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 9/9/97

It's the most wonderful time of the year...

Here we are just two weeks into the season, and I have no clue how the Red Sox or the rest of the crybaby's of summer are doing. Pennant race? Wildcard? Who cares!! It's football season!! I'm not sure what it's like in the rest of the county, but here in Massachusetts (a "baseball" town), we are all Patriots crazy. Even people who never watched football before (like my wife) are starting to get into it. Unless you live in Atlanta, where the Braves get all the headlines over the Falcons, it looks like the NFL has quickly supplanted baseball on the sporting forefront. Even the Jets are more popular than the playoff bound defending World Champion Yankees. I LOVE this game!

So far, so good...

New coaching staff? New System? No Tuna? No Chris Palmer? Jimmy Hitchcock at corner? These where some of the questions the national publications pointed to as reasons the Pats would finish 9-7, behind the Dolphins in the AFC East. Who would meet the NFC in the Super Bowl? Denver? Pittsburgh? Jacksonville? There was very little mention of the defending AFC Champs.

Well the Pats are 2-0, Bledsoe has throws 8 TD's to 8 different receivers, they have scored 72 points, while allowing 1 TD and 13 total points. (The TD, incidentally, was an amazing 40 yard catch and run by Charger rookie TE Freddie Jones). The Pats have sent a message to the rest of the NFL, and to New Jersey's newest Millionaire that they are for real and have their sights set on San Diego this January. No one has been with the Pats longer than Bruce Armstrong, their gray beard All-Pro left tackle, and he has NEVER been 2 0 in his career. This is a great start. Granted the Dolphins, Jaguars, and Broncos are also 2-0, but the Pats have completely outclassed their opponents while the Dolphins, on the other hand, scare me about as much as last season's 4-0 team did. The Pats will get their shot later this season at all three of those other 2-0 teams, and then we'll see how tough the Pat's road mettle really is.

But not so fast...

One needs only go back to last season to gauge the importance of the first two weeks. Last year's Pats were 0-2, and 0-2 in their division. We all know what happened then. They won huge in week 3, en route to going 11-3 the rest of the way and capturing the division title. The Pats have not exactly won at Lambeau Field and Texas Stadium in getting to 2-0. Wins over the Chargers and Colts count just as much, but they do not really provide a good barometer as to where the Pats stand in the AFC hierarchy. How they play in Denver, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, and Jacksonville will give us a better idea. The Pats did not just win, however, they dominated, so I don't mean to take anything away from their 2-0 start. This is the NFL, and you have to come to play every week. Just ask the 1-1 Packers or the 1-1 Cowboys. The Dolphins may be the worst undefeated team in the league, but open the paper and guess what; they are tied for 1st with the Pats. We have a long way to go folks.

Hopefully the Pats will not get into this mentality that they can take a week off and still win the game. If they get big heads, Tuna's Jets will leave Foxboro next week with a "W", and don't you doubt it. The '96 Broncos went 13-3 and had their tickets to New Orleans all set. Just ask them what being unprepared will do to a team. An ESPN analyst said that with the Pats, you only need worry that they don't miss the bus to the stadium. That's great to hear if you're a player or a fan, but please don't believe it. Hopefully this team remembers how hard it had to fight last year to get to the dance, and that this year it will even be tougher.

Picky, picky, picky...

When a team is 2-0 and has lambasted opponents 72-13, it's hard to find too much fault, but here goes. I am concerned about the running game. We saw no evidence of a running game in the preseason, and the first seven quarters of the regular season were no different. Martin exploded for 76 yards in the final drive yesterday, but those were meaningless yards. We have yet to see the Pats stuff the ball down the throat of a defense while the game was still competitive. What's more puzzling is that they almost always throw the ball on 3rd and short, even down at the goal line. So far this has not hurt their game performance, but the key words there are "so" and "far".

