While there were clearly problems with offensive execution down the stretch against the Ravens, not much was said about the defense. Although the second half defense could not stop the passing game at all, many people seemingly forgot about the defense shutting down the Ravens in the first half. The reason: Aqib Talib was healthy. He showed his value at being able to play man-to-man coverage without safety help. Can Aqib Talib really shore up the defensive problems in the future? What are the odds of him getting the franchise tag or being re-signed?
Well, first I want to say that Talib only played 10 minutes against the Ravens before leaving with an injury, so to say the defense was shutting down Baltimore up to that point is rather misleading. Talib played two series and the Ravens were forced to punt on both. But there was still 50 minutes left to be played and I believe Baltimore's offense was going to get on track once they started to throw the ball instead of trying to run Ray Rice every play. Once that happened the Patriots had no answer and I don't think that was entirely due to Talib's absence, although the injury had a huge impact. As far as re-signing him, it will be tough. I would think someone will be willing to pay him if he hits the open market and if they decide to use the franchise tag on someone else, I don't think the Patriots will be among the highest bidders. But there's no doubt you're right about the impact he had on the secondary, and allowing him to walk may be a risky proposition.
If the hit on Stevan Ridley that caused the fumble was ruled unsportsmanlike conduct for helmet to helmet, would it have affected the ruling on the fumble?
Yes it would have affected the ruling of fumble, but that hit was not an example of unsportsmanlike conduct. A penalty against the defense would negate the fumble by rule, so to answer your specific question the Patriots would have retained possession. The Bernard Pollard hit, though vicious, was not illegal. There can be helmet-to-helmet contact between a defender and a running back. The runner is not deemed "defenseless" in such a situation, as would be the case when a receiver is making a catch. So, as tough as it was, the Pollard hit was legal.
I hope that BB won't bring in 35-year old Ed Reed, unless he also brings a young hard-hitting safety. Your thoughts?
I love Ed Reed and so does Bill Belichick. He's been the best combination of a physical safety with one who can cover I've seen in the league during his career. But honestly, I agree with you. At this stage he's really a shell of his former self and I'd be unwilling to cough up any significant money for him. The word out of Baltimore – on the talk shows anyway – is the Ravens won't be willing to pay him what he wants. If that's the case, I wouldn't want to give him much more than the veteran minimum either. Reed doesn't cover as much ground as he used to, and he seems to be dealing with injuries constantly after taking such a pounding over his career. For the right price, I'd love to see his veteran presence helping out in the secondary. Otherwise, I'd look elsewhere.
Offense and defense breakout players for 2013?
Love the brevity here, Andrew. I'll answer in similar style. Offense – Shane Vereen. Defense – Alfonzo Dennard. I like both young players a lot and we got to see glimpses of them this season. Vereen is dynamic and with more experience will become a consistent playmaker. Dennard will get better when he learns how much contact he can get away with in coverage. There's a lot to like about both.
Just wondering what your thoughts were about the Stevan Ridley fumble. It sure looked to us like both his butt and his knee, albeit behind him, was down before the ball was dropped. I'm sure this was covered in detail in NE, not so much here. I'm not suggesting the outcome would have been different, could have been, but curious as to your take on it. Thanks for filling in the void, and look forward to next season.
It was a close one, Rick, but I think the officials got it right. Ridley's butt wasn't quite on the ground when the ball started to come loose, and therefore it's a fumble. I watched it at least a dozen times and you can even see some space between the ground and his backside when the ball hits his own knee/shin and starts to move. It was unfortunate to lose the ball in that situation, but I believe the call was the right one.
Besides Devin McCourty, can you find one safety or corner who belongs on a championship team who BB drafted over the past five years? The same question is for receivers (not TEs).
Well, I'd say Alfonzo Dennard is one. He was drafted this year and I thought performed at pretty high level. He's not going to make anyone forget Ty Law or Asante Samuel, but he is pretty tough and shows a physical style that I like. He can most certainly be a starting corner on a championship team. Other than that, no. Tavon Wilson intrigues me a bit but he struggled in his rookie season. Ras-I Dowling can't seem to stay on the field. Belichick has used quite a few picks on defensive backs and not many have panned out. Until that changes the play of the secondary won't improve much. Same with wide receivers. Belichick's last hits at the position came in 2002 with Deion Branch and David Givens. Since then, not so much. I know it's harsh, but I have to agree with your overall assessment.
Greetings from Costa Rica, great work as always! Just want you to explain me if I'm right or wrong; Until the Pats fix their constant year after year defensive problems, like their lack of a serious pass rush and their never ending lack of decent corners other than Talib (they need to resign by the way), they will never be able to be a serious contenders again. I hope they finally fix these 2 major issues this off season once again, i think all Pats fans are tired of waiting any longer for a dominating defense like the Pats used to have when they were winning championships. It's just simple as this: DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS, period. It doesn't matter if we have the best offense in the world, with a crappy defense we are just going to keep waiting for that Super Bowl trophy. I'm not an expert on this matter but I think I'm right. Just want your opinion on this please?
