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Ask PFW: Streaking along

Faulk has been solid on punt returns, but Troy Brown is obviously the team's best, and with him being out, why don't the Pats give Bethel Johnson a shot? If he fails then they can go back to Faulk or Brown, but don't you think he at least deserves a shot?Steven Velez

Actually, no. Bethel Johnson is lightning quick, but there's a big difference between returning punts and kicks. His ball security is a major issue. He's already mishandled several kickoffs this year, and similar problems catching punts would lead to turnovers. I like Johnson as a kick returner but he's done nothing to prove to me that he would be a good fit as a punt returner. Faulk catches just about everything and he's the safest option with Troy Brown on the shelf.
Paul Perillo

You guys declined to answer my lechery-tinged question about which ones of our fab team looks best out of uniform, which I accepted as I figured it was too much of a "stupid girl" question. I'll try another: How does the team get to away games? I presume it's by plane, but do they have a private jet? Take charters? Commercial airliners? How about to closer venues like Buffalo or NY – do they ever travel by bus?Miranda Good

I'm sure this won't be the first time you hear this, but with questions like that it should be Miranda Bad. How can you expect us to check out the player's bodies in the locker room? How long do you think it would take them to kick us out if they thought we were doing that? But I guess your other questions are harmless, so here goes. The team takes charter flights to away games, even close ones like Buffalo and New York. In my six years with the team, we have flown to every away game except for two: at the Jets in 2001 and at the Giants in the 2002 preseason. We took the train to both of those games, but the second one was filled with delays so I don't anticipate doing that again. Otherwise, it's all charter flights.
Paul Perillo

I have never been so angry watching a game the Patriots won by double digits, but the Seahawks game left me furious. What is Mike Holgrem's problem? I know the game of football is a never give up type of game, part of the reason why the Pats have done so well in the recent years. But if you are down 10 points and have one untimed down left just kneel on the ball. He wants to pad the stats only lose by 6 or 8 if there is a two-point conversion – if they scored a TD would there have been a PAT? So he can tell the media and rep his team "oh we only lose by less then a TD against the super bowl champion Patriots?"
Michael Cziria

The things that upset Patriots fans will never cease to amaze me. The Patriots beat Seattle in a highly entertaining game of football by holding on at the end with Bethel Johnson making a truly amazing, once-in-a-season-type of catch and people are upset that Mike Holmgren actually had the audacity to try to score right down to the final play. Boy, the NFL ought to outlaw that kind of competitive spirit. First, there definitely would have been a PAT attempt after a touchdown. Points scored and differential are part of the tiebreaker equation for playoff spots. Second, the Seahawks didn't need a final touchdown to prove they stayed close to the Super Bowl champs … the previous 59 minutes were enough proof for anyone who watched that the teams were very evenly matched. With a minute left, the Seahawks were down by three and had a chance. The Patriots made the play when they needed it, which is the reason for their brilliance. For anyone to be offended that an opponent tried to score a meaningless touchdown at the end of the game is ridiculous. And by the way, I noticed the Patriots made quite an effort to keep them out of the end zone on the play, so I guess they thought it was pretty important, too.
Paul Perillo

Personally I am sickened that you would give fairbanks (small "f" intentional) airtime considering he left this team in the playoff game with the Oilers and probably cost us a shot, if not a win, at the Super Bowl that year. I ask you not to run the segment on PFW video. If you think I am alone in my opinion just poll your audience. He is just another Bill Parcells the way they both jumped ship! He does not deserve the hype. In fact, he doesn't deserve a thing from the Patriots.Dick Christopher

I think you direct your anger in the wrong place. It should be on Patriots ownership. Chuck Fairbanks was an excellent coach who pulled the Patriots out of the basement of the NFL back in the 1970s. If he had any support at all from ownership, he probably would never have left. You're entitled to your opinion, but coaches like Fairbanks and Parcells did great things for our team before they left. For that they should be commended, not ridiculed. If Bill Belichick decided to leave to coach another team at the end of the season, would that make him any less of a coach? And my final remark about Fairbanks would be this: I've talked to many of his former players (Steve Grogan, Steve Nelson, Pete Brock, etc.) and I can't find one to say a bad word about him. That tells me the players understood why he was willing to leave. There's no question he should have waited for the 1978 season to end before he took the Colorado job. No question. But Billy Sullivan's lack of finances made running the Patriots an unenviable task in those days and it's easy to see why he got frustrated.
Paul Perillo

Does the NFL use a new ball every time that it kicks off?Nick Elwell

There is a special ball used for all kicks called a "K" ball. The balls aren't necessarily brand new, but they are different from the one used during "normal" play.
Paul Perillo

