Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

22 Jan 2008

Every Play Counts: Patriots' Running Game

by Michael David Smith

The Patriots' offense is the best in the league in both rushing and passing DVOA, but is one just a function of the other?

For much of the season, I thought so. The Patriots' passing offense is so phenomenal that I figured their success running the ball was mostly a residual effect of the way opposing defenses play against the pass: If you never see an eight-man front on first-and-10 because opposing safeties are more concerned about Brady-to-Moss and Brady-to-Welker, you're going to get a lot of fairly easy five-yard handoffs.

But after watching the Patriots' running game in their AFC Championship victory over the Chargers, I'm no longer so sure that the Patriots' running game is simply the beneficiary of the threat of the passing game. In Sunday's game, I saw the Patriots enjoy much of their greatest running success when the Chargers knew exactly what was coming but couldn't stop it.

Take the second-and-1 on the first play of the second quarter. The Chargers weren't thinking about the pass on that play because the Patriots didn't have any wide receivers on the field. New England had fullback Heath Evans in front of running back Laurence Maroney in the I formation, with tight ends on both sides of the line and linebacker Mike Vrabel on the field essentially as an H-back, behind the tight end on the right. As everyone who has watched the Patriots in recent years knows, the Chargers' defense had to at least respect the threat of Tom Brady throwing to Vrabel, but the Chargers lined up as if they knew a run was coming. The problem was they just couldn't stop it. The Patriots' entire offensive line got a good push. Tight end Kyle Brady and Evans sealed the outside by blocking Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman. Maroney ran to the left around Merriman, then lowered his shoulder as Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie approached. It was nothing fancy, just overpowering blocking and a good finish to the run by Maroney.

Two plays later, Maroney plowed in for a 1-yard touchdown out of the same formation, with right guard Stephen Neal getting Chargers defensive end Luis Castillo on the ground, Evans running behind Neal to clear a path and Maroney running behind Evans. Again, the Chargers didn't appear to feel a threat of a pass, but even when they were playing the run, they couldn't stop it.

I picked Cleveland's Lawrence Vickers as the fullback on my all-pro team, but I would seriously consider Evans if I were to pick the team again and include the playoffs. Evans is a very talented, very versatile player, who at times even lines up as a wide receiver. I like him a lot as a lead blocker out of the I formation, but I'd also like to see him get the ball more. He actually had the highest rushing DVOA of any of the Patriots' running backs (admittedly, by a small margin and with a small sample size), and he has a good feel for reading blocks and finding holes. Evans ran the ball twice against the Chargers, both times on third-and-1, and he picked up the first down with a couple of yards to spare both times. He could carry the ball 10 times a game and do it effectively if that's what the Patriots needed him to do.

The best thing about the Patriots' offensive linemen is the way they finish their blocks. The most impressive play an offensive lineman can make is the pancake block, where he fires off the ball and knocks the guy across the line from him flat on his back. But realistically, NFL defensive linemen just don't get knocked flat on their back often enough for pancakes to be an offensive lineman's bread-and-butter, if I may mix a couple of food-related metaphors. Much more important is for an offensive lineman to be effective even on the plays where he doesn't have such a brute strength advantage. That's really where the Patriots shine.

Take, for instance, the handoff to Maroney on first-and-10 with 8:45 left in the second quarter. The Patriots' offensive line did not overpower the Chargers' defensive line; in fact, the Chargers' defensive line clearly won the initial surge. At the time Maroney got the handoff, Chargers nose tackle Jamal Williams was already across the line of scrimmage, and Maroney didn't look like he had any room to run. But Patriots right guard Logan Mankins kept fighting after Williams got inside him, and he ultimately threw Williams to the ground. Neal also didn't get a very good push at the start of the play, but he also kept fighting and eventually knocked Castillo to the ground. Maroney was patient enough to wait for Mankins and Neal to do their jobs, and he eventually picked his way for a 5-yard gain on a play that at first looked like it had been stopped at the line of scrimmage.

In my book, Mankins is the best of the Patriots' linemen. On second-and-10 just before the two-minute warning of the first half, the Patriots came out in a shotgun, three-receiver, one-back, one-tight end formation, with running back Kevin Faulk to Brady's left in the backfield. Mankins pulled to the right and buried Chargers linebacker Matt Wilhelm, and Faulk took Brady's handoff, followed Mankins and picked up an easy 8 yards. When Mankins pulls like that, he's basically doing what a fullback does, except that he weighs 300 pounds. He's skilled enough that the Patriots can use him like a lead-blocking fullback while also having three receivers and a tight end on the field.

I thought center Dan Koppen had the weakest game as far as run blocking. On a first-and-10 on the last play of the third quarter, Koppen was matched one-on-one with Chargers nose tackle Ryon Bingham. He got a good first step but then wasn't quick enough to keep up when Bingham used a swim technique, and Bingham ended up tackling Maroney, holding him to a gain of 4 yards and preventing a big play. On one of those third-and-1 handoffs to Evans, he ran straight into Koppen, who was pushed straight back into him. Fortunately for the Patriots, Mankins, left tackle Matt Light, and tight end Kyle Brady all made excellent blocks to open up the hole that Evans ran through for the first down. Most of the time Koppen got help from either Neal or Mankins, but on the plays when he didn't, he struggled. Just as I'd consider putting Evans on my all-pro team if I had it to do over again, I'd also consider taking Koppen off.

I mentioned the solid block by Kyle Brady, and there were a number of those. Patriots coach Bill Belichick has loved Brady ever since the 1995 NFL draft, when Brady was the hot prospect out of Penn State, Belichick was the coach of the Cleveland Browns, and Belichick nearly had a coronary when the Jets drafted Brady just before the Browns were going to. Brady was once a solid receiver (he had 64 catches for 729 yards in 2000), but now he's basically an offensive tackle who lines up at tight end. And I mean that as a compliment –- Brady is an excellent run blocker.

We at Football Outsiders have written a lot about how a steady, consistent running game is more important than a running game that breaks a few long runs, and consistency is exactly what the Patriots have: Only 11 percent of the Patriots' rushing yards came more than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage, ranking just 26th in the league in that category. Still, while long runs aren't particularly important for what the Patriots, I must at least mention their longest run, a 20-yard scamper by Maroney early in the fourth quarter. That run was sprung by a great block from Neal, who simply dominated Chargers defensive end Jacques Cesaire. Cesaire is lucky the season is over, because it was the kind of play you'd really be embarrassed to watch on film with your teammates. Neal just abused him. Of course, Maroney deserves a ton of credit for the play, too. After he ran through the hole that Neal opened, he made a sweet move to juke Chargers safety Clinton Hart and gain an extra 15 yards.