The lack of rushing productivity may be due to defenses looking to shut down the run first and then worry about Bledsoe. That has obviously not worked. Over 600 yards and 8 TD's should have the Jets defense scratching their heads when they draw up their game plan this week. When the offense can go to the air with such success, there isn't much need to run the ball. I am, however, still concerned. The "Tuna" in me knows that when Fall becomes Winter, the high powered air attacks begin to freeze up, and those teams who can run and stop the run are the one's who will be playing into 1998. The fan in me still believes deep down inside that the Pats indeed have a potent running attack, but have not yet had a real need to use it. If the Jets come in and try to cool down Bledsoe's air show, look for Martin to have a big day, even when the game is close in the first 5 minutes.

No press...

With all this talk about the red hot offense, the D has not gotten much attention. The Pats defense has kept them in the games during the few series when the offense has sputtered. The Colts had every opportunity to build a 1st half lead with great field position in the 2nd quarter, but they could not capitalize against a very stingy Pats defense. They are both pressuring the passer with reckless abandon and stuffing the run. Faulk had 15 carries for 23 yards after gaining nearly 100 yards in Miami the week before. San Diego's All-Pro deep threat Tony Martin was shut down the week before, and Harbaugh did not complete a pass longer than 20 yards yesterday. If he even tried to look down field, he found himself running for his life, as Humphries did in week 1. Jimmy Hitchcock has really stepped up at corner. He has covered very well, and his run support and tackling against the Colts were highlight film material. Henry Thomas has provided good pressure up the middle, and Chris Slade rebounded from a poor week 1 showing with a typical Slade like performance in the RCA Dome. All this, and without Willie McGinest. My God. These 11 guys are playing top notch defense two weeks in. So much for adjusting to the new system. Willie is due back next week I hope Neil O'Donnell has a good health plan.

Bring 'em on!!

"I don't think there is a defense that can stop us". Who said that? Bledsoe? No, John Burke, the new TE for the Jets. Give me a break. Even a Jet rookie lineman stated that Bledsoe would realize that he needs Parcells, and that he "likes when Parcells yells at me. I don't pout or go tell my mom". As if we needed any more incentive to want to pummel Gang Green, the players and fans now have it. I don't think there is anyone more excited than Fred Smerlas, who is convinced that Tuna was thinking more about the Jets than the Packers last January.

The Pats will be favored by more than a TD, but I want the Pats to make the home opener look like an OT squeaker. I don't care that they play again in New York a few weeks later. They can win there as well to make it a sweep. A word of caution however to those overly optimistic members of Patriot Nation. I assure you that at no time in the history of the NFL was there as good a game plan as the one Tuna will bring with him on Sunday. He knows the strengths and weaknesses of every player on both sides of the ball. Coach Carroll and the Pats will NOT outsmart the Jets. They will need to rely on their superior personnel and the energy of the home fans to win. How crazy will Foxboro be on Sunday night? Were you at the Pittsburgh playoff game last year? Enough said.

Leon Hess fired Pete Carroll after he went 6-10 in his only year as head coach of the Jets, and they have not come close to 6 wins since. 6 wins for that team now would be Biblical. Carroll has something to prove to Hess, and the 2-0 start is nice for openers. If Parcells was the reason the Pats went to the Super Bowl, then the Jets should win the game. If the Pats win, then that's that. It's the Player's team now, and Carroll is the perfect man to lead them at this stage.

Don't get me wrong. I am forever grateful to the Tuna for helping to resurrect a fallen franchise. He is without question one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game. I just don't like the way he left town. I'll cheer him when he takes the field, but I can never forgive him for the circus act he and Will McDonough pulled the week before the Super Bowl. Don't get me started.

Closing Thoughts...

The Packers had the audacity to talk about going undefeated, and that pipe dream lasted only 1 week as they failed to score a TD in losing to the Eagles. Anyone seen Chris Jacke? Did you ever think you'd live to see the day the goal posts came down in Arizona? Don't look now, but the Buccaneers are in 1st place in the NFC Central, one game ahead of the Pack. Three cheers for the pewter and red!! Will the real Buffalo defense please stand up? How about Dave Brown and a 2nd round draft choice to Arizona for Kent Graham? How about Ray Zellars and a 4th round draft choice to San Diego for Jim Everett? Could Brad Johnson possibly be underpaid? The countdown to the Ditka explosion is officially on. During their bye week, I'd like to see if Tom Coughlin's Jags can design a game plan to win WITHOUT a quarterback this time!! Matthews???

See you next week.