Buddy Rates Patriot D among Elite
Legendary defensive coach Buddy Ryan takes a break from the joy of Kevin Gillbride's demise to declare the Patriots the 2nd greatest defensive unit with another SuperBowl victory after the 86 Chicago Bears. Michael Smith catches up with the father of Patriots Outside Linebackers coach Rob Ryan.
Buddy Ryan's son, Rob, coaches outside linebackers for the Patriots. Father and son speak every week between games. Buddy Ryan says he's watched all of the Patriots games. Asked yesterday if New England could be included in discussions of all-time great defenses, Ryan agreed and then some. He pretty much said the Patriots would come up early.
"If we set the standard, like you said, then the Bears are No. 1," Ryan said yesterday from his ranch in Kentucky. "Baltimore No. 2. So No. 3 right now. They might be No. 2 if they win the Super Bowl."
Ryan rates the Patriots' "Homeland Defense" ahead of the Giants in their heyday, Pittsburgh's "Steel Curtain," Dallas's "Doomsday," and Miami's "No-Name"? He has the Patriots third?
"I said No. 2," Ryan corrected.
New England certainly has the credentials to support Ryan's ranking. The Patriots have beaten the league's co-Most Valuable Players four times, the first team in league history to do so. They allowed only 68 points at home during the regular season, a record for eight home games.
Romeo Crennel's defense posted three shutouts and became the first team since the 1938 New York Giants to hold four consecutive home opponents without a touchdown, a span of 62 possessions.
New England allowed a league-low 238 points, or 14.9 per game. That isn't anywhere near the 1985 or `86 Bears, who yielded 198 and 187, respectively. The 2000 Ravens allowed a record 165 points. The Bucs gave up 196 last year. But consider that the '86 Giants' defense, coordinated by Patriots coach Bill Belichick, gave up 236 points -- two fewer than these Patriots.
What impresses Ryan most is the Patriot defenders' level of awareness.
"The key is they're smart," Ryan said. "I've always had a soft spot for smart players and coaches.
"They're setting a new standard, pretty much. There's a lot in their game plans, and the players are able to master it."
Plowing to Houston
Hall of Fame coach Don Shula sets aside the Mark Henderson nightmares to give the 2003 Patriots high praise with Michael Holley
Don Shula is the only coach in NFL history to preside over a winning streak longer than the Patriots' 14-gamer. Shula is impressed with the Texas-bound team from New England.
"I think their streak is unbelievable," Shula said. "I know how hard it is to do. There's one thing about the Patriots that reminds me of us: They don't give up cheap touchdowns. We were the same way. We had a few real close games -- I remember at least three 1- and 2-point wins. But we didn't give up a lot of cheap scores.
"You can't get caught up in thinking that it's a streak," Shula said. "Just one more game to win. I used to get all over the team's butt when I thought that kind of thinking was seeping in.
"After games, I would find one or two things I didn't like and hammer them on it. I remember one time I was ranting and raving and Csonka said to Kiick, `Shula is crazy. You'd think we'd lost the game.' "
"I love what they're doing. I'm a big Tom Brady fan. I watched Ty Law [against the Colts], and I couldn't believe some of the plays he made. Those were just great plays.
Mr. Brady Goes to Washington
In a scene reminiscent of Jefferson Smith's idealistic journey to Washington D.C. in 1939, New England Patriot Quarterback Tom Brady returned to Washington D.C. as a special guest of First Lady Laura Bush at the 2004 State of the Union Address. Brady was seated between "Old Europe" Joyce Rumsfeld and Alma Powell.
Susan Milligan is on the beat for The Boston Globe
Brady was picked because he and his teammates "have made an impact in their community by hosting a sports camp for local youth," said White House spokesman Kenneth Lisaius, who declined to speculate whether the Bushes are closet Patriots fans but did confirm that no Carolina Panthers players were on the guest list.
It didn't take long for the Dems to get into the Brady Sweepstakes.
"It's great to see Tom Brady get the recognition he deserves for an outstanding season," said Representative Marty Meehan, a Lowell Democrat and longtime season ticket-holder.
President Bush stood firm on his heady record.
