Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Picked-up pieces from 4th quarter review
By Mike Reiss
Picked-up pieces from fourth-quarter review of the Patriots' 34-31 win over the Texans:
1. Quarterback Tom Brady makes some throws look easy, and a few of his deliveries to Julian Edelman fall into that category even though they were into extremely tight windows. His drop-in-the-bucket throw on the left sideline in the third quarter was one, and then his third-and-8 laser over the middle while stepping into the pocket (13:45 remaining) was another. Brady was on fire on the first three drives of the second half.
2. On LeGarrette Blount's 7-yard touchdown run off the left side, the Patriots had one receiver, two tight ends, one fullback and Blount on the field. It was just straight-up power football -- 9 on 10 in the box and it was blocked extremely well. Gronkowski kicked out Brooks Reed on the end of the line, right guard Dan Connolly pulled and did his part, while fullback James Develin was thumping and left guard Logan Mankins and left tackle Nate Solder were steamrolling. That's power football.
3. Why don't cornerbacks turn back for the ball? We've heard that question asked often in recent years and one reason why was illustrated on DeAndre Hopkins' 66-yard catch against cornerback Kyle Arrington (13:09 remaining). Arrington looked back, lost track of Hopkins, and was beaten for the big play. Arrington had been called upon in place of Logan Ryan as the cornerback opposite Aqib Talib for that drive, but didn't play again on the final two drives as he was replaced by Marquice Cole. Arrington has been playing through a groin injury.
4. When the Patriots needed to make a defensive play, on third-and-10 and with the score tied at 31, they sent defensive end/outside linebackers Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich on a blitz right up the middle (overall 5-man pressure). It was effective, with Jones breaking through and forcing the incomplete pass. The Patriots didn't dial up as much pressure as anticipated in the game, but when they needed it most, the extra pressure delivered.
5. Another wrinkle on offense that was a bit out of the norm: Seeing tight ends Rob Gronkowski and D.J. Williams align in the offensive backfield on running plays.
6. Gronkowski came up limping after making a 17-yard reception on third-and-3 during the Patriots' march to set up what turned out to be the game-winning 53-yard field goal. He came out for one play before returning for the final five plays of the game. We'll see how much, if at all, the right ankle affects his availability at practice this week.
7. One area that can be overlooked is field-goal protection, especially on 50-plus yarders like Stephen Gostkowski attempted. That's why a seventh offensive lineman like rookie Chris Barker, who was active on Sunday, is important to have on the 46-man game-day roster. He held up his end of the bargain on the field-goal protection unit.
8. Veteran safety Steve Gregory, who returned for the first time since Nov. 3 and played with a soft cast over his previously broken right thumb, didn't handle his regular duties as the personal protector on the punt team. Nate Ebner continued to do so.
9. I'm not sure it could be changed, but Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones could make a case for a scoring change on the last play -- an incomplete pass that easily could have been a shared sack.
10. I'm not sure where referee Pete Morelli's crew ranks in terms of penalties called, but we'd make a guess it would be among the fewest in the NFL after there were no penalties called on the Patriots and just two on the Texans. Could more penalties have been called? Sure, as we saw possible fair-catch interference, pass interference and holding a few times. But count me among those who prefer, if it isn't obvious, that those calls aren't made. In some games, it seems the referees almost take over the proceedings but I don't get that feeling with the understated-but-in-command Morelli.
11. One leftover note: With no pure backup offensive tackle on the 46-man game-day roster, those curious how the Patriots might have filled the void in the event of an injury to starting tackles Nate Solder and Will Svitek got a glimpse in the third quarter when Solder lost his left shoe and had to come off the field. For one play, which happened to be Rob Gronkowski's impressive 50-yard catch-and-run, left guard Logan Mankins kicked out to left tackle and rookie Josh Kline entered at left guard.