Dowling's upside intrigues Patriots

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Dowling's upside intrigues Patriots

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO - Ras-I Dowling was projected as a second-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft but he decided to go back to Virginia for one more season. It was an on-field disaster.But in the end, the potential, old tape and character of Dowling seems to have carried the day as he wound up the 33rd overall pick in the 2011 draft. The Patriots selected the 6-1, 198 pound corner with the first pick in the second round. The final straw for Dowling's final season came in the third-to-last game of the year. "He was on the field for six snaps, one of them resulting in a penalty," wrote Doug Doughty of The Roanoke Timesbefore he fell to the ground in front of UVa's bench. He was helped to the locker room, only to return on crutches and with his left foot in an orthopedic boot.Virginia coach, Mike London said that Dowling's injury was unrelated to the knee and hamstring injuries that have plagued him all season."I don't know if it's the same leg or not," London said, "but, it's bizarre."Dowling had played in five games for the Cavaliers (4-6, 1-5 ACC) and started twice. In one of his appearances, he was on the field for three plays against Eastern Michigan.London left the impression that Dowling's hamstring was more of an issue than the knee, which "bothered him a little bit, but he felt he could play through some things," London said.Dowling, who went to Deep Creek High School and spent a postgraduate year at Hargrave Military Academy, was projected as a possible second-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft before deciding he would return for a fourth season at UVa."Obviously, that's probably the biggest recruit we'll get this year," said London, newly named as head coach when Dowling made his decision.Dowling finished this season with 15 tackles and one pass break-up."It's unfortunate because he's such a great young man, great captain, great leader," London said. "I just saw him a few minutes ago and Ras-I was upbeat. Ras-I is prayerful and his faith is very meaningful to him."Here's some video of Dowling in which Virginia defensive coordinator Jim Reid pledges undying love and respect to the young man. (Caution...hyperbole). So why Dowling? Look at the league and the competition, I guess. It's a passing league with every team owning long receivers. Between Devin McCourty, Leigh Bodden and Dowling, the Patriots have corners who go 5-10, 6-1 and 6-1. Add in Kyle Arrington and Darius Butler - both in the 5-9 range - and you have guys that can cover outside and in the slot. A good tackler, a good special teams guy, it's like Devin McCourty out of the bargain bin. Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

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

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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!

PLAY NUMBER: 4

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.
 

PLAY NUMBER: 3

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.
 

Buy or Sell: Should NFL not test for marijuana?

Buy or Sell: Should NFL not test for marijuana?

Greg Dickerson and Mike Giardi give their take on whether the NFL should not test for marijuana.

Buy or Sell: Patriots will not lose at home even without Tom Brady

Buy or Sell: Patriots will not lose at home even without Tom Brady

Greg Dickerson and Mike Giardi give their take on whether they think the Patriots will be not lose a home game during Brady’s suspension.