Sour day of play-calling by Patriots' McDaniels

Sour day of play-calling by Patriots' McDaniels
September 17, 2012, 11:47 pm
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FOXBORO - Logan Mankins' reaction said it all. Two arms flung into the air in the universal sign for "What the (BLEEP) are we doing out here!" What elicited that reaction from the normally stoic left guard. The fact that a trick play with the Patriots trying to pick up a vital first down had completely blown up in their faces, they'd been backed out of field goal range and - with 3:26 left in the third quarter - they were now punting to the Arizona Cardinals. Again. The play in question was designed to be a toss to Danny Woodhead who was then going to throw back from the right sideline to Tom Brady on the left hash. And Brady was to hit either of two receivers coming from right to left downfield. But the wall set up for Woodhead on the right crumbled. Donald Thomas got turnstiled, Woodhead got swarmed under and the play was dead. As I wondered Sunday night and am even more perplexed by now, why - with a Hall of Fame quarterback, a 9.5 million slot receiver, a 50 million tight end and a back that gained 125 yards last week - would you toss the ball to Danny Woodhead (owner of the team's smallest hands, I would bet) and have him even consider throwing back across the field to Tom Brady. And all this behind the right side of an offensive line that was having extreme difficulty keeping anyone blocked. Given Mankins' reaction, he may have been thinking the same thing. Hey, one supposes this is the cost of doing business. In Week 1, Josh McDaniels was celebrated for his ingenuity and position groupings and formations and shifts. In Week 2, once Aaron Hernandez went out of the game, that play sheet in McDaniels' hands might as well have gone up in smoke. Sunday serves as a reminder that, even the good ones have bad days. And that the loss of a key player like Hernandez wasn't easy to overcome because of the new offensive pieces in place .In years past, both Bill Belichick and Brady have talked about the continuity in their offensive program allowing them to switch on the fly. If something's not working, they had the ability to just reach back in time and pluck portions of old game plans and all the guys involved - Deion Branch, Troy Brown, Kevin Faulk, whoever - would know exactly what that previous plan called for. This offense doesn't have that continuity. Brandon Lloyd's new, Stevan Ridley might as well be, the offensive line is - at times - 60 percent unproven and Julian Edelman's getting his feet under himself with an expanded role. . . And McDaniels has been gone for three seasons. On this Sunday, it seemed that McDaniels was too smart for his own good. It wasn't a day to get creative on third down at the opponent's 30 with 18:30 left in the game. It was a day to let the best player of his generation run the show and get out of the way. Which is, in essence, what happened when the Patriots charged down the field to score their only touchdown of the day. McDaniels wasn't calling plays he thought wouldn't work. He did, however, seem to overestimate the level at which his players would execute. Sometimes you pull the lever and everything comes up dollar signs, sometimes you get lemons. McDaniels got nothing but lemons on Sunday.