Patriots will be just fine, thanks

BY foxsports • October 6, 2009

Well, the Patriots looked a little rocky against those since-winless Bills on opening night, then appeared shell-shocked after meeting Rex Ryan's Jets for the first time in Week 2.

But based on Sunday, the Patriots are back.

Sure, these aren't the same 2007 Pats who almost shocked and shut out the NFL world until heading to Arizona. No, they are older on offense and missing a few critical player parts from that season, the guys who made this franchise the champions of this decade.

But they still have Tom Brady and that's a lot. Brady is finding his groove and receiving sidekick Randy Moss still has enough left in his tank to make a few plays here and there. Brady passed for 258 yards and a touchdown to beat Baltimore on Sunday, a Ravens team that has a nice gunslinger in Joe Flacco and one very good defense (although aging in areas, too).

Since the trade of Richard Seymour and the loss of injured talented middle linebacker Jerod Mayo, this was the first game in which Bill Belichick's defense lined up in some rather unique configurations and brought every blitz imaginable at Flacco. Some worked and some didn't, but the main thing was that the Patriots were flying around and producing, often dictating the style of the game.

I'm sure this is what Belichick envisioned once he decided to trade Seymour at the end of the summer, while already dealing with the losses of Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison and Mike Vrabel — they were big-time playmakers on those Super Bowl teams. Everything evolves in football, but the Patriots again resemble a serious threat come January. Players like Gary Guyton and Brandon Meriweather were making plays against the Ravens and they figure to improve.

One final thought. Yes, Moss has been caught lollygagging around when he's not the primary receiver, but I think Belichick is fine with that as long as he keeps producing when the pass is coming his way. Thus far, Moss has done that. Hey, Moss isn't 25 anymore (he's 32) and there's a lot of miles on those legs of his. He needs to pace himself for the long haul and that's what he's doing.

Let men be men

"Put a skirt on him! Buy him a dress!"

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Jay Glazer

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We heard those familiar cries on Sunday because referee Ron Winter became overly protective of Tom Brady against the fierce Baltimore pass rush. Ever since the NFL decided it was going to protect its star quarterbacks — all QBs for that matter — there have been a slew of borderline calls whenever a defender sniffs near a quarterback. This is exactly what happened when Terrell Suggs dove at Brady, who ably side-stepped him to prevent a sack, only to have Winter flag the play for a 15-yard roughing penalty and an automatic first down. The penalty gave New England a first down at the Baltimore 27 and two plays later the Patriots had a 17-7 lead late in the second quarter.

I agree with Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis when he complained after the game, "It is embarrassing to the game. Tom Brady is good enough to make his own plays, let him make the play."

Granted, the NFL doesn't want to lose Brady or any other quarterback to serious knee injury like occurred last season. But this is football and, yes, it is a very physical game. Hey, and Winter's job is a difficult one. He made a snap judgment call, erring on the side of protection. Maybe the rules have to be changed in which it isn't such a big penalty — 15 yards and a first down — when the roughing isn't anywhere close to being flagrant. Yes, that would be a judgment call, too, but that's what is happening here. Review it, pick up the flag and replay the down. That only seems fair to both teams.

There are so many rules inhibiting defenders that the NFL should cut some of them a break.

Mistakes of youth

Well, Mark Sanchez fell back to earth Sunday against the Saints. He fell with a thud. But there was something besides egg on his face for tossing a 99-yard interception for a touchdown, then failing to count to five while wandering around in his own end zone, eventually getting sacked and fumbling and giving the Saints another gift touchdown.

It was how Sanchez went low at the knees in chop block fashion at Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma during Saints safety Darren Sharper's career 10th touchdown return of an interception. The officials caught the act and flagged him 15 yards for unnecessary roughness, but you have to wonder why he engaged in such a reckless act? Maybe Sanchez was upset with his errant throw; he did fire into double coverage. But that's no excuse to take it out on Vilma, who didn't appear to be heading toward Sanchez to block him.

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