Monday, September 29, 2003

Patriots 17, Washington 20 (9/28/2003)

Well, the injury list is longer than the list of records broken by the Red Sox this year, and most all of the off-season free-agent signings have been neutralized by injury, but the Pats played a gutty game against Washington. And despite what you might read or hear, I think they fell short for two reasons:

1. They lost the turn-over battle. Tom Brady gets the blame for two intercepted passes he never should have thrown, and Washington made a great play on the third. And Kevin Faulk's fumble was devastating because it basically gave the bad guys a free TD in a game decided by 3 points. The other side of this coin is that they didn't force any turn-overs. There was a Washington fumble that bounded down the field with Patriots on all sides, but they couldn't quite get to it, and mid-way through the fourth quarter, Ramsey threw it right at two Patriot defenders, but neither could come up with it.

2. They never got Washington out of their comfort zone (this is related to the turn-over factor). Since our boys were never ahead in the game, Steve Spurrier never had to take any risks. And I would love to have watched him sweat it out as his second-year QB tried dangerous throws against the confusing and talented Patriots defense. But it never happened because the Pats had turn-overs instead of touchdowns, and Washington never had to take those risks. So, while the idiots on Sports Radio argue about the last-minute play-calling or ignore the Pats in favor of the playoff-bound Red Sox, trust me when I say they didn't lose because of the last drive. They lost it a little bit at a time all game long. And the outlook for next week is bleak right now, but I need to study up on Tennessee's general tendencies, look at their schedule, and check both team's injury reports before getting into it.

On the positive side:

1. I thought the Patriots ran the ball better yesterday. In fact, I'd like to see them go more two tight-end and smashmouth it to take some of the pressure of an already-injured Tom Brady. The offensive line has impressed me, especially with all the injuries and new players.

2. I liked the production out of Daniel Graham, although they should never have him pass-protecting without help -- the Washington linebackers made him look foolish a couple of times.

3. Even though David Givens caught a TD, he missed too many other assignments to call his game a good one. He missed a block on a wide-receiver screen that wasn't easy to miss, and he should have found a way to knock down Brady's second interception.

4. Man, do I like Asante Samuel's game. He's tight on the receivers, hits hard, and avoids the big mistakes and big penalties.

And the ultimate good news is they're tied for second place, a half-game behind Miami -- and it looks like that vaunted Buffalo defense might have been a two-week wonder. It should be a battle royale down to the wire.

Keep the faith,

- Scott

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