I can almost predict tomorrow’s Bostonian headlines like, “No Brady, No Gronk, No Jimmy G=No Problem.” There are great lessons to be learned, despite our 31-24 loss. Was this a missed opportunity when you view the season in its potential entirety? Hopefully not. However, we have now joined the “12% Club,” that statistical fraternity of teams since 2007 that haven’t made the playoffs because the first 1/8th of the season is winless. We have 14 remaining games to prove this decade-long stat wrong, or join the “brotherhood of the fallen.” Let’s review:
-A Wasted Cardinals’ Lesson: There’s a bad boxing superstition that says, “The first puncher usually wins.” Not true, but when your games are against perennial playoff/Super Bowl contenders, THE LAST THING that can be afforded are scoreless first quarters. Learning curves are great, except in a 60-minute football game. Another tough stat to swallow: We are 0-8 playing them Pats at Gillette. I hate when Vegas gets a trend correct. When are we going to start trading punches with quality opponents in the first quarter? We are 0-2 for the first time since 2011;
-The Blount Factor Revisited: Like every good sportswriter and fan, there are times when I hate being right about my team. Case in point: Watching NE RB LeGarrett Blount run 123 yards himself against our combined ground 70 yards. This includes our 1-yr, $1.5m-investment in the reinvention of RB Arian Foster, who ran a team-low 9 yards. I’m wondering if he achieves any of his $2m incentive clauses. QB Ryan Tannehill got 35 rushing yards by himself. While this has become a pass-friendly league, rushing keeps defenses honest. If we can’t run, defenses will plan against us in the air all season long;
-Special Teams: It really should be a small note in the overall scheme of things, but dual-threat NE WR/punt returner Danny Amendola’s efforts point out a glaring offensive truth. Averaging 11 yards per 3 punt returns meant less work for the Patriots, let alone an average NFL offense. Starting field position really counts. Head coach Adam Gase and Darren Rizzi, assistant head coach and special teams coordinator, immediately need to focus on better field starts;
-Burnt Fish: In the span of 20 plays and 17 minutes, mostly all 1st quarter, the Patriots’ offense put in enough work before their only 2nd-half score. Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph has a lot of game film to review our secondary before next Sunday;
-Momentum vs. Time: We owned the second half, once we faced Patriots 3rd-string QB Jacoby Brissett. Unfortunately, this amounts to padding “garbage time” stats. Patriots won in every statistical category except total passing yardage, and we still almost won. We need to work on our offensive efficiency. Time always wins vs. momentum, no matter how strong or concerted, when the clock strikes zero. That’s how come first-quarter or first-half scoring should become a main concern to our offense. Another correct prediction I made: the AFC East becoming a 3-tier division with four teams. Buffalo and us are both 0-2.
This week’s DH Award goes to LB Kiko Alonso for his overall effort and contribution in the face of adversity. The league will probably send him flowers for causing a QB controversy in New England before the Brady Onslaught in week 5.
Next week: Back at home in Hard Rock Stadium vs. the “Dawg Pound,” them Cleveland Browns. Vegas favors us by a touchdown.