stringing us along like a one-armed man trying to play a game of Cat’s Cradle.
- I hate that this league has gotten to the point where I literally cringe after every single incomplete pass as I wait for the inevitable flag for DPI or illegal contact.
- I’ve completely ignored the defense for the bulk of these Fan Notes, and I think that’s the biggest compliment I can pay them. Complex looks, stunt blitzes, stifling coverage, and turnovers have just become part of the lexicon now. They stayed disciplined against the RPO and didn’t give Wentz the tell every RPO quarterback needs in order to diagnose the play properly. Good fundamental football all around from top to bottom.
- I have been watching professional football fairly religiously since I was 10 years old. That’s almost three decades of absorbing, studying, and enjoying the sport. It has been a major part of my life, for most of my life. Only recently have I found myself starting to stray from it. And a big part of that may very well be that I now know less about what the very simple act of catching a pass is than I did when I ordered off the kids menu without getting a weird look. I can say the same about pass interference, unnecessary roughness, unsportsmanlike conduct, possession, in the grasp, forward progress, and down by contact. This shouldn’t be so complicated, and consistently the league can’t get out of its own way.
- At the end of the day, this is the kind of win we used to get 11-13 times a year back in the early aughts. Tough, grind-em-out wins led by a stifling defense and an efficient offense that does just enough. We’ve been so used to Tommy B’s superhuman abilities for so long, and the expectations surrounding this team are just so absurdly high, that a road win against a good team to move to 9-1 just isn’t enough anymore. They have to look a certain way and post certain numbers in addition to winning the game. The Patriots are 5-1 on the road this year; they were 3-5 on the road last year. So let’s all just enjoy it, OK?
- Congratulations to the Patriots for securing their 19th straight winning season. There are people who will finally old enough to vote in their first-ever presidential election next year who literally weren’t even alive the last time New England won less than nine games. Too bad the offense is so terrible, though, right?
Home against Dallas, and then the two games that will likely end up deciding who goes where in January when the time comes. The Texans just got spanked, and the Chiefs are kind of on a skid right now...but each week is a lifetime in the NFL, so take nothing for granted.