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.
The Patriots should always be motivated heading into games against the Ravens. After all, Baltimore might be the team’s primary rival.
Yet Monday’s matchup might be about more than past meetings. It could be a revenge game for the Ravens’ role in the Deflategate fiasco.
As Tom E. Curran notes in the above video, the then-recently eliminated Ravens set off the ordeal when they tipped off the Colts entering the 2014 AFC Championship game. From there, the year-and-a-half-long saga played itself out, ultimately resulting in Tom Brady accepting a four-game suspension from the league.
Curran and Mike Giardi discussed whether Monday could be a revenge game, with them both concluding that they feel the Patriots are still “pissed off” at the Ravens.
"I’m just reading the tea leaves,” Curran said. “Bill Belichick will usually throw bouquet after bouquet at the Baltimore Ravens any time they play, from Ozzie Newsome, to George Kokinis, to Eric DeCosta, to John Harbaugh, Dean Pees, everyone. Not a lot of that today. Make of that what you will; I don’t think it’s a coincidence because I do know that when the Patriots were going through the process early on, the fact that the Ravens had dropped a dime -- their assistant special teams coach Jerry Rosburg calling the Indianapolis Colts and saying, “Look there was some foolishness going on with the K balls.’
“Additionally, when that email from the Colts to the NFL was sent to Mike Kensil, it said, 'It’s well-known throughout the league that the Patriots screw with the balls after they’ve been checked by the officials.' So if that conversation was going on during the week between those two teams, one certainly has to surmise that they also spoke about the fact of deflating footballs.
“So as much as John Harbaugh has tried to dissuade anyone from thinking there was involvement, Dean Pees was interviewed by Ted Wells, Jerry Rosburg was interviewed by Ted Wells. Those are the only two principals from other organizations who were involved, so yeah, I think they’re still probably pretty pissed off about it.”
FOXBORO -- Ever wonder what might've been if Bill Belichick had remained the coach of the Browns, and later the Ravens, after they moved from Cleveland? He says he doesn't.
[And maybe it's a good thing that he doesn't, as his last memories with the organization saw fans literally rip the team's stadium apart and throw it onto the field.]
"I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about it, no," Belichick told Baltimore reporters during a conference call on Wednesday. "I try to think ahead and make the best of the situation that I’m in, which is what I tried to do when I was in Cleveland. I took a team that wasn’t very good in 1991, prior to free agency and all of that, had a real good team in 1994. The team moved in 1995."
The decision to move the team helped undo the Browns season in 1995, and Belichick was later fired. There's little denying, though, that he left the pieces of a competitive roster behind. And he helped stock the Ravens' cupboard with valuable assets.
Five years after Belichick's tenure in Cleveland had expired, the franchise won a Super Bowl with linebacker Ray Lewis -- drafted with a pick Belichick had acquired -- as its foundational piece.
"We made a trade that provided two first-round picks that Ozzie [Newsome] did a great job with," Belichick continued. "Ozzie and Ray Lewis were two of the cornerstones of that eventual championship team.
"I have a lot of confidence in my ability, I had a lot of confidence in the coaching staff and the players that we had at that time – 1995 wasn’t obviously a great year for us. I don’t think we need to talk about that. We all know what happened. But yeah, I think we would have been competitive if I had been the head coach there. I think we would have been competitive. We had a good team, we had a good staff, and we had a lot of good players.
"Ozzie did a good job with that team and made it better, and they won a championship five years later [with] some of the same players that we started with. But you know, it wasn’t my choice, Ted [Marchibroda] came in there and was going to transition that for what they needed at that point in time. But I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about it, no."