The Patriots went into the Meadowlands Sunday with a record identical to their opponents’, something no one could have predicted at the start of the season. The media had been talking about an 0-16 season for the Jets, but coach Todd Bowles, quarterback Josh McCown and the rest of the team have proved the media wrong. Whoever came out on top in this game would lead the AFC East, but this didn’t look like 2 good teams fighting it out for the division.
Let’s get the bad out of the way first – the defense, especially in passing, looked awful. I would have never predicted that the Super Bowl Champions would return and deliver the 32nd ranked defense in the National Football League, but here we are. They have given up an average, an AVERAGE of 440 yards of offense per game. Most of that, of course, through the air.
My love of the NFL game started when I was a teenager, playing a board game called Strat-O-Matic Football with one of my brothers. Basically, it is the old school version of a Madden NFL video game. We spent many fun hours coaching our teams. The game came down to strategy, both offense and defense, and a simple roll of the dice.
I have had a soft spot for the Miami Dolphins since the ‘80s. It was during their dominant years with quarterback Dan Marino that I really became hooked. I attended my first live NFL game November 18, 2010 at SunLife Stadium in Miami. What a milestone.
Thursday Night Football has historically not provided us with entertaining games. Two teams, both usually on a short week, duke it out on the nationally televised stage. After a heartbreaking loss at home to the Carolina Panthers last week, mainly credited to the poor performance of the offensive line and communication issues on the defense, the New England Patriots headed to Tampa Bay to take on Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers.
The Patriots emerged the victors, and there were definitely some good elements to the game, but there is still a lot of work to do to make this team better. The Patriots, who are used to being at the top looking down in the AFC East division standings, are in a 3 way tie for first place with the Buffalo Bills, who have been playing good football, and the New York Jets. Some thoughts from the Patriots’ win over the Buccaneers:
Yes, you read that correctly. No, this isn’t an article from 2016… or 2015…. or 2014…. or, well, you get the drift. After making a landmark trade to acquire quarterback Brock Osweiler in the offseason, drafting Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer in the 2nd round, waiving Osweiler, watching Kevin Hogan come into preseason games and move the ball effectively, and sending Cody Kessler off to oblivion, the Cleveland Browns decide to start Kizer.
Fans were happy. Rebuilding was starting. The franchise quarterback was here. And then the season happened.
The Week 5 match-up versus the New York Jets started off on a high note; the Browns won their first coin toss of the season! I know you think this is not really something worth noting, yet as the losers of the toss for the first four weeks, opponents have deferred. This forced a shaky young offense to take the field first, ending in 3-and-outs or blocked punts and eventually the depressing fact that they were the only team in the entire NFL to have never had a lead at any point in a game. Never.
A dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind.
A journey into a wondrous land of imagination…”
It began after the final second elapsed on the Bills 23-17 win over the (formerly) undefeated Atlanta Falcons. All around Western New York, a low murmur of voices were expressing wonderment. Disbelief. Excitement. Almost every caller to the local radio post-game shows began their comments with, “I know there’s a lot of the season left, but do you think…?” Or, “I know I shouldn’t be getting my hopes up yet, but…” Or, “The team wasn’t supposed to be any good this year. How do you explain…?”
It does feel as if we’ve entered the Twilight Zone. Staring at the AFC East standings, seeing the Buffalo Bills, 3-1, all alone at the top of the heap, is nothing if not surreal. The previous week’s win over the Denver Broncos was a terrific accomplishment for coach Sean McDermott’s team. But getting a win on the road, against last year’s NFC Champions is something else altogether.
There was a time when a victory at Gillette Stadium for quarterback Tom Brady was almost guaranteed. That time has passed. Brady’s record at home before this season for regular season games was 101-16. So far this season, the Patriots have played at home 3 times – and lost twice. They lost their second home game of the season to quarterback Cam Newton and his Carolina Panthers doing what Brady normally does: running out the clock and putting his time in a position to win the game in the final seconds of the fourth quarter.
After a disappointing, dismal appearance in a week three loss to the New Orlean Saints, the Carolina Panthers seemed to get it together against the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots in week four.
Film study, stout defense, and a patient offense proved to be a difference maker on Sunday. The Patriots entered the game as the worst defense in the league and likely remained the same. Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula showed balance with his play calling, 29 rushing attempts and 29 passing plays.
Quarterback Cam Newton dissected a struggling Patriot defense going 22 of 29 passing, for 316 yards, four touchdowns touchdowns (including one rushing), and one interception. Running backs Jonathan Stewart, and Christian McCaffrey, wide receiver Damiere Byrd along with Newton himself added another 140 yards on the ground.
Since taking over the leadership of the Bills, General Manager Brandon Beane and Head Coach Sean McDermott have begged both players and the fan base to “Trust the process.” Trust them during the NFL draft, when they swapped their No. 10 spot with Kansas City and dropped 16 places in exchange for the Chief’s 2018 first-round pick. Trust them when they traded starting cornerback Ronald Darby to the Eagles for wide receiver Jordan Matthews and a 2018 third-round pick. Trust them when they absolutely stunned both the fans and even the Bills players by trading wide receiver Sammy Watkins to the Los Angeles Rams for cornerback E. J. Gaines and a 2018 second-round draft pick.
Beane assured Bills fans that their plan was to do everything necessary to get to the playoffs this year. But, at the same time, they traded away established players for future draft picks. Confused? Just trust us, they say.
The first two games of the 2017 season were a shaky win over a “tanking” Jets team, and an abysmal offensive showing in a loss to Carolina. These did little to inspire confidence in the new regime. Fans were quickly resigned to the idea that the 17-year playoff drought would eventually turn 18.
In a game where both the offense and defense seemed to struggle, the Patriots pulled out a win on yet another quarterback Tom Brady game winning, game ending drive (the 50th in his career). Brady connected on a 25 yd pass to speedster wide reciever Brandin Cooks, who made a spectacular catch to put the Patriots ahead 36-33 after the successful 2 point conversion attempt, leaving the Texans with 23 seconds left for Houston Texans’ rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson to make something happen. It wasn’t meant to be.
This wasn’t one of the Patriots’ best games, and as I mentioned last week, the Texans’ defense is tough – they’re big and they’re fast, and even with their starting secondary depleted, they managed to give Patriots receivers a difficult time. Thoughts on this game….
The Offensive Line needs to do a LOT better than they did this week. Brady was sacked 5 times in the game on Sunday for a loss of 41 yds, and honestly, every time Brady caught the snap, I was afraid for him. Tackle Nate Solder especially seemed unable to block the quick Texan defense. Not only was Brady sacked, but he was hit 8 times, including a hit taken when guard Joe Thuney was run over on the pass to Cooks for the touchdown.
Running game was virtually shut down by the Texans’ defense. Only 59 yds rushing and no rushing touchdowns. Offensive line play definitely contributed to the problem here.
30 of the 32 NFL Teams have issued statements regarding the current events taking place during the National Anthem before games. Whether they chose to stay in the locker room, kneel, or join arms, the teams want us to understand where they are coming from. At this time, no statements have been issued by the Dallas Cowboys or the New York Jets. Here are the links to each team’s statement.