Doesn’t it feel like this is the year that NFL parity finally kicked in? Yes, the Patriots are 4-2 and we think we have plenty to complain about, but when you look around the league it’s hard to make any sense of it all. There were conference-altering injuries like Aaron Rodgers breaking his collarbone. There was the final undefeated team falling. And there was yet another week where some teams are up, some teams are down and no one knows who’s really good or bad.
Simply put, ironing out firm Super Bowl favorites at this point is near impossible. Every team has flaws and no one is safe from huge injuries. So before you jump off the bridge about the Patriots’ defense, just take a deep breath and realize that despite their flaws, there aren’t any flawless teams and well, we still have Tom Brady. You know, the winningest quarterback of all time in all regards now.
I still give the Pats a puncher’s chance against anyone, especially this year and that counts for a lot.
Here are the Posits on what was once again a maddening victory, which are quickly becoming the hallmark of the 2017 Pats.
— My biggest question for the defense coming into this season is where would the clutch come from and I think that’s played out exactly how I thought it might. It’s easy to forget this Patriots defense is leaning heavily on young players up front and there was never an assurance that rookies like Dietrich Wise and Adam Butler, or situational new players being thrust into new roles like Cassius Marsh and Lawrence Guy would easily rise to the level of guys like Rob Ninkovich and Chris Long right out of the gate. Ninkovich especially was a game finisher and that’s what this defense lacks right now. Finishers.
— And don’t come at me with “this team could really use Chandler Jones“. He was never a finisher unless it was Weeks 1-4.
— It was far too quiet a game from Wise, Butler, Marsh and Guy. They had just a QB hit between the four of them, no sacks. If there’s a place to improve, it’s those new guys playing better.
— How many times was the coverage there, and the pressure closed in on Josh McCown only to let him escape and make a play? The only time it didn’t happen was on Dont’a Hightower‘s sack, hence the headline GIF. Didn’t that play feel extra special? Because it was a finish and going back to the Tampa game, there just hasn’t been much finishing up front.
— “Finish” also speaks to the lack of a 60 minute game from either side of the ball this year. Once again the offense had a chance to close the game out and what happens? Three and out. The defense did come through for the second game in a row, and they do deserve credit for that, no matter how much they will continue to be in everyone’s sites.
— If you’re going to kill the defense, just remember they forced four three-and-outs and three turnovers. They are a capable defense, they are just so inconsistent it drives me nuts. The first half was feast or famine. The second half was a return to the bend-don’t-break. Which defense are they? I’m used to the bend-don’t-break, but hey, how about just being the Feast defense? You know, the one that turns in three-and-outs almost every time? Is that too much to ask? But no one can tell me they’re the worst defense in the league. Maybe the rankings say that, but they’ve shown they can stop offenses cold when they’re all on the same page. They just aren’t all on the same page enough yet.
— The offense bugs me with their inconsistency as well and that’s the rub of the “chuck-and-duck” opposed to the “dink-and-dunk”. When they hit the low percentage deep passes, they look unstoppable. When they don’t, they go three-and-out like they did their last two possessions of the game when the “dink-and-dunk” (admittedly needing Edelman) would’ve closed games out. Everything we’re seeing this year is everything I raged against when people would belittle the Patriots and Tom Brady for their short passing attack. It was high percentage and effective! Living or dying by the deep balls is hard to sustain. Yes, it could be helpful if they get into a hole late in the game and need a quick-strike score or two. But for overall consistency and effectiveness it’s not sustainable.
— At least the offensive line had a good game, and that’s often a rarity against the Jets. Brady was hit just four times and wasn’t sacked at all. If there’s one super positive thing to take from this game, it’s that.
— Well, that and Dion Lewis looking like 2015 Dion Lewis. I’m not sure why they didn’t give it to him even more than the 11 carries for 52 yards that he had. Maybe he should thank Gillislee for fumbling. But if Lewis does hit that level of elusiveness that he had two years ago before his knee injury and can sustain it through January, the Pats will be able to take a lot of heat off Brady.
— So yeah, Brady’s got the most regular season wins now too, passing Favre and Peyton with the victory. What can you say? We’re spoiled and it’s been a joy to watch and sometimes it feels stupid to complain about any game he just played in. We got to watch him play football again. Shouldn’t that be just enough joy within itself? Nope, because the defense suuuuuuucks, kid. Just remember there will be no maddening victories after Brady and Belichick are gone. We’ll just be thankful for each and every one.
— The Seferian-Jenkins touchdown was pretty divisive, and well into Sunday night there still wasn’t a consensus, putting it firmly in the Tuck Rule atmosphere of “correct call that non-Pats-fans think was bullshit”. I saw a good explanation last night, because even I thought it was a horseshit call on first view. But when you realize that possession must be re-established after a fumble by getting down to the ground it makes a lot more sense. Clearly he fumbled the ball and for it to be a touchdown he would’ve had to landed directly in the end zone. He didn’t so it was the right call. Yet the debate will live forever I’m sure.
— Kyle Van Noy had a good statistical game with six solo tackles, three QB hits, two sacks and two tackles-for-loss. The defense did a great job against the run and Van Noy had been a liability against the run, so yeah, it looks like he took some strides. I’ll take a closer look at him in the film review.
I truly believe there’s a Super Bowl-capable team inside the 2017 Patriots somewhere. They just have to get out of their own way with the mental errors, find some consistency and finish games off. It sounds simple on paper but of course these are incredibly hard things to pull off and there’s no assurance this Patriots team can put them together for a playoff run that requires they win three or four games.
I do know that they’ve shown good fight. I know I was ready to give up on them in the first quarter against the Jets, but they kept fighting and showed some pride through the middle of the game. Of course then it got shaky again and that’s where their biggest challenge comes.
If anyone can keep them headed in the right direction it’s Bill Belichick. The progress has been incremental , but’s been progress and should continue to trend that way. One thing’s for sure, they’re about to get a much tougher test next weekend on national TV against the team they embarrassed in the Super Bowl who will be looking to light up the Pats defense.
We’ll know a lot more about the Patriots defense after that one.