Archive for the ‘Patriots’ Category

Fourth Quarter Woes Continue for the Patriots

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Okay, so it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these postings.  A really, long while.  But for some reason I felt compelled to start writing a few entries again.

This came after yet another putrid Boston Red Sox season, and now as the New England Patriots are 3-3 in what was supposed to be the easiest NFL schedule for 2012 after losing in the final minutes to the Seattle Seahawks.  Let’s tackle the Patriots first, shall we.

It would be easy to call out the curse of east coast teams traveling to Seattle, where all never seem to do well.  Or the fact that they are known for the twelfth-man for causing visiting teams fits.  But this is a game that the Patriots should have won, yet let if sputter away in grand fashion.  And what was once their bread-and-butter, winning these type of games from behind, is now just something of the past.  Like the 2004 Super Bowl winning season.

Since then, their offense has ramped up as Tom Brady morphed from a really good possession quarterback to one of the best offensive quarterbacks of all time.  And the defense, which was really the reason for all of the Super Bowl wins, has just gotten worse as time has moved on.

Yes it has become a “pass happy” league where many teams are trying to find quarterbacks who can heave the ball and rack up tons of yards.  Lots of teams are trying to go that way too.  But there can only be two teams that can make the Super Bowl each year.  And while you can somehow make it there with the worst defense in the league, chances are you aren’t going to win it.

But to me, the hardest part to watch hasn’t been their defense, but their fourth quarter offense.  It seems now that there is no score too big that the Pats offense should be racking up as quickly as possible.  That’s because there always seems to be those terrible drives that make the Pats go three-and-out, just to give the ball back to the other side with plenty of time left.

That was the beauty of the older teams with not that much offensive star power to them: they could close out games.  To me, if that Seattle game was like it used to be, that sure they would make it a six-point game with 7:21 left in the game.  But then the Patriots would just have one of those 15-play drives that would only result in a 25 yard field goal, but make it a 2 possession game with less than a minute left.

But now we’re getting intentional groundings at key moments (remember the first possession in the Super Bowl?), interceptions, missed receivers and three-and-outs.  Even in the win over Denver, New England tried to convert a 4th-and-5, and the worst possible outcome happened: Brady was sacked and fumbled for even a bigger loss.

I don’t think that it has to be a shootout for the offensive-based Patriots to win, but more than anything else, just win the time of possession.  There are now a plethora of runnings options (Woodhead, Ridley, and Bolden) to use to keep the chains moving and the clock winding down.  Bring back the days of Clock Killin’ Corey Dillon.

Yes, it’s tough to admit this, but Brady is getting old.  He’s still really (, really, really) good, but having to keep putting all scoring and possession responsibilities solely on his shoulders, just to erase the defense will begin to make it tougher as this and other seasons go on.

That all being said, even at 3-3, I think they’re still okay.  New England still has an easy schedule coming up as well as playing in what many deem as an easy AFC East.  I still think they’ll make the playoffs, likely winning their division, but how far they can go from there, to me, comes down to if they can figure out how to close out these games.

Patriots Week 12 Recap: Detroit Lions on Turkey Day

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

After a close victory against the Indianapolis Colts 89 hours earlier in New England, the Patriots had to prepare and fly out to Detroit for their traditional Thanksgiving game against the Lions.  This had “trap game” written all over it.  Similar to the Cleveland Browns game, this seemed like a game that would be overlooked.  Just after playing the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Indianapolis Colts, and the rival New York Jets coming up next week, a losing team could have been an easily ignored and forgotten.

And for the first half, it looked as though the Lions were at least going to hang with the Patriots if not completely out-gamed.  The first half saw the Pats were down by 11 and ended down a touchdown.  The third quarter ended with the game all tied up at 24 each, but Tom Brady was starting to heat up.

Then the final quarter went completely New England’s way with three touchdowns against the no points scored for Detroit.  Brady was absolutely carving up the Detroit defense without throwing a single incomplete pass.  He scored three of his four touchdowns in the fourth quarter, the other one was in the third; with two of them going to Deion Branch and the other two going to Wes Welker.  And to stay with the powers-of-two, BenJarvus Green-Ellis had two rushing touchdowns.

