Monday, November 07, 2005

Running Diary: A Patriots-Colts Monday Night Recap

Tonight’s Patriots-Colts tilt is probably the biggest game of the season so far, so naturally I am keeping a running diary.

I can’t remember a bigger Monday night game in recent years, perhaps since the Bears-Dolphins game from 1985 where the ‘Fins stopped Chicago’s drive for an undefeated season. Really, I’m stuck. Can anyone help me out here?

Let’s see what’s at stake for both teams:

• A continued run at an unbeaten season
• Lifting the huge psychological burden of never being able to get past New England
• Proof that Peyton Manning (and Tony Dungy) can win a high-stakes game

New England
• A win will keep them a game behind the other division leaders
• Continued psychological edge over Indianapolis
• Reestablishment of a home field edge, which the Chargers 41-17 win in Foxborough a month ago eliminated

Also, I’m down 75 points in my fantasy matchup this week, which means I need huge games from Edge, Deion Branch, and Daniel Graham to even have a hope. And I need a win this week to keep any chances of a playoff berth alive.

I’m ready for any result, be it a close game, a Pats blowout, or a Colts blowout. Let’s get this thing started. Oh yeah, all my posts are Eastern Standard Time.

9:01 – I return from my convenience store in the middle of a Dennis Quaid rant, which might make for an interesting audition for a movie version of Arli$$, but is otherwise uninteresting. I’m settling in with my Tom Brady jersey, a healthy supply of Kettle Chips, and half a case of Milwaukee’s Best, with a bottle of Johnnie Walker sitting in the bullpen in case this game gets ugly for the Pats.

9:04 – Time for Hank Williams Jr. Does he do anything besides the Monday Night opening? Does he tour or record albums? And more importantly, would anyone care? If I ever saw him in concert I’d probably be screaming for the Monday night song from the second he walked on stage, and probably wouldn’t be alone in doing so.

9:07 – Al Michaels says that Foxborough and Gillette Stadium have been “Houses of Horror” for Peyton Manning. That about sums it up.

9:08 – Ok, with Monday Night Football ending this season, let me make my plea to the other football shows to start doing the Monday Night Football-style intros. This is easily the highlight of any broadcast, and is right up there with the permanent scoreboard on screen and the yellow first down marker as the best innovations in football coverage of the past 10 years.

9:09 – On the second play from scrimmage, a deep ball to Marvin Harrison puts Indy inside the Pats 10. Ok, who saw that coming?

9:10 – Belichek burns a timeout on 3rd and Goal from the 1. This has been the bizarro series to open the game. In the past, Peyton would have burned a timeout then thrown a pass right into the arms of Tedy Bruschi.

9:12 – Peyton to Marvin for a 1 yard TD. This is a double punch in the stomach, because I really could have used those 6 points for Edge and my fantasy team. Of course, he ran twice from inside the 10 and couldn’t get it in the end zone. Can we push the reset button on this game? Please?

9:17 – First down to Deion Branch. I’m only down 68 points.

9:19 – New England’s moving the ball well, they’re at the 30. I’m breathing easier now.

9:21 – Madden just coined the term “strip-sacker” to describe Indy’s Robert Mathis. I could have lived without hearing Madden use that term.

9:22 – Wow. The Pats go for it on 4th and 2 from the 22…and convert! I have a feeling we’re heading for a 47-40 game.

9:24 – Touchdown to Branch! That woke the crowd up in the hurry.

9:26 – Both Manning and Brady are on the cover of this week’s SI. You know this is a huge game when SI’s afraid to specifically jinx one team. Maybe we’re heading for a tie game.

9:32 – Indy’s stopped half a yard short on 3rd down, after an incompletion to Harrison and a screen that went nowhere. Then Manning burns a timeout on 4th down trying to draw an offside. This is more like it.

9:34 – The new iPod has video? Does this mean I can upload my QuickTime video file of “Oh Sherrie” if I buy one?

9:35 – Indy goes for it on 4th down…and Edge gets it. Apparently both teams decided to go with the Andy Grabia philosophy of never punting the football. Madden says the word shootout about 6 times in 30 seconds. We get the idea fellas.

9:39 – Edge is having a pretty good game. This is difficult for me. 7-7 after 1.

