October 13, 2002
Patriots Go From Disappointing To Disgraceful
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
FOXBOROUGH -- Whew. Terry Glenn didn't make his old mates look silly.
The Patriots themselves did just fine on that point.
One now has to wonder how much worse can it get. More penalties. More turnovers. Another running back goes nuts. No intensity. No discipline. No execution.
And these guys are the defending world champs?
Everyone will concede that Brett Favre is Brett Favre. Since a 17-16 loss at Foxborough in 1995, Favre has manhandled the Patriots in three straight games. Beginning with Super Bowl XXXI, and continuing with a Monday Night win the following year, Favre today merely treated the Patriots like he seems to always do with ease. Watching Favre work his magic out there Sunday should have surprised no one.
But it shouldn't have been so easy. And the Patriots should have matched Favre point for point, and then some. Given all the Packer starters on defense who were scratches today, the Patriots could have used this game to right their ship and get themselves back on track.
Not a chance. The Packers pounded the Patriots, 28-10. This happened to be the exact same score as that last visit by Green Bay in 1997. But more than the Packers pounding the Patriots, the Patriots pounded themselves. In most every way imaginable, the Patriots did more to damage themselves than Green Bay ever did.
The early moments of this game pretty much told the story. The Packers were allowing the Patriots to dictate the tempo of this game, and a simple ball control approach was all they needed to keep Favre off the field and likely win the game. But the Patriots took that approach and threw it in the dumpster, and instead totally imploded in a hail of mistakes and penalties, as well as a lack of execution and intensity. The result was predictable.
Instead of having their way with a patchwork defense, the Patriots right now look dumber, more foolish and less passionate than the stinker teams of the Pete Carroll era. What with all the football smarts Bill Belichick, Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel possess, all of this bad stuff falls directly on their shoulders. Like it or not, this all reflects on coaching.
As bad as the players have played, the Patriots have had several weeks to correct what the Chiefs exposed in Week 3. Instead, the team has gotten progressively worse. This team is still more talented than any of the clunker clubs of the early 1990s, but is underachieving just as bad as the post-SB XXXI teams. And it is the mistakes and lack of discipline that really reflect on the coaching staff.
Let's begin with the play calling. Why the Patriots continue to call for long pass plays with as much frequency is incredibly puzzling. On their first drive, the Patriots moved the ball well against the Packers, until Brady threw a deep ball to David Patten. The ball was thrown inside instead of outside, and Bryant Westbrook made the interception. The pick gave the Packer defense an inspiration it never should have gotten. The Patriots looked totally foolish for attempting that pass; Deion Branch caught the longest pass of the day for the Patriots, 18 yards.
The Fox commentators kept wondering aloud why the Patriots didn't run the ball more. They weren't alone. Antowain Smith was making pretty good hay against the Packers (he averaged just under six yards a carry). Instead, the Patriots went heavy on the passing again, and continued to deviate from the balance they achieved last year while winning the Super Bowl.
Belichick really has a task ahead of him where the penalties are involved. The Patriots were flagged 12 times for 126 yards, a hideous stat. Matt Light again showed how horrible he is against speed rushers (he perhaps had an easier time spelling Kameer Gbaja-Kamila than blocking him). Interference calls rang out all over the place on Patriot defensive backs.
But the play that really defined the day for the Patriots occurred in the second quarter. Facing fourth and one at the Patriot 25, Ryan Longwell nails a 42-yard field goal. But on the play, Richard Seymour is called for a foolish headslap. The Packers take the field goal off the board, and march on to a 4-yard touchdown pass from Favre to William Henderson and a 7-3 lead, a lead they would never relinquish.
Penalties like this one on Seymour is directly reminiscent of one of the worst qualities of the Carroll era. And it goes directly against the grain of a Belichick team. How this sort of thing can be perpetuated under Belichick is unbelievable. What remains to be seen is what happens to Seymour, if anything at all. For the record, Seymour didn't get benched. But something must be done to the players for brain cramps like this. Teams that allow this sort of thing to go on will never be champions. Defending champs that do this sort of thing is nothing short of amazing.
Or maybe it isn't.
This sums up pretty much what is wrong with the Patriots in general. It really isn't bad play calling. It really isn't teams figuring out the Patriots. It really isn't Brady going into the worst funk of his short NFL career.
Right now, the players have lost their drive, something that carried them all the way to a championship last year. Their intensity is totally gone. It has been replaced by penalties, poor tackling, lack of execution and just plain dumb playing. Despite the talent of Favre, this was a Green Bay team that could have been beaten. The Patriots merely beat themselves, plain and simple.
So, what lies ahead for the world chumps?
This bye week figures to be very little about rest and a lot about getting back to basics. Belichick right now needs to put his real stamp on his coaching legacy. Everyone knows that Belichick is smart. What everyone needs to find out right now is how tough Belichick is.
Simply put, these players have their heads geared towards last year. They will naturally tell you otherwise, but every one of them still thinks its 2001. They had two easy wins to begin this year, and they have now acquired a false sense of their self worth. The rest of the league has finally figured them out, but the Patriots are being more smug over being the champs and believing that that fact will bail them out, rather than understanding that it is much harder to stay on top than it is to get to the top.
The Patriots are disgracing themselves, their fans and their organization with their horrid level of play and the mistakes they are making. Belichick needs to pounce on this and correct it soon to avoid a total lost season by the time December rolls around.
And as the Carroll era taught us, Belichick needs to be the one to kick posteriors out there, not the players. The spotlight the next few weeks will be on the coaching staff and not the players. Even though the players are the ones who ultimately play the game, in this case it is the coaching staff that must right this bunch of players who simply look stupid out there.
As for those of us who watch, lock up all those videotapes from January and February. No need for Patriot Nation to be stupid, also.
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