Jim Brown/USA Today Sports

Thinking out loud: Is it time to panic about Patriots?

John Rooke
November 17, 2018 - 9:14 am

Thinking out loud…while wondering if Sporty McKenzie will surface again, somewhere…

  • Yeah, last Sunday was pretty ugly.  It’s uncharacteristic for New England to have struggles in November. But all is not lost (yet) with the Patriots at the bye week.  How do I know this? 


  • The AFC East is what it is – and the NFL isn’t what you think it is.


  • Tweet of the Week I, from @ZackCoxNESN: “Today was the first time since 2010 that a Tom Brady-led Patriots team lost by double digits in October, November or December.”


  • Let’s not panic, but…TB12 is 41.  Forty-One.  4-1.  And there’s no discernable back-up or plan to back-up.  Think about that.


  • Let’s not panic, but…the offensive line has been a mess the past few weeks, which is part of the reason for TB12’s case of Putter’s Yips when he throws the ball.


  • Let’s not panic, but…the special teams haven’t been special, at all.  In fact, they ranked closer to the bottom of the league than the top of it, which is uncharacteristic of them.  Kick it deep.


  • Let’s not panic, but…get your looks in on Rob Gronkowski as often as you can over these next two months.  My spidey senses tell me he won’t be here next year.  In fact, he might not be anywhere else, either.  Gronk may consider the “R” word before TB12 does.


  • Dion Lewis’ “they’ll fold” dig at his old teammates this week bears the question – Hey Dion? If you told your current Titans’ teammates your old Patriot teammates were ‘soft’ and will fold, doesn’t that mean you were soft, too?


  • The end is near for TB12?  Maybe.  Best to put some sort of plan in motion for 2019 and going forward, don’cha think?  But this year?  Right now?  Nope.  He’s still, by far and away, the best QB in the AFC East.  Or AFC Least.  #tomatocans


  • The biggest Patriot need is to get healthy.  Then, to get faster on defense.  To get more physical in the trenches.  And to take the damn ball on the opening kickoff instead of deferring.


  • How many teams are better than New England?  Four, maybe five.  That’s the upside to a rather perplexing issue.  The reality is, they’re in the hunt.  And that’s all they need to be, right now.


  • Tweet of the Week II, from @MikeReiss: “In losses to Matt Patricia's Lions & Mike Vrabel's Titans, the Patriots scored 10 points apiece & Tom Brady completed 52 percent of his passes. In 8 other games, when Patriots were 7-1, they averaged 32.5 points and Brady was at 68%.”


  • Shows you what familiarity and preparation can do for you.  So maybe throw those guys a changeup next time?


  • The New York Jets say they didn’t ‘prep’ for Matt Barkley last week against Buffalo?  While I actually don’t believe that, it is a sure sign that the inmates run that asylum.  The only way to change that?  Remove the CEO.


  • He may be a jerk, but good on ya’ Le’Veon Bell.  Staying away from the game should add a little life to his legs and make him a still-valuable commodity on the open market next year as a free agent running back. 


  • That, and he’s screwing over the Steelers.  Always like to see that happen. 


  • We can put men on the moon nearly 50 years ago, and talk about putting men on Mars, but we can’t figure out how to replace crappy turf in Mexico City?  This isn’t a good look for the NFL, or for the future of international play.


  • It’s the NFL.  They can do whatever they want to do.  Right, TB?  Mr. Kraft?


  • Providence’s season-to-date, including the win over Holy Cross this week tells me two things – 1) Young players don’t value the ball like they should, and 2) Young players that don’t play defense shouldn’t play at all.  Until they learn how to play defense.


  • Makai Ashton-Langford’s father tweeted some rumblings this week about his kid not playing.  My answer?  See above.


  • This weekend at Mohegan Sun, the Friars could be facing teams that have participated in each of the last two Final Fours.  South Carolina Saturday (2017, lost to Gonzaga in the semis) and possibly Michigan (lost to Villanova last year) Sunday.  And Michigan is good – again.  Just ask Villanova.


  • That A.J. Reeves received the first Big East Freshman of the Week award wasn’t surprising.  Neither was his scoring only five points against Holy Cross, after averaging 24 in his first two games.  You hope the learning curve for guys like A.J. and David Duke is a short, short one.


