Patriots Enter Home Stretch Battered and Bruised, but Not Yet Dead
When Tom Brady went down in the first quarter of the first game this season, the first question for Patriots fans was whether or not the team could still contend without their biggest star. What they didn't realize was that Brady's injury was a harbinger of things to come all season long.
One of the most unrecognized factors in the almost-perfect 2007 season was the lack of injuries. The only major losses were Rosevelt Colvin and Sammie Morris, both of which were somewhat easily overcome.
But 2008 has been the worst year of injuries the Patriots dynasty has ever faced, which is saying a lot when you consider Troy Brown was playing cornerback in 2004. The fact that they are still in the running for the AFC East Division title is a testament to the organization.
By now everyone knows who the Patriots have lost, how much three rookies are playing on defense, and where Rosevelt Colvin and Junior Seau were two weeks ago at this time. I don't need to rehash all of it, because the only thing that matters is winning football games and that is what the Patriots have continued to do.
They will need help to get into the tournament, but no matter what 2008 can only reinforce how strong of a base Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli have built in New England.
I was at the game in Seattle last weekend, and I think the other 31 NFL teams could learn a thing or two from the fans and atmosphere at Qwest Field. From the Blue Thunder drum band to the noise the fans made on every Patriots possession that began as soon as New England huddled up, it was a great place to watch a football game.
It will be interesting to see who starts at OLB against Oakland. Gary Guyton got pulled after the first half against Seattle in favor of Rosevelt Colvin and the Patriots defense seemed a lot tighter.
Brandon Meriweather's strip sack was the kind of play Rodney Harrison used to make. Let's hope he continues to progress as a playmaker. 2009 could be a breakout season for him.
I fully expect Lamont Jordan to run like a rolling ball of butcher knives against the Raiders. I'd also bet Randy Moss has at least one touchdown catch, he'll be going hard on every play, that is for sure.
It looks like the fans weren't that far off in making Deltha O'Neal the whipping boy of the secondary. He was replaced at starting cornerback by rookie Jonathan Wilhite against Seattle, and relegated to nickel and dime back duties. On Meriweather's strip sack play, Seneca Wallace said it would've been a big play for the Seahawks had he not lost the ball as Deion Branch had already beaten O'Neal.
I seriously wonder if a fresh but slightly-out-of-shape Junior Seau is a better option than a slighty injured Tedy Bruschi. Seau will bring a new energy for the last quarter of the season; maybe it's just what the Pats need to win out.
What happens if the Jets lose either this week or next and Miami wins both, setting up a "Jets win New England's In" scenario in the last week of the season (assuming the Pats win out of course)? Would that make up in any small way for Mangini ratting out the Pats last year?
Mike Dussault is a Patriots Community Leader at Bleacher Report, and also a contributor at BostonSportz.com. His Patriots blog can be viewed here and he can be contacted at PatriotsPropaganda@gmail.com.
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