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Sports

October 16, 2008

Unshaken Patriots in denial

Patriots have curious reaction to their struggles

FOXBORO — Is it arrogance? Ignorance? Denial? Reality?

Three weary days after getting pummelled in San Diego, the Patriots, from the coach down, were absolutely unshaken.

"We did a pretty good job overall," said safety Rodney Harrison, one of the handful of players willing to meet the media. "It was just five or six plays for 230 yards. Eliminate those five or six plays, which you can, we would have played an excellent game. We have to eliminate the big plays, the penalties down the field, and do what we do."

A few big plays? Sure, and the Dow is struggling through a slight market correction.

But that was the company line yesterday. Whether they like it or not, though, the Patriots, now 3-2 and staring at an interesting Monday nighter here with Denver, have issues.

Issue No. 1

The dilemma: Matt Cassel averages 6.4 yards per attempt, with three TDs, four interceptions and 19 sacks in five games. The team is scoring 17.8 points a game, 25th in the league, sandwiched between a pair of bastions of mediocrity — Cleveland and Minnesota.

The Pats' take: "Matt (Cassel) is our starting quarterback," said coach Bill Belichick. "He gives our team the best chance to win. We all have to play better and coach better than we did last week. We have to do a better job than we did against San Diego. But he's our quarterback."

Our take: Bill Belichick is a first-ballot Hall of Fame coach, standing tall among the game's best — Vince Lombardi, Tom Landry, Chuck Noll, Bill Walsh and Bill Parcells to name a few — but his coaching Kryptonite might be arrogance.

By not seriously pursuing a professional quarterback the minute Tom Brady's left knee buckled, the coach told the world he could win with a college backup in Cassel.

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