Patriots Lookin’ Good in Preseason

…At Least the Ones Who Really Matter

Danny Amendola catches a pass from Tom Brady and heads to the end zone to score the first touchdown, a 22-yarder (8/16/13)

Danny Amendola catches a pass from Tom Brady and heads to the end zone to score the first touchdown of the game and his first in a Patriots uniform (22 yards).

Zach Sudfeld, covered by two defensive players, makes the catch for the 2-point conversion (8/16/13)

Zach Sudfeld, covered by two defensive players, makes the catch for the 2-point conversion.

Friday night, the Patriots took on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home in their second preseason game.  The most important players for New England performed very well.. enough to ease some of the worries about how they will do this year.  Without our key receivers, who accounted for about 75% of receptions last year (Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez), there is an almost entirely new cast of players for quarterback Tom Brady to throw to.  This means they need to get on the same page in a very short amount of time.  The Brady/Belichick playbook is known to be one of – if not the – most complicated in the entire league.  Many players have come to New England, not been able to learn the system (and therefore under-performed), and been let go at the end of the year.

Luckily for Patriots fans, the members of this new offense seemed to understand the system and performed well.  And, of course, Tom Brady is still a beast.  Seriously, he’s looking fantastic, even at age 36.  He once said he would like to play until he’s 50, and it doesn’t look too far-fetched.  He played for 23 snaps – a bit longer than expected, and while that may make you worry about risking injury, I think it was a good thing..  It gave him some extra in-game practice with his new receivers.

I liked what I saw in the offense.  There was a good mix of running and passing, with everyone getting involved.  My favorite highlight was Danny Amendola, who was brought in to fill the slot receiver position.. the ever important role that Wes Welker used to play, which is relied on often for third down conversions.  Brady went to Amendola for this reason a bunch of times.. and successfully, including on a third down and 11.  The best part was how well the very first drive went.  There wasn’t a dropped pass from anyone, and there was some good running too.  It ended with a great 26-yard touchdown pass to Amendola.. his first in a Patriots uniform.  Then they decided to try for a 2-point conversion and rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld (covered by two defensive players) came down with a great catch at the very back of the end zone and managed to stay in!  The drive went for 15 plays and 80 total yards.  Brady went 8-for-8 on passing, mostly to Amendola, but Shane Vereen, Josh Boyce, and Julian Edelman made some nice catches too.  The rushing was just as effective.  Running back Stevan Ridley fought hard for yards as did first-year James Develin, who earned two first downs.

Stevan Ridley fights for extra yards (8/16/13)

Stevan Ridley fights for extra yards.

Brady played for our second drive too.  LeGarrette Blount did some good running. Amendola made some nice catches and earned a bunch of first downs.  The Patriots gained a total of 145 yards offensively with Brady on the field.  It then ended on a third down with an incompletion to Amendola.  There seemed to be a miscommunication, but the defensive player covering him did interfere a bit.  Up until that, Brady started the game 11 for 11, which he has never done before..  It kinda looks like he’s even better than he used to be.

In the first preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Tom Brady went 7-for-8 passing for 65 yards and a touchdown.  He finished this game 11-of-12 for 107 yards and a touchdown.  That’s 18-of-20 passes for 172 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in two preseason games.  Danny Amendola, who I consider to be our most important receiver, finished having caught 6-of-7 passes for 71 yards.  Lookin’ Good.

..Definitely lookin’ good.  Still, there’s work to be done if we really want to be a threat this season.  Brady’s first incompletion came on his 12th pass attempt when Amendola turned around late.  Regardless of possibly being interfered with, it looked like his timing was off.  Still, that’s the only real negative part of the Brady-led offensive in this game.  ..But that’s the Brady-led offense.

The Guys Who Don’t Matter Quite So Much

After that incompletion, Brady came out to give the other quarterbacks some proving time.  The offense that was led by Ryan Mallett and Tim Tebow was, well, not so great.  However, I want to note that I was surprisingly impressed with our defense.  Our secondary did so well that most of the time, there was nowhere for the Buccaneers to pass and then Chandler Jones got a sack.  Then Brandon Spikes got his second sack of the game to force them to punt.

Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes and defensive tackle Tommy Kelly sack Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman (8/16/13)

Brandon Spikes and Tommy Kelly sack Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman.

So the defense looks much improved, but now on to Mallett Time.  It was a rough start as he couldn’t get a first down on his first drive, although he did complete a good pass.  Then when we punted, Matt Slater was right there, out of nowhere, to tackle their punt returner as soon as he caught it.  Great hustle!  Our defense then did its job again.  Chandler Jones made a bunch of good tackles, then Rob Ninkovich got a sack and forced them to punt.

On the next drive, Mallett completed a nice, long, accurate jump pass to Michael Hoomanawanui.  Then rookie R.J. Mattes got hurt on next play.  Hopefully it’s nothing serious.  [UPDATE: R.J. Mattes has since been released.]  Next was a nice pass and catch to Julian Edelman.  Then Mallett made a bad decision and threw the ball away into the end zone where two defensive backs were the only players near it.  They settled for a 39-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski.

Julian Edelman fights through tackles for extra yards (8/16/13)

Julian Edelman fights through tackles for extra yards.

The following drive went better.  Mallett completed a great 23-yard pass to rookie wide receiver Aaron Dobson.  At this point Mallet was 5-of-9 passing for 58 yards.  Then another good play was made, passing to Edelman for a first down.  After that, the drive culminated in a great throw to Sudfeld who bobbled it as a defender knocked it out of his hands, but then grabbed it again to score a 22-yard touchdown.  Gostkowski got the extra point.  It was now 18-7 Patriots.  This drive took only five plays in a minute and 17 seconds to gain 75 yards and seven points.  This was when Mallett looked his best.  He had completed 8-of-13 passes at this point.

The next drive started with a good pass by Mallett to Dobson for seven yards, then another to Edelman for five yards and a first down.  Vereen then made the longest rushing gain of the game (to that point) with a 23-yard run!  Brandon Bolden later made the longest run of the game (25 yards) and reminded us that he’s good too.  The next plays were passes to Boyce and Sudfeld for a first down.  Then with no open receivers, Mallett ran it himself for eight yards.  On that third down, he then made a bad pass, throwing it behind Vereen, for an incompletion.  It looked like they were both equally at fault.  Gostkowski then hit a
34-yard field goal, but it was called back due to holding on Hoomanawanui.  The penalty pushed the Patriots back 10 yards.  After a timeout, Chris McDonald got called for
a false start to push them back even further.  So now it would be a 50-yard attempt.  Gostkowski had plenty of distance on his kick, but it bounced off the post and out.

That was the last offensive drive for the Patriots in the first half and the last for Mallett in the game.  He finished 12-of-20 passing for 137 yards and a touchdown.  Of note, with seconds left in the first half, former Patriot receiver Tiquan Underwood caught a very long pass.  With a 41-yard gain, it would be the longest passing play of the game.  The Buccaneers then settled for a field goal to end the half.

In the second half, Tim Tebow played quarterback the whole time.  I really like him as a person, he’s a great guy, but he’s not convincing anyone that he should be a starting – or even second string – quarterback in the NFL.  I’m not going to go into as much detail about the second half for several reasons.  First, it’s not really important to our success if Tebow does well.  Second, he didn’t do well and I don’t really want to talk about it.  Third, I had a few beers in me at this point and was losing focus.  And Lastly, seeing Tebow perform so poorly (when passing.. he can run) caused me to start drinking even harder as it was difficult to watch.. so the game started to become more and more of a blur.

