Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

09 Nov 2010

ESPN AGS: Browns over Patriots

Patriots fans will choke on their lunches, or whatever else they are eating in front of their computers, when they see just how much Wes Welker and the Pats tight ends have struggled without Randy Moss around to draw the safeties deep.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 09 Nov 2010

29 comments, Last at 10 Nov 2010, 10:31am by RichC


by Vicious Chicken Of Bristol (not verified) :: Tue, 11/09/2010 - 1:42pm

"...when they see just how much Wes Welker and the Pats tight ends have struggled without Randy Moss around to draw the safeties deep."

Is that really a surprise? Was there anyone other than Pats fans who didnt see that coming?

by dryheat :: Tue, 11/09/2010 - 2:48pm

Pats fans saw it coming too, and assuming they've watched the games, they won't be surprised by whatever numbers are revealed by the ESPN Insider article. I think that Wes Welker and the tight ends would have to have -8 combined receptions for -4000 yards with 14 home runs, a golden goal, and 4 silver medals in alpine skiing before I'd choke on my Halloween candy.

(edit: I would indeed choke on my mini Snickers if the answer was "not at all")

(edit edit: In case your curious about the numbers, Mike Reiss has a synopsis here: http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/new-england-patriots/ )

by jfsh :: Tue, 11/09/2010 - 3:07pm

I don't think it will spoil the Insider-ness of the piece to let you know that Welker and the tight ends only have 11 home runs and 2 alpine skiing medals.

by Vicious Chicken Of Bristol (not verified) :: Tue, 11/09/2010 - 4:24pm

Oh, I'm sure some did...I am referring to the head-in-the-sand, "Moss only caught 4 balls", "Brady doesnt need receivers" crowd.

Obviously, losing a player that demands double or triple coverage on every play...whether he has one catch or one hundred...is going to have a negative effect on the passing game.

And I am going to channel my inner-New Englander now....Dont choke on that Snickah Bah!

by RichC (not verified) :: Wed, 11/10/2010 - 10:28am

Plenty of Pats fans saw it coming.

by jfsh :: Tue, 11/09/2010 - 1:47pm

This was an interesting article, but it really didn't deal with the game (or the Browns) at all. The Jets one was the same, as I recall. Maybe this series needs a new name?

by drobviousso :: Tue, 11/09/2010 - 5:33pm

I agree, but they said that that was the direction their overlords* a the orbital world-wide headquarters** want. Which sucks.***

*Not their words
**Not their words
***Not their words

by Rob Ovenden (not verified) :: Tue, 11/09/2010 - 1:50pm

The premise of the article is ludicrous. How did the
Pats ever win anything in 2001-2004 without Moss?
The problem they have is the same problem they had
last year on the road even with Moss: the offense
can't stay on the field and so the defense gets burned
out. That's either a Brady problem or a coaching
problem, and I don't think it's Brady's problem.

by jfsh :: Tue, 11/09/2010 - 2:15pm

Well, first, I don't think they were saying that the Patriots were incapable of winning, just that the passing offense has been hurt by Moss's departure. But the 2001-2004 Pats teams weren't really offensive powerhouses, except maybe in 2004:

2001: #11 offense, #13 defense, #12 overall
2002: #9 offense, #14 defense, #7 overall
2003: #14 offense, #2 defense, #4 overall
2004: #3 offense, #6 defense, #2 overall

The Pats were the prototypical "scrappy underdog" at first, winning with heart and moxie and clutch swagger, and then they morphed into a great defensive team. The 2004 Patriots were great all-around, of course.

by Vicious Chicken Of Bristol (not verified) :: Tue, 11/09/2010 - 2:35pm

Exactly, the Pats back then never had an awe inspiring passing offense (even in 2004 they were 13th I think, 7th in rushing).

They were efficient...and they had a good to great defense (one that gave up very very few points 1st, 2nd, and 6th in the SB years I believe) to back them up.

The difference is that back then the D could bail out the O. Now, it seems that it cant.

by Dienasty (not verified) :: Tue, 11/09/2010 - 2:36pm

What the offense is missing compared to those Superbowl teams is a big bruising back (i.e. Antwan Smith) or a top 5 back (i.e. Corey Dillon). In fact, it is the Dillon of 04 that made that team much more dominant than the scrappy 01 team and the resilient 03 one. If they can have a pick in top 12 or so (Raiders stop winning) then they can nab a dominant back. That with an improving defense puts them in good position for a title next year. This year would take a bunch of lucky bounces (which they have been getting, banged up and sloppy San Diego, dysfunctional Vikes, banged up Steelers next week). Hopefully, it continues.

by dryheat :: Tue, 11/09/2010 - 2:43pm

I don't know if Belichick reads Quick Reads or not, but I'll bet he's come to the same conclusion about drafting running backs high, and has the recent example of Laurence Maroney to remind him that it's very hard to pick out who's going to be a dominant back in the NFL.

by Matthan (not verified) :: Tue, 11/09/2010 - 2:45pm

They were so damn efficient because they knew the other team’s plays before the snap. It’s ludicrous fans gloss over that obvious fact over and over when reminiscing about the Patriots asterisk dynasty.

by dryheat :: Tue, 11/09/2010 - 3:00pm

That POV seems rather simplistic. If they knew the other team's plays before the snap, it's because the other team kept using the same hand signals over an extended period of time. I don't know how realistic that is.

