So how ’bout them Patriots! OK, so admittedly I was hoping to save that opening for when they’d win another Super Bowl or something. I wholeheartedly buy the Bill Belichick approach that this whole winning-streak record does not mean a thing without Vince Lombardi’s namesake legacy attached to the end of it.
So if you can imagine, for the past couple of weeks I’ve restrained myself from making too many Patriots references or writing a column about this streak that will be remembered as little more than an asterisk if the Pats can’t pull off a third Super Bowl win in four years.
Well then, the question turns to what made me write a column about my beloved Patriots? What possessed me to write a column about the Patriots when they still have a tough matchup looming against the 5-0 Jets, not to mention the better half of a season left to play? The answer, my friends, can be found on Yawkey Way.
Those Red Sox have probably taken a good 10 years from my life this past week and Sunday morning, so I needed relief. Fortunately, Terry Francona was not put in charge of relieving me of my pain, so rather than Curtis Leskanic being the answer, Belichick and his Patriots came to the rescue.
While the Pats have enjoyed a more respected place in the NFL this year than they have in past seasons, the doubters undoubtedly still exist. Even though the Pats are far from being underdogs, they do not carry that air of invincibility that silences doubters, like the New York Yankees do. This is for two reasons: the first being that the Pats are geographical cousins of that famous franchise that has not delivered since 1918 (reverse the jinx, reverse the jinx!!).
The second reason comes down to their use of teamwork. The Dallas Cowboys of the early ’90s received so much praise not only because they had the hardware to back up their talent, but the big-time names as well. Names of Wheaties cereal coverboys Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin lent credibility to the team’s success — as if three Super Bowl trophies in four years were not enough.
What fuels doubters of this particular brand of Patriots with their “Flying Elvis” helmets is the team’s lack of superstars. Only recently have commentators woken up and smelled the success that Tom Brady brings to his team. Most have still not grasped that intangibles, like being the master of the two-minute drill, mean much more than how many yards you throw during the regular season.
Others are still trying to figure out why having three or four reliable, open receivers is better than having one big-time receiver. It is about the depth of this team and the tendency for players like Bethel Johnson to step up, when others, like Corey Dillon, are hurting.
This is why doubters like NFL.com’s “Tuesday Morning Quarterback,” Gregg Easterbrook, have not taken the time to notice that it is more than simple luck when a team continues to win, despite carrying an injured squad.
If it came down to luck (lucky catches, lucky ref calls, lucky kicks), then luck would have had a tall order to give the Pats a win against the talented Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
As my wise Uncle Jimmy (one of the few people I know who has been with the Patriots since 1960; he even stuck by the “Patsies” during the Pete Carroll years) said about Sunday’s bout, “This could be the Super Bowl matchup right here.” And I do not doubt that he could be right on this observation.
The Seahawks are no slouches, and as their comeback in the fourth quarter proved, the team has some of the same fight in it that is found in Foxboro’s men. In addition, Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck’s 349-yard passing game certainly did not do much to quiet the Brady-is-overrated contingent, as Brady only threw for 231 yards.
Again, though, it all comes back to the efficiency of the Patriots. Hasselbeck’s arm may have thrown for over 100 yards more than Brady’s, but where in the definition of “luck” do you find anything about making the most of opportunities?
Brady completed his 231 yards on 19 completions (out of 30 attempts) whereas it took Hasselbeck 27 completions (out of 50 attempts) to reach 349 yards. When you are dealing with precision like this, there is nothing lucky about it.
Moreover, much of the work done by the Pats was spread out among receivers like David Patten, Daniel Graham and Kevin Faulk, as well as injured running back Corey Dillon (who still managed to rush for a solid 105 yards).
The bottom line from the box score is the Patriots are a team of talented, mostly homegrown individuals and not some team shrouded in voodoo, luck and mystique. Any way you spin it, it comes down to the fact that a championship team is one that is made up of champions — with or without the Wheaties box.