Found December 11, 2011 on Boston's Bettah:
New-england-patriots-new

Rob Gronkowski set the record for touchdown's by a tight-end in a single-season in the Patriots victory over the Redskins

Well that was interesting, and not because I’m pretty sure I gained two pounds from the amount of free barbequed meat products I ate before the game.

The New England Patriots looked to be in control of the their football game in Washington, DC Landover, MD against the Redskins early on. Andre Carter forced a fumble in the end-zone that was recovered by Vince Wilfork, Rob Gronkowski caught his patented seem route over the middle of the football field (followed by the “Oh wait, I shouldn’t have spiked that ball that was the record breaker” move) and the New England Patriots held a comfortable 14-3 lead against the Washington Redskins. From section 309, it looked like it would turn into a relaxing day of watching football and enjoying time with my friends.

Then, Rex Grossman led a drive down the field for a touchdown, the Redskins pulled a end around option pass for a 49 yard touchdown pass, and suddenly the Washington Redskins had a 17-14 lead and we had a football game on our hand.

More after the jumpIt’s not exactly the football game I had in my mind when the game came out on the schedule. I’ve lived in Northern Virginia for the past two and a half years of my life, and if I’ve learned anything in the sports world it’s that the Washington Redskins are a poorly run organization with a group of fans that think that their 2-1 start every year won’t end up 6-10 or worse. I have enough confidence in this trend that I have a bet with a friend that is a Redskins fan that they will finish 6-10 or worse, if gambling were legal in this country of course.

Granted, the Redskins pulled out all the stops today and treated today like it was their Super Bowl and got a ton of breaks (pass interference on Devin McCourty on a 3rd and 18 and the roughing the passer in the second quarter against Rex Grossman comes to mind) but still. Of all the games that the New England Patriot’s played over the past few weeks, this was the one that worried me the most. The formula over the past few weeks has been this:

1.) The Patriots take a couple of drives (usually one or two) to figure out exactly what the defense is doing to try and stop them before absolutely going to work on an opposing defense and putting up ridiculous numbers.

2.) The Patriots defense gets a couple of turnovers, stops the opposing offenses in the red-zone and plays awesome run defense.

3.) When the score is something resembling a division one team playing a division three team, the offense and defense take the foot off the gas pedal and kind of let the other team into the game, but it’s too late for it to even matter. It still, unfortunately, give the talking heads of the television ammunition for their “The Patriots aren’t that good argument” that gets ratings because everyone hates the Patriots.

This game did not follow this formula at all.Well, offensively it did. Tom Brady was in control after some early misfires on key throws. He finished 22-37 for 357 yards and 3 touchdowns. Once again, he got major help from Rob Gronkowski who finished with 160 yards on 6 catches and 2 touchdowns. He also had the two best individual plays of the day for the Patriots. Once in the first quarter he shook off defenders along the sideline and moved the Patriots into scoring range (which he scored a play later) and another one he shook off a defensive holding, caught the pop pass, shook off the defender and ran into the end-zone for touchdown number 2.  Another fantastic performance from Brady and the offense.

It was the defense that failed to play to the form that we were used to it. They gave up big plays down the field, committed too many dumb penalties (some of them questionable but still) and failed to create stops. For the most part, they let Rex and the Washington Redskins offense march up and down the field. On top of that, the biggest strength of the defense, the run defense, gave up 170 yards total rushing. The Patriots only gave up 102 a game coming into this game. There’s a reason that the Redskins offense stayed on the field and kept the Patriots off of it, and it’s because they were able to successfully run the ball.

Thankfully, the Redskins exposed themselves at the end of the game, namely the fact that Rex Grossman is their starting quarterback. One play after the Redskins fans in front of us reminded us that Grossman had yet to throw an interception, Rex Grossman, in true sexy form, threw an interception to Jerrod Mayo to seal the game for the New England Patriots.

Here’s the overriding issue. The Redskins aren’t good enough to “expose” (and I put that lightly) the Patriots, but there is certainly something brewing here and better teams might be able to. It’s what would scare me about a Baltimore play-off game. Teams that can run the ball and play mildly okay defense can beat the Patriots as long as they keep the ball out of Brady’s hands and put points on the board themselves.

The Patriots are a really good team. Let’s not kid ourselves. They have more talent on this team than a lot of other teams in the league , they still have (arguably) the best quarterback in football and the best coach in the game today in Bill Belichick. They are still key contenders to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl in February.

Today, just proved that the Patriots still have work to do.

But you know what? We knew that.

~Benti

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