THE CRUMBLING PATRIOTS; VICK’S RETURN

December 3, 2009

Ron Borges, of Boston Herald, cried yesterday about the Patriots-Saints game. “Now you all know why Bill Belichick went for it on fourth-and-2 in
Indianapolis. The New Orleans Saints made that abundantly clear last night, if anyone really had any doubts.
It was never a defensive vote of confidence, as Pats linebacker Jerod Mayo tried to turn it into several days after the Colts game. It was never a percentage play, as the mathematicians and sycophants tried to claim. It was a decision made in the desperate knowledge that the defense Belichick has built this year is what it is, which against high-powered offenses isn’t very good.
As a crowd of 70,768 maniacs hollered “Who Dat?” until your ears split open in the Superdome, the Saints went marching in. They also went marching out,
around, through and mostly over a Patriot defense that was defenseless from the opening snap until the merciful final one. Collectively the defense couldn’t tackle, couldn’t pressure Drew Brees and most of all couldn’t cover a bar tab on Bourbon Street, let alone the Saints’ collection of wide receivers, who averaged slightly more than two first downs per reception.
As someone in Foxboro once said, “That’s not what we’re looking for.”
It is what you’ve got, however. Or what you’ve got left.
Where was Asante Samuel  when you needed him because the money the Patriots saved letting him go two years ago can’t play cornerback, and it can’t play safety, and it can’t make plays – and neither could the guys who were brought in to replace him. Worst of all, they couldn’t play the New Orleans receivers, who steamrolled them all night long in a 38-17 Saints trampling of the Patriots.
In a city like New Orleans, nights can be very long. Few have been longer for the Patriots than last night. The Saints rolled up 371 passing yards as Brees
became the first quarterback to throw for five touchdowns against a Belichick-coached team.
Brees sliced the Pats. He diced them. He destroyed their self-confidence to the point that not even safety Brandon McGowan was beating his chest by halftime.
By that point it was 24-10 and worse than the score indicated. By the time it was over, Brees had a perfect 158.3 passer rating and the Patriots had their
38-17 deficiency rating.
The Colts undressed this same defense two weeks earlier, putting up 35 on them, including a devastating 21 in less than eight minutes to overcome a 17-point deficit to win by a point. But this was different. This was not a struggle among equals, although it now seems clear neither was the Colts game – except that Tom Brady made it appear so.
Brady last night could not save a defense that has not made a significant stop all season and made none, significant or insignificant, against the Saints. It was not that the defenders were pathetic that was so bothersome. It’s that they seemed helpless almost from the game’s first play, a 33-yard completion to Devery Henderson, who toasted Leigh Bodden as if he never heard that the corner once intercepted three passes from the New York Jets’ Mark Sanchez.
As it turned out, that opening completion was a warning shot the Patriots could not heed. It was a harbinger of things to come. A statement, mostly.
“Who Dat Say Gonna Beat Dem Saints?”
Not Dem Pats.
As bad as the secondary was there was no pressure on Brees from anyone but his receivers, who kept getting so open he would have looked ridiculous if he
didn’t find them.
Over and over and over again, Brees found them until he’d put a hurting on the proud Patriots that seemed to tell them this is not their year. Maybe, before it’s all over, Belichick will come up with something. Maybe Brady will do miraculous things over and over and over again and save the Pats from their flaws.
Unfortunately for these Patriots, a lot of footballs were passed on them in allowing 73 points combined to the Colts and Saints, and they had no answer What the Saints made clear is that the once-proud Pats defense is no longer among the elite in the NFL.
From beginning to end the Pats were either back on their heels or head-over-heels on defense. It didn’t matter if it was Marques Colston (four receptions, 121 yards, touchdown) or Henderson (three catches, 116 yards) or anyone else in a New Orleans receiving corps that averaged a shockingly absurd 20.6 yards per reception.
Whoever Brees went to was open, a sad fact that seemed to say case closed on the 2009 Patriots.
The Pats will make the playoffs again because they play in a dreadful division. They will compete hard and go as far as Brady’s arm will take them. But that will not take them to Miami again after next weekend. Like most of the Saints receivers all night, that was clear.”

Tom Robinson, of  HamptonRoads.com, talked about the long awaited (by some) return of Michael Vick to the Georgia Dome wearing his familiar
No. 7 jersey- this time as a Philadelphia Eagle.
“Michael Vick “returns” to Atlanta this Sunday as an NFL player, but what does that mean? Simply that Vick will be in the Georgia Dome, dressed in his
No. 7 jersey, when the Philadelphia Eagles play the Falcons.
Assuming precedent holds, Vick won’t contribute much. He’ll barely see the field he used to own, in a stadium he lit up with athletic wonder earlier this decade.
If coach Andy Reid asks him to run once or twice, as usual, Vick will look slow and uncertain on his feet. If asked to throw – and why on earth would he
be? – there’s a two-in-three chance he’ll misfire, even if his target is a few yards away, as was the tight end Vick threw behind Sunday against the Redskins.
Vick’s irrelevancy buffers a date that loomed as a spectacle when the Eagles inexplicably adopted him and his dog-fighting baggage upon his release from
federal prison.
The day will still be framed as Vick’s emotionally charged encore in front of fans he once flipped off in the days before things turned rotten in Atlanta. But
emotions are likely to be mixed.
Vick revived a fan base and a franchise on his way to being a three-time Pro Bowl quarterback. He also admittedly didn’t prepare hard, didn’t always play
hard, and ultimately repulsed the team and the league with his heinous and clandestine behavior.
There are those who will forever detest Vick for his sins and resent his ability to make millions again playing football. Their counterpoint are those who cherish the concept of redemption after penalties paid.
Indifference is likely to be a distant third option. Message-board lurkers can see this drama played out in online media this week, especially in Atlanta, where Vick references routinely draw multiple screen-pages of heated response.
“I’m sure it will be an emotional situation,” Reid told Philly reporters Monday. “But (Vick’s) worked through some emotional situations and done pretty good with them. I think he’ll be fine as it goes on.”
But then the game will go on – and the big picture of Vick’s worth as a football player will remain as murky as a street puddle.
The puzzle is whether Vick’s ability is dormant or gone for good. Is he a victim of Reid’s reluctance or inability to figure out how to employ a guy who a few years ago was one of the NFL’s top offensive threats?
Or has rust encased Vick so severely after two seasons away from the league that his skills are gone for good?
Vick’s statistics suggest the latter but, in fairness, there are much easier things to do than to pop off the sideline a couple times a game and produce an impact play.
Vick is 3-for-9 passing for 6 yards. Running, he has a 34-yard burst, a quarterback draw two weeks ago in Chicago. Otherwise, he’s rushed 14 times for 31 yards. Against Washington, one of Vick’s two runs was a tentative tap dance up the middle for 4 yards to the Redskins 1.
“He probably could’ve done a little better job on his quarterback draw, just pulling it for another step,” Reid said. “He’s excited to get a touchdown I think. Everybody has been giving him a bad time about scoring a touchdown here, so he was a little anxious on that one.”
Reaction to a Vick touchdown in Philadelphia – where his arrival was loudly criticized – would have been interesting.
Doubtful as it is, it would be doubly interesting in Atlanta.”

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