But, again, that long run was the exception, not the rule. The rule was that the Patriots always picked up the yards they needed, in small, steady chunks, including picking up the first down all five times they ran the ball on third down. Overall, while it would be a convenient theory to say the Patriots' running game is so effective because their passing game keeps the defense honest, that theory sells the Patriots' running game short by a good measure. With every offense, the threat of a pass helps the run, and vice versa, but this Patriots running attack is one that can be effective on its own.

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 22 Jan 2008

93 comments, Last at 26 Jan 2008, 1:33pm by Wowsas

Comments

1
by RickD (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 12:22pm

Nice article.

2
by Otis Taylor 89 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 12:34pm

One name should be mentioned, "Dante Scarnecchia".

He's the best line coach in football and before that he was the best ST coach in football. He's done it with very little talent (see 2001 NE Pats) and with a lot of talent, like this year.
And he was brought in by RON MEYER(!!??) from SMU in 1982!!!

3
by B (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 12:37pm

Great article, as always. TMQ mentioned in a recent column that one reason the Pats OLine plays so well is the linemen never take a play off, and I think you can see that in the way they keep fighting even if they lose the initial push. Also, Evans is the only member of the team who could legitimately be described as underrated.

4
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 12:38pm

"He’s done it with very little talent (see 2001 NE Pats) and with a lot of talent, like this year."

I'm not convinced there is a lot of talent. Mankins and Neal are studs, but Light and Kaczur are replacement level, and Koppen is probably average.

Brady's ability to know exactly when to step up makes the Tackles look a whole lot better than they are.

5
by James, London (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 12:51pm

Good stuff. The praise for Heath Evans makes me cringe, because it's another player Miami didn't value enough to keep. Evans, Sammy Morris, Wes Welker. Doh!

6
by Herm? (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 12:51pm

Heath Evans...reason #47 on why the Patriots offense need to be renamed Miami of Massachusetts.

My serious observation is that it's easy to tell that this attack was held back by the passing game. Watching the games, I wouldn't just call it effective. They're downright nasty.

7
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 12:52pm

but this Patriots running attack is one that can be effective on its own.

I sure hope so, given the Brady news.

8
by Jake (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 1:34pm

Heath Evans is not a Pro Bowl/All-Pro caliber FB in terms of carrying, catching or lead blocking. And I'm a Pats fan.

9
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 1:37pm

Oh, I think the Pats have an effective running game, without regard to their outstanding passing game, but I would like to see a breakdown of how frequently the Chargers put 8 in the box compared to the league average. In the games I watched, Cottrell seems more reluctant to do so than most coordinators, and even on the last drive of the game, when the Pats were obviously in run out the clock mode, it didn't appear as if the Chargers were overplaying the run to any great degree.

Of course, when playing the Pats, there is wisdom in this, but what has caught my eye with the Chargers is that the same philosophy seems to have been employed against teams like the Vikings and Titans, which sure is a, well, interesting approach, if I endeavor to be charitable.

10
by b-man (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 1:39pm

3: I would say Kevin Faulk is the most underated on the team. Evans is usually only in 20-25% of plays. Faulk is closer to 50%, is a first down machine and the way he takes on rushers against monsters almost twice his size is amazing. He literally bends completely backwards yet stays on his feet and gives Brady an extra second or two. Over the last three seasons, the Patriots offense has really hurt when Faulk has been injured.

11
by Jimmy (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 1:41pm

The article doesn't really back up the blurb that precedes it. People who say that the Pats run game piggybacks on the passing gmae are usually thinking of the extreme lengths defensive coordinators go to i trying to corral Randy Moss. According to Patsfan's weekly rendering of Pats players and snaps Moss only missed four snaps. The very fact that Belichick was sending him out on running downs is either because he is a great blocker (what do you think?) or beacause he draws safeties towards him like a magnet.

All the fuss about the Pats running ouit of three TEs misses the point, teams aren't scared of Wes Welker or Jabar Gafney however effective they have been this season it is Moss that screws with the defensive scheme to the extent that at times it becomes unworkable (especially when the offense is as well drilled as New England's). Moss was on the field all day, and it is Moss (or the threat of Moss) that makes NE's offense so difficult to stop.

12
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 1:45pm

Yep, Moss, in the past 10 days, has probably had the best two consecutive playoff games that any wide receiver has ever had while making two catches.

13
by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 2:10pm

Jake,

You're probably right--Evans is no elite FB when it comes to carrying, catching, OR lead blocking.

But maybe he's elite when it comes to carrying, catching AND lead blocking.

I'm sure you could find any given fullback who is a better lead blocker, a fullback who runs better, and a FB that is a better receiver. Can you find someone that can do all three as well as Evans? I would say that fact that he is an effective blocking fullback, who can also sub as a #5 WR and a #3 RB and hence saves one or maybe even two of the precious 53 roster spots makes his value to a team extremely high.

14
by jimmo (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 2:12pm

Will, #12, I saw this in another thread too, but I just need a clarification here. Did Moss have the two best playoff games for a receiver that only caught two passes, or do you think he had the two best playoff games period, despite the fact he had only two catches?

I think you're saying the latter, and I respect the point you're making, but if allowing to count the Super Bowl as a playoff game I'd be hard pressed to put anyone's two games over Rice's conf. champ and SB in '89 (88 season): 16-348-3, blocking and potential master decoy work aside.

15
by James, London (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 2:14pm

"Heath Evans is not a Pro Bowl/All-Pro caliber FB in terms of carrying, catching or lead blocking. And I’m a Pats fan."

I wouldn't disagree. However, he can do all three effectively, and is exactly the sort of player good teams keep on their roster. Miami didn't.

16
by AndyE (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 2:20pm

James of London,
Up here in Boston, we just consider Miami to our scout team. Sort of the PawSox of football. We truly appreciate it.

And on commentary - am I the only person it finds it astoundingly silly that the Pats running game can't be considered good as long as Randy Moss is on the field? Would we say that the Chargers passing game can't be good while San Diego Running Back #N is on the field? And on that note, Randy Moss is a blocking fiend. I am very impressed at the downfield blocking of all of the Patriots WRs this year.

17
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 2:20pm

No, I'm saying the former; that no receiver has only made two catches over the course of two playoff games, while being as valuable as Moss. This is the sort of stuff that can't be captured by receiving stats. It takes a real in- depth charting effort. Not for the first time I'll note that evaluating individual football player value and performance is really, really, really, hard. Really.

18
by jimmo (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 2:24pm

got ya, Will, thanks. Again, I respect that point and wanted to make sure I was reading you right, which of course I wasn't! Thanks for the reply...

19
by b-man (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 2:26pm

16: I wouldn't say Moss is a blocking fiend. He basically subscribes to the mime school of blocking and gets in the way while trying to minimize any sort of contact. Welker OTOH is a fiend.

20
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 2:28pm

Y'know, it is kind of odd that Moss ever got the reputation of being a bad blocker, even before active roster retirement in Oakland. He blocked decently in his years in Minnesota. Robert Smith and Michael Bennett had many long runs which were greatly aided by Moss' blocking.

21
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 2:35pm

"The very fact that Belichick was sending him out on running downs is either because he is a great blocker (what do you think?) or beacause he draws safeties towards him like a magnet."

Its both. Moss blocks extremely well. He's not Welker by any means, but hes a better blocker than probably 70% of the starting WR in the league.

22
by Independent George (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 3:00pm

#20 - I think it has to do with your earlier point - on a running play, he can take out 2+ defenders as a decoy, but only 1 if he blocks. Therefore, a smart coach will tend to send him out on routes instead of blocking; even if his blocking is roughly the same as (or better than) the average receiver, he winds up throwing far fewer total blocks, and gets less credit for them.

23
by Jimmy (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 3:05pm

#16

It can be considered effective, DVOA clearly demonstrates that. That isn't the same as it being very good if Moss weren't there.

The opposite running game to the Pats this year is Minnesota. Their passing game isn't very good without AP scaring opposing coordinators to bring at least 8 and sometimes 9 players into the box when the Vikes are in a standard formation. This obviously has an impact on how effective the Vikes passing game is, Jackson can throw the ball out in front of recievers knowing that he doesn't have to worry about linebackers covering underneath or safties playing the ball from deep.

Moss seems to have played approximately 95% of NE's snaps. What makes you so sure that their running game would be as effective without him?

Everywhere Moss has played (when interested) his impact on the game has created space for the RBs and made it very difficult to blitz effectively without telegraphing coverages. He made Culpepper look like a Pro Bowl QB (I was always convinced that he wasn't actually all that good) without Moss he turns out to be pretty poor - I will admit that his knee injury did erode his movement skills, but he has never been all that accurate and his arm strength was massively overrated.

I think Terrell Owens has had a similar effect wherever he has played. Maybe franchise wide recievers are as important as franchise QBs.

24
by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 3:39pm

Maybe franchise wide recievers are as important as franchise QBs.

Only when franchise WR's are paired WITH franchise QB's. Moss and Owens don't draw the same amount of double and triple covers if Cleo Lemon was throwing the ball.

In other words, the utility you get from adding an elite WR to a team with an elite QB is huge. But the utility you get from adding an elite QB to a team with average WR's is probably bigger than the utility you get from adding an elite WR to a team with an average QB. So if you can only get one, you want the QB.

25
by Tony V (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 3:42pm

I truly believe that Logan Mankins is the top guard in the NFL, and probably the best 1st round pick in the last 5 years, over Maroney, Watson and Warren!!! His pulling ability is so fluid, and he manages to shift his hips quickly to hot the target. This is why I went as far as having a Mankins custom jersey made!!!

26
by Jimmy (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 3:49pm

#23

I am not sure, with Moss to throw to Culpepper looked to all the world like a bona fide Pro Bowler. He broke the previous record for passer rating. Without Moss he was an interception machine. Average (or worse) QB with a franchise WR resulted in as powerful an offense as there was in the NFL.

The Moss-less Pats offense (ie the last three years) was a good offense, but not in the same league as the Minnesota offense with Moss.

27
by Ryan Harris (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 4:00pm

So do you guys think that this is the type of game we should expect from Maroney next year? Obviously Belicheck wont give him 25 carries a game but he should be much more involved to the tune of 300 carries and probably 40 or so catches.

Maroney is now the goal line back too whereas earlier in the year it was Evans/Morris, so I am pretty sure he has earned BB respect and is out of the doghouse.

28
by lyford (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 4:18pm

"Up here in Boston, we just consider Miami to our scout team. Sort of the PawSox of football. We truly appreciate it."

For some reason, I feel the need to jump here and emphasize that AndyE is speaking only for himself. His views do not necessarily represent the opinions of anyone else, and tarring the Patriot fanbase with his comments would be a mistake.

29
by dork matter (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 4:49pm

Re Mankins:

Of course, it helps if you can get away with punching the guy you're blocking. On one play, Mankins stayed engaged with his defender on the right side behind the ball carrier, drove his guy onto his back well after the play had moved past, then threw a gut-shot punch with his left hand. No flag.

This is when the zebras' "just let them play" attitude comes close to driving a football fan away from the set.

30
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 5:00pm

Oh, heavens, don't tell me that along the line of scrimmage there are violent acts which are not within the rules that don't get flagged! When did this phenomena begin!!! Goodness gracious, don't tell Joe Greene or Larry Little! They might get the vapors and lose conciousness!

31
by Paul Casassa (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 5:17pm

#26 Ryan...... I doubt Maroney was ever "in" the doghouse with Belichick. It seems more likely his subpar play early on had to do with his off season shoulder surgery, and a groin injury early on in the season.

#4 Rich....... It's hard to objectively consider either Light or Kaczur as "replacements", as both have come a long way. The last 3 games the Patriots have faced the Chargers the names Merriman and Phillips were barely uttered. In last years Divisional playoff game, Merriman was pulled off of Light's side and started attacking Kaczur, yet was still ineffective. Light can, on good days, hold his own against even the talented Dwight Freeney

32
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 5:22pm

"Rich……. It’s hard to objectively consider either Light or Kaczur as “replacements”, as both have come a long way. The last 3 games the Patriots have faced the Chargers the names Merriman and Phillips were barely uttered."

Again, thats not because of Light or Kazcur, its because of an extremely talented interior line. Light and Kazcur's only responsibilities in pass blocking is to make sure the DE can't stunt inside. As long as Brady has somewhere to step up, the outside rushers don't matter. There is NO ONE in football who steps out of the way like Brady.

33
by Dave (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 5:30pm

28: So Mankins gut-punched the guy after the play had moved past? After he'd pancaked his guy? He sounds no different than any other "mauler" offensive line played ever. In fact it seems to me like he'd done his job properly if he occupied the guy until the play was past, so I can't see how that gut-punch "helps" Mankins play at a Pro Bowl level.

34
by Eric P (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 5:48pm

Re: 27
I think the Pats still have Morris signed for another 2 years, so how the distribution of carries ends up next year is anyone's guess.

35
by dork matter (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 5:51pm

Re #30...

I know guys destroy each other on every play. That said, we rewound the play just to confirm what had happened, because it seemed so beyond the pale. I'm a typical FO football fan who enjoys but never played the game, so I assume that if I can see it, it's probably pretty obvious.

I thought it deserved a flag because 1) the defender was on the ground and had Mankins on top of him, and so couldn't absorb the blow; 2) the shot was either to the floating ribs or just below, and any way you look at it, that's very dangerous, and 3) it's a punch, for pete's sake. It's not allowed.

Oh, and I have a fainting couch for sale if anyone wants it.

36
by Thomas Payne (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 6:05pm

Please. The Patriots have run over 1,100 plays on offense this year and have been flagged for offensive holding 7 seven times. The next closest team this year has over twice that many, with fewer offensive plays.

The next time Wes Welker blocks somebody without illegally holding his jersey will be his first.

Wilfork not called for poking out someones eye. Mankins punching people, no flag. Seymour stomped on Tarik Glenn's facemask during a game, no flag. Illegal tripping on the Rivers INT, no flag. Moss...pushing off. "Face guarding" PI against the Giants defender. Illegal holding against the Ravens...and then a clear "no catch" that was ruled a catch...and I haven't even scratched the surface.

37
by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 6:18pm

I think Maroney's limited carries early in the year had much to do with the Pats pass first mentality and the fact that Maroney, at the time, struggled in pass protection and blitz pickup, whereas Morris and Faulk excel at that.

Now Maroney has gotten competent (although still not stellar) at pass protection, he sees more playing time and hence more carries. And like many RB's, he gets better as you give him more and more carries.

Rich, I've said this before, but I think you're awfully hard on Light and Kaczur. Yes, they are probably not as good as the interior line. And yes, neither are in competition for the title of "best tackle in the league", at least, not on pass protection. (I think one reason why the Pats are one of the best screen teams in the league is that Light is one of the best screen-blocking left tackles in the league. Seriously--watch some other team try to execute a screen sometime. The Eagles do a pretty good job, but most other teams I've seen have their blocking linemen completely out of position).

And have you watched a team lately with truly bad tackle play? It wouldn't matter how good Brady is at stepping up--if a tackle gets dismantled by an end, the QB has no time to throw at all.

I think Kaczur is a solidly average RT, and Light is a fluky player who is average on his bad days and well above average on his good days.

38
by Phil (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 6:26pm

Great article.

Very interesting to see Maroney spoken about in this light. He's been getting blasted for his running all year in the Boston paper (Felger). I for one think that most of his poor running can be atributed to running style not meshing well with the blocking--or lack there of in the regular season.

I did think Maroney was a little hesitant at the LOS at the beginning of the year, but not as much as he's been blamed for. And who knows what injury he's had this year.......

Nice to see him round into form at the end of the year though.

39
by Herm? (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 6:29pm

the thread so far has not answered anything but given me 4 more questions:
1. Over the past 5 weeks, is having Randy Moss on the field (usually) the equivalent of playing 10 against 9 football?
2. With Morris coming back, is it possible a healthy Patriots team could turn the tables and rush for 3000 yards combined next year?
3. Is there anyone in the world who dislikes Ted Cottrell more than Will Allen?
4. Is it irony or just funny that the real Payne, author of "Common Sense", was actually a Patriot?

(yes, 3 of the 4 were meant to be silly comments)

40
by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 6:30pm

Thomas Payne ,

You're right. You haven't scratched the surface. You've only talked about the Patriots.

I, or any fan who watches a fair amount of football, could name five or ten missed calls or uncalled infractions BY ANY TEAM in the league over the course of the season, or in any given game, without even trying very hard. And that's only counting real, genuine mis-calls that everyone agrees on, not the faint straws and, um, "creative" interpretations of reality that you cite. If I make it my mission to look for a phantom conspiracy and watch one single team a lot, looking for such things, I'm sure the number would grow to twenty or thirty or more.

41
by Phil (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 6:30pm

Thomas Payne....

Maybe think about taking the next couple plays off??

You knew this was about the Patriots, so your only reason for reading this must be to post something negative.

42
by Dave (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 6:41pm

Thomas Payne, are you Gregg Easterbrook in disguise?

43
by RickD (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 6:44pm

re: 39

Maroney has been running so well the past month that I'd completely forgotten about Sammy Morris! Yes, the Pats could well be a rushing machine next season. And since it's likely they will lose at least one of their top 3 WRs (probably Moss or Stallworth - I think they'll take Stallworth's money and give it to Moss), they probably won't be quite so pass-happy as they have been this season.

Aside: Moss has had some good blocks at time, but I would hesitate to call him a "good blocking WR". His main contribution to the running game is his ability to draw the double team since he is still a huge downfield threat even if the Pats line up 3 TEs and he's the only WR out there.

And while I'm rambling...the Chargers' secondary is much better than the Giants' is. Moss did well against the G-men 3 1/2 weeks ago and I would expect the same in the Super Bowl. Who's going to cover him, Sam Madison? Corey Webster? *chuckle* There's no Cromartie back there.

44
by Herm? (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 6:47pm

"There is NO ONE in football who steps out of the way like Brady."

Something else stolen by the Pats from Miami? Marino was the master at pocket movement. Even late in his career, when his arm and leg braces made him look like Robocop...I'll never understand that pocket awareness/courage, when people are within 6 feet of you trying to kill you, and all you do is take a shuffle step and rifle a pass accurately downfield. (and I was definitely not a Dolphin / Marino fan!)

