Monday, October 17, 2005

LOST IN THE WILDERNESS

I dare all the pundits, prognosticators, and haters: Write off the Patriots. Go right ahead. Declare the dynasty dead and buried. That is just what Bill Belichick wants you to do: all the more words and jive to use to motivate his players.

PATRIOTS:

ANATOMY OF A BEAT-DOWN:


Before the season and anticipating the team to be perfectly healthy within reason, I saw the Patriots headed into their bye week with a 4-2 record. Certainly, I never imagined them with 15+ players with injuries significant enough to put players on the bench for at least one of the first six games and many of those players missing multiple games. Even so, I think as long as they were 2-4 and they would fine for the simple reason that after the bye week the Patriots have one, maybe two, games that they are not going to be clear favorites to win.

Now I know I had said that I was on the Belichick wagon and only went one game at a time, blah, blah, blah. Well, I lied. To use the phrase Walt would attribute to his former neighbor, I am dirty dog. I lied, I do not care, and as a fan/observer/recorder I can go back on what I said as much as I want. So there.

Anyway, other than the Colts, and maybe Tampa Bay, two teams that have pounded on the dregs of the league while the Patriots played playoff teams and powerhouses, the Patriots second half includes pansies like New Orleans and all six divisional games against their traditional rivals who all share one trait: all of the teams have no offense and present little challenge to the Patriots and their supremacy in the league.

The Patriots, unfortunately for all you haters, are going to win 11 or 12 games this season, skate into the playoffs (maybe without a bye as Cincinnati and Indy seem to be in line to grab them right now), and beat-up on a couple of teams that deserve a serious smack-down from the champs (your time is coming, Padres oops Chargers fans, yeah, all four of you!) before going into the Indy Dome and humiliating Peyton Manning ONCE MORE. This is the last hope for Indianapolis before the salary cap spells their doom, and the pain and frustration from a beating from the Patriots will likely be the first step to the downward spiral.

Of course, the Jets are way over the cap by almost $30 million next year and were supposed to be built to win this year. Whoops. Gang-Green, cha-cha-cha.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL:

THE SECOND GREATEST GAME THESE EYES HAVE WITNESSED:

Right after Flutie versus Miami in THE game, USC versus Notre Dame on Saturday was simply the second best college game I have ever seen (I do not count the classic U Cal versus Stanford Marching Band game since I only saw the highlights). Talk about a fantastic finish! We were all glued to the TV as the game came down to the amazing finish. When Notre Dame scored at the end, even though there was almost two minutes left, I thought the game was over. They were just too pumped and jacked and at home. Heck, I thought there was no way USC would convert the fourth down. When Leinart called the audible on the play and hit that long pass down the sidelines, all I could think was that the boy must have nuts of steel.

Most credit goes to Pete Carroll for keeping his team under control on the sideline as the fans and players for Notre Dame stormed the field after the clock ran down from seven seconds when it should have stopped. Carroll knew exactly what was going on, what was right, and kept his team in the right frame of mind. Where was this Pete Carroll in New England?

Also, great call by Pete eschewing the field goal, faking the spike, and calling the QB sneak. He must have been waiting fifteen years for a fake spike opportunity since Marino pulled it on him and the Jets way back when. (J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets).

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ANYONE ON THE EAST COAST STILL WATCHING BASEBALL?

No? Oh well, some good games out there. Here is hoping for a classic, seven-game see-saw series last seen in 1991 with Minnesota against Atlanta. Maybe this is the year.

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QUICK SHOUT-OUT:

Congrats to Erik Love, of the Atlanta Falcons blog who was kind enough to interview me last week in prep of the Pats-Falcons battle-royale. Erik is celebrating his 5,000 hit, so some very public congrats to him and his site. If you missed the pre-game interview, check it out at his great Falcons-related site at: http://www.falconsdailydouble.blogspot.com/ 2005/10/interview-with-sock.html One more thing, Erik: Pedro will miss six weeks with a shoulder injury next year and doom the Mets. You heard it from me first.

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RED SOX:THEO VERSUS LARRY, 15 ROUNDS:

Is there anyone else nervous that the Sox have less than three weeks to tie up Theo Epstein before George Steinbrenner starts throwing millions of dollars at him to join the NY-TAMPA shuttle? (Typing that reminds me that NY-LON, on BBCAmerica, which I only saw one episode of but totally dragged me in, was listed to be on last night and was instead replaced by the hideous Teen Angels program, which can be loosely described as fat, ugly, snaggle-toothed Brit teenagers acting badly. Wait, what is my page count from the UK? Is it below the Netherlands? OK, we can keep that in there).

Anyway, the very real possibility exists that young Theo will walk on Halloween night. The only GM to lead the Sox to a World Series victory could walk out the door and be gone. Then what? Larry Lucchino in a more active role? Josh Towers promoted to GM? Brian Cashman coming over from the Yankees? The possibilities present a frightening thought.

The good news is that the Sox Triumvirate should be able to keep Theo around with more money and more say-so. It is not likely he will leave, but it is definitely a possibility to prepare for in the coming weeks.

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NESN:

Forget the return of hockey on NESN, what about Ms Hazel Mae? A recent interview on-line with Mae by John Malori on his Media Blitz column (you can find it on the great site put together by Bruce Allen, who I thank for helping further the push for recognition for two of my favorite local writers: Mike Reiss and Chad Finn, at http://www.bostonmediawatch.com) was very interesting. Hazel Mae is apparently well aware of her affect on the half-naked men watching her each morning on NESN. Good for her, I say. She does a good job on SportsDesk, and at least (as far as we know) she is not snogging with Derek Lowe which is a lot more than can be said for some major media female sports anchors.

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