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08 Nov 2005

Any Given Sunday: Colts over Patriots

by Ned Macey

When the Patriots decided not to be announced as individuals before Super Bowl XXXVI and then proceeded to beat the star-laden Rams, sportswriters and fans everywhere admired the gesture as embodying the proper spirit of football. Football is the ultimate team game, where every play involves eleven different people working together. The introduction presaged the game, which New England won because it was, at least on that night, the better team.

On Monday night the better "team" easily beat the two-time defending Super Bowl champions. After years of frustration at the hands of the Patriots, Peyton Manning and the Colts finally won in Foxboro, defeating for the first time a Tom Brady-led Patriots team. The Colts players are deservedly happy about the win, but this victory is as much Bill Polian and Tony Dungy as Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison.

After spending the last two seasons scorching opposing defenses only to freeze in the cold January air of New England, the Colts were considered soft. People said they lacked the intestinal fortitude, a favorite term of sports analysts everywhere, to beat the tougher Patriots. Grit and determination overcame the flashy Colts when the chips were down.

But that neglects the fact that the Patriots were simply a superior team to the Colts. In fact, since Manning debuted in 1998, all the way back in the Pete Carroll days, the Patriots had been a better team than the Colts all but one season. Brady had famously gone 6-0 against Manning before last night's game, but those six wins all came in the Patriots' Super Bowl seasons. The weakest team of the Patriots' run, the 2001 squad, twice beat a Colts squad in disarray that struggled to a 6-10 finish.

Here is how each team has ranked by our overall DVOA metric during Manning's career.

New England and Indianapolis DVOA Ranks
1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
Patriots 10 20 22 16 11 2 1 15
Colts 27 21 21 25 22 4 3 1

This year, the Colts have been the number one team in DVOA for most of the season (and remember DVOA adjusts for the quality of competition), while the Patriots have consistently been ranked in the teens.

The reason is not that Manning is better this year, but that the other 52 members of the team are. The ability to find and cultivate talent on the margins is a testament to the Colts' impressive scouting and coaching. Of their top 12 defenders -- including the starters and pass-rush specialist Robert Mathis -- seven were drafted by the Colts on the second day of the draft or acquired as undrafted free agents. They are not a perfect group – I think they are still trying to tackle Daniel Graham on his touchdown reception – but they are a perfect complement to the high level of offensive talent they have assembled in a more conventional manner.

Despite the defense's growth, this win was all about the offense, which punted only once and rang up 40 points on a team that had held them to three just 10 months ago. The Colts have struggled with the Patriots in the past, not just because the Patriots had a good defense, but because the Patriots had devised a sound defensive game plan. They have emphasized aggressive cornerback play, linebackers dropping into coverage instead of blitzing, and deep safeties that prevent the big play.

The rest of the league has finally understood the true strategy that Belichick employs, and a maturing Manning has successfully set aside his ego for the good of his team. Manning's problem was not that he was stat-driven as many insist. Rather, he arrogantly assumed that the team would perform best with the ball in his hands taking shots down the field. If the defense is specifically designed to stop those throws, stubbornly forcing plays due to your own self-confidence is not sound football.

Fear of failure against this scheme ruined the Colts in the playoffs a season ago despite a battered secondary for the Patriots. For all of the responsibility Manning has in the offense, the game plan effectively took the ball out of his hands. Of Manning's 32 pass attempts before garbage time, only nine were directed at his star outside receivers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. Everything was underneath, with the offense unwilling to take any chances.

On Monday night, against a similarly depleted secondary, the Colts were much more willing to take chances when they presented themselves. The Colts faced a pass defense that was bringing back Randall Gay from injury and had the struggling Duane Starks at cornerback. This time they decided to attack.

That Reggie Wayne had a big game against Starks and the still-recovering Gay is hardly a surprise. The bigger surprise is that Harrison abused Asante Samuel from the very first series. Covered predominately by Samuel in last year's playoffs, Harrison was basically a non-factor. Perhaps because of the absence of Rodney Harrison or perhaps because the Patriots felt Samuel could cover him one-on-one, Marvin had a multitude of opportunities.

He started his night with the big 48-yard catch on the first possession and ended it by beating Samuel in the corner for a 30-yard game-clinching touchdown. Even Samuel's best play of the night, a near interception in the end zone, came after Manning underthrew Harrison who had a step on Samuel.

The great irony of the game, of course, was watching Brady play excellent football and seeing his team self-destruct around him. Brady was on target most of the night, completing 22-of-33 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns against an Indianapolis pass defense that ranked third in the league in DVOA coming into the game. Brady repeatedly picked on Jason David, who may have had the worst game ever by a player whose team won by 19 points.

