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.
Beasts of the East...
13-1. That's the Pats record against division opponents in their past 14 games against AFC East competition. The only blemish was Tuna Bowl II. Figures. His lordship lost to the Dolphins twice this year, and the Pats just pulled off the sweep. The Pats may have stumbled and bumbled at times this season, and they have certainly been the poster boys for the pacemaker, but you can't argue over their dominance in divisional play.
The Pats were the only AFC East team to win in Buffalo or in Miami's Pro Player Stadium. New England was also the only team to record sweeps over the Bills, Colts, and Dolphins. Dave Meggett was right. When the Pats beat Buffalo in Buffalo and Indy in the RCA Dome, we said "Great, but they can't win the big game." Meggett responded, angrily, that all games were big. Ask the Dolphins, the final playoff seed in the AFC at 9-7, how big it would have been to win in Indy or Buffalo. The Jets just missed the playoffs. Ask Tuna how big a home win over the Colts, Dolphins, or Bills would have been to his team's season.
We fans, myself included, came into this season with very lofty expectations. Not only did we want a 14-2 season, but we wanted the losses to be close, and the wins to be convincing. When they slid by the Dolphins, Jets, and Colts, and made a few mistakes along the way in pounding Buffalo twice, we complained. The wins weren't "good enough." Ask the Jets, Redskins, or Cowboys to feel sorry for you, and you'll get laughed at. Pete Carroll and his new troops have most certainly had their growing pains, and even the last game had me scratching my head, but the bottom line is that the Pats are Champions of the AFC East, and for the first time in franchise history, they did it back-to-back.
Not to end this first section with sour grapes, but doesn't it just kill you to know that the Pats were just one errant pass against the Steelers from being 11-5 and the #2 seed in the AFC? They were also a week 3 John Hall field goal away from sitting at home next weekend watching the Jets play, so lets not get too picky.
Bledsoe, Martin, Glenn, Coates, Jefferson, Armstrong, Gash? Forget it. This game was won by the defense. With the way the offense stumbled through the first half, failing to establish field position, it was a miracle the Pats were only down 6 at the break. What's more, the Dolphins' points came off lengthy field goals, which normally this season have been out of Mare's range. It's not like the Fish drove to the 10 yard line. They never even got into the Red Zone! That is nothing short of an amazing effort by a defense whose offensive comrades mustered just 2 first downs.
At the end of the half, a Jefferson fumble gave Miami a golden opportunity to extend the lead. They took over at the Patriots' 40 with plenty of time on the clock. Three plays and a long field goal attempt later, it was still just 6-0.
At the end of the game, following an incomplete pass on 3rd and 1 (WHY???!!!), Tupa shanked an 18 yard punt, and once again the Dolphins took over in Patriot territory down 2, with the AFC East title there for the taking. The D was immense, forcing two incompletions and a hurried throw on 4th down resulting in an interception to effectively end the game. There was the fumbled snap on 3rd down, but Miami did nothing more with clean snaps on the other 3 downs. Just when it started to look like the Pittsburgh game all over again, the Pats D stepped up and said "Not this time." They came up huge in the biggest series of the season, and today the Pats are division champions thanks to that effort.
Since the loss to Tampa Bay, the D has been a house on fire. They have stymied Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, and Miami, all playoff teams, for three straight weeks. This unit is headed to the post season playing as well or better than any defense in the NFL. Watch out, the Patriots are coming!
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...
OK, so the current weather forecast is calling for temps in the low 40's this Sunday. Those same forecasters never mentioned that I would be snowblowing 17" of the white stuff from my driveway after work yesterday, so you just don't know what we'll get on Sunday until kickoff. Regardless, the Sunshine State boys can't be happy about packing up those winter coats for one more trip North.
Weather aside, what we do know is that the game won't be held in sunny Florida. Even if it's 75 on Sunday, it's great to be home!! The Dolphins have now lost twice to the Pats; two games which they had their opportunities to win. The Zebra's also didn't do Jimmy Johnson any favors Momday night, so this three-peat is definitely no given. Why do I get the feeling that beating Marino three times in six weeks would be like scratching three winning lottery tickets in a row? It just doesn't happen that often, if ever.
The Pats need to prepare for this Miami game like they lost the last two contests 50-0. Even a hint of "we got their number" syndrome will spell certain doom for the Pats. Hopefully veterans like Meggett, Byars, and Armstrong, and their new head coach won't let that happen.
