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Keeping it real

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, Oct 4, 2005.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    Source: <a href="http://www.nfl.com/nflnetwork/story/8926659" target="_blank">NFL.com</a>

    By Rich Eisen

    (Oct. 4, 2005) -- Alrighty, then.

    So, it only took about three weeks of this whole weekly NFL blog thing for your humble narrator to take one directly in the shorts.

    Last week, no fewer than 11 paragraphs were employed in this space extolling the greatness of the New England Patriots, its front office and coaching staff. No Rodney Harrison, no Matt Light, no Kevin Faulk? No big whoop. Yada, yada, yada.

    It went on so long, the following e-mail appeared in my inbox from the managing editor of NFL.com, known affectionately in the league offices as Zim:

    Nice job. I might cut down on some of the Pats stuff at the top (we won't, I'm just saying in general I would have) because it makes it a little long, but it flows nicely.

    I need to listen more. The Greatest Of All Times have been braying on the set all week long. On Monday's NFL Total Access, Emmitt Smith said that despite the win in Pittsburgh, the mounting injuries would take their toll on the two-time defending World Champs. Something about placing brick after brick on top of a crack, then the crack is going to break. Then, on Friday's NFL Total Access, our resident G.O.A.T. on defense, Rod Woodson, picked the Chargers to win in New England, citing the loss of Faulk and Harrison in particular. Even Carson Daly picked the Chargers to upset when he visited the set to deliver his Celebrity Picks. He nailed 8 of 10 picks, by the way, and is currently our clubhouse leader in that competition.

    Silly me. I thought the Patriots were like the Black Knight in Monty Python's Holy Grail, where profuse, gaping gashes are brushed off as mere flesh wounds. Thus, undaunted, yours truly pounded out almost 1,000 words to laud New England's previously uncanny ability to repeatedly overcome injuries (and the Steelers in Pittsburgh) and now those 1,000 words are worth, well, let's just say I'm saying cheese with a mouthful of humble pie.

    Last week, I stated flatly that the Patriots, at 2-1, were still the team to beat in the National Football League. Now, mere days later, they're not even the best team at 2-2. That distinction, of course, belongs to the group that became the first to beat the Patriots in New England in a span of 1,015 days -- and the San Diego Chargers did it by delivering the Patriots' worst tail-whipping, home or away, in seven years.

    Indeed, the 41 points the Chargers posted were the most given up by a Patriots team since 1998, otherwise known in New England as P.B. -- Pre-Belichick. As for Sunday, the latest game in A.B., the Chargers looked more like the Patriots than the Patriots did themselves. It was the Patriots who fell victim to Dreaded Halftime Adjustments rather than victimizing someone else with their own -- after halftime Sunday, New England scored a grand total of zero points. And it was the Patriots who were the victims rather than the victimizers of the Obligatory Game-Altering Turnover -- the fourth-quarter pick of Tom Brady by Bow Jue (no relation to L'il Bow Jue) sealed the contest.

    As it turned out, to use the Emmitt vernacular, the brick of Harrison, placed on top of the bricks of injured cornerbacks Randall Gay and Tyrone Poole, placed on top of the [Tedy] Bruschi brick broke the crack Sunday. From the opening gun, the Chargers went after Harrison's replacement -- a long day for second-year safety Guss Scott, whose Pittsburgh play made him part of the Praise Parade in this space last week.

    Antonio Gates leapt over Scott to set up the Chargers on the Patriots 1-yard line on the first series of the second half. Later, in the third quarter, Scott found himself the personal speed bump of, not LaDainian Tomlinson, but backup running back Michael Turner, who busted through the safety for a key 18-yard gain. The rest of Scott's secondary comrades didn't distinguish themselves much, either. Neither did the rest of the defense, for that matter, as they coughed up a grand total of 430 total yards.

    Of course, one could chalk that up to a Chargers offense that's suddenly on tilt. But, the Patriots defense gave up that many yards three times last year and once the year before -- all in regular-season victories en route to the Lombardi Podium. The difference? In those four previous wins, the Pats 'D', despite giving up massive yards, also came up with turnovers. Multiple turnovers, to boot -- 12 in all. On Sunday, the New England defense forced nary a one. Other than Willie McGinest (who played his heart out Sunday as usual), which Patriots, in the past, continuously delivered the massive momentum swinging pick or forced fumble? Names like Bruschi, Harrison and [Ty] Law sure leap to mind.

