WC Pre-Game Thread: Tennessee

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BigSoxFan

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Several times this seasons as runs got stuffed on 1st down, I was thinking that maybe they should try some of those screens on 1st down. A plan like that probably requires more Burkhead, as he's a better power runner than White and a better receiver than Michel, so his presence keeps the defense the most honest of the 3. Burkhead reminds me a lot of Amendola. He's not the most durable over the course of the season, but he rose to the playoff occasion. If he's healthy, he unlocks quite a bit of the offense.
Agreed. He had that bad fumble against Buffalo but he's been running well this year. I think he and White are the key to any playoff success. We need to find a way to get them involved as receivers.
 

Mugsy's Jock

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I have always felt that, more than any other coach in NFL history, Belichick is willing to risk losing winnable games to maximize his chances of winning more important games later on in a season: he doesn't want to put anything on tape for other coaches to study that he doesn't have to. He's like a baseball manager who considers the entirety of a 162-game season in deciding which reliever to use in the 7th inning of a game in August, even if that decision might get him pilloried by fans and media who always want immediate results now.

Everyone who hated on Belichick's coaching against the Dolphins on Sunday should bear that firmly in mind. You're not going to see the same schemes and approach to the Titans game on Saturday that you did last week...and if there's any extent to which you do, it's because Belichick wants to reach the Super Bowl and not just beat the Titans, which means also getting past the Chiefs and probably the Ravens. After all these years and so much evidence in his favor, does anyone here *really* believe that Belichick doesn't know exactly what he's doing in this regard? (If he screwed up against the Dolphins - and the importance of getting the bye was such that he almost certainly did screw up - I'd suggest that his mistakes derived from a calculated gamble that he shouldn't have needed to empty both barrels from the playbook to beat the Dolphins at home, rather than any sort of coaching malpractice along the lines of not knowing how best to beat the Dolphins in absolute terms.)
He didn’t save the pass to Elandon Roberts fwiw. Doesn’t mean you’re wrong, but it’s unlikely we can see that again this season.
 

BaseballJones

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Yeah the D sucked in the second half vs Miami. That wasn’t about not putting anything on film.
When BB told his team that the Miami game was essentially a playoff game, there's no way he was treating it as a "let's not give other teams tape on us" kind of game. He wanted to win that game. They just didn't play - or coach - well. Now it may be true that BB thought the bigger picture was more important than that one game, and so maybe *some* decisions were made with the playoffs in mind. But they tried to win that game, I think.
 

BigSoxFan

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When BB told his team that the Miami game was essentially a playoff game, there's no way he was treating it as a "let's not give other teams tape on us" kind of game. He wanted to win that game. They just didn't play - or coach - well. Now it may be true that BB thought the bigger picture was more important than that one game, and so maybe *some* decisions were made with the playoffs in mind. But they tried to win that game, I think.
I think it’s certainly possible that they came in with a more vanilla game plan assuming a comfortable win and then adjusted mid game with additional looks, such as the Roberts play. Obviously, we have no idea since none of us were involved in planning but my guess is that we see a lot more wrinkles on Saturday.

Josh always has new wrinkles on offense in the playoffs. Will be interesting to see what he can do. I still think we need to find more ways to get Harry the ball.
 

joe dokes

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I think it’s certainly possible that they came in with a more vanilla game plan assuming a comfortable win and then adjusted mid game with additional looks, such as the Roberts play. Obviously, we have no idea since none of us were involved in planning but my guess is that we see a lot more wrinkles on Saturday.

