By: Kevin Rousseau - Kevin's Articles are Sponsored by
October 26, 2003

Year after year, Gil Santos delivered
Bill Belichick pays tribute to Patriots Hall of Fame broadcaster Gil Santos
Bill Belichick pays tribute to the late Gil Santos
Tight end Troy Niklas’ “crazy” story makes him a Patriot and a father, too
Patriots notebook: Season starts with Houston at Foxboro

Sitting through Sunday's 9-3 win against the Browns was like a day at the dentist. But at the end of the game, like a day at the dentist, sometimes you come out better than you came in. Such was the case with this ugly victory. The Patriots won a dreadful field possession game thanks mostly to their stellar defense. But as they say, all the wins count the same. And at the halfway mark, your New England Patriots are a remarkable 6-2 and are setting themselves up for a playoff run.

The offense played very conservatively against the Browns and it showed. Even though they had very few "three and outs", they had quite a few drives that just petered out and resulted in punts. On the bright side, yet another young player rose to the occasion. Second-year tight end Daniel Graham had his best game as a pro with 7 receptions for 110 yards. He looked like a young Ben Coates out there on Sunday as he showed his good hands, quick moves, and an ability to keep moving after being hit. If the Patriots can continue to develop Graham, he will become an invaluable asset in the offense since it features a lot of short passing from Tom Brady. Kevin Faulk also had a solid afternoon with 23 carries for 96 yards. The Patriots don't have to have a great running game, but a decent one like the one they've been showing will go along way for them as the weather turns cold.

This defense keeps getting better every week and has become one of the most complete units in the League. Amazingly, they allowed the Browns offense to advance into Patriots territory only once the whole game. And they held the Browns to just 84 yards rushing and 155 yards passing. Admittedly, the Browns leading rusher William Green was held out of the game. But you could point to the continued great line play that Richard Seymour, Jarvis Green, and Ty Warren are providing. Or you could say that the veteran linebacking corps of Phifer, Bruschi, and Vrabel keep having a nose for the ball. But perhaps it's the re-vamped secondary of Poole, Wilson, Law, and Samuel that has been the most pleasant surprise. They are covering guys long enough to allow the defensive front seven to get near the quarterback, just like they did against Tim Couch and Kelly Holcomb on Sunday.

This defense now expects to make plays. During the last two minutes of the game, you just had a sense that the defense was going to stop the Browns one last time and win the game for the rest of the team. And there is a big difference between expecting to succeed, as opposed to just hoping to succeed. Good teams expect to succeed. Bill Belichick, Romeo Crennel and the rest of the staff just keep putting the defense in position to make plays. If you could choose between either a dominant defense or a dominant offense, my guess is that most NFL honchos would choose the first since it keeps you in just about every game.

Last year, the Patriots couldn't get any pass rush going, had zero balance on offense, and couldn't make any big plays on third down, especially on defense. You couldn't ask for a bigger turnaround from last year in these categories and the credit goes to the entire team and the coaching staff.

This is starting to feel like 2001 all over again.

Idle Zinger thoughts while wishing I was one of those guys who make the wise cracks on VH1's "I love the 80s" programs:

Look out, Suzy Kolber. Bonnie Bernstein is moving up fast on my list of good-looking, competent female football reporters.

Sure, these Zinger-like columns are a cheap way for a sports writer to make a living (or not, in my case), but nobody does them better than the Globe's Bob Ryan. His column from last Friday was a keeper.

Once again, most of us missed yet another exciting finish on Monday Night Football last week as the Chiefs held off the Raiders. Since ABC and ESPN are affiliated, what would be wrong with ESPN2 replaying the Monday night game on Tuesday afternoon? Tuesday is usually a dog day for football news anyways.

The middle of the field in Cleveland Browns Stadium was resodded last week. Browns coach Butch Davis was quoted in the Cleveland Plain Dealer as saying "In the infamous words of Cheech and Chong, yes, it was bad grass."

You have to wonder if the folks at ESPN programming did it on purpose. Last Tuesday night on ESPN you had the far-fetched and much-maligned "Playmakers" marathon running. Meanwhile on ESPN2, you could watch a documentary on the 1958 NFL Championship Game between the Colts and the Giants. I'll take Unitas to Berry every time.

Does anybody know whatever happened to the 1776 Patriots Fan Club? Growing up, they had a huge presence at the games and were given a high profile in the pre-Kraft era. If you are a member of the Club, or just know what's going on, drop me a line.

I'm planning this week to take in the new football movie starring Cuba Gooding, "Radio." In general, football movies are either very good or very bad. Call me a sap, but every time "Rudy" is on cable, I get sucked in.

After last week, the Cleveland Browns and the Denver Broncos are now a combined 0-5 in the last two years while wearing their hunter orange alternative jerseys.

The Patriots are currently 11 out of 14 in their last 14 AFC East matchups.

That's it for this week. I would be happy to hear from you. I can be reached at [email protected]. Don't forget to check me out at 8:20 on Monday mornings on Bangor, Maine's sports radio leader, WZON 620 "The Zone." Family members and other people forced to deal with my ego can listen over the internet at