By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — There’s just something about this particular year that has prompted me to try to really zoom out on this whole football industry that we’ve got going in this beautifully freezing region of the universe. After the local football team capped off its sixth Super Bowl title in 18 years, and after the team played in its ninth Super Bowl in that same span … it’s become strikingly clear that we just do not process, interpret or analyze things here the way that anybody else does anywhere.
Whether that’s been in the area of assessing the team’s weaknesses, or spending time in mid-October forecasting their chances of securing home-field advantage for the AFC Championship Game, or being particularly critical about them when they’ve just won a game by 30 points, the fact is that the Patriots have apparently broken all of our brains.
We don’t know how to be normal.
The aspect of that phenomenon that is sure to dominate coverage of the team today, tomorrow, this week and next week is, of course, the biggest story in the universe:
Tom. Brady’s. Feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelings.
In case you solely rely on this weekly story for your Patriots news (thank you) and thus missed it, Brady was a party pooper when he stepped to the podium in Philly wearing a $1,000 jacket. As those with boots on the ground will tell you, he sulked, he pouted, he stomped his feet, he grabbed his blanky and he hurried off the stage so that he could get to nap time.
The man was feeling some feelings.
And sure enough, it’ll be a major talking point. The radio and TV shows will psychoanalyze, WHAT’S WRONG WITH TOM? The shows that are particularly perfidious programs will speculate whom Brady is mad at, and then push the conjecture to figure out why he is mad at that person, and then wag fingers at Brady for being such a bad leader/teammate/employee/whatever else you’d like to throw in there.
That’s not to say that Brady being prickly at the podium is not somewhat noteworthy in and of itself. It’s just that … sometimes — and you’ll never believe this — the conversation surrounding Brady just stinks. This week is sure to be one of those times.
That won’t be the case here, because it’s not all that difficult to understand that the most competitive athlete we’ve ever seen is mad because he and his offense are not performing at a very high level. This is a man who at age 42 is still signing up to get clobbered by 300-pound monsters, all because he is utterly addicted to playing the sport of football. As he said himself, “If you compete against me, you’d better be willing to give up your life. Because I’m giving up mine.” The man is absolutely tapped, obsessed with not just playing football, not just getting paid to do so, not just getting the fame and attention that comes with it, but with winning football games. That is why he’s won more than anybody else, that is why he’s thrown for more touchdowns and passing yards than anybody else, and that is why he still shows up to work every single day at age 42 to play a young man’s game.
And even though his team won to improve to 9-1, Brady has been around long enough to know that at some point, his offense will be needed to carry the team to a victory. That was needed in Baltimore, and the offense failed. It was not needed in Philly, but Brady knew that there was no reason for that game to have still been up for grabs through the final seconds of the fourth quarter.
He knows that he and the offense have to better. With his 20 years of experience, and with his track record of utterly unprecedented success, there’s reason to believe he just might figure this one out.
In the meantime, enjoy the psychoanalysis. Sounds like fun.
Not here, though. Leftover thoughts from the Patriots’ 17-10 win over the Eagles, coming right up. (You can blast The Offspring’s take on the Morris Albert classic, “Feelings,” if you’d like some background musical accompaniment.)
–While the Patriots, yes, are 9-1, you do have to be moderately curious how and why they’ve now come out in two straight road games with the worst game plan on both sides of the ball. They were able to stop the bleeding at 10-0 instead of 17-0 this time, which made all the difference in the world. Offensively, they ran nine plays for 29 yards, punting twice. Defensively, they gave up a 49-yard penalty on the first play from scrimmage to essentially spot the home team three points, and then they allowed an excruciating 9:33 drive that went 90 yards on 16 plays and ended with a touchdown.
While the officials initially didn’t think that was a touchdown (and while Bill Belichick still doesn’t think that was a touchdown), the Patriots looked out of sorts early.
Of course, pitching a shutout after that moment sure did help them win the game. But there’s no doubt that the Patriots have had a problem these past two games with regard to hitting the ground running, with the right game plan in place.
–That being said, certain Patriots fans should not be allowed to tweet at me or anyone else during the first halves of Patriots games. The things that are said … the grandiose conclusions drawn … the doomsday pictures painted. It’s comical.
If I had the time, I’d compile them all sometime and put together a nice story after every game that starts poorly and ends with a Patriots win. There’s only about 11,000 games to choose from.
–An unprecedented move in Leftover Thoughts history: The third bullet point is being dedicated to the punter. Because Jake Bailey was JUST. THAT. GOOD.
Much like Ryan Allen in Super Bowl LIII, you could easily make the case that the Patriots wouldn’t have won this game without the dynamic day from their punter.
Bailey punted eight times. He averaged 47.6 yards per kick. His longest was 55 yards. Six of his eight punts came down inside the 20. (Another was fair-caught at the 21.) Four of his eight kicks came down inside the 6-yard line. The Eagles started five of their drives from inside their own 12-yard line, making the task of coming back against the Patriots defense all the more daunting.
