January 30, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 67  

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SPORTS

Polishuk picks Patriots to pound Panthers

By Mark Polishuk

Gazette Staff

It’s time to break down the biggest day of the year for sports fans, as the Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots are ready to roll in Super Bowl XXXVIII.

OFFENSE
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady already has one Super Bowl title to his name and is looking to make it 6-0 for the playoffs in his young career. NE’s offense is all about ball control, with an emphasis on running and short, accurate passes.

The Pats can move down field with little trouble, but only managed one touchdown in six trips to the Colts’ red zone two weeks ago, thus keeping the game much closer than it should have been.

While the Pats rely on Brady, Carolina’s offensive star is running back Stephen Davis, who will be healthy after injuring his quad three weeks ago. Davis and the sloppy but talented DeShaun Foster form a powerful backfield and their job is to follow the Carolina strategy of pounding the ball all game and then bust out a big pass play out of nowhere. The problem is that the NE defense is too smart and adaptable to fall for that trick, so unless Carolina QB Jake Delhomme has a few tricks up his sleeve, the Cats will be stopped in their tracks.

DEFENSE
Hope you like smash-mouth football, since both teams rely on their tough defenses to make up for their offensive shortcomings. NE had the best total defense in football last season, with no weaknesses aside from a possible leg injury to stalwart linebacker Tedy Bruschi.

Carolina also had a top 10 defense and has only allowed 36 points in three playoff games. The key to victory in this Super Bowl will be which D bends more, since it will be a mistake on defense (rather than anything spectacular from either team’s pedestrian offense) that may very well decide this game.

SPECIAL TEAMS
Both teams have excellent special teams units, as well as excellent kickers. NE hasn’t allowed a field goal so far in the post season, and thus, might be able to nullify Carolina kicker John Kasay. NE kicker Adam Vinatieri, who kicked the Super Bowl-winning field goal two years ago, is one of the NFL’s best, but if he has to kick five times from under 35 yards (like he did two weeks ago against the Colts), it means the Pats are blowing chances to put the opposing team away.

COACHING
Bill Belichick is a step away from having a statue erected in his honour in Foxboro. There is hardly a better coach in the league, able to prepare his players extensively for any possible scenario. Carolina coach John Fox is basically Belichick Jr. in this respect, but we’ll give NE the edge simply because Belichick is accustomed to Super Bowl pressure.

OVERALL
Carolina will keep it close as usual, but the Pats will take their second Super Bowl in three years by a score of 16-10.

 

 

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