Monday, November 29, 2004

Patriots 24, Ravens 3 (11/28/2004)

This game was so great. It's so great to finally be 10-1 with a virtual stranglehold on the division *and* a first-round playoff bye, so great to beat "Talking Ray Lewis, with the Kung Fu Grip" and Brian "Of Course I'm a Genius -- Just Ask Me" Billick, giving them a taste of their own medicine with a suffocating defense -- well, I was so happy after the game that cried like a baby, water streaming down my face, soaking me from head to toe with tears of glee. Now... wait just one second... that was the *rain*, not tears. After all, there's no crying in football, is there?

Well, your New England Patriots did it again, beating up an inferior opponent and chugging right along toward the playoffs. They are 10-1 for the first time in franchise history, with a two-game lead in the division (over the New York Jets) and over their next closest rival for a first-round playoff bye (surprising San Diego). They did it with defense, defense and more defense in a game that should have been a shutout and that exposed the Ravens as a two-dimensional team (special teams and defense) in a three-dimensional league. If Baltimore could just get the NFL to spot them a touchdown every week, they might win some more games -- but until then, they'll be on the short end against teams that don't make mistakes with the ball.

And the Patriots are just such a team. On such a sloppy day, the most amazing statistics of the day were: the Patriots had zero turnovers; Adam Vinatieri kicked a 48-yard field goal. With the Ravens best running back out, Baltimore managed only 2.1 yards per run and barely had more total offense than Corey Dillon (124 to 123). And once the Patriots stopped their ground game, Ravens QB Kyle Boller simply didn't have the tools to win in through the air. Last week I marveled at Tom Brady's 11.4 yards per attempt, calling it other-worldly. Boller ended Sunday's game with 1.2 yards per pass attempt, one of the worst numbers I ever remember seeing. He was also sacked four times, was flushed from the pocket multiple times, threw an interception, and fumbled near his own goal line (recovered by Jarvis Green for a touchdown). And most of it wasn't his fault. With Boller's lack of downfield weapons, the Pats knew he couldn't hurt them deep, and with his lack of a running game, the Pats knew he couldn't sustain a drive. You know Baltimore's offense had a bad day when their only scoring drive reads: 6 plays, 12 yards, 22-yard field goal.

Of course, Boller and company had a lot of help in looking bad. The reconfigured New England secondary played a soft or medium zone, just keeping things in front of them to prevent the long pass. With Ty Law, Tyrone Poole, and Asante Samuel out, the Pats shifted Eugene Wilson to cornerback opposite Randall Gay (with old reliable Troy Brown as the third corner) and alternated linebacker Don Davis with Dexter Reid at safety. Only Rodney Harrison played his natural position, and yet the Pats held Boller to 15 completions in 35 attempts for 93 yards and one interception. Folks, 93 yards is a decent *quarter* for Tom Brady or any other elite quarterback. Given that he couldn't do anything against this patchwork secondary, I'd say this guy Boller just doesn't have it.

The Patriots defensive performance is a credit not only to the coaching staff, but to the Patriots front seven (lineman and linebackers). In the 26 years I've been watching the NFL, I can't recall a team that lost its two best cornerbacks and then went 5-1. It just doesn't happen unless you get great coaching, great replacement play, and have a great front seven to help cover the secondary's deficiencies. Richard Seymour doesn't have the numbers from last year, but he's being double-teamed a lot. Ty Warren has played his best three-game stretch the last three weeks; and his counterpart Jarvis Green stepped up big-time yesterday. The Keith Traylor-Vince Wilfork rotation makes you forget about Ted Washington, and Willie McGinest can sack the QB one play and then cover a wide receiver the next. Ted Johnson is having his best season in three years, Rosevelt Colvin is contributing after his awful hip injury, Roman Phifer continues to defy his age (the oldest Patriot at 36), and of course, Mike Vrabel and Tedy Bruschi are somehow always involved in those big plays.

On offense, the Patriots controlled the game on the ground. 144 yards rushing against the NFL's fourth best defense is something to crow about. It was 35 yards more than Baltimore's season average, and is a credit to the Patriots offensive line and to Corey Dillon. If we were still counting on Antowain Smith, this game would have been much more of a dogfight, but Dillon averaged 4.1 yards a carry where Antowain might have gotten 2.7 -- and that difference was huge, given the number of close third-down conversions the Patriots had. It's nice to see Daniel Graham continue to work his way back into the receiving rotation; but Sunday was not a game for great passing numbers. Brady didn't throw it as much as he had lately, and even so, the Ravens got significant pressure on him. They had linebackers and cornerbacks speed rushing from the edge and getting to Brady about half the time. Tom did a good job throwing the ball away rather than risking interceptions, and ended the game with a respectable 15 of 30 for 172 yards and no interceptions or fumbles. He was sacked once, and he got pushed around a bit, but in the end, the lack of turnovers is what won the game.

