What did I tell you guys a month ago? I wanted to get out of Chiefs, Packers, Vikings, and Steelers at 3-1. After absolutely brutal losses to the Titans and Lions (And really the Jags too now) we lost that luxury. We must get out of the four toughest games on our schedule at 4-0. In fact, we must win out til February at this point. The good news is we can do that, and other teams are losing, just like I knew they would. I think the Chiefs have another loss in them as well. The better news is we are so far so good through 3 of the 4 of our big challenges after the sack tapping we just gave the Vikes.
It's nice to have these games at home, where we are simply a different team. That's another reason home field could be so important. I don't see anyone coming into the Razor and beating us. I just don't. So if we can clean up the rest of the AFC East Round 2, and then our annual trip to Pitt, then once again the road to the Super Bowl goes through Foxboro.
Pretty good night for Tommy boy. He hit the 1000 yard rushing mark with a pure first down hand signal after it. He even fake retired in his "we won" insta the next day. He threw for 300+ yards and even mixed in a tuddy pass despite Josh doing everything in his power to never throw the ball into the end zone again. HOWEVA (extreme Stephen A Smith voice) he did something on Sunday that he hadn't done for 183 straight passes. He threw a fucking pick. God damnit. It had been so long that I almost forgot he still did that.
There was a time early in this season where it looked like he was on pace for 1500 interceptions (number approx) but now that the offense has most of its weapons back and healthy, he's been on a bit of a heater. 183 passes is good. It's nowhere near the record, held by Tom of course, when he threw 355 straight passes without a pick, which spanned 11 games and 26 tuddy passes. Alas, Tom was pressured on a corner blitz and the rushed throw was a few yards behind Jules and taken the other way. That puts him at 8 on the year, equaling his total from all of last year. Let's PRAE that's the least one he throws this season, because if we crack the double digits mark I will have one less thing to live for, lowering my total to zero.
I'm still waiting for this team to put a complete game together. I brought this up last week. I'm not asking for perfection. I know we can't score every possession and post only shutouts. But it would be nice to stop ghosting full quarters like they're some girl I slept with on a drunk Saturday night who wont stop texting me about what I'm up to this week.
At the end of the day we put 24 points on a good defense. It was a 10-10 game later than I wanted it to be, but luckily our amps go to 11 in the fourth quarter and we put the Vikings in the ground. I'm not mad. But the execution felt so weird all game. I had some friends over to watch and we were a little lubed up, per usual, and I legit kept forgetting the game was so close. It felt like we were giving them the business, and then I'd realize this next third and long held my life in the balance. Just look at the box score. It's...weird:
Wiggle 7 catches. Back to his old self. But after that? Flash, 3 catches. Jules, 3 catches. Gronk, 3 catches. Hoags, 2 catches. Patterson, 2 catches. Sexy Rexy, 2 catches. Jimmy Neckroll, 1 catch. Sony, 1 catch. Some might look at that and commend us for spreading the ball around. I look at that and say no one could get anything going. I know half of Wiggle's catches are designed for him on screens or what not, but the other half are when he's a safety valve. When no one else is open, Tom can check it down to him. Flash felt like he wasn't even used in the first half, even after Rhodes went down. Jules couldn't find space on the inside more than 3 times?? Gronk isn't going to eat seam routes at will against this team?? It was all very strange. And it wasn't like we were doing that much damage on the ground either. So I will say again, we scored enough points to win most football games, but if you think that kind of processing speed is the fastest this intel chip of offense can produce then you're going to be equally impressed with the battery life on my iPhone 6.
Am I mad about the play calling still? I'm not sure. I don't like not being sure. Half the game I was screaming fire Josh. But then again he's chilled out with the trick plays, and he's doing a great job phase shifting based on personnel. I was actually thrilled to get Burk back, and think he will be a great addition to our versatility, not to mention giving Sony some rest throughout the game. And Josh does a good job dialing up complex route combos when we have all our burners on the field, while also being able to ground and pound when we need to. I'm not sure anyone in the league is more amoeba like than Josh, other than maybe Andy Reid, but that's for a totally different reason.
Another thing we saw the return of was the "Pony" sets. That's when we have Tom in shotgun but with two running backs lined up next to him. We saw it mostly on the third downs with both Wiggle and Burk back there. I didn't like that it was usually costing Flash a place on the field, but I do like the idea in principle. Instead of 5 wide, you go 2 WR (Flash and Jules), 1 Gronk, 2 RB (Wiggle and Burk). That is match up hell. You don't know if the backs are staying in to block or releasing. Both have the ability run long routes up the sidelines if you aren't careful. No matter what the route, linebackers have as much luck staying with those guys as I have of keeping in touch with my home friends after Thanksgiving. Like I'm sorry guys, it's nice to see you. But I'm going back to the city to order Post Mates and stream television and ignore your texts. Add it our three other pass catchers, and anything under 3rd and 5 starts to feel automatic.
