Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Here’s hoping that everyone out in Patriots Nation had an amazing holiday. It was good to return to some normalcy this Thanksgiving; there’s just something about watching the Lions lose in spectacular fashion that makes me think that it’s all going to be alright as we start to close out 2021.
And speaking of closing out 2021, the New England Patriots are absolutely rolling right now. The Tennessee Titans, once seen as the class of the AFC, are completely decimated up and down the roster, and they just didn’t have the firepower to keep up with an efficient Patriots offense that didn’t make any mistakes. And just like that, the Pats are right in the thick of not only the division race, but the No. 1 seed in the entire conference. Not too shabby.
- You really have to feel for the Titans. The three essential ingredients for success in the NFL are talent, health, and luck, and unfortunately those latter two went bye bye for Tennessee a while back. The bottom line is that this league is just better when players like Derrick Henry are on the field, and that Tennessee started so hot and have fizzled down the stretch like this is brutal. So I know that this Titans team the Patriots slapped around doesn’t really represent what the squad truly is. But you play the team they put in front of you, and the team the Titans put in front of the Patriots got slapped around like an unprepared dad in the Black Friday line at Wal-mart.
- I was writing the sentence “I couldn’t imagine a rougher start for a player than, on the very first snap of the game, to get completely folded in half by Lawrence Guy,” but before I even finished it Matthew Judon folded Ryan Tannehill in half to force the three-and-out. And when you get lit up twice, have to punt, then have to punt again, and New England screens and jet sweeps their way into the end zone, it might be a good idea to Febreeze your locker, because you’re about to get stuffed in it.
- Ernie Adams called it quits this year. A man shrouded in mystery will forever be associated with the cryptic phrase “Pink Stripes.” The year he leaves, the Patriots sign a player who is a legit DPOY candidate and is spoken of in quiet whispers as “Red Sleeves.” Something doesn’t add up here. But what is adding up is Matthew Judon’s sack total. I’m running out of superlatives for that man and there are still five games to go.
- That said, it wasn’t all good, not by a long-shot. New England utilized an 8 man box with a safety and smaller linebacker occupying the middle zones in order to allow for more versatility in the coverage fronts they’re able to present, and still got gashed for 270 yards on the ground. Usually when you run for almost 300 yards, you don’t lose by 20 points... but here we find ourselves.
- The Patriots also seem good for one 70-plus-yard touchdown run a season, and in the grand scheme of things the 68-yarder they surrendered didn’t end up costing much. However, when it’s 3rd-and-3 and the offense is just trying to get to halftime, and a draw play ends up going to the house where your Patriots Hall of Fame safety takes a bad angle and gets outrun by a practice squadder, it doesn’t send you into the locker room full of holiday cheer.
- But 13 points is 13 points, and Tennessee’s first touchdown of the day was the first one the defense let up since the opening drive of the Browns game. I was way happier than I should have been that Tennessee didn’t score their first touchdown until the start of the second quarter, as it allowed New England to go two full football games worth of quarters without giving up a single point.
- The good news is that they held the Titans scoreless for the entire second half, so the streak has begun anew.
- Although the middle runs found a lot of success against the Patriots, what didn’t was Ryan Tannehill as a running QB. The man is sneaky dangerous with his legs, like a man deep frying a turkey for the first time, and I kept expecting him to slip out of busted plays and break a few long ones.
- As long as the defense keeps playing like this, the Patriots are going to be in every game. The only offense in the NFL that can seemingly score points at will is Kansas City, and they have been wildly inconsistent all season. It seems like the Chiefs are completely unstoppable or completely inept, and there’s no telling which one will show up. Other than the Chiefs at the right time, though, there isn’t a team in the entire AFC that represents a real threat to blow the doors off the Patriots. The 2021 Pats remind me a lot of myself on the fourth Thursday of every November: relentless, opportunistic, hungry, and mean when they have to be.
- And it’s a good thing that the Patriots are so stout on defense, because this offense has to stop leaving so many points on the field. New England’s second drive of the game, which resulted in a field goal, represents why this team could have some trouble in the playoffs. That drive went as follows: 1st-and-10, 22 yards. 1st-and-10, 20 yards. 1st-and-10, 16 yards. 1st-and-10, 13 yards. From the New England 21 to the Tennessee 8 in four plays and they didn’t even need a second down to get there.
