Raj Mehta/USA Today Sports

Thinking out loud: What is going on with Patriots?

John Rooke
September 28, 2018 - 3:51 pm

Thinking out loud…while wondering how those NFL TV ratings are holding up…

  • New England, do we have a problem? 


  • This is a Patriot team at 1-2 through three weeks for the first time in six years, following what may have been the worst team performance at Detroit under Bill Belichick since 2000. 


  • The other worst performance that comes to mind?  The ‘Wildcat’ game against Miami in 2008.  Who they playin’ this week?


  • The bigger question this week – can this Patriots team be fixed?


  • Not for nuthin’, but let’s keep in mind the Patriots also went to the AFC Championship game in 2012, the last time they started a season at 1-2.  So, there’s that.


  • 1-and-3?  That’s what they’ll be if they lose to the currently unbeaten, AFC East-leading Dolphins.  And the last time the Patriots started 1-and-3?  2001, the first Super Bowl-winning season.
  • Tweet of the Week I, from @ESPNStatsInfo: “This is the first time the Patriots have lost back-to-back games by double-digits since December 16-22, 2002 against the Jets and Titans. They've played 244 games since that stretch.”


  • I get it.  Like so many in the media apparently believe, this team – this year – feels “different.”  Different like, what?  Until we see and have evidence they can’t do it, they probably can.  Fix it, that is.  But the talent and depth have most assuredly taken a hit from previous years.


  • Think Matt Patricia knew what he was facing last week?  Of course, he did.  He knew how to slice and dice that defense better than a butcher can prepare your pork chops.


  • Josh McDaniels absorbed some of the blame earlier this week, and rightfully so.  The play-calling was abysmal and was so much about what the Patriots wanted to do – not what they could do.


  • The criticism of rookie running back Sony Michel is unwarranted.  And just plain dumb.  If you saw him play at all in college – and that should eliminate more than half of the population in New England – you know what he’s capable of doing.  He’s also hurt, but to what degree no one knows.


  • The Patriots, right now, are likely in the most crucial period they’ve been in since the Belichick regime began.  Between this Sunday and next Thursday against Indianapolis, these two games with middling franchises are as close to “must win” as any I can remember this early in a year.


  • But are you in panic-mode, or cruise-control?  Let’s put it this way.  I don’t think anyone should push the panic button just yet – but I’d certainly take the bandwagon out of cruise-control.  This is going to be a stop-and-start, traffic-jam kind of a season.


  • What is fixable?  Let’s start with Trey Flowers and Patrick Chung’s return on the defense to provide some stability.  Some strength.  And what little speed the Patriots have on that side of the ball belongs mostly to Flowers.


  • I am flummoxed by the alleged Gronk trade.  For picks?  Ostensibly to move up in the draft for Baker Mayfield?  Giving up a sure thing for a gamble?  Blows me away.


  • Time to bring out the old “Squish the Fish” t-shirts this week.  A win over Miami should calm the masses, at least briefly.  A loss, however, will signal Armageddon.  Even with so much football left to be played.


  • The biggest victory already scored this week may have come from the Patriots Charitable Foundation, which donated $10K to Providence’s Central High School for football equipment.


  • I don’t know about you, but every time I watch a QB go down I cringe.  And wonder if THAT one will be called a penalty.  Hey NFL?  Wanna protect the QB?  Tell teams to block better.


  • The Red Sox and Yankees this weekend play in the three of the most anti-climactic games they’ve probably ever played against each other.  Hard to conjure up any hatred here.


  • But while the Sox have already clinched home field advantage for the duration of their playoff appearance, the Pinstripes need a win for home field advantage in the one-game wildcard against Oakland.  Advantage, Bronx Bombers.


  • Loved what Xander Bogaerts told Joe and Tim on the postgame show after Wednesday afternoon’s 19-3 blasting of Baltimore – that these guys recognize the importance of momentum heading into the postseason. Too bad the bullpen, as it presently stands, hasn’t received that same message.


  • Curious to see, however, the makeup of said bullpen. If it’s full of ex-starters, then you know how the team really feels about guys like Kelly, Hembree and Barnes.  And don’t look now, but Kimbrel is a bit unsettled on the back end, too.


  • Hitting win #106 (and beyond) is certainly noteworthy for the franchise.  Memorable.  But I refuse to buy a cap or t-shirt marking the occasion.  It’s all about winning the ultimate prize.  The rest is just an excuse for losing.


