The Patriots flew into Miami for their regular-season finale with only slightly less energy than a potato battery. Their 20-10 loss made them 2-3 over their past five games, the worst mark for New England in December/January since Pete Carroll’s final season in 1999.

The Pats beat the teams they should have, keeping pace by demolishing the Texans 27-6 and pushing past the Titans, 33-16. They lost one game they could have won, falling to the Jets in overtime, 26-20. Had they taken that game, the Dolphins “contest” (quotes all mine) would not have mattered. As things sit, New England has a 12-4 record and a bye week to try to figure it all out.

Some thoughts as we prepare to watch others play for the privilege of visiting Foxboro…

Price Is Right? Chris Price of WEEI.com wrote a follow-up piece on how, when it comes to the playoffs, health trumps momentum. It’s a compelling debate, especially when you look at a team like Baltimore, who went 1-4 at the end of 2012 on their way to Super Bowl success. Again, this Pats team might get bounced faster than a Super Ball in a paint shaker. But the phrase “anything can happen” can work for optimists, too.

Lost In Logan: Disappointing couple of weeks for cornerback Logan Ryan. After a sharp run through most of December, Ryan got bypassed by Brandon Marshall in New York (eight catches, 115 yards, two touchdowns) and outplayed in part by Devante Parker in Miami (five for 106 and one TD). New England’s defensive backfield is playing like season two of that show you unexpectedly enjoyed last year: you want to keep liking it, but it hasn’t been living up to its potential. A healthier safety crew and front seven might help.

O, O Sea Bass: Yup. You know it’s the end of the regular season when I’ve run out of puns. (Oh, Sheila? Anyone? No? Too bad.) Anyhoo, this season the Patriots O-line has gone through more combos than a busload of returning Outward Bound students at McDonald’s. Tackle Sebastian Vollmer went down with an ankle injury during the first quarter of the Jets game December 27, providing the final push to this superhuman-sized row of dominoes. Vollmer had stepped over from right tackle to take over for Nate Solder. His injury forced Cameron Fleming to left tackle, which has made things tough for the offense. His expected return could help settle down the entire line.

Jules Of Denial: I mean, yeah, if you want to talk injuries, the Patriots have more personnel on reserve than the Coast Guard. Yet, amidst all the gloom, we seem to look past the fact that Julian Edelman, New England’s best receiver, looks primed to come back for the playoffs. After catching 61 passes in his first nine games, Edelman sat with a broken bone in his foot. That means almost seven completions per contest had to got to other targets. Nice to have that potential back for the big games.

How LaFar He LaFell: I suppose Patriots fans should consider themselves lucky they got the 2014 version of Brandon LaFell when they did. That guy distinguished himself as a solid pass-catcher in big situations, culminating in the game-winning score in the Divisional Round vs. Baltimore and the opening TD in the Super Bowl. Not sure what happened to that guy. Maybe off-season foot surgery took more of a toll than expected. His first game back, vs. the Jets, featured nine drops. He has only 37 receptions in 11 games, half of his 74 in 16 games last year. Zero touchdowns this season vs. seven in 2014. Pretty rough, especially considering the absence of Edelman and the need for different receivers.

I’m Just A Bill: Everything I just said about LaFell works for tight end Scott Chandler, minus the Super Bowl run. Last year Chandler had 47 receptions with Buffalo. This year in Foxboro, 23. Too often these guys react to the football like emotionally stunted bridesmaids watching the bouquet flying toward them, giving an effort that seems perfunctory at best.

No Reason To Get Excited, Or All Along The Hightower: If injuries to a football team are like removing tools out of a toolbox, then linebacker Dont’a Hightower is the hammer. New England’s run defense hasn’t been the same since Hightower’s injury in Denver; it remains to be seen if he has played again at full strength.

Eh, at this point it just feels like we’re making excuses, but when you’re the most injured team in the league, it makes a difference. Getting back to full health, or close to it, will give the Patriots a chance to show what they can do.

Or maybe everyone should just lower their expectations. Speaking of which…

Earthwind And Fired: In past years, New England has been able to find a free agent or practice squad player who can fill in at an acceptable level. No one should ever confuse defensive back Earthwind Moreland with Ty Law, but the former stepped up from the practice squad after Law’s season-ending injury in 2004 and notched 17 total tackles (the only stops recorded in his five seasons in the NFL). Not a long-term solution, but a good enough stop-gap.

