EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 26, 2011

The defense rests ... again; Exposed by Bills, Pats take giant step backward

On Pro Football
Hector Longo

Patriots fans, who are you gonna flog?

All your wild hopes and crazy dreams that a cauldron full of second, third and fourth round picks, combined with a handful of bargain basement, free-agent projects had returned your football team's defense to its 2004 apex were smothered by of all teams, the Buffalo Bills.

Somebody has to pay after yesterday's 34-31 implosion in Buffalo.

So who is it going to be?

Bill Belichick? Personnel guru Nick Caserio? The Krafts?

I don't know if it's Belichick or Bill Parcells who said it. Perhaps, it's a hybrid of both, but you are what you are.

And three games into the year - two against sub-journeyman QBs in Ryan Fitzpatrick and Chad Henne - the Patriots are a team that has surrendered 26.3 points and 468.7 yards per game.

Even in this inflated-offense, chicks-dig-the-longball NFL, those numbers are astronomical.

The fact is that the Pats have sold their fans a bill of goods in this now six-to-seven year rebuilding process on the non-Tom Brady side of the football.

Look out there right now at the defensive line with Kyle Love, Mark Anderson, Andre Carter and Shaun Ellis, then look in the secondary at any of your defensive backs. And remember that you had a pair of "real" All-Pros here - cornerstones in Asante Samuel and Richard Seymour - and you chose not to pay them.

Devin McCourty? Tell me the truth. You were having Ellis Hobbs III/Plaxico Burress flashbacks when Stevie Johnson schooled him on the second quarter TD pass.

I know I was.

And remember that incredible 2009 draft, the one with linebackers Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews and Rey Maualuga all within reach?

Belichick, or maybe it's Caserio, chose to backpedal into the second round where instead of spending a dollar in the first round, he plunked down four quarters in the second.

Each had his flaws, but that didn't stop the Pats from spreading the risk on Pat Chung, Sebastian Vollmer, Ron Brace and Darius Butler.

Well, Butler's gone and Brace hasn't been seen. Undersized for the position, Chung has been physically beaten up for three straight seasons - starting one game as a rookie, missing two games last year and missing yesterday's game with a hand injury.

And Vollmer's back problems, well-chronicled pre-draft, have him on the sidelines right now as well.

Meanwhile, Cushing has started every game in Houston, Maualuga has done the same in Cincinnati and Matthews, who already has one championship ring, is wreaking havoc in Green Bay, that is when he's not pitching Nike cleats.

Meanwhile, your linebackers - Jerod Mayo, Gary Guyton and Brandon Spikes - still haven't caught up with Freddie Jackson.

Next time you tell me that these guys can play, please YouTube the Scott Chandler TD catch today.

Chandler stands alone, meanwhile 15 yards to his left, Mayo and Spikes are tangled up like Laverne and Shirley in a scuffle at the Pizza Bowl.

I think back to this past August when after the Pats swarmed Tampa in a meaningless exhibition, every Pats yahoo proclaimed the 2004 champs as "that other team."

This was going to be the year the defense took over again.

Well folks, we're still waiting for Carter to make a play against a real NFL lineman. Same for Anderson, Ellis and the rest.

The fact is that this defense isn't good, and isn't improving, despite what you thought and were told back in August.

It's horrifying ... again. Just like it has been.

To me, it's deflating. Another year of Tom Brady at his finest, all for a division race and an early playoff exit.

Congrats, you are the Colts or the Chargers - good not great, and clearly a pretender when it comes to the championship.