Young Patriots Impressive In Opening Win

Early in the first quarter yesterday, it looked a replay of some of the worst moments of last season for the Patriots.  The defense gave up a first down on third-and-long, Wes Welker dropped a pass he normally would catch, and Brandon Lloyd looked suspiciously like the guy who wore #85 last season on a long bomb from Brady. The Twitter critics were basking in their self-made glory.

Then the youngsters stepped up. Running back Stevan Ridley flashed a variety of skills, surprise second round pick Tavon Wilson ended up with an interception in the end zone off a tipped pass, then the Pièce de résistance when rookie Chandler Jones came around the edge and strip-sacked Jack Locker and fellow first round pick Dont’a Hightower scooped up the loose ball and took it into the end zone for defensive touchdown.

Young veterans like Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski were their typical brilliant selves, and even the much-maligned offensive line was solid, save one sack that left Tom Brady with a bloody nose. And Tom Brady was, well, Tom Brady.

At halftime (on CSNNE.com Halftime Live) Mike Felger wanted to know why it took so long for the Patriots to draft players like Jones and Hightower and following the game, he tried his best to drum up a Wes Welker controversy after the wide receiver was almost an afterthought in the offense. It was hard to put  a damper on what was a very encouraging afternoon for the Patriots, but he tried.

The Welker situation figures to be the one that most looking for an angle will glom onto. Are the Patriots trying to phase him out of the offense, vindictively and systematically squeezing him? (That whole stream is hysterical.) Are they looking to trade him like they did Randy Moss in the 2010 season? Those should be storylines that some will try and make into headlines.

What we learned Sunday: Patriots dance past Titans – Christopher Price has some things to take away from yesterday. Jonathan Comey has five things we learned, and Hector Longo checks in with a Jerod Mayo-loving two minute drill.

McDaniels, line were dialed in – Greg A Bedard has been pretty much a lone voice in the wilderness since camp opened, saying that the offensive line was not cause for panic and rioting in the streets. Yesterday showed him right.

Patriots have new difference-makers – Mike Reiss looks at the new impact players on defense for New England. Karen Guregian has more on the Patriots new playmakers. Jim Donaldson has the defensive retooling well under way for the Patriots. Mary Paoletti has the defense shutting down Chris Johnson.

Second-year back Stevan Ridley takes heat off Tom Brady – Ron Borges looks at how Ridley makes Brady’s job so much easier. Michael Whitmer has more on Ridley putting together a game to build on.

First and goals to go for Patriots – Chad Finn looks at a number of “firsts” from this one.

Game 1 Notes: Patriots 34, Titans 13 – Tom Curran checks in with some notes and observations.

Nothing lasts forever: Enjoy yourself, Patriots fans – Ryan Hadfield urges you not to be so eager for January to get here. Enjoy the ride.

Check more links at PatriotsLinks.com.

  • 02062

    “At halftime (on CSNNE.com Halftime Live) Mike Felger wanted to know why it took so long for the Patriots to draft players like Jones and Hightower”
    I’m sure he wasn’t challenged on this with,”Who should they have taken?” He wouldnt know, he’d just go for the first big name that comes to mind.

    • Winning_Again

      He looks for arguments to make when they may not be there. Then when he’s proved wrong, he acts like it never happened.
      Remember this:

      “Rob Gronkowski won’t do it, Aaron Hernandez won’t do it.”
      – Result, they did it. And by “it”, I mean becoming successful offensive weapons.

      Felger harps on management for not treating players fairly. I agree that the Patriots go to the extreme with some negotiations (Mankins) but then they sign guys early (Hernandez) showing two different methods of operation. Now a guy like Michael Felger would look at the situation above in this manner: He would say that the Patriots are unfairly treating a Pro Bowl player like Mankins. Why not pay the man his fair wage when he has proven to be ELITE. He would then state that the Patriots are foolish to lock up a second TE/WR hybrid with that much money when he has proven to be an injury risk, and why would they needlessly extend him before his contract is up. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

      • http://twitter.com/BruceNV Bruce Newman

        They won’t lock up older players because: they.. are. older.