In a similar way, Danny Woodhead got to Foxboro in September of 2010 and took over Kevin Faulk’s third-down role less than two weeks later after Faulk went on injured reserve with a knee injury. Woodhead averaged 5.6 yards per carry (97 for 547) and 11.1 yards per catch (34 for 379). Last year, guys like LeGarrette Blount and Alan Branch helped out down the stretch. This season, the rewards have been harder to come by.

Defensive back Leonard Johnson had a sweet Pats debut at Houston, breaking up two passes and dancing like it was Gino time. He did fine vs. Tennessee, then seemed to slip over the past two games. Offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle got hurt before getting to show much. Receiver Chris Harper came with high hopes off the practice squad. I’ve watched him twice in the past six weeks and have yelled at the TV both times.

Just catch the punt! Just get out-of-bounds!

Disappointing. Much like running back Steven Jackson, who has averaged 2.4 yards per carry. Not all his fault – he’s only been a Patriot for two weeks and could deliver more in the post-season – but still tough to watch.

Bye Curious: The past month has felt like a team tetanus shot they just wanted to get out of the way. So, how much can one week off really help? We only know that things can change quickly in the NFL. No AFC team looks unbeatable right now. Kansas City has had a great run, but how will they play at Foxboro? Denver deserves credit for nabbing the number one seed, but how will they transition from a young, promising QB back to their Hall of Famer, the amazing Ashley Manning?

(Oops. Sorry. That was meant for Peyton Manning, but I addressed it to his wife.)

This thing is wide open. No one’s undefeated. No one’s playing perfectly. Let’s see how it all turns out.

Chris Warner like to spend a little too much time on Twitter @cwarn89

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50 thoughts on “Pats 2015 Fourth Quarter Review

  1. I don’t think anyone is looking past Edelman’s return, if anything it’s the exact opposite, everyone is putting way too much emphasis on it. If Edelman returns and can play most of the divisional round game, does it matter if Volmer can’t play or is ineffective or his replacement is ineffective?

    I’ve heard and seen, in their neverending quest for a storyline, numerous talking heads and writers repeatedly mention that pretty much all that matters is if Edelman and Amendola are healthy. Granted, half of these people destroyed Amendola on a daily basis until AFTER the 2015 Super Bowl. I smell a rat….if these guys play, the O-Line is still in shambles and the Pats lose in Denver in the AFC championship game, it is guaranteed (no matter what the actual on-field circumstances are) that the 2016 offseason storyline will be that Belichick and McDaniels are completely at fault.

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    1. Oh, that’s already started. Mazz was yelling on Monday if they lose in Denver it’s all on Bill.

      I find it a little weird that across the board the clowns on 98.5 have already penciled in Denver for the AFCCG and wringing their hands over the Pats even making it there, and on ‘EEI they have the Pats in and Denver doing the Manning Special, 1-and-done.

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      1. Let me just say that if this team gets to the AFCCG and then loses at Denver, no one will have more excuses than me…..starting with the officiating travesty that essentially took away a win from the Pats in the Sunday night game on Nov. 29. The AFCCG should be played in Foxboro — and it would be played in Foxboro without some of the “creative” officiating that night in Denver. And Mazz can suck it as far as I’m concerned; even Jets fans were posting “the Pats got screwed tonight” on message boards in the aftermath of that game. And let’s face it, sans the massive amount injuries, the Pats would have sleepwalked their way to 14-2 this season.

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  2. “Disappointing. Much like running back Steven Jackson”…. jeeze… a little rough there. The guy hasn’t played all year. Pats O-line is a mess and he’s a 32 year old RB… you were expecting Jim Brown?…. thought he looked better against Dolphins.

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    1. For what he was asked to do against the dolphins he was fine. Jackson plays angry. He is a load. When you really look at it he was running behind a depleted line, with an anemic passing game and with the most uncreative bordering on conservative offensive game plan the team has played since Pete Carroll coached. So how anyone could be disappointed with what he gave the Pats is beyond me. My list of disappointing starts and ends with the coaching staff in that game.

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    1. Yeah, talked about it a little in the last thread. The main crew is moving to Manhattan and working out of one office.

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      1. Barstool isn’t my brand but I’m always happy to see start-ups succeed.

        How many local guys can put the “Went to jail for Brady and BB” trophy on their mantle?