Josh always has new wrinkles on offense in the playoffs. Will be interesting to see what he can do. I still think we need to find more ways to get Harry the ball.
As others have pointed out, the "keep it from the tape" angle works both ways. While it may now be unlikely that Elandon Roberts will be left entirely uncovered, that means it's more likely that some defensive player will now take himelf out of the play by following Roberts into whatever decoy void Roberts runs to.
 

loshjott

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BB is smart enough to realize getting the bye was so, so much more important than keeping anything in the bag for the playoffs. Heck, everyone on this board and anyone who follows the NFL knows that.
 

cshea

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He didn’t save the pass to Elandon Roberts fwiw. Doesn’t mean you’re wrong, but it’s unlikely we can see that again this season.
I don’t think there was anything to be saved there. Roberts has been playing fullback for quite a while, and has gone out on pass patterns before. The Dolphins just decided to completely ignore him, and Brady threw it to him. Pretty standard play, it wasn’t some crazy never-been-seen-before scheme.
 

k-factory

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The puzzle they really need to crack on offense is what happens when an already compromised Edelman is double teamed? If they can’t crack that they’re toast.
 

RedOctober3829

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Tennessee's surge on offense began when they went to more play action passing on 1st down. With Henry being such a weapon, it sucks the linebackers up and opens up downfield opportunities for AJ Brown. The Patriots have struggled against play action.
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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Tennessee's surge on offense began when they went to more play action passing on 1st down. With Henry being such a weapon, it sucks the linebackers up and opens up downfield opportunities for AJ Brown. The Patriots have struggled against play action.
From this website: https://www.sbnation.com/nfl/2020/1/2/21045681/nfl-playoffs-2020-wild-card-weekend-schedule-rooting-guide

Tannehill has attempted 82 play-action passes, a high number for a quarterback with only 10 starts. However, Tannehill is seventh in EPA on those attempts. He also ranks first with a whopping 13 yards per play-action attempt. It’s no surprise, then, to see he’s second in on-target attempts in these passing situations.
 

BaseballJones

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That's definitely going to be a problem for the Patriots, especially among the LB corps. You have to respect Henry because he's a beast. The LBs will commit to the run, and that will open up receivers and tight ends over the middle as the LBs get sucked in.

My hope is that Tennessee has some "tells" that tip the Pats off on their play action.
 

singaporesoxfan

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How much does having seen Tannehill a lot during his Dolphins years help the Patriots? Or has his play at Tennessee been qualitatively different?
 

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I like the momentum of Harry's development these past few weeks. I expect them to get him the ball more in this game then we've seen, particularly with the Titans having relatively short corners (Jackson and Ryan are listed as 5'11" and the others are 6'0"). Hell even LaCosse is 6'6". The Patriots will have a big size advantage in the passing game. We'll see if they can utilize it while the Titans are doubling Edelman and sticking a corner on a RB.

I'd like to see a lot of Burkhead, LaCosse, Edelman, Sanu, Harry formations if we can. The size advantage would be pretty significant and they could run/throw out of that.
 

Al Zarilla

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That's definitely going to be a problem for the Patriots, especially among the LB corps. You have to respect Henry because he's a beast. The LBs will commit to the run, and that will open up receivers and tight ends over the middle as the LBs get sucked in.

My hope is that Tennessee has some "tells" that tip the Pats off on their play action.
Henry is 6’3 247 lbs? 4.54 40, at the combine
I guess. Marion Motley 2.0.
 

BaseballJones

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Tannehill's career numbers vs. NE:

11 g, 4-7 record, 237-388 (61.1%), 2,851 yds, 7.4 y/a, 15 td, 11 int, 84.7 rating

But maybe throw all that out the window, as he's been insanely good this year:

10 g, 7-3 record, 201-286 (70.3%), 2,742 yds, 9.6 y/a, 22 td, 6 int, 117.5 rating
 

tims4wins

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Tannehill's career numbers vs. NE:

11 g, 4-7 record, 237-388 (61.1%), 2,851 yds, 7.4 y/a, 15 td, 11 int, 84.7 rating

But maybe throw all that out the window, as he's been insanely good this year:

10 g, 7-3 record, 201-286 (70.3%), 2,742 yds, 9.6 y/a, 22 td, 6 int, 117.5 rating
Hell 4-7 is better than most other opposing QBs, sadly.
 

