This NFL season sure has been another roller coaster one, hasn’t it? Especially in the AFC playoff picture, and most notably for the New England Patriots.
Coming out on the season, we quickly were brought to the realization that Tom Brady was not going to be returning to football quite in 2007 form. He came out of the opening game against Buffalo with some late-game heroics with Ben Watson and nailed down the first win of the season, and first at home.
Here we are wrapping up Week 16 and heading into Week 17 and the Patriots have finished their eight home games on the 2009 season a perfect 8-0. The road games are a completely different story that many of you are quite familiar with, so we need not talk about them yet.
The Pats came into Week 16 needing either one win or a single Miami loss over the next two games to make the playoff push. Thankfully, both occurred yesterday pushing the Patriots to become the 2009 AFC East Champions for the first time since 2007.
Prior to yesterday, this game was made out to be a much closer fight than it ever was. With this indecisive Patriots team having issues remaining consistent throughout the year, it seems like more and more games are becoming toss-ups. It really almost seemed as if the eight points being given to Jacksonville in Vegas was a decision to be looked at long and hard prior to kickoff.
Things clicked together very well for the Patriots yesterday. Besides a rough fumble at the one-yard line by L-Mo (which we won’t talk about any further), the team seemed to have it working on all ends of the ball yesterday.
The strangest thing that came out of this game and we certainly are not used to seeing is the stat-line for Randy Moss. We are used to seeing him with either a 30-50 yard game with two receptions or a game of 100+ yards with a touchdown or two. Not in this game. Four receptions for 45 yards and THREE touchdowns!
It was certainly a new look for the Pats only going to Randy in the red zone but it seemed to work out well. Maybe urged to try that plan by the quick shot TD to Moss in Week 15, Tom Terrific seemed to have his eyes on 81 within the 20-yard line.
The running game was fantastic yesterday. Despite the drop at the one, which realistically looked like it would have been called a touchdown if the refs had the ability to Photoshop the defensive players in the line of view.
However, without a definitive reason to overturn, that cannot be done. We did hear the commentators decisively stating that if you got the referees in a room, they would probably agree that he had broken the plain. L-Mo’s problem but it easily could have gone the other way.
Sammy Morris was the clear standout. Rushing for 95 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown, Morris took great advantage of the extra playing time Bill Belichick assigned him as a result of teaching L-Mo a lesson.
We also saw the return of Fred Taylor in this game, which everyone was pumped to see until we found out he would be very limited. We eventually found out that Taylor would be used as the fourth quarter time eater, but he nabbed himself 35 yards on 11 carries to add to his career stats anyway.
Not much excitement in the game besides getting the AFC East t-shirts and hats which you can find at Patriots.com! (Ding! – Just kidding, wait three weeks and you can get it for $2 at TJ Maxx or Salvation Army.)
The big story will be this coming week of practice and the game in Houston in Week 17. With the Patriots already owning a spot in the playoffs, the big questions will revolve around rest time for the starters.
We have seen an absurd amount of injuries on this Patriots team this year and a “bye week” of sorts is just what they were asking for for Christmas this year to let some of these guys rest up. Seeing both Taylor and Shawn Springs return this week after numerous weeks out each was definitely a step in the right direction here.
Hopefully, we are seeing a case of everything clicking at the right time. We are seeing guys coming back off of injuries, we saw Brady go 23 for 26 yesterday for 267 yards and four touchdowns, the platoon of running back options is back up and running. Things are looking positive for the Patriots heading into the 2009 Super Bowl run personnel-wise.
But the real question is, do they really have what it takes to make it to the Super Bowl and win it?
This is where the homers of both kinds emerge. Many people think anything can be done with this team healthy and the other camp who have the lowest of expectations and plan on seeing the Pats ousted in the opening round.
What camp do you belong to?