September 26, 2016

Game On

by Scott Benson
[email protected]

The first blow of free agency has been struck, and has been the trend since February 1, the Patriots have taken another one on the chin.

PHILADELPHIA FREEDOM

At this writing, reports that Asante Samuel has signed a first day deal with the Eagles have begun to trickle in. 

The Pro Bowl cornerback has apparently reached a six-year agreement with Philadelphia, though financial considerations have yet to be determined. Early rumors say that the former 4th round pick will average somewhere around $9.5 million a season for the Eagles, with as much as $20 million of the deal guaranteed. 

Given Samuel’s age and the position he plays, this is probably the biggest free agent loss of the Belichick era. Samuel logged significant minutes for the three-time champs from the beginning of his career, and by his fourth season, he had ascended to become one of the better playmaking cornerbacks in the league. Most memorable was his interception return for a touchdown against Peyton Manning in the 2006 AFC Championship, though Pats fans will now likely choose to remember his near-but-not-near-enough interception muff against another Manning in the Patriots’ shocking Super Bowl loss to the Giants just a few weeks ago.

Simply said, I feel bad. This is one of the hardest things about being a sports fan in this player/transient day and age, though we can’t begrudge Samuel for exploiting his CBA-given right to free and open bidding for his services. They same system worked for the Patriots last year, as talented players like Randy Moss and Wes Welker joined the Pats (albeit by trade, but you know that I mean) and helped them to one of the most historic, and controversial, seasons in league history. This time, the Lord has taketh away.

Samuel was a diligent worker and a solid citizen who played hard every week, and over time, developed skills that have now resulted in multi-lifetime security for himself and his family. He owes the Patriots and their fans nothing, aside from a warm handhake and a thanks for the chance. By the same token, we owe him – at the least – a nod of gratitude for meritorious service to the cause.

NO MOSS GATHERED

Drama queen Mike Florio and his little rat-faced three-name lackey Michael David Smith have barely concealed their glee – in between Sprint ads disguised as ‘posts’ to their rumor site – that the Patriots have yet to sign Randy Moss to the new contract that was expected to be executed sometime after midnight last night. Have I mentioned how much I think Florio has screwed up a good thing with Pro Football Talk?

Anyway, Moss talk at this point is nothing more than rank speculation, and I’ll take a pass on that, thanks. Who knows what the deal is, or isn’t? Nobody, I think, other than Moss himself. Pats fans who have worked themselves into a lather because the record-breaker has gone a whole 18 hours without re-upping probably need to get some fresh air or something.

Of course, I may have a dog in this hunt, secretly. I’ll probably get flamed like Jim Carrey’s Fireman Bill for even breathing a word of this, but I guess I wouldn’t be bothered too much if Moss pulled a swerve on the Pats and signed a mega-deal with someone else. Let’s just say that things got a little too “just ****ing sling it” for my tastes last season. Those September-October jump balls tend to peter out when the leaves fall, and when the winter winds start to whip, the high-flying Sling It Kids just end up with getting rolled for their lunch money, left in a heap with a bunch of sparkling 19-0 t-shirts they can’t use.

Of course, if he re-signs, it’ll be the greatest thing that ever happened.

FREE AGENT EMMANUEL LEWIS TO VISIT PATS NEXT WEEK

No, I guess the diminutive former star of TV’s Webster is still locked into his rookie deal or something, because its actually cornerback Jason Webster who will be stopping by Route 1 on Monday. Being perfectly honest here, it took me a good long time to even remember who Jason Webster, the former Bill, Falcon and 49’er, is. I have an exuse, though – he’s played only nine games over the last two years, none against the Pats. The 30 year old is said to be best suited for zone coverage. Oh, great – more 19 yard cushions. You can’t dog the Pats on this, though – they’ve lost Samuel, Eugene Wilson, and quite possibly Randall Gay (set for visits across the country apparently) over the last week. At the very least, Webster would provide experienced depth and competition as things get underway in the late summer. 

STAY TUNED

I’ll be back periodically as developments warrant. I hope you’ll do the same.

Free Agency Period Begins

by Scott Benson
[email protected]

The NFL’s new year began shortly after midnight this morning and that means the league’s free agency period is underway. The Patriots are already making news.

Asante Samuel, the 4th round pick who became a Pro Bowler, is now poised to become the highest paid cornerback in the league. He’s reportedly scheduled to visit the Eagles today. It is all but certain now that his Patriots career is over, and that New England will be faced with plugging a large hole in their defense this fall.

Secondary mate Randall Gay is another expected to move on to ‘greener’ pasture$ in the days ahead.

The Pats won’t lose everybody – Kelley Washington, the special teamer and reserve wideout, has agreed to return to the Pats, and may now find a role in the offense with the departure of Donte Stallworth. No word yet on the fate of Jabar Gaffney, who also became a free agent overnight.

Veteran linebacker Tedy Bruschi announced last night that he would return for his 13th season with the team.

Finally, there has been no announcement about the elephant in the room. The record setting Randy Moss became the NFL’s prime free agent at 12:01 a.m., but so far, no news. Veteran scribe Sid Hartman of the Minneapolis Star Tribune claims in a Friday column that former Vike Moss is signed, sealed and delivered to the Pats.

We will see. And react, of course. Stop by when you can.

So Long To Rosie, Geno?

