Ugliness started on Patriots sidelines


Ugliness started on Patriots sidelines

By Tom E. Curran Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
DETROIT - There was no hemming and hawing from Bill Belichick Saturday night in Detroit. No"the other guys are getting paid too" nod to well-laid Patriot plans blown up by the Lions. The Patriots head coach put the focus squarely where it needed to be after his team's 34-10 beatdown in Detroit. He started with himself. "Well, there was no question about who the better team was tonight," he said dourly. "I think that obviously I did a poor job of having the team ready to play. We didnt really do anything very well, in any phase of the game, certainly not good enough to win. Lions are a good team, they played well. Jim did a great job with his team and they were a lot more efficient, a lot more ready to play, and played a lot better than our team did. I dont feel very good about the job that I did, dont feel very good about really anything we did tonight. We really werent competitive and weve obviously got a lot of work to do."Belichick discarded a request for specifics. In this instance, it wasn't a case of the Patriots being "outcoached" by Jim Schwartz and his staff. This was about New England's effort, decision-making, precision andpost-snap communication on both sides of the ball. They were not prepared to play in this game. You could see it before the game was 10 minutes old. Detroit had plays of 12, 8, 37, 6, 52 and 9 yards on its first 11 offensive snaps. On the Patriots' third play from scrimmage, Chad Ochocinco's hold wiped out a 15-yard completion to Rob Gronkowski. On the sixth play, Tom Brady was strip-sacked. The second Patriots offensive drive was their best of the night. They converted four straight first downs but then were stopped on the fifth, a third-and-1 carry for BenJarvus Green-Ellis with 31 seconds left in the first quarter. They settled for a field goal. They converted one third down after that and finished 5-for-16 on third down for the night. Lions coach Jim Schwartz probably gave the most telling evaluation of how it went badly for New England. "We say a lot of times in the preseason: you want to see players win, you don't want to see scheme win," Schwartz explained. "I think we saw some good match-ups today and not just our first group against their first group. A lot of times our twos matched up against their ones on defense and sometimes our threes matched up and we won some of those battles. Same thing defensively."Regardless of how improved the Lions are, the Patriots' starters should not be beaten individually by any third-stringers when the rosters are at 90 players. Period. "We just didn't come to play," said safety Brandon Meriweather. "Coach was telling us all week how good this team was and how we had to come out and start fast and we just didn't come out the way we wanted to. I don't know what happened. The more we tried to get over that hump, the more we fell behind."As Tom Brady pointed out, there's no need for a confidence crisis. And the fact Belichick's team didn't answer the bell for this game is not a sign of Patriots apocalypse. It's happened before and will happen again. "We need to go back to the drawing board and learn from the mistakes that were made," said veteran defensive tackle Gerard Warren. "I've seenperformances like this quitea few times in preseason. Just got to learn from the mistakes in the game and try to get better. Losing's always bad. Preseason or regular season. That's not what we want to put on film, not what we practiced all week." Said Belichick, "I don't think theres any other solution than to go back and work harder and try to correct a lot of mistakes. We need to do everything better. I dont think theres any one area that should be highlighted any more than anything else. I thought we had problems in every phase of the game. We obviously werent coached very well, and we didnt play very well.Tom E. Curran can be reached at Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

For all the flack that Matt Ryan got heading into this season, he’s been a damn good quarterback. Is his career on the same level as Tom Brady’s? Of course not, but this regular season saw him stand as Brady’s peer, making him an MVP favorite.

One of Ryan’s biggest challengers for that hardware is the same man who stands in the way of him winning his first Super Bowl. Though he missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, Brady finished second in the league in passing yards per game and threw just two picks in 12 games while tossing 28 touchdowns.  

So Super Bowl LI will pin the quarterback with the best numbers overall (Ryan finished two touchdowns behind Aaron Rodgers for the league lead but threw for 516 more yards and had a higher completion percentage) against the quarterback with the best touchdown/interception ratio ever for a single season. 

In other words, this is a Super Bowl that puts what one could argue are the season’s two best quarterbacks each other. That’s pretty rare. 

Going back the last 25 years, there are four candidates for such meetings: Manning vs. Brees in Super Bowl XLIV, Favre and Elway in Super Bowl XXXII (this one is a stretch), Favre and Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI and Kelly and Rypien in Super Bowl XXVI.. 

