logoby Britt Schramm

When times get rough, you find out who your friends are.  For New England Patriots fans, you already knew that the national media is not your friend.  Well, you now have another face to add the ranks of Patriots Haters.  His name, as you probably already know, is Cris Carter.

You normally expect the putrid bile flow from former Broncos-4-Life Tom (“They Hate Their Coach”) Jackson, Mark (Golden Shower) Schlereth and Shannon (Mushmouth) Sharpe.  Their tired, formulaic act is almost laughable at this point in their “journalistic” careers.

But what reason does the former Eagle/Vike WR have to hate the Pats and their fans?  I can’t cite anything specifically acrimonious from Carter but I remember something to the tune about Jackson proclaiming from his pulpit on NFL Countdown that current Bronco QB Jay Cutler will have a better career than Tom Brady and Carter backed him up to a certain degree.

Really now?  Comparing a guy who hasn’t done much in his first two years in the league against a three-time winner of the Super Bowl (resulted in two SB MVP awards) and winner of one NFL MVP award is a believable comparison?  You really want ESPN viewers to think that you are that naive?

And it gets better.  Word must have gotten back to Carter that some New England fans took offense to his tepid endorsement of Jackson’s Bronco hype agenda and had this bon mot for last week’s viewers of NFL Countdown:

“Forget my opinion because the people in New England think they know more about football than anyone else…”

Nice thin skin, Cris.  All of those years cloistered over on HBO must have left you without the means to cope with some criticism.  My deepest sympathies.

But, hold on, Cris.  You may want to rethink that statement.  Ya see, Carter has backtracked on his words of football knowledge before, as in two weeks ago, when he sounded like someone who will say almost anything to prove like he’s an expert in football analysis. 

His former co-worker at Yahoo! Sports, Charles Robinson, brings up Carter’s rip-job of Matt Millen for drafting Michigan State WR Charles Rogers and former USC WR Mike Williams in his Loser section of his column.  In Cris’ world, he thought that he should have been consulted on both guys since he knew that they were bums due to their poor special workout with him and should have never been drafted. But Robinson totally submarines that hindsight revisionist anecdote with citations from Carter right before each draft.

So, Cris,  we as New England Patriots fans may not have as much football knowledge as you might but we just want to prevent you from becoming a victim of athlete’s mouth so soon after your last incident.

Okay, enough of that, on to this week’s match-up:

This Week – San Diego Chargers (2-3; Against AFC East 1-1)

It Takes a Tough Fan to Root For a Team With Such a Tender D

The rest of this column is a little personal for yours truly; at least from a fantasy position.  In case you’re not in the same boat, let me give you a few numbers: 247, 350, 271, 277, and 228.  No, it’s not the budget numbers for AIG’s next five executives-only retreats after they got the government cheese bail-out.  It’s much more drastic than that.

Those numbers reflect San Diego’s opponent’s QB game total passing yards.  Out of those five games, only once did San Diego have the higher passing yardage (by 27 over Jay Cutler’s 350).  Let look into each game a little further, shall we?

Game 1 – versus Carolina (L, 26-24):  The Panthers were trying to comeback after a 2007 lost season due to Jake Delhomme’s early season injury but without their main WR weapon, Steve Smith, who was suspended for two games.  San Diego was in the 2007 AFC Championship with a Top 5 defense.  The Chargers couldn’t dial up a better way to start your opening home game.  But, instead of going after Delhomme savagely, he picked them apart by going 23 of 41 (56.1% CP) for 247 and 1 TD.  His biggest weapon?  A TE named Dante Rosario who grabbed 7 balls for 96 yards and that lone score.  Dante must found his way back to Hell as he’s only caught 5 passes for 42 yards in the other games with a big doughnut in last week’s 34-0 blowout of KC.  Folks, this is just the beginning.

Game 2 -at Denver (L, 39-38):  This game should be titled “Jay Cutler’s Coming Out Party”.  The former Vandy QB shredded the once-vaunted Charger D for 36 of 50 (a sick 72% CP) for 350 yards and 4 TDs.  Denver had 34 first downs, allowed only one sack and one turnover.  Brandon Marshall was a one-man WR-ecking crew with 18 catches for 166 yards and one touchdown.  But the final salt in the once-a-paper cut-now-an-open-gash of a wound for all SD fans – the 2-point conversion to win the game with 29 seconds left.  That move proved in only two games that last year’s vaunted San Diego defense was but a memory to a majority of NFL fans.

Game 3: versus NYJ (W, 48-29):  Fans still could barely muster any excitement for the first win of the season when they looked at the online box score.  Brett Favre threw for a very efficient (for him anyway) 30 for 42 (71.4% CP) for 271 yards, 3 TD with only 2 picks.  There was a bright spot for the defense on this game when Antonio Cromartie too one of his two INTs for a TD but how can you let Favre complete over 70% of his passes?  He’s the old Green Bay Gunslinger, the guy who plays the game the way it should by throwing game-killer incompletions and INTs.

Game 4: at Oakland (W, 28-18): The last game of Lane Kiffin’s Oaktown tenure; although it wasn’t his worse game since his team was leading this game for three quarters.  The Raiders had the lead thanks in part to the Bolts’ laissez faire D, including a 63-yd pitch and catch from QB JaMarcus Russell to slow TE Zach Miller.  Prior to this game, Miller only had six catches for 58 yards. Russell also had the top performance of this season in attempts, completions and passing yards.  When you look at the number of turnovers (I fumble, 1 INT and six sacks), you have to wonder how the Raiders scored 18 points; much less lead for 3/4th of the game.

Game 5: at Miami (L, 17-10): There’s no shame in losing to Miami this year (thanks to the latest wrinkle from high school football, the Wildcat) and SD wasn’t torched like the Pats were three weeks ago.  But Chad Pennington threw for more yards against SD then he did against NE, had no INTs, only one sack and threw 22 of 29 (75.9% CP) for a QB Rating of 109.6.   In fact, Miami was so in control of this game that only a late score by Chris Chambers saved San Diego from being held to single digits. 

The main question is – How is this underwhelming and underperforming defense possible with the supposed younger lineup that San Diego has?  Granted, there was going to be an inevitable drop-off when Lights Out Merriman was sidelined, but he doesn’t play all 11 positions on the field; especially the defensive backfield.

San Diego ranks 32nd in total passing yards allowed with 265.6 yds/game.  They also rank 28th in total yards allowed with 379.0 yds/game.  They allow 25.8 points per game (24th in the NFL) and allow passer to complete 66.7% of their passes (26th in the NFL).  Staggering numbers to say the least from what was predicted to be one of the Top 5 defenses at the start of the season.

By looking at the first five games, these numbers are more indicative of something deeper than a beginning of the season slump.  This is a trend that the Pats should try to capitalize on for the outset.  They should run an effective, West Coast-like ball-controlled passing attack.  With LaMont Jordan dinged and the lackluster play of Laurence Maroney, their strength, as it was last year, is at the WR position.  Playing to their strengths is something that we have come to expect from Belichick and crew and Sunday night should be no exception.

Next week brings those wonderful Broncos into town.  You know that Jackson, Schlereth and Mumbles will be waiting with baited breath.  We will too.  Until then, keep it between the lines.