It’s never easy to hand out grades after a New England Patriots loss, especially when it’s as difficult to swallow as the one the Patriots suffered last night at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers. A shocking 28-point comeback in the third and fourth quarters could not be completed in front of a packed house in Gillette, as the game finished 41-34 in favor of the 49ers. I just want to take the time to say that it was incredible to see all the Patriots fans still there even when things looked bleak at the half. The Pats were down big, and the weather symbolized that. However, the fans stayed in there and helped rally the troops for what almost became one of the greatest comebacks in history. Am I being over-zealous and emotional? Yeah, probably.
New England Patriots Pass Offense B
The first interception by Tom Brady was a result of great coverage from Carlos Rogers and was partially Brady’s fault (I personally don’t agree with that, but I’m willing to compromise on other opinions), but Brady cannot be faulted for the second one either. Aaron Hernandez can, because his inability to catch the football led to a few 49ers tipping it around before Aldon Smith finally secured the pick. Speaking of Smith, he was kept in check. While he did hit Brady a couple of times, neither of those ended up in sacks. However, Ray McDonald and Ricky Jean Francois wrecked havoc in this game and the Niners pass rush was excellent with seven QB hits.
Brady finished with a 68.9 QB Rating, but that stat is the most misleading of them all. I hope nobody legitimately thinks Tom Brady played poorly in this game, because he was at the focal point of the comeback. Sure Brady has played better games and clearly wasn’t at his best at times, but he had a good game overall.
Aaron Hernandez had an awful drop and some inconsistent moments, but his total of ten catches for 92 yards was a welcome contribution for this team. He continues to work the short-range game well, but I will consent that Hernandez clearly wasn’t at his best. Wes Welker was kept in check in the first-half and had a role in the first interception after not running the route fully. At least, that’s what seemed to be the case. It wasn’t totally his fault as it looked like he felt he was held on the play, and this led to Brady and Welker losing sync for a moment- thus leading to the pick.
Man did Brandon Lloyd play an amazing game. He was the best player in this game for the Patriots, as he consistently stretched the field and finished with a huge total of 190 receiving yards on ten catches. Now that’s called making an impact. Lloyd was just insane.
Patriots Run Offense C
I spent too much time rambling about the Patriots passing offense, so I’ll try to be brief with regards to the running game. The writing was on the wall for Shane Vereen’s involvement in last night’s game after fumbling the ball on his first carry, and Stevan Ridley deservedly saw his role drastically reduced after a fumble. Whether or not the fumble was his fault is irrelevant, because he was absolutely ineffective. He averages three yards per carry in Patriots losses this season, which is a number far too low that shows his inconsistency. He’s young and will only get better, but that is one thing fans need to watch for going forward. Ridley is a talented back, but he isn’t quite there yet.
Danny Woodhead was invaluable in the victory with 61 rushing yards on just 12 carries, in addition to two rushing touchdowns. Woodhead added five receptions, and his first rushing touchdown from six yards out started the swing in momentum in the thick of the third quarter. He was the second most valuable player on the team yesterday and deserves plenty of praise.
Logan Mankins and Ryan Wendell were doing work as run blockers yesterday against the Niners, with Wendell in particular being extremely impressive. Wendell has been a huge cog in the Patriots offensive line this season, and his run blocking prowess has been remarkable to watch coming from a previously unheralded first-year starter.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.