Review of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: New England Patriots History

The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly: Heart-Pounding, Jaw-Dropping, and Gut-Wrenching Moments from New England Patriots History by Sean Glennon

Triumph Books 2009

Review by C. Douglas Baker

There are many books now available detailing the history of the New England Patriots. Having read many of them I find that nobody has really come up with anything new to say. The typical “stories of” books essentially tell the same tales and I am not sure why the recent ones are even published because they have nothing new to say. And that is certainly the case here. There really isn’t anything new that hasn’t already been published elsewhere.

That said, this book, for the most part is fairly good. Most of it focuses on the team of the 2000’s, walking through the dynasty years and some of the pivotal moments of this decade. Not that it completely ignores the past, there are chapters talking about that as well, but it is more upbeat and positive than similar books that dwell on all the bad things that have gone on with the Patriots in its history.

The book briefly talks about all the bad things too, of course, like Darryl Stingley getting paralyzed in 1976, the Lisa Olson incident, Super Bowl XX, the horrible ownership of the 1990’s, and Spygate. I have to say, even though I’m sick of hearing about it personally, the author gives pretty short shrift to Spygate.

The author does a good job of talking about the resurgence of the Patriots under Bill Parcells, his most critical decision being the choice of Drew Bledsoe as the number one draft pick, who lead the franchise to winning records and a Super Bowl, over Rick Mirer, who was bust for the Seattle Seahawks. And it goes on to rightly praise the virtues of coach Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft.

There are also vignettes about some of the greatest Patriots players like Adam Vinatieri, Troy Brown, Drew Bledsoe, Tom Brady, Steve Grogan, Tedy Bruschi, and John Hannah, to name a few.

The one area I disagree with the author is when he discusses the pivotal moments of the 2003 season which lead to the Patriots second Super Bowl win in three years. He identifies a tough, gutty win over the Tennessee Titans in week five as being the turning point in the season because the team showed a toughness and ability to win that it failed to show the previous season when it missed the playoffs (in that season Tennessee clobbered the Patriots physically in a dismal Monday Night Game).

To me one play defines the 2003 season. In week 13 after taking a commanding lead against the Indianapolis Colts at halftime, the Colts came back in the second half and had the ball first and goal from the one yard line with little time left on the clock. After three stops, on fourth and goal from the one, Willie McGinnest stones Edgerrin James on a run attempt to seal the win. Had McGinest not made that play at the end of the game, the Colts, not the Patriots, would have had home field advantage in the playoffs. And that, to me, was not only the most critical game of the season, but one of the most critical plays in Patriots’ history.

I can’t imagine a non-Patriots fan wanting to read this book, especially if you’ve read similar accounts or histories of the teams. For Patriots fans I would say, reading anything about the Patriots is enjoyable, but this book did not provide any new insights that haven’t been discussed elsewhere and I would not recommend it.

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly New England Patriots: Heart-pounding, Jaw-dropping, and Gut-wrenching Moments from New England Patriots History (Good, the Bad, & the Ugly)

2009 NFL Season: Week 16

OBSERVATIONS

Other than the multiple playoff implications set up for next week, the biggest story of Week 16 was the Indianapolis Colts eschewing a chance to go undefeated in the regular season by pulling their key starters out in the third quarter against the New York Jets. The Colts ultimately lost the game. The looks on Peyton Manning’s face as he saw the back-ups give up the lead and the game were quite revealing. But of course he was a true solider after the game and said he was fine with the coach’s decision. The Colts fan were not on board with the decision. Coach Jim Caldwell has taken a bit of a whacking the press. All I will say is that going 16-0 means nothing if you don’t win the Super Bowl, as I so painfully know. Without Manning the chances of the Colts winning the Super Bowl would be close to nil, so I have no real problem with playing it safe. It’s the psyche and momentum of a team that has historically choked in the playoffs that is the real question. They really have nothing to play for next week, so they’ll definitely get some rest.

There are so many mediocre teams in the AFC it’s comical. Despite shooting themselves in the foot repeatedly, the Baltimore Ravens have avoided a shot to the head and are still alive! Unbelievable, until you consider all the other teams vying for a playoff spot have done the same. Right now the Ravens and the New York Jets control their fates next week. Wins and they are in. I am not going to worry or care about who wins and how it shapes up. Whoever the Patriots play in the playoffs will be a tough matchup.

The New York Giants are finally out of the playoff hunt. They lay down against the Carolina Panthers. Good riddance to one Manning.

And speaking of the Panthers, what would this team look like going into the playoff race had Matt Moore been starting all season long? John Fox seems to have made a big mistake at the quarterback position early in the year.

You can say the same for Jeff Fischer of the Tennessee Titans. While I don’t fault Kerry Collins for the Titans 0-6 start like some do, clearly Young should have come in sooner to add a spark to the team.

