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26
Mar

Patriots on a Shopping Spree

Baseball season is just starting, but I’m having trouble switching my thoughts from football.  It was easier last year because as I blogged about, Bill Belichick was scaring me to death.  The team had no free agent activity other than letting many good players leave.

This season is different, though.  The Patriots have been the most active team in the free-agency period, signing seven players from other franchises while only losing three.  Not only that, the players they signed are not the usual bargain-basement old guys that the Pats usually acquire; they all add tremendously to the team.

Additions

  1. Donte Stallworth – wide receiver from the Eagles
  2. Adalius Thomas – linebacker from the Ravens
  3. Sammy Morris – running back from the Dolphins
  4. Kyle Brady – tight end from the Jaguars
  5. Kelley Washington – wide receiver from the Bengals
  6. Wes Welker – wide receiver from the Dolphins
  7. Eddie Jackson – cornerback from the Dolphins

Losses

  1. Tully Banta-Cain – linebacker
  2. Daniel Graham – tight end
  3. Corey Dillon – running back

Daniel Graham is certainly a loss, but the Pats still have David Thomas and Ben Watson who are both good pass-catching tight ends and the addition of Kyle Brady will replace much of Daniel Graham’s blocking strength.  Corey Dillon had to go.  He wasn’t getting the carries he wants with a great rookie running back, Lawrence Maroney, on the team.  I would have liked him to stay for one more season, but that’s how the NFL works.  I’ve always liked Tully Banta-Cain, but he was never a star and the addition of Adalius Thomas more than makes up for the loss.

On the positive side, Tom Brady has a slew of people to pass to now.  What a major upgrade.  Wide receivers, tight ends and receiving backs, oh my!  And standing behind Brady will be Maroney, Faulk, Morris and the recently resigned Heath Evans.  None of them mega-stars, but all really solid players.  It’s difficult to see how the team could have done much better (so far) in the off-season when it comes to improving its offensive power.  Defensively, the addition of Thomas is huge for the Pats’ aging linebacker core, but equally important is the team’s decision to franchise Asante Samuel, tied for the most interceptions in the league last season.  I’m hoping that Rodney Harrison can remain healthy this year.

It’s months away, of course, but I’m already excited about the 2007-2008 NFL season.  Anything can happen – injuries, poor play, drug problems – but hope runs wild before the first play of the season is called.  Oh, did I mention that the Pats are the only team in the league with two first-round draft picks?  There should be more positive news to come . . .

 March 26th, 2007  
 Will  
 Patriots  
   
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22
Jan

And Then There Were Two – Colts Take the AFC Championship

While certainly a tough game for Patriot fans, the AFC Championship was a great overall football game.  The Patriots dominated in the first half, giving Pats fans all too much hope for victory.  The Colts dominated (even more) in the second half, though, overcoming a big deficit to take their rightful place in the big game in Miami.

The difference ended up being home field advantage – a small point spread with the visitors having to travel two weeks back-to-back.  As a fan, I want desperately to find the one key to the loss.  In the end, though, there really wasn’t one (well, if Reche Caldwell had just caught the ball thrown right into his arms . . . ).  I used to believe that the Pats were the best team after the half.  Bill Belichick had the secret decoder ring of first half action and, as a result, the Pats always played better than their opponents in the second half.  For whatever reason, this is not true any more.  Tony Dungy decoded the Pats, changed the game plan and won the game. 

I’m disappointed (well, maybe that’s an understatement, I hardly slept last night) for sure, and while I’d rather being seeing Tom Brady leading his team in Miami, it’ll still be good to see Payton Manning in his first Super Bowl.  He’s a great quarterback and certainly deserves to play in the big game.

Thanks for a great season, Patriots.  I had a blast.

 January 22nd, 2007  
 Will  
 Patriots  
   
 6 Comments
14
Jan

Pats Go to the AFC Championship

Who woulda thunk it?  A 24-21 victory over the best team in the NFL.  I thought the Pats had a chance, but believed that a loss for New England was the likely outcome of the game.  As it turns out, though, the Patriots came to play today, especially the defense.  San Diego has better players as a whole, but the Patriots are better coached and that came through in this game.  It’s not a huge surprise that Marty Schottenheimer has never been to the big game, even though he’s won so many regular season games as a coach.

New England made almost all of the big plays in today’s game.  Antonio Gates was almost a non-factor and Matt Light took the threat of Shawne Merriman away.  Ladainian Tomlinson was incredible as always, but never broke any huge ones loose.  Tom Brady didn’t look very good, but the Pats were executing on so many cylinders, the rest of the team’s play made up for it. 

It was close, though, and any one of several key plays going the other way, including Schottenheimer’s throwing the red flag on what was an obvious turnover, would have changed the result of the game.

I thought that New England’s play during the regular season was less than stellar.  They still found ways to win most games though (12-4 record).  In the playoffs, they seem to have hit their stride.  Hopefully, they have enough horsepower to take down Indy and win the big game.  Certainly, Indianapolis is going to be tough, especially on their own turf.

 January 14th, 2007  
 Will  
 Patriots  
   
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07
Jan

Next Stop, San Diego

My first post in a while, I know, but I’ve been swamped – away for the holidays and having trouble getting everything running smoothly again.  I’ll get back to more meaty posts in the next couple of days.  One of my highest priorities remains football though, especially since my team – the New England Patriots – is in the playoffs.

Today, the Pats beat the Jets in an AFC Wildcard game.  While I think that the Jets will be a force to be reckoned with next year ($26M under the salary cap and a few choice draft slots to add to an already good team), they were simply outplayed by the Patriots today.  The Patriots are looking pretty good after having won 7 of their last 8 games and they’re always a tough team to beat in the playoffs.