The Patriots' defensive struggles are deservedly drawing much of the blame, but the struggling run game is also a culprit. Corey Dillon, one of the best off-season additions in recent NFL history a season ago, has battled injury and ineffectiveness and was clearly hobbled last night. For all the very real gains made by the Colts defense, they still are susceptible to a solid ground game. In last year's playoff game, Dillon was able to put the team on his back and carry them to victory. This year, with nagging injuries, he was able to do nothing, leaving all the weight on Brady.

Brady's success in these circumstances emphasizes how good a quarterback he has become. Brady's most ardent supporters in the tiresome Brady v. Manning debate actually have undermined Brady with their insistence that only winning matters when evaluating a quarterback. The Brady of 2001 through 2003 was a solid quarterback who managed the game well. Like all great players, Brady has worked to improve, and last season, he saw a major spike in production. Much of that could easily have been attributed to the addition of Dillon. With Dillon rendered ineffective this season, however, Brady has shown no backslide and remains among the best quarterbacks from a purely statistical standard.

If you are only counting wins and losses, it's hard to measure real growth for a player who has won the Super Bowl three of his four years as a starter. At Football Outsiders, we love to measure performance, and by our DPAR statistic, which measures how many points a player contributes above a replacement-level player, Brady has matured from a mediocre passer, albeit game manager, to one of the very best quarterbacks in football.

Tom Brady DPAR
Year DPAR Rank
2001 24.8 15
2002 53.9 13
2003 43.2 10
2004 113.4 3
2005 (current) 68.8 1

So far this year, Brady has been battling with Manning and Carson Palmer for top quarterback honors, and he took the top spot from Palmer last night by having a big performance against one of this season's top pass defenses. Unfortunately, the passing attack is the only real strength for the Patriots, and despite the best performance of Brady's career, the team fell to a disappointing 4-4.

Last night's game was a desperate one for the Patriots, a fact accentuated by Belichick's sneak onside kick and his seemingly random challenge of a sure touchdown catch. Still, the Patriots will be in the playoffs, and they will enter the playoffs on a hot streak. After playing six of their first eight games against teams with winning records, they have only two such games on the rest of their schedule.

While Rodney Harrison is not coming back, the Patriots will get back Matt Light and Richard Seymour, arguably two of their five best players. Corey Dillon cannot get worse, and Tedy Bruschi will get into better shape. This team, as outclassed as they have been in two of their last three home games, is far from finished. That they will not be the best team in football this year, however, appears abundantly clear.

The Colts have the Patriots' schedule in reverse, having played only one team with a winning record to this point in the season. Down the stretch they play five winning teams, including three on the road. Talk of an undefeated season is extremely premature, and the Colts will have done well to finish 13-3.

Nonetheless, the mantle of best team in football has been passed from the Patriots to the Colts. Backing it up in the playoffs the way the Patriots have the last two seasons is a challenge more daunting than winning a regular season game in Foxboro. The defending champs will likely have a shot at thwarting the Colts' ascendancy in the second round of the playoffs. Betting against Belichick and Brady in the playoffs has been a fool's errand the past few years, but I expect the better team to win that game, just like all the Patriots-Colts games of the last several seasons.

Each Tuesday in Any Given Sunday, Ned Macey looks at the biggest upset of the previous weekend. The NFL sells itself on the idea that any team can win any given game, but we use these upsets as a tool to explore what trends and subtle aspects of each team are revealed in a single game.

Posted by: Ned Macey on 08 Nov 2005

64 comments, Last at 14 Nov 2005, 11:41am by Starshatterer

Comments

1
by Dave (not verified) :: Tue, 11/08/2005 - 3:14pm

"...seemingly random challenge of a sure touchdown catch." I saw it as an attempt to get a free timeout. The Colts were unexpectedly lining up to go for two and the Patriots were hopelessly confused, with players running on and off the field. When Belichick threw the red flag, from what I could see, there were either nine or ten Patriots on the defensive side of the ball, none of whom were ready for a snap. So Bill throws the flag, gets the Ref to stop the play, has a brief discussion while his regular defense gets set, then tells the Ref, "Never mind, no challenge."

It almost worked, too, until someone on the officiating crew remembered that if the coach throws the red flag and doesn't challenge on a play that can be challenged, it's a penalty. (Personally, I think the Pats should have just taken the penalty - at that point, if you're going to need three TDs to come back anyway, I think an extra timeout is more valuable than having the Colts one yard further away on the conversion.)

And to all those Patriots fans who were booing the Colts going for two up 40-21 with five and a half minutes left: They were showing respect to your team's scoring ability, so shut up about it.

2
by m (not verified) :: Tue, 11/08/2005 - 3:18pm

Yeah, because, you know, we needed Monday's game to tell us that. Come on... it's been obvious all year that the Pats are playing .500 football. Accept it already. Anybody who picked the Pats to win is an idiot.

