October 17, 2004
Patriots Just Make The Plays
BY: Kevin Rousseau
How can you be a fan of both the Red Sox and Patriots yet feel completely opposite about your team’s chances late in a game?
As a Red Sox fan, you are just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Every year, you think that Lucy is really going to hold the football down instead of always yanking it away at the last minute. Yet as a Patriots fan, your heart might have been racing a little fast there in the fourth quarter against the Seahawks; but deep down, you knew that the Patriots were going to pull it out, didn’t you?
If Seattle is indeed one of the top four teams in the NFL right now-and there is no reason to believe they aren’t after Sunday-then the Patriots have acquitted themselves nicely so far this season with home wins against the Colts and Seahawks. And their modus operandi continues to be that they just make those three or four big plays late in a game that determine just who wins.
This week’s Exhibit A in this historic study of work is Tom Brady’s 3rd down, 48-yard completion to Bethel Johnson that sealed the game. Johnson-who was a coach’s scratch the week before-started the decisive drive by taking his first solid kick return of the day to the Patriots 37 yard-line. Johnson’s late game heroics proved once again that this is a team that never calls on just one or two guys to win the game. It’s always a new hero with this crew, isn’t it?
But it’s not just Johnson who gets a gold star on that play. Brady did what he always does when the game is on the line. And don’t forget the offensive line and tight ends that gave Brady the time he needed to heave the ball downfield.
Yet it is the newest Patriot on offense that is the difference this year. A few plays after Johnson’s diving catch, it was Corey Dillon who blasted his way into the end zone to give the Patriots the game-clinching ten point lead. Like all the great backs, Dillon makes it look easy. He’s the one punishing defenders when they come up to tackle him. And then after he has handed out the punishment, he twists and bounces forward for an extra yard or two. The big aspect of his game that does not show up in the stat sheet is when Dillon takes a lot of runs that may normally go for negative yardage and turns them into a gain of one or two. Dillon just may be joining Brady and Adam Vinatieri as the only truly irreplaceable parts on this year’s squad.
But to look just to that final drive by the Patriots as the only factor that decided the game would be giving short shrift to perhaps an even more telling trend. This Patriots team, like (Friends, it pains me to write these words) the Yankees, take advantage of the other team's miscues and makes you pay. The Pats put a quick ten points on the board in the first quarter after two interceptions. So far this season, they lead the League with 48 points off of takeaways through only five games. The mark of a champion, c’est vrai?
Despite winning the game, and in the process tying the NFL’s all-time consecutive, regular season win record, that Seattle team showed us that the gap between the Patriots and the rest of the League just may not be as wide as many of us may hope. Living in New England, we never see this Seahawk team. They could be playing their home games in Tokyo for all we know.
Yet every year, I take a shot at them as they are the fashionable pre-season pick to bust out. And every year, they don’t. That is, until this year. Their halftime adjustments on both offense and defense were superior to those made by the Patriots. After the break, their defense gave their offense the ability to get back in the game. Matt Hasselbeck (Pop Warner teammate of my brother) showed me that he is a top-ten quarterback that is as adept as Brady at avoiding oncoming pass rushers. And with weapons like Koren Robinson, Shaun Alexander and Darrell Jackson, this offense is poised to perhaps represent the NFC in Jacksonville against the Patriots a few months from now.
The bottom line to Sunday’s victory is that the Patriots answered the bell against the biggest threat to their undefeated season by beating the Seahawks. You could see the difference in the team’s effort when you compared it to their lackadaisical performance a week before against the Dolphins. Let’s just hope that they don’t play down to their competition as the season rolls along.
Idle Zinger thoughts while wanting to vomit every time I see Derek Jeter on the top step of the dugout as he claps and smirks:
Here is my annual plea for the Chargers to permanently change their uniforms to the Lance Alworth, AFL-style, powder blue uniforms.
In his post-game press conference, Bill Belichick called that TV-monitor-that-the-ref-uses a “peep box.” Try not to raise a smirk of your own on that one.
Did the zone blitz go out with the Macarena?
Could you image a Patriots receiver getting away with sending bottles of Pepto Bismol to Jet defensive backs like the Bengals’ Chad Johnson did to the Browns last week. Incidentally, the Browns crushed Johnson’s Bengals 34-17 on Sunday.
A friend is trying to determine whether Bethel Johnson is “jersey worthy.” That is, forking out $59.95 for a player that you are not quite sure will be around for a while.
Various media outlets are reporting that the cable channel Spike TV is making a pitch to the NFL for a late-season, eight game Thursday night package as part of the new television deal.
The gang at Profootballtalk.com reported over the weekend that draft guru Mel Kiper, Jr’s contract with ESPN has expired and a new contract has yet to be signed.
Did you know that tall placekickers, on average, will put the ball in the end zone more reliably than short placekickers? This is because the longer legs of the taller kicker have a larger amount of inertia and will thus give the kicked ball a larger launch speed. These and other quirky rule of thumbs can be discovered in the new book “Football Physics” by Timothy Gay. Incidentally, the foreword for the book is written by Gay’s former Phillips Academy classmate-none other than Bill Belichick.
I would be happy to hear from you. Especially, if you can figure out a way to get Hideki Matsui to not drive in runs against the Sox. I can be reached at email@example.com.
Don’t forget to check me out at 8:20 on Friday 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 Twin City Times (Lewiston/Auburn, ME), the American Journal (Westbrook, ME), the Current (Scarborough/Cape Elizabeth/South Portland, ME), and the Lakes Region Suburban Weekly (Windham, ME).
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