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Simply Surviving Won’t Lead To Super Bowl And Other Leftover Patriots Thoughts

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
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Tom Brady (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Tom Brady (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) — After a poor effort across the board last week in Seattle, I expected the Patriots to come out guns-a-blazing and just utterly destroy the Jets. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The Patriots came away with a win in overtime, and they now stand alone in first place in the AFC East, but in no way are the Patriots living up to the expectations placed upon them both by outsiders and by those within the walls of Gillette Stadium. This is a team that’s supposed to win the Super Bowl, but if they continue to play this way, even winning a playoff game seems like it would be a minor miracle.

The Patriots simply need to be better. That much was evident even when the Patriots were winning by 10 points. For the second straight week, the should-be-great offense, the supposed strength of the team, was unable to build an insurmountable lead after getting gifts from the defense and special teams.

In the first 20 minutes of the game, the Patriots returned a kick for a touchdown, caused a safety, forced three punts and intercepted a pass. Despite all of those bonus points and possessions, the Patriots were only able to score seven points on offense and led by just six points at halftime. Just like last week against the Seahawks, the Patriots let their opponent hang around, and only thanks to horrible drops by Stephen Hill on offense and Antonio Cromartie on defense did the Patriots live to tell about it.

Compare that kind of play to Houston, a legitimate contender in the AFC which forced two turnovers and a safety on Sunday against Baltimore and used it as part of a 43-13 thrashing of the Ravens. That’s what good teams do — they create fortuitous opportunities for themselves, then capitalize.

Through seven weeks, the Patriots just aren’t doing that, and if they are to fulfill their potential, they have a long way to go.

With that, let’s get into all the leftover thoughts from the Patriots’ 29-26 overtime win over the Jets.

–Have you ever tried to kick a football? It really is a difficult enough task as it is, so I feel that every field goal made in any game is incredible. I just have a simple mind, I don’t know what else to tell you.

BUT, what Stephen Gostkowski did on Sunday was downright ridiculous. Before he trotted onto the field in the final seconds of regulation, his entire afternoon had consisted solely of kickoffs and PATs. Yet there he went into a pressure cooker. If he made it, the game went to OT. If he missed it, then he’d be buried by the millions of folks who would be eager to call him a choker and a bum. He’d be the subject of intense scrutiny for at least a week, and there’d be questions about his job status, even though he’s as reliable as reliable gets.

He rendered all that moot, though, by drilling the 43-yarder to tie the game, and a few minutes later, he booted the 48-yard eventual game-winner. If he was going to get crushed if he missed, I think it’s only fair he gets proper due for coming through. Those weren’t exactly chip shots, and if he missed the 43-yarder, he’d be getting slammed, even though it was the rest of the team that put the Patriots in that position to begin with.

–Also deserving credit: Dante Scarnecchia and his offensive line. When Logan Mankins misses two games and Tom Brady is sacked just two total times and emerges both times unscathed, it’s a marvelous victory for mankind.

–I’ve opposed the overtime rule change since it was first proposed because I’m a firm believer that a football team consists of an offense, a defense and a special teams unit. Saying a team “never got a chance” to win if they kick away and lose on a field goal is hogwash, because “having a chance” doesn’t necessarily mean “having the football.” If your special teams can’t cover a kickoff, and if your defense can’t force a punt or turnover, then you don’t deserve to win, because it’s called “football” and not “offense.”

Regardless, I understand most people don’t feel that way, so I accept the desire for change. However, I find these new rules to be flawed.

If the kicking team gives up a field goal on the first drive, that team then gets four chances to get a first down for the entirety of their ensuing drive, whereas the receiving team didn’t have that option on its scoring drive. In the case of Sunday’s game, if the Patriots faced a fourth-and-3 at their own 40, they would have had to punt. But if the Jets faced the same situation after a Patriots field goal, they’d have a fourth chance at getting that first down.

It might seem minor, but it’s not. It’s an extra play to get a first down, a 33 percent increase in opportunities each time you move the sticks. I’m just not a fan of changing the rules that drastically after 60 minutes. What is this — hockey?

–This really had no effect on anything, but I found it interesting that the Patriots started their first drive on the left hash after a touchback and then ran a play to hit Shane Vereen on an out to the left side.

–Vereen, by the way, had the best game of his career after just the first 20 seconds of the game. He finished with 49 yards, which is nine yards fewer than his career rushing total entering the game. Perhaps the second-rounder will actually play now?

–The Patriots crushed the Bills in the fourth quarter this year, outscoring them 31-7. In their other six games though, the Patriots have been outscored 54-24 in the fourth quarter. So that helps quantify all those awful feelings you get when watching this team try to close out games.

