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.
My apologies to all my loyal readers (all 3 of you) for being so lax in my "weekly column". My last entry was after the win over the Colts, and a lot has happened since then. We last left our heroes at 4-3 coming home to face the 1st place Bills, and now the Pats are tied for 1st with Buffalo, two games ahead of the 5-5 Dolphins and Colts. I will do my best to keep this thing weekly. Honest...
Air Parcells, you are cleared for takeoff...
In the last three games, Bledsoe has thrown for nearly 1,100 yards. Yesterday's 24-34 for 297 yard performance was the runt of the litter. Drew put up over 400 yards against the Fish, and moved the ball in the air seemingly at will against one of the NFL's best defenses in the Buffalo game. Terry Glenn has been huge. Jefferson has been the best free agent signing-for the-buck in Franchise history. Ignoring Coates has proven to be deadly, and Martin may be the best RAC (Run after catch) back in the league. Martin's scampers after 3 yard screen passes have accounted for many of Bledsoe's 1,100 in recent weeks. Meggett, Brown, and Byars have also made their presence felt.
With Marion Butts in the backfield, the '94 team HAD to throw the ball to succeed. This squad would be foolish not to throw the ball even if Jim Brown and Walter Payton were in the backfield. Until any team in this league can slow down this offense for 4 quarters, there is really no need to worry about the running game. I think if the Pats really need to rely on the run, Martin and the offensive line will get it done. There simply has not been a need to run the ball yet. We may be looking at an MVP in Bledsoe if this keeps up.
Beast of the East...
The Pats not only have won 7 of their last 8, but the last 4 in a row have come against AFC East opponents, which is very significant in that division record is THE first tie breaker when determining the division champion (and, gasp, home field advantage in the playoffs). The Pats currently stand at 7-3, tied with the Buffalo Bills. The teams split the season series (how big was the Bill's goal line stand in week 2 now?), but the Pats own a 4-2 AFC East record while Buffalo stands at 3-2.
The Pats have home games remaining against the Jets and Colts to round out the division schedule. The Bills still must travel to Miami and Indy, who are not yet out of it at 5-5. Remember that both Miami and Indy made the playoffs last year at 9-7. The Bill's lone remaining home game in the East comes up in two weeks against the Jets, who don't stink, they just lose.
The Pats also have a favorable outlook in the AFC as a whole. Denver is 9-1 overall, with a 7-1 AFC mark. Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Buffalo, and the Pats are all next in line at 7-3. However, the Pats have the best AFC mark of the four 7-3 teams at 6-2. If the Playoffs were to start today, Denver would be the 1st seed, and the Pats #2. Both teams would have a bye week at the end of the season. Pittsburgh would win the central and would host Houston in the first round. If Houston won, they would play at Denver, if Pittsburgh won, they would move onto Foxboro to face the Pats.
The second wildcard matchup would have the Bills traveling to Arrowhead to take on the Chiefs. The winner there would face either Denver or New England on the road depending on the outcome of the Pittsburgh/ Houston game. Should Denver lose in the first round and the Pats win, the AFC Championship game would be held at Foxboro stadium!
Before I get too carried away here, let's remember that there are still 6 games to play. The Pats will face some very stiff competition over the home stretch, and a playoff spot is far from a lock. Losses at Dallas and San Diego, as well as a home loss to the Broncos are certainly not out of the question. This is also assuming that the Pats beat Indy and the Jets at home, and finish the season with a victory over the Giants on the road. Looking at the next 6 weeks, I would say the Pats would do well to finish at 10-6 and grab a wild card spot. Buffalo certainly has the advantage schedule wise, but they do have 3 of their last 4 on the road.
Let's remember that the '94 Eagles were 7-1 and finished 7-9. The '86 Jets were 10-0 and finished 10-6. If yesterday's Jets game showed us anything, it's that the Pats will have to fight for their lives over the next 6 weeks just to get into the dance. Like I said before, anyone throwing dirt on top of Miami and the Colts is also sadly premature in their thinking. Hold on. This ride is just getting interesting.
4th and 2 or 24 of 30?
Angry Jets fans, and even some Boston media, are pointing to the blown referee's spot of a Ben Coates reception (which gave the Pats a critical 1st down at midfield with about 6 minutes to play following 4th and 2) as the reason the Pats won the game. Granted the refs did blow the call, but get a clue people, that wasn't the X factor. Following an abysmal 1st quarter in which Bledsoe went 0-4 with an interception (actually 2, but we'll get to that in a minute), he went on a tear completing 24 of his next 30 for 297 yards with 3 TD's and no interceptions.