I am ready for the playoffs!

New England Patriots over Jacksonville Jaguars, 35-7

The Patriots seem to be hitting on all cylinders the past few weeks and are poised to make some noise in the playoffs. Brady played an outstanding game against the Jaguars and the defense has shown up and played well the past few weeks. Being the pessimist I am, and looking like a four seed in the playoffs, that means we’ll probably end up facing the Indianapolis Colts in the second round of the playoffs (assuming we beat our first playoff opponent, which I think we will). But I guess that might be easier than facing the Chargers in San Diego, who are hitting on all cylinders, and then some, themselves.

This Sunday Patriots fans will basically be praying that we come out of the game healthy and ready to roll into the playoffs.

MVP: Tom Brady, QB


GAMES I WATCHED

San Diego Chargers over Tennessee Titans, 42-17

While I thought the Chargers would win this game I did not expect them to win so easily. Right now I think San Diego is the team to beat in the playoffs. They are playing the best football in the league as of Week 16. I hate to say that because they have to rank as one of my least favorite teams. I expect them to easily get to the AFC Championship game against either the Patriots or the Colts. I’d like to see us dance on their logo again and make LaDanian Tomlinson cry.

MVP: Philip Rivers, QB

Pittsburgh Steelers over Baltimore Ravens, 23-20

How many times can a team shoot themselves in the foot, blow game after game after game, and still control their destiny for making a playoff spot. It’s really unbelievable. Having seen the Ravens squander games so many times this year I want to say they don’t really deserve to be in the playoffs, but neither do any of the of other mediocre teams they are vying against.

Once again big mistakes at the worst moments cost the Ravens the game. Derrick Mason dropped a touchdown pass in the end zone in the fourth quarter that would have sealed the win, so he has to be the goat of this game. But Flacco didn’t do much to help matters at the end of the game either.

If the Ravens win Sunday they should be a dangerous team in the playoffs. They do have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball and really should be looking at a better record than have now. If they had a true number one receiver they could be really dangerous, but they don’t.

Pittsburgh still has a heartbeat left too, and again, if they make the playoffs, despite their recent poor play, who knows what could happen?

MVP: LaMarr Woodley, LB

Philadelphia Eagles over Denver Broncos, 30-27

After the Eagles took a 20-7 lead into halftime I thought the game was basically over but the Broncos gave them a real run for it in the second half. That the Broncos didn’t fold and fought back must be a bit gratifying to Broncos fans. They still have a good chance to make the playoffs. Even though they are listed as a Wild Card team as of today, they need to help to get in. Like many of the other AFC teams vying for playoff spots, if they make it in they will be a scary opponent for whoever they play.

I am not a big believer in the Philadelphia Eagles, frankly, but right now they seem to be playing the best football in the NFC. I still think that the faltering Saints and Vikings are still the teams to beat in the NFC, but Philadelphia right now is looking poised to make a real run.

MVP: Brent Celek, TE

Dallas Cowboys over Washington Redskins, 17-0

I really don’t have a lot to say about this game. I originally was not going to bother watching it, but I did. It was a nondescript game. Everyone knew Dallas would win, and they did so rather easily. As usual the Redskins offense looked awful. Dallas goes to Philadelphia next week for a huge game which will decide the NFC East champion.

MVP: Tony Romo, QB

Chicago over Minnesota, 36-30 OT

What is going on with the Minnesota Vikings? They suddenly have faltered badly on both sides of the ball. This was an exciting game and the Vikings did come back from a 17 point deficit to almost win the game. I have to admit being a bit stunned most of the game. I was waiting for Cutler to throw up some interceptions but he actually played a decent game. Instead of folding under pressure the Bears hung in and barely pulled out a victory.

Adrian Peterson and his fumbles are really a problem and he essentially gave this game away by fumbling after a nice catch and run in overtime. The fumble handed the ball right back to the Bears who scored on a nice pass play to end the game. Peterson, hold on to the ball!

While I still think the Vikings and Saints are the teams to beat despite faltering of late, maybe they have seen their best days and the rising Eagles and Cowboys will eat their lunch. We’ll see.

MVP: Devin Aromashodu, WR

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers, 206 yards rushing
Defensive Player: Brian Cushing, LB, Houston Texans
Offensive Lineman: Kris Dielman, G, San Diego Chargers
Special Teams: Sebastian Janikowski, K, Oakland Raiders (61 yard field goal)
Rookie of the Week: Brian Cushing, LB, Houston Texans


2009 NFL Season: Week 14

OBSERVATIONS

As of this writing, Chris Henry, wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals has passed away in an accident precipitated by a domestic dispute. He was 26 years old. He has had a history of problems and confrontations, which is unfortunately the only thing I know about him off the football field.

