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.
In over 15 years of watching Patriots football like my life depends on it, I have never been this encouraged by a loss. The only one that comes close is game 12 of the 1993 season when the Pats lost their 11th in Three Rivers stadium on the final play of game when Bledsoe was stuffed on a QB sneak inside the 1 to preserve a 3 point Steeler victory.
It was in that game the Bledsoe and the rest of the young Pats finally looked like they were turning the corner and rising from the ashes of the AFC cellar. The Pats went on to win their last 4 games of the season, culminating in a thrilling OT victory over the Dolphins, eliminating Miami from the post season. Foxboro went nuts, and the Captain of the State Police in charge of security that day was quoted as saying, "Didn’t this team just win its 5th game?" Optimism and hope were back in New England.
I have that same feeling of renewed optimism this time around. Perhaps the Pats are ready to take that step from a team that struggles to get 10 wins to one that goes 12-4 and enters the post season as serious playoff contenders. The 6-point loss to Denver had that "almost" feeling to it against the defending Super Bowl champs in their stadium. The Pats lost, but they were not outplayed, and certainly not outclassed. The 13th can’t get here quick enough.
Sure the Pats are 0-1, but I feel better about this team now than I did at any point of the 1997 season, even when they were 4-0. When the Pats started the 1996 season 0-2, then coach Bill Parcells said he saw a lot of things to be positive about from his team. 17 games later the Pats Division Champs and were playing in the Super Bowl. This team may be better than the 1996 edition.
Have any of you out there ever seen Bledsoe appear more confident? He looked like a born leader out there, and it’s about time. Despite uncharacteristically bad pass protection, Bledsoe completed 20 of 32 passes for 289 yards and 2 TD’s. Not only did Drew avoid throwing an interception, but you’d be hard pressed to say that any of Drew’s throws were ill advised. Drew displayed the pocket presence and awareness that he’s been lacking the past 5 years. Drew spread the ball around well too. Usually when you see 20 completions, 9 of them go to Coates, and 7 more to the backs. With Coates on the bench, 13 passes went to the wide outs, 2 of those for touchdowns. That is a very good sign not only for Drew, but for the receivers and the Zampese offense. Again, all of this was against constant heavy pressure right in Drew’s face. Maybe I’m getting a little too excited about just one game here, but Drew had that eye of the tiger on Monday Night. If he keeps that up all season, good things are going to happen.
Robert Edwards not only finished the game uninjured, but with 9 fewer opening day carries than Curtis Martin, Edwards finished with just 8 fewer yards than the departed $36 Million dollar man did. Robert Edwards averaged over 3.8 yards per carry on his way to 50 yards and a touchdown, while Martin managed just a 2.6-yard average on his way to 58 yards against the 49ers. More importantly, not one of Edwards 13 carries was for negative yardage, and he finished each and every run heading up the field. Edwards hit the hold hard and fast, and certainly looked every bit the part of the 18th selection in the draft. I am salivating waiting for this guy to get 25+ carries, hopefully next week at the expense of the Colts (who gave up over 100 yards to the very ordinary Karim Abdul-Jabbar last week in the RCA Dome). Sedrick Shaw was less impressive in his 7 carries, but did the job. Together, Edwards and Shaw gained 75 yards on 20 carries. Super Bowl MVP Terrell Davis had the same 75 yards on 22 carries. Not bad from a team that finished 26th in the league in rushing last year and lost their top runner to a division rival. Again, maybe I’m putting too much stock into just one game, but this running attack does not look like it will finish anywhere near 26th.
The run defense was excellent. The game plan was clearly to stop the run first, and they did. The front 7 did an outstanding job on Terrell Davis, continually forcing Elway into 3rdand long situations, and never allowing Davis to spring for a big gain. When you hold Terrell Davis to 75 yards rushing in Mile High Stadium, that’s more than doing your job. That’s like holding Michael Jordan to 16 points in the United Center. Last season, Davis ran at will against the Patriots and humiliated them on National TV. This year, the Super Bowl MVP looked like just another running back.
The return game does not seem to be missing David Meggett. Troy Brown was sure handed in the punting game (not to mention 5 catches for 97 yards and a TD), and Derrick Cullors had returns of 38 and 68 yards on his way to 170 total yards on his 5 chances. That’s a 34-yard average; not bad. Cullors is a touchdown waiting to happen this season.
The Defense had their problems pressuring Elway in their base package, and when they blitzed, the 38 year old continued to pull rabbits from his hat, constantly eluding a certain sack and finding the open receiver. Ed McCaffrey was the prime beneficiary, catching 7 balls for 97 yards courtesy of Chris Canty, including a 44 yarder to open the game that would have been an 80-yard touchdown pass had Elway thrown the ball a bit better. This was certainly baptism by fire for Canty being asked to cover the much taller McCaffrey on his home turf, but he’ll have to get better. I can already hear Tebucky Jones knocking on the door.
