Sunday, January 07, 2007

Pats will face Chargers in Battle of the Year: Eagles win too

AFC Wild Card Game

New England 37, New York Jets 16
When the dust settled and the sun was starting to go down over the Giant Razor Blade the two coaches, mentor & student, came together at midfield for a brief, awkward, menbrace.
Then Belichick turned away and muttered from under his grey hood "how'd that taste you pudgy little Benedict Arnold cocksucker?!"

Or maybe it didn't happen exactly that way. But if I were writing the screenplay for the Patriots 37-16 drubbing of Eric Mangini's New York Jets this afternoon in Foxborough, that's how I would end it.

The Hooded Genius had groomed Mangini to be in the position he is in, the youngest head coach in the league, ever since Bill was the head man in Cleveland and Mangini was one of his assistants. But the fact that Eric bolted so soon, after the departures of Charlie Weiss & Romeo Crennell, left a bitter taste in Belichick's mouth.

Things got testy when Bill wouldn't even mention Mangini by name in the week leading up to their last game in Week 10; New England losing that game at home, 17-14, led to the infamous cold shoulder at midfield between the two former friends and fueled the stories of animosity, jealousy and pettiness, mostly on Belichick's part.
Ah but there's nothing like a sound playoff ass-kicking to stoke the flames of friendship and cause a crusty genius coach to slap helmets, run up & down the sideline looking for someone to hug, and grin ear to ear more in one day than he had in the last 45 years combined.

What did the Patriots do to make a sourpuss like Belichick grin like a Chesire cat? They befuddled the same Jets defense that had manhandled the Patriots in that November loss, harassing Tom Terrific with a variety of blitzes and hits.

Coming out on the first drive running a no-huddle offense New England marched 65 yards in 10 plays capped by an 11-yard touchdown by Corey Dillon. (side note: a couple of weeks ago I was watching the Pats/Titans game at the local sports bar when I got into a "discussion" about Dillon & Travis Henry, Tennessee's back. The Titans fan sitting next to me started to get bitchy-wonder why- when I said the Titans needed another back to help Henry or they'd never make it in the playoffs, someone like Dillon. This yahoo went on to tell me that Dillon sucks, he's washed up, that Henry is a 1,000+ yard back and he is good enough to get them to the Super Bowl, they have LenDale Fatburger White, yadda yadda yadda... I said Dillon is the best short yardage back in the game right now. This touchdown reaffirmed that. Just thought I'd bring it up.)

After a Jets field goal New York took a 10-7 lead thanks to a 77-yard touchdown pass from Chad Pennington to Jerricho Pats Killer Cotchery; in 3 games this year against the Pats the former NC State standout had 16 catches for 291 yards and 3 touchdowns.

But the Pats got back on track thanks to Brady (22-34, 212 yards, 2 TDs) and his superior mastery of the New England offense. Tommy Boy led the Pats on two long scoring drives, the first culminating in a Stephen Adam Who? Gostokowski field goal and the second with a 1-yard TD from Brady to Daniel Graham to make it 17-10 New England at the half.
It's playoff time, where Tommy Boy is a terrific 11-1 in his career

New York would mount an impressive drive to open the third quarter- 10 plays, 73 yards in nearly 7:00- but after that it was all New England. Gostokowski added two more field goals in the quarter, the second one coming as the direct result of a wacky mistake by the Jets. Pennington lateraled the ball back to his running back, but Rosie Colvin put his arms up and nearly picked it off. Although the ball would drop harmlessly to the ground, Vince Wilfork jumped on the ball and started to run. With the Patriots' coaches urging him to run the mountainous tackle rumbled 35 yards to the New York 15. No one else, Pennington included, seemed to realize that a backwards pass that is dropped IS A FUMBLE, except the alert Wilfork, who had a monster game after missing 3 straight.

Now leading 23-13 the only thing left to do in the final quarter was put the icing on the cake. Which they did when Brady directed a 13-play, 63 yard drive that ended with an example of why Brady is the perfect conductor for Belichick's genius schemes. On 3rd & goal from the 7 Brady lined up in an empty backfield, read the defense, and called Kevin Faulk back to him as if to block or run the ball. But after the snap Faulk broke into the flat untouched and Brady hit him with a perfect tender pass for the score, putting a beautiful capper on a beautiful fall-like New England day.

Assante Samuel would add the cherry on top when he returned a Pennington interception 36 yards for a touchdown, his 11th of the season ("under-rated") with 5:00 left for the final margin, and then it was manshake time between the Hooded Genius and the Man-genius.

These two former friends will warm up to each other eventually and perhaps even go out to dinner with each other and Romeo & Weiss, like Tony Dungy, Herm Edwards and Lovie Smith did last Friday night before the Colts/Chiefs game.

As long as the mentor keeps beating the pupil in the playoffs, that is.

Up next: The Pats will travel to San Diego to take on the 14-2 Chargers in a revenge match of sorts. San Diego handed the Pats their worst loss in many years last season, 41-17 in Foxborough. The game will be at 4:30 on Sunday. Full preview coming soon. I'm too spent to write any more.

Oh yeah, I forgot about the other game...

Giants gag again as Eagles keep soaring (ugh- that's all I can come up with)
Philly 23-20
Tiki Barber went out with a whimper as the joyless Giants dropped their 7th game in their last 9 and in the process most likely got coach Tom Coughlin fired.

The Eagles will next play at New Orleans next Saturday at 8:00 as Jeff Garcia and his magic beans will try to pull off another miraculous win. Since entering the starting lineup Garcia is 6-1, but much of that success has to do with the reemergence of Brian Westbrook. Westbrook had 141 yards rushing and has helped Garcia lead an efficient and effective offense on this streak.

That's all I got. More tomorrow, plus a preview of the BCS Championship Game (yes-it's finally here!)

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