The Haphazard Blog


Stretch Run Patriots Update

by on Dec.05, 2010, under Football, Patriots, Sports

I haven’t recapped the last 2 games so I thought I’d write up some thoughts on those games and some other Patriots related things heading into the big game tomorrow night. That game could very well determine which team gets a playoff bye and which one will be on the road.

Once again, the Patriots-Colts game started late. There was 13:06 left in the 1st quarter when it finally switched. The NFL also moved the Patriots-Bears game to 4:15 next week. Initially, I thought woe is me, but luckily the Chiefs also play the late game on CBS so my game will be on NFL Sunday Ticket.

Some quick thoughts on the Colts game. Wes Welker on a linebacker = bad idea, he easily juked him for a TD. Once again, the Patriots start out well and build a lead only to collapse at the end. Only difference this time is Peyton Manning is struggling of late with his new receivers. (On a side note, does this add another point for Tom Brady in the Brady-Manning debate? Brady was so close to another Super Bowl in 2006 with Reche Caldwell as his #1 receiver. Manning still has Reggie Wayne and is still playing badly.) They really gave the Colts hope by not scoring that final touchdown and settling for a field goal. Kyle Arrington playing defensive end? Is Bill Belichick announcing he has given up on OLBs creating any pressure at this point. Arrington has give up over 100 pounds to every offensive lineman. The Patriots so badly need a OLB pass rusher. It isn’t just the Colts who can make comebacks against the Patriots. They are really struggling (detailed here). I suppose it makes sense given how bad their pass defense is and that’s all a team does when down big. I wonder why no team has decided, they can’t rush us, let’s pass all day. Patrick Chung doesn’t make a really effective slot corner. How bad is Darius Butler he can’t play the slot either? James Sanders once again came up big to save a win.

Finishing up with some quick thoughts on the Lions game. It was a game on a very short week. Late game Sunday, travel on Wednesday to play the early Thanksgiving game. They started out slow with Brady taking a lot of hits and getting sacked. The Lions were up 17-3 at one point and it was looking like a long day at times. Perhaps another bad loss like the Browns game. The main positive was they weren’t turning it over. They seemed to figure out the pass protection problems and before you knew it, they were scoring 4 TDs to really put a stamp of authority on the game. Alphonso Smith was abused all day–run over by BenJarvus Green-Ellis, run in circles all day by Deion Branch. Smith had 3 missed tackles on 1 play. I wonder what has caused the emergence of Rob Gronkowski and the disappearance of Aaron Hernandez. What will happen when they are both playing so well and are on the field together? Devin McCourty has been playing real well these last couple of weeks. He could get into the defensive rookie of the year conversation if he continues to play this way.

Tomorrow it’s the Jets again. The Jets say they are built to beat the Patriots, but I think that was the season opening Patriots. (And really, they stumbled on it because they wanted Darelle Revis to cover Randy Moss when Antonio Cromartie was the better match-up.) But I think the Patriots are built to beat the Jets now. There is no elite WR, just quick small guys. They will be wasting Revis on covering one WR while the other will play against a guy who isn’t as quick on the other side. Brady is playing a lot smarter football now and I’d really be surprised to see them lose this game. The Patriots say football starts on Thanksgiving and the Patriots have a tough road to finish the season. The Jets (9-2), Bears (9-3), Packers (8-4) and 2 more division games. It’ll be a good test to close out the season. Also, if they do get the inside track to win the division, they have to keep winning to ensure they get the top seed.

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Patriots vs. Steelers Recap

by on Nov.17, 2010, under Football, Patriots, Sports

What a difference  week makes!

The Patriots won their second coin toss of the year and chose to defer (I think this is a good strategy on the road since seats tend to be most empty at the start of the second half) and forced a 3 and out. Tom Brady went straight to Rob Gronkowski. It’s interesting how teams do this after a guy has a bad play and/or game. They’re professionals, but it seems like it makes a difference to confidence. I think this was the best opening drive of the season for the Patriots. They seem to start out slow this year, but this time, Gronkowski ended the drive with a touch down. People were very impressed with the pass Brady threw. At first I thought he made the pass tighter than it had to be, but seeing a replay of it today, I think it was either there or nowhere.

On the Steeler’s second drive, we saw a running theme appear. Zone defense and an easy 3rd down conversion.  I think the zone defense is preventing big passing plays, but the players don’t quite have the instincts to make sure guys don’t easily find voids in the zones. It’s a good thing they’re good tacklers, well for the most part. Brandon Meriweather and James Sanders sometimes take some bad angles. Following this play, they played very well in coverage after the play broke down. They stuck to the receivers as they scrambled and kept Ben Roethlisberger in pocket getting 2 sacks in a row.

