Wednesday, November 05, 2003

New England Patriots vs. Denver Broncos: MNF Game Log

This seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up. The Patriots on Monday Night Football, Thunder Dan Kanell starting for the pesky Broncos, John Madden kicking it, Madden-style, in the booth -- I just had to write a game log. Plus my "Everybody Loves Raymond" show log wasn't coming together quite as I hoped, so it seemed like fate. So then, without further adieu....

Two Hours Before Kickoff
John Madden notes on his website (bet that's a treat to put together) that the key factors for tonight's game will be the quality of the Patriots defense, the quality of the Broncos defense, aaaand the quality of the Broncos offense. Ballsy call, John. My question is, what happened to the Patriots offense? They're not a key factor? Apparently Mr. Madden's editors have insisted that he not list every attribute of a football game as a key factor. Tough break John.

Thirty Minutes Before Kickoff
It was just announced that Richard Seymour will not be playing tonight. Oh boy. I was worried about this game to begin with. It's very hard to go on long winning streaks in the NFL, and the Pats are coming off 4 W's in a row. Belichick eats up young QB's, and NE has been solid against the run all season. Seemed like a sure win, which is exactly what made me horribly afraid. Then I hear we're without Seymour, our best player, and I change my pick. I'm going with the Broncos, 17-13. Writing it down in pen.

5 Minutes Before Kickoff
Al Michaels bravely makes the night's first mention of Lawyer Milloy. Belichick waived the beloved safety four days before the season started, the team was destroyed by Lawyer's absence and blah blah blah. Does anyone in New England, including the team, care about this anymore? Don't we all recognize that his replacement, Rodney Harrison, is at least as good and far more entertaining? I think this might get annoying.

1 Minute Before Kickoff
John Madden makes Lawyer Milloy reference #2. Uh oh.

14:46, 1st Quarter
Broncos take the Patriots kickoff up to the 24 yard line, where Matt Chatham makes the tackle, and immediately hugs everyone in sight. No one can celebrate quite like a special-teamer, can they? Could you imagine going to one of these guy's birthday parties? Constantly high-fiving, singing Happy Birthday over and over again - even after the cake, taunting the broken pinata carcass on the ground. Ok, maybe not.

13:50, 1st Quarter
Denver goes a speedy 3 and out, complete with a terrifying, dead duck of a screen pass from Danny Kanell that almost gets picked off. Yikes. I have a feeling we'll be seeing a lot more of that.

13:04, 1st Quarter
The Patriots offensive starters are introduced, and lineman Damien Woody informs us that his nickname is Big Wood. How appropriate for television. Troy Brown is hurt, but will be on the field anyway. With Patten out, that makes Deion Branch the #2 receiver, Givens at #3, and at #4, Hartlee Dykes. Should be a lot of fun.

12:20, 1st Quarter
A disastrous snap from rookie Dan Koppen results in a fumble on the Patriots 28. Denver ball. Just like we drew it up. Hand the home team at least 3 easy points to start the game. Bad teams here don't score at all, decent teams get a field goal, and good teams go all the way for a touchdown. Turns out, Denver is a good team. Clinton Portis shoots through the line for a 15 yard run. Touchdown. Oh well.

Denver 7, Patriots 0

10:40, 1st Quarter
Patriots get the ball back and Antowain Smith runs up the middle like only he can. 1 yard gain, tackled by 5 Broncos. Boy, he can really make those defenders miss. Brady capitalizes on this opportunity by throwing deep to David Givens who, alas, is not open. Interception. This is becoming unpleasant fast, and I am becoming sour. 1 turnover every two minutes is not an ideal ratio. When Brady makes mistakes like this, the Patriots usually lose. His physical gifts are impressive, but his mental ones are outstanding. Tom must make smart plays for the Patriots to win. His last interception was against Washington, which, coincidentally, was the last time New England lost.

6:14, 1st Quarter
Denver puts up a decent drive off the turnover, but comes up empty when Jason Elam misses a 44 yard field goal. No points off the INT. A lucky break for the Pats, who are looking a little soggy. 10-0 early on the road would have been a tough hill to climb.

5:55, 1st Quarter
NE takes possession, and out of nowhere, on the first play, Tom Brady goes 66 yards to Deion Branch for the touchdown! How do you like that? The rout is over baby. Hard to believe with how New England looks, but the score is tied. Branch uses pure speed to get by two Bronco defenders and Brady hit him in stride. Impressive throw. Maybe this will open the box up a bit for those silly 5 yard slants that Charlie Weis loves to call. In any case, the Pats are back in it...

