by the Patriots Daily Staff
As the baseball playoffs continue to dominate the local landscape, the Patriots are rolling towards the mid-point of the 2007 season. This week, they travel to their own Little Shop of Horrors – Dolphin Stadium (shouldn’t that be plural?) – as they try to take their perfect record to 7-0.
Try as we might, we could not get Bob Kuechenberg to take a seat at the Roundtable this week. Sorry panel – you’re on your own.
As every week goes by, more and more commentators rush to place the Pats’ hot start in some greater historical perspective. There’s talk of an undefeated season, quarterbacking records, and just this Sunday, Cris Collinsworth and others talked about the Patriots offense as being perhaps the greatest of all time. After six weeks! Could the hype eventually become a burden for the Patriots?
Bruce Allen: I really don’t think anything that the media has to say could possibly turn into a burden for this team. They shown time and again that whether the media coverage is negative or positive, it doesn’t matter to them. Could they put their own expectations on themselves? I think Belichick has pounded the “one game at a time” philosophy into them so much that they really are able to just focus on each game as it comes.
Tim Jordan: They are a veteran team with a coaching staff that seems very aware of the team’s mental approach each week, but they aren’t immune to emotional letdowns or getting carried away. It’s more likely to happen closer to the end of the season though. Thursday the team practice was a walk- through and not full contact. That leads me to believe that, for this game, the staff thinks they aren’t taking anything for granted. If they do have a hiccup, I hope it’s something that jeopardizes a record rather than playoff seeding. That’s the short term goal right now, not any of the silly artificial milestone. And Cris Collinsworth has no right to enjoy this team. I am sure the actual quote was something like “Honestly? They may be the best I have ever seen….and I have seen alot….and I am pretty well spoken…..and I am pretty handsome for a guy with rubber hose for a neck.”
Dan Snapp: This is one of the best parts of being a fan of Bill Belichick’s Patriots: you just know that whatever lunacy is being floated – going 17-0, Manning’s TD record, Ken Anderson’s completion percentage record, etc. – the team will be focused only on the immediate goal in front of them. I don’t really mind the heightened expectations. Most likely, they’ll fall short of some of these manufactured goalposts, but who cares so long as they’re holding the trophy at the end of the year.
Greg Doyle: I think it is too early still to say the things the media is saying. I suppose its understandable, given the pace the Patriots are on. But injuries still can occur. Just this week, the Patriots lost Ben Watson and Sammy Morris for what probably is awhile. Laurence Maroney was already out. That is three less weapons. Lose a few more and suddenly they aren’t as unstoppable anymore. It’s just too soon to call them among the best ever.
Travis Graham: I’m not sure how far off these predictions are. I’m starting to believe that if you give this team and coaching staff two weeks to prepare for a game… and you had a time machine that could bring back any team from any era, the Pats would be the favorite in every matchup… even against the 2004 week 3 Steelers.
Scott Benson: Maybe that’s what’s been bothering Peter King.
Let’s turn our attention to this Sunday’s divisional game with winless Miami. The Pats have traditionally had trouble with the Dolphins defense. This year, though, Miami comes in 23rd overall defensively – will they be able to reach back for one of their vintage Brady-stopping performances?
Travis: Probably not. Their DBs just aren’t that good. The Pats should be able to take an early lead through the air, then give it to the running back de jour for the rest of the game. Surprisingly, Miami is sixth best in the NFL in passing defense, but I think this is due to teams getting an early lead and running down their throat.
Greg: No. They have slipped a little each year for a few years now defensively. Last year, yes, they came up with a great effort down there and shut the Pats out. But they just aren’t very good anymore defensively and the Pats are better offensively than ever. Something has to give. They know the Pats well, so they’ll probably do a decent job. But they don’t have the horses to slow the Pats down completely as they have done in the past.
Tim: It’s the same basic personnel with the same coaching as last year when the Patriots were just pummeled on their way to getting shut out. Two big differences: the Patriots offense and no videotapes with the NE signals for Miami. Until I see a team do something to slow down this offense, the closest anyone has come is the Browns, I am feeling pretty good against most everyone.
Scott: Tim just brought up videotaping without a trace of irony. Nicely played. We have moved on, America!
Bruce: Jason Taylor is always going to be a thorn in the side for Brady and the Patriots. I expect him in the Patriots backfield several times this Sunday afternoon. That’s the most disruptive part of the Dolphins defense, which could lead to other bad things. I think the Dolphins will have one of their better defensive performances of the year this week.
How about the Patriots defense against Cleo Lemon, Ronnie Brown and the 21st ranked Miami offense?
