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I haven’t been posting because almost all my free time is being spent working on the Rails Tutorial by Michael Hartl. It’s slow going since I’m a true beginner but it’s going. Should be done in the next 3 days and then it’s on to HTML and CSS at w3schools.
I moved back to Boston. I was planning a wedding. I dug myself into a hole of misery and sorrow when the Giants crushed the Patriot’s Super Bowl dreams for the second time in four years. Point is, I fell off the blogging bandwagon. But I am back now.
I’ve become much more serious about learning programming recently, read some great books, and a lot of cool things are happening in the tech world so I look forward to writing a bit about them. I’ll get a real post up in the next day or two.
- Last night’s game was a tale of two halves. Both teams were sloppy in the first half but only one of them bounced back and played better in the second. Naturally the team that improved was the Patriots and they won the game going away. Let’s start, as usual, with looking at the offense
- The offense struggled for the first half to the point that I had officially declared their three-game long “funk” more than a funk. I was actually starting to believe that Tom Brady may indeed be regressing. Not a lot…but a little. The mantra is “defense wins championships” rather than “offense” because offense is much more likely to fall into a rut. Defense tends to be more consistent. You never saw the 2000 Ravens defense have an off-week but you did see the 2007 Patriots offense occasionally have trouble moving the ball. In the first half we saw Brady miss open receivers and make more ill-advised throws which are becoming far too common for my liking. I still wonder whether Brady has a minor arm injury which seems to be a popular theory in the media.
- But I had to eat my words in the second half. Brady came out much sharper and, about midway through the third quarter the Pats took advantage of a tired Jets defense and went no-huddle. The change in the tone of the game at this point was obvious. All of a sudden Danny Woodhead was running the ball for 6-7 yards a carry and the Jets were so disorganized that Brady was able to snap the ball before they were set and give Deion Branch an easy 20 yards twice. Cris Colinsworth (probably my favorite football color guy) couldn’t stop pointing out that the Jets defense was completely gassed. The high point of the game for the Pats offense came on the drive that led to their last offensive score. Colinsworth said it best – I’ll paraphrase. “That was a perfect display of quarterbacking. Every time the Jets went small, Brady checked to a run and every time the defense went big he went to the pass.” All questions about Tom Brady and his “regression” have been extinguished.
- Rob Gronkowski was beastly last night. Revis was assigned to Wes Welker and, being the best cornerback I’ve ever seen, once again did a great job. With Welker being limited by Revis, Brady’s favorite target was his big tight end and the kid was a monster. Eric Smith was lost trying to cover him.
- I think Chad Ochocinco got banged up after his 53 yard reception. The play was his 12th snap of the game and it was still early in the first quarter. It seemed like the Pats planned to use a lot more Chad in this game but we rarely saw him again after that big catch. Furthermore, one of the few times Chad has contributed at all during the season has been in the no huddle offense and he wasn’t on the field at all when the Pats went to it in the 2nd half. Of all the times for him to be on the field, that was it. But he wasn’t there and I think it must be something health-related.
- If you want to take a negative from the Pats offense last night it has to be the running game. They ran the ball 28 times but only averaged about 2.8 yards a carry. It’s easy for people to blame Green-Ellis and Kevin Faulk (Danny Woodhead had a bit more success) but I think the blame for that needs to be on the offensive line. Mankins has been under-performing this season and Vollmer continues to look a step slow since coming back from his injury a month or so ago. Finally, even though Dan Connolly has done a good job filling in for the injured Dan Koppen at center, you have to imagine there is a drop-off in communication across the line without the veteran Koppen in there.
- The real story of the game for the Patriots wasn’t the offense. It was the defense. I first want to take a minute to gloat as I said in my pre-season write-up on the Patriots that I saw free agent Andre Carter having a big impact on the defense and getting 10+ sacks. Well, Carter almost got halfway to 10 last night with 4.5 sacks. For some reason the Jets thought their blocking TE, Mulligan, would be enough to stop Carter but he just couldn’t handle it.
