All posts by Bob Snowdon

SportsLink TV round table moderator in VT 2000-2004 Play-By-Play Baseball/Football/Basketball Oldies DJ at Magic 98.5 in Columbia, SC 2008-2011 Diehard Boston Sports Fan Veteran, Cancer survivor. Now living in Fl.

New England Patriots: This Isn’t Missouri, Fans

History tells us that Missouri is the “Show Me” state. The original phrase is widely credited to Missouri’s U.S. Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver in 1899 when, in a speech he said, “I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.”

Cartoon from gobobby.us
Cartoon from gobobby.us

So, “Show Me” New England

How many times do the New England Patriots have to prove themselves to their own fans? New England has now become the “Show Me” area.  Each week the “show me” statements are repeated by fans of the Super Bowls champs. Need a few examples? How about this for starters:

  • At the start of the 2015 season fans were in full “show me” mode when the Patriots lost some key players. In particular Shane Vereen, Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis. Add in the injury to last year’s surprise, Brandon LaFell, Tom Brady’s aging body and – drum roll – it was time for the Patriots to step up and show the doubters (don’t kid yourself, there were many) once again that they could compete with the upper tier in the NFL

On top of that, the Buffalo Bills were reported to have the best defense in the NFL, the NY Jets had a new Head Coach and a world of talent on defense (Mr. Revis had turned traitor and moved his island to where the money was) and Miami…my God, they had signed Greg Jennings (Pats fans wanted him in New England), the world’s greatest pass rusher Ndamukong Suh, CB Brice McCain and a host of 2nd tier players.

Was it possible that all three teams had pumped up their game while the Patriots, on paper, had deflated theirs? (I’m sorry, but the devil made me say that)

Ben Roethlisberger complains about Patriots goal line formation move drawing the Steeler offside
Ben Roethlisberger complains about Patriots goal line formation move drawing the Steelers offside

1. The first test was the Pittsburgh Steelers with Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown to challenge a secondary that, at best, was suspect. With Brady freed from his four game suspension the question was, can he overcome his off season distraction? The Patriots, playing at Gillette Stadium, were a 7 point favorite going into the game, but everyone was concerned…c’mon team, time to “Show Me.” Final Score: Patriots 28 Steelers 21…and the game wasn’t that close.

2. …But wait, that win was nice, but now the Patriots had to travel to Buffalo with Rex Ryan churning the upstate New York fans into a frenzy (what’s new) because he had the best defense in the NFL and the team was just plain mean! A road game

Buffalo Bills free safety Aaron Williams (23) tackles New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (11) in the end zone during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, in Orchard Park, N.Y. Williams was injured on the play as Edelman scored. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert)
Julian Edelman scores to help beat the Bills (Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, in Orchard Park, N.Y. AP Photo/Bill Wippert)

against a rabid fan base chomping at the bit to chew up and spit out the team with the Elvis logo. Buffalo players had spittle drooling from the corner of their mouth as the two teams took the field. New England fans didn’t want to admit it…but they were worried. It was “Show Me” time again, as Brady’s offensive line was in a shambles and the Bills pass rush was unstoppable. Final Score: Patriots 40 Bills 32…and once again the score was deceptive as New England rolled to win #2.

3. After dismantling the Jaguars and Cowboys and going 4-0 it was time for the game fans had been waiting a year for.  The ol’ tattle-tale, whiny Indianapolis Colts. Andrew Luck returned after missing two games with an injured right shoulder, but everyone was predicting a blowout and Brady taking revenge on the team that caused his worst off-season in 16 years in the NFL. It wasn’t to be. At halftime the Pats trailed 21-20 and things weren’t going as expected.

In the second half New England pulled the game out…but not without some help from the Colt’s coaching staff calling the worst play in NFL history (yes, even worse than Pete Carroll’s Super Bowl disaster). Result: Patriots 34 Colts 27. Once again, fans showed some concern and the time had come for a true test.

Danny Amondola makes an acrobatic catch in win over the Jets (Photo David Silverman, Patriots.com)
Danny Amondola makes an acrobatic catch in win over the Jets (Photo David Silverman, Patriots.com)

4. The NY Jets, the new darlings of the NFL, were coming to Foxborough. Yeah, I know, you’ve heard this before, the NFL’s top ranked defense. A Jets win and the two teams would be sharing first place in the AFC East. Man, what could the Patriots do with a battered OL and just 18 players dressed on offense? Time for Superman, Tom Brady, to step up and “show me” he could carry the team to win #6. The Jets sacked Brady three times and otherwise made him uncomfortable in the pocket to take a 13-10 halftime lead.

The Patriots were passing on nearly every down and being questioned about their play calling as the second half began. Time for Mr. Brady to “show me” why he is the greatest QB in the history of the NFL…and he did. Against this supposedly great defense he completed 34 passes for 355 yards, threw for 2 TDs and ran for another while the defense stopped the feared Jets running game (Chris Ivory, who entered as the AFC’s leading rusher, was held to 41 yards on 17 carries) on the way a 30-23 win.

5. You would think the Jets win would calm the waters, but it wasn’t so. Suddenly the Miami Dolphins were playing up to expectations after firing their Head Coach, Joe (Tiger) Philben, and putting Tight End Coach Dan (Gung-ho) Campbell in charge. He was an emotional guy and the players loved the fact Campbell was giving them a free hand to play the way they wanted to. In his first two games as Head Coach the ‘Fins destroyed Tennessee and Houston (two NFL powers!), running up 82 points and the combination of Suh and Cameron Wake were suddenly sacking everything but the groceries. After wiping the field with Miami, 36-7, the Patriots ran their record to 7-0.

