Divisional Weekend Has Season On The Line for Patriots

The Texans can win this game.

If, for no other reason that every media person in the universe seems convinced that the Patriots will easily win this one. Maybe not as easily as last time, but still, it’s hard to find anyone picking the Texans. (Adam Schefter is one of the few picking the Texans.) No matter what Dan Shaughnessy says, the Texans can win this game. Nothing is given in sports.

Get all the coverage this weekend at PatriotsLinks.com, meanwhile here are some links and quotes for today:

Ted Johnson making himself heard on radio – Chad Finn’s media column talks with the former Patriots linebacker, who is now working as radio host in Houston.

Pundits picking Patriots, but not in another wipeout – Bill Doyle’s media column has FOX analysts Jimmy Johnson and Troy Aikman talking about this weekend’s matchups.

Football and family saved Brandon Spikes from bad side of life  -Jeff Howe has a nice mini-feature on the Patriots inside linebacker and his emergence from a potentially troubled beginning.

Logan Mankins tractor-tough as ever – Jackie MacMullan submits a feature on the Patriots guard.

Rob Gronkowski’s play is crucial to game plan – Matt Chatham looks at why whether the Patriots big tight end is healthy is critical to the Patriots chances of success.

PHIL SIMMS

(On Houston-New England): The intriguing part of this game is the way the last game was played and how it worked against Houston so much.  That’s a tremendous motivating factor for the team.  It’s just human nature. Can the New England Patriots still take the Houston Texans as seriously as they did the first time because of that?   Those are parts of the game that we can’t quantify but know they’re there.  Vince Wilfork was a tremendous problem for Houston in the first game. What will Houston’s plan be this week to maybe change Vince Wilfork’s production?  What will Houston do on the defensive side? When you give up 42 points, you have to try something different.  Because whatever they did last time, it didn’t work.  That’s what NFL coaching is about. And that is why coaches are so important in the NFL.  They have to change game plans in order to change the performance and thought process of all the athletes they’re asking to do these things.

STEVE YOUNG

Q.  This weekend, two of the greatest quarterbacks of all time playing, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.  When you look back over the course of their careers, is there a season that stands out to you as perhaps the best between them?  I mean, 2004, Manning set the record for passing rating, depending how you feel about passer rating.  2007, Brady led the Patriots to an undefeated regular season record, 50 touchdowns, eight interceptions.  If you had to pick one accomplishment by one of those guys, could you pick one?

YOUNG:  Well, it’s funny, you mentioned 2007, because but for, I think, laying an egg in the Super Bowl, both Bill Belichick and the Patriots, in general, and Tom Brady missed the opportunity to be the de facto answers for any argument that anyone brought up as the greatest season in history, the greatest team in history, the greatest quarterback in history and the greatest coach in history. In my mind, all of these things hung in the balance in Phoenix that night just because of the nature of what they were about to accomplish.  It was a phenomenal season, unfortunately not capped.

What they have done collectively, the two of them, I always think greatness is really about building off the previous generation and stretching the game and taking it in new places, developing, doing more with the position.  And I always find quarterback as an art form and the ultimate guide in the position of artists, and these guys have done that. So, for a guy that’s played a generation before, I just honor them with how both of them have taken the game and extended it, and the position and extended it, and doing it like the next generation should, but so few can.

Peyton changed the game forever because he demanded more from the receiver/quarterback relationship.  That’s never been demanded.  Tom did the same in other ways.  So to pick a season, these guys are so far ahead.  In some ways, as they get ready to play, there must be a little piece of them chuckling because they are so far ahead in the free agent era and with the rules kind of bending towards the offense’s favor, they have to be chuckling that they are so far ahead of any defense. Everything they are doing they have such mastery over, that yeah, they could still screw up; yeah, they could get beat.  But boy, they are playing kind of in a downhill, kind of from the start and that’s got to be a fun place to be.

Sorry that doesn’t answer your question.  I’m not great at picking greatest, you know what I mean.  I honor what they are doing just because it’s amazing to me what they have accomplished.

Q. Sticking with the Patriots, one of the things they started out with Belichick and went 9‑0 early on in the post‑season with him, not so hot of late.  Curious if your experience with the 49ers, with that first loss to the Giants in the NFC Championship, and another loss to the Cowboys, it looked like that first loss to the Giants broke the mystique a little bit.  Do you sense that with the Patriots a little bit – that the mystique has been broken by their, not failures in the last couple of years but their average play in the post‑season?

YOUNG:  There’s no question that when we warmed up, I got a sense that we were up 14‑0 at times, with perception with the way that people thought about us.  And as you said that could be broken with some tough losses a little bit here and there.

But substantively when you’re getting beat in championship games by teams, most of the time it’s because they are better, and I think the Patriots lost their pass rush, they got a little bit weaker defensively and they’ve been trying to make that up.  So I think there are things that substantively happened that they have now tried to fix. You’re right, though.  When they are rolling, when they are two‑time defending or two‑out‑of‑three Super Bowl champions, you have a lot of kind of perceptional advantage as you warm up.  And that gets lost.

So, yes, I agree that some of that is lost.  But substantively, the Patriots seem to have put some of the things that have been hurting them, like two or three years ago ‑‑ but yet still haven’t I think gotten to the point where they really had that defense that was top two or three in the league.

And to me, the 49ers, Patriots, I’m thinking back to the Cowboys in the early 90s and the vintages I knew so well, they were great offenses but really you took a look at the defenses, they were the top two or three defenses.  So a great offense with the top two or three defense, that’s when you constantly win Super Bowls, and that’s the thing that they Patriots have been missing.

  • http://twitter.com/DryHeave1 DryHeave

    I think I’m in love with Tom Curran. For the way he’s been stickin’ it to Shaughnessy this week. Now Danny boy knows how it feels to be “shanked”

  • http://www.bostonsportsmediawatch.com/ bsmfan

    Did anyone catch CSNNE Pregame around 3PM when Curran was chewing out Felger and Shaughnessy for the whole piece?

    I’m not sure if they post any of the clips online but it was awesome.

    @GregABedard Comcast vs. Comcast, Dan vs. Curran. This is awesome “@KevinZipps: @tomecurran this is awesomely awkward”

    https://twitter.com/GregABedard/status/290549256547360768

  • http://www.bostonsportsmediawatch.com/ bsmfan

    Ugh, another.. without Gronk..

    John Kerry in Kraft’s box to tell him that his wife/Heinz is suing the Patriots for copyright infringement on the “tomato cans” thing?

    Still, too early for this?

    I read this on PFT.

    “So many crazy things have already happened in these playoffs that it’s way too early to make any definitive declarations about what we’re going to see in the final three games of this NFL season. And Gronkowski being knocked out of the rest of the playoffs
    is a significant blow. But after watching the divisional round of the
    playoffs, my best bet is that we’re going to see the Patriots win the
    AFC Championship Game, and then win the Super Bowl.”

    http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/01/13/after-three-great-games-patriots-make-a-statement/

    For a second, I was wondering if Mike Florio had spent too much time indulging certain things that Colorado offers due to law change after that absolutely insane game with DEN/BAL. Then I saw that it was Michael David Smith writing.