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The source for back issues of Clint's Corner. Forget a trade? Were Clint's predictions correct? Here's every edition, verbatim.

For 9/18/2002

Knowledge...

As one of my favorite teachers said of himself back when I was in high school, "the more I learn, the more I realize how much I don't know." This was from a guy who knew more about Latin and Ancient Rome than any of the Caesars.

I thought back to Professor Smith when reading the outpouring of accolades in both the local and national media following the Patriots decimation of the New York Jets in the Meadowlands. Not only are wild assumptions being made about the Patriots after just two weeks (19-0?), but also of their opponents, their upcoming competition, and even the first two opponents of their upcoming competition. Ridiculous!

Could things be any better? No way. Have expectations ever been higher after the start of the season in Patriot Nation? Not likely. To draw a comparison, you'd have to go back to 1976 where after an 0-1 start the Patriots pummeled the Dolphins and Raiders in Foxboro sandwiched around a big win on the road against the defending Champion Steelers. With the benefit of hindsight, that was indeed an impressive start. Miami ended up winning the division, the Raiders finished the season 13-1 and won the Super Bowl, and the Steelers advanced to the AFC Championship game, where they lost to the same Raider team the Pats had beaten 48-17 in week 3.

What of this season's Steelers and Jets? Everyone is so quick to point out that the Patriots 2-0 start is "more impressive" than the other seven undefeated teams in the league because the wins were over teams who were forecast to be major contenders in the AFC. The 2-0 Carolina Panthers are dismissed because their wins were over the Ravens and Lions. Miami has been very impressive, but they are also an "asterisk" undefeated team because they too had the benefit of playing Detroit, and then defeated a Colt team coming off a 6-10 season and a rebuilding project underway on defense.

Why is everyone so sure that the Patriots 44-7 victory over the Jets or their 30-14 victory over the Steelers is more impressive than the Dolphins 21-13 victory in Indy? I for one still think Indy is going to make the playoffs and will finish at least 6-2 at home. I'm not so sure about the Jets. The win over Pittsburgh lost some of its luster in week 2 after the visiting Raiders did to the Steelers in Heinz Field what the Patriots did to them in Gillette Stadium.

Was it the Patriots that made the Steelers look bad, or are the Steelers overrated? Going back to the beginning of the 2001 season, the Steelers have now played 8 games of 20 against teams who finished the 2001 season with a winning record. They are an even 4-4 in those games. Two of those four wins came against the Ravens, who were a winning team but were a collective 1-3 against the Browns and Bengals last season. On the other hand, maybe Pittsburgh is still a great team, in which case New England and Oakland are powerhouses. Your guess is as good as mine.

How good or how bad are the Jets? The Buffalo Bills pushed them all over the field in their loss in week 1, and they looked awful last Sunday in their home opener. Are the 1-1 Jets like the 0-2 2001 Patriots? We'll find out a lot next Sunday when Gang Green heads to Miami. Come the end of the season, that Jet win in Buffalo may look a lot bigger than it does today. Would you want to play the Bills in Buffalo next Sunday?

The point I'm trying to make here is that we cannot gauge how impressive this 2-0 start is because we really don't know exactly what the Patriots have accomplished. If the Patriots beat these same two teams in succession in weeks 13 and 14 with each of those teams shy of 5 wins, we'd look at these games a lot differently. Likewise, it's tough to gauge how unimpressive another teams 2-0 start appears to be, or perhaps how uneventful a teams 0-2 start will prove to be.

The example Bill Belichick made of the 2001 Colts is an excellent one. I myself was making reference to that Colt team for different reasons in talking with the Jets fans seated around me in the 4th quarter last Sunday (I have sat in the same seats in the Meadowlands for 5 of the past 6 seasons for the Pats game, and I have never seen the Jets fans so willing to engage in conversation, or to heap praise upon the Pats). The few Jet faithful that remained sat dejected in the rain. I said, "hey, didn't you guys get smoked by the Colts in your home opener last season? You still won 10 games, right?" That lifted their spirits as much as could have been expected at that point in time.

The Colts destroyed the Jets in week 1 last season in the Meadowlands 45-24 after leading at halftime 31-14. The Colts then defeated Buffalo 42-26 in their own home opener. Belichick was wise to point out that last season at this time everyone was speaking of the Indianapolis Colts the same way they are speaking of the 2-0 Patriots today. In hindsight, the Jets weren't that bad after all. They finished 10-6, beat the Patriots in Foxboro, and swept the Miami Dolphins. The Colts victory over the Bills was not so impressive after all when you consider that the Bills finished their AFC East schedule 1-7.

The undefeated juggernaut Colts were spanked by the winless and hapless Patriots 44-13 in week 2. Indy went on to lose 8 of their next 10 contests, finished 6-10, and their head coach was fired. The 0-2 Patriots didn't turn out to be so bad, huh? The Patriots were nothing without the services of their franchise quarterback, right? The Chargers and Bengals were going to meet in the AFC Championship game, remember?

Again - I'm ecstatic with this start, and I love reading all of accolades about the Pats as much as the next fan, but the bottom line is we have a long way to go. Belichick's reference to the 2001 Colts is not simply a motivational ploy - he's 110% right. There are no trophies given out in this league in September, and the 1-1 Kansas City Chiefs are not going to be awe struck on Sunday as they too have expectations of making the playoffs this season. I for one am anxious to see how the Pats, having long relished the role of the disrespected underdog, perform this week at home as 8.5 favorites - a contest which no one outside of the Kansas City locker room expects them to lose.

