October 1, 2016

Patriots at Denver Review: A Super Human Play, Season Over

Its too bad the season ends here because the path is clear for the Patriots to become the first three consecutive Super Bowl champion in history. And they were a lot closer to moving to the next step of that quest than the 27-13 final score in their playoff loss to Denver appears. But for a few mistakes here and a few bad breaks there, they win the game and are playing at home Sunday for the AFC Championship against Pittsburgh once again. A game you’d have to like their chances in. But it was not to be.

The Patriots controlled the actual play of most of the game against Denver. They ran the ball decently, until they were behind they had to abandon it. They threw the ball well. On defense, they shut down Denver’s running game and kept the Denver positive aerial plays to a minimum. Heading into halftime, with a 3-0 lead and on their way to more it appeared, disaster struck in the form of a Kevin Faulk turnover just after the two minute warning. This led to a gift Denver touchdown and a subsequent fumble by Ellis Hobbs on the next kickoff gave Denver three more. And thus, a half mostly controlled by the Patriots, a half in which they succeeded in shutting up the Denver crowd, was destroyed with two bad mistakes in less than a minute.

But they regrouped. And they opened up the third quarter dominating that for awhile as well. A field goal on their first drive was followed by a long drive that appeared to be headed for a touchdown. Momentum was the Patriots’ again. They had beat Denver down and were about to wrestle the lead back after gifting it to them earlier. Then it happened. A great player made a great play at a critical time. Top players do that and when Champ Bailey stepped in front of Troy Brown to pick off a Tom Brady pass in the endzone and race 100 yards the other way, a great player stole a game for his team. Its wrong to look at that play and focus on it as a Tom Brady screw up. That misses the point. It wasn’t that so much as it was one of those classic plays to win a game we’ve seen special players do for the Patriots.

We’ve seen Ty Law take passes the other way and steal momentum or a game, including in the Super Bowl. We’ve seen Tom Brady lead his team down on game winning drives to win playoff games. We’ve seen Adam Vinatierri kick the most improbable of field goals in the worst conditions to win games. We’ve seen Tedy Bruschi snatch balls out of thin air to wrap up victories. And we’ve seen Willie McGinest make huge sacks to knock opponents out of field goal range and help preserve wins. This time it was the other team’s great player that did it. It wasn’t a Brady screw up. Sure it wasn’t a good throw. But most corners don’t make that play. It just sails incomplete or maybe gets knocked down. Not Bailey, he stole the ball and the game on the biggest of stages. Give the man credit. It was a super play that literally changed a game that appeared to be headed in one direction and he sent it in the complete opposite direction.

And so the season ends. The other two turnovers only confirmed what the Bailey play had made inevitable. The Patriots had almost done what it took. They had controlled the game. They had dominated on defense. They had overcome early mistakes to wrestle momentum back. They had moved the ball on offense. And then one great player ended their season. It happens. It happens a lot when you let a team you are outplaying hang around, when you don’t secure a bye and home field advantage throughout the season and when you play inconsistently and uncompetitively in too many games too many times in a single season.

Lets face it, the Patriots were due for a playoff performance like this. They played well most of the game Saturday, if you break it down to analyzing each play. But it only takes a few bad plays to kill you against another good team. And the longer you play, its only a matter of time before the turnover bug hits at some point.

Through 10 playoff games, through wind and rain and snow, and against top opponents, the Patriots had only turned the ball over 6 times in three previous postseasons. Saturday, they turned it over 5 times in one night. That happens. The Patriots aren’t machines. It was a matter of time. Every time you take the field, the odds are increasing of a game like that. You try to minimize it and some teams are better than others at doing so. The Patriots were very good at it, particularly at playoff time. But at some point, its going to get you. Which is why securing byes and home field advantage is so important. One less game equals one less chance to just have the breaks go against you. And its not a fluke, especially in a place like Denver. Those things tend to happen in venues like that that are tough on opponents. Its not that surprising, its happened to the Patriots there and other teams as well for years.

And thus, the bye is important. One more home game, where these things don’t happen as often, means one more game where you’re comfortable. Where you usually win. Where the other team may see bad things start snowballing. Hopefully next year, the Patriots can wrap up those advantages in a more consistent regular season.

