At the start of Batman Begins, a young Bruce Wayne falls down a well where he's swarmed by a billion bats (number approx.)
When they pull him out the dialog goes like this.
Alfred: Took quite a fall, didn't we, Master Bruce?
Thomas Wayne: And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up.
That scene was going through my head as the Pats were about to kick off against the Saints on Sunday, in need of a bounce back performance. Sometimes you need to get punched in the mouth to see what kind of character you have. You just hope that those lessons come in September and not January. Safe to say, the Pats delivered.
I was actually pretty excited to see Burk get the start at RB. We hit him with a screen early, which I predicted would be a bigger part of the game plan, then he scored on that DIME from Tom to get us rolling. Watching live I somehow missed that he went out with an injury. I didn't realize his ribs were banged up until after the game, so I was very confused to see him completely unused after that first series essentially. The running back position feels deep at the moment, but so did wide receiver and defensive end a few weeks ago and now they're fully the NO DIVING shallow end, so heal up fast kid.
Stevie G pinging that extra point off the upright was not the start I needed. He was clean for the rest of the game, but come on dude. I can't do this all season again. Speaking of FGs, I really wanted 7 at the end of the half, but that was pretty awesome execution on that kick. Romo (who was on point again) mentioned that if the Pats got stopped in bounds on that third down they would have to race the FG unit out there and we did just that. My favorite part of the play was thinking about how many times Bill has made us practice that exact scenario. I bet by November he can get the whole process down to 7 seconds or less.
Gronk looked like Gronk again. On his first catch of the game, a third down conversion on the opening drive, he still seemed slow to me. He had a linebacker on him, but couldn't create any separation on an in cut. It took a perfect throw from Tom to get the completion. But then on his touchdown, on another incredible play from our fearless leader with the golden arm, Gronk looked strong. He looked fast. He looked PLIABLE.
As the game progressed, Gronk was getting better and better. This is the type of performance I expect from him against bad teams. I mentioned this last week when I said it's unacceptable for him to be completely shut down by the Eric Berry's of the world. He should have quieter games against elite defenders, and have monster games against bad secondaries. This was the latter and Gronk was up for the challenge. He was a legit weapon on third down all day. With Jules dead, Tom's eyes have to go somewhere else first on that crucial down, and on Sunday Gronk was there. I'm livid he hurt himself again, and despite all the "its not serious" talk I'm still worried. Every time he gets tackled I dry heave a little bit, there's an earthquake in Mexico, and a fairy losses its wings.
I can't go much further without talking about Tom. The guy is such a legend. It's going to be a joke listening to all the "by a QB over 40" records he breaks this year. Basically every week will be a new trophy for the case. But we all know the only trophy he's concerned with is the big silver one they hand out the at the end of the year, which has been won by a QB over 40 never. For now.
A final few thoughts on the offense. I spoke my mind on Cooks already in my feature piece. We did hit him on a slant in the second half, but I need way more of that. Unreal play call on the fake screen slant to Hogan. That's Josh at his finest. And Gilly continues to be a force at the goal line. Even though all those rushing tuddies are going to steal MVP from me again, I'll forgive him. He even converted a tough third and 1 late. That was nice to see. Flip Dorsett mightt just prove to be an asset. He had an end around, a screen pass, and a big gainer. Can't believe I'm typing this but I really need his knee to be OK.
The red zone execution is going to struggle with no Jules and no Gronk, as evidenced by the two field goals we settled for once Gronk went out. While, I'm on this subject. Hey Dwayne Allen. Go fuck yourself.
The defense was a mixed bag. Alan Branch not playing was very interesting. I've said many times that I thought he was one of the most important guys on the D-line. His play last season was exemplary, and gave the Pats a lot of freedom to move other guys around. With Vincent Valentine yet to suit up this year, I thought Branch would have to carry the load of our rotations. But he under performed in week 1 and was essentially benched on Sunday. I hope it serves as a wake up call for the big man to find the fire again.