45
by RickD (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 6:49pm

re: 40
You are completely correct, which is why my eyes tend to glaze over when anybody talks about uncalled holding penalties. Think of this analogy: holding is to the NFL as speeding is the the interstate highway system. It goes on all the time and the refs/police tend to flag only the worst offenders.

I am more upset about the fact that travelling is never called in the NBA, but that is also a lost cause. On Sportscenter today, they showed somebody (Richard Hamilton?) take four steps and shoot after picking up his dribble.

But I digress...

46
by RickD (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 6:52pm

re:44
Agree - Marino was the best at always avoiding the sack, thanks to his lightning-quick release. And it wasn't like he was throwing picks to avoid sacks, either. He'd just flick his wrist and the ball would sail out of bounds.

47
by B (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 6:53pm

Just for the record, Face Guarding is legal, and has been for the last couple years. Which is nice, because nothing else the defensive backs can do is allowed.

48
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 7:00pm

47.

That doesn't mean DBs can't get called for it.

49
by Cyrus (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 7:02pm

Yo Thomas, you gotta reign in your anger.

As someone else said, you can look at any team and find hundreds of missed or blown calls throughout the season.

And seeing as you included Tarik Glenn, you're combining several seasons, so there are probably even more.

50
by Walter L (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 7:10pm

Mr. Schatz, I'm calling you out...do you still believe this after the AFC championship?...

"If [the Patriots] throw this same offense out there next year, that's another year where Kevin Faulk gets a lot of playing time. Add to that Maroney's clear injury issues, and the guy isn't going to have 300 carries"
- BP Chat, 1/4/08...

It seems to me the Pats will start to develop as a balanced offense next year, using the running game when someone shuts down their passing, the passing game when someone shuts down their running game, and a mix including play actions and grinding it out ("old Pats fooball") when neither works very well. Especially if they don't have one of the weapons they do now (probably Stallworth, perhaps Moss)...in effect they probably won't be "throwing out the same offense as this year."

Don't mean to ruin next year's fantasy season for you Aaron, but it seems to me that Maroney would be an excellent play next year for fantasy...even with Faulk back there, as we saw this past Sunday. Great analysis overall though, Aaron. Hopefully you'll be on the BS Report more, too...good talk about the audio capabilities (or lack thereof) of Gillette.

...Great breakdown, MDS.

51
by Oswlek (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 7:11pm

My post about Maroney from way back in the middle of November:

I understand the questioning of Maroney, but I think it is largely misguided IMHO. Maroney leads the league in first down yardage. He is amongst the top 10 in ypc for RBs with 50+ rushes. He is 3rd according to footballoutsiders' success rate and 13th in their per-play measure (just mere % points from being top 10.

The excellent ypc despite any long runs further illustrates just how consistent Laurence has been.

Obviously he isn't perfect. He needs to work on pass protection so he can be a threat out of the backfield. He needs to be able to counted on in short-yardage situations more. Maroney was one of the top backs in the league for yardage after contact despite missing a good amount of time. He clearly *can* be a bruising RB if he wanted to.

I personally think that the team has taken advantage of the historic passing game to allow Maroney to work himself back into shape and to improve parts of his game. They have been asking him to a) run with more body lean and b) not accept negative plays. Both of these are impacting his running because he has to think more than he used to. Once the new style become instinctive he will be able to leverage his natural ability more. This thinking is one of the main reasons he is accused of being "tentative" or "dancing".

I also think that Maroney is a victim of last year. He absolutely stutter-stepped too much and I think that some are viewing him with preconceived notions. He ran fabulously against Indy. Other than a few times when an unblocked blitzer had a clean shot at him, he made yardage every time (except one play - the 3rd and 1 stop) and it always took multiple tacklers to bring him down. His toughness just wasn't noticed because the 2nd and 3rd guys got there so quickly. And that is no fluke. Frankly, Maroney has been excellent since midway through the SD game.

Maroney is also hampered in the court of public opinion because he looked so damn explosive last year. His talent just oozed off of him and he really hasn't looked as natural this year. I firmly believe that this is entirely due to the factors I outline above.

Lastly, it is improtant to realize that Laurence is very young. The kid is just 22 years old - nearly two full years younger than Addai. It is my contention that NE views him as a long term weapon and are treating him accordingly. I will be very surprised if NE acquires any top-end RB talent in this offseason and I believe that Laurence will be one of the top RBs in the league by 2009 at the latest. I also would be willing to make a wager that Maroney signs his next contract with the New England Patriots.

Feel free to bookmark this thread for later use, but I don't expect you to be able to.

Edit: Obviously I should add "if he could stay healthy" to the bruising RB part above. That is frankly the biggest question with Laurence and it is the primary reason that NE is working on adapting his running style. As you can tell from my optimism about him, I fully expect Maroney to flourish in time and for his injury issues to subside.

Maroney has always been better than people thought. I'm glad that he is finally getting his vindication.

52
by Oswlek (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 7:20pm

One other thing.

Maroney's "dancing" has been largely exaggerated due to fans' and analysts' ignorance of the situation. As I mentioned above, some of it is clearly legitimate for a number of reasons.

However, earlier this year, NE ran on 60-70% of the plays where Laurence saw the field. Because of this, and despite NE's passing success, teams would regularly send run blitzes at Maroney. This happened far more than people realize and much of his "dancing" was because he literally had nowhere to go.

Another thing is that NE was trying to get him to take what is there. Due to this, he "danced" while waiting for the blocking to develop. When it is successful, like this past weekend, people call it "patience". Maroney danced plenty against the Chargers, it was just that he was either 10 yards downfield or he only had one guy to beat instead of two or three.

53
by Independent George (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 7:21pm

#29 - I distinctly remember Strahan using a similar move against Runyan (I think it was a playoff game). It starts out with a standard bull-rush; Runyan starts to straighten out a little too-early, and Strahan essentially charges directly ahead and punches him square in the gut. Runyan doubles over, gets tossed aside like yesterday's trash, and McNabb is flattened a second later.