In foreign affairs, he spoke with pride of the demise of Saddam Hussein, saying, "The once all-powerful ruler of Iraq was found in a hole, and now sits in a prison cell."
"Some in this chamber, and in our country, did not support the liberation of Iraq," Bush said. "Objections to war often come from principled motives. But let us be candid about the consequences of leaving Saddam Hussein in power. . . . Had we failed to act, the dictator's weapons of mass destruction programs would continue to this day."
Bush offered feisty rejoinders to criticism of his policies. To those who want more international help in Iraq, Bush mentioned several nations that have supported the Iraq war, then added defiantly: "America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our people."
The Patriot signal caller's legendary mojo was in full force in the Gallery. Tom Shales chronicles the Brady effect.
Bush's speech was on the perfunctory side with the by-now- predictable list of oratorical ingredients. There has to be a guest star in the audience, a tradition begun grandly by the great communicator Ronald Reagan. And so Bush had, among others in the audience, representatives of U.S. troops plus Adnan Pachachi, president of the Iraqi Governing Council, who got that prime gallery seat right next to Laura Bush, who was looking slightly hypnotized as usual.
Patriots March to Houston
It's a full two weeks before the Patriots kickoff against the Carolina Panthers in SuperBowl XXXVIII and we are sure to see top to bottom coverage of all the angles. Let's begin with Bob Ryan looking at the Patriots motto of taking it one game at a time.
But whether the Patriots hate to lose or love to win, the fact remains that they are of the belief that they have yet to accomplish anything. Beating the Colts Sunday merely put them in position to achieve the goal. When you are the Patriots, and you have been where so many of them have been, then winning a mere AFC championship is not an end in itself.
"We are one step shy of where we want to be," says Tom Brady, speaking for himself and 52 others.
Here's how tunnel-visioned they are: I honestly believe that there are some people on this team who wouldn't have known they'd won 14 consecutive games unless we told them. They are aware they haven't lost lately, but they have not gotten caught up in the scope of their achievement the way fans and media have.
"It's all about attitude," explains Bruschi. "You say 14 straight. We say one straight."
Ron Borges looks at the Patriots return to the role reversal from SuperBowl XXXVI against the "greatest show on turf" the 2001 St. Louis Rams .
Yet few expect this Cinderella team to beat the Patriots. They opened as 7-point underdogs in Las Vegas, and although the line was bet down a half a point in three hours, that doesn't mean much. No one expects a team of unknown Panthers quarterbacked by a kid who had been a backup all his life and led by a defense without a single star to beat a team that just two years ago pulled off one of the greatest upsets in football history -- and is now better.
That leaves the Patriots in an unusual position. They no longer can use the rallying cry of Rodney Dangerfield (or Rodney Harrison, for that matter) to inspire them. They still can say, "We get no respect," but they'll be fibbing when they do.
That may have been wise because he won't get much sleep once he starts watching the film. Delhomme and his teammates already have pronounced themselves this year's Patriots because they know how few people believe they will be able to move the ball or score in the Super Bowl. They are right; they are destined to be the Patriots.
The Patriots of 1985 and 1996. The ones who lost the Super Bowl to better teams.
Patriots Win AFC Title 24-14
The Patriots magical season continues to SuperBowl XXXVIII in Houston after dismantling the Indianapolis Colts 24-14 in the American Conference Championship game in Foxboro.
Tom Curran has the game story over at the ProJo.
Manhandling the Colts in a way they're not accustomed to, the Patriots earned their second trip to the Super Bowl in three seasons with a 24-14 win at snow-dappled Gillette Stadium.
Colts' quarterback Peyton Manning, deified after having two incredible games in these playoffs (8 touchdowns, 0 interceptions and just 12 incompletions in two playoff wins), got intercepted in the end zone at the end of the Colts' first drive and threw three more picks along the way as New England's defense took away his mystique like it was lunch money.
Indianapolis turned the ball over five times in all and also had to take a safety when their (ironically named) long-snapper, Justin Snow, fired the ball over the head of punter Hunter Smith in the second quarter.
It was a game that should have been far less dramatic, since New England led 15-0 at halftime and 21-7 at the end of three. But the inability of the Patriots' offense to produce touchdowns instead of field goals made for some gut-twisting moments in the fourth quarter, as the Colts closed to within a touchdown with 2:30 remaining.
