In the midst of all the bad, don't forget the good

In the midst of all the bad, don't forget the good
September 20, 2010, 9:55 am
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By Michael Felger

Some pearls of wisdom for Patriots fans as they lick their wounds this morning.

Are you folks going to acknowledge the opponent here -- or just fixate on the Patriots? I raise the point because I think fans around here have woefully underestimated the strides made by the Jets the last few years. They've narrowed the gap in the AFC East, whether you want to acknowledge it or not.

Here are the unfortunate facts: The Jets have beaten the Pats in two of the three meetings under Rex Ryan. They've won three of five meetings since 2008. They finished 2009 (that includes the playoffs, people) as the better team and now have a leg up in the 2010 race. They have a much better defense, a more dependable running game and a quarterback who, for all his struggles, has had some of his best moments in big games.

I know you hate the Jets. I don't blame you. But the scoreboard is getting more and more unpleasant to look at.

Former Patriot Troy Brown was adamant on TV on Sunday night about how Bill Belichick and his staff lost the adjustment battle to Rex Ryan in the second half.

That analysis wouldn't be so concerning if it hadn't become such a recurring theme.

Did you know that five the Pats' six losses last year came after they had led or were tied at the half? Hard to believe, isn't it? But it's true. With the exception of the New Orleans blowout, the Pats were in control coming out of the tunnel for the second half of every other one of their losses. It seemed so aberrational that we all assumed it would correct itself in 2010.

But it didn't on Sunday. In fact, it turned into a carbon copy of a typical Pats' collapse from 2009.

What happened to the days when the Pats routinely got better as the game progressed? What happened to Belichick coming up with answers in the locker room and putting his players in the best position to succeed when the game was on the line? It's remarkable how such a strong facet of the Pats' repertoire has vanished.

Normally, this is the place where we would get on the coordinators for their bad play-calling. But there's only one problem: the Patriots don't have any.

I don't know. Could that be part of the problem?

Another thing you'd never see back in the Super Bowl-winning days: a delay-of-game penalty on a field-goal attempt because the coaches couldn't make up their minds or get the kicking unit on the field quickly enough. Yet that's what happened on Sunday on the Pats' first drive, as a 32-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski was wiped off the board because they couldn't get the snap off in time.

Gostkowski deserves blame for not bearing down and nailing the ensuing 37-yarder, but the penalty was purely a function of sideline operation. Again, this is on the staff (such as it is).

We all spent a lot of time last week talking about how much younger and faster the Pats defense looks to be this year. Unfortunately, lost in all that conversation was a more pertinent question: Is it any better?

Not yet. Giving up 18-second half points is one thing. But giving up that total to an offense that many thought to be one of the league's worst is another. Do you remember the things you were saying about Mark Sanchez and the Jets' passing game last week? Actually, you're better off not remembering.

This is all I know: When Sanchez said last week that the Jets offense was poised to breakout and that a 300-yard passing day was just around the corner, there was laughter across New England. We wanted a hit off of what Sanchez was smoking.

It's not so funny now. Sanchez didn't come close to 300 yards, but when you consider he didn't complete a pass in the first quarter while the Jets offense managed only three snaps that stanza, his 220 passing yards look scary. And his QB rating (124.3) and TD-interception ratio (3-0) are downright terrifying.

Darius Butler is obviously a major problem for the Pats. But that's not the worst part. The worst part is that they apparently have no one better.

In an effort to make sure Randy Moss remains happy and that he feels appreciated, I'm only going to mention his one-handed touchdown catch at the end of the first half.

Great catch, Randy.

I won't mention how he alligator-armed two catchable balls over the middle in the first half. I won't mention how he could only come up with two receptions on the day despite being thrown to 10 times. I won't mention how he was shut down not by Darrelle Revis, but by Antonio Cromartie. I won't mention how Tom Brady's two interceptions were the result of forcing balls in his direction. I won't mention that when the going got tough, he didn't exactly get going.

I won't get into any of that.

The report card comes your way Tuesday. Email Felger HERE and read the mailbag on Thursday. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 The Sports Hub.