Deadspin’s Dashiell Bennett posted a fine collection of quotes from sportswriters across the country today regarding the fall of the Patriots fortunes since the halcyon days of 2004. Two years ago, they were the 16-0 AFC champions that seemed all but unstoppable. One year ago, a backup quarterback who hadn’t started a game since high school played well enough to position the Pats just short of a playoff run. This year, the franchise quarterback comes back, plays inconsistently, and manages to destroy the entire season in ten awful, heart-rending minutes of poor performance. “The end is nigh!” say both glum sportswriters in Boston and ecstatic fans of the up-and-coming Jets and Dolphins.
People are assuming the Patriots are on their way to their first losing season in 10 years. In their eyes, Belichick is already singing “Viva la Vida” to himself in the shower.
I personally don’t agree with the pessimism. I understand it, and I agree that New England will have to make another deep playoff run before they are treated with the same fear and respect that they were given in, say, 2004, but saying that this team is going to be the second-coming of the late-90’s Cowboys just doesn’t resonate with my inner stat-geek. Hell, it doesn’t resonate with what I saw on the field. We didn’t hear any of this talk about Indy when the Colts didn’t even win their own freaking division last year. Sure, the Patriots got slapped around by a scary good Baltimore team (9-7 doesn’t do them justice, for sure), but it was almost to be expected. Without Wes Welker, the Patriots were stuck in neutral offensively and the Ravens were free to tee off on Brady and the rest of the New England receiver corps as well as use exotic blitz packages to throw the pass and rush off-rhythm. Baltimore is exactly the kind of team the Pats have stumbled against all year: tough running (HOU, MIA) with a quarterback who avoids mistakes (NYJ, DEN) and a defense that forces costly turnovers and defend the deep field, forcing the offense to try and move up and down the field 5-6 yards at a time (NO, IND).
Should one (admittedly year-ending) loss define a season of solid play? Besides that game, this year’s Patriots generally played even better than they did in 2008. Anyone pining to have Cassel back is fooling themselves. The schedule was MUCH harder this year, with no Rams/Seahawks/49ers/Raiders/Chiefs to beat up on. This was as obvious a “rebuilding year” as any the Pats have had since 2000. Any Pats fans who were expecting Brady to step out of a career-threatening knee injury and party like it was still 2007 were delusional. He came out and played like Super Bowl Brady, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the recurring stream of endgame collapses on the defensive side of the ball. In case you think I’ve got my nose too far up Brady’s ass, just look at the stats from his Super Bowl years and compare:
2001: 63.9% COMP, 2,843 YDS, 18 TD, 12 INT, 1.4% DVOA
2003: 60.2% COMP, 3,620 YDS, 23 TD, 13 INT, 5.4% DVOA
2004: 60.8% COMP, 3,692 YDS, 28 TD, 14 INT, 33.2% DVOA
2007: 68.9% COMP, 4,806 YDS, 50 TD, 8 INT, 56.9% DVOA|
2009: 65.7% COMP, 4,398 YDS, 28 TD, 13 INT, 44.1% DVOA
By conventional stats, Brady was better than he was any year that he won the Big Game at the End of the Season. By DVOA, 2009 was the second-best year of his career. As long as the Pats have Brady and Belichick, they’ll remain a formidable opponent and a perennial contender, same as the Chargers with Philip Rivers’ cannon and the Colts with fetus-face Peyton Manning.
Four years ago, I read the same kind of doomsaying when the Patriots came off their third Super Bowl win, went 10-6, barely won their division, and got trounced by the Denver Broncos in the divisional round. That 10-6 team was a lot worse than this one. Instead of losing one blowout, they lost several, including 20+ point thrashings by the Chargers and Colts. Did they win a Super Bowl since? No, but they’ve made the playoffs three out of the last four years, including a Super Bowl appearance. As much as the rest of the football world would like to think so, the sun is not setting on these Patriots.
(UPDATE: Here’s a fantastic interview with Boomer Esiason of CBS, where he goes in-depth regarding the Patriots’ woes this season. Despite his position as a neutral observer, he’s very astute in his knowledge of this Pats team. Color me impressed.)
