New England avenged their opening day loss in Miami, handing out a second-half helping of humility (via a 24-point third quarter) on their way to defeating the Dolphins 41-13 and clinching the division. As the
2-2 11-3 locals struggle to find their identity move on to New York, where a win against the Jets would get them one step closer to the top seed in the AFC, let’s spend a moment and reflect.
Here’s the moment: Twelve years of 10 wins or more. At times during the last couple of decades of the previous century, many New England followers just hoped for the Pats to get over .500. Some years, the playoffs seemed like too much to ask for. This new-millennium, winning-season streak might stand out as the most impressive aspect of the Bill Belichick era. Because, really, that’s all fans wanted: Just a glimpse at nine wins, a step toward respectability for this franchise.
Think about this: area middle-schoolers have never experienced a losing season. When I was in middle school, the Pats went 2-14 (1981). Vastly different gig.
Some things that have stuck out during this remarkable 10-1 streak…
If You’re Lost You Can Look And You Will Find Me, Tom After Tom: Well, it’s just a darn shame that Tom Brady’s on his way down.
Oh, wait: he has 32 touchdown passes against eight interceptions? For 3,847 yards? At a 64.4 percent completion rate? Yeesh. Way to cooperate with the narrative, Tommy. Way to stay the same ol’, same ol’ MVP-caliber QB.
While naysayers will point to his ill-advised interceptions against Indianapolis and San Diego that made him seem about as calm as a capuchin monkey with hot sauce on his nethers, we have to look at his overall body of work: Since falling to 2-2 at Kansas City, this team has gone 9-1, and the quarterback play has been a big part of it. Also a big part of it…
For Those About To Gronk, We Salute You: In this Patriots Daily piece from September of 2011, we proclaimed Rob Gronkowski the “best all-around tight end in Foxboro since Ben Coates.” We stand by that statement. (Just so we don’t get too big for our britches, you can also read our optimistic words about a certain other tight end from the 2010 draft who shall remain nameless.)
After 14 games, the big fella has 76 catches for 1,093 yards (14.4 avg) and 11 touchdowns. Gronk’s only the third TE in history with three seasons of 10 or more TDs. And he’s 25 years old.
Fiesta changes the offense. He seems to supplement the intensity of his teammates and change the mentality of the home crowd. Did you ever watch the kids’ show “ZOOM”? They made up a language called ubbi dubbi that I never quite got the hang of, which reminds me of Gronk. With him on the field, the Patriots offense speaks an entirely different dialect which other teams have a difficult time translating. Anyway, thanks, “ZOOM.”
Ohhh, Two O-o-o-one, Three Fo-o-o-our!
Revis Is Fundamental: No matter what happens against New York this week, New England (the team, the region, the clam chowder: everybody) needs to thank the Jets for letting Darrelle Revis go after the 2012 season. Look at his stats, and nothing really stands out: 43 tackles, one forced fumble, two interceptions.
The biggest surprise of that line for me is that he has so many tackles. Revis is like a veterinarian for geldings: when he’s working, he’s not going to see a lot of balls. (Top that metaphor, Jerry Thornton!) He’s converse Gronk: where one attracts opponents’ attention, the other diverts it. The most important aspect of Revis’ presence gets summarized nicely by ESPNBoston.com’s Mike Reiss, who pointed out in his Quick-hit Thoughts column that the Patriots have been in sub (pass-defense) packages almost 74 percent of the time this year. Without Revis, I wonder if that happens, and if it does, how much less effectively this D would perform.
Gray Skies Are Gonna Clear Up: Ah, running back Jonas Gray. The graph of his season production would look like the scariest roller-coaster ever created, a veritable Kingda Ka on creatine. First, gimme six zeroes for the beginning of the season that he spent on the practice squad. Then plot out 12 yards (Jets), 86 (Bears), 33 (Broncos), 201 (Colts), zero (Lions), four (Packers), nine (Chargers), and 62 (Dolphins). The man is averaging 4.9 yards per carry and continues to provide insurance for the playoffs – and for 2015.
He’s made a solid addition since the middle of the season. But he’s probably fourth on the list.
‘Tis The Season: As Christopher Price of WEEI.com has said on many occasions, the roster with which you enter the season is not the one you have for long. Looking at linebackers Akeem Ayers and Jonathan Casillas, defensive lineman/forklift Alan Branch, and running back/mini-loader LaGarrette Blount, the middle of this season has been a boon for Bill Belichick and company. Considering also that pass-rusher Chandler Jones and run-stopper Sealver Siliga have also returned from injury, the Pats look like they’re in solid shape as the end of the regular season approaches.
Ghost Is The Machine, Or Every Little Thing He Does Is Magic: As much as it hurt to see kicker Adam Vinatieri go lo these eight years ago, we have to appreciate Stephen Gostkowski. He’s the clock on the kitchen wall that you look up at when you come home for Thanksgiving and *whoosh* you’re back in high school on the phone that has the 17-foot-long stretchy cord, listening to Thompson Twins on the radio, trying to get up the nerve to ask that person who sits in front of you in English class out for chicken fingers and/or zucchini sticks at the Atlantic Café.
What? Just me? Anyway, he’s stuck around, proving to be nothing but dependable. This year, he’s made 94 percent of his kicks (31 of 33), including a long of 53 yards, hitting 11 of 12 attempts over 40 yards. Against Miami, he surpassed Vinatieri as the leading scorer in Patriots history with 1,165 points. Tony Franklin, Scott Sisson, John Smith: I tell you, the state of this franchise now? It’s not even funny anymore. And it used to be hilarious with those guys, in a laugh-to-ease-the-pain kinda way.
I Want To Be A Part Of It: We don’t know what will happen down in New York. Coach (for now) Rex Ryan will do just about anything to beat New England in what will probably be his last game against them as the HC of the NYJ. They came within a blocked field goal of winning against the Pats earlier this year.
But there’s something about this Patriots team right now, the way they play, the way they complement (and compliment) each other, the way the new additions have meshed with the stalwarts. We haven’t even discussed Julian Edelman (92 rec for 972 yards), or Brandon LaFell (63 for 819). We’ve neglected to bring up cornerback/street fighter Brandon Browner (21 tackles, 15 penalties) or linebacker/decathlete Jamie Collins (100 tackles, three sacks, three forced fumbles, one interception, 41.2-inch vertical leap) And what about that offensive line and the emergence of rookie center Bryan Stork?
So many storylines. And not one of them involves going 9-7.
You can email Chris Warner at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet him: @cwarn89