by Scott Benson

Now, let’s see………where were we?

Oh, yeah, I was about to jump off a bridge.

But not my stout hearted mates here at GDRV. They weathered Sunday night’s storm with typical aplomb, even offering reassuring thoughts in the aftermath. I’ll give Doyle and Allen credit – at least they didn’t embarrass themselves this week. It’s no small trick, apparently.

A little inter-office stuff: I’ll tell you what bugs me about Greg – he gets two days to gather his thoughts before he writes. Two freaking DAYS. That’s like a year in Game Blog time. If I had two days to prepare, I’m sure I’d say to myself, “you know, you probably shouldn’t compare Brady to Bledsoe.”

But that’s the nature of the game I’m in. I’ve got to GET. IT. OUT. THERE. NOW. I can’t be bothered with every little detail, like if I’m right or not……I’ve got to blurt out something and get it on the Internet pronto. Those are the goddam rules.

Anyway, I’ve got to be like a defensive back, and forget that 83 yard touchdown pass that I just gave up. I’ve got to be like a kicker, and forget that 37 yard field goal they just blocked.

I’ve got to get back on this horse and ride it.

Tom Brady’s on-field demeanor has received a lot attention this week, but most of it focused on psychoanalyzing the two-time Super Bowl MVP. I don’t care too much to know why he’s ‘upset’. I just want to know if his clearly evident on-field distress might take a toll on his teammates. I want to know if it’s fair to expect more from a seven year veteran and team leader/icon? He says if they all play better, they’ll all enjoy it more. Is it that simple? Don’t the other players look to Brady, and considering how they’ve struggled, isn’t he obligated to project a more positive, confident air?

Greg: I personally think the Brady body language stuff has really gotten out of control.

I have the game on tape. The score after one quarter was 0-0. It was 3-0 until about 1 minute left in the half. There were hardly any close ups of Brady at all the entire first half. I mean, literally virtually none. The only really one was of him arguing with the refs after Faulk got tackled on a third down play.

Most of the shots of Brady, and there really weren’t that many, were once they were down 17-0. I mean, what is he supposed to be doing, cartwheels or something? They were losing 17-0, why would he be happy?

I think this is a perfect example of group think. Someone says it, it becomes fact. I heard a caller on ‘EEI today insisting Brady’s body language was awful. I wonder how much of the actual camera shots he really remembers or he is just assuming it because he has heard it stated numerous times. I was at the game live and have now watched the tape twice. I just don’t know what the hell people are talking about. Its really incredible if you watch it and see how little Brady was actually shown close up when the game was close. To the extent he was upset, I think it was a natural reaction to losing a game or being in the process of losing one. Nothing more than that.

Bruce: My first instinct was to dismiss this question as more of the kind of silly “drama” that the media likes to focus on. (Sorry Scott) However, thinking about it for a moment, there’s a bit of truth to the notion that a QB’s teammates look to him for attitude and confidence. That being said, I actually didn’t see a whole lot of this “on field distress” other than arguing with a couple of calls made by the officials. To a certain extent, his teammates do look to him for leadership and confidence, however, I think they also must draw that from within, and certainly Brady isn’t the only guy on the offense that is capable of instilling confidence in his teammates. I don’t think this is a huge deal.

Scott: Let me get this out of the way – I believe Tom Brady is, at 29 years old, is already the greatest player in the history of the franchise. No one has ever made a bigger impact – it’s not even close.And when he’s really cranking, he’s the best quarterback in the NFL, bar none. Someday there’ll be a statue of him. Nobody is debating that.

I’m not talking about arguing with referees, and I”m not talking about making ‘happy’ and jumping all around and banging shoulder pads. All I can tell you is from the moment he stepped out on the field on Sunday night, I noticed it. I sure as hell wasn’t looking for it, or looking for ‘drama’, but there it was just the same. Not in the second half, but from the first offensive possession. To me, he looks utterly defeated, and completely lacking confidence. It’s the way he heads on the field, just as much as its the way he heads off it. It’s the way he breaks the huddle on 1st and 10 just as much as its the way he breaks the huddle on 3rd and 17. And most of all, its how he forces the ball to certain receivers while, seemingly, not involving others, even though that’s been his calling card since he started. Tell me all you want that I’m not seeing what I’m seeing. I’m seeing it.

He doesn’t mean to do it, and any suggestions to the contrary are silly. I think the guy is frustrated and beat down, because of his own play and that of his offensive unit, and what we’re seeing is a sincere representation of where he is at the moment. I don’t blame him for that, not after thinking about it – it seems like a hard season already, and it hasn’t even been a month.

I think he looks beat, and I think he’s projecting that. I think he lacks confidence, and certainly doesn’t project any. I think it has a negative effect on the whole damn enterprise. We’ve seen how his teammates look to him – Ty Law, reassuring Rodney Harrison – and we’ve seen how the other clubs look at him – the Panthers warning each other than no game was over as long as Brady had a chance. Do not tell me that whatever ‘aura’ this guy projects has no impact.

