If you are an observer of the local eleven, you should be concerned. Not so much with a second straight loss but rather with the lack of physical, inspired play on both sides of the football. My beloved 85 year-old grandfather, Donald, summed up what he saw on Sunday in one sentence. "They just didn't come out with any pep," said Grandpa. I couldn't have said it better myself. To this untrained observer, the biggest difference betweeen the last three games and the Super Bowl run from last year appears to be a lack of physical domination by the Patriots at the line of scrimmage.
Seasoned observers will tell you that the game is won and lost on the line of scrimmage. Think about it. Almost all teams have a few legitimate weapons at the skill positions on both sides of the ball. Left to their own devices, these "weapons" can and will make scripted plays that break games open. However, the greatest variable that throws off these skill positions from making spectacular, scripted plays is the line of scrimmage. The greatest running back can't do anything without a hole to run through. Tom Brady can't find an open receiver when he has Jason Taylor using Matt Light as a matador on his way to implanting his helmet on Brady's chest. Conversely, on the other side of the ball, given three or four seconds to find an open receiver, a servicable quarterback like Jay Fiedler is going to find the open receiver most of the time. Even the best cornerback can't cover a legitimate NFL wide receiver for that long. One sack on Jay Fiedler is not going to "cut the mustard", as Donald (the Prince of the Foxboro Seniors' Center) would say. In short, good line play on both sides of the ball wins games. The Patriots simply aren't doing that during the last three games.
A few other factors seemed to be at play during this recent slide. The Patriots were relatively injury free last year. This year it appears that they are returning to an average NFL depletion rate. You never realize how valuable Troy Brown is to this team until he is out for two straight weeks. He opens up the offense and makes defenses account for his presence. Also, big plays and turnovers on defense have been pretty much non-existant in the last few weeks. And finally, I am very surprised at the amount of penalties that this disciplined team has received.
Of course, all is not lost. They are 3-2 in October. IF, and its a big IF, they can show up and take one from the Packers next Sunday, they will head into the bye week 4-2. I believe most rational people would take their team at 4-2 going into a week seven bye. Ask any Rams or Steelers fan! Also, keep in mind that the Patriots are 0-13 in Miami during the months of September and October. That, my friends, isn't a trend. It's a "you can set your watch by it" law of science. At the beginning of the season, I predicted a 10-6 record with a trip to the playoffs. I'll stick to that. For now....
Okay, let's start Zingin'.......
The injury to Kurt Warner once again demonstrates the absolute necessity of having a veteran backup quarterback who can run a basic offense. How well would you sleep if Jamie Martin was running your offense? Damon Huard, the forgotten man, will be a good veteran insurance policy if Brady ever goes down.
I am sick and tired of the boys at NFL headquarters lining up the Pats in Miami in October and the Dolphins in Foxboro in December. What is really gained by doing this? Isn't the NFL all about parity? At the very least, couldn't they start Florida home games at 4 p.m during September and October?
As much as I admire his work, John Clayton of ESPN does not, try as I might, look to me like a "football insider." He does remind me of the brainiac from my 10th grade math class. Especially when he smiles at the end of his segments. (Editor's note: This and other derogatory "Zingers" against media personalities are nothing more than blind, naked jealousy on the part of the author of this so-called column.)
I think we should stop throwing around the word "genius" in association with the latest and greatest coach du jour. Don't you think?
Chris Meyers of Fox Sports is quickly losing my long-standing admiration for hosting that embarassment of a NFL show on Fox Sports Net. Dancing girls are a little over the top (no pun intended) and are a cheap way to placate to your demographic. Now don't start sending e-mails to email@example.com and saying "What's the matter, you don't like dancing girls in football jerseys?" What American heterosexual male wouldn't? But I don't expect a respected journalist like Chris Meyers to be associated with it. And it cheapens the work of excellent female reporters like Andrea Kramer and Suzy Kolber.
Speaking of Fox Sports Net, it's a shame that D'Marco Farr has to be drowned out on that "Best Damn Sports Show" by those other blowhards. He is very articulate and can relate a player's perspective on issues. I would like to see his talents better utilized by Fox or some other media outlet.
I don't know about you, but I love anything that NFL Films puts out. On Tuesday nights, ESPN2 runs a whole block of this stuff. If you ask me what makes NFL Films special, it's three things. First, it's the awesome, deep tones of the voiceovers. Second, it's the way they bring the sound (and thus, let's face it, the violence) of the game into our laps and make us appreciate what these players go through. And lastly, its how they bring forward historical anecdotes and characters to the present day fan.
Among some of the players available for the taking on the waiver wire at the fantasy football site that a bunch of us play, sandbox.com, are the following: Rae Carruth. Currently serving a life term for murder one. Kind of hard to make the Sunday lineup from SuperMax, don't you think? Boomer Esiason. Currently serving his own prison term on the set of CBS' pre-game show. And lastly, Fred Lane. You will remember he won't be down for breakfast, rest his soul. Hey Sandbox, I need a new tight end. Is Russ Francis available?
Okay, that's it for this week. Special thanks to my office mate and pal Allan Bartlett for offering helpful vignettes over the last few weeks on the proper use of pronouns. It is much appreciated.
Don't forget, zingers are always welcome to be plagerized by sending them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. So long until next week....