Patriots

Patriots

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – You’re not the only one waiting for the Patriots cavalry – in the form of several fully-healed players – to come riding over the hill in the playoffs.
 
In the words of Tom Brady and the actions of Bill Belichick, you have evidence the Patriots are in a position they haven’t been in since the 2000 season. They don’t want to be on the field with their offense as it’s presently constituted.
 
Brady, who is usually loathe to make anything resembling an excuse, brushed up against a couple on Sunday after the team’s 26-20 loss to the Jets.
 
Asked about the team’s level of resolve in coming back to tie the Jets at 20 late in the fourth quarter, Brady began his response saying, “I think we have some mental toughness and, like I said, a lot of guys been in and out of the line-up, a lot of guys coming in off the street trying to play and help us win and it’s never easy and this time of the year, a lot of guys are fighting through bumps and bruises.”

Then Brady veered a bit, saying, “If we just get our guys, everyone out there and practice together and see what we’re made of, I think that will be a great thing. But in the meantime you’ve just gotta keep individually trying to get there on the practice field and the games, see what you can do better because, you never know who’s number is going to be called in the playoffs.”
 
I don’t know if I’ve ever seen the Patriots resign themselves to being overmatched on either side of the ball the way they did Sunday in New York.
 
Belichick’s decisions at the end of the first half and overtime were evidence that the thought of watching his offense try to move the football was repellent to him. Nobody hates bad football more than Belichick. He couldn’t stand to watch the product the available players were providing.
 
On principle, it’s hard to agree. An offense operating with the greatest quarterback of all-time and a Hall of Fame-level tight end shouldn’t feel compelled to go into the fetal position at key junctures.
 
But the evidence being submitted Sunday and the personnel on the field trumped that blanket, simplistic statement that, with Brady and Gronk you always want to play offense. At least for Belichick. Consider that L’Adrian Waddle (cut by the Lions this month) was playing left tackle. And Keshawn Martin (who even the Texans wouldn’t throw to in his three seasons there) was the only healthy wideout. And the backfield contingent of Brandon Bolden, Steven Jackson and James White was more suited for the fourth preseason game than a divisional game against a detested rival.
 
Between kick returns, carries and pass attempts, the Patriots had the Martin-Bolden-Jackson contingent in position to handle the ball 43 times out of 61 total plays. Behind an offensive line littered with rookies and scrubs.
 
To borrow a Belichick phrase, “What are we doing here?”
 
Forget answering that. The more important question is whether the Patriots offense can pull a Lazarus act between now and January 17 when the Divisional Playoffs begin.

“We’ll see,” said Brady when asked about the prospect of getting players back to full health. “I think that all remains to be seen. … I think the better players you have out on the field, you know, certainly those guys have been some of our most dependable players for as long as they’ve been here, that always helps.  No, but I wouldn’t put it all on their shoulders. I think that all the guys who played today have to, obviously, do a better job because , you know, what we did today wasn’t good enough.
 
“I don’t think anyone’s feeling sorry for us, I would say that,” Brady added. “The guys who can do something about it and make a difference have to go out and try to play well and win for this team, win for the guys that aren’t out there playing with us.”

On Sunday, it got to the point where the Patriots didn’t even want to give those guys a chance to do something about it. Who thought they’d see the day that came to pass?