- Trent Dilfer of ESPN explains the defense’s success best. Essentially, Belichick played extra defensive backs and left his 4 D-linemen to rush the passer, even when they were outnumbered 6 to 4. The extra time afforded to the pass rushers by the additional DBs in coverage allowed them to get “effort sacks.” Rarely did you see Carter or Anderson (the two guys credited with sacks last night) beat their blocker off the ball and get right to Sanchez. They just kept fighting and worked their way to him. The DBs did a good job of taking TE Dustin Keller, one of Sanchez’s favorite targets, out of the game. When Sanchez’s first read is gone he becomes much less decisive and holds the ball a little longer. This gave the pass rush time to get there and we all saw what happened.
- This is Sanchez’s third year in the league. At this point we should be seeing signs of improvement but we just aren’t. Not only does he still have trouble making smart decisions and executing his throws but he shows a number of mental lapses as well. Nowhere was this more apparent than when Sanchez called timeout with 1:40 to go in the 2nd quarter. This led to a Jets touchdown but it saved the Pats a timeout and gave Brady and company plenty of time to march the ball back down the field to respond. Rex Ryan was livid, calling it “the stupidest thing in football history.” This might be overstating it a bit but it was an example of mental errors that championship teams (and good quarterbacks) should not be making. In his post-game press conference Ryan took all of the blame for that call on himself, desperately trying to shelter his quarterback. It was an admirable show but he wasn’t fooling anyone. If I was a Jets fan I would be feeling very discouraged with Sanchez and the team, especially considering they are stuck with him for the foreseeable future. Such is the risk for trading up in the first round for someone.
- It was great to see Rob Ninkovitch have such a good game. Here’s a guy that does things the right way and works hard every day to get better. He may not be the most talented LB in the game but he squeezes every last drop from the talent he has. I’m assuming he got a well-deserved game ball in the locker room.
- Matthew Slater quietly had a great game on special times. I was hard on him a few weeks ago when he fumbled a kickoff return but he showed us last night why he’s a team captain. He is fantastic in special teams coverage. He was the first guy down the field and was the main reason Joe McKnight fumbled that punt in the 3rd quarter which, to me, was the turning point of the game.
- This one hurt. About as painful a loss since “4th and 2″ against the Colts in 2009 which, in turn, was the most painful loss since “that Super Bowl game with the helmet catch we’re not going to talk about.” The offense looked out of sync all day. Brady made a number of throws that were completely off the mark and a few others that were downright stupid. Last year these throws would be batted to the ground or dropped by the defenders but this year they are being picked off. Luck always evens out in the NFL. On the bright side, Wes Welker is reverting back to his early season form as Tom Brady’s binky (security blanket) after two games where he was held in check by the Jets and the Steelers. Gronk continues to be Brady’s #2 target. Hernandez, on the other hand, still seems a step slow and is just not getting the separation he was getting before the knee injury last month. Deion Branch continues to disappear for long stretches against average corners and Ochocinco continues to look lost and remind everyone why he is only seeing a dozen or so snaps a game. The running game was once again held in check by a Giants defense that showed great gap discipline and solid form in tackling.
- People are lamenting the demise of the Pats offense and, more specifically, the running game. I think this is overly dramatic. Let’s not forget that the Pats “struggles” on offense have come against the Cowboys, Jets, Steelers, and Giants. These are all really good defenses. Trust me, after next week against the Jets, they’ll bounce back in a few weeks when the schedule softens to include teams like Washington, Denver, and Miami.
- The defense played great for 50. And then it all went to hell. The Giants score a touchdown on their final two possessions of the game including the game-clincher where Eli Manning marched them 80 yards down the field in a minute (with the help of an abominable pass interference penalty by Sergio Brown who was in the game because Patrick Chung was banged up on a previous play). A good defense is not judged by how many points it allows or how often it holds the opponent to field goals in the red zone. A good defense makes big stops in critical situations. Week in and week out the Pats defense steps up to the plate in the biggest possession of the game and, time after time, they strike out. It’s becoming downright laughable.
- On a positive note, the pass rush looked much better (for the first 3 quarters). Andre Carter, Mark Andersen, and Vince Wilfork continually got to Eli and forced him into rushed throws. As the game continued, and the rushers got tired, however…well, that’s when the secondary was exposed yet again.
