By: Kevin Rousseau - Kevin's Articles are Sponsored by
November 20, 2005

No Brady or Gronk, but plenty of storylines at Patriots OTAs
Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski not at the start of the team's OTA's today
NFL notes: Don't be surprised if Deatrich Wise Jr., Derek Rivers rise up for Patriots
New Patriots DL Danny Shelton preps to hit the hill
Patriots center David Andrews excited with his new Georgia Bulldog teammates

The one thing you can say with certainty about attending a 2005 New England Patriots game is that you will get a solid three hours worth of entertainment for your hard-earned dollar.

If there was ever a game that the Patriots should have won going-away this season, it was Sunday's 24-17 closer-than-it-had-to-be win over the Saints. But when you have an offensive line made up of backups and rookies and a nickel secondary that consists of three waiver-wire players, a rookie and a third-year player, it would be ill advised to leave halfway through the fourth quarter in order to beat the Route 1 traffic.

Mind you, I'm not complaining. Far from it. Especially when you are playing the New Orleans Saints and the proper perspective of football is put in its place.

Speaking of perspective, it was announced during the fourth quarter that Bill Belichick's father, Steve, had passed away Saturday night. I can only imagine the emotions going through the man's head as he coached his team on a beautiful November Sunday in Foxboro. If you haven't read David Halberstam's new book about Bill Belichick, "The Education of a Coach,” I would advise you run out and buy it. Anything by Halberstam is worth your time anyway and you will gain an appreciation of the type of relationship that the two shared. You will discover that more so than any other person in the younger Belichick's life, Steve Belichick influenced Bill to have the analytical skills, perspective and work ethic that has made his son arguably one of the best coaches in the history of pro football.

Suddenly, a very long, trying season has become even more difficult. By no means are we approaching a New Orleans/San Antonio Saints degree of difficulty around here but you get my drift. As I write this, I'm listening to U2's Joshua Tree and "Running To Stand Still” just crossed my ears. Maybe the tune can be the theme song for the DVD that comes out next year about both teams.

From the adversity the Patriots have faced so far comes an appreciation for the character and work ethic of this team and its support organization. It would have been convenient for them to pack it in weeks ago and write off a lost season, yet they have chosen otherwise. Because they are not making excuses is precisely why there is a part of you that is upset when a team like the Saints almost comes from 17 points down in the fourth quarter to tie the game. You still judge this Patriots team based on past performances. You are still expecting Super Bowl strength out of a scotch tape squad.

Looking past this reality, there are indeed pleasant surprises continuing to emerge. The biggest of which is the play of running back Heath Evans (16 attempts for 74 yards). He combines the power of a fullback with the cutback moves of a tailback. One sign of a decent running back is the ability to take a seemingly short run and bust it out for three or four yards. When Evans starts running downhill, he becomes difficult to bring down. With that style comes a refreshing, passionate attitude that can hopefully continue to spark the offense.

Sure, a win is a win. The Patriots won by the skin of their teeth, maybe suffered a few more injuries and have again sobered us up to the level of ability of this squad.

The only difference is that this week we have some real-life perspective due to the appearance of the Saints and the passing of Steve Belichick.

Makes complaining about giving up 343 yards in passing seem like a joke, doesn't it?

I thought so.

Idle Zinger thoughts while wondering if anyone else thinks the TV show "The Office" isn't fiction but rather a documentary:

You'll never guess the leading AFC vote getter for the Pro Bowl at fullback. Nope, not Lorenzo Neal of San Diego. It's our own Patrick Pass with 168,845 votes so far.

Is it me or every time the CBS crew says "Let's go to New York and get an update," you think "Oh man, the Colts scored again?!"

Without a doubt, the best part about watching "NFL Primetime" on ESPN is that, if you are lucky, you might hear Chris Berman go "whoooop" once or twice during the program.

What is more important in determining the outcome of the game: having the ball to open the game or at the start of the second half along with choice of wind direction? The latter, my friends. No game was ever won on the opening drive but I can remember a few that were determined by the first drive of the second half. Why is that so hard to see?

Fantasy Stat of theYear: The leading receiver in the 49ers recent loss to the Bears was Brandon Lloyd with 1 reception for 28 yards. No kidding...

TMQ Gregg Easterbrook pointed out the obvious last week. This recent run of teams going for two points from the 1 yard-line and the win instead of taking an "easy" PAT and playing for overtime is statistically the way to go. He wrote "The invaluable book Pro Football Prospectus 2005 analyzed all fourth-and-1 plays in the NFL from 2002 through 2004. Teams that ran needing 1 yard succeeded 74 percent of the time; teams that passed needing 1 yard knew 62 percent success. So think about the percentages in the choice Vermeil and Gruden faced, between attempting a 1-yard run to win or launching a short kick to force a fifth quarter. What the sports media calls a 'huge gamble' wins the game 74 percent of the time, while what is called the "safe" strategy leads to a 50/50 chance of victory."

This column also appears in the American Journal (Westbrook/Gorham, Maine), the Current (Scarborough/Cape Elizabeth/South Portland, Maine), the Lakes Region Suburban Weekly (Windham/Naples, Maine), the Citizen (Sacopee Valley, Maine), the Reporter (Waterboro/Hollis, Maine), the Sun Chronicle (Saco/Old Orchard Beach, Maine), and online at (Belfast, Camden, Rockland, Maine).