With the Baltimore offense held in check, and their defense unable to force a single turnover, the only way they could hurt us was with special teams returns. And they do have one of the best units in the NFL; but as with many things, the Patriots took away their opponents strength. Return man B.J. Sams never got much going, and never really changed field position in the game. Our punter, Josh Miller, had his worst day punting for us, and Kevin Faulk misjudged a punt, giving us possession at the 15 yard line. But the only time special teams changed the game for us was when we had 30 yards of penalties on a single punt play. That gave the Ravens their only score of the game. As for the other part of special teams, you just have to marvel at Adam Vinatieri and his partners in crime long snapper Lonie Paxton and holder Josh Miller. Some of Adam's most impressive kicks: 45 yards in the snow, 23 yards in the snow; 48 yards to win Super Bowl XXXVI; 46 yards to beat Tennessee in the 2003 playoffs; 41 yards to win Super Bowl XXXVIII. And while Sunday's 45 yarder in three inches of mud wasn't as pressure-packed as any of those others, it adds to his legacy as one of the great bad-weather kickers in NFL history.

So where does that leave us. Okay, the division title is just about ours. If we were somehow to go 2-3 over the last five games (doubtful), the Jets would have to go 5-0 to ensure they'd win the division. Since that won't happen, a division championship guarantees a home playoff game. The only real threat we have to a first-round playoff bye is the San Diego Chargers. They are two games behind us and could theoretically take the second seed if we started losing. But again, they'd have to go 5-0 or 4-1 to have much of a chance to catch us, and they still have games against Denver, KC, and on the road against Indy. (Speaking of Indy, they don't have much chance to take a first-round by from us -- they are two games back *and* we have the tie-breaker over them because we beat them to open the season.) So things are looking good for your hometown team.

Weekly Water-cooler Wisdom: "The Pats playoff success will be decided by how well Ty Law and Tyrone Poole play when they return. The team has held its own without them because they played flawed teams. But once you're in the playoffs, I don't think Randall Gay and Earthwind Moreland can take you to a championship."

Keep the faith,

- Scott

PS. 10-1!

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Patriots 27, Chiefs 19 (11/22/2004)

Where or where should I start. Deion Branch 6 catches for 105 yards? Tom Brady 124.4 passer rating? Ty Warren 7 tackles and 2 sacks? Willie McGinest sack to end the game? Adam Vinatieri leads NFL in scoring? Defense shuts down the Chiefs running game? Rodney Harrison at cornerback? It just never ends with this team.

Another week, another impressive performance, another win. For those not keeping track at home, that's 9-1, a two-game division lead, and a two-game edge in the race for those coveted first-round bye spots in the playoffs. Your Patriots just keep rolling along, beating teams that beat themselves, flattening teams that come out flat, and besting teams that don't play their best. The Chiefs exposed some of the young performers in our secondary, but our defense stopped them more often than their defense stopped us; and that was pretty much the story of a 27-19 win in Kansas City.

The Pats scored first (for an NFL record-tying 18th consecutive game), mixed the pass and run very well, and would have blown out KC if not for a late Corey Dillon fumble. To their credit, after the fumble the Chiefs drove the ball 97 yards in less than 6 minutes for a touchdown to bring them within five points. We all knew KC's offense was scary, especially with all the injuries in our defensive backfield, and they showed it on that drive. But after that drive, the Patriots held the ball for 4:27 and got a field goal to ensure no worse than overtime (an eight point lead with 1:45 left). And this time, the defense left no doubt, holding KC without a first down, and Willie McGinest finishing them off with a sack on fourth-and-six.

Brady played great, delivered the ball well and made just about zero mistakes, and posted a unbelievable 11.4 yards per pass attempt (anything above 8 is considered outstanding -- 11.4 is other-worldly). Corey Dillon ran pretty well, although his average was down a bit. Aside from them, the real offensive stars were Deion Branch and Daniel Graham, both of whom had some big catches after weeks of not being featured at all (Branch due to injury, and Graham due to game plan). In fact, my highlight of the game was Branch's touchdown catch, where he weaved through the Chiefs defense, picking up blocks downfield and making three guys miss and out-running two more to dive in for the score.