New England 7, Denver 7

4:11, 1st Quarter
Danny Kanell misses an open receiver by 5 yards. John Madden suggests that the best way for Dan to win this game is to not lose it. Al Michaels laughs, agrees, and begins tightening the knot on his Monday Night Football commemorative noose.

1:04, 1st Quarter
Lisa Guerrero chimes in with Lawyer Milloy reference #3. It's the tedium hat trick!

0:02, 1st Quarter
Right before the quarter whistle, Michaels sneaks in Milloy ref #4. Now that's broadcasting, boys and girls.

Start of 2nd Quarter

12:25, 2nd Quarter
Shanahan is coaching it up, play-faking with Portis and then bootlegging the other way. Madden is analyzing left and right, and for a minute it feels like we're watching a real football game. How long do you think it takes Madden to stink up a booth? 15 minutes? 20? Elam caps a quick Denver drive with a 43 yard FG. But wait, he's pulled something in his leg! And he's hobbling off the field! And....he's the kicker on my fantasy team! That's terrific. Thanks Jason, didn't want to win this week anyway. Frig.

Denver 10, Patriots 7

7:57, 2nd Quarter
Another bomb from Brady, this time to David Givens, leads to Vinatieri field goal. Were it not for two big plays, New England would have almost no yardage, and zero points. Luck be a lady tonight.

Patriots 10, Denver 10

7:04, 2nd Quarter
Denver gets the ball and Thunder Dan begins picking the Patriots apart. He's got time in the pocket, open receivers, and he's making the throws. Then, on the rare occasion that he's backed into a corner, New England lets him off the hook with a penalty. The Broncos are storming down field and the Patriots are doing little to stop them. They get a first down inside the 5, and instead of going to Portis, which everyone expects, Shanahan goes to the throw. Brilliant call, as defenses always expect the run on 1st and goal. 7 minute drive, touchdown Broncos.

Denver 17, New England 10

0:43, 2nd Quarter
With the clock ticking down, rookie Bethel Johnson takes the kickoff deeeeep into Broncos territory. An unexpected development, and a great way to bring the Patriots into halftime with a little momentum. After a quick pass to Kevin Faulk, Vinatieri knocks in another field goal. All the Pats have going for them at this point is big plays. They have no business being in this game, but because of a few bombs and a run back, they're only down by a few. While I am not optimistic, I am a little excited.

Whew. Daddy's sleepy.

13:00, 3rd Quarter
After a stalled New England drive, Ken Walter breaks off a 20 yard punt. That's what I like to call.....a pass. Heyooooo.

12:11, 3rd Quarter
Realizing it's almost three full minutes into the second quarter, Lisa Guerrero makes the 5th Lawyer Milloy reference of the evening. Keep your eye on that girl, she's got what it takes.

9:33, 3rd Quarter
The Patriots get the ball on the 40, and quickly go underneath to Antowain for 14 yards. A great block by Daniel Graham (not his strong suit) to get some extra yards. After a quick 10 yard pass to Branch, Smith runs for 5! Watch out, 'twain thinks it's 2001. Fred The Inmate McCrary makes his annual catch for 6 yards and the Pats are really moving. Is anyone in the league better at halftime adjustments than Belichick? Then, defying all odds, Antowain runs for another 11 yards! Someone give this guy a parade. On 1st and goal, New England ignores Shanahan's example and runs the ball, getting nothing. Then, because it's wonderfully predictable, they throw on second, but it works. 6 yard pass to Daniel Graham in the end zone! Touchdown Pats, and now they're playing with some energy. The game is heating up, and I'm running out of cigarettes. You can't have it all. My 17-13 prediction is looking preeeetty sweet right now.

Patriots 20, Denver 17

3:15, 3rd Quarter
After some Danny Kanell magic, New England gets the ball back, but can't move much. Ken Walter fires away a decent punt, but it gets brought back on a Lonnie Paxton penalty. Could've done without that. Sure enough, on the re-kick, Deltha O'Neal runs for a touchdown. Not exactly a tackling clinic by the NE special team crew. Larry Izzo just whiffed like Preston Wilson and Deltha was off to the races. Terrific. Plenty of football left though....

Denver 24, Patriots 20

4th Quarter

14:02, 4th Quarter
The 4th Quarter opens with the Patriots driving. Givens makes a great catch over the middle to bring New England to Denver's 12. David is shaken up though, and with Bethel Johnson already out, Hartlee Dykes just might get into the game. Belichick is storming up and down the sidelines, loudly calling for Ray Crittenden's cell phone number. Because of MORE penalties, the Pats can't punch it into the end zone, but take a field goal.

Denver 24, Patriots 23

10:33, 4th Quarter
On a charming shot of an historic cannon in downtown Denver, Madden asks "Say, do you think you would rather load that thing or fire it?". Michaels silently makes a pact with the devil.