The theme of this week has to be big play by wide receivers. Huge days were turned in by:

Andre Johnson of Houston (11 catches, 193 yards, 2 touchdowns)
Brandon Marshall of Denver in a losing effort who set an NFL record for receptions in a game with 21 catches for 200 yards and two touchdowns.
DeSean Jackson of Philadelphia (6 catches, 178 yards, 1 touchdown), who also had a 72 yard punt return.

Great days were also turned in by Wes Welker (New England), Vincent Jackson (San Diego), Greg Camarillo (Miami), and Hakeem Nicks (New York Giants)

New England Patriots over Carolina Panthers, 20-10

Sloppy play, including two turnovers that resulted in points, kept this game close for the Panthers, but the Patriots ultimately prevailed. There seems to be a lot of turmoil with the Patriots. Randy Moss had a bad game and afterward, Carolina cornerback Chris Gamble called Moss a quitter. Moss sure played like he was sulking and seemed to be completely out of it. Not only did he look like he was quitting on routes (one which resulted in an interception), he fumbled the ball and jumped off sides. I am giving Moss the benefit of the doubt. Everyone has bad games.

Adelius Thomas, on the other hand, needs to shut up and play ball instead of being a punk. Derrick Burgess got sent home last week too and came out and had an excellent game. Of course since Thomas is sitting on a fat contract I guess he is sitting pretty and doesn’t have to play well and can be a malcontent.

As usual, Wes Welker had a monster game and brought it home. Why doesn’t anyone ever talk about Wes being a candidate for NFL MVP?

MVP: Wes Welker, WR

GAMES I WATCHED

Cleveland Browns over Pittsburgh Steelers, 13-6

How the mighty have fallen. Pittsburgh is all but out of the playoff race after losing to a third very bad team in as many weeks. I am shocked, frankly, at how the Steelers have seemed to just fall apart this year. Cleveland did play one of its best games defensively, but still, to see the Steelers not only make the Chiefs, Raiders, and Browns look like legitimate NFL teams, but actually lose to them, is just stunning.

Cleveland’s defensive coordinator Rob Ryan really brought the dogs after Big Ben, who was sacked eight times. And unlike many games, instead of Ben escaping and making a big play, the Browns slammed him to the turf. There was no escaping for Big Ben or the Steelers this night.

Despite the win, and that Cleveland played with some heart, I’m not convinced this will be a good team anytime soon.

MVP: Josh Cribbs, WR

Minnesota Vikings over Cincinnati Bengals, 30-10

I actually thought this would be a tight game given the Bengals running game and stout defense, but it just wasn’t to be. The Vikings played well on both sides of the ball but the defense really stepped it up a notch or two.

And those who say Jared Allen isn’t a defensive player of the year candidate because of his stats don’t watch football too much. This guy is double and triple teamed on many plays and as a result opens up the game for the rest of the defensive line. The only game I’ve seen Allen single handedly shut down was against the Arizona Cardinals.

Antoine Winfield returned after six weeks out and he returned with a vengeance. He was the real difference maker on defense. He is one of my favorite non-Patriots players in the league. This little guy comes up and blasts you. I wonder if wimpy players like Asante Samuel are embarrassed of themselves after watching Winfield lay the wood on people.

Meanwhile, Cincinnati more or less proved in this game they are in the middle of the pack with a group of average teams in the AFC.

MVP: Antoine Winfield, CB

San Diego Chargers over Dallas Cowboys, 20-17

I don’t like Dallas and like to see them lose, but not to San Diego. Dallas continues its December woes and could end up missing the playoffs again if they can’t string together some wins. They have the talent to win but seemingly not the moxie to get it together enough to put away the good teams.

And San Diego, unfortunately, to me is the real team to beat in the AFC. Once the playoffs start, the Colts disappear and San Diego has already proven they can beat the Colts in Indianapolis in the playoffs. They’ve done it before and if it happens this year, they’ll do it again. Philip Rivers is hot, Antonio Gates is rediscovering his form, and even LaDanian Tomlinson is getting into the act. Add to that one of the better receivers in the league in Vincent Jackson and a much improved defense, you have a solid foundation going into the playoffs. They could be scary. In fact, right now, I think they are Super Bowl bound. GAG!

MVP: Vincent Jackson, WR

Philadelphia Eagles over New York Giants, 45-38

This was a wild, crazy game with ups and downs for both teams. While I am a bit of a throwback who loves the lower scoring defensive struggles, this game was quite entertaining. Both defenses kept giving up huge plays, which kept the Giants in the game after getting down 14-0 early.

Philadelphia now looks to be in the driver’s seat in the NFC East with Dallas continuing their losing ways in December.

