Clint's Corner Archive

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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 1/14/2004


So the Colts are on a historic tear. They've put up 79 points, 913 yards of offense, and 50 first downs in their first two playoff games. Punter Hunter Smith has yet to touch the football. Peyton Manning's quarterback rating is through the roof, and Edgerrin James is looking like his old self. Believe it or not, if you're a Patriots fan or Bill Belichick, you could not possibly have hoped for a better opponent.

Had the Colts played here in week 1 of the playoffs, no one would have given them a chance. Now, despite having won 13 games in a row and playing the AFC Championship game at home in 20 degree weather, very few "experts" are giving the Pats a chance. CBS, the host network for the game, has 4 of their 5 Web prognosticators picking the Colts. The FOX NFL site's feature column courtesy of the Sporting News' Dan Pompei also is predicting the Pats run to come to an end. Sure, there's a few folks picking the Pats, such as Sports Illustrated's Dr. Z, but there's only as many Dr. Z's out there picking New England as there were two years ago when the Pats headed to Pittsburgh. Even the more technically oriented predictors, such as ESPN's game simulator, the Harmon Forecast, and Scouts, Inc. are all picking the Colts.

This is exactly what the doctor ordered: no respect. 15-2? Nine and 0 at home with three shutouts? An NFL record for fewest points allowed at home? Apparently the recent tear that Manning and the Colt offense has been on overshadows all of this. If there's one thing the Patriots defense may have been lacking that they had in 2001, it's a chip on their shoulders. If they've even been half paying attention to the national media this week, they'll have it back, and that's a very good thing.

Nobody's perfect...

The Colts deserve every ounce of credit and praise they've been getting the past two weeks, but it's not as if the Colts have achieved the impossible. They rang up 41 points on Denver in their home dome two weeks after being embarrassed by the Broncos in the same venue, but didn't our beloved Pats offense put up 30 points against the same unit in Denver, in prime time? The Broncos offense was without Jake Plummer, but the Pats were without both Seymour and Washington, yet still held the Broncos offense to 17 points on the road. (The Broncos point total of 26 included a punt return for a touchdown as well as 2 points for the famous intentional safety.)

Going into Kansas City and coming away with a win has been tough to do since the Ice Age, not just this season. In terms of fan noise, the crowd at Arrowhead makes Gillette Stadium gatherings appear like insurance seminars (that's another story for another day - take notice club seat patrons). The Chiefs' defense, however, couldn't stop anyone the 2nd half of the season, twice surrendering 45 points in losses down the stretch. Their defensive coordinator has already resigned his post. Can anyone mention the Kansas City and New England defenses in the same sentence with a straight face? No way.

A lot has been mentioned of the fact that Indy has not punted yet in the playoffs, but did you know the Chiefs did not punt last week either? In racking up over 400 yards of offense, the Chiefs scored a field goal and touchdown on their first two possessions prior to Morton Anderson missing a chip shot field goal following an 11-play, 56-yard drive. This miss followed an absolutely atrocious offensive pass interference call that negated a Tony Gonzalez touchdown reception. That call was the difference between a 21-10 halftime score versus 21-17.

Down 21-10, the Chiefs offense opened the 3rd quarter with a bang when Priest Holmes broke a 48-yard jaunt, only to lose the ball on a fumble at the end of his run at the Colt 22-yard line. The Colts took over and drove for a field goal to go up 24-10. Kansas City's offense held the ball twice more in the game, scoring a touchdown each time. A third TD was scored on a Dante Hall kickoff return.

So what stopped the Chiefs offense all day? A horrid call followed by a missed field goal, and a very uncharacteristic Priest Holmes fumble. That's it. The Chiefs rushed for 196 yards on 30 carries one week after Denver rushed for 146 yards despite having to go to the air to play catch-up. Had the Colts lost this game 31-30, all you'd be reading about in the Indianapolis Star is what defensive players would be available in the April '04 Draft, not Manning's inhuman "zone."

Did the Colts outplay the Chiefs? Did they deserve to win? Were the Colts the better team? Was their victory impressive? Yes, yes, yes and yes, but let's not hand the Lamar Hunt Trophy to the Colts just yet.

Nothing new...

Two seasons ago the Indianapolis Colts were 2-0 having dismantled the Jets in the Meadowlands and the Bills at home to open the season. Not sure if their point total was the same 79 as the past two games, but it was damn close on either side. They went into the old Foxboro Stadium as heavy favorites to face an 0-2 Patriot team with a young QB named Tom Brady ready to make his first NFL start. Early in the game, Patriots middle linebacker Brian Cox leveled WR Jerome Pathon on a pass over the middle, and the Pats never looked back en route to a 44-13 victory.

Later that same season the Patriots found themselves in the Super Bowl, playing indoors against the "greatest show on turf" as double-digit underdogs. The result? The Pats held the potent Rams attack to 17 points en route to their first World Championship.

Not that their November 30th meeting means anything heading into Sunday, but I'd like to point out something oft overlooked when fans and the media look back upon that 38-34 win. All of the attention, deservedly so, is given the Pats defense holding the Colts on 4 plays inside the 2-yard line to win the game. The D, it's been said, stepped up when it mattered most. Is everyone forgetting the prior Colts possession?

Kevin Faulk turned the ball over at his own 11-yard line with just over 3:30 play in the game and the Pats leading 38-31. Manning threw three incomplete passes, took 18 seconds off the clock, and the Colts were forced to settle for a 29 yard field goal. That stand was every bit as impressive as the one at the end of the game. So let the record be clear, when it mattered most, the Pats D didn't thwart the Colts just once, but twice with the game on the line and the home crowd in a frenzy.

The following week the Patriots defense was called upon to slow down a resurgent Jay Fiedler led Dolphin offense that had roared back from a 4th quarter deficit two weeks prior at home when Fiedler came off the bench, and who had hung 40 points on Dallas in Dallas on Thanksgiving Day the previous week. The AFC East title hung in the balance. The result? A shutout. Miami went on to score 70 points in their final 3 games.

The next week the Pats once again proved what happens when the unstoppable force clashes with the immovable object. With all of the praise heaped upon Ahman Green, Jamal Lewis, Priest Holmes, etc, few if any took notice of the NFL's hottest back down the stretch, Jacksonville's Fred Taylor. In the two weeks both preceding and following his trip to New England on December 14, Taylor rushed for 596 yards at a clip of 5.5 yards per carry. His "worst" game of the 4 came against the Buccaneer D when he tallied "only" 118 yards on 27 carries. Sandwiched dead in between that run, Taylor rushed for 57 yards on 16 carries against the Patriots.

So can the Pats D step up to the plate once again? Can the Colts offense be stopped? The Colts are a great team, and the Pats have the utmost respect for them, but I'm sticking to what I wrote last week. The two best teams in the AFC may in fact be still standing, but the Pats' biggest challenge is now behind them in the Tennessee Titans, even as hot as Manning has been. Does that mean the Pats will win simply because they beat the Titans? No way, but then again I did reconfirm my travel plans to the Super Bowl again this week.

This is in no disrespect to the Colts, I just think that this is once again the Patriots year and you have to like them playing at home, particularly with few "experts" giving them a chance. I can also say this with all honestly - should the Colts win and move on, as devastated as I'll be, I'll be pulling for them regardless of who they play in Houston. So long as they're not playing your team, how can you not root for guys like Tony Dungy, Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison? Not this week, not in "our house", not against this D. No way.

Once again, one way or the other, we'll see you next week. Try to get some sleep, stay focused at work, and pay attention after your kids say, "daddy" 6 times. Go Pats!