New England Patriots: A”key”b Talib

Aquib Talib returns this Andrew Luck pass for a Patriots TD.

So much has been made regarding the New England Patriots offseason, the team most observers view as quiet and boring had the type of summer those at 1 Patriot Place would soon hope to forget. After watching  Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd leave via free agency and Aaron Hernandez put himself in a situation no of us will ever understand, coach Belichick then decided in June to have Rob Gronkowski go under the knife  to correct a back problem — noted as a gamble due to the loss of production from last season from those previously mentioned — a necessity for the long-term health of their star tight end. Josh McDaniels, the Patriots offensive coordinator, is hoping Gronk will be back for the September 8th opener in Buffalo.

How does this tie in to Aqib Talib? Great question.

Dig up the success of last year down the stretch and you will notice the Patriots went 7-1 during the second half of the season with only one blemish. That was at home against the San Francisco 49ers 41-34. What is special about this game? Talib didn’t play due to a leg issue from the week before against the Houston Texans.

The seven games Talib suited up for New England last year during the regular season saw them go 7-0 and out score their opponents 38-17 on average. The success of the offense has been and will continue to be great, but Brady needs help from playmaker’s on the defense. Talib delivers in a big way. Neither the numbers nor the eye test lie.

In the Divisional playoff game the Patriots with Talib locking on Andre Johnson for the entire game witnessed the flying Elvis’s hammer the boys with the high school varsity jackets from Southeastern Texas 41-28. It was a carbon copy of the regular season. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips high pressure man to man style is not the formula to beat this Patriots team if you do not have the safeties to patrol the middle.

Truth be told, New England is the worst matchup possible for Houston. You better believe they are praying their path to the big apple this February is far away from Route 1 in Foxboro.

Now, the pivotal moment in the AFC title game, just before haftime after batting down a 3rd down conversion attempt by Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco to wide receiver Anquan Boldin the sands in the hour-glass for 2013 began to run its course. On that critical play Talib pulled up lame and never returned for the second half of action. To this point in the game Flacco was 6-12 for 81 yards. New England lead 13-7 at half. Important to note at this juncture, the Patriots squandered multiple chances to put the Ravens away. It would prove to do them in.

In the second half with Talib wearing a winter parka watching on the sidelines, Joe Flacco shredded the Patriots secondary for 3 second half TD’s and very little resistance. The absence of the mid-season pick up was felt all the way through the six New England States. Helpless was the feeling you got from watching the Patriots try to put a stop to the bleeding in the middle of the field. Talib’s injury forced Kyle Arrington the nickel corner to vacate his slot position and take over the outside, this left them vulnerable everywhere. The strength was Talib locking down Anquan Bolden and Arrington handling the middle field while  giving help on tight end  Dennis Pita in the seam.

Bottom line, with Aquib Talib on the field, the Patriots entire defense shows a confidence they have lacked for years. He represents an opportunity to cut the front seven loose and play an attacking style most top-level teams believe is required to go deep into the post season. In the spring Talib was seeking a long-term contract to solidify a secured future. Due to his checkered past teams were not willing to gamble big money long-term on the talented corner. So with the Patriots offering him a one year five million dollar contract for this season Talib came back to show he is worth the risk.

As far as the Patriots are concerned they hope Talib does what’s needed to become one of the highest paid players at his position. His health and physical style of play represent the key to playoff success. Should that come to pass, New England may very well get a shot at redemption on January 19th 2014 sometime around six pm Foxboro time. Then a trip to see if Jimmy Hoffa is indeed lying low near Metlife Stadium where only Snoopy has the keys.