By Kevin J. Stone/@kstone06
Ok, so I’m one day off, but I thought it would be cool to look back and see how Pete Carroll’s Patriots were doing this time back in 1997.
This was of course Pete’s first year coaching the Patriots, and that team actually ended up winning the AFC East at 10-6. They went on to beat the Dolphins and then lost to the Kordell Stewart-led Steelers 7-6 in an uglyDivisional Round game.
Today is September 20th, but back in 1997, Pete Carroll led the Pats to a 4-0 start on September 21st with a 31-3 demolishing of the Chicago Bears at Foxborough Stadium.
That day, it was Drew Bledsoe leading the way with 301 yards passing and two touchdowns on 24 completions. Bledsoe was starting to establish himself at the time as one of the premier quarterbacks in the league, and he arguably had the strongest arm at the time.
Scott Zolak actually got into this game and was perfect, going 3-for-3 for 33 yards and a touchdown, I wonder if The Outfield’s “Your Love” was a thing yet?
Curtis Martin carried the ball 14 times for 79 yards and a touchdown in the win while Mario Grier added four carries and 10 yards. Troy Brown had a hell of a day, racking up 124 yards while catching six balls, one for a TD.
Bledsoe was able to spread the ball out in this one, finding Keith Byars, Ben Coates, Shawn Jefferson, Vincent Brisby, Lovett Purnell, and Sam Gash throughout the afternoon. Brisby and Purnell hauled in TD catch as well.
THOSE POOR BEARS
The Bears were petty terrible at this point in 1997, and this loss dropped them to 0-4. Chicago would finish 4-12 on the year.
Rick Mirer was the starter and threw for 154 yards, was picked twice and sacked five times. Bobby Engram was the leading receiver with six catches for just 47 yards.
Ty Law and Marty Moore each had picks for the Pats D against Mirer while Henry Thomas and Larry Wigham each had two sacks. Tedy Bruschi added another as well in the dominant performance.
As they usually do, the final stats told the whole story of this one. The Pats had 23 first downs while the Bears had nine. Total net yards were 402-199 in favor of New England, and the Patriots punted five times while the Bears punted it away 10 times.
The most surprising number might be the number of plays run. You’d think in a 31-3 blowout there would be a huge discrepancy, but, the Pats ran 63 plays while Chicago ran 54. Time of possession favored the Bears by a minute, but clearly it didn’t matter.
THE HONEYMOON PHASE WAS ABOUT TO END
4-0 at the time was all well and good, but, the team finished 10-6 which means the rest of the year Carroll led them to a 6-6 record. Not ideal.
Little did we know that this would actually be the best of the three years under Carroll as Bobby Grier had some of the worst drafts you’ll see. Still, on this day (well, tomorrow), 23 years ago, the Pete Carroll days were still nothing but sunshine and rainbows.