This is my third attempt at posting my card. Hopefully, this one finally goes through. I don't know whether I'm more frustrated by the poor play of the Pats' offense and special teams yesterday...or by this new system, that seems to cause my computer to freeze up when I'm doing a long post. Here are my grades:
I. OFFENSE: An abomination. This unit looked confused, and never looked anything like the well oiled machine we've been used to seeing over the years. This game was reminiscent of the Pats 2009 home opener, in which they eeked out an undeserved 25-24 win...thanks to a Buffalo fumble in the closing minutes. Ditto this game, only that the Pats weren't able to convert the gift given them by the Cards, due to penalties, and a missed 42 yard Stephen Gostkowski FG.
1.) QB: After doing his best Curtis Painter impersonation in the first half, Tom Brady very slowly warmed to the task over the next 25 minutes, before pouring it on in typical Tom Terrific fashion in the final 5 minutes of play. Pats' fans should have known that something bad was coming up after Brady's first pass...a deflected duck that was intercepted by CB Patrick Peterson, costing the Pats a FG. *****The mighty Pats offense was held to three FGs in the first three quarters. Brady passed for a pathetic 75 yards in the first half, as he appeared to be rattled by the Arizona pass rush, spear-headed by the 6'8" Arizona DE, Calais Campbell. Tom's accuracy was off again...and there was what's becoming the obligatory missing of a wide open receiver (Gronk), on what should have been a long TD pass. *****It's rare to see Brady look as lost on the attack as he did today. He finished with 28 completions for 316 yards, and a TD, and that aforementioned pick. In the final 5 minutes, the coaching staff appeared to finally take the wraps off their QB and best player, going to the spread offense, and the shot-gun. The results were striking, as the offense began to click. But, too little, too late: GRADE: C-;
2.) RBs: Stevan Ridley crashed back to Earth this week, with a very pedestrian 71 yards on 18 carries. Danny Woodhead had 8 largely ineffective runs, for just 18 yards. But, his chance to be the hero in this game was denied him, as a Gronkowski holding penalty negated what would have been a game winning 30 yard TD run. GRADE: C;
3.) OL: Can't just pick on LT Nate Solder this week, folks. The entire OL stunk. The Big Uglies were bewildered by the various blitzes and stunts of the Arizona lineman and LBs...and had no answers for Arizona's DE, Campbell. For the day, Campbell finished with 10 tackles (7 solos), two sacks, and three QB hits...as he nearly singlehandedly shut down the Pats' offense. GRADE: F;
4.) TEs: When it rains, it pours. Not only did the Pats play a terrible game on offense and lose, but they lost TE Aaron Hernandez for at least 6 weeks. Hernandez had his ankle accidently rolled by Julian Edelman, in suffering what is reported to be a high ankle sprain. Though Rob Gronkowski had decent numbers (6 catches for 75 yards, and a TD), some below par blocking, an untimely dropped pass and, especially, his holding penalty on what would have been the Woodhead go-ahead TD run, helped to cost his team the game: GRADE: C-;
5.) WRs: Folks, there's something going on with Wes Welker. Either the coaching staff is purposely trying to de-emphasize him, or is going away from him due to uninspiring play. It could be that Wes is allowing his contract issue to interfere with his play...or perhaps he's getting frustrated due to lack of use. Despite it all, he finished with 6 catches for 95 yards...but no longer appears to be Brady's go to guy on third down. If that's by design, it should stop immediately. But, if Welker's attitude is getting in the way of his play...it's a much more serious problem. *****Brandon Lloyd had a decent game, with 8 catches for 60 yards...and Julian Edelman chipped in with 5 catches for 50 yards. But, sstill, the WRS do not seem to be getting much separation: GRADE: B-;
II. DEFENSE: This unit played well enough to deserve a better fate. For the second week in a row, the Pat's shut down the run...and held all-world WR Larry Fitzgerald to just one reception, for 4 yards!
