Happily, I got the "Norv Is a Hack" column out of the way before the NFL season started, so I can say "Norv Is a Hack" now without being accused of jumping on the bandwagon. Norv is a hack.
Perhaps something more. How did Norv Turner manage to take a 14-2 team, with 20 returning starters, and within the space of one off-season, turn that splendid crew into the thing we saw groping around Gillette Stadium on Sunday night?
Mayhap, Sunday's highlights will provide guidance. Gross stats: Patriots 38, Chargers 14. Pats gained 407 yards, Chargers 201. LaDainian Tomlinson racked 43 yards on 18 carries. On the bright side, 43 yards is in the neighborhood of twice as much as the 25 yards he gained in Week 1. Chargers 2007 scoreboard: Two games. Two weeks. Two first halves. 0 points.
You don't see how bad San Diego's play-calling was until you break the game down. Patriots received first. Brady throws seven passes in a row -- touchdown, 7 to 0. New England kicks off, touchback. San Diego takes over on their 20. Rivers throws an interception. New England goes for a field goal in the next series -- misses. Chargers receive, begin play on their 31. False start, 1st and 15 from the 26-yard line. Tomlinson runs off the right guard for two yards. Incomplete pass. Pass to Antonio Gates for 11 yards. Fourth and 2 on the 39-yard line. Norv calls for a punt.
New England goes on a 5:58 minute, ten-play drive. Touchdown, 14-0. Pats kick-off, San Diego returns to their 31-yard line. Offensive guru Norv Turner at the bat. Tomlinson off the left guard for 3 yards. Tomlinson off left guard for 8 yards. Tomlinson off the right guard for 2 yards. Delay-of-game penalty. Tomlinson up the middle for 4 yards. Tomlinson runs right and is pushed out of bounds, gains 1 yard. Pass to Jackson for 14 yards. Rivers fumbles.
Second quarter. New England makes a 5:35 minute, ten-play drive, settles for a field goal, 17-0.
Kick off. San Diego starts from their 30-yard line. Tomlinson runs left for 3 yards. Tomlinson catches a pass on the right side for 6 yards. Tomlinson goes over the left guard for no gain. It's fourth and 1, Norv calls for a punt.
Three series, eight plays to LT, one pass to Jackson, one pass to Gates. Toss in the odd fumble, sack, incomplete pass, interception, two penalties, two punts, and what do you have?
MARTYBALL! Let the good times roll!
Indeed, this is Martyball at its most pristine. Although, in fairness to Marty, I don't think, with LT on the payroll, behind 17-0, fourth and 1 on the 39, he would call for punt. For the second time in the game.
By the way, the next time San Diego has the ball, Rivers is intercepted by Adalius
Thomas, a 270-pound linebacker, who runs 65 yards for a touchdown. Those 270-pound linebackers are quicker than they look.
And so on...24-zip at the half. Should have been more. Bill Belichick is a cheat and a weasel and a better coach than we've seen in San Diego since Don Coryell.
Speaking of Belichick, it's inspiring to see how he withstood the shame and damnation heaped upon his person by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the rest of mankind. The commissioner not only fined Belichick $500,000 for illegally videotaping an opponent's defensive signals, he fined the owner $250,000 and a number-one draft choice on condition New England makes the playoffs (they will).
Goodell's swift and decisive punishment shook Patriots owner Robert Kraft to his chakra. Kraft, no doubt reflecting on his shame, told ESPN, "What made it particularly disheartening, in our group of companies we hold people to very high standards, and this isn't what we're about. I've discussed that with coach Belichick."
It must have been an ass-chewing the likes of which Big Bill had never experienced. Belichick did seem a bit shaken when receiving the game ball from Kraft on Sunday night. Or maybe he was thinking about his new five-year contract, which will keep him in Boston until at least 2012.
In other news, Brett Favre played like he was 25 on Sunday, thumping the New York Giants 35 to 13 by way of 286 yards passing and three touchdowns. Favre hasn't looked this good in a couple years. San Diego plays Green Bay on Sunday. The Packers are undefeated. If San Diego drops this one, we can start the countdown clock on Norv. If called upon, I am prepared to recommend Dennis Green.
Housekeeping notes: We have restored the Vegas Line in response to Name Withheld's request. I invite readers to jaunt over to "Bad Sports" blog, now setting up shop on SanDiegoReader.com, where you will find O. J. news and betting lines. For the duration.