October 05, 2009
This New Defense Looks Like An Old Flame
BY: Kevin Rousseau
I've been fortunate enough to go to hundreds of games in Foxboro over the years. In this regard, I am certifiably spoiled. Some games rise to the top of the memory bank like the AFC Championships, Tuna Bowls, the Tuck Rule, etc. Others are forgettable and just sort of fade into a blurred past. Then there are the games like Sunday's win against the Ravens. They may not be on the first string of memorable games but they are very serviceable second stringers. Think Kevin Faulk.
It was a memorable day for a bunch of good reasons. My bride was by my side as we had a rare hall pass. A fun tailgate always helps along with good weather. It was a well-played game by two decent teams despite the best effort of the officiating crew to mess with the on-field product.
But the real reason this one will stick out is because we saw a good defense being re-born on this day.
It was the same feeling that came over us in the early part of this decade when we saw Lawyer Milloy, Ty Law and Tedy Bruschi turn from good, serviceable players into a group that has a place in football history. As I wrote two weeks ago, 2007 ruined so many things. Before that star-crossed year, the Patriots were made up of an offense that scored just enough points to win and a defense that almost invariably made a play or two at the end of a game to seal a victory.
Let's face it. You, me, Jim Nabors and Pope Benedict XVI all had our doubts about this brand new defense heading into the season. We saw the players that made up all of those great defensive memories--Vrabel, Harrison, Seymour, Bruschi, etc--all depart while a bunch of young, unproven players took their place.
Through their first three games, the likes of Guyton, Merriweather, Willhite, Pryor, McGowen didn't embarrass themselves. They didn't give up a big play against the Bills, Jets or Falcons. They didn't look wildly out of place either. But really, they weren't the center of your Patriot universe. Making an appointment with your psychotherapist to talk about why Tom Brady was sailing passes or how Laurence Maroney was auditioning for "Dancing with the Stars" was at the top of your agenda.
More times than not, a good team's character is defined by its defense. After Sunday's performance, I'm buying what this defense is selling.
"Okay, Rousseau. You're definitely fallen off the turnip truck now. After one game, you're sold. Come on."
I don't blame you for being a little gun shy. You're still heartbroken after being left at the altar in 2007. You've probably forgotten how much in love you were with that pre-2007 girl that wasn't nearly as flashy. She was solid, didn't embarrass herself at Thanksgiving dinner and was quite cute in her own way. In short, she was a keeper. But then the 2007 hottie came into your life and you were racing around town in that 1987 Camaro Z28 and partying on Newbury Street until three in the morning like it was nobody's business.
Now the solid pre-2007 cutie is back on the scene. The pre-2007 girl--in this case a Patriots team with defense you can get excited about--moved back to town. You tell her one night in a candid moment while driving around Salem that, deep down, you've been comparing her to every other team you see out on the market today and the truth is none of them make you feel quite the same way she used to. And as you think about just what kind of football team you want to settle down and spend the rest of your life with, the answer is staring right back at you while cruising past Marky Mark's condo.
It was Brandon Merriweather coming out of nowhere to knock a ball away at the last minute to save a second quarter touchdown. Leigh Bodden looked pretty slick picking off a Joe Flacco interception in the red zone. Mike Wright's motor has been a pleasant surprise. And I'm buying whatever Gary Guyton is selling.
The exact moment I knew that the old flame was the future wife was after the Patriots defense stopped the Ravens on 4th-and-1 with 5:17 left in the game. Sure, there was the drive at the end of the game. But seeing the way the defense reacted and celebrated after stopping Willis McGahee was the "it" moment.
And did I mention the old girlfriend is getting a tummy tuck in a few weeks in the form of Jerrod Mayo returning?
Trust me. If you find a good one, don't screw it up a second time. Whether it's a defense that makes you sit on the edge of your seat or a cute brunette who 13 years ago was told "I'm kinda into the Patriots," finding the right one is a big deal. Truth is, the latter acquitted herself quite nicely on Sunday thanks to a nice pair of jeans, a Rodney Harrison jersey and a pink Patriots breast cancer hat. The former makes my heart race as well.
I hope you were wise enough to see it too on Sunday.
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