1. I wasn't among those who came into last night's game believing a Patriots-Colts matchup had lost some luster. Too much has happened between the rivals in recent seasons for it to be relegated to Just Another Game status simply because Tom Brady is two more infections away from having a peg leg and the Colts are supposedly mediocre. So count me among the apparent minority who is more frustrated than encouraged by the Patriots' hard-fought 18-15 loss at Indy last night. While there certainly are several plot developments to be optimistic about as the season hits the midway point -- primarily, Matt Cassel's steady and continued improvement at quarterback, and hey, who's blaming the Pats for not having a serviceable backup like Brad Johnson now? -- I guess it's just hard to consider a three-point loss to the teetering-on-the-brink-of-disaster Colts as a moral victory. Real victories are much more fun -- especially when you have a chance to hammer a few nails in your chief rival's coffin in the process. Yes, the Patriots played well, and there is reason to be hopeful. But in the end, I can't help but think of it as one that got away.
2. Jabar Gaffney sure picked a terrible time to borrow Ben Watson's hands. While I imagine my reaction to the drop was the same as yours -- a guttural groan followed by the punching of an inanimate object (like, say, a cat) and a string of creatively used curse words -- I also felt bad for Gaffney. He has been a very dependable receiver since arriving as a street free agent during the '06 season -- remember how quickly he won Tom Brady's confidence? -- and he's been something of a forgotten man this season as he's rarely the first option and Cassel still falls into the habit of locking on to his first or second receiver.
3. I realize the Patriots' ball-control game plan was effective, and I realize a big reason it was effective is because the Colts were so concerned with Randy Moss that they basically kept their safeties deep the entire game. Still, I can't help but wish Cassel and Josh McDaniels could find a way to get the ball in his hands more often. He's the lone game-changing weapon on the Patriots offense, and maybe some of those field goals would turn into touchdowns if Moss got more touches.
4. Bob Sanders wasn't the Human Tornado he usually is against the Patriots' running game -- mostly because he was on don't-get-beat-by-Moss duty all night -- but the safety did play a significant role in the Colts' win, and I'm starting to get annoyed that his annual litany of injuries always seem to heal just in time for him to return to play the Patriots. In a related note, the Colts took Sanders with the 44th pick in the 2004 draft -- 12 picks after the Patriots took Watson. I would like to petition for a do-over on that one.
5. I've long had high hopes for David Thomas. He's a more trustworthy receiver than fellow tight end Watson, and should he remain healthy this season, I expect he'll become an increasingly useful weapon in the passing game for Cassel. That said, I hope he's still walking home from Indianapolis as you're reading this. That penalty was so ridiculously inexcusable, even Bill Romanowski is wondering what he was thinking.
6. I'm not sure why Bill Belichick chose last night to pay homage to Barry Switzer, Bruce Coslet, Dave Campo, and Rich Kotite and all the legendary coaching nitwits of the past (yes, I do believe that is an NFL Films special presentation) with some extremely questionable -- and ultimately costly -- decision-making, but I'm just going to chalk it up to a bad night at the office and move on. If anyone deserves a mulligan, it's him.
7. I'll need to see more before I'm convinced that BenJarvus Green-Ellis has enough pure ability to succeed in as an NFL running back, but I will say this for the kid supposedly known as "Law Firm": He hits the hole the way we always wished Happy Feet Maroney would. It's a start.
8. Ah, you had to figure Adam Vinatieri would beat his old team at least once before his Hall of Fame career is over, though it was somewhat surprising that it came on a kick that seemed to be a half-dozen yards outside of his range. But anyone who still thinks the Patriots made a mistake in letting him go . . . well, they just haven't been paying attention to the kicker Mr. Gostkowski has become. I had no doubt he would have drilled the tying field goal had Thomas not committed that pea-brained penalty knocking them out of range. Vinatieri still has the knack for being a hero, but at this point in time, the Patriots have a superior kicker.
9. How is a Patriots fan supposed to build up an appropriate disgust for Peyton Manning when he's so damn funny and self-deprecating in commercials such as this one? (Here's a link to many of his better ads.)
10. As for today's Completely Random Sports Illustrated Cover:
I have to admit, the "Football Night In America" pregame show is growing on me, even if they do cram more massive egos on the set than the 2009 Yankees will have in their clubhouse. I enjoy the Olbermann/Patrick "Big Show" flashbacks, and Cris "Why The Long Face?" Collinsworth is one of the better and more opinionated analysts around, even if he went a little over the top in ripping the Patriots during Spygate. Mostly, though, I'm just writing this item so you'll check out this old SI article on Collinsworth, who apparently was born talking and has not yet paused for breath.
About Touching All The Bases
Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.