Monday, October 19, 2009
Bruschi on tap: Pats silence their coach
By Tedy Bruschi ESPNBoston.com
Observations from the Patriots' 59-0 win over the Titans:1. Take that , Coach. Bill Belichick was grilling his offense all week. The Patriots hadn't executed a play all year that totaled more than 40 yards and their head coach was reminding them of that fact every day. If you've ever been called out by Belichick, you know one thing: He will not stop until the problem has been solved. Well, on a snowy October Sunday in Foxborough, the Patriots' offense quieted its head coach by amassing 619 yards of total offense. Most importantly, the big play was back. In the first quarter, with 3:28 remaining, Tom Brady hooked up with Wes Welker for a 45-yard gain. Then came a 40-yard touchdown completion to Randy Moss in the second quarter. But wait, those are just pass plays. For complete silence from the old man, a big play on the ground was necessary. I can hear him now: "Yeah, we're great passing the ball, but we still can't run it." Not so fast, Bill. In the first quarter, at the five-minute mark, Laurence Maroney burst through the middle of the offensive line for a 45-yard touchdown score. Big-play problems solved, head coach silenced. For now.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick had to like what he saw on Sunday as his team's offense broke out for 59 points against the Tennessee Titans at Gillette.
2. Where's the fight? The Tennessee Titans looked like a team that wished they were home in front of a nice warm fire. Dropped passes, six fumbles, and minus-7 yards passing. They played uninspired football and lacked any kind of fight, an effort few expected from a Jeff Fisher-coached team. Last year, the Titans were the best team in the AFC during the regular season. It appears they are experiencing a Super Bowl hangover -- and they never even made the Super Bowl. Call it a 13-3 hangover. All offseason they were reminded of last year's record and it seems they expected that to continue. With a team returning 20 out of 22 starters from last year, they are the clear disappointment of the NFL season.
3. Development day. There were two Patriots players who got significant playing time and showed that positive steps have been made:
Laurence Maroney -- He has been criticized for his dancing-type running style -- and rushing to the sideline more than going straight ahead. Sunday was one of Maroney's best performances in recent memory. He carried 16 times for 123 yards with an explosive first-quarter run of 45 yards that resulted in a score. This will be a much-needed confidence builder for Maroney. He will be counted on in the coming weeks if Sammy Morris' leg injury turns out to be serious.
Sebastian Vollmer: He filled in admirably for an injured Matt Light. Light has been such a pillar at his offensive left tackle spot that many wondered if Vollmer could get the job done. His assignment on Titans defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch was a key matchup. Bottom line: No sacks for Vanden Bosch. Vollmer also showed his athletic ability on running plays when he was the pulling lineman, and on the Patriots' tear screens, when he had to cover up Titans defensive backs and linebackers in space. An impressive display of ability for a 6-foot-8-inch, 315-pound rookie.
4. Defensive changes. After a tough loss to the Denver Broncos last week, it's obvious the defensive coaches went back to the drawing board. Denver's multiple offensive formations made the Patriots' 4-3 defense adjust multiple times, which caused confusion and adjustment problems. How did the defensive coaches counteract that this week? A return to the base 3-4 look. The 3-4 defense was used exclusively on regular first and second downs. This is the defense that most Patriots defenders have been taught since the day they were signed or drafted. A return to what is familiar can sometimes provide confidence. When the Patriots have multiple fronts and defenses going into the game, it multiplies the number of checks and adjustments they have to make. This can be very difficult on a young defense. Simplification is always a good solution. Although the Titans' offensive formations were very basic, the Patriots' defense never looked confused and was on the same page most of the game.
5. More than a W: For the past few weeks, we've been hearing the Patriots talk about "not being on the same page" or "we've got to establish consistency." And my favorite: "We're just not in sync yet." Well, after a 59-0 thrashing of the Tennessee Titans, I'm sure all those clichés will be thrown out and replaced with updated versions. They will speak of how it was "just one game" and they have to "move on." What they won't tell you is that this kind of game is exactly what they needed. Problems were solved, players got better and confidence was gained. The Titans may be one of the worst teams in football, but on a day when the Patriots needed a decisive victory, they got the job done in a big way. These kinds of victories can "snowball" into something special.
Tedy Bruschi played 13 seasons for the New England Patriots and is a member of the franchise's 50th Anniversary team.