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.
Not this time...
It would be far too easy for me to sit down this week and complain about the way the team has been playing. When 4-0 turns into 5-4, anyone could fill a library with articles about "What is wrong?". If you read this column, I assume you are a Patriots fan, or at least a football fan, so the last thing you need me to do is tell you what you already know. The team can't run, the play calling stinks, the defense can't hold when it has to, etc, etc, etc.
I am instead going to put all the bad of the past 5 weeks behind me and try to write a positive column. After all, if the players don't put the past 5 weeks behind them and look to the future, then the season is already over. I am as upset and angry as any of the members of Patriot Nation. If you read last weeks column, you already knew that. Writing another "bash" column would do me no good, however. I cannot very well write about how the season is doomed, and then embark on a 7 hour ride to Buffalo on Sunday morning. That would be hypocritical. I am going to Rich Stadium on Sunday to watch the team win and turn the season around. Period. If you want to hear about the Vikings game or how the team "sucks", you are at the wrong web page this week.
Here goes nothin'...
Forget for the time being that this team was 11-5 last year and played in the Super Bowl. Lets go back to 1995, when Bledsoe, Martin, Coates, Brisby, Gash, McGinnest, Slade, and the TUNA finished up the season 6-10. Coming off a 10-6 playoff season, the Tuna chose not to welcome back many key players responsible for the playoff drive. Kevin Turner, Tim Goad, Michael Timpson, et. al. were sent packing. The Pats beat the Browns on opening day and expectations soared. We had a solid young nucleus of talent, a coach deemed "best in the business," and were now 1-0 after avenging a playoff loss to Cleveland. We all know what happened next. The team won only 5 of its next 11 games, and wasn't even close to making the playoffs. Among the 11 losses was a demoralizing defeat to the expansion Panthers at Foxboro Stadium. They were even swept by the Colts.
Again, forget that an 11-5 season followed that one. Let's say that Kraft was fed up with the Tuna, the Tuna was fed up with losing, and the team and coach parted ways. In comes Pete Carroll. All he has to do is win 7 games, and he will be able to claim that he improved upon Bill Parcell's regime. (I am not defending Carroll here, but when you talk about the Tuna, you had better remember that went 6-10 in '95 when he had his stamp on the team, and finished his tenure in New England a very average 32-32. Even Raymond Berry left with a better record than that)
The Carroll Era starts off with a boom as the team goes 4-0 and decimates 3 of it's first 4 opponents. There was a squeaker over the Jets, but a win is a win. It's hard to complain when a 6-10 team starts off 4-0. It appears that the team is adapting much better to Carroll's more laid-back approach, but we fans still have guarded optimism. Could the team really be that much better than the 6-10 train wreck? A loss in Denver on Monday night reminds us all that this team still has a long way to go, but a rebound victory at home against the Bills has the team at 5-1 and everyone is suddenly muttering the forbidden word of "playoffs." The road ahead does not look good, however. The Pats must travel to the Meadowlands to face the surprising Jets, nd then return home to face the Super Bowl champs before embarking on a three game road trip against 3 very tough teams to beat on their home turf.
All in perspective...
Here we are now at 5-4. We are disappointed in the slump, but the prospect of making the playoffs coming off a 6-10 (not 11-5) season is still in front of us. The Pats are still 3-1 in the division, and 4-2 in the AFC. They are well positioned for playoff tiebreakers with the first place Jets owning a 2-3 division record. A win over the Bills could put the Pats in first place again with a Miami win over New York in Pro Player Park. At 6-4, the Jets, Dolphins, and Patriots would all be tied, but the Pats would currently have the edge over all three in the tie breaking process. With two games remaining against Miami, the Pats still control their own destiny.
Looking at the remaining schedules of all the teams in the AFC East, it is very possible that 9 wins will get you the title and a home playoff game. (Before you scoff at entering the post season at 9-7, consider that the '95 Colts and the '96 Jags took their 9 wins down to the final minute of the Conference Championship game each season.) With the Jets in a tiebreaking hole, they must win the division outright. That will take at least 10 wins, which may be asking too much of the overachieving Gang Green.
To get to 9-7, and perhaps the division championship (1st since 1986), the Pats will need to finish up 4-3, and win both games against the Miami Dolphins. The other two wins must come from the remaining home games of Indy and Pittsburgh, or on the road against the Bills, Bucs, or Jags. Hell, 10-6 is still not out of the question. If the team can right the ship and get back to playing like they were in September, the Pats can get on a roll and enter the post season hot. I'll take a hot 10-6 or 9-7 anyday over a complacent 13 3 team. Just ask the '95 Chiefs and the '96 Broncos, who entered the post season as the #1 seed, but never won a game. Even if the Pats end up 8-8 or 7 9, it is still an improvement over the Tuna-led '95 squad, and the future is certainly looking bright over the next few seasons.
Ok, ok, so the Pats were not 6-10 last year, but hopefully you get my point. The reason we are all so pissed off at 5-4 is due to how well the team played last year. Had we really been coming off a 6-10 campaign, we would be psyched to be at 5-4. From the 6 win season to the Super Bowl, the personnel was essentially the same, so this '97 edition is really not that far removed from the ghosts of '95. Terry Glenn is a notable exception, but he has been dogged by injuries all year and has yet to make an impact in a game other than the loss to Green Bay (which, by the way, was the coaches fault, see the archives).
The point here is that we can chose to read the bashing in the Globe and Herald, or call in and bitch on talk radio, or we can choose to get behind this 5-4 team when they need it most. This week in Buffalo is a huge game. A win would put the Pats back in the divisional drivers seat. The Jags nearly knocked off the Pats last January, and they were 3-6 and 4-7 during the season. They entered the playoffs in week 16 when Morten Anderson missed a chip shot field goal. The '94 Pats were 3-6 (n.b. Parcells was the coach) and trailed 20-0 in week 10. The team came back and captured the wild card at 10-6. Anything can happen.
Look at the rest of the AFC. Even at 8-1, Denver has relied on touchdowns scored by both the defense and special teams to squeak out consecutive 3 point victories. They are an oblong bounce or two away from being 6-3. The 6-2 Steelers with "Slash" and "the Bus" looked quite beatable on both sides of the ball last (Monday) night in KC. Those same Chiefs lost in Miami, where the Bears were credited with their only win of the season. And before you cry that the Jets are ahead of the Pats, consider that the Giants are ahead of the Cowboys, Redskins, and Eagles.
Again, I do have plenty of negative things to say here, but I'm not gonna do it. I'm still very concerned about missing the playoffs, but I'm not gonna go there. If you want to hear the bad stuff, tune into WEEI 850 AM. If I survived from 1984-93, I can survive anything. I am not driving 7 hours to Buffalo for my health, but my patience is wearing thin.
Now, as much as ever, GO PATS!