Battle for the top spot
How Pats outlasted Colts; Saints' dramatic rise
Posted: Wednesday November 7, 2007 11:36AM; Updated: Wednesday November 7, 2007 2:19PM
If ever I wanted to do a game analysis, it was last weekend after the Pats-Colts. Unfortunately, I was not asked to, but there's some stuff I wanted to mention. So if you'll just bear with me for just a short while, I'll cover it right now, and feel better. OK?
Even if Marvin Harrison had played, there was little chance he'd be more than the 10-yard threat he's been since the second game. But just having him on the field ... well, they could have blown some smoke during the week about how much it meant to have him back, and then have thrown deep to him early, as the Jets did with Don Maynard in Super Bowl III, just to show it, to create an awareness. But with him out, Anthony Gonzalez went to his spot, and he clearly wasn't ready for that kind of action. When he hurt his thumb, they were stuck with Aaron Moorhead, a non-factor.
The Patriots didn't want to be hurt downfield, though. Bill Belichick always comes up with something new in big games -- most of the good coaches do -- and this time it was a modified 4-2-nickel, with Richard Seymour as the extra lineman, Rodney Harrison playing the weakside linebacker, but also doing a lot of lining up and rushing from the edges, and Randall Gay, normally the nickel back, at a safety. I thought Adalius Thomas, the high-priced Baltimore import, would be the secret weapon to control Dallas Clark, but I had that one wrong. He was in the witness protection program Sunday ... try to find him. Clark belonged mostly to Harrison.
Now, Indy offensive coordinator Tom Moore is a simple kind of guy. You're going to play nickel, we'll run at you, and that's what the Colts did. Joseph Addai was the best player on the field, running and catching, just as he was in the Super Bowl. But as tough as he was, the Patriots clung stubbornly to their nickel, the reasoning being, OK, you'll run on us but there will be no big strikes. And that's the way the first half went ... long field goal drives for the Colts. Except at the end of the half, when Addai blew it apart with his long TD. I'll bet that even Belichick was a little worried at this point. Holy hell! What is it with this guy? And then in the final period, Indy stretched its lead to 10, on a drive that featured three straight blasts by Addai. They had tried to keep him rested as much as they could, but now he was spent. Worn out. And as far as Tom Brady was concerned, the argument was just beginning.
The Colts were without their starting outside linebackers. They were left with Rocky Boiman, a journeyman, and a nickel back, Tim Jennings, a teeth-gritter ... a heart and desire guy. They got away with it for a while, thanks mostly to some great effort from the pass rush, but by the fourth quarter, they were on their heels. And that's when Brady went to his big guns, his speed guys, the game breakers -- Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth, Wes Welker, and even, to a certain extent, vastly underrated Kevin Faulk.
It was too much. I saw Bob Sanders wobbling, cornerback Marlin Jackson trying to limp back to the lineup. Over. Curtains. The Colts had one last possession, and now the final injury kicked in, the one that had taken away the starting left tackle Tony Ugoh. The Patriots' right defensive end, Jarvis Green, is a very rough dude, and he had worn down Ugoh's back-up, Charlie Johnson, and now it was time for the KO. Sack, strip, fumble, game's over. (As always, send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org)