As a Patriots fan, I’ve become a bit used to playoff disappointment. The last Pats playoff game I witnessed was the epic Super Bowl XLII, in which my team watched their dreams of perfection slip away thanks to one of the most bizarre catches in NFL history. That said, the Pats had not lost a home playoff game in over 30 years.
Today, I just finished watching the Ravens go into Gillette Stadium, run a completely one-dimensional offense, turn the ball over twice, and complete four passes all day. This happens.
It’s been a bizarre season for the Patriots but, alas, it’s over. Brady ends a decade he dominated with a three-interception game in which every nightmare scenario that could be imagined by Pats fans came to life. RB Ray Rice was unstoppable, RB Willis McGahee was just effective enough to keep drives moving, and Flacco avoided the Pats’ miserable pass rush with just enough efficacy to avoid mistakes despite only four completions.
It was the worst 60 minutes of football New England has played since they got blown out by the Saints at the Metrodome in Week 12. Quite honestly, it’s the worst playoff performance I’ve seen from the Patriots since Super Bowl XXXI.
But, the season is now over. The 2010 New England Patriots begin today, 0-0.
There are many question marks around this Patriots team as they enter the offseason.
- Will Bill Belichick hire an offensive coordinator? This year saw a considerable drop-off in New England’s offensive efficiency as Belichick decided to enter the 2009 season with no offensive coordinator, as Josh McDaniels left Foxboro to become head coach of the Broncos.
- Will Dean Pees be retained? All season long, the Pats’ defense fell apart in the fourth quarter, contributing directly to losses to Denver, Indianapolis, Miami, Houston, and icing any chance the Patriots had to come back against the Ravens today. This may be a playcalling or conditioning issue, but considering that the Pats have not had a top-flight defense since Eric Mangini, I have to think that Pees is on the hot seat and will be gone either this year or next if the team continues to struggle.
- What needs are most pressing as the Patriots enter the draft? You could make a case for several positions. On defense, Leigh Bodden is a good defender, but Shawn Springs is an aging veteran well past his prime, and it will be up to Jonathan Wilhite and Darius Butler to step up and be the next Asante Samuel-Ellis Hobbs combo to stymie the pass. The run defense fell apart in the second half of the season, with Arian Foster steamrolling the Pats in Week 17 and Ray Rice doing the same in the Wild Card contest. On offense, Laurence Maroney has probably played his last game as a Patriot after several fumbles in critical situations put him in Belichick’s doghouse. Julian Edelman shows promise as a slot receiver, but Sam Aiken has underperformed.
- Will Randy Moss return? His monster 2007 season is far in the rear-view mirror. This year, Moss put up solid numbers and led the league in touchdowns but was inconsistent, as a lack of other passing threats led to double-teams. That is to say nothing of the heady rumors regarding his alleged lack of motivation, which are fueled by his lack of performance toward the end of his stints in Minnesota and Oakland.
- How will Wes Welker look recovered from injury? The same injury that fell Brady in Week 1 of 2008 sidelined Welker. Unlike Brady, Welker won’t have a 16 week headstart to get healthy before the 2010 season begins, and it is likely he will be on the Physically Unable to Perform list several weeks into the season. As the true engine of the Patriots offense, it will be rough going without him.
- Is it time to consider life after Brady? Tom Terrific will turn 33 before the 2010 season starts. While Brady has claimed in interviews that he’d like to play until he’s 40, it may be time to consider drafting a successor, unless Belichick has it in his mind that undrafted free agent Brian Hoyer is the quarterback of the future.
And, to avoid the appearance of sour grapes, I will say this: the Ravens earned that victory. Stiff defense and a relentless running game was the recipe for success this time around. I look forward to seeing if the same combo can fell the mighty Indianapolis Colts. Congratulations, Baltimore fans, and see you in 2010!
And here’s the other side of the coin, the worst teams of the 2000s.
