Tag Archives: new england patriots

The Show Must Go On

On Monday afternoon, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick announced that MVP quarterback Tom Brady would undergo season-ending knee surgery as a result of a low hit delivered by Kansas City Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard.

While this comes as a devastating blow, given New England’s hopes of riding into the Super Bowl on Brady’s shoulders, little positive light has been shed on the grim situation. Almost instantaneously, thoughts of now-starter Matt Cassel leading the Pats to the big game have been written off.

Though it would be naive to expect Cassel–who hasn’t started a game since high school–to step in and do what the best quarterback of the modern era has done three times, it would be more than naive to expect anyone but Tom Brady to be Tom Brady.

I’m not saying that Matt Cassel and the Patriots are going to win the Super Bowl, but I’m not saying they aren’t either. If anything, the New England Patriots, without Tom Brady, are an above-average football team in a weak conference. Whether spoiled fans accustomed to winning choose to believe it or not, the Patriots are still alive.

And while the thought of an inexperienced Cassel leading the team to a Super Bowl victory is far from conceivable to most, it serves function as a harsh lesson to spoiled Patriots fans.

Prior to Sunday, the thought of losing Tom Brady was always seen as something that could happen, but in ‘reality’, wouldn’t.

It’s time to wake up.

The focus of the 2008 season has conjured a whole new meaning. The concepts of completing the task at hand, believing in one another, and discovering the true meaning of the word ‘team’, are at the summit of the proverbial mountain and will truly test the mettle of every player for the next 15 weeks.

The season should not be written off, because even if the Patriots only go on to win a meager 8 games as predicted, essentially, they will have strengthened a bond that appeared to break rather than bend in Week 1.

If you ask me, battling through an 8-win season without the league’s MVP is a far greater accomplishment than coasting into the Super Bowl with him and failing to come out on top.

The Red Sweatshirt of Doom

It’s been a rough week in Looperland.

I haven’t posted on my blog but once since Sunday.

I haven’t watched ESPN for more than five minutes all week, save for the U.S.A.-Mexico soccer match.

I haven’t visited ESPN.com more than a few times either –– once to checkup on golf, once to check on Signing Day results and a couple of times to check up on the Bundesliga standings.

[Aside: Signing Day was a so-so for the Maize and Blue. Terrelle Pryor is still trying to decide between the good guys from Ann Arbor or the evil Buckeyes and the Sweatervest. Rich Rodriguez needs this kid. Michigan needs this kid.]

I haven’t even bothered checking SI.com to find out when the next Swimsuit Issue hits stands.

There is even a sheet tacked to the wall outside my office-slash-glorified cubicle of things not to say in front of me …

… And they’re all things that have to do with the Super Bowl.

I know this might not be “newsworthy” anymore in the “timely” sense, but, frankly, pain is timeless.

I haven’t been able to bring myself to pay attention to my usual channels of sports information and write and think about sports because of Eli F—ing Manning and the New York Giants.

The thing is, I can’t knock them because they played a great game, the game they had to play in order to have the best chance of winning.

What I can knock, though, is Belichick’s stupid red sweatshirt. Why the hell would he change from the 18-0 gray cut-off job? Why?

It makes negative sense.

First of all –– and I know he was in Phoenix, but the game was indoors –– he cut the sleeves too short. You’d have thought the hooded, brooding Emperor look-alike was getting ready to spend a week on Muscle Beach!

And red? WHY RED?!

If it wasn’t alarming enough on its own, the red cut-off shook me to my core. It was sensory overload and instantly reeked of bad karma –– not that I’m superstitious, which I am.

In the end, I didn’t move for about 30 minutes after the game; I was shocked. No amount of PBR or beautiful smorgasbord of artery-clogging food could remedy the situation –– trust me, I tried.

People tell me, “It’s just a game.” While that’s true on one level, it’s still completely bogus.

Yes, it was a football game, but it was the first game ever involving one team’s chance of becoming the first 19-0 team in history.

It was supposed to be the culmination of a season of wrath, controversy and incredible accomplishment, and it went horribly, horribly wrong.

What did we get to show for it after the final horn?

We got 18-1.

18-1. The biggest, ugliest “1” in the history of pro football.

“18-1.” You better believe that’s on the list of things not to say around me.

Hockey and The Boot

Big news on campus? Well, how about two great weekends in a row for the men’s hockey team –– right now it looks like they’re finding the right track, and the back of the net.

