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November 14, 2003
Game Lacks The Old Tuna Flavor
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net

FOXBOROUGH -- The only reason this Sunday's game between the Patriots and the Cowboys is getting the press it's gotten is because the members of the media insist that it be so.

Patriots/Cowboys
Close-Up
Where: Gillette Stadium
Foxborough, Mass.
When: Sunday 11/16/03
8:30 PM EST
Television: ESPN
WCVB Channel 5 in Boston
DSS: DirecTV
Channel 206, 931
2003 Team Records: Patriots 7-2
Cowboys 7-2
Latest Line: Patriots by 4
I suppose you could be accused of journalistic delinquency if you totally ignored the "Battle of the Bills" angle and concentrated solely upon another run of the mill football game. You'd be correct if you did ignore it, but it simply isn't sexy reporting. The thinking people still want more on the matchups and the injury reports, while the sensationalists who dig Jim Rome, Deion Sanders and Kid Rock only want to hear what the coaches said about each other.

There are only three people who have an emotional stake in this game, and two of them play/coach for the visitors. Unlike the Patriots/Jets battles in the wake of Super Bowl XXXI, where each team was practically traded for the other along the way, the bulk of the combatants Sunday night at Gillette Stadium really don't know each other, and don't want to do anything else except win the game because they want to be 8-2 instead of 7-3.

We'll spare you the history of Bills Parcells and Belichick, since all of you know that Parcells' first name is Duane, Dallas Parcells is Mrs. Scott Pioli, and Parcells won two Super Bowls with Belichick as his defensive coordinator. We'll also spare you the messy breakup of the two former friends after the 1999 season.

And thankfully, we'll also spare you Terry Glenn and her opinion of New England.

When the Soviet Union took on Team USA in the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, Al Michaels of ABC had a great word to describe things in general: manifestly. Michaels introduced the political situation between the two countries, then said, "Manifestly…it is a hockey game!" Well, on Sunday night, manifestly…it is a football game which both teams desperately want to win, and for reasons that have nothing to do whatsoever with who is coaching the Dallas Cowboys.

Karen Guregian of the Herald was on the mark earlier this week when she did a piece on why this game won't be like the old Tuna Bowls. The biggest factor is that Parcells doesn't have a quarterback into whose head he can crawl like he had last week at Texas Stadium. Parcells owns Drew Bledsoe like Jerry Jones owns that franchise. But Parcells has no connection with Tom Brady, and never will. Brady has played only for Belichick. Besides, if Brady can have such inner peace so as to take a three-hour nap on the afternoon of Super Bowl XXXVI, it is certain that Parcells will have zero effect on the Patriot quarterback.

That said, here are the major factors which will decide this game more than any hype will.

The "Battle of the Bills" actually does have merit in one area. As mentioned in this article earlier this week, Parcells never won a Super Bowl without Belichick at his side in some way. Parcells also has never even been to a Big Show without The Man Formerly Known As Little Bill. But Belichick did win a Vince without Parcells, and he did so with he himself as the head man. Hype will be hype, but it does engender a great matchup, as well as possibly revealing an important difference between the two men.

Howie Long of Fox Sports talked after Super Bowl XXXVI of how much better Belichick was than Mike Martz in terms of game management. Long said that Belichick "won on points, and won big on points". Parcells' strength is in player motivation, driving a player to play beyond his limits, as well as to play in Parcells' vision of what a football player should be. But Parcells has never really been renowned for his game management skills, possibly because either his player management skills overshadow this area, or Belichick helped keep Parcells insulated from any such criticism when the two men worked together.

If the game does indeed come down to game management, Parcells will be hard pressed to match wits with Belichick, who is arguably the best coach in the league at making adjustments and confusing an offense. On the other hand, this would be a terrific opportunity for Parcells to show everyone that he is also a game master as well as a player master. It will bear close watching, and who wins this battle could very well win the game.

But as they say, the players play the game, not the coaches. The game figures to be a defensive struggle, as the Patriots' scheming and hard hitting will be pitted against the Cowboys' speed. A subheading under game management might be which coach figures out how to deal with the other team's defense better than the other.

The Patriots will need a big game from Antowain Smith. They will need to employ his straight-ahead style, and stay away from the tosses and end runs which they like to run with Kevin Faulk. Faulk might be better utilized this week in screen patterns and spelling Smith here and there. Parcells loves ball-control offense, and Belichick may want to give his former mentor a dose of his own medicine.

If Ted Washington does make it back, as is anticipated, and ditto for Richard Seymour, the Cowboys will have a hard time in establishing the run themselves. Troy Hambrick scares nobody, but Adrian Murrell, a former Cardinal and a former Jet, showed a spark last week against Buffalo. Still, if Washington is reasonably healthy, it will help the Patriots greatly, and force Quincy Carter into having to beat the Patriots by himself.

Which brings us to her, and will she have a great night against her former mates.

You might think Ty Law will draw Glenn, but he likely could draw Joey Galloway instead, and Tyrone Poole or Asante Samuel would then cover Glenn. One scenario which might pan out is that Law and Poole give a 5-7 yard cushion and allow Glenn and Galloway to make short catches without giving up the deep ball, and tighten up inside their own 30. If Law and Poole play man-to-man, they risk getting burned on deep throws, which would be detrimental in a game that might be dominated by field goals. Everyone will want to see Law smack Glenn around, but the Patriots will likely show a great deal of composure and do what they have to do to win the game versus punishing Glenn.

Both teams need to keep in mind that it is an eighth win that is at stake and not coaching pride. The players have to play for themselves and win for themselves, not for their coaches. Either team which places their coach ahead of their team damages their chances to win greatly.

Both teams figure to be well prepared. There should be very little stupid football out there Sunday night. Dallas will be disciplined, New England will be intelligent. Never mind all the hype, it should be one darned good football game.

The Patriots won the psyche job battle by breaking out silver jerseys and forcing the Cowboys to have to wear their blue jerseys, which they historically have hated to wear. Patriot Nation hopes that the Cowboys' mood will be as blue as their jerseys after the game is over.

But these are the Cowboys, and not the Jets. This is no Tuna Bowl.

If anything, let's forget Parcells and invoke Jimmy Johnson. How ‘bout them Patriots.


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