January 24, 2004
Patriots Will Win. And Here's Why.
BY: Kevin Rousseau
Two weeks between games gives a fan a lot of time to think.
Maybe too much time.
The Patriots fan may become convinced that the Patriots have been "lucky" all year long like some fans from other teams have suggested. They will think back to games like the Houston overtime win or the nail-biter in Indianapolis in November and say "Were it not for this and this, the Patriots might be sitting at home now." The fan could even look back to last Sunday's game against the Colts and remember that the Colts were one fourth-quarter drive away from tying the game. Or if one play went the wrong way for the Patriots late in the game against Cleveland, Miami (twice), or Dallas, it could have meant a loss. "Pretty soon, the inability to put teams away is going to come back to bite the Patriots right in the rear end," the fan (perhaps even you) states.
Compounding all of this doubt is the fact that this fan is most likely a follower of the Red Sox and still hasn't quite gotten over the ALCS against the Yankees. After being tossed into the Goodwill dumpster after the Super Bowl win two years ago, Calivinism (the pre-determination of your fate) is back in vogue around New England after the Sox blew it again last year. "I know the Patriots are the anti-Sox, but I just feel the other shoe is going to drop on them," says the fan. "How could the Man Upstairs subject me to such a cruel fate? What did I do to deserve this?" they ponder.
Reluctantly, I have realized the job of dissuading this fan has fallen on my shoulders.
The Patriots are not "lucky." They are the best team in the National Football League. The Colts and Titans are close. And from what I have seen, the Panthers are a good team but would have been no higher than a four seed in the AFC playoffs this year. In my columns, I like to believe that I do not subscribe to hyperbole. I'm here to tell it to you straight.
The Patriots are going to win this Super Bowl going away. Here's why:
First, experience matters. Six current Patriots-Ty Law, Tedy Bruschi, Ted Johnson, Willie McGinest, Troy Brown, and Adam Vinatieri-have played in two other Super Bowls for the Patriots. Besides the incredible high that came with winning two years ago, they still remember the pain and embarrassment that came after losing to the Packers 35-21 in Super Bowl XXXI in 1997. The core of this team is essentially the same group of players that went through the Super Bowl hype two years ago. They will know what to expect down in Houston and will know how to deal with it so that it does not become a distraction leading up to game time.
The Calvinistic fan might counter with "Sure, but the Rams were that team two years ago, having just been to the Super Bowl. And look what happened to them." True. But these Patriots' players and coaches are nowhere near as arrogant as that Rams team was. The Rams just couldn't conceive that the Patriots could beat them. Bill Belichick and his crew are most likely scaring the living daylights out of his team right now by convincing them that the Panthers are the 1985 Bears. Over-confidence hasn't been, nor will it be, a problem for this Patriots team.
All year, the Patriots defense has forced turnovers and the Patriots offense has held onto the ball. The Patriots are 2nd in the NFL with a +17 turnover ratio while the Panthers are 25th in the league with a -5 turnover ratio. If the Patriots stay true to their form, they will have more than enough opportunities to score on the Panther defense.
Also, Carolina's entire offense is predicated on running the football and chewing up the clock. However, the Patriots are ranked 4th in the NFL against the rush and gave up just 89.6 yards rushing per game. There is no reason to believe that the Patriots won't do to Carolina's Stephen Davis what it has already done this year to Ricky Williams, Edgerrin James, Fred Taylor, Eddie George, or Curtis Martin. Namely, make each of these star running backs a non-factor in their team's offense.
With the running game coming on for the Patriots over the last month, Tom Brady should have the balance he'll need to find his open receivers in the Carolina secondary. All season long, Brady has shown the ability to slide around the pocket, avoid the pass rush, and hit an open receiver. Expect more of the same against Carolina's front four. Sure, their front four are good. But do you think they are any better than the much-heralded Titans, Dolphins, Bills, or Cowboys were before they met up with the Patriots this year?
So relax, scared fan. And enjoy the end of a fantastic season.
Idle Zinger thoughts while realizing what a pantload Warren Sapp is:
If the Patriots win, they will join the Broncos, Giants, and Dolphins as two-time winners of the Super Bowl. That starts to put this franchise into some elite company.
A Zinger groupie e-mailed me to tell me about another place that out-of-town Patriots fans gather to watch their team. "Boston's" is located on A1A in Delray Beach, Florida and I guess is quite the place. E-mail me if you know of any other place that out-of-town Patriots fans gather to watch the team.
Pete Brock has snuck up on me (and many others I suspect) and become a gem of a football analyst. He is proof that you do not have to be a loud mouth to be effective. Besides, the fact that he lived in my neighborhood for a time while I was growing up shows that he has good taste.
According to Sports Illustrated's Michael Silver, Bill Belichick fired up the team the night before the AFC Championship game by holding up his Super Bowl ring and saying that championship rings have to be earned. This was in response to the Colts' Marcus Pollard's ill-advised comments stating that "they" should just hand the Colts the rings.
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 Village Soup Times (Belfast/Camden/Rockland, ME), 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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