The O-line allowed only one sack, although Brady was hit a few other times. But the Patriots moved the ball at will, scoring on five of eight legitimate drives (excepting the two that ended the half and the game with kneel downs). KC couldn't stop us, only silly penalties (twice) or turnovers (once) could hold us back.

On the other hand, KC only scored on four of nine legitimate drives, less effective than you'd expect with all their offensive firepower and all our injuries in the secondary. They couldn't run the ball (20 rushes for 64 yards) and had too many dropped passes (I recall at least five easy ones). Some of those drops were caused by the big hits delivered by the Patriots secondary -- just enough for the receivers to take their eyes off the ball that split-second early. Oh, and Tony Gonzales is a whiner. He claimed to have been held on Rodney Harrison's interception, but I didn't see any holding and he had the rest of the game to try to make up for it -- and did just about nothing.

Speaking of Harrison, he and the secondary are remarkably resilient. Rodney played both safety positions and cornerback; linebacker Don Davis did some duty at safety; safety Eugene Wilson played some cornerback; Randall Gay, Asante Samuel, and Earthwind Moreland all played hurt and were in and out of the game a few times; and of course, old dependable Troy Brown took some snaps at cornerback (quite a few snaps, actually). It's been three games without Ty Law and Tyrone Poole, and the Patriots are 3-0. I don't think any other team in the NFL could reasonably expect to go undefeated after losing their two starting corners.

Oh, and Ty Warren was the man. 7 tackles, 2 sacks, and he seemed to be around the ball all day.

I'd like to make special mention of Adam Vinatieri, NFL leader in points scored. With a new holder (punter Josh Miller, who deserves his own special mention), he's 25 out of 26 in field goal attempts, missing only one kick in the Miami game (which we won going away) and his kickoffs have been deeper this year. There were rumors he had a bad back last season, and now that he's totally healthy -- well, you can see the difference every week. Back in the dark times (when Pete Carroll was the head coach), Adam missed a potential game winning kick in KC -- but that's the only potential game winner I *ever* remember him missing. Glad no one else drafted you out of college, Adam.

So where does all this leave us. The Steelers and Patriots are now two games ahead of the Jets, Ravens, Chargers, Broncos, and Colts for the first two seedings in the playoffs. The Patriots hold the tie-breaker over the Colts and Jets (for the time being; they play again later in the year). That makes this Sunday's game against Baltimore a big game, because a loss would put the Ravens one game behind us *and* give them the tie-breaker. If we win, they are three games behind us and we won't have to worry about playing games in Baltimore for the balance of the playoffs. Other than the Jets, the Patriots don't play any of their 7-3 competition, so I expect the Patriots to take this game very, very seriously.

The Ravens don't really have the offensive explosiveness to exploit our injured secondary, and their featured running back might miss the game. OTOH, the Ravens defense uses turnovers to provide good field position to their offense, and they are one of the most physical defenses in the NFL. So the Pats will have to protect the ball, play solid special teams, and try to grind out a win. Let's hope the Pats don't eat too much turkey on Thursday and they're ready to go Sunday.

Weekly Water-cooler Wisdom: "If Romeo Crennel leaves the Patriots this off-season, I think they might have found their new defensive coordinator. Eric Mangini has done a phenomenal job patching together a secondary with more players injured than healthy. With [former Patriots linebackers coach] Rob Ryan gone to Oakland, Mangini might be the natural choice to replace Crennel."

Keep the faith,

- Scott

PS. 9-1!

Monday, November 15, 2004

Patriots 29, Bills 6 (11/14/2004)

You gotta admit it sucks to be Drew Bledsoe right now. Three years ago, the Patriots granted his wish and traded him so he could start for another team. Unfortunately for him, the only other team interested was Buffalo. Since the trade, the Pats and Bills have played six times, with Bledsoe losing five of the six. And in those losses, he's completed only 56% of his passes, thrown 10 interceptions and only 4 touchdowns, been outscored 156 to 47, and been hit about 100 times. The only saving grace was the 31-0 thrashing to open last season. Hope he enjoyed that win, because it might be his last versus his old team. The Bills are reportedly ready to cut him in the off-season, and he'll likely become a backup quarterback on a good team or a starting quarterback on a bad team by September 2005. Kind of re-defines "be careful what you wish for."

