By Tom E. Curran
When the Patriots board their planes bound for Seattle this week, theyllbe starting a trying travel odyssey that cannot help the on-field product.First, theyll fly round-trip to play the Seahawks next Sunday a 4,984 mileround trip that will deliver them home in the early hours of Monday morning.After a game with the Jets on the 21st, they will board planes onThursday the 26th to fly to Londonfor their game with the Rams. By the time they return Monday morning, they willhave flown 11,546 miles and crossed 14 time zones in a 16-day span. And inthose 16 days, they will prepare for and play in three football games. Obviously,the trip to Seattle is necessary in the realm ofNFL scheduling but the trips to London?I just dont know how that makes your football team more competitive. The RedSox have taken a ton of deserved heat for putting the brand over the on-fieldproduct. I hesitate to say the Patriots are guilty of the exact same thing, butif not for Bill Belichick running the football side of things, one can onlyimagine how hard theyd push and to what lengths the Patriots would go toadvance revenue streams. Which franchise had its hand in the air first for theill-fated game in Chinaback in 2008? Brand, brand, brand,marketplace, marketplace, marketplace, revenue, revenue, revenue. Ill bet itsharder than we all can fathom to keep the game as the unchallenged priority inthe face of that mindset. The Patriots downfield pass defense is often spotty. Butthe howling I hear on Twitter about defenders failing to turn around and seethe ball when said defender is in an all-out sprint to keep pace with areceiver is misguided. Last week, when Fred Jackson and Ryan Fitzpatrickcombined on a terrific play downfield with Jerod Mayo in perfect coverage,followers were moaning that Mayo didnt turn around. Here, he explains why hecannot in that situation. Please watch. Its one of the best Chalk Talks hesdone.
A few months back, I taped some thoughts for NFL FilmsGreatest Games series. A Super Bowl 36 (Rams-Patriots) special will be outsoon. I got an advance copy on Friday of the show and its as expected terrific. Some of the best sound comes from Rams offensive coordinator MikeMartz and Rams running back Marshall Faulk. Faulk, in his role at NFL Network,doesnt bother to disguise his dislike for the Patriots or Bill Belichick. Andit comes through heavy in the special. In fact, the treatment Faulk got in thatgame a pummeling whether he had the ball or not is likely the root of hisstill-conspicuous grudge. He clearly feels the Patriots were allowed to playoutside the rules in that game by officials who didnt want to alter a SuperBowl by calling every foul. But Faulk overstates the amount of holding doneby the Patriots defense. He just got beaten up when he didnt expect it. Itwould be interesting to watch that game with a current official and hearwhether hed throw flags on the plays that didnt draw flags a decade ago Next March, Danny Amendola is going to be a 27-year-old freeagent that missed nearly 75 percent of his teams games since the start of the2011 season. How will that impact the market for the Rams gifted slot receiver?And how does that impact the Patriots pursuit? This past offseason, whenAmendola was a restricted free agent, the Patriots surreptitiously kicked thetires on him. The background Amendola had with offensive coordinator JoshMcDaniels in St. Louis during the 2011 offseasonand training camp, and the fact hes a Wes Welker doppelganger make himattractive for New England. Now, coming offthese injuries (Amendola broke his clavicle Thursday night), one would expectother teams to tread lightly in their pursuit. Which is ideal for the Patriots,who could swoop in with a fat offer and blow the competition away. If they arestill so inclined. Especially with Julian Edelman injured now as well andWelker posting silly numbers. The Welker-Edelman-Amendola triangle bearswatching, though. If Stephen Gostkowski is beginning to descend into a causeof the kicking yips, hell be in a place he unfortunately has been before. ThePatriots kicker lost his job as his high schools starting kicker in his seniorseason and saw the interest from college programs dry up. He went to Memphis on a baseballscholarship and later branched back into football where he regained his confidence.Ironically, he banged into confidence issues in baseball as well. Read thispiece, unearthed by my colleague Phil Perry, for some insight into Gostkowskismental past.
By Tom E. Curran