Rules change, so Patriots follow suit
You could argue Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots learned nothing from their shocking collapse in Buffalo last week.
Leading by 18 points with a little more than three minutes to play deep inside Raiders territory Sunday, Brady dropped back to pass on first-and-10, eschewing a running game that had produced 6 yards per carry on the day and screwing a Patriots defense that would surrender 504 yards.
Belichick and Brady are going to throw the damn football this year. A week ago in Buffalo, their desire to constantly air it out led to four interceptions and opened the door for the Bills to rally from a 21-point deficit.
You could argue Belichick and Brady are drunk on arrogance. I wouldn’t mount much of an argument to your assessment.
But I would suggest that maybe they’re tightroping the fine line that separates confidence from arrogance.
Let’s accept the commonly held belief that Belichick knows defense as well as anybody in the league. If true, perhaps he has accepted the Patriots don’t have the necessary personnel to consistently stop their opponents. Or, perhaps Belichick recognizes that the modern, video-game, no-helmet-hunting NFL basically forbids defense, so the best new way to play great defense is with a pedal-to-the-metal offense.
Belichick and Brady are having mind sex with the entire league.
Brady is on pace to throw for 6,200 yards. Wes Welker is the new Jerry Rice. The Patriots have scored 30 or more points in 12 straight regular-season games. To beat New England, you must score on every possession. You must play perfectly on offense! You must make big plays on defense!
The Raiders snapped. Richard Seymour tossed Brady to the ground for no reason on New England’s opening possession, drawing an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty and rescuing the Pats from a long-yardage situation. Worse, Oakland quarterback Jason Campbell unleashed a brain fart at the New England goal line that an entire can of Lysol couldn’t clear, gift-wrapping an interception to Patrick Chung.
"It cost us. It cost our team," Campbell told reporters after the game. "It’s something I don’t usually do. Unfortunately, it happened. And from that point on, it kind of stirred the momentum. We just pretty much were going tit for tat at that point. You’re going against a team like New England, an offensive juggernaut, you can’t have mistakes like that."
Campbell might as well go have a post-sex cigarette. Belichick and Brady made love to his mind. With no Raiders receiver in sight, Campbell lobbed the ball to New England’s safety because he had to make a big play.
It’s the New England #*&$ing Patriots!
You can’t beat the New England #*&$ing Patriots without making big plays!
Nope. Belichick and Brady are not drunk on arrogance. They’re being strategic. It’s illegal to play defense in the NFL. The Patriots are going to score as many points as possible, and let the talking heads at ESPN and FOX Sports convince the rest of the world that Belichick and Brady have built the greatest offense in the history of mankind.
Is it true?
No. The Patriots don’t have a deep threat. Wes Welker is New England’s stretch-the-safeties home-run hitter. I repeat: Wes Welker is New England’s home-run hitter.
I love Welker. He’s on pace for 2,400 receiving yards. More important, he is single-handedly providing me all the evidence I’ll need to argue later that Chad Ochocinco has no business in the discussion for the Hall of Fame.
In the same year Brady is on pace for 6,200 yards, can a Hall of Fame receiver be on pace for 28 receptions and 450 yards?
Again, I love Wes Welker. But when the diminutive Welker is your deep threat, there’s an exploitable hole in your offense. Furthermore, when Welker does get open deep, Brady is missing him. Brady completed only 16 of 30 passes Sunday. There were not a whole bunch of dropped passes. Tom Terrific was inaccurate.
If you look past the hype, the Patriots are not only beatable — the Bills proved that — they’re also stoppable. With the Jets backed against a wall, I think they halt New England’s string of 30-point games next week in Foxborough. That’s a crazy prediction given how poorly Mark Sanchez and New York’s offense are playing. Sanchez might hand New England 21 points next weekend.
But I don’t see Rex Ryan and the Jets falling for New England’s mind games. In the most unpredictable season in league history, I see the Jets winning easily. And the result will in no way puncture the Patriots' confidence, alter their offensive approach or make them any less of a Super Bowl threat.