At home two weeks ago, the Cats played great in a 2-2 draw with Northeastern, which they followed up with an invigorating 5-2 win over the Huskies the next night.

Oh yeah, Northeastern was ranked #9 at the time.

At UMass this past weekend, Vermont went out Friday night and outgunned the Minutemen 5-4. Saturday night was not quite as high-scoring, but the boys from Burlington still notched a point in Hockey East with a 2-2 tie.

Oh yeah, UMass was ranked #14.

This sets up a HUGE homestand this weekend: Friday night the Cats get always-tough UNH, who sit atop the Hockey East standings, and Sunday they get UMass-Lowell, who are also in the top-20 as of January 27, 2008.

A win against UNH this Friday night could bring even more life to what appears to be a hockey team on the rise.

Anything less will be just that, but the potential exists for a surging, momentum-laden Hockey East campaign the likes of which we have yet to really see out of the Cats.

***

Big news elsewhere? Brady says “bye-bye” to The Boot!

I admit it’s a ridiculous story in almost every sense. The scrutiny placed on the peculiar footwear chosen by the Patriots quarterback last week is silly but also somewhat warranted when you take into account that Brady is the leader of the only 18-0 NFL team ever.

The golden boy of perfection’s team was photographed wearing a protective boot on his foot –– as we all know now –– while walking into his gf Gisele Bundchen’s New York City home. Later that day, though, he was seen sans Boot.

Brady went unseen by the media after that, although it was discovered that he did suffer a minor high ankle sprain in the AFC championship game.

But now, no Boot! Whew!

An article on ESPN.com Sunday chronicled nearly every wing-tipped step Brady took at the Patriots pre-Super Bowl send-off. No sign of a limp!

And, really, it’s a perfect story to follow the Tony Romo- Jessica Simpson-T.O.-Dallas Cowboys drama of the week before.

Let’s blame Jessica for Tony’s team losing and then let’s blame Tony for the Cowboys’ loss and then let’s cry about it at the press conference (T.O., I’m winking at you from behind my big sunglasses).

Now we all get to wait for the Super Bowl to be over before we can really decide which QB’s lady-friend provided the best pre-game care.

A Brady win, and Gisele looks even prettier in the eyes of the media –– more wholesome, maybe? –– But a Brady loss and you had better expect some questions.

Acknowledging Belichick

Echoing what Patriots fans have been saying for years –– and more and more this year –– New York Times columnist William C. Rhoden (also a regular participant on “The Sports Reporters”) put his fingers to the keyboard following the AFC Championship Game and put it simply: Bill Belichick is a football genius.

[Article here: Yes, Belichick Really Is a Football Genius]

Hard to believe? Well yes and no, but either way, it’s still refreshing and surprising. And what’s more, Rhoden even went so far as to say this, brushing off any of the detractors of SpyGate:

The only blemish on the season is the $500,000 fine imposed on Belichick by N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell for illegal videotaping against the Jets.

That censure won’t obscure a great season, though it will be part of the permanent record, perhaps a signature for doing whatever it takes to win.

But no matter how you feel about illegalities, this team is a team for the ages.

As the season stands now, the Patriots are the only team to ever go 18-0, the only team ever with a chance for 19-0. In my mind, they’ve sufficiently crushed any idea that SpyGate was a factor.

Most $$$ (1.22.08)

After a month-long hiatus the weekly Most $$$ award has returned!

The Looper’s Most $$$ players of the week:

Lawrence Maroney/Kevin Faulk (New England Patriots) and Eli Manning/Lawrence Tynes (New York Giants)

On a day when Tom Brady didn’t live up to his Boy-Wonder performance from the week before, throwing three interceptions to just two touchdowns, Maroney became more and more successful as the game progressed and Faulk was in the right place, doing the right thing, at the right time all game long. Maroney owned the fourth quarter while Faulk led the entire team with eight receptions for 82 yards. For my $$$, Faulk’s diving catch to get a first down might have been the biggest catch all day –– for both games.

In the NFC championship game Manning looked more like his older brother than his early season self –– easily outplaying Brett Favre, who simply committed too many turnovers to keep his team in the game. But if Manning made moves to keep the Giants in the ballgame, Tynes almost made all the right moves to take them out of it. After missing two field goals in the fourth quarter, Tynes proved his $$$ mettle in overtime, capitalizing on his longest attempt of the night and giving the Giants a 23-20 win in OT.

