New England Patriots
By Alice Cook, She's Game Sports
They almost blew it in Buffalo. That almost never happens. The Patriots are 1 and 0 today like the world expected them to be. Football is not won or lost on style points, and yesterday's game was as ugly as a wart.
It will take some time for our eyes to adjust to an offense that does not include Wes Welker, and for now, Rob Gronkowski. Those sorry Bills fans in the RV lot at Ralph Wilson Stadium were pulling out this morning with another sad hangover -drowning their sorrows in the stale odor of their Genessee beer.
Here are my top ten takeaways from the Week One.
1. Tommy Points:
Tom Brady said recently he wants to still be playing at age 50. Yesterday's game probably aged him by ten years, so that means he has 4 years left.
Brady got it done against the Bills with crazy glue and chicken wire. His receivers were zigging and zagging the wrong way, bumping into each other, not staying inbounds, and not catching catchable passes.
There was a bench shot of Brady yelling at Danny Amendola in the third quarter. There were cutaways of Brady in hands to the helmut frustration after incompletions. There was Brady on his backside. There was Brady getting pressured. There was Brady fumbling at the goal line. There was Brady looking for an open man- and nobody was there.
And there was Brady being Brady on the final drive, a 12 play, 49 yard, text book beauty, putting his team in field goal range for the winner. Kick is good. One second left on the clock. Game over. Patriots win- thanks to TB12.
2. Oh Danny Boy:
Danny Amendola gives us hope that there is life in the slot after Wes Welker. There was concern when Amendola limped off the field with an aggravated groin in the second quarter. Even Brady thought he would be out the rest of the game.
Amendola returned to a good old fashioned tongue lashing from Brady on the bench, and ended up with 10 catches, nine that went for first downs. Amendola at times looked "Welker-esque." Let's hope the groin injury does not become an issue. Tom Brady and the Patriots need a healthy Danny Amendola. In week one Amendola showed he's tough- maybe as tough as the player he replaced.
3. Rocky Start:
Rookie receiver Kenbrell Thompkins had a rough day. He also could use some footwork lessons. Maybe Shane Vereen's uncle Ben Vereen can help him out here. (Draaag that toe!) After all the pre-season hype, Thompkins played with the rookie jitters. The ball went his way 14 times, and he shakily caught just four. He'll get better.
4. Hidden Jule:
Julien Edelman was the man yesterday, and easily Brady's most solid target. Jules had two touchdown receptions in a break out game. He is about half the size of the sidelined Rob Gronkowski, and showed up in a big way. Edelman's performance bodes well for the Patriots offense.
5. Danke Shane:
Shane Vereen had a 100 yard game contributing to a team total of 431. The Patriots ran up 89 total plays on offense, more than any game last year. It didn't feel that good while they were playing- but the numbers don't lie.
6. Out Buffaloed:
The Bills rookie coach, Doug Marrone proved to be no Bill Belichick down the stretch. When Buffalo went 3 and out on their most crucial drive with a a three point lead, it was game over. The Patriots got the ball back, and ate the clock up before going in for the final kill. That's how it's done. Put the nail in the coffin and kill the clock.
7. Stout D:
Lost in all the hand wringing over the offense is the solid effort turned in by the Patriots defense. Kyle Arrington had a massive game, forcing two fumbles, both of which led to Patriots touchdowns. The Patriots defense surrendered just 14 points, and the Bills managed just one sustained scoring drive. Good day for the D.
8. In the Dog House:
For Stevan Ridley it was a day to forget. After a costly fumble in the second quarter, Ridley was benched for the remainder of the game. Ridley took it like a man after the game saying, "I just have to accept that I messed up, made a mistake, and grow from it. We've got 15 more weeks in front of us and I'm going right back to work." Ridley has been riddled in the past with ball handling mishaps. After Vereen's 100 yard performance the pressure will be on the Riddler.
9. Manuel Play:
Rookie EJ Manuel had a solid debut. The first round draft pick out of Florida State proved that he has a future as a pro. He was inconsistent, but showed flashes of poise in the pocket. A good sign for the beleaugered Bills.
10. End Game:
In sum, the Patriots have some work to do developing a chemistry on offense. It may take until week 8 to find the rhythym, or it could magically appear around the same time Gronk suits up. Brady has now led his team to victory 36 times while the Patriots were tied or trailing in the fourth quarter.
We miss those familiar tight ends in goal line situations, but in the words of the coach, "it is what it is." The Patriots are 1 and 0. Jets are up next on Thursday.
It's a short week with lots of work to do.