10. Arizona Cardinals, 2000
Fate: 5th Place, NFC East
Coach: Vince Tobin (Weeks 1-8) and Dave McGinnis (Weeks 9-17)
Pro Bowlers: 1 (P Scott Player)
Bio: The Cardinals should probably be given “Turnaround Team of the Decade” for their improvement from this nightmare of bad football. After starting the season with promise by edging the rival Cowboys, the Cardinals fell off a cliff. They barely edged a fledgling Browns team and earned a one-point win over a Redskins team going nowhere. They gave up an astonishing 29 rushing touchdowns and 4.5 yards per carry over the course of the year, and Jake “the Snake” Plummer threw 21 interceptions. The worst part of all was just how cavalier the team was. There were no expectations, no shame for losing, just apathy and excuses. Which makes the team’s 2008 achievements that much more astonishing.
9. Cleveland Browns, 2000
Fate: 6th Place, AFC Central
Coach: Chris Palmer
Pro Bowlers: 0
Bio: I’ll sum up this awful team to you like this: the Browns failed to score in four games out of sixteen. They failed to get a touchdown in six. While it’s hard to score when you’re playing legendary defenses like the Titans and Ravens twice a year, you still have to come away with at least some points if you want to avoid making this list. They eked out a two-game winning streak by beating the awful Bengals and mediocre Steelers in a stretch, but Tim Couch proved for a second season that he was incapable of being an NFL quarterback. They couldn’t even beat their listmates, the 2000 Cardinals.
8. Houston Texans, 2002
Fate: 4th Place, AFC South
Coach: Dom Capers
Pro Bowlers: 2 (DE Gary Walker, CB Aaron Glenn)
Bio: Picking on an expansion team isn’t really fair, I know, but their inclusion is crucial for a complete list. Unlike the awful teams that are lower on this list, the expansion Texans actually started off with a respectable defense. They gave up 30+ points only four times, and the unit got better as the year went on, culminating in a 24-6 win over the Steelers. Still, they were a bad team, allowing 38 to a Bengals squad that only narrowly avoided this list. They allowed 76 sacks, the high water mark of bad offensive line play and pocket presence to this day.
7. San Francisco 49ers, 2004
Fate: 4th Place, NFC West
Coach: Dennis Erickson
Pro Bowlers: 0
Bio: When the best achievement you can claim is that your team only lost by 14 to the defending world champions, your team is bad. The 49ers swept the Cardinals by a score of 31-28 twice, and that was enough wins for them. In between those two games, a tale of misery unfolded. The all-star duo of Tim Rattay and Ken Dorsey combined for 19 interceptions, some guy by the name of Eric Johnson led the team in receiving yards, and the defense gave up nearly 30 points a game. Only a handful of the starters on this team are still playing in the league five years later, mostly as benchwarmers. The scary thing is…this wasn’t even the worst 49ers team of the 2000s.
6. Arizona Cardinals, 2003
Fate: 4th Place, NFC West
Coach: Dave McGinnis
Pro Bowlers: 1 (WR/KR Anquan Boldin)
Bio: Before the seeds of victory were planted by Ken Whisenhunt and Kurt Warner, there were the 2003 Cardinals, starring the comedic stylings of Dave McGinnis and Jeff Blake. Even the abysmal Browns and Lions of that year took their turn beating the crap out of this disgrace of a team, as did better ones like the Rams and Seahawks. They barely beat the 49ers at Monster Park, who went to Sun Devil Stadium and gave the Cardinals a 50-14 burial in front of a half-vacant crowd. The bright side? Their awful performance gave them cause to fire McGinnis and draft position to snag Larry Fitzgerald, Karlos Dansby, and Darnell Dockett, players that are now the core of the Super Bowl-caliber Cards.
5. St. Louis Rams, 2009
Fate: 4th Place, NFC West
Coach: Steve Spagnuolo
Pro Bowlers: 1 (RB Steven Jackson)
Bio: For those that don’t know, Coach Spagnuolo is considered one of the best defensive minds in football today for his fantastic job coordinating the defensive approach that slayed the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. You wouldn’t know it from looking at the awful Rams defense in his rookie year as a head coach. Their best games were a small victory over the Lions and a 5-point loss to the Saints in St. Louis coming off of a bye-week. Steven Jackson had a career year but remained relatively obscure despite his high-level of play. The reason? The Rams were often too far behind to use him effectively. They were forced into passing situations early and often, resulting in disaster more often than not.
