Patriots

Tanguay: This was the mother of all missteps by Goodell

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Tanguay: This was the mother of all missteps by Goodell

My 3-year-old, August the Diva, was having a meltdown for the ages this morning and I knew challenging her would only make it worse. The best recourse was to let her blow off steam. I still have no idea what her problem was, but when I dropped her off at preschool she was back to being her smiling, charming self.

Roger Goodell? Take a lesson.

You're in charge of 32 spoiled children -- a.k.a., the NFL owners -- and you have no idea how to parent. You have no idea how to control them. Sometimes, digging in simply doesn't work. Digging in when it's unnecessary leads to things like four-game suspensions and million-dollar fines and stripping of draft choices over . . . what? Like I've said a million times, this was the football equivalent of jaywalking and you handed down a murder sentence.

And, in the process, you created one pretty pissed-off owner . . . who, coincidentally, was probably your biggest booster.

Key word: "Was".  See what happens without Robert Kraft having your back when you make your next Ray Rice-type misstep (and, judging by your track record, that could be any day now).

This sort of thing simply didn't happen when Paul Tagliabue ran the NFL, or when David Stern ran the NBA. They knew how to handle their children, when to pull on the reins and when to ease up. And they certainly never let a tiny snowball like this go barreling down the hill and become a giant avalanche. One that may, coincidentally, bury Goodell before all this is over.

Because of his massive screwup in the Rice scandal, Goodell is running scared. Now he has to show he's the bad-ass commish he proclaimed he would be when he first got the gig. The problem is, the Rice situation should have no effect on Deflategate, None whatsoever. One involves a man punching his wife out. The other involves deflated footballs.

Are Tom Brady, John Jastremski and Jim McNally guilty? Hell yes. So are offensive linemen who grease their jerseys with Vaseline. And receivers who take a swipe of Stickum. And God knows how many NFL players guilty of other minor acts of gamesmanship.

What Roger The Parent should have done was fine the Patriots $25,000 -- like it says in the rulebook -- and then tell every team and every quarterback to stop messing with the footballs because if you don’t, you're going to get nailed. Which is just what he did in the Spygate case, incidentally, and that's why the Patriots passively accepted the penalty after they got caught.

But they're not passively accepting this one. 

If only Roger knew how to parent. We wouldn’t have this embarrassing display of a meltdown from all parties.

Including him.

 

Patriots' road struggles summed up in one surprising scoring stat

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USA TODAY Sports Images

Patriots' road struggles summed up in one surprising scoring stat

The New England Patriots are an elite team at home and a below average one on the road, judging only by wins and losses.

The Pats are undefeated (6-0) at home with wins over some of the AFC's best teams, including the top two seeds in the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans. Going on the road has been a huge challenge for the Patriots, evidenced by their 3-5 record -- their worst since 2009.

The root of the Patriots' problems on the road begin with their offense. They are scoring just 21.6 points per game on the road after Sunday's 17-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. Compare that to a 33.5 points per game mark in six home games this season. An 11.9-point difference is pretty massive. 

Sunday's defeat also set a new milestone for the Patriots offense under head coach Bill Belichick, and it's not a good one.

Unfortunately for the Patriots, they no longer control their own destiny in the race for a top two seed and first-round bye in the AFC playoffs. They will enter Week 16 as the No. 3 seed, one game behind the Texans. New England's final two games are at Gillette Stadium against the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets -- two very winnable games. 


The Patriots likely will need to win at least one road game to get back to the Super Bowl, so they need to quickly fix whatever problems are ailing their offense away from Gillette Stadium. 

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Five Takeaways: Patriots lose their footing in 17-10 loss to Steelers

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USA Today Sports Photo

Five Takeaways: Patriots lose their footing in 17-10 loss to Steelers

PITTSBURGH -- Here are five quick-hit thoughts from what transpired between the Patriots and Steelers on Sunday night . . . 

