Aims For Respectability
By Patriots Insider Staff
Raiders head coach knows the New England Patriots almost as well as any head coach in the league. Yet he's still looking at the World Champions and scheming ways to get past them in spite of the influx of talent the team has received during the offseason. Turner knows that no matter what the Raiders plan on doing with Randy Moss, LaMont Jordan and the rest of the team, they still have to find a way to beat the Patriots at home, an unenviable task at best.
Turner has been in big games before. Winning Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys as a member of Jimmy Johnson's staff, Turner's offenses befuddled foes in both conferences. The Cowboys won back-to back Super Bowls utilizing Turner's offenses in 92 and 93, as Turner was able to transform the Dallas offense from a bottom-five to a top-five producer.
Yet in spite of his Super Bowl experiences perhaps because of them, Turner understands the past is in the past and the future can be unpredictable, even unkind. The football gods must have been finding new ways to torture the oft-maligned head coach by putting the Patriots on their schedule first. Regardless of having new and exciting playmakers in his offense, Turner knows the playing the Patriots will be one of the toughest tests his team will have to pass in 2005.
"We knew when the schedule came out (last December) we were going to play the team that won the Super Bowl, on the road, and that it's going to be a challenge," Turner said. "Every week is a challenge. It's a great opportunity for our guys."
Turner spent years working on plans to beat these Patriots. As a member of the Miami Dolphins, he worked to perfect his attacks against the Patriots for four games between 2002 and 2003, winning the first encounter but dropping the next three. During that time, he and his staff studied the patriots intensely, but found nothing extraordinary about what the Patriots do. They just do it better when it counts.
"It's amazing the similarities in a lot of things we've done, we do, that we did in Miami," Turner said. "You can't say enough for what they have done to win the number of games they have won in the fourth quarter, either making a defensive stand, a defensive play, or the quarterback and that offense making clutch plays late in games. That's the difference from them and a lot of other teams."
Turner and his staff began breaking down tape of their season opening opponent before they had solidified their roster. They studied tendencies, broke out situations and formulated plans to defeat the Patriots while the first game was months away.
"We've been talking about it pretty much the whole offseason," quarterback Kerry Collins said of the season opener.
Putting in bits and pieces of the gameplan during the preseason, Turner was wary of letting the Patriots see too much of what they might encounter when the games started counting. While he molds his offense to take advantage of the matchups Randy Moss and LaMont Jordan allow him, it's the defense that Turner feels can have the biggest impact on the game. He's comfortable with what the team has done, but wants it to be more like New England's
I think we have addressed areas that we need to get better. We know that this year to be able to come out and say 'we have a real good defense' we know we're going to have to improve every week," Turner said. "We've done a good job with the 4-3 in the preseason. We still feel like we can play the 3-4. Again, New England is very multiple in their third down looks and that's something we would like to do."
Turner has high hopes for the 2005 season, hopes that the nightmare 5-11 record is behind them and they can become the next team to make the jump to the next level. Why not? Division rival San Diego did it by going from 4-12 to 12-4 and winning the division. They weren't alone as Turner pointed out.
"The Chargers aren't the only team now," Turner said. "There are a bunch of teams that have turned the thing around in a year. Pittsburgh went from six wins to having a great season (15-1) last year.
"It's what this league is now. A lot of it is schedule. A lot of it is how you start. A lot of it is staying healthy."
Turner's gameplan comes to light tonight. The question is, does he have enough talent on the roster to defeat the Patriots and begin the long road back to respectability.
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