– The Patriots only had 10 players on the field for Jets’ first touchdown. That’s suspect goal line strategy, and I think Matt Patricia should maybe cycle that one out of his playbook.

–Kyle Love got credit for a sack, but that thing was all thanks to Jermaine Cunningham and and Chandler Jones. Yet another reason why stats are for losers.

–On Rob Gronkowski’s first touchdown, the Jets tried to knock him off his route by assigning Antonio Allen to give him a shove just off the line. Allen is 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, aka the size of Rob Gronkowski’s left leg. Suffice it to say, Gronkowski wasn’t slowed down. He made an outstanding catch too, though he’s starting to make them look routine. But really, there’s nothing easy about a diving, over-the-shoulder catch with a safety swatting at the ball.

rob gronkowski2 Simply Surviving Wont Lead To Super Bowl And Other Leftover Patriots Thoughts

Rob Gronkowski (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

–I do find it amazing how Gronkowski can look so unathletic with his between-the-legs dribble pre-spike move though. He looked like a drunk uncle showboating a touchdown against his 11-year-old nephew at a family barbecue.

–TEEEEEEEEEEEEEBBBBOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!

–I love Tim Tebow, I really do. I just think it’s embarrassing the way the Jets use him. They treat him like a cheerleader. “Tim, I want you to get in there, run up the middle for three yards, then get up and freak out like you won the Super Bowl! It will fire up the guys!” It’s like he’s some weird football sideshow, rather than the guy who led the Broncos to the playoffs last year.

–Josh McDaniels, on the whole, is probably a pretty good coach. It’s just he likes so much to tinker and run wacky, wild plays that he makes himself look bad. This week’s offering came on a third-and-11 early in the fourth quarter.

The Patriots lined up with Deion Branch, Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker out to the left, Brandon Lloyd wide right and Danny Woodhead in the backfield. Welker motioned to the backfield just before the snap, and Brady faked a handoff to him. Woodhead ran behind Brady ran a swing route of sorts, catching a pass from Brady a full four yards behind the line of scrimmage. The blocking was horrific, but so was the design of the play. I can’t imagine any scenario where that play could have been blocked well.

–Because the NFL makes no sense, I expected Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes to be fined for their hits on Shonn Greene, even though they didn’t do anything wrong. Mayo simply hit a guy hard, which is frowned upon these days, while Spikes stood straight up and let Greene use his own head as a battering ram against the linebacker’s chest. For all the efforts the league makes to protect players’ heads, Greene uses his as a weapon and pretty much knocks himself out. That’s questionable decision-making.

–In the second quarter, Aaron Hernandez made a spinning, one-handed catch along the sideline. Calvin Pace probably thinks the catch was borderline illegal.

–Referee Jeff Triplette called a penalty on Jerod Mayo late in the second quarter … when Jerod Mayo was on the bench. I’ve seen the referee get the wrong jersey number a million times before, but penalizing a man sitting on the sideline is a new one.

–Later in the game, Jim Nantz said that Bill Belichick threw a challenge flag after an Aaron Hernandez fumble near the goal line. When I heard that, I figured it was just Belichick taking the opportunity to offer a middle finger to an officiating crew, because turnovers are automatically reviewed. But later, when Nantz said the Jets won the game after the Jets actually lost the game, I figured I’d need some visual evidence before making any definitive statements about the matter.

–The Patriots’ had this one sequence about midway through the third quarter when everyone in the offensive huddle clapped and broke to run to the line, except Brady wasn’t done making his call. Brady kept talking to the scattering group, then he clapped and broke the huddle, and then the rest of the offense kind of put together a disjointed clap and then finally jogged to the line. Once they finally got there, Aaron Hernandez got called for a false start after Brady only said “52′s the Mike.” Between that sequence and the timeout by the punt team on the first possession of the game, it kind of looked like a Pop Warner team out there at times.

–The Patriots were lucky that Chandler Jones wasn’t called for tripping when he blatantly tripped a scrambling Mark Sanchez.

chandler jones Simply Surviving Wont Lead To Super Bowl And Other Leftover Patriots Thoughts

(Screen shot courtesy of NFL.com/GameRewind)

I know the referee has a tough job, but I have no idea how you miss it when a quarterback trips immediately after being kicked in the ankle. Alas, such is the way of officiating.

–If you look at the play-by-play of the game, at around the 12-minute mark of the fourth, you’ll see this: “S.Greene right guard to NYJ 25 for no gain (V.Wilfork; B.Spikes).” What really happened is that Shonn Greene ran directly into Spikes and Wilfork, or as I like to call it, 600 Pounds Of Horror. You run into that, it’ll change your life for the worse real quickly. Some men never come back from that.

