Is it me, or is this season eerily similar to the 2007 season? Now when I reference that, it's not based on our win/loss record. Or how inept our coaching staff was, although Dan Henning would have fit right in with that bunch. My comparison is based on the fact that while we finished an embarrassing 1-15, we were competitive in over half of those games. 9 of our 15 losses that year were by 10 or fewer points. 6 of those were 3 points or less. Really, the only two differences in the two teams are we had a better defense in 2007 and a better offense in 2009. The upside is that our team is younger now, and has a much more promising future. As for the game Sunday, I can't say I was really disappointed. I knew this was going to be a tough matchup for us. You can't have too high of expectations facing the 2nd ranked passing attack with 3 rookies in your secondary.
5 Reasons We Lost
1. Randy Moss: This guy is hands down the best WR in the game today. If you don't respect that, he will make you pay. There is absolutely no excuse for not having a safety over the top of this guy on every play. Sure Vontae made a great play on the opening drive, but that ball was also underthrown. The second pass wasn't underthrown, and look what happened. Both times there was no safety help, and we expected a rookie to guard the best WR in the game. Bad move.
2. Our Front Seven: Our pass rush and run defense has got to get better, and quickly if we want to make the push for a playoff spot. Yes, we did get two sacks. But other than that, we put very little pressure on Brady giving him all the time he needed to pick apart our young secondary. They also allowed 4.5 yards per rush, which meant we had to bring up the safeties again to help our LBscontain the run. With 3 rookies in the secondary, we need to be able to keep our safeties deep in support.
3. Justin Smiley, Jake Grove, and Donald Thomas: These three get lumped together because they are the ones responsible for opening up holes in the middle for our ground game. These guys haven't dominated the middle of the line since the Colts game. Since that game, our most successful run plays have all been to the outside. You cannot be a successful running team if you can't pound the ball up the middle. I know some will attribute this to teams putting 8 or 9 men in the box, but that's not every down. Even when teams only have 6 or 7, we're still only averaging 2 or 3 yards if that. And a side note about this game as well, Vince Wilfork played quite a few downs as RDE, and we still struggled running up the middle.
4. Stephen Gostkowski: The kicker? Are you serious? 7 kickoffs, only 4 were returnable. And the ones that were returnable he kicked high arcing kicks allowing less time for Ginn to get up to full speed. The guy kicked off from the 25 yard line, and still kicked it out of the endzone. Any advantages we might have had either in field position or possible return scores were negated by him. He was also 4/4 kicking FGs.
5. Dan Henning: Yes, that's right. Dan Henning keeps up his streak of making the Lose list. Once again Henning continued to show his inability to make adjustments in a game. I'm really starting to wonder if this guy knows he's in the NFL. I'm also beginning to wonder if it was all Chad Pennington that made this guy look good last year. Ok, so you run the option three times andyou gain 50 yards with it. That's great, andI could understand running it once or twice more to see if the defense picks up on it. But 5 more times for a 2 yard average? After the second one failed, it should have dawned on him, maybe this ain't working anymore, scrap it and move on. Nope, not Dan. He goes by the mantra, if you keep trying it over and over again, eventually it'll work again. I like Pat White, and think he can be a good addition to our offense at the right times. Not in the middle of a drive where our QB is 4 for 4 and in rhythm.
5 Reasons We Should Have Won
1. Our Running Game: Once again Ricky and Ronnie put the offense on their backs and kept us in the game accounting for 14 of our 17 points. Even Pat White got into the action with a 33 yard option run.
2. Lousaka Polite: I'm giving him a reason all by himself because this guy is absolute money when it comes to 3rd or 4th down and 1 or less yards. 3 runs, 3 first downs.
3. Vontae Davis: This kid is something else. He is going to be a great CB for years to come. Not many DBs in this league can say they manned up with Randy Moss as a rookie and held their own. He did have a missed tackle resulting in a TD, but the INT on the opening drive preventing a TD helps me overlook that.
4. Jason Allen: Why Jason Allen you ask? Cause he's the guy they called on to replace Vontae while he was injured, and he played very well. Including breaking up a TD catch in the endzone.
5. Patriots Defense: Bottom line, their defense isn't that good. Sure they've got the 7th ranked defense, but look who they've played. I'll give you the Broncos and Falcons. Only 2 of their 8 games have been against teams with winning records. They have the 20th ranked run defense. This is another example of a team we should have run, run ,run against, and yet we still ended up passing more than running.
Well folks, we're at a pivotal point in the season. We're currently two games out of the last wild card spot, and three games out of the division. Another loss almost ends our playoff hopes, two more and it does for sure. I think it's time for the coaching staff to start getting some of the inactives and people who hardly play a chance to show what they've got. There's no better time to do it than right now. I also don't think it could really hurt our chances. Let's see what Wake, Turner, Hilliard, and hell even Thigpen (in a Pat White role, not as starter) got.