Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Pats Fans in Heaven

I tried finding an appropriate 3:63 Bible verse (Brady threw for 363 yards), and the best I could find was: Look at them! Sitting or standing, they mock me in their songs. (Lamentations 3:63). And maybe that can be about how much hype Tim Tebow got leading up to this game, and how much people forgot that Tom Brady is a pretty good QB.

All season, the Patriots have won and lost based on the performance of their offense. Their defense isn't good enough to win games when Brady struggles or turns the ball over. On the other hand, the offense is potent enough to win games on its own, even when the defense is terrible. Saturday night, the offense was at its best.

Brady was nearly perfect. His one interception was the only blemish on his performance. 5 touchdowns in the first half, 6 overall. He completed over 3/4 of his passes. He had fewer incompletions (8) than Tebow had completions (9).

One amazing stat struck me. The Patriots were 3 of 6 on 3rd down. What amazes me is that the Patriots got to 3rd down only 6 times. They got 31 first downs. That means that 25 times they didn't even get to 3rd down before getting a new 1st down (they got 3 1st downs from penalties). In other words, even if the Pats had been playing with CFL rules and only getting 3 downs per series, they'd have still moved the chains with regularity.

The line protected Brady all night. 0 sacks. That was a huge reason for Brady's monster stats. When Brady did have some pressure on him, he wasn't able to fully step into his throws, and that's the only time the Patriots' drives sputtered and stalled. For the most part, though, the line gave him time to find open receivers, and space to step into throws.

If not for Brady, Aaron Hernandez would have been the clear star of the game. He caught 4 passes for 55 yards and a TD. He ran for 61 yards. And he had a tackle. That's a diverse night. He left the game early but all reports say that he's alright.

Using him as a runningback was ingenious in its simplicity. When an opponent sees no RBs in the Patriots' huddle, they might go with a lighter personnel package with more DBs, and fewer big guys up front. Then Hernandez lines up in the backfield and the Pats run the ball against a defense designed to stop the pass. So simple, which is why it's so smart.

Hernandez did lose a handle on the ball twice, which makes me nervous. He juggled an exchange from Brady, and lost a ball after being downed by contact. His ball control isn't 100%. He's not Tiki Barber in the early 2000s, but it's something to note.

Gronkowski should endorse a line of vacuum cleaners. Everything that enters his airspace gets sucked in. Bibi Jones can be in the commercials with him for similar reasons.

The defense did well. The only touchdown they allowed came when the Broncos got the ball on the Pats' 24. But let's not compare this unit to 2003 and 2004. The Patriots' offense shot out to a big lead, and the Broncos have one of the worst passers in the NFL. When down by two touchdowns, simply not throwing interceptions isn't good enough.

How do you stop Tebow from his miraculous 4th quarter comebackes? You start the 4th quarter with a 42-10 lead.

The Patriots demonstrated why the option is not a viable NFL offense. Defenses are too fast for the backs to turn the corner. And they're too disciplined and coached too well to make mistakes. They know their assignments and containments.

The Pats' D-line got excellent penetration up the middle, as well as even pressure on each flank. That prevented Tebow from rolling out, which is when he's most dangerous. It also meant that when the Broncos ran the option, they couldn't cut back because Wilfork was already through the line and chasing the play from behind. Tebow was sacked 5 times, the Pats had 10 tackles for a loss, plus that 1st quarter strip-sack.

The effect of negative plays is always harsh on an offense. But on an offense that struggles to move the ball as much as Denver's, negative plays are murder.

The Pats played much better than they've played in their past two postseasons. There were no fake punts. In fact the Patriots' special teams executed very well. There were a few mistakes, but they were quickly atoned for.

Nobody's perfect. But Brady came pretty close.

The Pats face the Ravens next week. The other two offensive juggernauts - the Saints and Packers - are out. The Pats are unique among the NFL's final four. Which means either that they're the best of the offense-heavy teams, or were fortunate to play the Denver Broncos.

How weird is this? The Pats are in the AFC Championship and they still haven't beaten a team with a winning record.

Pats vs. Ravens, Sunday afternoon at 3. I'm excited. Let's party.

Photo Credits:
AP Photo


  1. There aren't a lot of books of the Bible that go to 36 chapters, but Ezekiel 36:3 says: therefore prophesy, and say, Thus says the Lord GOD: Precisely because they made you desolate and crushed you from all sides, so that you became the possession of the rest of the nations, and you became the talk and evil gossip of the people,

    You could edit that a little bit to say:

    Thus says the Lord GOD... they made you desolate and crushed you from all sides."

    Put that with a picture of Tebow getting crushed between a couple of linebackers...
    God's message to Tebow.