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You probably didn’t think fumbles could happen from the sidelines, did ya? Well Sunday night in Indianapolis, that’s exactly what happened. Coach Bill Belichick, the infallible one himself, figuratively fumbled the game away, opting to go for the first down on 4th-and-2, at their own 28 yard line. And just like that, a great effort from the majority of the Patriots roster was canceled out by the arrogant call of the head coach.
Minutes later, Peyton Manning marched his Colts the short distance he had left to go, before tossing a touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne for the game-winner. The Colts won 35-34, in a Pats game that hasn’t stung that bad since the other Manning’s team ended the Pats’ undefeated season in improbable fashion. At least in that game, I felt Eli and the Giants deserved the win. Sunday night’s Colts win came too cheap, in my opinion. The win was handed to them on a silver platter, there for the taking. Darn those Mannings…darn them all to heck!
But, negativity is not what I’m here for. “PATS on the Back” is here each and every week to accentuate the positive, even after the grimmest of games. So put on your rose-colored glasses, sip the Pats’ Kool-Aid, and read on, as I highlight three Patriots who despite the outcome, still deserve some praise.
In a game that featured future Hall of Famers from both teams, on the field and on the sidelines, Randy Moss was arguably the best player on the field Sunday night. Moss, whose nine catches and 179 receiving yards both led the team, scored twice on the day. The highlight was a deep, 63-yard touchdown catch early in the second quarter that gave New England their first two-possession lead of the game, at 17-7. That catch was the 27th touchdown catch of 50 yards or more in Moss’s career, a mark that ties him with Lance Alworth for 2nd all-time.
Moss has stepped it up big in big situations, and Sunday night was no exception. As they say in the business, “he’s in mid-season form.” Hey, it’s the mid-season, after all…they ALL should be in mid-season form; coach included.
Matt Light who? The 6’8” rookie from the University of Houston had big shoes to fill when the former Pro Bowler Light went down to injury. But, Vollmer has those big shoes filled, literally and figuratively, and wow did he have a great game protecting Brady’s blind side Sunday against one of the league’s premier pass rushers, Dwight Freeney. Freeney, who had come into Sunday night’s game with at least one sack in each of the Colts’ 9 games this season, was rendered useless for 60 minutes, as Vollmer held him in check. Freeney not only had no sacks, he was credited with no tackles either. Sebastian Vollmer may have just done to Matt Light what Brady did to Drew Bledsoe back in ’01. Don’t get injured, because your job might not be your job when you get well.
Before “the call that ended it all,” the veteran running back was having one of his best games of the year against Indy. Instead of “dancing with the stars,” like Laurence Maroney was doing in the backfield any time he had the ball, Faulk’s downfield rushing led to 79 yards on the ground, leading the team. With Fred Taylor and Sammy Morris still sidelined, it’s performances like Faulk’s that are needed each week to take the pressure off Brady and the passing game. Now could Faulk have helped seal the win on that pass play by running the route another yard or two deeper? Sure. Could he have caught the ball cleanly and not bobbled it while being pushed back behind the first down marker? Sure. But, I don’t fault Faulk for that play. He never should have been put in the position he was in on that play to begin with.