By Ron Borges
The New England Patriots are becoming famous for many things this season but good sportsmanship isn’t one of them. This never would have happened if Bob Kraft was still alive.
Oh, he is? Well, then what ever happened to that “we do it the right way’’ philosophy of his? It must have gotten lost somewhere among the glitter of the Super Bowl trophies that line his office. Or is this all just sour grapes on the part of his business partners and their employees? Or is it both?
Whatever is going on in Foxborough a season that began with a steroid bust, degenerated into a public snit between head coach Bill Belichick and the Vikings’ Brad Childress when the Minnesota coach claimed Belichick had threatened him when he refused to cooperate in a roster move that would have allowed both to circumvent the final cut down rules and then degenerated into a cheating conviction is now being smeared by charges that Belichick is running up the score on hapless opponents paid millions of dollars to prevent him from doing just that.
In some ways this latest issue is a tempest in a teapot but it has been gaining steam as fast as the Patriots have piled up points, which frankly has been very fast indeed. As of this morning, New England is on pace to ring up 662 points, which would break the previous NFL record by so much (more than 100 points) it’s barely worth mentioning that the 1998 Minnesota Vikings of Randy Moss’ rookie year happen to have set that record of 556 points.
Moss, as a matter of fact, has scored twice as many touchdowns as the Buffalo Bills TEAM and the Patriots have scored more points (331) than 17 TEAMS did all last season and are tied with an 18th (
That offense is a thing of beauty, a mass of weapons he has put together that has baffled and bewitched eight straight defenses by an ever widening margin. What it’s also done in recent games is run up the score, which brings us to our latest dust up in Foxborough.
“I said something to Belichick after the game,’’ Washington Redskins’ linebacker Randall Godfrey claimed after the Patriots finished not only pounding the ‘Skins 52-7 last Sunday but also rubbing their faces in their ineptitude by twice going for it on fourth down with leads of 38 and then 45 points while also throwing a 35-yard bomb to Moss with the score 38-0 in the fourth quarter.
This led Godfrey and more than a few others both on his team and in the national media, to conclude this was not an accident. This was Bill Belichick’s scorched earth policy, a reaction some have theorized to having been embarrassed by the league’s sanctions when his former acolyte, Jets’ head coach Eric Mangini, turned him in for illegally filming his team’s hand signals from the opposing sideline in September. If that is true, Lord knows how much the Patriots will beat Mangini’s utterly crestfallen Jets by when next they meet but let’s just say Bill Gates might have to be hired to keep score.
VideoGate cost Belichick $500,000, which is chump change when you make $5 million, Kraft $250,000, which to him wouldn’t even qualify as chump change, and a first round draft choice on a year when they have two and will get to keep the highest one, which happens to belong to the hapless 49ers. As punishments go, it was akin to sending your child to his room for the afternoon, whereupon he turns up his iPod, turns on his 52 inch plasma HD TV and turns his computer onto Facebook and suffers somewhat less than greatly.
If the conspiracy theorists have it right, Belichick’s angry response to this and the criticism by some of his peers that his conviction as a cheat called into question all that he and his teams have accomplished (which, frankly, is nonsense) has been to pound the stuffing out of teams to the point where Godfrey, Phillip Daniels, Marcus Washington and others accused him of running up the score on the ‘Skins.
“I told him, ‘You need to show some respect for the game,’’’ Godfrey continued. “You just don’t do that. I don’t care how bad it is. You’re up 35 points and you’re still throwing deep? That’s no respect.’’
Godfrey went on to claim many of the great head coaches would never have done such a thing, citing his own Joe Gibbs, who seemed more than a little embarrassed by what happened while also claiming he had no problem with what Belichick had done when, for example, he went for it on fourth-and-2 at the Redskin 37 while leading 45-0.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,’’ Godfrey said. “Most teams, you get up like that you sit on the ball and try to run the time out.’’
Certainly that is what Belichick’s next opponent, the equally undefeated Colts, did on the same day after building up a 31-7 lead over the Carolina Panthers despite a horrendous first half on their part. Once the game was salted away, quarterback Peyton Manning was on the bench and replacement Jim Sorgi spent the bulk of his time handing off.
Now one can do what one wants in the NFL. Some will go so far as to claim you can’t run it up in professional sports simply because it’s professional sports. That seems a bit obtuse but everyone is entitled to their opinion, a point Belichick conceded on Monday when asked what he thought of Godfrey’s comments.
“He can think what he wants,’’ Belichick mumbled, which was kind of him and quite correct.
Personally, it has always seemed to me that it is the opposing defense’s responsibility to keep the score down, although that doesn’t mean I have the slightest doubt that Belichick is running it up on them when they can’t. Exactly why only he knows but maybe the HC of the NEP is having a meltdown after all the shots he’s been taking lately. One would think after all those Super Bowl trophies and all those victories, including eight straight wins this season that were so one-sided his team has been installed as the favorite on the road AGAINST THE UNDEFEATED DEFENDING SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS this weekend that there would be no emotional need to embarrass a guy like Gibbs or, more to the point, a guy like poor Cam Cameron, whose Miami Dolphins were pummeled by the Patriots 49-28 on a day when Belichick sent Tom Brady back into the game midway through the fourth quarter while holding a 20-point lead that within three minutes grew to a 27-point lead.
Belichick’s reply when questioned about his tactics was the usual monosyllabic form of “Mind your own business.’’ Asked about going for it on fourth down in the fourth quarter he replied, “What do you want us to do, kick a field goal?’’
Later he would add, “We’re just out there playing.’’
True, and playing offense like no team ever has. But understand this. The Patriots are also playing with fire. Football is an emotional game and a physical one. It is also played by more than a few social misfits (which is where Belichick fits in) who are well capable of delivering some rough justice if the embarrassments persist. Eventually one fears Belichick’s childish tactics may irk the wrong guy on the wrong afternoon.
Several of the Cowboys were irate about what went on when
Leave your quarterback in the game when it’s well out of hand if you want Sunday after Sunday (of all days). Just don’t act shocked if one of these days somebody does the Albert Haynesworth Stomp or delivers a leveling hit with Brady well out of bounds as seemed like it was going to happen against Washington when a Redskin linebacker pulled up as he angled in on Brady when he was two yards out of bounds on one play.
Then again, somebody might do what one of the Oakland Raiders once did to then Seattle Seahawks coach Jack Patera after he ran up the score on them by running a fake field goal that resulted in what Patera thought was an amusing touchdown.
He thought it so until the next time they met and a Raider defender missed a tackle along the sidelines and came crashing into him and broke his leg. He later said it was an accident. Then he laughed. The next time that scenario arose the Seahawks punted.