For fans in New England, it's 'Tuna! Tuna! Tuna!' Week 3 Preview

September 12, 1997|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

Forget the steaks or even the hot dogs and hamburgers.

The entree of choice for the tailgaters at Foxboro Stadium on Sunday will be Tuna.

Grilled Tuna. Smoked Tuna. Even Canned Tuna.

The Tuna, a k a Bill Parcells, is returning to New England on Sunday night for the latest chapter in one of the NFL's longest-running soap operas.

It's his first game back since the Jets gave up four draft picks to permit him to get out of his New England contract and return to New York. It's not a coincidence this game will be on national television on TNT.

They haven't forgotten in New England. They're selling "Can The Tuna" sweat shirts for $14.95 in the Patriots' gift shop. The shirt includes the line: Fresh New York Tuna Expires 9-14-97. They're selling so fast that fans are buying them before the store %J employees can put them on the rack.

In New England, they've forgotten that Parcells helped build the Patriots into Super Bowl contenders in the first place. They only remember that he didn't want to draft Terry Glenn and that he left Boston for a New York team.

You can't commit a worse sin in Boston, where they're still smarting from the Curse of the Bambino, the Summer of '49, Bucky Dent's home run and the ball that rolled through Bill Buckner's legs.

In New York and New England, the hype for this game resembles the Super Bowl. In Providence, R.I., there was a Page 1 headline reading: "He's Back."

Seeing all the media members invade the Jets' training complex, young running back Adrian Murrell even asked, "Is this what the Super Bowl is like?"

Actually, after the kickoff Sunday night, the game may resemble a Super Bowl in one way: It should be one-sided.

The Patriots, under new coach Pete Carroll, have rolled to a pair of easy victories by a combined margin of 72-13. Drew Bledsoe, who never hid his dislike for Parcells' sarcastic, intense brand of coaching, has thrown eight touchdown passes.

The Jets were impressive defeating Seattle in their opener, but then lost last week to Buffalo.

The pressure, though, is all on the Patriots. If the Jets simply keep it close -- much less pull an upset -- it will be viewed as a good day for Parcells.

In New England, they not only want to beat Parcells, they want to win in a rout.

A look at the other 12 games as the NFL starts the bye weeks with four AFC Central teams (Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, Cincinnati and Tennessee) off:

Best of the rest

Eagles at Cowboys: Philadelphia coach Ray Rhodes proved last week that his tirades still work, as the Eagles rebounded to upset the Packers after a Week 1 loss to the Giants. Rhodes is taking more of a low-key approach this week. He doesn't have to motivate his team for a Monday night game against the Cowboys.

The Cowboys, meanwhile, remain an enigma. After a superb performance opening week in Pittsburgh, they blew a big lead Sunday night in Arizona. The Cowboys, who are 2-0 in Monday night games against the Eagles, will be looking to rebound in their first home game of the season.

Dolphins at Packers: Should somebody remind the Packers that the season has started? They've played two lackluster games and blew it in Philadelphia on Sunday. If the Packers are serious about repeating, it's time to put together a big game.

Miami, meanwhile, has a shaky 2-0 record and escaped with a victory over Tennessee because of Al Del Greco's missed field-goal attempt. Dan Marino, prodded by coach Jimmy Johnson, had a big game last week, but the Dolphins scored only 16 points and are ranked 22nd in offense. If Johnson is about to work his magic again, the Dolphins need to spring an upset.

Bucs at Vikings: What were the odds two weeks ago that this game would match a pair of unbeatens? It's not surprising that Minnesota is off to a good start. The Vikings are 16-6 in the first four games of the season since Dennis Green arrived in 1992 and started 4-0 last year. They're also 5-0 in home openers under Green.

Tampa Bay, under second-year coach Tony Dungy, seems ready to end its 15-year slumber. Dungy, who worked for Green as an assistant coach, has a strong defense led by Warren Sapp, who has 3 1/2 sacks. Vikings Pro Bowl guard Randall McDaniel will have to neutralize Sapp.

Cardinals at Redskins: The traffic jam may be the main topic of conversation when the Redskins open Jack Kent Cooke Stadium. The Cardinals, coming off an emotional victory over Dallas, are supposed to simply provide the opposition, but they're 7-1 against the Redskins since Joe Gibbs left and 5-1 since Norv Turner took over. Terry Allen, who rushed for 255 yards in his last two games against the Cardinals, will play despite a broken thumb, so he could be prone to fumbling.

Bills at Chiefs: The Chiefs, who have won eight straight home openers under coach Marty Schottenheimer, barely escaped an 0-2 start with that miracle finish at Oakland on Monday night. Buffalo coach Marv Levy is 5-2 against the Chiefs and closed out the regular season last year with a 20-9 victory over Kansas City.

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