Monday, October 12, 2009
I'm not ashamed to admit that the Denver Broncos own the New England Patriots. Tom Brady is 1-6 against them. He's 104-23 against everyone else. And Sunday afternoon said ownership continued unabated.
The Patriots lost this game in so many ways. Certainly the officiating wasn't Pro-Bowl calibre. Throwing a taunting flag before the alleged taunt occurs is just weird. Maybe the ref was a pre-cog from Minority Report or something. My theory is he was going to call a late-hit flag on Meriweather, but realized it was a clean play. Then Meriweather provided enough material to call a taunting penalty. That being said, the penalty amounted to 15 yards of Denver's 98 on the drive, so the Patriots bear the responsibility for the resultant touchdwon, and no the refs.
If Gostkowski hits that last field goal. If the Patriots win the toss. If Orton's 3rd & 12 pass that bounced off two Patriots and landed in Gaffney's hands had found the ground. If a Patriot falls on a fumble instead of a Bronco. If the refs didn't call taunting. If the refs didn't have quick whistles. If the replay booth actually replayed questionable calls. If, if, if. If is a middle word in life
The big "if" is, IF the Patriots had played better. Plain and simple. Tom Brady is the leader of the Patriots, and he led them in poor play Sunday. Bill Belichick is an aggressive coach, who loves to pass the ball. So why do you think he was calling so many running plays late in the 4th quarter? He didn't have faith that the pass would work for them. Not at that particular moment.
On paper, Brady's day wasn't awful. 19/33, 215 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs. That's a 97.4 rating. But those incompletions. Missing a wide open Moss for an easy touchdown. Underthrowing and overthrowing. He's comfortable in the pocket now, but he's not yet in tune with the playing field beyond the pocket. He and Welker haven't clicked and gotten those YACs we're used to seeing. And he has looked awful when trying to hit Moss deep.
The good news is that these things SHOULD come back to him. The bad news is they might not. The clock is ticking. Then again, to be 2-1 after playing Atlanta, Baltimore and Denver ain't too shabby. Then again, the Patriots haven't won outside of Gillette Stadium since December 2008.
Tennessee comes to town in a nice respite from these big games. Then it's Tampa Bay in London and a much needed bye week.
I anticipate that after that, Brady & Co. will be on the same page. Which is good because it goes Dolphins-Colts-Jets-Saints-Dolphins after the bye.
This has not been a season without frustration for the Sox. They'd go on a stretch when they'd score 6 to 9 runs a game, but the pitching would allow 7 to 10 runs a game. Then they'd go on a stretch when the pitching would keep opponents to 1 to 3 runs. But the offense would score 0 to 2 runs. Occasionally, both would click, and the Sox would be unbeatable for a ten day stretch. But that didn't happen against the Angels.
Did Jonathan Papelbon have a good year? That's a question that will now be asked for at least a month. He had 38 saves, in 41 attempts. That's 92.7% conversion. That's an excellent rate. His WHIP was excellent, as was his ERA. But was he the dominant Papelbon we grew accustomed to? No.
This was an awful way to lose. It seemed as though Fenway Park and October had once again conspired for a storybook Red Sox come-from-behind series triumph. Or at least a chance to stave off elimination for another day.
But when you put yourself down 2-0, you run risks. Sometimes an error will cost you a game. Sometimes a missed call by an ump. Sometimes a lack of clutch hitting, or a bad managerial decision. This time it was a closer who brought nothing to the table.
You go down 2-0, you're on the edge, where even a slight breeze will knock you off. And Sunday that slight breeze was an ineffective closer.
And give credit to the Angels, who thoroughly outplayed the Sox these last 3 games. Their pitching was better. Their bullpen. Their offense. Their defense. Actually, the Sox may have run the bases slightly better than the Angels, which is ironic because people accredit Mike Scioscia with being some sort of baserunning guru.
There's work to be done. The Sox need more pitching. Who doesn't? They need to build a more consistent offense, instead of simply hoping that 4 guys within 6 lineup spots are all hitting hot at the same times.
And honestly, Red Sox Nation, you'd only be surprised by the way this series went if you had refused to see the truth: that this team can be as hot as Scarlett Johansson, and as cold as a dead penguin's ass. This was a bipolar club.
Pitchers and catchers report in... well, I don't know, but they will report. And that's what I love about baseball.
AP Photo/Elise Amendola