Sorry it's a day late and a dollar short, because it's late. I had composed this Card Sunday night...but...just as I was about to finish, my computer froze up on me, and I lost it. Then, half way through, it happened a SECOND time!!!Have had the same problem with this cite ever since they went to the new system...but this was the first time this year. Talk about frustration!!!! Auugghhh!! In any event, following the Pats' heart stopping 34-31 win "over the just good enough to lose" Houston Texans, here are my grades:
I. OFFENSE: For the fourth time in five weeks, the Patriots offense laid an egg in the first half, only to mount a furious comeback in the second stanza. Remember, they were down at home at halftime to Miami, 17-7, @ Carolina, 10-3, against the Horseface at home, 24-0, and against the Texans this week in Houston, 17-7. As we know, Brady and his Boys came back to beat Miami, 27-17, lost to Carolina 24-20, beat Denver in OT, 34-31, and bested the Texans, 34-31. Hopefully, this trend of playing just 30 minutes of good football will cease. If the Pats do this in the play-offs, they won't experience what the weather conditions will be in New Jersey, come February.
1.) QB: Like the entire offensive unit, Tom Brady got off to a sluggish start. During his first two series, he completed just two (2) of five (5) passes for 20 yards. One of his incompletions was a horribly thrown pick, by Houston CB, Johnathan Joseph. Joseph returned it 31 yards, to set up a Houston FG. Thereafter, Brady began to bubble and sizzle...completing 27 of 36 passes for 351 yards, 2 TDs, and no further interception indiscretions. But, he did throw a high and slightly behind ball to WR Kenbrell Thompkins in the first quarter, which Thompkins leaped and twisted to catch. Unfortunately, this left him in an awkward position, as he fell to the ground on his hip. He would thereafter leave the game with an apparent hip injury. In addition, there was a badly underthrown deep pass to Julian Edelman in the third quarter, after Jules had gotten behind two Houston DBs. Brady also got bailed out by Gronk, when the Big Guy snared his low-thrown dart nearly off the ground on a 3rd and 8, for a 23 yard score. Had Gronk not made that catch, the Pats would have had to settle for a FG. Then again, in the third quarter, there was a 50 yard catch and run with Gronk down the left sideline, and a gorgeous 25 yard laser to Edeleman on the same left sideline. Both of these catches set up TDs, putting the Patriots temporarily out front, 21-17. All in all, the Patriots outscored the Texans, 27-14 in the second half. Considering that the Brady's offense did the great majority of their damage through the air against the top rated pass defense in the NFL, you'd have to say that, for the most part, Tom was terrific: GRADE: B+;
2.) RBs: The Pats' didn't accomplish all that much with their running game, yet did just enough to keep the Houston defense honest. LeGarrette Blount got his shot, and bulled his way for 44 yards on 12 carries, including a seven (7) yard TD run. Shane Vereen is clearly a better pass receiver than a pure RB. He had five (5) receptions for 37 yards, including a 9 yard TD on a flat pass. But, Vereen only was able to log 38 yards on 10 carries on the ground. He doesn't seem to be as effective the way Danny Woodhead and Kevin Faulk used to be on draw plays and screens. He's fast enough, but seems to lack their "wiggle", and determination. Still, the potential for improvement is there. Credit FB James Develin with a couple of rugged, determined one yard runs...one for a first down on a 3rd and one, and another for a TD. Brandon Bolden contributed by gaining 18 yards on a screen pass, to thwart a Texan blitz. There was also a Stevan Ridley citing. Ridley was conspicuous on the sidelines in his street clothes, clutching a football: GRADE: C+;
3.) OL: After a horrible start, The Big Uglies gradually warmed to the task. Thought they didn't dominate the line of scrimmage, they more than adequately protected their QB throughout the game. On the above mentioned 23 yard first quarter TD pass to Gronk, Brady was given enough time to eat a turkey sandwich, and text Giselle. Though Texan bully DE J.J. Watt, a/k/a Biff Tannen of "Back to the Future" fame, registered three hits on Tom Brady, he had no sacks, and just one pass deflection. Not too shabby, against the best all around defensive lineman in the NFL: GRADE: B;
4.) TEs and WRs: When we're talking Patriots' TEs, we're talking Gronk. Besides his usual good job of run blocking, he hauled in six (6) passes for a game high 127 yards, and that twice mentioned great catch, on the Pats' initial TD of the game. We all had to hold my breath on his last reception, when a Texan defender tackled him, pinning Gronk's ankle somewhat to the ground. Flashbacks of the Bernard Pollard high ankle sprain tackle flashed in my mind. Though Gronk would limp off the field, his ankle problem did not appear to be serious. As for the WRs, Julian Edelman turned in yet another Welker-like poerformance, with a game high nine (9) catches for 101 yards. The aforementioned Thompkins injury led to a Danny Amendola citing. Danny finished with 54 yards on five (5) receptions. Thompkins had that one first quarter catch for 16 yards. Let's hope that it's not his last for the season: GRADE: A-;
II. DEFENSE: For the second straight game, gave up 31 points. But this time, it wasn't to the dreaded Horseface and his gang of donkeys. It was to an offense led by a QB named Case Keenum. But, similar to last week, this unit was grounded and pounded by the Texan OL, and RB Ben Tate.
