Monday, December 20, 2010

Back to the Future: Pats win a mirror image of another scare

New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez (85) dances into the endzone after beating Green Bay Packers cornerback Sam Shields (37) on a 10-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts on December 19, 2010. The Patriots defeated the Packers 31-27.  UPI/Matthew Healey Photo via Newscom

I had a bad feeling about this game.

In my Sunday morning segment on WMTW (which you can watch at 6:43 AM on Sunday mornings), I compared this game to a game that many forget about from 2007. It was also a Sunday night affair, and the Pats were the home team laying a big number of points to a back-up QB (24.5 points!). November 25th, 2007. AJ Feeley and the Philadelphia Eagles strolled into town, used different pressures and schemes, went balls to the wall offensively, and the Patriots escaped with a 31-28 win.

Flash forward to last night. Green Bay and their tough defense comes to town, and the offense is helmed by a back-up QB making his first career start in Matt Flynn. It was supposed to be a blow-out, and the oddsmakers made the line Patriots -14.5. The Packers came in, started the game off with an onside kick, and 60 minutes later, simply ran out of time trying to take the lead.

Final score: 31-27

Before people start writing the columns entitled "Patriots Weaknesses Revealed" or "Concern for the Patriots", or rips the Patriots defense (looking at you Ron Borges) let me explain something. The Patriots had won three straight games in blow-out fashion. They were due for a bit of a stinker. The teams that lose those stinkers generally don't go anywhere. The teams that win when they are playing less than 100% usually rise to the top. If the Packers provided the blueprint to beating the Patriots by using time of possession (40:48 for the Pack compared to 19:12 for the Patriots), that's not that easy a blueprint to copy. Face it: Someone could give me step-by-step instructions to build the Eiffel Tower, it doesn't mean it will be as good as the original. The Patriots biggest weakness that came to the forefront last night is a lack of depth on the defensive line. Mike Wright, Ron Brace, etc. when healthy, allow Belichick and Matt Patricia to rotate lineman, keep them fresh, and keep rushing attacks at bay. When Vince Wilfork is on the field for 40 minutes, he's going to wear down.

The Patriots need to win one of their next two games to win the AFC East, be the number one seed , and get a week off to rest some guys and get them back healthy for the stretch run. Before we start jumping off the bridge and fretting that the Packers "provided the blueprint" to beat the Patriots, remember, the Browns provided that blue print, too, and Pittsburgh, the Jets, Chicago, and Detroit were unable to take advantage of it. Focus on one thing: do you think this team would have won this game last year?

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