DeSean Jackson was the star of the day with six catches for a 178 yards and a touchdown, to go along with his 72 yard punt return for a touchdown. And even Michael Vick looked good with a few runs and a nice pass.

I think the Eagles, like the Colts, are likely to give it up in the playoffs. But they are not a team anyone should take lightly.

MVP: DeSean Jackson, WR

San Francisco 49’ers over Arizona Cardinals, 24-9

The Cardinals shit their pants against the 49’ers with seven turnovers. There’s not much more to say about why they lost this game. They started early with a fumble by Tim Hightower in the Red Zone , and the contagion continued the rest of the game. After looking like the Super Bowl team from a year ago against the Minnesota Vikings last week, on the road they just couldn’t hold onto the ball.

I feel sorry for the Arizona defense. Even though they gave up 167 yards to Frank Gore, they didn’t play that badly. They just found themselves constantly, and unexpectedly, back out on the field.

And while Frank Gore had a great game, it was the Cardinals’ turnovers that sealed the deal, so my MVP goes to free safety Dashon Goldson, who was instrumental in three of them. Also hats off to Patrick Willis who is one of the best, and some might argue the best, middle linebacker in the league this year.

MVP: Dashon Goldson, FS


PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Brandon Marshall, WR Denver (Who set NFL Record with 21 receptions in a game, (200 yards))
Defensive Player: Brian Orakpo, LB, Washington Redskins
Offensive Lineman: Kris Dielman, G, San Diego Chargers
Special Teams: DeSean Jackson, WR/KR, Philadelphia Eagles
Rookie of the Week: Brian Orakpo, LB, Washington Redskins


Wes Welker!!

Doug Baker’s NFL Question and Answer Session

I asked a few friends to provide me questions to answer for an article about the NFL, even if they think I don’t know what I am talking about. The overwhelming majority of the questions were about the New England Patriots. Given that many of the people I asked are fellow Patriots fans and it’s no secret I’m a bit of an insane Patriots fan, that’s not surprising. The questions are also challenging!

Thanks to all of you who sent me questions (and apologies for taking so long to post the response). So in no particular order, and without further adieu, let’s get down to it.


As a Pats fan, I am loathe to see another team tie our 16-0 undefeated regular season mark. I know that’s unsportsmanlike, but hey, if it was OK for Don Shula it’s OK for me. Do you think either Indy or New Orleans will attain that mark this year? If so, which one, or both? What do you think is the biggest threat to each of them in the remaining regular season? Finally, do you see either of them making it all the way to 19-0?
(Submitted by John S. AKA Bruguru, fellow Patriots fan.)

I right with you brother. I don’t want to see another team go 16-0. In fact, I don’t like being tied with the Indianapolis Colts for most consecutive wins in the regular season. This weekend will be one of the few times I root for the Broncos.

Nothing surprises me in the NFL anymore. Anything can happen. So I could see one of them making it to 19-0, unfortunately.

I think the Colts are less likely than the Saints to make it to 19-0. I keep picking the Colts to get upset but it never pans out. Just recently we should have beaten them and the Ravens should have beaten them. Both teams shot themselves in the foot. But I don’t think the Colts will make it to 19-0 for a few reasons.

First, they are so far ahead in the AFC to gain home field advantage, I think coach Jim Caldwell will rest players at the end of the season. To me it doesn’t make sense to risk injury to Peyton Manning or Reggie Wayne going into the playoffs. Back up Jim Sorgi just got put on injured reserve and Wayne has been nursing an injured foot. The real prize is the Super Bowl ring. Without that, 16-0 means squat, as you and I unfortunately know.

Second, they don’t have a hard schedule but they face the Broncos at home, a good team really needing a win. Then they face an unpredictable Jacksonville team in Jacksonville, but I don’t see them losing that game. The Jets are a team, despite injuries, that have a stout defense and good running game that the Colts have the most trouble with. But again it’s in Indianapolis, but I definitely think the Jets are capable of a win if they control the ball and the clock. Finally, they face Buffalo in Buffalo. Are they resting players at that point?

Third, don’t they always choke in the playoffs except for one year? I think they’ll choke again. And hope they do.

The Saints on the other hand have a better shot at running the table. The only real threat they have to an undefeated regular season is Dallas in about two weeks, which is a home game. Dallas is up and down but if they play their best game, they can beat the Saints. But since the Saints are at home I don’t see it happening. The rest of their games area against an injury depleted Atlanta Falcons, and the woeful Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers. I think they might go 16-0.

And then who is going to beat the Saints at home in the playoffs? The have the best offense in the NFL and five really good receivers, three good running backs, Drew Brees is simply awesome, and their defense is greatly improved and tough. Darren Sharper is a dirty, headhunting defensive back, the kind we need on our squad.

