By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — With the way things work nowadays, where we stare at our phones while walking any distance longer than 10 feet and where we forget information as soon as we learn it, it’s often difficult to remember what happened five minutes ago, let alone five years ago. It’s just a now-now-now culture, and there’s not too much you can do about it.

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What were we talking about again?

Oh, right. Five years.

Five years and some change ago, the Patriots were cooked. Porked. Toast. Stick a fork in ’em. They had just lost a rough one to … the Kansas City Chiefs. And the football world was closing in on them.

Then they played the Cincinnati Bengals, and whoosh, their ills were cured and they’d go on a ridiculous five-year run. It was pretty crazy.

Yet while Bill Belichick’s “on to Cincinnati” press conference is the lasting memory of that week, I figured it’s a good time to go full Throwback Thursday to capture the atmosphere of that famed Sunday night game against the Bengals, who entered that game with a 3-0 record yet got waxed 43-17 on national TV. (And yes, I will be doing that by posting a story I wrote that night, only shortening it a bit for brevity purposes. That’s what Throwback Thursday is about, people.)

Patriots Rally Around Tom Brady, As QB Fights Back After Report Of Unrest With Team

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
October 6, 2014 at 1:36 am

Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

BOSTON (CBS) — Before Tom Brady even left his home for Gillette Stadium on Sunday, the report was out there on ESPN: The veteran quarterback was getting sick and tired of the way the Patriots were doing business, and the end of his time in New England was possibly nearing. According to the ESPN report, Brady’s confidence — in the team, in himself — was wavering. Meanwhile, a CBS report discussed the possibility of Brady being traded from the Patriots.

It took Brady all of five minutes on Sunday night to put the story to bed.

Brady came out roaring, completing a 20-yard pass on the first play from scrimmage. He showed he was willing to do it all by breaking out for a rare scramble, picking up six yards in the process. Later in the drive, he ran quarterback sneaks on consecutive plays, the first one converting a fourth-and-1, and he was visibly fired up from the moment he took the field. He handed to Stevan Ridley to cap off a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to take a 7-0 lead, and Brady and the Patriots never looked back.

It was not “wavering-confidence” Brady or “looking-to-be-traded” Brady. It was, simply, vintage Brady.

The quarterback smartly, confidently and calmly led the offense, handing to Ridley and Shane Vereen when needed and spreading the ball around to Rob Gronkowski, Tim Wright and Julian Edelman when necessary. And in the wake of all the criticism from fans and media this past week, the 68,756 fans at Gillette Stadium showed their appreciation for the future Hall of Famer by showering him with chants: “Bra-dy! Bra-dy! Bra-dy!”

“That was awesome,” Brady said of the fans’ chants. “I mean, I’ve been here a while. We’ve got great fans, we get great support. It’s great to play well and play in this environment. I’m a very lucky guy.”

After the 43-17 victory, Brady was asked about the report of the growing “tension” between him and the coaching staff. The quarterback began to answer the question with a smile, but he quickly turned serious.

“I love all of those guys, all my coaches, and I’ve never had any tension with any of them, truthfully,” Brady said “It’s unfortunate that some things get said and talked about, especially when they don’t come from me. I think that’s … especially when you’re in the middle of a real tough week for our team, to deal with things that are really outside of football, and are very personal — very personal relationships I’ve built up for a long time. I’ve got a lot of love and trust for everybody in this building, because we all count on each other, we rely on each other.

“I think the great thing about this team is when we win, we always spread it around to everybody, and when we lose, we always take it to heart,” Brady continued. “And I think that’s different than probably what human nature is. I think a lot of times when you lose, people start pointing fingers, and instead, we tend to blame ourselves, which is probably a great thing for us. We can learn from our experience, we can learn from our mistakes, we can move forward trying to be a better teammate, better player, and certainly controlling what you can do, which is go out there and play your best. And a lot of guys did that tonight.”

Brady admitted that he heard the chatter this week after the 41-14 loss on Monday Night Football, which included Steve Young and Trent Dilfer saying the Patriots organization has not done enough to build a competitive team around him. But he claimed to not be bothered too much by such talk.