So where does this team stand now that the season is over? Lets take a look at each of the team’s units:

QUARTERBACKS-Tom Brady certainly had a very fine year this year. Excellent, even by his lofty standards. But I disagree with those who say it was his best year. He simply had too many off games. The Kansas City game. The Carolina game. San Diego he was off. A few other games he was just average. Saturday wasn’t one of his best performances. For my money, he was better in 2003 and that was his best season. He had two stinkers that year. Game one and game four. None afterwards and they didn’t lose again. So, in the end, a great year, but not his best. The backups were Doug Flutie who seemed to play his role quietley and effectively without even a hint of controversy or discontent as had been predicted by many naysayers when he was signed. I think he still has one more year in him as a backup, but it remains to be seen whether he wants it or the Patriots want him back. Matt Cassell was drafted as the third quarterback and got some playing time, displaying much promise both in preseason and the action he got in the regular season. He has all the tools. With a good offseason, he could become a valuable number two guy next season.

RUNNING BACK-Corey Dillon, to me, looked like his old self early in the year. I still can recall that Green Bay exhibition game when there is no doubt in my mind he was running with the same speed, cutting ability and power as last year. He had a couple good games once the regular season started, but by season’s end he was hampered by injuries and definately not the same back. Was it age? Was it injuries? We don’t know. Personally, I suspect injuries based on what I saw before they struck. But he is getting up there in age and while he should be back, its time the Pats look to find his heir apparent and perhaps limit his carried next year while working in a young prospect. The third down back, Kevin Faulk, also battled injuries this year. But when he played, he was generally the effective out of the backfield catcher, occasional runner he’d been before. He’ll be back. Patrick Pass played well most of the time. He’s a solid guy, but not a lead back. He can bring a lot to a team as a blocker, occasional runner and pass catcher, as well as a fine special teams player. He should be back. Heath Evans had a nice couple first few games, but by the end of the year, he appeared nothing more than just a solid backup. I wouldn’t have any problem bringing him back in that role.

WIDE RECEIVER-Deion Branch stayed healthy and continues to improve into a top receiver. He’ll probably never be at the very top as a receiver, but he has top 15 potential if he continues to improve. He is just reaching his best years now. David Givens had a pretty good year, but also suffered some injuries and didn’t have the year he had in 2004. He only found the end zone twice in the regular season and was not nearly as consistent as he had been previously. He is a free agent and may go elsewhere for more money. Andre Davis showed speed and some potential, especially late in the year, but is a free agent who’ll only be back if he agrees to limited money. Troy Brown had a better year than last year and still may have one year left in him as a valuable third down guy. Bethel Johnson, for all his world of potential, just is missing something. Not sure what it is, maybe maturity or work ethic. Its probably time for a change of scenery for him. But he is a second round pick from a few years ago. He has had some production, limited as it is, and some very big plays as a receiver and returner in his career. You’d like to see the Patriots at least wrestle a mid-round pick for a guy his talent if they decide to cut ties. Tim Dwight is a good role player and I’d like to see him return.

TIGHT END-Daniel Graham was hurt much of the year and its too bad. His blocking and occasional pass threat make him a valuable player. His limited effectiveness due to injuries hurt the Patriots. He did have one of the plays of the year with his imposing run down the right sidelines for a TD vs. Atlanta, however. Ben Watson improved as the season went on. He is a dangerous downfield weapon and had a good playoffs. He should only get better and has potential to be a top tight end. He does need to work on his blocking a bit though. Christian Fauria has been an underrated contributor to this team and two Super Bowl wins. He is a Patriot to be proud of. But at age 35 next season and a free agent, its quite possible he’s played his last game as a Patriot. If so, fans should be thankful of his four years of service here.

OFFENSIVE LINE-If you think about it, O-line coach Dante Scarnecchia performed miracles with this unit. Starting two rookies on the left side most of the year, losing your center midway thru and having some missed time at right tackle as well, the unit still pretty much held its own all year. Rookies Nick Kaczur and Logan Mankins got invaluable experience this year, played well and you have to be excited for their future. Russ Hochstein did a very good job filling in for Dan Koppen at center when he went down for the year to injuries. Stephen Neal had a good year at right guard, though I didn’t think quite as dominating as he was down the stretch as a run blocker in 2004. Of this unit, only sometime starter Tom Ashworth and Neal are free agents. Either of them may be back, but even if not, the unit is in good shape and will have the return of left tackle Matt Light and Koppen as well next year.

