By: Kevin Rousseau - Kevin's Articles are Sponsored by Comdoctor.net
January 09, 2005

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So after 51 weeks, we are back to where we were. Patriots vs. Colts in a Ali/Frazier-style playoff rematch.

You won't be falling asleep during this one like you did during that Seahawks/Rams game that was falsely advertised as a playoff game. Unless you are completely naïve, you've got that nervous knot in your stomach this week. Can the Patriots secondary hold up? Will Dillon control the clock? What effect will the weather play? We've got all week to dissect every angle leading up to Sunday at 4:30 pm.

To help get the party started, allow me to serve up a few opening volleys for your consideration:

First, Ty Law being placed on season-ending injured reserve certainly sobers us up from our post New Year's, pre-playoff drunken stupor, now doesn't it?

All of the brow beating and chest thumping that Patriot Nation (present company included) did after the end of the regular season about the Patriots chances to win a third title in four years was all predicated on one big, fat assumption. Namely, the return and ability of one Ty Law to shut down the Marvin Harrisons and Hines Wards of the world over the next few weeks.

Well, you know what they say about when you assume things, don't you?

I'm sure you heard it in the coffee shop after the news broke last Friday. "Forget it. There's no way we're going to win without Ty Law answering the bell. When do pitchers and catchers report?"

Not so fast, pal. Don't write the 2004 Patriots off just yet.

Make no mistake. If the Patriots are going to beat the Colts on Sunday, they will have to do so by playing perfect football. There will be no room for error. They cannot take penalties that extend Colt drives or thwart their own drives. They will not be able to afford to turn the ball over and give Peyton Manning extra cracks at the secondary. And they will have to get the games of their lives out of Eugene Wilson, Rodney Harrison, Asante Samuel and Randall Gay.

Difficult? Yes.

Impossible? Hardly.

In case you have forgotten, allow me to point out that the Patriots are 8-1 since Mr. Law broke his foot on Halloween against the Steelers (They should be 9-0 if it weren't for that fourth quarter meltdown against the Dolphins). So it's not like these guys in the secondary have been losing games for the team. Sure, we've seen a few scary moments against the Bengals and Chiefs but show me a team who hasn't had them over the course of the second half of the season.

That's right. You can't.

So while this is not good news by any stretch, it is certainly not cause to size up the Tobin Bridge for a mid-winter plunge. Lest you forget that this is a veteran team who knows how to win in the playoffs? Consider the fact that 20 players have won two Super Bowls as part of the Patriots.

Then remember that you have the coolest, most clutch quarterback in the League in Tom Brady and you start to feel a little better if you need to score late in the fourth quarter in order to advance to the next round. Mix in the Tedy Bruschis of the world and you have a team that isn't going to run for the hills at the first sign of trouble.

And that brings us to Corey Dillon, who will have to control the game one 45-second-clock-chewing run at a time. If he is able to do so, it will limit Peyton Manning's ability to control the tempo and the possibility of this Sunday's game turning into a wild west shootout.

Along with mistake-free football and big games from Brady and Dillon, the 68,000 of us who will take our places in Gillette Stadium will have to answer the call as well. During the AFC Championship Game a year ago, it was loud and energetic. And it wouldn't be a stretch to say that the Patriots fed off of that energy. But let's face facts, fellow patrons: We've gotten fat and happy watching the Patriots this year. We've lost a little off that fastball that buzzed the Colts under the chin last January and we'll have to regain our form from last year's two playoff games if home field is going to be any kind of advantage this year.

It shouldn't be that hard for the Patriots and their fans to answer the bell. First, Peyton Manning is the NFL equivalent of that guy in high school who was the class president, got all A's, dated the prettiest girl, quarterbacked the football team and was the apple of all the teachers' eyes. This guy even cuts people off in traffic with style. If you are like me, it's pretty easy to root against this guy and his pre-ordained coronation.