Remember, the more we all learned each week of the 2001 season, the more we realized how much we didn't know. It won't be any different this time around.

Make hay while the sun is shining...

Having just finished feeding you a very heavy dose of caution, I am not about to let the first ever opportunity to jump on the "Pats are unbeatable" bandwagon pass me by. I've been writing in this corner of cyberspace since before the 1996 season, and never has their been such wide spread agreement that the Patriots are not only a great team, but the best team. In a word - awesome.

I can't get enough of this, and I can't say I disagree either. Every Web site and publication out there that does Power Rankings has the Patriots at #1. Every one. Once an even bet to win more than 8.5 games this season, the Patriots are now atop the boards in Vegas as favorites to win Super Bowl XXXVII. Everyone is already talking about going down to Miami at 4-0 and proving what few disbelievers remain out there wrong by beating the (probably 4-0) Fish in their own backyard.

The Patriots defense has been the dominant unit, but their offense appears very solid and well coached as well. The Patriot offense has scored 60 points (of the teams 74) in two games, and has shown it can strike from anywhere on the field regardless of down or distance to gain. A 1st down catch incorrectly ruled incomplete on 2nd and 8? No problem - first down on 3rd and 8 coming up. Need a yard on 4th and 1? No problem. The Patriots have been in goal-to-go offense 4 times this season, and have come away with 4 touchdowns. Adam Vinatieri is 6 for 6 on field goal attempts, including a 40-yarder in the rain. Not bad for red-zone production.

In two games, 11 different Patriots have been on the receiving end of Tom Brady passes, and only 6 of those 11 players possess a Patriot Super Bowl ring. In each game, the newcomers have scored three touchdowns: Branch (2), Hayes, Cleeland, Fauria, and Victor Green on D. The Patriots are 15 of 29 on 3rd down, have 44 first downs, and have amassed 775 yards against defenses that were suppose to be, and may still prove to be, pretty darn good. Tight ends have accounted for 12 receptions and 2 touchdowns after an entire season of relative obscurity in 2001.

Ready for this one? Drew Bledsoe is leading the NFL is passing yardage with 734. He has broken franchise passing records after just two weeks in a Buffalo uniform. Drew has completed nearly 70% of his passes, has thrown 4 touchdown passes, and enjoys a passer rating of 100.3. He's already led two dramatic 4th-quarter comebacks, prevailing once in two OT sessions, the only one in which he took a snap. Despite Bledsoe's remarkable success, NO ONE is questioning the trade right now. Bledsoe has set the bar sky-high in the "Grocery Battle" with the Bills, and once again Tom Brady has cleared the hurdle. If given the chance, would anyone ship Tom Brady to the Bills for Bledsoe in an even swap? I will forever love #11 to death, but even I'm not that stupid. Brady looks so good so far this season it's scary.

Just when you thought I could not say enough nice things, let's turn our attention to the defense. As great as the offense has been, the defense has been better. On the season they have yielded a total of 21 points, and of the three touchdowns they have given up, only one was of consequence. Kordell Stewart scored on a 1-yard leap on the last play of a then 30-14 contest to change the final score to 31-14. Big deal. Last week in the Meadowlands, the defense was smothering the Jets before they let up to allow their only touchdown of the game after the contest was all but over with the Patriots leading 27-0. In the first half, the Patriots D held the Jets to one first down, 48 total yards of offense, and 4 yards rushing.

Defensive rankings in the NFL are based on yardage allowed. This metric grossly skews the effectiveness of the Pats D, currently ranked 4th in the NFL allowing 241.5 yards per game. What this ranking fails to take into account is when those yards were gained, and how meaningful they were. The Jets gained 85 yards of offense after the game was over at 27-0, and 14 of their 200 total yards were on a run by their punter. Similarly, the Steelers gained 119 of their 283 total yards of offense in the final 9 minutes of the game after the Patriots had taken a 30-7 lead. While still ranked 4th of 32 teams in the NFL, that clearly does not begin to tell the story.

Want to pass on the Patriots? Opposing QB's have been sacked 10 times, intercepted 4 times and lost the ball on fumbles twice. Two of those six turnovers have been returned by the defense for touchdowns. Want to establish the run? The Patriots have allowed 106 rushing yards on 33 carries. Take away Matt Turk's run on a fake punt, and opposing rushers are averaging just under 2.9 yards per carry. Not bad after facing the #1 and #4 rushing offenses from last season.

In the past I could not write such praises without being accused of being a "homer." Now I challenge anyone to tell me which team, if not the Patriots, dares be considered to sit atop the media Power Rankings. When you're the defending Champs sitting at 2-0 on back-to-back blowouts, there is no argument. Until the Patriots lose a game, critics will have to be silent. The Pats may lose next week, or not at all. Only time will tell.

Last February while seated in the Super Dome, I bellowed aloud "We're #1!" in reference to the Patriots for the first time in my life while the confetti was raining down from atop the domed roof. I'm still saying it, and meaning it, seven months later. It just doesn't seem to get old.

See you next week.