So many questions after that game but I'll go with this one: which injured offensive player do you think would have had the biggest impact for the offense had they been healthy? LeGarrette Blount, Dion Lewis, Nate Solder, Brandon LaFell maybe?
There's no question it would be Lewis. Assuming he could have continued performing in the dynamic way he did before getting hurt, he would have continued to cover up for a lot of the offensive line woes. As an example, I think James White performed extremely well in his place, but on Sunday he had many chances to make a big play and couldn't come up with some difficult throws. He was targeted 16 times and came up with only five catches. I have to think Lewis would have done better with those opportunities. Obviously the Patriots could have used all of the players that were injured, but none more so than Lewis in my opinion.
Would you agree that we should be looking at a traditional running back and a tall deep-threat wide receiver in the draft, considering the value placed on RBs these days and minus a first-round pick we may get some decent value to complement Lewis/White/Bolden and potentially jettisoning Blount?
I do feel the team needs a traditional running back who can carry the ball between the tackles but I don't want to spend any significant draft resources to get one. Maybe a third or fourth-rounder at most along with maybe a reasonably priced free agent. As for deep threat wide receiver, I'd place this much further down the list of needs as the deep passing game is not really a huge part of Tom Brady's arsenal. I'd like another outside receiver to replace LaFell but not necessarily someone who's going to fill a Randy Moss-like role. Just someone who can perform the way LaFell did in 2014. I'm not sure what happened to him this year but he was totally ineffective.
OK, that performance was tough to watch. Given that the Pats are done for the year, what does our offseason look like in terms of signing current players and potential free agents that the team may make a run at?
The Patriots will likely be quite busy this offseason with several young and important players nearing the ends of their contracts. Jamie Collins, Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower and Malcolm Butler will all be entering their final year, so I could see some extensions coming to at least some of them. That will require some money so I won't be too surprised if the Patriots opt to keep their own house in order before looking to make a huge free agent signing. I know fans don't always like to hear it, but re-signing your own players can be much more important than acquiring news ones.
I just don't understand why the team took the ball and did not defer possession of the ball to the second half.
Of all of the decisions Belichick made on Sunday I felt this one was the most curious. Obviously it didn't hold the most importance because kicking or receiving each half is not a huge deal, but I felt the choice to depart from the normal procedure was questionable. I like the idea of getting a chance to have consecutive possession at the end of the first half and to start the second – just like Denver did. The fact that Belichick agrees with this, based on the fact that he's only chosen to receive the ball after winning the toss three times in eight years, made Sunday's choice odd. I'm not sure it impacted the game much but I agree it didn't make sense.
Because of the personnel changes in the intervening 14 months, with Dan Connolly retiring, and Ryan Wendell and Nate Solder spending most of the season on IR, not to mention Bryan Stork unavailable for the first half of the season through concussion and neck injury (plus Shaq Mason and Tre' Jackson absent at various points with knee injuries), is this a result of being undermanned, or is it something behind-the-scenes which Bill Belichick and/or McDaniels didn't like about Dave DeGuglielmo and/or thought Mason, Jackson, Andrews and Stork needed someone else to guide the young guys' development? Given the sheer number of injuries and forced changes to the line throughout the season, with Mason also learning pass protection for the first time in his life, I thought 'Guge' was doing a commendable job. For a replacement, is Belichick more likely to promote from within (Brian Daboll), or look outside, as he did with 'Gug'?
On paper I totally agree with everything you've said, although I think you're making more out of the injuries this season that I would. They lost Solder but most of the rest of the shuffling was by design and not necessarily out of necessity. Anyway, Guge was dealt a difficult hand trying to replace a legend and having Logan Mankins taken away from him before his first game last year. Then he lost more vets this year. So the drop-off in performance was to be expected and not necessarily blamed on him. However, it seemed from watching with an admittedly untrained eye that the Patriots offensive line made similar mistakes over and over this season. It used to be rare if an opposing rusher came in untouched or unaccounted for. That happened a lot this season, and at least part of that has to be coaching. I am not behind the scenes to see how the individual position coaches go about their business, but it certainly seemed as if the offensive line did not play with much discipline and direction. If that's true, then I can understand the thought of moving even if it certainly wasn't all about the coaching.