I noticed that a few jokers on the BSMW board this week had a field day with this issue, pushing the offensive problems off on everyone else while absolving Tom of any wrongdoing whatsover. He’s Tom Freaking Brady, they cried. You guys ought to be Packers fans. You’d fit right in. Meanwhile, mock all you want, smart guys – it doesn’t change the fact that the first thing that needs to be fixed in the Patriots passing game is the guy that throws the ball.

Can I take another moment to weigh in on the Testaverde thing, considering we’re on the subject of quarterbacks? What, do you suppose, would happen if Brady was to go down with an injury? Think they’d cancel the schedule? No, I figure they’d kind of have to carry it out. So that means that young Matt Cassel would be become the starter, and do you think they’d back him up with some guy from the practice squad? Say what you want about the choice of Testaverde, but it couldn’t be anymore obvious at to what these Tuesday tryouts have been about.

Seriously, what happened to the Patriots defense? Over the last year-plus, they have been abysmal in the forced-turnover department, and have given up long touchdowns at an alarming rate. Sometimes, they can’t even get off the field on third down. What the hell happened? Was it the departure of Romeo Crennel? Player attrition? What is it? And do they have any hope of recapturing some playmaking magic?

Bruce: There’s no way you can point to one thing and say “this is the reason”. As much as we want to pinpoint it down to a certain thing, you just can’t. Defenses need to have chemistry as well, they need to be all working in sync and being able to read each other and know where everyone is going to be. Talent is needed too. The losses of Ty Law, Crennel, Willie McGinest, the reduced health of Rodney Harrison and Tedy Bruschi and other factors all contribute. I think if they stay relatively healthy this season they can develop the type of defense they’ve had in the past, but it will take time. Towards the tail end of last season they showed signs of getting there, now they’ve had to readjust to another coordinator. I think by December we’ll have a nice defense in place here.

Greg: I think it will come. They have been very close on several occasions this year. They stripped Losman the first week, but Buffalo recovered. Asante Samuel almost had a pick for a touchdown the game against the Jets but was just a tad late. They had several opportunities that just missed last week. It will come. Sometimes these things run in streaks.

Scott: I think it’s Romeo. It’s a little bit of player attrition, and age, but the Pats had Willie McGinest last year and still got pushed all around the field for a good bit of the season. I think its Romeo. They still employ many of the same systems and whatever, I’m sure, but I really think that’s a case of the right coach for the right players at the right time. They really were perfect for each other. I think they miss him terribly, and I think those days are gone for now. They are simply not as good as they were from 01-04, they haven’t been for awhile, and there’s no telling when they will be again.

Which is OK. Those teams from 01-04 were some of the best in the league history. It’s completely unreasonable for us to think that they’ll be that good – defensively or offensively – every year, or maybe ever again. We really should be reminding oursleves of that from time to time. They’re still good enough to contend, and if they can get to January with a in-stride Belichick and Brady……….they have as much a chance as anyone. It’s a horse race. I’m going to try to appreciate that for what it is from now on, and leave the past where it belongs.

Stephen Gostkowski has now had two consecutive kicks blocked. Not what you’d have wanted for the kicker that followed Adam Vinatieri. Does it get worse for the kid before it gets better?

Greg: I think at some point he’ll have a good game, or some big kick and it will help his confidence and he’ll be fine from that point on. It happened to Adam Vinatieri in 1996 when he had five field goals against Jacksonsonville when it was thought he may be cut. He was special teams player of the week I believe. From that point on, he was excellent, for the most part, that season and went on to have a great career. Gostkowski has the leg, he just needs to find his confidence.

Scott: Yeah, considering the way things are going, it will probably get worse. But let me tell you – he obviously has talent. We saw that in the pre-season. And so far, his kickoffs have been great. It would be a terrible mistake if the Patriots – and especially their fans – didn’t hang with this guy, whatever the hell happens. I think we’ll be glad we did.

Bruce: I don’t think so. He and the Special Teams will make the adjustments. The problem here is that anything he does is magnified a gazillion times because of the whole AV factor. He is not the next incarnation of Scott Sisson. Belichick is not going to put him in positions where he is likely to fail.

Is Bill Belichick arrogant?

Greg: I am sure most successful people are to some degree. But its probably only about things he has a right to be arrogant about, i.e. his football knowledge and success. He seems pretty down to earth and humble at times as well and seems to have a self-deprecating side to him. I don’t think he is particularly arrogant, as near as I can tell, when you look at some of the others in his profession.

Scott: I just think its funny when people who think the entire football world revolves around them, to the extent that they believe their incessant griping (even about ‘covering’ the week-long parties known as the Super Bowl) has any meaning, have the balls to call another guy ‘arrogant’.