DEFENSIVE LINE-It was really displayed in full detail this year, above other years, just how dominant Richard Seymour is. He really changes this whole unit. He is that good. At times this year, when he was healthy, it appeared as if the other team just couldn’t block him. At all. And it rubbed off on everyone else. Locking him up long-term, as he is a free agent after next season, should be a priority. If there is any negative to Seymour at all, it is that he does appear to get these nagging injuries just about every year. Every year he seems to miss a couple games and/or be limited in a few others. Its a minor thing, but one wonders if he could put together a full, healthy season, it would not only help the Patriots, but may put him in Defensive MVP of the NFL category. Vince Wilfork struggled early. He came on when Seymour came back. He’s a good player and should get better at his young age. Ty Warren disappointed me this year. I had thought he was a borderline Pro Bowl player in 2004 and he just didn’t play to that level this year. He improved late, but still had an average year overall. Lets hope he reverts to 2004 form next year. Jarvis Green came on a bit late, but he was also slightly disappointing this year. It appears he’ll be a solid role player, but not a great player. Still, you like to have that kind of depth around. Of the rest, Marquise Hill never seemed to show much. It was essentially his rookie year, but one hopes he’ll show great improvement next year. He’ll need to. Rookie Mike Wright got a little bit of play and appears to be a hard-working, mucker type. Much like old Belichick favorite, also with limited talent but good technique and effort, Rick Lyle. He could develop into a solid role player. Dan Klecko showed one brief spark in the first Denver game at end. Beyond that, he didn’t do much. If he has any future, in my opinion its at end, not nose tackle. I’d like to see them try him there. But his chances appear to be running out.

LINEBACKER-This unit really played very well, as good as any unit in the NFL, down the stretch. Roosevelt Colvin became a beast the second half of the year. Mike Vrabel adjusted to his new position inside and played well, as usual. Tedy Bruschi was coming back into his old form, after his off-season stroke, by the end of the year. Willie McGinest remained a force. Monty Beisel struggled as a full-time player, but probably not as badly as the abuse he took from fans and media. Chad Brown did little inside, but late in the year, very late, showed some promise as an outside nickle linebacker. Perhaps he can play that role next year if he’s back. Matt Chatham and Tully Banta-Cain show promise when they play, but with this top-notch group in front of them, don’t get many chances. Chatham is a free agent and some other team may be able to offer him more time. Larry Izzo and Don Davis are solid special teamers and back up players and both should be back. Draft pick Ryan Claridge spent the year on IR. He has talent, he’ll hopefully inject some youth to the backup spots next year.

SECONDARY-This unit was atrocious early on. Losing leader Rodney Harrison to a catastrophic knee injury in week three was part of the problem. Its going to be difficult for him to come back, but I don’t doubt Rodney Harrison on anything when it comes to football. Its funny to think the opening night starters at corner were Ty Poole and Duane Starks. Poole got injured that night and never played again. He’s under contract, but I’d be surprised if he were back. He’s had a good career, but is getting up there in years and its starting to show in his health. He’ll be 34 in February, old for a corner. Starks played about half the year and was extremely disappointing to me. I remember the Baltimore Duane Starks. That kid was a player. He could shut down a receiver, jump routes, create picks. He was really good. I don’t know what has happened to him, but he was a sad shadow of his former self this year. Perhaps it was the bad shoulder, he required surgery after he was finally put on IR, but any expectations for him for next year would be misplaced. Randall Gay, a promising young corner who played a lot in 2004, also missed most of the year. He should be back healthy and that will help.

Late in the year, this unit did turn it around. Rookie Ellis Hobbs came in and played very solid. There is a lot of reason to be optomistic with him. But then again, the Patriots can’t afford to assume his good rookie year will translate into a productive second year. Just look at Randall Gay. At the other corner, Asante Samuel was the mainstay. He struggled at times, but overall I thought he had a good year and made more plays than any other corner. He’s a good player. Hank Poteat always had a lot of talent. It just never showed itself elsewhere, primarily in Pittsburgh. But this system in New England seems to suit him and he played well as a nickle back. He’d be good to bring back. Safety Eugene Wilson got off to a bad start. He seemed lost for several weeks when Harrison went down. But by the end of the year, I thought he really lifted his play back to its former borderline Pro Bowl level. At the other safety, cornerback Artrell Hawkins was signed off the street at midseason and did a nice job learning safety on the fly. He’d be a good depth player to bring back. Rookie James Sanders seemed to improve as the year went on. He came out as an underclassman in last year’s draft. With a good offseason, he has a chance to really develop into a good player. The other young safety, Guss Scott, didn’t show too much when he played and is now facing a second knee surgery in two years. His future is in doubt. Michael Stone is depth and a good special teams player, but probably won’t be back

KICKERS-Adam Vinatierri is probably the best kicker in the league. Or at least the kicker you’d most want in New England late in the year, given the weather. He’s a free agent. The Patriots will surely try hard to keep this probable future Hall of Famer. Punter Josh Miller had a good year, though he did falter a little late in the year after a great early season. Still, it was probably the best season by a Patriots punter in decades.