–Mark Sanchez finished with 69 more yards and a better completion percentage than Tom Brady, which is pretty crazy. But also, Sanchez took a sack on a play when he had plenty of time and had a tight end this wide open:

sanchez wide open 3 Simply Surviving Wont Lead To Super Bowl And Other Leftover Patriots Thoughts

(Screen shot courtesy of NFL.com/GameRewind)

So things aren’t quite as crazy as the statistics make it seem.

–You know that NFL Mobile advertisement where the total nerd at work doesn’t understand football and everybody totally thinks he’s lame, but then he starts learning football and becomes totally cool and everybody likes him? I just don’t understand why it takes him so long to learn what the shotgun formation is. I feel like he may learn that lesson in his first hour. Clay Matthews is onto something. That guy’s not so cool, if you think about it.

–Zoltan Mesko has had a couple of poorly timed bad punts this year, which is out of character, but he was excellent on Sunday. He tied a career high with six punts, which means the offense wasn’t clicking, but he bailed them out in a big way. His first five punts went to the 11-, 12-, 10-, 5- and 8-yard lines. The Jets’ average starting field position after those first five punts was the 11-yard line. Mesko earned himself a helmet kiss after that performance.

–Does anyone on earth know what in the world Antonio Cromartie was doing after he dropped what could have been a game-changing interception in the fourth quarter?

cromartie Simply Surviving Wont Lead To Super Bowl And Other Leftover Patriots Thoughts

(Screen shot courtesy of NFL.com/GameRewind)

I always enjoy when amazing athletes screw up simple things, because they never know how to react.

–The Patriots’ defense has many problems, but I felt their complete lack of coverage of Dustin Keller on first-and-10 from the Jets’ 35-yard line on the game-tying drive was chief among them. There was nobody in Keller’s zip code. You probably want to cover the opposing team’s best receiver. It’s just this crazy idea I concocted and I know I’m no football coach, but hey, it’s worth a shot.

–Brandon Lloyd was targeted eight times. He had one catch for six yards. He was penalized for offensive pass interference, killing a drive that could have potentially iced the game, and he let the potential game-winning catch bounce off his chest late in the fourth quarter. It wasn’t an awful drop, considering he was sort of falling into the end zone and Cromartie was in tight coverage, but he really could have used that in order to redeem himself.

–Wes Welker, like Lloyd, was targeted eight times. He had six catches for 66 yards, and he picked up three first downs as Brady’s go-to receiver on third down. Suffice it to say that even with Julian Edelman and Aaron Hernandez back in the offense, Welker still has a role, eh?

–The Patriots had a third-and-6 on their drive in overtime just before the field goal, and Brady threw incomplete to Hernandez. Before the snap, Welker ran in motion, and when the ball was snapped, he was four yards behind the line of scrimmage. I don’t like that one bit.

–The clock operator could have eeeeassiiillllyyy let one more second tick off after the McCourty fumble on the kick return, by the way, which would have forced the Patriots to use all their timeouts on the Jets’ ensuing possession. Instead, the clock stopped with 2:01, giving the Patriots the two-minute warning to stop the clock. The Patriots then had the freedom to use the entire field on their game-tying drive, eventually using that timeout with five seconds left after a short pass over the middle to Danny Woohdead.

–I still don’t know why the Jets cut Danny Woodhead. And I’m sure after his 20-yard catch-and-run in that game-winning drive, Rex Ryan wonders too.

–After the game, Bill Belichick said, “In the end we did enough good things to win.” That’s true only by technicality, and I’m sure Bill knows that.

–I’ve said this many times before, but nobody has it tougher than the die-hard “60 Minutes” fans. Pushing the official start time back to 7:30 still hasn’t resulted in the show starting on time. I know there are 20 million Elaine Beneses who just need to wind down, and long overtime NFL games make it that much more difficult.

–If you had told me 10 years ago that Troy Brown would be spending a Sunday ripping the Patriots via Twitter, I first would have asked you what the hell Twitter was. I then would become sad.

–I had full confidence that Gostkowski was going to hit that game-tying kick, even after CBS showed all those replays of his misses. Why? This is why:

bill belichick1 Simply Surviving Wont Lead To Super Bowl And Other Leftover Patriots Thoughts

(Screen shot courtesy of NFL.com/GameRewind)

“Hello there. My name’s Bill. Welcome to the gun show. You like Bon Jovi? Let’s party.”

Screen shots courtesy of NFL.com/GameRewind.

Read more from Michael by clicking here, or follow him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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