It was a moment of shocking violence, and I'm pretty sure it was illegal, but, then again, it's John Runyan, so he probably deserved it :)

54
by Dave (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 7:33pm

50 and 51:
Prescient analysis in that re-post. I certainly was one of the ones frustrated with Maroney this year, definitely accused him of dancing and hesitating too much. I have been banging the "They should've drafted Addai" gong all year. Well, actually, I stopped banging that gong some time in December... when "dancing behind the line" magically turned into "waiting for the blocks to develop." ;)

55
by MarkB (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 7:39pm

When you complain about calls - made or not - you label yourself an adolescent dork. The more you repeat yourself, the bigger your dorkdom becomes. Don't be a dork - no one likes a dork. Now let's talk football.

56
by Dan (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 7:54pm

are we seriously listening to mike tanier????

heres his write up pre season on the giants. from this so called expert who knows A LOT MORE than me, or the average fan---because OF COURSE, he uses this foreign thing called statistics to back up his generally wrong analysis..

32 Giants (Last Year: 14)

Howlin’ Tom Coughlin alienates veterans and terrifies rookies with his abrasive style and obsession with picayune rules. Coughlin promises to be a mellower fellow this season; he’s reached Stage 3 of Coaching Cluelessness (”bargaining”) and should reach “acceptance” sometime soon. Kevin Gilbride is a refugee from the run-and-shoot era who specializes in getting his quarterbacks flattened. He thinks Max Protect is a 1980s cartoon superhero, so Eli Manning had better be ready for the blindside blitz. The Giants fired defensive coordinator Tim Lewis, their best coach, after his injury-plagued defense fell apart last season. Replacement Steve Spagnuolo is a longtime Eagles assistant who plans to install a more blitz-oriented attack. When the whole staff is fired on January 7th, Spagnuolo will land on his feet.

I will link you guys to a forum post that pretty much says everything that needs to be said about this write up BUT BUT BUT i find it VITAL to bring up the fact that he said TIM LEWIS!!! HAHAHAHH TIM LEWIS was our best coach. TIM LEWIS RUINED OUR TEAM. he installed a read and react defense that DOES NOT WORK...haha this site is a lot worse with writers like tanier.

heres the thread: http://corner.bigblueinteractive.com/index.php?mode=2&thread=270368

57
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 8:05pm

Dan (# 55 )--

The "by Michael David Smith" right under this article's title should serve as a hint that we are not, in fact, "listening to mike tanier."

58
by Eric P (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 8:24pm

Re:55
Good call.

LOL!

59
by Fizzman (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 9:04pm

Recently, we’ve been noticing a lot of negativity on the comment threads towards both us and other posters.

Receiving criticism is, of course, part of our jobs, and something we’re cool with. Giving us criticism of the “U WERE SO WRONG ABOUT ______” is pretty obnoxious,

Dan (#55),
I don't really give a hoot about the accuracy of your criticism; as long as you choose to express it in a rude way, I hope it will be ignored.

And where on the web do we find a record of your preseason predictions for the 32 teams so we can marvel at your prescience?

60
by James, London (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 10:25pm

Post #56 is Window-Licking Good. Really, a great effort.

61
by Duff Soviet Union (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 10:46pm

Dan, you posted that exact same diatribe in the audibles thread too. We get it already.

62
by andrew b. lee (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 11:27pm

actually, when the patriots first acquired heath evans from the seahawks or dolphins (don't remember which), they ran him quite a bit out of a singleback formation - i remember that he had a couple of high-yardage games with low number of carries, which showed that either he was very effective or he made some big-play runs. i'm surprised that he's been successful as a short yardage power back and a lead-blocker for the patriots, because i remember when he was with the seahawks it was known that he wasn't a very good blocker, unlike mack strong, but that he was more athletic.

63
by Richard (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2008 - 2:07am

10: Kevin Faulk is so underrated he's bordering on overrated.

64
by Brian (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2008 - 3:08am

Evans is a very talented, very versatile player, who at times even lines up as a wide receiver. I like him a lot as a lead blocker out of the I formation, but I’d also like to see him get the ball more. He actually had the highest rushing DVOA of any of the Patriots’ running backs (admittedly, by a small margin and with a small sample size)

Sorry to sample such a large block of post, and it doesn't really argue against the small sample size, but weren't there two or three games just after Morris was hurt, when Maroney was still coming back from injury, when Evans, Faulk, and even Eckels were doing all the running?

I remember being worried because Faulk was taken out of his usual role, and, for crying out loud - Heath Evans was the Pats' main RB! But he and the midshipmen acquitted themselves well.

A couple thoughts -
- Moss has blocked very well this year, no matter what he might have done in the past
- TMQ has mentioned a few times that, unlike with most other teams, you pretty much never see a Patriots lineman standing around doing nothing. I can't tell you how many times I've seen a Pats lineman straighten up from knocking a guy down, then hustling upfield to hit somebody else.
- Dante Scarnechia is the best thing Ron Meyers ever did.

Looking at the Pats' second half strategy in the AFCCG got me wondering - would it surprise anybody if they started the SB the same way?

The Giants' defensive strength is the pass rush, obviously. Belichick has always shown that he wants to attack his opponents' strengths. One way to do that would be to come out in a bunch of 3 TE/1 WR/1 RB or 2 TE/1 WR/2 RB sets and run the ball. Often. Maybe even with a no-huddle.

Doing this, I figure, would confound the Giants, who would understandably be expecting the pass, and it would wear down the Giants' front seven.

Also, if the Giants do like the Chargers did, and leave Moss in single coverage while bringing the safeties up in those sets, it could set up a deep pass to Moss on play action, in single coverage, with max-protect-plus.

Additionally, since Maroney showed against Jax that he could handle a screen, that kind of set could open up some screens without having to bring in Faulk, which might tip their hand.

Any thoughts? Sound plausible or am I just nuts? Maybe both?

65
by hwc (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2008 - 3:20am

So do you guys think that this is the type of game we should expect from Maroney next year?

My best guess is that Belichick is very committed to a platoon system at RB and that we will see Morris and Maroney split the carries fairly evenly.

It just makes too much sense from a wear & tear/injury standpoint. NFL running backs take a beating. Using depth to spread the beating around is particularly important for a team that is playing for the postseason.

Wouldn't surprise me to see Maroney add to his repetoire in the passing game during the offseason so that he can take Morris' snaps or Faulk's snaps.

BTW, for those who have been knocking Maroney: Belichick has been highly complimentary of him all year. A few times Belichick has pointed out that the coaches evaluate running backs by whether or not they get what's there.

