BOSTON (CBS) — The term “spoiled” gets thrown around a lot in New England, and it often works to offend a lot of fans who prefer to not be compared to Veruca Salt. Yet at this point, if you don’t think folks who have had the privilege of watching the Patriots play football every Sunday for the past decade-plus are spoiled, you clearly aren’t paying attention.
The Patriots on Sunday clinched an AFC East title for the fifth consecutive season and for the 11th time in 13 years. For comparison’s sake, in the 13 years prior to that remarkable stretch, the Patriots won their division just twice. They won the division just once in the 1960s, once in the 1970s, once in the 1980s and twice in the 1990s; they won it seven times in the 2000s and they’re four-for-four in the 2010s.
If you’re a fan of the Patriots and you greeted Sunday’s clinching of the division without so much as a “Huzzah!” then I hate to break it to you, but you are spoiled. That’s not your fault; rather, it’s the work of Mssrs. Brady and Belichick turning a once-rare event into an annual rite of winter. That’s not to say anyone should have held an AFC East championship party, but it is just a reminder that amid all of the questions that will always surround the team, the frustrations with coaching decisions and the inherent negativity that always comes with following a team every day for 12 months of the year, this remains a special time for football in New England.
Most recently, that was accentuated with a 41-7 win over the defending Super Bowl champions in their building. Why don’t we jump right into the leftover thoughts?
–If you enjoyed watching the Patriots during their Super Bowl era, then this must be your favorite season in a very long time. Ever since 2007, it’s just become a given that the Patriots were going to be an offensive team with a terrible defense, and if they were going to win, it was going to be in a game with a final score of 35-30. But Sunday’s game was all about defense. Yes, the offense started the game well, but the defense made three interceptions, made three fourth-down stops on all three chances, and they allowed just one score all game. The 41 points make it seem like the offense played out of its mind, but the Patriots only had 300 yards offensively.
—Tom Brady threw for 172 yards. It was just the fourth time in his career that he’s thrown for fewer than 175 yards in a 30-plus point victory. Brady had 14 completions, and it was also just the third time he’s completed 14 or fewer passes in a 30-plus point victory. It was a pretty rare day, you could say.
–I complained a few weeks ago that announcers can’t make it through a Patriots game without mentioning that Julian Edelman was a college quarterback, as if this is some sort of special, new, secret information. It’s not. Everyone knows. But now, we’ve got Phil Simms saying that Danny Amendola was a college quarterback. This would be some special information, because Amendola certainly was not a college quarterback.
I wonder who gets to be a college quarterback next week. My money’s on Austin Collie.
–Joe Flacco’s knee was sprained. I understand this. What I don’t understand is why a knee brace could lead to an adult human forgetting how to walk. A knee brace is no excuse for being unable to put one leg in front of the other.
–I kept track of the Patriots’ red zone plays, considering that was a weak spot in the pre-Rob Gronkowski days. They ran three plays in the red zone early on, scoring touchdowns on two of them. But one of those touchdowns came from Shane Vereen, who left due to a groin injury and didn’t return, and then they didn’t make it back into the red zone until late in the game when they were strictly focused on running the ball. They ran two plays and scored on the second, but I don’t think we learned much about the Patriots’ red zone strategy going forward. That one is to be continued.
–It’s a shame that Devin McCourty suffered a head injury (football-speak for “concussion”) after trying to tackle Ed Dickson. A damn shame. Concussions are no good. At the same time, you can’t help but be impressed by the strength of Ed Dickson’s glutes. They knocked a man out! And it was a man wearing a helmet, no less. That is a strong pair of cheeks right there, ladies and gentlemen.
–Referee microphones should always work in the NFL in 2014. This is not new technology. It is a microphone. In an arena. Millions are watching on TV, tens of thousands of people are in attendance, coaches are trying to do their jobs on the sidelines, and they all have to guess what the referee is talking about when his microphone doesn’t work. The NFL has a lot of problems that are difficult to solve, but this isn’t one of them. Fix the damn microphones.
–Sports fans are, by nature, illogical. I get that. You get all riled up and you’re drunk and fat and happy, you don’t have time for things like “evidence” or “reason.” You just want the good guys to win. I get it.
But chanting “BULL-[POOP]” after a referee just watched several slow-motion, high-definition replays of the play in question? That’s not being illogical. That’s just being stupid. Don’t be stupid, people.