  • And Alpha Diallo?  Clearly the alpha-male for the Friars.  Double-doubles in each of his first three games played.  But those free throws?  Dude.  You will be hammered, sometimes needlessly and unnecessarily, until you prove you can score from the line at a 70% clip – at least.


  • Early impressions?  In the Big East, Georgetown’s James Akinjo and Mac McClung are solid, smart.  Not like ordinary freshmen, yet.  The Hoyas may be better than many think they’ll be.


  • And what did I say about young players, and young teams?  Little-to-no defense at Villanova and Marquette this week in blowout Gavitt Games losses to Michigan and Indiana.  Marquette has no excuses though, with four starters back from last season.  C’mon, Wojo.


  • DePaul is not bad.  There, I said it.  And I mean it.


  • URI lost its first game of the year, a true road game at College of Charleston.  No, not surprising.  Shooting 2-for-19 to open the game, any game, on the road isn’t exactly a prescription for winning.


  • Cyril Langevine is becoming the player he needs to become, though.  An 18-point, 10 rebound double-double was a definite bright spot.


  • After a tough-but-close 0-2 start, Brown hosts the first-ever Brown Bears Tip Off Classic this weekend with Sacred Heart, Army and UMass Lowell. 


  • Bryant cracked the win column this week for the first time under 1st year head coach Jared Grasso, with a 71-63 win over St. Peter’s.  The Bulldogs travel to Navy this weekend.


  • No.  The Fitchburg State player, Kewan Platt, who put his forearm into the face of Nichols College guard Nate Tenaglia – and received nationwide attention for the viral video – should not be brought up on criminal charges. 


  • Really, jail?  Please consider context here.  Yes, he’s being punished, and there should be repercussions for your actions.  It can’t go away, and society today already enables too many young people.  But jail?  Think about the can of worms this would open, and the awful precedent it would set in other sports.


  • PC’s hockey Friars ran into a road bump last weekend at home and away against UMass, losing twice in the same series for the first time in over a year.  Dropping to 9th in the national polls, Providence skates home and away with Merrimack this weekend. 


  • If you missed Joe McDonald’s story in The Athletic this past week on Friar Hockey, Drew Brown and Mark Adams, you missed the best of what sports writing is all about.  Do yourself a favor – find it.  Read it.  Have your heart warmed by it, and by the actions of a true “team” and family.


  • Don’t look now, but Friars rule ice and cold.  PC’s women’s team is ranked 10th nationally in this week’s poll.  Just in time for the first snow fall. 


  • Big ups to URI’s men’s soccer team, winning the Atlantic-10 title and gaining a berth in the NCAA Tournament.  It was a short stay, however, as the Rams dropped a 4-3 decision to UConn in the opening round this Thursday, after holding a two-goal lead.


  • Can you even imagine the internal mess going on at Louisville after firing football coach Bobby Petrino this past week?  On top of the Rick Pitino scandal, Petrino’s coaches show – which was pre-taped after a 7th straight defeat this season – was in mid-program when his firing was announced as a crawl across the bottom of the TV screen.


  • Very cool that the North Carolina State basketball arena has been renamed for late coach Jim Valvano, who died from cancer more than 25 years ago.  Cooler for his family to see that, too – as I know his brother Bob is especially proud.  He should be.


  • Boston College hosted College Football GameDay before the Clemson game on ESPN?  Did anyone notice?


  • Hard to NOT notice the kind of player and person Mookie Betts is.  That he won his first American League MVP this week wasn’t a surprise.  That anyone else was even considered worthy of nomination was the surprise – Betts was that dominant.


  • But put me in the corner of belief that J.D. Martinez might have been the MOST valuable player to the Red Sox efforts behind winning a World Series.  He changed the line-up with his bat, sure, but also changed it with his presence on the field and in the locker room.


  • Alex Cora was not going to win Manager of the Year, if only because the vote took place before the postseason.  Which is kinda dumb, really.  Aren’t the playoffs part of a season? 


  • Craig Kimbrel rejected his qualifying offer from Boston, effectively making him an official free agent.  That’s a good thing, if only because if he does go to another team (please?) the Sox get draft compensation in return.


  • Did you see this week where pitching coach Dana LeVangie’s son Liam is headed for Bryant on a baseball scholarship?  The East Bridgewater senior certainly has a solid pedigree – and experience in championship parades, too, having been on a Red Sox duck boat with his Dad a couple of weeks ago.


