When You Play Like Garbage And Still Hang 34 On The Best Defense In Football…

Taylor McCloud — Pats Militia

I’ve been trying to write this for hours, but I just haven’t been able to get anything going. However, I think I just figured out why. All morning long, I’ve been trying to come at last night’s game from ‘a win is a win’ standpoint –kind of just accept a sloppy victory as just that, and move on. But, you know what? That type of mindset doesn’t do justice to what the Patriots accomplished.

Before we dive into the offense, though, let’s give the defense their just due.

Brock Osweiler sucks, we know that, but three picks against any quarterback is impressive, especially when they’re all from those Rutgers boys. Devin McCourty got it started, Logan Ryan got his, and Duron Harmon grabbed one in the fourth quarter, his specialty.

And it’s plays like those that kept the Texans from getting back into this game. Even though they hung around for the better part of sixty minutes, the defense stonewalled them every time they needed to. They gave up sixteen points, .4 higher than their league leading average, but gave up only 198YD through the air, and 104 on the ground. They needed to play like a top-10 defense, and that’s just what they did. Now, to the offense.

I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but coming into last night, the Texans had the best defense in the National Football League. They ranked first in total yards allowed, yards allowed per game, they ranked second in pass yards allowed per game, and  as you all saw, their front line is no joke. Whitney Mercilus, and Jadeveon Clowney are absolute MONSTERS.

But guess what? Despite all of those stats and players, the Patriots put up 34 points, covered a fifteen point spread, and won a playoff game by eighteen points. That’s pretty damn good if you ask me.

Sure, they could have played a much cleaner game, and won by 20-30 points, but again, that defense they played against was the best in the league. I’ll take an eighteen point victory over a group like that any day of the week.

And I’ll take a performance like the one Dion Lewis turned in any day for the rest of my life.

He scored these three touchdowns, making him the first person in postseason history to score a receiving touchdown, a kick-return touchdown, and a rushing touchdown in the same game.

Before the season started, I wrote about Dion Lewis. It was right after he was placed on the six week PUP list, and I kind of (‘kind of’ is important) diminished his role on the team. I’ve got an obvious soft spot for James White, and thought he was just as good as a receiving back. (He is, watch this touchdown below.)

But I think I forgot just how good Lewis is. I certainly was all-in during the first half of last season, but after his injury, he fell to the back of my mind. White was the one out there producing throughout a grueling eight/nine games — he just became my guy. Don’t get me wrong, he still is, but after last night, I’m back aboard the Dion Lewis train. (I never really got off.)

The guy has never lost a game in a Patriots’ uniform, and provides a spark unlike any back I’ve ever seen. While I do think White is a better player when it comes to pure pass catching ability, Lewis can do an enormous amount on the football field. He can run between the tackles, stretch the field laterally, catch the ball, break tackles, make defenders miss, and has become a weapon in the return game. No offense to the Kevin Faulks, Danny Woodheads, or Shane Vereens, but none of them could do all of that.

Similar to Lewis, Julian Edelman has a unique skillset, but I didn’t need to tell you that. Every time this offense needs a big play, every time Tom Brady is in trouble, every time there’s a fight, Jules is the guy. I’ve said all year long that he’s the most important piece on the offense, and last night he played like it. Obviously Dion scored 3/4 touchdowns, but Edelman caught eight balls for 137YD, and came up HUGE in a couple big spots. Plus, he added a couple notches to his belt in the milestone department.

He moved into first place for Patriots’ all-time playoff receptions,

Second in all-time playoff yards,

And, with those 137YD, Jules has amassed 744 playoff yards since 2013 — the most in the NFL in that time period.

For a slot receiver standing at 5’10”, all of those numbers are incredible. However, at this point, they’re expected.

Something unexpected, though, was a sub-par performance by Tom Brady. (His cut block was A1.)

Despite throwing for almost 300YD & 2 TD, Brady threw as many interceptions last night as he did the entire season.

The first, a short pass to Michael Floyd, tipped off of Floyd’s hands and landed right in the lap of a Texan defensive back. There’s an argument to be made that the INT was Floyd’s fault, it looked like he should have run more of a squared-off route rather than a slant, but we’ll never know. A pick is a pick is a pick, and Brady threw that one. But it wasn’t worse than the second one. I had a lot of trouble finding video of this one, but I’ll explain it for you. Brady dropped back, felt pressure, and forced a ball to Edelman. A linebacker tipped it up, and again, the ball fell right to a waiting Texan. It was a bad play by Brady, and one that should’t have happened, which brings me to my final point.

I know the Patriots didn’t play well last night. It definitely seems like I’m ignoring that, but I understand it. The team was sloppy in every aspect of the game. The reason I’ve been so positive throughout the entirety of this blog is that, despite playing like shit, the Pats put up 34 and won a playoff game by 18. To me, that’s incredible, but that’s because I’m a fan.

If you listened to any of the postgame interviews, you would have thought this team lost by three touchdowns.

Edelman was critical of the team’s performance.

As was Tom Brady.

Bill Belichick didn’t mince words.

And, Dion Lewis, after playing the best game of his career, did nothing but chastise himself.

But it’s stuff like this that makes the Patriots, the Patriots. They go and beat the best defense in the league, and all they can talk about is improving. That’s rare, and that’s why they win as much as they do. Even though perfection isn’t always necessary to win, in New England, nothing less than perfect is acceptable. They know what they did wrong, and they know what they need to fix. Luckily, they’re the best at doing just that.

Go Pats.