What a disappointing end to what looked like a very promising season over 17 weeks ago. If you told me after the first two games of the season that we’d go out like this, I’d think you were smoking crack. With a solid offense in spite of not having Gronk and a monster defense that had only grown from the prior playoff run, we were destined to win it all. Pundits had us going all the way to the top. What happened for such a monster team to not only fall to make the wild card round but ultimately go out against a resurgent underdog Titans team?
Perhaps we need to start at the beginning. Because there isn’t one singular event, but rather a series of unfortunate events so numerous, Lemony Snicket would be jealous.
We had promise offensively. It wasn’t spectacular, but it was a damn good start that showed signs of getting better over time. Unfortunately, our problems were just beginning in the off season, the tail end of preseason, and would only mount starting week two.
Gronk retiring is a pretty obvious reason. It was long time coming and was inevitable due to the beating he spent years taking at the position. One does not simply replace Gronk. Gronk was a special one-of-a-kind tight end and quite possibly the greatest to ever play the game. It’s really difficult when you don’t have a huge guy like Gronk, especially in the red zone. By nature of Gronk’s size, speed and power, teams would have to double team him with their best defenders. This often gave smaller receivers like Julian Edelman substantially better matchups.
People will easily say that losing Gronk is no excuse for not moving the ball well. They are right to some degree, and we did win the 2016-2017 Superbowl without him (he went down with a back injury halfway through that season). What people fail to understand when they make that statement is that during that run, in addition to a healthier Edelman, we also had guys named Martelus Bennett, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Malcom Mitchell, a healthy resurgent LeGarrette Blount, and halfway through the season an even healthier Dion Lewis. Brady had far more experienced players around him during that run, and we’ll get to that as well.
David Andrews is out for the season due to blood clots in his lungs. This and other injuries would really hurt the O-Line down the road, making it very difficult to move the ball, and keep Brady healthy. We’ll get to Brady’s health in just a moment.
James Devlin would go into injured reserve with a neck injury. This would prove to be another death knell to our offense down the road as it would make getting the run going pretty difficult throughout the season. We tried some things, like making Elandon Roberts both a full back and a Linebacker. Sometimes it worked, and other times it was a bust. Last season, we got our offense going by going to a run first scheme which would really open up the play action. Sonny Michel is a solid back, but he’s not a power rusher that can making openings much like LeGarrette Blount did.
Wide receiver depth was severely depleted during the off season, training camp, and even part of the season. We lost a couple of guys to free agency early on. We thinned the herd even more during preseason. Some guys were even gone during the season. We took a gamble with Antonio Brown. I didn’t expect the Pats to go through with it, but they did. People will often criticize the Pats for letting him go due to the fact he was harassing his accuser. I think this was the right call. He was only going to snowball into a larger distraction down the road.
The biggest mistake we made was getting rid of Demaryius Thomas and other guys to make room for Brown. Knowing his reputation, it would’ve been nice to have some insurance policy. We let Josh Gordon go in the season, but that was the right call. Look what happened a few weeks later on the Seahawks. New England knew there was something off from the get go, and rather than wait to be blindsided by another suspension like last year, they let that shit become someone else’s problem.
Due to the lack of wide receiver depth, we had to run that offense with a few rookies that just couldn’t handle the work load. Myers was stellar during preseason, yet he failed to produce when it counted. Edelman’s injuries would force Phillip Dorsett to be the number one guy in some games. We learned real quick that he couldn’t step up either. N’keal Harry would come in half way the season, and would take quite a bit of time to be useful to a degree. The biggest bust in my opinion was Mohamed Sanu. This guy has a ton of experience yet failed to be a factor. Plays that are often automatic never yielded much. I felt that we were putting up just the bare minimum of points we needed to win.
Brady’s health started becoming a factor down the stretch. Without an adequate O-Line, Brady took some hits that would eventually aggravate his elbow. This unfortunately affected the accuracy of his throws to some degree. Factor in the poor O-Line, Brady is forced to get the ball out faster to guys who aren’t great at holding on to it. Poor accuracy also hinders that further.
