Sunday, August 24, 2008
WHAT PATS FANS SHOULD AND SHOULDN'T BE WORRYING ABOUT
The Patriots were once again smoked in a preseason game. And although these games will be forgotten once the regular season starts, right now they're causing a great deal of concern for Pats fans.
The biggest worry, obviously, is the absence of Tom Brady. Sidelines with a foot injury, he has yet to play a down in the preseason. The real concern is that there seems to be no timetable for his return. It wasn't even known with any certainty that he'd miss Friday's game against Philadelphia until the last minute.
On the bright side, it's still two weeks before the season begins against Kansas City. Also, Matt Gutierrez's performance Friday night (14/20, 217 yards, 2 TD) has made him the top candidate for the #2 QB slot.
And let's just say that Brady misses a few games at the start of the season. It won't be the end of the world. Even with a poor start, the Patriots would probably wind up making the playoffs. And as we learned last year, being healthy for the playoffs is much more important than being healthy for the regular season.
Another thing Pats fans shouldn't be too worried about is Friday's 27-17 loss to the Eagles. Late in the 2nd quarter, a 10-3 game turned into a 24-3 blowout thanks to a kickoff return and a punt return. Last year, the return coverage team was outstanding. But a few missed assignments let the Eagles soar to a big lead. The Eagles offense was only responsible for 13 points.
And something I've been noticing this preseason is the unusual intensity of the opposing team. That's understandable. The preseason is the best (and sometimes only) chance for some teams to beat the Patriots. Friday night was one of the biggest games of the year for the Eagles (and for a great many super-vocal and pathetically cocky Philadelphia fans in attendance at Gillette Stadium). The Pats are 23-2 (.920) in their last 25 meaningful games, 30-5 (.857) in their last 35. So teams will get it up when they play the Pats, even if the game doesn't count.
One thing that should remain a major worry for Pats fans is the defensive backfield. Against teams with solid offensive lines and/or QBs who get rid of the ball quickly, these guys can get picked apart piece by piece. Teams will be able to eat up huge chunks of clock with long drives that get 4 yards at a time on the ground and with short passes. Even if these drives don't end in points, they'll wear out the Pats' front 7 pass rushers, and give the offense poor field position.
The Pats finish the preseason with a trip to Giant Stadium and a rematch with the Super Bowl Champions. That's just as painful to type as it is to say.
AP Photo/Michael Dwyer