“That’s what you get.”
“That’s what you get.”
I kept repeating it to myself. “That’s what you get.”
I am a Patriots fan. Correction: I am a die-hard Patriots fan. I know the team inside and out.
When I was in fifth grade, while waiting for the bus to come pick me up, I would recite the fifty three man roster, and with each name, I would stand in their spot in the formation. Yes, I am insane. Yes, I love football.
And, after watching my team demolish, or maybe it’s better to say embarrass, the New York Jets, all that I could say was “That’s what you get.” They did all the talking. Patriots’ opponents always do. Santonio Holmes said that New England couldn’t cover him. Rex Ryan said that though the Pats had the better coach and the better quarterback, we would “see who the better team is” during the game. He said that the Patriots were concerned. The Jets were coming to kick their asses.
The game was shocking. Frankly, Cromartie and Rhevis could not control Wes Welker and Deion Branch. There had been whispers that the two Jets corners, described as “long-striders”, were not suited for the shifty, elusive Patriots wide receivers. And nobody could control Danny Woodhead, who is developing into the ultimate version of Kevin Faulk, who the Pats had lost to a torn ACL earlier in the year.
The passing game was most helped by the Jets lack of consistent pressure. Though they had three sacks, they all came in the first half, and otherwise, Brady was not touched. It could not have been too surprising, though, both because the Jets have struggled getting pressure in the last few games and the max protect packages, using rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski and the old veteran Alge Crumpler (who could be easily mistaken for an offensive tackle).
But what was most shocking was the way the Patriots could run the ball. I don’t want to make a baseless accusation, but the Jets seemed flat. This was the biggest game of their season. BenJarvus GreenEllis was able to break tackles and knock the supposedly hard-hitting Jets’ defense all over the field. Little Danny Woodhead was pushing the pile (with the help of Logan Mankins). Wes Welker carried a guy into the end zone. It was unbelievable to see the Pats out-physical the Jets on Monday night, something that not many people could have predicted.
The Patriots defense also had an interesting, almost counter-intuitive, strategy. Traditionally, Bill Belichick is known for taking away what you do well and forcing you to do what you do terribly. However, it seems that they wanted the Jets, a notable power team with a still-inexperienced quarterback, to run the ball. They constantly had 5 or 6 defensive backs on the field. And this strategy worked. The Jets were not able to sustain drives, and though the Patriots defense wasn’t perfect (though they only gave up 3 points, they gave up a lot of yardage), they got stops and they got turnovers. It did help that Sanchez proved his inexperience, and maybe his inability to cope with the cold, by forcing and underthrowing some interceptions.
With all of that said, the Jets are still scary. I cannot see this team lying down at any point in the rest of the season. They talk a big game and, generally, they back it up. I think that it is likely that the Pats have figured the Jets on both sides of the ball, but I will never put it past Rex Ryan (who by all accounts is vastly underrated as an X’s and O’s coach) to throw something new into the game plan if these two teams meet in the playoffs. And yes, though it was great to see the Jets get smacked down, the perception that the Pats were running up the score is fuel on the fire for any group of proud professional players like the Jets have.
I think that it is fitting that the Patriots had a classic Bill Belichick win, their first complete “60 minute” win of the year, on the most special night of the season, when the organization was going to honor the great Tedy Bruschi. The win was taken from the pages of the 2003 or 2004 season. The other team does all the talking, while the Patriots absorb it. Then the game starts. And everyone shuts up. In my head, I could hear what Bruschi would have said, if he had been on that field Monday night:
“They said we would see who the better team was. They said we wouldn’t score. They said we couldn’t cover them. They said this. They said that. We didn’t say anything. They can do all the talking. We won’t. We talk on the field.”
Instead, it was another consummate Patriot who handled the postgame reaction. Tom Brady said “We follow the example of our coach…‘When you win say little, when you lose say less.’” That is why this team is different than any other in Patriots history. They know that it has been over five years since the organization has won a championship. Brady knows it. And, if there is anyone in the league to understand the how little value regular season awards and records truly are, it is him. He has had multiple division titles, many passing records and, oh by the way, a 16-0 regular season. But honestly, I don’t think that he cares about any of that at all. The past few games, he has led his team with such focus and determination. But he has said many times this year that it doesn’t matter what this team does in the regular season. However, he left out what really does matter. He wants a Super Bowl. And if the Pats play like they did on Monday, he’ll get another one.
One last note – I think that one of the reasons that the Pats have to be favorites to take the AFC (at the very least) and the Super Bowl is because Belichick and Brady have most every team in their conference, at least every team that is a threat, figured out. The tandem has proven that they have the Steelers number, that they can consistently move the ball on the Colts (even if it’s near impossible to stop Peyton Manning, the last few weeks excluded), and I am sure that if they face the Chargers and the Ravens in the playoffs, the offense (which was in a transition stage after the Moss trade when they played these two teams) will have success. And I think that this last Monday night game proves that Brady and Belichick know how to crack the Jets. What makes Belichick and his teams great is that they adapt. Each game there are new elements added to a game plan so very few things become recognizable to the other team. On the other side, the Ravens, Jets and Steelers are great because they have great players who are able to consistently execute a game plan. But, the game plan that they execute is so similar each year, each game, that opposing quarterbacks, especially Tom Brady under the guidance of Bill Belichick, are able to read the defense easily. That especially why the Pats have had the Steelers number over the past few years: Brady knows exactly how to beat them. He max-protects to give himself time to pick apart the zone and mixes up his snap counts so he can tell where the blitz is coming from and tell his line, running backs and tight ends where and who to block, thus ensuring that he has extra time in the pocket.
On the Monday night game, Ron Jaworski mentioned a conversation he had with Brady, where Brady essentially told him that he noticed the Jets run the same blitzes out of similar formations. Now, Brady said, the formations aren’t as confusing. He doesn’t care what personnel packages the Jets are in or how they are lined up, he knows that if this linebacker is blitzing, these other guys will blitz because he recognizes the play. Now he knows exactly how to read and pick apart the Jets defense. And, in the game he was rarely touched. The three sacks that happened were, in my opinion, the result of missed blocks. Just seeing how Brady reacted to them, it seemed like he knew exactly where the pressure was coming from. He was never rattled by the pressure. Certainly, he never made any terrible throws like he had done in the first game. I guess it just proves Rex Ryan wrong. The Pats have the best quarterback. They have the best coach. Therefore, they have the better team.