- The next three plays: 2-yard run, 2-yard run, incomplete pass. There just isn’t a legit red zone threat on this offense, and when you aren’t right on the goal line, that severely limits your play-calling. 2nd-and-goal from the six was supposed to be N’Keal Harry central… but odds are that if he’s on the field on a goal to go play, he’s throwing a block on a screen.
- Which, in a win, means there’s plenty of fodder for Belichick to ensure that Mac Jones won’t have any residual stuffing and cranberry sauce stuck in his digestive tract when he tears his young QB a new one this week in the film room. Jones missed a wide open Hunter Henry to take a gimme touchdown off the board late in the second quarter to force them to settle for three. He had what was likely a pick six bounce right off a Titan linebacker’s hands. He took a deep sack he didn’t need to take to knock New England out of field goal range.
- But he also threw for 310 and two scores, the latter of which was a 41-yard catch and run from Kendrick Bourne that just didn’t make any sense at all. Bourne was somehow able to shed his man, scamper along the sideline, stiff-arm a guy, and still stay in bounds. It’s plays like that that make this offense as dangerous as it is; there isn’t a single player who can take over the game, but they’re all capable of making a great play at any moment.
- I saw my first trailer for “Matrix Resurrections” yesterday, which seems to feature Keanu Reeves reprising his role as Neo. I could have sworn that Neo died at the end of the third movie. Then again, absolutely nothing about the third Matrix movie made a lick of sense, so I could very easily be off there.
- I think that my favorite part of yesterday was that, for much of the game, New England was getting diddly squat from the ground game. Neither Stevenson nor Harris cracked 50 yards on the ground and were stopped in the backfield or at the line as often as not. So it was a game that Jones had to win on his arm - and he was still somehow able to sell the play-action beautifully and hit guys in stride. There were a few throws he wants back, but that we can definitively say that this rookie QB hasn’t once cost his team the game is pretty amazing.
- All season long, I’ve been trying to figure out what kind of resting face Mac Jones has. We’re all familiar with Resting Bitch Face and Resting Drunk Face, but neither of those two really apply to Jones. But as he was calling out the cadence before a big play to Jakobi Meyers in the second quarter, it came to me: Mac Jones has Resting Really, Really Has To Go To The Bathroom But The Teacher Won’t Give Him The Pass Until He Names Five State Capitals But He Can Only Think Of Three Face.
- And that, sadly, is a face I know all too well, courtesy of my second grade teacher. But on the plus side, I’ll never forget that the capital of Vermont is Montpelier.
- We’re maybe five years away from banning QB hits altogether. I get that they’re trying to ban hitting the quarterback and landing with your body directly on top of him, but that is literally asking a defensive player to change directions in mid-air — which, last time I checked, is scientifically impossible.
- Jackrabbit Jenkins is just a Hall of Fame name. Even better that he’s a cornerback. If your name is Jackrabbit Jenkins, you’re either a DB in the NFL or you were an outfielder on the 1907 Boston Doves baseball roster.
- New England went up 26-13, forcing Tennessee to abandon the run… but they didn’t. The Titans engineered a 13-play, 75-yard drive that saw just three pass attempts – one completion, one incompletion, and a J.C. Jackson pick in the end zone that more or less put the game away. They just aren’t a passing team, and New England seemed more than content to allow them to slowly march down the field eating up clock.
- Speaking of Jackson... in the last four games, J.C. Jackson has more interceptions than he has catches allowed. Homeboy is getting PAID soon and he 100 percent deserves it. I would have liked to have gotten more than a 2023 sixth rounder for Stephon Gilmore, but the Patriots aren’t missing him right now.
If the Patriots can go 2-1 over the next three games, they’re going to be in fantastic shape. The scary thing is that this season might all come down to Week 18 at Miami, and I can envision a scenario where New England could finish anywhere from the No. 1 Seed to out of the playoffs entirely if the season keeps going the way it’s going.
But one game at a time; absolutely massive Monday Night contest in Buffalo coming up before the bye. Let’s see how this team does on the road against a much healthier opponent.