November 07, 2004
Patriots' Team Effort The Difference
BY: Kevin Rousseau
It is my distinct pleasure to bring you this column.
I haven’t been this excited about a Patriots victory since the opening night win against the Colts. Forget all of those record-setting victories. They’re nice and are certainly worthy of the Patriots marketing gurus putting together a t-shirt and DVD campaign. But when the story of this season is written, Sunday’s 40-22 victory over the Rams will be equally, if not even more, important than the streak.
After last week’s disappointing loss to the Steelers, it became fashionable in many national circles to think the Patriots were vulnerable. They are toast against the Rams and their speedy receivers, right? Well, I’m pleased to write that reports of the Patriots’ demise have been greatly overstated. They won on Sunday because they played as a team with all 45 players committing to their role - and in many cases much more - while playing as a cohesive unit.
More on why the Patriots won later; but I can’t go any further without a quick piece of advice.
Specifically, if business or pleasure takes you to St. Louis in the next few months, check the license plate on your rental car before you leave the airport to make sure that it doesn’t have a Massachusetts license plate. You might get the same treatment Clark W. Griswold got when he got lost in St. Louis during “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” Trust me, you don’t want to have to explain the loss of your hubcaps and the spray paint on the left rear quarter panel to the Avis clerk upon your return to Lambert International Airport.
From all accounts, the people of the St. Louis area are nice and genuine; but, man, do we have their number.
Let’s see. Bobby Orr flies through the air to win the Cup against the Blues. Then the Patriots shock the Greatest Show on Turf in Super Bowl XXXVI. Of course, the Idiots exonerate Johnny Pesky, Yaz and two good Sox teams with a sweep of the Cardinals. And now this.
It has to make you lose your self-control; regardless of how well-mannered of a Midwesterner you are.
Back to the game.
There are a number of reasons that the Patriots won this game. But the rest of them pale in comparison to the return of Corey Dillon to the lineup. This guy is a difference maker. Need convincing? How about the Patriots’ six rushing attempts for five yards against the Steelers and then 32 attempts for 147 yards against the Rams? Or 17 minutes of time-of- possession and then 31 a week later? Dillon’s insertion in the lineup make defenses play honest against Tom Brady and the Patriots offense as we saw on Sunday. When your opponent knows you are going to pass on every down like the Steelers did, they are at a distinct advantage to win the battle of the line of scrimmage.
I could write about Earthwind Moreland, Randall Gay, Brandan Gorin, Patrick Pass or any number of reserves who played their hearts out against the Rams. What’s not to love about the number 40 through 45 guys on the roster playing brilliantly? It’s what brought the Red Sox that nice piece of hardware that now sits on Yawkey Way. But I’m going to devote a good portion of the remainder of this love fest of a column to the Tim Wakefield of the Patriots - Troy Brown.
Want him to return punts? No problem. Line up in the backfield? Can do. How about being the best slot receiver in the history of the franchise? Sure.
But to line up as a cornerback after Asante Samuel goes down on the Rams’ second play from scrimmage? Come on. It’s the football equivalent of Tim Wakefield sacrificing his ALCS Game 4 start to eat up innings while saving the Red Sox bullpen in the Game 3 blowout against the Yankees. It’s the type of selfless act in a very selfish part of society (professional sports) that makes you want to go out and buy Brown’s jersey (Or - ahem - have someone buy it for your upcoming birthday or Christmas. A Wakefield shirt would do just fine, too).
And it’s not like he embarrassed himself out there. He stayed on Rams receiver Shaun McDonald’s license plate all game long and acquitted himself nicely. He even had the presence to break up a few passes in the process. Oh, did I mention that Brown had three receptions for thirty yards and caught Adam Vinatieri’s touchdown pass on the fake field goal in the third quarter? I half expect Brown to punt if Josh Miller goes down with an injury.
Just go out and buy his jersey, will you?
And speaking of guys who are jersey worthy, you will never be laughed at in these parts for sporting a #4 Adam Vinatieri jersey. Not only the most clutch kicker in the history of the NFL; he’s an honest-to-God football player to boot. You can tell he wants to tackle someone on kickoff returns and that (a rarity for kickers) he’s one of the guys. He’s also responsible for perhaps the greatest performance by a kicker in the history of fantasy football (Prediction: I’ll get an e-mail this week that will point out that someone like Jason Elam had a 24 point performance in 1999. Please, I appreciate it; but would you mind finding a better use of our time?). Four field goals, four extra points, and a touchdown pass. That’s a cool 22 points for my mediocre team. Thank you very much, Mr. Vinatieri!
After this victory, you can breathe a sigh of relief. This Patriots team is not going to spiral out of control. They are going to be just fine as long as Corey Dillon stays healthy. That’s my only caveat. But it’s a big one.
Idle Zinger thoughts while wondering if The Christmas Tree Shop is the middle-aged woman’s equivalent of a crack house:
The Bengals celebrated the beginning of hunting season on Sunday by wearing hunter orange uniforms. Coincidentally, they are also available to do flagging work for your DOT-sponsored highway project.
News item: Moxie has come out with an energy drink. In a related item, STP has announced plans to come out with a drink of its own shortly.
Speaking of STP, it’s a cheap thrill, but I never get sick of writing in Richard Petty for an uncontested County Commissioner’s seat every other November.
Be the first one on your block to complain about the Patriots 2008 schedule. It includes away games in Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle.
A recent Jack Daniel’s ad in the back of Sports Illustrated suggests to readers that the beverage is “Survival Gear For The Frozen Tundra.” Sure it is; If you want to dehydrate! Remember the advice to stay away from the hard stuff that we were given by the Emergency Room physicians before the Titans playoff game? A US Army website, http://www.usariem.army.mil/swasia/cold.htm, warns a soldier that “Alcohol consumption increases susceptibility to cold injury by blunting shivering and accelerating heat loss. Alcohol use leads to dehydration. Alcohol numbs the senses and impairs judgment, so the soldier might not feel the signs and symptoms of developing cold injury.” I’m going to wager that the boys in Lynchburg, Tennessee haven’t had to sit through an icebox of a game when they go see their Vols or Titans.
A reader wrote in to tell me that per my query of a week ago, Sterling Sharpe is alive and well on the NFL Network’s program “Playbook.” Those of us with large trees on the southwest horizon and crummy cable companies wouldn’t know this.
One of the drags of living in Maine (Believe me, they’re aren’t many) is that like death, taxes and tourists cutting you off in traffic, you are subjected to the New York Giants game on the local Fox affiliate for those 346 remaining Maine Giant fans. For example, would it cause a federal investigation to show the Steelers-Eagles game instead of the lame Bears-Giants game on Sunday?
And even if you don’t “Just Love A Bargain,” I would still like to hear from you. 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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