Frosty relations (cont.)
Posted: Friday December 14, 2007 12:57PM; Updated: Saturday December 15, 2007 1:57AM
Don't tell me the Patriots haven't been waiting 14 weeks for this one to arrive. This is a team that can whip itself into an on-field fury over a tepidly offered guarantee of victory by a little-known opponent -- no less than Tom Brady and Randy Moss were jawing in Anthony Smith's face last week against Pittsburgh -- so you can imagine what fires they've stoked in preparation for the team that turned them in and sullied their name.
"I'm telling you that we're going to approach this game like we approached the last one and the one before that,'' droned Patriots head coach Bill Belichick this week. "That's all I can tell you.''
No, that's just all you want to tell us, Bill. There's a big difference. And for the record, I do believe that part about approaching this game like you approached the last one (see: guarantee, by Smith, Anthony). And then some.
With apologies to Frank and Liza, it's up to you, New York, New York. With the winless Dolphins having a zero percent -- that's right, zero -- chance of pulling the upset next week at frosty Gillette Stadium, the Jets on Sunday and the Giants in Week 17 at the Meadowlands are the only impediments to the Patriots recording the first 16-0 regular season in league history.
After here's the irony: For the past six weeks or so, everybody's been asking if the Patriots will continue to play it pedal-to-the-metal for the perfect season, even after they lock up the AFC's top playoff seed and homefield advantage throughout the postseason? (To which my answer has been "Absolutely yes.'')
It's actually the Giants (9-4) who are more likely to rest people in that Week 17 home game against the Patriots. New York should have the NFC's No. 5 seed locked up by then, and will be in the mood to protect its key players in preparation of a first-round road playoff game, probably at Tampa Bay. New England, having earned a first-round bye, will likely play its starters longer in an attempt to keep them sharp for the Jan. 12-13 divisional round.
It has been a snowy December already in New England -- we got 10 inches dumped on us on Thursday afternoon and evening -- and if next week's Dolphins-Patriots affair should be played with that form of precipitation falling, it would serve as a 25th anniversary of sorts for the Snow Plow Game.
It would be undoubtedly all too much for Shula to take, seeing the Patriots go to 15-0, the Dolphins fall to 0-15 (yes, we're assuming a loss this week at home against Baltimore), and the specter of New England's 3-0 victory over Miami on Dec. 12, 1982 being invoked. Patriots kicker John Smith converted the game-winning 33-yard field goal that day after New England head coach Ron Meyer and quarterback Steve Grogan waved snow plow driver Mark Henderson -- a convict out on a work-release program -- onto the field to clear a spot for Smith's kick.
Shula today still can turn purple in the face at the merest mention of Meyer or that game.