Normally, this is where I’d make some comment about the Patriots’ silencing their doubters, but there was anything but silence during the Patriots’ raucous 41-14 routing of Miami. Last night, the Patriots did something that they hadn’t done in over a year: play well in the 2nd half of a big-time road game. They did so by making big plays in a variety of ways, be it a touchdown catch, a touchdown run, a kickoff return touchdown, a blocked field goal touchdown, or an interception returned for touchdown. If you told me before the game that Tom Brady would only throw for a single touchdown and that Randy Moss would go the whole night without a catch, I would have assumed that the Patriots’ road woes would have continued. However, the multitude of plays on special teams and defense pretty much negated the need for the Patriots’ offense and kept Brady & Co. off the field for large portions of the second half.
While I’m thrilled with the outcome (a 3-1 record and 2-1 division record sure beats a 2-2 record and a 1-2 division record), I’m not about to get too giddy about this Patriots victory. Unlike the Cincinatti win, which was won with strong defense and a lethal offense, this victory over Miami came at the hands of multiple “freak” plays. It isn’t something that I’m expecting the Pats to replicate week after week. In fact, I doubt the Patriots will ever win a game the same way again. It’s also important to keep in mind that before the fireworks went off in the last 30 minutes, for the better part of the first half, Miami seemed to be dominating, making long drives down the field while the Patriots’ offense sputtered. Clearly, the shaky defense that we witnessed during the first three games is still an issue.
However, there’s definitely good that can be taken away from last night’s game. The kickoff return, the INT return, a blocked punt, a blocked field goal – I referred to them as “freak” plays in the paragraph above. Maybe they were just an aberration, a night of bad luck for the Phins, but at the same time, how many times can you make a freak play before it stops being “freak”? The Patriots defense nabbed four picks. They blocked two kicks. Brandon Tate’s return was his second in four games.
One of the biggest knocks against the Patriots last season was their lack of playmakers. There was nobody who would step up and make the play when the Patriots absolutely needed one. The Patriots’ championship teams were full of guys who came up big when the pressure was at its biggest. I think the revamping of the defense this past season has a lot to do with that. Belichick sacrificed experience for young guys like Patrick Chung who could be explosive and get to that punter. Last night, he saw the return on his investment. While there may not be another game this season where all these “made plays” come in such large bunches, I’m fairly confident we’ll see a healthy dose of them sprinkled throughout the rest of the season. That’s a very good things, because if you can force turnovers and make things happen on special teams, you’ll find yourself winning a handful of games that you might not have won otherwise. Those games could easily be the difference between the AFC East title and being left out of the playoffs.
P.S. – Just a cool little tidbit of information for you… This article recapping Tom Brady’s 100th career win, is also Foxboro Blog’s 100th post! Coincidence? I think not.