10:00, 4th Quarter
The Broncos have the ball, and Portis is taking them down field. He's up near 100 yards, but hasn't been a major force up to this point. It's bad if Denver scores now, but if they take a long time to do it, it's very bad. A Bronco TD would mean the Pats need two scores, which is doable, but takes time. If Portis can consistently gain ground, New England will be up against it. After a few successful runs, Kanell airs one out to Rod Smith who is is nailed by Eugene Wilson. Helmet to helmet style, and he's not getting up. It's all hoots and hollers until I remember that Rod Smith is also on my fantasy team, and f-bombs are dropped. If I'm going to lose two of my starters, the Patriots better win this game. Right? On the next play, Kanell throws the ball away again and I'm starting to think that just might be in their playbook. Broncos punt.

6:12, Fourth Quarter
After the Patriots do nothing but amass more penalty yardage, Denver gets the ball back. This game now belongs to Portis. It is fully his to win. If the back can gain first downs and get his team into scoring position, there will not be enough clock left for the Patriots to score twice. Could put a nail in the Pats. Sure enough, Clinton guides the Broncos to the New England 35, with the clock down into 3 minutes. Killer stuff. It runs to 3rd and 4, and clearly Shanahan will just run Portis between the tackles. They're far enough into Pats' territory that they can safely go four downs, and they can certainly get 4 yards in two tries. Agreed? But wait, Thunder Dan is going to throw! Tries to find Sharpe over the middle, but Rodney Harrison knocks it away! 4th down. Big play by Rodney, and no one dares make Milloy reference #6. Bad move by Shanahan, Patriots get the ball back.

3:05, Fourth Quarter
Problem is.....they get it on their one yard line. Denver's punt pins them in, and New England is having trouble moving the ball out. Can Vinatieri hit a 113 yard field goal? Three failed passes and the Pats are looking at a very bad situation. A bad punter with only 10 yards of distance between himself and the rush. Yikes. All of a sudden, Al Michaels perks up, suggesting they give up a safety. 2 more points will still give New England a chance to tie with a field goal, and they'll get much better field position! Honestly, an impressive booth moment, as I don't think many announcers would have called this in advance. Sure enough Belichick goes with it! Paxton hikes it off the goal post and the safety is scored. Michaels looks like a genius and Madden is more than a little jealous.

2:95, Fourth Quarter
The Broncos allow the ensuing free kick (anytime a football game involves a free kick, you know you're having fun) to bounce all the way to the 15 for no apparent reason. Unbelievable. They'll use Portis now, right? This is no time to rest the game on the thin yet dashing shoulders of young Daniel Kanell, right? RIGHT?! Nope. After a killer penalty, Denver needs a first and they PASS! Shocker - it goes incomplete, Denver is forced to punt. Sorry guys, but you might have just lost. The little safety play gains the Pats 40 yards, as they receive the punt right around midfield. You can just see Brady sniffing victory. Tom throws a 5 yard check down to Kevin Faulk. On the next play, Brady narrowly avoids a sack then gets it out to Faulk again who squirms his way for 20 yards. Dodging defenders every which way, almost no blocks in sight, and amazingly, he doesn't fumble! Denver gets flagged on the play, clock stops. New England is now at the Broncos 34, which is just on the outer edge of field goal range. Another first down and they can tie this game up. Whew. With 1:48 left, Brady wastes two plays, and it runs down to 3rd and 10. Gotta get 10 more yards Tommy. Usually in this situation Brady looks for Troy Brown, but he's not 100% healthy right now, so he'll have to focus elsewhere. Brady drops back, looks around, and finds the hero of the drive, Kevin Faulk! Faulkin it up. Faulk's open over the middle again, and the Patriots grab another 16. Now they're in field goal range, which honestly is all we ever really wanted. Goal complete, we can relax. Let's just run the ball up the middle a few ti..... whoa Brady's going for the end zone! Oh boy, oh boy -- Givens is racing down the sideline, he's sort of open, perfect back shoulder pass....TOUCHDOWN. TOUCHDOWN! Patriots have come back! 30 seconds left, Elway's retired, this baby's over! We win on Monday Night! There is much yelling in the apartment, and briefly I am concerned for the neighbors. Much to my relief, I realize I don't like my neighbors, so the revelry continues. Denver gasps a bit in the last 30 seconds, but they really have no chance. This game is now New England's! What a win, Pats are 7-2. AFC East, anyone?

0:23, 4th Quarter
Feeling the stunning victory is somewhat complete, Al Michaels puts the perfect exclamation point on the most exciting win of the year: Lawyer Milloy reference #6. Thanks Al, you're the best. See ya next week.....