Have to say it...
Rather than criticize some of Carroll's moves in this big win, I'm going to lay off. Hey, they won the game, and this rookie coach has his team on top of the division, and hosting a playoff game.
I instead would rather criticize a coach who's team did not win when they had to. I will be the first guy to tell you that Bill Parcells is the best coach in the NFL, but he blew it in Detroit. The play calling in the second half would have Larry Keenan and Pete Carroll run out of this town for good. Tuna just gets away with it 'cause he's the Tuna.
What's with having Ray Lucas throw a deep ball into triple coverage with the lead? Even worse, on 1st and goal from the 9, with just over 3 minutes to play, down 3, Parcells has a rookie execute the halfback option, and Leon Johnson subsequently throws the ball right to a Detroit defender. Granted the ref blew the call, but the real blown call was the play itself. What if Kennan had Sedrick Shaw attempt the same play down in Miami on 1st and goal? He and Carroll would have had to take a cigar boat to Cuba.
With all the heat Carroll and his staff have taken all year long, particularly for not being up to the task of the legend he replaced, it's quite ironic that that same legend's blunders put the Pats in the playoffs, and the "new guy" followed up with a big win, on the road, on Monday Night Football.
Home field "advantage"?
We all know how huge the win on Monday Night was. It means the Pats will host, rather than visit, the Miami Dolphins. Kansas City busted their tails all season to get the #1 seed, as did San Francisco in the NFC after losing Steve Young and Jerry Rice in the week 1 loss in Tampa Bay. Any football player or fan will tell you how big it is to be able to play in front of your home crowd.
Why on Earth, then, did the referee in the Jets/Lions game twice ask the crowd to quiet down so Neil O'Donnell could get a play off? This has got to be the most asinine rule in the book. Had the Detroit crowd not backed off, the Lions would have been charged with a timeout. This rule has got to go. It is so stupid it defies logic. It almost makes me ashamed to be a fan of a league with such a short sighted rule.
Why am I paying $80 to watch the Pats at home this Sunday? Aren't I allowed to cheer for my team? Isn't making life difficult for the visitors the ENTIRE POINT of screaming and yelling? It is times like this that if I were a more noted writer, ala McDonough, Ryan, or Buckley, I would have a headline story in the sports section dedicated to this topic. I would love to be able to get Tagliabue's attention somehow. This rule makes absolutely no sense to me, and I would like an explanation.
Neil O'Donnell, and for that matter Parcells and the entire Jets offense should be ashamed of themselves. Parcells, as we know, is fond of the "she" word to get a point across. In his own language, there has never been a bigger bunch of "girls" on the field, particularly #14, then those Jets who refused to run a play. Do you think it got loud in Mile High Stadium when the Pats played there on Monday Night? How about in Pittsburgh when the Steelers hosted the Broncos, or in Foxboro when the Pats hosted the Steelers? Neither Bledsoe, Elway, or Stewart ever backed away from center and asked for the referee's help to quiet the crowd.
If New York is the town of tough guys, O'Donnell has played his last game as a Jet. I watched an awful lot of football this year, both Pro and College, and I don't recall seeing that all season. Neil O'Donnell, you make me sick. Your spinelessness falls second only to the NFL rule from which you sought shelter.
Back on track...
By securing the #3 seed, the Pats not only host a 1st round game, but also retain hope of hosting the AFC Championship Game. A victory over the Dolphins this Sunday will give all the Patriots and their fans a late Christmas gift which is most certainly on everyone's list - a rematch with the Steelers.
As mentioned in last week's column, that loss to the Steelers was as tough to swallow as any I could remember. With the way the Pats defense has been playing, I would genuinely like the Pats chances if they were to go to Three Rivers Stadium to settle the score. As tough as it would be to win in Pittsburgh, you have to believe that the Pats players would relish the opportunity to play there. After all, the Pats already beat the Steelers this year, they just didn't win the game.
I'm getting a bit ahead here, but as I've said before a potential Pats/Denver AFC Championship game at Foxboro Stadium could be on the horizon. If Denver were to eliminate Kansas City, the Pats/Steelers game would determine the host of the conference championship game.
Don't laugh. Going into the post season, all you can ask for is a that your defense is playing well. With that, the rest will take care of itself. You would be very hard pressed to find a hotter defense among the 12 playoff teams than the one that plays it's home games along Route 1 in Foxboro.
See you next week, and Happy Holidays!