logoby Dan Snapp

Running up the score is not without its shortcomings.

For me, it’s the ongoing battle I’ve waged with DirecTV. For a Patriots fan living outside of New England, you have to plan for how you’re going to watch your team. The NFL Ticket is a godsend in that regard, making the world all the more miniscule.  

This year, though, two problems emerged:

1. The Pats are great; and
2. The Pats are too great.

Number one meant networks televising the games they normally wouldn’t (Pats/Phins in the Midwest? Really?). Number two meant them cutting away from the game after the Pats had it well in hand. The by-product then is a handful of games half-recorded on CBS and half-recorded (minus a few minutes always) on the NFL Ticket.

User error plays a role as well, such as forgetting to anticipate the game going over its TV grid allotment. This happened again Sunday. As the Patriots were in the early stages of their masterful fourth-quarter comeback, DirecTV was telling me I was watching “60 Minutes.”

And so I was. How prescient of them to notice.

Has it always been this way? Maybe I’ve been oblivious to it. Maybe when the Patriots were hanging 52 on the Redskins, DirecTV was  telling me, “This one’s over. How about taking the kids to the park?” or “What more can they do? The lawn still needs mowing.”

Or maybe that was my wife, and me equally oblivious.

But DirecTV had it right. Sixty minutes. There’s your response to anyone who complains about running up the score: 60 minutes.

The Patriots prepare for every conceivable scenario under the sun. This is why the term “situational football” is a buzzword only in New England.  It’s why Patriots fans aren’t surprised (unlike the flabbergasted announcers) when the team takes an intentional safety, direct snaps to Kevin Faulk, or fakes a field goal.

It’s why Tom Brady is still out on the field until midway through the fourth quarter of a blowout.

Sixty minutes. The Patriots needed nearly every one. Think that extra work against Washington, against Miami, and against Dallas didn’t help? Is it so inconceivable that those instances of “situational football” against real opposition played a part in prepping the team for that crucial quarter against Indy?

The last 10 minutes of the game, you could tell Indy was shot. The Pats front seven was pushing the pocket on every play. In that same span, the Colts only got to Tom Brady once, just after he released the ball to Moss on a slant. After being the team left chasing and panting back in January, the Pats on Sunday were ready for a full game.

If you get the opportunity, treat yourself by watching the last two defensive series again. There were heroes aplenty: Richard Seymour, whom the Colts started doubling after he wrapped up Joseph Addai the first few plays; Junior Seau, who shadowed Addai and also applied great middle pressure on Manning’s first fumble; Jarvis Green, who kept blowing through both Rien Diem and Jeff Saturday; and Rosevelt Colvin, who destroyed left tackle Charlie Johnson on every play, and later collected the Manning muff to effectively end it.

Welk, Don’t Run

Back in the 2001 season, we saw the product of Charlie Weis’s fertile mind with the Patriots using toss sweeps and wide receiver screens as bread-and-butter plays. Weis explained that they viewed the WR screens as extensions of the running game.

“If we get five or six yards,” Weis said then, “We’ll take it.”

The Patriots acquisition of Wes Welker came as no surprise to any who saw him torch New England the last couple of seasons. But for all who immediately threw out the Brandon Stokley or Wayne Chrebet comparisons (and why is it that a white slot receiver is deemed comparable only to another white slot receiver?), a better match would be Patriots Troy Brown and Deion Branch.

Welker has shone on those screen plays, either as the recipient himself or as blocker for Donte’ Stallworth, but he’s also become the designated safety valve when the running game breaks down. He proved it yet again on the final third down catch Sunday to clinch the game.

It’s his quickness that begs the comparison to Branch. In successive years, the Patriots used second-round picks on the player who posted the best time in the shuttle run at the Indianapolis Combine – Deion Branch in 2002 ( 3.76 seconds) and Bethel Johnson (3.72 seconds) in 2003. While the careers of the two took divergent paths, it still sheds light on how the Patriots value receivers.

Welker, too, flourished in the quickness drills. But his straight-line speed brought down his stock. Five-foot-nine receivers who run the 40 in 4.6 seconds go undrafted, as Welker did in 2004.

So Welker was a Patriots-type receiver way back in 2004. They just didn’t know it yet.