Anyone can have a bad day - even Tom Brady. Two interceptions, two intentional groundings, and a bunch of bad passes made for one of Brady's worst outings in quite some time.
The Patriots had more problems than Brady last week. The secondary got burned to a crisp, coaching decisions were suspect and the running game hit a brick wall. There were issues across the board.
Somewhat surprisingly, a good portion of the Monday morning quarterbacking revolved around the quarterback.
The sports talk lines were lighting up - and this is what they were saying:
"Getting old." "Worn down." "Less arm strength." "Ducking under pressure." "Mental mistakes." "Throws into the dirt."
Wow. Brady bashing. That's something new around here - and totally ridiculous.
There is no question Brady's 395 yards were tarnished by the team's one for six in the red zone, and most importantly the final score. It was an uncharacteristic performance for sure, but let's not put the two-time Super Bowl MVP out to pasture just yet.
We have been spoiled through the years. People in New England have come to expect the miracles down the stretch, sticking the nail in the coffin, and the Patriots walking off with another win.
Brady can't do it all. His career-high 58 pass attempts meant nothing without a running game. 87 rushing yards on 26 carries won't cut it. If Brady is throwing it close to 60 times a game it can't be a good thing - no matter how many yards he's racking up.
It's not just fans and media picking on Brady, opposing players are getting into the fray. Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, well known for his trash talking, posted a picture on his Twitter, which has since been deleted. The photo showed Sherman yapping at Brady as they walked off the field after the game. The caption said, "U mad bro?"
According to Sherman, Brady told him and a teammate to 'come see me after the game.' The Patriots were winning at the time.
On WEEI radio Tuesday, Brady said he didn't see Sherman after the game. (In the photo it looks like Brady's eyes are closed, so this could be true.)
Brady, as usual, took the high road.
"That's part of football," Brady told Dennis and Callahan. "Everyone is entitled to what they say and their behavior. We as Patriots have always handled it in a different way. But when you win, you can do whatever you want."
Sherman didn't stop with the Twitter comment. In the post game he had some words to say about Brady and the no huddle offense.
"Anytime you run a gimmick offense, you're a little bit afraid - you're not sound in what you are doing in your base stuff. There is a reason it's not effective, because there are great defenses out there who will stuff it."
A little bit afraid? Tom Brady... AFRAID? Right buddy. And who are you again? I never heard of Richard Sherman until he started flapping his mouth off.
So listen up people. No badmouthing Tom Brady. Especially if you have been paying attention the last 11 years.
Brady is a leader, he's a fighter, he's a winner and he still has his fastball. I like that he told Sherman to come see him after the game. It shows that he's cocky too - and there's nothing wrong with that.
With Rex Ryan and the Jets coming to town, maybe somebody should ask the Jets coach who he would rather have, Mark Sanchez or Tom Brady? Truth or dare.
I am picking the Patriots this week in a rout. "U mad?" Yeah, Brady is probably heated. And if anyone out there wants to talk about once great players who can't get it done -take a look at A-Rod. Now, that one is worth a discussion.
I admit it. I am a pro football junkie. When the NFL Network introduced the "Red Zone" I thought I died and went to heaven. After covering the Patriots for over 20 years, I have seen it all. Sitting in a press box is not like sitting in the stands, and it's definitely not like sitting at home. The best part of "being there" was running on to the field after a big win and interviewing players in the heat of the moment. Asking Lonie Paxton about his snow angel just feet from where he made it - now that's a moment.
When the days get shorter, the leaves turn colors and the air cools down- there is no better sport than pro football.
Here are my top 10 reasons.
1. One game a week
Unlike the other pro sports that have either 82 or 162 games per season, the NFL offers only 16 regular season games. This means every game is a huge game, and every game is worth watching. Light a fire in the family room, make the Mexican dip, grab a cold one, and watch football. That's my idea of a perfect Sunday.
Sunday afternoons watching football have become a household ritual. It is also one of the few times when parents and kids will watch the same thing. My kids knew Drew Bledsoe was the Patriots quarterback before they were in preschool. They also learned what a Cheesehead was before they knew about the state of Wisconsin. The year was 1997 and the Patriots were playing the Packers in Super Bowl XXXI. I have home video of my daughter saying the Patriot’s coach is a "Big Tuna."
As the kids got older, the parents figured out watching the Patriots on a Sunday afternoon sure beat the heck out of standing on soccer fields all day Saturday. Burgers on the grill in the good weather, chili when it got cold. Your house or ours? And there is NO TALKING except during commercials. Chatty girlfriends were warned in advance, “We need to hear the play by play. Non-football related chit-chat will not be tolerated.”
