Patriots

Patriots continue their Week 1 dominance

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Patriots continue their Week 1 dominance

File this under Stats That Mean Nothing: With yesterdays victory in Nashville, the Patriots have won nine straight Week 1 match-ups.

It all started in September of 2004, when Mike Vanderjagt went Scott Norwood at Gillette. The next year, the Pats took down Randy Gene and the Raiders. The year after that, they needed a late-game safety to squeak by the Bills.

In 2007, they destroyed the Jets. In 2008, they beat the Chiefs on an afternoon that defined bittersweet. It was the Bills again in 2009, the Bengals in 2010 and, last year, the Pats jump-started their run to the Super Bowl by embarrassing the Dolphins on Monday Night Football.

Of course, as earlier stated, it really doesnt matter. Around these parts, we know better than to get too hopped up on anything we see in Week 1.

Today, Stevan Ridleys a hero, the kid whos ready to revolutionize the Pats offense. However, one big fumble next week against Arizona, or two weeks from now in Baltimore or at any point over the next few months, and its Panic at the Disco. You can already hear the callers on Felger and Mazz: They cant count on this guy, fellas . . . bring back Sammy Morris!

Today, Wes Welkers the forgotten man. Hes splitting snaps with Julian Edelman. Hes no longer integral to the offense. Over the next five months, his value will diminish so abruptly that hell be begging the Pats to slap him with another franchise tag.

Or, maybe it was just one bad game.

Hell, maybe he wasnt feeling well? Whatever it is, heres a question: Would you bet your next paycheck against Welker having another 100-catch season? Would it absolutely blow your mind if he rips off nine catches for 90 yards and a TD next week? Seriously. If the Pats planned on simply phasing No. 83 out this year, why even franchise him? Dont you think Belichick could have come up with a few better ways to spend 9.5M?

Today, the rag tag offensive line that could do no right in the pre-season and nearly cost Tom Brady his nose in yesterday's first quarter might not be so bad. According to Greg Bedard at the Globe, Brady was only hit three times all game, and was hurried only five times on top of that. Today, the notion that the Pats are screwed without Brian Waters has been replaced by: "Waters? Who needs him!?"

But we all know that it only takes one hit in one game to change the entire narrative. That the entire offensive line is perpetually one play away from being remembered as a failure. Regardless of how unfair that might be.

OK, you get it. When it comes to Week 1 of the NFL season, nothing is real. Its the prologue to an 800-page novel, the opening credits in a four-hour action film and any grand statement made in its aftermath will likely leave you feeling stupid.

At the end of the day, you can only hope for two things:

1. No major injuries.

2. A win and even that's taken with a grain of salt the size of Vince Wilforks belly button.

But of course, it beats the alternative. And for the ninth straight year, the Pats have done just that. Save for 2008, when Brady's injury left all of New England paralyzed by depression, they've emerged from the NFL's opening weekend on the right foot, with no ceiling on what they can achieve. The sky's the limit, and even that feels a little restrictive.

Then again, the jury's still out on how crazy that last line will look come January.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

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.