Tuesday, January 17, 2006

NO APPLE IN THESE TURNOVERS

I admit it, I really thought this was the year again for the Patriots. Sure, I overlooked their lack of a consistent running game; the idea that maybe they were asking too much out of Tom Brady considering how many times he stood back in the pocket and got pounded; the big wins against bad teams; the alarming number of red zone trips ending in a field goal; the defensive backfield without Rodney Harrison; and the fact that the polish was just a little faded on the 2005 New England Patriots. I overlooked it all, and they still should have won in Denver and been at home against the Steelers next weekend.

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JUST HOLD ONTO THE DAMNED BALL:

Yeah, that phantom interference call on Asante Samuel changed the whole demeanor of the game, but to say the Patriots lost because of that one call is ludicrous. Now the Tom Brady interception in the end zone was inexcusable. Instead of a 10-9 game, the score was 17-6. That changed the game. Yes, I thought that the call by the official that the ball did not pass into the end zone when Ben Watson made the amazing play of catching Champ Bailey at the one yard line after a 100 yard return was the wrong one. Heck, I may not know much about physics, but for the ball to move ten feet to the left without moving 9 feet forward seems implausible, but to complain about that is silly. Brady should have thrown the ball six inches off the ground or sailed it out of the end zone. He made a very bad decision at the wrong time.

All of the turnovers killed the Patriots. Troy Brown fumbling, Ellis Hobbs fumbling, Kevin Faulk fumbling, the Brady INTs, it all adds up to rookie mistakes. And with rookies in there as offensive and defensive coordinators, maybe this really was 2002 all over: a year to step back, re-evaluate, get it right, and come back stronger the next year. The nucleus is there, and while they certainly have holes, maybe an extra three weeks of rest is just what the doctor ordered for this team. One thing is for sure, even if they lose David Givens and Adam Vinatieri (their marquee free agents) and defensive coordinator Eric Mangini, the team still has the depth to be a perennial contender in the AFC.

For the Patriots, their division is still weak. Without a top-flight quarterback, the Dolphins will continue to stay around .500. The Jets and Bills are in such disarray that they are exhibits one and two as the league laughingstocks. The AFC East crown is theirs to lose. Their offensive line should be stronger than ever, with Matt Light and Dan Koppen returning. They still need some young, fast linebackers to stick on the outside and a big young mutt to groom to take over in the middle, but they are still strong up the middle and in the trenches. They will win a lot of games in the near future. As much as people would like to kick them when they are down, they are still a deep team that can compete for the near future every season.

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NEW RULES:

When did being a media member mean the spotlight went on you as you become part of the story? And how do I get some of that action? Bruce Allen of BostonSportsMedia.com & the Big Dawgs over at coldhardfootballfacts.com (incidently, two of my favorite sites, see links on the right hand side of my page) have come out together and called for the mass e-mailing to the Boston Globe to call for the firing, or removal from the Patriots beat, of Ron Borges. Ron Borges has his faults, no doubt. He has a personal issue with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick which is evident in his writing. Borges should have been removed from football coverage back at the turn of the millennium. However, he is a very good writer, has some legit sources in the league, and is the best boxing writer on the planet right now. Thus, it is kind of hard to throw him out with the bathwater. I may not send any emails, but I will play King Solomon say this: he is worth keeping, but not covering the Patriots. Let him move over baseball and cover the Red Sox and keep him in the boxing notes.

Of course, on Sunday after the Patriots loss, Borges goes out and writes a beautiful article about how the season ended in disappointment but the team still had much to be proud of in 2005. I had to re-read the article to be sure it was Borges who wrote it. Maybe he took this latest criticism to heart, maybe his editor stood over his shoulder and made sure it was done, but it was simply a great article.

I was expecting venom, and found only the sweet water of a trickling brook in the summertime.

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