I love hockey live, but football is by far better made for television. Both are violent sports with great speed and high impact, but football lends itself to a television audience better than any other game. With 15-20 cameras all over the field, we see every angle on replay. Last week I "heard" the football hit the crossbar in the Niners/Packers game like I was sitting under the goalpost. The first time I was on an NFL sideline during a game, I could not believe what a full speed, helmet-to-shoulder pads collision "sounded" like. With improved technology and boom microphones all over the field we not only see the game; we can "hear" it too.
5. Build up
Because the teams play only once a week, we get at least four solid days of pregame hype. By game time we can recite the story lines for the afternoon. Trash talking is strictly prohibited in some locker rooms and encouraged in others. The media naturally loves trash talking, and will try to bait the players all week. Few Patriots players ever took the bait, although Rodney Harrison was always good for a "knock their heads off" quote. The networks have become masters of weaving in the story lines before and during the game, so it makes it even more fun to watch a game on TV. You want reality TV? I'll take the NFL over Survivor any day.
Patriots/Jets. Packers/Bears. Giants/Cowboys. Classic.
There is always food involved when watching football. Do we order in pizza and chicken wings for a baseball, basketball or hockey game? No. A typical Sunday diet during football season includes grease, carbs, and enough salt to make you float away. And from experience I know that it’s not just at home where the feeding frenzy is happening. NFL press boxes across America serve up three course pre-game meals, hot dogs, huge soft pretzels and cookies at halftime, then finally pizza at the end of the day as writers furiously work to make their deadlines. Pass the Pepto.
As much as I love my wine, football goes with beer. A noontime bottle of suds is the way to go. Chardonnay does not cut it. For one thing, wine causes late afternoon sleepiness that can totally inhibit watching the primetime game on NBC (although after 6:00, switching to wine is not a bad way to go).
Have you ever noticed that the lawn mowers go silent for a few hours on Sunday afternoons in September? If you are a shopper and not a fan, it is by far the best time to go to the mall. I had to run to the grocery store at half-time once, and the place was a ghost town except for the employees (I updated them on the score). People plan their day around the game. If it ends at 4:00, the stores are busy at 4:30. If it starts at 4:00, the rush is between 2:00 and 3:00. Really, you can set your watch by it.
Last but not least: this is America and we love our football. I like the anthems, the flyovers, the Minutemen in the Patriots end zone. I even like that fireman dude we've been watching forever at the Meadowlands. J-E-T-S Jets, Jets, Jets. The Lambeau leap, end zone dances, Hail Mary passes, and massive sacks. Snow games, mud games, wind chill and wind factor. Whatever the weather brings. This is FOOTBALL- not even Mother Nature can stop it.
When I was in Dallas two years ago for the Super Bowl, a nice gentleman approached me in a store and asked, “Are y’all here for the football game?”
I said, “I sure am!”
He then said to me, “You know, I like baseball better. It’s a ‘cerebral” game. It’s all about anticipation, knowing the next move. Football is a “social” game. Fans “react” they don’t think ahead. Y’all can miss a play, then watch three or four replays. Oh, and by the way, all the ladies can be yakking in the kitchen and run out like they didn’t miss anything.”
And then I understood. I admit it. I am social. I am without a doubt the reactive type. And I have never been accused of being cerebral.
Thank God, because I love the NFL!
Sunday at 1:00 is the best time of the week. How many hours until kickoff?
The NFL has started the season with replacement officials. The league that turned football into a multi-billion dollar industry (and America’s favorite sport) could not settle its differences with the men in stripes.
For the first time since 2001, the NFL kicked off the season with replacement officials. Regular officials have been locked out since June. The two sides talked over Labor Day weekend before discussions broke off.
The issues are both financial and non-financial. Some NFL officials have other jobs outside of their weekly commitment to the league. Others do not. Along with more pay, the guys who make the calls want a pension plan.
Having replacement referees during the exhibition season is one thing, but what happens now when the games “count?” Ultimately the players decide the outcomes of games, and on occasion, the officials do too.
If the season opener between the Giants and Cowboys is any indication, this may not be such a big deal. Aside from missing an obvious hold on Giants receiver Victor Cruz at the goal line, the substitute officials did not embarrass themselves.
The same cannot be said of the preseason, which was chalk-full of follies and faux pas. Everyone knows that officials make mistakes. Just like the players, and the rest of us, they are human. But if the lockout continues, there is sure to be at least one big blunder that could be the difference between a “W” and an “L.” In a 16-game season that is huge.
After the season opener in East Rutherford, Giants coach Tom Coughlin was diplomatic when asked about the non-call that cost his team a touchdown.
