December 14, 2003
Snow Doubt About It
BY: Kevin Rousseau
Excuse me. Yes….you the Boston sports fan. Do you have a minute? You may want to stop talking about A-Rod, Nomar, and Manny for a while and take a closer look at this Patriots team. It has the opportunity to be considered the best Patriots team of all time. To these eyes, this defense is far superior to the 2001 defense. It is suffocating and confident in its ability to shut down teams. The other good news besides the defense turning in another suffocating performance was the nice performance that the offense put forth against the upstart Jaguars.
Even though the final score won't show it, the Jaguars are not a bad football team. They dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage for the first half. Byron Leftwich throws a nice, accurate ball and Fred Taylor hardly ever went down after the first hit. Their obvious weakness is their defensive secondary but if they can address it in the offseason they will certainly have to be dealt with next year. Sensing this weakness, the Patriots and Tom Brady picked on the Jags secondary all afternoon. Brady went 22-34 for 228 yards and threw two touchdown passes. His passes were pinpoint accurate and he lead the offense to a 50% (8-16) conversion rate on third down that kept the a lot of drives moving along.
While we are discussing the Patriots' passing game, Sunday was further proof of the benefits of having a healthy Troy Brown in the lineup. He made a big 23-yard catch on a 3 and 20 inside Jacksonville territory that resulted in a first down and an eventual field goal. He also caught a touchdown in the back of the end zone that helped the Patriots pull away in the second half. And won't you feel a lot more comfortable having him back catching punts in January? Like Tom Brady, Troy Brown has "it." That is, he is a great football player first and never seems concerned with racking up his personal stats. All they both do is make plays. They may not be the first two players you would draft for your fantasy team; but then again, the last time I checked some fantasy heroes like Joe Horn or David Boston will be home watching in January.
And while I'm handing out bouquets, I'll also mention Tyrone Poole and the embattled Ken Walter. Considering that Poole was close to retiring in training camp, he is having an amazing season. His two interceptions today resulted in fourteen converted points by the offense in the 4th quarter. His consistent play has gone (up until now) relatively unnoticed by Patriots Nation. He should be considered for any type of 12th man honor this year. And punter Ken Walter was back holding for Adam Vinatieri while also punting five times for a decent 40.5 net average. If Walter can return to his pre-slump form, he will give the already stellar defense another ten yards of field position from which to operate.
This game had letdown written all over it. The emotional win over the Dolphins to win the division the week before in the snow. An upstart Jacksonville team that has a good young quarterback, a franchise running back, and excellent line play. And a "coaches decision" by Bill Belichick to bench Richard Seymour for the first quarter. But letdown, they did not. Instead they played like a savvy veteran team who was in control of the game from start to finish. Sure, everything isn't perfect. A few drops by Larry Centers, a dumb personal foul penalty by Matt Light that took them out of field goal range while only up by a touchdown in the third quarter, and a fumble in the red zone by Antowain Smith. But clearly, the positives outshined any negatives. There was no talk on Sunday about how lucky the Patriots were. Instead, the talk was and will continue to be how impressive this team has become.
Idle Zinger thoughts while realizing that I am a closet Neil Diamond fan:
I am pleased to announce that the Westbrook/Gorham (ME) American Journal will now be carrying this column. Please join me in welcoming them to the patsfans.com family
Memo to Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio: Don't forget to pack your hat and coat the next time you come to New England in December. Can't you just imagine Del Rio's mother watching the game and yelling: "Put on a coat, you're going to freeze to death, Jack!"?
Isn't all of this business about Bruce Smith breaking the all-time sack record a little silly? First of all, sack records weren't kept before 1970. This means that players like Deacon Jones essentially are non-existent in the record books. Second, Bruce Smith hasn't been a pass rushing threat since it was worth watching the Bruins.
A Miami Dolphin was flagged during last Sunday's game for "illegal touching." Who among us hasn't been there ourselves?
The Patriots had a public relations mess on their hands due to the lack of parking as a result of the snowstorm during the Miami game. One idea for these once-in-a-blue-moon occurrences: late arriving fans would be directed via the radio broadcast to park at either the MBTA commuter rail stop at Dedham Corp. Center off Rt. 128 or at Great Woods off of I-495. Both facilities are easily plowable and in little use on a weekend in the winter. From each facility, fans could be shuttled into the stadium.
Do you wonder if Buffalo Bills General Manger Tom Donahoe still thinks that the Willis McGahee first-round pick was a wise move as his team continues to be a complete disappointment?
Memo to CBS' NFL pre-game show: Can you get another shot other than Baltimore's Ray Lewis pumping up his teammates at 12:58 p.m. just before kickoff? I found it enjoyable the first eight times. But it lost its luster by the ninth time I saw it.
Sports bar question of the week: Should kickers Gary Anderson and Morten Andersen be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame after they retire? If Jan Stenarud is the litmus test for kickers being elected, then the answer is "yes."
I think it's the Rams, the Eagles and nobody else in the talent-deficient NFC. You could pick the rest of the playoff teams out of a hat.
The Titans' Frank Wycheck joined Shannon Sharpe, Kellen Winslow, and Ozzie Newsome last Sunday as the only tight ends with at least 500 receptions. I guess it's a tribute to Wycheck that he has accomplished this so quietly.
The Patriots are now 6-0 in games at Foxboro when snow has been a factor.
Until Jacksonville's garbage-time touchdown, the Patriots had not allowed a touchdown at Gillette Stadium since Oct. 5, a span of four games. The Giants, Browns, Cowboys, and Dolphins never got to the end zone. The Globe's Nick Cafardo pointed out that the last touchdown at Gillette was Steve McNair's 1-yard run with 4:40 remaining in the Patriots' 38-30 win over the Titans Oct. 5. To put this in perspective, Oct. 5 was the same day as Game 4 between the Red Sox and Oakland in the ALDS. The last time a team accomplished this was the New York Football Giants in the 1930's.
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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), the American Journal (Westbrook, ME) and the Lakes Region Suburban Weekly (Windham, ME).
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