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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 11/19/1997

Editor's Note: For the first time in the history of this column, it will be officially posted on another Web site - Big Al's Bucs Homepage!

The Big Bang, the formation of carbon life forms, the rule of the Tyrannosaurus Rex, the ice age, the Crusades, the murder of Julius Caesar, Troy's destruction of Carthage...

...and the 1996 AFC Championship Game. All of these events are ancient history. If I hear the Pats referred to one more time as the "Defending AFC Champions," I think I'll be sick. The Pats have faced a total of nine different opponents thus far in the 1997 regular season. Five of them have been proud to announce in the post game locker room that, "Hey, we just beat the Defending AFC Champions!" The Broncos looked at it as revenge for what should have been theirs. The Jets fans took it as David knocking off Goliath. The Packers chalked it up as the "turning point in their season". The Vikings proved that they could beat the leagues "elite", and last Sunday Tampa Bay finally proved that they could rise to the occasion against "superior" competition.

Cartoon from Boston Herald
The real face of Patriots Nation.

How many more pathetic losses does this team have to suffer before beating the Pats is considered no big deal? If the Dolphins walk out of Foxboro Stadium next Sunday with the win, they should treat it as the Jets did walking out of Soldier Field, or as the Steelers did walking out of War Memorial Stadium. The Fish will have beat a club that lacks discipline, toughness, emotion, direction, and a win against anyone but Buffalo since September 21.

All this team has in common with the glory boys who trounced Pittsburgh and shut down Jacksonville in the playoffs last year is the uniforms on their backs. Congratulations Tampa Bay, you just whipped the Patsies.

No Mercy...

A few weeks ago, in my first ever critical column following the loss to the Packers, I was all over Pete Carroll for his play calling inside the 1-yard line. I was sick to my stomach after that game. It was a winnable game for the then 5-2 Pats coming off a loss in Tuna Bowl II. The coaching staff sold out the offensive line and the running game inside the 1 in a 14-10 game, and the team has not been the same since. I am beginning to think that the win in Buffalo had about as much meaning as the Colts victory over the Packers and the Saints victory in Oakland. Nice to read about, but hardly a statement that your team has turned the corner.

In 1994, the Pete Carroll-coached New York Jets were 6-5 and on the verge of beating Miami at home to take sole possession of first place in the AFC East. Dan Marino threw his now famous "fake spike" TD pass and broke the Jets hearts as they fell to 6-6, and finished the season 6-10. Carroll was then fired by Leon Hess for "losing control of his team." That one play sent the entire season into the tank. I am beginning to think that the failed goal line series from the 2-foot line against Green Bay may have been the nail on the 1997 Patriots coffin.

I was more than psyched by the win at Buffalo, but if you read last weeks column, I did point out a few shortcomings in the performance. Ones that would hurt them against the better teams in the league. I noted that although the team played a good game, they would have to further elevate their play to enjoy a few more wins. The Bucs were the first to prove my point. Jacksonville and Pittsburgh are on the horizon.

I have had it. Nothing short of a 5-game winning steak (OK, maybe even 4 of 5) and the AFC East title will change my mind about this coaching staff. They are a disgrace. Carroll told us himself in Minnesota and last week in Tampa that he is effectively "clueless" as to what is wrong. Bob Kraft gave this guy a 5 year contract, and we use to think Chuck Sullivan was the dummy for investing in Michael Jackson's concert tour.

They want it? They got it!

In fairness to Pete Carroll, this is not all his fault. In fact, if you believed what the Patriots were saying following the Super Bowl, it's not Carroll's fault at all. You see, Bledsoe, Slade, Clay, et. al. were upset that Parcells got the credit for their 11-5 AFC Championship season. After all, it was the players, not the coach, who had to go out and execute. After seeing Barry Switzer take over for Jimmy Johnson and go on to lead the Cowboys to the Championship, I was inclined to believe them.

If the players want the credit for the play of the team, then they can have it. If it was Bledsoe and Co. that got them to New Orleans, then it's the same guys who didn't get a first down for 35 minutes in Tampa Bay. If it was Slade, Johnson, McGinest, and Clay who shut down Pittsburgh and Jacksonville last winter, then it's the same guys who allowed Trent Dilfer to recite the alphabet in the pocket prior to going 22 of 29 for over 200 yards without a pick, and who allowed Mike Alstott to treat them like a division 1-AA defense.

At the conclusion of the pre-season, the players were anxious to prove what this team could do without the tyrannical Tuna on the sidelines. Congratulations guys, you have made your point loud and clear.

No words for this...

How can one possibly explain an NFL team gaining 16 yards with no first downs in a half while giving up 253 yards and 14 first downs? What's up with a team gaining a total of 65 yards after 3 full quarters of play? At least the first two drives of the 4th quarter didn't end in punts. Bledsoe made sure of that by throwing consecutive interceptions following drives of 0 and 10 yards. Those numbers tell the story. The fact that the Pats gained 168 yards and averaged 4.7 yards per rush were about as meaningful as the Pats TD with :14 remaining. Word is that Tony Dungy will petition the league to mark this game as officially being a shutout. Final word on the request is expected out of Tagliabue's office on Friday, and the Bucs are optimistic.

I challenge anyone to explain how the Pats could put on such a pathetic showing on offense. No one on the Patriots seems to know, and although the Bucs have an excellent defense, I'll bet Culpepper, Sapp, Brooks, Nickerson, and Dungy would have trouble answering that question as well. If you pitted the 1997 Saints offense (Currently the leagues worst rated) against the 1985 Chicago Bears "46" Defense in Soldiers Field in a December blizzard, I'd bet you 100-1 any day of the week that the Saints would at least have a 1st down before the 3rd quarter was 5 minutes old. I don't think Tony Dungy would take me up on that bet. I'd doubt even if Mike Singletary, William Perry, Richard Dent, or even Buddy Ryan would take me up on that bet.

