Each week we'll talk to former Patriots star and current broadcaster Gino Cappelletti. This week, Gino recapped the Pats' playoff loss to the Jets and discussed the team's need for a wide receiver and pass rusher.
PFW: How surprised were you with the struggles the Patriots had to get the ball moving in their playoff loss to the Jets?
Cappelletti: I kept thinking that somewhere along in the game the Patriots were going to get into the swing of things, get into a rhythm, and you kept waiting with each possession thinking, 'this could be it.' The Jets were waiting to see what was going to happen, too. They were the first to realize that it wasn't going to be a 45-3 game, and that gave them a lot of support and a lot of lift. The Patriots, on the other hand, kept teasing everybody — maybe it'll be this possession. It looked like they had a lot going in that first quarter but couldn't get the ball in the endzone, which was a big surprise. I guess we kept waiting for them, we thought they would, but you could see them just sinking, sinking, sinking, and you kept wondering if they could pull out of this tailspin.
PFW: As a former wide receiver, what's your take on the potential need for the Patriots to get a big-play receiver?
Cappelletti: I think they would relish having someone like that. Unfortunately, (TE) Aaron Hernandez could have played that role in the (playoff) game but he was subpar. He's that kind of guy — tight end/wide receiver. He very well knows what to do with the ball after the catch. He's very good, very talented. His loss may have been more to the passing game than what a lot of people realized. Now, (TE Rob) Gronkowski caught his passes and was bulling his way like his rookie self, and we expected that Hernandez might be doing some of those same things (against the Jets). Brandon Tate looked like he could be the guy to step in there, not sure on that yet. They will have to spend a little more time with him. I think they would relish having one of those bigger wide receivers who can show speed and stretch the defense a bit. It didn't have anything to do with the game itself, but if they want to improve their positions, that's a good spot to think about.
PFW: Where should the Patriots look to improve their pass rush?
Cappelletti: The real pluses come from the down-linemen — the guys who can rush the passer from the down-line position. That way, sometimes you can play a three-man front, drop eight in coverage like the Jets, rush four and have seven that can prevent the pass. This is where I think Rex Ryan did an outstanding job. I got to believe, because I know we did, that this was going to be a game of blitzes. The Patriots would be blitzing more because of (Mark) Sanchez and the Patriots on the other hand were prepared for protecting Brady and were looking for a lot more blitzing than they got from the Jets. There were a couple surprises in there that probably affected both teams' strategy for the game.