“Well, it’s hard to be oblivious to things,” Brady said. “We all have TVs or the Internet, the questions I get and the emails that I get from people that are always concerned. And I’m always emailing them back like, ‘Nobody died, everything’s [OK], it’s just a loss.’ I think we’ve always done a great job of putting losses behind us quickly and trying to move forward. It doesn’t always go right — football season, you don’t go undefeated every year. We’re trying to build something that will be tough to compete with.”

While Brady didn’t want to put too much stock in the off-the-field criticism, Gronkowski was willing to admit that he put forth extra effort to show that he had his teammate’s back.

“Yeah, yeah, definitely. I told my brother before we came to the game, I go, ‘I’m gonna make 12 look like Tom Brady again tonight, baby.’ And I went out there with my teammates, and we made Tom Brady look like Tom Brady after you guys were criticizing him all week — the fans, everything,” an emotional Gronkowski said with his voice cracking, eye black still smeared across his face. “And it feels so good, and he’s such a leader, and he went over 50,000 yards tonight. He’s an unbelievable player and I’m so glad to play with him.”

Gronkowski, who caught five passes for 100 yards and a touchdown, caught the pass on the play that got Brady over that 50,000-yard mark.

“It’s an honor. I’m humbled about it. It’s great to even play with him,” Gronkowski said. “He’s such a leader and he helps make me the player I am out there, with coaching me and throwing the ball to me. He deserves every honor he gets, and I’m just proud to be out there playing with him.”

Gronkowski was arguably more pumped up from the fans’ chants than the quarterback himself.

“Exactly, that’s why it was so great, seeing all the Brady chants and everything,” Gronkowski said. “After the first couple of games, we were a little shaky. It’s great to come back strong, and [Brady’s] showing that he’s still a young buck, and he has a lot in his tank left. And I’m proud to be playing with him.”

Brady admitted that he was emotional on this night, as was evidenced by his sideline game of hot potato with Edelman which preceded his emphatic spike, though he curbed the statement by saying he’s always emotional when he takes the field. Yet it was clear that Brady was a man on mission when he suited up on Sunday night. He heard the criticism all summer long, and it only grew louder as he struggled through the first four weeks of the year behind a shaky offensive line. It intensified after last week’s loss, and it came to a head with Sunday’s report about Jimmy Garoppolo taking over for Brady “sooner than later.”

Garoppolo’s day is going to have to wait. This remains Brady’s team.

When Brady stepped onto the Gillette Stadium turf, his focus was not on bad decisions by the front office or coaching staff, and it was not on wanting a trade. Brady just wanted a win. And he got it. Convincingly.

To be sure, all of New England’s problems have not been fixed overnight. But if the 3-2 Patriots hope to find a long-term solution, it’s clearer than ever that finding a solution will begin by first looking at No. 12.

“Garoppolo’s day is going to have to wait. This remains Brady’s team.”

That turned out to be a slight understatement.

Anyways, unfortunately for Brady and the Patriots, even if they beat the Bengals 300-0 this weekend, it won’t do much to erase some of the ills that plague the team. The Bengals are just so very bad.

Nevertheless, the recreation of the Chiefs loss-Bengals win scenario for a Patriots team that is scuffling provided what I considered to be the right moment for a peek back at history, back when Brady and the Patriots were mere three-time Super Bowl champs. The olden days, as it were.

And now I will make some picks for you.

(Home team in CAPS; Wednesday lines)

New York Jets (+16) over BALTIMORE
My dumbest pick of the year. I get it. I just think that with the quarterback nursing a sore quad, and with an abysmal opponent coming to town, the Ravens might take it easy on the hapless Jets and only win by maybe 14 points instead of 114 points.

Tampa Bay (-3) over DETROIT
WASHINGTON (+4.5) over Philadelphia

When I became sports commissioner, I’ll just be canceling games like these. Just no need for these games to happen. Sorry. Enjoy your weekend, everybody.