I thought it was odd that there were points (and even series) during the game where is Vince Wilfork wasn’t on the field. I wondered if he was injured and then he would be back. Not sure why he didn’t play as much considering he is the best defensive lineman they have. On the flip side, the defense played awesome for 3 quarters.

I think if  Brady leads Brandon Tate a little more on that deep pass, it’s a touchdown. Mike Rodak felt it was an accurate pass, but Tate had beat his guy and had to slow up in the end zone to catch the pass and the corner back was able to knock it away.

Brady was pissed at the end of a bad series. I thought they needed a lip reader and WEEI agreed. They didn’t really turn up much and Brady danced around it.

I don’t know why they Patriots are going for big hits instead of tackles at times. Bill Belichick should fine guys who go for the big hit and the opposing player gets away. Earlier in the game, Patrick Chung showed how to make a big hit and tackle by nearly stopping a first down.

Branch looks a lot healthier in this game. He looked really bad against the Vikings and still kind of slow against the Browns. Hopefully he’s back to 100% and will stay that way.

Coming out to start the 3rd quarter, the Patriots had another good drive. The defense continued their stellar performance forcing a 3 and out and later getting another red zone stand. The only bad play I saw was the pass interference by Meriweather. I don’t think he is fast enough for the deep safety. He seems to be about one step late on a lot of deep throws. This time it cost him a lot of yards as he tried to go through a receiver for an interception. If he was faster, he could’ve beat him to the spot, but since he isn’t, he should’ve been smart enough to break up the catch instead.

Brady put together another good drive as the end of the 3rd quarter approached to put them up 23-3.  He sneaked the ball in to score and Troy Polamalu (who was either invisible or guessing wrong all day) added some “extra sugar” as Matt Light called it with a hit to Brady after he scored. Brady got up and spiked the ball as hard as he could and stared down the fans. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen him this fired up. Somehow the new kicker missed the extra point. The long snapper and kicker are new, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Better now that a real close game.

I think at this point, the Patriots let off on defense. Whatever they did, it wasn’t working. The Steelers moved the ball very quickly down the field to score a touch down. Fortunately a quick pick 6 and they opened the lead up again. I don’t know what they were thinking doing the stupid group celebration. It’s been banned since the Rams did the bob and weave. Who even thinks up or plans a group celebration?

One of my favorite plays of the game was Wilfork knocking down Emmanuel Sanders as he ran across the field. It shouldn’t have been a penalty since it was within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. I thought it was a smart, heads up play by him.

In the end, the Patriots were able to win, but the Steelers scored 23 points in 15 minutes. That is very bad when you have Peyton Manning coming to town this week. Hopefully it becomes a lesson to play a full 60 minutes against the Colts.  It was a nice bounce back game from Gronkowski.

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Steelers = Biggest Whiners

by on Nov.14, 2010, under Football, Patriots, Sports

After moving to West Virginia from Massachusetts, I was surrounded by Steelers fans. Being a Patriots fan, I couldn’t stand them. The most annoying fans I’d ever met. Their obsession with getting one for the thumb (before they got 2 more) and the stupid “here we go” song. Hate them more than any other team in the NFL.

I thought their fans were whiners too, but it turns out after seeing this article today about “Spygate“, they’re really just mimicking the entire organization. The owners, coaches and players just love to whine. They’ve been whining for 5 weeks about fines and illegal hits and still crying about “Spygate”.

So somehow the Steeler’s defensive signals helped Troy Brown return a punt and block a field goal that was run back for a touchdown in the 2001 AFC Championship game. Or the Steeler’s defensive signals helped the Patriots defense intercept 3 Kordell Stewart passes. Those signals sure helped the Patriots stop Lee Flowers from injuring Tom Brady. Oh wait, he did injure him.

Or maybe in 2004 the Steeler’s defensive signals helped the Patriots intercept Ben Roethlisberger 3 times and run one back for a touchdown. Tom Brady was all world with 200 passing yards and the running game racked up 126yards (to the Steelers 163). It’s amazing how they did so well knowing all the calls.

What’s their excuse for the opening day beating in 2002? Same signals as 2001? When is it their fault the players can’t handle new signals. They’re out in the open for any team to obtain. It was only the video camera that was illegal. If the signs are the same all season, anyone with a ticket or in a coaches booth can take notes.