I agree the defense needs to improve but I disagree with the rest. First, the Patriots have won plenty with the defense playing at a subpar level. Are we really going to say a team that was leading the Super Bowl in the final minute twice in the last six seasons wasn't good enough defensively to win a championship? Yes, the defense was subpar and the offense bailed it out. But when the championship was there to be one, the Patriots lost 17-14 and 21-17 – neither of those scores indicates that bad defense was the sole problem. As for your cliché that defense wins championships, I'd ask how good the Packers and Saints were on defense in 2010 and 2009, respectively? The Giants weren't all that good defensively in 2011 either. Those teams found a way to make some plays when they were needed but ultimately did pretty much what the Patriots generally do – they out-scored teams to get there. And I think as good as Baltimore and San Francisco have been on defense lately, I think the winning team in the Super Bowl will score at least 28 points. In today's NFL, you have to score if you want to win big. If you're decent on defense that can be enough. The Patriots definitely need to improve on that side of the ball but the days of winning 13-10 are over.
How many times have the Patriots lost games at home field Gillette Stadium? How many times has Tom Brady lost games at home field?
The Patriots home record at Gillette Stadium since it opened in 2002 is 73-15 (.830) during the regular season and 10-3 (.769) in the playoffs. Under Brady, the record in the postseason is the same and the regular season would improve to 69-12 (.851).
Still can't get over that brutal loss. I've often heard that Tom Brady gets more out of his team than most other Hall of Fame QBs. People say that Joe Montana had multiple HOF players on his team (Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott) and the same with Aikman (Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin). Is there another HOF candidate on the Patriots roster besides Brady? The only one I can think of is possibly Vince Wilfork. Would like your thoughts on this.
Forecasting which players will eventually make it to the Hall of Fame is difficult. I'd say Rob Gronkowski has an excellent chance to wind up there if he can play at his current level for about 8-10 years. Wes Welker also has a shot to enter into that conversation with another 100-catch season or two. Wilfork, as you mentioned, is interesting as well. In the past, I think Randy Moss and Corey Dillon are two players Brady played with who would be possibilities. Adam Vinatieri also. Richard Seymour, like Wilfork, may have a shot. But like I said, it's hard to project current players as Hall of Famers because so much can change over the course of a player's career.
Which Patriots players are set to become free agents this offseason?
Just like your brother, Andrew, love the succinct nature of your question Tyler. Here's a list of pending free agents for the Patriots: Will Allen, Kyle Arrington, Jake Ballard, Josh Barrett, Deion Branch, Patrick Chung, Marquice Cole, Julian Edelman, Dane Fletcher, Michael Hoomanawanui, Niko Koutouvides, Derrick Martin, Myron Pryor, Jamey Richard, Trevor Scott, Donte Stallworth, Aqib Talib, Donald Thomas, Sebastian Vollmer, Wes Welker, Tracy White and Danny Woodhead.
Will the Pats try to sign Jake Long since Marcus Cannon's disappearance in playing time and Sebastian Vollmer's injury history?
Long has a decent injury history himself, and when healthy he hasn't exactly been the franchise left tackle he was drafted to be. Personally, I'd rather re-sign Vollmer, who I believe is a better player even with the injury concerns. I understand the back problems will make it a risky proposition, but Vollmer's ability to play either side at a very high level make re-signing him worth the risk in my book.
Third down plays are the most important in football. In the playoffs their importance is magnified. That drop of what would've been a first down with the team up and at the Ravens 34 in the third quarter was a momentum killing play. Welker was second in the NFL in drops this year, and that drop was devastating. It literally overshadowed every catch he made because of the timing, situation and resulting consequences. If you are to be considered elite, and want to be paid at that level, you have to make that catch. Unforgivable.
So, is there a question here? As I read this you're saying you don't want Welker re-signed because he dropped an easy pass on third down in the third quarter while leading 13-7. The fact that the Patriots wound up losing 28-13 is on Welker? That's preposterous and the epitome of overreaction. Welker's drop was a big play, but in no way excused the team's overall performance from that point on. And other than Welker, which players on offense played well Sunday night?
OK, so is it time for Tom Terrific to go? Is the Gronk the best tight end to play six games a year?
As incredible as it sounds, this ridiculous post wasn't the only one we received with this line of thinking. I included it only because it was the shortest. Bottom line: talk to me when Brady is actually gone and then see how you like it. Brady did not play well at all against the Ravens, and in fact his postseason track record has been spotty at best over the past 14 games, but again, tell me who's available that you'd rather have. As for Gronkowski, breaking your arm now means you're injury prone? Guys – let's keep it at least a little sane from now on.
What should be considered the biggest off season priority?
The Patriots have a few – pass rusher, cover corner, physical safety, big-play receiver, penetrating interior defensive lineman – but to me tops on the list would be a dynamic playmaker on the edge of the defense. Chandler Jones was a solid pick, and if the Patriots could add another athlete in his mold I believe the defense would improve immensely.
While watching the Patriots/Texans game I noticed that none of the Patriots wear the "C" on their jersey to signify a captain? I was wondering why? I also noticed that underneath the "C"'s that the Texans were wearing there were stars, J.J. Watt had one yellow star and 3 white ones whereas Matt Schaub had four yellow stars. What is the significance of this?
Bill B. (not you, the other Bill B.) was asked about his captains not wearing Cs in the past and basically said "because we don't do that." He explained how football had been played for decades without anyone wearing a C on their uniforms and how he didn't see the need for it. As for the stars, they signify the number of years a player has been a captain. Watt had one because he was only a captain for one year while Schaub, I assume, has been a Texans captain for four years.