EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 9, 2013

Hector Longo's Two-Minute Drill

Hector Longo
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — BIG SHOWS

1. Danny Amendola — Can you just imagine what they pumped into this guy to make his groin pull go away? Hey, this kid was nails in his debut. A guy who has missed 20 games in two seasons, you figured there was a bit of coward in this guy. To the contrary. Gets my vote for AFC Offensive Player of the Week (yes, over Peyton) with 10 tough catches for 104 yards.

2. Shane Vereen — He was C.J. Spiller, running against the Bills. Carried 14 times in relief for 101 yards, netting 7.2 yards a carry. Also caught seven passes for 58 more yards. Can he run inside over the long haul? Probably not. But for now, he’s just what is needed on an offense starved for weapons.

3. Julian Edelman — Enjoy him while you can. If you trust this guy to deliver against real teams, you’re either naive or a huge Pats fan. Great day, maybe his greatest, with 7 catches for 79 yards and two scores.

NO SHOWS

1. Stevan Ridley — He was so ashamed at his performance that in the post game, he kept talking about his “two turnovers” despite the fact one was ruled — incorrectly mind you — down by contact. Ran 9 times for 46 yards before being sent to the bench for good without his supper.

2. Devin McCourty — When a rookie in his first start can look you off at safety when you are playing Cover 2 and in your fourth season, you bite on the fake, you clearly have the football instincts of a carp. That cost the Pats the Robert Woods’ TD catch and a “Brandon Meriweather-esque” angle to the football cost the Pats on Stevie Johnson’s TD catch. The good news is the Pats escaped healthy enough that McCourty didn’t need to move to corner.

3. Ryan Allen — Not a great debut for the rookie punter with three for 39.3 a kick and only 36.0 net.

4. Kenbrell Thompkins/Zach Sudfeld — Put the brakes on the orders for their busts at Canton. The receiving “sensations” of training camp were swamped by a patchwork Buffalo secondary. For some reason, Tom Brady attempted to shoe-horn the football into a well-marked Thompkins over and over again, to the tune of 14 targets. Randy Moss never got 14 targets, but Thompkins does? He made four catches. A 20-yarder when the Bills’ zone broke down after about six seconds in the pocket. The other three were little dump passes. Oh, and the next Gronk/Hernandez was thrown to once all day, with Brady hitting the 24-year-old rookie on the hands. Sudfeld in turn patty-caked it to defender Justin Rogers for the interception.

GRADING THE GROUPS

OFFENSE

Line (B+) ... New England backs carried 30 times for 162 yards, a very healthy 5.4 yards a carry. On an afternoon where the officials were throwing flags at the Bills like it was the Olympics, the Pats offensive line was hit with two false starts and nothing else. Yes, Brady got sacked twice and hit seven times. But that was in 54 drops. A good day.

Backs (B) ... Stevan Ridley’s unforced fumble nearly took the game away from the Pats. Shane Vereen luckily had his teammate’s back. Very disappointing day for LeGarrette Blount (7 carries, 15 yards), who clearly displayed that he’s not the answer in the kick-return game.

Tight ends (F) ... Mike Hoomanawanui might as well wear a number in the 70s. He blocks like an offensive tackle. Unfortunately, he also runs pass routes and catches like an offensive tackle. Zach Sudfeld, well we’ve covered his Pats debut in the “No Shows.” And I’m not one to pile on (Tee hee!).

Wide Receivers (A) ... Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman gave this team, pound for pound and inch for inch, more than any receivers’ tandem in the game this week. Now the bad news, Lloyds of London has cancelled the health insurance policy on both and Vegas has set the line at Week 6 for when these two are put in the injured reserve, due to the pounding they will have taken.

Quarterback (B-) ... What in tarnation is this team doing dropping back to pass 54 times against these horrific Buffalo Bills? Tom Brady cranked up the mph and laser precision, attempting to squeeze footballs into the tightest of crevasses. Not a great day. In fact, he might have been outplayed by E.J. Manuel. ... But he got the win and the Bills didn’t. Make it 21-2 against the sons of Dick Jauron.

DEFENSE

Line (C-) ... No sacks on E.J. Manuel. No impact plays. Just accepting blocks and pile pushing. Hey, Chandler Jones. Where the heck are you? No tackles for Vince Wilfork. A quiet day for Tommy Kelly, who recovered a fumble.

