I rose from my seats at the 50 yard line as Gillette Stadium slowly grew louder. We all knew what was coming- Adrian Peterson, All Day, AP, whatever you want to call him, was going to try to bust into the end zone. It was 4th and Goal from the 1, and the whole stadium was finally on their feet. Here it came. BAM! Stood up at the line of scrimmage and pushed back to the 2! What a stop! We all started jumping up and down, screaming out praises to the defense. It was the turning point in the game, and possibly the season, for both teams. After our group "hug dance" (don't ask), I looked up and saw the sun setting across the stadium. There was a little opening on the other side of the stadium, and for about a minute you could see the sun setting in the background. And then, after a few moments, it was gone. How poetic. The sun had set on the Vikings season. They were done. Obviously, the second half had to be played, and there were many more plays that won the game for the Patriots (namely, the broken play to Brandon Tate, and the interception by Devin McCourty). But this was the one that changed the whole complexion of the game. This was a stop reminiscent of the legendary Willie McGinest tackle for loss against Edgerrin James and the Colts. Here it was, the best (CJ hasn't been nearly as good this year) running back in the league, going one on one with one of the youngest defensive teams in the league. We came out on top. There was Ron Brace and Rob Ninkovitch (both no-names to all non-Pats fans) holding the line, and there was Brandon Spikes and Vince "Vending Machine" Wilfork bringing him down. Celebrations ensued. Fun way to go into halftime.
A few observations from the Pats game as a whole:
1) The Patriots offense is struggling mightily to put together sustained drives. It may seem to casual observers that the Patriots offense is just fine. But watching them game to game, and scrutinizing every play, there is something terribly wrong. Against the Dolphins (with Moss) we looked out of sync. Against the Ravens, we were dead for three quarters. We couldn't stop the rush against the Chargers and nearly blew a game that was gift wrapped for us. This week, we had great pass protection, but had 9 rushes for 9 yards in the first half, and had tons of trouble opening up the passing game. The second half was much better, but besides for a long play to Aaron Hernandez, the long passing plays seemed to all be fluky. Tate's first long catch went right threw the defender's hands, and his second one wasn't lucky, but it wasn't the way the play was drawn up. Yes, BJGE looked awesome in the second half, but the Patriots passing game seems to be stuck in the mud. A win is a win, and scoring 28 points is scoring 28 points, but the Patriots are going to have to figure out ways to consistently move the ball down field.
2) The Pats defense is gelling. Slowly but surely, the Patriots defense is figuring out ways to make plays. Like my dad said last night, they are very "opportunistic." They have players who are creating turnovers in different, strange ways. Rob Ninkovitch, who has been improving every week, has 3 fumble recoveries and 2 interceptions. We all know about Pat Chung's special teams contributions. When the ball is on the ground, we are picking it up, That sounds simple, but the past few years, it wasn't happening. We didn't get the right bounce, or we didn't have the right players. This year, we do.
3) Zoltan Mesko is the man. The Pats drafted him and Gostkowski in the last 5 years, and both have been special teams gems. Watching the Chargers, you gain a greater appreciation for special teams effectiveness.
4) The Pats need Deion Branch to get healthy. He played a meager 23 snaps this game (courtesy of Mike Reiss), and when he was on the field, he didn't look himself. He had a nice screen turned into a long gain, but he also missed a chance at a HUGE play. He was running down the left sideline when Brady lofted a nice ball over his shoulder towards the outside shoulder. He got a hand on it, but couldn't bring it in. I have to assume a healthy Branch gets an extra half step on that play and is gone for a 93 yard touchdown reception. It was thisclose.
5) I retract my anger over not drafting Dez Bryant. Devin McCourty is a BEAST! He is already a legitimate number one cornerback, and he has only played 7 games! He's big, strong, athletic and has a great nose for the ball. His interception last week (@ SD) was just a glimpse of what this kid is capable of. This week he had a beautiful play on a deep ball to Percy Harvin. He not only kept up with Harvin (who is even more incredibly athletic in person) and turned his body around (which, by itself, only about a quarter of the CB's in the league can do), he almost came away with an interception! He also made a nice play in the endzone in the 4th quarter. He is a very impressive young player who by years end will probably be in the running for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
6) Randy Moss. Awkward. "I miss them guys. I love all them. I miss Tommy Boy." Maybe he did like the Justin Beiber hairdoo.
Thoughts on Jets- Pack:
1) The Jets need a quarterback. Mark Sanchez has regressed considerably from the Vikings game until now. Maybe he finally hit the sophomore wall. When the running game isn't working, the Jets offense is dead in the water.
2) The Packers might just be turning into the team we all thought they were going to be. Rodgers has been very good, and the defense was stellar this week. Clay Mathews continues to impress as his chances for Defensive Player of the Year keep rising.
3) Strange (gutsy, but probably more dumb than anything) call to go for a fake punt on 4th and 18. Great challenge by Mike McCarthy. The Jets special teams has been very good, but this was one of the wackier plays this season. With a defense like the Jets have, why not punt away and let the D get you the ball back?
Other thoughts from around the NFL:
1) The Cowboys are awful. Wow. It couldn't possibly get any worse than this can it? Their coach, Wade Phillips, may or may not be dead. Jon Kitna is, well, Jon Kitna. And what in the hell happened to that fast, aggressive defense?
2) I hate Oakland. Why are they good all of the sudden? Of course the one time the Pats trade for a number one pick, they become playoff contenders. Except Sebastion Janikowski- keep booting those field goals!
3) Mathew Stafford and Calvin Johnson are going to be very good for a very long time. That they are this good together at their age is just plain scary.
4) Keep your eye on the Chargers. This is usually when they make their move. They looked good in the second half against the Pats, and looked very good against the Titans this week. They also get Vincent Jackson back in a couple of weeks.
5) Rex Grossman! REX GROSSMAN! Are you kidding me Mike Shanahan! Did you really think he wasn't going to give up a fumble returned for a TD??? THIS IS REX GROSSMAN! The same Rex Grossman who had multiple 0.0 QB Ratings in the year his team went to the Super Bowl. He hasn't gotten any better since he left the Bears! That was just an absolutely outrageous move by the head coach.
6) Huge win for the Saints. That was the ferocious defense we have all been waiting to see since week 1. Brees still didn't look like himself though, I don't know what it is, but he just doesn't seem to be playing with as much confidence as last season. He isn't throwing good balls downfield, and has WAY too many turnovers.
7) Someone should probably wake up Al Davis and tell him that the Raiders are actually decent this season. He's been in a coma for years.
8) Has the wind ever affected as many games as it did yesterday? Just from what I saw, the Jets-Pack game, the KC-BUF game and the Pats-Vikes games all were extremely affected by the weather conditions. I bet the Jets wish they would've put that dome on...
I would post some links, but the internet is very spotty, so I'll post them next time.
And another thing:
Wow was I wrong about the San Fransisco Giants. I mean, I knew they had great pitching, but I didn't expect this. Also, where did Cody Ross (or as they call him in San Fran "The Boss") come from? He's a platoon player! When did he morph into Albert Pujols?