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    January 09, 2009
Out of the Playoffs at 11-5; The Other Reasons and Then Some
By:  Stan Jaksina
PatsFans.com Fan Columnist

Football to many Patriot fans has been over and we all know the litany of why the Pats are not playing in the post season. But I wanted to take note of those who helped it happen.

All Patriot fans know that this team made mistakes, costly ones in games, from the Thomas penalty to the Gaffney drop to the defensive shortcomings on a 3rd and 15. I think those were certainly part of the losses in those two games, but there were many other reasons that contributed. It's quite obvious that this Patriot team lost two games that were extremely close and that was paramount to why they are not in the playoffs. But, even with these losses, there were still other factors which if they had gone another way could have propelled the team into the post season.

Also, I think that one might make a fairly good argument that the season was lost by a coin toss. Do any Patriot fans think that if the team had gotten the ball in OT that they would not have scored on the opening drive?

This overtime situation has been looked at before.and it is totally unfair in many ways. Those who are against that will throw the college OT system at everyone and that is just as bad. It really skews statistics and does not make any use of special teams. I thought at one time that a ten minute OT period followed by sudden death might be a way to do it. Unfortunately a longer overtime would, according to coaches. really have a bad effect on players for the next game with the extended play. Also, apparently there is a time factor involved so that games do not run for a really long time.

My new thought on this are that they should have two OT periods of five minutes each. (there's nothing at all magic about five, it can be six, seven or eight.) And there will be limited time outs, so that number and the length of the two periods can be adjusted for an optimum length of extended play. (I would err on not having that many time outs as it would make these OT periods fly.) A two minute warning? Maybe, maybe not. The point is that each team will get a kickoff, an opportunity and all phases of the game will be in play. I sense that this could be over in thirty minutes and if it's tied, leave it at that. I REALLY hate them, but it happens. I do think an idea like this might work.

Many people wish to somehow change the way teams qualify for the playoffs and this is really silly. If one wishes to put the top six teams into the post season, why have divisions. Instead, have two large conferences of sixteen teams. And if one is thinking about expanding the number of teams to eight, that really makes finishing first or second no large advantage. Having a bye is a good reward for a big time season. What is interesting is that in 1985, the 11-5 Broncos were out and the Vrowns at 8-8 were in. This year, the Pats are out at 11-5 and the Chargers were in at 8-8. There are sometimes weak divisions and the opposite side to that is that when that happens, a strong team usually gets the short end of the stick. The only change I would look at is whether an 8-8 team should have a home game or not, as was the case for the Chargers.

In the last three weeks of the season, there were eight non Patriot games that impacted the team. Only one of the eight went in a way that helped the Patriots. One of the games, the Colts/Jags, really didn't have the same impact as the others, but it sure would have been intersting if that Titans/Colts game the least week of the season really meant something. Another of the eight, the Ravens/Jags was more of a blowout and that was more or less expected. The other five games were close and all fell in ways that did not help the Pats. THAT is a reality and to just ignore that fact is putting your head in the sand.

Here are some of those that helped it happen as well as a sprinkle of some that commented on it.

NFL Comr. Roger Goodell----Maybe he didn't have a 'Mission Accomplished' banner across his room last Monday, but he has continually been very much anti-Patriot. I know many have said that moving the games around on that Sunday was not all that important, but in games that are close, just tilting the table a wee bit might have an effect and one that is a bit significant. If he had just moved the Dolphin/Jets game, I think all would have viewed it as unfair, with good reason. Moving the Jags/Ravens game more or less was a cover for his dirtiness. Of course, the Jets game MAY have meant something, in theory that was the case. To many Patriot fans, more of a way to screw the Pats.and hide behind this smokescreen, to avoid flak. Sure, it might snow in May, but?