WEEI and Mike Reiss are each reporting that linebacker Rosevelt Colvin has been (or will be soon) released. Colvin was due to count $7.6 million against the cap next season, do doubt the main reason for this move.

Ironically, Colvin was a guest on WEEI’s Dale & Holley program this morning, and made mention of his uncertain status, though he stated that he hopes to be with the team next season.

If he is, it will be with a new (and smaller) contract.

Reiss also reported this morning that the Patriots and safety Eugene Wilson are also expected to part ways this offseason.

This move isn’t unexpected, as Wilson saw his playing time cut this season with the emergence of James Sanders as the starter alongside Rodney Harrison and with Brandon Meriweather coming on strong towards the end of his rookie season.

This weekend marks the start of free agency. The Patriots aren’t expected to be quite as active in the opening days this season, but we’ll keep you posted on any moves that they make..

Capers Signs On With Pats

by Scott Benson
[email protected]

The Patriots have hired veteran NFL coach Dom Capers to be the team’s special assistant/secondary coach.

Capers will replace the departing Joel Collier, but even at first glance, you have to wonder if there’s more to it.  

Like, what’s a ‘special’ assistant? Coach Bill Belichick may have answered this one in his team-issued statement, “I look forward to getting to work with Dom and Dean [Pees] immediately.” I understand it’s just a press release, but given that statement and Capers’ history as a defensive coordinator, it may be clearer what’s “special” about him.

Capers is said to have recently turned down an offer to be defensive coordinator with the Dallas Cowboys; granted, alot depends on the right fit, but DC still seems to be a step above assistant and position coach.

For all the faults of the almost-world-beating offense in the Super Bowl, the fact remains that for two years running, the Pats defense could not stop the winning points from being scored at the end of a championship game. That’s a gradual yet sharp decline from what that defense once was, when it once dominated the best offenses in the league, with many of the same players. Which is probably the biggest part of the problem now, the passage of time being what it is. My prevailing thought on that Sunday night almost three weeks ago was that, most of all, something had to change with this defense.

It’s only an assumption at this point that Capers is the first step in that change, and that the team is moving towards a more aggressive style. My recollection of Capers’ defenses is that he made big stars out of lunatics like Greg Lloyd and Kevin Greene and Carnell Lake, all of them blitzing from every angle, pretty much all the time. A 3-4, but one that was really predicated on its hyper-aggressive pass rush, particularly from its linebackers. Much more so than the Patriots seem to have been recently.

Which would bring further urgency to replenish a defense – with all due respect – that simply isn’t good enough to be depended on anymore, not in the way it used to be. You don’t just stumble across an offense that ends up scoring more points than anyone ever has. There was some planning behind that, and considering the way things have ended in each of the last two years, you have to ask yourself if there are others who reached that conclusion long before us.

Or maybe I’m just getting way ahead of myself. Maybe Capers is here simply to deal with a post-Samuel secondary, and to find the right mix of Brandon Meriweather, James Sanders and Rodney Harrison. Maybe he’s here to chip in with a thought here and there. Maybe he’s here simply to do a good job in a high profile situation, as he often has as an assistant, and hope for his third try as a head coach.

Maybe.

Monday Morning Surprise

by Scott Benson
[email protected]

Mike Reiss of the Boston Globe has left his local and national contemporaries in his wake this morning with an exclusive interview with Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Vice-President Scott Pioli on the ‘Spygate’ controversy that has swirled around the team since the Patriots were nabbed breaking league rules in September.

For the first time, Belichick and Pioli offer extended comments on the controversy, which found new legs just before the Super Bowl with new allegations of taping improprieties and even the threat of intervention by the US Senate.

Over the past several days, a number of Pats fans have wondered when, if ever, the team would ‘fight back’ against the charges that envelop them. Today, the team responds in surprising, unannounced fashion. The highlights:

*Belichick flatly denies ever authorizing the taping of another team’s walkthrough, or ever being involved in such a practice during his coaching career;

*Pioli says Matt Walsh, the former team employee who claims he has evidence that will further damage the Patriots, was dismissed by the team in 2003 when Pioli learned Walsh was secretly tape-recording conversations between the two;

*Belichick offers his first extended explanation of the taping practices that led to the heaviest sanction in NFL history, denying that tapes of defensive signals were ever used in the game in which they were shot, and asserting they were of minimal impact to the team’s future preparation;

*When Reiss presses Belichick on why he bothered to tape when the impact was minimal, the coach predictably responds “Why do anything?” before acknowledging that it could have all been avoided;

*Pioli details Walsh’s employment history with the Patriots, which seems to contradict previous media reports as to Walsh’s responsibilities with the team.

These are in no way the definitive nor final words to be uttered about this regrettable period of the team’s history, but for many Pats fans this morning, they are welcome words nonetheless.    

No Excuses

by Dan Snapp
[email protected]

So 10 days past the debacle, and already the conspiracy theories are out. Some fans can’t accept a legitimate loss, and grasp any straw available, even the last one. The claims this time (I’ll spare you the links) are that the refs swallowed their whistles in the waning minutes, and that there was some funny business with the game clock.

Don’t do it to yourselves, people. It’s pointless, it’s embarrassing and it’s wrong. It doesn’t matter what you think you see on video or in still frames; they’re not going to reverse the outcome. The Patriots lost, and they deserved to lose.