3
by bobman (not verified) :: Tue, 11/08/2005 - 3:29pm

He used the red flag because Willie McGinest had forgotten the secret signal for "start writhing on the ground in mock pain" to stop the opposition's momentum. Either that, or their designated expendable fake-injury guy was actually injured and on IR.

And next time it'll be... I don't know, but he'll think of something. That's why he's the genius. Not that I'm bitter or anything.

4
by ChicagoScott (not verified) :: Tue, 11/08/2005 - 3:31pm

As a Colts fan, I want New England to visit Indy in January. Last night's win was nice, but the Colts deserve the opportunity to knock out the champ in the playoffs-- this time, at home, in front of a fired-up Indy crowd.

Changing subjects-- could the field at Gillette Stadium get any worse? Why do you build a gorgeous stadium but allow it to have the worst turf in the league?

5
by Sull (not verified) :: Tue, 11/08/2005 - 3:37pm

I'm glad someone else is willing to call out Assante Samuel and his horrible coverage last night. The Boston media loves to give him a pass, yet they pile on Starks. Neither had a good game. In fact, Samuel has failed to take the next step toward becoming an elite corner in this league this entire season. He got torched by a 33 year old man out there last night. The miserable secondary and NT Vince Wilfork getting pushed around like a beach ball were the glaring problems to me for the Patriots last night.

6
by Drew (not verified) :: Tue, 11/08/2005 - 3:41pm

I commented on Samuel in the game discussion thread, and I'm glad to see that others noticed it as well. I was watching for Starks, because I hear so much about him on these boards. But what I saw in the early going was Samuel getting beat more than Starks.

7
by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Tue, 11/08/2005 - 3:55pm

I'm sure he's the only CB to get routinely beat by the Manning-Harrison connection during a game.

That's never happened to Champ Bailey before...

Seriously, did anyone vote for Samuel as a pro-bowler? Then why do you expect him to put up a pro bowl performance?

8
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Tue, 11/08/2005 - 4:02pm

Still, the Patriots will be in the playoffs, and they will enter the playoffs on a hot streak.
Far from a certainty.

They have a few relatively sure wins on the schedule: Jets, Dolphins, and Saints at home. Blow any of these three games, and they're done.

Away game against the Chiefs: probable loss. Buccaneers in Foxboro: depends on which team is more injury-filled and mistake-prone. Take Brady over Chris Simms, if that's still the line-up.

That's 8 wins, with the 3 away division games left. They need to win two of those to be a lock for the playoffs, and that's far from certain.

Assuming they make the playoffs, they host the top wildcard team. That looks like Cincinnati at this point, but who knows? It doesn't seem that the Patriots' injury list is getting any shorter, so any of the likely wildcard teams should come to Foxboro and take their lunch money.

It's close to the point where they should start playing for a better draft pick. Let somebody else lose in the first round of the playoffs.

9
by FastEddy (not verified) :: Tue, 11/08/2005 - 4:09pm

I dunno. I thought Brady had a pretty bad game. Look at the TD pass to Troy Brown, where Dungy had the challenge flag out, but then didn't throw it. The pass was very low and Brown did a good job of faking a catch. Brady's low throws happened more than once, and he threw behind players as well.

Not that I'm really criticizing. He's got a beat up team, Dillon probably the most important since he can't establish the run. So Brady has to throw a lot to even come close. But Brady had an off night as well.

Can't say I loved Manning either. He just has a great team around him and no injuries. San Diego takes it all, baby. Gates AND LT? Are you kidding me? Break up the Bolts!

10
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Tue, 11/08/2005 - 4:16pm

Re: #4

Well, there was an MLS Eastern Conference Championship game there the night before (and there was a quarterfinal game there the night before the Bills game).

Re: #1

If you actually believe your final paragraph, I have this bridge in NYC I want to discuss purchase and sale terms with you about.

Anyhow, Ned, very nice article, though I think you're way overstating the Pats case for making the playoffs and doing anything in them.

11
by Purds (not verified) :: Tue, 11/08/2005 - 4:20pm

Star:

I don't think you're taking into consideration how poor/beat up the rest of the AFC East is right now. If you think the Pats will falter to 9-7 by not winning your 2 of 3 away division games, then who in the AFC East will go 10-6 to take the division? Buffalo or Miami would have to go 7-1 down the stretch to get to 10-6. That's not going to happen. The Pats will make the playoffs, no doubt.

As Ned points out in the article, the Pats will only get better, as they could add Light and Seymour, and Dillion and Bruschi should inprove.

12
by fyo (not verified) :: Tue, 11/08/2005 - 4:22pm

I have to disagree with the Dillon statements. I thought he had a great game (minus one fumble) and should have gotten the ball A LOT more. The sad fact is that Brady and whomever is calling the plays from the sideline has decided that Brady is the teams best player, so he should throw the ball. All the time.