Don’t do that. Somebody’s brain was injured. Go to the bathroom instead of booing. Play on your phone for a minute. Don’t boo a brain injury. Bad form.
–Ron Winter’s officiating crew got a spot on the “Four Downs” from the game, and they were so bad that they even earned another spot on the four downs. It’s not that they made a bunch of terrible calls (they made a few), it was just their complete lack of control of the game. It was the choppiest NFL game I’ve seen since Ed Hochuli delivered the monologue from Hamlet during the Patriots-49ers game last season.
But as difficult as it was to watch Winter and his crew, I was still thankful the game got flexed out of prime time. Watching that game until 1 a.m. would have been a real hoot.
–One penalty call that wasn’t so great was the pass interference on Steve Gregory. This pass would not have been “catchable” if Torrey Smith were 11 feet tall:
–Nothing — and I mean nothing — is more intimidating than a bunch of band geeks holding up the number three. Oh man. I bet Tom Brady was shaking in his boots!
—The Apple commercial that comes on 10 times every quarter is nice and all, and the message is touching for sure. But are we just going to let it slide that the loner teenaged kid films his grandparents in their bedroom through a cracked-open door? That’s weird stuff, man. If my grandkid showed me that film, I’d be like, “Get out of my house, freak.”
And then I’d probably be like, “How did I get grandchildren? Weirdest Christmas ever.”
–Maybe it’s because I always had a noodle arm, but I’ve never understood why people want to be quarterbacks. This looks painful.
–Playing safety doesn’t seem like much of a picnic, either.
–In his postgame press conference, Bill Belichick spoke about movie star Mark Wahlberg. At that exact moment, a few crystals of ice began spreading down in Hades.
–LeGarrette Blount is kind of a beast. He picked up 76 yards on 16 carries (4.75-yard average) and scored two touchdowns, and he showed that he has another gear when he burst through a hole on that second TD.
It’s a good thing he’s a physical force, too, because I’d be worried if I did the Ray Lewis dance inside Baltimore’s stadium. I know Blount said he “asked for permission” from Lewis to do the dance, but that doesn’t make any sense. If I’m going to sit down and write up my ideal list of enemies to create, Ray Lewis would not make the cut.
–I personally enjoyed Terrell Suggs’ “I’m Losing By 20 Points” celebration dance.
–The pass interference penalty on Jimmy Smith in the first quarter was a good call, because he hit Julian Edelman as the ball was heading in that direction. But Edelman dropping his head down and rolling over like a ninja was over the top. In the NHL, they would have called the pass interference and then a matching minor for embellishment. (Ha ha, just kidding, NHL referees are terrible. They probably would have called the wrong penalty on the wrong player.)
After Edelman’s dive and punter Ryan Allen’s flop, the Patriots will play next week officially as Les Habitantes De New England.
–It was great that Matthew Slater got his shining moment with an isolated shot of him in punt coverage, tracking down Jacoby Jones. It’s underrated, unheralded job, but man, he’s good at it.
He also has this new picture to hang in his new office. Hi-ya!
–At the end of the second quarter, we saw this sequence:
- Danny Amendola fumble, overturned after lengthy video replay review
- Holding penalty on the Patriots
- Holding penalty on the Patriots
- Two rushes by Blount
- Holding penalty on the Patriots
- Running into the kicker penalty on the Ravens
- False start on the Patriots
- Illegal touching penalty on the Patriots
- Joe Flacco kneeldown
Tom Brady’s reaction perfectly captured pretty much exactly how frustrating it was to watch that play out:
–I saw a clip of Rex Ryan taking a lap around MetLife Stadium after the Jets beat the Browns. That’s just so Jets. I know it’s their last home game, and I know Rex might not be there any longer, but come on. You save the celebrating for moments that actually call for a celebration. The inevitable end to another disappointing season is not that time.
–After Tavon Wilson returned an interception 74 yards for a touchdown, cameras caught Tom Brady once again getting left hanging while looking for a high five. Nobody has a tougher time finding a high-five partner quite like TB12. We’re one more moment away from Sally Struthers coming on TV to ask you to donate your time to a Tom Brady near you. This man needs your help.
Maybe next week, Tom. Maybe next week.