Is it the bone crunching hits that make you cringe when you see them on the television?
Is it the strategy of the coaches during the "behind the scenes" cat and mouse chess game?
Do you love the Powerful unstoppable offense or do you enjoy watching the smashmouth football of a good defensive outing?
No matter what your passion, the National Football League has something for every fan. This huge enterprise called the NFL has gotten something right and others should take notice. They have given EVERY fan out there something to watch and pay attention to.
Now for me, speaking solely as a fan, I enjoy the defensive, well-coached affairs. The knock 'em down and drag out fights where you need time clock management to win the game. I love the battles of wits between great coaches. The positioning of the ball and eccentric "little things" that happen within the game are what I love.
Tonight was a great coaching affair indeed. Placing two future Hall-of-Famers in Bill Belichick and Mike Shanahan on the field at Gillette stadium to battle it out.
Lets take a quick look at these two coaching gurus.
Belichick is a type of coach who makes your 'average' player look phenomenal in his system. With the help of his young quarterback, Tom Brady, he puts his team in the position to win nine times out of ten. He demands success and does not take bullying by agents and money hungry players like Deion Branch and David Givens.
Mike Shanahan is a systematic "running the ball right at you" coach. This guy knows how to win. He has taken running backs that would otherwise normally be 600-700 yard rushers and turned them into 1000 and 2000-yard backs. He builds a fortress of an offensive line that breaks open holes you could drive a Mack truck through.
After winning five Super Bowls combined, these two coaching moguls have the exact formula that you need to win in this league we watch today. They put a system on the field that can win and has a chance to win at all times. Their drive for success and winning is impalpable. These two have the "it" factor to win. There isn't any doubt that no matter what their record might be during the season, they have their guys bringing their "A-games" and they will stop at NOTHING to pull out the win.
This was evident this evening as I watched the game unfold in Foxboro tonight.
The best way to describe the first half is simply put a chess match to see who gives in first. It looked as if Tom Brady looked human and Mike Shanahan kept Jake Plummer under wraps and was not going to 'let him' make a mistake.
Who is going to attack first and go for the throat?
Back and forth Back and forth they go. Drive, kick, drive, kick.
The first blip on the screen would happen at the close of the second quarter when it looked like Plummer's pass down the sidelines to the much maligned ex-Packer Javon Walker when the Patriots defense were least expecting it was the move towards a checkmate.
The second half started off flat for the Patriots but begins a little different for the Broncos from the first half. This time they took three or four chucks deep to try to beat the secondary. So again, Shanahan sees a weakness and tries to go for the kill but fails.
Tom Brady definitely did not seem 'cool' as usual. He seemed sullen and not playing with his normal verve and tenacity. So Bill needed to make some adjustments and rely on his defense to step it up. While Bill had some questionable officiating thrown his way, he tried to keep his troops in order and keep them from unraveling.
With New England's defensive unit flying all over, Mike Shanahan had Plummer under wraps letting him attempt small short 'dinks and dunks', not letting the gun slinger from Denver make a big, game changing mistake. Shanahan seemed to be moving pawns and none of the 'big pieces' going for the kill.
I think the cliché phrase of "bend but don't break" is the approach that the Patriots took tonight. While the defensive line was stopping the run with fair amount of consistency, they were also trying their hardest to stop any big plays from happening.
By the way, while I am writing this Who is this young man Junior Seau anyway?
Getting back to the game, the defense stopped the Broncos again and again. Then the offense fell short again and again, and the team went scoreless through three quarters of play. As it scrolled across the bottom of the screen, I sat in disbelief as I saw that this is the first time in 13 years they have been held scoreless through three at home.
What to do? What to do?
Then BOOM! The name Javon Walker was called again as he silenced the crowd with a huge catch and a split of the defenders for what looked like a knockout blow with just over fourteen minutes left in the game to put the Broncos up 17-0.
The Denver coach had his rook and bishop maneuvering themselves for the put away.
Then Belichick told the Patriots to go no huddle and get something going. Brady started to look sharp and showed small signs of life and began gaining a rhythm on offense. He systematically drove the team down the field until he threw a dart to newly acquired Doug Gabriel for the touchdown. So little signs of life begin to show.
The defense stopped Denver AGAIN with just under six minutes left in the game. After an 80-yard drive, could the Patriots drive over 90 yards to put more points on the board or is the flurry of hope too little too late? Nope. They went three and out with just over 5 minutes left.
Mike Shanahan must have liked where his team was sitting and Bill had to have been sitting very uneasily waiting for his offensive team to show up.
It seemed that the offense never would on a consistent basis this evening.
I think after a defensive battle like I saw on the gridiron this evening, I must follow the theme of this piece of writing, 'Game Set Checkmate. The better of the two minds this evening called a better game. When his team needed it, they got it.
Even though the Patriots lost this match, week three did not disappoint in satisfying my football desire. The coaching matchups were outstanding with one coaching great going up against another!
The youth of Jack Del Rio and his defense in Carolina going up against the calm, cool and collected demeanor of Tony Dungy and his offensive juggernaut was a sight to see.
The chin and veteran savvy of Bill Cowher and his Super Bowl Champion Steelers against the up and coming phenomenal coach in Cincinatti, Marvin Lewis.
The veteran coaching affair of John Fox vs. John Gruden both with whom have been to the Show we call the Super Bowl.
These three great matchups were decided by an average of 7 points differential. This is the way football is supposed to be decided. Smash mouth drag out fighting football. You hit hard, you play hard and you leave EVERYTHING you have on the field. No ifs, ands or buts about it!
Shane is a lifelong Patriots fan who grew up in Worcester, MA. He showed his Patriots spirit representing his home team all over the world while in the military and attending games regularly through the years. He now resides in Bangor, ME where he roots for them from afar. He stands firm in his belief in the team and regularly makes the 500 mile round trip trek to watch them whenever he can.