2 New England Patriots While the offense stands pat, a rebuilt defense looks to regain that Super Bowl swagger

August 31, 2003

"It was," says new Patriots safety Rodney Harrison, "the most
inspirational thing I've ever been around."

His team, the 1998 Chargers, finished 5-11, last in the AFC West.
The offense committed 51 turnovers. No other team was close. Yet
the San Diego defense finished No. 1 in the NFL.

"You'd see guys crying on the plane home," Harrison says. "So
many turnovers, so much frustration. But our defense had this
thing going, and it just snowballed. Guys working, working,
coming in at all hours, lifting weights, studying.

"The offense would throw an interception," Harrison says. "Boom,
we stop them, three and out. We're on the bench, we don't even
get our helmets off, and our offense gives them the ball back
again. Clap hands, let's go. We stop them again, three and out.
What a feeling! That's what I came here for, to get the feeling
back."

Defense sank New England last year and kept the defending Super
Bowl champ out of the playoffs. The base defense didn't have the
speed to keep up with the fast teams, and when the Pats put a
speed unit on the field, it got muscled. Seven enemy ballcarriers
rushed for more than 100 yards against the Patriots. One of them,
the Dolphins' Ricky Williams, did it twice.

So coach Bill Belichick sat down with his vice president of
player personnel, Scott Pioli. They drew up a list of the kind of
players they wanted: hitters, tough guys, people who could run.
They went the big-money route for ex-Bear Rosevelt Colvin, one of
the plums of the free-agent market: a linebacker in the base unit
and a devastating edge rusher on the nickel. Best of all, he's
only 25. A day later they picked up Harrison, who'd been cut by
the Chargers after nine seasons, four of which ended with his
teammates voting him their defensive player of the year.

"The club figured that, at 30, I couldn't run anymore," Harrison
says. "I'd suffered a groin pull in the first game last year. The
muscle was 30 percent off the bone. The doctors told me I'd miss
eight weeks. I missed two. I guess the Patriots feel I can run
well enough."

Harrison was visiting the Raiders' complex in March when Pioli
reached his agent, Steve Feldman. Don't sign anything, Pioli told
Feldman. Come see us first.

Harrison was in Boston the next day. "The first thing Coach
Belichick told me was, 'I like the way you warm up, the intensity
of it,'" he says. "I'm thinking, Damn, this guy really knows
football. So we sat there and talked, the coach, Scott Pioli and
me, and they told me, 'You give us a chance to win,' and that's
what I needed to hear. No b.s., no wining and dining, just
straight football."

Colvin, who had serious offers from five other teams, essentially
told the same story. "I sat in their office, and Scott Pioli was
excited, and Coach Belichick was excited, and after a while, so
was I. The coach talked about the great linebackers he had on the
Giants, Pepper Johnson and Carl Banks and Lawrence Taylor, and
all the plans he had for me and how I'd fit into their defense.
Some of the other teams I'd talked to wanted to take me out for
dinner and show me a good time, but you can keep all that stuff."

"Bill and I have a rule," Pioli says. "If a guy needs the sizzle,
he's not for us."

Colvin will be a solid outside rusher in the nickel package.
Harrison will play right safety in Belichick's left-right
alignment which means he'll be the free safety most of the time,
expected to cover more ground.

Four of New England's first five draft choices this year were
defensive players. One interesting choice was fourth-rounder Dan
Klecko, son of Joe Klecko, the great leader of the Jets' Sack
Exchange of the 1980s. The younger Klecko is an undersized
nosetackle at 5'11", 283, but an exotic specimen as an outside
rusher, where the Pats have been experimenting with him. "Great
motor," Belichick says of Klecko, who had 2 1/2 sacks in his
first preseason game. "You want him on the field somewhere. We
just haven't figured out where."

The offense has basically the same people as last season. The
defense had to change. It already has, for the better. --P.Z.

COLOR PHOTO: DAVID BERGMAN ALL BUSINESS Harrison was close to signing with Oakland before the Pats' philosophy--"no b.s."--won him over.
COLOR PHOTO: NFL PHOTOS MCGINEST COLOR PHOTO

UNDER THE GUN

--Last year ANTOWAIN SMITH played like an average NFL back, and
New England had no ground game to take the pressure off Tom
Brady. The Pats did not bring in a big-name back in the
off-season, hoping that Smith's fire, which burned hot two years
ago, would return. But coach Bill Belichick hasn't been effusive
in his praise of Smith.

ENEMY LINES
An opposing scout's view

"Their defense was abysmal last year. Now they've got old guys and
unproven players. Richard Seymour is pretty good, but who else is
there up front who really excites you? Ty Warren, the rookie?....
I like their linebackers, though. If they can get a decent year
out of Willie McGinest, they're set. He's a hybrid type of player
who has to be managed; he has to be used in just the right
situations.... They cut right corner Otis Smith, so their
second-round draft choice [Eugene Wilson] really needs to come on
in a hurry. Ty Law is still a player, and their safeties will
make it dangerous going over the middle, provided Rodney Harrison
can still run and keep from getting hurt.... That's a lot of ifs.
There are almost as many on offense. I've been a Tom Brady fan
ever since he brought them back from 10 points down against San
Diego in their Super Bowl year. Last year he broke down at times,
but he wasn't getting much help.... Their receivers are small.
Last year there was no threat of a running game. Having right
guard Joe Andruzzi playing on a bad knee really hurt them, and we
still don't know if he's going to be all the way back. If he is,
they've got a chance to run the ball."

SCHEDULE

Sept. 7 at Buffalo
14 at Philadelphia
21 N.Y. JETS
28 at Washington

Oct. 5 TENNESSEE
12 N.Y. GIANTS
19 at Miami
26 CLEVELAND

Nov. 3 at Denver (Mon.)
10 Open date
16 DALLAS
23 at Houston
30 at Indianapolis

Dec. 7 MIAMI
14 JACKSONVILLE
20 at N.Y. Jets (Sat.)
27 BUFFALO (Sat.)

SCHEDULE STRENGTH

NFL rank: 8
Opponents' 2002 winning percentage: .527
Games against playoff teams: 7

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP with 2002 statistics

2002 RECORD: 9-7

NFL RANK (rush/pass/total):
OFFENSE 28/12/21
DEFENSE 31/11/23

COACH: Bill Belichick; fourth season with New England (61-67 in
NFL)

ANTOWAIN SMITH

POS. PVR ATT. TDs AVG.
RB 62 252 982 3.9

REC. YARDS AVG. TDs
31 243 7.8 8

TOM BRADY

POS. PVR ATT. COMP. %
QB 12 601 373 62.1

YARDS TDs INT. RATING
3,764 28 14 85.7

FRED MCCRARY [1]

POS. PVR ATT. TDs AVG.
FB 368 2 1 0.5

REC. YARDS AVG. TDs
22 96 4.4 3

TROY BROWN

POS. PVR REC. YARDS TDs
WR 47 97 890 3

CHRISTIAN FAURIA

POS. PVR REC. YARDS TDs
TE 166 27 253 7

MATT LIGHT

POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT GMS. STARTS
LT 6'4" 305 lbs. 16 16

MIKE COMPTON

POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT GMS. STARTS
LG 6'6" 310 lbs. 16 16

DAMIEN WOODY

POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT GMS. STARTS
C 6'3" 320 lbs. 16 15

JOE ANDRUZZI

POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT GMS. STARTS
RG 6'3" 312 lbs. 13 13

KENYATTA JONES

POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT GMS. STARTS
RT 6'3" 310 lbs. 13 11

DAVID PATTEN

POS. PVR REC. YARDS TDs
WR 160 61 824 5

DEFENSE

RE BOBBY HAMILTON 55 tackles 2 sacks
NT TED WASHINGTON [1] 5 tackles 0 sacks
LE RICHARD SEYMOUR 56 tackles 5 1/2 sacks
OLB MIKE VRABEL 75 tackles 4 1/2 sacks
ILB ROMAN PHIFER 109 tackles 1/2 sack
ILB TED JOHNSON 96 tackles 1 1/2 sacks
OLB ROSEVELT COLVIN [1] 64 tackles 10 1/2 sacks
CB ASANTE SAMUEL (R)[1] 48 tackles 4 int.
SS LAWYER MILLOY 91 tackles 0 int.
FS RODNEY HARRISON [1] 88 tackles 2 int.
CB TY LAW 77 tackles 4 int.

SPECIAL TEAMS PVR

K ADAM VINATIERI 199 36/36 XPS 27/30 FGS 117 PTS.
PR TROY BROWN 47 24 RET. 7.3 AVG. 0 TDS
KR KEVIN FAULK 189 26 RET. 27.9 AVG. 2 TDS
P KEN WALTER 70 PUNTS 38.9 AVG.

[1] New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 89)

"Their receivers are small. Last year there was no threat of a
running game."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)