Can We Talk About That Game On Sunday?

Joey Boats

Okay, so it’s slightly past midnight and we are roughly a couple hours removed from Brady and Belichick’s sixth Super Bowl win since 2001. Unlike past Super Bowls, I chose not to get absolutely obliterated by 3 PM for this one; thus, I am addressing you now in a clear, unaltered state of mind.

That said, don’t expect this blog to be too succinct. After experiences like this, my brain tends to degenerate into pudding and what manifests from that pudding is often scatterbrained drivel. Also, if you’re looking for an exhaustive, in-depth X’s and O’s analysis, navigate elsewhere. I don’t do that shit. I simply drink Fresca, watch football, and spew knee-jerk reactions to what I think I saw through the vehicle of WordPress.

Anyway, this past season has been unique to say the least. Between the head-scratching losses to Detroit/Tennessee, the Josh Gordon era, the Miami Miracle, and Gronk degenerating into the Tin Man, things haven’t necessarily been par for the course down in Gillette.

Over the better half of the last month, the Patriots managed to channel that pandemonium into this whole underdog, “nobody believes in us” narrative.

On one hand, let’s be serious—the idea that the overwhelming majority didn’t believe Tom Brady and Bill Belichick had a chance to win the Lombardi trophy this year is a joke. On the other hand, these hacks in the media who spent the last two weeks shaking their heads at the notion this team was considerably doubted are just as ridiculous. On the other (other) hand, if we’re being objective, most of the criticism the Pats faced throughout the year was reasonably justified.

Point Blank: Until the final regular season game against the Jets, this Patriots team just flat out didn’t look “right.”

Heading into the Divisional Round, the general vibe around New England was that they were clinging onto home field advantage like Jack Dawson at the end of Titanic. Most believed the Pats, by all accounts, should win; however, the fact they’d be conducting business within the congenial confines of Gillette was ultimately what tipped the scales. As it turned out, that game could’ve been held on Moron Mountain and the Chargers still would’ve got their doors blown off.

A week later, the Pats traveled down to Arrowhead to compete in what ultimately metamorphosed into the most excruciating, anxiety fueled 3-hour sports broadcast these pampered eyes have ever witnessed.

Between the 4th down conversion attempts, the 3rd down conversion successes, the interceptions that were/weren’t called back, the endless slew of protracted booth reviews that could’ve virtually been decided by a coin flip, the nauseatingly dynamic potential of Kansas City to score a 70+ yard touchdown at any minute, and Matt Slater choosing “heads,” I was literally on the verge of puking.

Given the theatrics of it all—as well as the other bullshit during the season that I already mentioned—I couldn’t help but feel the Patriots were rolling into Atlanta with house money. In a way, this Super Bowl felt like the 1980 US men’s hockey gold medal game against Finland. Obviously the stakes are higher, but you already dusted the iron; the cake’s been baked, it’s just a matter of how much you value frosting as this point.

That said, the Rams were no tomato can. In a nutshell, you have the NFL’s darling offensive guru, a comparatively unflappable young quarterback, and a defensive front that could breach the Pentagon. Pair that with far and away the best special teams unit in the league and you have yourself a potential dynasty slayer.

So yeah, I was on pins and needles the entire day to say the least; however, now that NFL supremacy’s been restored and I’ve had some time to digest yet another major championship, I have some thoughts…

First and foremost, throughout the Brady era, one of the most recurring gripes with this team has been the inconsistency on defense. Whether it’s been the defensive backs’ inability to turn their heads around in coverage or the line’s inability to infiltrate the pocket on key third downs, the question has always remained the same: When is this defense going to pull up their pants for a full 60 minutes and steal a marquee game?

Well, I think we finally have our answer…

Whatever Brian Flores did with this 30th-ranked defensive line heading into this Sunday is something I hope he forgets to bring with him to Miami because the big dogs up front came to feast. I mean, Andrew Whitworth & Co got abused from the opening whistle. On top of the four sacks and twelve hits, there were seemingly two or three white jerseys suffocating Goff at every turn, swirling around the pocket like those Dementors from the third Harry Potter movie.