I can see the Vikings or the Cardinal beating them in the playoffs though, but since the Saints will almost assuredly be at home, it will be a very tough.

My gut tells me though, after this long answer, neither will do it. The odds are against it.


What do you think about the New England defense moving forward? We had guys like Harrison, Bruschi, et al. anchoring a top tier defense in the past, but coming into this year that defense looked like a shell of its former self with Seymour, Harrison, Bruschi, and Vrabel among the many departed. Who do you think will be our biggest defensive stalwarts in the next five to seven years, and do you think they will amount to the defensive units we had from roughly 2001-2007-ish?
(Submitted by EA, fellow Patriots fan)

First off let me say that I have a lot of confidence in Bill Belichick and his staff, even with Scott Pioli gone, to evaluate talent, especially defensive talent. To me, our defense right now looks like, and plays like, a team in a rebuilding mode. Without going and looking at the age and experience of all the defensive players it’s clearly a team in complete transition. This is a defensive unit you’d see on an expansion team or a rebuilding team. And that’s because they are. The defense is in transition.

The simple answer to the question is I don’t know, and I don’t think anyone really can know until we see how things develop. I know you have a certain point of view on this that you’ve tipped me off to but I think time will tell.

But like I said I have confidence in Belichick and I think he will turn this into a stalwart defense. And overall I agree with you.

I think Jonathan Wilhite and Darius Butler, right now, look like they could transform into really solid cornerbacks. Terrance Wheatley has shown flashes, but since he was injured in the Colts game last year we haven’t seen as much of him.

Jerrod Mayo has been dinged up this year, but I think he could be a very excellent linebacker. Gary Guyton (LB) and Brandon McGowan (S) are our two hardest hitters and I really like what I have seen out of both of these guys. But McGowan is a bit of an enigma to me. He did do a lot for the Bears and I don’t know much about his history.

I am a bit disappointed in Brandon Meriweather. I know a lot of people are high on him and he has had some good games, but he isn’t the nasty hitter I expected and is out of position a lot. I read that the reason it took him so long to get more playing time is because he couldn’t grasp the defense. But I think if he continues to improve he’ll be a solid and productive player.

Patrick Chung I like but I am in a wait and see mode with him. I hope he becomes our Rodney Harrison, and I think he can.

Our defensive line worries me most. I don’t think we have the dominant players we need there right now. Wilfork is there, but he needs help.

In a five to seven year time frame I see Wilhite, Butler, Meriweather, Chung, Mayo, and someone not even on the team yet, being our stalwarts. My guts tells me the future it bright. My need for immediate satisfaction makes me lament our defense is probably not gong to be good enough this year to win it all.

And by the way, Adalius Thomas needs to quit whining and play football.


The NFL league is placing increased responsibility on the players for their decision to play r/t concussion. Do you think the league went far enough this week in their new guidelines r/t concussion?
(Submitted by Prisrob, fellow Patriots fan)

I wonder what Bronko Nagurski, or better yet a man some consider the nastiest player ever to play the game, George Trafton, would think about this discussion? Concussion? Wimps.

Even though the players today are faster, stronger, and the collisions harder, I just think historically about the really crazy people that played professional football.

Then I think about Mike Webster, who may be the best center I ever saw who killed himself in what some call a suicide car crash and was said to suffer from severe symptoms from blows to the head he took during his career. And then of course us Patriots fans know all about Ted Johnson and his accusations against the Patriots related to his (alleged, and I make no judgment calls here) post-concussion problems.

But yes, I do think the league had to do something and they did the right thing. Pro football is a dangerous, violent sport. That’s part of its appeal frankly. But I think the steps the league is taking protect players from participating with concussions is appropriate and went about as far as you can go at this point.

Frankly, I don’t want to flat out accuse the league of not caring about player safety, but I think they had no choice but to do something given the prominence of the issue. I think they care more their image and making money than the players. I think the new rules about hitting quarterbacks high or low and more quick penalties on roughness and head-to-head collisions has as much to do with image as caring about player safety.

And if they really wanted to protect the players, they should drop the idea of an 18 game regular season. But they don’t care about the players. They care about the money!


Who is the most promising 1st or 2nd year running back in the NFL?
(Submitted by Sean L, I believe a Redskins fan)

Good question! I actually wrote a post about rookie running backs last year.

I think Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans has pretty much solidified himself this year as the cream of the crop in terms of first and second year running backs. He has tremendous speed, breaks off big plays, and even set a record this year with runs of 50 or more yards in a season. And he can run inside. He is why the Titans turned their season around as much as Vince Young.

I also like Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens a lot. In the running and passing game he’s the Brian Westbrook of the Ravens offense. The problem is he’s the only offense for the Ravens.

Look out for Jonathan Stewart too. I like what I see from this young back.