10-29 Nink sacks Tannehill (Photo: Keith Nordstrom Patriots.com)
Ninkovich and Jones sack Tannehill (Photo: Keith Nordstrom Patriots.com)

Show Me More

Common sense says, after going 7-0 with no real challenge, New England fans would be ready to relax a bit. No need to get worried about the future. Well, that’s just not the way we New Englanders react. We’re not happy unless we have something to worry about. After Denver slaughtered Green Bay Sunday night, holding Aaron Rodgers to 77 passing yards, and now trading for TE Vernon Davis, the “show me”ites are back.

Problem is, there are still 3 games to go before the Patriots travel to the mile high city (Nov. 29) for their Sunday Night battle. So, before that happens Washington, NY (Giants) and Buffalo have to “show me” they are up to the task of staying on the field with the current Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots.

This weeks worry is that the Skins is a trap game…so once again it’s time for the best team in the NFL to show everyone that there is no such thing as a trap when Bill Belichick is your coach.

Follow me on Twitter @SnowdonBob

New England Patriots: The New Tom Brady

Let’s start with stating the obvious, Tom Brady is not from this planet. He is a real life “Superman.”

Tom Brady is Superman

After Sunday’s 30-23 win over the New York Jets even the most skeptical Brady hater has to be in awe of the unhuman things he is doing in his 16th year as an NFL Quarterback. Brady literally took the team on his back and refused to lose. We all knew he didn’t need any help in passing the ball, but:

  • 10 (or more) drops and he still throws for 355 yards
  • 2 TDs
  • 0 interceptions
  • 1 rushing TD
  • If that’s not enough he also leads the team in rushing for the 1st time in his career…at the age of 38

C’mon fans of the Steelers, Jets, Colts, Ravens (and on and on and on), admit it, you have to respect what this man has done. I know you may not be willing to admit anything publicly. Deep inside you still think he had to be cheating to do what he has, otherwise you’d have to admit your team actually lost to a “human” and you don’t want to do that. Among your fellow fans, when you belly up to the bar, you still mock him and talk about deflated footballs.

But when you take a moment and are honest with yourself you would love to have Tom Brady QB your team. You know it…I know it…and, don’t feel bad, your team feels the same way.

Is Tom Brady better now than he has ever been? 

Brady fires away in 30-23 win over the Jets (Photo: David Silverman Patriots.com)
Tom Brady fires away in 30-23 win over the Jets (Photo: David Silverman Patriots.com)

You can click on the above green link to find and compare Brady’s career statistics and decide for yourself. So, the question is, what more can he do? What is left to challenge the greatest QB in the history of the NFL (that will trigger some debate)? Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL owners provided the motivation he needed -or maybe he didn’t – to rejuvenate him for the 2015 season by questioning his honesty and integrity. His response has been to quietly embarrass them and their position. Hell, even the most avid Patriot fan has to admit he has surpassed any expectations we had for this season. Think about it:

  • 2,054 yards passing in 6 games
  • 16 TDs with just 1 interception
  • 2 rushing TDs after going the past two seasons with 0

With a mobility in the pocket that he has never shown before he looks like a “new” Tom Brady.  Don’t get me wrong, he has always been great, but this year he has moved into a new stratosphere. It’s not hyperbole, it is a fact and the eye test backs it up. Game-by-game he meets and exceeds expectations.

Brady brings out the best of everyone around him

Brady and Gronk celebrate TD in 30-23 win over the Jets (Photo: David Silverman Patriots.com)
Brady and Gronk celebrate TD in 30-23 win over the Jets (Photo: David Silverman Patriots.com)

Please don’t tell me he doesn’t have the weapons that other great QBs have. It doesn’t take anything away from what Mr. Brady has done this year to acknowledge the greatness of Rob Gronkowski (or Randy Moss in 2007). Julian Edelman and the now healthy Danny Amendola aren’t anything to laugh at, and Dion Lewis has emerged as a top tier running back/receiver.

Danny Amendola makes an acrobatic catch in 30-23 win over the Jets Photo David Silverman
Danny Amendola makes an acrobatic catch in 30-23 win over the Jets (Photo: David Silverman Patriots.com)

However, with that said, Brady makes everyone on the offense look better. The ensemble that makes up the offensive line attests to what he is capable of doing. If you can name the starting five linemen for last night’s match-up with the amazing pass rush of the rejuvenated Miami Dolphins without looking it up, congratulations.

Credit the quick release (fastest in the NFL) of Tom Brady with the fact we’re not in panic as each weeks latest super team lines up on the other side of the ball. Speaking of which, I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of hearing how all these teams are suddenly able to “challenge” the Patriots dominance in the NFL. Before they can challenge they have to show they can beat the best…and so far no one has done that.

Follow me on twitter @SnowdonBob

New England Patriots: Halloween Arrives Early In Indy!

Let’s be honest, the Sunday night match-up between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts didn’t go as planned.

  • No, not because the Patriots only won by 7 points, 34-27 (should have been 34-21, but Colts scored a garbage time TD).
  • It wasn’t because LeGarrette Blount “only” ran for 93 yards.
  • It wasn’t even because Julian Edeleman actually dropped three passes, one leading to a pick six by the Colts.

It was because…are you ready?…the Colts thought it was already Halloween and decided it was going to be “trick” not “treat” night at Lucas Oil Stadium.

