August 27, 2003
Undefeated and (relatively) Uninjured
BY: Kevin Rousseau
Frankly, the best a fan can hope for in the fourth and final pre-season game is that none of your team's key players get injured and that the first team performs halfway decent in the first quarter. More or less, it was mission accomplished against the Bears on Wednesday night. Now, finally, after eight months of waiting, it's time to start looking forward to meaningful games and facing Drew Bledsoe and the Buffalo Bills on September 7th.
In the first half, when most of the first and second string played, there were a few items worth noting. The most obvious one was the very crisp and successful no-huddle drive that Tom Brady masterfully engineered and ended in a touchdown pass to Troy Brown. Without question, the Patriots showed it so that the Bills will be forced to practice against it and figure out how to stop it. This doesn't necessarily mean the Patriots will employ it against the Bills but at least it's now in play for the Patriots' early season opponents.
Before the game, it was announced that new nose tackle Ted Washington was excused from the game to attend to personal matters. His absence from the first team defense was glaring. The Bears are not a very good running team but yet they were able to run fairly easily on the Patriots defense. Without Ted Washington, opposing offenses like Chicago's, are able to pick up the Patriots linebackers and keep them from making plays. The effective play of Ted Washington might be the difference between an average defense and an excellent defense.
Make no mistake. This defense has the potential (I said potential, now) to be one of the League's best defenses. Then again, perhaps ten teams in the League could say the same thing right now. The Patriots have added a tremendous talent in linebacker Rosevelt Colvin. His sack of Kordell Stewart in the first quarter before Stewart could hand the ball off to his running back was just an amazing athletic play. We have not seen this type of difference maker in these parts in a long, long time. Colvin's sack of Stewart forced the Bears into attempting a failed 3rd down and 15. If the Patriots defense could have consistently gotten off the field on third down last year, perhaps things would have ended up differently.
The Patriots finished the pre-season undefeated and the first string looked about as good as any other team in the League. Sure, it would be easy to get seduced by this meaningless undefeated pre-season record and the hype that all of the new acquisitions and draft picks have created. But keep in mind that the last time the Patriots finished undefeated in the pre-season, the Patriots ended up a dismal 2-14 in 1981 and earned the privilege of drafting the immortal Kenneth Sims the next year. That being said, this team is well coached, has a very smart and efficient quarterback, a bunch of intriguing rookies, seasoned veterans, and is one year removed from the biggest Super Bowl upset since Super Bowl III. The fact that we have no idea what is in store for the 2003 New England Patriots is what makes football so intriguing and keeps us coming back for more every year.
Idle Zinger thoughts while wishing I was back on Prince Edward Island:
First off, I would like to give a big hello to Captain "Jeremy" of the US Air Force stationed "somewhere in Southwest Asia" and Don from Bristol, England who both wrote me this past week to say hi and pass along some very gracious compliments about this column.
I am pleased to announce that the (Lewiston, Maine) Twin City Times will be joining the (Windham, Maine) Suburban News in carrying this column for the upcoming season. As an aside, I'm working on an exciting venture with a terrific media outlet that I am hoping to announce in the next week or so. Stay tuned. You'll be the first to know.
Patrick Pass showed me a lot against the Bears. I couldn't have been more wrong last week when I wrote that I thought his job was in jeopardy. My first mulligan of the season.
Hell hath no fury like being forced to sit through a replay review challenge during the pre-season.
Miami Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas was asked about their December woes in Wednesday's Miami Herald. His quote was "It's not going to be in my head at all--maybe in a couple of other players, but not in mine. I've turned the page." Sure, Zach. Just like Red Sox players not thinking about the Curse.
After receiving a ton of bad press (including in this space), the Jets have now decided to put the $50 annual fee that they started charging fans on their season ticket waiting list towards the price of future season tickets. I guess this is a bit better than the Jets just pocketing the estimated $1 million annually. Anyway you slice it, it is still taking advantage of the team's fans. Even with the new policy, the Jets will still be collecting interest for perhaps 10-20 years on these fees.
Former Patriot Chad Eaton has been placed on season-ending injured reserve out in Seattle with his knee injury.
And lastly, did you know that the current speaker system costs more than the original construction cost of Foxboro Stadium?
Look for my season preview article later this weekend. In the meantime, I would be thrilled to hear from you. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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