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.
OK everyone. Please remember September 12, 1999 this time next year before you write off the 2000 season or put your favorite team in Super Bowl XXXV after a preseason game or two.
After a 1-3 lackluster exhibition schedule, the New England Patriots showed up for opening day big time. Even had the Jets held on to win 28-27, you could not possibly fault the Pats for effort. The fact that the Pats pulled the upset win is gravy to many fans who didn’t even expect the Pats to compete. After witnessing their collapse in the "3rd and most indicative" dress rehearsal in Tampa Bay, what were we to expect in Giants Stadium against the defending AFC East Champs? Two weeks later the Pats are in first place while the invincible Bucs are 0-1, losing at home to the NY Giants. How about the Pats other three preseason foes? The Panthers and Redskins each looked pretty good in beating the Pats, but are also 0-1 losing to the Saints and Cowboys respectively. New England’s only victory came against those Cowboys, who after sputtering in Foxboro put 41 points on the board in Washington to begin their season 1-0.
After just one week, to reread a 1999 season preview magazine is a joke. Lions fans dare ask "Barry Who?" while Seattle fans are already missing Dennis Erickson. Fans in the Mile High City must be wondering if John Elway played defense and special teams for the past 16 years, and in San Diego, a coaching change has already paid dividends without playing a game. The Chargers are in sole possession of first place in the AFC West. The Saints and Rams share first place in the NFC West. The Colts, having already matched their 1998 AFC East win total, share first place in the AFC East with the consensus pick for last place, your New England Patriots. Unfortunately for Patriots fans, the only team that seems to be as good as advertised is the Miami Dolphins. This is sure to all change again after week 2 is in the books, but it does put the preseason games in perspective, now doesn’t it?
Turnabout is always fair play...
If you arrived from outer space just in time to see the Pats and Jets kick off the season, you’d think Carroll was the seasoned coach with the Super Bowl rings while Tuna was a work in progress.
With the Pats being 1-3 against the Jets since 1996, the popular belief was that superior coaching was beating out a poorly coached New England squad having superior talent. After losing 31-10 last season in New York, "outcoached" was the word on the streets and everyone was calling for Pete Carroll’s head. Even with Drew Bledsoe, Troy Brown, Terry Glenn, Ted Johnson and Willie McGinest on the sideline, the loss was still Pete Carroll’s fault. Heck, even the injuries themselves were Pete Carroll’s fault.
With the Jets roster now stacked and the Pats roster depleted (some would argue dismantled), the Jets entered the season as a popular choice to go to the Super Bowl and win it. The Pats, on the other hand, would battle the Colts for last place. The only question was how many losses would it take for Pete Carroll to get his pink slip. The season-ending (who are they kidding?) injury to Ted Johnson was the final nail in the coffin. There was no way the Pats would be able to compete in the AFC East without the anchor of their defense.
In the final analysis, it was the Jets who committed the more costly/stupid penalties (although the Pats did have 7 total to the Jets 6). Nothing burns Tuna like false starts, and the Jets had their share. It was the Jets who were calling timeouts when they did not have the right personnel on the field, not the Pats. It was the Jets players who were keeping the trainers and medical staff busy, not New England’s. Finally, and most importantly, it was the Jets who made the bonehead play in crunch time that decided the game, not the Pats. If Pete Carroll went to the air with his backup QB late in the game after his $36 Million running back had averaged 4.5 yards per carry against a weak middle defense, the beating he would take in New England would make the ‘97 and ’98 criticisms seem like a hand slap.
I genuinely feel bad that Vinny Testaverde and Leon Johnson are lost for the season, but to use injuries as an excuse when losing to the Patriots is a good way to draw a fine and possible suspension from commissioner Paul Tagliabue. As Chad Eaton quipped after the game, "Maybe it’s their offseason conditioning program?" No one outside of New England wept for the Pats as Scott Zolak was fluttering passes to a depleted receiver core and opposing offenses went up and down the field with Johnson and McGinest out of the lineup.
Hey, maybe the Jets will be 15-1 and the Pats 1-15, but for one week, in the Jets backyard, the shoe was on the other foot for a change. Pete Carroll’s job is safe for at least another week. Despite the win, Coach Carroll still has to solve his teams problems running the football, stopping the run, and defending on 3rd down. A last minute field goal gets you the win, but Adam Vinatieri can’t be asked to play run defense.
It ain’t braggin’ when you back it up...