The biggest fear that I have with these 2010 Patriots is their inability, it seems, to close out games.  Indy made it close because the defense was letting the Colts easily march down the field in the fourth quarter and score touchdowns at will while the offense was just going three-and-out with no time off the clock.  The same happened to the defense against the Steelers, though the game was well in hand and it was clear that they were in a prevent defense (as well as the offense was scoring; though I would like to point out that if the offense didn’t do anything, we would be talking about how the young defense let Pittsburgh win the game).

But in a span of 12 days, they have played three tough games that may start to define the 2010 New England Patriots.  Following a 34-14 loss against the Cleveland Browns that just became a real head-scratcher, the Pats have reeled off wins at the Pittsburgh Steelers, at home against the Colts, and in Detroit.  It seems that year in, year out, the Pats are always playing meaningful games against the Steelers and the Colts for top-dog of the AFC, so to win them back to back this year at least gives them some sort of measuring stick.

And now they practically have a bye-week with 11 days off until they play the Monday night game in Foxborough against thew New York Jets, a team that has been keeping pace with the Patriots (or vice versa).  A lot has been made about many of the Jets latest victories, though they seemed to handle the struggling Cincinnati Bengals fairly well on Thanksgiving day.  And with them also having 11 days off as well, two well rested teams will be duking it out for the top position in the AFC East, and will likely decided how the playoffs will setup (with the one-seed being either team).

Patriots Week 11 Recap: Indianapolis Colts

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

There was just over two minutes left in the fourth quarter, and I decided that maybe the best place to watch the rest of the game was on my hands and knees… praying… to the porcelain vortex.

Okay, maybe I really didn’t watch the rest of the New England Patriots game against the Indianapolis Colts from the bathroom.  But a nauseating sensation of déjà vu wasn’t just creeping in – it was flooding in.

The Patriots missed a great opportunity to score a touchdown at the start of the final quarter and settled with a field goal to go up 31-14 with over ten minutes remaining.  And then what followed has happened many times in the last few meetings between Indy and the Pats: no lead is safe with that Guy across the field.

In the next 2:26, Peyton Manning marched down the field and scored a touchdown.  The Patriots responded with a 40-second three-and-out. The Colts then scored another touchdown in 2:18 (which also included a very helpful unnecessary roughness penalty by Tully Banta-Cain).  That’s 14 points in 5:24 to make it 31-28.

So, with 4:46 to go, I was looking for a nice old fashioned staple of the New England Patriots: the clock draining drive.  Get first downs.  Make the opposing team use timeouts.

Instead, the Patriots got one first down and punted on the next set of downs to kill 2:21 of clock.  That allowed Indianapolis to have 2:25 with all three timeouts and the two-minute warning.

And there was Manning driving yet again.  Going to do it yet again against New England.  Then with over 30 seconds left, the Colts had first down on the 24 yard line.  With an Adam Vinatieri game-tying field goal already in their pocket, Indy decided to go for the glory and get the seven points for the lead (and essentially the win).

And then the young defense finally got a little pressure at the right time.  Jermaine Cunningham came around the edge and made Manning hurry a throw (and I thought that he got a finger on his arm just enough to make his throw alter ever so slightly).  The pass was off the mark and James Sanders was able to pull down the interception.

A win is a win is a win, I suppose, and this one is over Indy at that.  But boy do they make it interesting.  And at 8-2, they now lead the NFL with the best record along with AFC East rival New York Jets (why won’t they ever seem to go down), and the Atlanta Falcons.

Patriots Week 2 Recap: New York Jets

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

Well, that didn’t go according to plan.

And not a single thing I thought would happen ended up being the case.  New England’s offense and defense were very good in the first half; that was about the only thing that I got right.

Then the second half was anything but.

[Before I forget, that catch to with a minute left in the first half by Randy Moss was unbelievable.]

Watching Brady throw two picks, trying to exploit a Darrelle Revis-less Moss instead of continuing to use Wes Welkers and his new toys, the tight ends, just was too much to watch.  The running game gave them nothing, forcing third-and-longs on every series in the second half, and then not converting.  Then the Jets looked like the Patriots in the first half offensively, just marching down the field at will.

I know that the Patriots aren’t going 16-0 (again) and weren’t going to run the table in the AFL East this season, so maybe in the grand scheme of things, a road loss to the Jets might not be something to keep them out of the playoffs.  But if the defense can’t keep a supposed-suspect offense from constantly marching down the field, and if the offense gets shutout with 3 major players on the Jets defense out, then the wins might be hard to come by with their schedule.