  • Jerry Remy visited the NESN booth this week and looked pretty good sitting in between Dave O’Brien and Steve Lyons during his inning.  But you can tell he’s tired.  And emotionally appreciative of all the good wishes that continue to come his way.


  • Only one person, local attorney Stephen Gordon, spoke in opposition to the Worcester City Council’s approval this week of a $100.8 million loan to build the new Polar Park.  Gordon described the deal and the city's willingness to borrow money to build the ballpark as "corporate welfare."  Hmmm.


  • URI is hosting Lil Baby for Rhody Madness.  2 Chainz headlines PC’s Late Night Madness.  I’m all for the kids having fun, but when did basketball celebrations turn more into mock rock (or rap) concerts? 


  • Now, if a school decides to have ZZ Top, Boston or Foreigner as a headliner act, I’m in. 


  • Since Dunkin Donuts is undergoing a name change, does that mean the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence becomes ‘The Dunkin Center?’  That might be the best, and most appropriate, name change of all.


  • So sorry to learn of the passing of Father William Folsey at PC.  A priest for more than 60 years, he joined the faculty at Providence in 1966 and was a huge supporter of all athletic teams, including service as the NCAA faculty rep at the College.


  • This weekend is the official dedication of “it” at PC, the Ruane Friar Development Center.  The two-story attachment to the former front of Alumni Hall is open for business within the campus community, and for season ticket holders to visit Saturday – where we’ll also host the season’s 1st Ed Cooley Radio Show beginning at 1:00 pm.


  • There’s also a big recruit in this weekend visiting the program.  Literally. 6-9 forward Akok Akok is a national Top 30 recruit, with the Friars as the first of five visits he has scheduled.  Here’s hoping first impressions leave lasting impressions, amiright?


  • Congrats to former Friar assistant, one-time Rhode Island College and ex-Maine head coach Bob Walsh, whose new gig is Technical Director for Basketball at the famed IMG Academy in Florida.  He’ll oversee getting athletes ready for big-time college opportunities.  And the pros, too.


  • This week marks the one-year anniversary of the FBI coming down on illicit activities in college basketball.  One year later, like many other fans and media members, I’m now asking the FBI – where’s the beef?


  • Other than the four assistant coaches named a year ago, there hasn’t been another arrest made by the Southern District of New York.  The first of three trials for those arrested begin next week.  Are there dirty details still to come?


  • My buddy “Big E” sez his neighbor friend walked into a confessional last week and said to the priest, “Bless me Father, for I have sinned. I was with seven different women last night.” The priest was silent for a moment, and then said, “go home and cut seven lemons in half. Squeeze the juice into a glass and drink it down in one gulp.” E’s neighbor then replied, “and I’ll be forgiven?”  The priest answered.  “No, but that will surely wipe off the smirk on your face.”


  • Understand the hype surrounding Providence hockey this year.  The Hockey Friars are ranked 5th in the USCHO preseason poll and will have a 10-game TV package on NBC Sports Boston as well as every game broadcast locally on radio (104.7 FM).  Plus, Nate Leaman has his own radio coaches’ show, too.  That’s big time.


  • Heard this week that the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes will don the throwback uni’s of the Hartford Whalers for a couple of games this upcoming season, potentially against the Bruins on December 23rd and March 5th.  Hope they bring along the ‘Brass Bonanza’ fight song, too.


  • Best thing to say about the Celtics with preseason here?  Put blinders on and enjoy the ride.  Don’t worry about what might happen next year and beyond.  Enjoy this year, which might have them challenging Golden State next June.  If they stay relatively healthy.  Just sayin’.


  • Great piece in the Newport Daily News this week marking the 35th anniversary of the U.S. – and Newport, RI – losing the Americas Cup to Australia.  Dennis Conner was the skipper of the Liberty and was widely viewed as a villain in America after relinquishing the Cup for the first time in 132 years.


  • It was the longest winning streak in international sport history, and the beginning of the end for Newport as an Americas Cup “home field.”  Even though the Americans reclaimed the Cup four years later, the race has yet to return to Newport.


  • UConn’s football team is allowing 54.5 points per game this season through three weeks.  That’s 10.5 more than any other team in the FBS.  They’re giving up 664 yards per game, 120 more than any other team in the FBS.  They’ve also started up to eight freshmen on that defense. 


  • The Huskies are 1-3 on the season, their win over a nationally-ranked URI from the FCS, 56-49.


