I can pretty much guarantee that most Patriot fans sat around their television sets staring with a quizzical and dazed look on their faces after the sloppy turnover filled game against the Detroit Lions.
With the play of the Patriots lacking any urgency whatsoever, everyone sat on the edge of their seats hoping that the home team will pull a miracle out somehow.
During the week all we heard was how easy this victory will be. How can a two win team come into Gillette stadium and even have a chance? With the Patriots favored by 13.5 points there is no way that the Lions will even think about covering right?
Well, not to quote the title of that Al Pacino football movie but, Any Given Sunday. This is a National Football League that is made up of your obvious powerhouses with some good teams sprinkled in here and there. Their objective was to make sure that parity was evident all around where it gives any team a chance to win. During this weekend it was obviously more evident than ever with even the Indianapolis Colts losing to the Tennessee Titans. Kevin Faulk described the league pretty well after the slow start against the Lions, "Of course it's frustrating when your not playing well but we won the game and we just need to work on our mistakes. We just have to work harder next week and go play Miami cause that's the way this league is."
Now, the reason that I titled this blog with the question of are we in a time capsule? is because I wanted to take a moment and reflect. So put on your baggy khakis and hats on backwards and lets fade to black.
Do you remember back in the year 2001 when the New England Patriots made that historic run to the Super Bowl and beat the heavily favored St. Louis Rams? I am sure that you do but I remember something in particular that stands out for me; The New England Patriots were never a powerhouse of a team. Did you know who Adam Vinatieri was? Who was Tom Brady? They were never the dominant force that people were afraid to face back then. They weren't like the 'greatest show on turf' in the St. Louis Rams. They found ways to win in ugly games.
That season was filled with the phrase of "playing down to their competition" and barely 'eeking' out wins versus the lower echelon of competition while playing well enough to beat the good teams. They won a majority of their games that year with their defense. They were young and fast and knew where to be when needed. There was tons of 'Johnny on the spot' type of players who made the big play when they needed it most. They definitely had the 'bend but don't break' mentality and played it to perfection. I remember both of the New York Jets games being decided by less than 10 points and it went the same way all the way to the Super Bowl beating the Rams 20-17.
Well now that you have had a moment to reflect with me on the 'way back machine', lets turn the clocks back to ipods and podcasts in 2006.
This Patriots team is winning games this year but a lot of them have definitely been ugly. The last two weeks they have won with that cliché filled phrase of 'bend but don't break' mentality. Putting the games versus the Packers and Vikings aside, this team has played most of their opponents close and pulled out a couple of victories when they needed to.
This feels just like 2001. Who is Stephen Gostkowski? Who is Maroney? They are getting no respect at all from media, fans and other teams. I have heard all week long the little phrase of "If they keep playing like this they will never make it anywhere in the playoffs".
As a fan of these Patriots, I think I prefer it this way. Let this team play with a chip on their shoulders. We have all seen how that goes when this team is fired up and comes to play.
Richard Seymour said it best last week after the game, "We were just happy to get out of there with a win. I think that's the most important thing. At this point in the season, it didn't go great, but if you look at the last two weeks, even though we didn't play great, and played sloppy at times, the bigger issue is that we got a win. If we can win those tough games and we can win the games that we didn't play as well as we would like to, at the end of the day we can look back and say, we didn't do all the things that we wanted to but it still put us in a good position coming down the stretch." (sounds like 2001 to me)
The receiving corps is starting to gel with Tom Brady and the running game is still running downhill even after Maroney went down last week, Dillon, Pass and Faulk all pulled the weight.
Personally, I feel this team is setting themselves up for success. When people underestimate the Patriots ability to perform in the clutch and play with attitude because people don't 'respect' them, it usually ends up being bad for the competition.
The last four games of this season are going to be fun to watch and are going to be ever so important with those pesky New York Jets creeping right up in second in the AFC East while still trying to vie for positioning for a week one bye in the playoffs!
Shane is a lifelong Patriots fan who grew up in Worcester, MA. He showed his Patriots spirit representing his home team all over the world while in the military and attending games regularly through the years. He now resides in Bangor, ME where he roots for them from afar. He stands firm in his belief in the team and regularly makes the 500 mile round trip trek to watch them whenever he can.