There were ghosts, goblins, witches and lots of tricks

The ghosts of years past were in the air and on the field as the Colts received the opening kick-off and marched 90 yards with

Julian Edelman scores as he's hit by Colts strong safety Mike Adams (29) and inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson (52) . (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
Julian Edelman scores as he’s hit by Colts strong safety Mike Adams (29) and inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson (52) . (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

relative ease to take a quick 7-0 lead.

New England returned the favor with an 80 yard drive of their own, culminating withJulian Edelman scoring his fourth receiving TD of the season, knotting the game at 7-7

Things settled down for a while before the witches stepped in and put a hex on Edelman, causing him to injure his finger and start dropping passes. The most damaging drop occurring in the 2nd quarter, when a Tom Brady pass bounced off #11’s hands into the waiting arms of Mike Adams, who scampered 14 yards down the sidelines to give the Colts a 14-10 lead.

The pass was Brady’s 1st interception of the year, but the blame fell squarely on those damned witches as they made the perfect pass bounce off the usually sure hands of the hexed Edelman.

At this point the Goblins entered the head of Indy Head Chuck Pagano. As visions of sugar plums danced in his head, oh wait a minute…back-up, that’s Christmas. Thinking this was time to spring surprise #1 of the game, the infamous on-side kick, Pagano and his special teams coach went for it.

It was just the 2nd quarter, but surely this would surprise New England Head Coach Bill Belichick. As the ball squirted from hand to hand before falling under the prone body of Patriot Josh Kline it looked like the greased pig contest we’ve all seen at the State Fair. As bodies un-piled the officials took the still inflated ball and loudly proclaimed “New England’s Ball.”

…But wait, there’s more

Pagano was in shock. My God, how could that be, he thought, as his head spun (kinda like in the movie The Exorcist). Knowing exactly what to do, he grabbed the red flag from his sock and hurled it on the field to challenge the play.  “Upon further review their was no clear view of the fumble recovery, therefore the initial call stands” blared through the PA system.

Six plays later Blount rumbled 38 yards “giving” the Patriots back the lead, 17-14.

LeGarrette Blount runs for a 38-yard touchdown after the Colts botch an on-side kick (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
LeGarrette Blount runs for a 38-yard touchdown after the Colts botch an on-side kick (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

The Colts scored another TD and the Patriots a last second field goal as the hectic half ended 21-20 and everyone took a deep breath…and believe me, they would need it.

The Play Of The Game

The Colts kicked off to start the second half and Rob Gronkowski scored his first TD in the last 3 games to put New England up 27-21. With the same score and 1:14 left in the 3rd quarter the Colts went to a play that makes the Seahawks Super Bowl loss pass look a great call. And here it is in all it’s glory:
Possibly The Worst Play In NFL History?

You have to give Pagano credit, per Ian O’Connor, ESPN Senior Writer, after the game he said “I take full responsibility for that,” as if he had any other choice.

As far as the Patriots being unprepared for either that play, or the earlier onside kick, here is Coach Belichick’s post-game response “We expected this to be a gadget game in the kicking game,” The man has his team prepared for almost everything, yet other coaches continue to try to trick plays that look foolish.

Talk About Athleticism – Meet Jamie Collins

After the Colts scored their final TD with 1:26 left in the game the Halloween Theme continued when Patriots LB Jamie Collins had the most athletic play of the game…with a little help from the ghosts of games past. Check it out. If you look real closely, you’ll see them pushing him up and over on this extra point attempt http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-cant-miss-plays/0ap3000000560794/Can-t-Miss-Play-Collins-hurdles-line-and-blocks-PAT

Right about now Colts fans are spouting the line “it was a moral victory”…or “we gave them the game”. No matter what, one thing is obvious…the Baltimore, oops, Indianapolis Colts were running scared even though they held the lead at halftime 21-20. Play calling was in respect for what the Patriots could do and in fear of what the night would bring.

Follow me on Twitter @SnowdonBob

New England Patriots: And The Winner Is….

Sunday night the New England Patriots continued the “2015 Tom Brady Revenge Tour” against the Indianapolis Colts, the team that jump started the worst off-season for a player and team since…since….oh yeah, that other tight end decided that life was too dull to just play football (Hint: He’s in jail for murder).

The Patriots won with relative ease, 34-27, and had opportunities to run the score up, but refrained from doing so. So, let’s take a quick look at who the “Deflategate” winners and losers were after week 6 of the 2015 season.

Surprise Winners

New England Patriots mascot Pat Patriot, and fans cheer during an NFL football send-off rally at City Hall in Boston (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
New England Patriots mascot Pat Patriot, and fans cheer during an NFL football send-off rally at City Hall in Boston (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
  • New England Patriot Fans

We all want to be martyrs because “our” team got beat-up soooooo bad in the off-season. But how can fans be losers when New England is 5-0 and remains as the favorite to win their 5th Super Bowl and second straight.  It is easy to feel everyone hates us, but c’mon, it’s not everyone.  The Patriots are now getting the respect they deserve with no one (except Pittsburgh Head Coach Mike Tomlin) thinking they would be dumb enough to be cheating this year.

Should they go all-the-way even the biggest, most avid haters will be forced to admit it is legit. Just think, the silence will be deafening from all those losers who want to blame the Patriots for all their team’s ills.

  • The NFL

The NFL may be losers and buffoons in court, but all the off-season publicity, more bad than good, kept them in front of the media and the sport on the front page year-long. No other sport came close to the coverage Roger Goodell and his band of pirates got. Ratings up, attendance remains outstanding and the $$$$$ keeps rolling in.

