November 13, 2006
Putting Out An APB For 'Patriots Football'
BY: Kevin Rousseau
After Sunday's dispirited loss to the Jets, I may not be ordering flowers yet for the wake of the 2006 Patriots but I'm starting to look around for the phone book.
Do I still think this team will finish 10-6 or even 11-5? Yes, I'll stick with my pre-season prediction. But to think that this is a team that is built for a Super Bowl run at this point would be a ludicrous assessment.
There are plenty of items to pick off the menu when it comes to the last two losses. Strange offensive play calling. Awful kickoff return coverage. A lack of accuracy from the quarterback. A dance first, defend second attitude in the secondary.
But the most disturbing trend that is noticeable is the utter lack of what has become known in these parts as "Patriot Football." Namely, the ability to be more physical than your opponent, to dictate the game plan instead of the other way around, and along the way make a play or two on a critical third down. And you could even mix in a timely turnover while you're at it.
Forget body language. Ellis Hobbs and his dancing take care of that problem. Like in the Denver game a few months before, last week's edition of the Patriots team appears to be lacking a fire in a very passionate sport.
Perhaps the lack of fire on the offensive side of the ball can be traced back to a lack of identity. After nine weeks into the season, let me ask you this: If someone from Iceland showed up on your door and asked you to describe the 2006 Patriots offense, just how long would it take for you to answer? Are they a pass-first team, the Reykjavik native would ask? "Well, they had that amazing game against Minnesota a few weeks ago but now we see that the Vikings couldn't beat a CYO team right now," you might respond. OK, Do they dominate the line of scrimmage and run the ball at least 30 times a game? "Well, not too much up until this point even though they have two very good running backs," you answer. Finally, the man from Iceland would say "But I have heard of this Tom Brady guy. He pulls his team's bacon out of the fire and can always be relied upon, no?"
And that's the problem that none of us would have expected, even without a formidable number one receiver. Reche Caldwell has been much better than anticipated and Troy Brown has delivered about what you could have expected. But Chad Jackson can't find his way onto the field for any period of time. Doug Gabriel shows flashes but then coughs up a huge fumble in the Jets red zone on Sunday. And wasn't this supposed to be Ben Watson's breakout season?
So certainly, there is plenty of blame to go around. The offensive line--despite being a relatively familiar bunch of names--has been busy imitating a MBTA turnstile when pass blocking. Brady's above-mentioned receivers can't get open and when he has thrown the ball, often times it has looked forced or indecisive. Just how does a team with loads of 2006 salary cap room not give the game's best quarterback a receiving weapon or two is beyond me.
And let's take a 15 yard piling-on penalty with a critical assessment of how Bill Belichick handled Jet's Head Coach Eric Mangini's return to Foxboro. Leading up to the game in many a press conference, Belichick did everything but stopping short of denying that Mangini ever spent a minute with him. And the lack of interaction after the game-no matter how justified in Belichick's mind-made the HC of the NEP look like a sore loser and a bitter old man. For an organization that has prided itself on class and doing the right thing, such a display was unbecoming but yet at the same time demonstrative of this bizarre season up until this point.
Moving forward, do I think the Patriots will show flashes of brilliance over the remaining seven weeks? Absolutely. But have they been able to prove up until this point that they can string together a couple of wins by playing "Patriots football?" I'm afrad not.
And that begins to make the 2006 regular season begin to play out like the maddening 9-7 season in 2002. Hold on for a wild ride of ups and downs for the rest of the season.
Man, have we been spoiled around here.
Idle Zinger thoughts while waiting for the duck boats to come by on Tremont Street while wondering when the Revolution's Eastern Conference champs floats and parade will drive by:
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Peter King of MMQB reported that Corey Dillon's 50-yard run on Sunday was the longest run from scrimmage by the Patriots this century.
Besides King, my weekly required reading is Gregg Easterbrook's Tuesday Morning Quarterback on ESPN.com, Bill Simmons' Friday column on the site's Page 2. I'm also a huge fan of Bostonsportsmedia.com and the Mike Reiss' Boston Globe blog, Reiss Pieces.
You know it's raining a lot at a game when a significant amount of precipitation finds its way down the middle of your back and thanks to gravity begins to make its way due south if you know what I mean.
Since when is it okay for people to get up and go to the beer stand and the john in the middle of a critical third down and subsequently block your view. The Patriots would be serving its regular fans well by putting signs up asking for patrons to wait until a play is over before moving in or out of a row of seats.
I say it every year and here goes for this year: ESPN's Chris Berman's "Whaaaap" is still a laugher.
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