YAWN. Like a bear coming out of hibernation I need to stretch, dump, and eat because the long winter is over. The NFL Season in New England is finally here. AFCCG weekend is staring us in the face and I, for one, am ready. But let us now look back on the divisional round win that put us here for the 7th straight time, which I can barely remember, due to my deep sleep/30 Bud Lights.
You guys have put up with me this long, we're practically family at this point. But unlike my family, I don't feel comfortable lying to your face yet. So TBCFHWY I was not having a good time in the first quarter of this game. I know, I know, it was classic Pats. We were figuring out the game plans while playing the field position battle knowing full well we were going to cover the spread by the final whistle. I was probably the only person in the greater New England area who was sweating for those first 15 minutes, but that 95 yard tuddy drive was vomit inducing and I won't hear otherwise.
I always ignore Tom in this piece when he plays well. It's only when he's a dog that I start barking. It's a completely unfair way to treat the man who has given us all so much, but the fact that he forgives me is a testament to his holiness. I'm not here to say 'ra ra look how good Tom is, he broke the NFL record for playoff games with 3 or more tuddies!' But I am here to say thank you for not throwing a pick. He knows I have a heart condition (self diagnosed) and he knows how much I hate turning the ball over. It's the playoffs, where Tom has been a bit sloppy with the rock. And he has had this well publicized "decline" over the last few weeks. So when 53 (!!) pass attempts turn into 337 yards, 3 tuddies, and no picks... That's how I find my beach.
We've got to talk playoff DOLA. A lot of my boys were predicting big games from #80, as he always seems to raise his play when it matters most, but I doubt any of us saw this coming. The dude goes 11 for 112, first time he ever had over 100 yards in the yoffs. I thought he was collecting kindling out there with the way he was moving the sticks. BOOM, FIRE JOKE! BOOM, SECOND JOKE!! Looks like the yoffs bring out the best in Dola AND me.
Enough will never be said in New England lore about Dola. It's crazy man. The guy takes so many pay cuts, and just delivers. Josh was raving about him, Gronk was slobbering over him, I know this isn't news. But I just feel like this guy will only get the credit he deserves from the real watchers on the wall. He doesn't have the volume numbers to truly get remembered by the casual fan, but they better be keeping his jacket measurements on file when we dress him in red when it's all said and done.
Easily the most fun play he made was that insane cross body throw by Tom on third and 10 when he was scrambling to his right. They both made eye contact, and Tom was like man this is such a bad idea to throw across the field like this, let me make sure there is no one else over there. And Dola was looking back at him like ....DO IT. Then Tom let go that dime and floated so majestically through the air I barely yelped when he landed on his back and rolled over, which is a step down from my normal full on howler monkey scream.
While we're here, I loved the play at the end of the half trying to get that FG. I know Stevie missed it. It was a tough kick, and I wish he had made it, but that felt like the one to miss if he's gonna have a hiccup. My boy Trygg was ready to rip Stevie's head off his shoulders and kick that through the uprights from 60 but that's because Trygg demands perfection and I'll be god damned if I'm going to stand in his way. But the way we marched down the field there was textbook Pats. Don't even come at me with the clock nonsense. You want to know why there was one second left? Because the Titans tackled Dola like idiots, Gronk (among others) instantly called a timeout like a non idiot, and because the last second takes a full second. Learn how to count for me one time. (I do think Dola should have taken a knee, or given himself up like you can do on those plays, to not make it so sketchy but whatevs)
DIDI continues to shine on offense as well. I didn't want to hand the ball off much in this game. The Titans are great against the run. They just ate Kareem Hunt. They STINK against the pass. Especially against pass catching backs. I expected our boys to be involved out of the back field in a big way. Our coaches tended to agree. Tom threw the ball 53 times. But that run D didn't quite come as advertised. Minus Hoyer's three knee downs, we had 24 carries for 102 yards and 2 tuddies on the ground. As mentioned, DIDI was the stud horse laying pipe out there. He went for 15 and 62 on the ground, adding 9 grabs for 79 in the air. The Titans had no answer for him. His huge screen play on our opening touchdown drive felt like the dam breaking on the Titans D. Everyone in the bar knew we were rolling after that.
Two DIDI related things. One, his 'throw the ball into the camera on the field' tuddy celebration is VASTLY underrated. I love that move. Two, and I feel I'm going to be in the minority here, I hate when players keep running when they know they are down. Maaaaaybe he thought he butt actually hit another player. And if so, that's argument enough to keep going for sure. But if you know you're down then fuck you. Because in this instant replay era you aren't getting away with it. We are just going to see that you are down and you have to come back. The stadium was rocking, thinking we had a 50 yard score, and now we bring it back 25 yards?? That sucks. Not to mention you could get hurt. That sounds pussy, but stranger things have happened. Just ask Will Byers. I don't want anyone doing anything they don't have to do on the football field, and I definitely don't want to think I just tied the game when I didn't. Maybe I'm wrong here, and you snake it til you make it, but that always grinds my gears.