Those are the three I put at the top of my list, in that order.

Felix Jones, Steve Slaton, and Darren McFadden seem to be injury prone. I don’t think they will pan out as great backs in the long run. Serviceable backs maybe, but not great.

Matt Forte had a porous offensive line but I still have hope for him.

I am not a big believer in Rashard Mendenhall or Kevin Smith (also seems to be dinged up a lot).

Tim Hightower will remain a serviceable, dependable back (if he can hang onto the ball!) but not a superstar.

Jamaal Charles of Kansas City is one to watch. He could emerge as a big time back in the league.

The rookie backs I just haven’t seen enough in action. LeSean McCoy, Shonn Greene, and Knowshon Moreno I like, but I have a lot of questions about them right now. Moreno seems to have the best vision, moves and field presence, but I’m not sure how far that will take him.


I think I know the answer to this being that you are a Patriots fan, but which quarterback would you rather have with 2 minutes to go and needing an 80 yard drive to tie the game?  Drew Brees, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning?
(Submitted by Reid Fischer, Denver Broncos fan with a great blog: http://reidfischer.com/)

Peyton Manning. Surprised?

Brady may have won a few Super Bowls on last minute drives but I have never see a magician with two minutes to go like Peyton Manning except for maybe Joe Montana. The problem is his team chokes in the playoffs. I watch New England too much and see Brady do it and not do it too much to go with Brady. But he has done it on the biggest stages. I just can’t get out of my mind the way Manning set an NFL record when he came back from a ton of points down in the fourth quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers several years ago, and what he did to the Miami Dolphins with just over 14 minutes of possession time this year. Drew Brees hasn’t done as much as Brady and Manning on the big stage for me to choose him.

Now, if you asked me with 30 seconds to go? Brett Favre. He has the strongest arm and most guts.


How long will it take for the pats to get back to the Super Bowl? I think we can assume it won’t be this year :>(
(Submitted by TR, fellow Patriots fan)

Who knows! I agree not this year though, but you never know. If Brady stays healthy and the defense matures, in three years we win another one, and Brady retires.


Are the Saints that good or are the Pats slipping?
(Submitted by Hodd B, Redskins fan)

Both. As you so very painfully know the Saints are beatable but they are very, very good. As you can see from my earlier comments, the Patriots defense is in a rebuilding mode and our offense is slipping because of bad play calling and being too predictable.

Drew (Breezed) right through the Pats. Pat’s didn’t come to play. Bill obviously was stunned because he wasn’t prepared for that ass whipping. Do you think pretty boy under estimated the Saints? (Submitted by my good friend even though he’s a Jets fan, John M)

No, I don’t think he underestimated them but I do think he was probably stunned by how poorly his young defense played. It was an ass whipping all the way around. I think the reason he pulled starters out of the game with about five minutes to go was because he was so disgusted with their level of play. It’s a young defense and as I’ve said before, the offense has become too predictable, and that is why we got whipped up on so badly by the Saints.


My question would be about tonight’s game with the Ravens and Steelers. The Ravens went for it on 4 and 5. They got it. If Belichick decision’s had worked, would there have been any controversy regarding it? There is a fine line between being called a moron and a brilliant. What qualifies as that line?
(Submitted by KParsons, fellow Patriots fan and live attendee of the disaster that was Super Bowl VLII)

Shows how late I am answering these questions!

If Bill’s decision had worked against the Colts he’d have been sung to the heavens as having the guts to go for it and seal the game, being called a genius and the best coach on the planet. There would still be a lot of talk about it, but the tone would have been far different. Like Brian Billick said, there’s a fine line between being called the village idiot and being called a genius as a head coach.

I also really believe had he made it, he would not have been going for it on fourth down so much against the Saints and Dolphins. Field goals may not be great but they are better than nothing. And in the Dolphins game a failed fourth down in the Red Zone cost us the game.


We know that the conversion of Belichick’s assistant coaches to head coaches has not met with great success. Charlie Weiss had early limited success at Notre Dame and Eric Mangini was heralded as the second coming in New York. Josh McDaniels has a record this year that exceeds that of the coach he replaced. Why does the melt down always occur and how can Josh avoid the same fate?
(Submitted by Glenn Card, fellow Patriots fan)

This is a great question that I have thought of before. Bill Belichick’s coaching tree is certainly not turning out like that of a Bill Walsh or Bill Parcells (what’s up with all the Bills?). I really don’t know the answer to the question but my theory is basically that Romeo Crennel, Charlie Weiss, and Eric Mangini simply are not cut out to be head coaches. They were good coordinators, even great ones in the case of Crennel and Weiss, but great coordinators don’t always make great head coaches. And Crennel went into a bad situation with the Browns and was almost doomed to fail. And in some ways maybe he is bit too soft, like Mangini is accused of being too harsh. But the bottom line is, I just don’t think they are cut out to be head coaches. And you see what I think Mangini as a head coach.

