Another week in the books, and we are starting to realize that the Patriots are falling apart as they were bullied by the Chiefs. As shocking as it is to say, the Pats were out-coached by Andy Reid, and Reid still can’t manage the clock. Years of bad drafts, weird personnel decisions made for ‘the future,’ and just plain age are catching up to the former champs.
After a stunning 2007 season where they proved that they were perhaps greatest team ever (think about it, the 1972 Dolphins also went 18-1 over a 19 game stretch if you start at the beginning of 1972) the wheels began to come off. We just gave Belichick the benefit of the doubt for way too long.
The 2008 Draft landed just one player (Jerod Mayo) that stayed on the team. 2009 yielded Sebastian Vollmer, who is still a starter, and Julian Edelman. 2010 had FS Devin McCourty and Rob Gronkowski. 2011 had Shane Vereen and Nate Solder. 2012 yielded Chandler Jones and Don’t’a Hightower. 2013 has so far produced nothing, and it’s too early to call the rookie class.
But the Pats lost Donte Stallworth, Asante Samuel, Kevin Vrabel, Jabar Gaffney, Ellis Hobbs, Rodney Harrison, Larry Izzo, Tedy Bruschi, Richard Seymour, Randy Moss, Deion Branch, Aaron Hernandez (*clears throat), Wes Welker, Danny Woodhead, Brian Waters, Brandon Lloyd, Logan Mankins, Aqib Talib, Brandon Spikes, LeGarrette Blount and Matt Light. Yikes.
Belichick obviously is having a tough time rebuilding through the draft, although there are some promising defensive picks lately, and his coldblooded frugality has ravaged the offense. The AFC East is getting competitive and looking to the future isn’t going to work anymore, especially with drafts like this.
The Bengals and the Cardinals are the best teams in the NFL. It’s a strange feeling and I don’t know what’s happening anymore.
There was a great article from Greg Cosell on yahoo this week. (http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nfl-shutdown-corner/greg-cosell-s-film-review–arizona-s-creative-and-very-aggressive-defense-211735655.html)
In it, he describes Arizona defensive co-ordinator Ray Horton’s defensive approach, a blitz crazy scheme grounded on controlling the space between the guards and the center. This approach is devastating since quarterbacks have to step up after bouncing on their back foot, and its harder to throw accurately or run without being able to step forward. It also forces the run game outside, where it can be pursued by the outside linebackers, who now have the angle.
The NFL has gotten trendy, and nothing looks cooler than a complicated corner blitz. But like you’re seeing with the Saints or the Packers, it’s a mixed bag. Control the middle of the field.
The Lions tried to control the middle of the field with their front four, without blitzing which is an even sounder concept, but they couldn’t keep Cliff Avril, the wheels fell off of Kyle Vanden Bosch, Nick Fairley ate until he was completely immobile, and Ndamukong Suh is sick of the whole thing and is ready to leave for New York. (Which New York? Next to Jason Pierre-Paul or in between Super Mario and Kyle Williams or with Muhammad Wilkerson?) They are leading the division, but we’ve been here before. Let’s see if they fall apart at the end of the season.
It’s rare this season for something to happen just the way everyone thought it would, but the Carolina Panthers got rid of Steve Smith Sr. and replaced him with a decent rookie and a bag of chips. When they played the Ravens, Smith made them pay, especially now that he can be put in the slot. Shame no one else thought of that. D’Angelo Williams reminded us that he is now our generation’s Fred Taylor by getting hurt the second he got any sort of positive running yardage (dooming my fantasy squad for the third straight week).
Thankfully, the Raiders still suck, and they fired their coach four games into the season when clearly general manager Reggie McKenzie is the greater problem. I don’t know how firing someone a quarter of the way into the season does anything. All is right with world as long as the Raiders suck.
Also, J. J. Watt is the MVP. Just call it. It’s over. Having a quarterback win this year is like having Miss America come from New York again. He’s in a 3-4, being schemed against every game and he defenses more passes and get more knockdowns and sacks than most teams do. We are seeing a once in a generation player here, and that might be understating it.