BusRaker

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I really hope this game breaks out Sony Michel the receiver. I doubt Vrabel would be prepared for that (although he does have 4 drops on 20 targets this year)
 

BaseballJones

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I really hope this game breaks out Sony Michel the receiver. I doubt Vrabel would be prepared for that (although he does have 4 drops on 20 targets this year)
I think we will see a lot of Burkhead. He really does provide a nice combination of runner/receiver and when he's in you just don't know what they're going to do. On the season, his numbers are:

65 rushes, 302 yds, 4.6 ypc
27 rec, 279 yds, 10.3 ypc

So 92 touches, 581 yds, for an average of 6.3 yards per touch. Pretty solid.

White:
67 rushes, 263 yds, 3.9 ypc
72 rec, 645 yds, 9.0 ypc
139 touches, 908 yds, 6.5 yds per touch

Michel:
247 rushes, 912 yds, 3.7 ypc
12 rec, 94 yds, 7.8 ypc
259 touches, 1,006 yds, 3.9 yds per touch

Burkhead's issue has always been durability, not quality. Now that he's healthy, I think we see a pretty good dose of him.
 

BusRaker

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I think we will see a lot of Burkhead. He really does provide a nice combination of runner/receiver and when he's in you just don't know what they're going to do. On the season, his numbers are:

65 rushes, 302 yds, 4.6 ypc
27 rec, 279 yds, 10.3 ypc

So 92 touches, 581 yds, for an average of 6.3 yards per touch. Pretty solid.

White:
67 rushes, 263 yds, 3.9 ypc
72 rec, 645 yds, 9.0 ypc
139 touches, 908 yds, 6.5 yds per touch

Michel:
247 rushes, 912 yds, 3.7 ypc
12 rec, 94 yds, 7.8 ypc
259 touches, 1,006 yds, 3.9 yds per touch

Burkhead's issue has always been durability, not quality. Now that he's healthy, I think we see a pretty good dose of him.
And this

White: 1 fumble in 594 touches
Michel: 3 fumbles in 475 touches
Burkhead: 6 Fumbles in 378 touches
 

Harry Hooper

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How much does having seen Tannehill a lot during his Dolphins years help the Patriots? Or has his play at Tennessee been qualitatively different?
He's been playing like his hair was on fire, pouring everything into making sure he makes the most of this second (last?) chance to be a starting QB in the NFL. When he tucks the ball away and runs it, he's been very reluctant to do the standard QB slide. I'm quite surprised he made it through Week 17 without getting broken in two.
 

BaseballJones

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Interesting tidbit about the Titans' red zone efficiency here: https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/28403463/barnwell-guide-2019-nfl-playoffs-how-all-12-teams-win-super-bowl

"It's difficult to imagine this offense staying as good as it has been over the past three months. I wouldn't write off the Titans as a flash in the pan, but there's no way they're going to be as effective moving forward in the red zone. Since Tannehill entered the lineup, they have converted 86.7% of their red zone trips into touchdowns. To put that in context, the second-placed Buccaneers are at 71.9%, and they're closer to the 49ers in 16th than they are to Tennessee at the top.

I get that Derrick Henry is a load to bring down in short yardage, but the Titans were 18th in the same category before Tannehill took over, and there's no track record of any team sustaining that for a meaningful amount of time. The last time a playoff offense was anywhere near that hot in the red zone over the final 11 weeks of the season was the 2012 Patriots. They scored touchdowns at an 80.5% clip from Week 7 on, only to score five touchdowns in 10 red zone possessions during the playoffs. The Titans have created lots of big plays with Tannehill throwing to A.J. Brown, but they can't count on virtually every red zone trip resulting in six points from here on out."

In contrast, the Patriots' red zone defense is #4 in the NFL, allowing opponents to turn just 48.3% of their red zone opportunities into touchdowns. Something's gotta give.
 

BaseballJones

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To that last post, conversely, something's also gotta give when the Pats get into the red zone (if they get there).

Tennessee's red zone defense is ranked #31, allowing opponents to score TDs on 68.1% of their RZ trips. Meanwhile, NE scores touchdowns on just 50.0% of their RZ trips (ranked #26 in the NFL).
 

Shaky Walton

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I've been thinking about why former Pats employees fare well against the Pats.

