Here’s the latest episode of Patshow where me and Nick break down the Patriots disappointing effort in Miami. It was a cathartic episode with some much-needed venting.
The Patriots went a mind boggling 0-11 on third down against the Dolphins, a feat they hadn’t accomplished since the dark days of the early 90’s. Without Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman, the offense just couldn’t find anyone who could make a key play on the key down.
Let’s go through them one-by-one and see what went wrong and if there are any trends we can discern.
Fresh off being completely dominated in Miami against the Dolphins (what a weird sentence that is), the New England Patriots now turn their sights to their biggest test of the year: the Pittsburgh Steelers. The winner of Sunday’s game will almost assuredly have home field for the inevitable title game between these two teams (knock on wood). While the Steelers do boast the best record in the AFC, four out of their last five games have been decided by game-winning field goals in the final minute, coming against the 3-10 Colts, the 7-6 Rodgers-less Packers, the 5-8 Bengals, and the 7-6 Ravens. This team is good, for sure, but I don’t think they are nearly as good as their record and their stats suggests.
The Steelers offense has put up the 4th most yards in football and 2nd most pass yards in the NFL, just behind the Patriots in both stats. They possess the NFL’s rushing yards leader in Leveon Bell, but strangely rank just 23rd in the league in total rushing yards (Bell has accounted for 85% of their rushing yards). Bell leads the league in rushing because of volume, not efficiency; he is first in the NFL in attempts with 283 (shoutout Atlanta), but is just 21st in yards per carry (of rushers with at least 100 attempts). The Patriots locked down the Steelers daunting running game in the AFC Championship Game, but, as Steeler fans are ever so quick to mention, Bell played just 11 snaps in that game, and the now-retired DeAngelo Williams was tasked with leading the Steelers rushing attack, which only gained 54 yards on 20 carries, good for just 2.7 yards per carry.
There’s just nothing quite like the morning after a Patriots loss. It’s a small and grim view into the future, when the Patriots do finally return to mortal football team status. You can already see how passionately everyone from the national media to opposing fans will line up and pile on one after the other.
Those days aren’t quite here yet but of course everyone who is sick of the Patriots and ready for the NFL power structure to finally lose it’s long-time top dog is more than ready to start testing the waters — to casually float that someday Tom Brady will be done and maybe, just maybe, this was the first game we’ll look back on as the start of the decline.
No one is happier after a Patriots loss than the national media, especially in such a lackluster, injury-plagued season for the league. The Patriots move the dial. And nothing moves the dial for 31 teams like “MAYBE THE PATRIOTS ARE DONE!!!!!”
As a Patriots fan, it can be annoying, but let’s look on the bright side: The Patriots 2017 season just got interesting. Homefield in the AFC will fully at be stake next week in Pittsburgh. There is also a scenario where a 12-4 Patriots team loses out on a tie breaker to the Jaguars for the second seed. Woah.
It’s a jolt to go from probably coasting to the top seed to suddenly staring down the barrel of playing on wild card weekend. But hey, in-season drama and a race to the finish is what makes the regular season interesting.
Another Sunday, another major injury that is a major blow to an NFL desperately in need of young stars. The Eagles losing MVP candidate Carson Wentz alters the landscape of the NFC and once again proves there is no greater opponent during an NFL season than attrition.
The pundits spend all offseason making projections and rankings, and then it all goes out the window as star player after star player go down to season-ending injuries. The Patriots have had it just as bad as anyone, but because they haven’t missed a beat in the win column no one really ever gives them credit. It’s not a new thing, plugging undrafted rookies like Randall Gay in when starters like Ty Law are lost has been happing for over a decade.
But for whatever reason it just seems even worse this year, across the league. Maybe it’s the turf. Maybe it’s the size and speed of the players finally reaching a literal breaking point. For a league that really needs to find their next generation of stars, there does’t really seem to be any way to curb the tide, especially for ACLs.
Yesterday was a stiff reminder how even an MVP-worthy season can be ended in an instant. No one is safe and as the Pats take the field in Miami tonight, I’ll have Suh-Kiko-induced heart palpitations.
Couple notes on where the Pats are now standing…
— The Steelers stole another one last night, making for their third-straight win of three points or less. What scares me about this is that it’s very similar to the 2015 Broncos who just seemed to pull game after game out of their asses despite an inept offense. Pittsburgh’s offense is far from inept, but their defense, one which Tom Brady usually tears apart even when they’re good, has struggled.
As much as I can’t look past tonight’s game in Miami, I can’t help but wonder if the Pats-Broncos narrative of 2015 could play out again. I truly felt the Patriots were better than the 2015 Broncos, but for whatever reason, things just seemed to unfold perfectly in their favor in the two meetings that season. That was a theme for the Broncos that entire season, and maybe this is the year the Steelers have a steel horse shoe up their asses.
Every time NE-PIT play, I expect the Steeler defense to finally have Brady’s number like the Broncos did in 2015. And every time he has his way with them. We’ll worry about the Steelers the moment tonight’s game is over.
Just two weeks ago the Patriots convincingly beat the Dolphins 35-17 and now they’ll travel to Miami for the rematch this weekend where the Monday Night Football betting odds are looking pretty favorable.
As someone who is primarily just rooting against injuries, things are always scary facing a team that has that DGAF attitude. And with the wounds from two weeks ago still fresh, there’s some added anxiety about this one. ‘Keep Suh away from Brady’s knees’ might be my only point of emphasis.
The 2017 Patriots are clicking on all cylinders and if they get through the next four games fully intact from where they are now, including getting Trey Flowers and Kyle Van Noy back to 100 percent, they’re very likely playing in another last-play Super Bowl. Do they have a fatal flaw? Every team does if they don’t play well. This isn’t the most talented front seven the Pats have ever had, but as always, they just make it work.
These final divisional games feel obligatory. Maybe the Pats have a sloppy game and blow it. They’ll lose one of these last four, but everyone expects it would be in Pittsburgh, (if at all).
Here’s the gameplan to get out of Miami with a win, and most hopefully, injury-free.
Philip Rivers and Ben Roethsliberger were both drafted in 2004 and both have gone on to Hall of Fame-worthy careers. But they’re a combined 2-14 against Tom Brady in their respected careers. With the Chargers surging and the Steelers atop the AFC it looks like Brady is on a collision course with one or maybe both of these veteran quarterbacks.
Whether or not Rivers or Roethelisberger can finally knock off Brady should be the defining story of the AFC playoffs. And it might be now or never for both.
Let’s take a closer look at how these two great quarterbacks have fared against the Patriots, and, perhaps more importantly, how Tom Brady has fared against their teams.