Clint's Corner Archive

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The source for back issues of Clint's Corner. Forget a trade? Were Clint's predictions correct? Here's every edition, verbatim.

For 11/6/2001

Sitting pretty...

After starting 0-2 with losses reminiscent of the failed 2000 campaign, who among you envisioned the Patriots at 4-4 at the halfway mark? Certainly not me. Without the services of their best wide receiver and their "franchise" quarterback, the road ahead seemed a rocky one with 4 of the next 6 games coming away from the antiquated yet friendly confines of Foxboro Stadium.

Six weeks later, the Patriots are responsible for 2 of the 4-3 Colts losses, pulled a Doug Flutie on Doug Flutie and the Chargers in Foxboro Stadium, and went down to Atlanta and made a .500 team averaging 21 points per game look inept. The Patriots in that span also had their first 100-yard rusher since 1999 after Antowain Smith's 117 yard, 23-carry performance in Atlanta.

After 8 years of not being able to win without Drew Bledsoe, the Patriots have gone 4-2 with him on the sideline. New to the starting job, Brady did have a miserable game in Miami and a 4th quarter in Denver that he'd rather forget, but even with those 5 quarters factored in, Brady has completed 125 of 200 passes for 1,319 yards and 10 touchdowns. All 4 of his interceptions came in the 4th quarter in Denver. Tom Brady has not only filled in for Drew Bledsoe; he's playing better.

Last season the Patriots managed to score more than 17 points 5 times in 16 games, and after two games in 2001 had scored a total of 20. Under Brady the Patriots have scored less than 17 points just once, and are averaging nearly 28 points per game.

Quarterback controversy? Only among the media and fans. Tom Brady's most vocal supporter has been Drew Bledsoe. Drew has gone out of his way to help out Brady's progress. Bledsoe went immediately over to Brady after each of his interceptions in Denver to offer encouragement, and it was Drew who predicted in the losing locker room that Brady would rebound with a strong game and a win the following week.

When and if Drew is cleared to play, he won't so long as Brady continues with his hot hand. As Belichick stated, even if he had John Unitas and John Elway on the roster they'd be sitting on the bench right now. Brady has now played 6 games. Still not enough to compare to Drew's 8-year career, but Brady is sure reminding of us the young kid out of Washington State back in 1994.

Dare I even go there?

Back in 1999 the Patriots were 6-2 after 8 games under Pete Carroll. The 2-6 demise that followed led to Carroll and Bobby Grier being fired. The current record of 4-4 seems more impressive than the 6-2 mark of a few years ago, and the thought of a 2nd half swoon seems unthinkable even with the Rams, Saints, Jets and Dolphins still on deck. Perhaps this thinking has to do with the differing expectations prior to those seasons, but although 4 wins is fewer than 6, the 2001 edition would likely cremate that 1999 team if they were to match up today.

Rather than tiptoe around what I'm trying to get at here, I'll come right out and drop the long forgotten "P" word: playoffs. There, I said it. I may be getting way ahead of myself here, but I'm going to jump on this opportunity to discuss the possibility of a playoff appearance. You know, it's been a while since I've had this opportunity and my standards have lessened considerably.

A look at the standings shows the 4-4 Patriots in 4th place in the AFC East. However, with 4 wins the Pats are only 1 back in the win column from the cream of the crop in the AFC.

The Patriots have already swept the Colts, and still have a chance to get even with the Jets in the Meadowlands and the Dolphins in what should be a frigid Foxboro in late December. They still have two games remaining against the 1-6 Bills, so if they can sweep there and split with either Miami or the Jets, the Pats will have 7 wins. To get to 9 or 10 wins the Patriots will need to win 2 or 3 of their remaining 4 non-divisional games. Three of those four are home contests against the formidable Rams, Saints, and Browns, with the 4th being the regular season finale in Carolina vs. the already out-of-it 1-7 Panthers following the Pats bye week.

As insane as it may have sounded after the 0-2 start, it's frankly does not seem too much of a stretch for the Pats to win 9 or 10 games. To go 10-6 would virtually assure a wildcard birth. Are the Patriots a great team? No, but there are few great teams in the NFL. The Patriots are an average team that is currently playing very well, and in an era of parity, that's all it takes.

This team does not have to make the playoffs for 2001 to be considered a successful season. Coming of a dreadful 5-11 season, even 7 or 8 wins given their 2001 schedule would be considered a very big step in the right direction. What looked like an "easy" schedule at the beginning of the year suddenly is far from it with opponents like the Bengals, Chargers, and Brown enjoying similar turnaround seasons.

What would be very dangerous is if the Patriots are doing what I'm now doing, looking ahead. Like I just mentioned, the 4-4 Patriots are not a great team, and such teams cannot simply show up and win, and that included home games against 1-6 divisional opponents. Next week's home game against the Bills may prove to Tom Brady's biggest test yet. For the first time in his very young career, he'll lead the favored Patriots into battle.

We fans are allowed to get big heads and dream of 10 win seasons. The team is not. How did the 2000 Patriots manage to win 5 games? At least two of those were to superior opponents who were caught napping. Let's not do the same favor for the 2001 Buffalo Bills.

A record of 5-4, with the Rams coming to town for a nationally televised night game? Are you kidding me?

See you next week.