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. You’re playing at home against a chief division rival. They are playing with their backup quarterback and you are spotted 14 points by your defense 6:56 into the game. On top of this, the defense records 9 sacks and shuts down the opponents’ running backs in front of 60,006 crazed fans. Is it possible to lose a game like this? You would not think so, but the Patriots offense could not have done a better job of throwing this game in the tank if they tried.
The defense was politically correct following the game, saying that the Patriots win and lose as a team, but you have to wonder what they are really thinking. Despite giving up 31 points, the Patriots defense played very well for most of the game. Sure they allowed Damon Huard to move the Dolphins 59 yards in 14 plays for the game winning TD with 23 seconds left, but just like the Vinatieri miss in Kansas City, it should never have come to that.
The Dolphins had eight scoring drives on the day resulting in two touchdowns and six field goals. On five of those drives, the defense took over in horrible field position thanks to the ineptness of the Pats offense and special teams coverage units. Each time, the defense held Miami to a field goal, which is all that can reasonably be asked when you begin defending your goal on the wrong side of the 50-yard line. On those 5 scoring drives, Miami only had to move the ball 17, 24, 37, 30, and 5 yards. The Pats defense did commit the unthinkable in allowing a 69 yard TD pass on 3rd and 21, but they more than made up for that by putting two defensive touchdowns on the board.
Following a three-and-out (as if I had to tell you that) with around 4 minutes to play in the game, the Pats punted away. Miami returned the ball once again into New England territory where they took over on offense trailing by 8. The Patriots defense came up huge, sacking Huard on consecutive plays forcing a 4th and 27 and making an otherwise easy field goal a 53-yard attempt. Olindo Mare was true nonetheless, cutting the deficit to 5 points with 2:45 seconds left in the game. The Defense had held, allowing the Miami offense only 5 yards in crunch time. It was now up to the offense to burn some time off the clock and protect the lead.
Nineteen seconds later, Miami had the ball again on their own 41-yard line. At this point no one could blame the defense if they just headed for the locker room and let Bledsoe and company worry about stopping the Dolphins final drive. Miami drove for the winning TD, not once having to convert on 4th down, but you won’t see me blaming the defense for this loss.
Lawyer Milloy noted after the game that many of the Patriots players seemed to be just "going through the motions" on the field. This was obvious even from the stands. The Pats have not run the ball well all year, but yesterday’s effort by the offensive line takes the cake. Even on passing downs such as 2nd and long, the Patriots running game was stuffed for little or no gain. When your line can’t open a hole large enough to gain a single yard on 2nd and 10, there is no other word for it other than "sad". When the opposing team, with one timeout remaining, attempts a 53-yard field goal with 2:45 left in the game trailing by 8, what does that tell you?
The job of any defensive coordinator facing the Patriots has become very easy; throw the kitchen sink at Drew Bledsoe and make him play like a $42 million QB to beat you. The revitalized Broncos are in town next week, fresh off of holding Brett Favre and the Packers to 133 total yards and 5 first downs. The Broncos defense will be drooling when they see the film of this Miami game. (On that same subject, why is it that despite their 1-4 start and devastating injuries, the Broncos come out at home with more fire and purpose than the 4-1 Patriots?)
The entire offense hinges on Bledsoe’s ability to find open receivers under a heavy pass rush, and that’s not fair to Drew. He’s done that so many times in the past with success, I’m beginning to wonder if the Pats offense even wants to establish a running game. It appears as though the line has become spoiled by Drew’s recent big performances, dating back into last season before he was sidelined.
By his own standards, Bledsoe did not have a good game. He completed 17 of 36 for 225 yards with one TD and one interception. Those numbers, however, are not atrocious, and this loss should not be blamed on Bledsoe either. Huard only threw for 15 more yards than Bledsoe, also threw an interception, yet his team won. Quarterbacks do not have 300 yard passing games around this league very often. Bledsoe had done it 5 of 5 times before the Miami game, and the Pats were a 32 yard field goal away from being undefeated. Drew finally comes back down to earth, and the entire offense is in the tank.
With Terry Allen in the backfield, the Pats have a no nonsense straight-ahead runner who can move the pile. With each game, however, Terry Allen is obviously losing confidence in his blockers. He is quicker to run wide, and appears more willing to double back than run straight ahead than he was at the beginning of the season. Allen has certainly lost a step from his hey day, but he was still able to average nearly 5 yards per carry last season with the Redskins in limited action. His average is now down to 3.5. I find it hard to believe that an 8-year veteran with 7,200 career rushing yards has suddenly forgotten how to run.
The run blocking of the Patriots has been their Achilles heel since the 1986 season. Every time Drew has a big day, the lack of a ground game is overlooked. When Drew is even slightly off his game, this problem never fails to rear its ugly head. Dante Scarnecchia is the new line coach. Heath Irwin and Damien Woody are new starters. Bruce Armstrong is in his best shape in years. What’s the problem? Pete Carroll had better get that figured out damn fast.
While the defense refuses to point any fingers, let me do the honors. The Patriots lost this game at home because of the sadly ineffective play of their offensive line. Period.
When you want to feel thin...
... hang around with fat people. That old saying applies to the entire NFL this season. If there’s any solace at all in the Pats stumbling from 4-0 to 4-2, it’s that no one else is doing much better. Buffalo lost at home to Oakland, with the Raiders rushing for 195 yards. While the Pats did commit the mortal sin of losing at home to a division opponent, Miami, Indianapolis, and the Jets had already done that. Only Buffalo is undefeated at home in the AFC East, but their lone home division win was over the Kotitian 1-5 Jets.
Under normal circumstances, the Pats road victory against the Jets would serve as the neutralizer to this home defeat, but it now appears as though the entire AFC East will run through the Meadowlands like prune juice through my 14-month-old daughter. The Pats, Bills and Dolphins are all 2-1 in the East, and the Colts are 2-2. There is still a lot of football to be played before this division is decided.
The same holds true in the AFC West and Central, where no team has been dominant. The only time the Jaguars, Steelers, and Titans look good is when they’re playing the Ravens, Bengals, or Browns, and even those games have been closer than they "should" be in the Central. The Chargers are out to any early lead in the West, but the parity in that division is such that even the Broncos season is far from over.
The Pats are have dropped a disappointing two in a row, but the race is long, and with 10 games left there has yet to emerge an AFC Team who looks much better than the Pats did yesterday, even in defeat. The bad news is that if you buy into what I just said, then the 2-4 Broncos have a great shot of getting to 3-4 next week.
Thanks for reading.