Maybe that's why the Pats won? Maybe it was that after the Jets took their 21-0 lead, they only mustered two FG's the rest of the way? Maybe it was that after the 21-0 lead, the Pats scored on every possession (with the exception of one play before the half and one play at the end of the game). Maybe it was that the Jets allowed the Pats to move the ball those few insignificant remaining 49 yards for the winning TD? Hmmm. Those factors may have also contributed.
If you still want to point to the bad call, I still have an answer for you. When the Pats were trailing 7-0 in the first quarter, they took over 1st and 10 at the Jets 26 following a weak punt out the end zone by the Jets. Two plays later, a Bledsoe pass went off of Terry Glenn's helmet, and was "intercepted" by the Jet's Victor Green. Sorry Jet's fans, but that ball hit the turf. The replay showed it, and I have the tape at home to prove it. Rather than 3rd and 11 at the 26, it was Jets ball 1st and 10 going the other way. Bad calls are a part of the game. I wonder if that's why the Pats were down 21-0? Yeah yeah, that's it, it was the ref's fault.
Reason for concern...
With all the hoopla surrounding the Pats offense, which many around the league, including some national media, are citing as the league's most dangerous, the lackluster play of defense seems to be forgiven. The Pats are dead last in the NFL against the Pass, and even though the rankings may not show it, they are far below where they should be against the run as well. The rushing defense has been getting a break in the second half as most teams go to the air (with success) to play catch-up with the Pats all out scoring machine. In the last 3 weeks, Thurman Thomas, Karim Abdul-Jabbar, and Adrian Murell have all had 100+ rushing yards against the Pats. Buffalo and Miami only ran the ball in the first half. That scares me. What will Elway and Terrell Davis do to this defense?
The good news is that the Pats offense thus far has been their best defense. It's tough to lose too many games when you average more than 30 points per contest, as the Pats have done since stumbling out of the gate at 0 2. The Pats may be getting away with it now, but it will be a quick exit from the playoffs (if they make it) if the D doesn't step it up. When was the last time a team played in either the AFC or NFC championship game without a great defense? I can't remember, and even if I could the fact is it doesn't happen too often. The Dolphins of the mid 80's were as great an offense as you'll see, but defense killed them each year in the playoffs, including the Pats running game in the '85 AFC Championship season. Al Groh has his work cut our for him.
One reason for the poor pass numbers is that the Pat's have not had their staring secondary together for an entire game since October 13th. Ty Law and Ricky Reynolds have not shared the field since that time. It's tough to ask Hitchcock, McGruder, and Otis Smith to carry the load on the nickel and dime coverages. The two should both be healthy soon, and may each suit up against Elway. Let's hope so.
There is no way Denver will not score a bunch in this one. The Pats offense had better be prepared to pull out all the stops to score more points than Elway and company. To date, the Pats have not faced this potent an offense, and they have made average offenses look good. The Broncos defense is good, but not great. They are really no better than the Ravens, Colts, Dolphins, or Redskins, and don't even compare to the Bills. The Pats were able to move the ball on all of these teams, and the Denver D should be no exception. Weather permitting, I look for an air show ala Hanscom AFB come Sunday at 1:00pm.
As road games at Dallas and San Diego approach, the Pats could use some breathing room. Consecutive wins at home would place the Pats at 9-3 with 4 games to go. With the way Buffalo is playing, the Pats almost have to win the next two if they want a shot at the division title. This may be insane, but a win over Denver would even give the Pats an edge in the homefield playoff tiebreaker. If this V-12 offense doesn't sputter, we may be looking at some Foxboro playoff excitement. If the D doesn't stiffen, Elway, Aikman and Humphries will chew them apart.
In a word, this team is still an Enigma. Even at 7-3, we still aren't quite sure what we fans have down there in Foxboro. A win over Denver would certainly help clear the air.
Thanks yet again for visiting, and I will try to get this column out weekly on a more consistent basis. I would also like to thank Mike Maddaloni, who updates this column to the web for me. Without him, there would be no Clint's Corner. I would also like to thank Alan Hall, who has undertaken great pains to increment my visitors counter to make me feel better. For that, Al gets to sit on the 40 yard line for the Denver game!
Let's also keep my Dad in mind, who is also a huge Pats fan, but a recent broken leg has kept him on the sideline in front of a TV rather than in the stands where the Pats need him and he belongs. Get well soon Dad, the playoffs are just around the corner!
See you next week.