“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning”. Sir Winston Churchill, November 1942.
Somehow quoting Churchill seemed appropriate after the Pats gave the upstart Rams an old-fashioned thrashing, 45-7, in jolly old England. London seems to agree with the Pats. The last time they ventured across the pond, they pounded Tampa Bay 35-7. Combined scores of 80-14 is none too shabby. Bangers ‘n’ Mash? Warm beer? Downpour and drizzle? Hyde Park walk-throughs and Buckingham Palace? Who knows? Who cares? Whatever the reason, they come to London and Robert is your father’s brother. Perhaps, they should think about taking on the Giants at Wembley. Too soon? I know, I know, I shouldn’t go there, but I need to lay claim to hope before it re-submerges.
Here’s a thought. Perhaps, they should just play Jeff Fisher coached teams. I seem to recall in a previous incarnation he coached the Titans and the Pats dismantled them in the rain and snow at Gillette to the tune of 59-0. Using my trusty abacus that adds up to 104-7 in two games! The more things change, the more they stay the same. Perhaps Jeff Fisher should coach the Giants? Be still my heart.
Anyway, after the 50 yard bomb for a TD on the Rams’ first possession which was frighteningly similar to the 46 yard bomb for a game-winning TD in Seattle, McDaniels suddenly seemed to remember that he didn’t need to prove he was the smartest guy on the sideline by resorting to trick-or-treat gimmickry, and instead trusted his fate to Brady. Now some might argue that there may be some slight erosion of Brady’s skills, but as the great English sportswriter Hugh Mcillvaney once wrote in a different context, that’s a bit like complaining about drips on the Sistine floor. After all, Brady has led the Pats’ offense to a NFL record 17 straight games of 350 plus yards, surpassing, ironically, the Rams, The Greatest Show on Turf. What’s even more remarkable about this feat, of course, is Brady doesn’t enjoy the creature comforts of a domed stadium, plying his trade in the often unforgiving Northeastern winter. As Mother used to say: “When you run out of luck, you can always fall back on genius”.
What makes the Patriot offense so formidable when it is humming is its infinite variety. In the passing game, the incomparable Gronk (ably abetted by Hernandez when healthy), Welker who should really have a verb all to himself ( “to welkerize”, as in “to turn inside out and upside down”), and the new toy, Lloyd. In the running game, Ridley, Woodhead and Vereen, all well served by some excellent pass protection and hellacious blocking. Yesterday it was all on display. The Patriots scored on their first 6 possessions; 5 TDs and then a token FG, which felt almost like a mercy killing. But it wasn’t just the fact that they outscored the Rams 45-0, after the initial TD which was so impressive, it was the manner of the annihilation. Drives of 9 plays/83 yards, 9 plays/78 yards, 9 plays/56 yards, 6 plays/80 yards, 8 plays/58 yards, and 6 plays/55 yards. It simply isn’t that easy to achieve this level of sustained excellence, but somehow it all seemed so ….. expected, so Bradylike. Perhaps, Brady was right last week when he remarked after a life and death win against the J-E-T-S, that the fans are spoiled. Let’s just savor this while we can.
As for the defense? Well its collective confidence grew exponentially with each offensive score, so that by game’s end it was positively Pittsburghian. Well, perhaps that’s gilding the lily, but we’ve been so long in the desert a sip of water seems richly welcome. There is work to be done, but at the end of the season’s first half the Pats are a solid 5-3, and head off for some needed R&R. It is certainly a more palatable record than seemed likely when they trailed the J-E-T-S and stared at the ignominy of 3-4. Who knows what the end will bring? But suddenly, it seems just possible they have rediscovered their identity, which is in itself no small matter.