The offensive play calling is also terribly unimaginative compared to the Charley Weis era. Not only is the running game all but gone, 90% of the plays seem to be screen passes or swing passes. I'm exaggerating here, but that's what it feels like when watching the game.

13
by Purds (not verified) :: Tue, 11/08/2005 - 4:23pm

I agree with Patsfan, though, that the Patriots will need to somewho rest/heal a number of guys if they are going to win in the playoffs. I do think they'll make it: I just don't see anyone else in the division who can make a run. The Jets? Buffalo? Miami? All are seriously flawed.

14
by Purds (not verified) :: Tue, 11/08/2005 - 4:25pm

fyo:

I'm not sure that Dillion could have carried the Pats, but I have different feelings than you on the Pats use of screens and swing passes. Those passes are precisely the ones that work best against the Colts. Look at the rankings of Colts D versus RB's -- it's not good. And, luckily for the Colts the Pats had to use TE's to help block the pass rush, or else they might have been able to exploit the other weakness, the coverage of TE's.

15
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Tue, 11/08/2005 - 4:27pm

Well, supposedly Dillon hasn't been in meaningful practices for over four weeks at this point, and the reports on what his ankle looked like after last week's game weren't good. So one wonders how much he was hurting by the time the 2nd half started.

And with the Pats being down 21 practically at the start of the 3rd quarter and the defense being unable to stop anything, that meant to even have a chance of winning the Pats would have to score quickly again and again, so I don't see it terribly unreasonable to bail on the running game at that point.

16
by OMO (not verified) :: Tue, 11/08/2005 - 4:28pm

Ned...in general, I truely liked the article...but the below part of the article in my mind is just lazy, unfounded conjecture on your part.

"...and a maturing Manning has successfully set aside his ego for the good of his team"

Especially when you follow it up with a well written and astute line that better explains the past problems.

"If the defense is specifically designed to stop those throws, stubbornly forcing plays due to your own self-confidence is not sound football."

I'm having a hard time understanding how Manning's "ego" is the problem vs. his past poor decision making abilities as an NFL quarterback.

One is a personality characteristic, that unless you have been spending some time in the Colts locker room...is unsubstantiated conjecture that has no place in such a well written article.

The other one is a on-the-field important element of QB performance that you are supremely qualified to evaluate.

17
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Tue, 11/08/2005 - 4:30pm

Re: #12

You need to pay closer attention to the "Charlie Weis" era. Pre-Dillon, "90% of the plays [being] screen passes and swing passes" was de rigeur for the Pats. Don't you remember all the "Brady is just a pissant dink-and-dunk QB" stuff?

18
by VarlosZ (not verified) :: Tue, 11/08/2005 - 4:32pm

And to all those Patriots fans who were booing the Colts going for two up 40-21 with five and a half minutes left: They were showing respect to your team’s scoring ability, so shut up about it.

I'm surprised Al Michaels didn't think to mention it, but the one team which should definitely know to be worried about the opposition scoring three TDs in the final 5 minutes is the Colts, since they did it against the Bucs on Monday night a few years ago.

Incidentally, I had $20 on the Colts that night. What great gambling moment.

19
by Sull (not verified) :: Tue, 11/08/2005 - 4:35pm

Re: #7 Last night was Marvin Harrison's best game of the season. So saying no one can stop this guy is just letting Samuel off the hook. There was only one other game Harrison had over 7 catches and 100+ yards and 2 TD's: and that was against the Titans.

I'm not putting the blame of the entire secondary on Samuel, just saying he's been no better than Starks.

20
by ABW (not verified) :: Tue, 11/08/2005 - 4:47pm

Sull:

I'll note that I called out Samuel for not playing very well in that game also, but he's been a pretty solid corner up until this point this year, whereas Starks has been burned repeatedly in almost every game. If the Boston media is going to pick on one of them, they've been picking on the right one.

Criticizing Samuel for "not taking the next step to being an elite corner" is a little ridiculous. Not everybody becomes an elite corner, and frankly Samuel hasn't really shown any evidence that he's going to do that. He's a solid contributor, who had a lousy game last night. Nothing more, nothing less, whereas Duane Starks has yet to show that he's anything other than toast in silver and blue.

I mentioned this in one of the other thread, but Wilfork is looking like he might be more suited to a 4-3 one-gap scheme than a 3-4 two-gap scheme. He just doesn't handle double-teams well. When Seymour's in, a lot of the time he gets the double teams instead of Wilfork, but when Seymour's out, it all just breaks down.

21
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Tue, 11/08/2005 - 4:48pm

Buffalo or Miami would have to go 7-1 down the stretch to get to 10-6.
They wouldn't neccesarily have to. Buffalo has home games against Kansas City, Carolina, New England, and Denver, all of which have proven capable of losing on the road. Road wins against the Jets and Dolphins would give the division to the Bills at 9-7, with the division tiebreakers.