ProFootballTalk and Deadspin have already latched onto this one, Deadspin to laugh at the joke “online petitions” are to begin with, and PFT just to laugh at Patriot fans. Apparently PFT thinks all signees – up to nearly 20,000 – are legit Pats fans, in which case I’d like to officially welcome Monty Python, Forrest Gump and Elmer Fudd to the flock.

The petition isn’t unique to Patriot fans, though. After the Patriots beat the Rams in 2002, one sullen Rams fan took it as his mission in life to prove the Rams were cheated of rightful victory. He used still frames from the game to point out in great detail how the NFL and the government were in cahoots after 9-11 to award the championship to the Patriots (“9-11″ and the “Patriots”, get it? Do you see??!!). Because, the thinking must have gone, were the Rams to prevail, well then the terrorists have already won.

Don’t be that guy, Pats fans.

Go through any game with a fine-toothed comb and you’ll find a dozen penalties that get missed, for both sides. Some games are called better than others, and we’re always going to be bothered by the more egregious errors. But Mike Carey and his crew called a fair game in the Super Bowl. And if you’re honest with yourselves, you’d see the Patriots line got away with some holds, too.

Take your cue from the Patriots coaches and players. Not a one has said anything other than the Giants outplayed them. Certainly none have said, “The better team lost.”

The Most Miserable 18-1 Season in History

By Bruce Allen
[email protected]

Let me first start by saying that this column was going to be written even if the Patriots had won on Sunday night. The only difference is that the column would’ve been entitled “The Most Miserable Perfect Season in History.”

On the field, this Patriots team was a fan’s dream. They were talented, charismatic and had an obvious flair for the dramatic. They had the highest scoring offense of all time, with the superstar quarterback and ridiculously gifted wide receiver each breaking high-profile NFL records in the process. They had a resourceful defense, which while aging, still had experience and guile unmatched by most units across the league.

Yet, in talking to a number of people, this was the least fun that they’ve had following football that they can ever remember.

What made it that way? Certainly not the games. The games – even the blowouts, were all marvelously entertaining.

It was the coverage of this team. Right from training camp, there was always something to pick at and criticize. Randy Moss didn’t play a single down in the preseason – there was talk that he just didn’t want to work. Some speculated that he wouldn’t even make the team out of training camp. How silly does that notion look now? Others stated that Tom Brady was going to be distracted because of his personal life, having just become a new father, and trying to keep up with his supermodel girlfriend who wasn’t the mother of the child would somehow effect his performance on the field. With all that has happened since that time, these issues might seem like ancient history, but during training camp, we got almost daily reminders of these stories.

It turned out that that was just the beginning. There was Spygate. Then the Patriots were winning by too much and the media complained endlessly that they were running up the scores, humiliating their opponents and that they had no class. Meanwhile, the wins were piling up, one after the other. Teams around the league suddenly figured out that by being the team that handed the Patriots their first loss, they would reap untold reams of media adulation. So they started making games against the Patriots their personal Super Bowl. Teams like the Eagles, Ravens and Jets put everything they could into their games against the Patriots, only to come up short. But since they made the games close, all of a sudden the media was knocking the Patriots because they weren’t winning by enough. Then they might not be able to play in the cold. Then they didn’t have a running game. Then Randy Moss ended up having a restraining order issued against him in Florida. The Patriots were a dirty team that took cheap shots at helpless opponents.

It seemed that almost every day this season there was some drama going on that took away from the football. From the first day of training camp to the last second of the Super Bowl, there the naysayers and finger-waggers were lined up, doing their best to be “objective” in their coverage.

The worst part was that you couldn’t get away from it if you tried.

I think if one word sums up the coverage of the Patriots this season, it is embarrassing.

This season marked a change in a number of ways in which the Patriots have been covered. For one, the Boston Herald went to much more of a tabloid/gossip style of reporting. Fitting because they are a tabloid. It wasn’t always this way. In the early years of the Tom Brady era, the Herald had the best coverage of the team, hands down, while the Globe assigned bitter old men like Nick Cafardo and Ron Borges to the Patriots beat. (To be fair, the Herald did saddle us with Kevin Mannix for many years.)

Even at the start of this season, things were as good as they’ve ever been in terms of beat reporter coverage. Albert Breer was contributing to the Herald through the MetroWest Daily News, and formed a solid 1-2 punch on the Herald’s The Point After blog. When the business relationship between the papers ended, and Breer headed to Dallas, the Herald started sending Karen Guregian to work with Tomase on the beat. While Guregian is a competent reporter, the coverage immediately suffered with the loss of Breer. The Herald started featuring the Patriots in the Inside Track as much as they did in the sports pages, and sensationalistic headlines atop meaningless and pointless articles started to become the norm. The Herald appears to be a New York Post wannabe these days, and that’s not a favorable comparison.

Meanwhile, at The Boston Globe, the day-to-day reporting is in the very capable hands of Mike Reiss and Chris Gasper. They do a tremendous job at bringing us the facts, and analyzing the facts. They stick to football for the most part, and when required to cover issues like Spygate, report in a neutral fashion, not injecting their own criticism or judgments. The problem with the Globe comes when Dan Shaughnessy or Jackie MacMullan sink their teeth into the Patriots. The former always has to defend his paper’s 17% ownership of the Red Sox by putting down the Patriots at the expense of the baseball club, while MacMullan has made a name among Patriots fans for her profiles of a player, agent or competitor with an axe to grind against the organization. The Globe/Boston.com has also been doing more of the gossip-style material on the web as well.

