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Patriots Replay Fri Nov 16 | 12:00 AM - 11:59 PM

View from Above: Nitpicks and Nitwits make their return

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A win is a win is a win is a win. In a game of 'survive and advance,' which is how the NFL has been for decades, style points usually don't matter.  

The late Al Davis said it best. "Just win, baby."  

Which is why, for an opening week, any win is a good win. Just ask the Saints how they're feeling today, after combining for 88 points with Tampa Bay - the most ever scored in an opening week - and losing.  

Or ask the Titans, who not only had their game at Miami last for seven hours and 10 minutes - a new NFL record, thanks to weather delays - they also had several significant injuries to key players occur.

And they lost, too.

Winning shouldn't ever be taken for granted. But then again, this is New England, where winning has been habit-forming for most of the past two decades. We often allow ourselves to be critical, hopefully, to improve on performance.

Trust me, the coaches have already taken care of this by the time you're reading these words. Nevertheless, this is our forum to recognize, identify and exchange thoughts on what went right, what didn't go right, and what can potentially be improved upon before the next game.  

We'll engage in "fussy, pedantic fault-finding." Otherwise known as "nitpicking." Because you can't hang half-a-hundred or shut-out everyone you play every time out.  

But you can try to "just win, baby."

Flags a-flyin'

Early against the Texans, the Patriots found themselves guilty of two errors that are normally drive-killers, and can even be game-killers. Joe Thuney's illegal procedure in the first quarter came on a 3rd and seven - whereupon Tom Brady immediately whipped a 21-yard pass to a super-satisfied Rob Gronkowski for the first touchdown.

That one was followed up by an illegal shift from Cordarelle Patterson two drives later, that put the offense in a bigger hole after Brady tossed an interception on the next play to Tyrann Mathieu.

In all, six penalties for 36 yards is an "acceptable" number, considering this was the first game. But it's the timing of those penalties that can prove costly. And undoubtedly, all will be reviewable in the film room this week.

We're not baking turnovers here

It should go without saying, but any time you end up with more turnovers than your opponent, it's time for some self-examination.  

"I don't think we played anywhere near what our capabilities are," Brady told the media in his postgame comments. "I think it's good to win, obviously, but we've got to do a lot better than that I think. Just turning the ball over and not taking advantage of some opportunities that we had out there, all of us probably look at the game and realize we could have done a lot of things differently."

Brady's pick, mentioned above, did force the defense into an immediate red zone situation, and they stood up to the test in limiting Houston to a 42-yard field goal from Ka'imi Fairbairn.  

In the 3rd quarter, Gronkowski's fumble came after a tremendous play just to get to the football after a 25-yard gain. The defense again bailed out the miscue, by forcing the Texans' drive to stall out at the 17-yard-line.

Riley McCarron's fumbled punt was the most egregious error, if only because it came at a crucial time with the team ready to put Houston away for good. The Texans' recovered at the NE 16, and thanks to a Stephon Gilmore hold in the end zone, finally managed to convert the mistake into points that put a little life back into their effort.

The Charmin Defense?

Last season, Deshaun Watson shredded the Patriot defense for 342 total yards and a couple of scores in a near-miss defeat. Naturally, even though he was coming off an ACL injury, the expectation was for him to pick up where he left off.

That wasn't entirely the case, and while part of that was attributable to his obvious rust, the defense deserves some credit for keeping up the pressure and keeping Watson corralled - for the most part.

Still, Houston put together a 10-play, 68-yard drive in the 3rd quarter where Alfred Blue and Lamar Miller gouged the middle for 40 yards rushing on five consecutive plays. It set up two short pass plays prior to Blue getting the call for a score that breathed life into what had been a rout (24-6 New England) before the touchdown.  

All in all, a win is still a win. But even wins can use a little revisionist history on the mistakes made from time to time to serve as a reminder, a reminder that winning isn't everything - it's the only thing...around here.

Other observations from Week One

There were several to choose from, but these 'nitwitty' moments, on and off the field, are worth mentioning:

  • Alabama may be the #1 college football team in the nation, but Alabama also leads the NFL in suspensions through Week 1, with four. Reuben Foster, Mark Ingram, ArDarius Stewart and Jameis Winston (who prepped in Bama) all spent this past Sunday on the sidelines.
  • Le'Veon Bell still hasn't reported to the Steelers, and it seems his QB could have used him. Ben Roethlisberger committed five turnovers in Pittsburgh's 21-21 tie with Cleveland - the first season-opening tie game since 1971, which was in the pre-OT days. And Browns' fans still can't get into the free-beer fridges at bars around the city until they win one. Ties only count in horseshoes and hand-grenades.
  • If anyone is still wondering why the Patriots don't make a run at Dez Bryant, well, consider that he was trolling his former team (Dallas) on Twitter before, during and after their 16-8 loss at Carolina. Does anyone really need to invite that kind of distraction into a locker room? There's a reason why he's still out there, available.  
  • The much-maligned and ridiculed new 'use of helmet' rule was invoked only once during the first 14 games of Week 1, against Kansas City's Ron Parker for lowering his head to initiate contact. Cincinnati safety Shawn Williams was ejected from the Bengals' game with the Colts, but for unnecessary roughness - and not the helmet rule.
  • And while Aaron Rodgers' pitching Green Bay to a comeback win over Chicago was great to watch, the Twitterverse predictably went nutso over it.  Hobbling back onto the field after a first-half knee injury, he did pitch the Pack back from a 20-0 deficit into a 24-23 win. But greatest ever come-from-behind performance as some in the national media thought? Please. How soon they forget a little thing called SBLI almost two years ago. But that's Twitter for you. What have you done lately?

John Rooke, an author and award-winning broadcaster, is in his 26th season 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 more than 30 years and is a member of the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame and RI's Words Unlimited Hall of Fame.

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