Well, it’s like the Boston Globe’s Own Carrot Top likes to say – at least we have the Patriots.
Of course, he says that like he’s just survived a plane crash in the Andes, and he’s looking around thinking, “well, at least we can eat the ones who didn’t make it.”
It’s great to have your support, Dan. And don’t e-mail Bruce.
In about an hour, the Patriots will kick off a two-week pre-season homestand, and we’ll have the chance to see what strides – if any – New England has made since last week’s opening loss to the Falcons.
Can the Patriots sustain the running attack that was so impressive (and productive) in Atlanta? Can rookies like Garrett Mills, Patrick Cobbs and Willie Andrews continue to impress? Will Matt Cassel smooth out last week’s rough edges and keep the chains moving consistently? Is Bill Belichick right to be optimistic about his secondary? Will anyone step up at wide receiver, or in the middle of the defense?
In tonight’s game, the Pats face the Cardinals in Arizona’s first trip to Foxboro in nearly ten years. On September 15, 1996, the Cards fell to the Pats, 31-0, in a regular season game played in the old stadium. The last time the two teams faced off in the pre-season (almost 15 years ago to the day, in Sun Devil Stadium), it was all Arizona, 46-0.
So what’s the chance we see a shutout tonight?
As noted above, the wide receiver position will likely remain under in the microscope this evening. Things are looking bleak on the perimeter, with no Chad Jackson or Deion Branch, but back inside, there’s reinforcements on the way. Four Pats rookies – Mills, Cobbs, tight end David Thomas and receiver Erik Davis – combined to catch 11 passes last week. Mills and Thomas already look like players that will develop into solid contributors. While Cobbs seems like a long-shot in the crowded Pats backfield, he could surprise if he continues to make plays like last week’s TD catch and run. He’ll be interesting to watch tonight – can he keep it going?
Anyway, the point is that there may be a void, but there may also be people ready to fill it.
I’m sure we’ll get a peek at Junior Seau tonight. In fact, I half-expect him to come running out with the team at 8:00, fully-dressed and in the starting lineup (the plan is for next week). I always thought Junior kind of liked the camera, actually. He always seemed to have his helmet off for some reason, with his AC Slater hairdo and Little Richard mustache. And then, of course, he signed with the Dolphins, which is crossing the line where I come from. I’ve hated people for much, much less, I tell you. But that’s all over now, and Junior and I are ready to march into the future together, committed to winning a championship. Watch the hat-popping, though. Pretty sure he still does it.
Streak to watch tonight? Asante Samuel has intercepted a pass in the last four Patriots games (1 regular season and 2 playoff games last year, and then again last week). I started out the pre-season burying this guy and now here he is, back with the first team and looking stronger by the day. Belichick made note of the secondary’s improvement this week, and right now Samuel looks like one guy who might be getting better.
Naturally, this will be Arizona’s first game in Gillette Stadium. The Cards and Pats have met once before in the Bill Belichick era, a 23-12 New England regular season win at Arizona in 2004. Speaking of Branch, that was the game where he went down for 7 weeks after an injury on the final play of the first half.
The game will be broadcast on the NFL Network, and I’m only mentioning this because the play-by-play guy’s name is Spero Dedes. If this isn’t the first game you’ve heard Spero call, I’ll eat my hat.