Just admit it. You got killed at home in the AFC Championship game. The Patriots went through you twice to win two Super Bowls. You didn’t have to beat the Patriots once to get yours in the 2000s. The Patriots were the better team last decade. Stop whining.

To all my friends unfortunate enough to be Steelers fans, I still like you (and you’re not whiners, well maybe a few of you are :)).

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NFL Ratings Up, Everyone Else Down

by on Nov.14, 2010, under Entertainment, Football, Sports, TV

I saw a post on my favorite football site about the NFL’s ratings this year. It had me thinking about ratings in general. While it is something to be commended, I don’t find it surprising because viewership numbers have been dropping for years. Top TV shows 3 or 4 years ago were getting close to 20M viewers and 6 or 7 years ago 25M viewers. The shift can be attributed to many things like more choices (cable), DVRs, DVDs and online viewing. It’s probably a little of everything, but the one thing that pretty much has no alternative is sports. As a bonus, since they are live events, people who want to watch them will always prefer live to tape delay/time shifting. Which means more eyeballs on commercials.

So at least to me, this comes as no surprise that the NFL can be king without cracking 20M viewers. I think this trend will continue for live programming over normal prime time programming.

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Patriots vs. Browns Recap

by on Nov.07, 2010, under Football, Patriots, Sports

Special thanks to CBS for showing all of us at home Eric Mangini chewing dip and spitting on the field. I’m sure there is plenty of spit and blood on the field, but it would still suck to have your face smashed into some discraded dip.

It looks like the game ended up being as bad (for the Patriots) as the first play was.

21-Yard Completion on First and 10

The Browns completed a 21-yard pass and the picture above shows a corner back and safety nearby along with linebackers and safeties 6 yards behind. And it took 4 of them to actually touch the receiver down.

Four Patriots Couldn't Cover One Receiver

Rob Gronkowski had a horrible day. Poor Andy Hart. (Not to mention his other binky, James Sanders, was hurdled by Peyton Hillis.) Gronkowski calls for a fair catch and just stands there as it lands 3 yards behind him. Sammy Morris couldn’t corral it and the Browns got it. Then when the Patriots finally got the ball, he had 2 drops (1 was a low throw, but hit his hands). Later on, he had a killer fumble at the goal line to end the half. Patriots would’ve been 2nd and goal at the 2 down 17-7. For good measure he got a holding penalty and tipped a touchdown pass up in the air.

Luckily, on that tipped ball, Aaron Hernandez was able to concentrate and pull the ball in for a touchdown in the back of the end zone.

Weird U.S. Air Force commercial. It continues the “it’s not science fiction” series, but they show that tag line after a cargo plane seemingly has vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) and transforming while flying capabilities.

By the midpoint of the 3rd quarter, the game was quite embarrassing. The Browns were unstoppable. Peyton Hillis (nice trade Broncos!) was running anyone and everyone over, Colt McCoy was scrambling and making plays. To top it off, he ran for a 16 yard touchdown.

The Patriots kept trying to get in the game, but aside from not really being able to string together drives to score I noticed the Patriots receivers and tight ends are unnecessarily jumping to catch passes with their bodies. Makes running after the catch (if they don’t drop it) a lot harder.

As the game came to a close, somehow the Patriots looked worse. They loaded up to stop the run and played very undisciplined. The outside linebackers were not setting the edge. Hillis had no trouble running off tackle with 15 yard and 35 yards (a touchdown). The 15 yard one was after the defense got a 5 yard loss and had a 2nd and 15. After that, Bill Belichick ditched the headset and put Brian Hoyer in and called it a game.

One last note on this debacle. The Browns, ex-Patriots in particular were celebrating like they won the Super Bowl. Considering they’ve actually been there, I can’t really say act like you’ve been there before. But keep in mind that Josh McDaniels went nuts after beating the Patriots last year and has proceeded to go 5-14 since. Beating the Patriots isn’t as big of an accomplishment as it used to be.

To completely ruin Sunday football, the Jets came back from a 20-10 deficit in the 4th quarter to tie it, force overtime, win the coin flip and kick a field goal.  The Patriots and Jets are 6-2 at the top of the AFC East.

Looking forward, I don’t think losing is ever a good thing, but now the Patriots know they have to play a lot better if they want to have a chance against the Steelers (they couldn’t contain McCoy in the pocket, stop Hillis running and didn’t match their physicality) or Colts (porous pass defense against the Browns) in the next 2 weeks. The offense also has to execute at a much better and consistent level.

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Patriots vs. Vikings Recap

by on Oct.31, 2010, under Football, Patriots, Sports

Happy Halloween!

