- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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"He was out when he scored that touchdown," Haynes said. "He was fuzzy. When he came back in in the second half I could tell he was still hurt. I could see the look in his eye."
"I felt pretty good, but I really wasn't picking things up," Pagel said. "On one play I saw a blitz coming, and I was thinking, here...comes...a...blitz, like I was thinking in slow motion. I couldn't adjust to it."
His two series were a disaster—a fumbled snap, two incompletes, a sack and an interception. He had had it for the day, and so had the Colts. A fumble by Baltimore Running Back Cleveland Franklin in the fourth quarter gave the Patriots the ball on the Colts' 21; six running plays gave New England the clinching touchdown, on a one-yard plunge by rookie Running Back Robert Weathers.
The Patriots' ground game had been greatly feared by Kush and his defensive coordinator, Bud Carson. The New England offensive line is the Pats' strength, a bastion of talent—including four former No. 1 drafts—and size, unbelievable size. Their tackle-to-tackle average of 6'5", 283 pounds gives them one of the biggest, if not the biggest, offensive lines in NFL history. In their winning years of the recent past the Patriots punished people with their ground game, then shocked them with passes to Russ Francis, Darryl Stingley, Stanley Morgan and Harold Jackson. Last Sunday they were at their best running the ball tackle to tackle, getting 227 yards on the ground, including 137 by Tony Collins, last year's second-round pick from East Carolina. But when the Pats tried to get fancy, the Colts' young defense stopped them.
Right now the Patriots are further along the road to recovery than the Colts are. New England spent the last week of the preseason shuffling the deck and searching the waiver wires, as Baltimore did, but while Kush was looking for starters, the Patriots were filling in the lower part of their roster. Twelve of the 17 rookies they drafted this year made the squad. Seven drafted rookies remain from 1981. There are 12 No. 1 picks and nine No. 2s on their squad. There are some disappointments, such as Kenneth Sims, the No. 1 pick in the entire 1982 draft, who played left defensive end against Baltimore and got a lesson from the Colts' right tackle, six-year veteran Jeff Hart. And there are some extremely pleasant surprises, such as free agent Middle Guard Luther Henson, a sawed-off 275-pounder who was cut by Cincinnati last year and cut by the Patriots six days before Sunday's game. New England reclaimed him three days later. He came in during the third quarter, and the result was electric. All of a sudden the Patriots had an inside pass rush.
The game, which had been billed as a sort of college bowl between Meyer's SMU program and Rush's Arizona State operation, came down to a battle for survival in the oppressive heat. Kush simply ran out of people.
The two coaches' approaches to the 1982 season had been similar in a lot of ways. Both had imposed college-style discipline. Neither had been bashful about clearing their rosters. Of the 90 players who dressed for the Stupor Bowl, only 44 were in uniform on Sunday—19 for the Colts, 25 for the Patriots. Both coaches had drawn fire from the veterans, Kush for his punishing, full contact practices and his relentlessness in cleaning house, Meyer for his rah-rah approach, which includes the full repertoire of motivational gadgetry.
Every Monday Meyer's players get a chart, which they're expected to fill in and return by Friday, signed. On the top of the chart are six column headings: GOALS, ROADBLOCKS, SOLUTION, PROGRESS TO DATE, TARGET DATE AND PERSONAL REWARDS. Some of the veterans have taken a light approach to the whole thing. Under PERSONAL REWARDS Cavanaugh once wrote "Doing Skol and Miller Lite commercials." Under GOALS, Right Guard Bob Cryder wrote, "Going into a bar and having the girls pick me up."
"Well, I take it seriously," Meyer says. "I even fill one out myself." His goals for opening day included "Win first NFL game" (he did); "Develop great game plan" (uh, maybe); "Rush for 210 yards" (he beat it by 17); "Pass for 200 yards" (he fell short by 97); "No turnovers" (on the money); "30 yards in penalties" (the Patriots had 87, the Colts just 10, but they were the home team); "Poise, class, control and discipline" (well, on their way into the locker room after the final gun, one of the Patriots yelled, "Strike! Strike!" and another shouted, "We can't, we're on a roll!" Shortly thereafter one of the linebackers asked a writer, "When do we get our rings from the Stupor Bowl?" and the answer was, "As soon as they get them off the cigars," but you'd have to rate this as poise).
More Meyer goals: "Outcoach and outtough Kush" (the jury's out) and, finally, "Weight, 191 pounds." Under ROADBLOCKS he'd written the simple notation "Eating." The logic is irrefutable.