Blog Entry

Patriots First Quarter Grades

Posted on: October 4, 2009 9:03 pm
Edited on: October 5, 2009 9:32 am
Well despite a really rocky start the Patriots have come on in leaps and bounds in game three (vs the Falcons) and game four (vs the Ravens) those last two games were what I would chose to define as quality wins.  The NFL is a close league and when two teams play the outcome is usually decided quite literally by one or two plays either way, as Patriots fans over the last eight years we have had our share of those plays go our way, that is not a coincidence.

Pass Offense B

What before the season looked like an embarassment of riches has turned out to be fools gold.  The accuracy of Tom Brady was a long way away from what we are used too. Finally against the Ravens he looked to be getting back to the Tom Brady we all know.  Joey Galloway has flat out stunk the place up, many, including me had high expectations for this guy as a perfect foil playing opposite Randy Moss, that has not been the case.  Clearly Galloway has not picked up the playbook as expected, that in turn in my opinion has led to a major confidence spike (sadly downwards) to the point where the Patriots did not even dress him for the Ravens contest. Maybe he will get another shot soon but I have a feeling Joey could be on his out of the door.

The loss of Wes Welker through the Jets and Falcons game was a major blow to the offense, Welker is the glue that holds this pass happy offense together Brady missed his outlet guy badly.  Randy Moss has been excellent, I am not buying the garbage about him taking plays off, before the Ravens game he led the league in receptions (26). Julian Edelman looks to be a major find for the team. 

We need another receiver, maybe Terrence Nunn will be activated from the practice squad or maybe Brandon Tate comes off the PUP list.  The offensive line has been patchy in its protection of Brady but generally has done a very good job, it needs to be more consistent.

Finally there is Brady himself, you can see a game to game to game improvement from him and I have no doubt he will get better as the season progresses.

Rush Offense C+

Disappointing to say the least. First, in defense of the backs the offensive line has been poor in opening up lanes, very poor and this is a major concern to me after four weeks, it simply must improve as the weather gets colder and the team need to run the ball more effectively.

Secondly I do NOT like the committee approach, it fails to allow any back to get into a rhythm. Fred Taylor looked good in one game, Sammy Morris has had his moments, Kevin Faulk is Kevin Faulk and Laurence Maroney is getting all the grief people can give him.  I make no apology for being a fan of Maroney, get him through the first level and he is deadly, sadly that has not occured. Watching the Ravens game today it was sad to see him jeered when he got strung out going wide, later Sammy Morris did the same thing and the crowd did not get on him. I think many are frustrated with him and I believe he must be too, on a screen pass that was called back he showed his explosive power but the stat book will not show it.

Interesting that some of the best Patriots runs have come when they employ a lead blocker, Maroney has not had that and indeed the rest of the backs should have it more.  A BIG improvement is needed in this department.  I don't care for the calls for BenJarvus Green-Ellis he is on the bench for a reason, his turn will come and it will be in case of injury or next season.

Pass Defense B

Much better than expected.  Leigh Bodden is proving to be a very good pick up Shawn Springs is getting better every week. Brandon Meriweather, well he is playing lights out, a great game today against the Ravens, he has really come on this season and is starting to look like a good first round pick, he certainly bailed James Sanders out AGAIN today when yet again he was caught out of position.

Brandon McGowan has been as awesome pick up too and deserves to be starting.  Terrence Wheatley is a major let down so far for a second round pick and did not even make the game day roster. Jonathan Willhite is going to be a better pick that Wheatley and I think he will be starting along with Bodden most games. Darius Butler has been up and down but has made some good plays, I think his future is very bright.

Finally this week we got some pressure up front, it shows the confidence the coaching staff now have in the secondary because at times against the Ravens we blitzed six players.  This defense is starting to look like a real defense, although it is very typically a bend but don't break variety. I still get frustrated seeing our corners line up ten yards off the line of scrimmage!

The defense much like its counterpart offense is getting better week to week and that has to be a good think for the team and its fans.