For Josh McDaniels I think as long as he sticks to a philosophy and gets quality players he’ll be fine. But he is a cocky, brash, young coach that I think will well thin after a while so I don’t have a lot of confidence that he will have truly great success either. Mike Tomlin is my model for a good young coach, who is cocky enough to be confident in this team, disciplinarian enough to bench a Rashard Mendenhall, but carries it off in a calmer more professional manner.


If I were Rex Ryan I would bench Sanchez for Clemens. Too many interceptions. He needs time to absorb everything and study the veteran players more (Manning, Favre). What do you think?
(Also submitted by John M, New York Jets fan)

Taking Sanchez’s knee injuries out of the equation I don’t think he should bench Sanchez for Clemens. Sanchez has started all year long and the best learning that a young quarterback can have after playing all year long is more game time experience. It’s not like he’s had a mental meltdown like Vince Young last year. Nor is he getting pounded on every week because of a porous offensive line. Given the Jets are still in the hunt for a playoff spot, I don’t see that Clemens gives the Jets any greater chance a winning than Sanchez. Now that Sanchez has banged up his knees, it’s a moot point and it looks like they will give him at least a week to heal.


Leon Washington was injured and Kris Jenkins. Besides them, who do you think the Jets need to make them a more complete team that can be a threat in the AFC East?
(Also submitted by John M, New York Jets fan)

A big time receiver. Even though they have struggled at times the offensive line is good. Thomas Jones continues to prove his critics wrong with his hard, move the chains running. They sorely miss Leon Washington’s change of pace, big play ability. As Sanchez continues to improve, which I think he will, if the Jets could get one true top receiver it would go a long way in making the offense more productive and able to produce big plays.

On defense I think they are pretty set. Obviously any team can upgrade certain positions but getting Jenkins back is really the key. Overall their defense has played reasonably well this year.

2009 NFL Season: Week 13

OBSERVATIONS

At the start of the season most people expected the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, and New England Patriots to be in the thick of the Super Bowl chase along with the Indianapolis Colts. Instead, none of those three teams look like particularly good teams.

There is a reasonably good chance the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts could go 16-0. Amazing.

Miami Dolphins over New England Patriots, 22-21

Since when did the New England Patriots become a team that doesn’t show up for the second half of football games? Since when did Tom Brady become an average quarterback who throws dumb interceptions? Since when did it become a bad idea to kick a field goal on fourth down in the red zone? Since when did New England’s defense look toothless and unable to stop anyone when it counts? Since when did offensive football mean throwing long passes every play? Since when did New England become a mediocre team? I guess I saw it coming and just didn’t want to recognize it.

Furious might be the best way to describe my feelings after losing this game. The offensive play calling is a joke. I’d like to see Charlie Weiss come in and take over his old role as offensive coordinator and play caller. Yes we can hit the bombs and big plays, but not consistently, and it seems never in the second half of games when we need a score. And Tom Brady’s interception to Moss in the end zone when he was double covered was just atrocious.

And the defense? This looks, and really kind of is, the type of defense you would see on a totally rebuilding team or an expansion team. I don’t know what the average age or years of experience is on the defense but it is clearly very young with mostly players with limited experience. I don’t think I have ever seen a Bill Belichick coached team play defense so poorly.

While Miami seems to often have our number in away games even when the Patriots are at the top of their game, the performance of the Patriots the past two weeks has me down and scratching my head. Are we even as good as we were last year?

If the ship isn’t righted soon, it doesn’t matter much who we play, we could miss the playoffs (unlikely) and if we do make it get embarrassed.

Miami did a good job of hanging in the game. Hats off to Davone Bess who might put Ted Ginn, Jr. on the street next year, and Vontae Davis for his interception of Brady in the end zone. And let’s talk a little Chad Henne for a moment. This second year quarterback from Michigan is showing improvement this season and is getting a longer leash. If he keeps developing and improving, this fellow could be a very solid starter for years to come.

MVP: Davone Bess, WR

GAMES I WATCHED

New York Jets over Buffalo Bills, 19-13

This really wasn’t the most interesting game to watch. The Jets played reasonably well on both sides of the ball and came out with a nice win. This keeps them a game behind the Patriots in the AFC East now that the Patriots have lost two in a row. The big story in the game, of course, was quarterback Mark Sanchez injuring his right knee when sliding head first for a first down. He already dinged up his left knee earlier in the year. A banged up starting rookie quarterback is not the best situation to be in at this time of year.

The Jets mostly used a solid running game by Thomas Jones to control the game. Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis continues to impress shutting down Terrell Owens.

