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BOSTON (CBS) — The New England Patriots are 1-2, their first losing record since Week 1 of the 2003 season.
That in itself is hard enough to believe, but the way that the Patriots got here is even crazier. Sunday night’s 31-30 loss for the Patriots featured 24 combined accepted penalties for 218 yards. The officiating — both ways — was most certainly the big story line, but here are four positives and four negatives to take away from the Patriots’ loss.
1. The officials
Considering the Patriots lost, why not start with the negatives? And if that’s the case, it makes sense to start with the biggest negative of the night: the officials.
The officials at times invented penalties and imagined holds, many of which turned out to significantly hurt the Patriots. It would be elementary (and inaccurate) to say the replacement officials are the reason why the Patriots lost, but it’s not wrong to say their ineptitude was on full display and greatly affected this game from start to finish.
If this “performance” from the officials doesn’t force some change from the league in its lockout, then nothing will.
2. The Defense
That rejuvenated defense just didn’t look great on this night, as it looked like last year again at times throughout the night. The Patriots gave up 503 yards, including 382 passing yards from Joe Flacco and 101 rushing yards from Ray Rice. The defense also finished the night with zero sacks. It’s somewhat lost in the officiating mess that the Patriots’ defense was a no-show for this one.
Chandler Jones, who’s received a lot of pub for his first two games, assisted on just two tackles. Devin McCourty dropped two interceptions, and Kyle Arrington tripped over his own feet going for one of his own on the eventual game-winning drive.
That type of showing simply isn’t going to lead to many victories.
3. Danny Woodhead And The Rushing Game
The Patriots ran the ball 34 times and gained just 77 yards, for an average of just 2.3 yards per carry. Danny Woodhead got the ball 15 times and gained just 34 yards (his longest run was six yards), and Stevan Ridley gained just 37 yards on 13 carries. It wasn’t all on the running backs, as rushing attacks are a team effort, but clearly, the strategy to run against the Ravens’ defense didn’t work out. Which brings us to …
4. Josh McDaniels’ Trick Plays
Last week, on a third down in the third quarter, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels dialed up a trick play against the Cardinals. It failed miserably and backed the Patriots out of field-goal range.
This week, McDaniels was at it again, calling a direct snap/end-around from Danny Woodhead to Julian Edelman in the second quarter. The play lost 14 yards and pushed the Patriots from midfield back to their own 38.
With Tom Brady at quarterback, Rob Gronkowski at tight end and Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd at receiver, perhaps the offense is talented enough to not need to rely on gimmicks and tricks..
1. Tom Brady
This gets overlooked here sometimes, because we’re all so used to it, but Tom Brady is truly outstanding. Statistically, he finished 28-for-41 (68.3 percent) for 335 yards and a touchdown, but he was much more than that. In an incredibly loud stadium with a fired-up crowd on a Sunday night, Brady calmly led the no-huddle offense with ease, reading coverages, diagnosing blitzes and communicating individually with his players before virtually every snap.
In the era where we pick apart every player for every little thing, sometimes it’s worth appreciating their greatness, win or lose.
2. Wes Welker
Well, at least we don’t need to spend all week listening to everyone’s theories about why and how the Patriots are phasing out Wes Welker. Brady’s favorite target for five years running finished the night with eight catches on 10 targets for 142 yards. His night kicked off with a 59-yard catch-and-run in the first quarter, when Welker ran a wheel route along the left sideline and set the Patriots up in the red zone for the game’s first points.
Suffice it to say, Welker remains a big part of the Patriots’ offense. He did a good job of putting that story to bed.
(Brandon Lloyd deserves mention, too, for his nine-catch, 108-yard showing.)
3. Stephen Gostkowski
It can’t be easy to miss a game-winning kick and have to think about it for a full week, and it’s got to be even more difficult to not let it corrupt your thoughts as you attempt your next kick, but Stephen Gostkowski made it seem that way. He was a perfect 3-for-3 on field goals, hitting from 37 yards, 49 yards and 20 yards. It wasn’t immense, but it was a solid bounce-back game from the kicker, someone who will be vital for the Patriots going forward.
4. Brandon Spikes
With every player and coach too afraid to say anything about the putridity of the NFL’s officials, you have to almost admire Brandon Spikes for ripping into the replacement refs.
“Can someone please tell these [expletive] zebras foot locker called and they’re needed Back at work !!!!” Spikes tweeted to his 272,000-plus followers, before adding that he’s at his breaking point.
Who knows how much he’ll be fined for his statement, but you have to appreciate his willingness to stand up for something so many players and coaches are afraid to do the same. Now let’s just hope it leads to some change.