More likely, the videotaping exposed tendecies of how defenses react to personnel groupings and down/distance situations. Again, it's not as if the Patriots offense was setting any records during those years. The year they were setting records, I'm fairly confident they weren't videotaping signals outside of Week 1.

by Cro-Mags (not verified) :: Tue, 11/09/2010 - 2:58pm

Does this take into account the running situation? They started the year with Faulk, F. Taylor, and Maroney and are now down to 2 undrafted player in Green-Ellis and Woodhead.

by Nathan :: Tue, 11/09/2010 - 3:11pm

don't need stats to magically tell me that welker's struggling without moss, it's pretty apparent from watching the games

also apparent from watching what harvin did with moss

by Dienasty (not verified) :: Tue, 11/09/2010 - 3:34pm

It's unfortunate he has the temperment he does. With him and a different temperment, I think the Pats develop into a pretty dominant team by the end of this year. But as is, he only wants to do one thing. Wont block, wont run routes over the middle, wont not act crazy around a young team. They lost a lot trading him but I dont think they were going to sign him after this year anyway due to the above and anticipated decline in play.
As a football fan I'm intrigued by what he'll do to the Titans offense. When is the last time we have been able to evaluate the talent of one player by the effect on the offense of three teams both during and after the time he was there?

by RichC (not verified) :: Wed, 11/10/2010 - 10:31am

"Wont block, wont run routes over the middle, wont not act crazy around a young team."

Randy Moss has his problems, but Running routes over the middle and blocking aren't among them. He's not a good blocker, but he does block.

by Dienasty (not verified) :: Tue, 11/09/2010 - 3:13pm

The main missing ingredient from this team isn't Moss. There is only a handful of players who can dominate a game from the WR position like Moss has throughout his career and yet teams without those options find ways to win. I think your right when you suggest its the running game. That would open up the middle of the defenses for these young tight ends with play action passes and the deep part of the field if teams ever felt compelled to creep a safety up. While the undrafted RBs have played well, I think its clear they are being asked to play larger roles than should be playing for that offense. Unfortunately, the only hope for improvement i that area this year is Fragile Freddy. He looked very good in the preseason but hanging your hopes on him isn't a good idea an why I think it'll take some breaks and continued maturation by that D to make a real run this year.

by Nathan :: Tue, 11/09/2010 - 3:18pm

i agree, i like bjge as a person and all but the offense looks a lot more dynamic when woodhead is on the field... last sunday i kept thinking all game long "i hope taylor comes back soon".

the pats run blocking is not dominant enough for bjge to be the #1 back.

by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Tue, 11/09/2010 - 6:54pm

I didn't get to see the game and I didn't read this article (no insider) but as bad as the Patriots looked, didn't they give away two scores to the Browns (the bobbled kickoff and the Gronkowski fumble at the 5?). Those seem pretty fluky to me and I think the game would have played out much differently had they not happened. I don't want to say that Patriots "don't do those things" but to be honest, they don't. I can't remember a fumble not by Maroney or Brady in the last few years. They're usually very good about protecting the ball and not making situational mistakes. I think they sacrifice a lot of talent on the market to find those solid situational players.

by Nathan :: Tue, 11/09/2010 - 7:56pm

Peyton Hillis looked like the 2nd coming of Earl Campbell.

by AudacityOfHoops :: Tue, 11/09/2010 - 9:38pm

I can't remember a fumble not by Maroney or Brady in the last few years.

I was curious when I read this, so I looked up the stats for the last few years. These are total fumbles, NOT fumbles lost:

2009: 8 fumbles by TB/LM, 9 by others
2008: 8 fumbles by Cassel/Morris, 9 by others*
2007: 6 fumbles by TB/LM, 8 by others*

*Team fumble totals on PFR did not match the sum of individual numbers. I assumed the total included muffed punts or something similar, where no individual gets credited. So I included these unassigned fumbles in the "others" count.

That's about 0.5 fumbles per game over the last 3 years from people other than QB1/RB1. Assuming a 50% recovery rate, you would normally average two lost per 8 games. Whereas NE lost 2 last night. So, yeah, pretty fluky.

by dryheat :: Tue, 11/09/2010 - 10:18pm

I can't remember a fumble not by Maroney or Brady in the last few years

Seriously? I think Maroney fumbled 4 times inside the 5 yard line last year, and it got him benched.

You don't ever recall Brady getting sacked/fumbling? That's happened plenty over the years.

by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Tue, 11/09/2010 - 10:52pm

Poor writing on my part - I was trying to say that TB and LM were the main fumbling culprits the last few years.

by dryheat :: Wed, 11/10/2010 - 9:08am

You did say that. Poor reading on my part.

by Jerry :: Tue, 11/09/2010 - 11:16pm

The Pats were down 10 points before the offense touched the ball, but there was no point after that where they had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead. Give the Browns credit - they completely outplayed New England Sunday.

by PatsFan :: Tue, 11/09/2010 - 3:19pm

I was amused by the typo in Reiss's blog post linking to this:

"For an interesting read, check out this statistical analysis by the Football Insiders (Insider) on why the Patriots aren’t the same team without Randy Moss."

by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 11/09/2010 - 10:57pm

I am amused that an ESPN blogger posted three-quarters of an Insider article on their free-to-read blog.