It only took one offensive series to prove what the players have been saying for months to deaf ears. When healthy, the Pats have a passing game that is damn near impossible to defend. Bledsoe and his receivers went 77 yards on their opening possession to take a 3-0 lead, and that was just a hint of what was to come. At the end of the day, 9 different players were on the other end of Bledsoe passes, including lobs of 34, 58 (TD) and 45 yards, each on 3rd down. Drew did have the ugly pick going for 6 the other way, but that was just one of only 9 incompletions on the day in 30 attempts totaling 340 yards.
Terry Glenn, absent the greater part of the past two seasons, showed once again what a difference he makes. Despite on and off double coverage, Glenn had 7 catches for 113 yards, including a 45-yard reception on 3rd and 1 with Pro Bowl CB Aaron Glenn in single coverage. When Glenn was covered, Bledsoe found Jefferson, Simmons, and Brown for 7 receptions totaling 158 yards. Keshawn Johnson had a highlight film game on the other side, but he’s just one guy. Dedrick Ward was the only other Jets WR to catch a pass. The Pats were 4 deep last Sunday, with Vincent Brisby and Sean Morey waiting in the wings. As the season wears on and the weather gets colder, the Pats will not be able to count on 300-yard passing days to win every Sunday, but it should be fun while it lasts.
If at first you don’t succeed...
Despite the running game going nowhere early, Ernie Zampese didn’t abandon the ground game as he did early on many times last season. Faulk and Allen combined for 25 carries for 71 yards. That’s only 5 fewer rushing attempts than passing. The Pats converted 3 first downs on the ground, one being a 3rd and 1 which Terry Allen sprung for a 22-yard touchdown behind superb blocks thrown by Armstrong, Irwin, and Floyd. It wasn’t pretty, but the Pats kept the Jets defense honest. Gang Green was never able to pin their ears back and come at Drew on a consistent basis. 71 yards on the road isn’t anything to write home about, but it could be much worse. Consider that Buffalo’s backs had 23 total yards on 11 caries, and they were playing the Colts. (Not to beat a dead horse, but imagine Pete Carroll and the Pats losing 31-14 to the Colts on opening day. The carnage would be brutal.)
The offensive line did not give either of the backs much room to run for much of the day, with the difference being that Allen made his own holes where Faulk could not. Faulk showcased his open field skills on two long kick returns, each nullified by penalties. If and when Faulk can get through the line of scrimmage is where he’ll do his damage. Allen’s veteran presence and straight-ahead style are the perfect complement to Faulk. It won’t be long before these two team up to have a hell of a game. Remember that Robert Edwards enjoyed his finest moments after he had a few games under his belt.
Opening day and George Washington...
Both are history, and it appears as though Pete Carroll has gotten that message across to his team. I’m sure there were plenty of smiles in the Meadowlands locker room, but despite the best efforts of the press, not one Patriot would gloat. This was a road win over a division opponent, and now the attention is turned to the Colts. This theme was conveyed so often and with such straight faces that for the fist time since Parcells left we all buy it.
Since 1960, it’s been vintage Patriots to win when they have no chance and lose when they’re suppose to romp. That was painfully evident last season. They beat Kansas City and San Francisco at home, and went into Pittsburgh and closed the door on the Steelers playoff hopes. They lost at home on Monday Night to the then 2-3 Jets, and never showed up in St. Louis against the Rams. Believe it or not, the Pats were home favorites against the Falcons as well in what was their worst setback of the season. If the Pats and Pete Carroll have learned anything over the past two soap opera seasons, it’s that you can’t take a week off. Sounds obvious, but all too often that’s forgotten by the men who get paid big dollars to play this game.
All the hard work to beat the Jets in the Meadowlands will be forgotten if they lose to the Colts at home next week. No disrespect is intended toward Indianapolis, but this is a game the Pats have to win if they’re serious about contending in this division. After watching Miami last night, it’s clear the Pats can’t afford to lose games they "shouldn’t" and hope to contend. They’re at home, it’s the opener, and they’ll be favored.
The Colts pounded the Bills last week with Peyton Manning throwing TD strikes of 5 and 24 yards to Marvin Harrison. Manning threw for 284 yards while rookie Edgerin James rushed for 112 yards on 26 carries. The Colts defense completely stuffed Buffalo’s ground game, sacked Flutie 5 times and picked off 2 of his passes. The Colts are much improved all around, and they too are out to prove everyone wrong who picked them to finish at the bottom of the division. The Pats will have their work cut out for them, and must bring it again for another 60 minutes to get to 2-0.
One thing’s a given next week - the fans will not be taking a week off. We’ve been waiting since last December to cheer for the Pats, and the chance to cheer a team with a share of first place will certainly not be lost on Patriot Nation, over 60,000 strong.
See you next week.