If you could rewind time and go back to Monday afternoon, you'd still have concerns about the Patriots' defense. You'd still think the Patriots had no defensive player who could stop Brandon Marshall. You'd still be worried that the Pats were at risk of getting blown out on national television.
Yet, no matter how much concern you had, that final score would still be 41-14.
That's the thing about the NFL. Whether someone watches every game, every week or if that person has seen seven quarters in his entire life won't help either person try to predict the outcome of any game.
Monday night's Miami massacre was just the latest example, as every "expert analyst" in the country and every Joe Schmo football fan (guilty) gave the Patriots no chance. Little did we all know what Pat Chung had in store. A blocked punt, blocked field goal, interception returned for a touchdown and four solo tackles to boot. All in all, not a bad night for the young Mr. Chung.
But while a divisional win on the road is always huge no matter what, this one's even bigger — at least for the fans. Through the first four weeks of the regular season, the conversation regarding the Patriots often revolved around the negatives. No defense, bad drafting, coaching mistakes, and so on and so forth. Thousands of words were spent in columns and hot air was spewed about on talk radio, all dedicated to the downfall of the Patriots.
While all that talk was based in something, it must now cease for at least 12 days.
With the Patriots on their bye week, it could have been a very difficult two weeks in New England, as the team would only be getting slammed even more for all those question marks. While those won't just disappear into thin air, the conversations on the Patriots will have to take a much lighter tone. After they just busted out their palindromic 41-14 victory, there's no other choice.
Well, I suppose if you really wanted, you could pick some nits … such as:
The Failed Fake Spike
As Tom Brady ran to the line, I saw or felt something that made me shout, "Fake Marino Spike!" Sure enough, there it was, but Randy Moss couldn't use his giant hands to corral the ball. (Even more surprisingly, Mike Tirico then called it the "Marino Fake Spike." I remember watching that play against the Jets in '94, but I didn't know it officially took on Marino's namesake.)
Ideally, you'd like to see Moss make that catch, but you know what? He makes it more often than not, so let's move on.
Jake Ingram: Strugg-a-ling
If you're a long snapper, nobody should notice you (unless you're doing snow angels). Unfortunately for Jake Ingram, we all noticed him on Monday night. Fortunately for the Patriots, as my brother reminded me during the game, "Good thing we have an Eastern European megatron for a holder."
That megatron would be Zoltan Mesko, who saved Ingram's behind several times. The rookie punter even boomed a breathtaking 60-yard boot in the first quarter. While Mesko may have earned himself a steak dinner on Ingram's dime, Ingram can't hide from the special teams film session on Thursday. He's had no issues in his first 16 games, so it's not as if he's at risk of losing his job, but a bad snap in a close game could decide the outcome.
The Kevin Faulk Void
When Kevin Faulk was placed on season-ending IR, everyone talked about how he can't be replaced by any one player. That was a testament to Faulk's value to the team.
Since then, those statements have come to fruition, and they couldn't be any more true.
For one, the Patriots were forced to let Wes Welker handle punts, particularly punts that will be caught inside the Patriots' 20-yard line, because he's the most surehanded guy to do so. Well, about that …
Welker bobbled the first punt of the game on his own 10-yard line but was able to recover the bouncing ball. That was bad, but they way he got clobbered by what looked like 45 Miami Dolphins was not good. Yes, Wes Welker is Superman, but that's not the kind of action his surgically repaired knee needs.
While all 5 feet of Danny Woodhead have filled in nicely as a receiving back, Faulk's absence reared its ugly head on the Patriots' 2-point conversion attempt that wasn't. Julian Edelman lined up next to Brady in the shotgun, and it looked to be the patented "Oh-my-gosh-I'm-Tom-Brady-and-the-snap-is-over-my-head-oh-wait-no-it's-not-Kevin-Faulk-has-it-and-he's-in-the-end-zone-haha-got-you" play.
Maybe it would have worked with Edelman, but the former college quarterback was thrown off by the presnap calls, and he started falsely before Brady so much as lifted his knee. It was a rookie mistake, and it's going to cost Edelman some snaps.
Sammy Morris Can't Block
Ha — just kidding. That block on the kickoff return to spring Brandon Tate was awesome.
Who's Got Davone?
Davone Bess looked like Jerry Rice in the first half, and he finished the game with nine catches for 93 yards and a touchdown (but hey, at least Devin McCourty had the deep part of the end zone covered on this play).
While it wasn't great that the Patriots' defense got Welkered by Bess, it was obviously part of their game plan to prevent Brandon Marshall from killing them. Marshall finished with just five catches for 50 yards, just one week after torching the vaunted Jets defense for 166 yards and a touchdown on 10 catches.
While it worked on Monday, you can't help but wonder what would have happened if a quarterback other than Chad Henne was playing.
(Side note: The funniest part of the entire broadcast when a Henne pass in the first half landed roughly 12 yards short of a receiver, and Ron Jaworski said, "Henne will do that sometimes.")
Vince Wilfork's Hunger
The Patriots like Vince Wilfork to clog the middle and tackle running backs if they foolishly decide to run his way, but did he really have to eat Ronnie Brown like that? So unprofessional.
And that's essentially it. The offense was unspectacular, but that's only because the team kept scoring on special teams and defense. The running game was as good as it's looked in years, really, thanks to Woodhead's 4.5 yards per carry and BenJarvus Green-Ellis' 4.8 yards per carry. The defense intercepted four passes, just like the old days, leading to a New England rout.
It won't clinch a division title and it won't even mean much when the Patriots host the Ravens a week from Sunday, but Monday night's win will — at the very least — keep things positive over the next two weeks. That on its own is as worthy of celebration as the victory.
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