1.) DL: This unit got chewed up by the Texan OL. Houston RB Ben Tate rushed for 102 yards on 22 carries (4.6 yards per carry), and scored three (3) TDs. For the great majority of the game, DTs Joe Vellano, Chris Jones, and Isaac Sopoaga were turnstyles, and allowed the Texan offensive lineman to get through to the LBs. So bad was the gashing from the run that BB switched to a 3-4 defense for a good part of the game. Because the Texan running attack was so effective, the Pats were forced to play honest, and got little pressure on young QB Keenum. On the few times when they did get to him, DE Andre Carter blind-sided him as he threw, resulting in a Logan Ryan interception. Though the DL did not play well, credit them for stepping up in the 4th quarter to make the necessary stops to preserve the win. The Texans were facing a 4th and 12 from the Houston 43, with 2:07 left to play. Houston QB Case Keenum was sandwiched as he tried to throw a pass, by DE Rob Ninkovich and DT Chris Jones...resulting in a fluttering incompletion. Nonetheless, the run defense for the second straight game was attrocious, and must be addressed: GRADE: C-;
2.) LBs: Dont'a Hightower led the Pats in tackles with seven (7), including five (5) solos. Brandon Spikes added five (5) tackles, four (4) of which were solos. But, each of their stops appeared to occur five yards or more downfield. The play of the DL is failing to keep the big offensive lineman off these guys...making them appear to play worse than they actually are. Unlike last week against Denver, LBs Jamie Collins and Dane Fletcher were seemingly invisible. That said, Keenum and the Texans did little damage through screens and flat passes to their RBs, or to their TEs. The LBs also contained the mobile Keenum pretty well in the pocket. Still, Keenum fooled the LBs in particular with his 3rd quarter five (5) yard TD run on a bootleg. In general, one would like to see more physical, aggressive LB play, against both the pass and the run. That is what tends to generate turnovers: GRADE: D+;
3.) SECONDARY: Can someone explain to me how Texans' star WR Andre Johnson gets left alone twice, on the Texans' initial TD drive. Two catches by Johnson for 42 yards...in which he appeared to be wide, wide open. How does this happen? Where was Aqib Talib? Where was anybody?? Those first two catches provided a third of the 121 yards gained by Johnson, on eight (8) receptions. Please hurry up and get well, Alfonzo Dennard. How much more can we stand seeing Kyle Arrington get smoked on the outside...as he did in the 4th quarter for 66 yards, by rookie WR, DeAndre Hopkins? That play quickly converted a 28-24 Pats lead into a 31-28 deficit, and nearly cost the Patriots the game. The lone bright spot was the aforementioned Logan Ryan interception, which derailed what appeared to be a Texan first quarter scoring drive. But, that pick was the result of DL pressure, not of skilled pass coverage. For the game, Case Keenum completed 15 of 30 passes for 272 yards, and just the one pick: GRADE: D+;
III. SPECIAL TEAMS: Nothing special about allowing a 50 yard kickoff return to start the game. This play immediately gave the Texans momentum, and resulted in putting the Patriots' offense in poor field position. Credit rookie Josh Boyce for a 41 yard kickoff return, which gave Brady and the Boys a short field. It paved the way for the Pats' initial TD, cutting the first quarter Texans' lead to just 10-7. Another fine job by Ryan Allen, who averaged 44 yards on three punts. Allen buried the Texans with a 34 yard pooch punt, nailing them to their own 5 yard line, with seven (7) seconds remaining. Kudos once more to "The Ghost". After missing what appeared to be an ill advised 55 yard FG try towards the end of the first half, he nailed a pair of 53 yarders in the 4th quarter. The first one tied the game at 31, while the second put the Patriots ahead for good, 34-31...with just 3:12 remaining in the game. Julian Edelman contributed an 11 yard punt return: GRADE: B+;
IV. COACHING: As mentioned previously, the Pats are mysteriously and continuously getting off to very slow starts in games. This gives their opposition hope, and forces the Pats to consistently play from behind. This trend must end...or the Pats won't last long in the upcoming play-offs. Really, a 50 yard kickoff return on the game's initial play? What went on with the pass coverage on Andre Johnson early? The way the Pats' DL played against the run the past two games, perhaps BB should consider replacing his DTs with tackling dummies. The dummies might do a more effective job of clogging up running lanes. I understand that the Pats started five (5) rookies on defense last Sunday, and that injuries have taken their toll. Nonetheless, the reserves must do a better job. I don't know what BB said to his players at the half, or what adjustments he made, but, once again, his team came out for the second half with a fiery purpose. I though BB made a poor decision in having "the Ghost" attempt a 55 yard FG late in the first half. The Pats were only trailing 10-7 with 4:25 left in the second quarter. The way that the Texans were moving the ball, it appeared too much of a risk to give them great field position, with a Ghostly miss. Miss The Ghost did, and the Texans took advantage of the short field for another TD...putting them up 17-7 at the half. Though BB later made decisions to let The Ghost attempt a pair of 53 yarders, the situation was different, as the Pats offense was beginning to bog down: GRADE: B;
V. PLAY OF THE GAME: With 2:07 remaining in the game, and the Texans trailing 34-31, they had the ball at their own 43...facing a 4th and 12. As Houston QB Case Keenum went back to pass, DE Andre Carter and DT Chris Jones sandwiched him. This forced him to toss a dying quail, for an incompletion...and a turnover on downs.
VI. PLAYER OF THE GAME: Andre Carter, Brady, Gronk, and Edelman all made big plays. But the game ball goes to "The Ghost", for his back to back 53 yarders in the fourth quarter. A big time, clutch performance by him.
Here are the game stats: http://scores.espn.go.com/nfl/boxscore?gameId=331201034
As always, your comments and opinions are welcome. Goodnight, my friends!