Patriots

The face of the Patriots defense? For many, it's Matt Patricia

The face of the Patriots defense? For many, it's Matt Patricia

Matt Patricia looks like an unmade bed. Beard unruly. Baseball hat on at all times. Pencil behind the ear. He wears shorts 360 days a year. Yep, he’s that guy. But the Patriots defensive coordinator has a loyal following that’s gone so far as to produce his likeness on t-shirts and sweatshirts.

“That’s the Barstool guys,” said Julian Edelman. “They’re behind it. I guess they know what sells.”

LeGarrette Blount was seen rocking one in the immediate aftermath of the AFC title game win over Pittsburgh.

“I mean, I didn’t make the shirt,” Blount said, “but I liked it so I put it on. Matty is cool.”

Patricia is legitimately flattered by the attention, though he’s not one to seek it out.

“Obivously, my face is on 'em. I didn’t make ‘em, but that’s my face,” he said, smiling. “You know, I love our players. Our players are great. I appreciate the support by everybody. As a team, we’ve got each other’s back, so that’s the best part.”

There’s no denying the closeness of his Pats team, but might there be a divide in the coaching offices, what with Matty P getting his own gear, but the accomplished Josh McDaniels with nothing like that to speak of?

“I’m not worried about that,” laughed McDaniels, clearly understanding we were just having a little fun. “Matty P has a better look for that. He’s got the beard.”

I asked the Pats offensive coordinator if he thought maybe he needed a new look to get himself his very own t-shirt.

“Did you think about doing something? Chops? Handlebar mustache? Something?’ McDaniels shook his head before saying, “No, no, no. Matter of fact, I need to get one [t-shirt]. Wasn’t [former Pats tight end] Jermaine Wiiggins wearing one the other day at the rally?”

Wiggins was indeed, just adding fuel to the merchandising machine that Patricia’s likeness is becoming.

“Hey, I don’t think Matty P is trying to do that,” laughed McDaniels. “That’s just his cool look. I mean come on? He has that guy that looks like him at the game [refering to one fan who likes to come to games dressed as Patricia].”

Actually, if you listen to Martellus Bennett, there are probably hundreds of fans who look just like McDaniels. And that’s part of his problem. 

“I think Josh’s face is probably a little bit harder to draw,” opined Bennett. “You draw Josh? That could be any white man on a shirt. At least Matt has the beard.”

Leave it to Bennett, an occasional artist, to boil this “situation” down to it’s most simple of points. However, that Patricia beard might find itself in jeopardy.

“I told him [Patricia] I’m gonna shave it in the locker room after the game Sunday,” said McDaniels. 

I responded by telling the 40-year McDaniels that the younger Patricia might cry.

“Oh, he would. He totally would,” McDaniels said. 

Of course, that would probably make the beard, t-shirts and sweatshirts a collector’s item. Maybe McDaniels should rethink that strategy...

QUICK SLANTS PODCAST: Belichick ignoring noise? Or trying to change the narrative?

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QUICK SLANTS PODCAST: Belichick ignoring noise? Or trying to change the narrative?

3:00 Why has Bill Belichick been so surprisingly positive of his team’s performance in tight wins?

6:30 Phil Perry breaks down what grades he gave the Patriots on his report card following the win over the Jets

15:00 Reaction to the Austin-Seferian Jenkins overturned touchdown, and what changes need to be made in the NFL replay system. 

23:00 Why was Patriots offensive line much more effective against Jets?

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

25:00 Patriots-Falcons preview, how did Falcons blow a 17 point lead to the Dolphins?

What's missing from Patriots? A defense that has a clue

What's missing from Patriots? A defense that has a clue

FOXBORO - We’re not quite at the point of fire and brimstone coming down from the skies, or 40 years of darkness, or even dogs and cats living together, but this Patriots season isn’t headed down the right path, despite a 4-2 record and the top spot in the AFC East. 

There are several elements that appear missing at this juncture - chief among them a defense that actually has a clue. Please don’t celebrate holding the Jets to 17 points - I’m looking at you, Dont’a Hightower. Josh McCown threw for just 194 yards against the Cleveland freakin’ Browns for goodness sake, but he got you for 354 and two scores?! Even the 2009 Patriots defense is offended by that.

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We’d be foolish to think the Pats can’t get this leaky unit fixed for reasons so obvious I won’t state them in this space so as not to waste my time or yours. We also know - long before Bill Belichick’s 6 1/2-minute explanation on the Monday conference call - that it's not supposed to be perfect right now. Actually, it’ll never be perfect. That’s not how this game works. 

Yet week after week, we see uncommon breakdowns and one defender looking at the next as if to say, “I thought you had him?” or more to the point, “what the hell were you doing?” It started Sunday at MetLife on the third play of the game. Malcolm Butler, playing 10 yards off Robby Anderson, looking as if he’s never played the position before, inexplicably turning his back on Anderson even though the wide receiver makes no real move to the post. That results in just about the easiest completion of McCown’s life, a 23-yarder on third-and-10. 

On the same series, on another third-and-long, the Pats rushed four and dropped seven into coverage. Defensive end Cassius Marsh continued his season-long trend of rushing so far upfield he ended up in Hoboken. With Deatrich Wise ridden outside on the opposite edge, McCown wisely stepped up and found prime real estate with New York City views. He wanted to throw and could have when the Pats fouled up a crossing route from the backside of the play. But with that much room to roam, McCown took off, scooting for a quick 16 yards and another first down.

Fittingly, that drive ended with a Jets touchdown on yet another dumb play, this one courtesy of Mr. Hit or Miss, Elandon Roberts. Channeling his inner Brandon Spikes, the second-year pro blew off his key and responsibility on third-and-goal from the 1, charging hard to the line. This, despite one of the most feeble play-action fakes you’ll see. In fact, I’m not even sure it was a real play-action fake. Anyway, score it as a touchdown to Austin Seferian-Jenkins and an indictment on David Harris, who apparently can’t vault past the erratic Roberts on the depth chart.

Similar to the week prior in Tampa, the Pats found better footing after that. They forced three straight three-and-outs in the second quarter and then helped turn the game when Butler intercepted an ill-advised throw by McCown just prior to the half. They got another turnover to start the third, with Butler coming off the edge on fourth-and-1 and forcing McCown into panic mode. The veteran QB fired an off-target throw to - get this - a wide open receiver who went uncovered on a drag route and Devin McCourty was gifted an interception.

But this group frowns on prosperity. It took a little-seen rule to prevent a Seferian-Jenkins touchdown in the fourth, and on the game’s final drive, the Pats allowed a 32-yard completion on fourth-and-12. Then, on what turned out to be the Jets final play, the Pats let Tavaris Cadet leak out of the backfield and run unchecked 20 yards down the field. Had McCown not soiled himself again, Gang Green would have had a first down and at least one crack at the end zone. Then, who knows what the heck happens?

It was just a season ago that the Patriots led the entire NFL in scoring defense. If you’ll recall, we spent a better part of the year wondering if that defense was championship quality. Turns out they were. Right now, we’re wondering once again if this defense is of that ilk, but through an entirely different prism. It’s on the players and staff to change the current outlook, or those cats and dogs will have to figure out their shared space.