Clint's Corner Archive
Clint's Corner Archive
The source for back issues of Clint's Corner. Forget a trade? Were Clint's predictions correct? Here's every edition, verbatim.
Here we go again...
Although the Patriots are now just 5-13 under head coach Bill Belichick, last Sunday against the Jets was one of the three worst performances of his tenure, with the other two being the Jets home game and Lions away game last season.
I mentioned in my last column that the Patriots lost to a very beatable opponent in Cincinnati. The Bengals in the 4th quarter of that game seemly did everything they could to hand the game over to the Patriots. The Jets last Sunday were even worse. After taking a 10-3 lead with 17:34 remaining in the game, the Jets managed just one more first down, going 3-and-out on 4 of their next 5 possessions. Two of those 3-and-outs immediately followed Patriot turnovers, failing to put the game away.
The Jets defense can hardly take much credit for shutting down the Patriots offense either. The Patriots offense outplayed the Jets offense in nearly every "box score" category. The Jets did have a razor-thin edge in rushing with 27 carries for 111 yards to the Pats 26 carries for 107, but the Pats had a large margin in both passing yards and total yards, and had 15 first downs to the Jets 14. Credit the Jets defense with limiting the Pats to a field goal after they had established 1st and goal at the 4, but who knows how 4th and goal at the 1 would have gone had the Pats not been flagged for delay of game. Without the benefit of a turnover, the Patriot offense three times managed to march inside the Jet 10-yard line on drives covering 64, 76, and 61 yards.
The turnovers are what really killed New England. Each of Bledsoe's interceptions were gift-wrapped, with the 2nd seemingly having LB James Farrior as the intended target in the endzone on 3rd and 7 from the Patriot 8. That play came after Bledsoe was sacked on 2nd and 3 from the 4. The Jets seemingly had the game won after that play, but their inability to maintain possession haunted them when just 4 minutes later the Patriots had a 3rd and 2 at the Jet 31. A false start backed the Pats up to the 36, where FB Marc Edwards then fumbled the football back to the Jets with minimal contact on the play. The Jets punted 4 plays later, but the Patriots had lost their critical field position advantage, forcing the Pats to start their final drive at their own 26 with no time outs remaining.
While it's the offense and their 4 turnovers that will bear the brunt of the criticism, the defense again was "just bad enough." It seems as though the only time the Patriots defense is capable of holding their opponents scoring down is when their own offense is in the tank. The defense did indeed play very well for much of the game, but there were countless stupid penalties, and the Jets only two scoring drives originated from their own 3 and 7-yard lines. You can't say that the Pats offense was to blame there. Despite the 4-0 turnover disadvantage and Martin's 100-yard day, the Patriots actually held the advantage in time of possession, so their defense was not on the field for an inordinate amount of time.
The victorious Jets team that I saw on Sunday is full of holes. Their defense is very susceptible to the run, and they cannot generate much of a pass-rush. Patriots quarterbacks were only sacked once in 38 pass attempts behind what has long been a very porous offensive line. The new "West coast" offense is still very rusty, netting just 238 total yards and converting just 4 of 14 3rd downs. It's pretty bad when you can't beat a team like that in your home opener. The Pats are now 0-2, but I assure you that the 1-1 Jets are going nowhere either. After dropping their first two contests to the Bengals and Jets, earning their first win only gets tougher with the Colts and Dolphins next on the schedule.
In his three seasons as head coach, the departed Pete Carroll had a collective 9-1 mark heading into the month of October. Bill Belichick is now 0-6 with the Colts coming to town to close out the 2001 September slate.
A matter of time...
The Patriots offense has suffered 100 sacks in their past 30 games. How Drew Bledsoe managed to start each and every one of those contests is remarkable. Now in his 9th season, Bledsoe will miss just his 7th career start when Tom Brady gets the nod with Drew recovering from internal injuries. Of the 6 starts previously missed, two were the result of a broken finger in 1998, and three the result of a strained knee in his rookie campaign of 1993. Bledsoe missed one game in 1995 with a separated shoulder following a vicious turf-slamming sack in San Francisco, but came back to start the next 12 games of the season despite never being fully recovered.
The lesson here is that Drew Bledsoe is one tough quarterback, perhaps the most durable in the league. Going into Sunday's game, Bledsoe trailed only Brett Favre in consecutive games started, but does not suffer nearly the punishment that Bledsoe does week in and week out. It's completely ironic that Drew would suffer this severe an injury in a game where the offensive line actually did a decent job of protecting the pocket, and the running game garnered in excess of 100 yards. Go figure.
Those who have pointed the finger of blame at Drew Bledsoe the past two seasons will now get to see first hand how the team will fare without him. I personally feel as though Tom Brady will prove to be a very competent NFL quarterback, but he is no Drew Bledsoe. Although the Colts are the class of the AFC East, their defense may be 5th out of the 5 teams, including the Patriots. While the Patriots will certainly have to catch lightening in a bottle this week to beat the Colts, the pressure is not on Tom Brady but on the Patriot defense. The Colt defense has already allowed 50 points in this young season while allowing the less than stellar offenses of the Jets and Bills to amass 330 and 374 total net yards respectively.
Brady should have time to throw the ball, and the Patriot receivers will have an easier time getting open than they did against the Jets secondary. The Patriots may lose this game 27-34, but Brady figures to have a decent NFL debut in the statistics department if not the won-loss column. The true "sans Bledsoe" test will take place the following two weeks in Miami and at home against the Chargers. If Bledsoe is out for longer than that, Brady will also get a chance to play the Broncos in Denver.
Regardless of how Brady plays, there are 21 other starters who have a job to do. If the Patriots are going to make a serious run at a .500 season, they can't sit back and lick their wounds while Bledsoe is sidelined. It's never time to panic at 0-2, but unlike the 0-2 Vikings and the 0-2 Titans, the Patriots seem to offer little hope of a turnaround in the near future.
Here's to hoping, however...
See you next week.