Overall, the future remains bright. It was somewhat of a transition year, but they came through it such that, a break or two the other way and they just may have three-peated. I remain convinced the run isn’t over. They’ll be back and probably better next year. They’ll need to be. I already can’t wait until the opener.

Well, that wraps up GDRV for the 2005-2006 season. We’ll be back on occasion this offseason as developments, such as the draft or free agency moves, warrant. Until then, thanks for reading.

Patriots at Denver: It Won’t Be Like Last Time

The last time the Patriots went into Denver, they were missing several key players who’ll they’ll have available this time. And that could make all the difference. For they’ll be playing in the Divisional Playoffs with a chance to go to their third straight AFC Championship Game. And critical additions to the regular lineup such as Tedy Bruschi, Richard Seymour, Corey Dillon, Ellis Hobbs, Kevin Faulk and Daniel Graham will narrow the gap that was apparent between the two teams in October. Throw in just a better performance than they had last time, and the fact they always seem to rise to the occasion in the playoffs, and their winning experience, and Denver will have its hands full with the Patriots this time now that January has arrived.

But it obviously will not be even close to easy for the Patriots to win this game. Denver has always been very difficult to beat at home. They are 8-0 there this year. They have a good team. They had a better regular season than the Patriots. But on the flip side, anyone who thinks it’ll be a repeat of Denver’s easy 28-20 victory, in which the final score didn’t reflect on the whole how badly Denver outplayed the Patriots through the first two and a half quarters of that game, really hasn’t been following the Patriots closely. Either this year or in past years. The team that lost to Denver in October was shorthanded. Several players were adjusting to new roles they are now more accustomed to. That goes for several coaches as well. This time, the Patriots may lose the game. But they won’t give up three 55-plus yard plays. They won’t be held to three points at the half and they won’t give up 178 yards rushing. They won’t fall 25 points down. And when the final whistle blows, they very well may be headed to that third straight AFC Championship Game to the surprise of anyone who had watched that earlier October game in Denver.

THE PATRIOTS ON OFFENSE
The Patriots really need to score early and often this time against Denver. And they’ll have to throw the ball to do it. Tom Brady has come up big time after time in playoff games, its time for him to do it again. To win this game, the Patriots will have to spread it out a lot, even on earlier downs. They’ll have to get multiple receivers on the field and not be afraid to throw to them downfield. You could see big games out of secondary receivers such as Andre Davis and Tim Dwight when they match up against Denver defensive backs lower on their depth chart such as Roc Alexander and Karl Paymah. These guys defininately can be taken advantage of.

But in order to do it, the Patriots will need to provide much better protection than they did last time against Denver. Although the Broncos did not sack Brady last game, they blitzed, harassed and hammered him all game long. There are reasons to believe the Patriots will do a better job on that this time. One is that Daniel Graham, an excellent blocking tight end, will be available this time. Corey Dillon, a good blitz pick up guy, also will play this time. Kevin Faulk can also help in this regard by catching those dump offs out of the backfield he is so good at. The Denver linebackers will have to be just slightly more conscious of Faulk’s ability to catch the ball, it may slow up their blitz just a little bit and give Brady the time he needs. Additionally, younger offensive linemen such as Nick Kaczur and Logan Mankins (who was thrown out of the October game midway through) have more experience and should handle the blitz better.

And all this adds up to bad news for Denver. Brady with time will eat them alive. Although Champ Bailey at one corner is one of the best cover guys in the NFL, the rest of their secondary are average at best cover guys. This is particularly true with rookie corner Darrent Williams banged up, not at 100% and unable to start (though he will play). The Patriots receiver corp. will rip this unit to shreds and if Brady is on his game, the offense should score around 30 points easy.

A quick word about the running game. It is somewhat of an after thought for the Patriots this week, as Denver is number two in the league against the run and the Patriots haven’t been able to run it well most of the year anyways. But the Patriots will need to run a bit if they get the lead. They’ll need to try and pound it. I believe they can. They won’t put up huge numbers, but if they can convert short yardage situations and be around 100 yards for the game running, that’ll be more than enough out of this aspect of the game. It would be nice to see Corey Dillon look a little more like his old self and perhaps break a couple 10+ yard runs in this game. But, in the end, this game is going to have to be won on the right arm of Tom Brady on offense with some decent runs here and there, particularly on short yardage, mixed in.

THE PATRIOTS ON DEFENSE
Denver is a team that obviously wants to run the ball and is probably the team that has done it best in the NFL over the last decade or so. Everyone and their brother knows the Patriots will be pulling out all the stops in this game to try to limit their running game and force Denver into a one dimensional game. If the Patriots get the lead and shut down the running attack, it could be a long night for Denver quarterback Jake Plummer.

