November 23, 2003
Stats Don't Tell The Story
BY: Kevin Rousseau
If you ever needed any justification to stop betting your lunch money on football games, Sunday's 23-20 overtime victory in Houston should be more than enough for you. How can you explain this one? You could say that good teams like the Patriots find a way to win when they obviously didn't have their best stuff. Or perhaps the Patriots won because the Texans gave them chance after chance to win the game and they finally seized on one of them.
Let's get the stats out of the way first. The Patriots lead the time of possession 43:50-30:29. They had 29 first downs to the Texans 11. And they had 472 net yards while the Texans had only 169. You know what they say about statistics, don't you? There are lies, damn lies, and statistics. And this was the game to prove it.
But while we're talking stats, the two alarming ones that should stand out if you are forced to explain this game to a friend from the Czech Republic is that the Pats were one for six in the red zone and gave up three (and it should have been four) turnovers on the road. If the Patriots are going to be a serious Super Bowl contender, they are going to have to be more efficient in the red zone and keep turnovers on the road to a minimum. Don't think this is a problem? They have had two turnovers at home and 14 on the road. This is a recipe for disaster and the Patriots have been fortunate that they've been playing mediocre teams. We'll find out on Sunday if these lingering issues come home to roost when they face a very good Colts team.
And while we're creating a shopping list of issues that must be addressed for the playoff run, how about the season-long lackluster special teams play? On Sunday, the Patriots gave up a blocked punt, a missed field goal, a blocked field goal, and a 31-yard punt in overtime while punting from their own four-yard line. Again, you have to wonder when (or if) this stuff is going to catch up with them.
I'm sure I'll be accused in some circles of worrying about style points. After all, the Patriots are an amazing nine and two for the first time in their 44-year history. And there were a lot of positives to take out of this hairy victory. Tom Brady threw for 368 yards and should be considered one of the best come-from-behind quarterbacks today. Didn't you just sense that somehow he was going to put his two earlier interceptions behind him and march the Patriots down the field to first tie the game and then win it in overtime? This guy might not be a fantasy league dream like Mike Vick or Aaron Brooks but all he is a darn good football player, a leader, and a potential future Hall of Famer because of it.
Due to the injuries to Troy Brown and David Givens, if the Patriots were going to have any chance to win this game, they had to have big games from Bethel Johnson, Deion Branch, and Kevin Faulk. And they got them. Especially from Faulk (108 yards receiving, 80 yards rushing). Like Brady, he's not a statistical superstar; just a darn good football player. And the Patriots are filled with a lot of guys like the both of them.
And speaking of good, old-fashioned football players, the defense is full of them. Not many superstars (Richard Seymour is close-but not there yet); just players that know their roles and are committed to winning. If this defense continues to play like it has the last few months, this unit will have to be considered the best Patriots defense of all time. Sure it was the Texans, but anytime you can hold a team to 93 yards passing and 89 yards rushing, you're doing something right. And the good news is that these types of performances are becoming the norm rather than the exception.
No team is perfect these days and nor should we expect the Patriots to be every week. Perhaps we've become spoiled by all of this team's wins over the last ten years. Like the Celtics of yesteryear, we now expect the Patriots to win every time they step onto the field. But turnovers on the road, bad special teams play, and red-zone in-efficiency is not a recipe for success in January. Clutch quarterback play, playmakers like Faulk, and a very good defense might just disguise these issues long enough to punch a return ticket to Houston for February 1, 2004.
Idle Zinger thoughts while wishing athletes (like Keyshawn) wouldn't talk about themselves in the third person. Kevin hates that.
Besides Peter King and the NFL Films footage, another good reason to watch HBO's Inside the NFL is the addition of one of my favorite comedians-Wanda Sykes.
Anybody else gun shy about plunking down $69.95 for a NFL replica game jersey when you have no idea how long these guys are going to stick around? As an aside, drop me a line if you want a great deal on a Lawyer Milloy jersey.
This may be a recycled Zinger, but the chemistry that Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon have on ESPN's Pardon the Interruption just cannot be matched. The best comparison that I can make is that they are like an old married couple who constantly bickers at each other.
Can you believe all of these teams running around with only two active quarterbacks on their rosters? The Redskins and the Broncos got bit by this earlier this year, and the Bills are tempting fate with only Drew Bledsoe and Alex Van Pelt on the active roster. Seems like a big price to pay for a third tight end or an extra special teamer.
Usually, Wednesdays are a slow football news day. But the Boston Herald's Michael Felger's Patriots Insider column is becoming a must read. He had arguably the best story about the Bill vs. Bill match up in his Insider column two Wednesday's ago.
Looking for Gregg Easterbrook's "Tuesday Morning Quarterback" column on ESPN.com's Page Two? I'm still trying to find out what happened, but he is no longer there. Fortunately, his column-in-exile has landed on www.footballoutsiders.com, an independent site like patsfans.com. The local angle to this story is that the guys who run this site are just about all from New England. Give it a look.
In case you missed it, Super Bowl hero J.R. Redmond has signed on with the Raiders.
That's it for another week. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don't forget to check me out at 8:20 on Monday mornings on Bangor, Maine's sports radio leader, WZON 620 "The Zone." You can listen over the internet at www.zoneradio.com This column also appears in the Waterboro (ME) Reporter, the Maine Standard Times (Lewiston/Auburn, ME), and the Lakes Region Suburban Weekly(Windham, ME).
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