No balance? No problem

I’m sorry, but I’m not at all being biased to our site when I say I LOVE this line: Newsflash: Steelers, No.1 Defense Buy the Run Against Pass-Heavy Pats!”

I love it because it is so funny. And it is so funny because it is so true –– the Steelers biting on the fake half of a Patriots play-action pass in a game where the Patriots ran the ball 9 times, one of which I think was a Tom Brady scramble. Normally you have to try to establish a running game to employ successful run fakes. Later in the game, the passing game just seemed to toy with the Steelers defense [see video below].

I even think that I can hear Pittsburgh safety Anthony Smith choking on his words while the video is rolling.

Maybe there’s some advanced psychological theorem at work here (I’d never know because I’ve never taken a psychology class) concerned with some Law of Diminishing Averages Yields Increasing Anticipation. I don’t know. But what I do know is this: the Patriots do not run the ball with any dedication –– they do not have to –– and they are incredibly successful regardless.

It’s incredible. The Patriots run their offense with an unabashed disregard for a semblance of balanced play-calling that it’s hard to comprehend how they reached their lonely strata of success.

After injuries riddled their corps of runners in the first half of the season, the one constant was Brady and his pass-catchers. Over the course of the season, though, it’s evolved into a pass first, pass second and probably pass third mentality.

They know what they’re going to do, the fans know what they’re going to do and, most importantly, opposing defenses know what they’re going to do. They are going to pass the ball whether anyone likes it or not.

The kicker? It works without fail. The Steelers defense is proof enough –– New England threw for 399 yards and ran for 22.

I’ve never seen an NFL team be so successful and so perfectly unbalanced. I know we’re in the Spread Age, but this is something different entirely. This isn’t Pat White and Steve Slaton running a spread-option attack or even Colt Brennan throwing to the entire state of Hawaii. This is a pro team that DOES NOT NEED TO RUN.

The thing is, no one has stopped them yet. There have been a few close calls, but the scheme continues to work. I’m quite sure even with a 12th man on defense, it would not make a difference against the New York Jets this week.

a trip of triumph: the story of nick licare & the undefeated patriots

PRE-GAME:

Before I knew it, I was in Foxborough.

It was 10 AM on the morning of Sunday’s highly-anticipated Patriots-Steelers game, and my friends and I were an eager 6 hours early.

The parking lot to the stadium didn’t open until 12 PM, but the majority of the private lots (including ours) opened somewhat -illegally at 11 AM — private lots are typically required to open for business no earlier than 4 hours before game time unless a State Trooper says otherwise.

Must’ve been our lucky day.

With the official ‘OK’, we proceeded to the lot of our choice and immediately began assembling our tailgating attire.

6 hours, 40 responsible cans of beer, 1 bottle of Dr. McGillicuddy’s, 12 bowls of chicken chili, 6 lbs of steak, and 1 unsuccessful game of washer toss later, it was time for my friends and I to head into Gillette Stadium.

It was time for football.

gillette.jpg

Upon entering the stadium, one member of our entourage was frisked quite thoroughly, resulting in the confiscation of several nip bottles.

However, security managed to miss the flask in his jacket pocket and the two were granted admission soon after.

Great success!

We got to our “seats” in a particular Standing Room Only area, and the game began.

“Oh Great,” I thought to myself. “Rene Rancourt is singing the National Anthem. ”

My conscience quickly intervened, “Guy, you’re at the Patriots game. Renee Rancourt should be the least of your problems. Plus, his mustache and fist-pump give him the confidence to do things that are cool and cavalier.”

I guess inner-Nick was right: Renee Rancourt’s mustache is sweet.

Scratch that.

There was an important football game to be played, and thinking about a mustache other than Wes Welker’s would most likely fall under the category of “Cheating on Your Team”.

Bad Nick.

Time for the first quarter.

IN-GAME (FIRST HALF):

New England won the coin toss, but that soon proved uneventful when they went three and out.

Pittsburgh, however, seemed to come out with a considerable amount of tenacity, eating up more than 8 minutes and bringing it all the way down to the New England 5-yard line, resulting in only a field goal.

Thanks in part to a great return by Chad Jackson, the Patriots again had the ball, and refused to go three and out for a second straight time. 9 plays later, Brady threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Randy Moss. The pass was Brady’s 42nd of the season, and the reception was Moss’s 18th.

OK. It was a start.