A huge mistake in the Pats vs. Seattle game by Charlie Weis was exonerated by a great play by Bethel Johnson. Because of the spectacular catch by Bethel Johnson, a huge clock management mistake by Charlie Weis has gone overlooked. If Johnson had not made that catch the mistake would be all anyone would be talking about right now. Instead everyone thinks Weis' play calling was genius, but here is the reality - it was terrible. Here's why: There is about 2:45 left in the game Pats first down and a long way to go to the end zone with a 3-point lead. Seattle has all 3 timeouts. We want to burn the clock and/or burn Seattle timeouts in order to give ourselves the greatest possible potential for victory. On first down, a pass play is called which results in an incompletion that stops the clock. Why on Earth would you call a pass play in that situation? If you run the play clock and call a run it forces Seattle to either call a timeout, or the clock will run down to the two-minute warning. Instead we call a pass play that is incomplete and the clock stops at about 2:35. Had a run been called (assuming we stayed in bounds) even if we gained no yards, it would be 2-and-10 at the 2-minute warning (unless Seattle burned a time out which is something that we would have wanted) and still our ball. Instead it was 2-and-10 with more 2:30 left which meant not only was it second down, but that we would have to run at least one more play before the two-minute warning. We did run another play, which brought us to third down, and luckily for us Bethel Johnson caught the pass. However, if that pass fell incomplete it would have been fourth down with time still to be reached before the two-minute warning. We would have had to punt to Seattle with only a 3-point lead, and them having 3 timeouts and the two-minute warning timeout to boot. Yes, we won the game thanks to a great catch by Bethel Johnson – but hasn't Charlie Weis ever played PlayStation2? This is simple clock management 101 – you protect a lead with your life – you never ever, ever throw on first down while protecting a lead late in the ball game. Pats fans don't want to know how close their supposed genius of an offensive coordinator came to blowing this game on a simple bad decision on clock management. In my opinion this is a huge, glaring mistake that should deserve him to get the Bethel Johnson bench for a week for unexplained reasons. Ironic, isn't it, how it was Bethel Johnson who bailed him out from being scrutinized for this lapse of judgment?Jim Britton

You just wrote nearly 500 words (not including the tedious repetition I deleted) and the only point I can agree with you on is the final pass play to Bethel Johnson. On third-and-seven, having Tom Brady roll out to his left, something he doesn't do very well (and the pass required a great catch), and heave a bomb to Johnson was a rather low-percentage play. The fact that it was complete doesn't change that and I agree with you that there were better options.
But other than that, I think your rant is a bit over the top. First, there was 2:55 left and Seattle had all three timeouts left. If the Patriots ran the ball three times and didn't get the first down, the Seahawks would have gotten the ball back with more than two minutes left, no timeouts and needing just a field goal to tie. Or the Seahawks could have let the clock run down to the two-minute warning and saved the third timeout. Either way, Seattle's offense would have been in great shape with plenty of time left to tie or take the lead. Throwing on first down wasn't a terrible idea. If Seattle didn't have any timeouts, then I agree it would have been better to burn some clock. But with the timeouts, things change and the Patriots needed first downs and just pounding away into the line may or may not have done the job. That was the difference against the Jets this week because Dillon's runs effectively ate up the clock even if they didn't pick up the first down because New York couldn't stop the clock all three times and there was left time remaining. The offense's No. 1 goal in that situation is picking up the first down; not to simply make the opponent use timeouts and leave it to the defense. And I can assure you that Charlie Weis doesn't get any tips from playing PlayStation2.
Paul Perillo

Do you think the Patriots will release Fauria at the end of the season because Graham is showing he's improving and is good and they have Watson?Robert Kilpatrick

Fauria is in the final year of his contract and might not be back next year. He hasn't been much of a factor in the offense, even after Watson was lost for the year with his knee injury. But I wouldn't rule it out that Fauria won't be back. He's a good role player and doesn't make waves in the locker room when his number isn't called much during the games. Belichick could decide to keep him for another year at the veteran minimum. But my guess is that won't happen and Fauria won't be back in 2005.
Paul Perillo

Hey guys, I'd just like to say thank you for answering the questions of Patriot Nation every week, and the occasional sarcastic comments are the icing on the cake. I'm an extremely happy Pats fan these days with their extraordinary success the last few years. These are days that die-hard Pats fans should cherish and not take for granted because it will not last forever. Which leads me to my question. Now that the Pats have not lost a game since Sept. 2003, what do you feel will happen when they finally do lose a game? Do you think it will get into their heads because it's been so long and they may start to doubt themselves and get into a bit of a slump, or do you think they will be angry at themselves for losing and come back playing even harder the next game. I think the way this team reacts to their first loss will be the turning point of the season.Shawn Ranson
Fort McMurray, Alb.