  • Hendricken beat LaSalle for the RIIL Division I State Championship for the eighth time in nine years?  YAWN.  But Rhode Island still crowns Super Bowl champs this weekend, is that right?  Could any remaining team beat the Hawks?  That’s all I want to know.


  • If you don’t know about Stan Lee, who he was and what he meant to a lot of kids (and older kids, too) then you’ve simply missed out.  Lee was the author, artist and creator of the Marvel comic super heroes – Spiderman, Ironman, The Incredible Hulk and others – and passed away this week at age 95. 


  • While I was (and remain) more of a DC Comics kinda guy, Lee’s ability to create a fascinating world and tell stories was remarkable.  He allowed his readers – and comic fans everywhere – the opportunity to dream big dreams.  Thank you, Stan.


  • And thank you to Roy Clark, who was a-pickin’ and a-grinnin’ around country music and comedy circles for decades.  Clark also passed away this week at age 85, and while he was accomplished as a Grammy award-winning guitarist and country singer, he might have been best known for his role on the 1970’s-era comedy and music TV show “Hee Haw.” 


  • Tweet of the Week III, from @EddieAndelman: “Leaving for Florida in a month. As usual anyone in Palm Beach County this winter from Boston will be my guest for lunch. No soccer heads.”


  • My buddy “Big E” sez he was in his rocking chair on the porch when one of his pain-in-the-butt neighbor kids approached. “I couldn’t help but notice how happy you look,” the kid said.  “What’s your secret for a happy life?  Big E thought for a moment, then answered “well, I smoke three packs a day and drink a case of whiskey every week, eat fatty foods and I don’t exercise.”  Surprised, the kid said “Wow. That’s amazing. How old are you, anyway?”  Ever the antagonist, Big E replied.  “25.”


  • Those of you of a certain age (ok, old people) will remember the infamous “Heidi” game on NBC in 1968.  This week was the 50th anniversary of the broadcast that rocked-the-world at the time and set broadcast standards that remain to this day.  Namely, that sponsorships must be honored, unless you want to return money to advertisers.  And no one ever wants to do that.


  • And that communication lines must always be open, and that football rules over all.


  • For the uninitiated or the Google-challenged, Heidi was a made-for-TV movie that NBC (then the home of the AFL) had hyped and sold to sponsors aiming for a new target demographic.  That target did not include football fans, and certainly not older males.  As the New York Jets and Oakland Raiders worked their way slowly to the end of their game, overtime loomed. Which meant delaying the start of the movie, right?


  • Wrong.  Phone line communications, back in the analog day, were difficult during peak, high-demand times.  Remember busy signals?  No one, it seems, could get through to the network honchos to ask about delaying the start of the movie in order to show the finish of the game.  So, when the clock hit the magic hour – football was off.  Heidi was on, and the phone lines went nuts.


  • The response was negative, as you might imagine.  Oakland ended up winning the game, but the Jets ended up winning the AFL title, which put them in the Super Bowl against Baltimore (which they also won).  Special “Heidi” phones were installed at the network, so communications would never be an issue again.  In 1997, 30 years after it was played, the Heidi game was voted as the most memorable regular season game in pro football history.


  • Good luck to Kirk Minihane, who takes his brand of witty, acerbic and unconventional radio talk and showmanship to the online world of the digital app Radio.com – a part of Entercom, WEEI’s corporate home.  It’s a shame that terrestrial radio can’t find a place for someone who performs outside the norm. 


  • I don’t know this for fact, but I surmise this was a need-based move.  A need for Kirk to continue to ply his trade unfiltered, unmuted and unrestricted by format and topics, and a need for WEEI in order to keep advertisers and franchises (like the Red Sox) happy in a non-controversial way. 


  • I hope that Kirk’s ‘Sporty McKenzie’ alter-ego finds a way through the BS and resurfaces someday on radio.  You may or may not have liked him or his style, but Kirk’s ability to differ from ‘the norm’ was good for the medium.  It’s just sad no one in (or on) radio had his back.


  • Interested in having your questions on local Rhode Island sports (and yes, that includes the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics) answered in a somewhat timely fashion? Send ‘em to me! It’s your chance to “think out loud,” so send your questions, comments and local stories to jrooke@weei.com. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke ...


Don’t forget to tune into Providence’s 103.7 FM, every Saturday from 7:00-9:00 am for Southern New England Sports Saturday!  Call in at 401-737-1287 or text at 37937.

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