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 11/1/98

A no win proposition...

The Patriots went into the game at Indianapolis with nothing to gain and everything to lose. If they beat the Colts 50-0, it would have been "They beat up on the bad teams, but can’t win the big ones." Had they lost to the Colts to fall to 4-4, it was certain disaster. They would be 1-3 in the division, and all alone in 2nd place trailing Miami, Buffalo, and the Jets.

The final score of 21-16 still leaves many unanswered questions of this enigma we call our New England Patriots. Sure they won, and the old party line of winning on the road in the NFL still holds true, but the headlines will not be about the 1st place Pats and the end of the two game skid. It’s another "so what" game that we fans have become accustomed to over the years. I’m not complaining about the win mind you, but heading into the season, Patriot Nation was not in hysterics over having a team that could beat the Colts on the road.

The Pats are riddled with injuries on offense, but that can’t be the reason the "3 and out" syndrome has gripped the offense for three weeks now. The Pats started out the Jets Monday Night game going three and out, did the same on their first three possessions in Miami, and could not get a 1st down on their last three possessions against the Colts when they had the lead and needed to burn the clock. There are people on the sideline, but with Bledsoe, Jefferson, Coates, and Edwards still playing, you’d think a clutch 1st down every now and then would not be too much to ask. It cost them against the Dolphins, and only consecutive last stands by the defense got the offense off the hook in Indy.

Bright Spots...

The Patriots certainly were not lucky to win this game, and in fact had the game well in hand at 21-10 early in the 4th quarter following a 63 Yard TD pass to rookie Tony Simmons. The offense had two touchdown drives of over 80 yards in the 1st half, and had another long drive end at the 10 yard line with a Bledsoe interception. The Patriots racked up 370 yards on offense, with Bledsoe throwing for 306 yards and 2 touchdowns. Robert Edwards continued to look good running the ball, and scored his 8th touchdown of the year. (6 more than Curtis Martin, ahem).

Rookie Tony Simmons had three more catches to add to his big TD, and totaled 109 yards on the day. Ben Coates awoke from his slumber with 10 grabs, also for 109 yards. Even "old man" Henry Ellard, who was out of football this time last week, chipped in with three catches for 52 yards, including a 15 yard reception at the Colts 26 on the Pats 2nd touchdown drive.

Lawyer Milloy had two interceptions late in the game to douse a Colt comeback, and Ty Law held Marvin Harrison in check with just 34 receiving yards and no touchdowns. Harrison had lit up the 49ers in the Colts previous game for big yardage and 3 TD’s. On the other side of the field, the much-maligned Chris Canty was not beaten deep, but did an adequate job covering Jerome Pathon, limiting him to 56 total yards without a touchdown. The run defense held Marshall Faulk to just 22 yards on 11 carries, and the entire Colts team to just 32 yards and a 2.3 average on the ground.

Again, not to rain on any parades here, but the Patriots are supposed to have numbers like this against 1-6 football teams, right?

Why are we whispering?

The Pats have had the attitude in recent seasons that "anything short of a championship is a failure." They went into 1997 trying to prove that it was the Patriots, and not Bill Parcells, who were the defending AFC Champions. They came into this season looking to knock off Denver, and were thrilled to get a big win over an "Elite" team in week 5 to get to 4-1. Everyone was talking Super Bowl. Now the Pats, having suffered back to back divisional losses to supposed "lesser" teams, are in a dogfight just to make the playoffs in the AFC East. The players and fans can talk all they want about how much talent and potential the Patriots have, but in the NFL you are what you are, and the Pats are 5-3.

There was a tremendous column written by Ron Borges of the Boston Globe last week. It pointed out what we all know, but no one wants to talk about. In the past 13 games against teams who have finished the regular season with 11 or more wins, the Pats are 2-11. That’s not good, and beating the now 1-7 Colts does nothing to change that number. The Pats beat the Chiefs 40-10 a few weeks ago, but the Chiefs have lost two home games since, falling to 4-4. Suddenly that win does not seem so big either.

The Pats face another no win situation next week at home. If they lose to the Falcons, they’re in big trouble, but if they win, it won’t be regarded as any big deal. The players have brought this on themselves. Had they taken care of business against the Jets and Dolphins, they’d be 7-1 and in total command of the division. Now the Pats must fight just to tread water in this division, and will sink or swim with 4 games remaining against the other 5-3 teams. Drew Bledsoe said that the Pats must run the table in the division, finishing 6-2, to have a good shot at three-peating as division champions.

The Pats are now tied with Buffalo, Miami, and the Jets at 5-3 in 1st place in the AFC East with 8 weeks to play. The one of those teams who plays best in the "big games" will win this division, plain and simple. Below are the 2nd half schedules for the four teams. Each team has 4 home and 4 away games remaining, with Miami seemingly having the most favorable schedule outside the division. Why do I get the feeling December 27th is a very big day in the AFC East?

BUFFALO NY JETS MIAMI NEW ENGLAND

@Jets

Buffalo

Colts

Falcons

Patriots

@Colts

@Panthers

@Bills

Colts

@Oilers

@Patriots

Dolphins

@Patriots

Panthers

Saints

Bills

@Bengals

Seahawks

@Raiders

@Steelers

Raiders

@Dolphins

Jets

@Rams

Jets

@Bills

Broncos

49ers

@Saints

Patriots

@Falcons

@Jets

November has been a good month for the Patriots in recent years, just as October has been a bad one. Ty Law noted that the Pats have come through in the home stretch the last two seasons, and with no room to spare in this division, we’d better hope Ty knows what he’s talking about. With 8 weeks to go and 4 teams tied for 1st, there’s no better time than the present to make your run.

Thanks for reading.