By: Kevin Rousseau - Kevin's Articles are Sponsored by Comdoctor.net
January 01, 2007

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As the playoffs begin, the AFC team that has the best chance of beating the New England Patriots is….

The New England Patriots.

This is not to discount the quality of the San Diego Chargers, Baltimore Ravens or even the (When will they just go away so we can get on with our lives?) Indianapolis Colts. All four division winners have a shot at coming through what promises to be one of the most entertaining AFC playoff smackdowns in recent memory.

The NFC playoff picture? Well, let's just say that's going to be the entertainment equivalent of opening up and reciting the Rockland/Camden/Belfast phonebook starting with Abbott and working your way down the line.

Like someone who has married into money after living a modest lifestyle, as Patriots fans we have become accustomed to our high-brow station in life. A loss in anything less than the AFC Championship Game and the team will have "flatlined." And who among the long-time fans would ever believe that we could be so ho-hum after a 12-4 record?

Let's take a step back for a moment and take the long view of things.

The reason you love this team is - because like many of us - they show up to work every day, commit to being the best at what they do in a prideful manner all the while carrying themselves with dignity and class. No silly trash talking like you see from the non-playoff bound Cincinnati Bengals. And a refreshing lack of police reports in the sports pages that cover the team is also a nice touch. And don't forget that you never have to think twice about the example you are setting when you shell out $64.99 to buy your kid a Tedy Bruschi or Tom Brady blue replica jersey.

Is this week's column turning into a reaffirmation of this author's appreciation and affection for the occupants of One Patriot Place?

Absolutely.

After starting this column because of my passion for the team, one of the shocking discoveries of doing a Patriots-themed column over the last five years is that it had a tendency to make me less of a fan. Let me explain. As the column developed and gained popularity, the expectation of the content naturally rose. Thus, I felt it was important to start taking notes during the game and thinking about story-lines as the game progressed. In a strange sense, I was on the clock in Section 327.

Sometimes I found it hard to get entirely wrapped up in a great touchdown or turnover because in the back of my mind I was always asking myself "Okay, how are you going to frame what just happened in your column?" Mix in the belief that I should show some objectivity and it made for quite the personal conundrum.

Earlier this season, I decided that taking notes and formulating themes was going to end. Watching the Patriots has been a weekly release for my entire life and I was going to reclaim this part of my soul. Fortunately, I have other journalistic endeavors where I can devote the adequate attention to details needed to provide a quality story.

Maybe you have noticed. The columns have been less technical and more emotional this season. And the truth be told, I've enjoyed watching the games a whole lot more because of it.

So as the Patriots embark on a run that could very well end up with a fourth Vince Lombardi statue being hoisted on February 4th in Miami, I'm going to enjoy the ride. I will have to make no apologies for being a Patriots fan. Sure, they're a little quirky when it comes to how they control information that flows out of their empire. And the way that they can summarily dispose of past heroes in such cold fashion can be the emotional equivalent of using sandpaper as aftershave.

But if you enjoy watching technically good football that's played in a disciplined, physical manner, you've come to the right place and time here in January 2007. This team has won its last eight home playoff games and last year set the all-time consecutive postseason victory mark with 10 wins. It also possesses a +17 turnover ratio during this stretch. Hold onto the ball, make solid plays on defense and don't turn the kicking game into a fire drill and the table will be set for the Patriots this postseason.

Earlier in the day, I dusted off one of those Super Bowl retrospective DVDs that have made phrases like "65 Toss Power Trap" and "wide right" part of every sports fans vernacular. Watching this DVD never gets old for a few reasons. It's the bookmarks that certain past games symbolize in my life along with the historical significance of such greatness. I'll watch a clip of Super Bowl XXVII and say "I'm pretty sure I watched that one with my grandfather and father in the basement of the Knights of Columbus hall in Foxboro." Shucks, I could write a whole column on the emotions of a single clip from Super Bowl XXXVI.

I realized what was at stake for the Patriots over the next month when I saw a clip of crying Rodney Harrison with an arm in a sling and confetti reigning down around him after Super Bowl XXXVIII. It's the chance to be forever memorialized in slow motion on future NFL Films Super Bowl retrospectives. That's pretty heady stuff when you think of the permanent nature of such glory.

When the Patriots and Jets face off at 1 p.m. this coming Sunday, a new chapter will be added to the story of this Team of the Decade.

I can't wait to find out how it ends.

Idle Zinger thoughts while showing the self-control of Cookie Monster in front of a plate of full-bellied fried clams:

-Anybody else roll your eyes at the irony of CBS analyst Randy Cross explaining the legality of a chop block during Sunday's Pats-Titans game?

-If Tiki Barber runs for 234 yards during a game on the NFL Network, did it really happen?

-Maybe my last glass of Christmas egg nog got spiked but I'm pretty sure that I heard ESPN's Joe Theismann state during the Jets-Dolphins game that we shouldn't take the Raiders lightly in their season-ending game against the Jets. Tony Kornheiser should be commended for showing the patience of Job throughout this season as crazy statement after crazy statement kept coming out of the mouth of his booth partner.

-I suspect the same thing happens to you. You're sitting there watching a game with an older folk and a Colts highlight comes on. "Yes, Pepére. Baltimore just scored again."

-This week's quote from Charlie Pierce's outstanding book on Tom Brady, "Moving the Chains:" He writes that Mel Kiper, Jr., "a man with the statistical mind of a savant beneath the immovable coiffure of a lounge act, commented that Brady 'didn't have the total package of skills,' which frosted Brady so hard that he later snapped back at all draft pundits in an interview."

-Another laugh out loud passage had to do with former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld. Pierce insinuates that Weld's flightiness made Mayor McCheese look like Benjamin Disraeli during the Patriots megaplex wild goose chase of the mid-1990s.


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