Jonathan Jones had a fun day. He had a few pass breakups that were really sound defensive back plays. He took one bad angle on a Michael Thomas catch in the flat, but other than that he was in the right position pretty much all the time. He had a great break up in the end zone on a third and 8 early in the game, and then he immediately jumped offside on the ensuing field goal. The Saints brought the offense back on the field for 4th and 3, but eventually just went with a hard count. If they had gone for and converted that play I had even money Jonathan Jones was cut before the half ended. The balls it must have taken to go back to the sideline and look at Bill after that play...
Chung had a great game according to me. He was his usual run stopping self, and did a great job covering the backs and tight ends all day. With the attention I knew we were going to give to Michael Thomas, I thought there was a chance Fleener hurt us, but Chung locked him down. That meaningless tuddy at the end not withstanding. Plus he seamlessly handled the punt return duties. I think he fair caught ever single one, but I say again, as long as the ball is being put in Brady's hands after a punt then its a successful play.
Deatrich Wise has got me all hot and bothered. He had a sack, 5 QB hits, and drew an illegal hands to face penalty by Peat. He was that word everyone loves to throw around, DISRUPTIVE. This kid was a stud in camp before being slowed by a concussion in the first preseason game. It looks like he's back to full strength now though. In the draft I actually wanted Wise in the third round when we took Rivers. We went with Derek obviously, and I figured I missed my window. To see Wise still there for us in the fourth was a gift, and I'm glad we pounced. I had him penciled in opposite my BOY Trey Flowers from the get go and it's been a joy to watch. If he keeps this up I think the Arkansas boys are going to be getting after quarterbacks together for a long time.
OK, lets talk about Malcolm Butler. What the F is happening?? His snaps were way down. That NEVER happens with him. The last two years his playing time totals are 98.8% of snaps and 96.7% of snaps. On Sunday he played 49 out of 65 defensive snaps. Eric Rowe got the start over him opposite Gilmore, who played all 65. If Rowe hadn't been hurt Malcolm's numbers would have been ever lower, since he was only coming on when we went with three DBs.
I've heard people say the Saints have tall receivers, and that's why we did this. That's BULLSHIT. Malcolm has never shied away from battling big receivers, and we have never been hesitant to use him. He was our number 1 corner for two years, and there's no such thing as pulling him out of a game due to height match ups. What's crazy is I don't think this demotion is necessarily undeserved. He was bad in the preseason, who cares, and he has looked off so far now that the games matter. His week 1 game was better, but I dont see any of the fire or compete that makes him who he is.
Maybe this Gilmore signing is bothering him too much. I can't tell. But it seems to me that if you are all butt hurt that you aren't getting Gilmore money, maybe you should, ya know, play better than Gilmore. Going out on the field giving up completions and playing yourself out of a job in your contract year is not the best way to get paid. I think. What do I know. I honestly get the feeling this could be going a Jamie Collins route. I'm not saying Malcolm isn't doing his job out there, he is. Or he's trying to. Jamie was going rouge. But if Bill thinks we can win a bowl with Eric Rowe as our number two corner then Malcolm could have a new mailing address by the end of October. We are only going to get a conditional third rounder for him when he leaves at the end of the season as a free agent. We have already said there's basically no chance we give him another contract offer. So if Bill can swing a trade right now and give someone a top corner for a real asset in return I think he's just crazy enough to do it.
Final thoughts on the Saints. Michael Thomas is legit great. That is the guy we wanted to stop all game and he still went for 5 for 89. I knew the Saints loved him but I though he might be a little over hyped. He was going so high in fantasy drafts it seemed like a bust waiting to happen. But he runs sharp routes and uses his huge body to get position on DBs and make tough catches. He's going to have a great career ahead of him, and I'm glad we don't have to see him again any time soon.
Ted Ginn is laugh out loud bad at catching a football. It's mind blowing he plays receiver in the NFL.
Great win on the road. Now let's see what Tea Pot has in store for us next week.