Breaking Down Aqib Talib's First Game for the New England Patriots

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Breaking Down Aqib Talib's First Game for the New England Patriots
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

The early impression of cornerback Aqib Talib's debut in a Patriots uniform was that he had an up-and-down night, but that his presence looks like it will be a positive for New England.

A second look confirms that reaction. 

It was Talib's first game action since September 30, when he was still a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense. 

There were times when that rust showed, but there were other times where it looked like he hadn't missed a game this season.

Let's take a look at the good and the bad, and put Talib's performance into perspective in the context of the Patriots season and their outlook in the secondary.

 

The Good

Without question, Talib's 59-yard interception return for a touchdown was the highlight of his day. That play, however, was not made on the strength of beautiful coverage by Talib.

"It was just a plain bad throw," said Colts quarterback Andrew Luck after the game.

That bad throw was forced by the pressure of the Patriots front four, with defensive ends Rob Ninkovich and Jermaine Cunningham pinching the pocket off the edges, forcing Luck to drift slightly to his left away from the pressure while throwing to his right over the middle. 

That pressure made it tough for Luck to set his feet, and the ball sailed on him and right into the waiting arms of Talib, who dropped into a deep zone. He waited for the ball to be thrown right to him, and Luck severely overshot Colts receiver Reggie Wayne, yielding the pick-six.

Talib gave up completions on the first two passes thrown in his direction, despite being in great position on both occasions. The first came on a back-shoulder throw that gained 25 yards on 3rd-and-7 in the first quarter.

Talib was right on the hip of Colts receiver LaVon Brazill, but Luck threw a perfect pass to beat Talib's coverage.

When people say things like "he put the ball where only his receiver could get it," this is exactly what they're talking about. There's almost no chance for Talib to make the play.

The next throw was a different shade of the same color—an indefensible pass where Talib was in position to make the play.

Talib lined up in off-man coverage, about seven yards away from the receiver (Greg Bedard of The Boston Globe and Matt Bowen of NationalFootballPost.com would be thrilled). He gave up inside leverage to Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton, who raced for the back of the end zone and made a terrific sliding catch.

Talib played this right, staying true to his responsibilities in the deep third of the field, and gave a great effort to try and bat the pass away. He was in the right place and came within inches of the deflection, but this was just a beautiful throw by the best prospect to come out of the draft since Peyton Manning.

He was also in perfect position on Colts receiver Nate Palmer on a deep throw at the end of the first half, with a bit of help from safety Devin McCourty, who closed off access to the back of the end zone.

In short, there was plenty to build on from Talib's first outing.

 

The Bad

Just like Talib looked good on plays where he gave up the reception, he looked bad on at least one play where he didn't give it up. It was thanks to a great play by McCourty, who broke up the pass for Brazill after the Colts receiver blew past the man coverage of Talib.

The high-motor play by McCourty earned high praise from CBS analyst Phil Simms:

This is a really, really good throw by Andrew Luck. He throws it in between Talib and Devin McCourty, but Devin McCourty—what a job, flying over there and gets that left hand in there and knocks it out. That might have been the best throw of the game by Andrew Luck. That was a missile.

There were plenty of missiles from Luck on the day, but Talib wasn't so fortunate to be bailed out by McCourty in the fourth quarter, when Luck completed a 43-yard bomb to Hilton. 

Talib was asleep at the wheel in deep zone and was caught looking into the backfield, an error which he willingly admitted following the game.

"I had my eyes in the wrong spot," Talib said, according to The Boston Globe. "Eyes exactly where they shouldn't be—on the quarterback—so I watched him throw a touchdown on me, that's what I did. Got to get a lot better."

Despite illegal contact, he still wasn't able to stop Hilton from blowing past him for the long score. Ultimately, Talib ended up the target on both of Luck's touchdown throws. 

In short, there was plenty to improve on from Talib's first outing.

 

The Impact/The Outlook/Overall Impressions

There's room for improvement with Talib, but the outlook is good. 

How would you grade Aqib Talib's first performance for the Patriots?

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As expected, the addition of Talib figures to have an effect on the entire secondary. McCourty has looked great at safety over the past four games and, along with Talib, offers some stability that has been missing in the secondary. 

How the rest of the secondary takes shape remains to be seen; cornerback Kyle Arrington had another rough outing on Sunday, and was eventually replaced by Alfonzo Dennard on the outside and later by Marquice Cole in the slot.

So, there remain some questions about how the Patriots secondary will shape up going forward. At this point, though, any signs of stability are much needed.

 

Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained via team press releases.

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