This, dear children, is the life of a Pats fan. This is what we signed up for. The crushing duality of being both the hunted and the hunter at all times, week in and week out. Most teams, and fan bases, would be pleased sitting at 6-2, first in their division, with a hard but manageable path to a playoff berth. Maybe even a playoff win, huh? Not us, and not our Patriots. Certainly not the High Triumvirate of Brady-Kraft-Belichick. No, we aspire to play in championship games and win championships. Therefore, a Week 9 game against an NFC team becomes a big, stressful to-do.
Green Bay represents a stiff challenge from a name-brand NFL foe and long-time power, and that is why this game is both important and stressful. They have an all-time great under center in Aaron Rodgers, who is smart, has a cannon of an arm, and a sometimes overwhelming ability to extend a play with his legs. The Packers also, if you have not been paying attention, have the 7th ranked D in the NFL in terms of total yards allowed. This can be a deceiving stat but still, it shows they are no slouch on that side of the ball either. So even if the Packers currently sit at a medicore 3-3-1, the Pats have to march onto the field to play a strong team with strong pieces, and a number of questions to answer in their own locker room. It’s not as much of a true test of who we are as it is a pop quiz.
To start with the offense, just who the fuck does Brady really trust throwing the ball to? His persistent praise and backing of Josh Gordon shows that he indeed desires to have a true #1 receiver, a la Cooks and Moss, in his arsenal. “Do not let this fearless freak of nature go,” thinks Tom between spoonfuls of avocado ice cream while Alex G. rubs his feet…sorry got off track. Other than Gordon, we have a still studly Edelman and RB/pass catching savage James White. Then things get interesting. Apart from those three, both in terms of production and where they sit in the Brady Trust Tree, we have a MAX 1/2 healthy Gronk, a timid Chris Hogan, and Philip Dorsett, whose rise and fall in the pecking order this year makes me wonder if he asked Giselle to sign a copy of the Swimsuit issue for him. So what is the answer here? Going up against some of the better defenses in the league down the stretch and in the playoffs Brady and Josh McDaniels CANNOT only have Edelman, a still working out the kinks Gordon, and James White to count on in the passing game. Just can’t have it. The running game I’m less worried about. Obviously Michel needs to be healthy as the team was shaky at best on the ground without him, but I think if he gets patched up and we get Barner and White cooking out of the backfield-wise, the latter depending on if we can dial 28 back in the passing game, we should be cool.
Our D is also a fucking mystery. I’ve seen quite a few folks get down on our pass rush/front 4, but check this out:
I’ve touched on this in a grab bag but this is something that grinds my gears with Pats critics, especially when it comes to our pass rushers. We’ve had 10+ sack guys like Chandler Jones and Mike Vrabel, we’ve had low-numbers guys who just get pressure. Currently, we’re working with the latter. Maybe our guys are not filling up the stat sheet, but we are putting QBs under pressure, forcing decisions, and capitalizing off mistakes, whether that be turnovers or regaining possession of the ball off punts. So lay off my bezerkers please.
The middle of that line has been up and down. I’ve been a Malcolm Brown stan since day 1 but him, Shelton, and Adam Butler have been Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. Clean it up guys.
I don’t think the back half gets enough credit for being solid, albet not spectacular. They don’t seem to be asked to play traditional smash mouth, stop them at all costs defense, rather the “bend and not break and make them take 3 points” style we’ve grown accustom to. It just has become a lot more visible in this air it out age of football. Elandon Roberts continues to show he was a great snag, Hightower is Hightower, Van Noy is officially an animal, McCourty and Gilmore are studly in the secondary, and guys like Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, and, most recently, John Simon, have had their moments of solid play, although with ones of suckiness to go with it.
To summarize the D, who is next to step up? While our offense seems to be a trust and comfort issue, on D we just need someone to volunteer and say “I got this”. The last guy to do it was Van Noy. We need one or two more. Can Rivers or Wise start wreaking true havoc? Can the second (first in the league) McCourty twin start really locking people down? Can Simon cement himself as a go-to LB? We need someone to put their hand up.
To bring it back to the first paragraph of this rant of a mad man, none of this would matter if the Pats eternally sucked and we had no business being football fans. Year after year they play this game where they put together a great record while slowly getting themselves organized and eventually start cooking as we approach the playoffs and it it exhausting. But with Brady not being a spring chicken and our team looking more listless than normal earlier this season, I am stressed the fuck out about a 6-2 team almost 20 years into a Goddam dynasty and it STINKS. I need Brown/Shelton to be Wilfork, Simon/Roberts to be Ted Johnson, and Hogan to be Topher Playoffs (working on it) right stat now. And you know what? Wiping the floor with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers would be a great fucking start.