Running Up the Score: A Patriots Case Study

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Running Up the Score: A Patriots Case Study
IconNew England 38, Washington 0.

As I watched the Patriots run away from a seemingly-mediocre Redskins team, I started thinking about how unbelievable they've been this season—how many points they've scored, and how they've embarrassed every one of their opponents.

Stephen Gostkowski must be one happy man, kicking for this team.

After a fairly successful Redskins drive in the third quarter, the Patriots took over on downs—and Tom Brady came back into the game, along with Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and the rest of the first team.

"I guess Bill [Belichick] won't take Brady out until the Patriots score 40 points," said Troy Aikman.

Aikman was no doubt wondering what we were all thinking at home:

Why on Earth would the Patriots send the first team out with such a commanding lead?

Still, he didn't challenge Belichick or the Pats directly. After all, how could you even think about knocking them after all the success they've had this year?

The Patriots have been involved in their share of controversy in 2007, mostly stemming from VideoGate. But many people have overlooked the fact that New England has scored a ridiculous number of points against every opponent they've faced.

Washington was clearly not going to score 38 points in the fourth quarter. The way they looked today, even two touchdowns for the entire game would have been a stretch.

On a 4th-and-1 play, the Patriots sneaked the ball with Brady and got the first down.  Two plays later, Brady fired his third touchdown pass of the day to Welker.

New England 45, Washington 0.

On their next drive, backup QB Matt Cassel came out passing on the first three downs, and completed a pass on first down to WR Jabar Gaffney. Cassel ultimately scrambled for another touchdown.

New England 52, Washington 0.

So what does all this mean?

Running up the score is a significant issue in every sport, especially professional sports. It's frowned upon more often than not, with prevailing opinion divided into two camps.

Opinion No. 1: If a team is good enough, they should have every right to run up the score if they decide to do so.

The Patriots are a dominant team on both sides of the ball. They have every right to express that dominance by scoring at will.

The Redskins made several mistakes and turnovers today, and their defense wasn't stopping anyone. The Patriots simply couldn't help but score.

In the bigger picture, there's no NFL rule against running up the score.

Opinion No. 2: A team should never run up the score, as it doesn't prove anything—other than the fact that the team doing the scoring is a model of poor sportsmanship.

After the Patriots scored an insurmountable number of points (38), they should have sent in the second team and done one of two things:

-Simply run out the game clock with RBs Kevin Faulk, Heath Evans, and Kyle Eckel.

-Gotten QB Matt Cassel quality pass attempts, intermixed with inside runs.

Though there's no formal NFL rule, the convention against running up the score is one of the most widely recognized.

Personally, I felt that after the Patriots scored 38 points, they shouldn't have attempted to pad their lead.

Going for it on fourth down not just once but twice was simply uncalled for—and was a prime example of poor sportsmanship.

What's more, why would you want to take the injury risk with your starters?  It made absolutely no sense to me when they snuck with Brady, up the middle, in the fourth quarter.

One cheap shot on Brady (or any other starter for that matter), and the Pats' season could well be over.

Anyone ever heard of a thing called "karma?"

Bill Belichick, undoubtedly one of the best coaches of all time, embarrassed a future Hall-of-Fame coach in tonight's game.

I've always been a diehard Patriots fan, and I can see the appeal of high-scoring games.  But a few more outcomes like this, and the team that many people are calling the greatest of all time could well become the most controversial of all time too.

All that said, look for them to rout the Colts next week.
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