As New England travels to Buffalo in search of an NFL record-tying eighteenth straight victory, it bears revisiting a subtle miracle of words
performed by Bill Belichick at the beginning of the end of the 2003 season. You may recall how the Bills unceremoniously blanked the Pariots in the
season opener, 31-0. But New England persevered, and sixteen weeks later they hosted Buffalo with a 13-2 record and an eleven-game winning streak at
stake. Moments before kick-of, coach Belichick spoke candidly to his team about the significance of their season finale. "[We] need a big push this
week. These guys got us pretty good. Okay?" Belichick urged. "You don't always get a chance to settle the score here in the season, but we got this
one. We need to take advantage of it this week." As the story goes, Bill's Pats did exactly that, returning the favor point-for-point and "settling
the score" with a 31-0 trouncing of their division rival. So remember: Bill Belichick is more than just the best coach in the NFL. By God, he's a
Three weeks into the NFL season, the Patriots, Jets, Jaguars, Eagles, Falcons and Seahawks have yet to lose a game. Quite obviously, they are all
unbeaten. But to me, none of these teams is undefeated. Not yet at least. It's too early to start projecting stats, so you better believe it's too
early to be talking about the '04 Jaguars in the same breath as the '72 Dolphins. Not now. Not after three measly weeks. Two and three-game winning
streaks are commonplace in an NFL season, even among the mediocre, and even in these days of Parity. 5-0, now that's undefeated. Because a five-game
winning streak is impressive at any stage of the year. So wait a few weeks. Actually, wait a whole season. Because the road to the playoffs - never
mind the hallowed grounds of the undefeated - is a heck of a lot longer than a three-game winning streak...
During this past Monday's evening edition of "SportsCenter," ABC/ESPN analyst John Madden systematically broke down Tampa Bay's abysmal 0-3 start to
the NFL season. "When you're a great team and you have great players, and you lose great players and you get average players," Madden raved. "And
you're not able to play good defense anymore, and you're offense isn't able to do great things any more, then you're not going to be a great team
anymore." You got that?
Later that night during the Monday Night Football telecast, Madden had a rare moment of clarity. "Cowboys fullback Richie Anderson is an everyman
running back," Madden observed. "Because you want him everywhere you go." As insight became foresight, Anderson rushed four times for twenty yards,
caught two passes for forty-one yards, threw a 26-yard game-winning touchdown pass, and - on top of all that - blocked like the champ he is...
By George, Cowboy Eddie is averaging only 2.9 yards per carry thus far in 2004. But it's not like Eddie just fell off the map - he was never really on
it. This alleged "superstar" has averaged less than 4.0 yards per carry in five out of his seven 1,000-yard seasons and in six out of eight
Which makes me wonder if Bo knows that he was twice the running back George is - literally. Over his brilliant four-year career, Vincent Edward
Jackson averaged 5.4 yards per carry, or nearly twice George's 2004 average. And in his rookie year in 1987, the Raider great gained a staggering 6.8
YPC, or almost two times George's career average of 3.7...
After his record streak of 274 straight games with a reception was snapped in Week 2, legendary pass catcher Jerry Rice vowed to start a new one. True
to his word, the Raider bounced back with a vengeance, steaming the Bucs with two catches for twenty-seven yards in Week 3. For the record, the
soon-to-be 42-year-old's new streak currently stands at a whopping one consecutive game...
Every week it seems Titans quarterback Steve McNair has a new injury. And quite frankly, I'm tired of hearing about it. Because the guy always plays!
Don't get me wrong - I respect the reigning co-MVP as much as the next guy. His toughness is his legacy, and I certainly wouldn't question that. But I
do question this whole business of listing McNair as "questionable" even though there's never any doubt that he'll actually play. It's starting to
sound all too much like "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," and I'm just not much into fables these days...
[Edited on 10/8/04 by deanchristopher]