I was just wondering, I don't want it to seem like I'm a whiner, cause I have all the faith in the world in the Pats, but why is it we seem to always not only face the teams but the officials as well? We have a lot of bogus calls on us and teams we face seem to get away with worse penalties! We saw it big time in the AFC championship game! And why is it we are facing one of the hardest schedules yet again? I think something needs to be said and brought up on this through owners meetings or league meetings because enough is enough, I'm fed up seeing games go down like this.
First, you most definitely are a whiner because if you watched Sunday's game and felt the officials had anything to do with the outcome you're crazy. The officials for the most part let both teams play and when the calls were made they involved things that pretty much had to be called – like Denver's helmet-to-helmet hit on Julian Edelman and Bryan Stork's head-butt after the whistle. There were a couple of ticky-tack pass interference/holding calls on both sides, and the officials overturned a very close call via replay in the Patriots favor. Not sure what the officials did to cost the Patriots the game but I'm sure you are not alone. As for the schedule, the Patriots played one of the easiest ones in the league this season. It's all determined by a formula where teams play the other divisions on a rotating basis. There are only two games determined by performance and those are against the first-place teams from the two AFC divisions that the Patriots are scheduled to play. Next year that will be Houston and Denver. It's not a conspiracy to make the Patriots life more difficult.
There were three things about the AFC Championship game that I (and a number of other fans) don't understand. First, why did we never see the hurry up … I know the "O" line, but I would think anyone capable of playing in the NFL should be able to know how to handle two or three calls, and an audible or two at one time. Second, every run attempt was right up the middle, no sweeps, no end around, nothing. Why? Third, unless I missed it, at no time did I see five receivers (not five wides, just five receivers) on the field at the same time.
San Jose, Calif.*
The coaches would the only ones who could answer these questions with certainty but from my perspective the no huddle in that environment would have been a disaster. There was no communication as it was due to the noise. The Patriots were forced to use a silent count so it would not have been easy to make adjustments on the fly without huddling given that crowd and the pressure the Broncos created. As for the running game, again I will credit the Broncos defense. Their linebackers are extremely fast and active so running toward the sidelines is not generally a wise move against such personnel. Plus, the Patriots don't really have running backs at this point who are threats on the outside. As for the last point, I actually felt the Patriots could have used more protection at times than they used. There were loads of formations with five receivers – James White played in 57 snaps as an example. All of the receivers – Gronkowski, Edelman, Amendola and Keshawn Martin – were out there at least 55 snaps and many of those plays featured an empty backfield. So they went with five receivers quite often. Obviously it didn't work.
Somewhere between "it is what it is" and "on to ..." lies a reality which needs to be evaluated and those accountable for, given both the credit due and a rightful criticism. I would like to suggest that the entire organization deserves kudos for taking this team to yet another conference championship. I also want to name two OL players: Cannon and Jackson who need to be evaluated if they belong on a starting lineup. I also want to question BB for managing the last six games of the regular season which led Pats to play in hostile Denver and lose there yet again. Injuries and individual misses aside, I believe that OL-play and fumbling the first seed are the main reasons why this capable team is "on to" not the SB. Your thoughts on this please?
I totally agree with the criticism of how the Patriots handled the end of the season. There were plenty of opportunities to secure the one final win necessary to earn home-field advantage and curious decisions – kicking off to start OT against the Jets, five passes in the first half in Miami – prevented it from happening. I feel the outcome would have been different if Sunday's game was played in Foxborough. I don't really understand the Jackson criticism. The guy was inactive on Sunday and yet he's getting bashed? Not sure why. Cannon struggled for sure but in fairness to him he's not a starter. He was only playing because Nate Solder was hurt. So saying that he doesn't belong in the starting lineup – I agree – and so do the Patriots because he doesn't start. Again, not sure why Jackson is taking any heat because when he played he generally held up well as a rookie and he wasn't even dressed on Sunday.
I'll be one to admit that as tough a loss as this Sunday was, it couldn't have been to a better (defensive) team. That being said, two fourth down drives in the red zone and down by 8 points--no field goals? I'm sure I'm not the only one who is questioning the call made by McDaniels and Coach Bill here, but even after going for it on 4th and 1, we had a second chance blown on a 4th & 6. Why go for it? Clearly our defense in the 4th quarter had shown it was competitive enough to shut down the Broncos offense (as it did after we failed both 4th down conversions) but why not take the easy three points with the best kicker in the league and try for a touchdown to win on the next series?