1.) DL: Vince Wilfolk and Kyle Love stuffed the middle , limiting the Cards to just 105 yards rushing, in 33 carries. It's important to note that 17 of those yards came on a sweep play utilizing the athletic skills of CB Patrick Peterson. DE Chandler Jones did not register a sack, but put pressure of Cards QB Kevin Kolb for most of the game. Though DE Rob Ninkovick had the sole Pats' sack, he seems overmatched at DE: GRADE: B;
2.) LBs: Did a decent job in shutting down the run, but had some issues in pass coverage, particularly with Cards TE Todd Heap, who had 6 catches for 62 yards. Of those 62 yards, 28 of them came on one catch and run play on the sidelines...through a bevy of missed tackles. There was also a 24 yard catch and run by Cards RB, Beanie Wells. *****As usual, Jerod Mayo led the team in tackles with 9 (4 solos), followed by Brandon Spikes (7 tackles, 5 solos, one TFL), and Dont'a Hightower (5 tackles, 3 solos, one TFL). Spikes drew a costly personal foul penalty, which helped to sustain the lone lengthy Cardinals' TD drive: GRADE: B;
3.) SECONDARY: How can you knock a group that holds Larry Fitzgerald to one catch, for 4 yards? All in all, a pretty sold effort, albeit against the likes of Kevin Kolb. With the exception of the aforementioned 28 yard catch and run by Heap, and that 24 yard catch and run by Beanie Wells, there were no big plays allowed. The Cards passed for just 141 yards, total: GRADE: A;
IV. SPECIAL TEAMS: Pats' punter Zoltan Mesko was rushed severely on every kick. I could see the blocked punt coming, and in fact called the actual block to a friend of mine, who was suffering through this debacle with me. The Cards must have seen a weakness in the Pats' punt-blocking scheme, and took full advantage. Without question, the blocked punt turned the game for the Cards, and the Pats could never recover. Soon thereafter, the Cards scored a TD, after having a first and goal at the Patriots' two yard-line. Folks...blocked punts cannot be allowed to happen...ever. There may be no more play that's more damaging to a team. *****Pats' PK Stehen Gostkowski was having a great game. His kickoffs were booming, and he had been a rock solis 3/3 in FG attempts, including a 53 yarder. But, kickers are paid to produce, particularly in the clutch. For all the good done by The Ghost, he couldn't make the 42 yarder that would have allowed his team an escape yesterday with a win: GRADE: F;
IV. COACHING: I'd like to hear from all those people who used to hop all over Billy O'Brien. The game plans by the former Pats' OC look pretty good, compared to what we saw on Sunday. Folks, every game is different, and every team presents different challenges. When the spread offense isn't working, perhaps a change to a ground and pound approach is appropriate. But, make no mistake about it, the Pats are a team that made their offensive bones on the arm and brains of Tom Brady, and on the spread offense. As much as many of you like to see Tom using play action and operating behind center, he's more accurate, and far more deadly, operating in the shot-gun. If the Pats hope to get their season back on track, they need to get Tom and their offense back on track, That means to go to the shot-gun, and spread the field. This requires that the Pats' patch-work OL MUST do a better job. Everything on offense depends upon solid OL play. Because it's been lacking, the Pats' offense has struggled. It's a problem that MUST be fixed, and fixed immediately. *****The play calling yesterday was attrocious. I don't know what's between the Pats' coaches and Wes Welker, but let's be adults here, and get the matter resolved. Can someone please explain to me why the Pats' played to settle for a 42 yard FG in the closing seconds, rather than move to within chip-shot range? Sure, The Ghost has a good leg, and nailed a 53 yarder earlier. But, a 42 yard FG is never a gimme. *****Whenever a team faces a huge underdog, it must jump on them quick, and deprive them of any hope of competing. The Pats' didn't do that, choosing to run Ridley, rather than depend on their bread and butter...Brady in the spread offense. Ridley is, and should always be a sideshow. Tom Terrific and his band of receivers are the main attraction. Get that OL fixed! *****Got to credit DC Matt Patricia and BB for having the "D" ready to play, and for taking WR Fitzgerald completely out of the game. Had someone told you before this game that Fitz was going to be held to just one catch for 4 yards, what would have been your prediction on this game? *****Needless to say, this was a awful loss...one that could haunt the Pats come playoff time: GRADE: C-;