December 09, 2007
Patriots Always Answer The Late Season Bell
BY: Kevin Rousseau
You know, the funny thing is for a guy who hasn't watched much boxing since Marvelous Marvin Hagler, I sure have used a lot of boxing analogies over the years to describe the Patriots.
Like the Patriots and their spread formation, why mess with a good thing?
Sure, the last two weeks scared the living Bejesus out of me with two close calls against crummy teams. I wondered if indeed the Patriots were a carbon copy of the Colts from a couple of seasons ago. A so-so defense, no running game and a little soft. But then I kept coming back to my gut instinct. Namely, the Patriots always show up for a big game late in the season. Always. Especially at home.
Last year, it was the juking Tom Brady beating the Chicago Bears. In the 2001 season (that season is like your first love in high school, isn't it?), I remember it was a game versus the Saints in the rain. I'll spare you the shopping list of other games. But like a veteran fighter who knows that the win goes to the one who can perform best last, the Patriots always answer the bell.
The latest chapter in this saga came on Sunday night with the Patriots ripping through the League's number one defense and cruising to a 34-13 victory that will reassert their dominance as we head towards the final rounds.
There's plenty to like about this game but what I'll be thinking about as I fall asleep tonight is how the Patriots reasserted their physicality against the Steelers. The last two weeks were about taking jabs and hooks. In this game, we had Tom Brady making Anthony Smith look like a fool and then getting in his face after the first touchdown. We had the defense tightening up in the red zone like previous editions of this dynasty were famous for. The ten yard run by Laurence Maroney that saw him move the pile seven yards made you jump out of your seat. Jeepers, we even had the HC of the NEP say that "We've seen better safeties than him" with regards to Smith.
If I had told you before the game that the Steelers would gain 181 yards on the ground against 22 for the Patriots while dominating time of possession 35 minutes to 25 minutes, you probably would have resigned yourself to a Patriots loss. Remember, there are lies, damn lies and then there are statistics. It was close at halftime but like answering the bell for a big game late in the season, the Patriots seemingly always make the proper halftime adjustments. And that adjustment apparently was to change nothing on offense. Same formation, same blitz pickup and same execution. The adjustments on defense slowed down "Ben" enough that momentum was firmly on the Patriots side once the decisive flea flicker made the score 24-13.
But one statistic does hold true tonight. 13-0. You don't have to make any apologies for this one if you are a Patriots fan. They've earned it every step of the way by answering the bell for every round this season. Some rounds were easy. Some rounds, like the previous two, had them just barely hanging on.
And now the path is cleared for a perfect regular season. The coronation begins this coming Sunday with a score-settling game against the Jets. It certainly was within the Jets' right to turn the Patriots in for cheating, but the consequences of such a move will be devastating. Here are some records that are in jeopardy on Sunday. The most points ever scored in a game is 72 by the Redskins versus the Giants in 1966. Tom Brady will need four touchdown passes to tie and five to surpass the 49 touchdown mark for a season held by Peyton Manning. Randy Moss is four touchdown receptions away from breaking the all-time single season mark (22) held by Jerry Rice.
After taking a deep breath to help understand the historical ramifications of that last paragraph, make sure that you smile and appreciate the time we are living in.
It's a great time to answer the bell if you are a Patriots fan.
Idle Zinger thoughts while watching the Lawrence Welk show on PBS:
If you haven't caught this since 1978, do yourself a favor and stop when you are surfing by it. On the Bill Simmons unintended humor scale, it's a perfect 10.
I saw a clip of Joe Namath the other day and that got me to thinking about sending Tom Brady a letter a la Bobby Brady and seeing if he will come to my house to play catch in the backyard. I can guarantee you that my father's reaction would not have been nearly as tepid as Mike Brady's if I had pulled that stunt of writing to Broadway Joe and telling him that "I was very, very sick."
Admit it, you miss Ron Borges' angle.
And don't you wish Will McDonough was still around when the whole spygate thing broke. Then we would have found out what really went down and who has been doing what to whom.
That Patriots spread formation out of the shotgun is a whole lot like eating Cheetos. You say you're done and you aren't going to have anymore. But you keep going back down into the bag again and again.
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