The Dolphins have home games against the Jets, Titans, Bills, and Patriots. All winnable, as are the away games against Oakland and Cleveland. Then they have to take 1 of: at New England, at San Diego. (Note that sweeping New England would give Miami the tiebreaker at 9-7, so they get to inexplicably lose another game.)

I'm not suggesting you bet against the Patriots making the playoffs. But I wouldn't bet a whole lot *on* them, either.

22
by charles (not verified) :: Tue, 11/08/2005 - 5:10pm

I see finding a quality upset in the nfl every week is challenging. How about every now and then you throw in a college football upset and analyze that. For instance, last week miami upset va tech and the way they dominated caught a lot of people by surprise. I would have liked to hear ned's take on that game and why tech was dominated so much. my guess is that they made marcus vick throw deep and he wasn't accurate enough to do it.

23
by Sull (not verified) :: Tue, 11/08/2005 - 5:12pm

Re: #20 ABW:
I agree about Wilfork, he's much better when he has Seymour in there. He's not a pure nose tackle.

I will respectfully disagree about Asante Samuel. I think he has been burned quite often this year, he's given up several big plays. The only game I gave him an above average rating was last week against Buffalo. Starks has often been put on the opposing teams #1 receiver. Samuel was burned by Hines Ward on a slant against Pitt, he was overmatched against Atlanta. Both Starks and Samuel got burned on big plays against Denver. The list goes on.

I hear you about not every guy developing into an elite corner, but Samuel had a terrific rookie season and we had high hopes for him in New England. We're splitting hairs though, he's been slightly better than Starks. But really no one back there has been good. Eugene Wilson consistently seems to be out of position at free safety as well.

This might be the worst secondary in football right now.

24
by Sean (not verified) :: Tue, 11/08/2005 - 5:27pm

Excellent article. I wouldn't expect New England to make it to a rematch, though- the AFC Wild card teams are going to be some combination of Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville and San Diego, and I would like any of those teams save Jacksonville to go into New England and beat this particular Patriots team.

25
by Harry (not verified) :: Tue, 11/08/2005 - 6:01pm

#21, I wouldn't say the Patriots are a bad road team at all. They are .500 at home and .500 on the road, and the road losses were a lot closer than the home losses. The Pats clearly have the best offense in the AFC East, and it will probably only get better from here out if Light comes back and as the front line continues to gain experience. But it also seems clear that the Pats have by far the worst defense in the AFC East. If "defense wins championships" then neither the Bills nor the Dolphins are out of the race

26
by ABW (not verified) :: Tue, 11/08/2005 - 6:09pm

Fair enough Sull. Samuel did have a pretty good rookie season, but he hasn't shown me anything since then to make me think he's anything special. Eugene Wilson is a more disappointing to me - I thought that he could have been the guy directing the defense this year after Harrison went down, but like you said, he's looked just as lost as everyone else. I suspect this may be due to the coaching not being as good as it was last year as much as anything else. Losing Crennel was going to bite this team at some point.

I'll agree with your last sentiment there about the worst secondary in football. Especially with the cycle of warm bodies at strong safety right now.

27
by Brian (not verified) :: Tue, 11/08/2005 - 6:17pm

#5: "[Samuel] got torched by a 33 year old man out there last night."

A 33-year-old man with a cast! I am really impressed with Harrison's catch % with that cast on after the first few games this year.

28
by Biffy (not verified) :: Tue, 11/08/2005 - 7:07pm

To the guy who said that Assante Samuel was torched by a 33 year old man, I offer this correction - Samuel was torched by a 33 year old man wearing a cast.

Also, no, Dillon was not effective. His substantial gain mostly came on trick or misdirection plays - trick plays the Colts figured out after seeing one time. They didn't work twice.

29
by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 11/08/2005 - 7:24pm

The Pats secondary hasn't been elite for the past couple of years--ever since Law went down in Pittsburgh after they lost Poole. Last year it was well hidden because of the schemes they used--the corners would bump the recievers off their routes right at the get go, while Wilson stayed deep to help whichever corner got beat more, Harrison would respond to the run or the shorter stuff, and all their shortcomings were better hidden because of an excellent pass rush.

The key to this defense was that it masked weak CB play by making experienced safeties the lynchpin, coupled with a strong pass rush that came from rotating DL's frequently (and Seymour). Look at how the Pats secondary fell apart in both previous superbowls when one or both safeties went out with an injury and was replaced by the likes of Dexter Reid.

