Is there such a thing as a sloppy blowout? Am I allowed to wonder how I should react to a dominant one-sided performance by the Patriots?
If there is such an animal as a sloppy blowout, we witnessed one Sunday afternoon in the Arizona desert.
Halfway through the first half with the Patriots up 14-0, my brother says "This is great. We can watch a game that doesn't come down to the wire. I'm sick of these close games." Turns out, he spoke a little too soon.
Despite giving the NFL's version of a junior varsity squad chance after chance to get back into the game, the Patriots were never in danger of losing this game. Like last year's overtime win against the Houston Texans, you could easily make the case that the Patriots played down to their competition. Hopefully, they won't pull this stunt again this season and have it bite them against a halfway decent team.
Let's inventory how your Super Bowl champs played on Sunday:
A fumble by a sure-handed, franchise running back that was almost returned for a touchdown.
The League's best quarterback throwing an uncharacteristic jump ball interception.
Our All-Pro safety late-hitting the Arizona quarterback after he clearly stepped out of bounds.
A rushing touchdown negated by an illegal motion penalty on Christian Fauria. Then on the next play, a holding call on Matt Light takes away any chance of either picking up a first down or a touchdown. Despite a successful field goal, these miscues cost the Patriots four points.
Allowing the Cardinals to convert on many 3rd and long situations in the third quarter.
Ty Law getting flagged in the end zone for a pass interference call on 3rd and goal. The subsequent first down allows the Cardinals to score their only touchdown of the game.
Or how about a Roman Phifer illegal contact penalty negating a Eugene Wilson interception?
Thank heavens the Patriots were playing Our Sisters of the Poor and not the Tennessee Titans.
Despite all of these miscues, there were indeed a number of positives to take away from this one.
I'll get to David Givens and Corey Dillon in a minute but the biggest positive that I saw on Sunday was the hustle of Patriots players behind the play. The two glaring examples are Deion Branch getting on his horse and catching up to recover a Patrick Pass fumble deep in Arizona territory. If Arizona recovers that ball, it would have provided an early momentum swing for the young team. And on the Dillon fumble, Daniel Graham hustled back to knock the Cardinal defender out of bounds before he can reach the end zone. Cardinal miscues and Patriot sacks turned this golden opportunity for seven points into a long (yet successful) field goal attempt for Arizona. That prevention of four Cardinal points won't show up on any stat sheet or any fantasy report yet it helped to decide the game. This demonstrates that these guys (once again) are well coached and "get it" as the Tuna used to say around these parts.
In two plus seasons, David Givens has turned himself from a seventh round draft pick into arguably the team's number one receiving threat. Didn't he seem to have a lot more than 6 catches for 118 yards? Whenever it felt like there was a chance that the Cardinals were going to get back into the game, Brady found Givens for a twenty-plus yard reception downfield to make us all breath a little easier.
As for Dillon, how cool is this guy to watch? Maybe my lens of time has gotten a little foggy and out of focus, but it's hard to remember even old friend Curtis Martin making cutbacks and knocking defenders around like Dillon has done the first two games. All the offensive linemen have to do is put a hat on hat, let Dillon find the hole and he does the rest. Perhaps the nicest surprise about the addition of Dillon is his trait for leaning forward and getting that one or two extra yards for the team. And my guess is that if Dillon was honest, he would tell you that out of all the hits he takes during the course of a game, his penchant for squeaking out that one extra yard is the biggest factor as to why he is so sore the next day.
Despite the shopping list of miscues and mental mistakes, the bottom line is that the Patriots are 2-0 heading into their bye week and are one win away from tying the all-time NFL consecutive winning streak record. And despite whatever sour grapes you may hear from the 1972 Dolphins camp in the coming weeks, nineteen straight wins would indeed be a special occurrence and a cause for celebration and printing t-shirts. And even more so in the era of free agency, more physically fit players, the salary cap and the most parity the NFL has ever seen in its entire existence.
Stew on that for a while during your bye week.
Idle Zinger thoughts while realizing what a racket Babies 'R Us has on it's hands:
News item: Cleveland quarterback Jeff Garcia's Playboy model girlfriend gets into a catfight with his ex-girlfriend in a Cleveland area bar. How lucky is this guy? I would say that Jeff is dealing with those Terrell Owens' accusations just fine, thank you very much.
Either Giants' General Manager Ernie Accorsi is either wearing a rug or has the worst hairdo going this side of comedian Steven Wright. Frankly, I shouldn't be casting stones in this department.
What's the deal with these quick, black and white, handheld shots during sports talk shows like NESN's Sports Plus or the Patriots Football Weekly program? Please write in if you have any idea as to how this enhances the viewing experience. All it does is make me crane my neck to try and view the crazy angle.
I am willing to bet you fifty Chinese Yuan that the reason the Patriots are putting up a Chinese version of their web page is that they are setting themselves up for a pre-season game in Shanghai next year. I believe Peter King uncovered this last year. Part of me applauds the team for pursuing it as I don't think there is a better way to bring about democratic change than giving the Chinese masses all the Tedy Bruschi and five-receiver formations that they can handle. Yet on the other hand, I was inspired to be a political science major in college due to that kid standing in front of the tank in Tiannamen Square in 1989 and I have a hard time rewarding such a tyranny.
The Arizona Republic newspaper has a regular Cardinal column by someone called "FanBoy." Yeesh.........Anyone care to guess how much abuse "FanBoy" would take if he was in the fold at the Boston Globe or Herald?
Look for a book report from me during the bye week on Michael Felger's new book "Tales from the Patriots' Sideline." It's a hilarious, yet factual look at the teams first forty years.
It may be fashionable to bash Giants coach Tom Coughlin for being an insensitive, tough guy but I will always remember his son, Tim, being the nicest deskmate a fat, awkward fifth-grader at the Centennial elementary school could have ever hoped for.
And even if you think I should be the next "FanBoy," I can be reached at [email protected].
Don't forget to check me out at 8:20 on Friday mornings on Bangor, Maine's sports radio leader, WZON 620 "The Zone." You can listen over the internet at www.zoneradio.com
More News Headlines: