August 29, 2004
Patriots Respond Like Champs
BY: Kevin Rousseau
Now that, my friends, is how a champion responds to adversity.
Don’t let the final score worry you too much. There’s no need to panic over the 20-17 “loss” to the Carolina Panthers last Saturday night. Rather, remember that the Patriots first team beat the Panthers first team 17-10 after three hard-hitting quarters. Even more importantly, remember the way the team responded to their stinker in Cincinnati the week before with a performance (except for the penalties) that we have come to expect from them.
Give the Patriots brass credit for scheduling as tough of a road game as they could have asked for in their third pre-season game. The atmosphere in Charlotte was tense and a decent simulation of a difficult regular season contest. It was indeed a worthy tune up for the opening night showdown against the Colts.
I don’t believe I am exaggerating when I write that this may have been the best pre-season game I have ever seen. Now granted, that bar is not a high one to clear. But for perhaps the first time in recent memory, I watched a pre-season game as if it was a regular season game. I got knots in my stomach, sweaty palms, and even the usual nerves when they have to convert on third down.
Obviously the Patriots’ 15 penalties for 128 yards are distressing. But such sloppiness can be corrected in the week and a half left before the opener. While not letting the Pats completely off the hook, there were indeed a number of calls by the officiating crew that were marginable at best and helped to break up the flow of the game. Even the level-handed Gil Santos labelled some of these calls “chincey” during the broadcast. The NFL, in its never ending Quixotic-quest every pre-season to call these games tight, takes the enjoyment away from us one yellow piece of cloth at a time. Yet you know, I know, and the American people know that once September roles around the games will be called just like they have been in the past.
On the plus side, the offensive line gave Tom Brady all day to through the ball against arguably the best defensive front four in the League. The line also opened up some nice holes for Corey Dillon to exploit. If the Patriots offense can win the battle in the trenches against Carolina, they should be able to do the same against a much weaker front four when it counts against the Colts.
The other thought to take away was the impressive play of the team’s two young tight ends, Daniel Graham and rookie Ben Watson as evidenced by their two touchdown receptions in the first half. Incredibly, the first-round pick Watson has only been in camp for a week and a half yet was out there holding his own with the first team offense. He looks to be a very promising prospect and could be yet another weapon for Brady in the regular season. If Watson is the real deal, it could also take some of the pressure off the team’s other young tight end Daniel Graham to be the man at tight end.
And speaking of Brady, how cool is this guy under the gun?
He makes it look so easy, so smooth, so in command. Even if he isn’t your number one fantasy league quarterback, he is far and away the one quarterback in this League right now that I want on my team for a big game. Preposterous? For all the talk, Brett Favre hasn’t won much since the Clinton administration. Peyton Manning just won his first playoff game last year. Donovan McNabb can’t get his team past the NFC Championship Game. And Michael Vick, despite his breath taking abilities, has yet to travel successfully past the wild card round.
Still think I’m smoking some of that funny stuff? Well chew on this: the only quarterbacks to win multiple Super Bowl MVP awards are Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, and Monsieur Brady. We could be on the verge of seeing the greatest football player that has ever passed through these parts get even more polished.
You know life as a Boston sports fan is good when after the Pats make it 14-3, you switch over and see the Sox take a 5-1 lead against the Tigers. If you want to say my middle name is “Last Year,” then fine, I’m guilty as charged. With the Sox getting hot and the Patriots getting their grove back last Saturday, these are once again heady times for us Boston sport fans. The times we are living through now will someday be compared to watching the Bruins of the 70s, the Celtics of the 80s and other memorable eras. Enjoy the next few months because they’re going to rock.
Idle Zinger thoughts while suddenly reaching the conclusion that I need to start watching more women’s beach volleyball:
Tackle Adrian Klemm must have some compromising pictures of Bill Belichick or something, considering how this guy just seems to always stick around.
CNNSI’s Peter King unveiled a few bonus nuggets about the HC of the NEP in his MMQB column including the nugget that former Browns owner Art Modell fired Belichick over the phone.
The Patriots come out of the tunnel at home games to the only classical music piece that may rock as hard as AC/DC: Carmina Burana by Karl Orff.
Gregg Easterbrooks’s NFL.com Tuesday Morning Quarterback column is usually worth the read. Among his gems last week: Philadelphia has run fake kicks in three consecutive season openers. The Bills have gone 43 straight game without an interception by one of their safeties. And your Patriots are riding a best-ever streak of eight straight overtime wins.
If you want to know where I get most of my information, there’s only two websites that you have to stop by every day: www.bostonsportsmediawatch.com for the local angle and the irreplaceable www.profootballtalk.com for the real skinny from around the NFL.
I have come to the conclusion that ESPN’s Sunday Prime Time recap show may be my only saving grace if I am forced by you-know-who into any Sunday afternoon baby shower duty this fall. Stop laughing. You’ve all been there before. Stay tuned as this story develops….
And even if you kept your composure the first time you watched women’s beach volleyball, I would still like to hear from you. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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