Posts filed under ‘Football’

Did Pats deserve to lose Super Bowl?

Team Effort 2-8-08, originally uploaded by oppositefields.

Was the New England Patriots’ shocking 17-14 loss to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl some sort of divine retribution? While compiling an 18-0 record in the regular season and playoffs before the Super Bowl, the Patriots and their fans also displayed a sizable amount of arrogance. Gwen makes the case for this to a dispirited Dave in the latest “Team Effort.”

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February 8, 2008 at 6:23 pm 2 comments

Pats-Giants: A ‘Super’ debate

Super Bowl Cartoon, originally uploaded by oppositefields.

The undefeated New England Patriots (18-0) take on the underdog New York Giants (13-6) in the Super Bowl on Feb. 3 in Arizona. New England began its season with a 38-14 trouncing of the New York Jets (after which Patriots coach Bill Belichick drew a hefty fine from the National Football League for spying on Gang Green). Next week’s opponent played the Pats tougher, with New England beating Big Blue 38-35 in the teams’ regular-season finale.
What will be the outcome a week from Sunday? Best friends Dave and Gwen discuss in the first-ever episode of my new sports strip “Team Effort.”

January 25, 2008 at 9:55 pm 1 comment

A back-and-‘fourth’ game for Patriots

Both the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers have reason to be proud after Sunday’s game at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots won, 34-13, to stay undefeated (13-0). The Steelers showed grit against the best team, record-wise, in the National Football League — particularly on three plays, all of them on fourth down.

The first two came on a 12-play Pittsburgh scoring drive in the second quarter. The Steelers had to convert two fourth downs to preserve the drive, and did so both times, once via the run (by Najeh Davenport) and once on a pass (from Ben Roethlisberger to Cedrick Wilson). Thanks to coach Mike Tomlin’s faith in his team, the Steelers finished the drive with a field goal that made the score 14-13, Patriots.

Early in the fourth quarter, after the Patriots had widened the margin with two touchdowns and a Stephen Gostkowski field goal, Pittsburgh approached the end zone and had a first-and-goal. Stalled by the Patriots on the first three plays, Pittsburgh went for it again instead of opting for a field goal. Though the Patriot defense averted a score from Hines Ward, Pittsburgh should come away from this game with a reputation for grittiness that should enhance its confidence that it can play with the top teams in the league.

Perhaps the arrogance that characterizes Pittsburgh history (most recently seen when rookie safety Anthony Smith guaranteed a win against New England) helps the team on fourth down. New England fans might remember another fourth-down play in a 7-6 playoff loss to the Steelers of Kordell “Slash” Stewart and Jerome “The Bus” Bettis in 1998. During that game, Pittsburgh had a chance to increase its lead and sent in Slash on fourth down, only to have the defense stuff the run. Then-coach Bill Cowher ultimately won a championship with such confidence. His successor, Tomlin, showed similar confidence Sunday night; maybe he, too, could bring another title to the Steel City.

December 10, 2007 at 9:21 pm Leave a comment

Patriots’ defense delights

Football players get more attention if they play offense. New England Patriots stars Tom Brady and Randy Moss appear in headlines frequently, thanks to the prominent roles they play on offense as quarterback and wide receiver, respectively. So it’s great to see unheralded members of the Patriots’ defense getting credit as well during the team’s run at history.

Three defensive plays helped the Patriots overcome an impressive effort by the Baltimore Ravens to win 27-24 on Monday night and stay undefeated (12-0). Two of those plays came from team members who are paid to play defense: James Sanders’ interception of Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller, which set up a Stephen Gostkowski field goal, and a team tackle on Ravens receiver Mark Clayton on the Patriots’ 3-yard line to stop him from scoring the game-winning touchdown as time expired.

The third key defensive play came from Kevin Faulk, normally a running back. However, after Brady threw an interception to Baltimore’s Ed Reed, Faulk got the ball back when he tackled Reed, forcing him to fumble. The Ravens complained about the refereeing after the game, but they might have had the victory if they’d held on to the ball.

December 4, 2007 at 4:48 pm Leave a comment

Patriots, perfection, and provincialism

The New England Patriots are the only undefeated team left in the National Football League this season. The Boston Celtics are similarly sizzling, having won their first seven games in the National Basketball Association. What does this perfection mean for New England and its crazed sports fans?

Everything and nothing.

Once, New Englanders had a sense of history. Boston Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy chronicled this sense in his Red Sox skald “The Curse of the Bambino,” when he wrote that Sox fans who remember the Impossible Dream season of 1967 could recite what happened in a decisive inning against the Minnesota Twins faster than they could with their own phone numbers. The hegemony of history permeating New England soil has informed its sports fans, so that in this area, at least, Boston arguably remains the Athens of America.

Unfortunately, New England is losing this historical awareness. The recent successes of both the Patriots and Celtics have led fans to display an embarrassing amnesia. Patriots fans are ready to award a fourth Super Bowl title to head coach Bill Belichick, while Celtics fans think that seven regular-season games are enough evidence to confer a championship.

The Patriots’ performance thus far is impressive, but other teams have matched and bettered it in recent years. The Indianapolis Colts went 9-0 in 2005 and 2006, while the Denver Broncos went 13-0 in 1998. The Celtics look equally formidable, but they need to maintain this level over an 82-game season. Final records do not necessarily mirror early returns; the 1993-94 squad began with a 6-2 record and ended with a 32-50 mark.

Nor does a strong regular season guarantee postseason success. The Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers both took 15-1 regular-season records into the NFL playoffs and failed to reach a Super Bowl. The Dallas Mavericks had the best record in the NBA last season, but still lost to the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs. In a time when the playoffs consist of many teams and many rounds, it is easier for regular-season royalty to miss a championship coronation.

This should not detract from the accomplishments of both this season’s Patriots and Celtics. Patriots fans may wonder whether the hardly-halcyon days of unfortunate first-round draft picks and last-place seasons really happened, while Celtics fans have a talented trio to celebrate in Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. The successes of both teams are welcome. But New Englanders need to remember what Garnett said after the Celtics defeated the Indiana Pacers, 91-69, on Wednesday to stay perfect. “We don’t want to disrespect the history of this great franchise,” he said. “I think we’re a lot more in tune to what we’re not doing well versus the things we are doing well.” Wise words for fans as well as players.

November 15, 2007 at 5:03 pm Leave a comment

Patriots fans show inconsistency

There’s a good reason to cheer for the New England Patriots thus far. The team has begun its season by winning its first five games, all by lopsided scores.

Yet for those who view sports as a prism for character, the Patriots’ success is troubling. Their head coach, Bill Belichick, cost his team a hefty fine after the New York Jets caught Patriots personnel spying on them during a game. Two Patriots players have drawn media scrutiny for their behavior on and off the field — quarterback Tom Brady for being the Don Giovanni of Gillette Stadium, and safety Rodney Harrison for using the banned substance human growth hormone and getting a four-game suspension as a result.

Are New Englanders so championship-hungry that they will overlook any of their NFL team’s transgressions if it wins a title? The answer, so far, seems to be yes. But it does make Bay Staters look mighty hypocritical when, say, they criticize Barry Bonds because of the steroid saga.

I’m not calling for us to bring Belichick, Harrison and Brady to Salem and put them in the Puritan stocks. But I do think the perils of the Patriots should remind us of a timeless lesson: we should not equate a game played and run by competitive Croesuses with heroism.

October 9, 2007 at 3:10 pm Leave a comment


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