Monday, October 27, 2003

Patriots 9, Browns 3 (10/26/2003)

Okay, 9-3 isn't exactly the most exciting game of the year; but I'll take it. The Browns aren't world-beaters, but I still think they've got a better chance at the playoffs than, say the Buffalo Bills -- because their record is similar but their division is weaker.

Well, it's about the same as the last few emails. A battered team limps on the field and fights a opponent for 60 minutes and comes out with a victory.
The offense switched from sputtering to spectacular about five times, with the Cleveland defense causing much of the former and Daniel Graham and Kevin Faulk providing a lot of the latter.

The Pats defense played well, with major contributions from Mike Vrabel, Rodney Harrison, and (once again) Roman Phipher -- the tackling machine.
The rest of the defense also played well, limiting Cleveland to under 250 total yards and only 3 points.

The offense... well, the less said the better. They moved the ball and had some nice performances, but just couldn't punch it in for the TD. They weren't that great on third down, and seemed to have a lot of badly-timed penalties in the red zone.

Fortunately, there's a third phase of the game, and the Patriots dominated in that category. Their special teams were truly special, downing four punts inside the Cleveland 20 (and just barely missing a fifth), and converting three out of four field goals in 25 mph winds. This was no easy day for kickers, trust me, I was there and the wind was whipping and swirling. And I think Ken Walter deserves special mention. Every one of his punts seemed to land at the five yard line and bounce away from, or parallel to, the goal line -- giving the coverage teams opportunity after opportunity to leave the Browns with a long field.

And sure enough, when Cleveland was up against it and had to take some more chances at the end of the game, it brought out the real Kelly Holcomb -- and the real Ty Law. Game over.

6-2 at the halfway mark is good enough for me. This was the best I imagined they could do (check my first email), and that was without the cascade of injuries they've suffered. I like their chances against Denver (Bill B.
always does well out there), and if they can get to 7-2, the playoffs would be virutally assured.

Go Pats!

- Scott

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