October 25, 2014

Kevin-Sent

logoby Dan Snapp
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Prior to the start of the 2000 season, the Patriots played in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. The game marked Bill Belichick’s Patriots head coaching debut, Tom Brady’s first action (he went 3-for-4 for 28 yards), Dennis Miller’s Monday Night Football premiere, and Miller’s lone instance of being funny (“It’s surprisingly hard to find good Cantonese here,” he quipped) in his entire MNF run.

Kevin Faulk was a footnote then, an “undersized” second-year back fighting for playing time against free agent Raymont Harris and rookie J.R. Redmond.

Back then, the yearly running back question was “Who will replace Curtis Martin?” There was Robert Edwards in ’98 (before his sad beach volleyball injury), Terry Allen in ’99, and this game appeared to be Harris’s audition for the role, with nine carries for 58 yards.

But Faulk showed the first signs of his future role with the team, taking a pass from Michael Bishop for a 25-yard TD, and returning a punt 22 yards to set up another score. This prompted Miller to suggest Faulk might be the answer to the Martin question. It was a throwaway line, one of those designed to fete the players in front of him in an otherwise dull game.

Nobody could have imagined then that Faulk would come to mean more to the team than Martin ever did, nor entertain us more than Miller ever could.

Kevin Faulk is the most important running back in Patriots history. Others were more athletic, more talented, more accomplished. Certainly he’s been outrushed by a slew of them. But no back has been more pivotal to the Patriots’ success.

Sunday’s performance – laying out for 11-yard third down conversion and reaching behind and down for a fingertip grab three plays later – only punctuated that importance. As Christopher Price noted here yesterday, Faulk’s been 13-for-13 on passes thrown to him the past two games. What does it say about him that that stat’s not the least bit surprising?

Just about every Patriots fan has underrated Faulk at some point in his career. It was obvious he wasn’t a lead back in this league, and his six fumbles in 2000 led to a probably undeserved charge that he was “fumble-prone.” It wasn’t until the 2003 season, when he helped save games against Denver and Houston (just about singlehandedly in that one), that he cemented his role on the team and in our hearts.

In CBS’s post-game wrapup Sunday, Boomer Esiason said someday Gillette Stadium would see a “Kevin Faulk Day.” It was a nice sentiment, and an inevitable honor. But it’s not enough.

There’s no worthy place of honor for a player like Faulk: passing game specialist, productive punt returner, and blitz picker-upper extraordinaire. He has nowhere near the rushing nor receiving stats for the Hall of Fame, of course. There will be a “Kevin Faulk Day” and he’ll own a spot in the Patriots “Ring of Honor”, or whatever the Patriots will call it.

Perhaps we could call him the “best third-down back of all time”, although probably a dubious honor, connoting an inability to be a lead back. Plus, somebody like Joe Washington might be the holder of that title.

It may be left to honor him in our memories. Tell us your favorite Kevin Faulk moments here.

Comments

  1. First: in Super Bowl XXXVI against the Rams, he got 8 yards on a sweep left on a 3rd and 2 shortly before the half, which set up Brady’s touchdown pass to David Patten that put the Pats up 14-3 at the half.
    Second: the November 2002 game against the Bears in Chicago, a must-win for the Pats at the time who were struggling for a playoff berth (which they ended up just missing). In the Pats amazing comeback, Faulk had 5 rushes for 21 yards and 7 receptions for 109 yards.

  2. How about the different variations of the direct snap:
    * Against the Dolphins in 2001, with Faulk throwing to Brady in the flat for a big first down
    * Against the Panthers in the Super Bowl, going in for the two-point conversion to make it 29-22.
    * Against the Chargers last year, for the two-point conversion to tie their Divisional game, 21-21
    * Against the Jaguars two weeks ago, the fake direct snap, with Faulk lining up close and selling it all the way.

  3. How about recovering the ball from Ed Reed in the Ravens game this year!
    The guy is money!

  4. C U N Glendale says:

    I can vividly remember having a heated argument with my business partner and a co worker in the weeks after the first bowl. Question was “Faulk or Redmond” I vehemently went to bat for KEVIN citing numerous huge plays he made. Both my friend were enamored with the dreaded “potential” of Redmond,and the big catches he had in the bowl run.
    I still, to this day throw that conversation in my partners face. “still rather have redmond?” I ask.
    Best 3rd down/scat/specialist/whatever you want to call it back Ever. One of the best college backs as well

  5. Or how about his impact when hurt? In the 2005 Pittsburgh game when they lost Light and Harrison they also lost Faulk and it took the offense several weeks to recover. Also in the Indianapolis championship game in 2007, the last time they lost, Faulk went out in the first quarter with an injury and when they desperately needed a first down catch, like they did Sunday, Brady was not able to throw to him.

    I also can’t forget his huge catches down the stretch in 2002 in the final game against the Dolphins to keep their playoff possibility alive.

  6. chrisa798 says:

    Faulk is boss, but what’s up with the anti-Dennis Miller stance? Miller is funny, and his in-booth weirdness was a refeshing change. Madden is Madden, but I think Madden reacting to Miller in the booth would be comedy gold.

    “The Saints backfield looked like a bunch of Carthaginian agronomists searching for a patch of farmland not soaked in salt.”

    “Uh, yeah, and there were all these guys, see, trying to pickup the ball, and when you get that many guys like that, sometimes the ball will bounce away to where you have no guys, and one of the other team’s guys will be there to get it.”

  7. Call it personal taste. His bit’s too referential, almost to the point that he’d prefer his audience not be in on the joke so he can feel superior. It’s one thing in an auditorium, where people paying to see him already know the schtick. Hoping your average MNF audience would get it is just a ridiculous expectation.

  8. larry mollin says:

    great piece.

    i remember how the year after the super bowl i think 2002 we had to play our way into the playoffs right to the last game. Faulk was absolutely unbelievable that game agaist Miami. Heroic. Then a few hours later the Jets won their game and we were eliminated and the bad feelings set in. I remember thinking that poor Faulk was doomed to be a “hero in the dark.” to steal a term from poet/lefty Okajimi.

  9. Favorite Faulk moment(s): The two screen passes in a row vs. Philly in SB XXXIX. Helped the offense get into rhythm and threw the Eagles out of their blitz-happy defense.

  10. chrisa798 says:

    Dan,

    That’s a pretty good rationale, can’t really argue with it other than quibbling with the riduculousness factor. I found him amusing in the booth even when I had know idea what he was talking about, but in the context of MNF I could see why he might’ve gotten booted even without Madden.

  11. It should be noted that Faulk’s 5 catches against the Jags 2 weeks ago was a career playoff high, then he bested that yet again against the Chargers with 8 catches. Who’d have thought they’d need him this much, this year, after the season we just witnessed? Terrific.

    They’ve needed him to run at times, and he’s done that. Sometimes he isn’t needed at all from a production standpoint, but his protection and return game are consistent.

  12. Easily the best pick Bobby Grier ever made (Damning with faint praise).

  13. chrisa798 says:

    One of the best whiner line calls ever was the guy who said “I thought to myself, what a bunch of bozos” when viewing the brain trust of Grier, Carroll, and Kraft at one of the drafts.

    Feel free to damn Grier with a 2×4.

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