September 14, 2003
For Now, The Season is Saved
BY: Kevin Rousseau
Football is a funny game. Apparently, the Patriots and Bill Belichick never got the memo that the season was over after one game and they should just roll up and play dead for the rest of the season. As badly as the Patriots played in week one against Buffalo, they played that well in beating the Philadelphia Eagles 31-10 on Sunday. The Patriots dominated the game on every level and put the bad karma of the Lawyer Milloy release behind them. And as much as he was rightly criticized after last week's disaster, Head Coach Bill Belichick and his staff deserve credit for re-focusing the team and putting them in a position to win on Sunday. Patriots' fans can exhale and take a step back from the edge of their local bridge. The season is saved.
Just like Buffalo did to them last week, the Patriots controlled the clock and set the tempo for the game. The offense, lead by Tom Brady (30-44 for 255 yards & 3 TD), moved the ball downfield easily with their trademark short passes and multiple receiver formations. The key was that Brady had all the time he needed to go through his downfield reads and hit the key receiver. The unsung hero on offense has to be rookie center Dan Koppen. Starting for the injured Damian Woody, Koppen protected the middle of the offensive line and was not flagged for any penalties. This was an unexpected surprise for Patriots fans and may be the long-term answer if Woody bolts for free agency after this season.
The defense made plays when it had to as well and kept mobile Eagles' quarterback Donovan McNabb in the pocket. The encouraging thing about Sunday's game was that different players stepped up and made plays. Tedy Bruschi was up to his old tricks all day long and was rewarded with an interception and touchdown return. The secondary, especially Tyrone Poole, contained Philadelphia's speedy receivers and hit them hard after they caught the ball. And Ted Washington and the defensive line stuffed the run and had McNabb running for his life all afternoon. If this type of team defense keeps up, it will certainly help all of us begin to forget about Lawyer Milloy.
Let's face it. The Patriots didn't win this game by themselves. They had plenty of help from the Eagles and their fans. With three defensive starters out with injuries, the Philadelphia defense that has been so feared for the last couple of years was a shell of itself. Sensing this weakness, the Patriots game plan rightly focused on getting the ball to their receivers quickly and letting them gain yards after the catch. Just as importantly, the Eagles fans were no help to their team. With the team down by ten points in the second quarter, the infamous Philly "boo birds" came out and put the team at odds with the hometown crowd. Obviously, this played into the Patriots hands and helped to ensure an Eagles loss. This goes to show the importance of the home crowd in the NFL. Need proof? Compare the role the Buffalo crowd played last week and Philly's fans this week and you begin to see what I mean. Lastly, Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb (18-46 for 186 yards & 2 INT) looked lost and was way off target on his passes. On Sunday, he looked as bad as he has ever looked in the past few years. Sure, the Patriots dominated the game but they got plenty of help along the way.
Make no mistake. This was a big win for the Patriots and Bill Belichick as there was a lot at stake in this game. Lose this game and the wheels might begin fall off the wagon. If they had gone into Philadelphia and played poorly, a full mutiny and continued "Milloy-talk" would have ensued from all of us.
Instead, the Milloy disaster is behind this team and the focus is back on the games; where it belongs.
Idle Zinger thoughts while cruising the mean streets of Whitefield, Maine, attempting to smoke a cigar, and listening to the "Sopranos" theme song:
Did anybody else find it ironic that Atlantic Falcons' owner Arthur Blank was wheeling around Michael Vick in a wheelchair before the Dallas game? It certainly shows who is boss in Atlanta. Keep in mind that Blake was the founder and CEO of the Home Depot.
Has anybody else noticed the striking resemblance between the main character in the ESPN series Playmakers and Patriots running back Kevin Faulk? From what I've seen, most NFL players think that this series is a joke and is way off base. I know that the image-conscience League office is none too pleased with ESPN for airing the series. Could there be some repercussions when the network's television deal expires in a few years?
I'm pleased to announce that the Waterboro (ME) Reporter has joined the Windham (ME) Suburban News and the Lewiston/Auburn (ME) Twin City Times in carrying my weekly column. Does anybody have the name of a good media agent? Don't worry. The lovely and talented Mrs. Rousseau will certainly have something to say about my out-of-control ego when she does her annual bye week indictment column.
Need another reason to hate the Oakland Raiders? USA Today Sports Weekly's John Czarnecki reported that after this summer's Hall of Fame ceremonies, Raiders owner Al Davis rejected Marcus Allen's handshake that was an effort to put the past behind them.
In the same publication, Howard Balzer makes an intriguing proposal to award the opening Thursday night game to the previous year's Super Bowl champion. It's got my vote.
I've never been accused of being a slave to fashion but this trend where teams show up wearing the same color pants and jerseys has to stop.
Again, I shouldn't talk; but have you seen the haircut of ESPN Monday Countdown's Michelle Tafoya? I heard she recently took first place in a Pat Benatar look-a-like contest.
Every September, the playing surface at Miami's Pro Player Stadium is a joke. Not only do players have contend with the baseball infield but one of the end zones has dirt painted over with green spray paint. Watch out for those monkey bars at the forty-yard line.
A Zinger reader wrote to add another San Diego Chargers rookie with local ties to my list from last week. Gardner, MA native and former Southern Connecticut State Defensive End Jacques Cesaire has made the team along with Maine's Stephen Cooper and Hartford's Andrew Pinnock.
Am I wrong to think that there is nobody on television better at breaking down teams and game film than ESPN's Ron Jaworski?
That's it for this week. Remember, one week at a time. I would be thrilled to hear from you. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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