I finally feel as though enough time has gone by where I can actually talk about the Super Bowl. Obviously, from a Pats fans perspective, the result is absolutely sickening. However, there were some bright spots.
There was a lot to like as a Pats fan in that game. First of all, the defense was awesome. That’s saying a lot for this year’s team. Among the brights spots was a healthy Pat Chung. It was good to see him flying around and sticking people all game long. His hit on Hakeem Nicks on the sideline was unreal. I didn’t think Nicks was getting back up. A healthy Chung would have meant a lot to the Pats throughout the year. Hopefully, he can keep himself healthy going into next year after two injury plagued years. His style of play is quite similar to that of Bob Sanders, a guy who when healthy can be a game changer. However, you have to wonder if his uber-physical style of play is going to have him dinged up and out of the lineup on a regular basis. Mark Anderson also looked pretty decent as he was able to get some consistent pressure on Manning. I don’t know what his contract status is, but I would like to see him back to play a situational 3rd down pass rushing roll next year. Shaun Ellis also made a guest appearance at the Super Bowl. I had forgotten that he was even on the team. He was the anchor that helped that D-Line control the run for a better part of the game. I thought that Sterling Moore played a good game as well. It will be interesting to see what role he will play next year with Arrington and McCourty healthy and the possibility of a Bodden return. The best part of the D for me was Brandon Spikes. He was an absolute animal. He was everywhere and he was laying the lumber. Much like Chung, I think a healthy Spikes in the line up on a regular basis makes this a whole different defense. It allows Belichick to do a lot more with Mayo and it helps our run D tremendously. Offensively, I thought the O-Line played really well. Brady had a great game too. The Giants had no answer whatsoever for the hurry up offense and I felt that we really should have kept our foot on the gas pedal and stayed aggressive rather than go conservative as a means to protect the lead.
Gronkowski, where were you bud? I don’t want to hear anything about him not being 100%. It just didn’t seem like Brady was looking for him. The ankle looked fine, especially on the backpedaling reach up catch he made. He also looked rather limber on the dance floor at the post game party He also was smart enough to get up field behind Blackburn in what turned in to the worst play of the game when Brady drastically underthrew him. Also in amongst the bad was the complete absence of Vince Wilfork after one of the best games of his career in the AFC Championship game against Baltimore. The only time I heard his name mentioned was when the commentators talked about how the Giants O-Line was completely handling him. Big Love was also a complete non-factor. When Gerard Warren is playing the best out of all your D-Line, you got issues. There were a couple of bad penalties as well. The 12 men call on the Sterling Moore force fumble was a killer and lost in all the Welker talk was the fact that Ninkovich’s offside penalty gave the Giants a second chance after the D stopped the Giants on third down. That was unfortunate because I thought that Ninkovich was finally getting it and the Vrabel comparisons were finally coming to fruition.
For me, now that the audio has been released is the fact that the Giants did exactly what Belichick wanted and it killed us. He was imploring his D to let Manning to Manningham, which Eli did to kill us. Coaching killed us in this game. Belichick’s decision to let Manningham beat us was a bad one. He made the unbelievable catch, but there were a few other occasions where he was wide open and Eli kept going to him and BB failed to adjust. Bill O’Brien, gone by choice, should have been fired if he was staying on. Why he went away from the no huddle when the Giants admittedly had no answer for it is beyond me. The two penalties mentioned before, the 12 man and the Ninkovich offsides were beyond ugly. The mental toughness and intelligence that are usually the hallmark of Belichick defenses, especially in big games, were replaced by serious mental lapses. Finally, on to the most ugly was the Welker drop. We can’t blame Welker for the game because there were a number of other things that just didn’t go our way. How do you force three fumbles and not recover one? How does Sterling Moore let Manningham behind him and how does Chung not get over fast enough to help out? It was tough to watch Eli Manning do his best Tom Brady impression at the end of the game. It pains me to say it, but Eli is a great quarterback. Not great in the sense that he is going to put up ridiculously gaudy numbers, but Derek Jeter great. Eli is the new Derek Jeter. He’s not elite, he’s not flashy, but he’s just so damn good and he does everything right. He does what he needs to beat you, again and again. Disagree if you want, but the throw to Manningham was absolutely perfect. Manningham made a great play, but you have to admire the throw. He floated it over two defenders, hit Manningham in stride, and basically dropped it right into his outstretched hands. I just puked in my mouth.
I think that the future is bright for the Pats. I think that the defense really matured in the playoffs. I think that if we can stay healthy our defense will make a meteoric rise. I think that it is imperative that the Pats use one of those 1st round picks on a stud D-End. Carter is old and coming off of injuries. Ellis was a complete non-factor all year long. Mark Anderson is best suited a pass rush specialist. We need a big guy that can not only hold the edge on running downs, but also a guy that can create a pass rush on his own. We have relied on our sole pash frush from our outside linebackers for too long. We need a Ty Warren type to come back in and give us an edge presence. I also think that we need to use the other pick on a stud receiver. Alshon Jeffrey out of South Carolina and Michael Floyed out of Notre Dame are to physical freaks that would wreak havoc on the outside. I have seen a few mock drafts that have the Pats taking one of the two on a few websites. I think we need that outside threat to help open the middle up and take the focus off of our tight ends. I think having an outside threat will also allow Welker to operate in the spaces underneath where he is most effective like when Moss was in town. I truly hope that BB won’t trade out and will use some of that cap space to A. Sign Welker and B. Bring in some elite, NFL ready talent with the two #1 picks. Our rookie free agent projects have worked out in the past, after a couple of years in our system, but bringing in big program elite talents will help right away (see Chung, Spikes, Mayo, McCourty). All of the picks in the lower rounds can be used to add depth. While the loss was crushing, I think we’ll be back. I think Brady still has some good years left in him and we still have the best coach in the world. From what I understand, most of the team’s core will be back. The O-Line is still all under contract and Koppen will be back to anchor that unit. Adding a studdly outside receiver to our core and resigning Welker will give Brady even more fire power. Ridley looked good and Vereen will be healthy next year giving us a lot of matchup options out of the backfield. Defensively, health is the biggest issue. I think we need to use a majority of our picks on defensive depth especially in the linbacker corps in defensive backfield. We need help at safety big time. I can’t take another year of James Ihedigbo getting burnt and getting hurt every single game. As bad as the Super Bowl loss felt, I can’t help but be optimistic about the good things to come in Foxboro. We have come to a level of expectation that we will be in it to win it every year. It didn’t happen in 2012, but next year is another year and it will be business as usual. For now, let’s go B’s and C’s and spring training is a couple of weeks away. -Satch