Now, they've lost Harrison and with him all the decision making that he brought. A rookie or special teamer can't be expected to be in the right position to stop runs, screens, and short routes the way he was. Samuel was never a shut-down corner--he was a physical corner that would throw a WR off his route, and if he got beat deep the safety would help him out. Starks seems incapable of bumping someone on the line and plays all the WR's with a cushion (because his injury maybe? Or maybe he is just awful). With only three CB's healthy enough to play at any given time, none of them have the energy to be very physical (look at how tired they all looked last night). Wilson is trying to do too much to take up the slack, and naturally looks out of position often--does he help Samuel, who's playing style requires help, Starks, who just sucks, or the other rookie of the week at strong safety? And with Seymour (and now Warren) out, Wilfork getting tired because they have no other NT to rotate with him, and LB's that aren't as good as they were last year, the pass rush has vanished.

I'm not defending them, just explaining how the pass defense nose dived so quickly. I think Patriots fans have gotten a little spoiled by having no-name players or rookies (Gay, Wilson, etc.) step up and become amazing players, that we've come to expect it and are shocked when Hank Poteat and that safety Stone don't step in and become second incarnations of Law and Harrison.

I don't see the secondary improving much. A better pass rush with Seymour will help a little, as will Gay returning to full health, but without an experienced strong safety I don't see how this group can compete.

30
by Kurt (not verified) :: Tue, 11/08/2005 - 7:24pm

They wouldn’t neccesarily have to. Buffalo has home games against Kansas City, Carolina, New England, and Denver, all of which have proven capable of losing on the road. Road wins against the Jets and Dolphins would give the division to the Bills at 9-7, with the division tiebreakers.

Boy, that's a lot to ask of a mediocre team. A quarter is capable of coming up tails, but I sure wouldn't bet on it coming up tails six times in a row.

31
by admin :: Tue, 11/08/2005 - 7:40pm

Updated to note that Brady is now the number one QB in DPAR through nine weeks.

32
by Ted (not verified) :: Tue, 11/08/2005 - 9:06pm

Re #23 Sull
"This might be the worst secondary in football right now." I take it you haven't seen much of the Oakland Raiders or Tennesee Titans.

33
by Nathan (not verified) :: Tue, 11/08/2005 - 10:13pm

all i remember about work was everyone congragulating me, as if I was the QB of the Colts.

"Great win there..."

34
by 2 cents (not verified) :: Wed, 11/09/2005 - 1:11am

Funny how all Pats fans have begun to look for excuses ;-) When they win Brusci is the heart and sole of the team. When they lose, Harrison is mentioned.

And did anyone notice Brady's expression yesterday. I have a feeling he is going to be a very sore loser. We will see a new side of his soon.

35
by lafcadio, France (not verified) :: Wed, 11/09/2005 - 5:57am

I'd love to read a column like that for a game centurions - Rhein Fire.
(I'm kidding)

36
by stan (not verified) :: Wed, 11/09/2005 - 7:52am

I think your characterization of Colt offensive strategy in the past games to be silly.

37
by Jeremy (not verified) :: Wed, 11/09/2005 - 5:46pm

Funny how all Pats fans have begun to look for excuses When they win Brusci is the heart and sole of the team. When they lose, Harrison is mentioned.

Yeah, as opposed to all the "your defense is illegally physical" whining from Colts fans the past few years...

And did anyone notice Brady’s expression yesterday. I have a feeling he is going to be a very sore loser. We will see a new side of his soon.

Have you heard one quote from him to this effect? Have you ever seen him say, for example, that the better team didn't win? Or that the Colts were a bad football team? Sheesh.

38
by charles (not verified) :: Wed, 11/09/2005 - 6:16pm

Have you heard one quote from him to this effect? Have you ever seen him say, for example, that the better team didn’t win? Or that the Colts were a bad football team? Sheesh.

yep, check out the patriots comments following their loss to the redskins in 2003. Sore loser Brady is in full effect.

39
by Jeremy (not verified) :: Wed, 11/09/2005 - 11:20pm

yep, check out the patriots comments following their loss to the redskins in 2003. Sore loser Brady is in full effect.

Here's what I've found:

"Just bad plays, man. Just bad plays," said Brady, who was 25 for 38 for 289 yards. "I have to make good decisions, good throws and give ourselves and chance to win."

"What more can you ask for than what we had?" Brady said. "We came back, we did a good job getting ourselves back in the game. You get the ball on (the) 45 and you can't get a first down. That's a pretty bad feeling."

What am I missing?

40
by B (not verified) :: Wed, 11/09/2005 - 11:48pm

Why is it a critisizm of a QB to say he's upset/pouty/whiny/angry/unhappy after a loss? Don't you want your team's starting QB to be pissed off when he loses? Throwing a temper tantrum or snapping at refs/teammates/whoever is immature, but being unhappy after a loss shows that you at least care about the outcome of the game more than personal stats.
Brady and Manning are both competitors who want thier team to win every single week. When that doesn't happen, they are unhappy, and that's not a character flaw.

41
by charles (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 11:33am

"Everyone's real disappointed," said Brady, who completed 25 of 38 passes for 289 yards. "It's more disappointment than we've had in a while because we really feel like we should have won."

42
by B (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 11:46am

Okay, I don't get it. Why is it bad that Brady thought the Patriots should have beaten the Redskins in 2003? I don't think I'm going out on a limb by saying in 2003 the Pats were the better team. As opposed to Monday, where the Colts were the better team.

43
by charles (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 11:53am

As opposed to Monday, where the Colts were the better team.

that's my point, in week 4 of the 2003 season it wasn't clear that the patriots were a better team than the redskins. the redskins were 3-1 and the pats 2-2. Now, i may have been a little over the top by saying brady's sore loser mode was in full effect. What i mean is that brady didn't give any credit to the redskins d for playing a good game (most notably champ bailey) and forcing the pats o into mistakes. But as you know, B i am a redskins homer so i took brady's comments with the utmost disrespect.

44
by charles (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 11:58am

the redskins were favored in this game as well, so clearly many other people didn't feel the pats were head and shoulders above the redskins.

45
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 12:08pm

Brady should have been upset, since he failed to see a freakin' wide open Larry Centers on 4th down. If he had seen Centers, the Pats would have converted the 4th and been in FG range and so would have been in great position to at least tie the game.

Instead, Brady didn't see Centers and forced a deeper ball into coverage and it was incomplete and the Pats turned the ball over.

So Brady was damn right about failing to make plays.

46
by B (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 12:48pm

Re 43 & 44: Considering the fact that the Patriots didn't lose another game untill Halloween 2004, I think it's a fair assumption that the Patriots were actually the better team in that game, despite what the popular opinion at the time was. Yes the Redskins seemed like the better team after the game, but Brady felt that his team should have won that game. Don't get me wrong, the Redskins played a better game, and they deserved to win. However, a lot of that was Brady not playing as well as he could have. As PatsFan pointed out, he made some bad reads and didn't see wide open receivers.

47
by hart lee dykes (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 12:51pm

Geez, nothing like 2 year old comments to get people fired up. Plus, that's a pretty innocuous statement. He felt they should have won, I'm guessing most QBs feel that way after losing a close game.

As a Pats fan, I was not naive enough to believe the team's incredible run would last forever. I was also somewhat prepared for the inevitable onslaught of Pats haters who would seek to pile on as soon as they started losing a little. But man, talk about picking nits.

48
by MCS (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 1:50pm

What exactly was BB challenging anyway? Does anyone have any insight? By my recollection, Harrison was upright and had possession of the ball when he crossed the goal line. I didn't see anything to warrant the challenge flag. This lends credence to the theory that BB was just looking to slow the game down so his guys could regroup.

BTW, Is Harrison's cast the same type that Freeman wore in 1996 (wrist-elbow)? I didn't get a good look at it. The reason I ask is because, IMHO, Freeman's cast actually made him a better receiever. It forced him to catch with his hands instead of his arms/body.

49
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 2:00pm

MCS -- is there actually anyone who doesn't think BB was using the challenge to get a free time-out? Or rather, threw the flag to get a free time-out, and then when picking the flag up was (properly) not allowed, had no choice but to challenge.

But even if he wasn't playing clock games, he may as well have challenged. If that TD stood the game was absolutely over, so why not take a flyer on the challenge?

50
by MCS (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 2:35pm

I could've sworn I saw a couple of posts on this thread calling out post #1 as BS. Can't find 'em now though. Dam eyes.

I was just looking for more insight into their perspective as to the justification of the challenge as legitimate.

51
by Jeremy (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 3:24pm

From Brady this week:

“The reality is we are 4-4 and it is a dogfight. It was a dogfight last week. It is going to be a dogfight this week,� he said. “It is going to be a dogfight to get up and motivate yourself to go out there and improve and try to get better. You can feel sorry for yourself and be discouraged and whine and complain but that doesn’t get you anywhere. The only way you dig yourself out of it, is to dig yourself out of it and to realize what it takes to overcome these things. It would be great if we can turn this thing around. It would make for a great year and it really starts this week.�

52
by SJM (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 4:16pm

You know what's really disapointing about this article? Macey's complete failure to discuss the Falcons.

53
by B (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 4:21pm

Re #52: Totally. He completly ignores how Vick was able to affect the outcome of the game, just because it's an ability that can't be measured by mere stats, or even fully comprehended by mere mortals.

54
by MCS (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 8:16pm

LOL. I was just over there and almost jumped into the fray. I thought better of it.

