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December 12, 2004
A Half-Baked Performance
BY: Kevin Rousseau

Chew on this:

As a gift to readers, I am offering a Patriots holiday recipe for being the best team in the league. It includes a tablespoon of a running game, a dash of Tom Brady playing well and controlling the game, a pound of Bill Belichick and Co. coaching/preparation and about fifteen cups of the defense making a key play at a key time with the game in the balance.

The Patriots' current two-year run at the top of the league can be attributed to a number of things. Good preparation, coaching and team discipline would be at the top of any list. Tom Brady and Adam Vinatieri have had their share of responsibility. But really when you boil it down, the main reason for this incredible run is Patriot defenders’ ability to bend but not break in the fourth quarter when the game is on the line.

Sunday’s fifteen cup offering from the oven was defensive back Troy Brown’s interception in the end zone with 12:30 to go in the 4th quarter. Notice that I said “defensive back Troy Brown” in that previous sentence. Troy Brown, for the here and now - and perhaps the rest of this year - is a slot cornerback first and a slot wide receiver second. His value to this team is as a nickelback first and foremost.

In fact, you could make the argument that his participation in the Patriots offense should be kept to certain phases of the game (like 3rd and long situations) in order to save his legs for his work on the defense and on punt returns. Without him, the Patriots could very well have lost to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. Nobody else on the defense was in the mood to make a play with the game on the line.

The Bengals certainly had the momentum at the time after coming off the mat with a touchdown off a fake field goal. Lining up for that field goal, the Bengals are twenty-one points down and ready to warm up the bus.

Normally, you might be thinking “Fourteen points in the fourth quarter against the Patriots defense. This one’s in the bag.” Not on Sunday, my friends. A hush came over the Foxboro Faithful when the lead was cut to fourteen, and for good reason. Minutes later, the Bengals are knocking on the door and ready to make it a seven point game.

Until cornerback Troy Brown made the play of the game.

Let’s face it. Bill Belichick has cried wolf to us so many times over the years when he hypes up the coming week’s opponent. “This Cardinals offense is explosive….This Rams defense really contains people.” Blah, blah, blah.

And the truth is, we don’t believe him anymore. Not after games like the Bills (twice) or the Browns.

But this time, he was right on. That is indeed a pretty good football team regardless of their silly uniforms. Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson, Rudi Johnson and a stellar Bengals offensive line pretty much had their way with the Super Bowl Champions, number-one-in-those-power-rankings Patriots defense. If they can get some help on defense, they will be building a program to be finally be proud of in Cincinnati in the coming years.

By the lifestyle we have become accustomed to in these parts, this was a real stinker of a performance by the Patriots defense. The Patriot front seven may not have even got Palmer’s ugly Bengals jersey dirty once all day. Mix that in with a Bengal offensive line that won the battle during the running game, and you have a recipe for a disaster pie.

And disaster pie was just about to be served until Troy Brown pulled the Patriots' bacon out of the fire with his end zone interception early in the fourth quarter. Sure, the Bengals closed the game to a seven point contest later in the fourth, but with a running back like Corey Dillon wearing down a defense, this one was over.

So it’s time to make a change in your program. Next to “#80 T. Brown”, scratch out WR/CB and write in CB/WR. Turn conventional wisdom on his head. Conserve his usage on offense and let him do his thing on defense. It’s a crazy scenario but it has become the reality for this 2004 Patriot team. And if it helps bring the team its twelfth win of the season and a playoff birth, then you got to keep riding the Troy Brown “CB/WR” wave until it proven otherwise.

Wash that down with your holiday egg nog.

Idle Zinger thoughts while waiting for the VH1 special “When Zone Blitzes Ruled The World”:

Can you believe that the Patriots are scheduled for yet another date in Denver next year?

David Ortiz is the Luis Tiant of our generation.

Please tell me just what value Fox’s Tony Siragusa adds to the broadcast while he is aimlessly roaming the sidelines during the game.

A twice-removed, somewhat reliable source tells me that for a three-year, $150,000 commitment, you can sit in those four seats located on the playing field. They include private bathroom, food, and a television at your seat. And as an added bonus, you get photographers and other people doing their job blocking your view of the game.

Listening to other team’s radio broadcasts over the Sirius satellite radio system has made me appreciate Gil and Gino’s work even more. First, many of these other tandems are nothing more than paid cheerleaders. Then the color analyst oftentimes will react loudly to a play and in the process drown out the play-by-play call.

The boys at Profootballtalk.com supplied us with two nuggets this week. First, the 4-8 Arizona Cardinals sent out notices to their season ticket holders looking for deposits for playoff tickets - for this year! I have a bridge to sell to the guy who actually sends in a check to the Cards. When told of this shameless short-term money-grab, my brother suggested that he would have sent in picture of a certain finger of his.

And secondly, Redskins running back Clinton Portis eschewed the League’s dress code and wore red socks during last week’s game. His excuse: “I’ll probably get fined, but I had to change my outfit. The white socks have been killing me. If you’re not looking sweet, you really can’t play too sweet.” I’m going to wager Joe Gibbs never imagined having to deal with Sockgate when he decided to leave NASCAR and come back to the NFL.

After years of extensive research, I have come to the not-so scientific conclusion that it takes the average male Gillette Stadium patron the better part of 58 seconds to do his business at a stadium urinal. There has got to be a federal grant that I can get for this type of ground-breaking endeavor. Now that I think of it, I’ll ask that weird infomercial guy with all the question marks on his suit the next time he begs me to call him while I’m feeding Jacob at 2 a.m.

You’re not going to get that hard-hitting, ground-breaking research by reading the Globe or the Herald. During times like these, you need us here at Patsfans.com to bring you this valuable information.

Besides, how else are you going to pass the time while you wait your turn?

If you live in the Portland (Maine) area, you will once again have the distinct opportunity to see your favorite un-official, barely readable, shameless Michael Felger-like self-promoting football writer walk the tight rope of live television. I am pleased to announce that I will be taking part in WMTW Channel 8’s “Pats Game Day” program that will air on Monday, December 20th at 8 p.m. before the Patriots-Dolphins game. Check it out.

It’s still not too late to book me for your last-minute office Christmas party. Keep in mind that for no extra charge, I will hang a sign around my neck that reads “Will Talk Patriots For Appetizers.”

Even if you take a more than 58 seconds, I would still like to hear from you. I can be reached at kevin@patsfans.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 The Reporter (Waterboro/Hollis, ME), 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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