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Nitpicks & Nitwits: Patriots price for success has foes taking easy way out

It ain't easy being cheesy.

Ok, so I'm taking the line from the well-known Cheetos' Cheetah TV commercial, but it does seem to fit here.  It's the only reasonable explanation for someone like Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin to be forced to whine about his teams' headsets not working last Thursday night.

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It was a cheesy thing to do, and it's beneath him, really. The man has coached his Steeler team quite successfully since 2007, and he became the youngest head coach to win a Super Bowl when Pittsburgh beat Arizona in 2009.  Four division titles, two Super Bowl appearances in his tenure?  The guy can coach, absolutely. 

He doesn't need excuses.

So why does he feel the need to whine about his headsets not working?  The Patriots also had problems.  NFL protocol dictates when one team has no communication, the opposing team must also do without.  It's not like there was any intent to harm or hinder, hidden or otherwise, going on here.  Headset malfunctions happen, as radio frequencies often become garbled or cut off due to weather conditions. 

His reaction has to be because it's simply the easy thing to do - just lay it on the Patriots.  Everyone else does, it seems.  The exchange with reporters after the game went like this:

*Mike there was a report that your radio went out?  ''That's always the case.''

Here?  ''Yes.''

So you're saying every time you play here you have rad-   ''I said what I said.''*

Something isn't right?  Something is amiss?  Blame the Patriots for it.  The NFL exonerated the team for any wrong doing with the headset difficulties, whether they actually needed it or not.  But the current climate suggests the Patriots may, however, need a little help in this department right now.  It's actually a mild surprise the NFL had their backs in this instance, considering the enmity that has grown between the parties.

This is the price paid for success, and, for pushing the envelope along the way toward achieving that success.  It's also the price to pay for the controversies that have swirled around us all like so much debris after a storm rumbles through our midst, whether they are fact or fiction.

We've seen countless examples of Patriot coaches and players always looking for an edge, looking for that extra ''something'' that can make a difference between winning and losing.  If you watched the NFL Network special ''Do Your Job,'' there was fascinating insight into just how dedicated the organization is - including players, coaches and the front office - toward achieving the ultimate goal.

Winning in this day and age isn't easy.  But the Patriots can, on occasion, make it look that way.  When that happens, it's easy to point fingers at the things you don't understand or comprehend.  It's fear of the unknown.  It happened last season when Baltimore's John Harbaugh accused the Patriots of lining up in illegal formations, only to be burned by the truth - as well as the resulting plays - in the aftermath of a New England victory.

When accomplished, professional coaches like Mike Tomlin insinuate ''something's up,'' they're reaching.  They're searching for answers, because they have none of their own.  And that's too bad.  Maybe they should take Tom Brady's postgame advice to Coach Harbaugh in Baltimore last January and ''learn the rulebook.''

And then it'll be easy to stop being so cheesy.

Check out the best images from the Patriots season opening game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium on Thursday, September 10, 2015.

Secondarily speaking, there's work to do

Even the most casual observer must admit - there's a lot of work needed in the Patriots' secondary.  Yes, the end result was a win, which is always the bottom line.  But Ben Roethlisberger's 26-of-38 performance for 351 yards passing was more than enough to almost-wing his team to victory.

Antonio Brown is an elite receiver in the NFL, and his nine catches for 133 yards would also seem to back that up.  Perhaps it's unfair to lay much fault at the feet of primary defender Malcolm Butler or on the shoulders of veteran Bradley Fletcher, but that also comes with the territory of playing the cornerback position.  Considering Brown was targeted 11 times by Big Ben and he caught nine of them - a few more plays need to be made by whoever is back there matched up with wide receivers.

Heath Miller caught eight balls for another 84 yards, and was probably under-utilized.  Coverage is key.  Just who, exactly, is to supply that coverage is still under consideration, and still under construction as the Patriots try to build a championship-caliber defense.

O-Line play has its moments, for both sides

With three rookies playing prominently up in front of Tom Brady, it's hard to find any real fault with allowing two QB sacks overall.  One of those sacks, however, nearly took TB12's head off on a blitz from Will Allen in the 3rd quarter.  It didn't appear from the game film, however, to be the fault of any of those rookies.

Run-blocking was sporadic, at best.  Especially in short yardage situations.  Perhaps that's part of the reason Dion Lewis played as much as he did, thanks to his ability to make defenders miss?  When the Patriots tried to go between the tackles, or around the ends, there was little room to run - and that will have to change with LeGarrette Blount and his north-south capabilities returning to the lineup.

And Nate Solder's two penalties on the first two drives of the game?  C'mon Nate.  It only feeds the other side early momentum that can become tough to slow down once they get rolling.  And shuts down your own.

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Pacman's play of the day

It wasn't exactly highlight-worthy.  But the TV shows kept showing it anyway, largely due to the controversy.  It's not every day you see a helmet ripped off of a player and his head used as a hammer against it.

Cincinnati cornerback Adam ''Pacman'' Jones - who is no stranger to nitwit performances - now finds himself embroiled in another mess.  Officials missed the play, but cameras caught Jones on top of Oakland's Amari Cooper, slapping at his helmet hard enough to take it off, then grabbing Cooper's head and slamming it into the helmet while Jones was on top of him. 

There was no penalty called, because the officials did not see it.  Whether or not there is a fine or suspension coming from the NFL is to be determined.  There should be, but NFL consistency in dealing out punishment for actual misdeeds - real or otherwise - has been inconsistent, at best. 

Asked if he anticipated any punishment for his actions, Jones replied ''no.''  To his credit, Cooper took the play in stride.  ''I mean, its football.  It's a physical game, so you kind of expect it.''

Physical play, sure, you can expect that.  But assault with intent to injure?  That's what it looked like from this corner.  We'll see if the league thinks otherwise.

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History has a way of repeating itself

It's not really nit-picking on Pete Carroll, but then again, it is. 

As the Seattle Seahawks started overtime in St. Louis, the decision was made to try an onside kick to gain the early edge with possession of the ball.  Nothing wrong with that, but the play didn't quite work out that way, with Steven Hauschka ''mishitting'' the ball resulting in St. Louis gaining great field position to start the extra period.

If that wasn't bad enough, trailing 34-31 to the Rams and needing a first down to keep a drive alive in overtime, the Seahawks handed off to Marshawn Lynch on a 4th-and-1.  He didn't get it.  The Rams' players said afterward they knew Lynch was coming.  Game over.

If you miss the irony here, you simply aren't paying attention.  Either fate is playing cold, cruel tricks on Pete Carroll and the Seahawks, or Carroll is having trouble with certain calls in the clutch.  Or, he's just not a student of history.

You, and the history books, can decide for yourselves.

*John Rooke is an author and award-winning broadcaster, and is in his 23rd year as the Patriots' stadium voice. Currently serving in several media capacities - which include hosting ''Patriots Playbook'' on Patriots.com Radio - Rooke has broadcast college football and basketball locally and nationally for 27 seasons and is a member of the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame. 

Follow him on Twitter - @JRbroadcaster*

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