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  3. Anyone see Skeletor Ryan’s column about how Manning has “earned the benefit of the doubt” on this PED thing, while Brady didn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt over Defame-gate, because….the Patriots cheat, or something. No mention, of course, of the incident at UT involving the female athletic trainer and the alleged monetary settlement involving St. Peyton. He also threw in this nugget: “Brady is the groom atop the wedding cake; Manning is every-man.” Huh? What? So the guy who grew up rich, the son of an NFL QB, the highest-recruited H.S. player in the country his senior year, everybody’s All-American at Tennessee, and the #1 overall pick in the ’98 draft is Mr. Every-Man. Meanwhile, the guy who was completely overlooked by most college recruiters, who had to fight tooth-and-nail to get on the field at Michigan, even after proving he was the best QB on the team, who was the 199th overall pick in the 2000 draft, and who, even after winning three Super Bowls, was dismissed as just a “system QB” by most of the football media, is “the groom atop the wedding cake” that no “real” man can relate to. For the love of God, Mr. Ryan, please go the eff away. We get it. You don’t like the Pats. You, and the rest of the dinosaur sports crew at the Globe simply like to troll Pats fans at this point. And, correct me if I’m wrong here: didn’t you “retire” several years ago anyway? Please. Go. Away. And take the CHB with you.

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    1. Since the LOLbe’s website is horrible, I had to find the column (do link if you have one) via Twitter:

      http://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2016/01/09/should-believe-peyton-manning-hgh-denial/kRIrTZasiHjYkGbGwPQXmL/story.html

      (Usual thing about deleting cookies if they throw the pay garbage up.)

      It’s just nice so you can quote it. Lets begin:

      No. 2 is that we need a complete airing out of this whole HGH business.
      If it’s true that the sole purpose of using HGH is to enhance the
      recovery process following an injury, I say, “What’s wrong with that?”
      Again, I say, if that’s true. I find that a different
      matter than an agent that makes you artificially better than you would
      be using ordinary training methods. We all need to know. Perhaps we
      should stop nitpicking about HGH.

      Problem is, Bob, that almost all professional sports bodies consider HGH as a PED. Each deals with “PED” violations differently; likewise, the public and media covering that individual sport follow suit. I’ve already stated my position about not caring. However, where the NFL put itself into this even worse is them equating DeflateGate to PEDs. HGH = PED. They test but the test is unreliable (not reported or underreported). So, taking HGH = suspension, no? Just ask Rodney Harrison. Irony, right?

      So, I’m saying that the idea that Peyton Manning would employ HGH in his
      rehab really doesn’t bother me. It makes perfect sense. Of course, he’s
      going to deny it.

      Lets go back to Mike Freeman’s tweet about the guys who would foam at the mouth and go bonkers would be spinning in circles if this were Giselle. We’re making an assumption, right? But, I’d put a paycheck on it if I had to bet that it would be.

      Brady is collateral damage in this Deflategate matter. Though his name
      is not directly attached to it, the real target of the public ire is
      Bill Belichick. I will concede there is an additional layer of disdain
      for Brady because he comes off as too good to be true, being married to
      You-Know-Who, endorsing upscale products, and just generally coming off
      as Mr. Perfect. Peyton is Everyman. Brady is Top Of The Wedding Cake.

      Bobby, I think you got the two mixed up. Did you fall asleep, while writing this, with Wheel of Fortune at 100% volume on the TV right after supper?

      Your (TonyD) post above talks about this.

      Would it remotely surprise me if he did it? Nope. And did he earn this apparent free pass from just about everyone? Yup. Nationwide is not the only one on his side.

      Cute. One of your marketing interns write that line?

      You’d think Ryan would understand why we’re upset here. He’s in the market. Chad Finn seemed to be the only person at the LOLbe who “got it”, but it seems like he’s an endangered species at 135 Morrissey Blvd.

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  4. Haven’t caught much but highlights but if the stuff that’s cost teams two games so far, and “not showing up for a game”, are never, ever something you’d come to see the Patriots do. Never. Ever.

    When we had the bad stretch this year, the # of spoiled or just “lets find something wrong” fans–and, their counterparts in the local media–chiming in just makes you want to vomit. It’s baffling. We’ve got it so made here and one day in the next few years, it won’t be that way anymore. For how long? Who knows. We don’t have some loser, drug-addicted, Spauling Smails, criminal owner here but Bob is also getting up there in age. We can only hope Jonathan will break the trend, right? I bring that up because it all starts from the top. Fish rots from the head down and all those neat adages.