    • bsmfan

      I saw some of what Bruce said on Twitter about the half-time show. I had a friend watch and said “it was basically a 2 hour F+M show minus Mazz where Troy/Ty took turns getting something in to speak.”

      Bruce, any chance we can get demos/share #’s on this? I would imagine that it had to get some good numbers. As Felger said, the 12pm live Patriots Wednesday on CSNNE, at 7pm, a re-run, got a 1.1 share.. that’s insane. Beyond the “analysis” by TEC, all it is a Hoodie/12 presser.. how much more boring can you get?

      Look, maybe some people who don’t listen to F+M want this. I’m not going to defend Felger at all here but clearly there is a producer or someone at NBC/CSNNE who think its a good idea to have Felger on as a host. If you listen to F+M at all, the 4 hours he is on is just another forum for him to vent his annoyances with Hoodie, the Krafts and the Pats. Much like Sports Tonight, esp the 6:30 where they bring him in from the studio, is really just a 30 minute rehash of whatever arguments they dish out from 2-6.

      So, if “NFL is king” kudos to CSNNE for taking advantage here. My gripe (shared here) is that if all he’s going to do is try to strawman Ty/Troy because they won’t stand up to him like Mazz “sometimes” does or even Marc Bertrand, it’s useless from a media standpoint. However, would that stop the Skip Felger in further airtime? Nope. Guess the tale of the ratings will be key here.

      • http://twitter.com/BruceNV Bruce Newman

        “Hoodie” is also known as “Bill Belichick”

  • http://twitter.com/theaisleseatcom Andy Dursin

    Felger used to beat the drum that they needed to get Moss out of here because it was all about him, that he needed the ball thrown to him to keep him engaged, etc., and it was a detriment to the team and its offensive gameplan.

    So how is Felger going to keep a Welker controversy going — by saying they need to give Welker the ball just because he deserves it? What if the team is going to a better balanced approach employing the run game and the other weapons Brady has at his disposal?

    Felger’s arguments are fast becoming white noise. He’s on TV too much every day, trying to “find an angle,” and he’s overexposed to a tee a this point. If he tries and turn the Welker situation into something — which I’m sure he will do, especially because CSNNE has him on that post-game show now — it’s going to fly in the face of everything he went berserk about years ago. Force-feeding Welker the ball when everything else worked yesterday seems to be the very thing he complained about with Moss.

  • latetodinner

    Several Story Lines I wish were getting more run.

    1) The replacement officials. I watched 3 games over the weekend. the Pats game, the GB/SF game and the Denver game. Other than the 4th TO awarded in the Seattle game the refs were not the story. The games moved along at about a normal pace. Were their missed calls…sure…but no more than when Ed Hoculi calls a game. My point is its clear that high quality football can be played without the “real” refs. The “fake” (said without the derision Felger used all day yesterday) refs were more than adequate. I would like to see some in the media write a “sky is not falling” summary and then start to talk about the pressure the “sitting at home” refs must now be facing.

    2) The lack of throws to Welker was not the story to me. If you watched how the Pats attacked TN, they used the TE’s and the RB’s to put the TN LB’s off balance. They took the occasion shot down to Lloyd on the outside to keep the safeties honest. TN’s speed guys were so worried about the TE’s they could not pin their ears back and come after Brady. It was a good plan…and it resulted in less looks at Welker. So much so that the Pats rotated him with Edelman because they did not need him getting needlessly crunched. There will be idiotic handwringing (already started with Felger). The fact is the pats did not need Welker for the Titans…and to force him the ball would have been silly. I am sure there will be games where he will show up. I am not worried.

    3) What Ridley’s success really showed me was how over matched Woodhead is. If Vereen ever heals I wonder if he will get more of those snaps because he is faster and a better blocker.

