Drunken Ramblings week 15: Patriots at Steelers
I wanted to write an obituary for the 2018 Pats today. I almost did it. I'm not a quitter. But this team looks dead and I wanted to honor them like I would for any loved one who passed away. The only reason I'm holding back is because theoretically a team can win a wildcard round game, go on the road for the rest of the playoffs, and win a super bowl. It has happened before. Never for us. We are bye or bust. Always have been. But it could happen. It wont. But it could. It might even be fun to be the team that has looked like absolute dog shit during the most important months of the season who out of nowhere figures it out during the playoffs and gets hot. We've been the victim of that before, maybe the universe owes us a reversal of fortune.
Think about it this way. Philly could easily beat Houston next week. Then Houston has the Jags, who stink, but crazier things have happened. My point is if Houston drops either of those games we still get the bye and everyone can calm down. That's of course assuming we take care of business at home against the Jets and the Bills, and lets be real if we dump either of those games then just fold the franchise. Even if Houston doesn't drop a game and we are left playing on wild card weekend like poor people, is that path that bad?? Host the Ravens. They are horrible. Go to Houston. They are horrible. Then play the winner of the Chiefs v Chargers blood bath, potentially at home, which was happening anyway. It's not the worst thing you could draw up. So yea, this is NOT good. But if by some miracle this team remembers how to actually play football, we can still be a tough out.
That being said, in places I don't like to talk about at parties, I'm not seeing it. The Ravens could put us in the ground easily. And I have less than zero faith we can ever win another road game, even against our bitch boy little brother, the Texans. We look horrible. We can't score. We can't stop anyone. We are just a bad football team, plain and simple. Welcome to life for every other NFL fan. This was a must win game coming off of the most embarrassing regular season loss in modern Patriots history against a big time rival and we flat out no showed. I never thought I would live to see the day that this team quit. They can talk the talk all the want, but we didn't want to be in Pittsburgh on Sunday and it showed.
I don't have all my notes in front of me since I'm bumming wifi off my cell phone hot spot on this Mega Bus, so this might be a little jumbled, but lets dive in because I am past fuming mad into crippling despair.
The refs had Pitt right? I mean come on. My relationship with pornhub is less one sided than that officiating. The Jonathan Jones PI was one of the worst calls I've ever seen. Then the hold on Shaq Daddy, which lost us the game, was softer than my Charmin roll, and you better believe I buy that extra fluffy two ply. No one can love a man who uses 1 ply because he clearly doesn't even love himself.
Unfortunately, the rest of the personalities weren't on the refs. A false start is a false start no matter how you slice it. I think we jumped 5 times! I could check that, but I think it might make me throw up again. Since when is Heinz Field the loudest place on earth?? We played against the Colts while they piped in crowd noise for years and we didn't jump early that often in all those games combined compared to the display we put on yesterday. Every time we had something going there was another penalty that set us back. Jim and Tony said right after the Jones DPI that we have the least DPI flags in the league and we are the least penalized team in the league. So yea, it makes perfect sense that we would take 14 for a 108 yards during a do or die game in December. Totally logical.
Last week the offense came out like world beaters against the Fins, only to completely stall out in the second half. Well that trend continued all day in Pittsburgh. We scored 10 points against a middle of the pack defense. A defense we have spent the better part of the last two decades routinely shitting down their throat. And the only tuddy we scored was on a broken play where the Steelers legit forgot to cover Chris Hogan. Which is an interesting strategy considering that dude ended their life in the AFCCG two years ago.
The running game was non existent. We weren't even trying to run. Part of me isn't mad about the initial game plan, because the Pitt secondary is so bad and when Tom turns into a vampire 60 years from now the blood he will feed on will be the blood of the Steelers zone D. But eventually Pitt came out in only dime and nickle packages, daring us to run, and we still couldn't do it. That is what pisses me off. It was this nightmare scenario where the Steelers could rush four guys, still get pressure on Brady, still have enough beef along the line to stop any runs we attempted, all while loading the secondary and taking away every receiver.
Gronk has been just as big of a Pitt killer as Tom over their careers. Does anyone know if he came to the game on Sunday? Remember when Dev took that pick 6 back against the Bills and he was clocked as the fastest speed in the NFL so far? I'd bet good money that Gronk has recorded the slowest speed in the NFL for anyone who is actually running a route. The dude moves in cement. I don't understand. He must be banged up, because even though I'm willing to admit he is far far closer to retirement than I ever dreamed, I still reject this is 28 year Gronk moving at full speed. I could roll out of bed and cover him with my slippers on.
Flash Gordon. Two targets. And was taken off the field on 4th and 15 to end the game, to be replaced by Patterson. Good. Great. Wonderful.
We only had 62 snaps on offense, but Flip Dorsett got 2 of them. Patterson, who I hate, only had 5. I just feel like Josh can never snap out of things when they aren't working. Like we are so committed to coming out in 3 WR 1 TE sets and play actioning Pitt to death. And it doesn't work but Josh is like hold on hold on its gonna come around, just a little bit longer. On paper, we have the weapons to keep a defense off their toes. I suggest we attempt to use them. Sometimes you're too close for missiles so you switch to guns.
The target list is peak bad Brady for me. I know bad Brady isn't really a thing, so peak bad Brady is a funny concept, but here's what I mean. The only time I'm ever frustrated with Tom is when he is locked in on one guy. Wiggle had 7 targets, but those are mostly bullshit check downs or horribly designed screens. The rest of the targets? Jules 11, Gronk 5, Hoags, 3, Patterson 3, Flash 2. I've been screaming for us to go to Jules more on third downs, and we have been, but the ball just needs to spread out more. It just has to. Unless you've got an absolute lock down guy taking someone away, or teams are bracketing Gronk, other players HAVE to win their individual battles and Tom has to trust that they can and look their direction. Especially in games where we have decided to become so one dimensional we can only pass. Then we at least need to only pass to more than one person.
