Patriots Notebook: Pats ‘D’ shuts down the Boys while coaching battle wasn’t close

Nasty. Wet. Cold. Windy. That is November football in the NFL. The image of the league is built around illustrations of Dick Butkus covered in mud and Ray Nitschke covered in blood. While these are images of prosperity, but they’re not pretty. Gridiron glory rarely is.

With Tom Brady as the face of the Patriots for two decades, Bill Belichick has been able to make teams believe that New England is this modern, offense heavy, Walsh-ian bunch of West Coast softies. Brady has executed the short passing game better than anybody since Joe Montana in his hey-day, but there is no Bill Walsh finesse to these Patriots.

Whether it was the early 2000’s alpha males like McGinest, Bruschi and Seymour or the modern Boogeymen, the Belichick system is steeped in the lineage of gridiron gruffs such as Paul Brown and Bill Parcells. Never has the comparison between the offense and defense been so stark but perhaps we should get used to it.

The Pats’ D has given up 19 points the last 8 quarters against the top two teams in the NFC East. They kept one of the league’s top offenses out of the end zone allowing them just 3 field goals. The weather was bad, Jason Garrett was bad, but the Patriots defense was really good on Sunday afternoon.

A couple of questions for Dallas though: why so little Amari Cooper? Their top pass catcher was shut out on Sunday (partly due to being manned up by Steph Gilmore) in large part because he spent most of the first half on the sideline while the Cowboys used 12 personnel sets (2 tight ends, 1 running back). Zeke Elliott moved the ball effectively, but it was like Jason Garrett and Kellen Moore got distracted by the rain drops, because Dallas abandoned the run on most drives once they got near midfield.

On two crucial plays with Dallas inside the Patriots 15, Elliott wasn’t even on the field. Even if you’re not going to run the ball, Elliott was the only effective pass catcher Dallas had Sunday. And how wet was Jason Garrett? I don’t think he wiped his face all game and wouldn’t use a hood. It was like he was waiting for someone to close the roof the entire game. Couldn’t you see Garrett pacing the sideline saying things like “It wouldn’t be that bad if they’d just close that dang roof!”

In a big win, Wynn was big. What a difference a week makes, but the addition of Isaiah Wynn was able to help negate what is, at times, a dominant Dallas defensive line. Brady had more time on a couple shots down field today than he has all season. The timing was a little off with receivers, but I suspect rain had more to do with a couple of dropped balls.

Kudos to Julian Edelman. No huge highlights, but was definitely playing through pain when the team needed it. No Sanu or Dorsett and #11 left it all out on the field. The “is Edelman a Hall of Famer” discussion has to be a near TKO in favor of at this point. Speaking of Hall of Famers…..

I think Matthew Slater is a Hall of Famer. Yes, I just said that a wide receiver with one single career reception deserves to be enshrined in Canton. Look at this season alone, the scoop and score at Buffalo was the difference in that game and Sunday his blocked punt set up the game’s only touchdown. Slater is a 7-time Pro Bowler, 4-time All-Pro and 3-time Super Bowl champion.

Not only that, Slater has been the captain of the Patriots since 2011, a stretch that has seen the team go to the conference championship every season, win it 5 times and win the Super Bowl 3 times. He’s won the Bart Starr award, been nominated for the Rooney award and picked up the vocal mantle of “guy who breaks down the team in the locker room post game” from Tedy Bruschi. It will be difficult for a career special teamer to get into the Hall of Fame, Steve Tasker has been the test case thus far (7-time Pro Bowler, 5-time All-Pro) as a receiver and primary gunner on those Buffalo Bills teams that lost 4 Super Bowls. As they say, Special Teams’s gunners are judged by how many Super Bowls they win.

By Sterling Pingree
www.sportschowdah.com

Jeff Solari

About Jeff Solari

Jeff Solari is the president and founder of the Sports Chowdah, Maine’s only free, weekly sports e mail newsletter. Recently, the Mount Desert Island native was the co-host of "The Drive" on 92.9 FM in Bangor.