4. St. Louis Rams, 2008
Fate: 4th Place, NFC West
Coach: Scott Linehan (Weeks 1-4), Jim Haslett (Weeks 5-17)
Pro Bowlers: 0
Bio: This team was fantastically bad, bad enough to warrant a regime change four games into the season. Awe-inspiring blowouts handed down by the Eagles, Giants, Seahawks, and Bills cost Coach Linehan his job at the bye week. When Coach Haslett took over, he earned two quick wins against good competition, including a 34-14 evisceration of the Cowboys. It all fell apart with ten straight losses, including sweeps by the 49ers and Cardinals. The worst of the streak was Week 10 against the Jets. New York found themselves up 40-0 at halftime without even really having to try.
3. Detroit Lions, 2008
Fate: 4th Place, NFC North
Coach: Rod Marinelli
Pro Bowlers: 0
Bio: A lot of bloggers will put this team at the top of their “worst teams” list simply because of their record, and that’s a legitimate point to make, but allow me a rebuttal: the 2008 Lions could have easily gone 4-12 with a little bit better fortune and a few bounces their way. Sure, it’s fun to point and laugh at Dan Orlovsky backing himself out of his own end zone as the pinnacle of awful football, but you can’t look at that play without factoring that the Lions were very much in that game from start to finish against a playoff-bound Vikings team. You can cite their 21-point loss to the 6-10 Packers in Week 2, but you can’t discount that Detroit had the lead in the fourth quarter before the Packers pulled away.
2. Detroit Lions, 2009
Fate: 4th Place, NFC North
Coach: Jim Schwartz
Pro Bowlers: 0
Bio: Kinda hard to believe that this team could possibly be worse than the 0-16 bucket of shame that came before it, no? As I explained, the 2008 team was no doubt terrible, but they played a lot of teams close and at least three of their losses can be attributed to bad luck. This team is every bit as bad as their abysmal record suggests. Seven teams put up 30 points or more on them, and they’ve only scored 30+ once. The Seahawks, a team with no offense to speak of that year, mustered 32 points. The only win the woeful Rams had was against the Lions. This team is indeed slightly worse than the winless band that came before. It’s scary to think just how badly this team will get destroyed by the Pats next year.
1. San Francisco 49ers, 2005
Fate: 4th Place, NFC West
Coach: Mike Nolan
Pro Bowlers: 0
Bio: How bad were the Niners in ’05? About as bad as your mind can possibly imagine. This team could have very easily gone 0-16 if they’d had a tougher schedule, but instead they got to have fun ekeing out 3-4 point wins over the almost-as-awful Rams twice and the Texans once while earning a fluke win over the Chris Simms-led Buccaneers where they never saw the end zone. That’s right: their only “strong” win was made possible by five field goals and zero touchdowns. On the other hand, their losses were downright slaughter handed down by such powerhouses as the 5-11 Eagles, 5-11 Cardinals (twice), and the 4-12 Titans. This team’s only bright spot was RB Frank Gore, who would have a breakout year in 2006.
With the ’00s coming to a close, I thought it’d be a good time to look back on the best football teams I’ve seen this year. Sit back and relax, because these are the Top 10 Teams of the Decade. *cue dramatic music*
10. Denver Broncos, 2005
Fate: Lost AFC Championship Game vs. Pittsburgh
Coach: Mike Shanahan
Pro Bowlers: 5 (QB Jake Plummer, WR Rod Smith, MLB Al Wilson, CB Champ Bailey, FS John Lynch)
Bio: This team is known in New England circles as the first to ever beat Brady and Belichick in the playoffs. They were downright dangerous. For once in his career, Jake Plummer hit his stride, throwing just seven interceptions against eighteen touchdowns. The defense was stoic and impregnable, a collection of cagey veterans that forced 41 turnovers throughout the year. The Steelers defense forced Plummer into several mistakes en route to their Super Bowl appearance, but this was a team that could have easily proved a match for the Seahawks in the Super Bowl had they won it. This was also Rod Smith’s last year of productivity, as he would fade into obscurity next year before retiring.