This was a ho-hum kind of game. The teams went back and forth for a bit before the Patriots were able to capitalize on a turnover and then the Vikings came back and made it a one score game again late.

I just want to say again that I hate Sunday afternoon games. Missed the beginning of the game again because the local FOX station had to air some local commercials. Suddenly, the Patriots have the ball.  This may happen again for the Colts game, CBS has the double header.

Alge Crumpler seems to makes a lot of costly and/or stupid penalties for a veteran. This week, it was illegal motion negating a 1st down followed by an incomplete pass to punt. Week 1 it was a false start and then a holding negating a 1st down leading to a punt. Week 3 was holding again. All told, if you read the play-by-play, Crumpler has 3 penalties, 1 injury, 2 incomplete passed and 1 completed pass through 7 games. In all fairness to him, he has been a locker room leader, mentor to 2 rookie tight ends and a staple of the running game.

Blah. Blah. Blah. Brett Favre. Favre. Favre. That is all I hear the announcers saying. It’s like everyone gets paid by the compliment to Favre.

The Patriots offense seems to be getting worse by the week. Is it film study? Conversely, are the Vikings going to win by running all day? It seemed like it, but at the end of the game Adrian Peterson didn’t get 100 yards and the Patriots found a running game.

I really think that the Patriots defense stopped Peterson on that touchdown. I agree with the crowd, bull shit. If you combine the angles, Vince Wilfork stopped the ball and Jerod Mayo finished him off. No touchdown.

I couldn’t stop laughing after Brad Childress decided to challenge the Brandon Tate reception after the network showed 4 replays. I could see it with no replays, but after those? Total ineptitude. Then later he didn’t challenge a turnover. The referees aren’t your only problem Chilly.

The Patriots defense continues their bend, but don’t break ways with a goal line stand. They seem to be getting better, which is what I hoped to see.

I thought Tom Brady was throwing it away when he threw it to Tate for the 65 yard touchdown. But it was another one of those plays where you have no idea what Brady was thinking and it worked out. On the other side, when Brady had a lot of time it seemed like either there was no check down/dump off receiver or he couldn’t find the open guy.

Another awesome interception by Devin McCourty. He ripped that ball away from Percy Harvin as he was going to the ground and took off with it. I think that’s a play Childress has to challenge to see if Harvin was down by contact first.

Favre was knocked out with an injury. With stitches, he obviously was hit in the head by Myron Pryor’s helmet. It was a hit to the chest, but the helmet had to have slid up. By the rules (at least how I read them), that was a penalty (they got an illegal contact anyway, another bad call in my opinion). I’d expect a fine to come his way. On the topic of penalties, not sure how they missed the pass interference call against Welker later. It was a critical point in the game, fortunately, they got the 1st down on the next play.

To end the drive, they ran 2 quarterback sneaks from 1 yard out. What were they thinking there? One yard for a touchdown to go up by 10 and they do that with the Vikings defense in with a goal line package and dug in for the run. Were they that confident that they could get a TD on 3rd or 4th down? Points seem a lot more important than the time left on the clock.

The Vikings had incredible kick and punt coverage teams.

And finally, I just want to echo Bill Simmons.

The Raiders went 29-83 from 2003 to 2009. Somehow, my Patriots have their No. 1 pick during the one year they’ll probably finish 8-8. This makes me angry. Really, really angry.

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Patriots vs. Chargers Recap

by on Oct.24, 2010, under Football, Patriots, Sports

Right off the bat, I had to deal with NFL Sunday Ticket annoyances. If a game is scheduled to air on your local station, DirecTV blacks out the NFL Sunday Ticket broadcast. It really sucks when:

  1. The early game you want to watch is on local TV and turns out to be a blowout. The local channel switches to another game and it’s also blacked out. It will take almost a whole quarter before DirecTV lifts the blackout.
  2. The late game you want to watch is on local TV and another game they want to air to completion goes over. I’ve never seen them lift the black out in this case, you have to wait until the local station shows the game.
  3. The late game you want to watch is on local TV and the team in/near your market goes over. If it goes to OT, they will usually lift the black out until half time, but not until a fair amount of the game has already been played.

So today, I was stuck with scenario #2. By the time they joined the game, there was 10:30 left in the 1st quarter and there were already 2 possessions. What’s the point of getting “all the games” when this routinely happens across the country to fans who live outside their favorite team’s market? Can’t DirecTV do it the other way? Have a god faith agreement to black out a game after they confirm it is airing locally? How about at least having a phone number or e-mail address to alert them that a black out needs to be lifted. They charge $300 a season. Is it too costly to hire a guy to work every Sunday to handle black outs?

