I have yet to write about the Patriots since the unfortunate Brady injury. This is more out of neglect for this blog than not wanting to discuss the painful subject.
After two nail-biter wins against the Chiefs and Jets that were defined by the way the Pats defense controlled the game while Matt Cassel played (for the most part) mistake-free football. The hinges finally came off this week and I wasn't all that surprised. It's going to take some time for Cassel and Patriot receivers to click and this is going to be a process but the extent to which the Dolphins took it to the Pats was shocking.
Even when Cassel threw the touchdown to Gaffney late in the third quarter to make it 28-13, the Pats were never in this game. Cassel missed open receivers on more than a few occasions and that's OK. At this point, what I'm looking for from him is progress. I've heard more than a few comparisons between a young Tom Brady and Cassel but I'm going to go back to what I was talking about with my friend the other day.
First off, Brady had more physical gifts than Cassel. He was far more adept at the touch pass and was extremely efficient with screen passes as well as the slants (often to Troy Brown). Next, Brady worked the whole off season to memorize the playbook and seemed to grasp what Belichick would implement into the system as the season progressed. Early on, it was Brady's brain that outweighed his abilities but he was still effective enough to keep his team in games. He wasn't perfect by any means but as soon as Mo Lewis changed our lives forever by pounding Drew Bledsoe into the turf, he was ready to take the reigns. I'm not sure I could say the same of Cassel.
Even more than the stagnant offense, the defense lost this game for the Patriots. Trick plays aside, the Dolphins dominated every aspect of this game. Belichick and his staff have been widely known known as having the ability to make defensive changes during a game. The Patriot defense not only wasn't able to adjust to the tempo of the game but by the fourth quarter seemed disinterested and tired. The age of this defense concerned me going into the season but they played worse than I ever could have imagined.
It's clear that with the lack of offensive firepower this team is going to have to play almost a perfect game to even compete with a good team like the Cowboys or Colts. With Brady at the helm, the same could have been said for the Patriots' opponent. Sad, sad times in Patriot Land.
Side note: For all of those fans who left the game early, for shame. Not only are you ditching a game that wasn't out of hand yet but you're providing fodder for national pundits who claim we're a bunch of bandwagon fans. I thought I had left all the early-goers in LA when I flew back to the east coast but apparently not.