9. Buffalo Bills, 2004
Fate: 3rd Place, AFC East
Coach: Mike Mularkey
Pro Bowlers: 4 (DT Sam Adams, OLB Takeo Spikes, CB/KR Terrence McGee, CB/KR Nate Clements)
Bio: Bio: The 2004 Bills are a team that almost nobody respects and yet, despite that, they are easily one of the most intimidating defenses to have come to pass in the last ten years. Players like Adams, Spikes, and Clements were all on this team performing at their peak. They went on a tear down the homestretch, blowing out six teams by an average score of 38-14 and just missing the playoffs with a Week 17 loss to Pittsburgh. The Jets, with Chad Pennington at his best, were unable to muster more than 22 points. The Seahawks, who would lead the league in offense a year later, were held to three field goals. With an easier schedule, 12-4 could have been a solid possibility.
8. Baltimore Ravens, 2009
Fate: Lost AFC Divisional Game vs. Indianapolis
Coach: John Harbaugh
Pro Bowlers: 5 (RB Ray Rice, FB Le’Ron McClain, DT Haloti Ngata, ILB Ray Lewis, FS Ed Reed)
Bio: I know what you’re thinking: “9-7 AND THE 8TH BEST THIS DECADE!?” Well, yeah, for a couple of reasons. For one, this team was better than their record suggests. They kept losses close even with a defense hampered by injury, they were never blown out or beaten by a bad team, and they managed to stomp even good teams like the then-undefeated Broncos and Chargers. Second-year back Ray Rice is a Pro Bowler already and has proved himself a capable threat rushing and receiving, while QB Joe Flacco has also appeared more than competent in just his second year. This team might have been WR Derrick Mason’s last, best chance to get a Super Bowl ring.
7. Tennessee Titans, 2000
Fate: Lost AFC Divisional Game vs. Baltimore
Coach: Jeff Fisher
Pro Bowlers: 9 (QB Steve McNair, RB Eddie George, WR/KR Derrick Mason, TE Frank Wycheck, LT Brad Hopkins, LG Bruce Matthews, DE Jevon Kearse, CB Samari Rolle, SS Blaine Bishop)
Bio: You want to know how good this team’s defense was? When the playoffs began, no team had scored against them in three weeks. No team had found the endzone in over a month. They never lost a game by more than three points, and took several teams down in convincing fashion, including the eventual Super Bowl champion (and consensus league pacesetter) Ravens. While Baltimore would eventually claim vengeance in the playoffs, it was a hard-fought loss controlled by Tennessee for three quarters. Only a special teams touchdown and a defensive touchdown could put the Titans down for good. A sad end for a team that came up a tragic yard short of winning the Super Bowl the year before.
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2002
Fate: Won Super Bowl XXXVII vs. Oakland
Coach: Jon Gruden
Pro Bowlers: 7 (QB Brad Johnson, FB Mike Alstott, DT Warren Sapp, DE Simeon Rice, MLB Shelton Quarles, OLB Derrick Brooks, SS John Lynch)
Bio: When you make a quarterback as mediocre as Brad Johnson into a Pro Bowler, odds are you’re a pretty good team. The Buccaneers housed as dominant a defense as they come, with potential Hall of Famers at every level. In the Super Bowl, against the league-leading offense of the Oakland Raiders, the Buccaneers made the game a laugher that ended with Rich Gannon getting sacked and picked five times each. Suffice to say, mere average offenses never stood a chance. The Bucs allowed a meager 12 points per game and never lost by more than 10 points. No team ever scored more than 24 without needing overtime.