What was sad was reading his remarks on this. 'There's a saying in the league that it's how you play in December and January that dictates your success in the playoffs.' Well, the Patriots were 4-0 in December with two games that were blowouts. Did he really NOT understand what he said? Was he thinking of another team? And his comments about the Welker fine were just as pitiful. He may love his daughters making snow angels and not fine them, but I am sure he would have many other comments to his daughters if they threw snow at others as did Mr. Ellis of the Jets.

The NFL Competition Committee----They have not done anything to change the unfair way overtime is dealt with. It's not at all fair, many know that, but this committee seems to look the other way with it. With Dungy and the Colts being one and done, being the victim of the unfair system, maybe there will be a change. Rumpswab King is chiming in on it as well, with Big Ben instead of a cowbell that he rang after the Pats lost to the Jets.

Buffalo Safety George Wilson----Early in the last quarter, McKelvin ran a kickoff back one hundred yards for a touchdown, only to have it brought back on Wilson's holding penalty. The Bills got their go ahead score some seven and a half minutes later, but taking the lead earlier might have really put more pressure on Favre and the Jets and made a win more possible.

Buffalo Head Coach Dick Jauron----The game was won and all that was needed was to run out the clock. The Buffalo running game was ripping the Jets D apart. Why would one overrule the offensive coordinator and call a pass when it's second down and five with one hundred and twenty six ticks left in the game? It basically gave the Jets an opportunity to turn a loss into a large win. Incredibly poor! And two weeks later, there were more bumbles, from poor time management to play calling. All Patriot fans smiled when he was not fired.

Buffalo Quarterback J.P. Losman----It's one thing to call a poor play another to not do everything to be sure that the poor play is not a disaster. Knowing the situation, I would have thought he might have watched out for a raging lineman, thrown the ball early away or tucked it in and gone down. But, it's JP Losman we are discussing and that did not happen.

San Francisco Wide Receiver Isaac Bruce----There was a pass to wide receiver Bryant Johnson for 13 yards and a first down at the Miami 16 yard line. With two time outs left and a few ticks over a minute and a half left in the half, the Niners momentum was growing. But the ball was pulled back five as Bruce was called for being in an illegal formation. It was 2nd down and 16 at the 34; a sack and incomplete to follow. It was a very costly mistake by Bruce.

San Francisco Head Coach Mike Singletary and Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz----I'm not sure which coaches were involved, but why was Hill spiking the ball with a 1st and 10 at the Miami 21 with eighty seconds left in the game? They were not running out of time, either on the play clock or the game clock and could easily have taken twenty seconds to get a good play going. With over a minute left, time was not the large element and wasting a down was so much more important. The team HAD moved the ball and in a way controlled the game. The problem was they could not get the ball in the endzone. Taking away a play there, wasting it was a big mistake. If they had shown they could move the ball and score, it might have been different, but squandering one play at that moment for time was just dumb. It was a large mistake and it contributed heavily to the loss.

The San Francisco Offense----Five times they were in great position to score and each time they failed to get a touchdown. They were 1st and 10 at the Miami 25, but a pass to Robinson was complete, but short and a field goal was added. Another time, 1st and 10 at the Miami 28, only to have a penalty push the ball back and an incomplete pass force a punt. It was 1st and 10 at the Miami 12, but a Foster run of 7 on 2nd down and a 3rd down incomplete pass, forced a field goal. In the early part of the last quarter, the NIners were 1st and 10 at the Miami only to have Hill sacked and a 3rd down pass to Robinson be completed, but five yards short of the endzone. They also got a field goal on that drive. In the waning moments of the game, they were 1st and 10 at the 21. After a spike, Hill threw an incomplete pass to Foster and another on 3rd down to Bruce in the endzone that was just overthrown. On 4th down, Porter sacked him and the game was over. What an ineffective offense! Nine points in five opportunities. Can we say the offense choked?