Are you ready for this?????

  • Tom Brady

All right, wait a minute. Don’t bring in the guys with the strait-jackets…think about it. Tom Brady is probably the most self-motivated player in the NFL, but really, after winning his 4th ring do you legitimately think he would have had the fire-in-the-eyes he has this year .? He had nothing more to prove until the NFL lit his fire (cue up the late Jim Morrison and the Doors. If you don’t get the musical reference, ask someone over 40).

Hell, at this time last year many were calling him old and feeble. This year he’s been rejuvenated. Is it his guru? His diet? Or, could it be, he wants to make Commissioner Roger Goodell look like the pompous ass he is as he hands Brady the MVP and Super Bowl Trophies again…while the greatest QB in the NFL smirks and walks away?

Big Losers

  • Indianapolis Colts (3-3)
Andrew Luck's offensive line has been bad again (Photo: Getty Images)
Andrew Luck’s offensive line has been bad again (Photo: Getty Images)

Instead of Super Bowl contenders, as predicted by NFL experts, the Colts have become a shell of what they were in 2014. Injuries to Andrew Luck, ILB Jarrell Freeman, RB Tyler Varga. DT Arthur Jones & on & on have lowered expectations. Luck played Sunday, but it didn’t help. Prior to Sundays performance, he had been hexed with a poor offensive line, a 56% completion rate, more interceptions (7) than TDs (5) and a QBR of 65.1 Yes, they are 3-3, but their three wins are by a total of 12 points against Tennessee, Jacksonville and Houston. They played the Patriots tougher than expected, but other than their final drive they were shut out in the second half after leading at halftime (sound familiar).

  • Baltimore Ravens (1-5)

This time its Queen’s turn as “Another One Bites The Dust.” Baltimore was also among the Super Bowl contenders that has fallen apart early in the season. What goes around, comes around. Most football fans in New England believe the Ravens urged the Colts to “check their balls” in last years playoffs. That was after Head Coach John Harbaugh complained the Patriots used an illegal formation (not true), confusing the poor Raven players and coaches in their loss the week before the Colts went down. Despite confirmation by officials that the Patriots formation was within the rules, the Ravens whined so much the rules committee tweaked the rule for 2015.

Bottom line: The Ravens Head Coach did not know the rules and Bill Belichick did. Oh, by the way, Baltimore used a similar formation this year!

  • Robert Kraft/ New England Patriots

In a naïve move Mr. Kraft felt that Commissioner Goodell would see the error of his ways and drop the persecution/prosecution of his adopted son, Tom Brady and, without a fight, gave-up draft picks and $1M dollars to “make Deflategate go away.” ‘Nuff said!.

It will take the full year before a complete evaluation of “Deflategate” winners and losers can be analyzed, but so far the results sure are promising.

Follow me on Twitter @SnowdonBob

New England Patriots: Top Excuses For Losing To The Patriots

Let’s face it, no team likes to lose (breaking news – how’s that for a major announcement)…but most teams seem to hate it more when they lose to the despised New England Patriots. It seems every time someone loses to the Pats, and it happens pretty often, there is an excuse other than they just got beat by a better team.

Hightower sacks Weeden in Patriots 30-6 blowout of Dallas (Photo: USA/Today)
Hightower sacks Weeden in Patriots 30-6 blowout of Dallas (Photo: USA/Today)

After Sunday’s blowout in Dallas (yeah, I know, everyone in Texas is hurt or the Cowboys would have won) I got to wondering about the top excuses teams have used, and, some that we may hear before the season ends. So here goes:

Top Excuses For Losing To The Patriots

  1. Number one is obvious (Used by the Colts/Ravens) – The Patriots played with their balls. By now we know this to be a fact because, hell, the NFL said so and they wouldn’t lie…it must be true if Commissioner Roger Goodell says it is. The only reason Tom Brady keeps winning is because of this. After all, he’s an “old” man now, so he just can’t be this good without some help. Oh yeah, almost forgot this one, they don’t fumble enough because of this.
  2. They didn’t give us time to adjust to a formation that, although legal, shouldn’t be (This one belongs to the Steelers/Ravens). The league needs to revise the rules (and has) so we are playing on a level playing field.
  3. The officials picked on us by calling too many penalties against our players just because we weren’t intimidated by Bill Belichick’s team. (Welcome aboard Rex Ryan and the Bills). To quote Rex, the Patriots are no Saints ya know (Thank God, the Saints are really bad this year).
  4. The Patriots knew what we were going to call before the plays were run. Their coaching and preparation just couldn’t be that good, (Rams/Eagles) – therefore they MUST have cheated.
  5. New England’s defense was too physical (I love this one) and our poor receivers were being beat up so they couldn’t get open (St. Louis again). After all, we were (Rams) the greatest show on turf and it just isn’t right. Result: Rules change.

    Ty Law with his
    Ty Law with his “too physical” play against the Rams (Photo: WEEI)
  6. They picked on us because we had so many players injured…but we showed them by keeping it close for a quarter (Dallas). It was a moral victory for us, not a true win by that team from back east.
  7. They didn’t win, we played better and “gave” them the game (too many teams to list).

