1. Julian Edelman — The keys on this keyboard are actually asking me for a “re-type” as this next question is inputted? Can you imagine where this football team might be without Julian Edelman? Another nine catches for 101 yards. Coming up with the huge catches when you need him. On an offense with three of the best at their positions (Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Logan Mankins), Edleman has been irreplaceable.
2. Rob Gronkowski — When I see Gronk play, I think to myself, “Wow, that Jimmy Graham is a nice, little player in New Orleans.” There is only one, and it’s Gronk. Six catches for 127 yards and a TD, all the while drawing coverage from everywhere but the owner’s box.
3. Stephen Gostkowski — Cool and calm under duress. Tough to ask for anything more than a pair of swished, fourth-quarter, 53-yarders.
1. Dont’a Hightower — Watching this guy I long for the days of Jeff Tarpinian (Who? ex-Pat who had two tackles and a half-sack for the Texans yesterday). It’s good that he’s lazy, because if he wasn’t we’d wonder how slow he really is a lot more. Played with a lot of disinterest yesterday at least when he got a little winded. Finished with 1 solo tackle over the final 41 minutes. One!
2. Devin McCourty — His penchant for Brandon Meriweather angles was exposed on Brandon Tate’s TD run. Just a little too soft in coverage for my liking. That may have had something to do with the Pats’ zone scheme and their desire to sit back and let Case Keenum try to beat them. Look, he’s a leader on this defense. I set the bar high, here. I demand a little more from a guy who I thought might have been on a Pro Bowl road.
3. Jamie Collins — On a team begging for athletic, decent linebacker play, where has this rookie gone? Seriously, one tackle and one hit on the QB where he was unblocked and should have had a sack instead of a hurry. You’re a second-round pick Jamie. Act like it.
GRADING THE GROUPS
Line (B-) ... Tom Brady was hit, but not that much. The running game was spotty. Not the best effort in the world, but they did frustrate the heck out of J.J. Watt.
Running Backs (B-) ... It’s nice to have Shane Vereen as a change of pace back, when he catches the football. Caught five of six thrown his way yesterday, for 37 yards and a score, but the drop came at an inopportune time. Time for LeGarrette Blount or Brandon Bolden to take charge, and neither did yesterday.
Wide Receivers (B-) ... An inactive for injured Aaron Dobson. A huge day for Julian Edelman. A ho-hum day from Danny Amendola (5 catches for 54 yards) and nothing from Kenbrell Thompkins.
Tight Ends (A) ... Gronk an absolute monster in a class by himself.
Quarterback (A) ... Speaking of those in a class by themselves, TB12 makes it three 100-plus rating days in the last four. Someone is heating up, folks.
Line (D) ... A quiet day out of “Sideswipe,” (Chandler Jones), which means a long day for this defense. Isaac Sopoaga registered a sack but it was of the coverage variety. No edge presence, no rush, no toughness inside.
Linebackers (D) ... The linebacker play took another step back yesterday. Brandon Spikes is playing in pain and gets a pass. The others simply do not measure up.
Secondary (D) ... Tough day. Worst days in progressive order had to be Kyle Arrington, Devin McCourty and then Aqib Talib, who showed he wanted little to do with either stopping Andre Johnson (8 catches, 121 yards) or helping in the running game.
WHY BELICHICK IS BETTER?
Bill Belichick would never have needed to burn a timeout with 2:07 left to figure out that, yes, on 4th-and-12, Gary Kubiak had to have his team go for it.
That timeout was huge and took any chance his team had away. I would have respected Kubiak a lot more if he realized he had clearly bungled things with the timeout call so badly that he let the Pats walk in to score on his defense on first down. Even down 10 points, it was a better shot than taking over at his own 5 with seven seconds left.
Belichick would never have blown that timeout to “think it over” as so many overmatched NFL bosses do. The mini-stroke saved Kubiak’s job for now, but the buzzards are clearly circling on his tenure with the Texans.
Andover’s Bill O’Brien, I know you are at Penn State, but are you paying attention here?
GOOD FOR YOU, COACH
High praise from this corner goes out to Bill Belichick, who left Stevan Ridley in street clothes to watch this one.
Three games, three fumbles. The coach wasn’t about to let the Hat Trick kid go for four.
You’re too lazy and so against paying attention to detail that you won’t tuck the football high and tight? Good.
Sit and watch. Watch Brown’s James Develin wrap both arms around the thing and hold it with fear of his NFL life.
Sure, Ridley’s money is guaranteed through next year. Maybe, he doesn’t need to care.
The Pats need him to care. So good job, coach. Teach the kid the lesson.
Coming into the 2013 season, Stephen Gostkowski had put together a nice, little career for himself as an NFL kicker.
Six years with one Pro Bowl, a healthy 85 percent field goals made, a leg still strong enough to produce more than his share of touchbacks on kickoffs. It was enough to satisfy all but the most hardy Adam Vinatieri fans — excluding myself, I’ll never, ever let the Pats forget they sent the most clutch kicker in history packing.
But this year, Gostkowski has taken it a step further. Yesterday’s two second-half 53-yard bombs were the absolute difference in the 34-31 Patriots win.
“Just to do it in the fourth quarter when the team may be a little tired feels special,” said Gostkowski. “I’m just trying to go out there to make the field goal.”
Reliant Stadium is basically a dome (retractable roof), but the surface is grass, and that can be a bit tougher.
He had missed a 55-yard try in the first half. But when it counted, Gostkowski was money.
Just like he was in overtime last week vs. Denver, and even more when he knocked home the game-winner vs. Buffalo in the opener.
“It’s nice to have a big factor in the game,” said Gostkowski.
Absolutely, Stephen. It’s basically what all us “Vinatieri guys” have been waiting for.
REASSURING OR NAUSEATING
On NBC last night, ex-coach Tony Dungy said, “This team reminds me so much of our 2006 Super Bowl team in Indy. They’re decimated on defense, but they’ve got a great quarterback who’s making plays and keeping them in every game. Tom Brady is the reason they’re winning.”
You just have to wonder if a statement like that is reassuring to Pats’ fans or if it has them running to lavatories from Andover to Whitinsville.