The other papers really weren’t the problem with the Patriots coverage this season. Radio and Television, as well as national websites and publications were what made this a really miserable season. Herr Gregg Easterbook took highly publicized weekly shots at the team in his ESPN.com Page2 column, accusing the Patriots of everything short of being an Al Qaeda splinter cell hell-bent on bringing the free world to its knees. Peter King demanded to know what was the tapes destroyed by the NFL, talked about the Patriots past accomplishments being tainted, and put words in the mouth of an opposing coach (Wade Phillips) about how what the Patriots had done was a “black mark” on the NFL. The other columnists on the national sites lined up to take their shots on seemingly a daily basis. From Bob Cook to John Czarnecki, Michael Silver, Mike Celizic and Dr Z. On TV, Merril Hoge, Marshall Faulk, Mike Ditka, Terrell Davis – they all did the same on the air. The list is endless. Now mind you, I understand that part of the price that you pay by being on top is that everyone wants to take you down. How fun or interesting is it for people just to praise you all the time anyway…but these articles were more than just that, they were personal. They were nasty, and they popped up almost every day.

On the local radio airwaves we had no shortage of the same type of thing. Dennis and Callahan, (WEEI) The Mike Felger Show, (890 ESPN) even the Patriots own pregame show on WBCN all pounded listeners regularly with stupid, pointless speculation and “concern” and moralizing. Very little actual between-the-lines football was discussed. Things were so bad this season that I felt the need to listen to WEEI’s Big Show to hear their incessant sucking up to the team just to get away from the negativity. Even the Patriots own website had Podcasts with the Patriots Football Weekly writers who made needlessly nasty insults about players and insinuated all sorts of things throughout the season.

On television we were treated to many of the same characters, saying all the exact same things on a nightly basis on outlets such as Comcast SportsNet, NESN and NECN. Sportscasters on the late-night news did all they could to tease you into watching their segments by promising the latest scoop on some worry of the day. What’s worse, during the biggest points of the season we were subjected to the regular news folk getting involved with the team, leading their newscasts with misleading, provocative lead-ins, and showing up at press conferences to demand answers from the coach. Those scenes had a very paparazzi-like feel to them. In fact, the whole season did, right down to the final weekend.

The day before the Super Bowl, John Tomase ran a piece citing a single unnamed source stating that an unnamed person taped the walk-through practice of the St Louis Rams prior to the 2002 Super Bowl. This unnamed source did not know what the unnamed cameraman did with the tape, nor if this mystery person did this under instruction or on their own. This story garnered outrage across the country, with even former St Louis quarterback Kurt Warner speaking out. However, it was also reported that a telescope was spotted out of a window observing the Patriots practice, but that fact somehow didn’t generate the same outrage. The fact that the Rams went through red-zone formations in the walk-through and then converted their only red-zone possession into a touchdown in the Super Bowl has also been lost in the chaos.

Tomase took a beating on the Boston Herald comments section for his story. It was brutal, with some readers even threatening him. (The Herald has since shut down comments on the blog.) For a little while I felt sorry for him and even considered sending him a note to hang in there. Then as I noted that the item had been picked up by ESPN, CNN, NPR and every other media outlet known by an acronym, I realized that he didn’t need support. He knew what the local reaction would be, and went with it anyway. A few years back when writing for the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, Tomase had written a piece on Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez, which was not well received by most fans. However, the article made a bigger name for Tomase, who got sports radio appearances out of it, and then eventually a promotion to the Herald, where he ended up on the Patriots beat.

This story could be another stepping-stone for Tomase, as the story received national attention. But really, that’s how it has been the entire season. One person after another, out to break the big story, to make a name for themselves. Congratulations to all who achieved this noble goal this season.

It’s amazing to me that all these outlets truly believe that the type of coverage that we saw this season is what the people really want. Yes, none of this was by accident. They really believe that they’re giving the public what they want.

What they did was almost ruin a fantastically entertaining season – a on-field season like none other in NFL history. Even though it ended in bitter disappointment, the accomplishments of the 2007 Patriots will be remembered for decades. Yet, apparently there wasn’t enough going on on the field to keep people busy. They made a circus out the season, sucking out any joy that could be had from watching this marvelous team. We had it all here in front of us, and too often, we had to look away because someone else wanted to make their own name in front of us. They made following this team a miserable experience at times.

Let’s get something straight here, these are not the ramblings of a person who believes that only good things should be said and written about the team. When they deserve the criticism…let ‘em have it. They deserved criticism for the Spygate episode, but not the massive, belligerent splash-back that actually occurred. People act as though they got off scott-free from that incident, but in reality they received an unprecedented punishment in the history of team sports. This isn’t about legitimate criticism, it’s about the exaggerated dramas and made up “crisis-es” which result in breathless reports “from the scene” and the like.

