Oh, dear readers, I come to you with a bowed head of humility. Yes, I rank myself among the many who panicked upon New England’s 1-2 record. At one point, I tweeted that the Patriots would lose to Miami, and that 2018 was shaping up like 2002.
I shall not link to said tweet. My shame forbids me.
My only defense? In the years where New England has started 2-2 and gone on to the Super Bowl (2003, 2014, 2017), they went into the fourth game at 1-2, with no worse than a .500 record at stake. Two Sundays ago, the Patriots risked a .250 record (1-3) and a three-game deficit to a division rival.
Their 38-7 horse-whipping (dolphin-whipping?) of the Miamammals took care of that. Their convincing, 38-24 win over the Colts Thursday night helped solidify that this winning thing they do has a chance to continue.
Going up 24-3 at the half, this game had a similar plot to the Tortoise and the Hare, with the added twist that the hare woke up in time to see the tortoise coming. Some home team sloppiness and visitors’ scrappiness contributed to this thing getting tight in the third, but a couple of new guys helped the homers pull away.
You Are My Brady: You’re everything I need and more. Tom Brady began this game nine for nine, making it to 14 of 15 (the one incompletion a drive-killing drop by a possible Julian Edelman impostor) and 17 of 20 for 157 yards and a touchdown. He ended up going 34 of 44 for 341 yards and three touchdowns, hitting eight different targets, three of whom (Josh Gordon, Sony Michel, Cordarrelle Patterson) were not in Foxboro last season. His two interceptions came on accurate passes that his (at the time, improperly named) pass-catchers could not corral.
On that note, I understand that tipped or bobbled passes that get intercepted don’t come with asterisks to clarify blame, much in the same way O-linemen and complementary receivers don’t get statistical credit for their part in passing touchdowns. That being said, could we come up with a rule forbidding excess celebration of an interception on a drop? I mean, congratulate your teammate, jump up and down a few times, and get to your own sideline. A gloating gathering in the end zone while down 14 points just seems distasteful. (On this CBS Boston’s Michael Hurley and I agree.)
The B-52’s Award: Most fun record? Brady’s 71 different receivers for touchdowns, beating Vinny Testaverde’s 70. ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss did some research on the record here, including the receiver with the longest last name.
Displaying The Family Jules: Seven receptions for 57 yards won’t catch the eye most weeks, but it’s the most significant output Julian Edelman has had since helping win a Super Bowl over Atlanta. And by “most significant,” I mean “only.” A preseason knee injury in 2017 and a four-week suspension this season stemming from taking PEDs to speed recovery from said injury kept Edelman on the sidelines. He returned with the vengeance of a movie action hero, starting off the night with a nine-yard reception. He returned punts and added some spirited chatter after the whistle.
Hard to imagine how much I would detest Edelman if he played for someone else. He’s the Patriots’ Danny Ainge. I write that with admiration.
Snatched From The Josh Of Defeat? No one knows how long Josh Gordon will last in Foxboro. But after his game vs. the Colts (with two catches for 50 yards, including maneuvering for a sweet 34-yard score), more and more people in New England hope he decides to stick around. His 34-yard touchdown reception that split double-coverage showed oh-so-many aspects of how he can help this team. Was that an ill-advised pass from Brady? Well, perhaps it could qualify as slightly-under-the-weather. Still, the fact that the QB trusted his receiver to go get it speaks to how far Gordon has come in a few weeks.
The pertinent question: what other receiver on the roster could come up with that pass (wide receiver, not Rob Gronkowski)? Sure, Edelman has shown the ability to win the ball vs. multiple defenders, but would Brady have thrown that particular ball to him? Hard to say. I’m leaning toward no. Patterson has a seemingly unbreakable habit of facing his entire body back toward the football instead of turning to catch it in stride, making for an unexpected lack of sure-footedness more suitable for a baby horse. Phillip Dorsett seems to possess Ben-Watson-level hands, vacillating between remarkable grabs and devastating drops. Some guy named Chris Hogan has apparently started a prescription of invisible pills.
Really hoping Gordon finds a home in Foxboro. Should make for some entertaining football.
Sony And Share: Pretty cool to have a rookie running back who can take the workload when he needs to and hand it off (so to speak) if necessary. Sony Michel just missed out on his second 100-yard game in a row, racking up 98 yards on 18 carries (5.4 avg.) and a TD. He has started to gain vision at the rate of a newborn hawk, wobbly at first but now seeming to see and assess the entire field. Plus, the straight-arm on his 34-yard touchdown run looked so perfect, the Heisman Committee may now refer to that action as “The Michel.”
