(Photo: Brace Hemmelgarn - USA TODAY Sports)
Now that was more like it. The New England Patriots picked up their first win of the season in a 30-7 ass kicking of the Minnesota Vikings. The Patriots looked much closer to what many of us expected to see this year; a dominating defensive team that will suffocate the life out of its victims. They still have offensive issues but the Patriots took a huge step forward from their week one debacle.
-Greg Jennings, welcome to Revis Island. Darrelle Revis looked as advertised on Sunday. Revis was targeted four times and Matt Cassell was 1/4 for 4 yards with 1 interception and 0 touchdowns. On the interception, Revis played it so well that he looked like the intended receiver (albeit Cassel threw a terrible ball). The Patriots had Revis shadow Jennings and follow him around the field and he delivered; essentially taking Jennings out of the game. That’s how you use Revis and what we saw on Sunday was enough for me to know he’s still got it. Get ready for more of Revis Island, Jennings won’t be alone there for long.
-Devin McCourty finally gave us a glimpse of his potential at safety. McCourty made a great play, intercepting a pass and returning it 60 yards to the 1 yard line (that would be punched in for a touchdown). McCourty played center field, read Cassel flawlessly, and made his way over to make the interception. We’ve been waiting for it and McCourty showed us another glimpse of his potential.
-Overall it was another good day for the Patriots secondary. Logan Ryan had a really nice day covering Cordarrelle Patterson and he picked up an interception. Coverage all around was good.
-Alfonzo Dennard was a surprise inactive and it’ll be something to keep an eye on going forward. He may be dealing with some type of shoulder injury.
-I wish someone would fill the second safety spot.
-The linebackers were once again rough. They looked big and slow, particularly on the opening drive of the game. Jamie Collins was out with an injury and Deontae Skinner looked like he had just eaten Collins before he got out on the field. Jerrod Mayo was solid on the day like he usually is.
-I think the Patriots have finally found a role for Dont’a Hightower. Hightower isn’t good in coverage and against the run he’s iffy but he can definitely rush the quarterback. I like what the Patriots have done blitzing Hightower from different directions and I they should keep it up because it’s clearly his strength.
-Nobody had a more monster day than Chandler Jones. Jones was literally all over the field on Sunday, creating pressure on Cassel while racking up two sacks. Oh, and he also blocked a field goal attempt and ran it back 58 yards for a touchdown at the end of the first half. Defensively, we saw the Chandler Jones who is capable of being an elite pass rusher and taking over a portion of a game. I wonder why that is? Oh that’s right, they let him stand up at OLB and rush the quarterback. Well I’ll be damned, they actually used him right and he looked good. Rocket science.
-The defensive line wasn’t too bad. There were definitely adjustments made to help stop the run and get some pressure on the quarterback. Chandler Jones’ performance really improves the unit as a whole so it’s safe to say that when Jones goes the defensive line goes. They were solid on the day, not outstanding, but solid.
-The defense, as a whole, was much improved this week. The defense looks like it can reach its potential as an elite defense. But of course, just remember that they still let the Vikings waltz down the field on their opening drive completely unopposed. On the plus side, they didn’t allow a single point after that. The Patriots should be winning games on defense this year and it looks like that’s the way it’s going to go.
-The Patriots stuck to the running game this week and really just sucked the life out of the Vikings by pounding the ball and eating up the clock. Stevan Ridley had a really solid day, picking up 100 yards on the ground and he didn’t fumble. Fumbling is an issue with Ridley so whenever they can feed him the ball and he can rack up yards and eat up the clock without losing it, it’s a huge plus. I would like to see more of Shane Vereen in the future because his lack of use was apparent in the passing game. I would like to see more of the dual back sets we’ve seen in the preseason when Rob Gronkowski isn’t on the field.
-Julian Edelman had another terrific day. Took hits, made plays, returned some punts; there’s really nothing to complain about with Edelman. He’s filled Wes Welker’s role nicely and become Tom Brady’s go-to guy. The passing game really starts with Edelman. I would be cautious going forward though, there was some loose speculation of a potential injury last week and it certainly looked like he may have fought through a concussion on Sunday.
- Whenever Danny Amendola does anything, it’s called back by a stupid penalty. I don’t know if he’s having issues getting open but when Amendola is open, Bradyisn’t throwing to him. I don’t know what’s going on there with Amendola but it needs to be figured out. They’ve got to get this guy going. He’s healthy and when he’s on the field, he’s a decent player who can contribute.
-What exactly is the purpose of having Aaron Dobson or Brandon LaFell? It feels like these two are literally just on the roster to decapitate people on pick plays. They’re big outside targets, throw them the ball. Dobson needs to start going for the ball rather than waiting for the ball to get to him because he allows for the corner covering him to make a play on the ball almost every time. It doesn’t even feel like the Patriots have any intentions to throw the ball to LaFell, he’s only out there blocking on running plays. Who the hell knows why.
-Why was Kenbrell Thompkins inactive? Logjam I guess? He’s the only other receiver that looks like he actually makes contributions.
-Rob Gronkowski might as well have been put on a milk carton this morning. We hardly saw him at all yesterday and he didn’t even have a ball thrown to him until the second half. I guess that’s not a bad sign. If Gronkowski is healthy at the end of the year, that’s a good thing.
-So Tim Wright…
-The offensive line looked better. The Patriots went with six lineman pretty frequently and they really stuck to the running game which both felt like a way to get around the line’s pass blocking problems. Overall they were actually ok when it came to pass blocking. Brady wasn’t pressured nearly as often as he was in Miami. Nate Solder with three penalties on two plays was impressive. Seriously, two penalties on one play?
-Brady looked better. Definitely inched away from the panic button a little bit. Brady made some nice throws but I still have an issue with his lack of spreading the football. Would he please throw to someone not named Edelman, Gronkowski, or Vereen? Throwing to the same two or three guys all year isn’t going to do you any good later on.
-Offensively the Patriots were still mediocre. They have got to get this thing rolling. I like the use of the running game to drain the clock in the second half but the passing game is in a scary place right now. They capitalized on turnovers and short fields but otherwise they didn’t look good. Oh, and their first drive (run, run, run, punt) was one of the most infuriating things I’ve seen in a while.
-Overall the coaching staff was much improved from week one. It didn’t feel like there were many problems with the coaching. They made adjustments and were definitely more prepared this week than they were for the opener.
-Penalties are killing this team right now. I don’t have a problem with holding/pass interference in the secondary or unnecessary roughness penalties because long term I believe they help you out but the Patriots are taking a lot of dumb penalties. They’ll clean those up over time.
Much better performance from the Patriots overall this week. The train is back on the rails and it looks like they’re on the right track. T they should crush the Oakland Raiders in their home opener next weekend.