9:43 – Madden says, “if you give him [Manning] anything, he’ll find it” for the second time in about 2 minutes. I love real-life Madden; he’s repetitive, just like video game Madden. I’m waiting for him to say “he was waiting for that play to develop, and wham! He got developed.”

9:45 – Edge gets in for a TD to cap a 17 minute, 9 minute drive. 18 1/2 minutes into the game and we’ll be starting the fourth offensive possession (overall) after the next kickoff. At least this game is flying by.

9:53 – 3 and out for the Pats, bringing on the first punt of the game. Madden talks about how he’s not a fan of screen passes. I go to grab another beer.

9:56 – Indy gets a penalty on the return, followed by a false start. They’re at their own 4. I’m still not confident.

9:57 – Swing to Edge, who makes a juggling catch to move the ball to the 9. It’s times like this I hate fantasy sports. I don’t want to cheer for Edge, but I want to see him rack up points. I’m going to be a wreck by the end of the game, no matter what happens.

10:01 – Indy’s moved the ball to the 45. You know, if the Pats don’t hold here, I have a hard time believing they can at any point. I may just give up and start drinking heavily, which might be a good idea anyways.

10:02 – Yes! Manning gets hurried and throws a pick to Mike Vrabel. That’s more like it!

10:03 – Of course, Brady fumbles and the Pats lose something like 20 yards. Sigh.

10:04 – Grabia pops online to let me know I missed the Peyton Manning Face. Damn.

10:05 – David Givens on 3rd and 23 into Indy territory! That was incredible.

10:06 – Dillon appears to pirouette for no gain on 1st down. I don’t know what to say. The offense looks tentative. I don’t know about other fans, but I never thought they’d miss Charlie Weis’ creativity this much.

10:07 – The Pats appear to fumble, and somehow the ball is thrown away and then returned to the New England 30. THEN it’s ruled down by contact, but we don’t know if it’s New England or Indy. My head’s going to explode any second.

10:09 – First down Indy on the NE 27. Perfect time for Corey Dillon’s first fumble of the year. Oh well, it’s a good thing the Patriots have a solid defense…right?

10:15 – Indy drives while I’m on the phone dissecting the game with Kevin. He’s angry because they took at TV timeout 7 seconds before the 2 minute warning, I’m angry because New England can’t stop the Colts. Worst of all, the one time they brought pressure, they forced a pick. And they haven’t been rushing him since! Madden loves the decision, which only reinforces my correctness. How did the Raiders ever win a Super Bowl with the guy? I’m so riled up right now.

10:17 – Reggie Wayne makes a juggling catch for a TD in the final 10 seconds of the half. If I were a Pats fan, I’d be finding the quickest route to the beer line.

10:19 – Wayne was close to the sidelines when he was juggling. Of course, the refs don’t see a need to review it. Man, I hate everyone right now.

10:21 – Brady takes a knee to end the half. 21-7 Colts. Fans are booing, and rightfully so. These guys can’t stop anyone.

10:25 – Al Michaels (in the always enjoyable “I’m being very serious” voice) talks about T.O.’s suspension. Frankly, I’m surprised it took this long to mention. It took up about the first half hour on GameDay yesterday. Of course, they don’t mention the TopCats at all. I’m disappointed.

10:36 – Back for the second half. The Milwaukee’s Best is kicking in, which means I’m more prepared for this half than I was for the first.

10:38 – 3 and out for the Pats. My next comment will be when the Colts go up 28-7, which should be no later than 10:43

10:44 – No TD yet, but Asante Samuel just dropped a pick in the end zone. The way sports karma works, Indy will take advantage for a TD. And I just repeated the same word out loud about 5 times. I’ll let you guess which one.

10:45 – My god. When Peyton Manning can scramble for a first, you know everything’s going your way. Johnnie Walker just took his warm-up jacket off and started stretching.

10:47 – Indy drives inside the 10. Deep breath. Deep breath.

10:48 – Kimmis calls to provide his Madden-esque analysis of the game. I’m about to snap.

10:50 – Adding insult to injury, Dominic Rhodes runs for a TD. That’s TWICE they should have gone to Edgerrin, costing me 12 points in the process. This is officially the worst night ever. I hang up on Kimmis.