Next week, the Pats will play San Diego in the next round of the playoffs.  In my opinion (and I’m not alone), the Chargers are probably the best team in football.  A win for the Pats next week will be a long shot, but they do stand a chance.  Maybe LT will slip and fall on an ice patch in San Diego this week . . .

 

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 January 7th, 2007  
 Will  
 Patriots  
   
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17
Dec

Patriots Tame Texans 40-7

Not much to complain about this week.  I’m sure the Patriots did a poor job at some parts of the game, but it’s tough to tell when the score is so lopsided.  I thought the Pats defense was very good, actually.  Of course, beating the Texans is something almost everyone does, so this shouldn’t be a big deal.  The Pats did it without their leading running back, starting defensive tackle, key free safety and number one tight end, though, so it’s possible it really is indicative of something positive.

The Pats have to beat one of either the Jacksonville Jaguars or the Tennessee Titans on the road in the final two games of the year to clinch the division title.  That assumes that the Jets win both of their last two games against much easier teams – Miami and Oakland.  Obviously, if the Jets lose just one . . .

I sure hope the good Pats show up next week.  So I don’t have to be nervous for two full weeks.  In the mean time, it sure is great to see a big victory like this, though.

 

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 December 17th, 2006  
 Will  
 Patriots  
   
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11
Dec

Pathetic Pats Pummeled

Yet another crappy game for the New England Patriots.  They got thrashed by the Miami Dolphins 21-0.  While no part of the team’s game looked good, the offensive line was like a welcome mat – Tom Brady found himself on his ass on almost every play.  Not that he threw well even on the few occasions when he had time.  Geesh.

All I can say is that the Jets losing to the Buffalo Bills yesterday may have saved the Pats’ chances of getting into the playoffs.  Not that they deserve it.

I guess I feel better than my friends who are Colts fans.  Wow, I thought Jacksonville was hot, but that’s just scorching (44-17).  Giving up 375 yards in rushing alone is gonna kill you in the end.  As it did for Indy.

One last football thought . . . New Orleans looks like the real deal.  It’s not only about Reggie Bush, the whole team looks solid.  Could they be the NFC’s savior?  Sorry Chicago fans.  The Bears are good, but the Saints are exhibiting such a December surge that they may be unstoppable.

 

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 December 11th, 2006  
 Will  
 Patriots  
   
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03
Dec

Patriots Squeak by Detroit in Another Turnover Riddled Game

Jeez, the Pats are killing me.  They did almost everything possible to lose against a team with one of the worst records in football, the Detroit Lions. Three turnovers and countless penalty yards put the Pats on a path to almost give this one up.  They looked terrible.  They let the Lions have some big third-and-long conversions that should have never happened.  Luckily, the Lions turned the ball over even more than the Pats – 5 times. 

Today’s game once again shows how the schizophrenic Pats are no sure thing for a victory against anyone and by no means are a shoo-in for the playoffs – they still have one tough divisional game against Miami and another important AFC game against Jacksonville to go with the Jets ready to pounce if the Pats screw up.  Last week they beat one of the best teams in football (the Bears), then they turn around and almost lose to one of the worst.  Who knows what will happen next week?  Spin the wheel and take your chances . . . All I know is that nothing is guaranteed.

If I didn’t love ’em, I wouldn’t be in such pain.  Go Pats!

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 December 3rd, 2006  
 Will  
 Patriots  
   
 6 Comments
27
Nov

Patriots Beat Da Bears

While you can’t say that any game that has 9 turnovers was a good one, yesterday’s matchup between the 7-3 Patriots and 9-1 Bears was at least a big one – for the Pats, at least.  The Bears, with their outstanding 9-1 record (prior to yesterday’s game) are virtually assured a playoff birth.  The Pats . . . well . . . let’s just say that even die hard Patriots fans were not completely certain.

Prior to this game, the unspoken concern among Patriots fans was if their favorite team was playoff worthy.  Sure, they had a winning 7 and 3 record.  Sure they were two games ahead of any other team in the AFC East.  Sure they have the best clutch quarterback in the game.  But their record against teams with winning records is surprisingly poor.  Today’s big win, while not pretty (5 turnovers by the Pats), shows that they can hold their heads high going into the playoffs.  Winning playoff games is another story . . .

 

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 November 27th, 2006  
 Will  
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12
Nov

Patriots Lose Again . . .

The Patriots looked crappy and the Jets looked great.  I have said for a long time that Chad Pennington is the most underrated quarterback in football.  Every aspect of the Jets game today looked good and the Pats looked like amateurs.  Even Tom Brady looked like he was a rookie quarterback.

I just knew that Fred Wilson was going to post about the Jets too.  I reluctantly opened his post, still feeling the pain of today’s loss.  He’s right to mention that today’s game was a huge victory for Eric Mangini who was mentored by Bill Billichick for years.  Has the student become the master?

 

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 November 12th, 2006  
 Will  
 Patriots  
   
 2 Comments
08
Oct

Patriots Move to 4-1 on the Season – It hasn’t Been Pretty

Well, it’s been pretty ugly, but the Pats are now at 4-1 for the season.  They beat Miami 20-10 today, but it could have gone either way.  Three turnovers by Miami certainly was the difference in the game. 

Last week’s win at Cincinnati looked brilliant, but the other 4 games this year have all been painful to watch.  It’s not clear that the Patriots excel at any part of the game.  Perhaps their adequacy in all parts lets them take advantage of other team’s weaknesses in some areas.

It’s going to be a long season.  I’m buying a whole case of Maalox.

 October 8th, 2006  
 Will  
 Patriots  
   
 4 Comments