Patriots Week 2: New York Jets

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

The season opener for the New England Patriots is in the books and ended much better than I initially thought it would.

Yes, everyone has been saying that the offense was going to be fine, though there are questions in the running game.  And since then, they traded away their former first-round draft pick and a sixth-round pick next year, for a fourth-round pick.  With Laurence Maroney now gone, there is an abundance of old running backs to go along with the younger BenJarvus Green-Ellis (25); Sammy Morris (33), Fred Taylor (34) and Kevin Faulk (34).

But the idea that there is not one but two viable receivers at the tight end position is what I think makes this offense extremely powerful.  In the end, I think that there will be just too many options to cover that Tom Brady can just stand there and pick a defense apart.  He was able to do just that in Week 1 over the Cincinnati Bengals, but a true test will be this weekend against the New York Jets.  The key match that will be the focus of attention will be Randy Moss (who is apparently going to play harder for a contact) versus Darrelle Revis (who just got his payday after a long holdout).  Assuming that Wes Welker (who looked like he never had ACL surgery in the offseason) will draw Antonio Cromartie, that would leave plenty of options still for Brady.

The defense was the big question mark coming out of the preseason, with a very young crew of in the backfield.  Against the much-ballyhooed Bengals offense, they practically shut them down for the first half.  I don’t know if Cincinnati was able to figure it out in the second half, or the fact that the Pats went into a prevent-defense since they were up 31-3 very early in the half, but 3 touchdowns were scored.

So the week 2 matchup between these two rivals will line up as these two questions: Can the high-powered New England offense out-gun the great New York defense?  And, can the struggling Jets offense put up enough points against a young Pats defense?

I don’t think that New York will be limited to field goals all season long.  Baltimore has one of the top defenses in the league, so it can make any defense look terrible.  But on the flip side, I don’t think that the Baltimore offense is that great, so it made the Jets defense look fantastic.  So with the shortened week to give both sides less time to heal, this should help the Pats with the trip to the Meadowlands.

Was Randy Moss Really Out?

Monday, December 28th, 2009

To clinch the AFC East division championship, the New England Patriots routed the Jacksonville Jaguars 35-7.  In the game, Randy Moss caught only four passes for 45 yards.  But three of those catches were for touchdowns.  This is just the second game after the Carolina Panthers claimed that they knew that if they shut down Moss, he would just give up on the field.

In that game, Moss caught one pass for 16 yards.  And the post-game talks were about how Moss mailed in the second half because he was frustrated.  Some “experts” said that he didn’t and was actually shutdown by the defense, and others said that he gave up.  One tiny fact wasn’t really talked about through all of it: The New England Patriots won the game 20-10.

And all the talk probably awoke a sleeping giant in the Brady/Moss combination.  The next game in Buffalo, Moss went 5-for-70 with a touchdown.  And then home against Jacksonville, a team that needed to win to keep their playoff hopes alive, they again went to the tandem utterly destroyed the Jags.

With one game left on the schedule, at Houston, the Pats don’t need to win.  They are assured a home game during the Wild Card weekend, and will either be in the third or fourth spot (depending on what happens with Cincinnati).  Coming out of a really tough stretch of five games of Miami and the Jets at home, and Indy, New Orleans, and Miami on the road, going 2-and-3, the Pats have won three in a row.  They are now 10-5, with all five loses coming on the road.  And with all home games played, they are definitely a tough-team-at-home.  Unfortunately, they will only have one game in the playoffs at home (barring some big losses by Indianapolis and San Diego).

But it was good to see the Patriots put together a nice string of wins using both offense and defense.  Many of the games that were lost were close games where one or two plays by the defense (or completions by the offense) in the fourth quarters would have made the difference.  Perhaps having a defense on the up-swing and an offense with a hungry Randy (and hopefully a complete set of running backs), this could be a fun postseason to watch.

Patriots Looking to Battle in England

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

In what I am sure is or will be an overplayed thought of irony, the New England Patriots will be playing in Olde England this Sunday.  But hey, what’s the point of beating something to death if you can’t get a few licks in yourself.

New England Patriot's Minutemen

New England Patriot's Minutemen

I wonder if the Minutemen will be making the trip as well.  Will there be British hooligans who will dress up in matching red coats and start firing blanks from the opposing end zone?