END OF FIRST QUARTER. PITTSBURGH 3, NEW ENGLAND, 7

After an unsuccessful Steelers drive, the Patriots took over with guns a’ blazing when Tom Brady sold the play action to Laurence Maroney for a wide-open Randy Moss. The completion was good for a 63-yard touchdown, leaving the entirety of the Pittsburgh defense wondering what went wrong and exactly how Moss managed to get 5 yards behind their safeties.

Newsflash: Steelers, No.1 Defense Buy the Run Against Pass-Heavy Pats!

That should clear things up.

5 plays later, the Steelers offense came roaring back. Ben “I wear a helmet on the field, not on my motorcycle” Roethlisberger threw a beautiful 44-yard touchdown pass to Najeh Davenport after avoiding a sack, and displaying some fancy footwork.

Nearing the end of the first half, each team was forced to settle for a field goal.

I still wasn’t convinced.

END OF SECOND QUARTER. PITTSBURGH 13, NEW ENGLAND 17

HALFTIME:

With the game favoring the Patriots by a meager 4 points, I wasn’t exactly convinced that my team was playing as good as they should have been. Flashbacks of this season’s scary-close games — and ideas of what to do to the guy behind me who kept screaming “Cheese-Berger!” in obvious reference to Pittsburgh’s quarterback — frantically ran through my head.

I needed to get away for the time being.

Something inside told me to get up and go.

Naturally, I went to the bathroom.

But before making my way into the actual room, I was forced to wait in line, where I engaged in sporty conversation with a man wearing a Terry Bradshaw jersey. For some reason or another, he informed me that Tom Brady — whose jersey I was wearing — stole Bradshaw’s number 12. I laughed it off instead of telling him that his statement wasn’t particularly relevant to the game at hand. He then proceeded to bypass the lines leading to the stalls by urinating in a sink.

Good for him.

Halftime was over. Time to get back to the game.

IN-GAME (SECOND HALF):

field.jpg

The half’s most notable play came at the 10: 17 mark of the third quarter when Brady threw an errant screen pass to Randy Moss. Brady’s pass was off the mark, causing Moss to drop it for a brief second. However, Moss had the presence of mind to throw a perfect spiral back to Brady, who then found a deep Jabar Gaffney for the 56-yard flea flicker touchdown.

Unreal.

An instant eruption of 68, 756 fans — some good, some bad — soon filled the cold winter air, and the high-fives that followed soon made me forget about the weather.

After the game, Brady noted that Moss’s throw back to him was better than that of his to Moss.

With the successful completion of the Steelers-esque trickery, I was beginning to feel more and more confident about the Patriots’ chances in this game, but also, I began to truly wonder if this Patriots team would go undefeated.

The Patriots would go on to score one more touchdown in the 3rd quarter on a short pass to Mr. Mustache himself, Wes Welker.

Things were looking great.

END OF THE THIRD QUARTER. PITTSBURGH 13, NEW ENGLAND 31

Besides one more field goal — which came later in the fourth quarter — New England’s potent offense was done for the day.

The real story, however, may be the job that the defense did, especially on one particular play at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

With the game not yet out of reach for the Steelers, Roethlisberger and co. managed to make their way down to New England’s 1-yard line.

Uh-oh.

This was about to be a game, right?

Nope.

On 3rd and 1 from the 1, Roethlisberger decided to throw the ball. His pass was incomplete thanks to a great play by Rodney Harrison.

The very next play — 4th and 1 — the Steelers offense again tried unconventional means of getting into the endzone by running an end-around with Hines Ward.

Stuffed! A goal-line stand!

Again, Gillette erupted into a frenzy. And even though there was nearly 13 minutes left, Steelers fans quickly and bashfully departed en-masse to the uproarious chant of “Guaran-tee”.

pat-patriot.jpg

I guess they figured that things could only get worse if they stuck around, right?

My buddies and I, however, ended up staying for the remainder of the game. And it was well worth it.

I felt like a kid again, waiting until the very end of the game to say goodbye to all the players and fans. It was special. It was something that I’ll never forget, even if they don’t go undefeated.

As we left the stadium, U2’s “Beautiful Day” began to play, and moments later, a light rain began to fall.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not all that fond of this song, and I’m certainly not naive, but there was something very inspiring about the rain and the atmosphere that made me realize just how special Sunday night’s game really was.

Call it symbolism. Call it coincidence. Call it what you want.

As for me, well, I think I’ll just call it a day. A beautiful day, that is.

A beautiful day indeed.

PITTSBURGH 13, NEW ENGLAND, 34