Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Patriots 13, Dolphins 38 (9/21/2008)

Sorry this post is so late; big software deployment at work. The game was sort of similar to that -- big soft defense at work. Patriots gave up 5 touchdowns to a single player and over 200 yards rushing to the Dolphins team in a 38-13 loss at Gillette. The loss put them at 2-1, one game behind the improved Buffalo Bills. And with a bye week, they've got a long time to think about this one.

Let's make it short and sweet, shall we. Matt Cassel is not to blame for this loss. To win this game, the Patriots would have needed a monumental performance from the QB to overcome a phenomenal game from Miami running back Ronnie Brown and a terrible game by the Patriots defense.

It was inexcusable for the defense to be repeatedly confused by gadget plays (all five direct snaps to Brown accounted for either touchdowns or huge chunks of yardage), even worse not to get any pressure on the QB (zero sacks, 85% completions), and even worse than that to be gashed over-and-over by long passes and runs right down the middle of the field. Dean Pees, please, I'm begging you, when what you're doing isn't working, at least *try* something else. Go back to the old days with blitzers coming from everywhere, try the 46-defense, go with a two-man rush -- something!

So while the Patriots offense didn't take advantage of the great field position provided by the kick return teams, the defense just got man-handled. It reminded me of another beautiful fall day ruined when the defense couldn't get off the field and eventually wore out -- back when the Patriots lost to the Chargers in 2005 (link). I got sunburned that game, too, but nothing close to how the defense got burned play after play.

The bad performances were too many to mention, so I'll just let you know who played well. Adalius Thomas had a decent game and Jerod Mayo looked okay early in the game on defense. Wes Welker and Kevin Faulk were fine on offense. And Ellis Hobbs, and the return teams had a very good game, as did the kickers themselves. The coverage teams did well, except for a penalty on the play when they downed the ball at the Miami one yard-line.

The coaching is a little bit worrisome. It's the second time in four "real" games that they've been out-coached, failing to implement proper adjustments in this game and in the Super Bowl loss to the Giants. The Super Bowl loss was the first time in years that I'd see them get out-coached, and I'm hoping that twice in four meaningful games isn't a trend. We shall see.

So where does that leave us? Well, maybe I'll write more detail next week, when there won't be a big project at work to handle. Oh, right... next week is a bye week -- so maybe not after all. The Patriots have two weeks to think about that loss and make whatever adjustments they can to regain a competitive edge. I believe they will do that against San Francisco (the team they play after the bye), but after that the schedule gets a lot tougher.

Statistical Oddity of the Week: The last time the Patriots have not held at least a share of the AFC East division lead was October 12, 2003. The team that was ahead of them then was... who else, the Miami Dolphins. [Note: turns out they were out of first place in October of 2005, too. Sorry about that, and props to Don Banks of SI.]

Weekly Water-cooler Wisdom: "Maybe next time the Dolphins line up with their QB as a wide receiver, someone should just *level* him. Might make Miami think twice about using that formation again."

Give your faith a bye week --it deserves it,

- Scott

PS. 2-1!

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