Devon O’Neil: Comparing two roads to perfection
December 26, 2007
The Patriots play the Giants this week, but not really. Really, they’re playing history.
They’re playing everyone who ever said no team could sweep through an NFL regular season in the modern era. They’re playing the 1972 Dolphins and their champagne, which must be wondering why it’s still in the bottle.
They’re playing for a legend.
Of course, even if the Patriots beat New York on Saturday night (a game that will be televised on the NFL Network, a coup beyond belief for the fledgling channel), there are still going to be those who say a 16-0 regular season will mean less if New England doesn’t follow it up with a Super Bowl win. I might be among them.
Still, not even the 1972 Dolphins won their first 15 regular-season games, as the Pats have (a product of the bygone era’s 14-game regular season). Comparing the two perfect teams doesn’t end there, either. They rode different strategies to excellence, but there are some similarities, too.
For starters, the ’72 Dolphins won their regular-season games by an average of 15.3 points, with six of their 14 games decided by 10 points or less (as were all three of their playoff contests). New England has won its games by an average of 20.8 points, and four of their 15 games have been decided by 10 points or less.
Miami went 3-3 in the preseason. New England went 2-2.
Miami was a grind-it-out team that year. Both Larry Czonka and Mercury Morris ran for 1,000 yards, and Jim Kiick added 521. The team ran the ball 613 times and threw it only 259, a rush-pass percentage split of 70/30. The Dolphins’ top receiver, Paul Warfield, had only 29 catches.
In contrast, New England has run the ball 425 times and thrown it 544, a more balanced 44/56 ratio. Six players have 32 catches or more, led by Wes Welker (101) and Randy Moss (92).
What can we make of it all? Tough to say, but this much is certain: Everything will become irrelevant if the Patriots don’t beat the Giants on Saturday night. I wouldn’t bet on that happening, though.
Randy Moss caught two TDs Sunday to up his season total to 21, just one short of Jerry Rice’s all-time record. Rice, however, set his mark in the strike-shortened 1987 campaign. He caught 22 touchdowns in only 12 games. Perhaps most impressively, he only caught 65 passes total that year, meaning a third of his receptions ended with him in the end zone.
Maybe it’s not this simple, but if I were Roger Clemens and I truly did not take steroids, then when that Mitchell Report came out I would’ve called up all the local TV stations and all the local newspaper reporters, and I would’ve gone off. I would’ve made it as spontaneous and transparent and angry as possible.
What Clemens has done, though, is not even close. He issued multiple statements through his lawyer, and then he sat in front of a camera and delivered what seemed a highly composed rebuttal of the allegations, as if he were in court in front of a judge.
He posted the video on his website, http://www.rogerclemensonline.com. Why? My only guess is that when you do it yourself, you can re-record if need be, you can edit if need be, you can basically make it whatever you want it to be. Plus, you don’t have to answer questions from reporters who might be looking for more than just a simple “I didn’t do it.” …
In case you haven’t heard, Chris Simon has a bit of an attitude problem. The Islanders winger followed up the NHL-record 25-game suspension he was dealt last spring (for two-handing an opponent across the face with his stick) by stomping on another player’s foot with his skate blade only 26 games later.
The most disturbing part is this is Simon’s eighth career suspension. Eight. As the New York Post wrote, “What, he couldn’t make it on the outside?”
Tough start for Billy Gillispie at Kentucky. The nation’s most storied college hoops program is only 5-5 after stopping a four-game losing streak Saturday at home. And the five wins have come against Central Arkansas, Liberty, Texas Southern, Stony Brook and Tennessee Tech. Ugh.
Saw the best football surname of my young life during the New Orleans Bowl last week: Memphis wide receiver Taz Knockum, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound blocking specialist (of course).
In parting, I am not a mustache man. But if I were, I would have a big problem with Bears quarterback Kyle Orton’s sorry attempt. Orton’s ‘stache looks like someone skinned a rat and glued part of it to his face. It’s the most horrid-looking thing I’ve ever seen. And the runaway neck beard doesn’t help.
Breckenridge resident Devon O’Neil’s $0.02 column runs on Tuesdays. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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