Sorry, I was stress drinking myself to death on Sunday so you might have to remind me. Where are we going?
Before the game I really wanted a cake walk. My heart can't take it. But then it occurred to me that we waxed the Colts in 2014 and sent the Steelers back to the mud last year, so in reality we were due for a bruuuuutal nail biter in the AFCCG. Should have seen it coming. Maybe that means the bowl will be a breeze, but somehow I doubt it. I have so much to talk about, I don't even know where to start. So why not with the GOAT?
Another day, another fourth quarter comeback against an elite defense with all his favorite targets on the shelf. It's truly insane watching this guy play football. Yesterday was hard to watch most of the night, and I am ashamed to admit that when Gronk was ruled out I felt the seeds of doubt growing in my beer filled belly. But the only seeds Tommy needed were the ones he was firing all over the football field to the tune of 26 of 38 for 290 yards and 2 fourth quarter tuddies. I couldn't even jerk it with 12 stitches in my hand, let alone hang 24 on the best defense in the league.
The part that sucks so much about Gronk is that happened mid game. I've said this a million times, losing people IN GAME is the real killer. Injuries suck, but when you know, you can prepare. I told everyone who would listen when Jules went down that I was glad it happened in the presesaon. If you going to lose Jules for the year (which obviously I never want) then I want it to happen as soon as possible. If spend all year up til Thanksgiving building an offense with Jules then it gets ripped from you, it hard to rebuild. At least this way I know what I've got.
Gronk was a huge part of the game plan on Sunday. The Jags were doing a good job of taking him away in the first half, but that still means they are using two guys to focus on him, freeing up other options for us. When he goes down, you basically rip out of half the playbook. Trying to come back from down 10 without your next best offensive player and half of our plays available to us is a STEEP hill. Weirdly enough I think the Jags got thrown by Gronk being out too. It was like they didn't know who to cover anymore. I'm thrilled that we get two weeks to get Gronk's brain unscrambled before the bowl, but I have zero doubts he will be ready to go. I dont care if I have to take his concussion baseline exam for him.
Hey running backs in this game. Pop down. I thought they were going to be big. The Jags run D was suspect coming in to Sunday. It looked like Rex was going to be back. Sweet Feet was going to do his playoff thang. DIDI was going to stay hot. What happened??
Rex followed up slicing off Tom's fucking throwing hand by get arm tackled on a reverse that should have gone for 20 and then getting blown up while dropping a check down and then never returning. 3 snaps. Thanks for coming out buddy.
James White had 3 carries for 4 yards and for the SECOND week in a row couldn't pull in a Tom Brady DIME up the sideline on a wheel route. It drives me insane when these guys can't catch those. This one would have been a tuddy but he had to twist around and couldn't find the ball. When you get a linebacker in coverage on a wheel route with our backs you just have to hit them.
And DIDI decided to fumble for the first time all season on a trick play that we have been saving all season for this exact moment that should have gone for a score. I don't know why he slowed down at all. He had 3 (!!) o-linemen in front of him on a perfectly designed play and he gets chased down and stripped. That was another really low moment for me. I thought a score there and we had it, but that fumble ripped the wind out of my sails. The ensuing three and out by the Jags was sneaky massive.
I will give DIDI a little break because he did what I previously thought was impossible by any Patriot player. And that is get a first down when we have chance to kneel out the clock. We never ever ever do that. I was already bursting blood vessels in my eye thinking about the defensive stand we were going to need. Minute 30 left, Jags ball, no timeouts, down four, at their own 20. Just fucking kill me. So thank you DIDI, you let an old man feel young again.
How about Playoff Fucking DOLA. I told you he's a red jacket guy. I mean the third and 18 conversion would have been enough. But two tuddies?? And that toe tap on the second one? No Gronk? We've had problems in the red area all season, and I thought Money Mitch was coming to save the day. Little did I know we were waiting to unleash Dola for when it really mattered. He's such a warrior, it's nuts. He puts it all on the line every game, every snap. If you can't respect a guy like that then I can't respect a guy like you. I still have a tiny tiny piece of my soul that is livid with Deion Branch for taking a Super Bowl MVP away from Tom, but if we take this thing home in two weeks I won't be mad at all if Dola is driving off in a new truck. He will have earned it.
I owe The Chef an apology. I thought he was going to ghost his way through the AFCCG, like he has most of the second half of the season, but he shut me up. 6 grabs, 100 yards, and 2 huuuuuuge PI calls. Both them correct, the second more blatant than the first. But that is what I want from him. He's so fast, so those come back routes should be there all game. Hoags still wasn't doing much, and the Jags were too fast for our reverses and bubble screen bullshit, so we needed something from the outside and Cookie stepped up in a big big way. Tons of credit to him. I didn't know he had it in him. Maybe he really did need to get one playoff game under his belt. Hopefully he continues to trend up in two weeks. That drop though. Holy hell, I was fuming. That was a game tying tuddy and we really needed it and the throw was perfect. My mother catches that ball, and she wasn't even drafted.
