This isn't the end of the world.
The Patriots lost the trap game of all trap games to the Cleveland Browns. I do not intend to take away anything from the Browns. They outplayed, out-coached and out-tricked us on Sunday. They deserved to win.
But eventually, all the Patriots "luck" was going to run out. Despite their 6-1 record (at the time) I don't think anyone, die-hard Pats fans included, thought that the Patriots were the best team (talent-wise) in the NFL. They were the best team though. They had no superduperstars aside from Tom Brady and Vince Wilfork, who, despite immense talents, were also the emotional leaders of the offense and defense. They took on their roles as team leaders, and they made no excuses (Much like the rest of the team, who followed their lead). Our running backs were completely unknown (the LawFirm, and Woody Woodchuck), we had a bunch of scrappy, hard working receivers, and a very, very young defense. Our offense scored by taking what the defense gave it (and a little help from Tom Brady's golden arm), and the defense took what the offense gave them, namely, the ball (especially against the Chargers and Vikings). We scraped out victories, and won games that we probably should have lost (Baltimore, anyone?).
Finally, all of that came to an end. It was bound to happen. The Patriots botched a kick return (Gronkowski called for a fair catch, and then proceeded to move out of the way. What the F&*@?), fumbled on the goal line (Gronkowski, What the F&*@?) and got completely outsmarted on a bunch of beautifully executed trick plays (SICK fumble ruschi-type play by Josh Cribbs and Chansi Stuckey. That was one slick maneuver.)
Coming off of an emotional victory against Randy Moss and the Vikings, and looking ahead to the showdown next weekend at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, this game had trap game written all over it. Mike Reiss reported that Belichick showed the New Orleans-Cleveland game a few times to the players (the Browns stunned the Saints 30-17 two weeks ago), cautioning them from taking the Browns too lightly. Maybe he should have pulled a Bill Parcells move and placed mice traps all over the locker room. Either way, the Patriots lost to an inferior team. It happens.
I hate Eric Mangini.
Some observations from the Browns beat down:
-----1) This is obvious to anyone who watched yesterday's game. Peyton Hillis is damn good. He looked like a mixture of Mike Alstott and Ray Rice. He is fast, he has good hands, and he is powerful beyond all belief. He also has great field vision (go watch his 3rd and 12 run towards the end of the fourth quarter which effectively ended the game. Great cutback) and athleticism (how about that leap over a Patriot defender on their first drive!?).
-----2)What the hell happened to the Patriots run defense? Against the Ravens, we completely shut down Ray Rice, limiting him to 3 yards a carry, and an 8 yard game long. Last week, Peterson started off hot, gashing the defense in the first half, but was slowed in the second half, and stood up on a couple of very important 3rd/4th and 1 yard tries. Maybe, besides Hillis being very good, the Browns offensive line is underrated. They sure seemed to be knocking guys in the mouth. On Colt McCoy's TD run, I saw about three guys who got absolutely walloped in pursuit of the Cleveland quarterback. Jerod, Brandon and Vince are going to have to step it up if the Pats want a chance against the Steelers next week.
-----3) Tom Brady looked terrible. His numbers weren't terrible, but that's why they say "numbers don't tell the whole story." He made a bunch of very low throws, and didn't seem to be on the same page as his receivers a bunch of times (may not be Brady's fault, but still). Again, he is going to need to be sharp if the Pats want to compete with Pitt next week.
-----4) Colt McCoy is the real deal. The Browns have been struggling for years to find a franchise quarterback. Derek Anderson had one good year with Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow, but he completely fell off the wagon. McCoy looks to be exactly what they were looking for. He has a strong arm, looks very poised under center, and has an uncanny ability to turn a broken play into a big play. He also doesn't shy from the spotlight, beating the Pats and Saints in two of his first three games as a pro (he also played pretty well against Pitt). After the Pittsburgh game, I said to keep an eye on him- now, he's got our full attention.
-----5) As much as I hate to say it, Mangini (and to a lesser extent- Josh McDaniels) own Belichick. They both have beaten Belichick's Patriots without nearly as much talent, solely by outsmarting their former mentor.
-----6) Aaron Hernandez broke the barrier. After leading the team in catches and yards, Hernandez was still taken lightly in the red zone, despite his size, because he had yet to catch a TD pass. Yesterday, he got his first two. Yea, the first one was a fluke. Who cares. It was still a great catch, which displayed both his great hands, instincts and length. The second one was more of a nicely executed play, with an easy throw and catch. Still, maybe this will open the flood gates. He is 6'4 and has baller ups, time to get him the ball in the endzone.
-----7) I really, really, really hope that Stephen Gostkowski is OK. We NEED him next week. If we have Wes Welker kicking field goals in the Heinz Field whirlwind, we will be in trouble (Mike Reiss did report that the Pats are looking at Shayne Graham- who used to be a pretty decent kicker).
