November 19, 2006
It's Time To Win A Big Game
BY: Kevin Rousseau
Well, I?m glad we finally settled the score for that Super Bowl XXXI loss to the Packers. It took nearly ten years and three regular season games but we finally can close the loop on that one.
Seriously, the 35-0 shellacking that the Patriots put on the Pack had some very redeeming qualities to it. We saw that all hope was not lost after disheartening losses to the Colts and Jets. We witnessed outstanding kickoff coverage. Good balance on offense and the return of a physical defense were also on the menu for this Thanksgiving week.
But before everyone goes on the upside of their Patriot manic depressive cycle, let?s take stock for a minute of a few things. First, we once again saw what a joke most of the NFC is when a team like the Patriots can come into hostile stadium and embarrass a second Norris Division team in the span of a month. So all the excitement of course must be tempered because of this.
But most importantly before everyone feels the need to proclaim ?We?re back, baby!? on their way through the door at Aunt Edna?s house this Thursday, one thing has to happen first.
It?s time for the 2006 Patriots to win a big game.
With wins over the Bills (2), Jets, Dolphins, Bengals, Vikings and Packers the Patriots have cleaned up on the teams that they should have done so. But when it comes to teams like the Broncos and Colts ? well, let?s face it ? the Pats have looked awful. Fortunately, the opportunity to correct this flaw presents itself on a silver platter this coming Sunday when the Chicago Bears come to town for a big showdown.
Not that I hold onto grudges or anything, but maybe we can settle the score for Super Bowl XX while we are at it.
This is the time of year that gets me amped up when the Patriots are in the hunt. Growing up, I would always begin scanning the Globe sports page around now looking to see if the Patriots were at least categorized as being ?In The Hunt.? Back then, you never would have dreamed that making the playoffs would be an annual foregone conclusion for the Foxboro lads. There?s a reason that a whole bunch of us stormed the field at Sullivan Stadium after beating the Bengals on December 22, 1985 after the team secured a wild card spot.
When I was your age, I walked uphill backwards to school in a snowstorm and we were grateful for a wild card team. Kids these days have it so easy. Now they cancel school at the drop of a hat and the invoice for playoff tickets seems to get sent out by the team by Columbus Day.
A win on Sunday over the Bears would make the Patriots 8-3 but far more importantly serve notice to the rest of the League that the Pats will have to be dealt with down the stretch as the weather starts to get colder. The Bears defense is outstanding, it?s well coached by Lovie Smith and the offense doesn?t make a lot of mistakes (I?m starting to sound like a canned Bill Belichick press conference soundbite). But it?s the truth. A loss will just about officially let the air out of the 2006 season?s balloon. If the team loses, they are still certain to make the playoffs but realistically it will be a fait accompli for their eventual elimination.
I?m tired of losing big games and I?m sure you are, too. There were the Colts last season on MNF, the Broncos last year in the playoffs, the Broncos back in September and the Colts a few weeks ago. Like they did on Sunday in their tuneup against the Packers, it?s now time for the Pats to return to playing ?Patriots Football.?
?Patriots Football? can be defined as solid special teams play, making plays on both sides of the ball on third downs, being more physical than the other team and playing smartly. We have seen glimmers of it this year in wins versus the Bengals, Vikings and now the Packers. But in other games like the Colts and Broncos losses, the pace and style of play has been dictated to them and not the other way around.
As I sit down with my family on Thursday, I?ll be grateful for a lot of things: my family, Gummi Bears, my healthy children, Chicken Marsala, a 240-yard straight drive off the tee, living in Maine, Sirius satellite radio, not having to hear John Madden this year get sappy every Thanksgiving about the meaning of football and the holiday, and other assorted items.
There will be one other thing I?ll be grateful for. That the Patriots, year after year, are now always ?In The Hunt.?
Idle Zinger thoughts while waiting in great anticipation for Thanksgiving morning when I will listen to ?Alice?s Restaurant? by Arlo Guthrie 27 times in a row on the drive down to my folks house:
What?s this business with Vinny Testaverde wearing Steve Grogan?s number? How come this uniform is still in play?
Amazingly, the Patriots have only visited Green Bay one other time before last Sunday. They lost 27-14 on October 1, 1979 at Lambeau Field and then 45-3 in Milwaukee back in 1988.
Just as amazing is the fact that Slash of G?n?R fame is now doing ads for Volkswagen. If you would have bet me in 1988 that he would be a seasoned veteran guitarist adman and Axl Rose would still be alive in 2006, I would have taken the bet in a flash.
While wrestling the two Rousseau toddlers in front of the television during Sunday?s game, an ad for Madden?07 came on the screen. Maybe when they go to college I will be able to devote the time needed to learn this valuable life skill.
All of this nonsense about fielding long missed field goals has to stop. What happens is that one miss gets returned every few years for a 108-yard touchdown and it becomes en vogue. The latest example was in the Cal-USC game Saturday night. Why not rush an extra player and trying to block the field goal. A miss from this distance gives you the ball on at least your own 40 yard-line. Now every team will be on guard for it. Rush the extra guy and stop having him pick his nose under the goal post waiting for the missed kick.
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