I promise that I will be back to my sarcastic ways in my next blog, but I want to take a minute to address a few things I've noticed about the Patriots over the last few weeks. I'm not going to rehash the tired "Brady is ice during the 4th quarter" bit, or the conspiracy theories like the new idea that the NFL is no longer out to get New England, but rather wants to help them.
First, it seems that Vegas and those who groaned when these last two Patriot games were set for national TV are eating their words a bit. These have been two fantastic football games. The notion that any team is finding a "blueprint" to defeat the Patriots is a bit silly. It assumes that the Patriots will keep the same game plan from game to game. If anyone can say anything factual about Bill Belichick, it's that he's not a fan of rehasing old game plans.
That's enough of that. I have two obesrvations that I'd like to throw out there for consumption. The first one answers the question about how two teams with losing records can bring the Patriots to the breaking point. A big clue lies on those big 4th-and-1 play and 4th-and-5 plays that seemingly ended the Patriots run at perfection. The Ravens were flailing about, teeth gnashing, and, in many case, lying prostrate on the ground. Bart Scott even picked up a referee's flag and chucked it. Did anyone notice the reaction from New England on those plays? Subdued. There's something to that.
Before every MNF game, a commercial pops up telling the viewer that there is less than 10 minutes to get online and vote for who you think "wants it more". Clearly, from all appearances, the Ravens wanted this game more. They came out, guns blazing, looking for a fight. They set out to smack the Patriots in the mouth, and they did.
The Patriots came out for this game as they have the last few games; business-minded. The fire and passion that defined the first several weeks of the season after "Spygate", predictably has died out. They are beginning to play like the machine that everyone claimed they were. The Patriots are showing a white-collar work ethic. It is a stark contrast to the 2001 team that went out and smacked the Rams in the mouth in New Orleans. The Patriots game relies less on passion, and more on execution. For the last two weeks, we've witnessed a Patriot team on the ropes, distracted from executing by punishing pass rushes, and yard-stifling tackles. They've been the recipients of the blows that come from the passion of the underdog.
The problem for the Eagles, Ravens, and perhaps even the Colts is that they held a lead going into the fourth quarter of a game they've dominated, if not simply kept up. Any athelete will tell you that it's difficult to maintain the passion of an underdog with a lead like that and with so little time to go. All three of those teams went from the role of the underdog, to the role of a desperate team clinging to a late lead. Meanwhile, the Patriots continue to execute, dispassionately.
The second observation I want to make is something that irritated me a bit following the Eagles game. That was the disproportionate amount of attention that Wes Welker got for his performance during that game. Welker was huge last Sunday against the Eagles, and a non-factor against the Ravens tonight. However, there is one player not named Tom Brady who came through for the Patriots during both games; Jabar Gaffney. Gaffney is that fourth receiver that everyone forgets about, and that many New England fans forget is on the team. His stats over the last two games? Seven receptions for 95 yards and 2 TDs.
That's it. I'll try to keep serious blogs to a minimum from now on. I promise.