Run Defense B+

Number one rule in the NFL an dindeed in Bill Belichick's coaching manual.... stop the run!  So far with a few notable exceptions (Ray Rice 50 yard run today) the team have defended the run very well. It was great to see the injury to Vince Wilfork was not serious, he is such a great presence on the line of scrimmage.

The loss of Richard Seymour was a major blow but to be very honest so far at least I don't think we have missed him that much.  Mike Wright and Jarvis Green have filled in extremely well.  If there is any disappointment on defensive line it has been the non gameday appearance of Ron Brace, clearly to me he is a player for the future and not this season. When you can sign a guy off the street (Terdell Sands) and he gets dressed ahead of a second round pick you have to be disappointed.

Myron Pryor looks to be a decent back up too and will be worth keeping an eye on as the season develops.  Gary Guyton has done a great job and against the Ravens he mirrored the Patriots team, IE he is getting better each and every game he plays, he was always around the ball today.  With the return of Jerod Mayo imminent this defense should get better and better.

Special Teams C

I would like to exclude Stephen Gostkowski from this, he has been very reliable on all aspects of the kicking game in which he is involved. The rest of the teams performance leaves a lot to be desired.

The kick coverage on both punts and kick offs is lamentable, the only thing that saves this from a D grade is the fact the team have recovered two fumbles on kick offs, they are the only highlights of this area of the game for the Patriots.  The return game has been a let down, Maroney had a few nice returns but it seems we are opting for safety first appraoch in this area of the game, I don't like that at all. If Ellis Hobbs has been missed its on kick offs!

Coaching A

Bill Belichick is one of the best to ever coach the game, time and time again when players go down, leave or don't perform he finds a away to get the job done.  Considering the turnover his coaching staff has had in the last 4 years its remarkable that the next guy is ready to go. That people is why you teach the guy underneath you your job because one day he is going to get your job.

Overall  B+

The team is where it wants to be, 3-1 is a great start all things considered.  Th loss to the Jets has nasty tie breaking implications down the road but the team has their fate in their own hands. Next week it will again be the master and the pupil as the Patriots visit the Broncos and Josh McDaniels and although Denver is 4-0 I have make the Patriots strong favourites to go 4-1.  The thing I like to see so far is that each and every week we are seeing improvements, in the past I have always felt as a team we have peaked too early, this season I have a feeling things are coming together, but football is a fickle game and things can turn in a heartbneat, look at the Titans 13-3 last season 0-4 this.

Lets hope we can remain injury free and keep on playing Patriots football, if we can do that we can make the post season action!
Manager 17
Since: Dec 24, 2009
Posted on: February 12, 2010 9:35 am
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator

Since: Jan 12, 2007
Posted on: October 6, 2009 6:57 pm

Patriots First Quarter Grades

Coach Bill Thanks and you are right there does need to be a breakdown of the lineplay:

Offensive line

I think you you have to break down this analysis into two parts, the pass protection and the running game.

First the pass protection, generally speaking I think the line has done a great job protecting Tom Brady.  Matt Light is in a no win situation with Patriot fans, he gets little praise after a good game and gets hammered for all his mistakes. I thought he was nothing short of sensational against John Abraham and pretty good against Terrell Suggs, it did not look good because of the strip sack that led to a Ravens score.  He never was and never will be a franchise left tackle but nonetheless he is good solid player for the team.  Logan Mankins, Dan Koppen and Stephen Neal have all had solid starts to the season and look a very cohesive unit.  Nick Kazcur, very much like Matt Light has been up and down.

We have not seen much of the back-ups but Sebastian Vollmer has shown he has a mass of potential and right now thats all it is. I think he was drafted with the left tackle position in mind and maybe over the next few seasons he will transition to that spot.

Now the bad, the running game is way down on expectations and although you can blame the backs to a degree you cannot run where there is no daylight I don't care who you are. There has been precious little daylight!! I am a Laurence Maroney fan and am the first to admit his start to the season is disappointing but then with the exception of Fred Taylor they all have been.  Sammy Morris is averaging 0.26 yards per carry more than Maroney does that make him a bad player too!  Taylor has had a lead back in at times (Morris usually) and a lead runner makes it a lot better, he is running the hardest of the backs but you cannot give him a full workload, his body will not stand up to it and you are going to need him more at the end of the season that at the beginning.

