That was waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too close. Watching that first half, you would have thought some members of the 1919 White Sox had slipped on San Diego jerseys. I mean, seriously? Did you see those fumbles? [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6n8lWiDDF0k The way James Sanders celebrates after this play, you would think that he actually did something. Nope. He literally picked up the ball after one of the dumbest plays I've seen in years. What does he do? The classic "strap the belt" celebration. Just ridiculous.]
Given every opportunity to blow this game open in the first half, the Patriots offense failed so miserably, they made Lamar Odom and Khloe Kardashian's marriage look like a success (engaged after 30 days, divorced after what, like a week and a half? Wait, they are back together? What? Bad example).
Last week, we blamed the offensive struggles on the superb Ravens D (yes, the Ravens who gave up 374 yards passing to the indomitable Ryan Fitzpatrick), and on the transition from #81 to #84. This week, we'll blame it on the great San Diego pass rush. So is this offense still great, or are they going to struggle mightily to put points on the board like they have these past two weeks? The answer lies somewhere in the middle. The running game got a huge spark from the superb Danny Woodhead, and the passing seems to be OK without Randy, but the offensive line is going to have to improve its performance if the Patriots want to still be considered a top offense. Because no matter how good Tom Brady is, he needs time in the pocket to be successful. This week, that didn't happen. Matt Light got destroyed, Koppen looked over matched, and even Sebastion "The Giant German" Vollmer got hit with big penalty. Do the Chargers have a tough pass rush? Yes, but all the playoff bound teams in the AFC have a strong pass rush (Pitt, NYJ, Ind, KC, Bal). If the offensive line doesn't get itself back into form, the Pats are going to have some big problems.
(By the way, you think we missed Logan Mankins on that terrible looking 4th and 1 run at the end of the game? He will be back in a few weeks, so hopefully he will give the line a much needed boost.)
Don't look now, but Jared Allen is coming to town next week.
Welcome back to Gillette, Randy Moss. Next week is going to be very fun, not only because of Randy's return, but because the Vikings have such an exciting team. I've been talking about Percy Harvin for the past few weeks, and he has validated my praise. He's had a receiving TD, kick return TD and rushing TD in the last 3 games. He almost came down with that miracle catch on 1st and 30 at the end of the fourth last night: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXk6ul-rGIc (the 5:40 mark)
There have been some reports that Brett Favre may not start for the first time in 291 games because of multiple injuries (ankle, elbow etc.). That would suck. We all want to see #4 out there, and we want the Pats to win it fair and square. I actually think that the Patriots are going to focus this week on stopping Adrian Peterson, and try and let Favre, Moss and Harvin beat them. Besides for a few drives in the last two weeks, the Patriots defense has looked pretty good. They are still in dire need of a pass rusher, but slowly this defense is starting to gel and become a solid unit. Hopefully the loss of Pat Chung this week wasn't serious, because he has looked terrific. Belichick has been heaping praise on Jermaine Cunningham and Devin McCourty (What an athletic interception this week. Just beautiful), as both have been playing great for rookies. And Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes and Vince Wilfork have really been shutdown running lanes these past few weeks, no easy task.
As for what I think will happen in the game, it is hard to predict with all of the injuries for both teams. But let's say that Favre and Chung are both healthy, this game is going to be a shootout (similar to the Pack-Vikes game last night). With home field advantage (Tom doesn't lose at home in the regular season), I think the Pats prevail 31-27.
Get pumped! The Celtics open the season tomorrow night against the star studded Miami Heat. There are going to be 8 potential Hall of Famer's on the court at the opening tip (the only ones who aren't locks are Rondo and Bosh- Garnett, Shaq, Pierce, Allen, Wade and Lebron already have plaques), not to mention bragging rights for the Eastern Conference. Most experts consider these two teams the class of the East, with some squeezing Orlando in too. This may be the most highly anticipated season opener in the history of the NBA. You have the Super Villains vs. the Old Guard. There is tons of history within the matchup as well:
1) The Celtics bounced the Heat from the playoffs last year. Let's hope Wade doesn't talk to his hand tomorrow night...
2) The C's also bounced Lebron from the playoffs, and ultimately, Cleveland. Lebron had a quiet (for him) series, and people were questioning his mental toughness after he seemed to give up with a couple minutes left of game 6. Now, Lebron has his Robin (Wade), and even an Alfred (Bosh)- just go with it- let's see what he can do with a legitimate supporting cast.
3) Shaq was supposed to be the missing piece to the Lebron puzzle last year. Well, that worked out well! This year, Shaquille "730 days left" O'Neil is out for revenge (on Kobe, not Lebron). If you don't think Kobe's crack- "I got one more than Shaq"- got the big fella riled up, you're crazy. He is ready to rip it up this season.
4) Lastly, this is really the new NBA. Package three superstars, and you get a ring. We saw it before, to a lesser extent, with the Spurs (Duncan, Ginobili, Parker). And we saw it, more recently, with the Celtics (Big 3 + Rondo) and Lakers (Kobe, Pau, Bynum/Odom/Ron Ron). Now, it's Miami's turn.
Get your popcorn ready.