    We’re spoiled and these are times you just know people (media) will date themselves, “You know, when BB and Brady were here..”

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    1. We’re spoiled and these are times you just know people (media) will date themselves, “You know, when BB and Brady were here..”

      Two thoughts after the games this weekend:
      1.I should never complain about the Brady/BB Pats ever again. I sometimes forget how good we’ve had it, but when you see the stuff from this weekend’s games it becomes crystal clear.

      2. Maybe if the NFL spend millions of dollars and untold hours in the offseason improving the on field product (instead of targeting it’s premier franchise and player) the product wouldn’t be seventy-five percent garbage.

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      1. I really hope Dan owns that image or that it is a creative commons image (free to use) otherwise he’s the next in a long line of Globie plagiarists.

        (BTW, in almost consecutive tweets Trolin posts that the Chiefs are trouble and then retweets CHB)

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      2. 11 straight wins. 30-point shutout road win in the first round of the playoffs. 27-point win against the Pats last year on MNF. If KC is a Tomato Can, then who isn’t? The CHB’s trolling isn’t even troll-worthy anymore. It’s amazing just how much those old Globies HATE the success (and popularity) the Patriots have been experiencing since 2001. It’s like they take personal offense at the fact that the Pats have passed the Sox and Celtics in Boston’s sports hierarchy. I know with Shank, the issues run deeper, since he’s still mad at Kraft for not giving him a free breakfast 17 or 18 years ago.

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  5. Did DoritoDink relocate from Amherst to Minnesota?

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  6. So the weekend of bad football is over and the NFL again covered itself in glory with the way the games were officiated, administered and handled. Let’s look at the big stories and the angles the media has taken versus ones they should be pursuing:

    – Poor control of both sidelines in the Cincy/ Pitt game led to a ton of chippiness and in the end 2 horrible penalties that could only happen to Cincy (or the Jets). The refs lost control of that game early. To me that is a far bigger travesty than less than 1 lb of PSI when it comes to talking about the integrity of the game. Hey commissioner’s office…maybe you should look into this so we are never forced to watch such an ugly game again. “Crickets”.

    – What exactly were the pressure readings in the Minnesota game. Enquiring minds want to know. Why aren’t some media guys filling a football in a 70 degree room and then taking it to the field, measuring it and then sharing those results at half time and at the end of the game. It would not be official but it would tell the story.

    – It was not fair that Green Bay got to play an exhibition game.

    – Why is no one bitching about Andy Reid’s decision to play Jacklin. He got him hurt and now he will not have him when it was clear there was no way Houston was going to win that game. I am being facetious…that type of complaint would only happen in NE.

    A non playoff question: Where is Johnny football?

    A non playoff observation: If it is true that Peyton Manning is an “everyman” then how come he was able to get his wife an illegal prescription for HGH when she was pregnant. Doesn’t that kind of prove he has pull the rest of us don’t? I could write volumes on how dumb Bob Ryan’s column was…suffice to say…I expect more from Ryan…I don’t from the Globe but I do from Ryan.

    A non football observation Jaimie Alexander is a babe – http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-style/pictures/golden-globes-2016-red-carpet-fashion-best-dressed-stars-w161272/jaimie-alexander-w161283

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    1. “- Why is no one bitching about Andy Reid’s decision to play Jacklin. He
      got him hurt and now he will not have him when it was clear there was
      no way Houston was going to win that game. I am being facetious…that
      type of complaint would only happen in NE.”

      Only Belichick can be criticized for that type of thing. ^_^

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  7. Dan did preview his column quite well:

    Patriots fans aren’t quite sure how to live with this. For some time
    now, New England’s path to the Super Bowl has been paved with flukes,
    great fortune, and frightened opponents ready to be sent home. A soft
    parade of Texans and Colts would come to Gillette Stadium, wet
    themselves at the sight of the Hoodie, and slink out of town without
    resistance. Occasionally the Ravens would put up a fight, but there was
    always a Tuck Rule or a Cundiff waiting to happen.

    Sounds almost like the league set them up with an easy path, until.. this year?

    This year, the Tomato Cans have not toppled in the correct order. Everything has not gone New England’s way. A berth in Super Bowl 50 is going to have to be won by beating another good team in the playoffs. This time, it won’t be enough to stand back and watch the other guys set themselves on fire.

