By: Kevin Rousseau - Kevin's Articles are Sponsored by
November 26, 2007

Patriots practice report: Brian Hoyer struggles during OTA session
Patriots safety Duron Harmon says he's learned from Costa Rica incident
Patriots defensive end Derek Rivers happy to be healthy
Belichick mum on Brady and Gronk OTA absences
No Brady or Gronk, but plenty of storylines at Patriots OTAs

OK, class. It's quiz time. Close your books.

The subject today is the 2003 New England Patriots season and your memory of it. Can you recall who caught a late touchdown at Mile High after the intentional safety (David Givens)? Who stopped Edgerrin James on 4th and goal in the 38-34 win at Indy (Willie McGinest)? The gametime temperature at Foxboro for the Titans playoff game (4 degrees)? Or how many interceptions Ty Law had in the AFC Championship Game against the Colts (Three)?

Any Pats fan worth his or her salt could answer these questions fairly quickly. Oh…and don't forget the Brady to Troy Brown bomb in overtime down in Miami. But I'm willing to bet you lunch at the Red Wing on Route 1 in Foxboro that the 23-20 overtime win on November 23rd against the 5-11 Houston Texans doesn't quickly pop into your mind as a season highlight during the Patriots 14-2 Super Bowl winning season. If you recall, the Patriots were awful that day but found some way to keep the momentum going and do just enough to pull out a win when they probably shouldn't have.

Just look at what I wrote in my column after that game:

If you ever needed any justification to stop betting your lunch money on football games, Sunday's 23-20 overtime victory in Houston should be more than enough for you. How can you explain this one? You could say that good teams like the Patriots find a way to win when they obviously didn't have their best stuff. Or perhaps the Patriots won because the Texans gave them chance after chance to win the game and they finally seized on one of them.

Sound familiar? Want a little more from that column? Let's see what I can copy and paste:

No team is perfect these days and nor should we expect the Patriots to be every week. Perhaps we've become spoiled by all of this team's wins over the last ten years. Like the Celtics of yesteryear, we now expect the Patriots to win every time they step onto the field….

Hmmmm. Add water, mix and I got this week's column.

Fast forward just about four years to the date and…voila…you have Sunday night's outing to your local dentist disguised as a 31-28 win against the 5-6 Philadelphia Eagles. Give the Eagles credit for playing to win and not to just keep from getting embarrassed. It was almost a perfect storm of smart special teams play, a physical defense, an aggressive clock-chewing offensive game plan and most of all a blitz scheme that got rushers to the area where Tom Brady likes to step up in the pocket. Mix in all of the national hype about if "this is the greatest team ever" and it almost became a Blizzard of '78 in Foxboro.

Incidentally, can we please dispense with all of this "greatest team ever" baloney for another eight weeks or so? Last time I checked, not much hardware this side of Home Depot is handed out in November. If that were the case, the Chiefs and Dolphins would have more rings than any other AFC team in recent memory. I once heard Chris Mortensen of ESPN say that everything before Thanksgiving is window dressing. Come January, the wins at Dallas and Indianapolis will be the furthest thing from your mind. And so will the close call from Philly on Sunday night.

No, the Patriots have not been exposed. In fact, the Eagles probably did the Patriots the largest of favors. They gave Bill Belichick a truckload of bad film to help cook up more servings of his famous humble pie now being consumed at Patriot Place. They helped to bring the national media and the fandom hype machine back down to a somewhat reasonable level. The Eagles showed that playing your starters well into the fourth quarter of blowouts prepares a team physically and mentally when a day at the dentist comes around as it did on Sunday night. Better to have this game of self-reflection now than in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs, friend.

Relax, Patriot Nation. If we look at history, we will see that the 2003 Patriots bounced back from that Houston dentist appointment to win in Indianapolis the following week. And like that team, this edition of the Patriots will almost certainly learn from Sunday night's scare and put it to good use as they roll towards a Super Bowl berth.

Idle Zinger thoughts while wondering why I live in New England but am not considered to be in a "home market" for a New England Patriots game:

Glenn Ordway beat me to it but I'll chime in and say this Keith Olbermann "Worst Person in the NFL" segment on Sunday Night Football has got to be stopped. If you want to call it "The Biggest Screw-Up of the Day" that's fine. But worst person? That's harsh. Todd Sauerbrun didn't steal any old ladies lunch money. He missed a tackle on Devin Hester.

Anybody else howl with laughter at the watch commercial that was shown during Sunday night's game that showed Eli Manning being "unstoppable?"

I don't mind Tony Kornheiser nearly as much as you do.

When is the NFL going to step in and make the Steelers change their turf? Fair is fair.