With or without clock help, Patriots make run at No. 1
Posted: Wednesday September 28, 2005 11:53AM; Updated: Wednesday September 28, 2005 11:53AM
I have to admit that the middle of the rankings is a formless mess. "So's the beginning and the end," murmurs someone who lives in the same house I do. Yep, you feed her a fat one down the middle and you watch it clear the centerfield wall. Sorry, I'll be more careful.
If your team got wasted in this column, please, no nasty e-mails. I feel worse about it than you do. Hold off for a week. I will straighten it out in a subsequent opus, as the folks in the D.C. area will learn, in a shocking surprise move guaranteed to quicken their senses.
I'm tired of keeping them up here after they've done nothing particularly inspiring. "I thought you were the one who said that defense is exciting and points were a dime a dozen," says the same red-headed person who had the nasty comment in paragraph one. Yeah, right, you win the argument, hooray! Let's move on to something more interesting, which would be ...
I'm going to talk about them in tomorrow's column, but I've just received an imaginary mailbag query, which is: How did the officials mistakenly adding 52 seconds to the fourth quarter affect the outcome of the Steelers game? OK, assuming that everything goes the same way, we have the Steelers, down by seven, lining up on the Patriots' four-yard line with 33 seconds left instead of 1:25. Had they been out of timeouts I'd say that the play fake pass which gave them a TD wouldn't work because the threat of a running play would be lessened. But they had only used one T.O., so they would have scored anyway, and New England eventually would have put the ball in play with 22 seconds remaining, instead of the 1:14 they had. There wouldn't be the underneath passing, which moved them smartly down the field. It would be bombs away. No dice. The game goes into overtime. New England wins the toss. The same drive that gave them a field goal, for real, gives them another one in our imaginary "what if?" game. The result is the same, except that instead of sitting down to dinner at 7:40 p.m. you'd have to wait til 8, and speed up the old eating process so you wouldn't blow the kickoff of Giants-Chargers.
The same e-mailer won't quit. "What if the Steelers win the toss in overtime?" They get stopped, punt, and New England marches downfield to win it. Dinner starts at 8:07. Come on, leave it alone already.
Who are Cadillac's good blockers? The tackles don't thrill me, but I think the inside of that line is top grade. I've always liked center John Wade. Right guard Sean Mahan is pretty good, and LG Dan Buenning, a rookie fourth-round draft choice, was really sticking it to 'em in the games I saw. Wideout Mike Clayton is a factor, too. A good sized guy, 6-foot-4, 215, with a real vicious streak.
Is cornerback DeAngelo Hall an All-Pro? Well, he and the Panthers' Ken Lucas are the best I've seen so far, in this brief season. With the secondary in an injury shambles against Buffalo, Hall held the fort nobly and kept things together.
Here's the scene in the first half against Oakland: Donovan McNabb, in pain, can't throw the ball in the ocean. The Philly crowd is whistling and booing and yelling for Koy Detmer, who just happens to be warming up. David Akers, the kicker, has gone down in a heap on the opening kickoff. Mark Simoneau tries an extra point, which is blocked. Mike Bartrum gives it a go on the kickoffs. He looks like Curly of the Three Stooges. Then in the second half the sun breaks through the clouds. The wounded walk. Flights of swallows fill the skies. Sweet victory. In the press room, the most hardened sportswriters shed a few tears into their laptops, which causes them to short out, sending verbs, adverbs and pronouns flying in all directions.
I watched them against the Bears. I was really taken by the speed and savvy of their rookie MLB Odell Thurman. Felt the same way about K.C.'s Derrick Johnson, but on Monday night, unfortunately, he was swallowing every fake Jake Plummer fed him.
Before the Jets game, Fred Taylor said, "I want to keep getting the ball til my leg falls off." Coach Jack Del Rio said, "Oh yeah?" and Taylor carried the ball 37 times. When Fred got home, his wife said, "Where's your leg?"
For the first two games, they were blanked in the second half. Against the Cardinals, they got off the schneid. Mike Holmgren's comment in his postgame press conference was, "I told you we'd score in the second half, and I was right, wasn't I?" This note came from our correspondent's file, and there's no indication of the tenor of his remark, but I hope Mike was being sarcastic. If he was serious, then he, the Hawks, and his friends are in big trouble.
Pre-Panthers, Nick Saban, challenged his premium rookie, Ronnie Brown, who hadn't done much. He said to the writers, obviously as a motivational tool for Brown, that it would take "five years" to see if the kid was worth being the second overall pick in the draft. Well, Brown had a big day Sunday, but mentally, I fast-forwarded to five years from now, and Brown, having collected the full $33 million of his package and wearing the kind of threads that only this kind of money can buy, asks the coach, "So what's the verdict? Was I worth it?"
Julius Peppers has no sacks this year. Even that Miami rotating tackle thing that the Jets' John Abraham destroyed, couldn't get Peppers over the hump. Carolina doesn't like to blitz much, but this is my Super Bowl team, fellas. Something must be done.
Up four spots after the bye. What gives? Only that I got a late look at their Cowboys victory and it was very impressive and I'm ashamed that it took me so long to tune in. (As poor Uncle Don said in his famous final show for WEAF Radio about 65 years ago, "That ought to hold the little b- - - - - - s," and he wasn't talking about his e-mailers.)
Right tackle has been a horror show position for years. Just the other day Mike Martz said that it would be best if No. 1 draft Alex Barron would use 2005 as a learning experience and not play. Sunday, after RT Blaine Saipaia struggled, Barron was thrown into the breach and he was terrific. He manned the position for the final three series, during which Marc Bulger went 9-for-10, including the winning TD pass. "He's just like Big O," Martz said afterward. Big O is Orlando Pace.