66
by doug (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2008 - 5:34am

don't know if this has been mentioned - but I wonder if Maroney has been spared early season punishment in order to blossom at just the right time. how many amazing backs have we seen run into the ground through overuse (Marshal Faulk, Eddie George)? Maybe the "under"usage of Maroney is deliberate to his long term durability and yet another new trend the Pats start and other teams copy.

67
by Duff Soviet Union (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2008 - 9:37am

Rich #4, do you seriously think Matt Light is replacement level? If you do, I think you are seriously overestimating the actual number of good left tackles in the NFL these days. I'm an Oakland fan and I'd take him in a second. I'm sure fans of a lot of other teams would too.

68
by Independent George (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2008 - 10:53am

Dammit. What do I have to do to reverse the FOMBC?

69
by Stoppable Manning (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2008 - 11:18am

#48 re: faceguarding

"That doesn’t mean DBs can’t get called for it WHEN THEY PLAY THE PATRIOTS".

Fixed for accuracy.

70
by Eric P (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2008 - 11:37am

Re:69

Surely you meant to say “That doesn’t mean DBs can’t get called for it WHEN THEY PLAY THE COLTS”.

Right?

71
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2008 - 11:45am

69.

Accuracy? That should be "When they play the colts"

See Ellis Hobbs, Last years AFC championship game. Ellis Hobbs, Superbowl 41.5. Dreyton Florence, this years divisional playoff, etc.

72
by GlennW (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2008 - 12:56pm

> I’m not convinced there is a lot of talent. Mankins and Neal are studs, but Light and Kaczur are replacement level, and Koppen is probably average.

Brady indeed is great at stepping up in the pocket and getting rid of the ball quickly, but I really think you need to look around the league before you'd call players like Koppen and Light (a Pro Bowler) just average or "replacement level" (Kaczur you're probably correct about). Just start with the fact that as a unit the Patriots rarely suffer the kind of breakdowns that are commonplace against top defenses. Somebody other than just Brady is doing something right...

73
by Nick (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2008 - 12:58pm

Matt Light is certainly not "replacement level", but he definitely isn't the best LT in the game like his All-Pro status would suggest. He's pretty trick or treat. It seems like there are certain guys (Merriman) that he owns and other guys (Taylor, Schobel) who do the same to him.

74
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2008 - 1:01pm

"Light (a Pro Bowler)"

A pro Bowler? You mean like Roy Williams?

75
by GlennW (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2008 - 1:17pm

> A pro Bowler? You mean like Roy Williams?

Okay, as the previous poster stated Matt Light is certainly not the best LT in the conference and he might not even deserve to be in the Pro Bowl as a backup, but I'd say that he's in the top quarter of LTs in the league. I almost think that some Patriots fans are so familiar with excellence at most positions that they don't have a solid grasp on what "average" really means relative to the league. The average LT is quite often abused by these top-notch DEs and OLBs, while Light more than holds his own, typically (yes, I know he's had a few bad games here and there).

76
by BDC (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2008 - 1:24pm

66:

"don’t know if this has been mentioned - but I wonder if Maroney has been spared early season punishment in order to blossom at just the right time."

Believe it or not, but not every little thing the Pats do is intentional or part of some sort of "master plan".

"Maybe the “under” usage of Maroney is deliberate to his long term durability and yet another new trend the Pats start and other teams copy."

Huh? Yea, I am sure the Pats are the first team in the NFL to consider the long term durability of their key players.

77
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2008 - 2:27pm

"but I’d say that he’s in the top quarter of LTs in the league....The average LT is quite often abused by these top-notch DEs and OLBs, while Light more than holds his own, typically (yes, I know he’s had a few bad games here and there)."

And Light IS quite often abused by the top DEs and OLBs in the league. Need we forget Freeney, Shobel, etc abusing him on a regular basis?

Top quarter would mean theres less than 8 tackles better than him, and that I strongly disagree with.

78
by BruceNH (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2008 - 2:36pm

Brian (#64)

"Dante Scarnechia is the best thing Ron Meyer ever did." You forget the famous snowplow game. Meyer was the guy who told the snowplow operator to clear the path for John Smith to kick the winning field goal. I was watching that game and I still remember the vein on Don Shula's head just throbbing when he was arguing with the refs. I thought to myself, he's going to have an aneurysm. I believe that he still holds a grudge against Meyer. Note to Seahawk fans, the field goal was set up by some excellent running by Lofa Tatupus' father, Mosi.

79
by erik fast (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2008 - 3:04pm

RE: #66/76

The Pats didn't under use Maroney during the season to protect him for the post season. He was injured most of the 1/3 of the season and still recovering until just 6 or so weeks ago. It is possible that his injuries early in the season kept him fresh for the end of the season and playoffs, but this certainly was no intentional plan. Thats one of the reasons the Pats want a Sammy Morris type running back: to deflect some of the wear and tear from the injury prone Maroney.

80
by dryheat (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2008 - 3:16pm

I think pretty much everybody is correct in re: Matt Light, in a way.

He's usually overmatched by a good defensive end in pass protection.

He's definitely an elite LT in terms of getting to the second level and in getting out to block for the screen.

In a vacuum, Matt Light would be somewhere in the #14-18 range of left tackles. He wouldn't look so good playing for San Diego, Jacksonville, or Tennessee. For the Patriots offense, with respect to the plays they like to run, and the talents of Tom Brady, he's very effective. I think Light and Koppen's Pro Bowl invites are a credit to the Patriots offense as a whole. Sadly, I'm sure that is a happy accident, as most voters don't have a clue as to which linemen are having a great season, and when in doubt, pick guys from the undefeated team who's quarterback is setting all-time records.

81
by Thomas Payne (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2008 - 3:25pm

"The Patriots have run over 1,100 plays on offense this year and have been flagged for offensive holding 7 seven times. The next closest team this year has over twice that many, with fewer offensive plays."

Nothing but personal attacks...I thought this was the "thinking man's football site"? Or is that just for the other 31 teams?

82
by dork matter (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2008 - 3:39pm

RE: #66/76/78

As a recent comparison, the Colts used Addai sparingly early last season and increased his time on the field as the season wore on. Presumably this happened as he learned more of the playbook and got more practice as a blocker. That said, Rhodes still was the workhorse in the Super Bowl.