The franchise took the mascot from the local history of Boston, that of the patriots who defied the British crown and launched into a long and bloody war to win their independence.  And how does the loser of this war gracefully accept defeat?: By allowing us to showcase our favorite sport on their soil, a sport for which they do not seem to care.

The whole thing seems pretty “whatever” anyway.  Taking a look at the event page on Wembley Stadium‘s site, there seems to be little effort into checking of their statements accuracy.

The Buccaneers and Patriots have been two of the NFL’s most successful teams in recent years, combining to win four of the past seven Super Bowls.  Both clubs are strong contenders for a return trip to the playoffs this season.

I’m not sure if a team without a win going into week seven is much of a contender.  I can’t remember what the chat at the beginning of the season was, but I don’t think that the Bucs were regarded as a potential playoff team (ESPN’s Power Rankings at the start of the season had them 26th), especially being in the same division as the Saints and the Falcons.  And with their quarterback situation uncertain (Byron Leftwich being the frontrunner).  It was like starting the season without really having a solidified goaltending lineup (see what I did there, used a football reference).

The [Patriots] is bidding for its sixth consecutive AFC East division championship.

Unfortunately, while they tied with the Miami Dolphins record-wise, the Fins were not actually the division champs due to tie-breaking rules.

I’m half expecting that they get stuck trying to find the stadium from their hour-long trip form their hotel, and do a little sightseeing along the way: maybe see Big Ben, and Parliament.  And Big Ben and Parliament, and Big Ben…

Side note: I’m guessing that Pittsburgh is going to head over there soon so they can put up Roethlisberger’s mug everywhere.  Maybe against Seattle, so they can fly 12-or-so hours.

Some lovely ladettes with their knickers down a tad

Some lovely ladettes with their knickers down a tad

I hope that they don’t have to make a pitstop in Cardiff, and hang out with some of these lovely ladies.  There might be some trouble there.

But dealing with the game itself, I suppose the Krafts are happy since Tampa Bay had to give up their home game (giving the Glazers another tough decision: Pats v Bucs, or the Liverpool v Man U match just three hours beforehand… I bet I know what is a bigger deal to our friends across the pond).

I don’t expect them to pitch another shutout, but with their offense finally clicking (Brady is not overthrowing Randy Moss, which seems nearly impossible) and their defense starting to taking shape, it would seem that New England has an advantage over Tampa Bay (some lines are at 15.5).

Facing their second winless team in a row, the Pats need to just get out of England with a W and head into the bye-week at 5-2 to begin preparations on their toughest stretch of games: Miami (unpredictable), at Indy, the Jets (revenge game?), at New Orleans, and at Miami.

Maybe the Beginning of the End

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

I always wondered when the end would come to the Boston sports scene, and I think this past weekend would be a good chunk of it.

Since a nice surprising Super Bowl victory with a young, second-string quarterback in Tom Brady at the beginning of 2002, Boston has pretty much dominated the sports world (well, at least here in the States).  Three Super Bowls (no titles before), two World Series (first in a really long time), and an NBA title (a model franchise that hasn’t been relevant in 15 years).

Every team goes through cycles, a few good years and then lean years in between.  So it stands to reason that with all the collective success of the teams in the past few years there is going to be a decline in production followed by “rebuilding” seasons.

I think the apex was Super Bowl XLII.  The Red Sox just won the World Series a few months before, and the Celtics would go on to win the Championship months later beating their archrivals, LA Lakers.  But that Super Bowl had possibly one of the greatest NFL teams in history, entering the game at 18-0, and they lost it in the way they have been known to win them: by allowing Eli Manning to march down the field in under two minutes to get the go-ahead touchdown.

Not only did a New York team beat a Boston/New England team, but it was maybe one of the greatest upsets in Super Bowl history (better than XXXVI with the Pats over St. Louis).  Thankfully, the Celtics were able to help remove some of the sting in June.  And let’s not forget the Bruins having a surprisingly good first-round exit against the Montreal Canadiens, by taking them to a game seven after it looked as though the Habs were going to just run right though them.

Then the Red Sox looked to repeat their World Series win, and finally dealt away Manny Ramirez at the trading deadline to get Jason Bay.  Instead of making the World Series though, they lost in game seven of the ALCS to the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays.  It was easy to say that it was a somewhat-successful series, with an injured Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to get that far, and give hope for 2009.