We had a strong defense that couldn’t quite stop the run. This was only a minor chink in the armor in earlier games, but against playoff teams it became a problem. Baltimore was the first to really kill us with this. Teams like Kansas, and Houston would eventually find ways to punish our blitzes. By the time our defense got exposed, there wasn’t much to change up, especially when injuries mounted in that department as well.
We had a kicker crisis through much of the season. Stephen Carroll Gostkowski was far more inconsistent than usual during the first few games, and would end up in injured reserve. We went through several kickers before sticking with Folk who wasn’t bad at all. But not having a consistent kicker hurt us for a bit, and put us in situations where we’re always going for it on 4th down in spots a healthy Gostkowski could kick from.
Mix this all up with a series of critical losses and tie breakers, and you’ve got the one of the biggest disappointments of 2019. The Titans took all of our weakness and exploited them with precision. From running the ball down our throats, to punishing our blitzes, to taking away our key players. Even exploiting an obscure clock running trick that only someone from the Bill Belichick tree would know.
The Titans played a solid game all the way down to the wire. A pick six by a former Patriot to seal the game seems like a pretty poetic end to what turned out to be a disappointing season.
I’m sure many are throwing New Years Eve style celebrations, and toasting to the loss by the Patriots. For the first time in a while, a team other than the Patriots has the opportunity to take it all. Yeah, the Pats have lost plenty of times in the Championship, and even the Superbowl; the difference however is that the Pats were always that elephant in the room; it was the looming threat no one could ignore. This year, no one has to worry about the Patriots. Does it mean our reign of terror is over? Far from it.
Anyone who is saying that Brady will be a free agent after this game clearly doesn’t understand how any of this works. Or they do, and they take advantage of others who don’t in order to create the type of frenzy that has haters masturbating in front of the TV, watching ESPN like it’s one of those naughty tapes you found in your Dad’s den. Brady doesn’t be come a Free Agent until March 18th. Until then, there is plenty of time to sort something out.
Even if they don’t, Belichick ain’t going anywhere, Jarrett Stidham is a pretty solid guy with much room to grow, and there are plenty of QBs entering the draft. If they do decide to give Brady one more shot, here are some things that they need to do in order to give him the best chance to win.
Beefing up the O-Line will be pretty crucial. As well as Brady caring for himself. He is at that age were he can fuck something up from waking up wrong. If he takes the wrong type of hit, he’s done. He needs the kind of protection that is willing to catch an aggravated assault charge.
2. You will also need to give Brady far more experienced receivers. Edelman is great, but we learned this season what happens when he has to carry the work load. Edelman is also getting up there in age. Brady needs options that can be on the same page as him, and run routes as well as Edelman does. I think N’Keal Harry will get better with time, but he will benefit from working with other experienced guys.
Better run blocking will go a long way. We will get Devlin back from IR, which will help a lot. If we can, it would be helpful to pickup a bruising back in Free Agency.
There will probably be some turnover on the defense. To what degree, I don’t know. Keeping that depth going will be key to keeping up the consistency. Free Agency, and the draft should be a time to find guys that can shoot gaps, and stop runs at the line. A good nose tackle can also help.
If Josh McDaniels leaves, you will have to either hire another guy that has experience with this system, or hire someone internally.
Kicker depth will be critical too. Gostkowski will hopefully be healthy come regular season, but they should keep Folk around just in case. They should also hunt for a kicker either in Free Agency, or in the draft if there are any.
This team maybe done for the season, but they are far from finished as a reigning terror. There will, however, be much work to be done in the off season.
Epic Autistic out!
Flemmings Beaubrun is an avid gamer and lover of music. When not working, Flemmings likes to spend his time whipping up dank beats for the masses. He also spends his weekends thrift shopping for rare video games and obscure electronics. Other times he’s in front of a TV with a giant bowl of cereal enjoying shows from the 90s.