If Thursday night is our Sunday this week, then that means today is Friday. Wooo hooo! The weekend, just like that! Best. Week. Ever.
Last week in this space, I came to bury Bill Belichick. This week I come to praise him. I still think some iffy in-game decisions put his team in a big hole in Indy, but you have got to love the game plans he’s been coming up with lately. Did Lee Evans even play on Sunday? The dangerous wideout is the best thing the Bills have going for them, and he ended up with two catches for 22 yards in the Pats 20-10 win. Two catches for twenty-two yards? Against a secondary that makes even the most yahoo of partisans shudder? The longest completion Buffalo had was 15 yards.
Here’s the other thing. More than a few fans – myself included – have complained bitterly that Belichick and the Pats have done little over the past few years to replenish the aging core of their defense, even as it surrendered last-second winning scores in two consecutive championship games. But when the 2008 season ends, the Patriots will have – at minimum – two young but experienced linebackers (Jerod Mayo and Gary Guyton) as building blocks for the next generation of Pats defenders. Pierre Woods will now get every opportunity to make it three. Now, there’s no question that attrition has forced Belichick’s hand to great extent, but look at it this way – Junior Seau all but rented a billboard to say that he would return to the Patriots if asked, but this time Belichick resisted the temptation to opt for veteran savvy. When Rodney Harrison went down with a season ending knee injury in a win over Denver, Belichick didn’t desperately speed-dial Ty Law with the deal of his dreams – he committed himself to James Sanders and Brandon Meriweather, two more fresh players that signal the times, they are a changin’ in New England.
Speaking of Harrison, the first thing I noticed after his injury was that Adalius Thomas seemed to take over New England’s defensive huddle and pre-snap adjustments. To me, it spoke to Thomas’s poise, intelligence and leadership that the team would turn first to him when their acknowledged leader was ripped from the center of the defense. This, along with his pass-rushing, pass-covering versatility, makes Thomas’s own season-ending injury on Sunday a deep strike to the heart of New England’s playoff chances. Woods can be sort of a nice player himself (an athletic special teams player and sub package guy) but he’s got a severe uphill battle ahead of him if he’s going to cover for Thomas as well as “AD” did for Harrison.
Is it just me, or do you see a little of Robert Edwards in BenJarvus Green-Ellis? For me, GE’s (he brings good things to life) lean-forward, steady style conjures certain images of the Pats’ ill-fated 1998 first rounder. Edwards was probably a little more East-West at times, and he was a more versatile receiver, but their near identical size and build is just one of the similarities I see. Like Edwards, GE is at peace with the fact that he’s not going to outrun anybody. Like Edwards, GE is proving to be a scorer (his four-game touchdown streak puts him on pace to equal Edwards’s nine rushing touchdowns in 1998). It struck me on Sunday as I watched the undrafted free agent rolled up his first career 100 yard game – this is like the second season Robert Edwards never got to have.
What a typically whorey, showy move by the Jets to sign Ty Law now, just as they’re preparing for a game with the Patriots. A typically catty high school girl approach to team building. “Your boyfriend likes me better, bitch, and he’s taking me to your party on Thursday night!” What are they going to do next? Put up a fake Bill Belichick MySpace page? How am I supposed to take these clowns seriously, regardless of what their record is?
And then Law, acting as though he’s bringing New England state secrets with him to New York. Come on, Ty – Earthwind Moreland’s got about as much recent experience with the Patriots as you do. Let’s just call this what it is – a laughably pathetic grab at some sort of psychological advantage. Evidently, ‘desperation’ is still one of the fundamental tenets of the Fredo Administration.
That said, losing to those punks on Thursday night would be bad. Very bad. With a second win over New York this season, the Patriots could put their foot on the neck of the Jets when it comes to the AFC East. A loss not only would put New England a game back in the division, it would eliminate the best tiebreaker advantage a playoff hopeful can have. And that would be very bad.
Scott Benson is the Editor and Co-Founder of Patriots Daily. He can be reached at [email protected].