Taylor McCloud — Pats Militia
You probably did a double take when you read that headline.
This game? Against San Francisco? Tom Brady’s first appearance in San Fran? A trap game? No way.
And it’s not crazy to feel that way. The 49ers are so bad it’s laughable. They’re the 29th best offensive team in the league and their defense is the worst in football. Tom Brady’s making his first appearance in his native Northern California and should walk all over this team, but I can see this game being a tough one.
Obviously last Sunday’s game left a bad taste in my mouth, but it’s more than that. This week feels weird.
Both Rob Gronkowski and Chris Hogan were declared out on Friday, and that certainly has something to do with it.
The Patriots have ruled TE Rob Gronkowski and WR Chris Hogan (back) out for Sunday's game against the 49ers.
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) November 18, 2016
No offense to Hogan, but his injury doesn’t hold a candle to Gronk’s. After seeing him get rocked by Earl Thomas, I had my doubts he’d play this week, and those doubts turned out to be warranted. But I think there’s part of me that’s expecting this to escalate into something far worse. Despite being incorrect, the initial report of a punctured lung was scary. That would have sidelined him for a while. And I’ve said this a million times, but I’ll say it again, Gronk is the most dangerous weapon in the NFL. His value to this team can’t be matched by anyone. If this does escalate, that will kill this team. However, that’s just a fear of mine. All we know now is that he’s out for this week, and with Martellus Bennett on the roster, that is not as menacing as it could be.
In spite of that, though, I still don’t feel great.
Like I said earlier, last Sunday night’s game left a bad taste in my mouth. And most, if not all, of the blame can be placed on the defense. I already wrote about how poorly the played, so I’m not going to get too deep into this, but they were horrible. Russell Wilson & co. could do literally anything they wanted. He faced that two man rush and picked the Patriots apart.
Now, Colin Kaepernick is no Russell Wilson, but he has beaten the Patriots. The team he did it with was considerably better than the one he has now, but he’s done it. And his best ability, running, will fare well against the Pats’ D. Seriously, if there’s only two guys coming at him, he’s going to have a field day. Do I think that’s going to happen? No. Belichick and Patricia will have gameplanned for that. Is it a possibility, though? Of course. There was a gameplan in place to stop the Seahawks and we all know how that worked out.
But honestly, it’s not the X’s and O’s, or even execution on defense that makes me nervous about this one. The Niners have the 29th best offense in football and Torrey Smith is out, I don’t expect them to light the world on fire. So instead, it’s something different, something I never thought I’d ever see: roster moves gone wrong.
This defense has been shaken up numerous times. Guys have left, guys have come. Lineups have been set, lineups have been changed. Normally, a team would not react well to that, however, the Patriots aren’t normal. No matter what has happened, they’ve reacted perfectly. That is, up until last weekend. I know I’m harping on the Seattle game but a lot of shit happened, and it seemed like everything came to a head. There was no pass rush, breakdowns in coverage, and a third down defense worthy of a community college’s third string.
When Dominique Easley was cut in the offseason, I said nothing. After the Chandler Jones trade, I said it was for the best. And after the Jamie Collins trade, I said the same. I put all of my trust in Belichick because I had no reason to do otherwise. But I can feel my trust wavering. (Lord forgive me for I have sinned.) There’s a glaring lack of talent on this defensive unit and that’s a direct result of getting rid of talented players.
(Also, not playing talented players hurts too. Jabaal Sheard is inactive today and I just don’t understand why. His stats aren’t incredible, but he is one of the best defenders on this team. And no offense to Chris Long, but Sheard actually has the potential to make a tackle or two.)
I know I’m not the only one who thinks that way, either. It’s been apparent that players weren’t thrilled about the Jones/Collins trades. Even TB12, the media-trained robot, reacted negatively when asked about the Collins’ deal. And after Seattle embarrassed them, I could see some of that unrest translate onto the field. The 49ers aren’t a good football team, but even the worst team can beat a team in turmoil, and that’s why this could be a trap.
But hey, I’m probably wrong about all of this. This is most likely a classic case of a Boston sports’ fan thinking the sky is falling after one loss. I won’t be surprised if the Pats go out there and pulverize the Niners. Tom Brady’s playing in front of his hometown crowd for the first time in his career, and knowing him, he’ll put up 300+ & 4TD’s like it’s nothing. Dion Lewis is making his debut today, too. He’ll probably tear it up just to make me eat my words about this being a trap. And then, for good measure, the defense will kill it just to make me feel like a real dumbass.