New England (-10) over CINCINNATI
The Patriots are bad by their own relative standards. But they’re not even in the same realm as the Bengals. Let’s be serious.

Something fun: The Bengals give up sacks on 8.6 percent of their pass plays, 10th-worst in the league. The Patriots’ defense records sacks on 9.4 percent of opponents’ dropbacks, sixth-best in the league.

Andy Dalton is not going to have a good time on Sunday.

GREEN BAY (-4.5) over Chicago
Picking the Packers one week after they narrowly edged the Washington Redskins is a very brave and bold and beautiful move by me.

Everyone, please admire my bravery and fortitude.

Thank you.

Houston (+3) over TENNESSEE
This is kind of awesome. The Texans and Titans are tied atop the AFC South. And they’re about to play each other twice in three weeks. And there’s a chance they make it three times in four weeks if they meet up in the wild-card round.

That rules.

While it’d be easy to say that the Texans will go full Texans by following last week’s dud with another no-show, I think it’s more likely that Ryan Tannehill (Ryan FREAKING Tannehill) cools off a little, and the Titans snap their kind-of-incredible four-game win streak. We’ll deal with Week 17 when Week 17 arrives. But for now, I’m leaning toward Houston.

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Seattle (-6) over CAROLINA
The Carolina Panthers, in my not-at-all humble opinion, are bad.

Denver (+10) over KANSAS CITY
What in tarnation has gotten into the Broncos? What in the world does “tarnation” mean?

I don’t know the answer to either question, but I’m comfortable riding this Broncos wave for another week.

Miami (+3.5) over NEW YORK GIANTS
Last week I said the Dolphins were the hottest team in football and I’M STANDING BY IT.

OAKLAND (-6.5) over Jacksonville
Normally when a team loses five straight, all in blowout fashion, and is circling the toilet water, I think, “Hey, you know, they’ll snap out of it at some point, right?”

It’s a mode of thought that applies to all sorts of teams. But not Doug Marrone’s Jacksonville Jaguars. That’s a team that was born to be in the toilet.

Cleveland (-2.5) over ARIZONA
Imagine having something to say about the Arizona Cardinals? That would be so weird.

SAN FRANCISCO (-12) over Atlanta
Provided the 49ers remember how to play defense after last week’s glitch, this one shouldn’t be a problem.

For some perspective on last week’s craziness: The 49ers allowed 108 more yards and 19 more points to the Saints last week than they’ve allowed to any team all year.

Los Angeles Rams (-1) over DALLAS
The Battle Of Teams Who Have Done Everything Possible To Kill Any Faith You Might Have Ever Had In Either Of Them. At Jerry World. Catch it!

Minnesota (-3) over LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
Cool. Cool cool cool.

Buffalo (+1.5) over PITTSBURGH
It’s kind of incredible that the Bills only have one clunker this year, a 31-13 loss to Philly. Other than that, they’ve won quite a bit, and their other three losses have been by an average of five points.

What has to be excruciating for the team and the fans is that if they had just a mediocre, so-so quarterback, they’d have wins against the Patriots and Ravens. They’d be in the hunt for the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

Against New England (at home) and at Baltimore, Josh Allen completed 30 of his 67 passes (44.8 percent) for a total of 299 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions, all of which came against New England.

Throw Tannehill in there, and we’re all talking about a Buffalo Super Bowl right now.


Indianapolis (+8.5) over NEW ORLEANS
The Colts, losers of five of their last six, may stink out loud. Sure. Fine. Whatever.


They show up when the lights are on.

In their two prime-time games, they beat the Chiefs 19-13, and they barely lost to the Texans in a 20-17 loss where they got hosed pretty badly by the on-field officials and the jabronis in New York.

They’re not really a blowout type of team anyway, only losing one game by more than seven points.

In personal news, I now have two winning weeks in a row … barely. I was 9-7 in Week 13, and I followed that up by going 8-5-3. At this rate, I’ll be back to .500 by Week 42.

Last week: 8-5-3
Season: 93-110-4

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You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.