RUN DEFENSE CAN'T FIND FOOTING

The Steelers were averaging just a shade over 50 yards rushing per game over the last month. They'd racked up more pass attempts than any team in football over the course of the season. They were without their top back James Conner (not to mention their expected top back of 2018 Le'Veon Bell). But even the Steelers -- who usually "do what they do," for better or worse -- knew they could run the ball against New England. With three minutes left in the game, they'd run for 160 yards on 24 carries (6.7 yards per attempt). The Patriots de-activated defensive tackle Danny Shelton as a healthy scratch for the third consecutive game, and had no answers up front for Jaylen Samuels (142 yards on 19 carries) and the Steelers offensive line.

THREE-HEADED MONSTER QUIETED

One of the bright spots from last weekend's game against the Dolphins was that the Patriots had Josh Gordon, Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski all up and running well simultaneously. Sunday? Not so much. Edelman dropped a pair of passes and had penalties on back-to-back plays in the third quarter. Gronkowski was held without a catch until the fourth quarter. Gordon dropped a Brady pass on a third down early in the third quarter. Gronkowski showed signs of life midway through the fourth when he powered through a tackle to pick up a third down in the red zone, but it was for naught. Moments later Brady threw a killer pick off his back foot to end the scoring opportunity. With two minutes left in the game, Gordon and Gronkowski (seemingly doubled in big spots by a robber crashing down from the safety level) combined for 40 yards receiving. 

SELF-INFLICTED WOUNDS

The biggest blunder of the day was Tom Brady's ugly interception in the fourth quarter, but the Patriots were uncharacteristically sloppy in picking up penalties throughout. They were called for 14 for 106 yards. Holds by Trent Brown and Marcus Cannon put the Patriots in perilous spots in the second quarter. Edelman's back-to-back penalties in the third nearly submarined a drive before it could get started. Joe Thuney's false start at the two-minute warning -- just after the Steelers crowd lost its collective mind to "Renegade" by Styx -- put the Patriots in a tough spot on their final drive. Moments later Shaq Mason was called for a hold with 33 seconds left. 

BIG RESPONSIBILITY FOR JACKSON

Think the Patriots trust undrafted rookie JC Jackson? He was locked up with JuJu Smith-Schuster throughout the first half, while corners Stephon Gilmore and Jason McCourty split the work on Antonio Brown. Jackson held up well enough as Smith-Schuster had three catches for 39 yards on a whopping eight targets in the first 30 minutes. On one 22-yard gain, Jackson was draped on Smith-Schuster but didn't turn his head around to see the football so the receiver plucked it off of Jackson's helmet. It's Smith-Schuster -- not Brown -- who led the Steelers in yards and catches coming into the game so, for Jackson, having the responsibility of shadowing one of the most productive wideouts in football represents a big step in the faith his coaching staff has in him.

NEVER UNDERESTIMATE HOME FIELD

We've written at length about how Ben Roethlisberger is a different quarterback at home versus on the road. But players aren't the only ones who can be influenced by their surroundings. It seemed as though Jeff Triplette's officiating team was baited into a penalty call by the Heinz Field crowd early in the second quarter. The back judge, from about 30 yards away, heaved a late flag on Jonathan Jones for a defensive pass interference that gave the Steelers 26 yards. On the following play, Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown for a go-ahead 17-yard score. Because of the time it took between the end of the play and the flag being thrown, and because of the borderline nature of Jones' coverage, that felt like one that might stay in the officials pocket if the game was played at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots got one back in the third quarter when the back judge (and one other official) came flying in from long range with a pass-interference call against Chris Hogan that gave the Patriots one of only two third-down conversions to that point in the game. As far as the calls from New York went, the Patriots were on the wrong end of a challenge late in the second half when Cordarrelle Patterson was ruled down before converting a third-down pass from Tom Brady. They also had a downed-punt upheld by NFL head of officiating Al Riveron and Co. 

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