There was a stretch early in this one, I can't remember if it was first or second quarter, where I thought all my happiest fantasies had come true. Cooks on a comeback route. Bang. Cooks on a WR screen, makes the corner miss, first down. Bang. *omg omg it's really happen. We've been keeping DinDin's real ability a secret all year. Emma Watson is about to walk into my house and ask if she can grab me a beer from the garage fridge while she's out there!* The poof, with the wave of a magic wand, it was gone. The Chef finished with 3 grabs for 32 yards on 9 targets, including an inexplicable non catch on a deep ball from Tommy with PLENTY of air under it. Listen, he's the speedster first round pick, not me, but that ball looked very much inside his catch radius. It's his first yoff game, I'm sure there were nerves, but I'm gonna need more from him going forward if we are gonna bring this sucker home. And while Hoags only had 1 grab for a 4 yard tuddy, he did log 67 snaps and was a welcome sight out there. I think he will come into his own this week.
There was a lot of unsung shit going on out there with the D on Saturday. I was terrified of Derek Henry coming into this game. ROLL TIDE. If you had told me he finished the game with 12 carries for 28 yards I would have been a much more lively bar patron in that first quarter. When Branch was ruled out, which was shocking based on what he said last week (I even blogged he'd be back!) but not shocking at all based on the effort he's put into the rest of this season, my Henry fears escalated. But the line stepped the F up.
Question, is Malcom Brown dope?? He led the rotation with 29 snaps and seems to be more of a rock down there that I give him credit for. I want him to be Vince. We all want him to be Vince. Spoiler alert: He's never going to be Vince. But maybe that's more of a human species problem than a Malcom Brown problem. In the past I have been so quick to call Malcom a bust. He's obviously talented, but he was a 1. I want studs from my 1s. But maybe he is a stud?? I have the hardest time rating this guy, but if he gives me the type of production he has put forth since missing a little time half way through the year, then he can be my Vince any day.
The game plan in this one on D was to swallow up the run on early downs and get the Titans in third and long. Then don't let Mariota break contain, forcing him to throw for first downs. I would say they executed this to near perfection. The Titans will tell you that Mariota got hurt, which limited his scrambling, and that might be right. But I refuse to let them talk their way out of an 8 sack performance. Just cause your quad hurts doesn't mean you can't throw the ball away. Hell of an effort by all the pass rushers, and they really spread the wealth. I feel like it's been forever since we got consistent pressure in a playoff game, and whatever the reasons, it was fun to watch.
My BOY Trey Flowers led the way as always. I've never been more right about anything in my damn life than declaring that man the steal of the draft. Jordan Richards of course being the biggest disaster of the draft. Trey looked a step slow on a few edge plays, and a few writers are saying he's hurt but toughing it out. Hate to hear that, need him full strength. Hopefully he can battle again on Sunday and then use the week off to closer to his normal speed. And how about James Harrison, who I've dubbed "Harry" for the yoff run. Another 30 snaps. Playing in the base D. He's rushing the passer with power. He's setting the edge like he's a fucking cartographer. If we signed him only for Steelers intel and everything else was gravy, well then pour this shit all over my mashed potatoes because it's damn good. And if he signed with us just to be a mole and give the Steelers our secrets, he probably should have told Mike Tomlin how timeouts work first.
The corners looked pretty good out there. Rowe got a ton of action in the sub package, at 52 snaps, and I really do think he's important for us. When he wants he can be really feisty out there. And I looked like Jonathan Jones got hurt. I have no update on that, but if he's missing time it would put more stress on Rowe's importance. Gilmore had a wonderful day. Targeted 4 times, no catches, 1 pass defended. Hard to do more than that. I'm trying to project who we might match up with and there isn't anyone I think Gilmore should really struggle with?? He hasn't been everything we wanted when he signed that big money deal, but he sneaky puts some great games together and nobody seems to give a shit. Well I do, Stephon, I do.
On the injury front, apparently Dev is banged up but I put him in the same category as Trey. And of course Waddle went down with a knee injury. Nightmare scenario to be on your third string RT in the conference championship game against a scary front, but we are lucky to have some legit depth at the position. I'm also reading that Waddle avoided a bad one, so maaaaaybe he could be back out there. Either way, it's just a quiet reminder to wish Marcus Cannon's ankle a fuck you very much when you go to bed tonight.
Finally, how about the neutral zone infraction on that punt. LOLOLOLOLOL
Titans get the ball with good field position for the first time all game, could punch back......aaaaaaaand you jump offside on a punt and Tom ethers you. I've always said, you do not give Manny Ramirez a free out and you don't give Tom Brady a free first down.
Feels weird not talking about Gronk but I don't know what to say. He had 6 for 81 and a tuddy. The Titans couldn't cover him. I get head aches if I don't have vodka when I get home from work. What else is new?
Now I can calm down because Pitt lost like cowards and my boy Flip doesn't have to read a panic blog by me saying they might be better than us.
Hey Dwayne Allen, nice 23 snaps and serviceable blocking. Kind of fuck you?