Why haven’t the two best quarterbacks squared off in the Super Bowl more often? Because Brady and Peyton Manning played their entire careers in the same conference, silly. It’s taken other players entering their echelon to even set up such a scenario, and that’s why Brees’ Saints beating Manning’s Colts serves as the only example during Manning or Brady’s career. 

The strong performances of those who dominated the regular season have often carried over into their Super Bowl meetings, but not always. Drew Bledsoe and Jim Kelly (both throwing two touchdowns and four picks in Super Bowl losses) are examples of the wheels falling off in the final game. 

Here’s a breakdown of past occurrences. Note that all four of them saw the winning team score at least 30 points, something the Pats have done just once in Brady's four Super Bowl wins: 

Super Bowl XLIV: Brees vs. Manning

Brees led NFL with 34 touchdowns in regular season; Manning finished tied for second with 33

Final score: Saints 31, Colts 17

Brees: 32/39, 288 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Manning: 31/45, 333 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Brees completed a postseason in which he had no turnovers and did so in a nearly exactly average game for him that season, as e averaged 292.5 yards, 2.26 touchdowns and less than one interception per game in the regular season. The two quarterbacks also combined for just one sack. 
Super Bowl XXXII: Favre vs. Elway

Favre led NFL with 35 TDs in regular season, Elway finished second in TD/interception ratio

Final score: Broncos 31, Packers 24

Favre: 25/42, 256 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, fumble lost 
Elway: 12/22, 123 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Again, this is the forced one because Jeff George (3,917 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, nine interceptions) had the better regular season than Elway (3,635 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 picks). Elway may have been the winning quarterback, but he didn’t have anything to do with the win. Terrell Davis carried the Broncos, playing through a migraine and rushing for 157 yards with three touchdowns en route to Super Bowl MVP honors. 

Super Bowl XXXI: Favre vs. Bledsoe

Favre led NFL with 39 TDs, Bledsoe third with 27

Final Score: Packers 35, Patriots 21

Favre: 14/27, 246 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Bledsoe: 25/48, 253 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT

Both quarterbacks took five sacks in this game. For Bledsoe, it was the most he took all season. The game was the third four-pick performance of his NFL career. 

Super Bowl XXVI: Kelly vs. Rypien

Kelly led NFL with 33 TDs, Rypien second with 28

Final score: Redskins 37, Bills 24

Rypien: 18/33, 292 yards, 2 TD, INT
Kelly: 28/58, 275 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT, fumble lost

Turns out five turnovers (and being sacked four times) is not a recipe for winning the Super Bowl. Kelly’s 58 passes thrown set a Super Bowl record.

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Working for the Patriots makes you attractive to other teams. Many have left, but Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli are finally showing that major success can be attained in the process. 

Dimitroff and Pioli have built a team in Atlanta that will play for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title on Feb. 5. While many have been hired away from Bill Belichick's Patriots to lead other organizations, Dimitroff is the first of the defectors to get to the Super Bowl on his own. Adding an old friend in Pioli has played a part in that. 

Dimitroff served as New England’s director of college scouting from 2003 through 2007 before becoming Atlanta’s general manager in 2008. He hired Pioli in 2014 as an assistant GM after the longtime Patriots director and vice president of player personnel had a messy stint as the Chiefs’ GM. 

Executives and coaches (even Field Yates; yes, the fair-haired boy from the television) leaving the Patriots for better positions with other organizations has been common, but with the new positions have often come diminished success compared to New England. 

Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Bill O’Brien, Charlie Weis (in his brief return to the NFL in 2010) and Josh McDaniels make up the list of coordinators who have left winning with the Patriots to experience a dropoff without Brady and Belichick. John Robinson (Titans), Jason Licht (Buccaneers) and Bob Quinn (Lions) currently serve as GMs elsewhere, while former Pats secondary coach Joe Collier works with Dimitroff and Pioli as the Falcons’ director of pro personnel. 

It’s only fitting that Dimitroff and Pioli will have to go through Belichick in order to secure a title on their own. Winning without Belichick has proven hard enough for his former colleagues; winning against him will be even harder.