You know what? It’s high time we started looking on the bright side of things, Boston fans. The Red Sox won 108 games and made it to the ALCS, where, as of this writing, they’re putting up a fight in Houston. The Celtics started off their season with a breezy win vs. Philly and look like perennial playoff contenders. And, based on everything I know about hockey, the Bruins remain a team.
Meanwhile, your New England Patriots have knocked Kansas City off the undefeated ranks in a football fracas so frenzied Foxboro fans had to take it in like tennis spectators. Tom Brady drove the home team down the field for a last-second Stephen Gostkowski field goal that made the difference in the 43-40 final.
Now, at times, did the Patriots defense look slower than a live-action version of the mad scientist chase scene from Bugs Bunny? Sure. Did Brady hold onto the ball for ten seconds like he forgot the rules of “hot potato” and get strip-sacked? Absolutely.
Listen, man. They could have lost this game. They could have succumbed to a terrible third quarter and chalked it up to whatever weird “Pats Can’t Beat The Chiefs” narrative the media yearned to pounce upon. But, nope. They timed out their final drive perfectly, converting clutch first downs to set up the game winner. The Patriots sit atop the AFC East division, tied with Miami at 4-2 and owning the tiebreaker due to their head-to-head win over the Dolphins.
A quick note: while researching some Patriots history, I cam across this game story. Here’s the lede:
FOXBORO, Mass. (AP) — The New England Patriots watched the Boston Red Sox show off their championship trophy, then played as if they’re headed for another one of their own.
That was from November 15, 2004. It could happen next fall, too. Call this the great era, dear readers. Let’s please enjoy it.
Fat Guy In A Little Coat: I’m guessing Kansas City coach Andy Reid has seen quite enough of Tommy Boy. The QB hit 11 of 15 targets for 113 yards and a touchdown in the first half. He finished going 24 of 35 (that’s Shaq Mason and/or Rob Gronkowski percent) for 340 yards, none sweeter or more important that his 39 yards of parabolic perfection to Gronkowski, who nestled the ball to his chest at Kansas City’s nine-yard-line to set up Gostkowski’s 28-yard game winner.
Perhaps the most succinct indicator of Brady’s abilities came after Tyreek Hill’s 75-yard wha-du-fuh touchdown that took all of 12 seconds. Any disappointment among fans got swallowed up by confidence that the home team had plenty of time to score. Brady’s fourth-quarter wins have become almost as predictable around here as autumn itself.
If you take a look at New England’s starting quarterbacks’ regular-season records, Drew Bledsoe, a very good QB, went 63-60 (51 percent). Steve Grogan, a solid starter, went 75-60 (56 percent – and let’s not get into a Bledsoe/Grogan debate, okay? I considered myself a citizen of Grogan Country, but Bledsoe’s line couldn’t block a middle school play, much less NFL pass-rushers). The great Babe Parilli went 44-32 (53 percent). Oh, Brady? A mere 196-55 for a winning percentage of 78. The Patriots, essentially, went from a history of sub-.600-level QBs to this guy. It’s a refreshing shift in franchise dynamics.
The only undefeated Patriots passer? Why, Jimmy Garoppolo at 2-0, of course. How did they ever let him go?
Ghost Protocol: Time to feel a little more secure with Gostkowski doing leg duty, it seems. Ghost hit all five field goal attempts, including the close-distance-yet-clutch Kansas City dagger. Just as importantly, he nailed a 50-yarder with 3:15 remaining that put New England up a touchdown – a score Hill managed in the ensuing 12 seconds. Without that kick, New England’s final field goal merely gets them to overtime. As Coach Bill Belichick pointed out, this was a biggie. (Nice summation of the coach’s words by Tanya Ray Fox on PatriotsWire.)
Pulling Muscles For Michel: Boy, running back Sony Michel can wear down a defense (you might say he’s hard to squeeze). He tallied 106 yards rushing on 24 carries (4.4 avg.) with two touchdowns. It’s not just that the 5-11, 215-pound Michel has a nasty combination of strength, quickness, and sheep’s-eye vision; it’s that his presence encourages the team as a whole to get into a more effective mindset of run-blocking. The Patriots seem like a tougher squad with him on the field. He’s an impressive rookie.
Of course, as defenses gear up for Michel, they then need to adjust to what James White can bring. White rushed six times for 39 yards (6.5 avg.) and caught five passes for 53 yards, cutting through Kansas City’s defense on screens. Michel pounding, White slicing: It’s a real hammer-and-sickle situation. The People’s Backfield!
Sure. Why not?
Gronk Three Times: We do want you, Mr. Gronk. Only three catches? Fine. For 97 yards, including the aforementioned 39-yard placesetter and a 42-yard catch-and-run on the previous field-goal drive that featured a straight arm on safety Ron Parker so vicious it should have come with a parental warning? Sign us up.