This was the big talking point during the postgame and will probably continue to be throughout the offseason. I can definitely see both sides of this but if I'm going to be completely honest I have to admit that I side with Belichick on this. Certainly if there was any way to know the Patriots would get the ball back two more times after going for it on fourth down with six minutes left I would feel differently. But at the time the Patriots offense simply couldn't move the ball and really the defense did its best work after that. Up to that point the Broncos had four second-half possessions and moved the ball well on two of them. The other two were three-and-outs due to big plays from Jamie Collins. So, with six minutes left the offense had the ball needing a yard at the Denver 16. Belichick thought there were no guarantees he'd get that close again and he went for it. He often goes for it on fourth down needing a year but this time the Patriots didn't get it. The second opportunity came with just 2:30 left so I don't believe there was any decision to make – he had to go for it at that stage. One first down by Denver on the ensuing possession would have ended the game. Again, had I known the Broncos weren't going to pick up a first down on either drive, maybe I would have done it differently. One final thing – we watch the outcomes of these decisions and never take into account how things may change based on the situation. If the Patriots kicked the first field goal and Denver got the ball with six minutes left and a five-point lead, maybe the Broncos treat things differently and would have been more aggressive in trying to move the ball. Maybe they would have turned it over. Maybe they would have picked up three first downs and effectively ended the game. But protecting an eight-point lead Gary Kubiak clearly decided he was going to be super cautious and rely on his defense knowing that the worst that could happen was overtime. Things could have changed if he had a chance to lose.
This playoff game was doomed weeks ago when the Pats showed no desire at all to beat the Jets or Dolphins to lock up home field advantage? When you are 2-6 in Denver you should do anything possible, including risking aggravating injuries, to keep your team out of Denver. I believe playing at Mile High Stadium was a strong factor in the Pats defeat. The thin air, the loud crowd, the condition of the field, the Pats history there all were "intangibles" that impacted the final score. I hope BB, and us fans, learn from this and do whatever is necessary to never play a postseason game in Denver again.
I don't have much to add to this other than to say I violently agree. Denver is a different beast and the Patriots history there is so bad that I would be willing to do just about anything to avoid playing there in the playoffs. The Patriots easily could have avoided it and now the season is over.
Field goals. Does Bill Belichick know what they are? If so, does he know that if he had just kicked one, on the two previous drives; the TD at the end is a go ahead for the win? The defense held Denver's Offense to 3 consecutive 3 and outs. We basically had 3 scoring drives in the final 6 minutes. We passed up a possible 6 points on the two previous drives. What's 6 + 3 =? It equals 9. 9 + 12 = 21. How many points did the Broncos have? 20! That's a win, not a tie. Let's say we only kicked one field goal, and missed the other. Yes, we could have missed both or all three but I highly doubt it with a kicker like Gostkowski. So we make one, miss one and score the TD at the end. We are left with 6 + 3 again. If for some reason Gostkowski missed another extra point. 7 + 3 if it's good. Those numbers add up to either 9 or 10, both of which when added to 12 = 21 or 22. BOTH numbers which are greater than 20! How does an otherwise brilliant coach make such an obvious mistake?
As I mentioned above you're making an awful lot of assumptions. First, Denver went three-and-out twice, not three times as you suggested. The previous Denver drive went 10 plays for 48 yards and resulted in a field goal, and that was only due to Peyton Manning missing a wide open Jordan Norwood on third down in the end zone. So, that was the drive before Belichick was faced with the idea of going for it on fourth-and-one or kicking a field goal to cut it five. Let's say he did kick it and then the Broncos moved the ball similarly to their previous possession. What would happen then? I'll tell, and I'll try not to do it as condescendingly as you did with your math. People would be killing Belichick for kicking a field goal on fourth-and-one, eliminating any chance the Patriots had of getting the tying touchdown. It's easy to say the Patriots defense was shutting Denver down but the reality is the previous drive saw the Broncos march down the field. Assuming the other team won't move the ball is a tough way to play. The Patriots offense also hadn't moved the ball all game long and we assume they would have kept scoring. In all honesty, it was borderline miraculous that the Patriots got into position to score at all given the nature of the plays that got them there – converting a fourth-and-10 into double coverage, etc. Personally I feel the Patriots played their guts out in this game and were simply beaten by the better team. Now, if we're asking why the game was in Denver when it should have been in Foxborough, I'm all in there.