In what could only be characterized as one of the most stunning comebacks in the forty-two year history of the franchise, the Patriots showed that they still have the pride of a champion. Few games in Patriots history match what happened on Sunday. A young Drew Bledsoe beating the Minnesota Vikings 26-20 in 1994 comes to mind as does the playoff game against the Raiders last year.
Like the Raiders game, the Patriots faced seemingly insurmountable odds against them, needed every break to go their way and then stage their own heroics on offense to pull out the win. Sunday had a game-ending interception that was overturned by replay and a huge, huge stand by the defense to deny the Bears a clinching first down. It also had an improbable kick from Mr. Reliable-Adam Vinatieri to boot. Even if the Patriots are deemed "lucky," like any good team, they took advantage of these circumstances and converted them into a win. Most of the time in life, skill helps bring you what others call "luck." As the great philosopher Obi Wan Kenobi said "In my experience, there's no such thing as luck."
That being said, spotting a team twenty-one points on the road is a dangerous way to make a living in the NFL. The Patriots had 6 penalties for 65 yards that were all the result of un-disciplined behavior. The guilty parties include Tom Brady who had an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Deion Branch with a chop block penalty that negated a big gain by Kevin Faulk. And Matt Chatham had a facemask call on a punt that resulted in the Bears gaining twenty-two yards in field position after a re-kick. I can't for the life of me figure out why this team can be so undisciplined at times when its discipline last year was one of the larger factors in their run to the Super Bowl. This has got to be addressed by the coaching staff as the season comes down to the homestretch. Good teams, like the Patriots did today, will take advantage of such penalties in the future and the Patriots won't be as "lucky" as they were today.
Tom Brady once again showed the calm, cool poise of a savvy veteran during the second half by taking what was offered to him and not making mistakes. He went a very efficient 36 out of 55 for 328 yards and 3 touchdown passes with 1 interception. The leadership he showed today cannot be understated and bodes very well for the long-term future of the franchise.
On the other side of the field, it is difficult to put into words how impressed we should all be with the Bears' Brian Urlacher today. He had nine tackles, three pass deflections, and an interception. If not already, he will be the best linebacker in the game and should, barring injury, go down in the annals of the NFL as one of the best. He came out of nowhere to intercept Brady in the third quarter and the closing speed needed to tackle Kevin Faulk on the two-point conversion attempt was incredible. Sure Dick Butkus was a tough customer, but did he have what this kid has?
The Patriots pulled their bacon out of the fire on Sunday but that is no way to live. After last weeks blowout in Buffalo, I expected the Patriots would come out and settle into a tight disciplined defense and a time-consuming running game. Even after the Patriots knocked out Bears quarterback Chris Chandler for the second year in a row, the previously inept Bears offense was able to run their offensive package at will for three quarters. They cannot let average offenses run over them like this, even if it is for only three quarters, if they want to even think about the playoffs. Time will tell.
Now its time for everybody's favorite part of this 2002 nominee for the Pulitzer-Prize.....ZINGERS...
Being an umpire in the NFL has got to be the single sports occupation that has a life expectancy less than a NHL head coach. Admit it, on a primate level, you enjoy it when the umpire gets bowled over on a run right up the middle.
I have gotten wind that the Patriots will be wearing their old, AFL-style uniforms on Thanksgiving. If you were looking for a Christmas present for your favorite columnist, a nice Tom Brady throwback jersey would be very thoughtful.
Speaking of getting wind, Will McDonough had an excellent article about the lack of men's rooms at Gillette Stadium. As you know, this has been a pet peeve of mine since August. He also gave several examples of the Patriots' seemingly strong-handed tactics against long-time season ticket holders who have their tickets revoked for whatever reason. Now, let me please throw in a caveat here that there is nobody who appreciates the much-improved environment at Patriots games more than I do. It is light years ahead of the old Sullivan Stadium days. But lately, doesn't it seem we are hearing more and more stories about seemingly minor infractions by long-time, usually well-behaved fans turning into the revoking of season ticket privileges. What's wrong with giving one written warning to the paying customer? Obviously, there are always two sides to every story. It doesn't help your cause when they have a 50,000-person waiting list.
How many times does a squib kick actually not result in the receiving team bringing the ball all the way back to the 40 yard line?
Sure Brett Favre is amazing, but do you know of any other superstar quarterback who makes more ill advised throws that result in interceptions? He is able to get away with this because of all of the heroics he pulls off.
I'm getting a little tired of NESN Sportsdesk's obvious bias when it leads with run of the mill Red Sox and Bruins stories over a larger regional story. The latest example was last Sunday's edition of Sportsdesk that lead with a Bruins victory instead the BC upset over Notre Dame. Does anybody else see through this blatant self-promotion?
As amazing as it sounds, Kurt Warner might want to get Drew Bledsoe's phone number to learn the truth about the old adage of not losing your job to injury.
Sure he has lost a step, but doesn't Otis (O-T-I-S) Smith deserve a lot of rope for what he has done for this team over the years? It seems like ancient history, but do you remember the fumble recover to seal the AFC Championship against the Jaguars in 1997?
Zinger groupie Iron Eyes, wrote me at firstname.lastname@example.org to echo my sentiments on the NFL front office finding Jesus on the issue of hard tackling. The hypocrisy is that the NFL licenses all kinds of video games where a player can be stomped on and have his head knocked off.
It will be interesting to see how the Bills react to last week’s shellacking.
The Kansas City Chiefs and the St. Louis Rams are the best 4-5 teams in recent memory.
That's it for this week. This week's column is dedicated in loving memory of Arthur Robson.