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Monday, January 15, 2007

Dis-Charged? Re-Patri-ated? Etc.

Wow. What a game. I'm still shaking my head when I recall the give and take … a bit more take, from the Pats' point of view, thankfully. So many subplots that will surely be parsed out, dissected, and hyper-analyzed today … until the heads pick back-up on the Belichick v. Peyton Manning thread. So much so that I find myself stuck coming up with adequate headlines for today's posting. I ask for your forgiveness on this day of days.

Peter King, from SI dot com, apparently
feels the same way today. While I won't provide an even 20 reasons why the Patriots won, I have plenty of thoughts now that I'm beginning to gather my wits.

For one, Tom Brady had one of those games that come to define his career … the stats appear to paint the performance as borderline-poor as the game goes along, buttressed by a couple of turnovers and many 4-and-outs. Yet, he seemingly always drives to a touchdown in the waning minutes/seconds of the first half, leads to 1-2 key touchdowns in the middle of the second half, and takes advantage of golden opportunities teed-up by the opposing side.

True to form, Brady threw two picks as the clock ticked-along, missed Ben Watson on a sure score opportunity, and seemed unable to get anything going for long stretches, while Philip Rivers and LaDanian Tomlinson seemed to be moving the ball continuously. All the while, the Patriots' defense bent without breaking. A few scores eeked through, but all while San Diego appeared to lose all of the composure they displayed in amassing 14 regular season wins.

The game was remarkably lean on penalties, but San Diego seemed to be called for a large number of personal fouls all the same.

And for every play like punt returner Eric Parker's botched fair-catch, coach Marty Schottenheimer provided an equally botched coaching decision.
The Boston Herald's Karen Guregian took note, but suggested this loss was about more than the failures of MartyBall.

Yet, it's hard to ignore a single decision when trying to locate the game's fulcrum. Nick Kaeding missed a game-tying field goal with mere seconds on the clock. That was a 54-yard try – no gimme by any stretch. Rivers completed a pass over the middle that pushed the Chargers close to the Patriots' 40 yard line, only to realize he didn't have time to get Kaeding any closer. Why not? Coach Marty wasted the Chargers' last time-out challenging a fumble-call that stood no change of being overturned. Do you wholly blame a kicker for missing a 54 yarder?

And when the Chargers had a chance to break it open, they fell a few steps short of executing the death blow.
For instance, receiver Vincent Jackson beat Ellis Hobbs on a deep route but Rivers underthrew it just enough. Hobbs was able to save face after getting beat by batting down the underthrown pass on the goalline. A bit more ummph on the pass, however, and it's a different story altogether. A quarter or so later, Jackson beat Artrell Hawkins on a similar pattern, but River led him a bit too far for Jackson to make the catch and get too feet down.

In contrast, a game's worth of offensive futility disappeared as Brady hit a streaking Reche Caldwell for 49 yards late in the fourth quarter.

And then there was the play the Herald aptly deems the
play of the game:
Trailing 21-13 with 6:25 to play in the game last night, the Patriots decided to go for it on fourth-and-5 from the Chargers’ 41-yard line. Attempting to connect with wide receiver Reche Caldwell , Pats quarterback Tom Brady instead was picked off by safety Marlon McCree at the Chargers’ 31, apparently sealing the team’s fate. Remarkably, Pats veteran Troy Brown effectively picked up the first down anyway.

Transformed from receiver to defender, Brown locked on to McCree and forced a fumble by stripping the ball from him. Caldwell subsequently fell on the loose ball for what turned out to be a 9-yard New England gain, giving the Pats a first down at the San Diego 32.

Five plays later, Brady connected with Caldwell on a 4-yard touchdown pass. The Pats followed that up with a Kevin Faulk [stats] conversion rush, tying the score at 21, and paving the way for Stephen Gostowski’s game-winning field goal a few minutes later.
That serves as prelude to the media circus that's likely to ensue on Tuesday. Patriots' rookie kicker Gostkowski lined-up for the go-ahead 31-yard field goal with barely a minute left – the kind of kick made seemingly every time his predecessor, Adam Vinitieri, lined-up to clinch victory for the Patriots in previous years' playoff runs. Fortune shined, and a region collectively let out a huge sigh as the ball sailed through the uprights. The Boston Herald's Tony Mazz starts the circus today by dubbing Gostkowski the new king of clutch, noting:
Eighteen weeks, 58 minutes and 55 seconds.

That was the precise time required for Stephen Gostkowski to come of age.
Like I said, hard to believe.

Here's what the other usual commentators are saying:

Boston Globe's Bob Ryan says of the Patriots,
In Brady We Trust. The Herald's Steve Buckley echoes the sentiment.

The Lawrence Eagle Tribune's Hector Longo writes that
the Patriots outhit and outwit the Chargers. Ron Borges says of the Xs and Os, It Was Quite a Display, while Michael Felger simplies it further: "The Patriots did the things winners do. The Chargers did the things losers do. It’s why the Pats are on their way to Indianapolis for the AFC Championship Game."

That's pretty much the same conclusion Peter King
reached too:
There's a reason New England has been a feared Super Bowl contender for the last
six years. You know what it is? The little things. All the little things. Not
just the greatness of Tom Brady and the brain of Bill Belichick. In football,
the Patriots have made all the little things add up to some very big things. In
this case, a stunning 24-21 win over the AFC's No. 1 seed, San Diego, at
Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday.

Mike Reiss excerpted Belichick's opening at his Press Conference, which led off with Wow, what a game. I’m really speechless. The Herald's Karen Guregian comments on what ticked LT off. California writer Kevin Modesti leans hard on the lack of class accusation, noting:
Patriots stomped on the lightning-bolt helmet at the 50-yard line at Qualcomm Stadium. Linebacker Rosevelt Colvin flashed the choke sign toward the home sideline. Nose tackle Vince Wilfork imitated Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman's "Lights Out" dance. A few players pointed up at the scoreboard, which registered the 24-21 final score that meant the Chargers are one-and-done in the NFL playoffs and Coach Marty Schottenheimer's hard luck continues.

Last week, Patriots coach Bill Belichick celebrated a win over the New York Jets in the wild-card round by yanking a photographer out of his way by the throat.
Now, his players, supposedly the models of professionalism as the franchise has won three of the past five Super Bowls, thumb their noses at the old rule about end-zone manners, which says to behave as if you've been there before and expect to be back.

Probably some good points in there. I suppose it's a matter of degree, but this isn't too different than Terrell Owens prancing out to the middle of Texas Stadium's star and rubbing in a 49er victory. I didn't see it, but I wish whatever happened hadn't happened. It rubs exactly the way the California guy wrote it.

Anyway. Colts are next. But that's for tomorrow.



Blogger B said...

bring it

4:54 PM


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