Ticketmaster had some of the cheapest ticket prices I’ve seen for a Patriots game all season long and it was for a playoff game. Rule of thumb: whenever it rains, the rich folk sell their tickets. The social gathering and status symbol of sitting first level and asking “what is a fair catch, honey?” is replaced with small signs of old Foxboro bleacher seats. Dudes with spilt mustard on their throwback Ben Coates jerseys can sit a little closer. It’s a beautiful thing. Mainly because you know it will get rowdy for the defense.
We grabbed a pair in section 215 and drove through the fog and rain to get to Gillette. On the way, I knew we were either driving to a funeral or we were going to get a glimpse of a team about to go on a Super Bowl Run (no shit Eric, it’s a playoff game). This matchup was going to give us a hard answer. This team that has struggled on offense, has it been a result of slow growth from young guys? Were they going to unload the entire playbook to move the ball and put the rest of the league on notice? Or has the eye test been a good enough view into what this team really is?
The whole “next man up” thing is real with the Patriots. The problem is that the next man up usually knows what routes to run. I’m sounding like a broken record but this team lost Andrews, Develin, Josh Gordon, Antonio Brown and has been leaning on an Edelman who looks like he’s playing at 60%. These injuries resulted in a couple issues:
Problem #1: the Patriots struggled to run the ball. Any time this squad handed the rock off, it looked like the Little Giants trying to get Ice Box some reps. They simply struggled horribly to gain 3-4 yards on carries. Here’s the one thing that I really don’t understand about casual fans when they analyze run games: it’s reliant on the offensive line, not as much on the running back. “But Eric, the running back is the one RUNNING the ball, you baby back bitch.” Fair point, Andrew (your name is Andrew). Elite running backs really do make a difference and we’ve seen players like Zeke really change the game for his squad. But we’ve seen plenty of elite running backs struggle because of a bad offensive line. Sony simply could not run through this line. When you watch replays, there are no holes to run through. Losing David Andrews was big. Marcus Cannon has quite obviously not been himself. Isaiah Wynn played his first NFL game in week 11. There was a guy named Gronk that was replaced by some other white guy (I know his name, I’m painting a picture here). Really think about that.
Problem #2: the Patriots struggled to pass the ball. Fucking rocket scientist over here, huh Eric? Well, it seems that people struggle with the idea that if you can’t run the ball, the defense keys in on the other option (it’s passing, turns out you can’t burrow underground). So who does Tom have to pass the ball to? Like I said, Jules has a knee and shoulder injury. He’s played fine but he hasn’t been himself either (see his play last night). N’Keal is coming around but he’s another guy with only 6 games of experience. The rest are dudes have continuously gotten glares from Brady for running incorrect routes. The tight end position has been non existent. Watson has done okay but he is looking old out there. Signs are pointing towards his retirement.
We know those are the main issues. Issues like this will be addressed when a number of guys get healthy and the Patriots add someone like Eric Ebron at tight end and make a move for a great wide receiver (possibly Antonio Brown again if things get cleared up).
Patriot and Tom Brady fans have given him a ton of credit when things were going well. And rightfully so. But we have to remember that even great quarterbacks need some help around them. I can hear it now: “Eric you stupid ass homer, your fan base preaches about how Tom can do it with anybody!!” You’re correct, we do. But these “nobodies” can’t be playing at 60% and they need to have knowledge on the offense enough to know adjustments. I will say that a lot of “low talent” wide receivers have been devalued for “playing with Tom” but they’ve been really smart players in their own right. My point is that the GOAT had nothing to work with. Mahomes has Sammy Watkins as his fourth option. A broken Jules was Tom’s #1.
As for Tom moving on, he’s already said multiple times he wants to play until he’s 45. EVERY, SINGLE story saying otherwise is just speculation and conspiracy theorists. The media needs to sell ads. The greatest athlete of all time potentially retiring helps them do that.
“But, but, but Eric! What is Belichick walks to Kraft and says ‘it’s either Brady or me!'” Idiots. What are the Patriots going to do with this window that they’re still competitive? One in which they have a great defense in place (pending some free agents)? Are they going to go sign another veteran quarterback? Who’s available? Or they can go with Stidham in his second year. Makes no sense at all. This team will be back and healthy next year and expect the Patriots to sign Tom Brady to a 2 year deal this offseason.