October 31, 2005
Patriots Avoid Date With Grim Reaper
BY: Kevin Rousseau
During the middle of the fourth quarter of Sunday night’s game against the Bills, I was beginning to form my column around the writing of an obituary for the 2005 New England Patriots. But before I could make a few phone calls to check on the availability of a hall for a reception following the funeral, the patient came back from the beyond and gained a second life with an inspiring seven minutes of football.
The obituary would have read something to the effect of “Due to an inability to make any game-turning plays, injuries and a lack of discipline, the 2005 New England Patriots will be playing through the motions on their way to an 8-8 finish.”
Instead, perhaps the 21-16 win will be the wake up call the Patriots need to finally hit their stride this season. And it couldn’t have come at a better time with the Colts coming to town next Monday night.
For the first three and a half quarters of the game, the Pats defense showed about as much resistance as yellow police crime scene tape. Frankly, the only reason this game wasn’t over by halftime was the ineptness of the Bills to capitalize on a staggering 23 minutes to 7 minutes time-of-possession advantage up until that point.
My notice for the 2005 Patriots would have also mentioned how the Patriots completely botched a field goal attempt at the end of the half that would have tied the game at 3-3 heading into the locker room. With a timeout still in hand and the clock running down, the Pats uncharacteristically were called for a delay of the game call that negated a successful field goal attempt. I don’t have to tell you what happened on the retry.
I would have also mentioned that going through life in the NFL with the kind of secondary that made Kelly Holcomb look like Joe Montana is a quick way to finish out of the playoff picture. The soft coverage and lack of decent tackling gave the Bills all the chances they could have asked for in the initial 53 minutes of the 60 minute contest.
Yet seconds before I would have hit the “send” key on such a morbid tale, the Patriots team that we have come to know over the last few years decided to make an appearance. It started with a Rosevelt Colvin ball strip out of Holcomb’s hands deep in Buffalo territory that was quickly turned into six points. What a noble concept, folks; points off turnovers. Just like they draw it up.
Mix in a few Tom Brady to Deion Branch bombs and - voila - you’re on your way to a 21-16 lead with just a few minutes to play.
And perhaps even more refreshing than the offense’s levitation was the way the defense made a stop when it absolutely had to on the ensuing Buffalo drive.
And that brings us to #54, kids.
Even though the bar isn’t set that high for the honor, one could make the case that Tedy Bruschi was the most effective player on the Patriots defensive squad on Sunday night, a remarkable feat given the road he has traveled to this point. He was always around the ball and plugged many of Buffalo’s running lanes. Remarkably, a post-stroke Bruschi easily outperforms a perfectly healthy Monty Beilsel in the middle of the defense right now. Brushchi is also a calming influence in an otherwise stormy situation. Does he make everyone around him better? Perhaps.
But unless he can suddenly learn to be an effective cornerback or strong safety, it won’t make much of a difference against the Colts this coming Monday night.
Right now, it’s difficult to make a convincing argument that Pats are going to beat the Colts in their Ali/Frazier-style tilt. Only the most naive Patriots fan would think that Peyton Manning isn’t going to shred up that secondary.
The only way the Patriots are going to be able to win this game will be to win in a shootout. But that would require four quarters of consistent football from an offense that so far hasn’t demonstrated the consistent ability to do so. Sorry. It’s the truth.
Perhaps it’s a bit of a stretch to say that the season was saved on Sunday night. It was only week eight for goodness sake. But if the Pats came in off a bye, lost to a crummy Bills team and then dropped to 3-5 after putting up a stinker against the Colts, it would have been too far of a hole for anyone to climb out of; even these Patriots.
At least for now, the reports of the 2005 Patriots demise have been a bit premature.
Bring on the hype of Peyton and the Colts.
Idle Zinger thoughts while thinking of going with a Richard Marx-style hairdo the next time I go into Duke’s Rotary Barbershop in Augusta:
First off, from the Shameless Self-Promotion Department: If you live in the Portland television market, be sure to check out “Pats Game Day” at 8 p.m. next Monday night before the big Colts game. Along with former NFL player Ed McAleney, I will be on the program giving my analysis and commentary. Check it out.
Oh, if I had a nickel for every time Drew Bledsoe threw down his hands and scowled after a near miss or ill-timed interception, my kids’ college fund would almost be endowed. And this comes from the former Maine chapter president of the Drew Bledsoe Apologist Club.
Is it me or does Denver Head Coach Mike Shanahan always roam the sidelines as if he is searching for someone to punch.
News item: A fan won $1 million after kicking a 50-yard field goal during halftime of a recent CFL game. He was subsequently given a tryout with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. In a related matter, the Arizona Cardinals will now scout local youth Punt, Pass and Kick competitions to help plug in some holes.
The Houston Texans are on the clock…
Have an appointment with my optometrist in a few weeks. Thinking about going with some Bob Griese circa 1974 spectacles.
After finishing a copy of Mad magazine the other night, I snuggled up with Historic New England and discovered an interesting tidbit. Did you know that the first football club in the United States was the Oneida Football Club from Boston? The group was formed in 1863 and “took on all comers” on the Boston Common. One could make a historical argument that thanks in large part to Oneida and the Harvard-Yale matchups that commenced in 1875 that New England is the birthplace of modern American football.
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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