Indianapolis Defensive Backs, Melvin Bullitt, Tim Jennings and Antoine Bethea----These defenders nailed Maurice Jones-Drew after he ran for a big first down as the clock was ticking down. They hammered him and with his injury, the clock moved from twenty seven seconds left in the game, to seventeen. What a smart thing to do on D. If an opponent has no time outs and is driving in the waning seconds of a game, slam that ball carrier extra hard, so that he is injured a bit and the team loses ten seconds because of that. In this case, the Jags had the ball at the Colt seven, but instead of almost a half a minute, it was only a few ticks over fifteen; hardly enough for three plays. A smart play by all three.

Jacksonville Quarterback David Garrard----It has been said for a few years that he did not make all that many mistakes at quarterback. In the last few minutes of this game, he made a few big ones that cost the Jags the game and a chance to spoil the Colts party. With a bit over five minutes left, on a third down play, he made a dangerous pass and threw short, right into a crowd of white shirts. It was an easy interception by Ratliff and no problem running it in for a go ahead touchdown. But that wasn't the largest miscue. With under twenty seconds to go in the game, he had three open receivers and he overthrew a sure touchdown pass to Williams in the endzone. It may have been a harder pass to throw, but he missed seeing easier passes that also would have gotten the Jags the needed touchdown to knot it. With twelve seconds left and no time outs, one might have thought a quarterback like Garrard would have been aware of the blitz and heave the ball away, if a defender was close, so that they would have another play. In this case, that did not happen and Freeney sacked Garrard ending the game. If he had had a bit more awareness and was a bit more on the ball, the Jags could have pulled an upset and made that last game with the Titans, quite interesting.

Dallas Quarterback Tony Romo----He got a large contract extension and had shown some solid quarterbacking, but the last game at Texas Stadium was not the place he was going to show it. I think many Cowboy fans thought that Romo would lead the team to a big going away party at the stadium. Instead, Romo played one of the worst games in a long time. In the first half, he was 8 for 17, for 59 yards and 2 interceptions. His QB rating was an embarrassing 16.2. He played better in the second half, but it was all a bit too late. Romo had stunk the joint up, saving his worst play for the last game at Texas Stadium. Fans wanted all those past memories to be joined with a big Dallas win to close things out there, but went away with a big disappointment.

Dallas Safety Ken Hamlin----More than halfway through the third quarter, the Ravens were still ahead, but only by two points. It was 1st and 10 at the Dallas 26. McClain went through the left of the line and was tackled by Ware. He knocked the ball away from him and the ball bounced left. Safety Hamlin had the ball, rolled over grabbing it, but when he came up, the ball went right out of his hands and into those of Derrick Mason. It was a big break for the Ravens as they went in for a touchdown five plays later. If Hamlin had secured the ball, the momentum may have changed and instead of being down nine points, may have taken the lead with a long drive.

The Dallas Defense----The Dallas D had done a credible job all year as well as in this last game at Texas Stadium. I doubt many followers of the NFL would believe what happened in the last five minutes of the game as the Cowboy D did their best impression of what swiss cheese was. There was just less than four minutes left in the game and the Boys had pulled to within two points with an Owens TD catch. A stop here would loom large for a big Dallas comeback. On the first play from scrimmage, McGahee broke through the line on his run up the middle and he was soon in the clear, giving Baltimore a 77 yard touchdown run. Where was the great defense? Where was the defensive backfield? And then the Cowboys rushed down the gield to make it close again as Witten caught a touchdown pass. But on the next play from scrimmage, it was the same thing. This time it was McClain who went over right tackle and busted it for 82 yards. Swiss cheese anyone?

The entire Dallas Cowboy Team----This year this Cowboy team has been hyped up even more so than usual. It was all about Romo and TO and how this year was the year. Jones had brought in better players and they were making it the year for the Bowl. The defense was younger and stronger and all through the season, it was being praised. Romo, TO, Witten and others on offense were all being hyped up as one of the best in the league. The stage was all set, with past Cowboy players in attendance for this last game in Texas Stadium. The Boys could have closed the venue with a big win, showing all what a great team they were and how they had much in common with past teams and the five Lombardis. But as a pin popped a balloon of air, this team's hype went out in big fashion with the loss and their poor play. And that stumble continued to a large fall in their last game of the season, with an embarrassing loss to the Eagles.

