LONGSHOTS: Jets land in Foxboro as Pats go number 14
by Dave Long
OK, we’re in the stretch run of the NFL season and, in case you haven’t noticed, the Patriots are doing pretty well. They’re just the fifth team to reach 13-0 in an NFL season. But with everything else that has been going on, from a World Series victory to what might turn out out to be the greatest turnaround from one NBA season to the next, I haven’t really talked much about football. So here are a few things to think about for the local lads as the playoffs beckon.
If they beat the Jets and go on to win the Super Bowl, even if they lose in either of their final two games does that match the 1972 Dolphins, who also won 14 regular-season games and the Super Bowl? It wouldn’t be the same, of course, even if the numbers say they did the same thing.
If surprising Buffalo squeezes into the playoffs, eight of the Patriots’ 16 games will be against playoff teams, while the vaunted Dolphins played just two teams with even a winning record.
Isn’t it ironic (although in Miami they’d probably say surreal) that in the same year their status as the only undefeated team is being threatened, the current Miami team might become the first to lose all its games in a season since Tampa Bay in 1976? And since they were in the first year of their existence at least the expansion Bucs had a decent excuse.
Sports 101: Anyone out there besides my friend Petey K know who started at quarterback for those Bucs in year one?
The Patriots had a 100-yard runner in the three games prior to Sammy Morris going down vs. Dallas. Since then Laurence Maroney’s 75 in the blowout of Washington was high as the ground attack has become less and less of a factor. So did they become a pass-all-the-time team because Morris went down and didn’t like what they were getting from Maroney, or because they saw how good the passing game is and said the heck with conventional thinking?
Still, as good as it is, what will they do if the winds are like they were in Baltimore on Monday night or it snows like it did in 2001 when Adam V made the greatest kick in NFL history to snuff out Oakland come playoff time?
Forget would, I confess I had no idea that Randy Moss could have the kind of transforming impact he’s had on the Patriots offense. I expected Wes Welker to do what he’s done, but I was way off on Moss.
Sports 101 Answer: the QB for the Bucs in year one was none other than Steve Spurrier. He got there because as a local college star he was the first of three Florida quarterbacks to win the Heisman Trophy. Since it’s after 1993 my friend Petey T knows this year’s winner Tim Tebow is the third — but who’s the other winner? And if you’re looking for graduate Sports 102 credits, tell me who finished second to Spurrier in 1966.
By the way, how in the name of Randall Cunningham can a quarterback throw for 29 TDs and run for another 20 as Tebow did this year? That’s even more incredible than the 39 TDs Barry Sanders scored for Oklahoma State in (sorry, Petey) 1988.
Of course with nearly 4,100 yards and 45 touchdown passes (and counting) Tom Brady’s having an even better year than either of those guys. So the question is, is anyone within even light years of Brady for MVP? I mean besides Moss — and is it possible they could split the vote?
With all the trouble surrounding Moss before his coming to Foxboro, is it a stretch to ask if his rejuvenation with Brady and company is an NFL equivalent to when Michael Jordan didn’t take any crap from crazy Dennis Rodman after he joined the Bulls? Hopefully it is. That collaboration led to three straight titles and an NBA-record 72 games won in 1995-96 thanks in part to the worm’s unique game.
I wish Bill Parcells hadn’t retired, because all the Bill vs. Little Bill stuff would have been fun if what look to be the favorites for the Super Bowl right now do get there.
That brings me to a question I threw out on my radio show: which of these is the best trade by a Boston team — Kevin Garnett for seven players and draft picks, Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell for four prospects including superstar in the making Hanley Ramirez, or Moss for a measly fourth-round draft pick? While both the Celtics and Red Sox trades are tremendous, they gave up a lot to get what they got back. The Patriots gave up just one of their four fourth-round picks in the ‘07 draft and got Moss to take a huge pay cut.
Of course you could throw getting a first round pick for Deion Branch, then flipping it to San Francisco for their top pick in 2008, into the mix. As it stands today, it would at worst be fifth overall and at best number two in the draft. Which, they’ll probably flip for later picks to still wind up with two first-round picks despite the video-gate punishment.
Which will be a more significant stat from Sunday’s 34-13 blitzing of the Steelers come playoff time? That they held Pittsburgh scoreless over the last 35 minutes or that they gave up 188 yards on the ground? I know the idea is to keep them out of the end zone, but I’ve still got my worries about the defense. In all three close games, Baltimore, Indy and Philly controlled the ball and kept it away from Brady and company. And that 188 from the Steelers says they can do it too.
Sports 102 Answer – the Sequel: Danny Wuerffe, who ran the fun and gun under Spurrier, won the Heisman 30 years after Spurrier when Florida won the national championship in 1996. As for the runner-up in 1966, it comes from the small world department. It was Purdue quarterback Bob Griese, who six years later led the Dolphins to the undefeated season we opened this column talking about.
I’ll leave you with this: How well do you think Eric Mangini is sleeping this week?
Dave Long can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He hosts the Absolute Sports Experience at Billy’s Sports Bar in Manchester each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon that is broadcast live on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.