So in a boring game last night, the Patriots continued their dominance over Bledsoe, winning 29-6 (with the "6" being a punt return for touchdown by Buffalo) while holding the Bills offense to 125 total yards and a paltry 8 first downs (versus 25 for the Patriots). The win, coupled with an overtime loss by the Jets, puts the Patriots two games ahead in the division and keeps them tied with Pittsburgh for best record in the AFC (though the Steelers do hold the tie-breaker). The Patriots have now won nine straight division games, unthinkable two years ago when no team in the division finished under .500. And it vaults them to another team record: no Patriots squad had ever started the season with eight wins in their first nine games, not even close -- 6-1 was their previous best.

You might expect the Patriots to win a game that started with Damon -- Red Sox outfielder Johnny Damon dropped by with a little something they call the "World Series Championship Trophy"-- and ended with Davey -- Pats backup QB Rohan Davey running out the clock on the last two series. (If only Damon Huard was still the backup... oh the symmetry.) The Pats scored on four out of five first-half drives and with the game in hand pounded the ball right at the Bills defense; Corey Dillon gouging them for 156 yards and the Patriots totaling a 41:22 to 18:38 time of possession advantage. The game looked like the Patriots/Steelers game of two weeks ago, with the Pats playing the inhospitable hosts and the Bills playing the physically-dominated visitors. The Pats got the lead and then bludgeoned the Bills into submission.

Brady wasn't as sharp as he's been, with a number of missed passes to open receivers. I hope this was just an off night; but I have this nagging suspicion that he might have been hurt when 350+ pound Sam Adams sacked Brady early on. For a few weeks now, Tom has been listed as "probable" with a shoulder injury, and having 350+ pounds land on top of you could tweak an injury pretty easily. I have no inside information here, just the observation that after the hit, Brady misfired on at least six passes where he was not pressured, there was very little wind, and the receiver was open. Here's hoping I'm wrong.

On the other hand, everyone else on offense played great. Defense is the strength of the Bills team, yet they sacked Brady only twice and and gave up 208 yards rushing and 220 yards passing. The Patriots O-line deserves a lot of the credit for a great performance, as does Charlie Weis and his staff for their terrific game plan. But Corey Dillon was the man on this day. He made yards where the seemed to be none and got to the outside like no Patriot in recent memory. Curtis Martin himself never got this many yards running free down the sideline. And when Dillon couldn't make 'em miss, he ran over 'em. He left the game injured in the second quarter, only to return and drive the ball right into the heart of the Buffalo defense time after time. You just can't thank the Bengals enough for trading Dillon for a mere second-round pick. He's just been spectacular, 900 yards in 9 games and a 5.0 average.

On defense it was "another week, another great game plan" for the Pats. In an effort to stop McGahee's running, the plan was to push the Bills O-line back a yard and then just stay engaged with the linemen an not give McGahee any cut-back lanes. Worked perfectly, as he was held to 37 yards, his first sub-100 yard performance in a month. And with the running game stifled, the Pats dropped into simple coverage and rushed Bledsoe with three linemen. This worked perfectly because Buffalo's offensive line is well-below-average, and with eight men in coverage, they didn't need to get a lot of pressure on Drew because no one was open.

So, inevitably Drew got impatient and threw into coverage, tossing three INTs (ranging from the spectacular catch by Eugene Wilson to the easy grabs by Tedy Bruschi and Troy Brown) and throwing away a bunch more. And when receivers did get open, Bledsoe missed them more often than not (8 of 19 on the day), under throwing most all of his misses by at least a few yards. The Pats were still missing their two best cornerbacks, and once again, linebacker Don Davis and receiver Troy Brown played a lot in the defensive backfield. And with Eric Moulds and Lee Evans at receiver, the Bills were supposed to take advantage of that mismatch. But Bledsoe is so immobile that they have to keep seven or eight guys in to protect him, so that meant two Bills receivers had to find openings among eight Patriots defenders. The results were predictable.

And so it goes. Winning never gets boring, but this win was a bit boring in the second half. I don't blame you if you opted for a decent night's sleep by heading for bed after the first half; most of the crowd seemed to do the same. When Brady threw two touchdowns in the last 4:00 of the first half, the game was 20-0 and was over. You could watch 10 years of football and not see a game as easily won as this. The Patriots just rolled, and extended their division lead and winning streak in the process. They are two wins away from being assured of a playoff berth, and four more wins almost certainly gets them the division crown (the Jets would have to finish 7-0 to overtake them in that scenario). And I can count three almost-certain wins on their remaining schedule (Cincinnati in four weeks, Miami on 12/20, and San Fran on 1/2/05), not including winnable games against KC (next Monday) and at home against Baltimore (11/28).

