By Bruce Allen, Patriots Daily Staff
Back in the “old” days earlier this century, the Patriots often confounded observers and critics alike by routinely winning games which were dubbed “lucky” wins. It always seemed that the Patriots were hanging on for dear life at the end, escaping only by the narrowest of margins, usually due to a mistake or poorly executed play by the opponent.
“The Patriots were lucky to win that one,” the critics would state, “Wait until they play team X, and they won’t be quite so lucky.” Team X would come onto the field, and the Patriots would hang on and beat them in a different, but similarly head-scratching (to the critics) way.
In 2009, the tables were turned, as all the games in which you expected the team to pull out a last minute win, they actually folded down the stretch, or themselves committed the costly error to deprive themselves of the win.
Have the last two weeks seen the return of the “lucky” Patriots? Two last-minute wins, both decided on a field goal attempt. Last week, the Patriots were able to kick a winning field goal, yesterday they won because San Diego’s kicker missed a field goal.
The Patriots had run out to a 20-3 lead entering the fourth, thanks to a number of mental miscues by the San Diego Chargers, plays which if you’ve watched this team over the years, you’ve learned not to be surprised by, regardless of who the head coach is.
The Patriots defense played well for three and a half quarters yesterday, perhaps the most encouraging item to come out of the afternoon. They were aggressive, opportunistic, and held All-World tight end Antonio Gates in check until the end of the game. (I will however, call for Gary Guyton to be tossed to the bottom of the depth chart.) The offense had a dreadful first half, but got into a rhythm in the second half.
On special teams, if you take away the converted onsides kick by the Chargers in the fouth, a play on which the Patriots seemed totally surprised and unprepared, were generally solid again, though Jake Ingram seems to be in a bit of a long-snapper slump of late.
In the end though, all that is important is that the Patriots are now 5-1 on the season, tied for the best record in the NFL. I saw on NFL Network where the panel was discussing the best team in the league, and they were debating between the Steelers and the Jets. At they went to break, someone asked whether the Patriots should be considered. “Noooo!” was heard around the table, along with some scornful chuckles.
It felt good, like we were back in 2003.