February 7, 2008

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LONGSHOTS: A giant win leaves Patriots fans feeling blue
by Dave Long

I now know what it must have felt like for Notre Dame after it came back from oblivion to the brink of an undefeated season in 1964 only to see USC snatch it away in the fourth quarter of the final game. No, Iím not here to give Pete Tarrier another pre-1993 sports history lesson; just saying I feel their pain, after having the same thing happen to the Patriots on Sunday. Iíve got so much to say, but so little space, so Iíll just do it with random thoughts on a great, but not perfect, football season.

I donít mind losing to the Giants. They played great and earned it, particularly on defense. But I Hate losing to the í72 Dolphins and itís with a capital H!

Iím not going to say the Pats were out-coached, but this is the first time in the Belichick era I thought the decision-making was not very good. Especially on offense, where Josh McDaniel had what I thought was a terrible day calling plays. They did little to negate the rush with screens, draws or two-step drop passes. And while itís a playerís job to perform, itís a coachís job to find ways to get his best receiver open ó which he didnít do for Randy Moss until the last drive of the entire playoffs.

And going for it on fourth and 13? What was that all about? It was the third-best choice behind a 48-yard field goal attempt in perfect conditions (and risked field position if they missed) and to play field position by trying to pooch it inside 10.

While this upset was certainly huge, it still ranks behind Joe Namath and the Jets shocking the football world by taking out the Colts in Super Bowl III.

Hey Pete Tarrier ó BEFORE 1993 ALERT ó BEFORE 1993 ALERT! ó While Jefferi Chadiha on ESPN.com picked the Giants, he still needs a clue. In his recent story about the best quarterbacks by decade he said Namath was second best in the í60s. Earth to Jeff: he ainít even in the top five. Behind Johnny Unitas at number two is Bart Starr. Hereís the math: Starr, who led a power running team ó 152 TD passes, 138 interceptions, 57.1 percent of his passes completed as he won FIVE rings in the decade and one more Super Bowl MVP than Joe Willie. Namath ó 173 TD passes and 220 interceptions, barely completed 50 percent (50.1) of his passes and his teams were a collective 15 games UNDER .500. Talk about living off the glory of one game. Fran Tarkenton, Roman Gabriel, Sonny Jurgensen all were better and you can make a case Lenny Dawson, John Hadl and George Blanda were better in the AFL too.

Heck, I might even say Jack Kemp if he werenít such a right winger. But what Joe and his swagger were, though, was more important than all but Johnny U because of what he did for the AFL.

Hope this loss teaches the yahoos to be a little more humble next time the Patriots start 18-0.

Here were my keys to the game, as printed in the Manchester Express: (1) Contain the pass rush, (2) Attack the corners on the outside, (3) That if they left Plaxico Burress one on one with Ellis Hobbs heíd get shish-kabobbed. All three werenít done as Brady was under pressure all day, they forgot about Randy Moss until the final drive and Hobbs was covering (kind of) Burress on the game-winning TD.

Give Hobbs credit for facing the music after the game, but Iíll say one more time: They have to give Assante Samuel the money. They canít go into next year with him and Randall Gay as the corners. They got burned when Ty Law walked and it will happen again. In fact, they need another DB to go with Samuel, as Hobbs is better as a nickel back and full-time kick returner.

With a war underway, troops in Afghanistan and a recession on the way, doesnít Arlen Specter have better things to do with the Senateís time than look into Spygate? Seems to me heís trying to get headlines from tinkering with the internal policing of a private business. But if he really wants to get to the bottom of this cheating issue, he should get the NFL to investigate what EVERY team was doing at the time. Not just go after the big dog. And that includes the senatorís home-state Eagles and Steelers ó which wonít happen because he wants those people to vote for him.

But Iíll also donít like my team being looked on as a cheat. I stopped being a Yankees fan because of the bullying antics of George Steinbrenner. The ends didnít justify the means then and they donít now. So stop going to the edge to look for edge or Iíll do the same with the Patriots.

Aside to Comcast Sports Netís Gary Tanguay: Spector is a Senator, not a Congressman as you kept calling him on Friday. Hey, at least you know Iím watching.

Having grown up in New York, I got killed by calls and e-mails that started with 35 seconds left in the game. And it hasnít abated. Also local I Told You Soís were incoming, from the likes of on-hiatus Plymouth State basketball mentor John Scheinman (11:06 p.m.). And Iím still expecting to hear from the battling barrister, not so liberal Lou DeMato, too. The good news is that I donít have to move to Wyoming as Frank Harlan says heís doing after picking the Pats on my radio show to win by THREE touchdowns.

Speaking of the Globe, itís uncanny how when columnist Dan Shaughnessy says a local team is a shoo-in to win, as heís done all year with the Patriots, they lose.

For the 12 billionth time the Super Bowl reminds us great defense almost always beats great offense. So with that once again clearly in my head, Iím ready to give up the kids to get Johan Santana now.

Oh and by the way, you know my column from last week about how the Patriots always found a way like the Bill Russell Celtics? Well as Emily Litella used to say, NEVER MIND!

Dave Long can be reached at dlong@hippopress.com. He hosts the Absolute Sports Experience at Billyís Sports Bar in Manchester each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon that is broadcast live on WGAM Ė The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.


1/31/2008 Foxboro lads earn pats on the back, and old Celtics mystique makes sense

1/24/2008 Mail bag asks about Rice, the hall and wild-eyed liberals
1/17/2008 Peyton manning the fort back home as Pats take on Chargers
1/10/2008 Grumpy old Dolphins are lost at sea on this one
1/3/2008 The primary concern is getting a clear picture
12/27/2007 The annual sports awards close out 2007
12/20/2007 Holiday gifts for the deserving and not so deserving
12/13/2007 Jets land in Foxboro as pat go number 14
12/06/2007 To include or not to include Ellsbury ó 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 ó 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 Mís 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
Heroís 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