In an effort to prep you for the 2009 season, we’re providing a glimpse of what is to come with our series Five Things You Should Know About The…
1. Hey! Did you hear the news?!? Tom Brady is back!!!:
Since we last saw our conquering hero, Ben Roethlisberger claimed his 1 ½ Super Bowl ring (sorry, I’m not counting his performance in Supe XL as a winning effort, just dreadful); former teammate Matt Cassel became a millionaire, T & G got married and are preparing for baby number one as a couple. Incredibly in his 10th season, Brady is still in his prime years (as a point of reference Montana was 34 when he won his final ring and perhaps played the best football of his career) but cracks at a fourth ring are running out.
Coming out back from a serious knee injury is a tricky proposition for quarterbacks (just ask Daunte Culpepper and Carson Palmer); thus, don’t be surprised if they cut back on the crazy passing tendencies for at least a few weeks in the regular season until Brady, who is now sporting a hefty knee brace, gets his game legs back.
On a quick aside, coming soon to this blog is a rather lengthy essay regarding Brady and the ’07 Patriots. It revolves around Rocky III. That’s right. Rocky III. Don’t rub your eyes. I was explaining to a friend a few days ago that you could draw several parallels between Tom Brady, specifically, and Rocky Balboa in Rocky III. It sounds insane probably. However, when I lay it all out, you’ll be a better person for it.
2. The Patriots will try to revive the defunct ABC drama thirtysomething:
Plenty of preseason publications have made the Patriots the team to beat this season and they’ll try to win their fourth ring of the decade with an inordinate amount of key players in their 30s including:
QB Tom Brady
LB Tedy Bruschi
RB Kevin Faulk
WR Joey Galloway
DE Jarvis Green
OT Matt Light
RB Sammy Morris
WR Randy Moss
DT Richard Seymour
CB Shawn Springs
RB Fred Taylor
LB Adalius Thomas
…and that is only a sample. Clearly, this team is built for now and not the future. While the sense of urgency should be there, concerns are valid about this team staying healthy and being able to hold up for a potential playoff run.
3. New England will go as far as their defense takes them:
During the New England Super Bowl years, their defense has been pretty stout. Take a look:
2007: 4th overall 4th pts. allowed
2004: 9th overall 2nd pts. allowed
2003: 7th overall 1st pts. allowed
2001: 24th overall 6th pts. allowed
As you can tell, the ’01 team was the anomaly in a way but all four teams to appear in the Super Bowl for New England had defenses that finished top 10 in points allowed. Meanwhile, in their two non-playoff years during this run, the Patriots defense betrayed them both times. In ’02, an undermanned and aging group struggled to stop the run, finishing 17th in points allowed and 23rd overall; while in ’08, their numbers looked good but the Patriots secondary imploded, giving up the second most touchdown passes in the league (27).
Hence, that makeshift secondary led by Shawn Springs better produce or this team will not get back to the Super Bowl. By the way, a footnote on Super Bowl XLII. The three Patriot defensive backs involved in the three biggest plays of New York’s game winning drive are gone. Rodney Harrison (David Tyree’s best friend) is retired, Asante Samuel (of the killer dropped interception) headed to Philly; and Ellis Hobbs (coverage on the Plax Burress TD) was traded to Philly. Interesting coincidence.
4. Lil Wayne might be New England’s least favorite musician:
Remember that Lil Wayne concert Kevin Faulk attended last year? Soon after concert’s end, Faulk was caught with marijuana and ultimately suspended for the first game of the season. Subsequently, some have blamed his lack of presence in Week 1 for the Brady injury. Instead, Sammy Morris had to hold down the fort pass blocking when Bernard Pollard met Tom Brady’s knee.
Speaking of New England running backs, the Patriots finished sixth in rushing a year ago. However, the questions remains what will they do this season in the backfield? Morris, Taylor and Laurence Maroney will likely handle running duties for the Patriots. They’ll need to get something out of the trio, Maroney specifically because he has developed into a bonafide bust.
5. The Bitch is Back:
The Patriots drew the short straw to play in London this year against Tampa Bay on October 25. The great news though is that Elton John will be the team’s honorary captain. Seriously, any one worth their weight as a photographer needs to get a photo of Elton and Belichick shaking hands, in the same area, taking a sip of Gatorade together…anything. That would be one of the great photo ops of the last decade.
Franchise rating: *****: I’ll be a bit surprised if they don’t squeeze out a fourth Super Bowl during the Brady/Belichick era. They will need to bone up on defense though to grab another ring. The D has failed them in their last two postseason runs.