When we have our Patriots Daily offseason meetings sometime in the next few weeks, I’m seriously considering proposing the idea that the site focus solely on the on-the-field product, and the transactions that affect that product. No more reacting to this media report or that idiot spouting off about tainted titles. Just football. We’d probably have a hard time accomplishing that, but think about it. How cool would it be to have a discussion site where everyone talked about what they say with their own eyes…not about what they heard some talking head mediot spout on his fifth radio appearance of the day. It would be an interesting experiment, I don’t know how far it would go, though.

I just wish I had been able to do it this season.

Spin City

by Scott Benson
[email protected]

Here at PD, we’re intent on moving beyond the high-tech lynching of Pats coach Bill Belichick because, frankly, we’d just as soon get back to the simple life of following our favorite football team without the disapproving finger being wagged at us from every hysterical, profit-driven, bottom-feeding direction.

We’re football fans, not Al Qaeda recruits. He’s a football coach, not Osama Bin Laden. Spare me the Homeland Security Advisory.

Still, I can’t help but be fascinated by the subtle nuances of the dogged reportage on this matter of grave national security. This, from someone named Pat Bigold at the Globe this morning:

Goodell keeps an open mind
By Pat Bigold
Globe Correspondent / February 7, 2008

HONOLULU – NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said yesterday he “reserves the right” to reopen an investigation into charges the Patriots videotaped opponents’ signals if credible new information is presented to his office.

Goodell spoke briefly prior to the AFC Pro Bowl squad’s practice at Kapolei High School.

“From Day 1 I have said that if I find new information inconsistent with what we’ve been told, then I reserve the right to reopen that,” he said. “If there’s new material or information that’s credible, then we’ll look into it.”

But Goodell made it clear he has not received anything new that would lead him to believe there is substance to any new reports about Patriots spying.

I just thought it was ‘unusual’ that the lead was “Commish reserves right to reopen investigation…..IF” instead of “nothing new of substance”.

The good news is that both Mike Reiss and John Tomase have posted new articles this morning that both look forward to what will be an interesting team-building off-season for the Patriots.

You know, actual football stories. Is that the sun I see?

Inside Gillette

logoby Christopher Price
[email protected]

GLENDALE, Ariz. — In a cramped interview tent just outside of University of Phoenix Stadium late Sunday night, Randy Moss paused slightly for a moment while he pondered the question: Would he be back next year as a member of the Patriots?

“If I am in a New England Patriots uniform next year, I would love to be in one,” he said. “If I am not, you know, the show must go on.”

Moss was talking about himself, but he could have been speaking for almost one-fifth of New England’s 53-man roster. The Patriots face a number of personnel questions heading into the offseason — many of the players who were on the field Sunday night against the Giants may have been playing their final game in a New England uniform.

On offense, Moss is the biggest question, and the Patriots figure to try and move heaven and earth to get him to sign a cap friendly deal for next season and beyond. The wide receiver took a sizable pay cut to join New England last spring, and was a key part of a record-setting offense. It is known that a handful of players have been approached to re-do their deals, presumably in hopes of bringing players like Moss back. But late Sunday night, Moss wouldn’t tip his hand as to what he planned to do going forward, saying only he was just looking forward to the chance to spend some time with his family.

“I am not approaching the offseason. I have a family. I got kids to love and raise,” Moss said when quizzed again about his future. “I’m going to be with my kids probably until May or June. I am not thinking of anything football right now, so I can just relax my mind, my body, and love my kids.”

In all, the wide receiver position could ultimately see the same sort of turnover as last season when the Patriots completed an extreme makeover, bringing in new faces Moss, Donte Stallworth and Wes Welker. Stallworth is due an option bonus that is reportedly between $6 million and $8 million the team is not likely to pick up. (Stallworth declined interview requests after Sunday’s game.) In addition, Jabar Gaffney is an unrestricted free agent, while 36-year-old veteran wide receiver Troy Brown, who played in just one game this year, is a possible candidate for retirement. Wide receiver/special teams ace Kelley Washington is also due a sizable roster bonus, reportedly $4 million, while two others special teams stars, long snapper Lonie Paxton and special teams captain Larry Izzo, are unrestricted free agents.

On defense, cornerback Asante Samuel faces an uncertain future. Samuel was slapped with the franchise tag last season, which meant a one-year tender of $7.79 million. He was displeased with the offer and held out, eventually returning to camp two weeks before the start of the season. After another strong season — he now has 16 interceptions the last two seasons — he’ll become an unrestricted free agent in March, and it’s believed he’ll be seeking a lucrative deal somewhere in the neighborhood of the eight-year, $80 million deal that San Francisco’s Nate Clements signed, a deal he’s not likely to get with the Patriots.

Like Moss, Samuel would not elaborate on his future after the game.

“Everyone is down and heartbroken,” Samuel said when asked about the scene in the locker room after the game. “[Head Coach Bill Belichick] just told us that he appreciated everything we were able to do this season, like working hard and giving it our all. We weren’t able to do what it takes, and everybody is heartbroken.”

Fellow defensive backs Randall Gay and Eugene Wilson are also question marks as unrestricted free agents. Gay’s future may be tied to Samuel — if Samuel leaves, the Patriots would likely make more of an attempt to re-sign Gay in hopes of maintaining more continuity and depth in the secondary. As for Wilson, he has been bypassed on the depth chart at safety by James Sanders, and by the end of the season, was fighting rookie Brandon Meriweather for playing time.