5. Philadelphia Eagles, 2008
Fate: Lost NFC Championship Game vs. Arizona
Coach: Andy Reid
Pro Bowlers: 2 (CB Asante Samuel, FS Brian Dawkins)
Bio: Another controversial team that got hot at the right time. They hit their lowest point when they came off a tie against the woeful Cincinnati Bengals and phoned it in against the Ravens in Baltimore. They benched their franchise quarterback for poor performance for the first time. But when it mattered, starting with a scorching win over Arizona, this team was on fire, besting the reigning champion Giants twice, including a win in the divisional round. They also delivered the killing blow to the playoff hopes of the Dallas Cowboys, crushing them 44-6. Their run came to an end against an even-hotter Cardinals team that looked like the team of destiny, but it was a run to remember.
4. Indianapolis Colts, 2005
Fate: Lost AFC Divisional Game vs. Pittsburgh
Coach: Tony Dungy
Pro Bowlers: 8 (QB Peyton Manning, RB Edgerrin James, WR Marvin Harrison, OT Tarik Glenn, C Jeff Saturday, DE Dwight Freeney, OLB Cato June, FS Bob Sanders)
Bio: The Colts would go on after having their best record in franchise history to win a Super Bowl title a year later, but that doesn’t mean that this squad was lesser than their Super Bowl incarnation. They won 13 straight games to start the season. For years before ’05, the Colts would build a strong regular season record on purely offense and winning shootouts, but this was a year where the defense stepped up and played just as hard. They lost to the eventual champion Steelers in the divisional round in a game that was arguably the biggest upset in modern playoff memory, but that doesn’t take the shine off of a strong season by the first team to appear honest-to-goodness unbeatable this decade.
3. New England Patriots, 2004
Fate: Won Super Bowl XXXIX vs. Philadelphia
Coach: Bill Belichick
Pro Bowlers: 6 (QB Tom Brady, RB Corey Dillon, DT Richard Seymour, MLB Tedy Bruschi, K Adam Vinatieri, ST Larry Izzo)
Bio: The 2004 Patriots are largely considered one of the greatest Super Bowl champions in the history of the league. They were certainly the best of the decade. With a veteran defense that would become legendary, the Patriots merely dominated every team they encountered, with a couple exceptions. While a fantastic Pittsburgh team beat them at Heinz Field, the Pats would come back and repay the beatdown with interest when it really mattered: in the playoffs.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers, 2004
Fate: Lost AFC Championship Game vs. New England
Coach: Bill Cowher
Pro Bowlers: 9 (RB Jerome Bettis, WR Hines Ward, C Jeff Hartings, OG Alan Faneca, OT Marvel Smith, DE Aaron Smith, MLB James Farrior, OLB Joey Porter, SS Troy Polamalu)
Bio: If it weren’t for the heroic accomplishments of the team above this one, or perhaps if it weren’t for the less-than-stellar performance they put on in the AFC championship game, this team would have been remembered as the decade’s best. While the franchise would win two more titles years later, neither of those squads was quite as good as this one. With a pulverizing (if inconsistent) defense and an offense that moved the ball with a high degree of efficiency, the Steelers were the team to beat in 2004. They bested both Super Bowl contestants in the regular season, and ended the year with a 14-game winning streak.
1. New England Patriots, 2007
Fate: Lost Super Bowl XLII vs. New York Giants
Coach: Bill Belichick
Pro Bowlers: 8 (QB Tom Brady, WR Randy Moss, OG Matt Light, OT Logan Mankins, C Dan Koppen, DT Vince Wilfork, OLB Mike Vrabel, CB Asante Samuel)
Bio: One of the best and most controversial teams in NFL history. Probably the best that I’ve ever seen in my 12 years of football spectatorship. The 2007 Patriots will be remembered by everyone for either being the first team to complete a 16-0 regular season, or for the infamous “Spygate” incident that hung over the team. It has been suggested by many that the disrespect that Coach Belichick perceived from the rest of the league for the incident is what led him to tell his team to blow opponents out of the water, as if to prove that his team was as good as any with or without cheating. For weeks, the Patriots looked unbeatable, but a proud and scrappy Giants squad proved their betters in the end.
When the Saints were busy kicking the Patriots up and down the field, most notably when they went up 31-17 in the third, I was angry. Then, I was distraught. Finally, I just realized that the Saints were the better team that night, and are probably the best team in the NFL after that signature home win. It wasn’t anything to be mad about: two teams played hard, but one team played sixty minutes of fantastic football, and it wasn’t the Brady Bunch this time.
