Sunday, December 31, 2006

Pats Romp in Nashville

The story line going into today's regular season finale revolved around to what extent Bill Belichick would mail it in for this one. The Pats already had the 4-seed wrapped up - with a potential first-round home playoff game against the Jets or the Broncos - and the goal at the end of the season (funny, the goal is the same during the pre-season) is to get through the last game injury-free. Thus, it stood to reason that Tom Brady would get a healthy blow after the unhealthy blow he took from a Jags LB last week. And it would have been perfectly logical to see reduced playing time for Laurence Maroney, who is coming off an injury, and for the stalwarts on D, guys like Bruschi, Vrabel, and Seymour. In fact, the Curly Haired one opined in the Globe today that the Patriots would totally mail it in. And of course, he was wrong.

If the Pats could elevate themselves to the three-seed, they'd probably get the Jets at home and then the Ravens on the road. At four, they'd play Denver at home and then have to travel to San Diego. The first path is easier, without question, and maybe that's why the Pats went with their regulars today longer than we all expected, and as a result laid the lumber on the playoff-hopeful Titans. Brady played three-plus quarters, Dillon and Maroney both ran effectively, and the D was its typical stingy self. The only problem was this Pacman Jones dude, who pretty much did whatever he wanted on kickoff and punt returns. Damn, he's good. In the end, the Pats won 40-23, and even ancient Vinny Testaverde got to throw a TD pass late in the game, one on which the Titans took umbrage. This was similar to coach Bill letting Flutie drop-kick last year against the Dolphins. Testaverde set a record with the TD pass, becoming the first QB in history to throw TD's in 20 straight seasons.

This one was also very chippy, which may partly explain why the Pats went for the final score with just over a minute left on the scoreboard. Pats safety Rodney Harrison was blocked low early in the game and left with an undisclosed injury. I didn't see the play - I was driving and had Gil and Gino on - but I read that Bruschi had a few choice words for the Tennessee sideline. I'm sure we'll be hearing more on this later. Two weeks in a row with mini-controversies. I wonder what the relationship is like between Belichick and Titans coach Jeff Fisher.

So now we're left to see how the Colts and Broncos fare in the 4:00 games. The Dolphins are giving Indy a battle, and it would certainly be sweet if the Pats could leapfrog the Colts into that third seed. Something tells me, though, that Peyton and his merry band of receivers will pull through. At last check, the Broncos were down to the 49ers, but with plenty of time to go. Not quite sure what happens if Denver blows it.

One more post tonight - before we turn the calendar and ring in 2007.

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