Still To Come

  • Pat Patriot took our mascot out drinking the night before the game and got some “insider” information. This will be reported to the league for further investigation. Heck, they even went to the bathroom together…and you know that’s suspicious.
    Who, me????
    Who, me????
  • The 3rd string offensive guard went to high school with the Head Linesman’s wife’s 3rd cousin and therefore wasn’t called for holding when New England scored their 6th touchdown in the 4th quarter, costing us the game.
  • Our fans weren’t loud enough, so our players were not motivated. On top of that the media had them favored to win despite the fact we were playing at home…so it just wasn’t fair.

So, there you have it – 10 excuses to start you thinking. I’ll bet you can come up with more, so let’s hear them in the comments section. Odds are we’ll hear one of the above or something unique thought up by the Colts ownership after Sunday’s revenge game in Indy.

Remember, the game is supposed to be fun…so enjoy it, no matter what excuse the opposing team gives for losing. Hey, the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots are your team, and it has been a great ride.

Follow me on Twitter @SnowdonBob

New England Patriots: You can’t build your future on luck, but it sure doesn’t hurt

After watching teams other than the New England Patriots play football for the past two weeks one thing jumps out. You can’t build a solid team in the NFL by relying strictly on luck (even if his name is Andrew). Yes, every team in the league has some luck…both good and bad, but the really good ones have the skill players necessary for week-to-week consistency. The surprise was how little some coaches know about the rules, clock management and “common sense” when the game is on the line. That’s not luck, that’s preparation!

LuckQuote

Some Good Luck Along The Way:

The Patriots have had more than their share of good luck leading to 16 years of consistency.

  1. Talk about luck, how about Robert Kraft buying a franchise that was about to move to St. Louis

A season ticket holder since 1971, Mr. Kraft stepped up and refused to let Billy Sullivan and Victor Kiam (former owners) out of their lease, forcing them to play in run down Sullivan Stadium, which he had purchased out of bankruptcy. At that time the two were trying to move the Patriots to Jacksonville. When Kiam had a series of bad investments he had to sell the Patriots and up stepped James (Budweiser) Orthwein, who was intent on moving the franchise to St. Louis.

In 1994, Orthwein offered Kraft $75 million to buy out the team’s lease at what was then Foxboro Stadium. Kraft refused and ended up buying the Pats for $172 million, the most ever paid for an NFL franchise at the time. According to Forbes magazine the average team is now worth $1.97 billion

2.  The decision to hire Bill Belichick

Luck was headed to New England when the NY Jets underestimated how much Bill Belichick wanted to have complete control over a team with an owner who kept his hands out of the mix.  After just one day as the J-E-T-S Head Coach he opted out, no matter what it cost him.  Despite Belichick’s issues as Head Coach in Cleveland, Robert Kraft was willing to spin-the-wheel of fortune on his possible impact on a team that had floundered under Pete Carroll (yes, the same Pete Carroll).  After an 8-8 season in 1999 Kraft made the move and hired Belichick, giving up a 1st round draft pick in return.

It’s hard to believe now, but fans were not happy with the move. No one thought he would become the best Head Coach in the NFL

3.  Drafting Tom Brady in the 6th round of the 2000 NFL draft

No one can deny drafting of Brady was the luckiest (and best) thing to ever happen to this franchise. No discussion needed

It would be easy to name a dozen other examples of luck that helped the Patriots become the most dominant team in the NFL – the Tuck Rule – Adam Vinatieri Super Bowl kicks – Rob Gronkowski dropping to the 2nd round – and on and on and on, but it still wouldn’t tell the whole story.

All The Luck In The World Isn’t Enough

Despite all this luck, the Patriots wouldn’t be where they are without:

  • A paranoid Head Coach who leaves nothing to chance and knows the rule book better than anyone else in the NFL. Sure, he’s a ornery cuss and likes to push the envelope, angering other teams and causing distrust of the franchise by the rest of the NFL…but there is not a team that wouldn’t hire him immediately if he became available (No matter what they say)
  • AFC Offensive Player of the Month Tom Brady, who is still taking revenge against all the teams who let him fall to the 6th round of the draft. Add his rejuvenation and focus from unsubstantiated allegations this off-season along with his willingness to be the hardest working player on the roster and you have, arguably, the greatest QB in NFL history.
Do you still miss Adam Veneteri?
Do you still miss Adam Vinatieri? (Photo: Boston Globe)
  • One of, if not the, best FG kickers in the NFL, AFC Special Teams Player of the Month for September Stephen Gostkowski…who hasn’t missed a kick this season. Check out all the games impacted by kickers (both FG & Extra Points) in the last two weeks and you’ll see why the Patriots decided to make him the highest paid kicker in the league.Gronk one handed catch (Photo: courtesy printinterest.com)
  • The best Tight End in all of football who is willing to do much more than just catch the ball. Rob Gronkowski is like a big man-child who enjoys his off time…but when healthy is the most feared player in the league.

I could add to the list of skilled players (Julian Edelman, Chandler Jones, Devin McCourty, Jamie Collins, etc, etc…) but you get the point. It takes skilled, dedicated players as well as some luck and the New England Patriots have an abundance of both.

Going to Dallas this Sunday, without many of many of the Cowboys key players in action, could be considered luck…but it is more than that. Tom Brady is on his 2015 Revenge Tour and the teams they play are very unlucky that’s the case.

Follow me on Twitter @SnowdonBob

New England Patriots: A Juggernaut? Still Too Early To Tell

After Sunday’s 51-17 thrashing of the Jacksonville Jaguars (the most points ever allowed by the Jaguars) at Gillette Stadium the talk has started. Is this year’s New England Patriot team capable of finishing what they started, but couldn’t finish, in 2007? Miami fans are hoping not…Mercury Morris is pacing the floor…Don Shula is preparing his Bill Belicheat speech..and Patriot fans are wondering could lightening strike again.

