December 26, 2004
That's Why They're Champs!
BY: Kevin Rousseau
You don't tug on Superman's cape
You don't spit into the wind
You don't pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger
And you don't mess around with Jim
And you don’t back the Patriots into a must win game.
If Jim Croce were still alive he might have added this last line to his famous song after seeing the way the Patriots responded on Sunday to the Miami Monday Night Freak Show of a week ago. All the Patriots did was go in to the Meadowlands off a shocking, embarrassing road loss, on a short week, while banged up, with their backs to the wall, and made a Jets team that everybody was picking to win look silly. The 23-7 win over the Jets now gives you - the card-carrying member of Patriots Nation - reason to raise your chest and begin to get your groove back.
Easy. They showed the Jets and the rest of the League that reports of their demise have been greatly exaggerated. And now, they will have essentially a three-week bye that will allow many Patriots to get healthy and answer the bell in the Divisional Round of the playoffs on the weekend of Jan 8th and 9th. Ty Law? He’ll now be ready to go no problem. But more importantly it will give the players who are playing time now time to rest those aches that don’t show up on an injury report.
The win also makes this week’s game against the 49ers nothing more than a glorified fifth exhibition game. If you know a season ticket holder, this might be the week to give them a call and cash in that favor that they owe you. Warm up Rohan Davey because it just won’t matter.
So how did the Patriots do it?
Most importantly - perhaps for the first time since Curtis Martin became a Jet - the Patriots held him in check. The final line for Curtis? 13 carries for 33 yards with his longest run being a five-yard gain. Give the Patriots front seven all the credit for answering the bell and shutting down Martin and thus making Chad Pennington’s play action look ridiculous. By doing so, it took the load off the junior varsity secondary. A late Christmas present was given to us by these Patriot defenders as the Jets had two interceptions and five punts to show for three quarters of supposedly advertised playoff-intensity football.
To wit, who would have ever thought that a Randall Gay game-time scratch would be met with trepidation by Patriots fans? Now Ty Law can take over for Earthwind Moreland and shut down Marvin Harrison in January. (As an aside, would you please give Moreland a break? He’s a street free agent who has been thrown into the middle of a darn-near impossible situation. Sure, he’s had some troubles but don’t you think he and the Patriots will be better off next year for having him undertake such a baptism by fire?)
Two plays in this game typified why the Patriots are the Patriots and the Jets are the Jets.
The Jets were faced with a 4th and 2 at the New England 37 in the middle of the third quarter while down 13-0 with a playoff seat hanging in the balance. So out trots the Jet punting unit and Herm Edwards essentially tells his offense “I don’t think you can pick up two yards when we absolutely need it”; and to his defense he says “The Patriots offense will have a short field if we hand them the ball at their own 37 and I’m pretty sure that you won’t be able to stop them from marching down the field.” Way to fire up the troops during battle, Herm.
Dear Mr. Edwards, what every happened to your stern lecture to a reporter that “You plaayyyyyyyy to win the game?” Where did that get lost on that sheet that Paul Hackett uses to call your offensive plays? On second thought, Mr. Edwards that play choice was pretty offensive. As the Tuesday Morning Quarterback Gregg Easterbrook would say, the football gods rightly smiled upon the NEP and not the NYJ.
Now contrast that with a similar situation that the Patriots faced in the 4th quarter. It was 4th and 1 at the Jet 25 yard-line. In a swirling wind with a 23-7 lead, perhaps the safe play is to punt the ball and hope for a bounce inside the ten yard-line. Not these Patriots. Not on this Sunday.
Even though the Patriots didn’t convert, running such a play said to the Jets “Come on and try to stop us because we think we can beat you when it matters.” It says to the Patriot players that the staff has confidence in their talents and serves notice to playoff teams that this team has an attitude on 4th and 1.
Shifting gears for a minute…Shame on you for thinking that Tom Brady was going to come out and lay an egg two weeks in a row! How dare you think such impure thoughts? We are talking about a guy with Larry Bird-esque big game tranquility and clarity. A leader we have come to rely on time and again to make that perfect throw on a seemingly impossible 3rd and 12. And a man with two Super Bowl MVP trophies sitting in his new Back Bay flat. We are not talking about a mere mortal here, people.
We are talking about the best quarterback to come down the Pike in a long, long time. And yes, I’m aware of that man with an Indianapolis zip code. When these playoffs start, I want #12 on my side and not #18. What has he won? Brady has two shiny rings, thank you very much.
Enjoy the next three weeks, Patriots fans. All is right with the world. Bill Belichick and his boys have restored order to the world we have come to know. When the playoffs start, the team with a zip code of 02035 is the one I want to be behind.
Priceless playoff experience, intangible football smarts, the best coaching staff in the game and a boy named Tom are just a few of the reasons why I’m ready to start seeing those NFL ads for the playoffs again.
But most importantly, I want a team that is ready to answer the bell when it matters. Like they did on Sunday.
I think I’ve got one.
Idle Zinger thoughts while thinking of the two Central Maine families who lost a loved one in Iraq last week:
Please, Michael Holley. Stop wasting your talent on that ridiculous “I, Max” show on Fox Sports Net and start writing columns that are worth reading again.
Perhaps a nice gesture on the Patriots' part would be to have a place somewhere in Gillette Stadium that shows us just who has a retired Patriots number?
This week in the Sirius Radio Report: Steelers radio legend Myron Cope is ear sandpaper to a non-Steeler fan. He must be the Johnny Most of Western Pennsylvania (Rest Mr. Most’s impartial soul).
When asked recently, a friend of mine responded that the place where he works is going through its “Dave Campo era”. That is, currently sitting between past greatness and desperate hope about the future. Campo was the awful head coach of the Cowboys between the Jones/Switzer era and the current Parcells reign.
I’m really afraid that with how violent collisions are getting hyped up thanks to such irresponsible segments as Monday Night Countdown’s “Jacked Up,” it won’t be long before we literally see someone lying dead on a NFL field.
Remember those Alcoa Fantastic Finishes that they used to show during the two-minute warnings back some time ago? Trust me, you usually didn’t have to worry about getting up to use the bathroom and missing a segment featuring a Patriots game-winning drive.
Did you notice the Bengal fandom setting off copycat snow fireworks after their win over the Giants on Sunday was wrapped up? Can we get a patent on that?
Do you think the folks in the Graphics Department at CBS kept their composure and professionalism while designing the NFC playoff graphic for use on Sunday’s broadcasts and typing the words “In the Hunt” next to a handful of 5-9 teams?
And even if you haven’t yet sent in your check for Arizona Cardinal playoff tickets, I would still like to hear from you. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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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