November 19, 2006
Finally, Patriots Play Like Patriots
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
GREEN BAY, Wisc. -- After a two-week vacation, the real Patriots returned to Lambeau Field on Sunday.
The Patriots completed the halfway mark of their jaunt through the NFC Norris (when ESPN?s Chris Berman says that, we hope you know that he means the NFC Central) with still another mistreatment of one of their teams. With the other two teams, Chicago and Detroit their next two opponents, both of them at home, the Patriots have to be licking their chops. The Patriots went into Minnesota and crushed the Vikings three weeks ago, and on Sunday, the Patriots abused the Green Bay Packers even worse.
You watched the 35-0 annihilation of the Packers by the Patriots and you had to be thinking only one thing: Where was this last weekend at home against the Jets? If the Patriots were good enough to beat the Packers 35-0 on the road, they should have beaten the Jets 70-0 at home. (Before you consider if this is being too harsh on the Jets, the poor dears were shut out at home by the Bears, 10-0 on Sunday.). The Patriots showed on Sunday what they are really capable of, not the stinkers they cut the last two weeks against Indianapolis and the Jets.
Face it, predicting a Packer win was not way off base, given how lousy the Patriots played over the last two weeks. On Sunday, the Patriots were simply stunning.
The Patriots were finally able to get to Brett Favre and defeat him for the first time in eleven years. As good as Favre has looked against the Patriots over the years, he looked simply awful on Sunday. He didn?t throw any interceptions, largely because he didn?t try any of his improvisational jazz he is so well known for. Why he didn?t try that stuff is partly due to the fact that he is too old for that stuff, but the main reason is that the Patriots never gave him reason or ability to do so.
The Patriots completely stuffed the Packer offense, through and through. Simply stated, the Packers had no chance to get anything going on offense. Packer fans can complain about the play calling, but the Patriots had the Packers completely smelled out in every phase of the game.
Numbers tell a good tale. Favre completed only 5 of 15 passes for 73 yards and a 50.1 passer rating. Ahman Green gained only 28 yards on 13 carries and was held completely in check by the Patriot front seven (with Ty Warren back in the lineup, we should mention). The Packers were 1 for 13 in third down conversions. The Packers gained only 120 net yards on offense as a team. The Patriots enjoyed a two-to-one edge in time of possession.
Favre was not around for the finish. Late in the first half, Tully Banta-Cain and Tedy Bruschi combined on a sack of Favre, with Bruschi (who faced Favre in Super Bowl XXXI) slamming Favre on his right shoulder. Favre left the game and never returned. His replacement, Aaron Rodgers, went 4 for 12 passing for 32 yards and a 42.4 rating. Favre?s departure sealed the Packers? fate, and perhaps ensured a shutout for the Patriot defense.
Before the injury, Favre looked off kilter for the entire game, overthrowing receivers even when he wasn?t being hurried. It is not a stretch of the imagination that this injury could be serious enough for Favre to consider calling it a career. If this is indeed it for Favre, you can all say that you saw the end of a Hall of Fame career, ended by a linebacker who matches Favre in Foxborough in terms of legend and fan adulation. Favre is too tough for anyone to assume that this sort of injury would end his career, but if this is indeed it for him, how ironic it would be that it would be a hit by the equally classy Bruschi which did it.
Tom Brady, meanwhile, had the game today you thought he would have had last week. The stat book reads 20 of 31 passing, 244 yards, four touchdowns, eight different receivers, a 128.2 passer rating. Again, where was this last week at home against the Jets? Brady showed Favre who the real boss of the quarterback position in the league is, although he might have settled for at least a better showing than when Favre last saw him in 2002. Brady did what he needed to do against a defense he was supposed to have an easy time against.
Not only did Brady hit eight different receivers, his four touchdown passes went to four different receivers. Daniel Graham caught a two-yard scoring toss on the first offensive drive of the game. Brady found Reche Caldwell on a slick 54-yard post pattern for a touchdown in the second quarter. Ben Watson made a terrific diving grab in the left corner of the end zone in the third quarter for an eight-yard scoring toss. Laurence Maroney took a toss in the left flat, put a delicious fake on Nick Barnett, and scampered in along the left sideline for nineteen yards and a touchdown in the final period to complete the scoring. Despite some occasional pressure on Brady (he was sacked twice), the Patriot gunslinger was comfortable the whole game and carved up the Packers with ease.
It turned out to be a great day for the Patriots on all fronts. The Patriots regained a two-game lead in the division thanks to the aforementioned Jet loss to the Bears. Both Indianapolis and Denver lost on Sunday, so the Patriots got a little closer to two teams who own tiebreakers over the Patriots. The Patriots also showed everyone that they can march into a tough road stadium, stare the ghost of Vince Lombardi in the eye and lay a whuppin? on the home team. One of these days, they?ll learn to do the same thing in the Mile High City.
Best of all, the Patriots regain their good frame of mind. They now come home to their home field, their new Field Turf, and two more NFC Central opponents to face. They should be ready to handle the tough Bears at home next week, and will not take the lowly Detroit Lions the following week too lightly. Shutting out the Packers on Sunday definitely was good for what ailed the Patriots.
But you have to admit it. You had to be scared over the prospect of this game, thanks to the two lousy games preceding this one. This once again shows what the Patriots can do. Next week, if they can handle the 8-1 Bears, you can officially get excited again.
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