The team committed well to the run against the Ravens and sometimes it is not what yardage you gain but what you achieve. This weekend the running game got them two touchdowns and chewed much valueable time off the clock, in other words it worked well. They must continue to run and run often, this is not the offense I along with others thought they would see this season but the balanced approach is working well and in my opinion they should stay with it, that said they MUST work at opening some holes for the backs at 3.7 yards per carry so far that is not what we expect given the talent level we have.

I will do the defensive line tomorrow!

Since: Oct 16, 2006
Posted on: October 6, 2009 6:18 pm

Patriots First Quarter Grades

Neil, I thought they would do likewise, without having access to the coaches films it would therefore seem to me that either the Ravens coaches messed up which I doubt, because I can't see them thinking that Flacco has to throw almost 50 passes to win or something in the way the Pats were lining up on defense made them think it wouldn't be advantageous to run. And really, until that nice run by Ray Rice, they didn't really run that well. Take away that one run and they had only 66 yards rushing. I don't know but I'll take it.

I still don't think the defense is there yet, but even you guys who doubted them have to admit, these last two weeks have been very good tests for them and they are playing quite well. Can you imagine the Patriots winning either game with last season's defense? Had Flacco thrown 47 passes with Hobbs and O'Neal at CB, the Ravens would have scored 38 points on offense instead of 14.

It's still a work in progress, but they are getting better by leaps and bounds every week. Once Mayo gets back, I think this defense will be even better.

I am going to post my thread here now, already posted on Isports, if you have the time, read it and leave some thoughts.

Carry me??????? HAHAHA you'd have a sore back carrying me around!

Since: Dec 20, 2006
Posted on: October 6, 2009 5:03 pm

Patriots First Quarter Grades

Neil: Solid analysis. I like your overall grade; but I think you have to 
supplement with analysis of "Offensive Line" and "Defensive Line" if you're
going to adequately grade rushing offense and rushing defense.

Saying that, I think they're basically a wash. The O line has been at about
a B, and the D line is about a B+/A-. Brady's being hurried in the games
against Buffalo and the NYJ gave me pause; but with the Pats 5th in
the NFL in passing yds, Brady's been able to capitalize regardless.
Though, admittedly, he's passed more than any other team in the
NFL so far this season, so that's part of it.

I agree that the pass defense has been much better than I thought
- with a cobbled-together group of young and unexperienced
draft picks and newly-arrived veterans. I'm convinced that's a direct
product of Belichick's defensive acumen.

Since: Jan 12, 2007
Posted on: October 6, 2009 4:47 pm

Patriots First Quarter Grades

Steve, I was very concerned about the defense before the season started and I held them in lesser regard than you did. So far they have done better than I expected.  That said I thought the Falcons would be a great test, they passed but I was still not convinced. Next up was the Ravens and I thought that would really be the acid test of all tests and I guess they passed that too, but here is the thing despite those two performances I am incredibly wary of thinking we are as good as others do.

The Ravens really screwed up up in my mind by not running at the Patriots with the three headed monster they have in LeRon McClain, Willis McGahee and Ray Rice.  I thought they would challenge and then the play action passing would be very effective, they did not do so!  We remain in my eyes still not tested to a level I would like.

Said it many times so far I like that this team is visably improving week by week, if that can continue (and you know there will be a few setbacks there always is) I think that bodes well for the future.

I personally think the Patriots are going to beat the Broncos with ease, it's one thing knowing the players you are going up against, its quite another to try and stop them. Matt Light needs to play well against Elvis Dumerville.

Feel free to plagerize my thoughts, you use them every week fo your picks thats why we are tied, hang on to my coat tails I will see how far I can carry you!!!

Since: Oct 16, 2006
Posted on: October 6, 2009 9:01 am

Patriots First Quarter Grades

BTW, forgot to mention... I am working on the same thing for ISports and my column....Tongue out We'll have to compare notes later on! LOL

Hope everything is going well for you, have a great one today!

