By HCR Staff | Dec. 24, 2019
Bill Belichick reminds everyone why he’s the best coach in the NFL. Even though the New England Patriots entered Sunday’s game against the visiting Buffalo Bills with an 11-3 record, for much of this season, it’s felt as if the Patriots were a descending team, as opposed to an ascending one. Most of the criticism has been directed at the offense, as it has struggled nearly all season long trying to incorporate a lot of new, and inexperienced players. With the playoffs looming ahead, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick typically has his entire squad rounding into form. Well, Belichick and his coaching staff delivered, as the Patriots played their most complete game of the season. The offense came out crisp and efficient, and repeatedly responded to deficits during the game. One wrinkle that Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels introduced has been the use of linebacker Elandon Roberts as a fullback. Belichick places a premium on position versatility when evaluating talent, and in this case, the use of Roberts as a fullback has paid off handsomely. The Patriots running game was productive against the Bills due to Roberts’s participation, and that in turn ignited the Patriots play action passing game. If the Patriots offense can produce 24 points a game, they are going to be a tough out during the playoffs.
Even though the San Francisco 49ers scored a victory against the Los Angeles Rams, we have growing concerns about their defense. The 49ers may well lock up the number one seed in the upcoming playoffs, but their defense has become a liability in the last month. Two weeks ago, the 49ers defense could not hold a nine-point second-half lead against the Atlanta Falcons in a home loss. This week, the 49ers defense looked utterly lost at many points in the game, and 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh had no answers for the Rams bootleg action. Sean McVay’s Rams offense constantly gashed the 49ers, who also have a number of injuries in the secondary. Additionally, the vaunted 49ers defensive line has been depleted with the continued absence of defensive end Dee Ford, and season-ending injuries to key rotational players such as defensive tackle D.J. Jones. For much of this season, the narrative has been that the 49ers defense has been carrying the offense. Recently, however, that hasn’t been the case. Defensive coordinator Saleh has been frequently mentioned as a head coaching candidate due to the early-season success of the 49ers defense, but as the season has worn on, it appears that much of the success was due to the abundance of talent on that side of the ball.
Cleveland Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens is completely overmatched, and if he returns for the 2020 season, we do not see significant improvement in the record. For much of the first half, the Browns were in control of the game against the Baltimore Ravens. But then Kitchens completely mismanaged the end of the first half, and any momentum that the Browns had gained in the first half evaporated for the rest of the game. As we have watched Kitchens all year long, it’s pretty evident that he doesn’t have a feel for the game and all of the various situations within it. He never seems to understand how important momentum is during the game, and how that can quickly shift. He coaches as if momentum and confidence are things that are easily gained or manufactured. We beg to differ. Momentum and confidence probably are the most difficult things to generate and sustain, and when your team has it, you should take care of it as if you may never get it back again. Browns GM John Dorsey has assembled a team with a lot of talent, and it’s a shame to see all of this go to waste.
The New Orleans Saints are for real. When the visiting Saints fell behind early by two possessions playing outdoors, we were curious to see how resilient they would be, particularly since they expended a lot of energy in an emotional home win the previous week. Well, the Saints showed tremendous resilience and effort in coming back to defeat a talented Tennessee Titans team. Even though the Saints have suffered some key injuries in recent weeks, most notably to defensive linemen Sheldon Rankins and Marcus Davenport, Saints head coach Sean Payton has been masterful in using his entire roster to great effectiveness. Taysom Hill has seen an increasing role on offense, and now Payton is beginning to use kick returner Deonte Harris more as well. Not many teams have the ability to get dominant performances from all three units, but the Saints are one of them.
Brian Flores Vs Jason Garrett. Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores is getting his players to play hard. Win or lose, the Dolphins play hard. Alternatively, Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett does not always get his players to play hard. We just never know what kind of effort we are going to get out of the Cowboys, and to us, that is the most troubling aspect of Garrett’s effort this year. Mistakes always are going to be made, but there never should be a mistake about the level of effort. If a head coach cannot get his players to play hard, he needs to go, simple as that. In the Cowboys loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Cowboys appeared to be sleepwalking at different points of the game. It’s been a problem all year long for the Cowboys, and it’s now time for owner Jerry Jones to address the issue.
Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski was completely out outcoached by Green Bay defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. Stefanski maybe a legitimate head coaching candidate someday, but he’s nowhere ready right now. In Monday night’s loss to the Packers, it was painfully evident early in the game that the Green Bay defensive line was manhandling the Vikings offensive line. Did Stefanski make any adjustments? No. He simply let his OL get exposed for the entire game. Frankly, we were appalled by the lack of adjustments. All we could conclude was that Stefanski simply didn’t know what to do. And if we are right, that’s pretty alarming. Quarterback Kirk Cousins gets a lot of the criticism, but it’s pretty hard to play quarterback when defensive linemen are on top of you as soon as you receive the snap. Stefanski needed to help Cousins, but Stefanski went AWOL in a big moment.