My only concern here is these deep balls are a little sketchy, right? I mean we aren't close to catching them at all. It feels like Tom just chucks it up there to DinDin hoping he can draw a flag. I'm not saying it doesn't work, but I also saw two of those get picked off against the Fins. I'd love to see Cooks actually get free on one of these deep posts and we can hit Philly for a quick 6. I don't know. Just spit balling.
The other big addition to the team this year came up huge in the 4th. Gilmore with a picture perfect pass break up on 4th down was worth every cent of his 65 million. I wanted his head on a spike at times this year, and maybe it's because I just don't think he's as good as Cookie, but overall I've been much happier with Gilmore's season on a whole. Especially the second half. Now if he can just eat Alshon Jeffery for me then me and him will be cool.
James Harrison had an up and down game for me, as his usual edge setting wizardry was lacking. But he did show up in the pass rush at the end of the game, forcing Bortles off his spot multiple times. It's mind blowing to me the Steelers didn't have a spot for this guy. Maybe there personnel is that deep in the front 7, and ours is that thin, but he has been about a big a pick up as you can get that late in the season.
I thought the rest of the front 7 played well too. MY BOY Trey Flowers looked much healthier. I'm not sure, but he was a step quicker all day. 9 tackles, 1 sack, 1 pass defended, 1 forced fumble. You kidding me? He is our only player who can get consistent pressure and I need him at his very best in two weeks. I love that he is going to get some extra time to heal up or whatever because it's his motor in the 4th quarter that is so valuable. A lot of pass rushes slow down as the game wears on, but he only gets better. I'm salivating thinking about his 4th quarter strip sack of big dick Foles.
What is the deal with Alan Branch?? This feels a lot to me like his last season in New England. That might be crazy because he just signed a nice contract extension this year, but his play has been undeniably down. If he's healthy and Bill is just going with Ricky Jean instead that speaks volumes. Maybe Branch is just saying he's good to go and the team docs disagree. He's got extra time to get ready, and I for one want him in there. You can't teach size like that. I'd love for him to contribute in the rotation. Malcom has been a rock, but it makes me nervous that I need big time performances from Lawrence Guy (who played great) to fill gaps on the line of scrimmage.
We were all wondering if we were going to see any trick plays on Sunday. I said no because that means we would be losing, we would never dust them off if we were controlling the game. I figured we would be up all night, even if it was close. I was way off. Loved the play DIDI fumbled on. That was set up so nicely with all the dumb screens we were running to start the game. Still can't believe he fumbled that. That was weird btw. I thought the call on the field was DIDI was down, but then they said the call on the field was fumble but the Jags were down by contact, which was clearly not the case. I felt like DIDI had the ball pinned to his leg when he went down. If the call on the field was no fumble I don't think they overturn it.
The second flea ficker brought us a Flip Dorsett sighting, which is always nice. He definitely wasn't the first look on that play but it was a hell of a catch at an important time. Say what you want about him and that trade, but it's nice that he is ready to go when called upon. That was also the longest I've ever seen a running back keep the ball on a flea flicker in my life. James White had the best carry of his entire day before he pitched it back to Brady.
I can't decide what the play of the game was. There are two candidates. The third and 18 conversion to Dola. Monster fucking play. I was so mad with the second down call there too. I've said before this offense is built to climb out of 2nd and extra longs because we can stretch the field more than we could in the past. Get me 8 on second down and lets see what I can do on third and 10. Firing one up the sideline to a double covered Chris Hogan was awful. I knew we needed a miracle on third and long, and we got one. The other play was the Jags delay of game coming out of a timeout at the end of the first half. Was that a joke??? They converted that third down on a catch in front of Chung and that would have put them in field goal range. We go into the half down 17-3 at best if that stands. But instead they call a timeout to pick the perfect play and forget to snap the ball. Completely inexcusable and gave us the ball back, making it a 14-10 game.
How mad were you if you're a Jags fan at half time. You give us the business for 30 minutes and you have a 4 point lead. Also you got to watch your team take a knee with 55 seconds left and two timeouts. Be more terrified of the Pats. You cant.
Well gang, we're going back to the bowl. I kind of can't believe it but obviously I can believe it. Fucking Tom, man, the guy is a savage. No one I'd rather be headed to battle with, I can tell you that much. He's not done. Not even close.
Hey Dwayne Allen, nice 39 snaps filling in for the dead Gronk, zero targets and one colossal game winning block to spring DIDI on third down. I'll fucking take it.