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Boy, could the New England Patriots use an unofficial bye week.
It's been a rough start to the holiday season for the Team of the Decade.
Two Sundays before Thanksgiving, New England suffered a crushing loss to the Indianapolis Colts. One that left every hardcore fan in Patriot Nation wandering around in a stupor for days on end, which can only be compared to walking in on your fiance in the throes of unspeakable offenses to every God, with that guy at your work you hate more than any other person in the world, exactly 48 hours after she excitedly accepted your marriage proposal. It was not a pretty sight.
Then, following a pleasant 31-14 drubbing of the New York Jets, the Patriots had their lunch money stolen on while their pants were pulled down at recess by the New Orleans Saints.
Besides taking care of business against a team they embarrassingly were beaten by in week 2, the Patriots have certainly not been having a holly jolly time since a season-high three game winning streak against Tennessee, Tampa Bay and Miami. Yeah, you read that right. No more than 3 wins in a row. Against those three teams. The Hometown Heroes need an emotional lift. And, they need it soon.
Enter the unofficial bye week.
The Patriots prepare to face Miami in the warm Florida sun tomorrow (or sub-40 degree cold, or humid afternoon thundershowers, or all of the above in a single, wacky-yet-typical southern Florida day). the more pessimistic fans among us will certainly be recalling Tom Brady's history of futility and embarrassing un-Brady-like mishaps the Golden Boy has encountered when playing in road games against the Dolphins.
They'll watch Tom Terrific's atrocious interception at Miami from a few seasons ago while being spun around by Miami defenders. They will boldly argue the fact that the only teams whose defenses can claim the same amount, or less sacks than the Patriots' are Detroit, St. Louis, Houston, Kansas City and Jacksonville.
Five teams whose combined record (17-38) reads similar to lottery odds.
Die-hard fans will hear the defense is too young, the offense doesn't have the edge it used to. They say Adalius Thomas can't run, Laurence Maroney couldn't try to carry a tune in the shower without fumbling, and there are simply too many injuries on this team for them to be fiercely competitive. These could all be valid points, but this Sunday, it won't matter.
The Dolphins will attempt to defend their home field against their vastly superior division rival, and they'll fail. And, after improving their terrifying road record from 1-4, their division record to 4-1, and with their remaining schedule including home games against Carolina and Jacksonville and road games against Houston and lowly Buffalo, they will basically have their badly-missed division title back again. Nothing brings back warm fuzzy feelings about the playoffs like a warm-weather game against a team whose 22nd-ranked offense will not be able to keep up with their own, ranked 2nd overall.
Before the random and official prediction(s), I'd just like to bring one question and/or point to the table. Take it or leave it, but I can't stop thinking about it.
What is Bill Belichick doing with Adalius Thomas?
When the Patriots signed Adalius Thomas as a very, very generously rewarded free agent a couple years back, he was touted as a pass-rusher extraordinaire.
Why on the face of this ridiculous Earth does he only have three sacks on the season? On a team that is so badly lacking a consistent pass rush, can anyone tell me why Thomas is not attempting to fly into the backfield on each and every single play? Is he really contributing so much, or so well by not throwing his huge frame, full-speed into whichever offensive lineman or blocking back has to pick him up? What's the worst that could happen?! Do a couple of screen passes that get completed (that otherwise wouldn't) really hurt more than creating a feeling of fear in the back of the opposing quarterback's mind as to where Adalius is on every play, or making the offensive coordinator on the other side of the field have to adjust his game-plan to account for the madman who won't stop blitzing on every snap?
All I have heard from people this season about Adalius Thomas is that he's lost his speed, he's no good in pass coverage, he's getting outflanked by running backs, and he can't even tackle people. What is to be lost by calling the defensive play followed by "96 kamikaze" all game? Even if it doesn't make sense in a highly-technical "from-the-coach's-perspective" standpoint, who would criticize him for it? It's the NFL's easiest win-win solution. For the love of god, set this guy loose. Let him prove he's not washed up just a dozen or so months after signing his monster contract.
Tom Brady: 21/29, 299, 3 TD, 2 Int (It is a road game against Miami, after all)
Laurence Maroney: 22 Carries, 103 yards, 1 TD
Wes Welker: 10 catches, 122 yards, 1 TD
Randy Moss: 6 catches, 98 yards, 2 TD
Adalius Thomas: 2 Sacks!!
Chad Henne: 25/35, 257, 1 TD, 2 Int
Ricky Williams: 17 Carries, 78 yards, 1 TD
Davone Bess: 8 catches, 88 yards, 1 TD
New England Patriots 34, Miami Dolphins 20
(Original posted at http://www.4SportBoston.com)