December 17, 2005
The Patriots' Game of Truth
BY: Kevin Rousseau
Bill Belichick has coined this the “season of truth.” Well then, Saturday’s thrashing of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was the “game of truth.”
Patriot Nation was abuzz leading up to the game as most followers felt that it would be a good measuring stick of just how far this team has come back from the moribund. But who would have ever thought that we would get an early Christmas present in the form of a dominant performance against a team that was allowing an average of 16 points per game?
Almost without warning, a January showdown with the Colts is a real possibility. Heading into the playoffs, the Patriots will likely be the most dangerous fourth-seed in the history of the modern playoff format. With a de facto two week bye heading into the wild card round, the Patriots are suddenly the proverbial “team no one wants to play.” That was a giant gulp you heard late Saturday afternoon coming from Jacksonville, San Diego and Pittsburgh zip codes.
Let’s face it. After the whooping the Colts put on the Patriots on November 7th, only the most delusional or optimistic Patriots fan would have predicted such a remarkable turnaround. But I will guarantee that there will be one guy around the water cooler espousing such baloney at work this week. This is the same guy who minored in revisionist history during college and knew the Sox were going to come back against the Yanks last year after going down 3-0. Speaking of college, these people will be put on Dean Wormer’s list of double secret probation until further notice.
The beauty of this 28-0 win over the Bucs was that it was done the old fashioned way with stellar defense while taking advantage of opportunities given to them. The Patriots set the tone early by scoring on the opening drive against a team that had only allowed two field goals on first possessions all season. They also did it by taking away the one thing the Bucs’ offense wanted to do - namely, run the ball - and put the game on the shoulders of Chris Simms.
This allowed the Pats defensive front seven to tee off on Simms and rattle the young signal caller. The result was a staggering net 138 yards of total offense from Tampa Bay. Mix in a fumble of Simms and a roughing the kicker call in the second quarter and the Patriots had all of the opportunities they would need.
Perhaps the most difficult decision that Bill Belichick had on Saturday was figuring out just who should receive the defensive game ball. Tedy Bruschi came alive with 11 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. Rosevelt Colvin (5 tackles, one sack and a gajillion hurries on Simms) has emerged into the dominant pass rusher the Patriots thought they were getting back in 2003. And somewhere during his return of the Simms fumble in the second quarter, I wondered a) just how old is Willie McGinest? and b) how does this guy seem to be getting better every year? The fun is back, gang.
The trouble with watching Tom Brady every week is that you can’t see the forest for the trees. Step back, watch a non-Patriots game and try to picture yourself having your fate tied to a J.P. Losman, Joey Harrington or Aaron Brooks. It’s not everyday that a player could already be considered among the best of all time when he’s not even 30 years old.
And as predicted in this space, the Gillette Stadium crowd showed up for this one. They caused Tampa Bay to burn timeouts and have difficulty while calling plays. Reports of the Foxboro crowd going soft were exaggerated and they will indeed be a factor on the weekend of January 7-8.
Again, only the most optimistic Patriots fan would now be calling up their cousin who lives in Dearborn, Michigan and checking on the availability of the living room couch for early February. But do I think that it’s destiny that the Colts and Patriots will be squaring off a month from now? After Saturday’s whipping, it sure feels like its heading that way, doesn’t it?
If you’re truthful with the way you felt after that early November Monday night, you have to believe that this turn of events could be one of the best Christmas presents you could ever ask for.
Much like the Red Sox did earlier this year, the Patriots this season will indeed acquit themselves as world champions.
The rest is gravy.
Idle Zinger thoughts while wondering if the Bloc Québecois lawn sign will earn me a one way ticket to Guantanamo Bay:
There is no doubt in my mind that the Red Sox staged their Soviet-era press conference last Monday in order to steal the headlines away from the Patriots. And most of the mainstream media unfortunately took the bait. I would consider myself an avid Red Sox follower, but geez, enough is enough with the “All Red Sox, all the time” approach. A stinging indictment on the subject was handed down by the folks at ColdHardFootballFacts.com last week. You can read about it here: Boston Media Fails Football Fans
If someone moved to Boston from say Rouyn-Noranda or Topeka and wanted a crash course on being a Boston sports fan, you should hand them a copy of the Boston Globe’s “Boston’s Greatest Sports Stories: Beyond the Headlines” DVD. It clocks in at a hefty 165 minutes but you won’t believe how quickly the time goes by.
Speaking of that, it’s been 30 years but Dick Stockton will always be considered one of us due to his work in the mid-1970s as a Red Sox announcer.
The Playoff Football Gods scoff at stunts like the Bengals’ recent music video “Fear Da Tiger.” Frankly, they should skip the video shoot and worry more about fearing da Colts and Patriots. If you see a clip of this, you’ll think it was a production of the Children’s Television Workshop. It’s a lot of talk from a team that hasn’t won anything in the playoffs yet. Could you imagine the Pats pulling such a stunt?
Few things are more amusing than a Florida-based team’s cold weather gear.
Quite frankly, Stephen A. Smith’s show on ESPN2 is not very good. Conversely, I’ll take PTI anytime.
If you are looking for a change of pace this time of year on your way home from work, tune to 660 AM and see if you can pick up WFAN out of New York. It comes in clear as a bell in Central Maine and “Mike and the Mad Dog” provide a refreshing change from the usual offerings.
Thanks to NFL.com’s Tuesday Morning Quarterback Gregg Easterbrook, I now know that 74% of fourth-and-one attempts are successful. Think about that the next time a team punts in the opposing teams territory trying to play it safe.
He also points out that 69,149 people showed up to watch the Tennessee Titans. No fair weather fans in Nashville.
It was reported by the Boston Herald’s John Tomase a few days ago that injured Buffalo linebacker Takeo Spikes has said that “No. 82 (Daniel Graham)-he’s got it coming…There’s going to some house-cleaning in the League when I get back.” Spikes was apparently upset with Graham for shoving a Bills linebacker after the whistle. My guess is that Mr. Spikes won’t have as much to spend on Christmas presents this week after the League office gets through with him.
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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