- Kyle Arrington might lead the NFL in interceptions with 5 but I still don’t see him consistently playing any better than he was last year. I think he has been lucky to be in the right place at the right time when badly thrown balls head in his direction and he just happens to have good enough hands to make the play. As a cornerback, however, is fundamentals (namely the ability to know when to turn his head and look for the ball) are still lacking. To be fair this appears to be a problem with all Patriots DBs and has been for the last 4 years. I wonder, sometimes, if it is indicative of a coaching problem. The team’s secondary coach has changed almost every year.
- Devin McCourty is not the only player who seems to be regressing after a good 2010 season. Julian Edelman was a force as a punt returner last year but this season he can’t seem to get it going. He is constantly being brought down by the first man downfield when last year he was always making that person miss. Combine that with the inexcusable fumble to cap what would have been his first decent return of the day, his recent legal troubles, and his inability to get on the field on offense and…well, it’s not good. I don’t think he’ll be cut or traded since he has little trade value and is owed very little money but if he doesn’t show improvement this season he may be off the team next year.
- Before making a 48 yarder I think Gostokowski had missed two or three field goals in a row. That can happen to the best of them, I understand, but a 28 yard field goal with a perfect snap and hold should go through 99.9% of the time. In a game that the Pats lost by 3, that early miss was inexcusable.
- Whatever happened to the Patriots offense spreading the defense with 4 or 5 receiver formations and running the HB draw with Faulk (inactive yesterday) or Woodhead? That play was consistently good for 6-8 yards. However, with the reliance on multiple-TE formations this season I see the Patriots allowing allowing defenses to stay bunched up in the box. This is how big, physical defenses like the Steelers and Giants prefer to play.
- The left side of the offensive line makes more money than the right side but it’s that side that seems to be having more trouble in both protection and run blocking. Furthermore, I feel like your highest paid lineman, who is supposed to be the best guard in football (Mankins), should not be leading the team in penalties.
It’s been a busy few weeks which is why updates have become more spread out. I hope to increase my posting a bit in the coming weeks. In the meantime Mashable did this great infographic on inbound marketing vs. outbound marketing. Specifically it focuses on the decline of outbound marketing. It’s a bit heavy-handed, making it out to suggest that outbound marketing is basically dead where it stands and has absolutely 0 value and ROI to companies today. This is an exaggeration. While it’s true that people see fewer and fewer TV, radio, and print ads nowadays there is still and always will be some value in traditional outbound marketing strategies. Regardless, if you have any interest in further understanding the difference between inbound and outbound marketing, seeing some key statistics, etc. then check the above link out.
I don’t have very much time this morning so this will be more of an abridged write-up using bullet points. Apologies if anyone is actually super disappointed.
-It was an ugly afternoon of wasted opportunities for the Pats offense yesterday. Before they manufactured the game-winning drive, Brady threw two interceptions (both his fault) and Aaron Hernandez coughed up yet another fumble. Two of the four total turnovers occurred inside of field goal range thus wiping out what would likely have been at least 3 points each time. Hernandez put the ball on the ground twice during the preseason and, while this was technically his first fumble of the regular season, he coughed it up another time (either against the Raiders or Jets, I can’t remember) but the play was negated by a defensive penalty. Hernandez now officially has a reputation as a fumbler which means he needs to be super careful in the future. Every single defender is going to go for the strip when tackling him from now until the end of the season. And don’t get me started on the Matthew Slater fumble on the kickoff return. The ball was barely touched by the defender and it just popped out which caused me to scream at the TV “WHEN has Slater EVER shown ANY skill returning KICKS!” On the bright side, I will be shocked if he ever has another return opportunity ever again.