The linebacker position is also unclear. Rosevelt Colvin, who ended the season on injured reserve, has a cap number that’ll increase to approximately $7 million next spring. Tedy Bruschi, 34, talked about the possibility of retirement in the days leading up to the game. Retirement could also claim linebacker Junior Seau — however, the 39-year-old would not commit one way or another after the game. “I haven’t thought about the future,” Seau said shortly after the loss. “I am having too much fun.” Asked if the loss will effect his decision to retire or not, Seau said, “No, this will not effect my decision.”

Christopher Price is an award-winning sportswriter who has covered the Patriots since 2001 for Boston Metro. He’s served a contributor to ESPN.com, SI.com, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post and The Miami Herald. He’s written “The Blueprint: How the New England Patriots Beat the System to Create the Last Great NFL Superpower,” and can be reached at [email protected].

Aftermath

by Scott Benson
[email protected]

I turned off the TV before the final seconds ticked from the Super Bowl clock and I haven’t turned it back on since. How long do you think I can hold out?

I hit Reiss’s Pieces pretty hard afterwards, waiting for some post game comment and reaction, but I haven’t been back or looked at any of the other blogs and sports pages. Does this seem like a reasonable plan for the long term?

I’ve been visiting my regular Internet haunts this morning and find many who feel as I do – the shock, this disappointment, the utter fatigue that makes them recoil from sports radio, or ESPN, or the half-wit Nelson Muntz in the next cubicle. I’m not sure I like their chances any better than I like mine.

We can run, but we can’t hide. 

4th and 13

A lot of attention is being paid to this, the final play of the second half’s opening drive, when Bill Belichick eschewed a 48 yard field goal attempt for a fourth down try on 4th and 13 from the Giants 31. The Patriots, naturally, didn’t make the first down or score any points. I admit I never thought of the field goal either. All I could think of at the time was if the Patriots could somehow get a 14-3 lead on the Giants, it would be very difficult for New York to come back and win the game. I was pissed at Gostkowski anyway – that stupid kickoff out of bounds. They dodged a bullet on it thanks to a Ellis Hobbs interception, but I was beside myself at the sloppiness. No matter – he could have very well drained the field goal, and with those three points, there’s your tie game.

Really? Aren’t we talking about something that happened with more than twenty minutes left in the game? I look at it this way – they had a lead with two minutes left in the game, a long field for the Giants, and they couldn’t stop them, and that’s what finally cost them the championship (familiar theme). If issue is going to be taken with Belichick’s coaching – and even he is not immune to it – it seems like an atrocious performance by an offense that was said to be the greatest ever, or a defense that was once a champion ending the season for two years running by giving up a score in the final minutes, or his undefated team’s generally flat performance on the biggest stage there is, all take precedence over a coaching decision made with seven minutes left in the third quarter. He made a pretty good decision to force a review (too many men on the field) and extend the very same drive, but there was still a lot of football to play.

Let’s start with this – you’d rather have Belichick as Patriots coach over any other living person. Still, he had at least half a lousy game plan going in to this game, even with two weeks to prepare. During the game, he and his staff seemed unable to make adjustments to that fatally flawed plan. As far as having his team peak at the right time, forget it. Despite making “sixty minutes” his mantra since last January, his team could only offer 58 in the game they had been pointing to for more than a year.

All that stuff is more important than 4th and 13.

Overconfidence?

I kept telling my wife all week – they look really confident! What an idiot. Tedy Bruschi being interviewed on the sidelines before the game – “I really think – I’ve never seen them so confident. I think they know they’re going to kill them.” Oh, man. It’s good that she’s on my side because she could kill me with that for a good long time.

But were they overconfident? Did they take anything for granted? With the Patriots Super Bowl losers again, anything seems possible, even with their legacy of strong heart and sound mind when it’s all on the line. Something was going on, to be sure: they were merely passengers on that bus last night, never in control. You expect more than that from coaches and players that have been talked about as all-time greats. Patriots fans – which includes me – have gotten fat and happy on the belief that, based on all that they had achieved, and how they achieved it, the Pats would always have the answer for everything. Which is ridiculous, obviously, given recent developments.

That stupid Globe book and the team’s apparent advance plans to trademark ’19-0’and make ‘Three Games To Glory 4′ available for immediate pre-order are a kick in the nuts, just to remind us. How embarrasing is all that stuff now? How many times have we crowed about the Steelers’ travel planning and the Eagles’ parade route? Man, we’ve lost that chip forever.  

It’s Not Like the Giants Didn’t Offer to Share

I don’t know whether I was in denial after the game, but I cannot believe I didn’t call out the fact that the Patriots were in position to make no less than three game-ending interceptions on the Giants final scoring drive, Asante Samuel’s being the worst non-play. Thinking of that now makes me feel kind of ill, actually. But it all goes to my prevailing feeling, right from the time the TV went off last night – this defense, the fulcrum on which three championships were balanced, is no longer capable of doing anything but hanging on for dear life and relying on their guile to make a handful of second half plays to pull out a game. They used to be a dynamic unit that changed games – think Indy in 03, or 04. Compared to then, they’re orange traffic cones now, laid out carefully to mitigate damage rather than to inflict it, and that’s probably because 03 and 04 is a hell of a long time ago in football years. Thing is, the Patriots still have essentially the same defense they had then, especially in the middle of the field. Losing the Super Bowl despite entering it undefeated is probably the right time to think about changing that.

