Wednesday, October 8, 2003

Patriots 38, Titans 30 (10/5/2003)

Well, I'm psyched.

Our beloved Patriots took on a team with more talent and fewer injuries, and beat them for four main reasons.

First of all, the young guys are stepping up big-time. If you want to sound sports-intelligent around the water cooler, just say, "Gee, those rookie defensive backs are playing great" or "Man, those first year defensive lineman can really make things happen." With all their injuries, the Patriots would be under .500 without significant contributions from the following first- or second-year players: Asante Samuel (CB), Eugene Wilson (S), Deion Branch (WR), Bethel Johnson (WR), David Givens (WR), Dan Klecko (NT/DT/FB), Ty Warren (DT), Jarvis Green (DE), and Dan Koppen (OL). Before you go look it up, that's 75% of all the first- or second-year players on the roster who could be playing (Rohan Davey backs up Tom Brady, so he won't play unless Brady gets injured).

As an aside, I give my brother Sean a lot of credit for this observation. He saw the game live and when I talked with him, he said, "The kids are stepping in and playing great."

Secondly, the schemes they used to keep Donovan McNabb in the pocket worked just as well against Steve McNair. The scheme put a lot of pressure on the defensive backs and linebackers, because they commit at least 5 and sometimes 6 guys to rush the QB -- and some of the big passing plays were because of that. But the plan was to rush at least five guys, have them honor the Titan's running game first and then keep McNair in the pocket for passing plays. And for the second time this year, it worked perfectly. McNair couldn't run around to buy time, and his receivers weren't able to make enough big plays to make the Pats change their plan.

Thirdly, the offensive plan was basic, efficient, and effective. The Titans have great defensive pass rushers, and the Pats ran right at them -- through some gaping holes, I might add. I hadn't seen Antowain Smith run like that in two years, and Mike Cloud has some real burst at the line of scrimmage. Brady was back to being cool and efficient, and he even hit a few long passes. And most important for him, no interceptions.

And lastly, the Patriots special teams significantly outplayed Tennessee's, even with the missed field goals by Adam V. This shocked me most of all, because the Titans are regularly in the top tier in special teams, year in and year out. But they missed too many tackles, and gave up too many big plays. I didn't expect to see the Pats outplay them by such a large margin, especially because injuries usually hurt most on special teams (because starters are taken off special teams to protect them from further injury).

All in all, this win reminded me a lot of the games they played during their Super Bowl run. Effective running game, efficient QB, "bend but don't break" defense, and sparkling special teams. If the young guys can keep it up, we should start getting some guys back in a couple of weeks, which can only help.

I think that's all for now.

Sorry this email was so late, but with all the Red Sox games, I've had a little trouble keeping up.

Take care,

- Scott

PS. Sox in seven games.

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