Commentary

It’s OK for Patriots fans to start thinking big

The Patriots delivered a message to the league with their win in Buffalo.

Bill Belichick. AP

COMMENTARY

I’m not saying you should plan your parade day attire, or even what kind of dip you’re going to have for the Big Game. Nor would I advise against doing so. 

Let’s face it, when it comes to regional chutzpa, we might as well have written the rules. That’ll happen when you experience championship seasons with the same frequency that Shaw’s puts ground beef on sale. 

But even New Englanders, as a group, never one to back down from extolling their virtues upon other less fortunates of the country, rightfully had some reservations about the 2021 New England Patriots. Even as they checked off six straight wins, there was always a “yeah, but.” They didn’t see Nick Chubb, Derrick Henry, or Calvin Ridley over the streak. They beat the Jets, big deal. They almost lost in Houston. 

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Tennessee was going to be the first, real test that proved just how good these Patriots were. Except, the Titans came to town decimated by injury and were not quite the opponent feared only a few weeks earlier. Can we really count that? 

Then, it was supposed to be the showdown with the Bills that determined whether these Patriots were the best team in the AFC. Except…there was wind. Can we really count that? 

The 9-4 Patriots could sweep the remainder of their season, and still have detractors whining about their competition. But, at least for those of us reserving expectations out of getting hopes dashed, it’s high time to let our hair down.

The Patriots, one season removed from a trip to purgatory, are in the driver’s seat for the No. 1 seed in the AFC, and are a statistical favorite to represent the conference in the Super Bowl. Bill Belichick has nudged his team right back into a conversation of the elite teams in the NFL, a discussion that didn’t figure to welcome him again for at least another couple seasons. But what Belichick and company pulled off Monday night, throwing the ball only three times while running 46 times in the blustery tundra of Buffalo wasn’t only playing to the elements. It was about as grand a statement as the coach and franchise could have made to anybody watching: you’re next. 

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Oh, sure. For now, only the Colts, Bills (gulp), Jaguars, and Dolphins have to suffer the threat. But once January rolls around, the same message is going to be delivered to those still remaining. The Bills may be better. The Chiefs may be better. The Packers, Bucs, and Cardinals may all be better. 

But Belichick is still going to beat you. 

Bring us your Madden covers, your State Farm reps, and your power rankings. The Patriots will find a way. 

It’s OK if you’ve been hesitant to truly believe what the Patriots are capable of. After all, the last two seasons have given you a failed experiment at quarterback and the total collapse of a defending Super Bowl champ. Was this team going to fold just like the bogeymen did after starting the year 8-0? 

Instead, what we’re witnessing is more a continuation of the 2018 Super Bowl team, bringing the NFL back to its roots by winning with a strong defense and multi-layered running game. That’s the team we’re watching, not some out-of-the-blue shocker, this despite having a rookie at quarterback, the position everybody says you can’t win without. 

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Except, the Patriots did just that in Buffalo. 

This is a dream team for Belichick, a man who has used enough squad-building cliches throughout his career to embarrass a “Live, Laugh, Love” artist. And all this after legions of football fans stomped on his grave, giving all past credit to seven-time Lombardi champ Tom Brady. Boy, that pissed Bill off, huh? 

“Succession” had a longer hiatus than the Patriots did tormenting their opponents. But any hesitancy could have been due the presence of Mac Jones in lieu of Brady at the position. After all, when the Patriots were playing like this in the presence of Brady, we’d been programmed what to expect. With Jones, the book is still out. 

How about when the Patriots are playing like this under Bill Belichick? Turns out that should have always been the deciding bar. 

The Patriots aren’t that much better than any other team out there. But they are still going to beat you. 

That thesis couldn’t be any clearer than it was proven Monday night. 

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