Is it delusional to think that the worst thing to happen to the Patriots yesterday was the fact that Houston beat Chicago, 13-6, last night?
Had the Bears been able to top the Texans, as many thought they could have, New England could have potentially tied Houston for the second-best record in the league with a win when the two teams face off on Dec. 10. That might give them the inside-edge on a first-round playoff bye, something they may have already awarded Houston and Baltimore thanks to enigmatic losses to Arizona and Seattle. It also might have helped if the Raiders decided to show up against the Ravens yesterday (55-20). Egads.
Maybe the worst moment of the day was hearing the report that Wes Welker had X-Rays on his ankle after the game. Clearly, we saw how the Patriots looked in the playoffs without the wide receiver back in 2010, and any fear of an injured Welker might further convince the Patriots that signing him to a long-term deal isn’t the wisest maneuver, even though it clearly is.
Or maybe, just maybe, the worst thing to come out of yesterday’s 37-31 win over the Buffalo Bills was the weekly reminder of what a giant, steaming pile of garbage this New England defense remains.
These Patriots, a team with Super Bowl aspirations (stop snickering) could have, nee, should have lost to the lowly, 3-6 Bills yesterday at Gillette Stadium, had Ryan Fitzpatrick not gone color blind momentarily when he threw a potential touchdown pass into the arms of Devin McCourty. Perhaps the biggest upset of the moment is that the Patriots cornerback didn’t drop it.
The Bills. The Buffalo freaking Bills.
Oh, sure, it was a fun game to watch, but we already had one of these nail-biters against an also-ran in the Jets just a few weeks ago. This was too soon. I hate to state the obvious, but we can no longer consider this a hiccup. The Patriots are 6-3, and very well could be 4-5, wondering if they can somehow sneak into a wild card.
Help us Aqib Talib, you are our only hope.
Talib, who can arrive in Foxborough today, presumably with rose petals and a double rainbow over Gillette, will indeed help. But in order for the Patriots to have a defense worthy of a Super Bowl title, he’ll have to work like The Hedleys of “In Living Color” fame. One job? Bill Belichick might as well ask Talib to play both corner positions and a safety spot to boot.
As Peter King noted in today’s Monday Morning Quarterback column, the Patriots have now allowed 19 touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks compared to Tom Brady’s 18. That’s a negative-one ratio, you know. Only the Redskins and Titans have allowed more (20) than New England has through the air. The Redskins and the Titans stink.
On the flip side, the Patriots have only allowed five rushing touchdowns this season, which is among the best in the league (Houston has allowed zero. OMG emoticon here). So, if Talib can shut down one side of the field – starting against Reggie Wayne Sunday against the resurgent Colts – the Patriots could possibly re-shape themselves with the addition of one guy. One guy who many think has lost a step due to his off-field incidents, or an apathetic approach to the game. Or, it could be one guy in the right situation, playing for a contract on a team that desperately needs him right now.
He’s not a miracle worker, but I like the analogy somebody recently brought up comparing Talib’s addition to that of Ted Washington in 2003, when the Patriots run defense was in shambles. Washington wound up to be one of the key ingredients in that team’s Super Bowl run. Maybe Talib can be too.
We’ll have to see it to believe it with yesterday’s roc k-bottom performance still fresh in our minds. Seven games remain on the schedule against teams a combined 28-25-1, 27-17-1 if you discount the Jaguars, which everybody does. That’s not exactly a cakewalk, particularly the two marquee games against the 6-2-1 49ers, who forced newspaper layout artists into fits with their tie against St. Louis yesterday, and the aforementioned 8-1 Texans.
And here comes Talib, hopefully prepared to, as Randy Moss once said, “put the Earth” on his shoulders.