Originally written on The Sports Headquarters  |  Last updated 9/18/12

I’m going to say some things in this recap that are going to piss Patriots’ fans off. I’m going to say some things in this recap that are going to piss Cardinals’ fans off. I’ll probably say some things that will piss me off at the end of the year, possibly even tomorrow when I re-read myself and think, “What the hell was I talking about?” But I don’t care. It’s been two games since the biggest upset of the weekend and I’m much calmer and level headed than I was Sunday. Believe you me, if I had wrote this Sunday it would be all over the place and barely coherent. I promise this will be slightly more coherent and try to keep as much bias out of this as possible. Because I am a Patriots’ fan. Have been my entire life. I don’t hide behind that and I won’t make excuses. Before the final sentence of this intro, I’ll say this: the New England Patriots didNOTwin the AFC Championship Game last season; the Baltimore RavensLOSTit. In a similar regard, the Arizona Cardinals did not win Sunday’s game. The Patriots lost it.

Let’s get the major excuse out of the way first. Aaron Hernandez got hurt on the Patriots second play from scrimmage and will likely be out til late-October at the earliest with a low ankle sprain. Why Tom Brady led the game off with two passes to Julian Edelmen is beyond the realm of logic, but it happened and ended catastrophically bad both times (Darnell Dockett tip turned into Patrick Peterson interception while the Edelmen screen almost ended the Patriots Super Bowl aspirations). Did Hernandez leaving the game mean the Patriots were done? Absolutely not. Hernandez does a **** ton for this team, I’ll be the first to admit. Since he is considered a tight end, I would say he is the third best tight end in the league. Other than Rob Gronkowski (we’ll get to him later), I’d only put Jimmy Graham ahead of him. You’d rather have Vernon Davis? Cool, take him. You’d rather have Jermichael Finley? Great, have a ball. Even if you want to argue they’re ahead of him on your little list, I’dLOVEto hear your argument as to how they’re significantly better. Because they’re not. There are two top dogs at the position and everyone else comes after. I know who I’d take third, and not having him certainly didn’t help. But, it wasn’t why the Patriots lost.

New England lined up in two wide receiver sets 15 times over the course of the game. Out of those 15 plays, Brandon Lloyd was on the play for each of them. Edelmen was on the field for 13. Wes Welker, the receiver who has led the league in receptions since 2007, was on the field for two of them. TWO. I believe this emoticon shall suffice.

(-______________________-)

While I am about to rip Welker and put a good chunk of the blame pie on his plate, I can’t ignore the fact that Josh McDaniels is a *******. I forgot what his offense looked like, I really had. I was under this false pretense that he was some wiz kid who just knew how to march down field and get the ball in the endzone. Let’s ask the past two teams McDaniels has coached for since his last stint in New England.

“Hey, Denver and St. Louis, was this the case the past four years? What do you mean no? Did you not see the job he did in ’07 when he was the face of the most prolific offense of all time? What, you’re saying an ape holding six random picture signs that Oregon uses could have been the offensive coordinator for that team and nothing would have changed? That’s a bit unfair don’t you think? No? But Randy Moss was so bad in Oakland, though. What do you mean he didn’t have a quarterback in Oakland? So you’re saying Brady did everything that year and McDaniels had nothing to do with the success of the team? That the day Bill Belichick retires people will remember exactly where they were when they heard the news a la the Kennedy assassination while McDaniels plays Lyndon Baines Johnson? Fair enough I suppose.”

Bill O’Brien wasn’t an offensive genius, either, just to be clear. Since Charlie Weis left, the offense has evolved into something it shouldn’t be. The Patriots won three Super Bowls without airing the ball down the field. The offense ran efficiently off of screens, crossing routes, the occassional trick play, and the running game. For some reason, every time we saw the running game on Sunday, it was on 3rd and short, on a stretch play, with Danny Woodhead, for negative yards. (editors note: I would just like to take this time to berate every New England fan who for the past eight years ******* and moaned because the PatsNEVERran on 3rd and short situations. See what happens? Doesn’t work. Let’s move on. Dolts.) That exact play happened once with Woodhead. Another time with Ridley. And one more time up the gut with the smallest guy in the league. Surprisingly, it didn’t work once. Absolutely ridiculous decision making from the second Welker was benched in favor of Edelmen.

Speaking of which, back to Bart Simpson’s favorite candy bar “Butterfingers” Wes Welker. I do not recognize the person who took over Welker’s body. In fact, I’m almost certain that the man calling the game on Fox this past weekend was not John Lynch but in fact it was Welker. Just looked far too similar to be a mere coincidence. It would also explain why Welker hasn’t been able to make big catches since the Super Bowl loss to the Giants. Welker dropped an automatic first down which instead resulted in fourth down for the Patriots. Instead of punting the ball away, the Cardinals picked on rookie Nate Ebner and blocked the punt setting them up for the first touchdown of the game.

