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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.