Sunday was all about "Breaking Bad" and bad breaks.
Or more specifically, a bad torn Achilles' tendon
The AMC show completed its run with a terrific final episode.
[No spoilers here.]
The Patriots rolled out to a 17-point lead before keeping us all entertained with a 30-23 victory over the Falcons at the Georgia Dome.
They are 4-0.
And the season appears to be over.
Or at least that's what you'll likely be hearing over the next few days.
Sunday's win was New England's most impressive regular-season road victory since a 39-26 win at Pittsburgh in Week 9 of the 2010 season. They finally pushed the offense beyond the "If we we only had Wes/Aaron/Brandon/Deion stage."
New England ran the ball effectively in the first half, giving Tom Brady endless prescious seconds to throw the ball and set up his play-action game. The battered Patriots' offensive line stood its ground, protecting their 36-year-old Golden Child from being sacked. Gisele's hubby was barely hit. There were no fumbles or interceptions.
Everyone got into the action on offense. Matthew Mulligan came from somewhere up in Maine, or the day labor pool at Home Depot, to catch a TD pass. LeGarrette Blount ran 47 yards for another score. Seven different players caught passes for New England. Well, make that eight if you count everyone's new favorite "dog" Aqib Talib.
While the "Breaking Bad" finale aired on AMC, Talib was one "Breaking Badass" on NBC.
It took a busted replay machine, a blown replay call, a non-holding call in the end zone, Butterfingers Sudfeld being unable to clutch a bouncing on-sides kick, Brady "pulling out early" on an errant fourth-down snap, injuries to Vince Wilfork and Aaron Dobson and Matt Ryan engineering a thrilling fourth quarter comeback to almost beat the Patriots.
Nothing is fated to be easy for this team. Sunday night was just another example. Another win. Another heart-attack. No one ever said 4-0 was going to be without effort or angst.
The Wilfork injury was the ultimate bad break for the Patriots' defense. This team has become adept at filling holes and summoning the "next man up." Wilfork's hole is larger than most, but he was also being criticized earlier this season for not being the Vince of old. He had zero tackles and just three assists against the Bucs. Wilfork's presence often draws double and triple-teams, allowing the Rob Ninkoviches of the world to emerge as big-time players.
Big guy, bigger loss.
The Patriots managed to persevere and reach, if not win, the Super Bowl following the departure of those other defensive stars.
[Here's our attempt to try, albeit feebly, to help mitigate the loss of Wilfork. In the Super Bowl XLVI loss to the Giants, he had just three of the team's 49 tackles. Now don't you feel better.]
One top of all this, we're hearing the Rob Gronkowski's father and agent are pushing to keep the tight end out of the lineup until he's 100 percent healthy.
Sounds like Clay Buchholz has found a soul-mate in the NFL.
Bill Belichick was probably the only person on the planet who had Mulligan active in their fantasy or reality league this week.
This game cannot be completely discounted or negated because of the loss of Wilfork, who was lost early in the game. The Patriots still managed to keep Ryan off balance until his Manning-to-Manningham-esque completion to Julio Jones late in the fourth quarter. The Falcons went 1-for-6 in the red zone, thanks in large part to the Patriots defense. They even got Atlanta to flinch early in the game, passing up on a sure field goal by going for it and failing on a 4th-and-2 from the New England 7.
The only player completely indispensable on this roster is Brady. The Patriots are still a deep playoff contender without No. 75 plugging up the middle. They'd be 8-8 without No. 12, and that's only because they're off to a 4-0 start.
Brady lost about three-fourths of his offense before the season and has managed to scrape together a 4-0 start. Does anyone think Peyton Manning or Alex Smith would be 4-0 in Denver if he had the likes of Mulligan, Dobson, Zach Sudfeld, Julian Edelman, Kenbrell Thompkins and Josh Boyce as the primary targets on his radar screen?
Give Manning that lineup card and he'd hope into his Buick and drive off into early retirement.
The Patriots had to make two plays to win Sunday's game.
On offense, the signature play of the night, if not the season, was Brady's completion to Thompkins on 3rd-and-19 to start the fourth quarter. The Patriots were pinned deep on their own 12. Brady spread the field and found Thompkins with a missile over the middle for 26 yards.
A 15-yard penalty at end of the play left the ball at Atlanta's 47 yard line. Blount ran off the left guard and carried the ball into the end zone on the next play putting New England ahead 27-13.
Defensively, Aqib Talib saved the best for last, breaking up Ryan's last pass attempt to Roddy White in the end zone with the Falcons facing 4th-and-7 on New England's 10.
The Patriots have reached 4-0 this season using their running game, a stout defense, making defensive plays when they had to be made, limiting turnovers, giving Brady time to throw the ball and not trying to put up 55 points a game through the air. In short, they're winning in ways we're not accustomed to seeing in the past nine years.
Of course, it's been that long since they won a Super Bowl.
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