Then there was the 2008 New England Patriots: about eight minutes in the the first game of the season, reigning MVP (with 50 regular season touchdowns the previous) Tom Brady has his knee explode, and Pats season was over.  The one player who everyone states they can’t lose is gone.  And then a 230-draft pick replaced a 199-draft pick, and Matt Cassel learned to be a pro-quarterback taking them to an 11-5 season.  Usually that would have been good enough to get into the postseason, and it looked promising with the team getting better as the season continued. But in a fluke year, the record wasn’t good enough, and so the Pats missed the playoffs after reaching the Super Bowl the year before..

The Red Sox lost to Tampa Bay, and then later on the Celtics lost Kevin Garnett to major leg issues.  The Cs barely beat a young and athletic Chicago Bulls, and took the eventual Eastern conference champs Orlando Magic to seven games before losing.  There was also the number-one seed Bruins who cruised through the first round of the playoffs by sweeping the Habs, only the have a seven-game crushing defeat in the second round to the former Hartford Whalers (the Carolina Hurricanes).

The 2009 Red Sox started of red hot; killing the Yankees in eight games and building a nice lead, only to have it dwindle by the All-Star break.  Then they couldn’t get anything done, losing bad games, and just getting manhandled by the Yankees only getting one win in their remaining games.  The 2009 Patriots started off 3-1, with a fluky win against Buffalo, tough wins against Atlanta and Baltimore (all at home).  The lone loss was on the road against the Jets, after their coach called each and every season ticket holder to make noise and help them to get the win; and it worked.

Which finally brings us to this weekend.

First off for the heck of it, let’s look at the Boston College Eagles: ouch.  Sure Virginia Tech is ranked fifth in the nation, but it would have been nice to put up a good game against them.  The score was 0-34… at halftime.  Finally getting a pair of touchdown in the fourth quarter, they would go on to lose 14-48.

Next on the list and in no particular order, the Pats went out to Denver have Bill Belichick go against another former assistant coach in Josh McDaniels (the problem with winning so often is that the coaching staff will be picked apart by other franchises).  For all the luck that the Patriots had in all their runs in the past few years, there isn’t much left.  After Denver would drive to get a game-tying touchdown, Tom Brady couldn’t drive the field, going 3-and-out, and then fumbling on the next possession.  In overtime, the defense that held Denver to not getting close to the red zone in their final possessions let Denver walk to field goal range and win the game.  Luck wasn’t on the Pats side to call the right side of a flipped coin.

If I was going to use excuses, losing Matt Light and new-favorite-target Ben Watson were injured during the game, but hey, everyone has injuries.

But, one loss on the road against a potential-playoff team is probably not the end of the world.  My buddy Gregg also pointed out that going 2-1 against Baltimore, Atlanta and Denver is pretty good.

The funny thing is that before the game, I told my girlfriend, who thinks I become psychotic when it comes to my teams’ losses, that whenever the Red Sox lose in a day the Pats seem to win, and vice versa.

And this brings us to the most disappointing of all the Boston showings this weekend, starting with Thursday night.  After limping at the end of the season (before a four-game sweep of a Cleveland team in limbo at Fenway once the wildcard was clinched, the Sox went 2-for-10) and backing into the postseason (thanks to Texas shanking some games at the end), the Red Sox were swept by the Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles, or whatever they’re called now.

For postseasons in recent history (during the Boston-awesome years), the Red Sox have dominated the Angels.  Setting aside the 1986 ALCS, the ALDS series in 2004 (3-0), 2007 (3-0), and 2008 (3-1) have been all Boston.  Sweeps are great; when your team is the winner.  And when they are the swept party, it isn’t as much fun.

In the first two games, the offense was anemic scoring one run total in both games.  The pitching wasn’t that bad in either game (and I’m not going to complain too much about the umpiring, since it was horrible and inconsistent for both teams; and I would say for the other ALDS as well).  The worst thing is that my friend Tyrone said that Boston wouldn’t go far without Manny Ramirez (a dominate hitter), and I said that they did pretty well without him in 2008 and for the most part in 2009.  And just looking at their postseason lineup on paper (J.D. Drew hitting eighth) seemed like a pretty good chance to produce runs.

Through the first two games, there were 8 hits, 1 run and 4 walks.

Then game three.  Up 6 runs to 4, going into the top of the ninth, usually sure-handed (especially in the postseason) Papelbon entered the game.  While he only had three blown-saves in the season, it seemed as a lot of his appearances have been anything be easy.  It always seemed  like he gave up a home run, or loaded the bases, but usually finding a way to get out of them.  I guess he went to the well one too many times; eventually it would catch up to him, especially against a team like the Angels.  Three runs.