Oh real quick, I forgot to mention this. Jules should have sat down at the sticks on that 4th and 15, but wasn't Patterson (who again shouldn't have been in) nude across the back of the end zone?? Watch that replay again if you can stomach it. That was the throw all day, not to Jules in triple coverage.
I know you can't believe I've gone this long and not talked about the pick. It's because my brain has lit-trally rejected it. Live, I texted my boys "was that supposed to be out of bounds??!?!?!?" Later in the press conference Brady admitted as much, he was trying to throw it away. It seems beyond insane to me that Tom Brady can try to throw a ball out of bounds and in fact leave it in bounds. When I saw it again he is being forced to throw off his back foot more than I remembered, but still. That CANNOT happen. Ever. But certainly not on second and goal during a game when scoring points was coming as easily as me achieving and maintaining an erection. (don't get old kids)
And that's not to excuse Gronk and Jules, who were closest to that pass. They should both be fined for that play as far as I'm concerned. That ball was in the air for an hour. It is your responsibility to make a play on it. Knock it down. Whatever. At the very least all they had to do was push Haden out of bounds. There is no "push out" rule anymore. I laughed when the Steelers were claiming he came down in bounds, and was appalled when I saw the replay and his toes hit. Just pick him up and shove him out. That ball should never land in the field of play, but neither should Haden and everyone is to blame.
The drops were ruthless on Sunday as well. Football is such a stupidly momentum game. We scored on our first drive. The second drive has a drop by Jules and a drop by Wiggle, both of which cost us a first down. Then its like someone sucks the life out of us. Flash added a drop later and it got so bad Tom was laughing. Laughing! Imagine that. There was a day when a serial killer tight end dropped a third down pass against the Steelers in the fourth quarter of a Pats blowout win and Tom slapped the Gatorade out of his hand onthe sideline and screamed "Gatorade is for winners." To a serial killer. This is true. I wish I could find this clip. Now he laughs as he throws first round byes across the middle and we drop them.
Part of me doesn't want to shit on the defense. 17 points against should beat the Steelers every day of the week and twice on week 15. There were some bright spots. I already planned on highlighting JC Jackson because he played the 6th most snaps on the D and delivered in big moments against a great WR. His play on 3rd and 6 in the end zone on JuJu which gave us the ball back at tehe end was ELECTRIC. Should have saved the game for us. J-Mac played 100% of the snaps and is still the starter outside opposite Gilmore, but I wouldn't be shocked if JC has that job in the future. Duke Dawson is officially dead, and now I'm doing that overreacting thing where his career is over. How many times have we drafted someone we are excited about, watched them get hurt and miss their rookie year, and then they never recover. Paging Derek Rivers. Paging Derek Rivers...
But I can't let the D off the hook because Jaylen Samuels rushed 19 times for 142 yards. I predicted on Friday we would come out with big nickle and dime packages to combat the Steelers dangerous WRs, and we would do a much better job stopping the run than we did in Miami. LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL
The holes in the interior of our line can be seen from space. I'm told if you gaze upon them during the sunrise you will weep. Man is so infinitesimal in the universe, and its never been more clear when you see the beauty and vastness of the running lanes in our line. Danny Shelton is dead and has been for weeks. RIP in peace. He literally doesn't play. Malcom Brown, who is not a bust, did some of the worst two gapping I've ever seen. Unless of course he thinks two gapping means identify two gaps and cover neither of them. If that's the case, it was the best two gapping ever and get this man a Red Jacket. Adam Butler was getting pushed around. Guy was getting pushed around. Clayborn was a non factor. Simon looked like a trash heap guy. Even MY BOY Trey Flowers was a bit of a ghost out there. I've essentially given up on Wise making an impact, even though he was a great rookie and should have made a leap this year. Even Van Noy and HIGH have had two horrible weeks in a row IMHFO. They can't fill the gaps on the interior in time, and they are too slow to stop the running back from the turning the corner on the outside runs. Every time an opponent hands the ball off I cringe. We thrive on third and long, I mean who doesn't, but we really need it. If every single run goes for 5 yards minimum then you don't find yourself in third and long very often.
Everyone has to be better. I know there are all these crazy stats getting throw around. We haven't lost two December games since Nam. We never lose to Pitt. We never play on wild card weekend. We never win less than 12 games. Blah blah blah, Ben's a prick.
But for me, its more that I can't remember a Pats team that didn't respond to slights. People were putting them in the ground after the Miami game. We were on to Pitt. Old Pats teams score 50 points the next week to shut up the talking heads. This team doesn't have that mental toughness. And it sucks. It's hard to watch. Like I said at the top, I'm not out yet. We could get hot and make a run like we never have before. Anything is possible, per my close personal friend KG. But man, we are on the knife's edge right now. We have no heart. We have no fight. We have no execution. We STINK on the road. Everyone keeps saying we can figure out, but it's never taken us this long before. I hate being this guy, but times like these make me wish Bill didn't alienate the team and bench Malcolm in the Bowl. I wish Tom didn't skip OTAs. I wish Gronk was having fun still. I wish people were scared of the Pats, I wish the Pats were a team that was worthy of scaring people, and I wish the guys on the team believed they were going to win no matter what every game. That's the real difference. It used to be, well we have Tom. We're gonna win. How many of you were positive this game was going to OT when we got the ball back? For real, I want to see the hands in the air. I thought we had a good chance, especially after the long one to Jules, but was I positive? I plead the fifth. But in the past I would have already ordered another dozen buffalo wings as soon JC broke up that third down, because OT was inevitable. On Sunday, no delivery guy came to my door, and wasn't that surprised by it.