But then there is shit like that 3rd and inches play at the end of the half. Good challenge by Mike Zimmer. Gronk was not close to that first down. One of many truly insane calls by the officiating crew yesterday. More on that in a moment. So now we've got the ball 3rd and very short, 2 minute warning, at least 2 timeouts if I remember correctly, and a 10-0 lead. If we get this first, we WILL score. And then we horseshoe because duh, and now its 24-0 before the Vikings even touch the ball again. Donions. Instead, we don't convert, we're forced to punt, and the Vikings ride Miss Momentum like the slut that she is all the way into the end zone, making it a 3 point game at the break. PUKE.
On third and inches we dusted off the "Tom pretends the snap went over his head and we direct snap it to James White who is going to try to turn the corner for a yard." Didn't love it! I've never played a down of real football. I'm too much of a pussy. But for the life of me I can't understand how a team couldn't get 1 foot. I should be able to announce to the defense that we are running, line up in a power I, and still get it. Because we know the snap count. We get off the ball first. And almost by the laws of physics the running back should be able to move the ball several inches. Which is all we needed. Why over think these plays?!? I have nothing to back this up, but I feel like Sony has been terrible in these short yardage spots all year. Whether its on the goal line or on our own 20. I think I'm right based on the things Josh calls here. We handed it to Paterson first and goal from the 1 once!! Pretty sure you're not doing that if you have Blount in your backfield. And Sony has been better than Blount, one hundo p, but this feel like an area we are vulnerable. Even with all that said, I still want to hand the ball off and drive it forward. Maybe its Burk instead of Sony. Whatever. Just hand it off and run between the tackles. Or sneak it. We only have the best quarterback sneaker of all time. But not picking up a few inches in big moments is a one way ticket to on the Hogwarts Express back to Private Dr come playoff time.
While we're here, shouts to Jimmy Neckroll for his 2 tuddies from the goal line. It's tough for me, because I am so happy we scored, while simultaneously being so mad he scored. I can barely tolerate running tuddies, you guys know this. Throw it or die. But if we MUST run I want to see Sony become wrath, or Wiggle continue to be the Sweetest Greg there is, or even reward Burk with a confidence boost. Jimmy Neckroll doesn't need a treat. He's a wise old dog who knows we love him for what he can still do for us. Not a puppy who needs training. It was cool seeing how happy the boys were for him, but PLEASE don't make this a staple of the playbook moving forward. It's not an accident that Jimmy had 2 tuddies in his previous 76 games as a Patriot before doubling that total on Sunday. Here's to many more spinal crushing blocks, Jimmy, but may that be the last tuddy you ever score.
I avoided stamping Stevie with the Polish Puddle tag the other week, but sorry my guy. Nowhere to hide this time. Had to have that one. I think it was 48 yards? And I know you prefer that hash mark so don't even start with me. Just a pathetic push, and in a bad time. That was the first moment I felt nervous all day. I swear as Stevie goes we go. Wasn't stressing about the Eagles bowl til Stevie missed that kick. A bad kick feels like that one sure fire trigger that things are going wrong. You've got plenty of leash buddy, and I hope you die a Patriot some day 10 years from now, but CLEAN IT UP. These games start to count pretty soon.
Would you look at that ball hawk JC Jackson doing the damn thing?? JC must have had a hell of a week in practice. I mentioned in the last Ramblings that I was surprised to see JC have more snaps that Jonathan Jones, who I also love. Maybe the coaches saw a match up they liked, or maybe JC is finally earning the trust I thought he would have after his performance in camp. The sad thing is with the way both of these guys are playing, it seems to be crushing Duke Dawson's chances of getting on the field. He was a healthy scratch again, after we brought him back from IR. I have to wrap my brain around the fact that he might only be JJ/JC insurance this year. It's fine. I'm not gonna cry about it. I want to. But I wont. When we took him I thought he would be a plug and play day 1 starter in the slot corner spot. And I'm sure (I hope*) that's his future. Injuries this year derailed that hope and possibly cost him contributing at all, but I'm very glad he's out there practicing with the boys. I bet you see him making plays before this season is out.
Anyway, back to JC. He was on the field for 89% of the defensive snaps, good for 6th most on the team! Ahead of Chung and MY BOY Trey Flowers. After going so run heavy and forcing the Jets to throw last week, this week we came out in sub packages pretty much every snap but one, which meant a lot of looks for that third corner back on the depth chart, behind Gilmore and J-Mac. JC Jackson was the choice and boy did he deliver. Like the smart quarterback that he is, Kirk Cousins took a page out of the Tom Brady book and said I'm going to throw at the worst defender on the field all night. Unfortunately for Kirk, our worst defender happens to be JC Jackson and he is a mother fucking ball hawk. Every time the Vikings were threatening, JC got more page views than porn hub step sister vids. And I'm sure Kirk has more fun with Family Strokes than he did throwing at JC. It was pass breakup after pass breakup after tip drill interception, which was a huge play. I'm loving everything this kid is doing, proving our camp expectations right and showing us there's a Malcolm Butler to be had every year. I LIKE THAT! Wouldn't you agree, Kirk?