Pull In The Reigns

As much as fans want to dream about the possibility, it is way too early to even think about it.  The 2007 team started with three impressive victories over the Jets (38-14), Chargers (38-14) and Bills (38-7).  That team held every opponent to less then 30 points up until the final weekend of the regular season, when they defeated the Giants 38-34. Looking back many fans are wondering if New England would have done better in the play-offs by losing that game. The pressure of an undefeated season through the playoffs is intense and a loss would have eased that extra burden…ah, but I digress. (Read Jake Mackey’s article “Be Careful What You Wish For” for more on that)

2015 looks pretty good after 3 games, but the big difference between 2007 and now is DEFENSE!  Although this year’s Pats have no Randy Moss, they do have Rob Gronkowski and both teams showed the ability to rack up big numbers on offense. In fact they have outscored the Brady-Moss combination 119 -114. Unfortunately, in the process they have allowed 57 points compared to 35. Yes, many of the points allowed have been in garbage time, but the defense is still a big question mark, especially in the secondary.

Tom Brady Is Like A Fine WineWine

Last year at this time we were all wondering if Tom Brady was capable of another play-off run at the “old” age of 37. Now, in his 16th season, like a fine wine, he seems to have improved with age. Need some stats to back that up? How about this:

  •  A quarterback rating of 119.6,
  • Tom Terrific has thrown for 9 TDs with 0 (as in zero) interceptions
  • He leads all NFL QBs with 1112 yards in the first 3 games
  • Sunday he became just the fourth QB in NFL history to throw 400 touchdown passes, racking up two more in the lopsided victory.
The OL Has Outperformed Expectations (Photo: David Silverman nepatriots.com)
The OL Has Outperformed Expectations (Photo: David Silverman nepatriots.com)

Brady is playing behind a young offensive line that has outperformed expectations and he has helped with his lightening quick release. Although sacked 6 times, many have been caused by close coverage by defenses and, in almost every case, he has had a chance to be prepared for the sack and gone down without hard contact.

Even The Haters Are Converting

Marshall Faulk sti;; thinks he won the Super Bowl
Marshall Faulk still crying about the Super Bowl loss to Patriots

It seems like everyone, even the haters, have accepted that this year’s team could be special. On the NFL Channel this Sunday Marshall Faulk, who still thinks the Patriots cheated the Rams out of Super Bowl XXXVI, shocked his audience by predicting the Patriots would not lose their first game until week 14 when they play the Texans on the road. How’s this for a backhanded compliment – Houston will win because they are led by a management team that learned how to win from (you guessed it) … the New England Patriots.

Enjoying The Bye-Week

It will be too long before the Patriots travel to Dallas to take on the depleted Cowboys, so here are a few suggestions for next Sunday when the team has their early bye-week:

  • Check out the rest of the teams the Patriots play later this year
  • Shut the TV off all day and enjoy some quality time with friends and family
  • How about a movie? When was the last time you went to a Sunday matinee
  • Go leaf peeping in Vermont for some gorgeous foliage…be sure to take a camera
  • Make your spouse happy with a nice, long brunch at her/his favorite bistro. No need to rush home for the game

I’m sure you can think of more, but…none will live up to watching the 2015 New England Patriots!

Follow me on Twitter @SnowdonBob

NFL: Throwing A Flag On The NFL

Last year was bad, but this year has seemed worse. No, I’m not talking about the quality of play in the NFL…I’m talking about seeing a flag dropped on what feels like every play.  It turned ridiculous as the 2013 season got underway and it just continues to get more and more annoying each year.

After two games, 2/3 of the teams in the NFL are averaging more penalties per game then they did last year. I don’t care who you root for, that’s not a good sign. The worst offenders are:

  • Buffalo with 12.5 per game
  • Tampa at 11.5
  • Dallas/Oakland both are averaging 10.5
  • Chicago is also in double digits with 10.0
Keep in mind, those are penalties that are accepted. Add in those that are declined and you get the picture. Too many penalties! From the desk of always reliable Mike Reiss According to the Elias Sports Bureau, there were 298 accepted penalties in Week 2 and 504 accepted penalties through Week 2, both of which are the most in a single week (minimum 6 games) and through the first two weeks of a season in NFL history.

Fewer Concussions?

After years of denial regarding their responsibility in concussions, the NFL finally realized they were going to continue to lose huge sums of money in player lawsuits. They looked foolish (the NFL looking foolish – no way) by continuing to deny the connection between the violent contact in the sport and head trauma despite the continued piling up of evidence to the contrary. The comparison to tobacco companies claiming there was no link to smoking and cancer comes to mind.
Suddenly the term “had his bell rung” stopped being funny. Getting dinged was now a serious concern.

If those figures are correct no one can complain about the increase in penalties for hits to the head. That said, the penalties that are being called many times now have no impact on concussions.

What About All The “Other” Flags

No one wants to see a player get injured, but let’s face it, everyone playing this game gets hurt sooner or later. The question is, how badly? Throwing 20+ flags in a game doesn’t lower that fact.

  • When was the last time your team received a punt or kick-off and you didn’t hold your breathe waiting for the infamous “push in the back” flag?”