    4) I am thrilled Hightower and Jones had such good games…but the really big defensive story to me is Wilson. He is much better than I thought. I completely understand why the Pats drafted him where they did…he can shut down a TE.

    5) Listening to Rodney Harrison on NBC’s pregame you hear genuine excitement about the Pats chances because of how balanced they played. I think we all are excited…we just would feel better if the Pats got to play a better team. I don’t think TN is going to be a playoff team this year.

    • bsmfan

      Point #1 here has the most implications and I think, from reading everything from local press here and around (I take in press after any big loss like GB’s stuff to the national stuff), everyone is approaching this with some trepidation. My overall impression is that you have a mixture of “OK, the NFL didn’t blow up but are you really sure you want this?”

      Peter King made similar comments in MMQB. They weren’t that bad, but there were also mistakes which we would have NOT expected to be made by the normal guys. Most glaring: SEA/ARI with the “4th timeout”. Also, most people missed this, the big SNF mistake: http://bit.ly/Ryj325 . The missed block in the back on the SF/GB game that allowed Cobb to score on the punt return TD for GB, allowing them back in the game.

      Darren Rovell (of CNBC now ESPN) went so far as suggesting that a replacement ref make an anonymous blog/twitter account pointing out each mistake in every game. Given how easy it is to get games (legally or not), you could spend your “ref” time doing it in games. So far, the closest I’ve found is this from thefixisin.net: http://bit.ly/QDKodP

      ———————–

      ESPN reported that all replacement refs, sans the “best” used on the Wednesday night opener, were in NY for “training”. There is also a “life line” every crew has to NY with a NFL official basically babysitting/monitoring/

      chaperoning.So, that leaves us at “so far so good.” Given how important each game is, with one game possibly being the tie-break into the playoffs and obviously being the potential “chance to win or no chance to win”, do you really want to continue to go here? Thus far, most of the media has been on the side of the refs. I don’t have a breakdown but I think most would agree here. However, what happens when a mistake matters in a really big game? Ask Seattle about 2006…

      So far, the fans have done nothing but consume more: @darrenrovell Overnight ratings from last night’s Steelers-Broncos game make it the most watched reg season primetime game since Den-SF in Dec ‘97.

      So, the media side: they’ve been against the NFL, even with some of the league partners going against protecting the shield.

      • bsmfan

        Some additions as I think the media will play a role in this:

        SportsBusinessDaily reports that the bump NBC got also followed over to FOX and CBS:

        http://bit.ly/QfyIz2 (breakdown of the overnights)

        In addition, this is going to be one of the compelling issues: the replacements are calling WAY more calls for the home vs. away team (we saw this in the TEN game):

        Replacement refs seemed affected by crowd — calling 26 more penalties
        against the road teams (104) than the home teams (78) thus far.

        Source: https://twitter.com/rickgosselindmn/status/245138505800507392

        This covers the fan and media side. Perhaps, the most compelling but overlooked is the actual networks:

        @SI_JimTrotter note on replacement refs: the longest game in week 1 last year was 3:26.
        yesterday 3 games exceeded that, the longest being 3:45 (wash-no).

        Locally, we didn’t get the bleed-in to the SF/GB until halfway through the first quarter. How soon before that hits a local team when CBS/FOX have the “Game of the Week” and we miss half of the first Patriots quarter because of the 1pm bleed?

        When a network is set to lose millions per.. 5 minutes extra? 10 minutes extra? due to the extra time with all the late calls/refs, I can’t see a more compelling reason that the NFL will give-in.

        • latetodinner

          I listened to the F&M interview with Mike Perriera today and it was like they watched completely different games. More importantly the dissection of the job the replacement refs did was taken to a level way beyond what the regular refs get. People have been complaining about calls since way before Bed Drieth. Were the games called perfectly no…were they significantly worse than what the regular guys have done since replay has been looking over their shoulder…no and to me that should be the story. This picayune discussion whereby each refs whistle is being examined harder than we look at the blocking schemes is silly. There was not one game effected by the reffing this weekend. That is the story. The real refs are replaceable and it did not effect the quality of the game.

