Tom Brady and the New England Patriots choked away a game in Seattle on Sunday
It’s very easy to write the book on how to win football games in the NFL. By following the common rules of good football such as “manage time wisely” or “be more physical than the opposition”. It is a lot harder to write the other book. THat’s the book on how to lose football games and, of course, bonus points for doing it in the most agonizing and frustrating way possible.
Thankfully, for the football ignorant among us, the New England Patriots recently wrote that very book and it put it on full display Sunday in Seattle. If we want to give it a silly name, we can call it “Stupid in Seattle” if we really want to. My spies inside the Patriots’ organization recently uncovered a three-part list of how to completely blow a football that the Patriots followed perfectly. Here it is:
1.) Don’t accept gifts
When the Seattle Seahawks mismanaged a punt at the end of the first half, the Patriots had an opportunity to take momentum into the second half with points. All they needed was three points to maintain a two possession lead going into the third quarter. The Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady responded by committing an intentional grounding penalty with six seconds left and coming away with no points on the drive.
I’ll defend the call to go for the touchdown. There are a ton of pass plays that take five seconds or less to happen, especially within the five yard line. Why the Patriots didn’t just run a fade route to the back corner of the end-zone is baffling to me. That and the screen are the two routes in football that are next to impossible commit an intentional grounding penalty on. If Lloyd runs the fade and isn’t open, Brady simply throws the ball over his head. A receiver is in the area, no penalty is called, the Patriots kick a field goal and they have a two possession lead. If I, someone who has not played football in four years, can see that, why can’t the professionals?
2.) Let the other team stick around, especially if they have a quarterback who pulls magical intertouchdowns out of his rear end.
The Patriots had two humongous big opportunities to put the game away on long drives. One ended when Tom Brady underthrew Deion Branch and was intercepted and the other ended when a ball tipped off Wes Welker’s hands and was intercepted.
(wait a second…)
Ten combined points on these two drives and the game is over. The Patriots had numerous opportunities to end the game before the final drive and each time the Patriots’ offense didn’t get it done.
The defense isn’t safe either. How many times did the defense get pressure on Russel Wilson only to have him escape the clutches of the potential tackler and scramble for yards or fire a ball down the field. It feltat least like fifteen times, and that might not be an exaggeration. Defense make more plays on Wilson, the Seahawks don’t score points, the Patriots win. It’s so simple and yet the final score was 24-23. I will now walk onto Braddock road during rush hour.
3.) In crunch time, run plays that have not been working.
Despite all their problems, the Patriots could win the game with one first down. All game long the Patriots’ couldn’t run the ball against the leagues number one rushing defense. That’s fine by me. A common misconception about “balance” in football is that it means each game a team should run the same amount they pass. That is inaccurate. Balance affords teams the ability to dictate what an offense does to the defense. The Seahawks actively worked to stop the run and the Patriots responded with one of Tom Brady’s (with the exception of the two interceptions) better games of the year.
So why, with only minutes to go and needing a first down to win the game, did the Patriots switch to a jumbo set and try to run the ball?
It wasn’t working! I hate this idea that teams have to run the ball at the end of the game to run the clock. No! Simply, teams need to get first downs and protect the football. Yes, the pass leads to a greater chance to stop the clock and turn the ball over, but the Patriots passing game has been hugely successful over the years being an extension of the run game. The Patriots by going jumbo set ironically got too cute. They should have thrown the ball, got their one first down and sprinted out of Seattle with a ****-eating grin knowing that they escaped with a victory.
Of course they didn’t do that. Instead, the Patriots are a middle of the road, 3-3 football team that can’t finish games and now has to play the New York Jets this week to take the lead in the division.
To say this season so far has been a disappointment might be one of the biggest understatements of the year.