It was a must-win for the Patriots and thank Bill Belichick we have Matt Cassel. Holy crap, I never thought I'd type those words, but welcome to 2008. It still doesn't make me miss Tom Brady any less.
So by now you know that Cassel posted back-to-back 400 passing yard games and is now among rare company that excludes even Brady. Those that were calling for Cassel's head after the first Dolphin debacle are now left trying to explain how they were behind Cassel all along.
Suddenly the 2008 Pats offense looks like the peaking 2007 offense and it's a good thing because yet again the Patriots pass defense was shredded. Is it me or are the 2008 Patriots the anti-Ravens? All O, no D. When you're excited for a third-down stop you know how low your expectations have fallen for the defense.
So while even respected football sites like Cold Hard Football Facts are pondering the viability of trading Brady, the fact remains that Cassel still has a lot to prove if he's ever going to be considered as valuable as no. 12. It starts this weekend against a Steelers team that has arguably the best defense the Patriots have faced all year.
My notes on the Miami game:
Even though Cassel's good, I still Won't Forget You, Brady...
Looks like there's a good chance the Pats are without starting left tackle Matt Light against the Steelers. I'd still like to see what Channing Crowder did to provoke such a flurry of blows from Light, he's usually one of the most levelheaded of all Pats.
Nick Kaczur would swing to the left tackle side and Mark Levoir would come in at right tackle if Light is suspended.
Clearly with four interceptions Brandon Meriweather has gotten his dropped-interception problem of 2007 figured out. Now he needs to figure out his 2008 problem of how to separate the ball when delivering big hits. It wouldn't hurt if he wrapped up as well. I'm getting sick of seeing him drill someone, only to have them hang on to the ball and get a first down.
Anyone else think the Jets are peaking too soon? Look, they're a good football team, but I would love another shot at them, even if it's at the Meadowlands. Does anyone need to be reminded how easily Brett Favre can give away a game?
I think the Patriots will need to win out to take the division. If not they will be looking at the six-seed, with their most likely first opponent at Pittsburgh. So this weekend could very well be a playoff preview.
The fate of the Patriots season will come down to their pass defense. They will go as far as the defensive backfield will take them. We know they can shut down the run and can put up points, but they just can't seem to stop giving up first downs on third-and-longs.
The only pass rush the Pats are getting is from their front three of Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork and Ty Warren, though Mike Vrabel did finally get a sack against Miami.
The pass rush and pass defense will have to be addressed in the offseason. If Adalius Thomas could come back for the playoffs it would be just the addition they need to get by a team like the Jets or Steelers.
The biggest question of the offseason will of course be what happen to Cassel. I still don't think the Patriots will franchise him regardless of how well Brady is or isn't doing. Experts like Mike Lombardi still think they should franchise him and get some value.
If the Pats could franchise then trade him for some high draft picks it would be yet another savvy move by the Pats front office, but I still think the Pats let him walk, sign a vet backup and wait for Kevin O'Connell to develop like Cassel did.
A little rusty Sammy Morris?
What happened to Lamont Jordan being a "fast healer?"
Safe to say Pittsburgh won't make the same mistake Miami made and Randy Moss will be double-covered all day.
Thank Belichick that Wes Welker is a Patriot. Has there been a more enjoyable player to watch in Pats history?
Welker and Kevin Faulk are reliable as punt returners, but is either really a threat to take one to the house? Add a dangerous punt returner to the offseason need list.
Matthew Slater is close to setting the record for number of times drilled in one season. Head on a swivel, Matthew. You're going to get yourself killed out there.
There is nothing more enjoyable than listening to Chargers sports talk radio the Monday morning after a loss. The mob is starting to turn against Norv Turner. They don't think he's getting the ball to LT or Antonio Gates enough. They're going to miss the playoffs, maybe that will shut them up. Of course it's still all the refs fault.
I made my first appearance at Sonny McCleans, a Boston bar in Santa Monica Sunday and it's always a great taste of home. There was however one lone Dolphin fan in the bar that said "Yessss!" after every positive Miami play. He even won a Patriots hat from the free halftime raffle, which prompted boos from the entire bar. He wasn't saying "yess" anymore by the end.
Got a chance to meet Michael Strahan last week, one of the perks of my real job. I shook his hand and the only thing that came out was "I'm a Pats fan." He laughed and was extremely gracious. We were able to bond over both hating the Jets. It still didn't take any of the sting of 42 away.
Mike Dussault is a Patriots Community Leader at Bleacher Report, and also a contributor at BostonSportz.com. His Patriots blog can be viewed here and he can be contacted at PatriotsPropaganda@gmail.com.