by Scott Benson
The 49th season of professional football in New England begins at Foxborough today, fittingly, with an old American Football League crony and a traditional Sunday at 1:00 home opener.
The Pats and Chiefs will meet for the 31st time in their history this afternoon, and though the years have not been as kind to the Chiefs as they have the Pats, it’s hard not to see those familiar red helmets with the arrowhead and think of Hank Stram and 65 Toss Power Trap, and warm memories of our nascent days as a football fan. There’s just something reassuring and familiar about the Chiefs, though they hold the lifetime advantage over New England (11-16-3).
Last year played out like a bad Behind The Music episode. There were the dizzying heights, followed dutifully by the fall from grace. There were paparazzi, gossip rags, and the inevitable video tape. In the end the Patriots were broken, like Styx when Dennis DeYoung made them record ‘Kilroy Was Here’.
Like DeYoung, the Patriots had some good ideas, but they just went too far. So pulling back from the garish spotlight (even Jim Nantz and Phil Simms ditched them for Brett Favre and Bill Parcells) for an under-the-radar reunion with old AFL friends just feels like the right thing at the right time. After a year caught in the Devil’s bargain, we have got to get ourselves back to the garden. So to speak.
By the time we got to the Sunday Links, they were half a million strong. Well, almost.
In the Globe, Christoper Gasper looks at the slew of rookies who will make their debut today (as many as 21 between the two teams). I’m looking forward to watching Jerod Mayo in his first real action, and Terrence Wheatley too. In his notebook, Gasper has the Pats defense trying to get off to a good start after struggling to do just that during the pre-season. In his scouting report, Jim McBride says not to worry – the matchups favor the Pats by 21. I wish.
Mike Reiss is off on his weekly tour of the NFL, where he finds the Miami Dolphins preparing for Hurricane Brett. I live for moments like the Dolphins beating Favre today in his Jet debut. Give it to me, Men of Tuna. Elsewhere, Mike scours the rosters for New England collegians that have matriculated (again, with the Stram) to the NFL.
I honestly don’t know what Bob Hohler is after in this piece. Tom Brady doesn’t come by the sandwich shop anymore.
In the Herald, John Tomase says seeing a healthy Brady today will be believing for Pats fans. Tomase runs through five things to watch today, before gazing into the crystal ball that is the upcoming season. Why do I get the feeling that Joe Simpson got to Tomase before he nominated his presumptive Offensive Player of the Year in this piece? I wouldn’t put it past him. Simpson, I mean.
In her notebook, Karen Guregian has Matt Cassel assuring Pats fans that he’ll be ready if needed today, which I’m sure they’ll be really glad to hear.
In the ProJo, Shalise Manza Young has the Pats beginning their season on a Mexican cliff, 125 feet above the Pacific Ocean. Shalise, for crying out loud, it’s the Chiefs! You haven’t seen Hard Knocks? Even the Kansas City Star says they can’t stop anybody. Seriously, break it down and see for yourself.
In the Sun Chronicle, Mark Farinella is on the ‘do you still get butterflies’ tip with coach Bill Belichick, enjoying his 34th opener as a professional coach. Mark adds some ‘fun’ NFL facts, including this one: “the Patriots will log the fifth highest total of air miles this year at 29,024, the highest of any franchise east of the Rocky Mountains.” Damn. Like low-flow shower heads, I don’t like the sound of that.
Farinella also visits with Jill Meyer, a North Attleboro mom and daughter of former Pats line coach Paul Boudreau, who has mobilized the national sports community is support of 4 year old Brandon DePaolo’s battle with cancer.
In the MetroWest, the Daily News’s Douglas Flynn also looks at the rookies, like Shawn Crable and Matthew Slater, who could take center stage today. Rich Garven of the Telegram and Gazette has a defiant Pats secondary. In Manchester, Ian M. Clark says that while there could be some bumps in the road for the rusty Pats, they should prevail over the rebuilding Chiefs.
That’s it for now. Whether you’re at the game or watching from home, I hope you all have an NFL Sunday that was worth every bit of the wait.