But Broncos coach Mike Shanahan knows that too. He isn’t foolish enough to simply line up and try to pound it exclusively from the opening gun on. No way. He is going to try to take some shots early on. He is going to throw some on first down early in the game. Let them take the lead. Let them back up the Patriots safeties and linebackers a little bit. Then run the ball.

So early in the game, the Patriots simply must find a way to get off the field and shut down the Denver passing game. They have to have some early down blitzes ready. They have to play tight coverage rather than loose coverage, less you let Plummer get in a rhythm. And they have to expect play action early in the game on early downs. Denver is going to come out on their first and second drive and try some downfield passing. You can count on it. The Patriots can’t be so hyped up to prove they can stop the run that they give up some long plays downfield. If they can show Denver it’s not going to be able to easily do whats not its strong point anyways, throwing the ball, Denver will go back to its old reliable, running the ball. Then the Patriots can sell out to stop the run and prove they can. But early on, they have to expect the unexpected.

And the way the Patriots front seven has been playing, they should do more than an acceptable job against the run this week. Don’t get caught off guard early. Control the line of scrimmage when Denver inevitably goes back to what they do best. Harass Jake Plummer into mistakes on third down, and the Patriots may just create some good field position with three and outs and turnovers on defense. That’ll play right into their hands and one gets the feeling Tom Brady won’t be denied on a short field in this game.

Its hard to predict the Patriots will dominate Denver. They’re on the road. Denver is a good team. They had a better season and won the first match up. But there is a lot to like about the way the Patriots are playing and this match up in general. If it comes down to special teams, you can’t ask for a better kicker than Adam Vinatierri to win it for you at the end. The Patriots return teams have shown some spark on returns in recent weeks with both Andre Davis and Tim Dwight doing the honors, one thinks they may have a big return in them this week as well.

The end result will be a Patriots victory. My initial thought on this game, early in the week, was Denver would win. But after looking at it more and more, I become convinced this is the type of game Tom Brady can have an all-time classic game and throw the ball all over the field. After thinking about how well the front seven on defense for the Patriots has played for quite awhile now, of course they’re going to do a good job on the running game and put pressure on Jake Plummer. And quite likely, they’ll get a lead in the third quarter and that is where they really have Denver in trouble. Denver will hit some plays on them. They’ll run well at times, but they won’t match the Patriots who’ll play their best game of the year in this round of the playoffs, just as they did last year against Indianapolis. Patriots win 30-20.

Jacksonville at Patriots Review: A Great Step Forward

The Patriots have spent a lot of time since Saturday night stating they did not play that well in their easier than expected 28-3 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars to begin the playoffs. But the simple fact is, if they can play better than they did, they have an excellent chance of becoming the first team to win three straight Super Bowls. They played a very good game. And while it was undoubtedly not perfect, it was good enough to think the team is continuing to get better week in and week out and can beat any of the remaining opponents out there. They are resembling their championship teams more and more every week.

On offense, the Patriots got off to a little bit of a slow start. They couldn’t run the ball out of conventional sets, though they did have a couple nice ones from Kevin Faulk on a few plays. They had some penalties. They had some drops. But in the second half, they had several excellent drives that helped put the game away, including the outstanding catch and run by Ben Watson that left the Jaguars shell shocked.

The offensive line did struggle a bit at times both run and pass blocking. But that was more a function of the excellent Jacksonville defense that is particularly stout against up the middle. John Henderson and Marcus Stroud, the two massive Pro Bowl defensive tackles in the middle of the Jaguars defensive line, lived up to their billing and gave the Patriots all they could handle well into the third quarter.

But the offense did enough to win the game. Tom Brady, while not playing one of his better games, was efficient and made some good throws. He didn’t turn the ball over. Kevin Faulk, as mentioned above, made some plays as did Deion Branch and Ben Watson. Branch did have one big drop that could have changed the game, however, and they won’t be able to get away with mistakes like that on the road against the teams coming up the next few weeks.

On defense, this was the most encouraging aspect of the game. The Patriots played a dominant game. The game I saw featured Jacksonville committed to slinging the ball all over the field all night. The game I saw had Jacksonville hitting a couple plays here and there, but also with their quarterback constantly under duress, their receivers generally covered up, taking big hits when they did get the ball and not putting a lot of points on the board. That wasn’t just the front seven that did it. It was the secondary as well and all the guys back there had very good games against some good receivers. Eugene Wilson, who appeared lost for four or five games after Rodney Harrison got hurt, is now back to his former borderline Pro Bowl self and playing very well.

