Monday, January 22, 2007
The truth about the Pats
By DJ Gallo Page 2
Oh, Patriots. This again? Another playoff loss. My oh my.
I've been on the NFL beat here at Page 2 for the past two years, and in that time I've seen a clear trend developing with you in the playoffs. A sad and pathetic trend of postseason failure.
Where to begin?
Tom Brady, Mr. Clutch? Don't think so ...
Well, how about your supposed superstar quarterback, Tom Brady? I'll lay off the fact that Brady never quarterbacked a team to a championship in high school or college. And no one in his family has ever won a championship either. We all know that. But the biggest problem with Brady is that he's making a habit out of putting up big numbers in the regular season while choking in the playoffs when it counts. Look at last year: 4,110 yards, 26 touchdowns and another Pro Bowl selection. That's all well and good. But then the postseason came around and he laid an egg against the Broncos with a third-quarter interception at the goal line that was returned 100 yards by Champ Bailey and a loss-clinching interception on New England's final possession of the game.
Fast-forward to this season and we have another 3,500-plus yards passing and 24 touchdowns. Swell. But last weekend in the divisional round he chucked three interceptions against the Chargers in a game his team won despite him. And then Sunday night saw another game-ending pick -- and a near-interception on the possession before (and Brady seemed to blame his receiver, Troy Brown, for what was clearly his own mistake). All this sent the Patriots to yet another loss to Peyton Manning and the Colts.
New England has now lost three consecutive games to Indianapolis. And last night's game was the only one that was even remotely close. I hesitate to be the millionth person to say this, but the Colts have the Patriots' number.
Brady is a playoff choker. That's common knowledge now. I mean, heck, Sunday night he blew an 18-point lead and got run over as Manning directed the biggest comeback in conference championship game history. And Brady's woe-is-me, I've-lost-again "Brady Face" is becoming an NFL playoff tradition. But he is not New England's only problem, sadly enough.
Their head coach, Bill Belichick, is also to blame. Belichick was expressionless on the sidelines throughout the entire game. For a team to win in the playoffs they need a coach who shows emotion. They need a coach like Tony Dungy, for instance, who was animated and encouraging throughout Sunday night's game. And speaking of Dungy, he completely outcoached Belichick, who obviously isn't much when it comes to strategy and in-game adjustments. Everyone knows that a great coach makes adjustments at halftime. Well, Belichick and the Patriots got outscored 32-13 in the second half Sunday (and 17-10 in the second half versus the Broncos last year). Draw your own conclusions, but it's obvious Belichick leaves much to be desired.
Who knows, perhaps the Patriots need to can Belichick and hire a coach who can get them over the hump. They have too much talent to be coming up short in the postseason year after year.
Then there is the Patriots' team as a whole. They are a finesse team that feasts on inferior divisional opponents during the regular season. Problem is, finesse teams don't win in January, as the Patriots showed yet again in Indianapolis. Countless members of New England's defense tired as the second half wore on -- the tell-tale sign of a soft team that isn't built for playoff football.
Until the Patriots toughen up, and until their quarterback realizes there is more to football than looking good in the regular season to impress the Madison Avenue advertising suits, New England will continue to fail in the playoffs.
To be honest, I don't see Tom Brady and Bill Belichick ever winning a Super Bowl.
Reche Caldwell clearly stunned by loss, everything
Adam Vinatieri capitalizes on Colts victory by kicking Bill Belichick in the crotch
Reggie Bush understandably acts like he hasn't been to the end zone very often
Things I Thought I Thought While Telling Gisele to Ditch the Zero
1. Quotations always need their proper context. But sometimes they're better without context. This is one of those cases. Following the game Sunday, Peyton Manning said: "I don't get into monkeys." Now, you can Google that phrase and find the AP article with the full quote and what prompted it. Or you can just imagine we live in a world in which a reporter asked Manning after reaching his first Super Bowl: "Dude, I hear you're into monkeys." I suggest the latter.
2. There was a sense on Sunday that Tom Brady lost the battle but won the war in getting eliminated from the postseason because he gets to go home to Gisele Bundchen. That's not the case, though. Bundchen is currently in Brazil at some sort of fashion thingy. So unless Tom Terrific wants to jump on a plane to South America, he's going to have to try to get through his depression with some homegrown Boston women. What sort of drop-off is that? Well, let's just say Reche Caldwell didn't look like that before he went to the Patriots.
3. It's a cliché, but the Saints truly can be proud of the season they had, going to the NFC Championship Game one season after posting a 3-13 record and becoming one of the NFL's marquee teams in the process. Their newfound popularity really struck me Friday when my morning run took me past my local elementary school. I live some 1,100 miles from New Orleans, yet I saw no less than three elementary school boys out of a good 20 or so walking into the school wearing Reggie Bush jerseys. And even more amazing, all 20 of the boys had Sean Payton's haircut.
4. By the way, if y'all want to read some fantastic analysis on the Colts-Bears Super Bowl matchup, check out the stupendous work done over at the A.M. Jump this morning by a handsome colleague of mine.
DJ Gallo is the founder and sole writer of the award-winning sports satire site SportsPickle.com. He is also a regular contributor to ESPN the Magazine and has written for The Onion and Cracked. His first book -- "SportsPickle Presents: The View from the Upper Deck" -- will be in stores soon.