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.
Three weeks removed from his team blowing a 25-point, second-half lead in the Super Bowl, Mohamed Sanu offered a possible explanation for the Atlanta Falcons losing their edge against the Patriots.
More specifically, it was the half-hour-plus halftime show that interrupted the Falcons' rhythm, the receiver said Friday on the NFL Network's "Good Morning Football."
“Usually, halftime is only like 15 minutes, and when you’re not on the field for like an hour, it’s just like going to work out, like a great workout, and you go sit on the couch for an hour and then try to start working out again,” Sanu said.
Sanu was asked if the delay was something you can simulate in practice.
"It's really the energy [you can't duplicate]," he said. "I don't know if you can simulate something like that. That was my first time experiencing something like that."
Patriots coach Bill Belichick did simulate it. In his Super Bowl practices, he had his team take long breaks in the middle.
Sanu also addressed the Falcons' pass-first play-calling that didn't eat up clock while the Patriots came back.
"The thought [that they weren't running the ball more] crossed your mind, but as a player, you're going to do what the coach [Dan Quinn] wants you to do." Sanu said. "He's called plays like that all the time."
The Patriots received a conditional fourth-round pick in 2018 from the Browns in return for Jamie Collins. That's how the trade was described on the league's transaction wire.
The "condition" of that fourth-rounder? Well, if the Browns received a third-round compensatory pick in 2017, the Patriots would nab that pick instead.
On Friday, the NFL announced that the Browns had in fact been awarded a third-round compensatory pick, which meant that almost three full weeks after Super Bowl LI, everything was still coming up Patriots.
Cleveland lost Pro Bowl center Alex Mack in free agency last offseason when he opted to sign with the Falcons. Because compensatory picks are based on free agents lost and free agents acquired, and because the Browns did not sign any similarly-impactful free agents, there was a good chance Mack's departure would render a third-round comp pick that would be shipped to New England.
Had Mack suffered a significant injury that forced his play to drop off or limited his time on the field, a third-rounder may have been out of the question, but he played well (named a Pro Bowler and a Second Team All-Pro) and stayed healthy -- lucky for the Patriots -- missing just 17 total snaps in the regular season.
The Browns comp pick that will be sent to New England is No. 103 overall. The Patriots were also awarded a fifth-round comp pick, No. 185 overall. That was a result of the league weighing the departures of Akiem Hicks and Tavon Wilson against the arrival of Shea McClellin.
The Patriots now have nine selections in this year's draft: One first-rounder; one second-rounder; two third-rounders; one fourth-rounder*; two fifth-rounders; two seventh-rounders.
The third-round compensatory pick acquired by the Patriots carries additional value this year in that it is the first year in which compensatory picks can be traded. A near top-100 overall selection may allow the Patriots to move up the draft board or build assets in the middle rounds should they be inclined to deal. And we know they oftentimes are.
* The Patriots forfeited their highest fourth-round selection in this year's draft as part of their Deflategate punishment. They acquired a fourth-round pick from the Seahawks last year. Because that would have been the higher of their two selections, that's the one they'll lose. They will make their own fourth-round pick at No. 137 overall.