September 10, 2004
Patriots Barely Escape
BY: Kevin Rousseau
Now that, my friends, is entertainment.
If the NFL wanted to kick off the 2004 season in fashion, it succeeded both on and off the field Thursday night. The pre-game show was Super Bowl-caliber. Yet it was quickly forgotten when nine o’clock rolled around and the Patriots and Colts hooked up in a game that for once actually lived up to the hype.
Like big play defense? Well, you saw it with this Patriots defense and their ability to once again to make the timely plays when they had to. Make no mistake. Three Colt turnovers in the red zone were the difference in this one. Want to see the two best quarterbacks in the League duke it out and make plays that most of their counterparts can only dream of making? Boy, you sure got that and then some. Or if déjà vu is your thing, what about Willie McGinest making another game-saving tackle against the Colts?
Any of these topics would be worthy of a column by themselves. This was the type of game that comes around every now and then and reminds you why this is the greatest spectator sport in the world. Usually after a Patriots win, the crowd files out of Gillette Stadium yelling and screaming their heads off. Not on Thursday night. Their Patriots were exposed as vulnerable and there was a sense amongst the crowd that the team was fortunate to escape with the 27-24 win.
Not lucky; Fortunate. There’s a difference.
If you want to try to hang the “Patriots were lucky to win” routine on me, save your time. I have a truckload of columns from last year addressing this silly topic. The fact is, the Patriots made more plays than the Colts in order to win this game. Granted, it wasn’t pretty and there is a lot to be concerned about (i.e. the Colts running the ball right up the gut and the Colts shredding through the Patriots secondary like cheese). But that shouldn’t take away from all of the great plays that the team converted to put themselves in a position to win this game at the end.
So I’ll choose to spend the rest of my eight hundred words talking about two topics that I found most intriguing: The Colts’ kicker Mike Vanderjagt honking a game-tying field goal at the end or regulation and the emergence of a game-breaking Patriots running game.
Heading into the game, Vanderjagt was 42 for 42 in field goal opportunities. He was also 42 for 42 in being cocky and self-serving with his dancing antics, head bobs, and “money in the bank” jestures to, among others, the Foxboro faithful. As NFL.com’s Gregg Easterbrook would say, the football gods chortled as Vanderjagt missed his game-tying kick. All having a long streak like that one ensures is that sooner or later, he was going to shank one. And the most confident, arrogant, cocky kicker in the League picked the worst possible moment to do so. Not during the third quarter of a blowout against San Diego or in a sterile dome environment. Nope. Mr. Money-in-the-bank pushed one right during one of the biggest kicks of his life to end the streak. Somehow, I hope this field goal puts a little humility in Vanderjagt. I won’t hold my breath.
The other thing to take away from this game is the emergence of running back Corey Dillon as the real deal. I was impressed with the way that he cut back, made tacklers miss, and often gained big yardage. Not since the days of Curtis Martin have we had a legitimate game-breaking running back to call our own in these parts. It’s been so long that we’ve forgotten what one looks like. And this is meant as no disrespect to the departed Antowain Smith. He was a very serviceable back and did what was asked of him during two Super Bowl runs. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that.
But Dillon makes you hold your breath. He makes you believe that there is no reason the Patriots can’t get 5 yards on a first-down run. And he also makes you believe that he can chew up valuable clock time in the second half when the Patriots have a lead. And once Kevin Faulk returns, Dillon should be even more dangerous as he will be able to take a breather as Faulk does his thing on third downs with screens and draws.
So if you are a Patriot fan, don’t gloat over this victory. Savor it. Enjoy it. And be grateful for it. But just remember that Colts’ head coach Tony Dungy’s wife is in a hospital right now with a collapsed lung and this game could have just as easily turned out the other way. Take these two facts along with the realization that this is the first game of a long, arduous campaign and you will admirably keep this win in perspective.
Idle Zinger thoughts while thinking that finding the new Benny Hill DVD collection at Sam’s Club was an incredible stroke of good fortune (The little, old, bald guy was my favorite):
It works! Up until Thursday’s game, the Gillette Stadium lighthouse looked like a half-finished Kevin Rousseau home renovation special. But it was lit up in a variety of ways during the game and finally added a signature touch to the stadium.
How cool was it when the Boston Pops did the Monday Night Football theme? Arthur Fiedler is probably rolling over in his grave. Come to think of it, he may already have if he’s been watching his descendent, Miami quarterback Jay Fiedler, from time to time.
I’ve reached the conclusion that there are worse ways to start your morning than waking up and seeing NESN’s easy-on-the-eyes Jayme Parker tell you about another Red Sox victory.
Colts owner Jim Irsay was quoted in the Indianapolis Star earlier this week as saying that a new domed stadium that the city would build for his team would most likely lead to Indianapolis hosting a future Super Bowl. Please, listen and repeat after me: Rotate between San Diego, Tampa, New Orleans and Miami. That’s it. No more of this nonsense. This cold weather dome Super Bowl stuff is for the birds.
You probably have noticed this but the Boston Globe’s Patriot beat writer Michael Smith just recently left the Globe for ESPN. In a fact that maybe only interesting to me, earlier this week on ESPN’s website, Smith had the Colts winning the AFC Championship over the Patriots. His clear, concise writing will be missed in these parts.
And finally, can you believe that the folks at 620 am WZON in Bangor, Maine are going to have me on again this year to talk about all things Patriots with Dale and Clem in the morning? Neither can I. You can listen every Friday morning at 7:30 at www.zoneradio.com.
And even if you didn’t spend hours of your formative years watching Benny Hill chase beautiful women around hospital grounds in double time and to that catchy theme song, I would still like to hear from you. I can be reached at Kevin@PatsFans.com
Site-specific editorial/photos Copyright 2001-2004 PatsFans.com. This website is an unofficial and independently operated source of news and information not affiliated with any school, team, or league.