Greetings! I’m new to the Fansided.com family and I look forward to many posts and football in the future. This will be the first of a weekly series during the season (and into the postseason hopefully) where I discuss what I liked and disliked about what I saw during the Patriots game. This week, it’s the Patriots 20 – 10 victory over the Carolina Panthers.
What I Liked
- The running game, particularly Laurence Maroney. I will admit, I wrote off Maroney early in the season when he was struggling. However, he ran well and ran hard this week and the past few weeks, finishing with 94 yards on 22 carries, good for 4.3 yards per carry. The Pats are also integrating Kevin Faulk more into the running game instead having him mostly in the passing game, which has been a great change of pace. The integration of Faulk, particularly when he rushes out of a shotgun formation, makes the offense a little less predictable. Faulk ran 10 times for 58 yards (5.8 ypc) and a touchdown. Sammy Morris also contributed with 6 carries for 34 yards (5.7 ypc).
- Wes Welker. I mean, c’mon. This guy is tough. On the Patriots’ second drive in the 3rd quarter, Welker caught 5 passes for 64 yards. On his first catch, a 6-yarder, he was walloped by Charles Godfrey. He popped right up, full of intensity, and on that hit, got the crowd and the previously flat team into the game. That drive culminated in a touchdown (Brady to Ben Watson) and changed any momentum Carolina had and put it in the Pats’ corner. Welker finished the day with 10 catches for 105 yards. This is now his 3rd season in a row with at least 100 catches, trailing only Marvin Harrison all-time, who has 4 consecutive seasons. Keep in mind, Wes missed 2 games this year early on with an injury.
- Performing better in the second half than the first half. All season, the Patriots have played well in the first half but pretty poorly in the second half. Against Carolina, they came out flat and scored only one touchdown in the first half. In the second half, they put together a good first drive until Sammy Morris fumbled. But the team bounced back and scored 13 points, the defense made some key stops, and they finished the game. Sure, it was against Carolina, but it’s encouraging.
What I Disliked
- Sammy Morris and the fullback dive on 4th-and-1. The Patriots’ first drive of the game stalled on the Carolina 40-yard line. It’s 4th down, and Belichick decides to go for it. I agreed with the decision to go for it, with the team out of sure field goal range and a little close for a punt. When I saw the team ready to go for it, I turned to my father and said, “I hope they don’t do that Sammy Morris fullback dive up the middle.” Sure enough, they ran the Morris dive from the fullback position up the middle and gained -1 yard. Now, if I, the football fan, knew what was coming, surely a professionally coached team knew as well. And they did. This play worked once against the Saints, and then they ran it twice against the Dolphins, and it was stuffed each time. It is very tough to convert with that play unless the defense is sleeping. Sammy can’t get a full running start and it’s really up to the offensive linemen getting the surge. Later in the game, the Pats went for it again with a Maroney run. It was a much better play call as Maroney could get a full running start, find the hole, make a cut, and pick up the yardage. Cut this play out on 4th-and-1!
- The fumbles continue. After going virtually fumble-less for most of the season, the Pats have lost 8 fumbles since the bye week. Laurence Maroney is responsible for 3 and Brady for 2. This past week, Randy Moss fumbled on his only catch of the day and Sammy Morris fumbled on the Pats’ first drive of the second half, killing what was a very productive drive. The backs, receivers, and even the quarterback need to make ball security a point of emphasis going forward.
- Randy Moss and “QuitGate.” All the talk this week on sports radio in New England and on ESPN and NFL Network has been whether or not Randy Moss quit during the game against Carolina. His stat line was 1 catch for 16 yards and a fumble. Besides those horrid numbers, all of this talk was sparked by remarks from Carolina defensive back Chris Gamble that if you roughed up Moss, he would “shut it down.” The fact that Gamble made these remarks in a losing effort is laughable, but he does raise some concerns, because this isn’t the first time this line has been thrown on Moss during his career. To his credit, the locker room is behind him, with Kevin Faulk, Tom Brady, and Bill Belichick making public comments in support of Randy Moss. Faulk said that Moss was “furstrated” that things weren’t going his way, but he didn’t quit. Brady said that Moss simply needs to “work through” tough times and even went as far as to absolve Moss from blame on a first quarter interception. Brady noted that Moss thought the ball was going to be delivered in one spot while Tom delivered it to another (Chris Gamble). Belichick continues to laud Moss’ abilities and went so far as to diss Gamble. “My response is, that’s a lot of conversation coming from a team that just lost another game.” He went on to say, “I have a lot of respect for Randy. I think he’s one of our best players. I think if you watch other teams defend him, you watch other teams play against him, they think the same way. Other than these two guys from Carolina after they lost another game. I guess they didn’t think that way. They haven’t won a lot of games now.” Rough stuff, and about as much trash talk as you’ll ever get from Belichick. Now I can’t say whether Moss “quit” or was simply “frustrated,” but there are a couple of things I do know. First, his stats, and his drops Sunday, were pitiful. However, the attention that he commands, whether he’s dogging the play or not, is enough to draw coverage away from Wes Welker, the tight ends, and the backs, and allows Brady to deliver the ball and move the team. If that translates into wins, Moss can go catchless for the rest of the season for all I care.
Next up will be the Buffalo Bills in a key division game that could decide the Patriots’ playoff future. More to come on that this week.
Quote of the Day
“Stats are for losers. The final score is for winners.” ~ Coach Belichick referring to Moss’ less-than-stellar stats