Tough to call running back James White complementary after he caught 10 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown last week. (Just for context, I caught 10 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown in my high school career. Go Whalers!) These two can run (or catch) out of the pistol formation (is it pistol? Is it pony? Seems like an Old West theme. Is it dogie? Varmint, perhaps?), causing fits for opposing defenses. Fun to watch how this pairing develops through the fall.
Nothing You Can Say Can Tear Me Away From My Guy: Only two tackles each for Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton, but those big dudes up front take the bulk of the contact to let the linebackers and defensive backs clean up. They held fast back Nyheim Hines to three yards per carry (15 for 45) and the Colts to a four-yard average. The previous week, the Dolphins averaged only 3.1 yards per rush. Both efforts proved welcome changes from the previous weeks’ efforts, where New England seemed to deploy the Red Sea defense.
I think I may have just inadvertently called Matt Stafford Moses. Moving on…
Nothing You Can Do, Cause I’m Stuck Like Glue To My Ky: Eight tackles for Kyle Van Noy, who showed up all over the field. Solid in coverage, accountable in run defense, notable in the pass rush, Van Noy won’t make the Pro Bowl, but his consistent contributions will make a difference as the season rolls along, no matter what certain local sports media types might think of him personally.
Devin-itely A Concern: Yeah, safety Devin McCourty in coverage on two touchdown passes to tight ends proved disconcerting. At this point, the idea of McCourty taking on Kansas City’s Travis Kelce should give us more pause than a Bob Newhart phone routine. But the Patriots won’t ask McCourty to do that, will they?
This should get interesting.
Goddam Madam, Adam Mad Dog: No matter from which direction you look at it, Colts kicker and lifetime-and-beyond member of New England sports lore Adam Vinatieri nailing a 54-yarder seemed right, you know? I hope he kicks until he’s 50.
Some Leftover Notes From the Miami Game That Have Not Held Up Well
A Bridge Over Troubled Rivers: Is John Simon ready to take on the edge defender role that New England has been trying to fill? Derek Rivers has been witnessed about as often as a local myth. At this point, I wouldn’t feel positive he existed if not for the word of the old Patriots fans around the Foxboro area who insist he used to romp around local fields.
(After a splashy Pats premiere with five tackles and a sack vs. Miami, Simon tweaked his shoulder vs. Indianapolis after one tackle.)
Cy Of Relief: How great did it feel to watch Cyrus Jones catching and returning punts with no issues? Against Miami, he had nine-yard and 23-yard returns.
(Yup. Edelman’s back. Would love to see Jones continue to get work here – and maybe he will get brought back into the return fold – but it looks like Edelman’s the guy.)*
*(Wrote the previous line on Friday. Jones got released by New England over the weekend. I’m killing it, you guys!)
The Fall Of Troy: Solid work by Joe Buck and Troy Aikman on the broadcast, though Aikman drove me to distraction on two occasions. One, at 1:48 of the second quarter, he used the non-existent word “heighth,” a pet peeve of mine that has such great depth and width that I find myself obsessing over it. Two, when discussing Boston’s sports Mount Rushmore, Aikman casually added the name “Clemens.”
What? No. A playoff meltdown in human form who went to a rival team will never reach Boston’s peak. NEVAH.
Mason Jarring: One other false note on the broadcast (we’ll politely overlook the over-acted Pats-Colts “rivalry” montage to open the show) came during the “Timeless” piece featuring current NFL stars discussing stars of the past. New England guard Shaq Mason lauded NFL Hall-of-Famer John Hannah, which would have come off as a pleasant bit if not for Fox mislabeling Mason as Patriots tackle Marcus Cannon. Not a great look, there, Fox.
Now, of course, I’m morbidly curious about how this happened. Did they want to talk to Cannon at first but settled for Mason? Did they realize at the last minute that Cannon plays tackle and that, like Hannah, Mason plays guard, but forgot to change names?
This reminds me of a dialogue mistake from the crime thriller Killing Them Softly, set in Boston and based on the novel Cogan’s Trade by George V. Higgins. Near the end, a character pronounces Billerica like Bill-Erica, and it ruined the movie for me. CAWM AWN, DOOD! WHO’S IN THE RESECH DEPAHTMENT?
Lookit This Jerk: Speaking of hurt feelings, I will just keep asking networks to avoid showing the guy who committed the turnover after the opposing team scores. Not sure what we’re supposed to get out of this. Keep the cameras on the happy team. No need to bring down the vibe by showing some slippy-fingered offensive player staring vacuously into the distance.
And, listen, I’m a huge consumer of schadenfreude (a negative trait I’m trying to work on, actually). For example, no one enjoys watching Baltimore lose more than I do, yet the Patriots haven’t even played the Ravens since December 2016 in a game that featured a safety, a blocked kick after jumping the center, and the Goofus version of Jones as punt returner. My disturbing love of others’ misfortune aside, I feel bad for the turnover guys, and I resubmit by proposal to avoid showing them after opponents score.