He had two bad plays: A 27-yard punt that went out of bounds at Philly’s 20, and a failure to recover a fumbled kickoff return. But the latter, well, he’s a punter. And with the former, he recovered by pinning Philly at their 12 and then their 6 on potential game-tying drives.
Belichick gushed about Bailey for what felt like a half-hour after the game. And rightfully so. What a game.
–One more thought on the panic level that permeates Patriots culture seemingly every week in the first quarter: Can we remember for one second that … they’re playing a game out there? The Patriots are good, yes, but they’re not so good that they can just steamroll every single opponent in their way. The opponent is also playing a game. Have you ever played a game? You can’t always perfectly win games. It’s very difficult.
Look out in San Francisco. The previously undefeated 49ers lost to the Seahawks, then almost lost to the very-bad Cardinals … for the second time in three weeks. The Ravens look like the best team in the AFC right now, but they also lost to the Cleveland Browns. The Chiefs were (are?) a favorite to return to the AFC title game, and they’re 6-4. The Vikings had to fight for their life against the Broncos. The Packers are still steaming from a loss in a soccer stadium to the Chargers.
The pursuit of perfection is great and all, but it is just that: a pursuit. It leads to some people around here wanting to fire the coach, cut the quarterback and force the ownership of the team to sell just because they trail 10-0 in the second quarter.
Easy, people. Easy.
–Tom Brady gets ALL the calls. The refs LOVE Tom Brady. The NFL is FIXED.
Except for that time Brandon Graham took a dive right below his knees …
… that wasn’t called. But still! Brady gets every single call! Oh, except for the time he got suplexed to the turf after he had already gotten rid of the football …
Yeah, you normally can’t even do that to a ball carrier without getting an unnecessary roughness penalty, let alone a quarterback who doesn’t have the ball. But! Like! That one doesn’t count, OK?! Brady gets preferential treatment from the refs who love him so damn much. Er, except when he got clubbed in the head …
OK BUT STILL. THE REFS LOVE BRADY THE LEAGUE IS FIXED GAAHHHHH I AM GOING TO GO LIGHT MY HAIR ON FIRE BYE.
(Note: I’m not advocating for flags on those plays — except for the suplex, because that was ridiculous. And there was a high hit by Dont’a Hightower on Carson Wentz that gets called sometimes. I’m just pointing out that some stupid people are stupid. Let me have this, OK?)
–I would like to know what was said during this conversation.
I bet it was, “Hey, Derek, nice to see you. Could you please not suplex me again? I hated it.”
–The Patriots had five sacks, and it feels like it could have been 10 if Carson Wentz hadn’t become Carson Vick so often.
I mean, what the heck is this?
It’s like he used a Game Genie to be able to just operate at a faster speed than everyone else. That was inconsiderate.
This pass was also sick:
He took so many risks and got away with a lot of them, but he is quite fun to watch.
–I really want to have a strong opinion on the Dallas Goedert touchdown/Jonathan Jones interception … I really do. I just … I can’t. I see why they ruled it in an interception in live speed. I also see why they ruled it a touchdown after replay review. I would have been fine with whatever decision Al Riveron made, which is something I never imagined I’d ever say, because that man is incompetent.
Just a weird play where it was difficult to feel strongly any one way. Let’s just hope that no Super Bowls are decided on a simultaneous possession ruling.
–Part of the criticism of Brady’s FEELINGS this year has involved him “FREEZING OUT” younger receivers, to the point where certain people have concluded that Brady is being a stubborn JERK about it. And when Brady looked to Jakobi Meyers for the first time all day to convert a third-and-6 in the fourth quarter, those people emerged from the woodwork. “SEE?! If Brady wasn’t so busy looking for his BUDDY Julezzz, then the Patriots’ offense might actually not be awful. If Brady could just GET OVER IT and start throwing to the undrafted converted-quarterback from NC State, maybe he wouldn’t be so pouty all the time.”
Sure enough, two plays later, Meyers had absolutely no idea what he was doing:
Brady’s stare could melt a soul at that point. Tony Romo was particularly harsh with his commentary on the play.
“Well this is just a terrible job by Meyers,” Romo said. “I mean, [Brady’s] throwing you a fade route on the sideline and you just run inside. … Just … it’s just like … what are you … like, that’s not even like a thing.”
This isn’t to really pick on Meyers. Again, he’s an undrafted receiver who converted to the position at NC State. Nobody should be expecting him to carry a Super Bowl-caliber offense in any way, shape or form. It is merely to shine a light on an area that maybe the average viewer doesn’t or cannot notice. There’s a lot more to functioning within an offense than just catching the passes that are thrown at your chest.
–Speaking of that, it was incredible to watch three defenders completely freeze on a third down because they were all so worried about Julian Edelman. Meanwhile, the soon-to-be-39-year-old tight end (WHAT?!) burned them up the seam for 22 yards.