Weekly Water-cooler Wisdom: "I heard the rumors that Scott Pioli could be headed for Miami to run the show for the Dolphins. I wouldn't count on that, but I'm almost certain that the Dolphins will get at least one or two guys from the Patriots organization to work for them next year. Could be Charlie Weis, Romeo Crennel, Pioli or even some of their other coaches. But the Dolphins owner wants what Kraft has, and the best way to do that is to just take it away."

Keep the faith,

- Scott

PS. 8-1!

Monday, November 8, 2004

Patriots 40, Rams 22 (11/7/2004)

Q. What do you get when mix the following elements: one team with a vast array of superfast wide receivers, one of the great running backs of all time, and a quarterback who completes more than 60% of his passes and has 32 tosses of more than 20 yards for the season; a "dome field" advantage for that team, with an historically loud crowd and speedy artificial surface, and an extra week to prepare for the game; combine that with another team that has two star cornerbacks out and one who left the game on his second play, a team that will play most of the afternoon with a rookie, a journeyman who had never started, a third-string linebacker, and a 33-year old wide receiver in their defensive backfield?

A. What do you get? Same thing you get week in and week out, a Patriots win.

Quite the team effort yesterday, as "YOOOOOUUUURRR NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS" improved to 7-1, a game ahead of the Jets for the division lead and with the second seed in the AFC. A defensive end who dropped into coverage most of the afternoon (Willie McGinest); a backup linebacker who rushed the passer effectively all day (Tully Banta-Cain); a quarterback who fake audibled all day to shred the defense with the run (Tom Brady); a linebacker who made a sensational catch for a touchdown (Mike Vrabel); a wide receiver with the fourth-most tackles on your team; and of course, a kicker who threw a touchdown pass. Yep, just like they planned it in practice. Actually, that might have been the way they practiced it.

Aside from a fumble in the end zone, Brady was efficient and very good on third down. And after that fumble, they faked the audible at least three times and then ran through a defense that expected a pass. Corey Dillon's return helped a lot (112 yards, well on his way to 1,500 for the year), and David Givens just continues to impress; he makes clutch catches the way Troy Brown used to, and we really need him with all the injuries.

And I can't say enough about the defense. They were flat out more physical than the Rams, and just like in the first Super Bowl victory, the Ram receivers didn't like it. Isaac Bruce went off early after a big hit and was barely heard from again, and every receiver ran out of bounds to avoid contact at least once (that included Marshall Faulk), costing them yardage every time. The Pats got pressure on Ram QB Marc Bulger without blitzing; they simply overpowered the offensive line. A team like the Rams likes to go with a three-step drop and quick throw, and pushing the pocket straight backwards can be effective, if you can slow down the receivers long enough.

So here's a list of the players who slowed down those receivers: Earthwind Moreland, Randall Gay, Eugene Wilson, Rodney Harrison, Troy Brown, Don Davis. And The Pats defensive backfield coach, Eric Mangini, should take a bow here. He molded these guys into a cohesive unit with very little extra time because the team had back-to-back road games. Quite an achievement. I mean, they were counting on Asante Samuel all week, and he was injured on the second Rams play of the game. Enter Troy Brown, who had three tackles, three passes defended, and only one penalty. The defensive scheme certainly wouldn't have worked without Willie McGinest and Roman Phifer dropping into coverage more often, or without the pressure from an understaffed defensive line, but I just marveled at the defensive backfield.

Finally, at the end of the game, I found myself wondering if there's anything Adam Vinatieri can't do. On a kickoff his rookie year, I remember Hershel Walker sprinting up the sideline for an apparent touchdown -- before Adam ran him down *from behind* and made a textbook tackle. The Patriots lost the game, but I was forever impressed with Adam. And now he's thrown for a touchdown. Any chance he could run one back someday?

Hope you enjoyed the game as much as I did. It was exciting, up and down the field action, with clutch catches, trick plays, and excellent schemes and play-calling by the Patriots. With Buffalo at home next Sunday, they should run their record to 8-1 (after all, they already beat Buffalo on the road this year), and that would put them two wins from an almost certain playoff berth.

