Reflecting on another special Patriots regular season.
I know it’s hard to get really motivated to watch a meaningless game against the Dolphins while praying for no injuries, so I’m using this week to appreciate the regular season that the Pats just put forth.
It’s strange to say it but this Patriots team exceeded just about everyone’s expectations. The schedule was a difficult one, and they laid waste to four of the other five AFC playoff teams and the entire NFC North. It wasn’t always pretty on defense. It usually was pretty on offense.
I wondered before the season how BB might evolve this offense to counter the anti-spread defenses that were popping up around the NFL after the 2007 aerial assault.
The answer was made easy by the additions of Alge Crumpler and Rob Gronkowski. Aaron Hernandez was just the icing on the cake.
But Gronkowski especially has added a dimension not seen in New England since Ben Coates. A big tight end who is a force in the run game, but also has excellent hands, runs solid routes and provides an enormous red zone presence.
Crumpler has added both leadership and a contagious attitude. We’ve often seen shots on the sidelines or heard bits of audio with Crumpler taking Gronk and Hernando under his wing. Challenging them to compete with each other, or reminding them of the big picture.
Smaller, less physical defenses who excel in pass coverage are ill equipped to deal with the diverse talents of the Pats three tight ends.
Defenders like Antonio Cromartie are useless against the Patriots new attack because New England is no longer trying to stretch the defense vertically. They’re stretching it horizontally.
Instead of chasing Randy Moss down the field, defenders like Cromartie are finding themselves having to defeat blocks from players like Matt Light, Wes Welker and Gronk.
And small, quick defensive lines like the Colts’ struggle because they no longer have any idea if it’s a run or pass. Back in 2007 it was pretty easy for opposing defenses to just pin their ears back and go for the QB (see Super Bowl 42).
Now Freney and Mathis have to respect the run instead of just focusing primarily on getting after Brady.
The road to the Super Bowl goes through Foxboro. If the Pats continue to play the kind of football they’ve played down the stretch it will take a perfect game from their opponent.
Have you ever seen Roethlisberger, Manning, Cassel, Flacco or The Great Sancheesy ever play a perfect game? Neither have I.
The playoffs will be an entity unto themselves, but for now let’s take a moment to appreciate what we’ve seen. The last four months have been a pretty fun ride, regardless if the next six are miserable or joyous.