This is one you see in almost every game at least once (admit it, seems like it is called every time doesn’t it?). Replays often show the contact was borderline at best, but the flags fly. How many times have you watched the replay and it just wasn’t there…or the push in the back was actually on the side as a player turned as he was being hit. Things happen so quickly as players are running full tilt on a collision course while the ball is in the air, making it almost impossible for the officials to see the exact angle of contact. Please, no more time-consuming reviews, but the number of penalties could be cut if officials were told by the league to only throw the flag when the foul is obvious and has an impact on the play.

Don’t you just love that little huddle where the officials gather in a circle for what seems like an eternity (actually just a few seconds) while they discuss who did what to whom and where did it occur. Anyone remember them picking up that flag and saying “Oops, no foul” on that play lately?

  • Interference – Offensive/Defensive

C’mon man, this one is called numerous times in every game. The ultimate “judgement” call that usually goes in favor of the receiver. The tick-tick barely touch flags need to stop…now! In the New England Patriots 2000-2001 play-off run to their 1st Super Bowl teams along the way (hello, St. Louis) cried the Patriots secondary was playing “too rough” and it was ruining the game.

Ty Law was too
Ty Law was too “physical” for the Rams

Well, as we all should know by now, the league jumped and things were tightened up, eliminating all “contact” in the passing game. It’s time for the pendulum to swing back to the middle after all these years.

  • Holding

We’ve all heard that this is something that could be called on every play, and I don’t know about you, but I believe it.  Since that is the case, how do officials decide when to throw a flag or let it go. I sure don’t want to see more flags, but right now its way too subjective. Is there a solution to this one?

Follow me on Twitter @SnowdonBob

New England Patriots: Don’t Piss Off Tom Brady

Can Rex Ryan Back-Up His Bluster

That question was answered with a resounding NO Sunday afternoon as Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and a host of others destroyed the Buffalo Bills “vaunted” defense, 40-32.  Don’t be deceived by the final score, this wasn’t that close. The Bills scored 19 points in the 4th quarter, long after the winner had already been determined.

Rex-Ryan - Who me? What bluster! (Photo meetthematts.com)
Who me? What bluster! (Photo meetthematts.com)

The Bills scored on their first possession and the Buffalo fans were in heaven. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long and many had left the stadium before they got a chance to get loud again. They may have pulled the comeback off if they were playing the NY Giants (sorry Giants fans. I hate to kick you when you’re down…) but nope, they were up against an angry (although they’ll never admit it) Tom Brady & Bill Belichick. Only one team in NFL history has come back from a 24 point fourth quarter deficit.

New England: What Went Right

I’m not sure where to start, but how about this…

  • Tom Brady was so good even ESPN had to admit it. No snide remarks about deflated footballs by anyone after this one was over.

If that wasn’t enough, how about this from Sports Center

Nuff said! Lesson learned? Don’t piss-off Tom Brady! He’s playing like he has something to prove after all the off-season slander he put up with. Bet it will be a little tense if Commissioner Roger Goodell is forced to actually attend a Patriot game this year…or, better yet, give Brady another MVP Trophy.

  • Rob Gronkowski was, once again, unstoppable. It’s hard to believe, but so far he’s been better than ever. Check this out from old friend Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal

  • The question of who will replace Shane Vereen (who?) has been answered with an unknown running back who no one wanted…and he isn’t named Gray. I know it’s only two games, and he has fumbled twice (lost one), but Dion Lewis (remember that name Rex Ryan) has been outstanding. Belichick had enough confidence in him that he put him right back in the offense after his fumble. That doesn’t happen very often, just ask former Patriot Stevan Ridley.
New England Patriots' Dion Lewis, right, celebrates with Rob Gronkowski (87) after rushing for a touchdown during the first half against the Bills, (AP Photo/Bill Wippert)
New England Patriots’ Dion Lewis, right, celebrates with Rob Gronkowski (87) after rushing for a touchdown during the first half against the Bills  (AP Photo/Bill Wippert)

Lewis (that’s L-E-W-I-S Mr. Ryan) had 40 yards rushing and a TD on just 7 carries. You’re right, that’s OK, but nothing to rave about. How about this then, 6 receptions for 98 yards. Combine the two and you get 13 touches for 138 total yards. If you aren’t good at math Rex, that’s 10.6 yards per touch. Anyone think Ryan will remember his name when the two teams meet again in November at Gillette Stadium on Thursday Night Football (ESPN)?

I could go on and on about the offense, including the emergence of Aaron Dobson (7 receptions for 87 yards, one drop), THE catch of the day by Danny Amendola to seal the victory and the continued success of Julian Edelman (11 reception, 97 yards, 2 TDs), but the biggest surprise of the game was (drum roll please):

  • The Offensive Line. People needlessly worried about Tom Brady’s life/health coming into this game against Buffalo’s feared pass rush. Brady’s quick release certainly helped, but the youngsters held up just fine, allowing only two sacks…and that was without Bryan Stork and Ryan Wendell.  Can we all please stop holding our breath every time TB drops back to pass?