          Where I do agree with you was in the length of the games. They are going to have to fix that quickly. As an aside…because we are in the local market, if the 1:00 game goes late we still get the Pats kickoff…we would just not see the end of the 1:00 game.

        • bsmfan

          Agree here on where we’re apart. I read a well-done article by Jason Cole arguing the same point. The closest thing I can think of is when you replace anything in your life with a *replacement* (implies its lower quality). You’re fine up until it breaks, right?

          That’s the problem. What happens when it breaks, if it’s bad? What if we were one of the teams in the Arizona/Seattle game and that extra timeout was given to the opposite team (say, the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game)? Kraft/us would be going nuts. We’d have our scapegoat, also.. And, we’d lose a year and have nothing to do. We expect missed calls but isn’t a “4th timeout” an egregious error? Each week, various members of the media will take turns here. In the end? I think the NFL literally laughs all the way to the bank. I’d argue that MLB gets a major PR hit because of the weekly blown calls they need replay for, but Selig has been flipping the bird at the media writing this for a decade now? or something around there?

          It’s a fair point for fans to disagree on, though.

          A friend of mine also said that Vegas had a lot “buffered” (or some term where they were trying to balance out the over) on the under. That extra touchdown? It pushed the over. The score was 14-30 before, total 44 points. Over was 46.5. If you believe in the “Vegas has influence with these things”, costing a Sportsbooks in the millions won’t exactly make owners happy.

        • latetodinner

          So my response would be Ben Dreith blew the call. He was a “real” ref who has said for 20 years…”I made the call as I saw it”. I can give you a list of bad calls “real” refs missed. John Harbough sent reels of film to the NFL offices last year bitching about calls. My bigger point is, the only reason why this is as large a story as it is has to do with the increased scrutiny and not because the replacement refs did a significantly worse job than the regular guys. I hope Deadspin puts every Ed Hoculi call under a microscope when he gets back. I just think this is a lot of hooey over not much. The play on the field decided the games not an arbitrary observation. As such the regular refs should be thinking long and hard about coming back quickly.

    • APimpNamedDaveR

      Vereen will certainly get every opportunity to take Woodhead’s job if/when he’s healthy. Whether he will or not…. we’ll see.

      It looked like Welker was double-covered a lot, or at least had a LB/nickel lurking around him, which is part of what opened up things for everyone else.

      If the replacement refs have a more “liberal” interpretation of the pass interference rules, I’m all for it. It was interesting that of the two main PI opportunities against the Pats, the refs called the one they arguably shouldn’t have (the ball that was grossly overthrown by Locker — and note that it wasn’t a defensive holding call, it was straight PI, so the catchability of the ball did matter), and didn’t call the one that really should have been (the one in the end zone, where the DB — Chung? — never looked back before tripping all over a receiver who had a shot at a catchable ball). But I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say that if replacement refs negate the “huck it downfield and wait for interference” offense, it’s a big plus.

  • bsmfan

    The “How much Felger do you need in your life?”

    If we go based on current numbers in a 24hr cycle:

    2-6: F+M – 4
    6:30-7: ST – .5
    7:30-8: ST (rerun) .5
    10-10:30 ST10PM .5
    11-11:30 ST10PM (rerun) .5
    12AM-1 – Best of F+M 1
    1:30AM-2:00 ST10PM (rerun) .5
    5:30AM-6:00 ST10PM (rerun) .5
    6:30AM-7 ST10PM (rerun) .5
    7:30AM-8 ST10PM (rerun) .5
    8:30AM-9 ST10PM (rerun) .5
    9:30AM-10 ST10PM (rerun) .5 (no more DP show w/the FS + NBC fight over carriage fees)
    12PM-12:30 ST10PM (rerun) .5
    1PM-1:30 ST10PM (rerun) .5

    Basically, 5 days a week, Felger is 12 of the 24 hours CSNNE is on the air. On weekends, you would now have 4
    more hours w/Patriots stuff and another one hour per SportsSunday airing. I’m not a producer but are there any out there who would let one single personality dominate a network this much?