Up front, the Patriots were dominant again. They bottled up the run early pretty effectively. The only big runs Jacksonville had were on broken play scrambles. When Jacksonville passed, they rushed, harassed and disrupted both the quarterbacks and receivers all night long. Willie McGinest, with four and a half sacks, had an amazing night and nearly got a few more sacks. It seemed every time you turned around, Leftwich was being harassed by McGinest. Roosevelt Colvin on the other side was nearly as good. And, surprisingly, we saw extended action from Chad Brown on sub-defenses and he seemed to show up a few times as well. It was particularly surprising from him as he has been used spraingly for months now. Watching him being used the way he was made me think “where was this all year long?” The same can be said of Troy Brown at defensive back and a number of other wrinkles both offensively and defensively. The Patriots clearly saved a few moves for the playoffs and its enough to wonder what else they have up their sleeves as the playoffs continue along.

Special teams had a pretty good night. An effective pooch punt from Adam Vinatierri helped get Jacksonville backed up and out of their game plan early on which got them off to a confidence hurting slow start. The coverage was good and there were a couple decent returns as well. Andre Davis showed particularly good coverage, which was also surprising as he didn’t stand out on coverage much during the regular season, if at all.

All and all, a very impressive night for the Patriots. They can downplay it if they want, but they played a very good game against a physical, tough opponent and pulled away in the second half. They very well may need to play better against the Indianpolises and Denvers of the NFL. But there are a lot of signs there they will do just that and haven’t even fired all their guns yet (Tedy Bruschi sat out and Daniel Graham played sparingly). Now if they could only get their running game going decently, they’d really be onto something. We’ll be back in a few days with a preview of what should be the game of the year as the Patriots travel to Denver for the divisional playoffs.

Ron Borges – Wandering in the Wilderness

by BSMW member “rrsafety”.

On January 6, 2006, Boston Globe sports reporter and columnist Ron Borges continued his personal grudge against the New England Patriots organization by, once again, reporting as facts things that are demonstrably untrue.

For the time being, let’s leave aside Borges’ incomprehensible views on the way the Patriots pay their players (a one point during the interview Borges says the Patriots are “cheap” and then just three minutes later states “they are so close to the cap they can’t make any moves at all”), let’s instead focus on one issue, one statement, one player and one big distortion.

As a guest on “The Drive” with Michael Felger (ESPN radio 890), Borges claimed the following:

“I know Tedy Bruschi, he won’t say it on the record but I know he said it off the record, you know, he, once he got sick, he realized he made big mistakes in how he handled his, his, contract.”

(Editor’s note: Aren’t off the record conversations private? How many ethics is Borges violating by revealing off the record conversations on the air?)

At this point Felger breaks in with the argument that Bruschi was served well by his contract with the Patriots because Tedy renegotiated the contract before he had his stroke and that it actually worked out better for him in the long run. Borges counters with this:

“No, but two contracts ago when he, he could have gotten twice as much money to go to the Packers, he didn’t do it. He stayed here, so, so over time, he can’t make that money up.”

As we will see, this is untrue. Not only did Tedy Bruschi “make this money up”, he has made more money with the Patriots than he would have with the Green Bay Packers.

Borges statement that Bruschi “could have gotten twice as much money to go to the Packers” is a lie.

Let’s go back a bit in time to find out exactly what this “twice as much money deal” actually was.

This is what Borges wrote at the time of Tedy’s contract negotiations in spring of 2000:

Boston Globe
March 19, 2000
Author: RON BORGES, GLOBE STAFF
Free agent Tedy Bruschi is a good guy wandering in a wilderness he doesn’t seem to quite fathom. Bruschi was close to signing a reported two-year, $3 million deal with the Patriots that included a $1 million signing bonus. That is a far cry from his starting point of seeking a four- to five-year deal averaging $2.5 million a season and including a $3 million bonus. Those were numbers he was never likely to receive, but what is worse is that he left on the table a five-year offer worth $9 million that included a $1.5 million bonus in Green Bay. That averages out to $1.8 million a season, which means if he ends up in New England under the present parameters, he will have cost himself $600,000 over the next two years. More importantly, Bruschi seems to think the market will increase as time passes, but history indicates that it decreases after the initial burst of activity. His hope remains Cleveland, because it has the cap room to do what it wants, but the fact is if it wanted to do something big with Bruschi, it would have been done already. So, if he’s smart, he’ll grab what he can today.

I might add at this point that the Boston Herald said it was a four year deal averaging $1.7 a year. Kevin Mannix wrote: “His ties to New England were strong enough that Bruschi passed up a four-year deal worth an average of $1.7 million from Green Bay to take the Patriots’ offer. The fact that the Pats’ deal is for only two years was a plus from Bruschi’s perspective because it will allow him a couple of more years to develop as a full-time linebacker before he becomes a free agent again.”