Linebackers (C) ... Brandon Spikes was out for dehydration early in the first half. Did they play this game in Miami yesterday? Nope, Buffalo, where the temp at kickoff was a balmy 65. Fahrenheit! Jerod Mayo’s 12-solo tackles weren’t exactly Patrick Willis-like. Instead, it was like he made them because nobody else could. My fears that Dont’a Hightower can’t play continue to escalate.

Secondary (D) ... Love the finger-pointing and body language by a roasted Aqib Talib. The guy oozes team player. Kyle Arrington, Steve Gregory, Alfonzo Dennard, Devin McCourty ... I’ve read this script a handful of times before. And it’s not a happy ending. Read the next line slowly. In his first NFL game, E.J. Manuel hit 18 of 27 passes for 150 yards and two TDs with a 105.5 passer rating. Think about that. It says here that Manuel’s only other chance to crack triple digits this season will be when he comes to Gillette Stadium.

Special Teams (B)... A career first game winner for Stephen Gostkowski, who had the field-goal hat-trick. That was the highlight. Allen’s punting was the lowlight.

Why Belichick’s better

The competition is simply pathetic.

With all due respect to those two monumental “Pinstripe Bowl” wins he earned as the head coach at Syracuse, the last three years, Doug Marrone looks destined to join the recent line of head-coaching clowns to grace the Buffalo sidelines. The losing likes of Dick Jauron, Chan Gailey and Perry Fewell have Buffalo riding the crest of five straight fourth-place finishes in the AFC East. Only the Jets can halt that hideous run of ineptitude.

Look at it this way. The schedule came out last spring. Marrone has been preparing for this opening game for months. And his team’s first quarter?

It included:

~ A challenge of a fumble, even though the Pats recovered the fumble.

~ A procedure penalty before the game’s first snap.

~ Four penalties total for 35 yards ... a trend that continued all game (10 for 75).

~ And a fumble.

Now, that’s preparation baby. In addition, his club allowed 4 of 6 third-down conversions against a very limited Pats offense.

Jauron, I mean Marrone, is yet another lightweight

The man in the cross hairs

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why Bill Belichick is allowing this to go on.

Matt Patricia’s excuses have run out on this defense. They aren’t all rookies any more. In fact, a couple of guys have hit the back nine already on this defense.

You don’t expend 14 of your last 19 top two-round draft picks on defense and then put this product on the field. I blame the coach, in this case, the coordinator, Patricia, for taking top defensive talent and strangling it.

This goes beyond “Bend but don’t break,” which has never fully worked here in Foxboro anyway.

It’s bland, vanilla, a defensive strategy where the term “downhill” as in “Scrape downhill and attack the football” simply doesn’t exist.

How does Belichick, the minister of defense with his likeness headed straight to Canton when he puts down the whistle, tolerate what went on in Buffalo yesterday?

The guy is like the billionaire thoroughbred horse owner, who goes loopy buying stock at one of the sales, then has the trainer put the wraps on his charges. Where is the fire? Where are the playmakers?

At times yesterday, it looked like Patricia had his safeties watching cars in the players’ lot — they were miles off the ball.

Typically, Devin McCourty and Steve Gregory still found ways to let receivers behind them.

The bottom line is that New England was facing an untested, unreliable rookie. This was not Andrew Luck here.

If ever a game-plan called for 8-and-9 man fronts and an attacking, blitzing scheme, this was it. Instead, it was Colts’ Cover 2, over and over again.

This doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked here ever. Not for Dean Pees and not for Patricia.

Let the dogs hunt. Chandler Jones doesn’t want to be put over a guard in the pass rush, so we can get the immortal Michael Buchanan on the end. Jones is the right, rush end. Every down. Don’t make the freakish athlete think. Let him react and make plays.

He is a better version of Dwight Freeney, and even the Colts coaxed a Hall of Fame career out of Freeney just by letting him rush the edge.

I don’t trust Patricia. And I don’t trust his defense. You shouldn’t either.

Odds and ends

How about the debut of rookie Jamie Collins, the second round pick out of Southern Miss? Crickets. Sorry, nothing at all from the big guy. ...

Jerod Mayo’s 12 tackles typically yielded an average of 5.6 yards per play. If ever a linebacker in this game needed an explanation of the term downhill, it would be Mayo. ...

Can anyone tell me what Peyton Manning thinks when he looks at the receivers he has and then looks at the collection of misfit toys Tom Brady has been given? ...

Short week, of course, as the Jets, 1-0 off their amazing victory against the Bucs, come in on Thursday night. Suddenly, Geno Smith is a problem. Yikes.

...

Follow Hector Longo on Twitter @MVCreature