“I think it was more than a hold. There is another word for it. But you have people in a position and they’re trying to do the very best they can. We can yell and scream on the sidelines all we want, but that’s the nature of what we have in front of us right now.”
Just picture if that were the Patriots. Imagine Bill Belichick’s head exploding on national TV the first time he disagrees with a lame call that could be a game-changer.
Up in the broadcast booth we hear Jim Nantz say, “A pass interference call on Devin McCourty leads to a Titans touchdown with one second left on the clock. I don’t know Phil, the replay seems to clearly show the Patriots defender made a clean play.”
Phil Simms: “Bill Belichick not only ripped his headset off; he is now being restrained by his own players!”
In my ten years covering the Patriots, I learned this about Belichick. He has little patience for ineptitude- not from his players, not from the media (the worst offenders) and not from officials who steal a win from his team because of a bad call.
There is no doubt that coaches and any other team personnel have been instructed by the league to stay out of diatribes having to do with bad calls. They know where their bread gets buttered, and the owners clearly want to win this battle.
So for now it is up to the replacements. Where do they come from?
Everywhere from Pop Warner to high school to college to the Lingerie League. Yes. Lingerie League.
Imagine a game between the Bears and Packers being decided by a referee who once officiated women running around in bras and panties.
How much will the replacement officials change game plans?
If I were the Patriots, I would run the hurry-up faster than the speed of light. Before a whistle could get into an official’s mouth, Tom Brady will have taken the next snap. It’s a sure fire way to create mass confusion- not just for the opposing defense, but for the officials.
It’s September and football is back. No labor dispute would ever stop me from watching. The sport is that good- even if the officials are not.
In the words of Coach Hoodie, “It is what it is.”
Tom Brady has been on plenty of magazine covers, from Sports Illustrated to GQ. Most recently, No. 12 was captured on VMAN baring his ultra white teeth next to a fierce looking Doberman.
It’s certainly not the all American guy or even the top designer look we are used to seeing on Brady since the quarterback became a sports and fashion icon.
It’s a whole new kind of sexiness for Brady who has modeled Gap clothes, UGG boots, Under Armour, Stetson Cologne and Movado watches through the years. Let’s hand it to his publicists – they know how to mix it up and keep it fresh.
Brady has done it all on the field no question. He deserves to wear any look he wants, and quite frankly, he can get away with just about anything. The baby goat shoot he did back in 2005 was pushing it, and his teammates gave him a rash of grief, but if anyone can pull off a spread with farm animals, it’s Tom Brady.
The VMan photos make him look tough, and he is. Seeing Brady in a dog collar is a bit “Fifty Shades of Gray” and millions of women everywhere know exactly what I mean. As the saying goes, “women love Tom Brady, and men want to be him.” It’s the best of both worlds.
Yes, in Boston we look through those Patriots colored lenses. He is “our” quarterback, and we would take him any day over Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers or — gulp — Tim Tebow.
Back in 2001, when Brady replaced the injured Drew Bledsoe, we reporters couldn’t even find Brady in the locker room. He was a second string quarterback living in the shadows. When the spotlight finally hit Brady in the third week of the season, no one could have predicted the storyline to follow.
I remember Brady’s initial locker room interview during his first practice week as QB 1. He was polite, well spoken, and mature beyond his 24 years. I went back to the station that day and dropped the tape on our producer’s desk.
My words: “I have no idea how well Tom Brady plays football, but I will say this: he is genetically perfect.”
Over the next 10 years the world learned how well Brady plays football. What never changed was the way he handled himself. There was never a time that I heard him insult a reporter or a question. And as his popularity grew, there were many irritating, silly and inappropriate questions.
Anyone could see that Tom Brady was raised right. It is a testament to his family, and I remind myself of this all the time as a parent. Tom Brady never got too big for his shoes, and he has some pretty big shoes (expensive too).
Following his third Super Bowl win in 2005, I had the chance to congratulate Brady on a great season at the team’s after-party. It was the first time that I’d ever talked to him away from a stadium or in a “non-football” situation.
Brady shook my hand and said, “Thanks for all your help this year, Alice.”
Please. Brady did not have to say that, and obviously, I had nothing to do with any success he and the Patriots had on the football field. Brady and his teammates did all the work, but in some way I think he appreciated the efforts football beat reporters put into a season. For a player to acknowledge something like that is pretty unusual and cool.
Brady once again made the “best dressed” list in the September 2012 issue of Vanity Fair. When asked his favorite item of clothing, he said, “my football uniform.”
So about those Doberman photos. A shade naughty? Sure. But in a good way.