And you have to wonder about the offense, and if all Belichick and Pioli accomplished was to take the the team in the Fouts/Marino direction in their effort to keep up with the times. We saw at the end of the season how Laurence Maroney can be impact player on the level of any they have (though he was not last night) – if he’s reduced to a bystander role at any point next season while four and five receivers get trotted out there for more pinball, we all ought to be screaming our bloody heads off. Because all that fastbreak basketball just ended up making the Patriots soft in the key, didn’t it?

New York, New York

It’s not right that we should go on about the Patriots’ failings without conceding all due credit to the fantastic performance of the New York Giants, who were truly the better team and deserve blah-blah-blah-blah-blah…….my wife just came downstairs and said “You know what? Screw the New York Giants! I’m not happy for Eli Manning, I’m not happy for that %$#&%@# Tom Coughlin, I hope they choke on it! Nobody was ever happy for us when we won!”

She’s a little upset. We both took the day off thinking we’d be able to sleep in and then happily watch winning press conferences and memorable hightlights and parade planning for a few hours. Now we’re boxed into watching HGTV shows about someone improving their deck, or wardrobe, or something. It’s the only safe place.

Seriously, this is a results business, baby. And the Giants got all the results last night, so good on them, for good. As we said repeatedly about our own team on this same morning six years ago: nobody will ever be able to take it away from them.

Another myth that’s been debunked, by the way.

Case Closed

Because they can take it away from you, or at least try, if you’re not a league meeting asskisser or beatific, media-savvy cross between Johnny Appleseed and Christ himself.

So here’s the deal, America – as Patriots fans, we have to suffer the indignity of hearing forever about 18-1, and about one of the biggest Super Bowl upsets in history, and about how the invincible Belichick and Brady ended up looking like saps. Nothing we can do about that, and it won’t go away. We own it, maybe for good. You’ll make sure of that.

In exchange for paying that penance for our real and/or perceived hubris over the past seven years, allow me to suggest that your penance is to stick your halfbaked sports moralizing and national referendums on classiness where the sun doesn’t shine. We’re done listening to a bunch of power-drunk, soccer mom hall monitors, emboldened by the shrieking of ESPN, an unholy alliance of yellow journalists and simmering fusspots bent on advancing their mealy-mouthed vindictiveness while duplicitously wrapped in the flag of ‘fair play’ and ‘honest competition’.

You don’t have an ounce of integrity yourself, so we’re done listening to you talk about it. We’re burying this agenda item today.

Final Thought

I’ve purged sufficiently now, I think, so that ought to be about it for me for a few days, unless some other shoe drops somewhere.  There will undoubtedly be more reaction from other members of the PD staff, and we’ll post that as it comes in.

Soon it will be time to talk about where PD goes from here, what our off-season plans will be, and what we want to do when next season rolls around. One thing we know – we want more writers and more features, and we’ll be back to talk with you about that in the days ahead.

 In the meantime, as I did last night, I thank you all for your support and participation throughout the year.

….And There Goes The No-Hitter

by Scott Benson
[email protected]

I’ve had that headline since, like, the fourth week of the season, and I can’t believe I’m using it now.

It may, perhaps, be the worst loss in profesional football history, this 18-0 powerhouse, favored by two touchdowns, losing to the lowest seed of the allegedly inferior NFC in the only game that really matters when real history is written. It sure feels like the worst loss in history tonight, as the New York Giants scored the winning touchdown with less than two minutes left to beat the undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

Dreams of immortality have been replaced by nightmares of ignominy that may last a generation, or two, or even longer.

The Patriots, frequently conceded the championship at various points through an often dominant but tumultuous season, were left flinging hopeless and aimless bombs to no one as the final seconds of the game evaporated into the Arizona desert. Their record-setting offense, the most prolific scoring machine in the history of the game, went out not with a bang, but with a whimper. Their once proud defense, now reduced to a mere supporting role in the shadow of their starry offensive teammates, was too old and too slow and too weak to win the game on their own, to make the one play they had to, when the outcome of the game rested solely in their hands.

Where to go from here? The heartbreak of Indianapolis has nothing on the pure devastation of this moment. How do they come back from this? How do they gather again, to go that one step farther, to once again be the last team standing? With the burden of this failed attempt at perfection strapped to their backs, in the harsh light of already furious opposition? For all their powers, it seems impossible in this aftermath of incredulity. For all this winning, this loss, this unforgettably awful loss, only makes me feel like it’s time for a page to turn.

It’s The Defense, Stupid.

I’m glad they got Wes Welker and Randy Moss and Donte Stallworth and I know that they probably wouldn’t have made it this far if they hadn’t. But what good did it do in respect to closing the deal? Super Bowl XLII was won with defense, and the defense that made the most plays took home the prize. Meanwhile, as the Pats loaded up their offense this off-season, they also also welcomed back 38 year old Junior Seau, 35 year old Rodney Harrison, 34 year old Tedy Bruschi and 32 year old Mike Vrabel as the core of their defense, with their only reinforcement coming in the way of 30 year old free agent Adalius Thomas. The middle of this defense, the core of so many past glories, the heart of so much of the organization, has gone as far as it can go. The game was in their hands tonight and they didn’t have enough left to grab it and hang on.