Still, there’s some part of me that feels robbed. The Pats played decently when they had the ball, but when the Saints were in possession the Patriots went into “tackling optional” mode. Every time I looked at the screen I would happen across watching a defender (usually CB Jonathan Wilhite) bounce off of RB Pierre Thomas or WR Devery Henderson because of poor tackling. The coverage was there, but you need more than proximity to defend against the lightning bolts that Brees slings all over the yard.
And then there was the second Brees touchdown. Henderson runs a deep route, safeties get confused, nobody watches him. Before you know it he’s running down the field, ball in hand, with no white jerseys within 20 yards of him. Most of the Saints’ scoring was due to completely broken coverage or missed tackles that allowed guys like Henderson and WR Marques Colston to rack up huge YAC totals. It’s this kind of mind-boggling coverage error that Belichick is infamous for exploiting, not courting; it’s a glaring flaw in the Patriots’ puzzle. If they don’t figure that out, I can think of a whole host of playoff quarterbacks that will run this team ragged in January.
The loss puts the freakin’ Dolphins back in the running for the division championship again. A win would have put them three games back. Luckily, a win next week against them will achieve the same end.
Sadly, it also means we’re now behind the Chargers and Bengals jockeying for position behind Indianapolis. I know that the Pats are better than either of those two teams. Luckily, they play each other before the season ends, so one of them will lose at least one more game. I can’t think of any Pats games coming up that I don’t feel confident about, so 12-4 remains a goal to strive for.
Still, I think there were some bright spots:
- Laurence Maroney punched the ball in for 12 of the Patriots’ 17 points and recorded his seventh consecutive game with a touchdown, tying the franchise record. He finished the game with 64 yards on 15 carries. It isn’t much, but when you consider that Patriots’ fans have been calling for his ouster since Super Bowl XLII, it’s a small victory. The Saints’ run defense isn’t great or even good, but Maroney did his part.
- Despite the big discrepancy on the scoreboard, New England racked up plenty of yardage against the depleted Saints secondary and actually out-rushed the Saints, 122-113. They might not be the best offense in football after this game, but they’re still pretty darn good, and seeing the running game succeed is key. Again, above disclaimer about New Orleans’ awful run D is relevant.
- New England went for it on fourth down three times, and converted twice. The last fourth-down attempt was a Brady pass deflected by CB Mike McKenzie. The confidence is still there, and Bill Belichick’s aggressive form of play-calling is readily apparent.
I think that’s it for me tonight. I’ll be rooting (however futilely) for the Titans next week, because I don’t think Peyton “Laser-Rocket Arm” Manning deserves to share the record for consecutive regular season wins (held, of course, by the 2006-08 Patriots). QB Vince Young has definitely been impressive in the last five games, and I can’t imagine a more fitting way for him to cap his zero-to-hero ascension than by bringing the Colts to 11-1. Good night!
After about fifty tries and fifty failures, I’m about ready to give up on finishing Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars.
To be more specific, I’m stuck on a mission called “The Offshore Offload”. It involves making multiple stops throughout Liberty City to pick up some assorted criminals. Simple, right? Well, when it forces you to drive a four-seater car (all of which are slow) while attempting to evade a three-star wanted level (meaning police, SWAT, and helicopters all shooting at you from every angle conceivable) it’s just impossible. The only way to lower your wanted level is to either smash six police cars (VERY difficult to do) or through cheats, which prohibit you from saving.
There are missions like this in every GTA game, where you are forced to maneuver a variety of objectives while the cops try to make you into Swiss cheese. I have yet to finish GTA IV because I am stuck on one of these very missions in that game as well.
I’ll try again later tonight, but if I can’t get past it by then I am returning the game and I’ll just review what I’ve seen up to this point because I’m really growing fed up with the ol’ Fission Mailed message popping up every few minutes.
(UPDATE: Alright, I got past the mission, so I’ll be continuing as scheduled.)