Good to see you again: We'd all love to see Mr. Brady announce his presence with authority with an 60-something yard bomb to Randy Moss on the game's first drive tonight. Hell, make it the first play, a flashback to Bledsoe-to-Glenn in the 1996 playoff game versus the Steelers. (Seems more like 30 years ago than 13, doesn't it?) But what I'm really looking forward to seeing from Brady is seeing all the small things that added up to make him one of the game's all-time elite quarterbacks. The uncanny, Marino-like instinct in the pocket, slipping one step to the side and one step up just as a rumbling, snorting pass rusher approaches to find nothing but frustration; the quick reads and confident decisions, as if he has a telepathic connection with his receivers; the uncanny poise and accuracy under pressure; and perhaps most notably given how his previous season ended, the willingness to step into his pass, letting it fly without a moment's hesitation. There are many obvious things that make Tom Brady an NFL and New England legend. Tonight, we'll be watching for all of the subtle ones as well.
A new age: Of course we'll cherish the memories and respect the legacies of Seymour, Mike Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi and Rodney Harrison, four core defenders on the dynasty Patriots and owners of 11 Super Bowl rings between them. (Sorry, Ellis: No rings, no love.) They were wonderful players here, passionate, smart, winning players, and you wish their collective prime could last forever. But the closest thing we know to the fountain of youth is on the league's banned substances list, and even the most ardent admirers of Bruschi and Harrison in particular must have recognized at some point that even though their minds told them where to be, their legs were increasingly less cooperative. There's a reason the Patriots defense looked slow last season -- it was. Perhaps Vrabel and especially Seymour still have more to contribute on Sundays, but I suspect that at least in Vrabel's case, the adage "it's better to get rid of a player a year early than a year late" applies. The Patriots' defense will have a new look, and many of our favorites through this historic run are no longer a part of it. It's OK for us to be sentimental, but just remember that it's to the Patriots' long-term benefit that their coach isn't.
Where have you gone, Joe DeLamielleure? Before I go, a quick word about tonight's opponent: The Bills are probably the worst team in the AFC East, unless Miami's feeble performance yesterday foreshadowed a huge comedown for the Fighting Sparanos. And I think the Pats will win with relative ease and very little drama tonight. But some of the talk about Buffalo's supposed incompetence is starting to be a little much. Yes, they fired their offensive coordinator a few weeks ago, a sign of disarray even if not of us had heard Turk Schonert's name since he was backing up Boomer Esiason 20 years ago. Yes, they have five new starters on the line, which doesn't bode well for Trent Edwards's health. But if Edwards has a little bit of time before the swarm arrives, he could put up some decent numbers, especially with a pair of legitimate top-flight receivers in Lee Evans and Terrell Owens going up against the Patriots' new collection of cornerbacks. Edwards is not a bad quarterback at all -- I'd put him in the middle of the pack in the league this season. Fred Jackson isn't flashy but runs hard, the Aaron Schobel-leddefensive line is deep . . . this is not a terrible team. To suggest, as one New England writer did this morning, that the Bills are worse than last year's historically inept Lions is either to be incurably hyperbolic or painfully ignorant.
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As for today's Completely Random Football Card:
I'll be commuting home during the first hour or so of the game, so the first moments of the season for me will be delivered courtesy of Gil and Gino. While I suspect No. 86, Chris Baker, might be identified at Stanley Morgan a time or two, I can't think of better company.
About Touching All The Bases
Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.