Are the 2009 New Patriots a great team? At the start of this season, many of us thought that the answer to that question was obvious. Great teams are those that find ways to win close games, and are teams capable of winning on the road. So, what do we make of the fact that the Patriots have now lost five games in twelve tries...two by one point, and one in OT...and that all five of their losses have come on the road?
The answer? The 2009 Patriots are obviously not a great team. Owners of a 7-5 record, the question now is whether they are even a good team? The lack of pride, poise, leadership, and urgency that this team displayed in the key five game stretch of their season (Miami, @ Indy, Jets, @ New Orleans, @ Miami) has been disheartening, to say the least.
This latest debacle in Miami, coming off the embarrassment in New Orleans, is inexcusable. Here are my richly deserved grades:
Once again failed to perform anywhere near expectations in the clutch. The Pats blew a chance at blowing away the Dolphins when they failed on two tries to gain a yard from the Miami 6 yard, late in the first half. Had they finished that drive, they would likely had gone off with a 21-7 halftime lead, and the ball game. Instead, the momentum changing stop resulted in a 10 point swing, with cut the lead to just 14-10. Then, after scoring a quick TD in the second half to go up 21-10, the offense allowed itself to be shut-out over the final 27 minutes.1.) QB:
A great performance was negated by one boneheaded play, in which Brady threw an interception from the Miami 4 yard line, with 8 minutes remaining in the game. Such a play is something that might be expected of a rookie...not a battle harden SB champion. Though it wasn't the only reason why the Patriots lost this game, it was a certainly a significant factor. The play ruined Tom's 19/29 for 352 yards performance.
In some ways, this was an even more disheartening defeat than the one point loss in Indy. Sad too was the fact that the so-called "great" Patriots' offense was unable to respond with a comeback of their own in the closing minutes...as rushed Brady was picked again:GRADE: D+;
Had their moments early, but couldn't get the tough yards when needed in the closing minutes of the first half. In fairness to the RBs, its' hard to gain yardage when the OL provides no running room. The fact that the Pats couldn't gain at least 100 rushing yards against a marshmallowy Miami middle is further evidence of the finesse team that the Patriots have become:GRADE: D;
Aside from the usual Nick Kaczur problems on the right side, the unit did a fair job of protecting Tom Brady for the majority of the game. But, Kaczur nearly got Brady killed, yet again. Poor protection also contributed to the game ending interception on the Pats' last ditch drive. Of course, had the big uglies been able to get even a little push in two tries from the Miami Miami 6 late in the first half, last second heroics would not have been needed.
For those of you who think that BB should have kicked a FG...if the "mighty" New England Patriots cannot gain a single yard in two tries against the front-seven challenged Dolphins, they deserve to lose. Also, I'm sure BB is very much aware that his defense is not exactly the second coming of the "85 Bears. GRADE: D;
4.) TEs & WRs:
Might as well use another offensive tackle instead of a TE. The last time I can remember the TEs being a big part of the passing attack was week one against Buffalo. As for the WRs, Wes Welker is
the Patriots' offense. With 10 more receptions for 167 yards, the diminutive Welker nearly carried the Pats' on his back to victory. For the third straight game, Randy Moss had his difficulties. Once again, the Patriots' lack of a quality 3rd WR to play opposite him led to Moss being constantly double-teamed...and minimal production. Sure, Sam Aiken had the one big play for 81 yards and a TD. But, how much more damage could the offense accomplish with a freed up Moss...and, for that matter, with freed up TEs?:GRADE: B- (but an A+ for Welker).
I find that its' getting increasingly more difficult as the weeks go by to comment on this group without using profanity. No pass rush, a soft secondary that seems to have problems tackling. This group can't get off the field on 3rd downs, and who can never be counted upon to make a game saving stop. It a gutless, rudderless crew, with a defensive coordinator who doesn't seem to have a clue.1.) DL:
Did a good job in containing RB Ricky Williams. But, could apply no pressure to young Dolphin QB, Chad Henne. As a result, the secondary got exposed, yet again:GRADE: D;
The ILBs, Jerod Mayo and Gary Guyton, continue to consistently hold the fort in the middle, and make plays. But, as been the case pretty much throughout the season, the OLBs contributed little in pass coverage, and less as pass rushers. Did Adalius Thomas and Derrick Burgess even bother to suit up for this one?GRADE: D;
This unit embarrassed itself again, as it allowed Chad Henne...yes...Chad Henne, to pass for 335 yards and 2 TDs. When given the opportunity to ice the game, this crew allowed Henne to convert on a 4th and 6, leading to the game winning FG. Why was this bunch playing so far off the talent challenged 'Fins' receivers? Its' the equivalent of Terry Francona playing his outfield deep while pitching to Mario Mendoza. Too many yards after catch...too many missed tackles...too many sorry performances such as this one:GRADE: F;
C.) SPECIAL TEAMS:
Did a good job on kick coverage containing Ted Ginn, Jr. Horrible job on kickoff returns. The Mathew Slater experiment as a kick returner is clearly not working. While Mathew has the straight ahead speed, he seems to lack the vision and "the wiggle" that the good return men all seem to have. It shouldn't have been necessary for Chris Hanson to punt five times. Nonetheless, Hanson did his job, averaging 50 yards per kick. Wes Welker once again chipped in with good work as a punt return. For what he does for this ream, the Pats should at least be paying him time and a half:GRADE: C+;
This team needs a kick in the pants. The poise, pride, and dignity that was the hallmark of this team throughout this decade appears gone. This team has now lost three games that they should have won...in Denver, in Indy, and in Miami. This loss was more reminiscent of the Denver loss than the Indy loss, yet they are all similar. They stem from an offense that can't pick up key first downs when needed, and a defense that couldn't stop a three year old on a tricycle in a clutch situation. The disturbing habit of being outscored, outplayed, and outcoached in the second half of games, reared its' ugly head one again today.
Can somebody please explain to me why, on a 3rd and 2 from the New England 43, the Patriots' chose to throw a one yard pass to Kevin Faulk? Didn't the coaches learn anything from that dreadful 4th and 2 play call in Indy? Agreed with going for it on 4th and one from the 6. But, once again, whose calling the plays? QB sneak, play action pass...or even the old unreliable one yard pass (when two yards are needed) to Kevin Faulk would seem to have made more sense...especially with their all finesse all the time OL?
Can someone please explain to me why more isn't being done to muster a pass rush on a relatively inexperienced QB like Henne? Over the decade, the Pats' "D" have eaten guys like this for lunch. Why were the CBs playing so far off the Dolphin WRs?
Too many questions, and far, far too few answers:GRADE: F
E.) PLAY OF THE GAME:
The dreadful Brady interception in the endzone; F.) GAME BALL:
In a losing cause...Wes Welker. In the winning cause, Chad Henne...for showing the poise that the Pats' team has been lacking throughout the season in converting on a 4th and 6...leading to the game winning FG.
Here are the sickening stats: http://espn.go.com/nfl/boxscore?gameId=291206015