But Adam Vinatieri sealed the game with his fifth field goal 95 seconds later to deliver the Pats to Houston, where they will play the NFC champion Carolina Panthers, who beat the Eagles yesterday in Philadelphia.
Ron Borges covers the corner with player of the game Ty Law.
All you really need to know about the kind of day Ty Law had in the AFC Championship game is this: He had more receiving yardage than Marvin Harrison. The Patriots' Pro Bowl cornerback not only intercepted three Peyton Manning passes to stymie the Indianapolis Colts' offense yesterday, he made remarkable interceptions. He made a diving interception. He made a one-handed interception. He made a brainiac interception on which he came off his man and stepped in front of Manning's throw when it was least expected.
They were three mind-numbing interceptions, two of them catches that Randy Moss might not have made. He made catches that, well, Harrison didn't make, either, which is the major reason the Patriots are returning to the Super Bowl for the second time in three years while the Colts are going back to the barn for the winter, 24-14 losers in their biggest game of the year.
Jackie MacMullan looks at the high flying Colt QB's crash landing against New England's outstanding defense.
Nobody -- I repeat, nobody -- possibly could have maintained the nearly flawless streak Manning was enjoying during his surreal playoff run.
Particularly against an emotional Patriots' defense that was completely incensed by the amount of attention the Colts quarterback received in the days leading up to the AFC Championship.
"Peyton this, Peyton that," said safety Rodney Harrison, who picked off a Manning strike in the end zone on the Colts' first offensive series. "No one gave us any credit. No one gave us a chance."
"Tom Brady is the greatest winning quarterback in the league right now," growled cornerback Ty Law, who intercepted three of Manning's offerings yesterday. "What good are stats when you are sitting at home?"
Manning, who was dubbed "Mr Inhuman" for his spectacular numbers in his team's first two playoff wins over Denver and Kansas City, including a gaudy aggregate quarterback rating of 156.9 (a perfect rating is 158.3), was merely a frustrated, flummoxed, deflated mortal yesterday afternoon. The quarterback who studiously had avoided major mistakes threw four interceptions. The NFL's co-MVP who annihilated defenses with his precision passes was 23 for 47 for 237 yards. The poised, seemly unflappable field leader often appeared confused by New England's constant pressure.
Michael Holley doubts the Colts wanted any part of a rematch with the Patriots.
The Patriots felt all week that the Colts really didn't want to play them. They shook their heads when they watched the Kansas City and Denver films and saw those teams blitz Manning without doing anything to his receivers. Manning is one of the smartest QBs in the league, so he is usually willing to accept blitzing in exchange for his receivers running free. He is so smart that he often makes the blitz moot; he releases the ball before the pressure arrives.
He couldn't do that against the concentrating Patriots. Everywhere Manning threw the ball, Ty Law seemed to appear as if he were an annoying popup ad. Law, who actually practiced as a receiver earlier this season due to the Patriots injuries, played like one yesterday.
There were the three interceptions by Law, three sacks from Jarvis Green (who was drafted with the pick the Patriots got from Green Bay in the Terry Glenn trade), and a forced fumble and an interception from Rodney Harrison.
Michael Felger gives props to the Patriots defense.
Score another one for the legend of the Patriots Homeland Defense.
The Pats put another high-profile, nationally hyped offense in its place yesterday, and in so doing earned a trip to the Super Bowl. The final score in the AFC Championship Game was Patriots 24, Indianapolis 14 - but the statement made on the snow-specked field at Gillette Stadium was louder than the numbers.
Frank Dell'Appa looks at unsung heroJarvis Green.
The second-year defensive lineman was among the least likely performers to take on a high-profile role as the Patriots qualified for the Super Bowl Feb. 1 in Houston. Green had 4 1/2 sacks in 32 previous games. He started seven games during the regular season and had not registered an unassisted sack since the Patriots' 31-10 win over Philadelphia Sept. 14.
But Green caught up to Peyton Manning thrice, including two sacks in a seven-play sequence in the final quarter, for a total of 22 yards in losses. And Green's production improved as the game went on, though he acknowledged being in subpar physical condition.