The Patriots Are Back In Town
After a disappointing start to the season, the Pats have found their footing and are track to give people nightmares again.
Despite their impressive win streak, I remained reluctant to write anything about the New England Patriots for well over two months. When they beat the Los Angeles Chargers, I was optimistic and impressed. When they beat the Cleveland Browns in dominant fashion, my expectations grew but with caution. And when they handed the Tennessee Titans a similar beating, my expectations remained neutral knowing full well that what lay ahead was the Monday Night matchup against the Buffalo Bills. It’s a game I’ve been circling around the calendar since the Bills blew the Pats out of the water last year. Anyone who knows anything about football knew this was one of the games that would determine the division winner.
The season couldn’t have staged this game any better than what it did. The Bills were firing on all cylinders to start the season, blowing out teams with a captivating offense and exorcised some demons by beating the Chiefs handedly. Then everything came crashing down after a debacle in Monday Night against the Titans, and things only got worse from that point on, with shocking losses to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts. The offense was out of synch and the defense couldn’t stop the run. They rebounded against the Saints in Thanksgiving, but the question now shifted to whether they can compete against the best teams in the league or not.
The Pats’ season had gone in a different direction. After starting the year 2–4, the Patriots have gone on to win seven games in a row against good competition. The narrative began to shift ever so slightly with every passing week, culminating in what is their most crucial win to date in a 14–10 rush fest vs. their now-arch rivals Bills. They’re controlling and imposing their will against the competition, forcing them to play on their terms and building the game from there.
The game was far from a conventional one. The windy conditions made it a tense matchup of grit and strength, where long passing plays were out of the question (Bills tried, but it didn’t work) and the ground game was an offense’s best friend. Bill Belichick understood the assignment and Sean McDermott gambled (wisely) with QB Josh Allen. McDermott’s plan would’ve honestly worked if they had executed better, but this wasn’t meant to be. The Bills have been too inconsistent and sloppy this season, relying too much on explosive plays the same way the Chiefs have for over three years. Both are meeting with the same iffy results. Their inefficiencies, the weather conditions, and Belichick’s football philosophy combined to create the perfect storm of chaos for them.
Belichick is the ultimate tactician, a war general who happens to be coaching football. Make no mistake about, if he was born forty years before his time, he would’ve been a crucial factor in the war against Nazi Germany. This man is an inherent adapter who takes into account e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g that could factor in a game. The moment he saw the win and the conditions it would create throughout the game, his gameplan shifted to a “run like your life depended on it” scheme that saw QB Mac Jones attempt three passes the entire game. The gameplan was straight out of the 30s’ and 40s’, and even then there were elite passers like Sid Luckman and Sammy Baugh. You’d had to go to cradle of football to find anything close to resembling this, and I’m pretty sure a part of Belichick just wanted to do it to prove it can be done.
The Bills’ reaction to this loss is equally as telling, showing a team desperate and disappointed in the way their season has gone. Coach Sean McDermott said some hefty comments trying to downplay Belichick’s mystique and influence in this game, but the only thing it did was enhance it. Yes, the reporters were baiting him and the players for a soundbite and yes it should be frowned upon if you had any semblance of respect, but they got what they wanted, which will only make their rematch in a couple of weeks all the more interesting (as if the games don’t speak for themselves).
Now with all the hype out of the way, I find it necessary to ask what are the Pats true chances in competing this year come playoff time. If Mac Jones wasn’t a rookie I wouldn’t even bother, but the fact of the matter is that no team in the modern NFL has ever won or even reached the Super Bowl with a rookie QB. While I understand the mantra of history being written one step at a time, it doesn’t remove the great probability that there will be a moment where the Pats are trailing late in the game and Mac will need to lead a scoring drive to advance, and I can’t deny that I’m on a “see it to believe it” mode as I type. I would love nothing more than for the Pats to steam their way to a Super Bowl victory, but this has only been done only few times in NFL history. The playoffs are an emotional bloodbath with swings and turns that lead to bliss or heartbreak, and there’s a very thin line between both.
However, what can be said with almost absolute certainty is the Pats chances of dominating the NFL once more with Mac Jones and Belichick at the helm for many years to come have gotten much higher than they were two months ago. If this win streak and current bout of success the Patriots are experiencing tells us anything is that fundamentals and a tight game plan will always trump whatever gimmick or finesse the other team may have. My trek this season continues with caution, but the optimism has grown into a semblance of confidence on what the next seasons have in store for the Pats.
Thank you for reading my work.