December 13, 2007


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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 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.

11/29/2007 To include or not to include Ellsbury — that is the questione

11/29/2007 Yanked from the sports pages in the Big Apple
11/22/2007 Here's what I'm thankful for at Thanksgiving
11/15/2007 Waiting game leads to a series of random thoughts
11/8/2007 OK — it's week nine and I'm ready to talk
11/1/2007 Finally a little shut-eye for a sleep deprived nation
10/25/2007 A rocky mountain high for Red Sox Nation
10/18/2007 Time to go to the mailbag
10/112007 Who'd more popular, Patriots or Red Sox
10/4/2007 IA weekend chock full of nuts, chokes and great moments
9/27/2007 I hate to say I told you so...
9/20/2007 Media and fan bias shades the severity of sports crime
9/13/2007 All round baseball week starts with a look at leaders
9/6/2007 It's Superbowl or bust for Pats in 2007
8/30/2007 The race is on as baseball enters September
8/23/2007 Spine vs. lack of spine theme for school board debate
8/16/2007 Time for thoughts from the summer mailbag
8/9/2007 Will this three make it big in Boston?
8/2/2007 Trading places all in a day's work for Boston GMs
7/26/2007 Getting out of a slump; an ameteur golfer can feel Sox' pain
7/19/2007 Does second chance guarantee a great outcome?
7/12/2007 Masse still a honeymooner in local baseball culture
7/5/2007 Brown Monster a big Fisher Cat hit
6/28/2007 Rambling along with some random thoughts
6/21/2007 The future is now for the C's come Thursday night
6/14/2007 Homers create bonds among fans for generations
6/07/2007 Sox win by losing two of three this weekend
5/31/2007 Lutz of things to think about
5/24/2007 Down 2-0 M’s for playoff payoff
5/17/2007 Baseballs' conventional wisdom is for the birds
5/10/2007 The Rocket lands in Gotham during Monarchs' playoff break
5/3/2007 Raiders say "No Moss" in fight with talented wideout
4/26/2007 A little history on the ancient Sox and Yanks rivalry
4/19/2007 Lessons to be learned from Robinson, Monarchs and I-Man
4/12/2007 A few questions for the sports gods
4/5/2007 Stanton his case on a variety of current topics
3/29/2007 Sox spring back into action on Monday
3/22/2007 A guide for having fun on NCAA hockey weekend
3/15/2007 The madness of March kicks off on Thursday
3/8/2007 Jumping through hoops after an odd season
3/1/2007 A trip to the mail bag for Hippo Sports
2/22/2007 Six degrees of Muhammed Ali
2/15/2007 Monarchs rule as streak reaches 12
2/8/2007 Talking a good game ahead on all-sports WGAM
2/1/2007 Manning the Super Bowl watch more difficult in '07
1/25/2007 Winning and what else matters in college coaching
1/18/2007 ESPN polls are fanning the flames of national lunacy
1/11/2007 Patriots marching to MIami promised land
1/4/2007 Predictions for 2007
12/28/2006 REcognizing the best on the national front
12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
12/14/2006 Mailbag open for busines at a time filled with questions
12/07/2006 Lions and Gators and Bears, oh my
11/30/2006 Does Fenway frankness roll to the negative side?
11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
11/9/2006 Blame game reaches new local low
11/2/2006 A week of highs and lows in sport
10/26/2006 Curses! The U is foiled again
10/19/2006 Time for a trip to the sports mailbag
10/12/2006 U turns Granite Stare around on football
10/05/2006 James' gang riding into town to face the Celtics
09/28/2006 Words to describe a lost Red Sox season
09/21/2006 Football Friday can't stack up to Saturday
09/14/2006 A lesson to be learned in remembering a somber day
09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
08/17/2006 Trash talking abounds in the Empire over Sox and Pats
08/10/2006 Monarchs call press conference to crown new leader
08/03/2006 Deadly Fenway duo leave mark on history
07/27/2006 Word of the wise gets lost in sports translation
07/20/2006 Looking beyond the Big Three
07/13/2006 Cream rises to the top of baseball talk at the Dot
07/06/2006 Greetings and salutations toThe Nation at mid-year
06/29/2006 Being dealt is a consequence of the trade
06/22/2006 A year later, Boudreau's cup runneth over
06/15/2006 See dogs and cats battle for a different fan experience
06/08/2006 Not Bad Anymore league makes a comeback
06/01/2006 Luck goes Sox way with Lowell in Massachusetts
05/25/2006 Pitching in to help the Sox trade a few places
05/18/2006 Going to school by cutting Red Sox payroll
05/11/2006 Columnist blows his mind; here are the results
05/04/2006 Yanks stormed Manchester 37 years ago this week
04/27/2006 Regular crowd nowhere to be found come playoff time
04/20/2006 Questions and answers from the mailbag
04/13/2006 Local sports teams spring into action
04/06/2006 Predictable Red Sox season lies ahead
03/30/2006 Analyzing this and that as Pats roster shrinks
03/23/2006 A week of following the bouncing balls
03/16/2006 The beginning of four days of basketball bliss
03/09/2006 Many miss the central point of the story
03/02/2006 Better late than never to jump through local hoops
02/23/2006 Celtic green means raw, not envy as it once did

02/16/2003 An issue that is all black and white
02/09/2006 Nomar curses from the UL's Sullivan
02/02/2006 Super memories from 40 years of watching the big game
01/26/2006 A certain uniformity to the inquiries in the mailbag
01/19/2006 Sudden end to Pats' season leave just one thing to do
01/12/2006 Pats on the back for the football team
01/05/2006 Predictions for Manchester Sports 2031
A lesson for Leo the Lip and nice guys everywhere

Chop House opening is Berra of good news
Event-filled weekend missed en route to evil empire
Hero’s death lays to rest misuse of the word
Saint Theo ascends to new heights in The Nation
Santa sack filled to the brim with sports
Patriots march through injuries toward threepeat
Sports talk should be on the air
Stars shine brightest when winning is in the mix
The Demonization of Johnny Damon

Thirty-seven topics and so little space
Too many holes in Sox for repeat
Trip to the injured list makes it a long weekend for local scribe
Turkeys and giving thanks take center stage this week
Yanked from the edge of your seat