I had a chance to see this past Sunday's game between the Patriots and Jets. It was quite possibly the worst game of the week, and definitely the worst game I saw all week. At least the true reason for the Patriots postseason success, Adam Vinatieri, was on hand and made another step towards the Hall of Fame. He became the Patriots' all time kicking points leader. Whoop-tee-doo. The game was so boring that this was the big news of the day.
Since the game was boring, I paid close attention to the lines and the way the two teams ran the ball. The Jets did not open a single hole for anyone running the ball. It was pathetic to watch a pro team not managed to open a crack for their back. Without a running game, they have nothing to help balance their attack and take pressure off of their 4th string back up QB. They gave their QB about 2 seconds to make a decision, and when they gave him more, he was anticipating the hit and released early.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Patriots gave their QB, Tom Brady, plenty of time. On few plays, did Brady have to get the extra second by moving and even fewer times he was hit. This has been another big secret for the last 4 years. The Pats O-line has done a bang up job of keeping Brady on hit feet. Their O-line coach deserves recognition, especially this season with the patchwork line he has. They could not get much going on the ground. Corey Dillon does look slower, and rarely ran like the Corey Dillon of last year. The calf injury is slowing him down and hurting his cuttign ability. He had his first good Dillon run in the 3rd quarter of the game. It was sad because I always respected him and felt sorry for him being stuck on the Bengals. It would not surprise me if he did not come back next year or if he restructured his deal to stay.
The impression I got from watching the game is that the Patriots have enough to get to the playoffs. Maybe even get to the playoffs at 11-5. Playing the good teams will expose the Patriots secondary (which looked soft versus the Jets) will run on their defense (unless that start getting production out of lineman not named Seymour), and will force the Pats to become one dimensional and pass non-stop (which can't work against the playoff teams). The Pats would do well to snap up the division with a win this week and then rest their key members like Brady, Dillon, etc. Secure that 4 spot and just coast. Playing them all 60 minutes is just going to increase the likelihood of injury after a year's worth of hits to Brady.
Seeing an NFL game live is always entertaining. My seats were 4th from the top and still gave me great sightlines. I love to see how the holes open and close in splits of seconds. I love how a sweep looks like it could go for 15 yards but the back is caught just as he turns the corner. On passing plays, you really see how a cover 2 and cover 3 spread out versus man to man coverage. It has to be close to impossible to cover 3 wideouts man to man unless you are blitzing and can compress the time in the pocket for the QB to 1-2 seconds. One cut frees a WR; that explains the career of Troy Brown. I used to believe that you ran the ball, got the safety to creep up, and then threw the ball. I now think that you need to be able to pass the ball effectively so that teams have to drop into zones and then run at them.
The Gillette experience is awesome. They know how to treat fans right, and the sightlines are fantastic. The weather itself was snowy with temps around 30 degrees. The Stadium and lights made it look like a snow globe toy just for football fans. A problem my friend and I were bothered by was the lack of Welcome to the Jungle plays. They only played that song 6 times. We set the over/under at 12. It's a staple of Gillette, and they played that song 8 times in the first half of the Colts game. I had the people sitting around me waiting anxiously for that song, Crazy Train, Thunderstruck or Rock 'n' Roll Part 1, and laughing whenever they came on over the PA system. Besides the lack of Welcome to the Jungle, it was perfect. I'll be back Friday with picks. I am also going to do a little offseason player placement for Friday.