Last year there was a lot of criticism leveled at Addai for being injury-prone. I think "rookie" had more to do with his limited playing time than "injury-prone," but in the workhorse role this year he definitely slowed down at the end of the season.

I think Maroney's been slower to pick up pass blocking and catching, which limited when he could be on the field, and which let opposing defenses know to load up against the run.

83
by MJK (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2008 - 4:26pm

dork matter, (can we call you "dork"?)

I think you nailed it. Early in the year, Maroney's pass blocking was poor, so the Patriots would only bring him in when they intended to run. Hence, seeing Maroney in the game clued the opposing defenses that they should focus on stopping Maroney. I think this helped the Pats playaction game a bit, but it also meant holes closed for Maroney a lot faster.

Now that he's a better pass blocker, the Pats bring him out in a pro-set on non-obvious downs and opposing defenses don't know what's coming. They don't dare back off Moss and Welker, and so Maroney has more room to run. So, ironically, his pass blocking improvement has probably brought him success in the running game.

Also ironically, it has probably hurt Randy Moss. A lot of Mosses big catches early in the year came on playaction. Maroney would come in, opposing defenses would think..."hmmm, he can't pass block, the Pats almost always run when he's in the game", and leave Moss single covered. Brady would playaction and hit Moss. Now teams are never leaving Moss single covered, partly because he scared everyone so much early, but partly because Maroney being in the game doesn't scream "run" quite so much...

84
by Eric P (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2008 - 4:44pm

Re:80
Anytime you try to point to an officiating conspiracy as the reason for any teams success, any "thinking man" is just going to laugh in your face, as they have. If you really believe that, why are you following the NFL?

85
by Stoppable Manning (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2008 - 5:08pm

#70 & 71: Okay, maybe Colts too. But the last time I saw the refs blow that call was vs. the Patriots.

86
by dork matter (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2008 - 7:12pm

RE: 83

Er, sure? I guess I can save you two syllables.

Good point on defenses picking their poison between Maroney and Moss. Maroney and Faulk or Evans in the backfield is hell on earth for any defense looking to take away the passing game. With Moss and Stallworth out wide and Watson or Welker as the 5th eligible receiver, New England's actually got the pass-catching RB-FB combination essential to a West Coast-style offense.

Bend-don't-break defenses are set up to force 15- to 18-play drives from an offense in order to put points on the board. The Patriots can take 5- to 8-yards per play all game, though, as they showed against JAC. Forcing a defense to be perfect against that many plays is a pretty good formula for success.

Although judging from the complaints about the JAC@NE game in Audibles at the Line, the FO writers will need some serious help to survive another "boring" game like that one.

87
by phil (not verified) :: Thu, 01/24/2008 - 7:14am

Re #29
<>

All the recent talk about the "dirty play" by the Pats OL just makes me laugh - and is just symptomatic of the anti-Pats sentiment out there. Ever *really* watch what goes on in the scrums on running plays (I know it's hard to see unless you're really looking for it)? Every effective OL in the league does it - and has for the last 50 years. It *used* to be called "hard-nosed football" by everyone from George Halas to Vince Lombardi. Most of what goes on in the trenches isn't called (unless you're Conrad Dobler and you're biting people) - and if you don't give, you just get - and get dominated and beat up.
Maybe you'd *like* it all to be called - but it isn't. Try living in the real world.

88
by V4Velvetta (not verified) :: Thu, 01/24/2008 - 6:07pm

For conspiracy buff(oon)s (from Mike Reiss)

"The Giants were flagged for just 77 accepted penalties during the regular season, ranking them sixth in the NFL. That has carried into the playoffs, especially in the divisional round, when the Giants had 3 penalties, and the Cowboys had 11.

"The Patriots had only 78 accepted penalties, tying them for seventh in the NFL. The team has also carried that momentum into the playoffs, as there have been just eight accepted penalties against New England in two games."

89
by Matt Saracen - QB1 - Dillon Panthers (not verified) :: Thu, 01/24/2008 - 10:18pm

Well gee Phil, that's an original argument from the Patriots 'everyone else does it, so it's OK'. Where did we hear that one earlier in the year?? Yeah, it cost you a 1st round pick and many thousands of dollars.

Sorry for sounding too bitter...

Very good stuff from MJK about Maroney's development - particularly the impact his pass blocking has on the play calls. You really have to pick your poison when defending the Patriots now between Moss and Maroney. Unfortunately, defensive coordinators seem to be completely selling out to stop Moss constantly doubling him. I would like to see plays where they take some attention off him, or try to trap Brady into throwing to Moss as we've seen 4 of Brady's picks this year were when he was trying to hit Moss.

90
by terry (not verified) :: Fri, 01/25/2008 - 3:21am

their run game was effective against defensive line you rank 29th

91
by Russ (not verified) :: Fri, 01/25/2008 - 4:22pm

Not just Miami. My Seahawks dropped Heath Evans too. I was seriously depressed when he was cut and we could have used him this year when Mack Strong went down. I have been a fan ever since I found out he played a game at Auburn with a broken foot.

92
by Herm? (not verified) :: Fri, 01/25/2008 - 6:08pm

89
not for nothing, but selling out to stop Moss seems to be keeping the games much closer.
If I were a dcoordinator, I'd sell out on Moss and try to get Maroney to fumble.
On offense, besides controlling the clock and executing, I'd spend a lot of time talking about Rodney Harrison's mom.

93
by Wowsas (not verified) :: Sat, 01/26/2008 - 1:33pm

I tend to agree with those who think that Belichick was holding back Maroney to keep him fresh.

As a fantasy owner, it was definitely frustrating that so many of Maroney's "injuries" were phantom ones. That explanation doesn't make sense, when we hear that Maroney himself didn't know he was "injured" at various times in the season.

Sure, they probably wanted him to improve his pass blocking and catching, but let's remember the context here: the Pats were blowing teams away during the time of Maroney's "injuries". They really didn't need him at all, and why not save a young bruising RB in that situation.

I don't think that this makes the Pats the smartest team of all time (although they're clearly a more strategic organization than most); but I do think they were smart, and more importantly they had the luxury to sit one of their top players for a good part of the season.

Or to put it another way: if the Colts were winning games 52-7 en route to a 16-0 regular season without needing the services of Bob Sanders, Dwight Freeney, Marvin Harrison and Dallas Clark, don't you think they'd sit those folks for parts of the season?