With 5 preseason games under their belt, you would think that the Pats would have their play calling down better. A lack of communication caused the Pats to burn all three 2nd half time outs in the 3rd quarter, and two in succession. That is disgraceful. Had the Pats held onto those timeouts, the last 1:59 would have been a lot more interesting with the Pats trailing by just 6 points. Instead we watched Elway take a knee and the last two minutes ticked harmlessly away. Even when the plays were in on time, Drew was starting his cadence with just seconds left on the playclock. There was no time to check off or audible out of blitz situations, and that really hurt the Pats on a few plays where it appeared the Broncos were rushing 23 men right up the middle. With a 40-second play clock, there is just no acceptable excuse. Perhaps Bledsoe should be allowed to call his own plays if the system breaks down like that again. The result could NOT be any worse, even if Drew punted.
Penalties. It wasn’t the number of penalties, but their timeliness that absolutely killed the Pats in this game. When no one blames the two missed (short) field goals in a 6-point loss, you know the penalties must have been costly. What really kills you is that the veterans were the ones making the rookie mistakes. Larry Whigham, a Pro-Bowler on special teams, should know better than to run 40 yards out of bounds on punt coverage. That play cost the Pats over 30 yards of field position. The punt may not have even been necessary had Max Lane not been called for holding on 1st down at the 20. Instead of 2nd and 1 from the 29 following a Bledsoe run, it was 1st and 20 on the 10. Holding penalties inside your own 20 are killer.
The dunce of the game award goes to Willie McGinest. The 5-year veteran who collected an $8 Million signing bonus in the offseason was directly responsible for two Denver touchdowns. In the 2nd quarter trailing by 10, the defense forced Denver into a punt from around mid field. (Before I go on, when was the last time you saw a 260lb defensive end block a punt?) McGinest tried to anticipate the punter’s snap count, and was drawn offsides on 4th and 3. Putting John Elway and Terrell Davis back on the field on your side of the 50 in Mile High Stadium has got to be on the top 5 list of what not to do in the National Football League. Stupid Stupid Stupid. A few plays later, it was 17-0 Denver. Nice going Willie. Later in the game McGinest was growing ever closer to roughing John Elway, and he got away with a couple of close calls. Elway was justified in his complaining to the refs, and he finally got the call on a marginal hit. That cost the Pats 15 yards, setting up 1st and goal, and a 6-point deficit quickly became 13 with just under 11 minutes left in the game.
Chris Canty was honest and humble when he said after the game, "If I had played better, we would have won." Chris, if Willie McGinest had played as "poorly" as you, the Pats may have won the game, but you won’t hear that from McGinest, who at the end of last season blamed the entire offense, Pete Carroll, their families, and their goldfish for the 7-6 playoff loss to Pittsburgh. If you are going to assign blame in the locker room, you should be man enough to accept it as well. McGinest is a very talented Pro-Bowl defensive end, and he has 15 regular season games left to play like a $25 Million dollar defender.
OK. So the Pats are 0-1 and Miami is all alone in 1st place. I watched the Miami/Indy game on Direct TV, and take it from me, 1st place is a position the Dolphins had better enjoy while they can. 44 of Marino’s 135 passing yards came on a very poorly thrown ball that WR Gadsden turned into a spectacular catch and run for a TD. Had the Colts had any semblance of a corner back covering on that play, there was no catch, no TD, and Marino’s passing numbers drop to 91 total yards. Abdul-Jabbar did have 108 yards rushing, but the Colts did everything they could to lose this game. The final score of 24-15 should really concern Jimmy Johnson. A playoff team would have turned the Colts blunders into a complete blowout, not a mere 9 point win which saw the Dolphins offense amass just 17 points, 15 first downs, and 272 total yards. Hey, the Dolphins won the game and deserve credit for doing so, but keep in mind that the Saints are also undefeated. Needless to say I like Buffalo grabbing 7 next week in Pro Player Stadium.
Bill Parcells was quoted this offseason for doing some research on teams with 300-yard passers vs. teams with 100-yard rushers. I forget the specifics of Tuna’s findings, but they showed overwhelmingly that 100-yard rushers win games far more frequently than 300-yard passers. This research was used to justify trading Adrian Murrell and surrendering $36 Million and a 1st and 3rd round draft choice to sign Curtis Martin. Result: Glenn Foley threw for over 400 yards, and Martin had 22 carries for 58 yards in a loss to the 49ers. Tuna’s stats were dead on accurate. Too bad "Air" Tuna cannot practice what he preaches.
On a final note, Doug Flutie did everything but win the game coming off the bench and throwing two TD’s for the Bills in San Diego. If not for a short field goal wide left as time expired, Flutie is a hero in Buffalo. Doug’s heroics are being rewarded by Wade Phillips with a trip back to the bench as Rob Johnson and his $25 Million contract will get the nod next week in Miami. Go figure.
See you next week. In the meantime, check out our new dynamic roster section, and be glad you are not an Indianapolis Colt heading to Foxboro!