December 01, 2008
Is Your Glass Half Full Or Half Empty?
BY: Kevin Rousseau
Depending on what side of the street you are walking on these days, your opinion about the 2008 Patriots season is either completely deflated or still soberly optimistic after the crushing 33-10 loss on Sunday to the Steelers.
We'll get to the remaining four games on the Patriots schedule in a minute but first let's take a look back at the Pittsburgh game and see what we can take away from it. Pittsburgh was coming off a Thursday night scrimmage versus the Bengals and thereby had a three-day rest edge on the Patriots heading into the key game. The Patriots, on the other hand, played a spirited and physical game down in Miami the week before. In retrospect, a letdown against a tough Steelers team could be seen barreling down Route 1.
The air came out of the balloon when Randy Moss dropped a touchdown in the end zone and Stephen Gostkowski missed a field goal just before halftime. Mix in a Football Follies kick return by Matthew Slater, a suspension-worthy cheap shot by Ryan Clark on Wes Welker, and a few Matt Light matador specials and things got out of hand pretty darn quick there in the third quarter.
When the obituary is written on the 2008 Patriots season, many positive things will be remembered. Matt Cassel will be praised. Bill Belichick will be recognized for Scotch taping the team together enough to secure a playoff spot. And Gary Guyton and Jerrod Mayo will be seen as key pieces for the future. But the downfall of this team is quite evident.
They have a secondary that is either (a) young or (b) not very good. Take your pick. With a vulnerable secondary--especially against five receiver sets like they saw against Pittsburgh--the front defensive seven is called upon to bring pressure on the quarterback and stop the run on just about every down. You could then conclude that the front seven is either (a) asked to do too much or (b) suddenly old or (c) just plain underperforming. With apologies to Dean Wermer, a defense that gives up 33 consecutive red zone scores is no way to go through life, son. Oh, did I mention the Patriots getting pushed around on both sides of the ball like the author of this column in his 11th grade high school soccer locker room?
"Yep, they are a done for," Bert & I's Harry Whitfield would conclude if you asked him while he was in the middle of causing a commotion on Route 1 in Wiscasset.
(Sorry, for that. It's the 50th anniversary of Bert & I. Had to do something to commemorate it. Okay. On with the columnů.)
So when the obituary will be written for this team in either late December or more likely early January, you'll be a little disappointed but looking back you'll say that they squeezed about as much out of the lemon as they could. Just think how vulnerable you felt after Opening Day. Don't you remember the line that formed on the Chelsea side of the Tobin Bridge?
Now let's continue to cross the street to the optimistic side.
Let's be honest. The Patriots are battling the Dolphins and the Ravens for the honor of playing the Jets or the Steelers on Wild Card Weekend. The Ravens have the Redskins, Steelers, Cowboys and Jacksonville with a game lead over the Patriots and Dolphins. That's a tough road to hoe for a rookie quarterback or any team for that matter, chummy.
The Dolphins have an identical record (7-5) than the Patriots but fewer conference losses. Their road is much easier with games against Buffalo, San Francisco, Kansas City and the Jets. Besides the Jets game, the Dolphins should be favored in three of those games. And that brings us to local NFL entry.
With winnable games against Seattle, Oakland, Arizona and Buffalo the road is pretty clear for the Patriots. Win them all and they will be 11-5 despite their large warts and vulnerabilities. Historically, this is a team that responds well after a whopping and I expect this to be the case this coming Sunday against Seattle. They won't have much for the better teams of the AFC in January but any win during that month will be gravy.
It's hard to see it after such a crushing loss but it's been a lot of fun this year. Watching Matt Cassel develop has been a blast. There's some hope for replacements at linebacker in the future. His off-season moves (or lack thereof) aside, Bill Belichick has coached his pants off this season.
Some air has been let out of the 2008 Patriots balloon after recent losses to the Colts, Jets and Steelers. Over the next four to five weeks, you'll have to come to accept this smaller, softer balloon. As a coach that used to work around Foxboro would say at this time of the year "They are what they are." All things considered, we'll take it and move forward to 2009.
Warts and all.
Idle Zinger thoughts while wondering just when an opposing stadium is not a hostile environment?
You may have noticed the frequency of columns has been down lately. Sorry. It's just life and other writing gigs taking a seat at the table. Nothing bad. Just figured I owed you all an explanation. If you want to see some of my other handiwork, click on this linkfor a recent Boston Globe Travel section story I did on Hart's Turkey Farm Restaurant. I've also been working on some stuff for Cape Cod Life magazine and the local Kennebec Journal's Winter Sports Preview. Let me know if you need me to come to your local Kiwanis club meeting and break down the local Augusta/Waterville high school swimming scene. If so, I'm your man.
As usual, space is filling up fast to book me for your office "Holiday" party. Things usually go awry after I insist on playing a game of layoff musical chairs.
Even though, it's post-Thanksgiving one of the things I am very grateful is that so many of you tune in on a regular basis to see what a blowhard like me has to say.
I would like to hear from you. I'm especially in the market for idle zingers as my creativity has frankly dried up in this department. Feel free to drop me a line and tell me what you think of these columns. I can be reached at rousseaumedia at gmail dot com.
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