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 12/3/1997

Winning Ugly?

Those two words don't seem to belong together. Since when can a win be bad? Would you rather have a glorious defeat? One of the most exciting Pats games in recent memory was the 1994 season opener in Miami. Bledsoe and Marino put on a show of shows, each throwing for over 400 yards. Drew had 4 TD tosses, including a 65 yarder to Coates over the middle and a highlight film diving grab by Ray Crittenden in the corner of the end zone. Marino threw for 5 TD's, the last of which was about a 30 yarder on 4th and short to Fryar very late in the game to take the lead. The Pats made it a heart stopper right down to the last second, but a critical Coates fumble sealed their fate, as the Pats fell to 0-1 and the Fish welcomed in the 1994 season at 1-0. 39-35, Dolphins. What a game! I had the pleasure of being in Miami to see that contest, and I will never forget it.

Guess what folks, if every Pats game was exciting as that one, they'd be 0-13 right now instead of 8-5. If every performance from here on out is as "horrible" as the last two weeks, the Pats will turn 8-5 into 11-5 and get a 1st round bye in the playoffs as back-to-back AFC East Champions.

In this league, it is nearly impossible to win 11 or more games without stealing one once in a while. The 11-2 Broncos stole back-to-back 3 point wins in weeks 9 and 10 at Buffalo and home against Seattle. The Broncos relied on fluke touchdowns by their defense and special teams to come out on top in both contests. Both of those teams are currently 6-7. Denver went on to rout Carolina in week 11, but just 14 of their 35 points were put up by the offense. I don't hear anyone in Denver complaining about the season.

Just last Sunday, The 9-4 Steelers escaped defeat at the hands of the 3-10 Cardinals when Arizona missed a 45 yard field goal at the end of the game. The Steelers went on to win in OT. The struggling Ravens, with just 4 wins, lost their starting QB in the first quarter on the road against the 9-4 Jaguars last Sunday. Jacksonville kicked 4 FG's in the red zone, and eeked out a 29-27 victory when Baltimore botched a 2 point conversion late in the 4th quarter which would have forced OT.

Green Bay is the worst offender. At 9-3, they could easily be 8-5, and that's not counting the New England game, which Pete Carroll handed to the Pack. At home against the Vikes, Green Bay let a huge lead slip away, allowing the Vikes to score 25 second half points, but hung on to win 38-32. Sounds like the Pats/Miami game, huh? In Chicago, the 0-6 Bears went for 2 down by 1 with seconds to play. The pass failed, and Green Bay won 23-22, barely beating an inferior opponent. Sounds like the Pats/Indy game, huh? And these guys are "the team to beat in the NFC"? I'll bet those defending Champs would have LOVED an "ugly" win over the Colts.

That's Denver, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, and Green Bay. Four of the top teams in the NFL, all thought to be "Super Bowl Contenders." If they can win ugly, why can't the Pats? How quickly we forget that Tuna's 1996 squad fell behind the hapless Giants 22-0 in the final game of the season in a must-win game. A special teams TD and a 4th down TD pass later, the Pats had themselves a 1 point victory and the AFC East title. That was the ugliest win of the year, but the Pats went on from there to win the AFC Trophy.

But I'm not blind...

I am not at all defending the overall play of the team in the last two home victories over division rivals Miami and Indianapolis. The offense is lethargic, the defense can't play zone to save their lives, and allowing the Indy O-line to open gaping holes for Faulk is a huge concern with the Bus due in town in two weeks.

The Colts are second to last in the league against the run, and the Pats ground game was non-existent. Martin got his 20 carries, but averaged only 3.3 per carry on his way to 66 yards. The offense scored just one TD against Miami, and drove a whopping 44 and 27 yards for their 2 TD's against the Colts. Green Bay and Detroit had gone up and down the field on the Colts D the past two weeks like they weren't on the field. The Pats made them look like world beaters. On the other side of the ball, Harbaugh & Co. rang up over 400 yards on the road, on grass, in the rain, in 38 degree weather. Yikes.

To the players credit, they weren't all smiles after those two wins. They know full well that if they make the dumb penalties and fail to execute in the final three games, 8-8 and home for the holidays is a very real possibility.

The head coach seems a bit more in denial. He gave the team an extra day off following the 20-17 Colts victory (the first Pats victory since the Nixon administration w/out scoring 23 points) to rest their weary legs. Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan and Boston Herald columnist Steve Buckley hit the nail on the head in today's papers. Ryan says Carroll's demeanor "scares" him, while Buckley likened the day off to giving video game tokens to kids who don't do their homework. I hate to compare Carroll to Tuna for the umpteenth time, but Parcells would have come across at those press conferences like his team had just lost 40-0.