I’m not going to take anything away from the Cardinals for blocking the punt. That is never an easy task and the Cardinals took advantage of a huge opportunity. But I will blame Welker for that situation to have even been a possibility. Who knows if the Patriots would have even scored on that drive, that’s not the crux of my argument. But even if Welker picks up the first down and the Patriots fail to convert another first down, Zoltan Mesko would not have been kicking from his own endzone. The Patriots defense, who turned in another above average showing, would not have started their drive on their own two yard line. Kevin Kolb would not have thrown that touchdown if Welker holds on to that ball. Even with the major Welker gaffe, the PatsSTILLshould have won, so it’s beyond me to see how anyone could argue that this play had no bearing on the outcome.

But the two plays that everyone will remember from this game, aside from the Brandon Spikes forced fumble to even get the ball back for the Patriots, are the Gronkowski “hold” and the Stephen Gostkowski shankapotumus. Let’s start with the “hold”. I put it in parenthesis because it had nothing to do with the play. Rhodes couldn’t even SEE Woodhead around Gronk. You’re talking about the smallest guy on the field running behind the second largest man on the field (Calais Campbell is an absolute MONSTER). Forget the fact that Kerry Rhodes was holding Gronk the entire previous drive and even interfered on the two point conversion, because that’s neither here nor there. Gronk is the best blocking tight end in the league as well as the best receiving tight end in the league. There’s a reason he’s… the best tight end in the league. What he should have done was truck Rhodes on his ass and just kept running. But instead, he made a sound block which former NFL referee Mike Periera said via Twitter, “Technically it is (a hold) but I’ve seen worse that don’t get called.” How I interpret that: “These replacement refs don’t know what the hell they’re doing. You don’t make that call against New England IN New England. Goodell will have the real guys back in a week.”

Which is true. I mean think about it. The refs 100% made up the “Tuck Rule” during that game. No doubt in my mind, and I’m a Patriots fan. Notice you’ve NEVER seen that call since? Doesn’t exist. They print it in the rule books for show nowadays. But it’s fine. Rhodes tried to spin out of Gronk’s grasp and his jersey got tugged. I’ve seen that get called 1,000 times. The Patriots STILL SHOULD HAVE WON. Brady decides to take a dive to center the ball in the middle of the field to give Gostkowski an easier kick. Brady could have put the ball in the center of the uprights and got a fork lift for Gostkowski to kick off of and it still would have went wide left. He missed it that badly. The definition of a shank. More Mike Vanderjak than Adam Vinatieri. For this I commend Ken Wisenhunt.

“Freezing” the kick is a MYTH. Can anyone name a recent example where this strategy has worked? If you can, please remind me. Because in my mind, the last two times I’ve seen a team not freeze the kicker, the guy has choked. Wisenhunt had a timeout. There wasn’t going to be an overtime if Gostkowski drilled the 42-yarder. The game would have ended and the Cardinals would have lost. You can’t roll over time outs to the next week. Instead, he let Gostkowski scamper on to the field and it worked out great for the Cardinals. Had the Patriots called timeout against the Ravens to “ice” Billy Cundiff in the AFCCG, the Pats may have been sent home in overtime. Because I’ll tell you what, there is NO chance that Cundiff misses that field goal if he is given a minute to settle in. In fact, I think this whole notion that a timeout gets in a kickers mind is beyond erroneous. I’ve seen Vinatieri get iced countless times. Never seen him miss a clutch field goal. Not once. Granted, he’s the greatest kicker of all time strictly for what he’s accomplished in the postseason, but still, good coaches will stop this ridiculous tradition and it will work out in their benefit. Stupid coaches will continue this archaic ritual and chalk up losses regularly. Simple as that.

For more Cardinals praise, Patrick Peterson continues to impress me. This defense (and their special teams to a lesser extent) is the sole reason that over the last 12 regular season games, the Cards are tied for the best record in the entire NFL. Their defensive line doesn’t quit on any plays. Their secondary is stout. Their linebackers get after the ball. The Cardinals held the Patriots to just one touchdown out of three red zone trips throughout the entire game. If even one of those other trips resulted in a touchdown, the Cardinals lose. Just a tremendous game from the Cardinals’ defense. Which, not to take away from them because they did do a great job all game, was aided by McDaniels anemic play calling. Through three quarters, Gronk had ONE target. Don’t make me type out that emoticon again McDaniels. And no, the Cardinals did not figure out a way to stop Gronkowski. The second Brady started looking for Gronk, the Patriots began marching down the field and scored their lone touchdown of the game. Which was obviously a Gronkowski reception.

But the Cardinals offense did look suspect most of the game. If you told me before the game that Larry Fitzgerald would have one receptions and four yards, I would have told you that they scored in the negatives. No joke. Kolb connected for 140 yards through the air and it wasn’t as if Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams were running wild. The Patriots defense did their part on Sunday. But so did the Cardinals defense.

So congrats Arizona. You snapped the Patriots home opener winning streak at the Razor. You will have that forever. New England rarely loses at home, so you have that victory as well. NO ONE believed you could do it, and that includes the two Cardinals’ fans who write for this site. At least Seth had you losing by less than two touchdowns. Keep up this momentum and maybe you can sneak in as a Wild Card because as great as your defense looks, the San Francisco 49ers look like potentially the best team in the league on both sides of the ball.

 


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