Classic old man stuff right there.
(Speaking of which, Brady is smart to be saving Watson’s touchdowns for later in the season. If they’re going to lock down that record for oldest duo to combine for a passing touchdown, they might as well wait until Weeks 16 or 17.)
–Speaking of Weird Analysis Stuff In New England … it is kind of weird that everybody treats/discusses/analyzes N’Keal Harry as if he is a kindergartner, right? I just don’t know if there are other NFL markets where a first-round pick at wide receiver who looks like an absolute beast is kind of expected to only catch three or four passes for maybe 40 yards a game. He could actually … be an important contributor to the offense, you know.
I wouldn’t judge him too harshly for this game, though. Road environment, weather, a derailed game plan once Phillip Dorsett got hurt, an offense that wasn’t exactly functioning anywhere (Mohamed Sanu had two catches for four yards). Let’s see how Harry looks at home next week against a good Cowboys defense, and then how he looks one the road against a bad Texans defense, before we come to any real decisive judgments.
–I’ve spent the last, I don’t know, FIVE years writing stories where I pick apart the terrible arguments of bozos who have said that Tom Brady is bad and old and declining and washed up. These people have all been very wrong, and frankly, my job has been very easy.
So I’d like to think that I’ve built up enough good will in the honest Tom Brady assessments to offer up one question that I think is fair: Are all of these interceptions and near-interceptions in or near the end zone a sign of Brady’s late-career slippage?
I’m not saying definitely that it is, but I’m also left with no way to explain this sudden penchant for playing with fire other than to simply say, “Well, that’s weird.”
He threw a pick in the end zone against Buffalo, and he threw a pick at the goal line in Washington. He threw this one against Cleveland:
He threw this one against Philly:
And remember back in January, he threw this one in K.C.:
¡Tom Brady fue interceptado en el ‘end-zone’ por Reggie Ragland! 😱 pic.twitter.com/UHjEvWC8mf
— Xpreso Deportivo🇵🇷 (@xdeportivopr) January 21, 2019
For most of last year, I looked at Brady’s lower touchdown total and said, “Well, he’s happy to hand the ball off, because that’s proven to be an effective way of scoring, and Brady doesn’t really care about lighting up the stats leaderboard at this stage of his career.” I still think that’s true … but I’m also wondering what exactly is going on with regard to Brady’s habit of throwing the football at the opponent while down near the goal line.
–Tom Brady, partially as a result of those goal line troubles, is on pace to throw just 22 touchdowns this year. If he does finish with 22, it’ll be his lowest total since … 2001, when he started just 14 games. For perspective, in just 12 games in 2016, he manages to throw 28.
That’s not exceptional. Then again, drops like these don’t help the cause:
–Something we don’t talk about enough: Imagine how much it sucks to play quarterback in the NFL.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) November 17, 2019
Goodness gracious. As if getting walloped by the 345-pound Danny Shelton wasn’t enough, you then have to deal with him sitting on your chest as you desperately try to recover your own fumble. That just sounds awful. That kind of activity is just not for me, you know? No thank you. Pass!
–The Patriots’ running game? It’s bad, folks. Removing Brady’s kneeldown from the equation, they ran for 75 yards on 21 carries. Sony Michel led the way with 33 yards on 20 carries, followed by James White with 20 big ones, and Rex Burkhead with 14 yards on five carries.
We tend to focus on the running backs, but in situations like this one …
… there’s really not much they can do.
That being said, Sony Michel did turn in one of the biggest plays of the game, when he got the Patriots out of the shadow of their own end zone and allowed them to eventually drain three minutes off the clock before pinning the Eagles on their own 6-yard line.
As long as they keep making the necessary plays in the big spots, the Patriots will keep winning games. But man oh man, it does not appear to be an easy process.
–This penalty call was so bad that I tweeted it and had a number of people come out to tell me that I’m an idiot for even trying to advocate that a penalty should be called. “Another Patriots hater!” one Twitterer twittered.
Holding, number 24 of the defense, five yards. Automatic first down. Yeeeesh. pic.twitter.com/SklH4eFpSM
— Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) November 18, 2019
Awarding a free first down to an offense on a potential game-tying/game-winning drive for that is an absolute atrocity.
–I just want to reiterate: Tom Brady is 42 years old, and he willingly signs up for stuff like this.
More power to him, man. I hope I can still tie my shoes when I’m 42. The way things are trending … the outlook is not too good.
–The trick play touchdown was cool, but what I liked most was that rather than go crazy in celebration, Brady sprinted to the end zone to help Dorsett up. There, Brady simply said, “YOU OK?! We’re going for two.”
Belichick’s celebration of that play was just over the top, really.
I mean, try to control your jubilation, Bill.
–Again, there’s sure to be a lot of FEELINGS talk in and around New England this week. Whatever. The only feelings we need to talk about are the feelings that exist between Matthew Slater, Justin Bethel and Joe Cardona.
Special teams. Special love.
That’s so nice.