Then, there's all these backhanded shots at the Patriots that you hear from the national media about how the Patriots won the AFC Championship Game thanks to illegal contact in the secondary. Excuse me, but the officiating crew didn't throw those four interceptions in the snow on that day. Peyton Manning did.

And how about opening night and how if it wasn't for this and that, the Colts would have won. Is it me or do these excuses sound very pre-2004 Red Sox-like? You know, "If the ball didn't scoot between the guy's legs".If Lou Pinella doesn't make a blind stab at that ball with the sun in his eyes"" Please.

Did it ever occur to you that we are the Yankees to the Colts and their fans? The last time the Colts controlled this series, Bert Jones and Joe Washington were running around Memorial Stadium. And that was a long, long time ago. Put it this way, it was before the Mayflower trucks made their midnight dash from Baltimore to Indianapolis. Here's hoping that this isn't the year that the battle cry of "Remember the Mayflower" finally rings true for the people of Indiana.

Whatever the outcome on Sunday, I can guarantee you this: When they run those NFL's Greatest Games films on ESPN7 twenty years from now, there is a pretty good chance that this one will be rolling. And if that doesn't get your blood moving this week, then you need to find something new to pass the time on Sundays in the fall and winter.

Time to get it on.

Idle Zinger thoughts while proudly showing off my new "'Johnny Damon-Jesus is My Leadoff Man'" bootleg t-shirt:

Don't you want to believe that Andy Williams was thinking about the NFL playoffs when he sang "It's the most wonderful time of the year"?

While listening to the Raiders radio broadcast of their season finale against the Jags, the announcer did an in-game ad for a bail bond company. Only the Raiders, only their fans.

Speaking of the Raiders, did you know that Al Davis does not allow out of town scores to be posted during Raider home games? Due to this, the Jaguars had no idea that they had been eliminated from playoff contention until they came off the field.

Obviously, it's not worth printing up a t-shirt over but it is worth mentioning that the Patriots tied the record for most wins (14) by a defending Super Bowl champion.

That beeping sound you heard last week was the Jets, Vikings, Seahawks and Rams all backing into the playoffs.

Hey, Seahawk fans. Your team barely eked out a 9-7 record to win the awful NFC Western Division crown. You can celebrate this glorious achievement with an exclusive "Seahawks Division Champs" T-shirt for only $17.99 direct from the NFL Shop at nfl.com.

You're not going to believe this one, but speaking of the Seahawks: I was perusing the NFL Record and Fact Book the other night and came across the retired numbers for each franchise. All the past greats of the game are there with one exception. Would you believe that the Seahawks have retired the number 12 for "Fans/the twelfth man?" I kid you not.

Everytime you get nauseated seeing the MLB Players Representatives Donald Fehr and Gene Orza on the tube, chew on this. According to Sports Business News and Bloomberg News, the NFL players union is fighting to get lifelong health care for its members in the next bargaining agreement that expires after the 2008 draft. Besides working to increase the players' share of ever-expanding NFL revenue, this initiative is their next priority. Currently, NFL players who spend three full seasons in the League currently get medical and dental insurance for five years following retirement. If you ever run into a retired player, you will probably notice a limp or other noticeable ailment that he is afflicted with thanks to his days in the League.

And even if you would choose the Seahawks over Johnny when figuring out what to wear to work on Casual Friday, I would still like to hear from you. I can be reached at kevin@patsfans.com.

Don't forget to check me out at 8:20 on Friday mornings on Bangor, Maine's sports radio leader, WZON 620 "The Zone." You can listen over the internet at www.zoneradio.com This column also appears in the The Reporter (Waterboro/Hollis, ME), the Twin City Times (Lewiston/Auburn, ME), the American Journal (Westbrook/Gorham, ME), the Current (Scarborough/Cape Elizabeth/South Portland, ME), the Village Soup Times (Camden/Rockland/Belfast, ME), and the Lakes Region Suburban Weekly (Windham, ME).


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