September 17, 2002
The Word is Out: They're Good
BY: Ian Logue/PatsFans.com
FOXBORO, MA -- From underdog, to talks of an undefeated season.
Apparently they're not that bad after all. Just think, it only took two September victories (usually believed to be as meaningless as the Red Sox being in first place in April) for people to catch on. Now they're all climbing on the bandwagon hoping it ends up in San Diego for this year's Superbowl.
They may have a pretty good reason to.
So far it's a team that has outscored the opposition by a 74-14 margin. We'll ignore the touchdown by the Steelers in the closing seconds in week one, which was obviously scored to make the point that Pittsburgh could eventually score against the Patriots defense in garbage time.
The fact that we'll ignore it will make the point that all it did was make those who are casual fans skim over the box score to avoid revealing what a beating Pittsburgh really took.
Sad, very sad.
But now the issue at hand is the fact that for the first time in quite a while, the Patriots truly look like a team to be reckoned with. They are clicking on both offense and defense, averaging 37 points-per-game this season after their first two wins. Quarterback Tom Brady has been near perfect, while the defense has allowed just two touchdowns in two games (again, we'll ignore that Steelers score), and barring injuries they have the potential to be a very dominant football team.
However the ever cautious Belichick does attribute the defense's success to the fact that both the Steelers and Jets had to play from behind, which took them out of their respective game plans.
"I think [the defensive pass rush's success] has a lot [to do with it]," said Belichick on Monday. "Anytime you are ahead, [against a team that has] to throw every down, sooner or later you can't help but stumble under a couple [of sacks]."
Meanwhile the offensive line for New England has played well. Tom Brady has been sacked just twice during the team's first two games, and has had plenty of time to throw the football. After starting for all of last season, former right tackle Greg Robinson-Randall has spent the first two weeks of the season on the inactive list after showing up to training camp out of shape, with Kenyatta Jones starting and playing well in his place. For a unit that is so young the fact Brady is getting plenty of time to spot the open receiver is a great sign, especially considering not that long ago it featured an aging Bruce Armstrong, Max Lane, and Zefross Moss just to name a few.
"The pass protection has been fairly solid, but the run blocking is something that has been more of a struggle with us." said Belichick. That showed some improvement [against the Jets]. Now whether we can keep that going or not that remains to be seen."
"In the second half when everybody knew we were going to run it, they knew we were going to run it and we were still able to get some production out of it, so I thought that was good."
There's little they haven't been able to do right offensively. A total of 11 players have caught a pass from Tom Brady so far this season, and if the first two games are any indication it appears opposing teams haven't figured out a way to stop it. To make matters worse, even if they did shut down the receivers, Brady may just catch a pass himself just like he did against Miami a year ago. With offensive coordinator Charlie Weis not afraid to run fake reverses, direct snaps to the runningback, halfback quarterback passes, or whatever else he may end up coming up with, coordinators will be up late scratching their heads while they try to come up with a game plan to stop this football team.
Just think, Matt Turk punted the ball 7 times for the Jets last weekend. Ken Walter punted just twice for New England. That's a pretty impressive fact. One would also believe that an offense that converted 63% percent of their third downs while the defense held the opponent to just 8% had no weaknesses. Belichick disagrees.
"I see plenty of [weaknesses]", said Belichick. "I'm concerned about a lot of things. Let's face it, yesterday wasn't the Jets best day. They're a good football team and they can play a lot better than that."
"We were fortunate that we didn't catch them on their best day, so I wouldn't read too much into that."
Fans will try not to. But they're finally beginning to look pretty good to the rest of the world, and frankly it's about time.
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