October 02, 2005
Lack of Big Plays Makes This One A Stinker
BY: Kevin Rousseau
Just before a key San Diego 3rd and 3 in the middle of the fourth quarter and with the game still within reach, the Gillette Stadium jumbotron flashes a picture of Tedy Bruschi watching the action intently from the Patriots sideline. On the ensuing play, Drew Brees hits Antonio Gates for a seven yard gain for a first down and the symbolic end to the game.
Where have you gone Big Play Bruschi? I never thought we would miss your big play ability as much as we do. It seems none of your 2005 teammates have your ability for making the key play that will eventually swing the game in the Patriots favor.
Great plays at great times equal great teams. Doesn’t feel like we can hang that equation so far on this squad, can we?
Maybe we are just going to have to accept the fact that this is the way its going to be this season.
Maybe the 2005 Patriots will beat up on the average or below average teams and then have all they can handle with squads that can play on both sides of the ball (10-6 is nothing to sneeze at, when you think about it).
And just maybe, whistling past the injury bug graveyard has reached the end of the line. Perhaps the difference between an above average Pats team and a championship-caliber club will prove to be not having the Tedy Bruschis and Rodney Harrisons around to make a play or two when the game is on the line.
The 17-17 first half had its ups and downs but I am willing to wager that most of Patriots Nation believed that the Patriots would make the better halftime adjustments just as they usually do against their opponents. Time and again, if there has been one trait-besides the knack for making a big play-that has separated the Patriots from the pack in recent years, it has been the ability to adjust on the fly and outperform the other team in the second half.
The awful performance by Pats in the second half was arguably their worst performance since the 2002 season (the Green Bay game and the Tennessee game come to mind). Charger quarterback Drew Brees had all day to work through his progressions and find any one of a host of open receivers. Not once did it appear that Brees was hurried. I am willing to wager that his pants won’t have to be sent to the dry cleaners after the game because he was hardly knocked onto his rear end during his stay in Foxboro .
Sitting in the end zone of the stadium, it was alarmingly evident just how large the holes were that LaDanian Tomlinson (25 attempts for 134 yards, 5.4 avg.) had to run through. I’m talking garage door-wide, folks. And then when he did encounter a Patriots defender downfield, the result was either shoddy tackling or an outright miss. Often times, what seemed like a stop for no gain ended up being a gain of three or four yards. Past NFL history would indicate that it’s very difficult to win many games with matador impersonators on defense.
To be fair to the Patriots defense, there is plenty of blame to go around. They were on the field for almost 37 of the games 60 minutes thanks in large part to the offense’s paltry 4 for 11 (36%) 3rd down conversions ratio.
And just as in the Carolina loss, the offense once again looked alarmingly out of synch and harried at times. Like the loss of Harrison and Bruschi on defense, perhaps the loss of Matt Light and Kevin Faulk on the offense will finally be the straw that makes this offense look, well, human. Let’s face it. We have been accustomed to the luxurious lifestyle of all-day pass protection and third-down conversions over the years. Perhaps it’s time to cancel HBO and not order as much take-out anymore and live a more modest means.
Corey Dillon hasn’t been much of a threat this year, has he? Probably not because he has suddenly lost a lot of tire tread in the eight months since the Super Bowl but probably more so because often times he has no hole to dive through for a large gain. Sometimes, he has a defender already on him in the backfield before he can even think about making his cut for a phantom hole. The 2005 New England Patriots are proving the old adage that the game is won and lost on the line of scrimmage still rings true. Sometimes this year’s Pats will win that battle but many times, especially against above-average teams like Carolina and San Diego, it’s going to mean a long afternoon this season. Get used to it.
I’ll expect the Patriots to bounce back against the Falcons next week. That will be due mostly to a focused, grueling week of practice and the pride of a champion not wanting to see that side of a 2-3 record. But what I am coming to expect as well is that this edition of the Patriots will not do it with style points like its predecessors.
Given the sad state of the Jets, Dolphins and Bills, it’s not nearly time to sound the alarm that the AFC East is out of reach. Far from it. What this all means, is that they are going to have to be the football equivalent of a Dewalt grinder if they want to be a playoff team in an AFC conference where the talent level is finally catching up to them.
Forget the Maalox. Pass the grinder’s sandpaper.
Idle Zinger thoughts while thinking that-especially after last year-this wild card celebration of champagne and schnazzy hats is a little too much, frankly:
I can’t decide which is a more uncomfortable place: a Gillette Stadium men’s room at halftime or the Mos Eisley cantina from Star Wars.
Take it from me (and the building’s plumber), do not let them serve chili and hummus at your next Employee Recognition Day luncheon. I could have sworn that Miles Davis set up shop in the first floor men’s room.
They just keep trying to shove these ugly silver alternate jerseys down our throat, yet we still keep our heads about us and refuse to take the bait.
Do you think it burns Drew Bledsoe up every time he sees the Burger King intercept his screen pass and return it for a touchdown?
Former University of Maine standout linebacker Stephen Cooper had a few tackles in the game for the Chargers.
If you have a chance, check out the Bill Simmons interview in the Scott’s Shots section of the Boston Sports Media Watch website. It was very frank, interesting and lets us get inside the head of the father of Boston sports internet-based writing.
Incidentally, after doing this gig myself for a few years I have come to appreciate the work it takes to deliver a column on a regular basis. Sure, it’s not splitting atoms but it’s not the literary equivalent of making a cheese sandwich either. Those who would criticize gifted writers like Simmons would be well served to walk a mile in a pair of internet sports writing shoes for a little while.
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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