Let's hope the players can motivate themselves. If not, it's gonna be an 8-8 season, which Washington D.C. sports writer Norman Chad predicted way back when the Pats fell to 4-1 with the loss to Denver. What seemed unthinkable then, suddenly looks inevitable.

But on the other hand...

Why can't 8-5 be 11-5? If back in week 1, you had told me that the Pats would be in control of their own destiny to win the division and secure a 1st round bye with three weeks to play, I would have been happy. Should the Pats run the table, they would eliminate both Jacksonville and Pittsburgh from the #2 seed, and more than likely send the Dolphins home for the season. If the Colts can beat the defending Champs, and New Orleans can win on the road, why can't the Pats run the table? You just never know. If the team that wore these uniforms back in September ever shows up again, it will happen. Should that 4-0 team suddenly decide to make another appearance, you can make your rezzies for San Diego.

Could it happen? Sure. Do I think it will? Of course not!

No fare to be called fair weather...

After the el stinkero of the decade was put on by the Pats in Tampa Bay, the home crowd has not been the same in "friendly" Foxboro. The papers are filled with negative press about the team, and sports radio is full of callers who want to either fire Carroll or bench Bledsoe (or worse). Even after winning two straight games, Pats fans, including myself, are still not impressed. Check my archives. The only negative columns I have ever written began after the Green Bay loss, and I had to stretch to find a few good things to say in the other weeks.

Keith Byars and Bruce Armstrong have been outspoken about the home fans. Armstrong sighted the deafening crowds in Minnesota and Tampa Bay, and wondered why the fans of Foxboro, who had been so loud earlier in the year, and ear piercing in last years playoffs, could not do the same. Hey Bruce, did the Vikings or Bucs come off games like the one you guys came off of? No way. Better yet, I can't think of any team at any time who put forth such a minimal effort in a game as the Pats did in Tampa Bay. Couple that with the rumors (just rumors mind you) that many of the Pats players were out partying into the wee hours of Sunday morning, and one can begin to get the picture. The Pats may be the home team, but you don't get cheers simply for showing up.

Byars went so far as to say that New England fans are fair weather fans. I'll grant you that are plenty of them out there, but you won't find a city in the U.S. who cares more about their sports teams than Boston. In Tampa Bay, when the Bucs were losing, no one complained, they just didn't go to the games. Ditto for Atlanta, Indianapolis, Seattle, and many other NFL cities. Fair weather fans find something else to do when their team plays poorly, die hards get angry and want to know what the hell is the problem.

Not to toot my own horn, but you would be hard pressed to find many people out there who are bigger fans of any team in any sport than I am of the New England Patriots. I will stick with this team no matter what. (I could write 20 pages on what I have been through the past 26 years, but I digress). If I am disgusted with the way this team is playing, than something must be wrong. I am like the grandmother who's grandson can do no wrong. Lie, cheat, steal, he's still my little angel. When Granny gets angry at little Patrick, you KNOW he did something pretty bad.

A lot of this sentiment comes with the high expectations going into the season. The Pats clearly had the most talent of anyone in the AFC, including Denver. 12-4 or 13-3 was not at all out the question. When 9-7, and the playoffs, begin to look out of reach, fans are going to get angry. If the team went 9-7 in 1993, we would have all acted like we won the Super Bowl. This team is different. Finishing behind the Jets and Dolphins would be nothing short of a disgrace to the team, it's fans, and it's owner.

Complain all you want about the boos at home, but you don't have to look far into that mirror to figure out why it's happening. Even though 3 weeks have passed, fans still remember that Tampa Bay game like it was yesterday. 12,000 New England Fans opened their wallets and headed South that weekend. We donned our blue shirts and hats with pride from Friday night until Sunday at 1:00. Three hours later, we were almost ashamed to call ourselves Pats fans. That is sad.

You want Cheers? Go down to Jacksonville, play your game, and beat the Jaguars. If you show up in Foxboro on December 13th to play the Steelers at 9-5, you'll think you're at home in December, 1996. I have never heard the crowd so loud in my life as that game against the Steelers. Go to Florida and take care of business, and Bob Kraft will have to break out that air horn again.

Beat the Jags, and we'll cheer 60,000 strong so loud it will make you proud. I promise.

Don't ever call me a fair weather fan again. Ever.

See you next week.

P.S. Check out my Playoffs preview. Also to updated each week.