  • And yet, when coach Randy Edsall was asked about Wake Forest firing their defensive coordinator this week, Edsall took it personally.  And promptly walked out of his Tuesday news conference with the media.  Seems legit.


  • About as legit as Boston College’s short-lived football national ranking last week.  A 30-13 thumping at previously winless Purdue took care of that notion.  But the Eagles may still win eight or nine games after all is said and done.


  • The 22nd-ranked URI Rams played Harvard Friday night on the road, under the lights.  Harvard beat Brown in the Bears’ home opener last weekend, and the Rams get those Bears at Meade Stadium for the Governors’ Cup next weekend.


  • Bryant is 3-1 after holding on for a 49-46 NEC shootout win over Robert Morris.  The Bulldogs are off this week but scored a major victory anyway with the announcement they’ll travel to play Central Michigan in 2020.  That will be Bryant’s first-ever scheduled contest against an FBS school. 


  • The Bulldogs have faced three teams in their 20-year program history that have since moved into FBS after originally playing them (Coastal Carolina, Liberty, UMass).


  • Rhody soccer’s shutout and victory streak was snapped this week by Brown in a 1-0 loss.  In double-overtime.  URI was the last team in the nation to not have allowed a goal this season.


  • The number of girls participating in wrestling has increased around the country each year for the past 28 school years.  So much so, that girls in Maine will now get their own state championship tournament next February, and they’ll no longer have to compete against boys to win a title.  The hope is to show the way for more participation in the sport.


  • Friday night, Gillette Stadium held the first-ever full and half-marathon races inside an NFL stadium.  17 runners took part, with half-marathon participants running just over 59 laps around the turf, and full-marathon racers running 118 laps.  It’s the only Boston Marathon qualifier run in an NFL stadium.


  • Sorry, I don’t buy into the Tiger Woods hype.  Wonderful he can play golf again at a high-level, when he’s playing for himself.  He’s still terrible in international competition, especially in the Ryder Cup, with a career record of 13-18-3.  And he lost his Friday four-ball match (5-9 career mark) with Masters’ champ Patrick Reed.  C’mon, man.


  • Congrats to the great people I’ve had the chance to work with for the past 23 years (and counting) at WEEI, as the station was named a Marconi winner (recognizing excellence in radio) for Sports Station of the Year in Orlando this week.  Also, a shout-out to my future employers at the Small Market Radio Station of the Year in the Florida Keys, US-1 Radio (WWUS-FM).  


  • HBO is getting out of the boxing business, after 45 years.  After featuring some of the best fights the planet has ever seen, today the sport has apparently oversaturated itself through other means.  So, HBO is moving on.  Which isn’t a good sign for a sport that could use the attention and notoriety.


  • Strange, but true.  For this week’s historical Kavanaugh Supreme Court Senate hearings, Boston network TV affiliates all carried the proceedings in their entirety.  Providence stations broke away at 6:00 pm for the local news.  Why? 


  • Is Rhode Island that provincial and out-on-an-island by itself, or are the station programmers simply unaware of the magnitude and nature of this story?  Probably a little of both.


  • A writer for the Hollywood Reporter tweeted out this week that some popular current TV shows – The Voice, Bull, The Good Doctor and The Big Bang Theory – are all down in the ratings.  Big Bang is down 41% over a year ago.  So why is there so much hand-wringing over the decline in NFL TV ratings?


  • It’s simply a by-product of the digital age we now live in.  There’s too much choice, too many things to do, too much to watch and see out there that traditional television audiences are naturally going to pale in comparison to what they were years ago.


  • In fact, over this time a year ago, NFL TV ratings are slightly on an uptick at 0.7% higher than 2017.  So much for the alleged outrage over Nike’s campaign with Colin Kaepernick, or any feigned anger over players’ kneeling or protesting during the National Anthem. 


  • You go ahead and not pay attention.  Burn your gear and your tickets, too.  I’ll be watching those games on my big screen, from my comfy couch, or from my seat at the 40-yard line instead.


  • @chevyman25455 tweeted this week on the Patriots’ rough start: “So how are we gonna make the playoffs with this defense we have?” 


  • Philip:  I get your angst.  But the playoffs (Playoffs?  P-P-Playoffs?) are a full three-plus months away.  As in the other slow starts of recent years, they’ll take this one day, one game, one practice at a time and try to improve incrementally. I also believe that if the offense picks up its game after Julian Edelman’s return, that will help this defense just enough (by keeping them off the field) where the AFC East should be in their sights.  Again. 


  • 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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