Reimer: Don't get cute and blame Belichick, Brady or Gostkowski for Patriots' debacle. They can't stop anyone on the road.

Alex Reimer
December 10, 2018 - 12:06 pm

Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports

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In George Orwell’s dystopian 1984 –– which continues to look more prescient with each passing day, but that’s for another column –– the party tells its people to “reject the evidence of their eyes and ears.” 

I felt as if the X’s and O’s wonks were commanding me to do the same thing in the aftermath of the Patriots’ stunning 34-33 loss to the Dolphins Sunday. 

To my laymen eyes, at least five Patriots defenders gave up on Miami’s inconceivable game-winning 69-yard touchdown. Jonathan Jones was the original offender, failing to wrap up Kenny Stills and then laying on the ground while his team almost certainly lost its chance to secure home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Runnig back Kenyan Drake raced the bulk of the distance, easily shedding Kyle Van Noy while J.C. Jackson jogged alongside them. 

Finally, after Drake beat Adam Butler and Trey Fowlers –– both of whom didn’t appear to exert any effort on the play, either –– he tore past a stumbling Rob Gronkowski for the touchdown. It was strange Gronk was out there, because the tight end is not a defensive player. As Boomer Esiason aptly put it on “Mut & Callahan,” ‘Gronk avoids tackles. He doesn’t make them.’

Bill Belichick said he put Gronkowski at safety instead of Devin McCourty, because Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill could have thrown the ball deep. That seems unlikely, since Tannehill was 70 yards from the end zone and playing on one ankle –– never mind a battered shoulder. 

Besides, McCourty is one of the best tacklers on the team. Why did the three-time All-Pro have to come off the field so Belichick could fulfill some Paul Brown-inspired fantasy of playing the best tight end ever on defense? This kind of experimentation did not work out well when Gronk was on extra-point duty, and wound up breaking his forearm

It made no sense to play Gronkowski there. Belichick has rightfully been condemned by all football observing parties, including some of his former players.

But the play should’ve been dead long before Gronk’s lumbering frame fell down in pursuit of Drake. Hustle is the minimum requirement for every professional football player. Most of the guys on the field wearing white failed. 

The lateral touchdown was one of three embarrassing scores the Patriots surrendered Sunday. The previous two belonged to former Patriots backup Brandon Bolden, who ran through the hapless defense in the first half, piling up 60 yards on two carries. 

Nobody was near Bolden on his 54-yarder, and at least four defenders –– including Duron Harmon –– couldn’t bring him down on the second run. 

Despite those defensive atrocities, Tom Brady's brilliance put the Patriots in the lead. But he did make one mistake. At the end of the second quarter, TB12 inexcusably took a sack inside the 10-yard line WITHOUT ANY TIMEOUTS LEFT. The clock kept ticking, and the Pats couldn’t put up any additional points before halftime. 

All of the pasty swamp-assed reporters in the press box immediately tweeted about how Brady committed the worst sports blunder since Pete Carroll decided to throw at the goal line. 

There’s no excuse for Brady’s lapse. He’s acknowledged as such, and delivered multiple mea culpas. But overall, Brady went 29-of-43 for 358 yards and three touchdowns. He left three points on the field, but was also responsible for 27. 

His 37-yard touchdown toss to Cordarelle Patterson was one of the best throws we’ve seen all season, this side of Patrick Mahomes’ no-look trick shot. 

When looking at the problems that linger from the Patriots’ latest debacle in Miami,  Brady’s performance isn’t one of them. Same with Stephen Gostkowski, who missed an extra-point and 42-yard attempt. He’s 18th in field goal percentage this season, ahead of kickers for the Rams, Chargers, Colts, Seahawks, Bears, Vikings and Steelers. 

Up until this point, the most consequential miss of Gostkowski’s career was an extra-point in the 2016 AFC championship. The Patriots lost that game to the Broncos 20-18, but Brady also got mauled all afternoon. He threw two picks, while the decrepit Peyton Manning threw two touchdown passes. 

Gostkowski is down the list of concerns. The Patriots will probably be forced to play at least one road game in the playoffs, and right now, their defense can’t stop anybody away from Gillette Stadium. In the Patriots’ four road losses, their defense has allowed 31 points, 423 yards and 151 rushing yards per game. All three numbers would be the worst in the league in each respective category.

In other words, the Patriots’ defense is the worst in the NFL when they lose on the road. And their four tormentors –– the Jaguars, Lions, Titans and Dolphins –– are all bad offensively. Each of them reside in the bottom third of the league in points scored. 

If that’s how the Patriots’ D performs against the dregs of the NFL, imagine how they would fare against Mahomes in Arrowhead Stadium, or even the Texans in Houston -– if they get leapfrogged in the standings. 

Belichick’s weird specialty packages, two missed kicks and one bad Brady sack won’t matter if the Patriots can’t stop the run.

Who’s the football guy now, huh? 

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