To paraphrase 1980's hair band Skid Row, it's "Nineteen and Life" for the New England Patriots. Their time is now, and it's nineteen and life to go.
It was a day when the Houston Astros' nineteen-game home winning streak came to a screeching halt at the hands of the never-say-die Atlanta Braves in
the National League Division Series. And it was a day when the aptly named Patriots continued their quest to free the NFL from the ever-tightening
grip of Parity with a record-breaking nineteenth straight victory at the expense of the once-perfect Miami Dolphins...
Houston's mark was impressive, especially in a pennant race, and especially in a game where Parity is a way of life. But New England has done it at
home, on the road, and on the neutral grounds of the NFL championship game. Men of quiet confidence, these Patriots have boldly gone where no team in
NFL history has ever gone. These Patriots have defied history. These Patriots have transcended feats of Dynasties past with unparalleled calm and
humility. Most importantly, these Patriots have defied the state of modern professional football that virtually forbids dominance. And they're not
done yet. Like the '03-'04 Detroit Pistons of the NBA, the '03-'04 New England Patriots are a paradoxical potion of power and finesse, a miraculous
marvel of individuality and teamwork. They are insolent in the daunting face of adversity, stubbornly strong in the heat of battle. They are not a
team of flash, hype or hoopla. They are grounded, deserving and heroic, a throwback to the 30's and 40's when the Chicago Bears reigned as the
original Monsters of the Midway. They are - quite simply - an improbable Dynasty in an age of Parity...
During "The NFL Today" pre-game show this past Sunday, CBS anchor Greg Gumbel got a little too carried away with his preview of tonight's Monday Night
Football game between Steve McNair's Tennessee Titans and Brett Favre's Green Bay Packers. "Both questionable quarterbacks will start," vowed Gumbel.
But without question, the only thing more questionable than the health of Favre and McNair is Gumbel's unsubstantiated guarantee of their game-time
Apparently, Dick Enberg is a big Zach Thomas fan. At the top of the Patriots/Dolphins telecast, the veteran play-by-play man exclaimed, "You can not
go around the league and talk about the Dolphins defense without someone asking, 'Is there any better linebacker anywhere?'" I don't know where Dick's
been, and I certainly don't know who he's been talking to. Because there is a better linebacker somewhere. In Baltimore. In the person of Ray Lewis...
Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Enberg's broadcast partner Dan Dierdorf play George Papadapolis on "Webster"? I've never really bought the whole
Alex Karras theory. And wasn't Emanuel Lewis the same guy as Gary Coleman aka Arnold from "Different Strokes." Or am I confusing "The Facts of Life"
Patriots tight end Daniel Graham posted a Jerome Bettis-like stat line in the Miami game, turning one touch - a first-quarter reception - into a
one-yard touchdown. It's been that kind of year for Graham, who's been red hot in the red zone with five touchdowns on just twelve catches. In a
related story, workhorse-turned-glory back Jerome Bettis has been enjoying a similarly "productive" campaign to for the 4-1 Steelers. The Bus' six
rushing touchdowns through five weeks are impressive, but his 1.8 yards per rush on 36 carries is nothing short of an abomination. Talk about
opportunistic, and that's putting it lightly for the 32-year-old load. While unheralded starter Deuce Staley has been moving the chains for Pittsburgh
all season with 108 rushes for 489 and but one lonely touchdown, Bettis has become nothing more than a glorified garbage man, cashing in at the one
yard line and repeatedly "Steeling" six from the Deuce...
Comparisons don't always make sense on the surface, but they really don't have to. Take Bettis and Buffalo's Drew Bledsoe. One's a pocket quarterback,
and the other's a "power" running back. Other than the fact that they're both twelve-year veterans of the NFL, they don't seem to have much in common.
Or do they? When he wasn't busy getting sacked last year, the gimpy Bledsoe rushed for 29 yards on 24 carries, good for 1.2 yards per carry. And
despite a whopping five rushing touchdowns through Week Four of this season, the aging Steeler had been doing his best Bledsoe impersonation with a 22
yards on eighteen carries, good for - you guessed it - 1.2 yards per carry...
Now take Manny Ramirez and John Madden. Again, they don't appear to have much in common, other than greatness in their respective sports. But let's
have a look at the numbers. In 2004, the Red Sox slugger had a .400 on-base percentage. So by the same token, it wouldn't be incorrect to say that
Manny - much like his babbling counterpart - is off-base 60 percent of the time...
What do the Mannings think about San Diego now? Snubbing the Chargers can't seem like such a good call after all for young Eli. San Diego has a bevy
of young offensive talent complimenting LaDainian Tomlinson - better known as the Best Player in Football - and a universally shocking 3-2 record to
back it up. While fourth-year quarterback Drew Brees is reaping all the benefits as the unlikely leader of the San Diego offense, young Eli must idle
quietly behind the rejuvenated Kurt Warner in New York with no live snaps in sight. Even if - or more likely when - Manning does take the reigns of
the Giant offense in '04, he'll have a hard act to follow in spite of his great talent, strong work ethic and famous last name. Go Chargers...
Dallas coach Bill Parcells has a daughter named Dallas. For the record, Bill's other two daughters go by Suzy and Jill, not New York and New England,
his previous two coaching stops...
[Edited on 10/11/04 by deanchristopher]