It's got to be a combination of knowing how Bill thinks and will attack, and not being psyched out since they know Bill so well.

But whatever it is, Vrabel's team is going to be ready and he's not going to make dumbass mistakes.

I wish I was more confident heading into this one and that there was reason for that.

Putting aside the Vrabel aspect entirely, it's hard to get by the fact that the Pats lost to Miami, in the manner in which they did, with the D not stepping up at the end.

For those who view that as on off or an aberration of sorts, how do you rationalize believing the Patriots can effectively turn a switch (or some such thing if not that exactly) and better a better opponent?

Yep, best HC/QB combo in history. Bet against them at your peril.

Still, the math between losing the bye to Miami at home, and beating a hungry playoff team 6 days later...seems tough.

I seriously hope that I am wrong.
 

BaseballJones

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The 2015 Patriots lost the last two games of the year, 27-20 vs the Jets, and 20-10 vs the Dolphins (who were 6-10 that year). They then beat KC in the divisional round and barely lost to Denver in the AFCCG. That won't have any relevancy to this playoff season, but it shows that teams can play crappy at the end of the regular season and then play well in the playoffs.
 

Super Nomario

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The 2015 Patriots lost the last two games of the year, 27-20 vs the Jets, and 20-10 vs the Dolphins (who were 6-10 that year). They then beat KC in the divisional round and barely lost to Denver in the AFCCG. That won't have any relevancy to this playoff season, but it shows that teams can play crappy at the end of the regular season and then play well in the playoffs.
I don't think this is a great example-did the Patriots really play well in the playoffs?- but there are certainly cases. The 2012 Ravens lost four of their last five and then won the SB from the wild card spot. The 2009 Cardinals went 2-4 down the stretch, with three of those losses by 20+, then won three in a row in the playoffs and nearly knocked off the Steelers in the SB.

EDIT: for that matter, the 2015 Broncos weren't exactly flying high entering the playoffs. They started the year 7-0 before almost blowing the #1 seed with a 5-4 finish.
 

OurF'ingCity

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For those who view that as on off or an aberration of sorts, how do you rationalize believing the Patriots can effectively turn a switch (or some such thing if not that exactly) and better a better opponent?

Yep, best HC/QB combo in history. Bet against them at your peril.

Still, the math between losing the bye to Miami at home, and beating a hungry playoff team 6 days later...seems tough.

I seriously hope that I am wrong.
Your point boils down to "the Pats played poorly in their last game, how are they going to play better their next game?" But this is a fallacy - if the Pats had lost to the Dolphins in Week, say, 8, and played the Titans the following week, no one would be saying "wow the Pats lost last week, how are they going to turn a switch and win next week"? The mere fact that it's now the playoffs shouldn't change that.

This article is now a bit out of date but I think the point remains, which is that how the Patriots performed the week prior has historically said next to nothing about how the Patriots perform in any given week.
 

BaseballJones

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Three previous times this year the Patriots have lost a game. Here's what they did the following week...

Week 9, lost to Baltimore 37-20. Then in week 10, they traveled to Philadelphia and won 17-10.
Week 13, lost to Houston 28-22. Then in week 14, they lost to Kansas City at home 23-16.
Week 14, lost to KC 23-16. Then in week 15, they beat Cincinnati at home 34-13.

So 2 of the 3 times they lost this year, they followed up with a win.
 

Super Nomario

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Three previous times this year the Patriots have lost a game. Here's what they did the following week...

Week 9, lost to Baltimore 37-20. Then in week 10, they traveled to Philadelphia and won 17-10.
Week 13, lost to Houston 28-22. Then in week 14, they lost to Kansas City at home 23-16.
Week 14, lost to KC 23-16. Then in week 15, they beat Cincinnati at home 34-13.

So 2 of the 3 times they lost this year, they followed up with a win.
... so?
 