Weekly Water-cooler Wisdom: "Tough to know how [Rams head coach] was ever referred to as a 'genius.' He ran too little in the Super Bowl two years ago and lost, and ran too often on Sunday and lost. His clock management is awful and he's one fourth-quarter comeback against Seattle away from being 3-5 this year. He could be on his way out if the Rams don't do anything in the playoffs this year -- *if* they even make the playoffs."

Keep the faith,

- Scott

PS. 7-1!

Monday, November 1, 2004

Patriots 20, Steelers 34 (10/31/2004)

This was the scariest Halloween in years! It was bound to happen eventually, and it did yesterday. The Patriots lost for the first time in 399 days, and in the process set themselves up to lose the tie-breaker to Pittsburgh should the teams meet in the playoffs. My congratulations to the Steelers for playing a great game yesterday and to the Patriots for a mind-boggling 21-game winning streak. It was 3 games and 17% longer than *any team in 72-years of NFL history*, and is an extraordinary achievement.

Now, on to the game. In my pre-season preview, I wrote that: "The Pittsburgh and St. Louis games could be tough, with both games on the road the week after the opponent had a bye.... Expect the Pats to lose one of these two games, but not both." Well, they lost their one game so I expect them to get back to winning next week against St. Louis. The big problem with that is injuries to the defensive secondary don't bode well for a game with a pass-happy opponent. Tyrone Poole hasn't played significant minutes in the past three games (out of the last two entirely), and Ty Law and Randall Gay were injured yesterday when the turf let loose on them. If neither Law nor Gay can go next week, it'll be interesting to see how the Pats try to compensate for having third-string players on the field.




The Pats defense didn't play as badly as it seemed yesterday, despite the alarming statistics. Pittsburgh had one -- count 'em one -- long drive for a touchdown. The drive was 80 yards and 68 of them came on two plays -- one where Ty Law got injured (21 yards), and one where Ty Law's replacement was one-on-one against Pittsburgh's best receiver (47 yards). Other than that, Pittsburgh scored on the following gifts given by the Pats offense: Brady fumble at the NE 27 (touchdown), Brady INT (returned for a touchdown), Kevin Faulk fumble at the NE 17 (touchdown). Aside from those gaffes, the Pats defense made the Steelers drive the length of the field and held them to field goals, one in the second quarter, one in the third quarter. And that's exactly what they've been doing all year, all through the streak. But when you don't take care of the ball, you can only win against a sub par opponent (see the Cardinals game from earlier this year). Against a good team, especially on the road, you've got real trouble.

Now Pittsburgh's big statistical advantage is undeniable. But don't panic about the run defense yet. The Steelers are near the top of the NFL heap in yards rushing, and they held the ball for so long the Pats defense couldn't rest (time of possession was 42:58 to 17:02). Once the game seemed in hand, the Steelers simply ran it right at the Pats, and with little time to regroup and so much time on the field, there was little the Pats could do. And with a decided running advantage and a depleted New England secondary, Pittsburgh's young quarterback (Ben Roethlisberger) looked like a world-beater. The Patriots were supposed to confuse him with blitzes and different zone coverages, but the blitzes never got to him and the secondary was like Swiss cheese most of the day. If the Pats had made a game of it and forced "Big Ben" to pass more often, it could have been even worse.

Special Teams

Well, the kickoff return team got a lot of practice. There wasn't much of note on special teams, actually. Bethel Johnson made a head's up play by touching a kickoff while he was out of bounds, but the Pats missed the chance to pin the Steelers at their two yard line. Maybe I should have skipped this category.


Well, what can I say? I would call the Steelers my daddy, but that line's been done to death. The Pats lost one and it isn't the end of the world. If I had to guess, I would say they won't end the season 6-10, they will somehow stop some running backs before the year's over, and Brady will not turn the ball over 27 more times this season. It's only one loss and there's nothing to do about it now. But if they have any thoughts of making a deep run into the playoffs, the Pats will have to take better care of the ball and they will have to get healthier in the defensive backfield.

Weekly Water-cooler Wisdom: "Expectations can be a pain. If Pete Carroll still coached here, we'd be ecstatic with a 6-1 record. But with Belichick and company at the helm any loss seems like it could have been avoided. I guess two Super Bowl championships and 21 straight wins will do that to you."

Keep the faith (and for the first time this year, I really *mean* that),

- Scott

PS. 6-1!