    Tomato Can Dan!

    http://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2016/01/11/things-haven-fallen-into-place-for-patriots/hMFIC8rpuZgsJKUTgBi81H/story.html

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    1. What the hell is he talking about? Forget 2001: that will always be the “Tuck Rule” to asshats like Shank. But in 2003 they had to face the co-league MVPs in back-to-back weeks (McNair and Manning) in order to get to the Super Bowl, and in the first game against TEN, the wind chill was 20 below. In 2004, they had to face the teams with the best offense and defense in the NFL, respectively (Indy and Pittsburgh, which also had home field for the AFC title game), in order to get to the Super Bowl. As for “Cundiff” happening in 2011, I’m sure Shank remembers that the Pats had the lead and the ball at midfield after a turnover late in that game, but then Brady immediately threw and end zone INT on an ill-advised deep ball to Slater to give the ball back to Baltimore for one last push to win the game. I’m sure he also remembers Bernard Pollard stomping on Gronk’s ankle and putting him pretty much out of commission for most of the fourth quarter of that game (and the Super Bowl two weeks later) — maybe “Cundiff happening” wouldn’t have been necessary had Gronk been at full speed over those final 15 minutes. I’m sure Shank took that into consideration, right? And I love how he pretends to speak for Patriots fans who “aren’t used to this….” Sadly, one thing we are used to is the CHB trolling Patriots Nation, just because he can.

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        1. Yup, he’s one of the best…..if you drive a 1983 DeLorean with a Flux-Capacitor installed in between the two seats, and have an ample supply of plutonium on hand. It’s still 1985, right? It has to be for someone to call Shank “one of the best sportswriters in the country,” in the present tense.

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          1. B2TF references are always worthy of many upvotes.

            I think you left the requirement that writing such a thing these days also requires to be on as much cocaine as John DeLorean would have been back then, as well.

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          2. Excellent point. Anyone who thinks Shank is one of the best in the business today — 25+ years past his prime — has to be high on something.

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    2. I’m a little confused here. If only the Patriots benefit from “flukes, great fortune, and frightened opponents,” does that mean Seattle, Kansas City and Pittsburgh advanced because they were just better than their opposition?

      The Texans were the textbook frightened opponent for the Chiefs. The Steelers and Seahawks only won because a combination of fortune (opposing RBs fumbling at inopportune times) and flukes (the Vikings missing a chip shot FG and the Bengals committing 30 yards worth of penalties with less than 20 seconds to go.)

      I wonder if sportswriter in those cities are telling their fans to calm down, their team isn’t really that good, it’s that the opposition is giving away the game.

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      1. I have had coffee in the last 20 minutes and I am 48. However I have never had alcohol. We all have different vices. But I am glad this makes news…I certainly would not want the press to become obsessed with chasing a real story like PED use by Peyton Manning…instead I think coffee gate should become a thing…I mean really a big thing.

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      1. I don’t think anyone in this market knew he was, even though he’s apparently got a show somewhere around here, until he made an idiot of himself during DG.

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    1. Mazz is already on the “everyone is injured, Mike! Amendola doesn’t look right to me!! Neither does Gronk!!”

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        1. He was doing the “Is Player A ok? I..I..dunno, Mike!” “Is Player B ok? Mike….I don’t know! I think so but I don’t know!”

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  9. Is there one f–king show in town that will give the Pats defense an ounce of credit? All the talk so far is the Chiefs defense. Statistically speaking the Pats defense is every bit as good or better in every category. But the Chiefs are the second coming of the ’85 Bears! Look what they did to Warren Moon and the Oilers last week! Oh, wait…

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    1. Heard from a buddy with a friend in law enforcement: Jones got high on weed laced with Adderall and stumbled to Foxboro PD (down the street from his house) in his boxers. After knocking on their back door they yelled for him to get down, at which point he started sobbing uncontrollably. They took him to the hospital and sent a cop to lock up his house for him.

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      1. I wonder if BB sends him a “Wes Welker” type of message and holds him out of the first quarter on Saturday? He also did that with Seymour in the “Tuck Rule” game as well (the legendary Riddick Parker started in Seymour’s place and I believe played the entire first quarter before Sey was allowed into the game).

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      2. If the pot was truly laced with adderall then Jones has other issues as that is on the banned PED list. The pot might get him a game or at least a warning. Adderall would get him 4 games. The good news is the NFL moves slowly on these things and I doubt anything happens until next year.

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