Gresh's Grades: Solid rebound week for Pats
GRESH'S GRADES: SOLID REBOUND WEEK
By Andy Gresh
Special to CSNNE.com
After giving up an opening-drive touchdown to the Vikings, the Patriots rip off 30 unanswered points for a complete victory. There are still some things to clean up -- like penalties, and short-yardage execution -- but overall this restores our faith in the players and the coaching staff. Now it's time to follow this performance with another good one and open up Gillette against a team (the Raiders) they should steamroll.
Overall, they did a nice job of taking advantage of the turnovers and field position they were given. I do think the quarterback is frustrated with having only two people — Julian Edelman and Shane Vereen — he can rely on consistently in the passing game. Teams are paying special attention to Rob Gronkowski and no one else has emerged. Score and field position do dictate some things that you do and don't do on offense, but at, in the end, Week 2 was better than Week 1.
The thing I see is Tom Brady trying to hold it together when guys around him are making mistakes. I didn't like his decision on the first drive of the third quarter, when he tried to go deep to Edelman on third-and-2. That shows a lack of confidence in the others on the field, and forcing it to Edelman really speaks to his frustration. The completion percentage was up where it should be and I feel like there was a time on Sunday when he was in rhythm. His second half was well managed, as the Pats milked the clock and ran for the win. TB12's disappointment showed in his postgame press conference, where you could tell he was down on his group's performance. It's now his job to elevate everyone’s game and show leadership to push the offense forward as a whole.
RUNNING BACKS: B
Vereen made his yards when the Pats got into some long down-and-distance situations and ran the draw. Stevan Ridley was banging away for 25 carries and over 100 yards and a score, but failed on a big third-and-2 that would've continued a drive in the third quarter. He HAS TO convert that. Same for Vereen on the Pats' first drive of the game when, on a third-and-8, if he had reached for the first-down marker he probably would have gotten it. Little things add up over time and they need to get better, but overall this group produced and played well.
WIDE RECEIVERS: C
Edelman grades at an A. I thought he was fantastic. His burst is still there, he's is great after the catch, and has been clutch. The problem is he's the only guy getting open consistently. Aaron Dobson had a pass-interference call on a pick play that took away a catch from Danny Amendola, and that’s about the extent of both of their contributions. Last week Brandon LaFell got called for offensive P.I. Players that size should not be trying to set picks or run rub routes. Their size is an automatic tip-off to be penalized. They need to learn better technique, or have Edelman run them for Amendola and vice versa. Flat out, they need more from this group. Fast.
TIGHT ENDS (minus Cam Fleming): C
Tim Wright was a non-factor. I think we won't start seeing him emerge until at least Week 5, after he absorbs the offense and they find out in practice what exactly he can do on a consistent basis. Michael Hoomanawanui didn't have any blown assignments and didn't get TB12 FUBAR'ed, so that's a good day for him. Gronk is getting 'special attention,' which is why I think Brady is so frustrated that the WR's aren't getting any separation. Gronk was targeted six times and I'd like to see the coaching staff turn him loose, unless there's an issue . . .
OFFENSIVE LINE: C
Let's start with TB12 was only sacked once, so that's a win right there. They let the big boys set the pads by running the ball early and often and stuck with it when they got the big lead. The group gets downgraded because of the bad penalties that stalled drives. Marcus Cannon had a holding call in the second quarter that created a long down-and-distance situation and led to a field goal instead of a chance at a TD. I don't know how the hell Nate Solder managed to get two penalties on one play, though he did play better than last week. The crusher was, when they were up 27-7 late in the third quarter, Jordan Devey got nailed with a holding call inside the 10-yard line, which led to a FG instead of a TD chance. Bryan Stork got in late at center, which is why they left TB12 in with the lead: So the QB's hands can get familiar with Stork's bum. They need Stork at center so Dan Connolly can play right guard, and then they can get Devey out of there because he's as soft a butter IMHO.
After a disastrous opening drive, the defense tightened up its overage going to a lot of man and started getting more aggressive with its run blitzes and pressure schemes. The third-down defense was great, allowing NO third-down conversions in the second half. The turnovers keep coming from the secondary, where three different DBs pitched in. The run defense was much better up front because the second-level help was on point. And the pass rush combo of Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower is fantastic, exciting, and devastating. Both guys weigh the same, but their builds are tough to deal with once they're moving towards the QB.
DEFENSIVE LINE: B
We saw a lot of Vince Wilfork playing the 5 technique (lined up over a tackle) and he excelled. I don't see much drop in his play from last year. Chris Jones being back is a nice addition, adding bulk in the middle. He still needs to get his bearings as I saw him get caught in the wash a few times when double-teamed, but his size is noticeable. And the rookie Dominique Easley looked much better and showed first-round athleticism with a great interception. But the star was Chandler Jones. He's just a better player lined up off the LOS so he can use his athleticism to make plays instead of playing inside at the 5 and getting doubled all day long. Would like to see an inside rusher push the pocket more to take advantage of Jones' outside pressure.
The staff got Chris White and Deontae Skinner out of there pretty fast and replaced them at times with a safety. Jerod Mayo seemed at times to have an issue picking up play action, as his man came free for catches, noticeably the Matt Asiata catch for the first TD of the game. But as a downhill player and rusher, he was terrific. He has great instincts on hugger and run blitzes. Hightower again was a beast. We learned about him last year in coverage and it left a lot to be desired. This year he's being put in a position to attack and get after QB's and he's very skilled both as a rusher and combining with Jones up front to run twists and stunts. I feel like he has a dozen hits already on QB's.
DEFENSIVE BACK: A
Darrelle Revis ate Greg Jennings' lunch, as the Pats locked him on the productive wide-out almost all day. That allowed the coverage to make sure Cordarrelle Patterson didn't beat them deep, Still, a nod goes to Logan Ryan, who did a really good job on the young WR all day. Ryan is my starter opposite Revis until he plays his way out of the spot. I thought Pat Chung did a nice job around the LOS and getting into the backfield when they turned him loose. And Devin McCourty is so, so, underrated. Fans are missing the boat on how solid he is. And the back-end tackling was much, much better.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A+
Four touchbacks on seven kickoffs and only one of the three returned was touched by Patterson. Nice job, Stephen Gostkowski, who also hit three field goals. Ryan Allen also did well controlling field position. with four of his five punts ending up inside the 20-yard line. Edelman had a well-timed punt return for 34 yards and had better ball security than last week. And, of course the block, scoop, and score by Chandler Jones was a thing of beauty. Great work all day.
'IT AIN'T BROKE'
1) The run game. You just have to believe in it.
2) Resiliency. They got ridden hard all week by Bill Belichick, and they responded.
3) BB. His 200th win shows why the media gave him the genius label years ago.
'BUT NEEDS FIXING'
1) Penalties. 15 is just ridiculous. Clean that up now.
2) WR production. Guys have got to start getting separation.
3) Third-down conversion on offense. No reason not to convert third-and-3 or shorter.
Andy Gresh is a talk show host on 98.5 The Sports Hub and for 10 years has worked pre and post -game analysis on the Patriots Radio Network. He is also co-author of the book “The Great Book of Boston Sports Lists.” And is the lead color analyst for CAA football on Comcast SportsNet.