The sight of Duane Starks getting manhandled at the line and beaten deep in the Patriots' secondary might be the lasting image of the 2005 season. The Pats allowed opposing QBs a passer rating of 87.8 - only a couple of points below the rating of all-world Tom Brady. Not a good number.
While the Patriots didn't make a major free-agent strike in the area, they are definitely more prepared for calamity in 2006 than they were in the preseason. They have seven legitimate NFL cornerbacks on the roster in Chad Scott, Asante Samuel, Randall Gay, Artrell Hawkins, Hank Poteat, Ellis Hobbs and Eric Warfield, with only Warfield unfamiliar with the system.
The best news is that all seven players are healthy - important at a position that suffers injury more than any other in the NFL.
"We have a lot of people competing to play," Gay told reporters recently. "Nobody's used to sitting on the sidelines."
WHAT'S IN A SONG?
You can vote for the Patriots' new touchdown song on the team website; they're getting rid of "Rock and Roll Part 2" for good reason. The author, Gary Glitter, is facing charges of pedophilia in England, and, well, that's not something to celebrate.
It's a shame, because the song really has become part of the Patriot experience; the sound of it blasting through the Gillette speakers has been known to dish out a goosebump or two.
The six choices (LINK)
- The 1812 Overture
- Ain't Talkin Bout Love (Van Halen)
- Elevation (U2)
- Song 2 (aka Woo Hoo!) by Blur
- Thunderstruck (AC/DC)
- Yeah (Usher)
My vote would go to Blur's Song 2, which already gets played at key moments
and is a Gillette staple.
There's also a write-in ballot, which requires some thinking. They're looking for something that's exciting, doesn't have many words, and says "TOUCHDOWN!"
How about "Frankenstein" by Edgar Winter? "Rockit" by Herbie Hancock? Something by Korn? Ah hell, I don't know. I guess just scoring a touchdown is exciting enough.
Bill Belichick was nearly gushing about the play of Johnathan Sullivan, the defensive tackle who had been spotlighted a bit in the media for his poor preseason play. "He definitely is (improving)," Belichick said on a Sunday conference call. "I think every game he's practiced better and played better." . TE Ben Watson's fantasy football value may never be higher than it was the day after his 97-yard performance in Saturday's win; he looked like a guy on his way to 100 catches and 10 touchdowns. It might be wise to remember that although he looks fantastic, he only had 29 catches in 2005....
Is the Patrick Pass era finally over? The fullback, who has survived life on the roster bubble since 2000, hasn't played in the preseason and backups Heath Evans and rookie Garrett Mills have both looked good. Somewhere, Charlie Weis is smiling. .
In his first game since officially getting the kicking job, rookie Stephen Gostkowski didn't exactly inspire confidence. He was pushing all of his extra points to the extreme left, and didn't get any of his seven kickoffs into the end zone. . Announcer Randy Cross speculated that the Pats would carry just two quarterbacks on the roster and keep rookie Corey Bramlett on the practice squad, which makes some sense. . Willie McGinest's absence is being seen in at least one way; the Patriots' defense seems to be much more prone to celebration than it has been in the past. McGinest more or less put the kibosh on that type of nonsense.
Last we saw of Brady in a game that mattered, the curse was a different one, as in &*#%$! Brady had his worst playoff game his only bad one in the Patriots27-13 loss to Denver, and probably didn't smile again until March.
"When you lose, you want to go down fighting," he told reporters that night, ashen-faced and soft-spoken. "You want to go down playing your best, and we didn't do that."
The sight of him uncomfortably tossing the coin at Super Bowl XL was clearly adding insult to injured pride.
What was bad for the Brady of 05 will almost certainly be good for the Patriots of 06, as Brady's focus seems to have gone from 99.92 percent to 99.96 percent. How one of the hardest-working guys in the league is going to work even harder seems possible, but you get the sense that Brady is going to do just that.
Consider the words he spoke after that 41-0 win over Washington that reminded the rest of the NFL that the Patriots were a pretty good football team.
"I think I have plenty of things still to work on," he said. "Getting used to my receivers and the operation at the line of scrimmage, being a little more efficient. It's going to be very challenging in terms of mentally preparing to play each week."
True. But the real challenge will lie on the other side of the line of scrimmage, where defenses will have to figure out the answer to a very tricky question.
How do you beat Tom Brady?
If anyone has the answer, the rest of the league would surely love to hear it.
MORE: Don't miss Part One of this article
Jonathan Comey is a special contributor to Patriots Insider. A former newseditor and Patriots beat writer, he lends his experience and wealth of football knowledge to Patriots Insider readers. Jonathan's articles can be found regularly on PatriotsInsider.com or you can read past articles by searching for "Jonathan Comey" in the archives. His book "The Poker Trip," about his cross-country travels playing poker, is available on his website www.jonathancomey.com
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