I don't think losing a game will have a negative impact on the team at all. Obviously, they will be disappointed after a loss – that would be true regardless of the situation. I don't think they necessarily care about the winning streak as much as they do about winning in general. Losing one game won't be the end of the world and I don't see the players be adversely affected by it.
Paul Perillo

Is Miller ready to go if Brady needs to come out? And when a player is on IR, does he still attend practice or are they cut loose until the next season?Tim Bartlett

As far as I know Miller is healthy enough to play but remains the No. 3 quarterback. Based on that, I would assume that if Brady were injured that Davey would play. When a player is on injured reserve, he is allowed to attend practice. But depending on the severity of the injury, the player might need rest/rehab or might not even be in Foxborough depending on where he lives. Rodney Bailey (out with a torn Achilles) for example has been around the locker room most days. But others haven't been seen for weeks. Younger players might benefit more from remaining with the team to sit in meetings and learn as much as they can even though they can't get out on the field and play. It all depends on the individual.
Paul Perillo

First off, you guys (even Bryan) do an amazing job of keeping all Pats fans, even the west coast transplants like myself, informed. I know Charlie Weis must be dying to get our valuable receivers Brown and Branch back so he can show some spread offenses and give our oppositions more to game plan for each week. I remember beating Pittsburgh pretty badly in 2002 with a wide-open type game. When are we going to be able to get our wideouts back from injury?Pauly Perrone
Orange County, Calif.

Hey Pauly, does everyone in the O/C look like they need to eat a sandwich or is that just the way they make it look on TV?? If you don't watch lame shows like I do, then you can just forget about that question. Anyway, Brown and Branch remained out for the Jets game, but it looks like Brown could be back soon. He practiced on Friday after being listed as having missed portions of the team period for the previous three weeks. You can never say for sure when it comes to Patriots injuries, but I think Brown could be back in Pittsburgh. Branch is still being listed as doubtful, though, so I'd expect him to miss at least the next game, probably two. Again, Belichick doesn't give us much help in this department so it's tough to say for sure.
Paul Perillo

I saw what appeared to be several blatant missed penalty calls on the Jets (like Kendall holding on Colvin on the Jets TD as well as several instances of downfield contact, over the back/interference pass defends, blocks from behind by the Jets) and what I thought were numerous phantom calls against the Pats. Do the Pats (and other teams) have the ability to report bias and/or bad calls to league officials?Otis Hill

Teams are able to submit questions concerning officiating any time they believe a call was incorrect. It is not always public knowledge when they do so, though. But I did notice you left out a blatant pass interference call that should have been made against Asante Samuel but was waved off under the premise that two guys were playing the ball even though Samuel's back was completely turned on the play. Not to mention the fact that the Jets entered the game as the least penalized team in the league and then were called for a season high six. But I understand Patriots fans always think they're team is getting the short end of the stick when it comes to the refs.
Paul Perillo

I would like to know why David Givens isn't being featured more. He's almost always open, has the surest hands of anyone we have currently out there, and is an excellent blocker and just really makes the plays that need to be made. I would take him over Marvin Harrison any day and please don't give Marvin's resume in your retort because Marvin's best work is done in a dome and for years, he's the only guy Peyton Manning saw fit to throw the ball to so of course his number are outrageous. Also, Marvin is just not tough. All Givens is doing is producing and I would like to see him featured somewhat more than we do.Joe Lemery

I think Givens has been the featured receiver since Brown and Branch went down with injuries. He's clearly the No. 1 option right now and he generally gets the most balls thrown in his direction. Since you asked me not to give you any of Harrison's resume (or the facts) to show that Givens isn't nearly the receiver Harrison is, I won't. But I will say in response to your claims that Harrison just isn't tough that the Colts receiver has missed seven games in 8-plus seasons while Givens has missed seven to injury in just two-plus seasons. Playing in a dome doesn't impact that. In fact, one could argue that playing on the artificial turf in Indy should lead to more injuries, not less.
Paul Perillo

Can you state the combined record of the teams the almighty Patriots have defeated within the glorious win streak of 21, soon to be 22? Some co-workers believe that the streak was against "soft" teams. Please help me prove them wrong.*Simon
*

The combined record of Patriots opponents during the 21-game winning streak is 138-117. Those totals are compiled using the opponent's record at the time of the game. They've also beaten 13 teams with a winning record, so tell you're co-workers in St. Louis to stop whining about losing the Super Bowl.
Paul Perillo

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