August 22, 2004
Patriots Get A Wake Up Call
BY: Kevin Rousseau
Well….None of us expected this, now did we?
Perhaps the Patriots were reading all of the praise that has been heaped upon them (present company included). Perhaps they thought that they learned their lesson about defending a championship in 2002. And perhaps it’s been so long since the Patriots took a genuine whopping like they did last Saturday night against the Bengals, that we may have forgotten how to be critical about our local eleven.
It’s been stated before and will be echoed throughout Patriots Nation this week that when you are the Super Bowl Champion, everyone brings their best against you. Exhibit A was this 31-3 stinker. Let’s hope it’s a wake up call for the team. Unfortunately, it won’t get any easier for the Pats as they are slated to take on the Carolina Panthers this Saturday night in a nationally televised game. With the Panthers looking for some semblance of revenge, hopefully the Patriots will get scared straight this week.
“We didn’t coach well. We didn’t play well. We got totally outclassed…The team wasn’t ready to play,” said a sullen Coach Bill Belichick afterwards. I suppose we should have seen the warning signs coming before the game. For starters, Ty Law once again created a distraction when he sat out practice for a few days after not receiving his $107,000 workout bonus from the team. Belichick had the team running laps for being sloppy in practice. Then he expressed his displeasure after looking at the film from the Eagles game and said the team didn’t play any better than a “junior high team.” At the time, I took this as Belichick trying to create something out of nothing in order to get his team to re-focus. If he were honest with us (and the Providence Journal’s Tom Curran who asked him about this in the post-game press conference), he would tell us that he saw this whooping coming a mile away.
After taking in the game, it occurred to these eyes, that in some ways, this game couldn’t have turned out any better for the Patriots.
Let me explain.
First, none of the starters appeared to suffer any injuries. Grasping for straws, you say? Well, you would be really depressed right now if Matt Light or Tedy Bruschi were done for the season, wouldn’t you? And while I’m on the subject, the season flashed before me when Tom Brady got blindsided by Duane Clemons in the second quarter. Brady and Adam Vinatieri are the only irreplaceable players on this team.
This embarassment will give Belichick and his staff all the ammunition that they will need to refocus the team during practice and meetings this week. The offensive line did their best impression of matadors while protecting Tom Brady. Then the first team defense played as if the game started at 8:30 p.m. instead of 7:30 p.m. As a rightful punishment, they were forced to play a good part of the second half. And, finally, the backup quarterback question has effectively been answered.
Rohan Davey is not the answer as the backup to Tom Brady. He has not shown anything that would lead us to believe that he can lead the team in the case of the unthinkable; namely Brady going down. In two pre-season games against second-string defenses, he has had difficulty with touch passes, sensing pocket pressure, and hitting receivers in stride. The Patriots ask their quarterbacks not to take chances and make safe, efficient plays. Up to this point, Davey has not demonstrated that he can do any of that effectively. It now appears that the soon-to-be healthy veteran Jim Miller will be the number two quarterback when the season starts.
I’ve been scared straight, as well I suppose. I’ve become acclimated to the Patriots generally controlling the flow of a game and having their way. After the Bengals went up 21-0 early in the second quarter, I found myself asking: “Could this team, like 2002, not be as good as advertised?”
I doubt it. This team is deeper in many areas including the secondary, running back, punting and tight end. And I do believe that the team’s veterans learned from the experience. But it doesn’t mean they are going to go undefeated and pick up just where they left off last year. At least this wake up call happened in the pre-season and not on opening night against the Colts.
Keep in mind that this happened in the second pre-season game and that there is no need to jump off your local bridge. Remember, the last time the Patriots got lit up like this, it was on opening day last year against the Bills to the tune of 31-0. And the last time I checked, last year turned out okay.
Idle Zinger thoughts while getting a cold, hard slap of reality as I walked into “Babies ‘R Us” for the first time:
I need more Olympic Badminton coverage and less trampoline coverage. As an aside, I was unaware that you are allowed to play the game without a beer and/or hot dog in your non-racket hand. I have immediately begun my training regimen for the 2008 games by whipping my ten-year old neighbor.
Like clockwork, the Seattle Seahawks have once again become the sexy pick to go to the Super Bowl this year.
Before you start acting like a tough guy, prove it to me in the regular season, Kellen Winslow, Jr.
Did you know that the Buffalo Bills have had one winning road record in the last ten years?
Former Patriot wide receiver and current Packer Shockmain Davis is done for the year with a leg injury.
I’m starting to believe that there is indeed a vast, right-wing conspiracy against the Patriots from the NFL (the No Fun League). Commissioner Paul Tagliabue issued a mandate last week that all teams will have to be specific about listing player injuries during the season. The League is even threatening to look at random practice tape to see if teams are telling the truth. Are you familiar with any teams that have used terms like “his leg just tightened up?” What the League won’t tell you of course is that this has nothing to do with competitive fairness and everything to do with making sure bettors have decent information with which to wage on games.
While on the subject, Saturday night’s game should convince you once and for all that betting on pre-season football is the equivalent of putting money in a blender and hitting puree.
And even if you kept your composure the first time that you found out you needed a diaper warmer, I would still like to hear from you. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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