Have you ever heard the shouts of “C’mon ref!” or “Ref, you suck!” during a football game? This season, we may be criticizing a whole new roster of officials and it’s likely to get dirty.
Veteran referees of the NFL are protesting the league’s proposed changes for the 2012-2013 season. Negotiations between the NFL and the National Football League Referees Association (NFLRA) have been going on since June 3rd and no agreements are in sight. Let’s break down each issue on the table, taken from ESPN.com, and what it would mean for officials, players and fans:
- The league wants to add three additional crews to support the existing refs. League spokesman Greg Aiello said "this would reduce stress on the officials by allowing each official to work fewer games, would reduce travel, would allow us to do more intensive training, integrate younger officials more effectively, increase diversity, and improve quality of officiating." The union disagrees.
This will affect the veteran referees in a big way. Not only will they probably be limited in the amount of games they call, it’s a very real possibility that their pay will be cut because of the addition of such a large amount of employees.
In terms of players, they will be dealing with a bevy of rookie refs and it’s inevitable that they will take advantage of the inexperience and fight more calls. There’s also talk that the players fear for their safety with newbie officials; players say they feel that newer referees need a lot of experience making calls at the speed of an NFL game. It would be really hard to replace the 1,385 collective years of experience that the current refs hold. Lastly, fans might lose interest in the game, not unlike the MLB lockout of 1994-95 due to pure frustration.
- Currently, the majority of NFL officials are part time employees with full-time jobs in other industries. The league is proposing revising the program to only include full-time officials but the union has its complaints about that as well.
"The NFLRA is not opposed to full time officials if they are fairly compensated," the union said Thursday. "While the NFL has never made any compensation proposal, comparable positions in other professional sports at the 20-year level earn approximately $350,000 to $400,000 and are provided health insurance, a pension, time off with pay and numerous other benefits."
The veteran referees aren’t entirely convinced that all of the benefits of their current full-time jobs can be replaced by the opportunity presented by the NFL. If they can come to an agreement, it would be in everyone’s best interest to keep the same officials throughout the season; consistency in such an inconsistent league should be welcomed with open arms. Fans and players alike will appreciate the personal level that full time refs would integrate into the games.
- Not surprisingly, salary is an issue between the two groups. The veteran officials concede that the league is publicly claiming a 5-to-11-percent increase in salary but say that it is a false statement. Instead, the officials said the proposal "includes aggregate game fee compensation increases of 2.82 percent per year, not the rates publicly claimed by the league.
In fact, the NFL's proposal does not contain any salary schedule. Rather it contains aggregate game fees for all officials to be paid per a schedule to be developed by the NFLRA."
The league claims that if the salary pool permits, the salary increase might be an option for select employees, but that answer won’t fly with a union that represents ALL of the vets. If the league is expecting to pull experienced officials out of their respective full time positions, they better have the paycheck to back it up. Knowing that an official must have five years of experience just to call a Super Bowl game, it would be a great disservice to everyone if the NFL would have to rely on rookies because they were too stubborn to pay the veterans the money they deserve.
- The last item in negotiation is the existing pension plan. The union said the league plans to freeze and ultimately terminate it. The NFLRA offered to "grandfather" the current defined benefit plan only for current officials.
It’s unknown how this will impact anyone other than the families of the veteran officials, but the league last proposed a 401(k) that would average annual contributions of $20,000.
So how are the replacement officials doing so far? It seems to be a mixed bag.
History was made this month when Shannon Eastin became the first woman in the NFL's 97-year history to officiate a preseason game, and she was give the opportunity due to the referee lockout. Eastin has 16 years of college experience and appeared to make all of her calls correctly during the San Diego Chargers and Green Bay Packers game earlier this month.
Conversely, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh began to comment on the calls made by replacement referees during his team's 20-9 loss to the Texans on Saturday but then retracted anything else he was going to say.
“Was it us? Was it them? Was it … things I’ve been instructed not to comment on, so I won’t comment on them and don’t even ask me,” he said.
An erroneous call by the replacements made during the San Diego/Dallas game on Saturday may have cost the Cowboys the game. After an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit by Chargers safety Eric Weddle during a Cowboys pass, linebacker Donald Butler came up with the interception before it hit the ground. Even with automatic review, the officials called the foul on the Chargers but gave them the ball. What should have happened was that the interception should have been revoked and the ball given to the Cowboys. The ‘Boys lost the game and are likely going to appeal to the league.
If calls like these keep happening and it trickles into regular season, the NFL will have a huge problem on its hands. Stay tuned for more updates on the lockout and how it will affect football season as we know it.