New England Patriots Super Bowl Champs

Patriots crush Jaguars 47-12; start to answer some questions

Cunningham got to the quarterback once last night, but he’s got work to do.

This had to be the most watched Patriots’ preseason game ever right?

If 18,000 people went to training camp the other day, and the stands were at least half full, how many people were watching on TV?

I’ll be honest, I don’t think anyone knows.

What I do know is the NFL’s marketing geniuses managed this lockout perfectly.

General attention is higher than ever. Everyone is talking football, hyping their enviable fantasy decision-making, looking forward to Sunday like never before.

It really is incredible. They made us miss something that we never really lost, proving to all fans that distance makes the heart grow fonder, and you don’t know what you lost until you are stupid enough to think it might be gone.

Either way, the lockout is over, and any concerns that it would leave a bitter taste in the mouths of fans went away with the tides.

The tide goes in, the tide goes out. Never a miscommunication. You can’t explain that.

What you can explain is why Patriots fans were pumped to see their team take the field. And it wasn’t to see Jim Koch (Sam Adams founder) get interviewed. (Was that really necessary? And was he as drunk as he seemed? And how many times do we need to hear Jim Koch talk about how he started Sam Adams in his kitchen… Did you know he was a home-brewer?)

It was to see the Patriots prove that even their second-unit could be a ten game winner this year.

Has their ever been a more watched, more hyped scrimmage that actually lived up to expectations?

Fans had serious countdowns for this game. They were legitimately looking forward to it. And somehow, it managed to deliver. Mainly because, with these backup quarterbacks, Hoyer and Mallett, paired with Ridley and Price, the Patriots seriously have better second unit offense than half the teams’ first teams.

In Mike “the Patriot Way” Reiss’ chat yesterday, someone asked if Tom Brady would play most of the game just so they could crush the Jaguars to punish Jack Del Rio for talking trash. (What did you accomplish spewing this mindless bullshit before a preseason game, Jack?)

Reiss, in classic form, said, “But don’t think Belichick will come close to risking injury to his key guys. In fact, wouldn’t be shocked if they don’t suit up at all.”

No one thought Brady would play. He doesn’t play in the first game anymore. And he didn’t need to. The Patriots managed to crush the Jaguars anyway, clearly running up the score on them, finishing 47-12.

The Patriots overcame early fumbles via Danny Woodhead and Aaron Hernandez, to demolish the blackout kings. (Quiz question 1: if the NFL owners lockout the players because they claim they need a greater share of the revenue so they can build new stadiums, do they spend their money on a smaller stadium in Jacksonville, that would yield less revenue, so they don’t have to blackout all the Jacksonville home games because they can’t sell out now a normal sized stadium? Or do they build a smaller stadium in St. Louis where they have the same problem? Or Oakland? OR Detroit ?) (QQ2: How many consecutive years have ticket sales decreased?) (QQ3: Why did anyone believe the owners when they said they wanted additional revenue to build new stadiums when more and more people every year choose to stay at home and watch the game on HD TV?)

Following their early miscues, the Patriots addressed some of their biggest question marks.

What kind of defense will they run?

Despite Belichick’s claims that they haven’t changed the defense, the team was in 4-3 most of the game. This doesn’t mean the team won’t run 3-4 come regular season, but my guess is they’re going to continue focusing on the 4-3. The personnel just works.

Dane Fletcher was definitely the star of this defense. Spikes is the #1 guy here, but Fletcher might have more potential. He is bigger than last year, and he is starting to get “it”. He was reacting quickly–making several plays behind the line–and running the defense with confidence. After watching his progress, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a 3-4 with Fletcher and Spikes at MLB, moving Mayo to OLB opposite Cunningham. Not sure what their isn’t to love about that lineup.

Next: who will make the team at WR?

Taylor Price stole the show last night. He showed sure hands (except for when the ball hit him in the face), tons of speed and great route-running.

Meanwhile, Stephen Gostkowski showed everyone why kick returners are now very replaceable parts. And now all of a sudden, Brandon Tate is looking extremely expendable. Wouldn’t be surprised (or disappointed) to see him among the departed soon.

Third, why did the Patriots draft two runningbacks last spring?

We got half the answer last night: because Ridley is Benjarvus Green-Ellis, but with talent. Law Firm is good, but painful. He’s not going to get hit for a loss, but he probably won’t get more than a 4 yard gain. He’s going to run tough, but he’s probably not going to run anyone over.

Ridley, on the other hand, doesn’t seem like he’ll lose yards very often, but he showed last night he’s capable of the big gain, and he’ll really hit you. He ran the ball hard, showed off some speed and caught the ball out of the backfield. He had three TD’s and over a 100 total yards. And he was the second back the Patriots took. Very excited to see Vereen get healthy.

And of course, the burning question: how’d the pass rush look?

Everyone will undoubtedly focus on Jermaine Cunningham here. Some will point to his sack, and say he had a good game. Others will focus on one of his many bad plays and say I-told-you-so. But the reality is, just as Cunningham learned OLB last year, he learned 4-3 NFL DE, and he is still learning both positions. The good news is, he’s clearly talented. He makes enough good plays to prove that. The bad news is, he screws up on an equal scale. The future is bright for him, but that future isn’t within sight. But hopefully it begins to come into the lens by playoff time.

But, this doesn’t matter much anyway. Until we see the full unit in place (with Haynesworth, Wilfork, Ellis, Carter, Mayo, Spike, McCourty and Bodden) in action, we’ll have no idea about the pass rush, or anything really. That won’t happen until the regular season. Until then, I’m plenty content to just be watching football again.

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