-----8) Where is Patrick Chung!? After huge games against Miami (blocked punt, blocked field goal, interception return for TD) and Baltimore (13 tackles), Chung disappeared. We are being told it is a knee injury, and that he is day to day. I can't imagine he wouldn't have been helpful against Hillis this week, and we definitely will need him against Pitt next week.
For all the talk about how horrible the Pats looked, and how far they've fallen, if they can win next week in Pittsburgh (I believe Brady is 5-1 lifetime against Pitt) all will be forgiven. I think they'll do it.
Let's move on to one of the most frustrating games I have ever watched, Lions-Jets. Before I tell you how ridiculous it is that the Jets won this game, let me say this: they took advantage of the opportunities that were given (operative word being "given") to them by a weaker opponent, and won the game. They WON the game. It wasn't fluky or lucky. Good teams win games like this all the time. But let's look at the facts:
The Jets were aided by the loss of two extremely key players to in-game injuries. The first, kicker Jason Hanson, may have been worse than the loss of quarterback Mathew Stafford. If Hanson doesn't get injured, the Jets have to get to 21, not 20, and who knows if they get that 2 point conversion. [Quick Rant: Why in the hell is Ndamukong Suh kicking the extra point! (http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/blog/shutdown_corner/post/Video-Lions-300-pound-rookie-Suh-attempts-ex;_ylt=AoMMgqchiPCFhiKjFt47LLk5nYcB?urn=nfl-283140)
I mean seriously!!! He is 300 pounds! I understand, you lose your kicker, you are going to have a random replacement. The Patriots, for example, lost their kicker. The replacement? Versatile receiver Wes Welker who played about 25 different positions on Texas Tech. For the Lions? It was their 23 year old DEFENSIVE TACKLE! HOW IS HE THE BEST REPLACEMENT! Your telling me that your 300 pound defensive tackle has a better chance at hitting an extra point than your punter! Really? How about someone a little more athletically suited (re: looks like a soccer player) like Calvin Johnson or Jahvid Best! Don't get me wrong, Suh is an athletic freak. But sending him out there for the extra point was one of the most ridiculous things I have ever seen in a football game. I literally checked twelve different websites to make sure that I was reading it right: "Suh missed XP"]
Secondly, if Stafford doesn't go down, maybe the Lions put together a couple of positive yardage plays at the end of the fourth and get the first down they need to seal the game. What was especially dumb was that third and six with Drew Stanton behind center. [Quick Rant #2: Why the HELL is Drew Stanton throwing there?! I don't think the Jets had any timeouts, and it was coming out of the two minute warning. And if you DO throw, don't you design a play during the timeout that is a guaranteed catch so the clock keeps moving- like a quick screen? Why would you do a play where a former third baseman runs around like a headless chicken and then whips it at his running back's feet? Why not just take the loss of 7 yards and the sack? At least it would keep the time moving!? Instead, the idiot makes a terrible throw, the time stops, and the Jets hit a field goal as time expires to bring it to overtime. I hate the NFL.]
I guess that's why the Lions are the Lions, and the Jets are sitting atop the AFC East standings (Hold on while I give myself a paper cut). The Lions couldn't have tried any harder to give away that lead.
A few other thoughts from around the NFL:
-----1) The Bucs were soooo close. They had a 4th and 1 at the 2 yard line, down by 6, and LaGarette Blount was stuffed. Great play by the Atlanta defense, especially Thomas Decoud: http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2010110706/2010/REG9/buccaneers@falcons#tab:watch
The Bucs are still contenders in a weak NFC, but after this tough loss, they are probably still a year away from being legitimate Super Bowl contenders. The future is bright.
-----2) Jacoby Ford fever!!! (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tgz2QqOd2vs) This kid was absolutely unbelievable yesterday. The rookie erupted for 306 all purpose yards, with a few beautiful, clutch receptions and a gorgeous, explosive 94 yard kick return for a TD. The Raiders have really found their rhythm, and are gearing up for a potential playoff run (Wow. I can't believe I actually just wrote that. I am slightly shocked.)
-----3) I refuse to write about Brett Favre, but the Minnesota Vikings may have finally got the break they needed. After a few heart breakers at the hands of the Jets, Packers and Patriots, the Vikings were finally able to complete a comeback. They have great skill players on offense and defense, and if they can get hot, they are a team to watch in the NFC. Also, they get Favre's favorite target, Sidney Rice, back in the next couple of games (Hip Injury).