Since: Oct 16, 2006
Posted on: October 6, 2009 8:56 am

Patriots First Quarter Grades

Great job neil,

I was looking for the "Mersia Mauler Blog" no wonder I couldn't find it. I agree with the majority of your points, the defense is much better so far than expected (eh hem....) they are begining to gel as a unit, that's why they got a little bit more liberal with the different looks and blitzes Sunday against the Ravens. Although they got only 2 sacks, they got good consistent pressure on Joe Flacco. I think they got 10 hits on him, much better there. The secondary is getting better too. I, like yourself was a big fan of picking up Leigh Bodden. He's a perfect fit for this defense. You also got to love the flexibility of Shawn Springs filling in at both safety and CB. And Brandon Merriweather looks to be molding into a huge playmaker. Now that he's comfortable in this defense, he's much more anticapatory (is that a real word? LOL) and is flying all over the field.

The offense is still working out the kinks but is getting better every week. Tom Brady put together a good 60 minute game against a tough Ravens defense. I really like the flexibility of this offense, Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk gives a bit of everything in the backfield, now they just need to get Maroney untracked! The passing game is starting to round into form. Brady is getting his timing back and with Randy Moss, Wes Welker it will always be dangerous. Joey Galloway still hasn't produced, if they can get him untracked...then it will be even better. Really like that they are getting the TEs involved more this season. Chris Baker and Benjamin Watson (like I've been harping on for 3 yrs!) give them great targets in the red zone and down the seams.

You're right on in that with the exception of Stephen Gostkowski, the STs play have been poor. Coverages, returns, punting....needs big improvement there.

I do think however, that the Broncos defense is for real, while no one will argue that either the Browns or the Raiders offenses are world class, the Bengals and Cowboys both can score and so far no one is. So until someone does (hopefully this week) you have to give them their just due. I'm one of those guys who thought that Kyle Orton was better than he what he showed with the Bears. We'll see what a year with McDaniels will do for him.

I think this week will be another tough game. McDaniels knows the Patriots players and offense better than anyone, so he knows what they'll be doing out there. Denver has always been a house of horrors for the Pats, going back as far as I can remember. It should be another tough hard fought game.

Great job again...lets hope those grades keep getting higher ! LOL

Since: Jan 12, 2007
Posted on: October 6, 2009 8:05 am

Patriots First Quarter Grades

Personally I don't think the Patriots are going to have any issues with the Broncos. Their defense has been stiffling but they have not faced an offense like ours.  Most the week will be taken up with master and pupil discussions and the fact the Broncos have only given up 26 points in 4 games. Their offense is nothing spectacular and at best Kyle Orton is a game manager.

I don't wish to place ANOTHER JINX on the team but I would be very surprised if we leave Invesco Field without a win, our 4th over an unbeaten team!

Since: Sep 10, 2009
Posted on: October 5, 2009 5:01 pm

Patriots First Quarter Grades

Not buying the Broncos just yet, Well, the defense seems to be the real thing and with Mike Nolan coaching them, I've fallen over to the dark side of the fence.  Tongue out

This week's game will be tough.  It's in the thin air of the Broncos' stadium and I wonder if the ghost of Shanahan still lingers.

Since: Jan 12, 2007
Posted on: October 5, 2009 9:29 am

Patriots First Quarter Grades

Thank you sweet lady!

They absolutely are play-off contenders, this team is improving week to week. ESPN rated the Ravens number 1 last week in their power rankings ( not really a fan of such things) so I guess that puts us in the mix.  It is too early to predict what will happen as the season unfolds it is after all only week 4 but I like the direction this team is heading. Tom Brady was MUCH better this week.

Not buying the Broncos just yet, if they beat the Patriots then I will sit up and take notice but they look a little bit too much like a paper tiger to me right now.

Belichick has done a great job so far this season, so much for all those who had already wrote this team off as declining and finished, I don't think that is the case at all.  Its nice to fly under the radar for a change personally I would rather creep up on other teams rather than be a team everyone is talking about!

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or