I was planning on waxing eloquent about the Patriots huge victory tonight, but at the moment, I'm just trying to fight my way out of the catatonic state that Rob Gronkowski's broken forearm has put me in…
Let's skip over the big story for a moment though, and concentrate on what was a truly excellent game by the Patriots. I missed the better part of the 1st half thanks to CBS pandering to the Cowboy Nation and showing their never-ending overtime contest against the Browns. Anytime you can show the ending of an ugly game between two sub-.500 teams instead of a battle between two 6-3 teams with superstar quarterbacks who happen to share the biggest rivalry in the league over the past decade, you gotta do it, right? By the time we were finally able to watch the game in my geographic region, the Pats were down 14-7. I was thinking that we were likely in for a long night of ugly defense and a shoot-out. However, just like that, the Patriots held the Colts to a three-and-out, Julian Edelman tore off his incredible punt return for a TD, and New England never looked back.
Some quick observations…
– Aquib Talib got burned for two TD's, but even still, I like what he brings to the table defensively. He had fantastic pick-six in the second quarter, but that's not what has me excited about him. It's a small sample size, but I feel like Talib allows McCourty to play at safety, where he is excelling, without throwing the cornerback position into complete jeopardy. McCourty has done a solid job at safety, and he had a number of great break-ups today. The team is definitely better off with him back there than any two-man combo of Gregory, Chung, and Wilson. Having Devin back there will be a huge boost to this defense moving forward.
– I feel like today showed that Belichick and McDaniels weren't completely out of their minds for going to Edelman so frequently to start the season. Would I still give the nod to Wes Welker? Absolutely. No Question. But tonight we finally saw that Edelman is capapble of making the roster battle with Welker competitive. Julian was just solid in all phases of the game today, and may very well be the persion who helps keep this offense rolling while they deal with Gronkowski missing time.
– It may have just been a scheme to confuse and rattle the rookie, Luck, but I have to wonder if the Patriots' focus on generating a pass rush might have something to do with an increased confidence in the secondary now that Talib is on the field. Regardless of the reason, I think it's a tactic that the Patriots should employ more often. The pressure not only hurt Indy's passing game, but it generated a good amount of turnovers as well. Given what we've seen from the bend-but-don't-break approach so far this season, I think the Patriots continue with this change in philosophy and continue to attack opposing quarterbacks.
– The early miss by Gostkowski hurt, knowing that Adam Vinatieri was on the opposite sidelines. Well, that is until Adam shanked one of his own. I know Vinatieri isn't the most popular guy in Foxboro after leaving the Pats for the Colts, but anyone who booed the guy today should be ashamed of themselves. The dude kicked us to two Super Bowl Championships. His leaving may have taken some shine off of a legendary Patriots career, but we owe that man a lot and I believe he should be a first-ballot entry into the Patriots Hall of Fame when he finally hangs up his cleats.
And now to Gronk…
Just devastating news. The only silver lining to this story is that he isn't done for the season. However, the Patriots chances of capturing that bye week just took a big hit. Those back-to-back contests against Houston and San Fran are going to be brutal without him. With the way Denver is playing and their easy schedule, and wiht Baltimore holding the tie-breaker, the Patriots are going to need a serious run down the stretch to snatch that #2 seed and a bye. 5-1 is the absolute worst they can go and still have a prayer, but more likely a 6-0 finish is what they will need. Luckily for the Patriots, they are 18-0 during the second half of the regular season this decade. Can they keep that streak up? It's also worth noting that they are undefeated in the post-season when not facing teams from New York, so maybe they don't need the bye week after all.
But in all seriousness, Thursday's game has now become absolutely HUGE. It's hard to say if the Patriots will have Aaron Hernandez available as well. Logic might dictate them resting him on Thanksgiving and giving him essentially another 10 days of rest before bringing him back in Week 13. The Jets played the Pats tough last time around, and they are going to come out with guns blazing as their win today over the Rams has kept their slim playoff hopes alive. The Patriots need to find a way to gut out a win on short rest against a huge rival on the road without two of their biggest offensive weapons. If they can't do it, you can all but guarantee that they'll be hosting a Wild Card game this January.
Get well soon, Gronk.