Monday, February 02, 2004

How 'bout them Patriots! 

Patriots 32, Panthers 29

We all know about Tom Brady, Mike Vrabel, and Adam Vinatieri, but there were other players from both teams that had big games as well:

--Deion Branch A second-round pick by the Patriots two years ago, which came as a surprise because they were expected to draft defense and Branch was a small receiver that the Patriots had plenty of. Branch was huge when Troy Brown seemingly had his nose dislocated early and was ineffective for much of the first half. Branch caught 10 balls for 143 yards, including a 52-yard catch late in the second quarter that set up the second touchdown, and the touchdown that started the scoring in the game.

--Daniel Graham Graham has become the Patriots fans' favorite punching bag because of the number of dropped passes and fumbles he's had over the season, but he had a big 33-yard catch down the middle, and most importantly, his blocking kept Brady almost untouched for the game. Graham is already one of the best blocking tight ends, and he could become an all-pro if he learns how to catch the ball, since he is very physically gifted and knows how to run pass routes.

--Jake Delhomme He won't get much of the credit he deserved, but Delhomme played as well as Brady did. Sure, Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad were wide open in the two long touchdowns, but he made accurate long throws that also allowed the two receivers to catch the ball in stride. A surprisingly high number of quarterbacks in this league can't do that. The only mistake he made was the fumble in the second quarter that he really couldn't have prevented.

--Coverage Teams Neither team average 20 yards in their kickoff returns, and as a red Sox fan who know about disastrous finishes, you can't imagine how relieved I am that the last kickoff return by the Panthers didn't turn into a 5-literal situation.

--Dan Morgan you can't argue with the numbers: 11 tackles, 7 assists. Tackling against the Patriots is especially important since they throw so many short passes.
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