    • alex

      Apparently “we” need Felger in our lives 24 hours a day because as soon as he says something stupid people come running to various forums to talk about what he just said.

      Just stop listening.

  • http://twitter.com/DryHeave1 DryHeave

    Can’t stand Felger myself. However I’m starting to understand why he has a “market” and his own “Felger Fanatics”….just look at twitter, look at some Patriot fan message boards. There is a large culture of Patriot “fans” out there who live to bitch and complain about everything. The victory is never “impressive” enough for them and if they happen to actually to lose…well, fageddaboutit.

    I’ve got to assume these are the people who tune in and watch/listen this GasBag. He’s obviously has an audience. Amazing as it is there are people out there who buy into his BS.

    • Alex

      Felger has a market because there are quite a few people who hate his show but still listen everyday just to let themselves get pissed off. Those people count just as much as the people who nod in agreement as they listen to that jackass talk.

      • latetodinner

        No…Felger has a market because he asks and talks about salacious and interesting topics that seem to be taboo or at least off limits to other writers. When he does this with teams that deserve it…Red Sox and Celtics he can be insightful and fascinating to listen to. However when he does it to the Patriots, a team he covered as a beat writer, he looks like a moron because Bill Belichick specifically thinks guys like Felger are a joke and as such he does not give them anything. As for his Bruins chat…he carries the water for them better than Paul P does for the Pats.

        • alex

          I don’t think “interesting” means what you think it means

  • http://twitter.com/DryHeave1 DryHeave

    I want the “Regular Reffs” back ASAP…not because I think the “replacements” have been THAT bad. But because the media will beat us over the head with the “replacement story” until the regulars do come back. Sure the regulars make mistakes but every call (or non-call the replacements make is scrutinized to to the nth degree…….sick of it already

  • DAN

    This whole thing Felger is trying to stir up with Welker is comical.
    Does Felger even remember half the contradictions or does he just not care?
    Let’s see the Patriots according to him are cheap and only care about winning buisness deals so this same team that’s cheap is willing to pay Welker 9 million this year and phase him out?
    Why wouldn’t they have just let him walk away and save the 9 million before the season started if that were true? The Patriots would pay someone 9 mill to just be a decoy? C’mon Mike you’re smarter than that.
    How about this Mike and this a is a novel concept these days but here it goes…can you for once just talk about the game and not feel the need for just one day to drum up at least one conspiracy theory? Just one day try it….talk about SPORTS FOR ONCE!

  • TonyC66

    The media’s mantra about how the Patriots might be trying to “screw” Welker financially by not targeting him as much during games is reason number 1,242 why following the Patriots in this town has become well nigh impossible. Felger is the ringleader behind this ridiculous “story,” of course, but sadly, he’s not the only mediot pushing the meme.
    The Pats just went down to Nashville and dismantled a team that went 9-7 last year, barely missing the playoffs. (Sidebar: NO, the Titans were NOT a bad football team last season; that seems to be another media meme making the rounds since Sunday afternoon–let’s not get too excited about this win, because the Titans are bad. 9-7 and missing the playoffs on tiebreakers is not a “bad” season, and the Titans are not a “bad” or “terrible” team. Does anyone in the media do their homework before spouting off anymore, or is it just all about the “agenda” with these people?).
    Anyway, back to my regular point. They just dismantled a decent football team on the road, getting significant contributions from the defense in the process, and yet the main thing the media wants to discuss is how Wes Welker only was targeted three times during the game, and how his contract dispute has to have something to do with it? Are they that desperate to portray everything the Pats do in a negative light? Do they really believe that Belichick would be willing to risk losing a game at some point this season just so Welker’s final numbers are not “franchise tag worthy” when the season is over?
    If the media covering the Pats in this town hadn’t jumped the shark before Sunday, they certainly have now. This Welker storyline is utterly ridiculous.