Dusting off the ol’ First and 10 format, which nowadays is used around here as much as Danny Amendola in the Patriots’ offense …
1. Other than a blowout victory of such magnitude that you have no choice but to believe that a fourth Super Bowl title is a mere formality — and that would be a fairly idiotic conclusion since this is just Week 2 — it seems to me the Patriots’ 30-7 victory over the Vikings is what you want this time of year. They won with ease on the road, scoring 30 unanswered points. The defense showed signs of being a versatile, collective force — signs that were absent during the Week 1 mess in Miami. And yet there are few reason to get cocky. The offense sputtered at times, putting Tom Brady in a rare foul mood during his abbreviated postgame press conference. In pass protection, the offensive line is a work in progress, to be kind. Gronk is playing and recovering simultaneously. There’s a lot to like and yet much to improve upon. That’s not a bad place to be.
2. I’m a bit puzzled why Amendola has essentially become receivah non grata in the Patriots offense. Brady has lost faith in him, evidenced most obviously in the AFC Championship Game, when Matthew Slater seemed a more appealing target. But he had his moments last year, played through a serious injury, and supposedly worked to get on the same wavelength with Brady this summer. Abandoning him as a potential weapon so early doesn’t make much sense.
3. It’s hard to fault Brady for anything about the way he conducts himself as a human being. I’ve seen him be kind to someone behind the scenes with a small gesture that becomes a lifetime memory more times than I can count. But sometimes I do wish he would use the Football Icon pedestal he stands upon as one of the most accomplished and recognizable athletes in the country to say more when a moment calls for it. I know it’s not his way, not now, as he moves toward the twilight of his playing career. But he must know it would carry such incredible weight if, as a father of three young children, he spoke out on the Adrian Peterson situation with a parent’s boiling anger.
4. Raise your hand if you expected Dominique Easley to record his first career interception before his first career sack. Actually, raise your hand if you want Matt Cassel to heave another interception your way. The guy is generous with the football. Didn’t he have a better arm with the Patriots than he showed yesterday? He looked like a dad have a good time lofting “bombs” to his 8-year-old in the front yard so the kid can catch the ball just as he dives into the leaf pile. I’m sure Adrian Peterson would have no idea what I’m talking about.
5. After watching Chandler Jones’s game-changing block-and-return of Blair Walsh’s 48-yard field goal attempt in the first half, I’m convinced he could be the rim protector the Celtics still lack. That was a Bill Russell-like controlled swat, with one difference. Rather than directing the ball to Cooz, Jones led the fast break to the end zone. And that should wrap it up for Mixed Sports Reference Monday.
6. Not a bad Sunday afternoon for the Patriots’ 2012 first-round selections, huh? Jones and Dont’a Hightower tied for the team lead with eight tackles. Hightower had seven solo, Jones six. Both collected a pair of sacks, and Hightower broke up a pass, which isn’t always his strong suit. Plus, Jones rejected Walsh’s 3-point attempt (wait, forgive me one more mixed sports reference). For those of us who were expecting Jones and, to a lesser degree, Hightower to become consistent, big-play performers this season, it was an encouraging dual performance.
7. Belichick earned his 200th regular-season victory yesterday, the second game of his 20th season as a head coach. Only six other coaches have reached the milestone, none named Rod Rust. Belichick’s 100th win actually doesn’t seem that long ago — it actually occurred with the outcome of the 2006 opener against the Bills, when Ty Warren sacked J.P. Losman in the end zone for the winning points in a 19-17 win. And Belichick’s first win? A 20-0 Browns victory over the Patriots on September 9, 1991. Tommy Hodson passed for 95 yards in defeat. Now that was a long time ago.
8. Here’s to the next 200, which at the 11.7142857143-win pace of his first 14 seasons in New England should take him until the 2030 season, when he’s 79 years old, to achieve. Seems doable to me. Hell, his dad was on the Patriots sideline into his mid-80s.
9. So after all of the “Should the Patriots have drafted Cordarrelle Patterson?” chatter — of which I was a willing participant — during the buildup to Sunday’s game, here’s his final line: Zero rushes for zero yards; one kick return for 23 yards; four catches, 56 yards. And the Patriots prioritized covering Greg Jennings over Patterson. What, was he stranded on the Logan Ryan Peninsula or something? Keep in mind that Ryan is one of the players the Patriots got with one of the picks they received in return for the first-rounder Minnesota used on Patterson.
10. As for today’s Completely Random Football Card:
Heard Dan Fouts (on my short list of favorite color analysts) mention that one of the linebackers yesterday reminded him of Matt Blair. Didn’t catch who he was talking about, but it was high praise, not to mention a welcome reference to a player I hadn’t thought of in many seasons. So hey, welcome back to our consciousness, Matt Blair. At least Dan Fouts has never forgotten you.