10:53 – Madden: “When you look down on that strip in the middle of Gillette Stadium with no grass, it’s really ugly.” Apparently I’m watching Extreme Make-Over: Football Edition. See, I’m so worked up I can’t even make a good joke here. I just want to be angry at the world and get drunk. Or as it's normally called, pulling a Francois.

10:54 – For those of you who are curious, pulling a Francois refers to our friend Francois, who is commonly seen drinking at pubs around Edmonton, and being angry at the world. That’s me right now.

10:57 – Speaking of alcohol, I just went upstairs to get more beer from the fridge. It’s 28-7, I had no other choice. There’s a group of girls hanging out in our kitchen, and they keep giving me the weirdest looks whenever I walk by in my Patriots jersey. Lesson, as always: women don't understand sports.

11:00 – Graham touchdown! YES! (Copyright: Marv Albert). New England’s back in this and I picked up about 10 fantasy points on that play!

11:02 – Grabia informs me that I’m only 9 points behind my opponent in my fantasy matchup. This has been a good 2 minutes.

11:03 – New England tries an onside kick…and Indy recovers. That was a fun few minutes, way to suck the life out of the crowd, Bill.

11:04 – And New England was offside. “Adding insult to insult,” Al Michaels says. Did this guy really call the Miracle on Ice? I need an eyewitness to corroborate.

11:07 – The Pats finally hold on 3rd down, but Indy’s still in Field Goal range.

11:08 – Vanderjagt hits a 36 yarder, which means he probably didn’t make the “money” sign beforehand.

11:09 – Al Michaels starts the talk about the Colts going 16-0. In a related story, he recently attended a weekend seminar hosted by Joe Buck.

11:12 – I really wish Joe Buck was calling this game. He’d be talking about Indy being a lock for the Super Bowl, and before he could have finished the Pats would have scored twice.

11:13 – Pats miss on 4th down from the Colts 44. Madden rightly points out that it was the exact same call as on their 4th down in the 1st Quarter, and how Indy anticipated it well because of that. There must be a glitch in the system. Hopefully he’ll rebound with a “he got his big old paws on the ball” soon so that order will be restored to the universe.

11:14 – Indy’s already inside the 30. Grabia sums it up: “this is a clinic.” Meanwhile, I’m already contemplating what Bill Simmons will have to say about this. The co-favorites are “they just don’t have the talent this year” and “they intentionally held back so the Colts will be overconfident come playoff time. Belichek is a genius”.

11:17 – Stokely makes a catch for first and goal as the 3rd Quarter ends. Stokely’s a fine heir to the Ricky Proehl position of “white guy who’s a good 3rd receiver but can never crack a starting lineup”. On another note, this has got to be the quickest Monday night game I’ve seen in years.

11:20 – We’re almost at the point where I can comfortably root for Edge to put up points. Almost.

11:21 – Of course, he just runs twice from inside the 5 and can’t punch it in.

11:22 – Vanderjagt kicks a FG to make it 34-14. “These Colt receivers are just having their way with the Patriots secondary.” Thanks Madden, no one watching the game at home picked that up. I’m so bitter right now.

11:24 – I’m now 4 fantasy points behind my opponent.

11:25 – Not only does New England pick up a first down, but it’s Deion Branch! 2-3 points right there.

11:28 – Corey Dillon’s been moving the ball. I’m 1 point behind in my fantasy matchup, and am openly rooting for a throw to Graham or Branch. Judging by the crowd at the game, I’m the only Pats fan still into this.

11:30 – Madden: “These fans haven’t seen their team behind 34-14 in the 4th Quarter”. Apparently he forgot about the 41-17 loss to San Diego a month ago. Al Michaels corrects him, thankfully.

11:31 – Catch by Deion Branch that should pull me into a tie! The only thing that could get me more excited is an actual touchdown by the Pats.

11:32 – There we go – Troy Brown catches a TD! I’m excited for about 5 seconds before I realize the Pats defense is likely coming back on the field.

11:34 – In a semi-surprising move, New England kicks it deep with 10 minutes left. "Can the Patriots defense hold?" Al wonders. Apparently he tuned out the first 50 minutes.

11:35 – Whoa? There’s a new John Cusack movie? How did I not know about this? And it looks more like ‘Gross Pointe Blank’ than ‘Must Love Dogs’, which is easily one of the best developments of tonight.

