I'm not just worried about the special teams because the Pats got burned on that fake punt for a TD. One thing that's really bothering me is how consistently the Pats are getting pinned inside the 20 yard line on kickoffs. It happened a lot last week against Detroit, and we saw it again tonight against the Giants. I wonder if Belichick set the tone for this when he decided the change in the spot of kickoffs eliminated kickoff returns. From the last two weeks, we've seen that the ability to return kicks is more important than ever unless you want to keep getting saddled with horrible field position every time the other team kicks the ball off. Thanks to the NFL Network, I see a lot of other teams in preseason games. I haven't looked at the stats, this is just from what I've seen in games here and there, but I don't see any team struggling as badly as the Patriots are. Kick returns were a strength last year. It could cost the Pats games this year. It might even cost the Pats the season. It's going to be tough for the Pats to win if they're consistently starting from inside their own 20 and the other team consistently starts up around the 40.
Hopefully, Belichick already has the kickoff situation addressed. For instance, what if he didn't want to reveal his kickoff strategy during the preseason? What if he hadn't decided on a new strategy yet, and he was using the preseason to evaluate the way other teams approached these changes?
Last week, I said Brandon Tate was looking better than Ocho Cinco. That wasn't saying much because I thought Tate looked rusty. This week Tate looked dreadful. It looks like he's lost a significant amount of speed in comparison to other players. He broke up an interception, but other than that he just looked bad. I hear the Giants RB who scored on the fake punt has blazing speed. Even so, Tate is also supposed to have elite speed, and Tate had the angle on the fake punt. Tate still couldn't catch the guy. A few weeks ago, I was worried that Tate wouldn't make this roster. I believed he had a lot of upside, and I thought it would be a shame to give up on him at this stage. Now, I wonder if he still has any upside. Without his speed and athleticism, he doesn't offer much. What is wrong with Brandon Tate? Is an injury still bothering him? If so, why is he on the field?
The announcers were praising the Patriots' intensity early in the game. It really seemed to be the same level as in the Detroit game. The difference is that the Giants weren't as amped up as the Lions. Even while New England was building that 17-3 lead, I wasn't very impressed. It seemed like the Giants backups were pushing the Pats around physically. I do not think other teams are going to do this to the Patriots when the regular season starts.
As a fan, I always feel disappointed when the Patriots lose. It's tough to remember that this is just the preseason where the real goal is to prepare for the real games while keeping players healthy and evaluating what you have and what you need. The special teams issues raise some doubts. I hope they're unfounded.