Essentially, the Patriots d-line had an answer for everything. The Rams were held to 62 yards on the ground for the game and Todd Gurley was—for the second week in a row—an enigma. Obviously the guy’s nursing an injury of sorts, but if you saw any shot of him on the sidelines, you would’ve thought he was waiting to register vehicle plates at the DMV. I mean, he looked like that kid in grade school whose dad signed him up/forced him to play.

Along with Deatrich Wise, Trey Flowers, and an eyebrow-lifting performance from Danny Shelton, Hightower held his own, notching a couple sacks while the secondary played a physical but clean game. One of the most notable scares occurred midway through the 3rd quarter when Brandin Cooks found what appeared to be two football field’s worth of real estate in the back of the end zone; however, Goff was late to the trigger, allowing Jason McCourty to break up the play and force a 53-yard field goal to notch things up 3-3.

For the most part, Stephon Gilmore was Stephon Gilmore. Shadowing Brandin Cooks isn’t a fun job—especially considering the Pats played Cover Zero, meaning no safety help over the top—and although Cooks got his numbers (8 receptions; 120 yards), Gilly recorded the team’s first and only takeaway when he read/picked off an underthrown duck near the goal line with roughly four minutes left in regulation. Goff was due…

Another high note was that Kyle Van Noy picked up right where he left off in Kansas City. For the record, Van Noy’s taken his fair of flack since landing here—he’s been cooked by a laundry list of pass-catching backs in coverage and he overpursues on occasion—but is there anyone else who’s more appreciable on the broadcast?

I remember guys like Jerod Mayo who would park themselves behind the line and vacuum 7-10 tackles a game without ever really “jumping” off the screen. With Van Noy, you virtually can’t miss him, and although he may do one or two things every Sunday that’ll make you want to throw your remote through the TV, there’s no doubt the dude has a nose for the moment. Seemingly whenever this defense needs a big time stop in a big time situation, he tends to be the one who shows up wearing the cape.

As for the offense, I don’t have much. Everything was stale but I’ll start with the lone, glaring positive: Julian Edelman is one problematic son of a bitch in January/February. He nearly cracked the century mark in receiving yards before Maroon 5 even came out, and to be honest, it felt like he should’ve had more.

I mean, it appeared as if he was literally the only weapon that offense had out there. Sony Michel had another commendable game on the ground and Burkhead was serviceable but this receiving core is alarmingly bad. LA’s secondary was practically paying rent in Hogan’s back pocket for God’s sake. There is just nobody on the outside capable of creating any separation outside of Gronk at times, who low-key had a productive outing.

In particular, he contributed to the biggest play of the game in my opinion when he hauled in a beautifully lofted 29-yarder to set the Patriots up for their only touchdown of the game. He also finished the game with 87 yards receiving.

I’m not sure why it is, but Gronk’s yardage numbers always catch me off guard. They’re deceptive. If you asked me to guess his production numbers after that game without referencing the box score, I would’ve said 3-4 catches for 55 yards.kjs

Update: I fell asleep with my laptop open at the moment above, “kjs” and all. I didn’t have time to continue yesterday so, to clear things up, we’re back today…

So this blog’s already exhaustingly long so I’ll keep this short, as well as in bulleted form for easier consumption:

  • It’s been a couple days since the game and—although this will infuriate everyone outside of New England—this has been the most laughably casual championship we’ve had here. Between the 28-3 comeback, the final drives in 2001 and 2003, both Giants’ endings, and the Butler interception, I’ve come to expect the unexpected when the stakes are the highest. That game on Sunday just kind of sucked.
  • I debated heading to the parade in Boston today, but as the old saying goes: once you’ve seen 11 parades, you’ve seen them all.
  • Brady played like dog shit that game. Does that matter? No. Why? Because he potentially had the game of his life last year in Minneapolis and left with pocket lint. This was poetic justice in the rawest form.
  • One of my favorite games to play with my friends is this thing we call “Rank the top 12 championships you’ve experienced.” It’s a cute little thing we do in New England. Feel free to post yours in the comments.
  • If Edelman didn’t play out of his mind, the MVP should’ve been shared between Gilmore and Ryan Allen. And yes, I’m dead serious…
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