11:37 – A quick IMDB check tells me that Harold Ramis is directing this movie (The Ice Harvest, if you’re curious). I’m so excited now that I don’t even care that Reggie Wayne has caught back-to-back first downs.

11:40 – New England just burnt another time out on defense. And speaking of defense, where’s Tedy Bruschi? I haven’t heard his name once during the game.

11:41 – Ad for the network premier of ‘Old School’ this Saturday. Of course, it made its network premier in Canada (unedited too!) during the first night of the CBC lockout this summer. If that doesn’t win an award for “best ploy to get the public on your side of a labor dispute”, what will?

11:42 – As an aside, if you were a network exec, wouldn’t you show a movie like Old School EVERY Saturday night. I mean, who watches TV on Saturday night anway? With this strategy, you’ll probably catch a good chunk of the people hanging out and getting stoned, and the people drinking before they hit the bar. Don’t most of them watch Will Ferrell movies while doing this anyways? That’s got to be worth a 20 share at least.

11:44 – Peyton throws on the run(!!!) to Marvin Harrison for a touchdown. There isn’t anything he hasn’t done tonight. Has he turned the corner in big games, or is there some sort of Faustian bargain at work?

11:47 – Clip of some Pats fan screaming obscenities at the refs. I can’t make out what he says, so the FCC breathes a sigh of relief.

11:48 – Belichek challenges the TD to avoid getting a penalty for too many men. Or something. I’m confused, the refs are confused, everyone’s confused.

11:50 – A shot of Pats owner Bob Kraft shows him sitting alone in the press box, the rest of his group having evidently disappeared. And only 2 1/2 hours after the Pats defense did. No, I’m not bitter.

11:55 – The crowd is dead. The announcer’s are struggling for content. Everyone has that whole “let’s just get this thing over with so we can get out of here” feeling going. It’s 40-21 btw, the most points the Colts have ever scored against the Pats.

11:56 – Quick feature on Peyton Manning: "the best advice, prepare yourself”….”If I could have dinner with one person, it would be Elvis Presley…(in best Elvis voice) thank you, thank you very much”….“Footloose by Kenny Loggins best describes me”. These are actual quotes. I wish I could make this stuff up, it’s too funny. If I were an NFL coach, I’d show my team this clip before a game against the Colts. No way they’d be intimidated by him after that.

11:59 – Pats head to Miami next week, which is always a trap game for them. They’re going to be 4-4, one game ahead of the Fins.

12:00 – 2 minute warning, preceded by a shot of Brady looking out of it. Yup, that about sums things up, as Al Michaels eloquently points out.

12:01 – A montage of the various undefeated teams (at or past the halfway mark) who played on Monday Night Football. Looks like the Colts are joining the ’72 Dolphins, ’90 Giants, and ’98 Broncos. For what it’s worth, all three of them won the Super Bowl. And yes, I’m trying to pull a Joe Buck on the Colts.

12:03 – During a Colts punt, we get a glimpse of the Foxborough crowd, which appears to have dwindled from 70,000 fans to about 35. I can’t blame them.

12:04 – Doug Flutie sighting! And of course he gets chased and throws it away. The more things change…

12:04 – Flutie goes 3 and out. I’m waiting for the Horse Trailer Player of the Game before calling it quits.

12:05 – Wait, they convert on 4th down. Not that it matters though. I’m just hoping to see the patented Flutie shovel pass in the next 40 seconds. That or a Gerald Phelan sighting.

12:07- Al and John start talking about a Manning vs. Manning Super Bowl. I’m surprised it took so long.

12:10 – Flutie gets sacked and fumbles on the final play, which makes Fantasy players who own the Colts D happy. And more talk about the Colts going undefeated.

12:13 – Peyton Manning goes up on the horse trailer. Perfect way to end this night.

Well, at the beginning of this diary I said I was prepared for anything. That turned out to be a lie. I was NOT expecting the Pats to play this poorly, or the Colts to play this well. While the Colts defense looked shaky at times, their offense played about as perfect of a game as you could hope for. And the Pats didn’t give me anything to be confident about going forward. At least I won my fantasy week, I can tell myself. The Pats are lucky they play in the weakest division in the AFC, but something’s going to have to change if they want to move beyond the wild card round of the playoffs. I am trying to be positive, but with the way it looks, this won’t be the only Patriots game this year that leaves me with a bitter feeling in the end.


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