55
by Kibbles (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2005 - 10:57pm

Bill Bellichick, meet Mike Shanahan. You are him. In another 6 years, when you haven't won another superbowl, people will be calling for your head. Every piece of praise that was ever heaped upon you will be said again in a sarcastic tone, accompanied by much derision and eye-rolling. In rankings of the best coaches in the NFL, whichever coaches participated in the superbowl over the past 3 seasons will be ranked in the top 10, while you'll be sitting around 20th or so, behind all the flavor of the week coaches who turned a 4-12 team into a 6-10 team "headed in the right direction". People will openly speculate over whether or not you have lost it, with "it" most likely being your ability to win the superbowl 75% of the time. Your back will become bowed by the weight of all the monkeys that will be heaped upon it. The Charlie Weis monkey. The Romeo Crennel monkey. The Rodney Harrison monkey. The Tedy Bruschi monkey. Worst of all, there'll even be speculation over whether or not there's a Ty Law monkey. After all, what have you ever won without him? Welcome to the reality of the NFL.

56
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Fri, 11/11/2005 - 2:12am

For starters, BB won SB39 without him. :)

57
by Kibbles (not verified) :: Fri, 11/11/2005 - 4:28am

Re #56: What? What place do facts have in the discussion of monkeys? Monkeys defy logic and laugh in the face of facts. For instance, apparently Philadelphia never would have been able to get over the NFC Championship hump without Terrell Owens, despite the fact that they actually got over the NFC Championship hump without Terrell Owens. And people argue that they probably wouldn't have had the home field advantage and been playing in the Championship in the first place without Owens, despite the fact that they got home-field advantage and played in the Championship without Owens, too.

I'm busy trying to talk some real football here. Please stop confusing the issue with facts.

58
by LnGrrrR (not verified) :: Sat, 11/12/2005 - 6:38am

Well...how many SB's has Shannie won? 2 right?
Bill's got 3 out of 4, plus his days coaching the Giants should count for something. I mean, he DOES have a playbook that's in the Hall of Fame, right?
And if Shanahan could actually win in the playoffs this year, there will be alot less snickering come January.

59
by tony (not verified) :: Sun, 11/13/2005 - 1:12am

I am sick and tired of patriots fan selective memory when it comes to their team. The truth of the matter is that Tom Brady, a good quarterback, is also one of the luckiest ever. Let's not forget the gift by the refs against the raiders (superbowl #1 of the "dinasty" gone).
What about the fact that Bledsoe actually won the AFC championship in good fashion but still got backstabbed by being denied an earned start in the Superbowl by the "genius" in favor of sore loser Brady, maybe Brady would have won that game or maybe not.
Memo to the patriot fans: when your team just got pummelled by the colts, it's this moment that shows what kind of character do you have as the leader of your team. Brady showed his true side when he quickly exited without taking questions from the reporters after the game. It's easy to play the "classy" competitor when you are on the winning side, but true class is showned by your actions when you are on the losing side.

Tony

60
by Matt (not verified) :: Sun, 11/13/2005 - 3:22am

59

Lots of people seem to forget that the 'tuck rule' is a rule. That is, it is in the rule books. Walt Coleman did not make it up, nor did he incorrectly apply it.
Bledsoe did not win the AFC championchip against the Steelers. It was actually special teams and defense that won that game. Troy Brown had a 55 yard punt return touchdown and the Pats returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown. The defense shut down the Steelers running game, trying to make Kordell Stewart beat them and he was unable. He threw 2 picks at the end of the game when the Steelers were within 7 points.
And maybe Brady doesn't want to be asked about the Colts breaking the "hold" the Pats had over them. "How did it feel to lose to the Colts for the first time?" He probably needed to reflect on the game.

61
by tony (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 1:04am

Here it goes again another pats fan making excuses. Sorry but I dont remember Payton Manning not taking as many questions as the reporters dished out even after another devastating loss in the playoffs to the patriots. Do you think he felt like answering those questions. Their coach Tony Dungy never ran from the reporters after the same embarassing losses like Bellichic did in the same press conference as Brady after their loss to the colts.
Class is class and they showed none.
So stop making excuses, you dont need them (3 rings) recognize things for what they are: Tom Brady & his coach are sore losers period.

62
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 2:13am

Do you really want an NFL coach or player on your team, who's happy when they lose?

63
by tony (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 5:19am

It's not a matter of being happy when you lose. It's a matter of being professionals regardless of the outcome of the game.
The reporters are there to do their jobs for various national press. That was the biggest game of the year and the game that garnered the most interest nationwide so far this year, so if you lose, show your professionalism by standing up to the loss, taking questions that alot of people are interested to know instead of running
away and act like a sore loser.
Obviosly you missed the point if you think that Manning or any other competitor is happy about losing.

64
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Mon, 11/14/2005 - 11:41am

Well, since your point was pretty much pure schadenfreude, I was just making fun of it.

However, if (as it seems) you really want to add your half-penny to the volume of "Brady is teh suXX0r Manning r0x do0d," then follow the link on my pseudonym.