Monday, November 26, 2007

The Patriots Just Keep Going and Going

McBlog! loves that the Patriots were given a bloody nose last night. Only thing is, the Pats escaped with a 31-28 victory, keeping their perfect season intact.

Let me first respond to McBlog! before making some additional observations. He's right that the Eagles came out and smacked the Patriots in the face. Other than the Colts, no ones done that so far this year, so you've got to give the Eagles some credit. But you have to keep in mind that whatever the Eagles did, they still found themselves on the losing end - I certainly don't think any Eagle players are very happy today. The notion that the Eagles may have discovered the magical secret to beating the Patriots is sort of silly when you think about it. Yes, they didn't come out waiting to be walked over like Buffalo or Washington, but can we say duhhhh. Of course teams that come out and play aggressively while putting pressure on the QB and jamming the receivers to disrupt the opposing offense's timing is going to have a chance to win. I know the Patriots have been good, but this is the NFL - if you can get consistent pressure on a QB and keep the WR's from getting open, you're going to have a good chance to win. No QB in NFL history, other than perhaps Brett Favre in the game of his life, is going to be successful against such odds.

I also take issue with this notion that the Pats are somehow a finesse team that may be in trouble when it comes to the playoffs. Let's keep in mind that the Eagles put up 28 points because A.J. Feeley played an amazing game and the Eagles line did a superb job of handling the Patriots pass rush. I didn't see the Eagles grind the game out or dominate the Patriots front 7. And while I'll admit that the Eagle DB's did a number on the Patriots receivers- particularly Moss, Stallworth, and Faulk- Brady still managed to throw for 380 yards and the Patriots offense put up 24 points while leaving even more on the field (the missed FG and the Moss offensive pass interference). I know that perhaps that makes the Patriots look more like a finesse team, but just keep in mind that they did what they wanted to do, stuck with their game plan, and came out with a victory. They didn't run the ball, but they didn't even bother trying. Before this week- in case you were wondering- the Patriots had the NFL's 5th ranked rushing attack.

One thing I'm sure the Patriots are doing is keeping Lawrence Maroney fresh for the playoffs - this strategy worked well for them in 2003 with Antwoin Smith, who followed a mediocre regular season with a 3-game playoff series in which he averaged over 100 yards per game. The running game is not like the passing game, where timing and practice mean everything. Oh yeah, and when they needed to, they ran the ball well last night, twice punching it in at or near the goal line. Don't be surprised if the Patriots are very effective in the playoffs, doing what they want to do, whatever the weather. All that being said, I'm sure they will miss Sammy Morris. Just keep in mind that with all this I'm not saying the Patriots are unbeatable or assured of going undefeated - only that I think many of these critiques of the team thus far are unfounded and many of the so-called blue prints for beating the Patriots are generic blueprints for winning in the NFL. (And to follow along with that line of reasoning, many have given the Giants a shot at ending the Patriots undefeated hopes because they have the ability to get pressure on the QB with their front 4 - And yeah, that ability gives them a better shot than most, you'll win almost any game, at any level, if you can consistently pressure the opposing QB with only your front 4.)

Now lets take a moment to look at the good and the bad from last night's game.

The Good:

Tom Brady- Who, in the third game of the year in which the Patriots were challenged, once again came up huge. I've always been one to call Montana the best ever, but Brady may be surpassing him, not because of the numbers this year, but because of the way he handles adversity. I trace this back to last year's playoffs, where the Patriots trailed the Chargers in San Diego 21-13 in the 4th quarter. The Chargers were physically dominating the game and Brady stunk. Yet somehow, he managed to come up with big play after big play in the 4th quarter to help lead the Pats to a come from behind win.

Wes Welker- Yeah it's obvious, but forget the stats and just marvel at how tough he is.

Asante Samuel- The Pats need to pay him after this season is over. He's the best player on that defense and it's number one play maker.

The Bad:

The rest of the Pats secondary- I know Harrison and Hobbs were in and out of the game, but the Eagles really found a way to exploit the Patriots defense last night. It was so glaringly obvious that John Madden pointed out to a national audience some time in the first half that the Eagles receivers were just running different variation of in routes, taking advantage of the Patriot DB's outside technique. Now, there is a logic to playing this sort of defense, particularly when you're used to playing with the lead, you're looking to prevent big plays and you're looking to create turnovers. However, with no pass rush, the Eagles consistently made the Patriots look stupid, as A.J. Feeley hit pass after pass after pass in the middle of the field. I'm not sure this is a blue print for how to beat the Patriots, but if you remember, the Cowboys had a great deal of success throwing to their WR's in the middle of the field earlier this year. At least in my mind, these problems in pass coverage are my biggest worry.

Before I finish off, it's funny that a game like this has the so-called experts pontificating that the Pats now seem much more beatable than they did a week ago. It's funny because experts are quick to jump on the band wagon when a team like the Bills just rolls over and dies, yet experts are quick to find flaws when a team like the Eagles comes out, hits the Patriots in the face, gives them a great game and still can't over come Tom Brady and company. It sounds cliche, but winning these sorts of games builds character and knowing how to win them puts you in great shape when it comes time for the playoffs. I know more teams will be looking to give the Patriots a bloody nose, but they've already won twice this year after being bloodied. So what will it take to beat the Patriots?


Blogger McMc said...

You seem to be forgetting one thing in all of this: The Eagles aren't that good. That's why I find this to be so interesting. No, I don't think the Eagles all of a sudden created this blueprint to beating the Patriots but it makes me think that a team like the Steelers has a more than legit shot at beating the Patriots. The Steelers play a very similar style to the Eagles, except they have better personnel all over the field.

And yes, the Patriots are playing a finesse style of offense. I don't care if they are saving Maroney for the post-season or what, they still have yet to prove they can run the ball consistently early on.

And you're foolish to think they're going to have the same success throwing once the weather gets bad. They're not going to have the deep ball when Brady can't get a great grip and that will neutralize the speed a bit.

I really could care less if the Pats go 16-0 this regular season. It's all an act and it's not their true persona. You'll see that come playoff time.

2:51 PM  
Blogger lonely libertarian said...


I don't think your giving the Eagles enough credit. They got to Moss in a way no one's been able to do this year. It's not just his numbers, it's that he was a non-factor in the second half and they had him dropping passes. Put the Eagle team we saw last night up against the Redskins team that visited Foxboro a month ago and you'd probably see the Eagles put a whooping on the Redskins similar to what the Patriots did.

Here are some numbers to put the Eagles-Steelers comparison into perspective. First, the Steelers are 2-3 on the road, giving up an average of 18.2 points per game. Going into last nights game the Eagles were 3-3 on the road, giving up an average of 13.7 points per game.

As to the Patriots ability to run the ball, they've rushed for over 100 yards 8 of 11 weeks this season. One of the weeks they failed to reach 100 was the blowout in Miami. Week-by-week, here are the Patriots rushing totals.

At Jets- 134
Vs SD- 144
Vs Buf- 177
At Cin- 173
Vs Cle- 147
At Dal- 74
At Mia- 84
Vs Was- 152
At Ind- 105
At Buf- 127
Vs Phi- 55

With Maroney still somewhat untested I think you could site the running game as a potential weakness come playoff time, but nothing they've done this season has shown an inability to run the football.

And I think your putting a little too much faith in the weather as a detriment to a passing attack. Yes, the weather can be a factor in preventing plays down the field, but just take a look at these QB numbers from a game that took place in a blizzard. 32 of 52 for 312 yards. Sounds similar to Brady's line last night, but that was actually his line in the famous tuck game against Oakland in January 2002.

4:55 PM  

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