But for the purposes of argument, I’ll give Borges the benefit of the doubt (although I personally think the Herald numbers more likely).

Publicly available information supplies this breakdown for Tedy’s Patriots earnings since he signed his self-negotiated deals with the Pats vs. what they would have been with the Green Bay Packers. (I might note that attempting to get actual per year information is difficult, especially with Tedy as he continually renegotiated during this time period. Good sources of info for this are USA Today NFL salary cap website and also the Herald and Globe archives, but I’ll give you actually “money quotes” from primary sources and let you decide if I have the numbers right.

Boston Globe
March 31, 2000
Bruschi, who is a very good linebacker, received a $1 million signing bonus, and will be paid $450,000 this year. Next year, he’ll earn $650,000, which includes a minimum salary plus roster and workout bonuses.

Worcester Telegram & Gazette (MA)
January 18, 2002
Included in Bruschi’s $4.6 million extension is a $2 million signing bonus. He negotiated the deal himself over the past couple of weeks.

Boston Herald
June 17, 2004
The contract extension signed by Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi includes a $3.5 million signing bonus and amounts to a four-year, $8.1 million deal. Bruschi was entering the final year of his contract in 2004 but the new pact increases the likelihood the nine-year veteran will retire as a lifelong Patriot. The deal includes base salaries of $700,000 in 2004, $850,000 in 2005, $1.35 million in 2006 and $1.7 million in 2007. Bruschi represented himself in the negotiations.

Season beginning fall of 2004 $ 4,200,000 vs. $1,800,000
Season beginning fall of 2003 $ 850,000 vs. $1,800,000
Season beginning fall of 2002 $ 2,650,000 vs. $1,800,000
Season beginning fall of 2001 $ 650,000 vs. $1,800,000
Season beginning fall of 2000 $ 1,450,000 vs. $1,800,000

In my mind, this shows that for the five years that Tedy has played at New England instead of at Green Bay, he made $9,800,000, higher than the” five-year offer worth $9 million” claimed by Borges himself.

Oh, and for those of you who are wondering about the financial benefits of being Super Bowl contenders each year, this is how that breaks out.

2000
$0
GB
$0

2001
Patriots
$65,000
$36,500
$18,000
Packers
$18,000

2002
$0 both teams

2003
Patriots
$65,000
$36,500
$18,000
GB
$18,000

2004
Patriots
$65,000
$36,500
$18,000
GB
$0

By my mathematics, that is an additional $358,500 in the Patriots column and only $36,000 more in the Packers total.

Final tally?

Tedy Bruschi – $10,158,000
Ron Borges – $ 9,036,000

Twice as much at Green Bay? HA!

(I will leave it to others to imagine the difference in endorsement dollars between Green Bay and New England, not to mention how much the Super Bowl rings are worth at auction).

Now that we know Ron Borges is telling fibs when he says that Bruschi could have done better elsewhere, it leads to the question, “who cares?”

Well, I care for a number of reasons:

  • Tedy Bruschi seems like a nice guy. I makes me sick when reporters like Borges make Tedy out to be stupid, incompetent and an off-the-record complainer.
  • Further, this continuing lie leads to newspaper stories and radio talk show discussion that paints Bruschi as sabotaging the union and other players by accepting “bad deals”Â… are you listening Steve DeOssie?
  • Also, it angers me when a generous family like the Krafts are called “cheap”. It is also unseemly, for obvious reasons.

In conclusion, I will leave you with a reminder in Ron Borges’ own words:

“Free agent Tedy Bruschi is a good guy wandering in a wilderness he doesn’t seem to quite fathomÂ… So, if he’s smart, he’ll grab what he can today.”

Who’s wandering in the wilderness now, Ron?

(As this is the internet, and not a major newspaper, I actually welcome any suggested corrections to my math or logic).

Jacksonville at New England Preview: The Playoffs Are Here

Its that time of year, a new season as they say. The NFL playoffs are upon us once again. And its this time of year the Patriots have excelled at in three of the last four season. Its for that reason there seems to be an expectation amongst the fans and media of this team that exceed the way they performed in the regular season, on the whole. Those expectations may well be right. We’ll begin to find out Saturday night in Foxboro.

To start off with, the Patriots will have to face a tough, underrated Jacksonville team that very well may be capable of pulling off the stunner. Jacksonville won twelve games this season, two more than the Patriots. They beat three other playoff teams along the way, one more than the Patriots beat. They are an up and coming team that is finally ready for the big stage after years of slow growth. It won’t be easy for New England.

