Kevin Faulk Was Brought Back for More Than Sentimental Reasons, And 19 Other Patriots Thoughts


Kevin Faulk Was Brought Back for More Than Sentimental Reasons, And 19 Other Patriots ThoughtsSeveral Patriots have noted this week that they'll find out how mentally tough they are as they try to bounce back from Sunday's loss to the Steelers. Because of that, this could be one of the most important weeks of the season — not just in terms of Sunday's game against the Giants, but also how they fight to prepare behind the scenes.

Let's take a spin through some other happenings in this week's Two-Minute Drill.

1. The timing of wide receiver Julian Edelman's arrest was a worst-case scenario for him. He was a day removed from the first healthy scratch of his three-year NFL career. Edelman could still be an asset as a returner, but how the Patriots deal with him after these allegations will be telling.

2. Sticking with the wide receivers, Chad Ochocinco hasn't caught a pass in two straight games. That's the first time that's happened since the first two games of his professional career in 2001.

3. Offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien said Tuesday the Patriots "need to get [wide receiver Taylor Price] in there more." If Price leapfrogs Ochocinco on the depth chart, the latter will have a difficult time regaining any type of significant role in the offense without an injury somewhere else.

4. While rewatching Sunday's game, it was clear the Steelers knew the Patriots' snap count on at least three occasions. I wonder what the Patriots were doing to tip them off in that regard.

5. Linebacker Jerod Mayo came back slowly, and I think that was the plan all along because linebacker Brandon Spikes wore the defensive headset. If Bill Belichick wanted Mayo on the field all game, there's no doubt he would have worn the headset like always.

6. Mayo clearly wasn't back to full strength, so it might take a little while for him to get a full allotment of reps on game day. He played in the second defensive series and then again in the last two meaningful defensive series of the fourth quarter (meaningful, as in, not the final one when the Steelers took a knee). For what it's worth, the Steelers only scored six points on those three possessions.

7. Mayo subbed in for Guyton on his first series of the game, which was likely the plan based off the previous point about Spikes. Mayo also subbed in for Guyton in the two fourth-quarter series, but after Mayo sat out the entire third quarter, I wonder if he replaced Guyton due to performance. Guyton had an atrocious day in pass coverage.

8. Mayo is pretty good against the pass, but pass coverage from the inside linebackers has been an issue since training camp. Guyton has been inconsistent in that area, and it's Spikes' biggest weakness. The Steelers were the first that blatantly tried to expose that area of the field.

9. After watching film, I broke down the Steelers' defensive game plan against New England. One thing I want to correct from Sunday: The Steelers pressed the receivers at the line of scrimmage, but it wasn't as much of a street fight as I initially thought. One other note: The Steelers played man coverage all game, not just a majority of it. I didn't think they had it in them.

10. I thought it was interesting how aggressive the Steelers attacked the Patriots' running backs, particularly Kevin Faulk, on passing plays. That's a page directly from Rex Ryan's playbook. Click that link above for more description.

11. Sunday's game proved that Faulk wasn't brought back for sentimental reasons. He can clearly still play, and the Patriots are absolutely going to give him a significant role in the offense, especially in the no-huddle. That's not a good sign for Danny Woodhead's playing time.

12. There were a lot of references to the infamous 2009 fourth-and-2 play in Indianapolis after Faulk was blown up by safety Ryan Clark on the goal line. Faulk ran the same route on each play, but the routes were different with the other receivers, so it wasn't the same exact play.

13. However, that's always been a common route for the Patriots to run in short-yardage situations, so credit Clark for identifying it right away and executing a great hit.

14. Replays showed tight end Rob Gronkowski scored a touchdown on that controversial play with about 4:10 remaining in the fourth quarter, but the Patriots didn't challenge it. Because Tom Brady quickly got his offense to the line, CBS didn't show a replay immediately thereafter. In fact, a minute and a half of game clock evaporated before the first replay was shown. If the coaching staff was dependent on the television replay, they had no chance to find a definitive view of the play, and there was no chance the Heinz Field video board operators were going to give Belichick a good angle to challenge it.

15. Cornerback Antwaun Molden, who may forever be labeled as the guy who must replace Leigh Bodden, was benched in the second half in favor of Phillip Adams, who had been released by the Patriots twice in the three weeks prior to the Steelers game. I haven't gotten enough of an opportunity to see Adams play to know whether or not he'll be able to help the Patriots, but I liked how he played Sunday with some feistiness and attitude.

16. The CBS broadcast noted the Patriots haven't successfully converted an onside kick since 1994 against Belichick's Browns. There was no mention if that was the longest drought in the NFL, but it outdates some of the league's franchises. Practice squad cornerback Sterling Moore, the youngest player on the team, was 4 years old when the Patriots last recovered an onside kick.

17. Edelman wasn't the only player who was a healthy scratch for the first time in his career Sunday. Add linebacker Jermaine Cunningham to that list, too. His ineffectiveness has been a surprise this season, especially with the Patriots using more four-man fronts, which they used during his time at Florida.

18. There was a lot of chippy play Sunday, not that it should have been a surprise with a pair of teams that don't particularly like each other. It started in the second quarter after cornerback Ike Taylor threw Wes Welker to the ground well after the whistle, which spurred Logan Mankins trying to fight everyone in black and yellow.

19. Referee Mike Carey didn't have his finest moment after that scrum. The ball should have been spotted at the Pittsburgh 49, where the side judge was properly standing. But Carey called for the ball at the New England 48. After backing away, the side judge blew the whistle, and Carey spotted it on the Pittsburgh side of the 50, but it still looked off by a half yard or so. Just a weird turn of events.

20. Not that I think this should surprise anyone, but wide receiver Deion Branch told me Friday that Welker hasn't let his contract situation come up in conversation. The reason I asked Branch was because I wanted to know if he was going to offer Welker any advice after he went through something similar in 2006 before he was traded to Seattle. Obviously, the advice hasn't been necessary because Welker has kept it to football inside the locker room.

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