    It's enough to make Marty Schottenheimer change his mind in a hurry. Last week, I employed Marty's own words to bolster my obviously air-tight and water-proofed analogy of the Patriots as Unbreakable.

    Of New England's seemingly significant injuries, Schottenheimer said, "history says that it doesn't affect them regardless of who it might be. They're interchangeable parts is what it appears to me to be."

    After delivering the Sunday dismantling, Marty sang quite a different tune.

    "At what point does it turn the other way?" Schottenheimer said. "It's hard to win in this league when you've had as many people hurt as they do. They had eight players that started for them today that didn't start for them a year ago. That's a third of the roster.

    "I'm going to say it again: What the New England Patriots have done in the last four years defies logic and reason. The way our system is set up, with free agency, salary cap and the draft, there's no way in the world one team should be able to win three Super Bowls in four years. It doesn't make sense."

    One week after praising the Patriots, Marty buried them. Which leads to the question we'll no doubt be hearing all week long: Are the Patriots buried? Do we dare stick a Week 4 fork in the greatest fork-stickers the game has seen in a decade? One headline in the Boston Herald read thusly: Talk of the End.

    As sure as the banged-up secondary got and failed its test in the form of the Chargers this week, it will be report-card time for the patchwork offensive line next week.

    Media note: Injury-riddled secondaries must be referred to as "banged up" while injury-riddled offensive lines become "patchwork." It's just like in baseball, in which right-handed pitchers are "veteran" and left-handers are "crafty." Here endeth the lesson.

    Next week, the Patriots line, behind which Corey Dillon is averaging a mere 3.1 yards per carry, must protect Tom Brady from a Falcons defense that just pounded Daunte Culpepper so soundly he almost went deeper under the Georgia Dome than Jimmy Hoffa is in the Meadowlands. Then, of course, there's the issue of how to contain Michael Vick, who appears healthy enough to get the start.

    To their credit, the remaining healthy vets in New England weren't dodging anything post-game Sunday. Richard Seymour said the team was "at a crossroads," while Mike Vrabel put it a bit less eloquently but nonetheless as bluntly: "Rodney ain't coming back this year. So we've got to figure out how to pick it up and move forward."

    Even the legendary coach himself was forced to chime in on the matter of team identity Monday, saying: "Again, I don't have a crystal ball. I can't look into the future any better than you can. You can go back and read your articles in the '03 season when we were 2-2 or you go could back and read your articles in the '02 season when we were 3-1 or 3-0 and [see] how things looked at that point and how they ended up. Look, I don't have any better idea than you do. We've played four games. There are 12 to go. At this point, it's a one-game season and it's Atlanta. We've made the corrections today from yesterday's game. [We'll] move on and prepare and get ready for Atlanta."

    Of course, going into a place as hostile as Atlanta and beating a team like the Falcons in a game in which everyone expects New England to fall under .500 for the first time in two years and still coming out with a win -- that's something the old World Champion Patriots would do. And, if that happens, I might change my tune again. Hey, the NFL is a week-to-week deal. Writing this blog has made that only more crystal. To quote the other great Bill: "You are what you are." Last week, the Patriots were invincible. This week, it's back to the old standards on the sports media hit parade: The Patriots Secondary is All Banged up and Romeo and Weis Aren't There Anymore. Next week could be different. That's the beauty of this league. That and the fact that this is just one of several intriguing questions in the NFL ether:

    How come the Chargers can't do this every week? They might just. The defending AFC West champs did not have Gates in Week 1 and, in Week 2, if not for the second-half opening game-changing Champ Bailey interception (and the way things are unfolding, potentially season changing in Denver), the Chargers might be your division leaders heading into Week 5. San Diego's performance the last two weeks has been straight out of a video game. LaDainian Tomlinson is a machine and the Bailey pick may have also been the last poor decision made by Drew Brees. The Boston Globe game report said, with his six catches for 108 yards, "Chargers tight end Antonio Gates all but filed the paperwork for his Hall of Fame induction with his performance." And if the defense proves opportunistic and hard-nosed enough, who knows? The road, however, has just begun. The Chargers still have four more trips to the Eastern Time zone and then there's their next game: the battle of the last two Patriots opponents -- Pittsburgh at San Diego on Monday night. Can the Steelers defense fresh off a preparation and rest-filled bye week stop the L.T. juggernaut or will it be more of the same for a Chargers team on a roll?

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