Clint's Corner Archive

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 9/2/96

Truly Offensive...

After many weeks of what the players called "their toughest camp ever" and a 3-1 exhibition season record, the 45 players who showed up at Pro Player Park yesterday afternoon played like they just got back from offseason vacation, put on the uniforms and went out to "play" a game of football without the benefit of a day of practice, or a single page of a game plan. I told you the preseason meant nothing!

What transpired down in Miami, resulting in a 24-10 Dolphin pasting of the Pats, truly leaves Pats fans scratching their heads. What happened to Curtis Martin? What happened to the healthy, confident Bledsoe we saw in the preseason? What the hell happened to the run-stuffing, pass-rushing, in-your-face, newly revised 4-3 defense? After waiting 9 long months to make amends for last seasons 6-10 record, the Pats gave us reason to fear that we are in for more of the same.

Curtis Martin was invisible, getting only 11 chances to carry the ball. Bledsoe finished the day completing exactly half of his passes with two costly interceptions. The second interception was a fluke, but the first one was disgusting. The Six Million Dollar Man reminded us of the guy who used to wear number 11, and killed an early Pats scoring opportunity by completely telegraphing his throw. Bledsoe may has well have handed the ball off to a blitzing Miami linebacker. On the next few series, he threw at least 4 more passes which could also have easily been picked off, but fell incomplete.

The million dollar free agent wideout Shawn Jefferson was also a huge bust. After being let go by San Diego for dropping too many passes, he hurt the Pats offense with two consecutive catches. Both times Jefferson cut back across the field into the teeth of the defense trying to pick up additional yardage and fumbled the ball when he got nailed. This is a Pop Warner no-no. Jefferson later sustained a concussion on an end-around play, and may miss next week's game at Buffalo.

The new 4-3 defense did nothing to stop the run, but the D as a whole is not as much to blame as the offense. The defense watched from the sidelines as the first Dolphin TD was scored, and they were called upon twice more to stop the Fish after the consecutive Jefferson fumbles. They were only on the field for one play the first time, as Terry Ray made a diving interception, and got back up to return the ball 43 yards in to Dolphin territory. That prevented a sure Dolphins score, and gave the Pats the ball in great field position. One play later, the Pats defense was back on the field, and this time allowed a 61 yard Dolphins TD drive.

Despite being unable to stop the run, the defense only gave up 17 points. They did make some big plays when they had too, and played well enough to win the game had the offense not continually shot the team in the foot. As more and more was asked of the defense to keep the Pats in the game, they eventually tired and were not effective. The ease at which the Dolphins were able to run up the middle is of great concern, and it doesn't get any easier with Thurman Thomas on deck next week.

The Good, the Bad, and the Lucky...

Special teams was the only bright spot for the Pats. Both the coverage, returning, and kicking aspects were all very good. The season started out great for the Pats, as Dave Meggett took the opening kick-off and raced 41 yards giving the Pats offense the ball 1st and 10 at the their own 48. Meggett later returned a kickoff 54 yards. On two occasions, the kick-off coverage was able to down the ball inside the Dolphin's 5 yard line, and rookie Adam Vinatieri was right down the middle on his only FG attempt of the afternoon.

Unless Jimmy Johnson coaches his players to fumble the ball as they get close to the end zone, let's not give the new coach too much credit. Louis Oliver's fumble at the 10 during his 1st quarter interception return bounced right into the hands of another Dolphin defender on the fly, and it was 7-0 Miami before the Pats' "mighty" 4-3 defense could even take the field. Miami scored a TD in similar fashion in the 3rd quarter when FB Stanley Pritchett fumbled at the 1. Again the ball bounced right into the arms of Scott Mitchell, who was laying down in the endzone, to make the score 24-3 in favor of the Fish.

To continue on the bad luck theme here, a long 4th quarter Bledsoe bomb intended for Troy Brown in the endzone was inadvertently kicked by Brown as he fell backward trying to make the catch. Brown kicked the ball straight up into the air into the hands of Dolphin's DB Terrel Buckley who was standing near by awaiting his early Christmas present.

As lucky as these plays were, they certainly were not the reason the Pats lost. Luck always seems to favor the more aggressive team, which the Dolphins clearly were on Sunday.

Growing Pains...

With an average age of 25.6 years, perhaps the Pats are too young a team to realize the full potential of their football talents. I still say the Pats are a better team than Miami. Bledsoe's shaky start certainly seemed to effect him for the rest of the game. He continued to make bad throws, and QB coach Chris Palmer must be sick over the fundamentals exhibited by his star pupil. Mental errors were prevalent on both sides of the ball, and with the score 17 3, you got the sense the Pats were panicking.

In sharp contrast are the veteran Buffalo Bills. After an absolutely horrendous start to their game on the road against the Giants, Jim Kelly and the rest of the Bills regrouped and sent a 17-0 game (even worse than the Pats start) into overtime tied at 20, where the Bills kicked the winning field goal.

Leadership and smart football are what separate the two teams which will meet at Rich Stadium next Sunday. The raw talent of the Pats was twice able to overcome the Bills' savvy last season, so you can bet that the Bills are looking for revenge. The 0-1 Pats will regroup and role into town trying to improve on their 3 game win streak against the 1-0 Buffalo Bills. Unless the Pats can turn things around in a hurry, they will open at home still looking for their first win of the season.

Don't get too down...

Had this game been played in week 10 with the Pats owning a 7-2 mark, we would just chalk this up to a bad day at the office, and return home 7-3. Since this is opening day, we all tend to look too much into just one game, as half (if not all) of New England now feels that the Pats were overrated this preseason and that we'd be lucky to win 6 games again this year. Despite this being one of the worst Patriots' performances of the Parcells era, it's just one game. By tomorrow morning, 15 teams will be 1-0, and the other 15 will be 0-1. We have a long season ahead of us, and we get to make amends against the Dolphins in our house on November 3rd.

Before you jump off the bandwagon, remember that the 1994 playoff team started 3-6, and the 1985 Super Bowl team started 2-3. My loyalty to this team is as permanent as the logos on my Van. As much as I may bitch in this column throughout the season, I still love Da Pats!

That's all for this week. Check back on Friday morning to get my picks for this week, and to review my picks from the week one (I'm already up $$, and hope to stay that way).

Thanks for visiting!