Ka-Boom … next? / Pats 31 : Vikings 7

maroney-vikes.jpgThis game was supposed to be a challenge for the Patriots. The Vikings have a strong defense, a veteran quarterback, and a decent offense. The week before they hammered the Seahawks to the tune of 31-13. And it was a home game for the Vikings, in one of the noisiest domes in the league. All signs pointed to this being a struggle for the Pats.

Guess again. Rather than try to run against their top-ranked run defense, Belichick and the boys went to the air. And the receiving corps which was so maligned suddenly had life. A lot of life. 372 yards and 4 touchdowns worth. Two of the “no-name” receivers, Gabriel and Caldwell, pulled in over 80 yards each. Four different players caught TD’s and 10 different players caught passes.

It was amazing. The precision, the timing, they were all back. You’d swear these guys had been playing together for years when in fact some of the receivers weren’t even on the team at the start of the season.

Laurence Maroney chipped in for another 70+ yard kick return. Rookie Chad Jackson did his usual 1-catch/1-touchdown performance. The offense just gets better every week.

And so does the defense. The defense didn’t give up a single point. The only Viking points were on a kick return. When they pulled Johnson late in the game, Bollinger’s first series was sack-sack-sack-punt. What a defensive performance against a reasonably powerful offense. This is how the team played during their Superbowl runs and while it’s too early to start predicting such things, this is clearly a team on the rise which hasn’t even come close to peaking yet.


Which leads us to this week’s game against Manning and the Colts. Fortunately it’s in Foxboro on the newly re-sod field. All we’ve heard from the league and the media all week is how great Manning is, and of, Brady’s pretty good too. But the Colts have no defense – certainly not against the run. And their wins have no exactly been impressive. Last year even they wouldn’t have needed to come back to beat the Broncos.

I think Belichick knows they can run on the Colts, but the yards will come late. They’ll need to stay balanced until the second half, wear down the Colts defense, and then hammer it home. The Viking’s game changed the dynamic of this match-up with the Colts. The Patriots have shown now that they can win a shoot-out with the Colts. However, the Colts have not shown that they can stop anyone’s rushing attack.

And, of course, any game with the Colts seems to involve the management in some way. Polian griped to the league about the field conditions in Foxboro, so the Pats “unofficially” asked the league to guarantee that Polian wouldn’t beat up any of the grounds-crew at Gillette. And now there’s an injury-list duel going on. Again, because the Colts got the league to change more rules after they lost another championship game.

Even the Indy sportswriters are getting into it. This little gem of idiocy showed up on scout.com:

Patriots Show Desperation With Injury List
By Ed Thompson

Posted Nov 2, 2006

Obviously desperate to gain any edge they can going into this Sunday’s game against the Colts, the Patriots issued an injury report that is a sheer mockery of the NFL system…

On Wednesday, it wasn’t all that surprising to see New England declare that 17 of the 18 players on their injury list had missed at least a portion of the team’s 11-on-11 drills during practice. After all, they had just completed a Monday Night Football game and may have realistically wanted to give their players a breather.

But following Thursday’s practice, not only did the Patriots maintain that all 17 of those players once again missed a portion of practice, but they added two more, including rookie running back Laurence Maroney, to their list of players who didn’t put in a full practice.

With 19 players all supposedly injured enough that they missed a portion of practice, and three more on the list, how will in the world will they field a team on Sunday? I almost feel sorry for them.

Right.

Actually, the bizarre injury list comes across as a cowardly act of desperation from a team that still has a number of players who proudly stood tall as World Champions in very recent history. What a disgrace to them and to the NFL if this is nothing more than silly gamesmanship to try to find another slight edge. Just get out there and play football without the gimmicks, will you? Then you’ll know if you truly had the better team, not just the trickier one.

Undoubtedly, the Patriots at least had all of those players step off the field for a “portion” of the practice for whatever reason so they could honestly note that temporary absence during the practice. But was it due to actual injury problems or just to mask which players truly couldn’t practice to gain a pregame information edge?

Well, based on the fact that on Tuesday wide receiver Reche Caldwell — who has now reportedly missed a portion of two practices — was a guest on NFL Sirius Radio and never mentioned an injury, it certainly makes the picture murky at best. In fact, Caldwell talked excitedly during the interview about playing the Colts on Sunday.

But maybe he slipped on a bar of soap in the shower or something along those lines after the interview and before Wednesday’s practice…who knows?

The Patriots are likely following the letter of the law regarding the NFL’s injury report policy, but on the surface it sure doesn’t look like they are reflecting the spirit of it. While they have consistently tried to avoid making injury information available to the public, today they took it to a new level. And it deserves an investigation by the NFL if they don’t want to see 31 more teams follow suit. The NFL should send a representative to Foxboro to interview these players to see if they really needed to sit out a portion of practice due to an injury, or whether it was part of a planned strategy by the team to mask their true injury situation.

Something needs to be done to make sure that no team is abusing the process, or what’s the use of having an injury list process at all? Unfortunately, eliminating the lists is apparently what the Patriots would like to see happen. So the league should take whatever steps necessary to avoid playing into their hands.

For the Colts, the good news on Thursday was that Pro Bowl safety Bob Sanders and cornerback Nick Harper both returned to practice. But starting offensive right tackle Ryan Diem was still missing due to an upper arm injury. If he can’t start, the Colts could slide guard Jake Scott out to tackle and plug Ryan Lilja and Dylan Gandy in as the starting guards. Scott filled in at right tackle for a few games last year for Diem.

In addition to adding Maroney and Light to their injury report, the Patriots also added backup QB Matt Cassel as probable on their report, ironically with a right shoulder problem, the same problem and status as starter Tom Brady.

Wow, what are the odds of that? Go figure.

Wow, what a tool. If the Colts front office hadn’t complained about the Patriots beating them a couple years ago, there wouldn’t be these complex injury reports to start with. And now we’re the ones with an agenda. What are they putting in the water back there to cause such dillusions.

Well, I think I’ll predict a karmic score of Patriots 41 – Colts 21.


The other fun game this week will be Denver at Pittsburgh. Denver will be looking to take out their anger over last week’s home loss to the Colts on someone and everyone can smell the blood in the water with the Steelers. But it gets better, the Broncos were a game away from the Superbowl last year and it was those same Steelers who took it away. This one could get ugly.

Oh, and there’s Miami at Chicago – any Pats fan loves seeing another team Squish the Fish.

Dallas at Washington could be interesting. The ‘Skins are only 2-5 but they always play Dallas tough. It’s an important game for both teams. If Washington wins they’re 3-5 and Dallas is 4-4, still in striking distance. If they lose, they’re 2-6 and Dallas is 5-3 and Washington can pretty much kiss post-season hopes goodbye.

And of course there’s the Monday Night game – the Raiders at the Seahawks. I almost busted a gut when the MNF crew said that: “The Raiders have won two in a row, this should be a good game.” The Raiders had less than 100 yards of total offense last week and only 5 completions. They almost caught as many balls from Roethlisberger (4 INT’s) as they did from their own QB.