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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 12/28/1997

New Area Code?

After being swept by the Pats this season, you may have to begin all of your long distance calls to Miami with 043. All week long we heard the countless stats; "only 3 teams since the fall of Rome have beaten a team three times in one season," or "only 4 of 6,000 teams have won back to back games against the same opponent." I am of course exaggerating, but I did not hear or read one point of history this week which favored the Pats.

As ESPN's Chris Berman always says, "That's why they play the game." Instead of Miami coming North and avenging the previous two losses, they had their worst game of the series. I will admit that I was nervous at the prospect of beating Marino three times in six weeks, but that was not the Dan Marino I have watched play over the past 15 years. Maybe he's getting old, maybe it's his lack of surrounding talent, or maybe it's the offensive schemes, but what we Pats fans have seen from 'ol Number 13 in three games this season is nothing short of shocking. Jimmy Johnson says it's the running game, but in Marino's career the Dolphins have never had a good running game, and Dan the Man still holds all the passing records worth holding.

In 17 games this season, Marino threw 13 interceptions. He threw 6 in just 3 games against New England, and 3 were returned all the way for touchdowns. Take away the New England contests, and the Dolphins are 9-5 with Marino averaging just one-half an interception per game. I'm not sure if it's possible to "have a team's number" in the NFL, but the Pats sure seem to have Miami's. The first two contests were tight, but this one was not as close as the 17-3 score indicated. The only time Miami even got into position to score was following a long kickoff return, aided by a 15 yard tripping penalty on the Pats. Marino and Co. took over from the 40 yard line, got one first down, and kicked a field goal for the day's final scoring. To keep Marino out of the endzone is tough enough, to keep him out of the red zone all day long is damn near impossible.

Stealing the show...

In the preseason, and during the 4-0 start, all we read about was offense, offense, offense. In my past 5 columns, I can't seem to avoid writing about the Defense. The D has stepped their level of play up to Championship caliber as of late, and that has resulted in a Divisional Championship and a wildcard playoff victory.

Here are some numbers for you: Miami had just 162 total yards. That is 6 fewer than the Pats had in Tampa Bay on November 16th. No, that is not a typo. Miami had a total of 42 rushing yards, and this is from a team who's head coach is "committed" to the run. (As a side note, in my opinion the Dolphins were a better team in Shula's final years then they have been in two season's under JJ). Danny "Canton" Marino was sacked four times, completed just 17 of 43 passes (39.5%), and threw two costly interceptions. In the past, if you gave Marino a chance to beat you, he would. In this game he had countless chances, and the D held each and every time. For the second straight week, the Pats blitzed the you-know-what out of the Dolphins offense, and they never found a way to counter. Johnson, McGinest, Slade, and Canty all had sacks, and there were numerous other pressures from that group as well as from Thomas, Clay, and Milloy.

This Defense is scorching hot right now. Since the Bucs game, they have effectively neutralized Indianapolis (who beat the Pack, Dolphins, and Jets down the stretch), Jacksonville on the road, Pittsburgh, and Miami three times. The team's only loss in those 5 games was against Pitt, in case you don't remember.

Prior to the roof caving in with 2:10 to play against Pittsburgh, the Pats Defense had shut down the Bus, forced Stewart into two poorly thrown interceptions, and had held the Steelers to a total of 13 points on a hairline TD and two Norm Johnson Field Goals. Without question the defense played well enough to win that game, and they'll get their second chance next Saturday.

Be careful of what you wish for...

...'cause you just might get it. By no means is this upcoming grudge match just what the doctor ordered. The Pats will be the undisputed underdog in this game, and they will likely again be without Curtis Martin. Glenn is still not 100%, and you can now add a Ben Coates broken thumb to the injury list. The Pats must face a very well rested Pittsburgh team (they also took week 17 off in Tennessee) coming off of a short week. I'm not sure what brain child is doing the scheduling, but for the second straight week the Pats will play in 6 rather than the normal 7 days. (Denver, on the other hand, gets an 8 day week heading into K.C. WHY?????). Six days will not make a difference for Martin. He's had a month off, and if he wasn't ready against Miami, he won't be ready against Pittsburgh.

As much as the defense deserves praise, the offense leaves room for concern. Granted they are banged up, but they must avoid the continuous 3rd and longs, and "3 and outs" which have kept the defense on the field so much these past few weeks. Cullors and the rest of the team did well in that regard against Miami, but the Dolphins are one of the worst teams in the league at stopping the run. Cullors had 7 carries for 42 yards during a 7:49 drive in the third quarter which resulted in a field goal and a 17-0 lead. In the rest of the game, Cullors had 15 carries for 44 yards. That will not get it done in Three Rivers.

Some quick thoughts on Neil O'Donnell and the NFL rulebook...

If you read last weeks column (check the Archives), you know what my thoughts were on Neil O'Donnell refusing to run a play in the Silver Dome due to the crowd noise. The Referee twice issued a warning to the crowd to quiet down, or the Lions would be charged with a time out. I don't want to rehash my thoughts on that rule, or on Mrs. O'Donnell, but I would like to point something out following wild card weekend.

Mark Brunell, Randall Cunningham, Dan Marino, and Scott Mitchell all took their teams on the road into deafening playoff-crazed stadiums. Not once did either of them back away from center and refuse to run a play. Only 1 of those QB's will be playing next weekend, but at least they all came to COMPETE in their final game. I doubt you'll see any different from Bledsoe, Cunningham, Dilfer, or Elway as they lead their teams into battle next week.

Paul Tagliabue, this rule quite simply, and without question, has got to go. Neil O'Donnell, you can check your dress at the tunnel on your way out of New York.

Road Warriors...

The Pats will now leave the friendly confines of Foxboro Stadium behind them and travel to Three Rivers Stadium, where Pittsburgh is 7-0 this season following their lopsided opening day loss to the Cowboys. Most recently at home, the Steelers overcame a halftime deficit to handily defeat the Denver Broncos. Sure I would rather have this game be in New England, but I really like the Pats chances in this one even on the road.

With the playoffs and the division title hanging in the balance, the Pats traveled to Jacksonville 4 weeks ago. The Jaguars were enjoying a 13 game home winning streak, and AllTell Stadium is a place where Bill Cowher and his Steelers are 0-for-lifetime against the three year old Jaguars. Not to worry, the Pats owned the game from whistle to gun, and came out with arguably the teams "biggest" road win in years against a quality opponent. Last weekend, on Monday Night Football, the Pats traveled to Pro Player Stadium, where Jonathan Kraft claimed it was louder than he had ever heard any stadium - including Mile High or Arrowhead. Miami was 6-1 at home entering the contest. In a "do or die" for the division crown, the Pats got the job done.

The Pittsburgh heartbreaker was only 4 weeks ago. It is still very fresh in all our minds, and in the hearts and minds of the players. Were it not for that disaster in the final two minutes, the Pats would have been the #2 seed in the conference, and the Steelers would have played on wildcard weekend against Miami. In the closing moments of that game, one of the Pittsburgh bench players, some guy named "Flowers", was taunting the crowd in sections 107 and 108. I sit in the 5th row, so I heard every word. Rather then heckle back, I chose my "quiet" moment, and screamed down "See you in 5 weeks!" I know he heard me, and he knew what I meant. What at the time was just a vent of anger and frustration, suddenly seems prophetic.

It doesn't matter that this game is against Pittsburgh in Three Rivers. What matters to the Patriots and their fans is simply that it's against Pittsburgh.

See you all next week, and hopefully I'll still be smilin'. Oh yeah, did I mention Mike and I are going to Pittsburgh!! GO PATS!!