Thursday, August 13, 2009
When your team goes 11-5, doesn't make the playoffs, and is welcoming back their MVP QB, it's hard not to get overly excited for a preseason opener. I'm probably a bit more optimistic than I should be after a 27-25 preseason victory, but I do think we saw some nice signs Thursday night.
Obviously the big story was Tom Brady. He played almost the entire 1st half, completing 10 of his 15 passes, for 100 yards, 2 TDs, and a pick. He looked good, but just a bit rusty. His interception was the worst pass I've seen him throw in 5 years. But he was also missing by a few inches on his completions. He threw one to Moss that was thigh high instead of waist or chest high. He hit Chris Baker just right of his collarbone instead of at his chest. He underthrew Galloway on a slant and the DB was able to get his fingers on the ball. But all this seemed normal rust, which was especially understandable. The last real game Brady played was the Super Bowl 2 years ago.
I did want to see Brady take a hit. I'm glad that the pass protection looked so good, but I'm still curious to see how Brady handles himself after a crunching knock.
A slightly less hyped return to action was made by Laurence Maroney, who was featured heavily in the early stages of the game. The Pats had 14 offensive plays in the 1st quarter, 6 of those were Maroney rushes, and nobody else had a carry in the 1st. He finished with a disappointing 14 yards on those 6 carries, and looked a lot like the inconsistent Maroney we've seen in the past. However, when Morris and Taylor start splitting carries with him, I think he'll improve. And I did like how aggressively Maroney tried to hit the hole.
Julian Edelman, 7th rounder out of Kent State, with the audacity to wear Drew Bledsoe's #11. I should temper myself after 1 preseason game, but I'm in love with this guy already. He just seems like a Patriot. He plays receiver, returns like Wes Welker, and was a QB in college.
After Moss, Galloway, and Welker, there is room for Edelman to be a #4 or #5 receiver, playing in certain situations, maybe in short yardage.
Chris Baker also introduced himself to Patriots fans. He caught both of Brady's TD passes, and also did some nice work as a blocker. The Pats have 4 TEs in Baker, Alex Smith, Tyson DeVree, and Ben Watson. There's only going to be room for 3 of them, and Baker just decreased his chances of being the odd man out.
It was refreshing seeing a truly unleashed Randy Moss out there. With Cassel, Moss was just a bit subdued, and Welker was clearly the #1 target most of the time. Thursday night he caught 3 passes for 54 yards. If you include the 56 yard interference call, he'd have 110 yards and a 27.5 average.
The first team defense impressed me more than anyone else. They did a good job of pressuring McNabb from different directions, had good coverage on WRs most of the time, and made solid tackles. They weren't dominant, they weren't game changing, but they excelled in the red zone. They made some big plays when it mattered most, and kept the Eagles limited to field goal attempts for the first 40 minutes of the game.
I loved the outside pressure the Pats got. Imagine being a QB in the pocket, two defensive ends are blocked to the outside, so they're pushed behind your vision. That's rattling. When a QB knows guys are behind him, even if they're blocked, that clock in his head starts ticking. So even if he doesn't get sacked, he'll be rushed.
And then, of course, you occasionally get sacks. Both Tully Banta-Cain and Myron Pryor sacked McNabb, and both had help from a teammate preventing McNabb from escaping.
For the most part, the Pats' D was aligned in a 4-3, which was a bit of a surprise. But a surprise that makes sense. There is a lack of quality at linebacker, but an abundance of talent on the defensive line. Wilfork, Warren, and Seymour can be supplemented by guys like Le Kevin Smith, Jarvis Green, and Myron Pryor. At the same time, the LB corps is much thinner.
And as much as I love him, I don't mind not seeing Tedy Bruschi on the bench at all. And if he does play, it should be in specific situations and for extremely limited time.
The Pats come home next Thursday, hosting the Bengals. I expect to see similar amounts of playing time for guys like Brady and Maroney.
AP Photo/Mel Evans
AP Photo/Michael Perez
AP Photo/Matt Slocum
Pedro Martinez made his Phillies debut last night, securing career victory #215, and his first win since August 31, 2008. He went 5 innings, allowing 3 earned runs off 7 hits, and 1 walk. He struck out 5.
What really impressed me is how much of a pitcher he's become, and by that I mean he's smart, crafty, and tricky with hitters. His fastball is nowhere near what it once was. He scratched 90 a few times and that was it. And this means that his once devestating changeup isn't as good either. But he's still able to work hitters over and get outs. Watching him strikeout Alfonso Soriano brought back some nice memories.
He did tire in the 5th inning, missing his spots, walking the opposing pitcher (who wasn't even the starting pitcher at that point), leaving the ball up, and allowing 3 hits and 2 runs in the inning.
His next start is scheduled for the 18th at Arizona.
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
The Sox should play the AL Central leading Tigers more often. They're 6-1 against Detroit, only losing their first game in the season series this afternoon. But even though the Sox lost a tight one today, you have to be happy that in a Buchholz vs. Verlander matchup, you were even in the game at all.
Buchholz has looked better and better since his 4 inning, 7 run outing in Baltimore. And to those Varitek lovers out there, it was Victor Martinez behind home plate today, calling Buchholz's 7 innings of 2 run work. Martinez also had half the Sox' total hits with 2.
The Sox might lose some ground today, with Texas winning 4-1 as I write this, and the Yankees playing in Seattle, but taking 3 of 4 from a potential playoff team is a pretty big step on the Red Sox' road to the postseason.
No rest for the weary as a HUGE series with the Rangers starts tomorrow night. The Sox are only 1-5 against Texas this season. Lester faces Millwood Friday night, then it's Penny vs. 5-7 Derek Holland, and Tazawa against 3-1 Dustin Nippert.
AP Photo/Elise Amendola