Ok, ok, lets talk about the Bill/Thielen fight...by way of the challenges. First was a third down completion to Kyle Rudolph, who had the ball instantly knocked out of his hands by Ben Kenobi. Old Ben is a huge safety out of UConn and was eating into Chung's snaps a little bit. I love me some Chung 2.0, and I don't think his job is in jeopardy, but I've bitched him out in the past for the way he handles bigger tight ends (think Jimmy Graham) so it will be interesting to see if Ben gets more reps down the stretch here. Bill threw the red flag right way, because with the over turn the Vikings would be forced to punt. Again, I had friends over and we were being loud, so maybe we missed something, but the Fox feed cut back to the game and the Vikings were just running a play. Like oh yea by the way you didn't win this challenge even though Kyle Rudolph straight up didn't catch the football, which would make it hard to call it a completed pass since he literally wasn't holding the football. Preposterous call. If that happens in the middle of the field and we jump on the "fumble" it is INSTANTLY ruled an incomplete pass and that's obvious.
But then...THEN. We got the 4th and 1 play. It didn't matter so whatever, but I'm still hot about this. That has to be a top 10 worst call I've ever seen? I don't want to over shoot it, cause there have been some historically bad calls in sports. The Galarraga perfect game call stands out. So maybe this is really like top 20 or 25? But think about that. In all of sports all time, this might be the top 25 worst call. Latavius Murray looked like he was trying anal for the first time and was doing the "is it in yet" thing as he was dry humping her lower back. That's how close he was to the first down line to gain. I mean he was stood up harder a young Johnny O on prom night. Lawrence Guy ate him. The Pats D celebrated. My house celebrated. It was all fun. Then then Vikings line up as if they still have the ball. Like uhhhh, hey guys. You only get 4 downs. It's actually our ball now, LOL. But then the refs were like no, no it was a first down, as if they legit forgot the rules of football. Finally Bill gets the red towel of death out of his white mid highs, and challenges the play. BECAUSE DUH. And some how on god's green earth the refs come back and try to tell me to my face that there was no angle to see Lat Murray didn't get the first. Tell me you don't like my firm, tell me you don't like my fucking neck tie, but DO NOT tell me he gained yards on that play. I'm not blind. It was insulting. Both to me and to the thankless profession of officiating.
In real time, I couldn't figure out for the life of me why Thielen was screaming at Bill. I read later that apparently Chung went down with an injury to "buy the Pats time" to see if we wanted to challenge and Chung was faking. Listen, I'm actually not mad at Thielen for chirping about that IF that's what was happening. I hate when players go down and it's clearly fake. It's not illegal. It's just a stupid loop hole that the Steelers use on defense when our hurry up offense is making their brains hurt. So, yea, speak your mind Adam. But considering Latavius MUrray essentially went backwards on the play, I highly doubt we needed any more time to decide if we wanted to challenge. The delay was Bill remembering which foot was his right and which was his left. Probably he was too busy trying to figure out what play we would run on offense next, because it was clearly our ball. A lot of jokes have been made that Bill got in Adam's head. He dropped his next target. You come at the king you best not miss, and blah blah blah. Not to be a wet blanket, but I think Thielen forgot about it just as quickly as Bill did. But I do think it's awesome that Thielen is down to talk shit to Bill, and I think it's even more awesome when Bill fires back at the players. His "look at the fucking scoreboard, Mason" in a Ravens game years ago still makes me tear up. And his "shut the fuck up!" is already on my Favorite Memories bulletin board from 2018 right next to Brasier telling Gary Sanchez to get in the fucking box.
Oh damn, I also forgot to mention Kyle Van Noy. I was reminded of him when I rewatched the Thielen spat because KVN is the guy who gets between Thielen and his main man Bill right away. It's like when your star pitcher wants to get in a bar fight with the boys cause he wants to show you that he isn't above getting in the mud. But here's the thing. He is above it. And if he breaks his pitching hand we're all fucked. Van Noy knows he needs Bill later so he stepped in like the leg that he is. All I wanted to say about him earlier was I thought he played a great game. He stepped in so valiantly for HIGH last year, which was some of his greatest work, but I believe he's at his best when HIGH is out there too. KVN had a few plays in the first quarter that was a stretch of covering a running back down field, getting qb pressure up the middle on a delayed blitz, and setting the edge and snuffing out a screen pass. This all happened in the span of like 3 minutes and I couldn't keep the smile off my face. The poor Lions...
We all know what's next. The dreaded Miami AT Miami game. This has been a thorn in our side for the entire Brady era. When its the difference between 15-1 and 14-2 we can afford to drop it. This year, we cannot. Especially with Pitt at Pitt next. We can't look past these guys. One game at time. Like Tom said, we're 9-3. The goal is to get to 10-3. It's a hat and tshirt game after all, since a win will clinch the AFC East for the millionth year in a row. And if you can't get up for a hat and tshirt game, then you are in Elysium, and you're already dead.