Tom Brady

Nothing – nothing – will ever take away from what Tom Brady has done for the Patriots, and tonight, he rallied a moribund offense to score the go-ahead points with just under three minutes to play in the Super Bowl. But for too much of the game, he and his record-setting teammates did nothing, and all the long bombs and jump balls and pinball machine scoring over the past five months meant less than nothing in the end. The Patriots defense lost the game at the end because Tom Brady and the offense put them squarely in the position to do so.  Brady’s the best player that ever has played, or ever will play, for the Patriots, but even that, even a perfect season punctuated by barrier-breaking offensive performances, was not enough. The road back after this season will be considerably longer than last.

A Truly Offensive Performance

As much as anyone, the offensive line lost the game for the Patriots. This decorated crew of pro-bowlers could not give their quarterback a moment’s peace from the opening gun. There was no running game, because after a few promising rushes, there were no holes. Stephen Neal went down to injury, but let’s face it, there is no excuse for the way the Patriots offensive line played tonight. It’s hard to believe that when the big game came, so many big game players didn’t show.

Randy Moss

His season here was an unforgettable one, and one gratifying thing about tonight’s game was to see Moss emerge, after a frustrating playoff, to make the difference on the Patriots last drive. I honestly thought Randy Moss had won the game for the Patriots. Who knows what happens from here; will his legal entanglements in Florida prove to be just enough to break up this marriage of convenience that produced so many memorable, but now bittersweet, moments? Will he return? If he does, we now know the Patriots can’t win the championship on he and Brady alone.

Wes Welker

I believe he tied a Super Bowl record for receptions tonight, and there’s two things for certain on a night of many doubts: Wes Welker is all football player, and he’s going to be with the Patriots through 2011. Not all news tonight is bad.

Ellis Hobbs

As long as he lives, Ellis Hobbs will never live down that fade route that left the Patriots down by three with 35 seconds left. Which stinks, because I remain convinced that he and Asante Samuel are the least of the Pats worries, if you don’t count Samuel’s upcoming free agency. Hobbs was out there on an island on that last play, and though he was helpless against it, that fade was merely the end result of a total team breakdown when it counted most.

The Coach

Before the game began, the names Lombardi, Noll and Walsh were being uttered. After the game, the words ‘undefeated three-time champ and two touchdown favorite loses the Super Bowl with two minutes left’ are too difficult to grasp when thinking about a coach who has become nearly invincible over the past eight years. Bill Belichick, Super Bowl loser? Like Brady, nothing can ever change what Bill Belichick has done for the Patriots and their fans, but has the phrase ‘sixty minutes’ ever had such poignancy as it does tonight? Once again, they didn’t play sixty minutes.

From Here

There will no doubt be more thoughts in the days ahead, some of which we’ll share with you, some of which we’ll be better off not sharing at all. Perhaps other members of the PD team will stop by for a final word on what tonight became history, for all the worst possible reasons. In the meantime, we leave you with our thanks for your support this year – for your clicks, for your interest, and for your participation. It’s hard to call this a ‘good year’ tonight, but it will be one that we never forget. 

Roundtable Moment: Tim Jordan

I am not really happy with the Giants this week.  Haven’t been happy with them for the last 3 weeks, truth be told.  It’s not so much the attitude they’ve displayed this week or the bad judgment they’re guilty of, for showing up to Arizona dressed like pall bearers.  It’s not their lack of respect, it’s their lack of gratitude.  These are the same guys that have been talking all week about the galvanizing effect of playing the Patriots close in the regular season’s final game.  Many of them credited it with giving them the confidence to make their memorable run through the NFC conference.  Three impressive games that allowed them to show their city, and the rest of a doubting NFL, that they were championship timber.  They’re the toast of Manhattan and are the Last Hope for those who do not want to see the Patriots win another Super Bowl.  They are now America’s Underdog.  And they seem to really be enjoying it.  Not just the attention, but the thrill of playing their best and coming together at most important part of the season.  Who wouldn’t, right?

My problem isn’t with any of this, it’s the fact that I haven’t heard one Giant thank the Patriots for any of it.  After all, it’s the historic success of the Patriots that allowed the Giants to share some limelight in what would have been an uneventful evening at the Meadowlands 4 short weeks ago and ride that winning energy all the way to the Phoenix.  If the Patriots weren’t so damn good it’s likely that this week we’d be reading about Brett Favre’s favorite fertilizer, be subjected to Tony and Jessica at the Maxim party, or what it’s like to be reared by a man named Bum.  Instead it’s the shocking revelation that Eli Manning didn’t say a word to the world until he was three years old – a trait that virtually guarantees him Super Bowl glory (this is great news for my neighbor with the 6 year old who loves the taste of paint chips), actual score predictions, and half-hearted trash talk. 

And the Patriots are responsible.  They turned the 10-5 average team with the shaky QB and a bad secondary into the “hottest team in the NFL”.  They are so damn good they forced the Giants into playing inspired football and once they started, they didn’t want to stop.  They’ve taken this precious gift from New England and have cashed it in for a Super Bowl berth.  And not one word of thanks.  Not even an “hey, man, I appreciate it” head nod.

It’s just not right.

This years Patriot team is so damn good that it took two teams to the Super Bowl.  The Patriots made you, Giants, and Sunday they are going to destroy you.