MVP: Darrelle Revis, CB

New Orleans Saints over Washington Redskins, 33-30 OT

I felt sorry for the Washington Redskins after this game. The Redskins have had an insane season with their coach being punked and basically demoted by the owner, squabbling among players, notably Clinton Portis who has always been a head case, and now really is one now that he is on IR with a concussion, and just horrible offensive production. Now with some backups playing with heart and a defense that has always been solid, they are actually playing very competitively. They just aren’t winning.

I’ve heard the word snake bitten describing the Redskins after this game and I have to say that is exactly what I was thinking as well. They didn’t lose this game by bad play, really, just some unlucky breaks.

Four plays really defined this game. Near the end of the first half the Saints’ punter Thomas Morstead badly shanks the kick and the Redskins gunner is helpless as he can’t see where the ball is and it hits him on the shoulder. The Saints recover the live ball in good field position. Really bad. But eureka! Defensive back Kareem Moore intercepts Drew Brees on third down and is running it back to midfield. Oops! He is stripped by wide receiver Robert Meachem who runs it for a touchdown to tie the game at 17 at halftime.

The Redskins shook off their misfortune and came out to play an excellent second half of football. The offense moved the ball well and built a ten point lead in the third quarter. But alas, you aren’t going to hold the Saints offense down forever and Shaun Suisham missed an easy 22 yard kick that could have won the game for them. He has since been cut. See ya!

After hanging on to a tie going into overtime, the Redskins won the toss. Having moved the ball well all day long, after the kickoff I thought they had a great chance to get into field goal range for a win (if the kicker doesn’t botch it again). Alas, Mike Sellers fumbles the ball again giving the Saints a short field, game over.

At least the Redskins played hard and showed heart. Other than the miscues it may have been their best game of the season. Redskins linebacker London Fletcher should be a shoe in for the Pro Bowl. He has played well all season.

Will the Saints go undefeated?

MVP: Robert Meachem, WR

New York Giants over Dallas Cowboys, 31-24

The Dallas Cowboys simply cannot seem to get their act together, especially in December. There are a lot of Jekyll and Hyde teams this year, but Dallas might be the most odious of them all. They have talent but just can’t perform when it counts most. They had decent play for the most part but missed filed goals by Nick Folk and a punt return for a touchdown by the Giants, which was less the punt returner being great than it was awful tackling by the Cowboys, doomed them.

The Giants had a great day from wide receiver Steve Smith with six catches for 110 yards. They are barely still in the playoff hunt.

MVP: Steve Smith, WR

Arizona Cardinals over Minnesota Vikings, 30-17

This was a very impressive win by the Arizona Cardinals who looked a lot like the team that went to the Super Bowl last year. Even those who thought the Cardinals might win this game had to be surprised by the way they dominated the Vikings on both sides of the ball. The Vikings defensive player of the year candidate, defensive end Jared Allen, was a non-factor, while the Cardinals offense simply rolled all night long on the arm of Kurt Warner and the receiving of Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.

The Cardinals defense also turned in an excellent performance. They were able to limit Adrian Peterson to 46 yards rushing and harass Brett Favre into two interceptions. This was the way the Cardinals defense played last year when they made their Super Bowl run. I don’t know if the Cardinals will keep this level of play up, but for this week they looked like one of the better teams in the league.

MVP: Larry Fitzgerald, WR

Green Bay Packers over Baltimore Ravens, 27-14

The Baltimore Ravens are just awful on offense. It may be partially the play calling but the only production they get is from Ray Rice. Receivers Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton give them very little in the passing game and Todd Heap seems past his prime a productive receiving tight end. On top of that Joe Flacco threw some stupid interceptions, especially the one in the red zone in the fourth quarter.

Green Bay, on the other hand, looked good on offense and defense. Aaron Rodgers has established himself as a premier NFL quarterback. The entire defense also played well, particularly linebackers A.J. Hawk, Clay Matthews, Jr. and cornerback Charles Woodson. The veteran Woodson has played so well this year he should be on the short list of defensive player of the year candidates.

And of course anyone who watched this game knows how crazy it was. There were flags every few moments, mostly for pass interference. This game featured 310 yards in penalties, tied for second most in NFL history. Crazy.

Overall, despite all the penalties, the Packers simply outplayed the Ravens on both sides of the ball from start to finish.

MVP: Clay Matthews, Jr., LB

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Robert Meachem, WR, New Orleans Saints
Defensive Player: Clay Matthews, Jr., LB, Green Bay Packers
Offensive Lineman: Levi Brown, RT, Arizona Cardinals
Special Teams: Domenik Hixon, WR/KR, New York Giants
Rookie of the Week: Clay Matthews Jr., LB, Green Bay Packers