Sunday, December 10, 2006
The Patriots poor play finally caught up to them as we were shut out by the Miami Dolphins 21-0. This was the first time we've failed to score a point since the infamous 31-0 loss to Buffalo in 2003. It is also the first time we've lost on the road since week 12 last season when we lost to the Chiefs. It's also the first time we've lost to a divisional opponent on the road since 2004.
There are so many reasons why we lost this game. Here they are, in no particular order:
1. Injuries. We've endured another season filled with defensive injuries, particularly to the defensive secondary. You know, we've had 24 different DBs in the past 3 seasons. That's insane!
Anyway, in this game, we were without Harrison, Wilson, Seau, and Maroney. Seau and Maroney's absence didn't really seem to hurt us that much, but the lack of Wilson and Harrison in the defensive backfield bit us hard. On Booker's first TD catch, Wilson or Harrison would have been much more likely to break up the pass and even pick the ball off.
The injuries are getting ridiculous. I'm starting to suspect that this is some sort of problem. I don't know what the problem is, though. It could be we practice too hard during the week, not hard enough, or our training staff isn't good enough. However, so many seasons with these kinds of injuries to a particular group of the team, namely DBs, is probably not a coincidence. The Patriots brain trust needs to figure out what the problem is and fix it.
2. Penalties. We had 9 penalties for 71 yards. Some of them were not really our fault. The refs had trouble keeping their flag in their pockets on a few occasions. Vince Wilfork's roughing the passer penalty was just absolute BS. Seymour's was also ticky tacky. The Dolhpins did get flagged once for this and it was huge for us, or could have been if we had taken advantage of it. However, it seemed to me that Jason Taylor was getting away with what Seymour got flagged for. But we lost this game, the refs didn't lose it for us.
We had a massive amount of dumb, stupid penalties. False starts by wide receivers, Patrick Pass not lining up on the line of scrimmage in punt formation, and the double forward pass play.
3. Poor tackling. It seemed like most of the time, the Dolphins player would get an extra 1 to 3 yards on their run because we couldn't wrap up and haul down. This might be attributed to the injuries, especially with good tacklers like Seau, Wilson, and Harrison missing the game.
4. Graham's fumble. This was a big play. It gave the Dolphins control in the field position battle for the entire first half. At worse, we could have punted and pinned them back and possibly taken control of the game. Instead, we let them run it the entire 60 minutes.
5. Lack of a big play on defense. We forced no turnovers and only sacked Harrington once. We let him get away too many times on plays in which we were close to bringing him down. Then he'd find an open man and turn a potentially negative play into a positive play. We didn't get consistent pressure on Harrington and that eventually hurt us.
7. Poor pass protection. You have to give credit to Miami on this one. They won the battle in the trenches and got consistent pressure on Brady. But we didn't do much in an effort to stop the pass rush. We didn't try any screens or misdirection plays to punish the Dolphins' aggression on defense. We tried the short little passes to get the ball away quickly, but the Dolphins did a good job at tackling our guys.
This might be one spot where we really missed Maroney. His shiftiness as a runner forces defenders to stay more at home and pursue just a bit less. Dillon had a few good run plays in Taylor's direction, but Dillon is not nearly as elusive as Maroney.
8. The punt war. Miami won the punt war this game. They pinned us within our own 5 yard line on several occasions. The only time we did that to them, we were flagged for an illegal formation. Apart from that play, we gave them the ball at the 15 or better. Often times, we punted the ball and Miami would start in our territory. That's really hard on a defense to force them to defend such a short field the entire game.
9. Not enough rushing. We ran for 123 yards on the ground, but I feel like Dillon should have gotten more carries, especially in the 3rd quarter. We seemed to be trying too many awkward pass plays. Seeing as how we were struggling to protect Brady, and Dillon was doing so well at finding and exploiting holes, I think we should have given him the ball more.
10. Brady. He was inaccurate at times. I know he was under a great deal of pressure from the Dolphins, but he still missed a few passes in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quarters that could have been big. The best ball he threw was on the double pass play that was called back. He also made a great catch on that play, but unfortunately it didn't do anything but cost us 5 yards due to penalty.
We could have clinched the AFC East today with a win and a New York loss. Instead, we might be holding on to a mere 1 game lead in the division. Furthermore, we're only 1 game ahead of some of the Wild Card teams in the AFC.
And is it me, or does Wes Welker seem like he would be a perfect fit for the Patriots? Tough player willing of doing anything for the team. Remember when he filled in for Mare as a kicker against us?
The Patriots host Houston next week.
The UMass Minutemen advanced to the D-IAA finals with a grueling 19-17 win over Montana the other night. They will play defending champion Appalachian State next weekend in Chattanooga for the D-IAA title. Appalachian State, like UMass, is a 1 loss team whose sole defeat came at the hands of a D-IA opponent.
Is UMass's football team the best major sports team in New England this year, relative to their competition? The Red Sox finished 3rd in the AL East, the Patriots have looked like crap in a few games, Boston College football dropped the ball in some big games, the Celtics can't win a close game, and the Bruins are struggling to make the playoffs. The only other big team in New England that has done as well as UMass is the New England Revolution, who lost on penalty kicks in the MLS Cup.
If UMass wins, they'll be the best team in New England.