The last thing I’ll say is there are at least the Shortcuts so I can see the plays I missed tomorrow. Now, on to the game (at least what I saw).

Someone needs to remind Brandon Meriweather that while he did make a big hit, the guy still got a 1st down. Quit celebrating like Ellis Hobbs. But a good job lowering his target after the dirty hit and big fine the week before.

The Chargers went for an onside kick early and the Patriots did a good job making sure they got it. Last year, they were caught not paying attention and just running back to cover, this year, while they were taking a step back, they were watching the ball. Dane Fletcher was able to fall on it while other guys made blocks to make sure he had the time to secure the ball. There was no panic.

The Patriots ripped of a 9 yard run on 1st down, then threw 2 incomplete passes. This was a sign of a theme for the offense today, lots of ineptitude and inconsistency.

On the flip side, the defense played very well. They were stopping the Chargers on 3rd down, and on a 3rd and long were able to force a fumble and recover deep in Charger territory. It was another good play by Fletcher who seemed to be carrying over his good play from the Ravens game.

After the Patriots scored a touchdown, Richard Goodman pulled a somewhat common rookie mistake by just dropping a live ball after hitting the ground after the catch. I was yelling at the TV as he went down for someone to touch him because I knew he could get up and run. Instead he tossed the ball on the ground and James Sanders picked it up.

Once again, Matt Light did his best impression of a turnstile as Tom Brady was sacked. In general, the whole offensive line played poorly and Brady was under pressure all night. I’ll repeat it again, the Patriots will be drafting a left tackle. Light is useless. He gets beat routinely (but not often enough to be benched) and he can’t even play any other position.

The Patriots came out playing better in the 3rd quarter. CBS showed a stat saying the last time the Patriots failed to gain more than 38 yards in the 1st half was against the Giants (29 yards) in 2003. They also won that game, went 14-2 and won a Super Bowl that year.

Danny Woodhead continues to amaze. He has great instincts for running and he also perfectly timed a high step to avoid a guy who was behind him from making a shoe string tackle that allowed him to get at least another 10 yards on 2nd and 17 to make it 3rd and 1.

The defense started to look pretty porous in the 4th quarter. On one play, they had a 3 man rush on 3rd and long and the Chargers converted the 3rd down with a pass. This is the opposite of how they played against the Ravens where they played their best in the 4th quarter (and OT).  They were able to move the ball and score touchdowns at will it seemed. I felt like I could predict what was happening. Thy started to pass when Vince Wilfork was in for 1st down, mostly as a checkdown to a wide open underneath receiver or running back. So New England countered with a similar plan to the Ravens last week having Fletcher spy the running back. Philip Rivers just went deep in the middle then. So then they decided to take Wilfork out and the Chargers would just run it. Antonio Gates really stepped it up in the 4th quarter despite an injury.

The second onsides kick by the Chargers was perfectly timed. The Chargers player was at the ball just as it was crossing the 4o-yard line. The only chance the Patriots had was to try and go forward and get a hold of the ball, but without their best “hands” guys, would’ve been equally risky.

I thought it was a curious decision for Bill Belichick to go for it on 4th and 1 from their 49 after the 2 minute warning. The Chargers still had 3 timeouts left and only need a field goal to tie the game. A punt gives them 2 minutes and a long field with 3 timeouts. If they fail to get the 1st down, then the Chargers have the ball at midfield with 3 timeouts and need 15-20 yards to be in field goal range. If the Patriots get the 1st down, they could force the Chargers to burn all their timeouts and then punt for a long field to get a field goal. And best case, they are able to run the whole clock out. My guess on Bill Belichick’s logic: I like our chances of getting a 1st down on this play (It looked like the same play they used to get their last touchdown) over my defense stopping the Chargers with 4 downs on a long field.

So after not getting the 1st down, the defense held enough. On the 3rd down play I was hoping for short completion to set up a long field goal. An incomplete might’ve had them go for it on 4th and long. They got a little more yards than I had hoped. They set up for a 45-yard field goal and has a false start! It moved them back 5 yards and I feared they may decide to go for it, but they went ahead with a field goal. My thought was where is Patrick Chung when you need him (someone else did come real close to blocking it), but to the Patriot’s fortune, the kick hit the right upright and was no good. Another tough win.

One final note. No idea if there is a correlation, but the Patriots 3rd down offense has done a lot worse since the Randy Moss trade. And speaking of, next week he comes back to face the Patriots.

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