Gronk won’t catch a ton of passes, but when he does, it matters. Also, having him on the field opens up some other avenues for Brady…
Wide Variety: You’ve got your underneath receiver whose feet move like electrons in Julian Edelman (four catches, 54 yards), ditching his defender for wide open spaces in the end zone and a 17-yard score to make it 17-6. You’ve got Chris Hogan (four for 78) coming on strong in the fourth, pulling in a lofted Brady beauty for 42 yards despite defensive pass interference, then securing a 19-yarder to set up Michel’s second TD. You’ve got Josh Gordon plucking passes out of the air all over the place – he works his way through traffic better than a Ducati – with his most productive play coming on a pass interference penalty in the end zone that helped the offense gain 37 yards to the Chiefs’ one-yard line. Michel scored two plays later. On that same drive, you’ve got Cordarrelle Patterson taking a pass from Brady four yards deep in the backfield and managing to gain 13.
And you’ve got Phillip Dorsett – he of the 4.33-second 40-yard dash – who didn’t even catch a pass. So, some potential at the position, I’m saying.
Highway To Hill: What kind of horrible world it must feel like to try to cover Tyreek Hill, man. Yeesh. Seven receptions for 142 yards and three touchdowns. Literally untouchable at times. One of the best aspects of winning a game like this is it gives the Patriots a chance to look at their mistakes and try to correct them. Not sure what they, or any team, can do with against guy like that, but one-on-one with a safety whose speediest days are behind him may not do the trick.
High: To think I could have let you go. Dont’a Hightower showed off his peak awareness and ability on his first-quarter interception of Patrick Mahomes, hedging toward the line of scrimmage before dropping back, reading the quarterback’s eyes to locate his intended receiver, and snaring the ball out of the sky. His run back to the three-yard line set up an easy score and a 10-0 lead early. On the Chiefs’ final play of the first half, from New England’s 15-yard line, Hightower re-routed tight end Travis Kelce (for Pats fans, a more frightening catcher than that kid-grabber on Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang), then sprinted toward Mahomes, pulling the QB down as he threw, leading to Duron Harmon’s interception. A cagey play by the vet.
Yes, the Patriots’ pass rush needs work (Adrian Clayborn continues to run past quarterbacks like they’re co-workers he had past flings with whom he can’t handle talking to at the moment), but Hightower adds an element of pressure to opposing offenses that could free up edge rushers.
I’m Sure That If I Took Even One SNF That Would Bore Me Terrifically Too: I feel like I would believe the enthusiasm of Cris Collinsworth more if he didn’t get super excited over expected and/or mundane things sometimes. That being said, Sunday night’s tilt deserved every “Ah mean, mah garsh, Al. What a game!” that he could come up with during the broadcast. Collinsworth and Al Michaels are perfectly fine. No real complaints. Well, maybe one: What was the deal with the “Mahomes keeps his hands together before the snap” bit? It’s unusual, but it seemed like it was leading to an actual story, like, “We talked to Patrick about it and he said it’s a gesture to reassure his grandmother, who’s a religious woman.” Nope. Apparently, they talked to Mahomes about this thing that very few people notice, and get this: he didn’t even realize he did it!
Wow. Just like a cubicle mate’s heavy nose-breathing when he has a cold. Not sure we needed to delve into that one.
On a positive note, Collinsworth said this in regards to Mahomes’ early misses: “I have a feeling he’s going to settle back into them as we go along.” Hoo, boy, Cris. You didn’t even know the half of it.
Replay I Would’ve Liked To See: The Patterson catch-and-scoot at 4:59 of the second quarter deserves more detail, so here goes. From about four yards behind the line of scrimmage, Patterson hesitated like he was playing human Tetris, contemplating how to break down edge player Dee Ford. The receiver burst outside for a first down and several additional yards. It looked like an awesome play that NBC made ho-hum, despite Collinsworth saying, “There just has never been anybody much more exciting that Cordarrelle Patterson just getting the ball in his hands.”
Well, okay then, big talker: Show the replay.
Netflix Notes Of The Week: Have you watched “Ozark” yet? No? Then watch “Ozark.” It’s “Breaking Bad” but with a guy who’s been breaking the law from the beginning. Also, the movie Hold the Dark caught my attention: it’s Alaskan “True Detective,” with some Wind River in there.
And for the kiddoes, check out “My Little Pony.” I love that show. It’s not just for children; it’s for everypony. Friendship is magic, for Christ’s sake!
Maybe Cris Collinsworth Should Do A Chevy Ad: Hard to express how much I appreciate the new Progressive Insurance ad “Real Actors” that pokes fun at Chevy commercials. A guy standing in a room says, “We’re in a small room,” until the wall gets lifted and he acts shocked. Such a sold burn on those Chevy ads where people get acutely confused by the appearance of cars. “What? What is that?? A CHEVY?!?”
I guess my question about those car spots is, how were these people brought there? What was the winning premise to lure strangers into a warehouse? Doesn’t seem safe. Of course, I grew up watching that damn child-catcher, so I’m a bit sensitive about such issues.
Ah Mah Dongue: Hey, Lexus RX 350 commercial, “To Err Is Human?” Maybe don’t show a woman getting a paper cut on her tongue from an envelope? Please? Thanks.
Brady and the Pats take on Kahlil Mack and the Bears next Sunday. Let me go get my sausages and Let’s Go.
Chris Warner saw Johnny Marr in concert this week and it felt life-altering. He’s on Twitter (Chris, not Johnny): @cwarn89