I still have no idea why we picked up Tim Tebow.  He’s possibly one of the best dudes in the world, but a horrible passing quarterback.  Some thought he may be used as a tight end or a running back, but if that was the case, they would’ve already used him in those capacities.  Instead, he’s been playing as the third-string quarterback.  While he can certainly run the ball very well, he just cannot make an accurate pass at all and doesn’t seem to have the elite quarterback’s ability to break down a defense and pick the best play.  I thought being under legends like Tom Brady and Bill Belichick would help him improve but I’m just not seeing it.  I think Belichick probably thought the same.. that he could make Tebow a good passer.. a pet project just because he can.. but it’s not going well.  I cringe every time Tebow throws, and I’m just baffled that he’s even passing when he throws interceptions that tend to be nowhere near a receiver.  In this game, I watched the screen follow a perfect spiral by Tebow thinking “no way..”  ..It went accurately right to a Tampa Bay safety.  I couldn’t believe it really happened.  He finished the game 1-for-7 on passing with a total of -1 passing yards.  Awesome!

The thing that pisses me off most about Tebow being on the current roster is that he is taking up practice and preseason game-time even though I’m guessing he won’t make the 53-man roster.  He may be the very last guy to get cut, but I think he will be.. unless he can conjure up a miracle and become a good passer in the rest of the preseason.  So if he doesn’t make the final cut, then he’s wasting the team’s time trying to run his specialized offense.  Of even bigger impact, though, is that he is taking up a roster spot while there are a ton of receivers, running backs, tight ends, etc. that are fighting for a spot.. and these guys could actually have an impact.  While they’re low on the depth charts, they  would likely still be involved at least a little, plus they could be utilized if someone else gets an injury.  So I really don’t know why Tebow is here.  Is Belichick really willing to completely waste a roster spot just because he thinks he can make Tebow into a good passing NFL quarterback and because he likes him?  Can anyone explain this to me??

Moving on..  One play that’s worth highlighting was in the third quarter.  Third-round draft pick, cornerback Logan Ryan, intercepted Tampa Bay quarterback Mike Glennon and returned the ball 53 yards for a touchdown!  So the defense is obviously doing well.. and they’re starting with the pick 6’s early.  Last season, the Patriots returned two interceptions for touchdowns when Aqib Talib returned a pick 59 yards and Alfonzo Dennard returned a pick 87 yards, both in the 59-24 win against the Indianapolis Colts on November 18, 2012.  It’s not just interceptions, though.  The defense has also done a good job rushing the passer.  Spikes got two sacks himself.  He has registered at least one sack in his first three NFL seasons.  Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich also got sacks.

So, as the title of this post says, the Patriots are lookin’ good so far.. at least the ones who really matter.  I’m not sure Tim Tebow will ever be a good passer, though I really hope so.  Ryan Mallet is definitely better, but still not quite starter material (in terms of trading him to be a starter somewhere else, definitely not replacing Tom Brady).  The new cast of receivers seem to understand the system and have the ability to be successful in it.  Finally, the defense looks surprisingly improved.  So overall, I think Patriots fans have a lot to be excited about this season, and should forget about some of their previous worries.

Now let’s carry this momentum into Detroit against the Lions on Thursday.  And then let’s destroy those damn New York Giants the following Thursday night (when Boston Wins writer Third-Quarter Prophet and I will be there)!

Here’s the highlight video with some slow-mo and set to music:
..The unedited highlights without music are below, but check this one out!  ..It’s got hip hop in the background, but even though my favorite music is metal and rock, I still like some hip hop and rap, but more importantly, it’s pretty well edited and will make you feel as good about our offense as I did watching the game.

Here’s the unedited highlight video:

If the above videos get deleted, you can always see the highlights (after an Ad) here:
http://www.patriots.com/media-center/videos/Patriots-vs-Buccaneers-Highlights/a99f83bb-d61a-40f0-952c-610097691b9d

Thanks for reading,
Matt

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About bost0nfire

Here in Boston, our pro sports teams won seven championships in a decade, with all teams accounted for. That means the Bruins, Celtics, Red Sox, and yes the New England Patriots.. they did play in Boston at one time after all.. and they're still our team. So, I declare Boston to be the City of Champions. ... Check us out on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/b0stonwins?ref=hl ... Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/BostonWins_Blog ... **** READER DISCRETION ADVISED: Adult Language may be used.
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