Yes, the defense gave up 32 points, but it actually was very good. Remember, 19 of those points were in garbage time, just as the 7 they gave up to Pittsburgh in the final seconds of game one.  As is usually the case, when you give up that many points, people will point out your deficiencies. Well, how about these positives:

  • 8 sacks against a very mobile Tyrod Taylor, who, fortunately, escaped without injury

    Taylor sacked again by Chandler Jones (photo: Keith Nordstrom NewEnglandPatriots.com)
    Taylor sacked again by Chandler Jones (photo: Keith Nordstrom NewEnglandPatriots.com)
  • 3 Interceptions (Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon)
  • Held Buffalo to 3 for 13 (30%) on 3rd down
  • 3 sacks from an unstoppable Chandler Jones & 2.5 for Jamie Collins
  • Kept Sammy Watkins to 6 receptions for 60 yards and 1 TD

New England: What Went Wrong

  • Patriots’ had 4th and 1 from the Buffalo 41 yard line in the 4th quarter and went for it. Going for it actually wasn’t a bad decision, but getting greedy and throwing an incomplete long pass to a covered Dion Lewis was not among the smartest things to do.
  • Brady was strip-sacked and the Bills scored in 15 seconds to make it 37-32 late in the game
  • The run defense continues to be soft. Despite trailing, Buffalo ran the ball 27 times for 160 net yards (almost 6 yards per carry).
  • Yes, they sacked and pressured Taylor the whole game, but he completed 23 of 30 passes and 3 TDs. Big lead or not, garbage time or not…that’s not very good. They did contain his scrambles (5 for 43 yds, 1 TD) fairly well, but still need the secondary to step up. Three int’s was nice, completion percentage was not.

Moving On

It’s still a long season and, with 14 regular season games to go, anything can happen. The AFC East came back to earth with Buffalo’s loss and Miami falling to Jacksonville (you know that hurt). The Jets (2-0) kept pace with New England by beating the highly overrated Colts (0-2) Monday night.

The Patriots return to Gillette Stadium against the surprising (1-1) Jaguars Sunday. Bill Belichick doesn’t allow his players to enjoy wins for very long, but it will be hard for his team to “get-up” for Jacksonville after their dominance in Buffalo.  It’s still the NFL and On Any Sunday…..”

Follow me on Twitter @SnowdonBob

New England Patriots: Is The “New” AFC East To Be Feared?

For the last few seasons in the NFL the AFC East has been the New England Patriots and a bunch of other guys.  Right now they are the only NFL conference without a loss. Yup, 4-0 while beating some formidable foes to get things started.  Many were predicting the Steelers were back, but the Patriots took care of that notion. The Colts had Luck on their side, but that was all as the rejuvenated Bills put them in their place.

The Dolphins didn’t exactly impress in their 17-10 win over the clueless Washington Redskins and the Jets…well, they destroying the Browns, who haven’t won an opener in about 320 years!  Both still have a lot to prove to the skeptics.

Last year the Jets (Raiders), Bills (Bears) & Fins won their openers while the Pats lost (to Miami). One of the few times the Patriots have been on the bottom of the pack!

After game one in 2014
After game one in 2014

While the NFC South has been an embarrassment, the teams in the AFC East have slid under the radar.  2015 could be different! While the beasts in the east are nowhere near the NFC West (Seattle, St.Louis, Arizona & SF), Miami, NY & Buffalo have all taken a step up, while the Patriots remain the favorite.

Strength Of Schedule

Here’s where I throw out a bunch of mean nothing statistics. You can browse over this paragraph in the reading room when you have nothing else to do (well, you’ve got something to do, but you know what I mean). It can certainly be misleading, but, based on strength of schedule, courtesy of CBSSports.com,  the Patriots (#22*), Buffalo (#19*), Jets (#18*) and Miami (#17*) all have relatively easy schedules. (* represents strength of schedule with #1 [Pittsburgh] hardest and #32 [Atlanta] easiest) Yes, they do play each other twice so, theoretically, with the division stronger it could mean more in-conference losses for each and that will be important if tie-breakers decide who’s in and who’s out at the end of the regular season.

Whew, now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at the match-ups.

This year’s common opponents:

The AFC East matches up with the relatively weak AFC South (Tennessee, Indy, Jacksonville & Houston) and, with Indianapolis’ poor/soft showing in their opening loss to the Bills, they all could run the table. The Colts looked incredibly soft in Buffalo, but you know they’ll play better with Andrew Luck at QB. Look for a lot of shootouts in their games as they still can’t stop anyone.

Eli Manning - I pooped my pants

It’s another story when the AFC East plays the NFC East, with possible powerhouses Dallas and Philly (yeah, I know, they didn’t look good on the road in their opening loss to the Falcons), the always tough Giants (Eli doesn’t make those same “dumb” decisions against the Pats)  and the helpless Redskins.

If all goes well, that schedule might give the AFC East teams as many as 6-8 wins. If they split games against each other their win total climbs to 9-11. Now, I know that’s a big leap after one game, but, hey it could happen and no one would be shocked…except Patriot and Colt fans.

Uncommon opponents

  • The Patriots beat the Steelers (whatever happened to the Steel Curtain? It’s turned to tin) and have the always tough Broncos in Denver coming up. Manning’s arm still looks dead, but playing the game at home is definitely to their advantage. The Bronco’s offense will be different under Head Coach Gary Kubiak and Peyton will have to adjust to the short, clock killing style Kubiak likes.
  • Miami faces Baltimore’s tough defense at home and the enigmatic Chargers on the road
  • The Jets have it easy beating Cleveland at home and the Raiders (who have no home advantage) on the road
  • Buffalo has the most difficult twosome, pairing off with Cincinnati at home and the powerful Chiefs in KC (my sleeper team this year).

Let’s face it, after one game no one knows what will shake out down the road. The only thing that seems certain is its great to have football back and lawsuits set aside for a while.

Please, don’t bet the family jewels (if you have any) on what I write, ’cause basically I’m just like you…A longtime fan who thinks he knows more than he does!

Follow me on Twitter @SnowdonBob