-----4) That Indy-Eagles game was just wild. Mike Vick, your current NFL leader in QB rating (again, hell has frozen over and the fat lady has sung), looked very good against a fast Indy defensive front. We saw the New Vick- on his absolute cannon to the concussed DeSean Jackson- and the Old Vick- on his vintage 32 yard run in the end of the third quarter which set up his one yard TD lunge. The Eagles and the Giants (after their 41-7 romp against poor Charlie Whitehurst) are the class of the NFC, and will probably see each other in the NFC championship game (side note: I don't think the Falcons are in the same class as these teams, they are too poor on the road to be a real Super Bowl contender. The Eagles and Giants are both proven winners, and I think that will show through come playoff time.)
-----5) Dallas. UGH. That was U-G-L-Y. Finally, Jerry Jones fired Wade Phillips, so there is a bright spot on this dark, dark season. I can't even imagine what is going to happen to the Cowboys' roster this offseason. I feel like it is going to spontaneously combust.
-----6) Here comes San Diego! I've been warning you about this for weeks, and the time has arrived. San Diego has turned the corner, and finally have their bye to get healthy. With V-Jax coming back for the stretch run, San Diego is going to be dangerous in the playoffs. Also, Phillip Rivers has been absolutely unstoppable this season. His most recent accomplishment: making Seyi Ajirotutu relevant for a week.
First things first. Mea Culpa on the Semih Erden comments. I don't take back everything I said though- he still seems to be lost on offense, and definitely has trouble communicating (language barrier alert) with his teammates. But, because of his ability to pick and roll, and hit free throws, he seems to be a decent option off the bench. He definitely needs to cut down on the fouls, but he has had a few big baskets the last couple of games (especially that "and-1" against the Thunder).
I, thanks to modern technology, have been able to watch the Celtics last four games (Bucks, Bulls, Thunder, Mavs). Here's a quick review of some trends and observations I've made:
-----1) The Celtics defense is the best it has ever been. Even better than 2008. Rondo and KG get their hands on a ball almost every single possession. They are everywhere. When Delonte gets back, and we get Nate-Dogg (who has played like garbage) out of the rotation, we are going to be almost impenetrable (Not to mention the eventual return of the second best defensive center in the league, Kendrick Perkins).
-----2) Marquis Daniels is back. After an awful, injury riddled first season, Quis' is back to doing what he does best- slashing to the hoop, and playing tough defense. He has looked especially good in the second quarter, helping give PP and/or Ray extended minutes on the bench to rest for the second half.
-----3) KG has got a hop in his step. Despite some early shooting woes, KG has looked every bit as good as he did in 2008. His rebounding numbers are way up (he had a terrific 18 and 15 tonight) and he and Rondo seem to connect on an alley oop almost every single half. Once the big men start getting healthy, KG will probably start resting up for the playoffs though, so don't expect his averages (min-35, rpg-10) to be this high all season.
-----4) Big Baby is a BEAST. Glenneth has done everything he can this season to turn the Celtics bench into a formidable unit. He has improved his jump shot tremendously- he now hits 18 footers with ease, and his shooting overall has been fantastic (60 percent from the field, 90 from the free throw line). The most astounding part of his "new" game though has definitely been his ability to take charges. He is averaging two a game. In the last 5 years of recorded charge-taking, the highest season total is 57! Baby is on pace for 160! It is ridiculous already. It seems like he is one inch out of the restricted area every time. He is absolute hell for opposing guards because he does such a great job of sliding his feet around the paint, he can come from the weakside and meet you head on as you go up. He has NO problems taking a hit (although tonight he went to the locker room at halftime early after taking a shot to his nether regions). Keep it up Big Boy.
-----5) Rajon Rondo outplayed Derrick Rose on Friday night. Again, another story of "numbers don't tell the whole story." Well actually, here they do.
[Taken from Boston Celtics Blog on ESPNBoston.com:
"But a glance at the plus/minus is your first hint of Rondo's dominance. Boston's point guard finished a team-best plus-14, while Rose was a minus-8. The folks at ESPN Stats and Information crunched the numbers even further and found that, when the two guards shared the floor, Boston held a whopping 21-point edge."]
-----6) The Celtics are having trouble finishing games. I do think this is fixable though, especially with the additions of JO, Shaq, Delonte and Perk. They seem to play hot potato when it is a close game with under 2 minutes to play, and that has got to stop. It cost them a game tonight, and it almost cost them the Bucks and Bulls games. We saw how the Celtics can be successful at the end of games with the way they (especially Big Baby) put away the Thunder on Sunday night. But after blowing a 5 point lead with a minute to play tonight, Celtics fans have got to be worried about the C's inability to put away opponents.
Because I'd prefer to end on a good note, here is something to cheer all you Celtics fans up after tonight's demoralizing loss- to Big Baby, "I just felt like a BEAST"
and for video confirmation