September 21, 2003
What Kind of Win Is This?
BY: Kevin Rousseau
At this rate, if this pattern of injuries to Patriots defensive starters continues, Head Coach Bill Belichick might be signing Patriots Hall of Famer Mike Haynes by week eight. Let's see. Lawyer Milloy gets released before week one. Ted Johnson breaks his foot in Buffalo. Rosevelt Colvin breaks his hip and is gone for the season last week. And now, we have injuries to Ted Washington, Mike Vrabel, and Ty Law to deal with. Obviously, the Colvin injury is the most devastating out of all of these. And his absence was very evident during the 23-16 victory against the New York Jets on Sunday. Overall, the Patriots defense played well enough to win and made up for a mediocre game by quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots offense. Against a better team, the outcome on Sunday might have been different.
The one silver lining about all of these injuries is that we are going to find out real quickly if all of the young prospects can contribute. Rookie center Dan Koppen started and played the whole game on the offensive line along with 3rd year lineman Tom Ashworth. Bethel Johnson showed his blazing speed on a kickoff return. But perhaps most encouraging was the continued stellar play of rookie defensive backs Eugene Wilson and Asante Samuel on Sunday. Especially Samuel. Samuel perhaps was the difference for the Patriots on a day when they clearly were not playing as well as they should. His interception and return for a touchdown in the 4th quarter was the turning point in the game and provided enough of a cushion for the Patriots as they hanged on for the win.
The Patriots came out determined to establish the run and open up the offense for Tom Brady. Against the Jets, they may have run the ball as well and as consistently as they have in quite some time. The total amount of rushing yards was impressive (36 carries for 147 yards) but more importantly, the Patriots commitment to the run helped to open up play action passes and plays downfield. If the Patriots can continue to run like they did on Sunday, the combination of Kevin Faulk and Antowain Smith might be enough to give them the running game they so desperately are going to need to have any success this year. The Patriots thinking is that Faulk's slashing and jiving will compliment Smith's straight ahead, pounding style and keep opposing defenses off balance.
On the down side, the Patriots problems with the pass rush on both sides of the ball were in plain view against the Jets. The defense was unable to get much of a pass rush on the aging and lead-footed Vinny Testaverde. Testaverde was given all day to make his throws. If they can't develop a pass rush against their opponents, it's not going to matter how good Samuel and Wilson are; because they are going to get torched if they have to cover guys for four or five seconds. On the other side of the ball, Brady was hurried all day long and was dodging Jets pass rushers coming at him from all angles.
Like last year, the Patriots shot themselves in the foot all day long with penalty after penalty. A false start on a critical 3rd and 4 in the fourth quarter. A Rodney Harrison unnecessary roughness penalty. An offside penalty on a kickoff. Take your pick. Good teams don't make mistakes like this and live to tell about it.
After three games, the Patriots and their fans have no idea what kind of team they have on their hands. Will they get dominated against the high-end teams of the League like the Bills? Will they be the ferocious team that went into Philly and crushed the Eagles? Or will they just squeak by the mediocre teams like the Jets? As it stands right now, I would choose scenario number three and an 8-8 or 9-7 record. Then again, it's only September and it always amazes me how every year the experts and regular fans like myself put so much stock into what happens in September. Nonetheless, the bottom line is that as it stands now the 2003 Patriots are 2-1 and the Jets are 0-3. And right now, two wins and one loss looks pretty good after the 31-0 disaster on opening day in Buffalo.
Idle Zinger thoughts while wondering if Byung Hyun Kim is Korean for "high wire act":
I can't get enough of these sky cams that we are seeing employed by the television networks. This may be the best technological innovation that we've seen since the invention of the yellow first down marker. Either that or low-fat Pringles. Close call.
The Patriots have addressed the issue of a lack of restrooms for the male gender by adding more capacity. While designing Gillette Stadium, the Patriots grossly underestimated the ability of their average male fan to consume liquid libations before and during a game. It gives new meaning to a t-shirt I came across a few years ago: "Foxboro-A drinking town with a football problem."
Miami was awarded the 2007 Super Bowl this week. The site of the 2008 Super Bowl will be decided next month at an owner's meeting. The four finalists are New York, Washington D.C., Tampa, and Phoenix. My vote goes to Phoenix. They will have a new stadium to showcase, it's a warm climate, and a Super Bowl could help bring some much-needed prestige to the current booby prize franchise of the NFL, the Arizona Cardinals.
As I have stated before, Commissioner Paul Taglibue's idea of bringing a Super Bowl to either New York or Washington as some sort of payback for the September 11th attacks seven years after the fact is misguided.
Fans of the Barcelona Dragons can breath a little easier. Despite its better judgment, NFL owners this week voted 24-8 to continue NFL Europe. I understand the need to push the game to worldwide markets but at what cost? Every time I have tuned in to a game, the stands are half full. A great idea that has been pushed by www.profootballtalk.com is the idea of a true in-season minor league system in non-NFL cities.
This website also broke a story that www.nfl.com writer Pat Kirwan might have gotten himself into a little bit of a jam. Apparently, he was advising Carson Palmer's people to sign with agent David Dunn in the days leading up to the draft. He seemed to have forgot to tell anybody at the League office, received a commission for his service, all the while singing Palmer's praises in his pre-draft columns. This story wouldn't have come out if it hadn't been part of Dunn's bankruptcy proceedings.
Looking for a good fan website to scout the Redskins for this week? Check out www.thehogs.net
Last week, the St. Louis Rams scored on the opening possession of overtime and beat the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers never had a possession in overtime. In my view, each team should get at least one offensive possession in overtime.
With the season-ending injury to Patriots linebacker Rosevelt Colvin, could the re-signing of Maugaula Tuitele be right around the corner? According to the Patriots media guide, Tuitele has been signed and released nine times by the Patriots since 2000.
Is it me or is the quality of open-field tackling just not as good as it used to be?
Over the offseason, the League changed the rules regarding an onside kick. With less than five minutes to go in the game, the team kicking off does not get to re-kick if the ball travels less than ten yards. I never understood why a team got chance after chance to convert an onside kick after it screwed it up.
That's it for this week. Hold your breath as we await this week's injury report. I would be thrilled to hear from you. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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