I didn’t expect them to beat Anaheim this postseason, limping into the postseason and definitely after not showing up for the first two games, but avoiding the sweep would have shown a little pride.

And to compound the misery of the Sox fandom, the New York Yankees are showing they are the most dominate team in the playoffs.  After a lackluster start, the Yankees went on an impressive regular season run to finish up with 103 wins.  Even worse is the people producing for them: Jeter (as usual), Teixeira (the guy who the Sox could have signed), and A-Rod.  Rodriguez known for putting up bagels in the postseason, especially when it matters the most (Mr. Unclutch), has been unbelievable (mostly because I can’t believe it).  Six RBIs, game-tying home runs, and all-around clutch hitting.  Is it freedom from his steroids-secret?  Dating Kate Hudson (why Kate, why?)?  Whatever it is, I’m not a fan.

So, maybe this is it.  New York is going to become good while the Boston teams are going to slide.  Giants are good (especially against Oakland’s JV team), the Jets beat the Pats with their screaming fans.  The Sox can’t score a run, the Yankees can’t lose.  The Celtics have one more year with the Big Three, and the Knicks will have enough money to sign LeBron for the 2010 off-season.

Maybe there is something to this Mayan calendar doomsday of 2012.

The Not-So-Prime-Time Pats

Monday, November 24th, 2008

It always seemed like the Patriots for the past few years were pulled into the prime time flex game.  Their next scheduled prime time game, Sunday night on December 7th, is now going to another match-up.

While the Pats are not the same team they were last year (for many reasons), I have to believe the fact that the game is being pulled isn’t because of the 7-4 New England, but the 2-9 Seattle, maybe one of the more disappointing teams this season.  Starting the season, many had thought that Seattle was going to be a playoff contender, getting through because of a then-perceived weak NFC West.

Now, it’s another another game that I won’t be able to see here in New York, since it’s taken off the national game and play at the same time and channel as the Jets.

Also, that means that by going Baltimore, Madden and crew will save about 1400 miles by not having to drive the bus to Seattle.  That’s assuming NBC wants to keep Giants at Cowboys for the following week.  And that’s Universal going Green.

As a side note: what a weird scheduling quirk that New England has two sets of back-to-back west coast away games.  The first one didn’t end so well with a 30-10 drubbing in San Diego.

Moss back for three more; Where’s the Def?

Friday, March 7th, 2008

So, apparently Randy Moss is good to go for the New England Patriots for three more years (for a lot of money, about $27M).

This is good.

Now, will the Pats get the defense in order?

The teams that actually won when they got to the Super Bowls were based on defense, and had “serviceable” offenses. [Though, they lost 14-17 with an “electric offense” and a “slow” defense, and won 20-17, 32-29 and 24-21 the other way around.]

But that side note aside, I think it’s fair to say that they offense is still in good working order. While it didn’t win them the big one, they were good enough for 18 other ones and get there. Tom Brady is still under center, with Moss, Wes Welker, Jabar Gaffney (a very good #3) as receivers, as well as Ben Watson as the tight end. And Lawrence Maroney and Sammy Morris as a very good 1-2 running back combination, with Kevin Faulk as that “whatever you need him to be” option. The front line was great all year, except for that last game where Brady spent half the game getting crushed.

The defense, on the other hand, seems to be going in the other direction and it isn’t getting any younger.  And with Rosevelt Colvin, Asante Samuel and Randal Gay gone, I think there’s going to be a lot of interesting moves to try to get back to that defensively-winning ways.

Some decent signs: Brandon Merriweather seemed to get better as the year went on (there is one play where if he stepped up on that final drive, things might have gone differently, but I have to digress). Rodney Harrison and Ellis Hobbs are still around. Adalius Thomas will be there for a while, as well as that front three of Seymour, Wilfork and Warren, with Jarvis Green looking solid as well.

Then there are the linebackers. Seau is probably gone, Bruschi and Vrabel are another year older, and where do you go from there?  Zach Thomas didn’t want to join them (which actually surprised me a bit).

And what is the secondary going to be like with the new additions of Jason WebsterLewis Sanders and Tank Williams?

I don’t know.  In Belichick and Pioli we trust, right?