by the Patriots Daily Staff
Can I confess something?
I’m kind of nervous about pictures of the Patriots wearing t-shirts that say “I Eat It” kicking around the various nooks and crannies of the World Wide Interwebs.
They didn’t get pictures of that, did they? Because if they did, we could be in serious trouble. What if these images fall into enemy hands? By that I mean those vicious bastards on rival team message boards. Those pricks were desperate to begin with, and there’s no telling what they’ll do now.
You know as well as I do that the balance of power in the NFL is ultimately determined by how much one team’s fans can mock the others with clever photoshops and cruel taunts. Don’t kid yourself – this league isn’t built on parity, it’s built on parody.
We thought the goat pictures were bad. This may be enough to bring down the whole enterprise. Bring me back to my happy place, Men of the Roundtable!
The Patriots dispatched a fourth straight opponent by at least a three-touchdown margin. To which offensive juggernaut of the past 25 years do they best compare?
Greg Doyle: That is a tough question. I guess I would say the old 49ers teams under Montana. They could run the ball, had one dominant receivers and a bunch of other good ones they spread the ball around to. A very accurate QB. That would probably fit the best.
Kevin Thomas: Strangely enough, they remind me a little bit of the recent Colts teams. It’s not perfectly analagous, but everything they do on offense seems to be based off of the downfield passing game, and more specifically the Brady-Moss connection. This is night and day from the slant and screen-heavy offense in Brady’s early days. It’s also very different from the “clock-killin” offense in ’04, which may have actually been just as dominant as this year’s offense, but in a very different way. I find it remarkable how this team has been able to continually reinvent itself on offense, all with the same guy at quarterback and essentially the same coaching staff. I’m not sure there is a precedent. Denver in the 80s and 90s comes to mind, but they basically went in the opposite direction–from an explosive, gun-slinging offense in Elway’s early years to a ball-control team built around Terrell Davis. The Patriots in Brady’s seventh year have now decided to open up the passing game like never before–and so far it’s working better than anyone could have predicted.
Tim Jordan: It makes you wonder if the offense was built with Indy in mind. Not to emulate their offense, but to attack their defense. In Indy’s three straight wins against NE, they had success in sending Sanders to the line of scrimmage to stop the running game and short passing routes. A passing oriented offense creates challenges for that approach. What makes this offense so daunting is their ability to methodically dominate the time of possession. By midway through the 3rd quarter it was obvious that each of their first four opponents were exhausted and demoralized. It is a thing of beauty to watch. Surgical.
Dan Snapp: That’s a damn good point. Not only molded with Indy in mind, but probably the Jets as well with Kerry Rhodes storming the line of scrimmage. I love how this offense can play any style they please. Early in the game Monday, when they were having trouble getting started against the Cinci pass rush, they changed it up and handed off to Sammy Morris nine times to get things started. That was quite the encouraging drive. When you think about it, it wasn’t just the receiver talent that handcuffed the team last year. Corey Dillon could only go so many plays before calling to be removed, and Laurence Maroney never fully came back to health. This year, every offensive position they replaced – WR, RB, and I’m starting to think even tight end with Kyle Brady’s contribution to the running game – they’ve improved. The team has had a balanced offense before, 2004 most notably, but never before have they had such balance coupled with such supremacy.
Kevin: The great thing about Sammy Morris is you can run almost anything in the playbook when he’s on the field, since he is I think the more effective pass blocker. One of the problems with Maroney is that defenses seem to key on the run when he’s on the field. With Morris, they can’t do that, because the Patriots are just as likely to throw downfield as run inside. Partly for this reason, I’m starting to come around to the view that Morris is the better every down back for this system.
Greg: I think he is a pretty good as a pass receiver too and they really haven’t utilized him that way yet. But they will and that will become even one more additional weapon.
The team rarely had blowouts in the three championship seasons. Do they make the game any less enjoyable?
Greg: Well I’m not sure I agree with that. Their first championship season they had wins of 44-13, 38-17, 34-17 and 38-6. Their last included wins of 40-22, 29-6, 24-3, 42-15, 23-7, 21-7 and 20-3. Perhaps their second championship you could say that of with only wins of 31-10 and 31-0 being true blowouts. But all three of those years they were among the league leaders in point differential. Even the best teams in the NFL don’t regularly get blowouts. This year’s team has started out with 4 straight. But then again, I remember the 2002 and 1997 teams with a lot of early blowouts and those teams eventually failed. So I’m not sure we can be positive it’ll continue. As for enjoying them? Sure, I love to see the Pats blow a team out.
Dan: OK, “rarely” was the wrong word. They had their share. But it wasn’t every game, like this team seems capable of doing.
Travis Graham: Less enjoyable? No. But it has felt different this year. Almost surreal, like you aren’t really watching the Patriots, you’re watching some Madden dream team in “franchise mode”. In past seasons, each week I usually scour the injury reports and match-ups for the upcoming game, but it almost doesn’t even matter this year. You know they’re going to win. I’ve lost almost all of my pre-game anxiety that they might lose. This probably will change when they play Dallas and Indy, but for now it’s like cloud nine.
Given their degree of dominance, is it too early to talk about 16-0? What are the obstacles on the path?
Greg: Yes, it’s too early. There are 12 obstacles on the path, including some very tough ones (Indy, Dallas). Talk to me if they hit 10-0.
Kevin: I agree with Greg. It’s almost pointless to talk about a perfect season until maybe the final month of the season. From a practical standpoint, the most important thing a team can accomplish during the regular season is to lock up the #1 seed in the conference, and its not too early to start thinking about that. Stepping into the “hyperbolic chamber” (thanks, Felgie) I will now posit that the Patriots-Colts game at Indy on November 4th is “the only regular season game that matters” this year in the NFL. Well, not really, but there is a kernel of truth to that. The way things look today, you’ve got to figure that the Patriots and Colts are probably going to finish within a game or two of one another at season’s end. Thus, the Indy game is basically worth a two game swing in the conference standings, and will probably ultimately determine the #1 seed in the AFC. If the Patriots want to make it back to the Super Bowl this year, it seems almost inevitable that they will need to knock off the Colts in Indianapolis–either in four weeks to help secure home field advantage for the post-season, or failing that, in January for the AFC Championship.