Week 6 – The Mattyoshow Review

In this segment I will provide a weekly review for the previous weekend’s Patriots game, as well as my prediction for next weekend’s game.

First things first, I was afforded the opportunity today to go see my first ever NFL game in person, as well as my first trip to see a sporting event at Gillette Stadium.  The experience was downright amazing.  I was lucky enough to enjoy a Patriot victory from a luxury suite, which provided free food and drinks, as well as one of the best views of the game that I could have asked for.  If you have a chance to get down to Gillette this season, harp on the opportunity.  The crowd was energetic, the players responded well to the energy, and there is no better way to watch a football game other than live in the stadium.

-What impressed me most about today’s game was the play of the defense, especially late in the game.  Most of the doubt surrounding the success of the 2010 Patriots was because of the inexperience on the defensive side of the ball.  These kids matured in front of our eyes today.  When the defense needed to get stops late in the fourth quarter and in overtime, they came up huge.  Big plays by Pat Chung, Devin McCourty, and Jerod Mayo were all crucial plays that were necessary in order to achieve the desired result.

-Speaking of Jerod Mayo, he played like one of the best linebackers in the league today.  In my opinion he outplayed Ray Lewis, by far.  According to NFL.com, Mayo amassed 11 tackles.  According to my tally, he racked up 18.  The guy played like a Pro-Bowl linebacker, the linebacker that we all expect him to be.  But, he wasn’t alone.  Spikes played well also, racking up 6 tackles.  Gary Guyton’s playing time has become limited to solely third downs, which is a promising sign for Spikes’ development.  Jermaine Cunningham showed us why he was a second round selection in the 2010 draft.  Cunningham finished the game with only 4 tackles, but also had a strip sack and a tackle for loss.  Aside from the stats, Cunningham played a vast majority of plays on the outside (something that he had yet to do this season as he was previously splitting time with Banta-Cain and Ninkovich) and he was in on a ton of plays.  The play of Mayo and Cunningham was very impressive, and has me pumped to see this defense evolve over the remainder of the season.

-Other promising developments were the presence of previously unseen Shawn Crable and Brandon Deaderick.  Crable, a third round pick in 2008, has not been able to stay healthy enough to find playing time.  In today’s game, Crable was often brought in one third down and long situations to take advantage of his pass rushing ability.  Crable didn’t record any tackles, but he often forced Flacco to move around in the pocket and miss on some of his throws.  Deaderick, a seventh round pick in the 2010 draft, has seemingly over taken Mike Wright, Ron Brace, and Myron Pryor in terms of playing time.  You know that you had a great draft when in week 6 your seventh round pick is starting.  Deaderick ended up with two tackles and a sack.

-Devin McCourty has been a subject of just about every review I have done so far.  You all probably know that I love the way this kid approaches the game, how hard he plays, and his unique skill set.  I truly believe he is going to be a great corner in the league for years to come.  But, it is week 6, in my mind you’re not a rookie anymore.  You have 5 games, and countless weeks of NFL football under your belt (between mini-camp, training camp, preseason, and regular season).  It is time to start getting your head around.  Every pass interference call the McCourty has drawn this year has been because he didn’t get his head around to see the ball coming.  His penalty was a huge let down in the first quarter, leading to a Baltimore score.  But, later in the game he came up with a huge pass deflection against Todd Heap, where he got his head around and almost came up with an interception.  As these corners, and this defense as a whole, matures and improves this defense is going to be scary.  Mark my words…scary.

-So, how about that offense without Randy Moss?  To be completely honest, I’m very worries.  Yea, Deion Branch had a big game.  Yea, they were playing against arguably one of the league’s best defenses.  Yea, they did enough to win the game.  But, there was absolutely no deep threat the entire game.  Countless times the Ravens played zero coverage and blitzed one, two, and sometimes three or four guys.  Zero coverage means that there is no safety over the top, with man coverage on every receiver.  Wes Welker is not suited to be a receiver on the outside of the field (a spot that he was in for at least 15-20 plays on Sunday).  He does not have the speed to beat corners deep.  Their only deep threat is Brandon Tate, and obviously the Ravens were not worried about him.  I’m not sure if 0 catches would worry me either.  The Pats are notoriously creative after bye weeks, which could account for some of the offensive success.  The true sign of post-Moss success will come in 2-3 weeks when teams have film on them and they don’t have extra time to get creative.

-No matter what I say about this game, the biggest point is that the Pats got a victory.  As I mention in my “What to Look For” post, this game would be used as a barometer to see how the Pats stacked up against one of the best teams in the NFL.  Quite frankly, adding a victory to the win column speaks volumes about the progress that this team has already made after just six short weeks.  If the defense played like it did today every week, the Pats would flirt with 14 wins.  But, those are some lofty expectations.  As I said earlier, this defense will continue to improve every game, and by the end of the season, and with the Patriots amassing 11 wins, this is a team that I would not want to play in the playoffs.

-NEXT WEEK’S PREDICTION: Patriots 31 – Chargers 24