Clint's Corner Archive
Clint's Corner Archive
The source for back issues of Clint's Corner. Forget a trade? Were Clint's predictions correct? Here's every edition, verbatim.
Wait a second...
These guys are good! Well, as good as a 2-4 team can be anyway. Regardless of a team's record, when you win back-to-back games by more than a touchdown over the Broncos in Mile High Stadium and the Colts at home, you can't be all that bad. Two weeks ago the Pats were 0-4 after scoring just 3 points in Miami and hadn't score more than 20 points in a game in 11 months. The Jets were 4-0 fresh off a stunning road victory in Tampa Bay. New England has now scored more than 20 points in back-to-back victories, and the Jets are fresh off a 3-point performance of their own. The Jets are currently 3-point underdogs for Sunday's game in Foxboro. Go figure. Only in the NFL.
Just when Patriot Nation was lamenting a potential 0-8 start to the season, the "P" word is back in everyone's vocabulary. (That's playoffs, shhhhh). Talk around the water cooler isn't if the Patriots can beat the Jets for their 3rd straight win, it's how badly will the Patriots beat the Jets while exacting revenge for the game New England let slip away in week 2 in the Meadowlands. I'm sure the New York Post headline of "Beli-choke" is still fresh in the minds of the entire organization.
Sure the Pats completed a "Hail Mary" pass on Sunday, but they still won by more than 7 points, scoring touchdowns on consecutive drives to begin the 4th quarter to build an 11-point lead with 7:26 left to play. These drives immediately followed a 22-play 10 minute Colts drive to open the 2nd half, netting Indianapolis just a field goal for their troubles. Not only were the Patriots scoring, they were keeping their defense on the sidelines along with Peyton Manning. The timing of these drives was key. When the Patriots offense can come on the field and "answer" an opponents' drive, that's a good sign. Bledsoe and company did this in Denver as well with a 77-yard 4th quarter touchdown drive immediately after the Broncos had scored 8 points on a safety and the subsequent free kick return for a TD, cutting the Pats lead to 21-11.
Both sides of the ball have stepped up. Kevin Faulk and J.R. Redmond combined to rush 26 times for 109 yards, an average of over 4 yards per carry. Bledsoe is also being given time to throw the ball, even against the blitz. 1999's NFL leading rusher Edgerrin James was held to 75 yards on 24 carries, with his long of 11-yards coming with 1:08 left in the game while the Pats had 7 defensive backs on the field and an 11-point lead. When you hold James under 2.8 yards per carry on 23 touches, that's damn good run defense. Denver running backs gained just 50 yards the week before.
Overall, it's clearly not by accident that the once 0-4 Patriots have won two in a row. Despite being winless, the team continued to believe in their system and stand behind their new coach's philosophy. They have not only outscored their opponent for two weeks, they have outplayed, out-muscled, and out-coached them. That is something you could not say about any of the Jets first four victories of the season.
Don't believe anything you read...
I'm talking to the players when I say that. Not that they read this column in particular, but a good way for a team on a hot streak to get themselves into trouble is to read about and listen to how "great" they are and forget about the blood, sweat, and tears it took earn them that praise. Overconfidence is the most contagious disease in the NFL. The Patriots had better approach their game like a 2-4 team preparing for a 4-1 team, because that's the reality. While a two-game winning "streak" has renewed enthusiasm across the board, the 0-4 start still leaves this team with very little room for error. Should they drop a divisional game at home and fall to 2-5, they'd really be up against it again to salvage their season. The Jets can afford to lose this game, New England simply cannot.
We fans can talk all we want about "blowing out the Jets" for revenge, but we're making the assumption the players will show up on Sunday as they have the previous two. It's OK to do that as fans, but not as a player making huge coin with a "job" to do. Even the St. Louis Rams don't win a game simply by showing up. They make it look easy, but what we don't see is the consistent effort and preparation that goes in each and every week resulting in those lopsided scores we see on Sundays. The Patriots have some talent, but not enough to overcome a lack of effort or preparation. A lot of credit has to be given to Bill Belichick for staying the course during the tumultuous start to the season. This team, although just 2-4, clearly personifies no-nonsense and toughness exemplified by the man Robert Kraft surrender a 1st round draft pick for.
Heading home on 495 North after the Colts game, I was listening to a Willie McGinest interview on WBCN. He said that Coach Belichick has likened the weeklong practices, film study, and game planning for the next opponent to "filling up the tank" for game day. At the end of the game, win or lose, the tank is empty, and you must refuel all over again if you expect to compete the following week. The Patriots know that their impressive victories in the past two weeks mean zero come October 15 at 4 p.m. This is a quality the 4-0 Patriots of 1999 were sorely lacking, and is a big part of the reason they finished the season 8-8.
The Patriots starting corners are the 26-year old Ty Law and the soon-to-be 35-year old Otis Smith. Law had a banner year in 1998 and was rewarded with "Deion Sanders" money for the position, inking a $50 Million contract. Conversely, Otis Smith is being paid the veteran minimum after being cut by the Jets in '96, the Patriots in '97, and the Jets again this year. So who's the better corner? Six games into the 2000 season, you'd be hard pressed to answer that question.
Both have played equally well, but while Otis Smith is giving the defense everything Kraft is paying for and more, Law is not even coming close to living up to his contract. Sure he's been asked to cover the likes of Keyshawn Johnson, Randy Moss, and Marvin Harrison, but he has yet to consistently get the better of those matchups. In his prime, Deion Sanders literally took half the field out of consideration from an opponent's passing game. He was paid top dollar, and he played top dollar. Now I can't stand Deion Sanders, but I couldn't call him overpaid or overrated when he was in Atlanta, San Fran, and Dallas.
Ty Law is still one of the top corners in the game, but when you sign a contract like that the bar is raised. Marvin Harrison is going to beat the best of 'em on occasion, but not by three or four steps. Contracts are not intended to reward a player for past success, but to fairly compensate players for future performance. When your 35-year old teammate being paid the veteran minimum is making as many plays as you are, either he needs to get a new agent or you're grossly overpaid. Willie McGinest, Lawyer Milloy, and Troy Brown are each living up the their halves of the bargain they made with Robert Kraft. Ty Law needs to spend less time worrying about what vintage $200,000 automobile to buy next and more time getting back to his dominating style of play from the 1998 season.
See you next week. I'm as confident in the sunrise that the Pats will be 3-4.
P.S. Anyone out there still want to ship Bledsoe out of here for Kordell Stewart, Shaun King, Vinny Testaverde, Mark Brunell, or even Brett Favre? Before you bash Bledsoe, watch some other games.