The rumor of the New England Patriots demise is greatly exaggerated. Let's look at the issues at hand that contributed to last Sunday's game results and discuss just how much we should be worried.
Tom Brady is visibly not over his knee injury
This was evident on a number of plays but extremely visible on a third quarter play in which Joey Galloway came across the field right to left on a short post pattern and was open by two strides.
Brady faced an overload blitz from the right side and adjusted by quickly moving three steps out of the still formed pocket to his right and immediately threw off his back foot, causing the ball to float high and behind Galloway.
In 2007, during the Ravens game, he would have stepped up in the pocket and floated that same ball to a spot so Galloway could run under it. The mind is still not free of that knee injury.
How long until and under what circumstances he returns, no one knows. But Ron Jaworski, during the game, shared about his return after a similar injury and openly talked about the mental block not to go through that pain and agony again.
And he added that he felt Brady would come back, but it will take time—four maybe five games.
Joey Galloway is not running disciplined routes and is shorting and rounding out cuts on his patterns
I believe that can be fixed by film, the coaches, and timing with Brady.
The offense needs him to be a legitimate threat. During most of the second half, Moss was being jammed and picked up over the zone by the safety. When you see a five- or six-man blitz, with Moss being man under and zone over, Galloway and the slot receiver need to know to break off their routes to slants or fade outs.
With two inexperienced receivers in the game, that didn't always happen. Again, time and practice, Welker's return, and a short leash on Galloway should fix this.
The play calling on offense was abysmal
In my opinion the game plan didn't take into consideration the number of man on man zone defense the Jets played.
BB mentioned the inability to call draws and screens, normally effective against an overly aggressive defense, in his Monday call. If the defensive tackle doesn't bite on the block and is responsible to shadow the tackle or guard, then it makes it much more difficult to run these type of plays.
The O did finally start using a tight end formation to help with the outside pressure. However, the receivers being jammed, the athleticism of the Jets, and the schemes worked against the Pat's O.
The D played better than expected
I lost count of the number of deflections or breakups in the secondary.
Were there breakdowns? Absolutely! But this group is an upgrade from last year.
Remember that the Pats were running a straight four man rush for most of the game and without much pressure. This needs to get remedied right away and the addition this week of Burgess from the Ravens should help.
The O'Connell factor
As much as we want to think this wasn't a factor, it just had to be. O'Connell knew the cadence sequence, knew the audible check off routes, knew each receiver's adjustment on blitzes, etc.
Yes, the Pats would have changed these under normal circumstances, but one-and-a-half games into the season with a number of starters still not totally familiar with the system (Galloway, Baker, Edelman,Taylor etc); how much can you afford to chance?
The Jets just wanted it more. There is an old saying in the military that a unit will emulate its leader's personality. And boy did they emulate Ryan's smashmouth, we'll-beat-the-crap-out-of-you mentality.
Just remember how well the Pats did on 4th-and-1 situations. We all know the game is won in the trenches and in that respect, and the Pats' O line was mauled. This unit needs to get an injection of self confidence and stop worrying about "what if Tom gets hurt."
This team needs to establish a running game
Especially at this time of the year and with a quarterback not quite there yet.
And it can't be by committee. A runner, just like a quarterback needs the touches to get a rhythm and sense for the game. Having four backs touch the ball six times a game each just isn't going to get it done.
Let Taylor prove he still has it. So what if he gets hurt. Maroney will be fresh.
The beginning of the end is near
The Pats had the opportunity to cement their place as the team of the decade and of the history of the NFL. They failed.
And as much as we all want to believe they can be even better, the odds are against them. The first steps to returning to elite status for this year are to correct the aforementioned issues.
But let's not forget the other AFC East teams got better. The Jets arguably had one of the best drafts in their history. This Sanchez kid is special.
Ryan is and always has been a good coach, and they have passion. Hey, didn't we see this team in 2001, but north of the big Apple.
My point is, time passed on and it was a matter of time before the other AFC teams got better and made the Pats schedule a bit tougher than the past five years.
We have addressed the defense's speed and age problems, and they will be a very good defense, barring injuries. However, we now have a offense that has three of its seven skill positions well into their 30s.
The Pats can still grab the AFC East, and I believe they will. I also believe they could win the AFC, but this year's Cardinals maybe in the AFC and wear purple.
Can the Pats play with an identity, passion, and discipline? If so, they might be returning to the Super Bowl.
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