Monday, September 20, 2010

Patriots 14, Jets 28 (9/19/2010)

The key word in yesterday's loss was "unanswered."  The Jets scored 21 unanswered points to notch a convincing 28-14 win because their offensive and defensive adjustments went unanswered by the Patriots coaching staff and because the physical play and improved execution of the Jets players went unanswered by the Patriots players.

The loss left the Pats with a lot of unanswered questions.  Will Tom Brady stop risking interceptions by throwing to a well-covered Randy Moss?  Will the Patriots older running backs survive the season?  Will the young defense mature in time to get the team to the playoffs?  Will the coaches ever figure out how to make in-game adjustments as well as their opponents?  Will they every stop using the spread formation as their base offense?  Will the Patriots spend the rest of Tom Brady's career with coordinators-in-training instead of qualified coaches?

The only numbers that mattered yesterday were 0 and 3, the number of turnovers committed by the Jets and Patriots, respectively.  Twice the Jets intercepted Brady when he threw jump balls to a blanketed Randy Moss, and once Moss batted a ball down that could have been INT #3.  Last December I wrote: "Brady to Moss is the most dangerous combination in the NFL -- dangerous to the Patriots chances of winning, that is. It has become Brady's lazy play." 

Unfortunately, Brady hasn't re-learned the lesson of his early career -- that he should throw the ball away and move on to the next play instead of flirting with disaster.  And as long as he tempts fate, the Patriots will be a winning team with no real chance to make noise in the playoffs.  It's as simple as that; here are the numbers from yesterday; and you can see the turnovers were just about the entire story.

First downs: Jets 23, Pats 20
Third-down conversions: Jets 46%, Pats 45%
Total yards: Jets 336, Pats 291
Average yards per play: Jets 5.2, Pats 5.1
Penalty yards against: Jets 58, Pats 79
Time of possession: Jets 32:32, Pats 27:28

The only other statistical discrepancy that contributed to the loss was red zone percentage (Jets 75%, Pats 33%), where Stephen Gostkowski missed yet another makable field goal (might be time to try Brian Hoyer at holder), and Brady was strip-sacked as the Pats tried a late comeback.

Lets do a quick list of people who got better or worse and then do the usual stuff and we'll call it an update.

The only offensive player who got better this week was Aaron Hernandez who caught 6 passes for 101 yards, unless you include "getting on the field" as improvement, in which case Julian Edelman played this week after missing the first game.  On defense, rookie Jermaine Cunningham played okay and Gerard Warren continued his improvement, Bradon Spikes actually played better, and when Tully Banta-Cain wasn't taking stupid penalties he was okay.

As for who was worse, I'll limit it to who was much worse.  Tom Brady can't lose his concentration like he did this week.  His second INT was terrible, especially since it came on 2nd down from their own 38 and the game still in the balance (it was 21-14 at the time).  Brandon Tate committed a rookie penalty that called back a 38-yard run in the first quarter, and that really hurt given that they had just 52 yards rushing on the day.  The lack of a Patriots running attack was probably more due to a better Jets defense than O-line or running back problems, so they get a pass this week, although Sebastian Vollmer and Matt Light both blew several blocks during the game.

Worse on defense: Rob Ninkovich (whiffed on LaDainian Tomlinson's only long run), Jerod Mayo (much less impact than week 1), Kyle Arrington (if you can't play, at least don't commit penalties), Darius Butler (two pass interference calls and gave up two of the Jets longest plays of the day).  The defense actually got decent pressure in some situations, but lost their discipline when facing certain formations, and at least twice did not wrap up ball-carriers when they should have stopped them short of first downs.

Also much worse were the offensive and defensive coaches.  Why do other teams continually play better than the Patriots in the second half?  Rhetorical question, actually -- it's the offensive and defensive adjustments, or more to the point, the poor job making those adjustments by the Patriots coaching staff.  Think it isn't that bad; read the following statistic:

The Patriots have outscored their opponents in the second half of just 6 of their last 18 games (since the start of the 2009 season) -- 6 of 19 if you include the playoff loss.  That is just a 33% success rate, for those counting at home -- one-third!!.  (Trivia question: Of the six teams the Patriots managed to outscore, only one finished 2009 with a winning record -- name the team [answer below].)

That is not an aberration, that is most definitely a pattern.  And a destructive pattern at that.  It is born from years of refusing to hire the most qualified coaches instead of promoting ill-prepared men from within the organization.  It comes from Bill Belichick taking on too much responsibility in the face of mounting evidence that he needs to delegate and manage his staff better.  And frankly it comes after the league has had over a decade to decipher and game-plan against the offensive and defensive schemes that were innovative in 2001 but at this point might be stale.

So where does that leave us?  Scrambling for answers after a 1-1 start ties the Jets for second in the division behind 2-0 Miami.  Fortunately, the poor relation of the division is coming to town next Sunday; the Patriots favorite opponent, the Buffalo Bills. The Pats have beaten the Bills 13 consecutive times, and there is little evidence that they won't make it 14.

Statistical Oddity of the Week: Aaron Hernandez' 101 yards receiving is the first time a Patriots rookie tight end has broken the century mark since... wait for it... Russ Francis in 1975.  That is a loooooong dry spell.  (Note: I would have made that the trivia question, but who would have guess that far back?)

Weekly Water-cooler Wisdom: "I think Brady played pretty well... for someone sleep-walking" (insert wry smile here). 

Keep the faith,

- Scott

PS.  1-1!

PPS.  Trivia answer:

Atlanta Falcons (9-7).

1 comment:

  1. That game was a giant steaming turd.

    If the defense can't stop Sanchez, they're SCREWED when they play a
    decent offense. The Patriots let him have a career day and made him look
    like Joe freeking Montana.

    If the offense can't run a pass play with 'Law Firm' in the game the
    opponents defense are going to continue to stuff him for 3-5 yard

    I gave Gostowski a pass last week. No such generosity this week. He
    missed a bunny kick and his kickoffs were all short. LAME.

    That's my take on that.