As an observer of the local team, I could choose one of a few different theses about Sunday's game against San Diego. One thesis could be that LaDanian Tomlinson had a career day and the Chargers played mistake-free football (one Charger penalty throughout the entire game). Another could be that the Patriots run defense might be a little suspect and could be grounds (pardon the pun) for concern. Or yet a final thesis could be that the Patriots beat themselves, had an off day, and that no team is perfect, save the 1972 Miami Dolphins. Of course, if I knew which one was correct, I wouldn't be writing this column. I'd be employed by some football entity and not delivering top notch service to the taxpayers of the State of Maine as I currently do on a daily basis. Nonetheless, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle of all three of these scenarios.
Let's start with thesis number one. It is tough to argue that Tomlinson is not the real deal after watching him today. Among many strengths, he has excellent separation speed when he gets loose in the defensive secondary. Coach Marty Schottenheimer's game plan was to keep it close, control the clock, and don't give the Patriots second and third chances with missed tackles or penalties. The Patriots controlled the clock in the first half but the Chargers controlled the tempo in the second half when fatigue starts to set in during warm weather games. The Chargers obviously took the Chiefs game plan and ran with it. Given the fact the NFL is a copycat league, there is every reason to believe that Miami will employ this same tactic next week. This leads to thesis number two....
Given the fact that two teams have rushed for over 200 yards in consecutive weeks against a good, Super Bowl caliber defense, this trained observer would consider it a trend. And you know what they say about trends. Don't bet against them (more about betting later). The Patriots are getting a taste of their own medicine and getting faked out of their pants on play action fakes. For example, in the third quarter when San Diego ran the same end-around fake three or four times in a row. That would constitute finding a hole in a defense, my friends. Until the Patriots can get their run defense back in line, they will continue to be just good enough to stay in most games, win a few, and like we saw today lose a few. The road doesn't get any easier with Ricky Williams next week and Ahman Green and the Packers in two weeks.
The final thesis is, "Hey, these things happen and they are bound to have an off day or two along the way." After all, even I've been known to throw a few stinkers at work every now and then. Thankfully, my boss Robert D. understands this and realizes we all should get a mulligan from time to time. At the beginning of the season, if you were told that the Patriots would be 3-1 at the quarter post, I'm sure just about all of you would have taken it gladly. So before we jump off that ridiculous Gillette Stadium lighthouse (more on that later as well), let's take a step back and gain some perspective. The offense is exciting and very explosive. The defense played two marvelous games and then two terrible games. That makes it average so far. And there are many teams who would gladly take a 3-1 record right now (Like the Rams. Yowzers, what is going on there?) Plus, remember that when you are the champ, everybody is bringing their best against you and its difficult to thwart every punch that comes your way. Also, Troy Brown was out today and the offensive line is banged up. Lastly, keep in mind the Dolphins lost today so no ground was lost in the AFC East race and the Jets look like they are just about done.
Time will tell which thesis proves correct.
Until then, let's cut to the quick with this week's Zingers. I have discovered that there is such a phenomenon known as Zingers snobs. You know who you are out there. You skip the first three paragraphs of the usual psycho-analysis and go right to the zingers to see if I have had any embarassing episodes (see last week's column) or anything else that could be held against me in life's court of law in the future. Truth be told, this elitism on you the reader's part doesn't bother yours truly one bit. A hit is a hit in the world of internet journalism.
I've just about had it with these football stadiums that double as baseball stadiums. My biggest gripe is that when a kicker is attempting a field goal on the dirt, it makes for terrible footing. Adam Vinatieri missed a field goal on Sunday while kicking from second base. Besides, it's just visually annoying to me.
The lighthouse at Gillette Stadium is going to become a joke in short time if nothing is done to it fix it or complete it. If you haven't seen it, it looks like it is half done and the top needs to be finished off. My beloved brother recently questioned when it was going to be finished. Imagine his dismay when he was told, "Yep, that's how it is supposed to look."
Few things in life annoy me more than when a tv timeout is taken right after a kickoff. Nothing like taking advantage of a captive audience, huh guys?. Here's the scene. A commercial break occurs for a few minutes before a kickoff. The kickoff comes. Then another television timeout. What a novel, terriffic way to kill momentum in a football game. If you think this is a fun exercise to sit through at home, try sitting at a stadium during this maddening experience.
When do you think the players are going to get the memo from the League that when the television crew pans to you on the bench after your first touchdown, THE MICROPHONE ISN'T ON!!!! Aunt Mildred can't hear a word you are saying!
What possible good has ever come from calling a shovel pass? I usually hold my breath when I see this play unfold. I believe it worked once for the Broncos in the 1980's and that's was about it.
Regardless of what happens the rest of the year, ex-Patriot Robert Edwards of Miami gets my vote for Comeback Player of the Year. Keep in mind, he was this close to having his leg amputated after that freak accident a few years ago! These types of comebacks aren't supposed to happen. The best part is that he is, by all accounts, a terrific guy.
I really don't know what the point of teams putting out an Injury Report every week. Everybody knows these things are a joke. Do you even look at them anymore?
If you bet significant money on games on a regular basis, you may have a hard time convincing me that you are a un-biased fan of the game or your team. I mean, I couldn't care less whether the Patriots win by 4 or 6 points. But to some people, a missed field goal in the second quarter can turn them into a bear for the next day or so. This takes away from the enjoyment of watching the game as entertainment. Yes, I'm disappointed the Patriots lost to the Chargers but it doesn't mean that my ability to go out for lunch this week will be ruined. Now in the interest of full disclosure, I do participate in a $5 a week office pool that picks winners straight up. I've won it two out of the last four years, thank you very much! The point I'm trying to make is that there is a big difference between trying to beat middle-aged financial analysts for bragging rights while standing next to them in the lunch line and trying to beat the spread on a $100 bet. Let me also say that, in my eyes, there is nothing wrong with an occasional bet if you are in Las Vegas, for example. My issue is with week in, week out betting. Lastly, there are few things more enjoyable than seeing a huge, unexpected upset over a sure thing. By betting on a sure thing, it doesn't allow you the freedom of enjoying a game like the Lions beating the previously-undefeated Saints.
David Patten doesn't get the credit he deserves on this team and has made some incredible circus catches the last few weeks.
Zinger readers will recall a few weeks ago when I said that Deion Branch is "all that and a bag of chips." I might actually be right about this one!
I've had to turn down a few marriage proposals since I made my e-mail address available a few weeks ago to Zinger lovers. Nonetheless, if you have a zinger of your own for my consideration, feel free to send it along to firstname.lastname@example.org. That's it for now. Take care until next time.