Sunday, September 12, 2010

Old Wisdom, New Wisdom

The mythology of the New England Patriots in the 2007 almost-perfect season is that fatigue, loss of intensity, injuries, bad luck, and a NYG team that peaked at the right time spoiled a perfect season with a miraculous throw and catch in the Superbowl. Otherwise, the 2007 Patriots would have best claim on the all-time greatest team.

But subsequent events and the passage of time allow us to see it all more clearly. With the acquisition of Randy Moss, the Pats changed its offense to a more wide-open style, and for the first half of the season, were indeed the greatest team ever to take the field. But other teams slowly adjusted, and the close games and narrower victories as the season progressed were not the result of the Patriots losing focus, but of other teams finding answers. By season's end New England was not the greatest team of all time, merely a very good team among other very good teams. And they played a style which does not meet all situations: devastating short-and-long passing with just enough running to keep the defense from coming full strength pass rush at you. This scores points. This builds leads. However, a team needs the ability to switch to run just a bit more than they did, to rest a defense and chew up time on the clock when needed.

They didn't quite have it then and they don't quite have it now. Leads slowly erode unless you can get about one-third of your yardage on the ground. The 2010 Patriots have 4 almost good enough runners - which may in fact be enough because it reduces tiredness and gives you insurance against injuries. But come playoff time, you encounter other teams that have escaped injuries just enough to overmatch your "almosts."

We'll see.

Update: in a game that was essentially tied as far as the offense was concerned - New England got touchdowns from an interception and a kick return - the Patriots had just enough running in close on their final drive to put the game away. I call that a mixed answer, but generally supporting my premise.


Ben Wyman said...

The problem isn't the exhaustion of our defense because we don't have a running game - though that doesn't help - it's our massive defensive holes. Belichick's a schemer, but this defensive unit is awful, and our only good player (Ty Warren) is out for the season.

That was our problem in 2007, too: people assume that Belichick's gonna run out a good defense every year, but that unit couldn't stop the run to save their life. Remember how badly Willis McGahee tore us up on Monday Night Football? He wasn't the only one.

I think you can't say the Pat's offensive issues are too much pass vs not enough run. Offense is always a question of number of weapons, even if all of them are receivers or coming out of the backfield. Look at how well Tennessee played today without a single worthwhile receiver - Vince Young/Chris Johnson is enough for them.

Last year, they had Moss and Welker, occasionally Kevin Faulk, Fred Taylor in the two games he was healthy, and that was it. This year, they've got Moss, Welker, Faulk, Taylor back, Julian Edelman coming on, Brandon Tate being a huge steal in the draft, two good TEs (Gronkowski and Hernandez), maybe getting something out of Taylor Price. That's a lot of weapons for Brady. It's gonna be 2007 again. Including the defensive problems.

This unit can't stop the run and really can't stop the pass. This team's gonna go 9-7 and win all their games 42-28 or lose them 35-24.

Gringo said...

This unit can't stop the run and really can't stop the pass.

The defense held Cedric Benson, a pretty good runner, to under 3 yards a carry. [I wonder if BB regrets not picking him up..]Take away the meaningless Hail Mary pass of 51 yards at the end of the first half, and the defense held Carson Palmer to around 6 yards per pass attempt, which most pass defenses will take any day. It held Cincinnati, a fairly good offensive unit, to 17 net offense points:24- Guyton's interception for a TD.

IOW, the jury is still out on the defense. It definitely had some bright points yesterday.

My guess is that as it is a young defense, it will be better in the second half of the season.

Ben Wyman said...

Palmer was 34 for 50 with a yard-per-attempt of 6.9 yards. Carson Palmer's yards-per-attempt in '09: 6.6. We didn't stop Palmer from being a deep threat, he's just not really a deep threat anyway.

It was good to stop Benson off the line this game, but I think this season we'll see that most of Benson's effectiveness was from those two excellent weakside offensive linemen. Expect a huge letdown in Benson's production this year.

To be fair, I didn't get to watch the game. That's the trouble of being a displaced Yankee.

Gringo said...

To be fair, I didn't get to watch the game. That's the trouble of being a displaced Yankee.

Try these. this is Bay Area based, so not likely to have Pats games, but a possibility. had Pats game on for most of the game but it got cut off for copyritght reasons haven't gotten it to work.