Monday, October 19, 2009

Patriots 59, Titans 0 (10/18/2009)

You can't possibly need an update on this game, can you? Okay... the Patriots pounded the Titans into the Gillette Stadium turf, scoring almost a point a minute and giving up exactly zero. The win put them at 4-2 atop the AFC East all by their lonesome (Jets lost to the Bills), with their next winless opponent flying to London where New England meets Old England for the first time.

How bad was the beating? There are so many stats, many of which were repeated ad nauseum during the game. But here is a comparison they didn't mention:

2 of 14 for -7 yards, 2 INTs, and a QB rating of 14.3
8 for 11 for 52 yards, 0 INTs, and a QB rating of 86.4

The first numbers are Tennessee's total passing on the day. The second numbers belong to Patriots rookie free agent QB Brian Hoyer, in his first NFL start. Sort of tells you the kind of day it was for the Titans.

Need more? Okay, how about these stats: first downs gained via the pass, Patriots 21, Titans 1; time of possession 39:00 to 21:00; net passing yards 426 to -7; average per completion 9.1 to -0.5; offensive plays 77 to 50, with the average yards gained 8.0 to 3.7.

It was obvious that Tennessee wasn't prepared for the weather, dropping almost ten passes, including four when they were still in the game. The Pats had a few drops, too, but when your team attempts 45 throws you might miss one or two. Add to that 6 turnovers to zero and 6 touchdowns to zero and you pretty much know the game wasn't going the Titans way.

To save time, here are the Patriots offensive stars on the day:
Tom Brady (29 of 34, 380, 6 touchdowns, 0 INTs)
Brian Hoyer (stats noted already)
Randy Moss (8 catches for 129 yards and 3 touchdowns)
Wes Welker (10 for 150, 2 TDs)
Laurence Maroney (16 carries for 123 yards and 1 touchdown)
BenJarvus Green-Ellis (7 for 67 in mop-up duty)
Sebastian Vollmer (filled in admirably for the injured Matt Light)
Logan Mankins (just a nasty guy who hit everything he saw)

What I noticed specifically on offense was Laurence Maroney running hard and playing out of multiple formations, which is key. In the past teams knew that Maroney in the game meant a likely running play, so they overcommitted to stop the run. Nice to see the team mixing it up (and Maroney himself taking advantage of the playing time). I also liked the way they stacked Wes Welker and Julian Edelman to the same side, often getting the rookie open when multiple defenders covered Welker. And of course, the O-line blocking was superb, on downfield passes, screen passes, quick outs, and in the running game.

And to save time, here are the Patriots defensive stars on the day:
Brandon McGowan (7 tackles, 1 QB hit, 1 forced fumble, and 2 special teams tackles)
Pat Chung (6 tackles and his first INT)
The entire D-Line (plenty of pressure and mostly stopped the run)
Jonathan Wilhite (2 passes defended and a fumble recovery)

The reasons this list is so much shorter are that they didn't have as many plays and after the turnovers got rolling there wasn't a lot to distinguish stars. But seeing more press coverage and knocked down and intercepted passes was a big step forward from the week before against Denver. Glad to see the coaches adjusted their scheme after making Kyle Orton look like Dan Marino.

Special teams still look like a work in progress, but they were decent. Gostkowski missed one (semi-bad snap) and got one, but his kickoffs were consistently high and deep. And given all the kickoffs, the coverage team did okay, with an average starting position of the Titans 30 yard-line. Not great, but not terrible either.

So where does that leave us? At 4-2, the Pats are back where they belong, first place in the division. The 0-6 Bucs are next week, and if the Patriots take care of business they'll enter the bye week at 5-2. And they will need to do just that to keep pace, because the Jets play the lowly Raiders in New York next week.

Statistical Oddity of the Week: Julian Edelman is the leading rookie receiver in the NFL with 21 catches. The Pats haven't pulled that off for a full season since Terry Glenn in 1996. Of course, they have two players on the current roster who led NFL rookies in receptions their first seasons; give it your best guess (answer below).

Weekly Water-cooler Wisdom: "Totally kicked Tennessee but the real schedule starts after the bye -- Miami, Indy, the Jets and Saints, and then Miami on the road. That stretch will show how good they really are."

Keep the faith,

- Scott

PS. 4-2!

PPS. After the blowout score, doesn't it feel like 40-2 :)

PPPS. Quiz answer: Randy Moss (1998) and (gulp!) Joey Galloway (1994).

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