Let the Trash Talking Begin
Pats Tee It Up for 'Vinatieri Bowl'
Good God, the "Vinatieri Bowl."
Like the Tuna Bowl, the Belichick Bowl, the Lawyer Milloy Bowl, the Ty Law Bowl, and all the other ridiculous bowls before it.
"It will be the greatest spectacle in the history of Mankind!"
The 2001 St. Louis Rams are coming to Foxboro.
Huh? What? .. Oh. I see.
The "injury-riddled" Indianapolis Colts are coming to town. How can I tell? Well, the schedule says so, and I can hear the whining getting louder.
And, oh, how Bill Belichick loves to stick it to opposing coaches who think they're being clever! The Patriots injury report looks just like Indy's! It is to laugh.
This game is almost like the Super Bowl, there are so many unnecessary angles. Where to begin?
The field. About a week ago, the Patriots were mandated by the league to re-sod the strip of ... turf ... down the center of the Gillette Stadium field. The didn't do it two months ago, when grass had a real chance of growing, and while a few teams have already played on the surface, they didn't wait until the end of the season.
No, they mandated this change when they knew the Colts would be coming to town.
Also rather convenient is the schedule. Last week, another blog on this network whined incessantly about how easy the Patriots schedule has been. Just for your approval, when that was written, the Patriots opponents had a cumulative record of 18-21. Indy's were 16-21.
And now one of Indy's toughest opponents comes with that opponent working on a short week after playing Monday Night. Probably just coincidence, but these little quirks never seem to help the Colts in the playoffs. We'll see this year.
Of course, you'll never hear Bill Belichick complain about that. "We just play the teams on the schedule," he'd say. Even with that really tough schedule Indy has (that's a little sarcasm there), the Colts have the worst run defense in the Super Bowl era. The last team to give up an average yards per carry this poor -- 5.4 (can you even believe that) -- was the 1961 Minnesota Vikings, that year an expansion team.
But they keep winning, in part because of the creampuff schedule, in part because, like the 2001 Rams, they simply try to outscore everyone. And they have. Five of their seven wins are by 7 points or less.
Meanwhile, until Monday Night, the national "experts," hoping -- begging -- that they were right, kept saying the Patriots aren't the team they used to be. However, rumors of their death have been greatly exaggerated (Twain).
And now, amazingly, today you hear people saying, "Hey, look at the Patriots," as though like the year after they won the first Super Bowl and pretty much every year since, they somehow thought this team was fading. After the loss to Denver, "experts" and blue shoes alike counted New England defunct. Flavors of the month Indy and Chicago were touted as the greatest teams since the 1972 Dolphins.
Now, I'm not about to put this Patriots team in the Pantheon of sports, mostly because they took up residence there a few years ago, but it's still a long season, and anything can happen -- especially if a team is hit with legitimate injuries to key players. So far, New England has dodged a couple bullets, reference Richard Seymour.
Oh, I'm sure there will still be doubters (like everyone in metro Indy), but it's no surprise here. Besides, the Colts are playing well ... for a half a team.
And then there's that loose cannon Bill Polian, the Colts president.
Make no mistake, all the trash talking in the world by those outside the locker rooms has no impact on the game, which should be a great one. So don't expect all this to mean that it's going to be a blowout, or that the outcome is inevitable, or even that the Patriots will win. (This has been my Andrew Perloff impersonation.)
It may or may not come down to a field goal, or a missed one, whether by Vinatieri or by Vinatieri's replacement, Patriots rookie Stephen Gostkowski. Wouldn't that be something? (Like you haven't already thought about it.)
But you know what? In the long run, I'll gladly forego a win Sunday Night for the important win in January.