Travis: Brown will be a good test for the Pats. Dallas and Cleveland were able to pick up yardage on the ground against them (over 90 yards each). I think this might have been overlooked when those teams were forced to pass in the second halves due to the score. Ronnie Brown is one of the best in the league (over 100 yards the last 4 weeks) and we should see how good this front seven really is for at least the first two quarters.
Dan: On Wednesday, Belichick said Brown’s the “Best player I’ve seen this year offensively.” It’s gotten lost in an otherwise dismal season, but he’s a threat. Given the sad nature of the rest of the Miami offense, I think the Pats can safely overload on Brown.
Greg: You know, I actually caught a bit of the Miami game last week and I thought Lemon looked okay. What I mean is, there is something to work with there. Nice arm, good touch at times, can move a bit. But he is very raw. He played at a small school in a bad conference in college. He wasn’t exposed to pro-style passing at that time. He has been in the league for a few years now, but has limited game experience. I expect an occasional nice display of talent, but lots of mistakes Sunday. As for Ronnie Brown, from what I have seen he is running better than he ever has and is developing into a true workhouse. The Dolphins may be 0-6, but Brown has been a definite positive for them in that he is developing and improving. I expect the Patriots not to give up much, however, to what amounts to a pretty shaky offense, especially now that they just traded one of their best weapons in Chris Chambers.
Tim: Tough spot for Miami this week. Brown looks like the perfect back to assume LT’s multi-purpose role in Cameron’s offense, but Dan’s right, he’s the only weapon they have. I don’t want to engage in any psychobabble, but you have to wonder how the team is feeling after their best wideout was traded for a future draft pick as Greg mentioned. That’s a kick in the gnads heading into the best opponent they’ve played all year. Cleo Lemon is a cool name though. That guy was bound to be famous, or a private detective.
Save for one play, the Pats had a great week covering kicks against the Cowboys. What do you expect from the Pats specials this weekend?
Travis: If Gost has a game like last week, they shouldn’t have much of a problem on kickoffs. I haven’t heard much about it, but his kickoffs from last week (not counting the squib) landed at the: -1, touchback, -3, -4, touchback, 5, 0. They weren’t line drives, either. The Cowboys’ returners usually felt the first contact at the 10-15 yard line. Gostkowski is turning into one of the best at kickoffs in the league.
Cam Cameron has gotten off to as bad a start as a new head coach can – winless through the first six weeks. That streak makes the Dolphins 19-39 over their last 3.5 seasons, after going 41-23 to start the decade. Seriously – what the @!&% is wrong with Miami?
Greg: I think one of the main problems has been lack of continuity for them. A few years back they had Dave Wannstadt as coach and he had his philosophy and style of play. They had some tough teams and won the division in Belichick’s first season here, but they always seemed to be missing something. They tried to get by for a few years with Jay Fiedler at QB. He was okay, but not good enough. Then Nick Saban came in and made wholesale changes. His moves were designed to imprint his style of play with his style of players. It can’t be expected to work in two years, necessarily. Plus they had the failed Daunte Culpepper deal, which left them still without a QB. Out of the blue, Saban leaves and once again you have a new coach trying to mold his style with a lot of players left over who fit better in a different system. Too much change. And they still haven’t found a long-term solution at QB and the defense has gotten old. They need to stick with Cameron for a few years or they’re just going to continue to flounder for awhile (pun intended)
Tim: When losing becomes an annual exercise the first place you have to look is ownership. I wish Marino was given real responsibility a few years ago as GM. That would have made the last 3.5 years look like a dynasty that songs should be written about. I think Mercury Morris when he was working out at the gym-NOSE-ium 8 hours a day would make better personnel decisions than unabashed goofball Dan Marino. No tears here for Miami. I hope it lasts forever.
Okay, men, let’s have a final score. Will the Pats make it to 7-0 this weekend?
Greg: Yes, with ease. I’ll go with 27-6.
Bruce: Patriots 20, Dolphins 10.
Dan: For whatever reason (and Taylor’s likely a big part of it), Brady struggles here. Hopefully, Kyle Brady had a #99 pinned to his facemask all week, so he’s comfortable with the assignment Sunday. Pats 34-17.
Tim: Hard to believe they won’t make it a lucky 7 game winning streak to start the year. It’s easy to use past losses like last year’s and 04’s in Miami as cautionary tales, but both of those happened late in the season and I think that played a big part. I am personally looking ahead to Washington next week. They’ll present real changes with their physical secondary. 28 – 10 good guys.