Steelers' Clark: Patriots want to play basketball


Steelers' Clark: Patriots want to play basketball

PITTSBURGH - Steelers safety Ryan Clark is one of the team's most outspoken players.

Leading into Sunday's game, he said he believes the Patriots have been given too much respect by his team with not enough in return.

Those days, Clark said, were over.

And when the game came, the Steelers backed up Clark's stance.

Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau scrapped the zone coverages he normally uses in his package and went man-to-man all over the field with his defensive backs and linebackers playing tight and physical at the line of scrimmage. It worked.

"New England likes to make things 7-on-7," Clark explained. "(If) they go 7-on-7, they got the best quarterback out there. We wanted to throw off some timing, play some press coverage, really try to be aggressive in our zones and it worked today. Its not basketball. Turn it into a football game. Because if its basketball, we cant beat em. I think we were able to do that."

They were.

Monday, Bill Belichick said the Patriots saw more man from the Steelers than New England is accustomed to seeing from them.

"It wasnt anything that I would say we hadnt really seen before, but probably a little higher percentage than what theyve shown in other games," said Belichick. We worked on it. Again, we just have to do a better job in those situations protecting, getting open, having plays that maybe could make everything happen a little bit quicker, a little bit cleaner. Again, I dont want to get into that everything was a self-inflicted wound. I think they played well, I think they did a lot of things well. We had some plays, not as many as they did and thats why the result was what it was."

Belichick went on to add that the Patriots have seen some man coverage from a few opponents. After Sunday's game, though, they can expect to see more.

Down in Florham Park, New Jersey, Rex Ryan lauded the "formula" the Steelers used.

And why not?

For the second straight game, Wes Welker was made to look mortal by an opposing DB who dogged him everywhere. This time is was Ike Taylor. Against the Cowboys it was Orlando Scandrick.

Welker had six catches in each of the last two games for 45 and 39 yards respectively. He had 499 yards in the three games previous.

It's important to remember what we're talking about here. This isn't a crisis like the Patriots have on defense. They can adjust and most likely will. They have the planet's best quarterback and more gadgety weapons than offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien knows what to do with.

But the gadgets they have are similar in the areas they work. Zero to 18 yards downfield. That makes it easier to creep safeties up and challenge at the line of scrimmage. When you have Deion Branch working outs and dig routes, Wes Welker running option routes in the middle of the field, Kevin Faulk or Danny Woodhead heading to the flat and Gronknandez working a little deeper in the seam, there's just not that much vertical space to worry about.

The easiest way to get a team out of stifling man coverage is to stretch the field. And the Patriots don't have a guy to strike fear in a defense. Matthew Slater has been their most potent downfield guy. He's not the answer. Chad Ochocinco? Please. Taylor Price? Long way to go before anyone stays up worrying about him becoming a field-stretcher.

The guy who could do it doesn't live here anymore but you can, for the first time, imagine Belichick dialing his number and debating on whether or not to hit "send."

Because the Patriots have to score. A lot. After the Jets and Cowboys let them off the hook by not throwing all over their corners, only a coordinator trying to get fired would pass on passing against them considering what Pittsburgh did.

The Patriots are going to have to counter the counter that defenses are going to use against them now. Who's going to help them do it?

Clark believes they'll think of something.

"We got him today," Clark said of Brady. "But we know that guys going to go to the lab and be back. We feel if we want to get to the Super Bowl, New England is the team you have to go through so were excited about the win today but no celebrations."

Curran’s 100 plays that shaped a dynasty: A nice pair of kicks


Curran’s 100 plays that shaped a dynasty: A nice pair of kicks

We're into the Top 10 now.

These are the plays of the Bill Belichick Era you best never forget. And probably can't. They're the ones that led directly to championships -- most for New England, a couple for the other guys. Or they're plays that signified a sea change in the way the New England Patriots under Belichick would be behaving from there on out.

I did my best to stack them in order of importance. You got a problem with that? Good. Let us know what's too high, too low or just plain wrong. And thanks for keeping up!


THE YEAR: 2001 (actually Feb. 3, 2002)

THE GAME: Patriots 20, Rams 17

THE PLAY: Vinatieri 48-yarder in Superdome delivers SB36 win

WHY IT’S HERE: When the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, it was viewed nationally and locally as a cathartic moment for a long-suffering region. Deliverance for a fanbase that resolutely suffered through 90 years of star-crossed heartbreak with a mix of stoicism and fatalism. “Long-suffering Red Sox fan” was a badge of honor, an identity. And New Englanders – baseball fans or not - would self-identify with the hideous notion of Red Sox Nation. There was no “Patriots Nation.” To drag out the forced metaphor, Patriots fans were living in tents and cabins in the wilderness, recluses. Reluctant to be seen in town where they’d be mocked. And suddenly, they cobbled together one of the most improbable, magical seasons in American professional sports, a year which gave birth to a dynasty which was first celebrated, now reviled but always respected. And while so many games and plays led to this 48-yarder – ones we’ve mentioned 12 times on this list – Adam Vinatieri kicking a 48-yarder right down the f****** middle to win the Super Bowl was an orgasmic moment for the recluses and pariahs that had been Patriots fans when nobody would admit to such a thing.


THE YEAR: 2001 (actually Jan. 19, 2002)

THE GAME: Patriots 16, Raiders 13

THE PLAY: Vinatieri from 45 through a blizzard to tie Snow Bowl

WHY IT’S HERE: Two thoughts traveling on parallel tracks were running through the mind while Adam Vinatieri trotted onto the field and lined up his 45-yarder to tie Oakland in the 2001 AFC Divisional Playoff Game, the final one at Foxboro Stadium. “There’s no way he can make this kick in this weather,” was the first. “The way this season’s gone, I bet he makes this kick. It can’t end here. It can’t end now.” From where I was sitting in the press box I couldn’t see the ball clearly, probably because I was looking for it on a higher trajectory than Vinatieri used. So I remember Vinatieri going through the ball, my being unable to locate it in the air and then looking for the refs under the goalposts to see their signal. And when I located them, I saw the ball scuttle past. Then I saw the officials’ arms rise. Twenty-five years earlier, the first team I ever followed passionately – the ’76 Patriots – left me in tears when they lost to the Raiders in the playoffs. Now, at 33, I was covering that team and it had gotten a measure of retribution for the 8-year-old me.

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