Bruce: Oh sure. You listen to the guy and he’s always tooting his own horn and proclaiming himself the greatest coach of our generation. He’s always putting down the opposition. He doesn’t give his team credit for anything, always taking the glory for himself and throwing his team under the bus when they lose. He never takes a share of the blame. Never says he could do a better job coaching the team. You see his press conferences, and it’s all about him him him. He’s the show. The guy does the circuit of the talk shows in the offseason, again touting his own genius.

Wait, you said Bill Belichick, not Brian Billick. My bad.

Let’s take a look at the Big Board of Predictions and see how we’re doing with our weekly six-pack of picks. Bruce threw up another 5-1 week to take the lead with a 14-4 record. I’ve got to start reading his part of the Roundtable. Greg and I both finished 3-3, and so I’m in second with a 12-6 clip, while Greg’s in third, still coming back from a tough first week at 8-10. So what’s on tap this Sunday? Indianapolis visits the New York Jets, the Dolphins travel to Houston, and the Bills host the Vikings. Elsewhere, the Chargers head to Baltimore and the Jags are at Washington. Because the Broncos and Steelers have the bye, we have to head to the NFC to get our final contest. How about the Seahawks at the Bears?

Scott: I’ll take Indy, Miami (bastards), and Minnesota over my darling Bills (when I made them my sweethearts, they headed for the tank). I’m going to hope the Chargers can take the Ravens, because as you know, Baltimore is nothing. I’m going to take the Redskins over the Jags, in a crass attempt to gain a game advantage in this stupid contest (what’s the prize, anyway?). The Bears will beat the Seahawks in Chicago, but I’m may be just hoping for a better first round pick for the Patriots with that one.

Bruce: Tougher week here. The Colts in a tougher-than-expected game with the Jets, the Dolphins survive their meeting with the Texans, the Bills over the Vikings, the Ravens hold off the Chargers, and the Jags take out the Redskins. In the NFC…I’m going to go with Da Bears.

Greg: I got to turn this around at some point. Lets go with Indy to eclipse the Colts, the Dolphins to think beat Houston in their second straight easy game, the Vikings to nip Buffalo. Jacksonville will beat the Redskins, rebounding from their loss to the Colts. I’ve got Baltimore handing the Chargers a loss and, in a good game to round out the picks, lets go with the impressive Bears defense taking out the Shaun Alexander-less Seahawks.

Not surprisingly on the home front, our record in picking Pats games stands at 2-1. I’m pretty sure whatever the team’s record is, that’s what ours will be. Let’s hear it, then…..Patriots at Bengals.

Bruce: I’m torn on this one. At the beginning of the season, I had this one circled as one of the losses on the schedule. Part of me says that the Patriots bounce back in this one. Pittsburgh got to Carson Palmer quite a bit last week, and I can see the Patriots doing that as well. I think Corey Dillon (assuming he plays) is going to be jacked and pumped to be playing in Cincinnati. Brady has something to prove, and the Patriots haven’t lost back-to-back games since 2002. The Bengals are coming off a huge division win on the road and might be prime for a letdown. However, the Patriots clearly are still a work in progress and have a ways to go. This is a tough game on the road against a team with big-play guys on offense, and the Patriots have been giving up big plays thus far. I’m wavering minute by minute here. If asked tomorrow, I might give another answer, but right now I’m taking the Bengals, 27-24.

Greg: I just don’t see the Patriots beating the Bengals at this point. They struggled against them in 2004 at home and that was a better Patriots team at that point. It was also not as good a Bengals team then. With their secondary banged up, I don’t see them stopping Cincinnati much. They should move the ball, the Bengals defense is a bit depleted as well for various reasons, but a late Bengals score will put the game away and they’ll win 30-20.

Scott: I just can’t see it. Not the way they’re playing. They may come out of it eventually, but will it be on week 4 in Cincinnati? Evidently, it’s not like turning on a light. So, Bengals 27-17.

I’m the last guy that ought to be asking about Mediot of the Week.

Greg: Peter King, for saying he “trusts” the Jets more than the Patriots a week after the Patriots beat them on their field and ranks them higher in his personal team rankings. I am not even sure what he means by “trusts”, but no one has ridden shifting prognostications and baseless predictions to financial gain more than Peter King. Its just another one of those throw away things he puts out there that have no basis in reality, probably takes him two seconds to think of as “interesting” column fodder and I’m not sure why we all even bother to read them.

Bruce: I’m going to generalize this week and mention a clear trend that has emerged this season. Every week has to have a “drama”. Week one it was the whole Deion Branch soap, then we had the Mangini teacher/pupil nonhandshake drama, then we had a week of the revenge angle with the Broncos coming in. Now this week we’ve had the Brady body language analysis. Can’t we get a week of just good solid football reporting and commentary without having to resort to the “easy” sensationalist type stories that are latched on to by sports radio and pounded to death by the end of the week? I already know the answer, but I can complain anyway.

Scott: I’ll abstain. Although it seems like Bruce lumped me in with the media on our first question. So I pick him, just for doing that.