September 25, 2005
Patriots Find A Little Identity
BY: Kevin Rousseau
Stick with me on this one.
Perhaps each football season is akin to the development of an individual as they grow up and mature through life. Just because your brother was an ax murderer doesn’t mean that you can’t become a Rhodes scholar. And since a team can’t rest on its laurels from seasons past, each 16-game regular season is a unique experience with the ups and downs that define just how they will be remembered.
So perhaps the 2005 New England Patriots are in the pre-adolescence of their existence. Sure, there are a lot of stunts that they’ve pulled so far that should have got them sent to the principal’s office. But deep down, you know that “Pat” is a pretty good kid and that he comes through when a big math test is on the line or his room needs to be cleaned up.
The Patriots took a large step towards finding their identity for the 2005 squad with a nail-biting 23-20 win over the Steelers on Sunday.
For one thing, after three games it looks as though this edition of the Pats is going to have to work a lot harder to find success than its predecessors had to. Maybe it's stunts like the continuing trend of double-digit penalties or the three ill-timed turnovers that we just aren’t used to seeing. “Just who is this kid anyway?,” we asked ourselves as the first half ends and Pat seems to be heading for a date in juvenile detention.
Pat could have blamed his issues on the fact that he had a few of his best buddies go down in that first-half stretch. Besides Tom Brady, the player the Patriots could least afford to lose was Rodney Harrison. Already dealing with the loss of Tedy Bruschi (they miss his presence on big plays more than I would have imagined), Harrison took a stomach-churning shot to the knee that looks like a one-way ticket to the season-ending injured reserve list. And then after the veteran who protects the Franchise’s blind side, Matt Light, rolls over and you throw your hands up and say “Well, that’s it. This one is toast.”
But as they have done so many times before, the Patriots made the key adjustments at halftime and in the third quarter. They began winning the battle at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball against a physical Steelers team. And then Tom Brady went 12-for-12 in the fourth quarter and Mr. Clutch Adam Vinatieri came through again at the end.
You realize, don’t you, that most teams don’t run out a scotch-tape secondary on the fly in an away game and live to tell about it?
Having been around Pat for a while, we have seen his resiliency when he is faced with a tough situation. I mean, Guss Scott and Ellis Hobbs were running around back there and it didn’t look like a fire drill! Any coach worth his whistle will tell you that this just isn’t supposed to happen. (As an aside, the team bus probably dropped by Pittsburgh-native and late-season-pick-up-of-a-year-ago Hank Poteat’s house on the way back to the airport and picked him up for the flight back to Providence.)
OK. So somehow, the Patriots disguise the fact they have paper-thin secondary and still win the ball game. But just how in the world does this team also plug in two rookie offensive lineman and have them look like old pros with the game on the line in the second half? And even more amazing was the fact that Nick Kaczur and Logan Mankins were playing alongside each other on the Franchise’s blind side. No veteran next to you to lean on during pass protection on a critical 3-and-2 while down by three in the fourth quarter.
The adjustments to injury and adversity that the Patriots have made over the last few years seem to get both more incredulous and awe-inspiring as time moves on. I just hope you don’t take this surreal stuff for granted, that’s all.
On behalf of Patriots Nation, I would also like to personally thank the many thousands of Steeler fans who sat on their hands and Terrible Towels throughout the game and let Pat work in peace on his exam. Whether it was the opening drive that went for a touchdown or the long drives by the Patriots in the second half, I don’t know. The crowd just wasn’t a factor in the game. By the looks of it, the Patriots were far more rattled by the crowd in Carolina last week than they were at anytime during their stay at Heinz Field.
Maybe the reason for the Iron City lucidity was the Patriots going 8-for-16 on 3rd downs while the Steelers were only 3-for-13. Or perhaps it was the way the Pats held onto the ball for ten more minutes throughout the contest than the Steelers did. Whatever the reason, the home-field advantage should have been more of a factor in this game than it was.
“Pat” could go either way as he heads into the teenage years of his 2005 season. He could take this clutch win and run with it and become the toast of his town upon his retirement during his elderly years. Or he could stumble, get mixed up with a bad crowd and live a life of “couldas, wouldas, shouldas.”
I’m betting that when all is said and done, we will be proud of Pat as we give him that gold watch at his retirement party in January.
Idle Zinger thoughts while hoping that a less-than-flattering videotape copy of my karaoke performance of “Paradise City” doesn’t see the light of day during my upcoming Senate confirmation hearings:
Speaking of hearings and the Supreme Court, it’s sad but true that my lasting memory of retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor will be the time when a drunken John Riggins said to her “Loosen up, Sandy baby!” during a Beltway dinner in the 1980s.
It doesn’t make up for the fact that they will have nine home games, but the Giants do have to make four trips to the West Coast this season.
Fox’s Jay Glazer badly damages his credibility due to his side gig as host of the shockingly disturbing Pride Fighting junk that Fox Sports Net feels it has to run. Could you imagine Peter King doing that?
Sure he was a bit out of practice during his stint on the Raiders-Chiefs game a week or so ago, but it was great to hear again from the enjoyable Sterling Sharpe.
Did you hear that former Patriots assistant coach Chris Palmer got the hook after just two weeks as the Texans’ offensive coordinator? Who’s running the show down there? Sparky Anderson?
For those of you under the age of 30, let me explain that last one. As Manager of the Reds in the 1970s, Anderson was so quick to change pitchers that he developed the nickname of Captain Hook. Now you know.
On a serious note, I thought it took a ton of guts for Jets receiver Laveranues Coles to come out last week and disclose that he was sexually abused as a child and that he hoped that his disclosure would pave the way for other recoveries. That, and not so much things like playing hurt, is real courage.
Jump on the Boston College football bandwagon. I have. Incidentally, going to a game at The Heights was a very enjoyable time last year. No loud music, long TV timeouts or in-stadium ads. Just football, thank you very much.
It’s a toss up to which job has a shorter life span: a punt returner in the NFL or being the head of FEMA.
This column also appears in the American Journal (Westbrook/Gorham, Maine), the Current (Scarborough/Cape Elizabeth/South Portland, Maine), the Lakes Region Suburban Weekly (Windham/Naples, Maine), the Citizen (Sacopee Valley, Maine), the Reporter (Waterboro/Hollis, Maine), the Sun Chronicle (Saco/Old Orchard Beach, Maine), and online at VillageSoup.com (Belfast, Camden, Rockland, Maine).
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