December 28, 2003
Revenge Is Best Served Cold
BY: Kevin Rousseau
Revenge, like shrimp, is best served cold. And revenge was indeed on the menu for last Saturday, as the football gods of symmetry and revenge looked down approvingly on the Patriots by placing a 31-0 whupping on the Bills. For a Patriots fan, this had to be the most satisfying victory by the team since last year's 30-14 opening night thrashing of the Steelers. Just like that game, the Patriots were playing with a chip on their shoulder. It was as if these football gods asked for our input before drafting the destiny of Saturday's game.
The outcome was determined after just 5 minutes and 35 seconds of play. That's when Tedy Bruschi forced a Drew Bledsoe pass up for grabs that was eventually intercepted by Mike Vrabel. From there, the Patriots marched down the field; and once Bethel Johnson stretched into the end zone to make it 14-0, it was time to turn off the lights for the 2003 Buffalo Bills. Since the outcome of the game was settled so quickly, it was time for the Patriots to send a message to the Bills that it was going to be embarrassed as bad, if not worse, than the Patriots were on opening day when they lost to the Bills to ironically similar 31-0.
"Not even a field goal?" I ask.
"Nope," he says in his New Englander-like brevity.
Always listen to your father.
The Bills ended up losing 11 yards due to two penalties and a sack on Drew Bledsoe. The Patriots took the ball back as the Bills didn't even come close to converting on 4th and 21 from the New England 29. This series of downs was perhaps the perfect microcosm of this season's Patriots defense. In my twenty-five years of watching this team, I have never seen a defense so well prepared, so suffocating, and so dominant. Typically, most fans usually enjoy watching either good offense or good defense. This year's edition of the Patriots has converted me to a defensive fan first and an offensive fan second. Good defense is a thinking man's vocation. Good offense is largely built around speed. On the other hand, good defense is primarily built around out-thinking what the offense is trying to do and then reacting to it.
Besides revenge, the other positive development to come out of Saturday's game was the sudden emergence of the offense. Finally, the offense played like we thought they could. Antowain Smith was at his best as he was ran downhill between the tackles.. The offensive line played like a cohesive unit and Brady is finding three, four, or even five open receivers to throw to. For perhaps the first time all season, the Patriots' offense took the pressure off the defense early and allowed them to tee off on the opposing offense.
The national fans, players, and coaches from around the League should have looked at Saturday's game against the number two defense and said to themselves: "How in the world could we have kept Tom Brady from going to Hawaii?" Brady might be the first serious MVP candidate in the history of modern sports who doesn't make his sport's all-star team. Don Banks of SI.com said a few days ago: "My MVP vote, which I'll likely cast for Brady, will be based on more than just those benchmarks. The MVP has to be about winning, and making the difference for your team more than anyone else does for theirs. That's how you measure value, and that's where Brady's candidacy soars. Simply put, he does more with less than any other QB." Imagine Peyton Manning without Edgerrin James, Trent Green without Priest Holmes, Brett Favre without Ahman Green and you start to see the point that Mr. Banks is trying to make.
And didn't we all wonder what was going through Lawyer Milloy's mind as he ended the game with no sacks, no interceptions, and no passes defended? The 15-yard facemask penalty late in the game was out of character for Milloy and turned some of the Foxboro Faithful against their old friend. One scene captured the entire afternoon for Milloy. After the Buffalo defense recovered a Brady fumble at the New England 34 in the first quarter, Milloy motioned to Drew Bledsoe and the offense to get something going as they came onto the field. Four downs later, the Bills offense trotted off the field still scoreless. It was a rough afternoon for Milloy as he was called for a pass interference in the end zone and failed to make a touchdown-saving tackle against David Givens at the four-yard line. Perhaps, the old Milloy makes that play. Perhaps Bill Belichick knew what he was doing when he granted Milloy his release just before the season opener. And just perhaps, Milloy, a prideful man if there ever was one, wishes that he took that pay cut and stayed in New England.
Idle Zinger thoughts while wishing I could hang out with Wanda Sykes from HBO's Inside the NFL(the funniest woman on television, period):
Have you noticed the sudden influx of brand new Bengals hats being worn around town? Yet another case of bandwagon jumping. On the other hand, I saw an otherwise well-adjusted, middle-aged man wearing an Arizona Cardinals hat the other day. If you see him, please, cut this man a break and shake his hand for being a loyal fan.
Speaking of the Cardinals…..I'm sitting at home on Christmas night watching the above-mentioned Inside the NFL with my brother. I casually mention that I think the Cardinals' uniforms could use some "spiffing up. Maybe some outlining around their numbers or something." My brother counters with "What is this? Queer Eye For The NFL Guy?"
Given his penchant for wearing hooded over-sized sweatshirts, apparently Patriots coach Bill Belichick will try out for the part of a Jedi Knight in the upcoming Star Wars movie during the offseason.
Why does MVP voting have to be done before any of the playoffs take place?
During halftime of Patriots' home games, the team offers up a former "Patriot great" to meet and sign autographs for fans underneath the (finished?) lighthouse in the north end zone. The offering for the Jacksonville game was the immortal Derwin Williams. Mr. Williams played in 42 games for the team between 1985 and 1987 and started one game. Apparently, Hart Lee Dykes was busy.
I received WFAN's Chris "Mad Dog" Russo's new book "The 100 Greatest Sports Arguments of All Time" as a gift from the lovely and talented Mrs. Rousseau. As a self-appointed expert on bathroom reading, I will highly recommend it to you. Among the nuggets uncovered so far is that it costs the networks about $50,000 every time they set up and use the imaginary yellow first down marker during a telecast.
The Knute Rockne Weekly Quote of Inspiration comes courtesy of Vikings Head Coach Mike Tice who addressed his team after their impressive win against the Chiefs a week ago by saying: "We don't finish things until we finish things."
Why do I think that Bills General Manager Tom Donahoe is getting a free pass for the disaster of a season that his team is having?
Suddenly, last year's 9-7 season by the Patriots doesn't look so bad if you compare it to the Buccaneers campaign this season. The Bucs (on paper, anyways) had a much better team to defend their Super Bowl title with this year than the Patriots did last year.
That's it for this week. Feel free to drop me a line. 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), the American Journal (Westbrook/Gorham, ME), the Current (Scarborough/Cape Elizabeth, ME and the Lakes Region Suburban Weekly(Windham, ME).
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