Referee Jeff Triplette----Early in the game, there was a call on Kansas City's Tank Tyler has he hit Miami quarterback Chad Pennington. The call negated a fumble recovery by Bernard Pollard who recovered it after Ron Brown was pummeled by linebacker Demorrio Williams on a short pass left to the flat. The penalty on Tyler was for Unnecessary Roughness. The call was for a hit below the knee. This hit by Tyler was not even anywhere close to the hit Brady took in Game One, a hit that the NFL reviewed and deemed legal. That this lesser one was a penalty really stunk and showed how widely variable the rules of the game were. It was by any stretch, a chinsey call and what it prevented was a Miami turnover. The Fins went in easily for a quick score and a 10-0 lead, but had that penalty not been called, it may have been a different story with the game. That first half was filled with scoring and creating a turnover on a team that has very few, would have been pretty big.

Kansas CIty Head Coach Herm Edwards and Offensive Coordinator Chan Gailey----There was 3:41 left in the game and the ball was at the Chiefs own 26, with a 4th down and 1 situation. Obviously, the team was going to go for it, but why on earth would one attempt a pass when the running game was not at all being stopped? The Chiefs needed only a yard and there was plenty of time on the clock for a drive, so time was not an issue. Edwards and Gailey decided to go for the pass and Thigpen went back and rolled right. He stumbled,fell to the ground and was covered quickly by Roth, effectively ending the game. It was one of the oddest play calls I have seen, but these guys had had a whole second half of odd ones the week before, allowing the Chargers to make a miracle come back, from a game so many had prematurely put in the W column. This call just added to the question marks.

The New York Punting Unit and Special Teams Coach Westhoff----Early in the last quarter punter Hodges went back to punt and somehow, linebacker Charlie Anderson for the Fins was able to break through a hole and block the kick. It was an important play, for instead of being pinned in near their goal line and if stopped giving the Jets a better chance to score, it gave great field position to the Fins. The coaches and players made a big flub and whatever it was, it should not have happened. The announcers should have been talking about the ball rolling at the two yard line and downed instead of talking about Bowens chasing Patrick Cobbs down with the recovered blocked punt. Granted that the Jet defense only allowed three points, but with the Dolphins pinned back, the Jets could have gone ahead after getting good field position. The momentum would also have shifted, giving the Jets the upper hand and I really doubt a pressured Pennington would have done all that well. (If one saw the Ravens game, one would know that.)

The New York Head Coach Eric Mangini and the entire Jets team----This was a team that had a lot of new players added to it this year. On offense it was offensive linemen Faneca and Woody, tight end Franks and fullback Richardson. On defense, it was lineman Jenkins and linebacker Pace. The frosting on the cake was Brett Favre and later in the year when it looked like the team was making a big move, cornerback Ty Law. The team had tied up a ton of money with these players with the hope of a Superbowl in the near future. That was the plan and after the team took the Titans down in November, the hype the team had was at twenty year high. And then they came crashing down with losses to the Broncos and Niners. They barely got by the Bills and if it wasn't for a dumb move by Jauron would have lost the game. A loss against the Seahawks followed and then, this loss against the Fins. For all the money this team was paid, the results were pretty poor. It's like they beat the Titans, got all the hype and then read the press clippings and forgot how to win a game. It was incredibly pathetic. And for a coach to not see the problem and solve it shows why he was canned the day after the last game. The team showed a total lack of character even in its final game.

New York Quarterback Brett Favre----If one takes the letters of his name, moves one letter to the left two places and changes the other two one place, what comes up is what he has been; FRAUD. It's so amazing that so many of his rumpswabs have not been paying attention to the latter years of his career, where he has been a horrible quarterback. It's all personality driven in these later years, as his play is far from what anything a Hall of Famer should be doing. What was he doing thinking throwing the ball like he did? He thought for some reason the Miami D was confused, when it was actually the Jets offense that was clueless. Favre rushed the pass, it was high over receiver Stuckey and into Goodman's hands. It was another dumb play by Favre. There was no need to get that play off so quick, but? It's just this year's edition of the Favre Follies.