Again, let's credit the Bucs defense and their staff for a job well done, but the Pats effort on offense was as bad as you'll ever see in the National Football League. The Bucs D came into the game allowing a 65% completion percentage, and were near the bottom of the NFC in passing yards allowed. That dramatic a turnaround can only be accomplished with a little help from the opposition. Bledsoe, his receivers, and especially the offensive line were apparently more than happy to oblige.

I must defend Drew to some extent, in that I don't think Joe Montana could have been effective behind that offensive line. The blocking was so poor on running plays that you may as well have had Brad Culpepper take the snap, hand the ball off to Martin, and then tackle him. The pass protection was so poor that one of the Bucs sacks came when they only had three men rushing the passer! MY GOD!

If it can't be the Pats...

...then I'm glad it's the Bucs. What's not to like about the Buccaneers? They have a young, talented backfield in "Thunder and Lightening" (a.k.a. Alstott and Dunn), they get a great push and pass protection from the guys up front, and their front 7 on defense are as active and hungry as any in the league. Their head coach is the definition of class, and you rarely see the obnoxious on field antics associated with the likes of Deion Sanders and Murtin Hanks. Even Dilfer is playing solid ball. Best of all, the Bucs are in position to knock the dreaded Packers and their "we are America's team" fans out of the NFC Central penthouse, where they can forget about their precious home field advantage.

If that's not reason enough to jump on Tampa's bandwagon, consider that they need the out-of-state support since they don't get it at home. How were Mike and I able to get tickets, along with 10,000 other Pats fans, to a game in Tampa against the 7-3 Bucs? You would think we were playing the Falcons or Oilers! The Bucs are definitely for real, and are on their way to the post season. The "fans" of Tampa ought to be ashamed of themselves. Even with the curse of the Boston Sports teams upon us, Foxboro Stadium has sold out every game since Parcells took over in 1993. That included both a 5-11 and a 6-10 season.

Don't get me wrong, the Bucs have more than their fair share of diehards, particularly Big Al, who roots on his beloved Pewter Pirates from Dolphin country in Miami. Please check out Big Al's Bucs Homepage, it certainly is a lot more upbeat than this one!

Disgusted Pats fans in the parking lot following the game shared my sentiment. It's about time the Bucs were winners. The organization and their real fans deserve it. While I'm in Jacksonville on December 7th at the Jags game, you can be sure I'll have my eye on the stadium scoreboard as the Bucs will be hosting the Packers. Go Bucs! Feel the Power!

The "Fox" will be sold out again next Sunday, but the crowd may not be on the Pats side as the team takes the field. They more than deserve to get booed by the home fans. If the players want cheers after the el-stinko they pulled down in Tampa Bay, they're gonna have to earn them. When the team was 1-15 and 2-14 in the early 90's, at least we could say they lacked the talent to get it done. What is this team's excuse? Few teams in the NFL, including the Bucs, enjoy the talent level prevalent on the New England roster. When all that talent goes 2-5 in 7 games, the booing should be automatic, and loud.

Milk Carton Sammy...

When we fans pleaded the coaches to start Sam Gash, they finally listened. Our intentions, however, we not to have him split out in the left slot. Gash proved last year that he is among the premier lead blockers in the league. He was a player that defenses had to account for, and he constantly drew praise from his teammates, opposition, and even the announcers covering the games. When Gash went down in week 14 last year with a season ending knee injury, we all wondered how the offense would survive without him. Now we know.

In last years blowout win against the Chargers in San Diego, Gash was awarded the game ball for single handedly taking Junior Seau out of the game. Parcells took a moment during the presentation of the AFC Championship Trophy to publicly (and emotionally) thank Gash for his help in the first 14 weeks in making that trophy possible.

You had better get use to not seeing Gash in the lineup. If Carroll hasn't used him this far into the season, he's not going to. If Gash, an unrestricted free agent, wants to play in 1998, I'm sure he won't be knocking on Bob Kraft's door. Sam's agent will be more than happy to sit down with a tyrannical dictator in Jersey, who seems to appreciate Gash's talents a lot more than the current regime.

I wonder what Bucs fans would say if Alstott were rotting on the bench? Who needs a fullback anyways?

The P-word...

In my last column, I ran down possible playoff scenarios for the then 6-4 Pats. I did so then, as I mentioned, because I feared it may have been my only chance to do so. I certainly could not introduce that topic for the first time this week.

Even after the loss to Tampa Bay, the Pats are still not out of it, but they must beat Miami twice to have a shot. Here is the remaining schedule of the teams in contention in the AFC East:

New York Jets Miami Dolphins New England Patriots
@Buffalo @Oakland INDIANAPOLIS
@Detroit NEW ENGLAND @Miami

It's going to take 10 wins to win this division. The Jets have a very tough road ahead, and are way behind in division tiebreakers. They cannot afford a tie with New England or Miami. New England must tie the Dolphins at 7-5 with a win next week, and given the tough games ahead, will likely have to win at Miami on a Monday Night to win the East. It's certainly not going to be easy. If the Pats don't shape up, I'll be talking about positioning for April's draft rather than the post season in next weeks column.

Sunday's Dolphins game scares me, and I can't figure out why the Pats are giving up 5 points in Vegas. As long as key Miami players don't stay out partying in Providence until 4am the day before the game, I expect Miami will give the Pats all they can handle.

See you next week.