Mooch

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As good as Tannehill has been this season, the Titans line has major problems protecting the QB. giving up a whopping 56 sacks this season. While some of that falls on Mariota earlier in the season, Tannehill still gets pressured at a higher rate than his time in Miami. As the stats indicate, Tannehill has been excellent in play-action passing but just as he did in Miami, he holds the ball far too long on straight drop-backs and gets hit often.

The Titans really like to trot out heavy personnel where they can run Henry and play-action into post routes over and over again. They're not doing anything particularly complicated on offense.
 

Pandemonium67

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Toward the end of last year the Pats lost back-to-back games to the Dolphins and Steelers, then "flipped a switch" and won out.

Certainly not saying they'll do that again, just saying that losing late in the year to Miami doesn't guarantee they're done. I don't know if teams can flip switches, but I think they can play with more attitude and urgency.
 

Red Averages

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There is a lot of hindsight in the Patriots super bowl last year. The popular narrative is that the Patriots lost against the Dolphins/Steelers and then were a great team. They did soundly beat the Chargers. Against KC they started the game up 14-0 at the half... but then lost the 2nd half 31-17, eventually winning in OT but certainly getting some lucky bounces (Edleman punt muff) and penalties (Ford offside) that in hindsight would have ruined this narrative of the Patriots being a dominant team all of a sudden. The Rams game was neck and neck the entire game, again a bad bounce here or there and the narrative is that the Patriots went out of the SB with a wimper.

Which really brings the point: Who knows what will happen? A bad turnover, an inability to execute in the red zone, or the defense creating a turnover / being great in the red zone will likely determine if we can look back in 6 months and say the team flipped a switch vs. the Bills outside of the dud vs. Miami, which was really a last second loss...
 

RedOctober3829

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Toward the end of last year the Pats lost back-to-back games to the Dolphins and Steelers, then "flipped a switch" and won out.

Certainly not saying they'll do that again, just saying that losing late in the year to Miami doesn't guarantee they're done. I don't know if teams can flip switches, but I think they can play with more attitude and urgency.
It's not playing with more attitude and urgency. It's about finding ways to execute at a more consistent basis than they have been.
 

tims4wins

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There is a lot of hindsight in the Patriots super bowl last year. The popular narrative is that the Patriots lost against the Dolphins/Steelers and then were a great team. They did soundly beat the Chargers. Against KC they started the game up 14-0 at the half... but then lost the 2nd half 31-17, eventually winning in OT but certainly getting some lucky bounces (Edleman punt muff) and penalties (Ford offside) that in hindsight would have ruined this narrative of the Patriots being a dominant team all of a sudden. The Rams game was neck and neck the entire game, again a bad bounce here or there and the narrative is that the Patriots went out of the SB with a wimper.

Which really brings the point: Who knows what will happen? A bad turnover, an inability to execute in the red zone, or the defense creating a turnover / being great in the red zone will likely determine if we can look back in 6 months and say the team flipped a switch vs. the Bills outside of the dud vs. Miami, which was really a last second loss...
I think this is a great point and really applies to pretty much all of their titles and playoff seasons. 2001 could have ended before it got started. 2003 could have lost to the Titans in the divisional. 2004 they were never really in true danger. We know how 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2010 could have easily been different. 2011. The 2014 title run could have been a loss in the divisional to Baltimore. 28-3 against Atlanta. Narratives are formed after the fact. In the moment, who knows. You just try to win the game in front of you. If the Pats beat the Titans, then come next week, nothing will matter except how the Pats and Chiefs play next Sunday. And the same will be true the next game, and the game after that.
 

E5 Yaz

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The national media has been wish casting for the end of the Patriots dominance for years. They're more than ready to move on to the young, hot teams and players.

This season, with the injuries, the inconsistency of the offensive line, the receiver-deficiency and Brady's age/injury has given those wish casters more hope than they've had in years.

The Dolphins game just gave those wish casters something to point at and say "See, we were right."

But here's the thing: Even if the Patriots go out before the Super Bowl. there's no reason they can't be right back among the elite next year.

Now, if TB12 retires or goes elsewhere, you can close the book on this particular run.

