Contrary to the opponent’s opinion this week, we’re not usually ones to pause and smugly enjoy a verbal victory lap after an emboldening Patriots win. After all, such consistent gloating would get exhausting. We have to pick our spots.
So did I do that right, Indy? Was that passive-aggressive enough?
The mindset of the fan base — the reasonable, intelligent majority, I believe — is to savor a victory in the moment and the immediate aftermath, especially when those wins are as thrilling as last week’s over the Ravens or as impressive as last night’s over the not-ready-for-prime-time Colts.
Then we follow the new Belichick mantra: On to… well, it’s against Seattle now, in Glendale, for the franchise’s remarkable sixth Super Bowl appearance during his tenure. Watching that beautifully crazy crowd at Gillette last night, it’s hard to fathom that anyone but the stray, perspective-challenged fan among us takes any of this for granted.
We know what we have here: arguably the greatest/coach quarterback combo in league history and one of the greatest runs of prolonged high-level success in league history. What the Patriots of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have accomplished is scarcely precedented in the annals of the sport and unprecedented — hell, borderline unfathomable — in the salary-cap era.
Yet in the buildup to the matchup with the presumed upstart Colts, we had to deal with that recurring suggestion yelped from envious corners of the map that our appreciation for this franchise and expectation that it would succeed yet again against a team it defeated by 22 points earlier this season was really … entitlement.
The accusation was leveled loudest by Gregg Doyel, a generally entertaining bleep-stirrer of a columnist for the Indianapolis Star. But in his piece Sunday — titled Arrogant New England Is Dismissing Colts’ Chance — he combined his usual transparent trolling (hapless bridge guardian Gary Tanguay ought to hire him for lessons) with some saccharine luv-ya-Indy pandering. The result was this:
They think it will be a blowout. A rout. They think, here in cold and crowded New England, that the Patriots will beat the Indianapolis Colts so badly in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday that this matchup, this very game, is a joke.
They’re laughing at the Colts as a franchise, at Indianapolis as a city, at you as fans.
Don’t know about you, but I take offense to that, guys. I was in Indianapolis when it played gracious host to Super Bowl XLVI. It’s a very underrated city. I would never laugh at the city. Just its citizens who thought the Colts had a deflated football’s chance in hell of beating the Patriots.
The rest of Doyel’s spiel? Well, he was spot-on there. We did think it would be a blowout, a rout — or, you know, a typical Patriots-Colts matchup in the Andrew Luck era.
The Colts, coming off a heartening victory over
Norris Weese Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Denver, thought they had a chance to win the AFC. Their fans hoped the big leap to superstardom for Andrew Luck was happening now, in the postseason, in real time. They imagined a trip to Glendale was plausible.
They thought, hoped, imagined.
Such knowledge, such confidence in our expectations, has nothing to do with the “haughty, arrogant stereotype” Doyel cited. It has everything to do with watching the 2014 Patriots blast their way out of that first-month malaise that cratered with the loss in Kansas City and the silly-to-#*#*#*$-stupid suggestions that Tom Brady was part of the problem and not part of the solution.
It’s been evident for months now that these Patriots have a damn good chance of putting a fourth Lombardi Trophy in Robert Kraft’s trophy case. This might be the Patriots’ most well-rounded roster since 2004, when Brady was 27 years old, Corey Dillon plowed forward for more than 1,600 yards, and the accomplished core of the defense was still in its prime. And that’s a hell of a statement considering the Patriots had an 18-1 season in the interim, as well as several other years that could have resulted in a championship with a bounce here or there.
There are so many outstanding Patriots teams with which to compare this year’s edition. Though the final chapter remains unwritten — Seattle-New England should be an epic Super Bowl matchup — this team stacks up to most, if not all, of its Patriot predecessors.
Brady is still brilliant. Gronk and Julian Edelman are dynamos. Darrelle Revis brought the defense to a different level just by showing up. The emergence of Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower brought it higher.
They can pick you apart as always with the pass, run with power or finesse (LeGarrette Blount reminded me of vintage Dillon last night), and defensively they can shut you down and break your spirit. The Matt Slater-led special teams — Belichick’s beloved third phase — are damn good at doing their jobs too.
The Colts were supposed to be the improved team in this matchup. Instead, the Patriots proved the gap had actually widened, and they did it without any obvious adjustments to the game plan. Hell, are we sure Arthur Jones even made the flight?
I’m sure we’ll hear caterwauling about the supposed under-inflated footballs this week. We already have. But any complaining about that is just an attempt to run an end-around on reality. Tom Brady and the Patriots could have dropped 40 on the Colts with a drenched Nerf.
Actually, I wouldn’t bet against them doing just that the next time they meet.
Pardon the New England pretention, but at some point the Colts’ pretend contention is going to get boring. Belichick is going to do something to up the degree of difficulty. Taking the air out of the Colts has become much too easy.