Sunday, December 23, 2007

Swan song a mostly forgettable tune

The longest tenured Patriot was finally getting in on the act.

Troy Brown would be active.

A career special teams demon, he would be returning punts.

He returned six for 55 yards. A respectable 9.2 yard average, with a physical 28 yard return that brought the ball back to mid-field.

Unfortunately he also had the one that clanged off his face-mask giving the Dolphins the ball back after a sterling series by the defense.

His day fielding punt returns was like the offense's day in microcosm - Laurence Maroney battered the Dolphins for over 150 yards on 14 carries, while Jabar Gaffney hauled in five passes for 82 yards and a touchdown. The stars, on the other hand, failed to shine - Brady while good, still tossed two picks, and both Wes Welker and Randy Moss dropped passes that would have kept drives alive in the second half when the offense put a big donut on the scoreboard. It was the first time all season the Patriots offense was shut out in a half.

Your prolific offense getting shut down in the second half by the Miami Dolphins is not going to put any sort of fear into the likes of the Colts, or the Jaguars come football's second season.

On the positive side of the ledger -

Wes Welker is one touchdown away from breaking the Patriots' record for receptions in a season, currently held by Brown with 101.

Stephen Gostkowski set a new league record for extra points in a season.

The Patriots broke the record for touchdowns scored in a season with 71 and counting. The previous record was held by the 1984 Dolphins.

The Pats are six points shy of tying the mark for most points by a team.

Randy Moss needs two touchdown receptions to break Jerry Rice's record of 22, and Tom Brady needs two TD passes to break Peyton Manning's record of 49.

The team tied their own record of 18 straight regular season wins, and are poised to break that with a win next week.

And with a current passer rating of 119.7, Manning's season record of 121.1 for a season is within reach (although if Brady makes decisions against the Giants like he did against the Jets and Dolphins, it just isn't happening).

Not to be lost in all this is the fact that the Patriots dominated an opponent on the ground for the second straight week, ringing up 196 yards on 25 carries - a 7.8 yard per carry clip that even against the deficient Dolphins is a good sign heading into the post season. The supposedly run-deficient Patriots entered the game with the 12th ranked running game in the league - not bad for the noted weakness of the offense.

Other thoughts...

Tom Coughlin can't be overwhelmed by the Giants mistake filled win over the Buffalo Bills. His playoff bound team got even more dinged up as it did everything it could in the first half to hand Buffalo this game on a silver platter. If New York plays like this against just about any other playoff contender in the post season they will be one and done.

The Browns had a chance to push Pittsburgh's back against the wall and possibly win the division with a win over the sad-sack Cincinnati Bengals and couldn't seal the deal. Ditto for Green Bay in regards to having a chance at forcing the Cowboys to have to travel to the Frozen Tundra for the conference championship game. Instead Brett Favre and the Pack spit the bit, losing 35-7 to a Bears team that is a shadow of its former self.

Minnesota, also with a chance to seal their place in the playoffs also blew it, dropping a game to the Redskins 32-21. The only teams that came up big in keeping their playoff hopes alive were the Titans who squeaked by the Jets to even their record with the 9-6 Browns (Cleveland holds the tie breakers), and the Redskins who have evened their record with Minnesota at 8-7, but now hold the tie-breaker by virtue of this weekend's victory over the Vikings.

So I was wrong - the Lions will go 7-9, not 6-10. I gotta find me some employers like the Ford family. Evidently anything short of blowing the company to Kingdom Come won't get you fired.

One last thought -

Does anyone out there suppose Miami fans watched that game and thought, "why can't the Dolphins get players like Heath Evans, Wes Welker, Kyle Eckel, and Junior Dumbass GM."


Chris Stone said...

I kinda was under the impression that they were tinkering with stuff during the second half. And that includes the 2 long bad passes to Moss. Miami's defense against the run stinks, so, I wouldn't feel too good about the Pats running game. I wonder if they demonstrated it more, to give future opponents something to think about. like, the hand off to Maroney in the shotgun could set up a future fake.

Was expecting something about the NFL network! Hope I can see the Pats Giants game!

Kevin Smith said...

I felt better about this rushing performance than the one against the Jets, mostly because the Pats did on the ground what they should have to a lesser opponent. They still rushed for less than the league average against the Jets and that bothered me.

I think the second half was less about tinkering than it was going after the records. It was like they threw out their entire playbook that second half and just tried to get Moss the ball in the endzone.

As for the NFL Network - gotta admit, you probably won't see too much from me about that since I live in Maryland and have DirecTV - and subsequently the NFL Network is part of my basic package (although I do have the Sunday Ticket - only way I get to see all the games).

Suldog said...

I think the second half was as far from Patriot's football as they have strayed since the Flutie dropkick. They seemed to be trying to get Brady and Moss closer to the records. That won't do it. It has to flow naturally from the game. I expect it will happen differently in NY this weekend.

Merry Christmas!

Mike said...

To answer your last paragraph, yes those thoughts about those players did in fact enter my mind on sunday. And yes i agree that the front office sucks.

Kevin Smith said...

Dude, I'm sure better days are ahead for the 'Phins with Parcells on board. I just don't know how much better.

My one concern with Parcells, were I a fan of the Dolphins, is his ego dictating too much - the head coach being in name only, that sort of thing - him refusing to cut one of his own picks as a way of not admitting to a mistake.

He might be fine in the front office, but I know that Belichick was concerned that Parcells would meddle which is why he quit the Jets.

Guess we'll find out soon enough.

Happy holidays to all.

Hope you had a great one, Sul!