Can a rebirth take place without a death? The New England Patriots never hit rock bottom; unless you call their 1st round exit in the Playoffs last year hitting rock bottom. They didn’t have to fire their head coach, or draft and develop a new franchise Quarterback. It has seemed like a decade since Brady and Co. have hoisted the Lombardi Trophy. The Patriots last Super Bowl victory came against the Eagles in the 2004 season, but for the last 5+ season the Pats have managed to stay amongst the NFL’s elite minus the rings.
Gone are the folk heroes of Ty Law, Willie McGinist, Tedy Bruschi, Troy Brown and Rodney Harrison ( I could list them all, but I digress). In step the young and eager new comers of, Jerod Mayo, Devin McCourty, Pat Chung and Rob Gronkowski. All itching to know what it feels like to be the last team standing. With all this young talent, and oh yeah… A couple of guys who know what it takes to win in February i.e. Brady, Wilfork and Branch; this team looks primed to be playing in Dallas by seasons end.
Can we just stop for a minute and look at some of the out of this world statistics that the Patriots put up this year? If you’re not a fan of stats, just scroll down for a bit, this may take a while.
Bill Belichick became the 1st NFL coach to win 14 or more games in 4 seasons.
Tom Brady dropped back to throw the ball 492 times, he was only intercepted 4 times while leading the league with 36 touchdown passes. Just to compare that to Tom’s Colt’s counterpart Peyton Manning- he threw 33 TD’s accompanied by 17 INTs, while dropping back to throw 679 times!
BenJarvus Green Ellis became the 1st Patriot since Corey Dillion (2004) to rush for over 1,000 yards with 1,008 yards. Ellis also scored 13 rushing touchdowns, 3 behind league leader Arian Foster.
The rookie Tight ends were flat-out of the charts! Let me explain. The rookies Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez who were drafted in the 2nd and 4th rounds respectively combined for 87 receptions, 16 touchdowns, and 1,109 receiving yards. BTW… Gronk tied for the league lead with 10 TD grabs by a tight end with Antonio Gates and Marcedes Lewis.
Jerod Mayo led the NFL with 175 total tackles, the next closest was Titans Linebacker, Stephen Tulloch, with 159 take downs.
First round pick CB- Devin McCourty made the Pro Bowl with stats that put him in the same sentence as Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu and Asante Samuel. McCourty proved all the nay-sayers wrong with 7 interceptions, 24 passes defended, 82 total tackles, 2 forced fumbles and 1 sack. Defensive rookie of the year? Should be, but will most likely finish second to Lion’s Defensive tackle, Ndamukong Suh.
Sixteen. That’s right, Sixteen different Patriots players have scored a touchdown this season in one form or another. Shall I list them all? Screw it I’ll list them all. Brady, Hoyer, Green-Ellis, Woodhead, Welker, Moss*, Branch, Gronkowski, Hernandez, Tate, Crumpler, Edelman, Chung, Sanders, Arrington and Guyton.
8. Since their week 9 loss to the Cleveland Browns. The Patriots have scored 30 plus points in 8 straight weeks. During that span the Pats have outscored their opponents 299-125.
+28. Probably the greatest stat of all. The Patriots were plus 28 in the turnover department this season. The next closest team was the Pittsburgh Steelers with plus 17. When you take the ball away more than you give it away, you’re gonna win a lot of games.
See, I told you those stats would knock you on your ass. Don’t you feel good? Aren’t you just a little more confident going into the playoffs knowing this? Well you should. The Patriots are running like a well oiled machine right now; and the “parity bug” has bitten the rest of the NFL.
Who can beat the Patriots? Manning’s receivers are dropping like flies. The Jets have taken a step back since last year. Kansas City is inconsistent. Pittsburgh and Baltimore would put up good fights, but the Pats have Big Ben’s number, and Tom Brady flat-out hates Terrell Suggs and the rest of the Raven’s Defense.
As for the NFC teams… I’m not gonna get into that right now. But if the Patriots were to make the Super Bowl, which I think they will. I’d love to see a rematch of the 2004 Super Bowl with the Philadelphia Eagles. Just to see how Belichick would draw up a game plan to attack Michael Vick would be worth the price of admission.
Whether this season ends in a Super Bowl victory or not, this Patriots team might be the best regular season team of the decade. Yes. Even better than the 2007, 16-0, record-breaking Patriots. With a new and youthful cast of characters the Patriots look like they will be at the top of the NFL for at least another 5 seasons. And with 3 of first 33 picks in the upcoming NFL draft the end seems to be nowhere in sight.