Also, when the Colts notched a touchdown, the cameras showed Brady, who had nothing to feel bad about. Reformat your thinking, broadcast networks!
Replay I Would Have Liked To See: At around the 4:11 mark of the first quarter, Stephon Gilmore got called for defensive holding. His reflex when the flag was thrown was to indicate offensive pass interference. No replay means no chance to offer a completely unbiased opinion against terrible officiating.
I mean, probably?
Do NOT Take It To The Max: Quick question, here. When’s the last time you noticed sports gabber Max Kellerman when he wasn’t talking about Brady? Seriously, name one thing he’s put out there since his Brady/cliff comment two years ago. Meanwhile, Boston sports media has started to resemble a rabbit trail in that it’s getting overrun with turds.
Hard to blame them, really. It’s got to feel so tempting. Would you rather go through the trouble of researching, writing, attending press conferences, traveling, and collecting sources as evidence to make claims, or spend five minutes online cherry picking numbers to back up a troll point, knowing the latter will get you instant notoriety? Once again, I missed my opportunity for a “Brady inches closer to the end” headline. On that note, fascinating and entertaining work, Dave Brown of the Concord Monitor.
Maybe I’ll figure it out one of these days. (Note: I will not.)
No Spear, No Magic: Apparently there is no magic helmet rule. Michel lowered his head and knocked linebacker Anthony Walker out of the game in the first quarter and defensive back Clayton Geathers from the field at the beginning of the second. No call on either play. A few snaps before the latter, Gronk caught a short pass and got hammered like the head of a Sphyrna Zygaena. None of these examples would seem bothersome if a) the entire preseason hadn’t hinged on strict enforcement of said rule, and b) we didn’t know that, at some point, this thing will rear its ugly head at a crucial time like it’s Lumbergh on a Friday afternoon.
How amazing it must feel as an NFL owner that, no matter how much you may mess up your business, it continues to grow. They remind me of earthworms on a farm: just lie around and eat and poop, and everybody’s happy. Good for you, NFL owners!
Netflix Note Of the Week: I’m not sure exactly what “Maniac” means, and I can’t tell you everything that happened on the show, but I came away impressed. I’d be surprised if the two leads (Emma Stone, Jonah Hill) don’t garner some Emmy consideration.
We’re Walking, We’re Walking, And We’re Stopping: “Fear the Walking Dead” wrapped up last week in a satisfying season finale. I’ve gotten to enjoy the characters, who have remained consistent while building up a believable and enjoyable camaraderie. I plan on watching next season. “The Walking Dead” has started up again, but I’m not on board. I know it’s foolish not to suspend disbelief in this world, but Rick Grimes has made waaaay too many mistakes to still be alive.
Don’t listen to the producers of “The Walking Dead” when they say the show isn’t about zombies, that it’s about people and relationships. Just because characters don’t use the word “zombie” doesn’t mean it’s not about them. I don’t recall hearing the word “ghosts” in The Sixth Sense, but if that movie had just been about a child psychologist, no one would have seen it. I feel like, at this point, “Fear” gets that allure of zombies more than “TWD” does. Also, as a goof, check out “Z Nation.” It’s TWD but with one-sixth of the budget and 10 times the sense of humor.
Speaking of Zombies: If you can, check out the movie Bong of the Living Dead on Blu-ray. Got a chance to see it at the GenreBlast Film Festival, and loved the mix of stoner humor, horror, and drama. Note: this is coming from someone who hasn’t touched a bong since Peter Gabriel had a sledgehammer.
Jackassassin’s Creed: Not sure this commercial for the video game Assassin’s Creed Odyssey showing a young mother crying her eyes out as she tries to shield her infant from an ax-wielding executioner constitutes the best advertising these days. I mean, I understand the whole Conan the Barbarian “hear the lamentation of their women” thing. I went to high school in the 1980s. Maybe I’m as old fashioned as bourbon, bitters, and sugar in a glass, but even if I weren’t it’s time to admit we crawled beyond these images, pop-culture wise? I mean, Arnold Schwarzenegger – Conan himself – hasn’t exactly immersed himself in greatness over the past several years.
What am I, turning into Larry King? Good Lord.
New England takes on Kansas City next Sunday night. Here’s hoping the game stays competitive for a lot longer than previous Pats/Chiefs tilts. If not, the Pats are fine: after all, they’ll emerge no worse than .500.
Chris Warner has discovered pumpkin flavored coffee creamer and cider donuts. Don’t look at him; he’s hideous. You can see him on Twitter: @cwarn89.