-Speaking of that last drive, a few stories have popped up on ESPN about how Tom Brady “figured out” how to beat Rob Ryan’s defense just in time to manufacture that drive. That’s bogus. While the Cowboys succeeded in slowing down Brady and Co., they were moving the ball up and down the field very well for most of the second half only to negate their own progress with stupid turnovers and penalties. There was the Hernandez fumble, the second Brady INT, and the Solder holding penalty negating turning a 3rd and goal at the Cowboy’s 2 into a 2nd a goal from the 18. The Pats settled for a field goal. The sped up no-huddle offense that the Patriots went to often was giving the Cowboys fits. They got called for 12 men on the field twice and failed to get set on a handful of plays before the Pats snapped the ball. In short, the Patriots offense had the right game plan to beat Ryan’s scheme and left a lot of points on the field on account of their own failed execution.
-The other reason Brady didn’t “figure out” the Cowboys defense on that last drive is because that drive was created by Brady being absolutely perfect with his accuracy. For most of those plays, especially the TD catch to Hernandez, the receivers were pretty well-covered. Tom Brady just turned superhuman and was making some of the most perfect throws he’s made all year. Watching that last drive was a thing of beauty in terms of the quarterback displaying arm strength and accuracy.
-Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are #1 and #2 in the AFC in receptions and yards per reception for tight ends in the AFC. Two tight ends on the same team with those kinds of stats might be unheard of. I’d love to know how many times that’s happened before.
-Ochocinco was on the field for a mere 7 snaps. To be fair he is the #3 receiver on a team that plays 2 TE/2 WR almost all the time, but it looks like the coaches are starting to give up on him. He’ll be on the roster for the rest of the season because he is owed to much guaranteed money but it’s a huge shame considering how many of us (myself included) were sure he would be a great addition to the receiving corp. Taylor Price was given a measly 1 snap which is also disconcerting, suggesting the coaches have even less confidence in him than in Chad.
-The unsung offensive hero of that last TD drive? Matt Light went down and, when he got up, was clearly limping. However, the Pats were in their hurry-up offense and he continued to play for two more snaps without a break. On both plays he was easily beaten on the outside by DeMarcus Ware but Brady was able to complete two quick throws for good gains before the rush could reach him. After those two plays the Pats called timeout and reorganized the pass protection by giving Light some tight end help (plus he stayed in). A tough, professional lineman playing on one leg against arguably the best pass rusher in the NFL on the most important offensive possession of the game. Hopefully he’ll be OK after the bye week.
-Even though they almost gave up their obligatory 400 yards, this was probably the best performance of the Pat’s defense this season. Two of the Patriot’s turnovers gave the Cowboys the ball inside the Pat’s 30 yard line and, on those two possessions, the Cowboys came away with only 3 points. The defense was put in a couple of really tough situations and they came through. Even more impressive was the final Cowboys possession. With about 3:40 to go in the game the Pats had 2 timeouts and the ball on 4th and 4 on their own 35. I was sure Belichick would choose to go for it rather than punt and trust his defense to get a three and out. But he proved me wrong. He punted and put the game in the hands of his defense. One first down meant game over. Aided by some very conservative play-calling by Jason Garrett (indicative of not trusting your gun-slinging quarterback?) the Pats succeeded in forcing that three and out which lead to the game winning drive.
-The two top performers on the defense down the stretch were Andre Carter and Brandon Spikes. Spikes in particular made some great reads on the last two Cowboys possessions. Specifically he sniffed out that shovel pass on 3rd and goal, made a quick tackle for a loss, and forced the field goal. He also was the first guy in the backfield on 1st and 10 of the Cowboy’s last possession, blowing up the play and putting the ‘boys in a second and long situation which they could not convert on the subsequent two plays.
-Tackling was absolutely atrocious for the Patriots in this game. To be fair, Dez Bryant is a monster and hard for anyone to bring down but the problems weren’t limited to tackling Dez. Felix Jones, Miles Austin, DeMarco Murray and others consistently got an additional 4+ yards after initial contact all game long. No one struggled in tackling more than McCourty who is usually one of the only guys on the defense that consistently wraps up. He really is having a down year. And don’t get me started on Dez Bryant breaking the ankles of both Guyton and Chung at the same time. That was beyond ugly. Belichick is going to have a lot of “coachable moments” on this week’s game tape.
-Zoltan Mesko is quietly having an excellent season punting the ball.