December 02, 2006
How Can The Patriots Possibly Louse This Up?
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
Look. The Sox once rallied from down three-o to beat the Yankees. Sometimes miracles happen.
In this case, you are talking about a completely woebegone Detroit Lions team which recently suffered the indignity of losing to former first round pick Joey Harrington at home with the entire nation watching while eating turkey. It perhaps provided the most vivid and descriptive element as to what is wrong with the Lions. In Detroit, Harrington was right down there with Ryan Leaf. Turn him into a Dolphin, and now he?s a winner.
You all know that everything bad about the Lions somehow finds its way back to Matt Millen, the mocked and ridiculed president and general manager. Millen was a great linebacker in his day, a fairly good sportscaster, but a horrid executive who has presided over many years of generally execrable football in Motown. Most every Lion fan, if you can still find them, want Millen fired. But he will stay, and several sources say the reason why is that he has ?compromising pictures? of someone in owner William Clay Ford?s family. This may be just some humorous yarn, but it may also be the most plausible explanation why this man who makes Arizona?s Bill Bidwill look like a genius is still in this job.
The Lions come to Foxborough on Sunday for the first time since 1993, when the Detroiters posted a 19-16 overtime win over the locals in Bill Parcells? first Patriot season. The last two meetings between these teams have taken place on Thanksgiving Day, with Detroit winning big in 2000 and the Patriots returning the favor in 2002 dressed in vintage 1985 uniforms. The overall series is tied at four wins apiece.
This contest, which is the third straight interconference game for the Patriots, should be the easiest game of the season. Yes, it is always possible for an upheaval to take place on Sunday, but the odds are prohibitively in favor of the Patriots to win and win big. The Lions are in no position to pull off an upset over the Patriots for many reasons, and barring something which would resemble some pickup basketball team from MIT going into Durham, N.C. and beating Duke, the Patriots should have no trouble on Sunday.
Here are the several reasons why the Patriots should win comfortably.
There is one and only one Lion player you should even be slightly concerned about, and that is wide receiver Roy Williams. If somehow Williams can catch the smaller members of the Patriot secondary on bad days and catch about fifteen or sixteen lasers from Jon Kitna, the Lions might rack a couple of touchdowns. But even then, the Patriots should have plenty on offense to overcome whatever damage Kitna and Williams could do. Kitna, the retread who used to throw for the Bengals, is nowhere near the kind of quarterback who could be expected to make that kind of hay with Williams. But, as they say, anything is possible.
The Patriots could suffer a letdown against the Lions, and be caught looking ahead to Miami next week. Their battle with Chicago last week was a brutal battle, the most physical game the Patriots have yet played this year. But if you think this will bring down the Patriots, you perhaps also think that the Red Sox overbid for Daisuke Matzusaka for the sole reason of keeping him away from the Yankees.
The Patriots practiced in pads on Wednesday. Some of the players complained this week about how tough Bill Belichick and the practices were. And this is a 2-9 team they are preparing for. The Patriots are taking the mindset that Bobby Layne, Tobin Rote and Alex Karras are coming to town. With this kind of preparation against the low level of material they will be facing, it shouldn?t be pretty out there.
The real reason why this game won?t come out with some God-forsaken result has to do with what should be the A-number one goal for the Patriots in this game: Play a clean game with no mistakes, including turnovers.
Belichick has to be steaming over the high number of turnovers in recent weeks, going back to last year as well. Turning the ball over five times against the Bears was normally good enough for a guaranteed loss but for the fact that Rex Grossman played like the first syllable in his last name. Belichick will be bent on preventing turnovers for the rest of the season, and he is preparing the Patriots to that end, beginning with this sort of unbalanced matchup Sunday with Detroit.
For instance, if Tom Brady throws a pick which proves to be a dumb throw rather than some tipped ball, Brady ought to sit and Matt Cassel finish the rest of the game. You know this won?t happen, of course. But if Belichick wants to hammer home the point regarding taking care of the ball, this is exactly the kind of game where you could do something as outrageous as this and get away with it. The thing here is that if Brady did indeed throw a dumb pick in a game like this, Brady might shoot himself if you gave him a gun.
Now, the fumbles. Corey Dillon should do something along the lines of what Vince Wilfork did with that bell of his. He should come up with a system, a kangaroo court, whatever, to punish anyone who puts the pig on the ground. One suggestion is to send anyone who does fumble out to the nearest pig farm and have the player swim in pig food just before they slop the hogs. Again, this is outrageous, but it would again hammer home the most important tenet of protecting the ball during the time of year when it means the most.
In a game like this, things like zero turnovers and no stupid penalties are a nice goal when you have the kind of opponent the Patriots have. You know that Brady will get his and Dillon (or Laurence Maroney) will get his. The Lions are a lousy road team to begin with. The Patriots are favored by two touchdowns. There doesn?t seem any way that Detroit can win this game. The Patriots simply have to come out on top, and come out big.
In many ways, this can and will reveal how truly great a coach Belichick is. Sell the team on thinking they need lots of improvement, and make a crummy Lion team seem like the 1957 champions. Then when the Patriots go out there and treat the Lions like they should treat them, Foxborough fans should sit back and enjoy it.
But Chris Berman is right. They still have to play the game. Detroit could actually rise up and make like David. But put your money on the big guy in this case, just to be safe.
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