November 10, 2006
Redemption In Order For Patriots
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
How quickly things can change in just one week.
All of a sudden, the Patriots are a flawed team which might do well with an easy remainder of a schedule, but Heaven help them if they should have to play Indianapolis or Denver in the playoffs. Brady still doesn?t have a go-to guy, Corey Dillon is grousing over lack of carries (we think), and the secondary can handle opposing NFL quarterbacks so long as they aren?t really all that good. Put them up against Manning or Jake Plummer or Rod Smith or Champ Bailey, and forget about making plans to be in south Florida in February.
The Patriots still have history on their side, a good record, not that bad a remaining regular season schedule, and a head coach and quarterback who are both smart and who know how to bounce back. Brady?s record in games following four picks is a perfect 4-0. Belichick has done nicely in facing repeat opponents during the Brady era (the only loss against a repeat opponent was last year?s playoff loss at Denver).
That said, it could be said that a win Sunday against the Jets at home is in order, at least that?s what it says on paper and in the history books.
This is a Jet team which, despite some good coaching by old chum Eric Mangini, is in transition and not real good right now. They are lousy running and against the run. Curtis Martin is all but retired. Chad Pennington remains their best weapon and best way to an upset win. Defensively, it is a team which is still struggling to find itself and hurting badly since the defection of former defensive end John Abraham.
Perhaps the biggest thing the Jets have going for them is that they have played very well in Foxborough since the end of the execrable Rich Kotite era. From 1997 to 2002, the Jets were 5-1 in Foxborough, with the only loss coming in overtime thanks to a Mike Jones blocked field goal in 1997. Since 2003, the Patriots are 3-0 against the Jets at home, but in two of the three games the Patriots won by seven or fewer points.
This series with the Jets has been very streaky over the last 25 years. From 1983 to 1989, the Patriots were 10-4 against the Jets, but from 1989 to 1994 the Jets went 8-2 against the Patriots. The Patriots then ripped off six wins in a row on into the Bill Parcells era, but the Jets would then win seven of the next eight. Counting this season, the Patriots are currently on a 9-1 run against the Jets going back to the second 2001 meeting.
This also bodes well for the Patriots, since the Jets aren?t exactly in a position to reverse any long term trends like this at the moment. The ?border war? mentality really only exists between Belichick and Mangini; with Martin on his way out of football (and on his way to Canton, Ohio someday), most of the enmity generated between these two franchises has by and large dissipated, leaving these two teams just merely division rivals.
This therefore presents the Patriots with a nice opponent by which they can get back on the winning track and back into a good frame of mind. The Patriots know the Jets very well and have the personnel advantage on paper to deal with whatever the Jets throw at them. Belichick will have his own personal vendetta with Mangini, which will bring some added spice to the Patriot attack.
Naturally, the Patriots have to be careful and not treat this game as sort of ?Oh well, it?s only the Jets? affair. The Jets, statistically bad they may be, are 4-4 and many folks don?t know how. Much of the credit for the 4-4 record goes to the rookie head coach, which gives Belichick more reason to be a little annoyed with his former prot?g?.
If the Patriots play within themselves, if they don?t make the mistakes they have made in their two losses this year, if they simply execute like they should, they should win. Other than perhaps Laveranues Coles at wideout or Pennington having their best games of the season, the Patriots won?t be overwhelmed by the Jets.
The Patriots will never be guilty of looking ahead, but they could do very well to do their best this week, with next week in mind. They face a tough road battle the next week at Green Bay, against a quarterback who has manhandled them in the last three meetings. Brett Favre may not be what he once was, but he is still very dangerous and has shown to give the Patriots problems no matter whom he is surrounded with. The Patriots could very well use Pennington as a warmup for Favre the following week, but must do so without ?looking ahead? in the process.
One thing the Patriots will also look forward to this weekend is that the game will be at the comfortable and friendly start time of 1:00 PM. The Patriots have played two consecutive night games prior to this week?s game; some people believe that the Patriots played poorly against the Colts because it was the second straight night game for them.
This week should be nothing fancy. Laurence Maroney might see his number of carries increase. Chad Jackson might have gotten a butt-whipping this week and subsequently ordered by the coaching staff to ?show us something?. The secondary will once again adjust to life without Rodney. Other than all this, it will be business as usual for the Patriots.
As for Belichick and Mangini, they may never say anything to each other again other than ?Good game!? at midfield at the end of a game. As long as Belichick takes this coaching matchup real serious, you can bet that the Patriots won?t be looking ahead, nor turn this meeting into a trap game.
But the Patriots do need redemption, and lots of it.
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