It's not the first time this 'HOF' QB has let Patriot fans down. In 2002, the last time the Patriots were not in the playoffs, it was a Favre and the Packer team who took the day off in their game with the Jets. The Ptas needed a win from them and with the Pack at 12-3, one would have thought they would have not mailed it in. But the game meant nothing to them as they were already in the postseason. They fell to the Jets, 42-17. With that loss, the Patriots were out. The same thing happened to the Jets this year with Favre at the helm. But it isn't just these games. When was the last time he won a game that was big? Last year, he couldn't do it, throwing an interception in overtime that kept the Pack from the Superbowl. 'Winner' is not something that should at all be associated with him. More than not, he has come up far short. But those dazzled by his early years are blinded to his real downfall and poor play.

If it were Bledsoe throwing the dumb pass that got picked off and run in for a touchdown, everyone would be on him, questioning how much football knowledge he had. Favre did that again against the Fins and Merling ran it in for a big touchdown, but there was no large wave of criticism. The football commentators bow down to Favre, the football god, even though his play has been so poor. But the only hope the team had was hoping Favre and the Jets would win in that last game. Again, Patriot fans were fooled into thinking that he would lead the Jets to victory with the Pats squeaking into the playoffs. I should have known from 02 that depending on a Favre win was slim to none,. but I wanted so much for that hope to be large. I should have known that in the end, Favre would make the dumb mistake and that Miami would win. It happened again and Favre's poor play put the stake in the Patriot's season. It was on the all way before, but that ray of sunshine was all that Patriot fans had.

As for this past weekend's games, I felt pretty happy with the results. I did feel a bit unhappy about the Falcons loss, but I also am not one who hates Warner and the high flying Cardinals. I cheered for the Falcons more for the New England connections of quarterback Ryan and general manager Dimitroff. Saturday night though was my favorite; a chance to see that sad Manning face. Although I am not a Chargers fan, Seeing the Colts go down in overtime was so fitting. As a side note, maybe Dungy will change his mind and try to come up with a better system for overtime. That is if he does return to coaching. Miami, Parcells and company were not a team I wished would win, so seeing the Ravens overpower them brought a smile to my face. The last game, I was really neutral about, but I do like Boston's, Jeff Lurie, owner of the Eagles.

Looking forward to the games, I think they will be for interesting ones and I am sure there will be some surprises. I'd like to see the Ravens upset the Titans and I do see a lower scoring close game. In the night cap, I really think the Panthers will rule, even though I will be cheering for the underdog Cardinals. I really want to see the Giants lose. No way do I want to see those New York Football Giants get even a step closer to a repeat. Go McNabb, go Eagles! Even though I do not like the Chargers, I am hoping for an upset of the Steelers. Without LT, this might be a tough task, but that is what I hope will happen. I don't think all four goime teams will win; which home team will have their season ended? New York? Tennessee? Pittsburgh?

Adding into the list are two writers, Peter King and Albert Breer. Both really have as King put it no violins for the Patriots. King has been so anti-Patriot, I would never expect anything close to that. He was so offended by 'spy-gate' that he bathed himself in hypocrisy in not understanding other practices that go on now or the history in the NFL of it all. Breer said that the Fins were going to win and basically guaranteed it, from his talk to the players. He got it right, but I remember a few years ago when I always learned something about the game or of the teams involved. Since his departure to Dallas and now to the limelight, that has changed. He's more pedestrian in his writings and he's got a head larger than ten basketballs. One is typical, the other, a mild surprise, but I can think of nothing too nice for either.

Hats off to Joe from S and S, who after the Pittsburgh game said the Pats would not make the playoffs. The Pats won their last four, but many other teams showed how pitiful they really were and they just missed it as they had in 02. Unfortunately, he got it right.

 Stan Jaksina
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