by Scott Benson
So…..what are YOU doing today?
I thought I was excited about the Jets and Chargers games in September, and maybe the Cowboys last month, but this is something else entirely. I don’t even know what the hell time it is (like we needed to add another hour to our pre-game wait – damn you, US Congress!). I don’t know if I slept, even. I don’t know if my house burned down around me overnight. I don’t know if my wife left me (I don’t think so, though – there was coffee this morning, and the dogs seem well fed).
This is, of course, hyperbole – sort of.
I’ll get to the game day papers in a minute, but first, a few words about Steve Young.
Kerry Byrne of the Cold Hard Football Facts noted earlier this week that Young, now with ESPN, has been one of the most vociferous critics of the Patriots of late, particularly in the wake of last week’s 52-7 thrashing of the Washington Redskins. Soon after, Young shrieked that the Patriots’ image is being tarnished by their routine pounding of opponents, citing a lack of sportsmanship or some such foolishness. Young, taking a cue from Steve Gutman or somebody, went on to say that Bill Belichick’s refusal to let up on the pedal with games allegedly in hand indicated some deep psychological problem on the coach’s part.
Kerry slammed the CHFF bully pulpit down on Young, listing the numerous instances where his 49’ers rolled up lopsided scores on vanquished opponents, most particularly in Young’s record-setting six touchdown pass performance in the Niners 49-26 win over the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. Case closed, right?
Well, not according to our BSMW message board friend ‘Ironhead’, who thought he might do a little running up the score himself. While watching some TV with his lovely fiancee on Thursday night, what should I-Head stumble across but an episode of the NFL Network’s wonderful “America’s Game” series. Always worth putting down the remote when you find that. Even more so when it features Young himself, crowing about his team’s performance in that win over the Chargers.
“Mike Shanahan (Editor’s Note: Shanahan was the Niners OC that year) and I wanted to make a statement about the 49ers. Yeah, we’ve been to the Super Bowl before; but yeah, you’ve never seen this one before.
Mike Shanahan at the end of game was upset because it was only six touchdown passes because he wanted eight. You want to know why I love that guy? You know why? Forty-nine points was not nearly enough.”
Oh, dear. Why, Steve sounds even more like a hypocrite here, doesn’t he? How embarrassing for him. This is getting kind of lopsided. Ironhead, for God’s sake man, ease up. You’ve got this game won. Let the poor soul walk away with at least a shred of dignity.
Now, on to today’s game.
In the Globe, Bob Hohler looks at the contrasting styles of Belichick and Tony Dungy, with helpful illumination from Adam Vinatieri and Dan Klecko, who have played for them both. Christopher Gasper moves the focus to between the lines, and suggests that this may be the day when Adalius Thomas truly becomes a difference maker for the Patriots. I was most interested in the comments from Rex Ryan, defensive mastermind in Baltimore, and his recollections of Thomas’s performance in the Colts-Ravens playoff game last January. Gasper also has the late-breaking news of Corey Dillon’s interest in rejoining the Patriots, and the hopes that Benjamin Watson may return to the field this afternoon.
Apparently, Dan Shaughnessy has submitted a football column today, but as you know, I wouldn’t link to Dan Shaughnessy if he was the last writer on earth, because he doesn’t know football any better than Bill Parcells’ ex-wife. In fact, if she wrote a column this morning, I would link it, because she has at least learned to lay off the decades-old Springsteen references.
Thank God for Mike Reiss, who offers NFL mid-term grades in this week’s version of his always informative league notes. Guess who wins MVP, by the way?
John Tomase leads off Herald coverage this morning, noting that job one for the Pats is to stop the increasingly confident and capable Peyton Manning, who like Tom Brady is at the height of his powers. JT adds his two cents on the coaching matchup, correctly adding that regardless of the differing approaches, the coaches have led their respective teams to the same place.
Tomase and I are kindred spirits in the whole running it up controversy, which he takes on in his weekly Quick Hits. On this we agree – of course the Pats are running it up. And of course it’s because of the spying allegations levied at them in the season’s first week. But John, this fury was self-inflicted? Bullshit. I suggest if the rest of the league had kept their yaps shut while Commissioner Roger Goodell deliberated on the matter and meted out his punishment, things would be different. But they didn’t. Sniveling punks like Hines Ward took the opening to deflect attention from their own failings, and others hid behind bought-and-paid-for media hacks like Chris Mortensen to do their own running up of the score. This brutal run isn’t about showing Goodell anything, it’s about showing the rest of the league that there’s a price to be paid for trying to beat the Patriots in the court of public opinion after they couldn’t beat them on the field.
The Herald also wastes some space by running a two-day old column from Bob Kravitz of the Indy Star. Kravitz opens by lamenting the “insipid message board discourse” that accompanies mega-matchups like today’s. Sure, Bob. We’d be better off staying out if it so that the history can be written by the always dispassionate and thoughtful mainstream media. Like your Wednesday column, for example, entitled “It’s becoming easier to hate the Pats more every week.” A real think-piece.
By now, it should be quite apparent the Patriots have chosen to make a statement this regular season. And that statement is this:
Well, bite us.
That’s why it’s incumbent upon the Indianapolis Colts — those Beacons of Purity in heavenly conflict with the Forces of Pure Evil — to not only beat the favored Patriots, but humble them, humiliate them and take their camcorder from them.
With that out of the way, now Kravitz wants to place a moratorium on childishness so that we may all appreciate a storied rivalry. He has all the consistency of….well, Steve Young. I think I would have been better off linking Shaughnessy.
In the ProJo, Shalise Manza Young says the Pats are well-armed to take on Indy’s Cover Two defense. Jim Donaldson writes that championships are not won in November, though home field advantage sometimes is. SMY has news on Ray Ventrone, the safety who will occupy (at least temporarily) the vacant roster spot created by the shelving of Sammy Morris on Friday. Lastly, Young visits with LeKevin Smith in her weekly Up Close segment. A deserved bit of ink for a guy who has quietly become a force on the Pats special teams.
Elswhere around the New England region, Eric McHugh of the Patriot Ledger reminds us that no undefeated teams have ever met this late in an NFL season. Douglas Flynn of the MetroWest Daily News says Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are simply the best. David Heuschkel of the Hartford Courant points out that for both quarterbacks, it’s all in the details this afternoon. Lastly, Mike Lowe of the Maine Sunday Telegram asks haven’t we been here before?
We have, Mike. That’s what makes this latest showdown between the two rivals so great, and so seemingly all-consuming. Now, I better go fix my clocks, and make sure my wife is still here. Talk to you later.