THE PATRIOTS ON OFFENSE
The Patriots seem to have run better up the middle this year than they have outside. Corey Dillon appears at times to be still nursing an injury and has not looked that good on outside runs since very early in the year. That, unfortunately for the Patriots, is not a good recipe against Jacksonville as they are strongest in the middle. Right up the middle you’ll find four of Jacksonville’s best players in tackles Marcus Stroud and John Henderson and linebackers Mike Peterson and Daryl Smith (though Peterson is listed as questionable for the game). These guys are big, physical players who can tackle runners cold and manhandle blockers. They really control the line of scrimmage. Its not going to be easy for the Pats to line up on early downs and run against these guys.

But on short yardage, with extra blockers in like Tom Ashworth or Ben Watson in the backfield, they should be able to make some yardage, or at least the amounts they need. On early downs, perhaps spreading it out and doing some lead draws will help create some plays that can keep the down and distance manageable, but don’t look for Jacksonville, who only gave up four rushing touchdowns the entire season, to be the type of team you can run down their throats. That just isn’t going to happen. The Patriots haven’t been all that good a rushing team anyways this year.

So, they’re going to have to throw it some in less than ideal conditions. Here too, Jacksonville presents problems, having given up only an average of 184 yards a game in the air and sacking the quarterback 47 times. They feature a top-notch corner in Rashean Mathis. The other corner, Kenny Wright, is not nearly as good and the Patriots can take advantage of him. They have a solid nickle corner in veteran Terry Cousin. At safety, All-Pro Donovan Darius was lost for the year and that has left the crew at that position mediocre overall, but rookie Gerald Sensabaugh is a phenomenal athlete whose been playing well of late. The Jaguars pass rush only makes things tougher, as they have six guys with at least four sacks. Big offseason acquisition Reggie Hayward has come through for them as a pass rusher with eight and a half sacks.

No matter what, this is not going to be an easy game for the Patriots to move the ball. They should be able to make some plays by keeping things balanced. Some screens, some running, hitting the tight ends for some plays, taking advantage of Wright here and there. But its unlikely they’ll move up and down the field, so field position will be critical. They’ll need to be careful with the ball and not make mistakes in their own end. They should avoid attempting extra long field goals early or going for it on fourth down and punt and play defense instead. They should try to keep Jacksonville’s defense off balance by throwing a bit on first down. If they can do that, they may crack twenty points, which should be enough.

THE PATRIOTS ON DEFENSE
Fortunately for the Patriots, the Jaguars aren’t as good on offense as they are on defense. Reportedly, they’ll be starting Byron Leftwich, whose been out since November to injury. It remains to be seen how effective he’ll be coming off injury and without having played at all lately. But when he’s on his game, Leftwich can burn you from any part of the field with his big arm as they found out in 2003 when he hit a couple big plays on them.

If Leftwich’s backup comes in, David Garrard, he can be effective as well. He is smart, plays safe with the football and can move a bit better than Leftwich and make plays with his feet. He can be an effective game manager if Jacksonville decides Leftwich isn’t ready after a few series and its a close game.

Jacksonville of course has dangerous receivers with Jimmy Smith, one of the best of all time, the dangerous red zone receiver and big Ernest Wilford, as well as some good younger guys in Reggie Williams and Matt Jones, both huge receivers that could cause problems for the Patriots smaller defensive backs.

But in the end, Jacksonville will probably try to grind this game out a bit on the ground. They do have four capable to very good backs in Fred Taylor, Greg Jones, Alvin Pearman and LaBrandon Toefield, who had over 100 yards last week. Forunately for the Patriots, the Jaguars offensive line is average at best, particularly with one of their best linemen, Brad Meester, out for the year in the middle of the line. The way the Patriots front seven played towards the end of the year, I would expect them to be able to keep the Jaguars running game relatively in check, though the Jaguars may grind out some plays there as well.

On special teams, the Jags are average. Their kicker, Josh Scobee, has a big leg, but can be inconsistent. They are average punting and covering the ball. They do have one returner capable of breaking a big on to watch out for in Derrick Winbush.

The Jaguars generally don’t turn the ball over much, though in their first prime time playoff appearance with this group of players, all bets are off and it remains to be seen how they react to that. But if they keep it a close game well into the second half, watch out as they’ll gain confidence and could sneak away with a win at the end. I do expect the Patriots to make just barely enough plays to pull this one out, however. They may have to come from behind and it’ll be anything but easy facing a defense like this and a offense that doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, but in the end they make the plays when it counts and have the experience to figure out how to pull out a win against a younger team. They win 20-16.