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NFL Unfiltered Week 15: 49ers exposed Patriots' weaknesses?

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Warning: if you are a fan of the New England Patriots this week’s ‘Unfiltered’ might seem like hatred for your beloved squad.  It is not.
 
But while I believe the “they were just two plays away from being 5-time Super Bowl champions” narrative one-sided and annoying, I assure you I am not anti-Pats.  I simply trust what I see far more than what I am told.  
 
Billed by many as one of the NFL’s games of the year, the San Francisco 49ers and aforementioned Patriots went at one other Sunday like a couple of prize fighters and proved once again football games are not won by style points. They are won by blocking, tackling and hitting.  

In the days leading up to the game most viewed it with a convoluted gaze.  Instead of asking how the 49ers were going to stop Tom Brady and the Patriots, the experts should have wondered how Brady and his crew would respond to getting bullied, again!  Photo: thesunchronicle.com

The answer is, not well.  

We are so immersed in the fantastical prettiness associated with footballs filling the air we have completely lost sight of the fact that talented, tough play usually beats pretty.  It matters little where the game is played.  

The 49ers overwhelmed the Patriots for most of the game but Brady (and most of the media) isn’t ready to admit it.  He knows he and his teammates mostly shrank in the face of the 49ers’ brutishness, but Brady claims the Pats “kind of gave it” to the 49ers after a stirring comeback tied the game 31-31.  
 

That’s like a losing boxer saying his foe hit him with lucky punches while dismissing the fact his opponent worked him over for most of the fight.  

And even if you believe Brady’s words have merit, isn’t it fair to ask why he didn’t “take” the game back when the Patriots had the ball with 6:20 left in the 4th quarter, down seven points?  Don’t the experts have a responsibility to mention the fact Brady and his vaunted offense mustered only 21 total yards and one first down on their last two drives combined?

Don’t misunderstand me, the Patriots have a future Hall of Fame Coach (Bill Belichick) and quarterback so I’m not suggesting they can’t play.  I’m simply saying we’ve seen this movie before and we would have seen this loss coming.  

More to the point, the Patriots have had trouble with good defenses all season.  They were beaten by the Arizona Cardinals, who look like a mess now, but were a different team back in September.  

They lost to the Seattle Seahawks, another squad hell bent on trying to intimidate their opponent with physicality.  And now they’ve let the 49ers push them around for nearly three quarters on national television.  

Yes, they dismantled the Houston Texans just one week ago, but a closer examination of their defense suggests the Texans are not as good as the national scribes think.

Consider, defensive end J.J. Watt might be this season’s defensive player of the year but that doesn’t mean the Texans defense is any good.  Keep in mind, late, Hall of Fame defensive lineman Reggie White, won the AP defensive player of the year in 1987 while playing with below average teammates.    

Still, this isn’t about the Texans. This is about the ease with which we continuously ignore the obvious and how it’s somehow blasphemous to suggest Brady and the Patriots are fallible.  

How many more games like Sunday must we witness before it is okay to say “the Patriots are a good team but they cannot handle tough physical defenses?”  

Maybe it’s because Brady has been so good.  Maybe it’s because they’ve won so many games over the years.  But somewhere along the way, honest analysis of the Patriots waned.      

Even worse, they are looked upon like a team that would have won five Super Bowls if it weren’t for a couple of miraculous plays. That’s an absurd notion fostered by the media and fans because of the infatuation with pretty play.   

Despite the experts’ best efforts to make me forget, I know the “snow job” aided the Patriots in the 2001 AFC divisional playoff.  And I know they cheated in the days leading up to Super Bowl XXXIX.

I also know the 49ers intimidated them last Sunday night. And it’s okay to say it out loud.   

WEEK 15 OBSERVATIONS
What the pundits can’t or won’t say

ESPN’s Tom Jackson became the first talking head to call attention to Joe Flacco.  Congratulation TJ, hope you didn’t get in trouble for that- since speaking honestly about every player seems frowned on at the worldwide leader.  

Michael Vick quarterbacks the Eagles to a late season collapse and everyone questions his ability to lead. Jay Cutler does it and somehow it’s more about his offensive line, receiving corps and coaching staff.  

Honestly, how did Bears fans think this season would end?  Their two most talented offensive players also happen to be the most unstable.  

Don’t fall for all the love showered on Green Bay Packers. They’re getting healthier at the right time, but they couldn’t run the ball, stop the run or protect Aaron Rodgers in September.  And they had a reasonably healthy roster then, too.   

The sentiment is genuine, but players and coaches need to keep their comments brief when tragedies occur. Tom Coughlin’s pre-game interview on ESPN Countdown is an example why.  

Someone should remind Victor Cruz football is not life or death and he isn’t Babe Ruth.  You cannot dedicate a football game to Jack Pinto, one of the children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting, then go out and play so poorly.    

Terrell Suggs deserves some accolades for suiting up, but playing hurt is only half the chore.  Playing well when you’re hurt is the next level.  Dez Bryant helped the Cowboys while Suggs hurt the Ravens.    

Bryce Brown’s foibles (and fumbles) are another example of why Andy Reid is a good coach but has many blind spots- not that anyone in the national media notices.

Bill Belichick has had nine drafts to find adequate replacements for players like Willie McGinest, Ty Law and Richard Seymour and he has failed pretty miserably. How much longer before his player evaluation skills are called into question?

Top 4 this week (rankings disclaimer: my top four will always feature two AFC teams and two NFC teams).

1. Houston Texans (12-2) – The loss to the Pats looks even worse now.    
2. San Francisco 49ers (10-3-1) – In line to win the new black and blue division.     
3. Atlanta Falcons (12-2) – Only Falcons fans are confident in this team.   
4. Denver Broncos (11-3) – Is it safe to say Tim Tebow held them back?          

Earl Myers is a freelance writer from the Philadelphia area. He closely follows North America's four major sports leagues but just about any sporting event gets his attention. His goal is to provoke a little thought in his readers.

Contact Earl at emyersiii@hotmail.com

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