Is Patriots’ champagne glass half-empty or half-full?

By Os Davis  |   Tuesday, December 26, 2006  |  Comments( 0 )

New England Patriots
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The New England Patriots may have jelled, but they're far from seamless. They may be on a 5-1 run, but they're not dominating. They may be in the playoffs, but ... well, let's just keep dreams of that magic fourth ring in check, Patriot fans, because this road to the Super Bowl is the most daunting one yet.

Sunday's eked-out 24-21 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars gave viewers another prime example of the simultaneous deadly strengths and fatal flaws of the navy blue-and-silver, 2006 edition. The champagne drunk by some in the glow of the AFC East-clinching victory was flat and warm, by others the finest vintage of grape they'd ever tasted. And no one could agree if the glass was half-empty or half-full as they pored over moments from the game.

First quarter: On the first play of the game, Tom Brady starts from the shotgun. He connects with Kelvin Kight for nine yards on a post. Said the optimist, "A prime example of Belichick genius there: the shotgun, going to Kight - always keep them guessing."

And the pessimist replied, "Kelvin Kight was promoted from the practice squad two weeks ago. At game time, he still had a "Photo Not Available" portrait at ESPN.com. I'm afraid Brady just doesn't have the options this year."

Second quarter: OK, any talk of this game's second quarter will be overshadowed by a bizarre bunch of plays beginning at about 13:45. On fourth-and-1 at the Jaguars' 26, Belichick decides to go for the first down. ("Yes!" cheers the optimist, loving the league leaders in fourth-down attempts at an awesome 15 conversions in 19 tries every time they do.) A false start is called on Troy Brown, out comes the field goal unit. Much-maligned, rarely-trusted Stephen Gostkowski jogs onto the field and screws in a 48-yarder that was curvier than Marilyn Monroe and more twisted than O.J. Simpson's deal with Fox.

On the next play from scrimmage, Maurice Jones-Drew did a sweet "Madden" impression by ping-ponging off his own lineman, hitting the ground rolling, getting up and taking off for 74 yards and a touchdown.

When the Jaguars had the ball again about three minutes' worth of game time later, David Garrard zapped umpire Garth DeFelice with one heck of a bullet over the middle that took the zebra out of the game. Optimist and pessimist alike try to stifle giggles and references to "Wayne's World," especially when the CBS broadcast cut to a shot of Garrard jovially describing the shot on the sidelines.

Halftime: New England is leading Jacksonville in time of possession, almost exactly 19 minutes to 11. Said the optimist, "The Patriots are dominating the clock, playing Bradyball. Did you notice he's connected with eight different receivers so far?"

And the pessimist replied, "Yet they're only winning 10-7."

Third quarter: On a rare long route, Brady hit David Thomas on a 22-yard, diving, sliding TD catch to cap a 78-yard drive. Brady was 4 for 5 on the drive, connecting with Heath Evans (the ninth Patriot receiver to record a reception in the game), Jabar Gaffney, and Thomas twice. Thomas had amassed six catches on the year before snagging five in this game. Said the optimist, "Dude. Touchdown. Brady. Deep into the playoffs. Dude."

And the pessimist replied, "David Thomas? Isn't he with Wendy's? I'm afraid Brady just doesn't have the options this year."

Fourth quarter: If you'll visit the New England area any time soon, you'll notice a disproportionate amount of the population sporting gray hair. It isn't anything in the water or some bizarre genetic experiment, but rather the direct result of the single scariest play of the year for the Beaneaters. On his unbelievable 10th run, Brady got his vertebrae shuffled by Clint Ingram after picking up another seven yards. After missing a play - sadly, Vinterception Testaverde was eschewed in favor of backup Matt Cassel to run the offense - Brady got back up on the horse and connected with Daniel Graham on a sweet long pass over the middle for 18 yards. Said the optimist, "See how Belichick adapted the game plan to that awesome Jaguar running 'D'? Wow, Brady can do it all."

And the pessimist replied, "Yes, but on a true Super Bowl team should he have to? He carried the ball 10 times? So the dude jukes Brian Urlacher once and he thinks he's Bobby Douglass?

Post-game: The Patriots clinch the division and at least the No. 4 seed in the AFC. Said the optimist, "That means in the worst-case scenario, New England can avenge itself on the Denver Broncos or the New York Jets in Foxborough."

And the pessimist replied, "Except that New England has lost to Denver three times in the past two seasons, including the only instance of a team beating these Patriots twice in a year. Plus, don't forget: The road to Miami goes through the San Diego Chargers, a team with no apparent weaknesses."

Finally, the realist butted in with, "Yes, but this Sunday, Belichick and the boys go up against the Tennessee Titans, fighting for a playoff spot and playing the best football of their lives. Forget seeding for a few days: This one will be a great one."

Analysis of both sides of the New England Patriots' issues at RealFootball365.com.
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About Os Davis

Os Davis has taken a twisted route to get to RealFootball365.com in his nearly 17 years in professional writing, working in any number of capacities in the sportswriting, news reporting and film criticism worlds. In print media, Os has served as editor at a few publications, including Albuquerque's...
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