Moral of the story: Avoid the noise
 

BigSoxFan

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Yup. Razor thin margin in playoffs. 2015 gets talked about like it was a failure but that could have easily been another ring if Gost makes that XP. Pats haven’t been great lately but I would still be pretty surprised by a non-competitive loss on Saturday. When Pats lose at home, they typically have some pretty crap lucky piled on top of poor execution. For most teams, it takes both components to beat Belichick and Brady.
 

tims4wins

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The national media has been wish casting for the end of the Patriots dominance for years. They're more than ready to move on to the young, hot teams and players.

This season, with the injuries, the inconsistency of the offensive line, the receiver-deficiency and Brady's age/injury has given those wish casters more hope than they've had in years.

The Dolphins game just gave those wish casters something to point at and say "See, we were right."

But here's the thing: Even if the Patriots go out before the Super Bowl. there's no reason they can't be right back among the elite next year.

Now, if TB12 retires or goes elsewhere, you can close the book on this particular run.

Moral of the story: Avoid the noise
 

BaseballJones

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There is a lot of hindsight in the Patriots super bowl last year. The popular narrative is that the Patriots lost against the Dolphins/Steelers and then were a great team. They did soundly beat the Chargers. Against KC they started the game up 14-0 at the half... but then lost the 2nd half 31-17, eventually winning in OT but certainly getting some lucky bounces (Edleman punt muff) and penalties (Ford offside) that in hindsight would have ruined this narrative of the Patriots being a dominant team all of a sudden. The Rams game was neck and neck the entire game, again a bad bounce here or there and the narrative is that the Patriots went out of the SB with a wimper.

Which really brings the point: Who knows what will happen? A bad turnover, an inability to execute in the red zone, or the defense creating a turnover / being great in the red zone will likely determine if we can look back in 6 months and say the team flipped a switch vs. the Bills outside of the dud vs. Miami, which was really a last second loss...
Yep, and even this past week, Miami fumbled three times. Once on a punt, and two strange plays where Fitzpatrick mishandled a shotgun snap. Miami recovered all of them. If somehow the Patriots recovered all of them, they'd have blown the Dolphins out and Miami would have looked like a bumbling idiot team. If the Patriots recovered two of the three, they probably win comfortably. If they even recover one of them, they likely win the game.

The point being: in the playoffs, one bounce of the football can go your way and you win, and it could go the other way and you lose. In the Scottish Game, Eli fumbled and Pierre Woods fell on it for the Patriots in a big spot, but then Bradshaw came, landed on Woods, and ripped the ball away, and the refs gave it to the Giants (bad job by Woods, bad job by the refs not calling Woods down by contact, which he was). That single play could have made the game have a different outcome.
 

joe dokes

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I think this is a great point and really applies to pretty much all of their titles and playoff seasons. 2001 could have ended before it got started. 2003 could have lost to the Titans in the divisional. 2004 they were never really in true danger. We know how 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2010 could have easily been different. 2011. The 2014 title run could have been a loss in the divisional to Baltimore. 28-3 against Atlanta. Narratives are formed after the fact. In the moment, who knows. You just try to win the game in front of you. If the Pats beat the Titans, then come next week, nothing will matter except how the Pats and Chiefs play next Sunday. And the same will be true the next game, and the game after that.
It really seems to be the only way to be a legitimate SB contender every single year. No missed playoffs, no 8-8, no SB blowouts. No salary cap hell forcing a purge. Lots of close calls. Very few self-inflicted setbacks.
 

Captaincoop

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Digging further into the end of year NFL stats...woof. The Pats won 12 games despite having bottom third of the league production from QB, lead RB, tight ends, and receivers.

We've talked a lot about Brady's status, but Michel's numbers are not good either, and they should really try to upgrade there. He had 3 big plays in ~250 carries. That doesn't stack up well at all with other lead backs, even guys running behind worse offensive lines. You can't roll Brady back out there again and try to go with more of a power offense when your running back can't make plays consistently.

If they are going to stay in this game Saturday night, they need Harry to keep quickly developing, one hell of a gameplan on offense, and a couple of turnovers from the D.
 
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