Should We Be Panicking About the Patriots?

2009 Saints

We’re now five days and 14 football games removed from the Patriots getting debacled by the Chiefs on Banner/Operation Clown Face Night. And I’m not exaggerating when I say every single Pats fan I’ve heard from is still freaking the fuck out. The talk shows are unlistenable. It’s the death of hope. God is a superstition. The team was even so disgusted they tore up their four month old turf, presumably to burn it and then invite donors to the Patriots Charitable Foundation to come piss on the ashes.

In this way, the Pats are victims of their own success. If the 2014 Seahawks start 3-3 or the 2016 Falcons are 6-4, nobody panics, because it’s all part of the plan. But let the Patriots lose one game and

The question is whether everybody is right to be worried. We all look back and laugh at the hysteria when they came out of that asskicking at the hands of the Chiefs in 2014 2-2. Trent Dilfer still gets pointed at and mocked in the streets for saying “Let’s face it, they’re just not good anymore!” But no one wants to be the dog in the burning house meme saying everything is fine either. Sometimes your worry just means you’re ahead of the curve. Like when Buzz told Woody “This is no time to panic!” when they were lost at the Dinoco and Woody said  “This is the perfect time to panic!!!” he was totally in the right.

So partly as a public service to calm the nation, but mostly just to work through my own issues, here’s what I think we’re all panicked about and why we need to get over ourselves.

Concern #1: The Patriots’ attitude.

It’s not often this ever makes our list of things to worry about with this team. But Thursday night after the game Brady said “I just think we need to have more urgency and go out there and perform a lot better. That is a winning attitude and a championship attitude that you need to bring every day. … We’ve got to dig a lot deeper than we did tonight because we didn’t dig very deep tonight,” sound eerily similar to the exchange he and Belichick had on the sidelines the last time they played at New Orleans:

Belichick: “We just have no mental toughness. … I just can’t get this team to play the way we need to play. I just can’t do it. It’s so goddamned frustrating.”
Brady: “We do it in spurts. We just don’t do it for four quarters.”

Why we shouldn’t panic.

That 2009 team was unique. The least likeable Patriots team since the Pete Carroll era. After the losses of Tedy Bruschi and Rodney Harrison, there was a leadership vacuum filled by a team-killing malcontent in Adalius Thomas and Randy Moss, who was suffering from early onset relapse of his former insanity. This team has the same basic solid core of veterans who didn’t panic down 28-3. And Belichick will make a ritual human sacrifice of anyone who’s not pulling his weight and then go home and sleep like a baby. And based on what Adam Butler said, that message was delivered minutes after the KC game.

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Concern #2: The offense.

In case you haven’t noticed, here are the stats after a weekend of some truly gawdawful quarterbacking. The yellow highlight is completion percentage:

2009 Saints2

Why we shouldn’t panic.

In the short term, the answer is that the Saints are up next and you could not have ordered a better team for the moment. Sam Bradford completed 84.4 of his throws against New Orleans last night, 17 for 20 in the first half with almost 200 yards. I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in. Sam. Brad. Ford. The long term answer is that even minus Julian Edelman and with the date of Danny Amendola’s return anyone’s guess, there is still way too much talent on this offense, both in the shoulder pads and under the headsets for them not to figure this out. The game plan was questionable. They relied too heavily on deep throws. They failed on four short yardage conversions, one or two of which might have won the game. And the reason we were panicking in 2014, the offensive line, is the same five that won a Super Bowl literally the game before last. They will be better than fine.

Concern # 3: The Front 7.

Now this is legit. I guess I’m talking more about the edge and the linebackers, because Malcom Brown and Alan Branch are not only quality inside defenders, they played about as well as you can on a unit that gave up over 8 yards a play. Kyle Van Noy lead the Front 7 in snaps. Cassius Marsh, a special teamer, ended up playing most of the game at defensive end. It was so bad, incurable douchebags like Pete Prisco were Tweeting out about how much they could use Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins like Super Bowl LI never happened.

Why we shouldn’t panic.

On this week’s Laces Out podcast, AJ Hawk – to his undying credit – broke down how a defense incorporates brand new guys. How there’s a learning curve. And when you throw a guy in days after he’s added to the roster, you find out what he can do, how much of your scheme he understands, ask him to do those things and everyone fills in behind him. It’s a team concept, 11 guys each learning his responsibilities as well as those of the other 10. And as we learned when Van Noy, Shea McClellin and Elandon Roberts played significant roles last year, no staff in football is better at integrating new guys. Also upon further review, the Patriots mostly lost battles up front when they found themselves with a negative box (ie fewer defenders than KC had blockers). When the box was even, they won half the battles, which is to be expected. Andy Reid can scheme offenses as well as anybody, he continually found ways to give his offense the numbers advantage and flat out outcoached Belichick. It’s happened before, early in other seasons, the Pats made adjustments and the world did not end.

And it’s not ending now. Keep telling yourself that. I know I will. And if they beat New Orleans, I might even believe it.

@jerrythornton1

 

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