Patriots in dynasty form
Halloween is a scary holiday. This Halloween, though, there was one scary thing that the NFL didn't see coming: the New England Patriots' return to power. In a season that many expected to be a rebuilding year for the team from Foxborough, with a tough schedule and a defense that was regarded as questionable on a good day, this season's Patriots have quietly risen to 6-1 and currently have the best record in the NFL on the momentum of a five-game win streak.
This team is vastly different than the 18-1 Super Bowl flops of 2007. They win in extraordinary ways. The blowout against Miami on Monday Night Football, with two special teams touchdowns and another defensive score; The close victory over the Ravens after being down by ten in the fourth quarter; The missed field goal by Chargers' kicker Kris Brown that allowed the team to escape California with a win; And now a low-scoring slugfest against the Vikings on a windy Halloween Sunday. These are wins you would expect to see out of the gritty Patriots teams of 2001, 2003 and 2004. Now we are seeing them in 2010.
Players like Rob Ninkovich, who had a key tackle of Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe this week, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who has averaged 4.71 yards per carry and over a touchdown per game during the win streak, are stepping up and making big plays in their new featured roles. This was the hallmark of the Patriots that won three Super Bowl titles in the first half on the last decade. Now it has become the hallmark of the 2010 Patriots.
That schedule that appeared so difficult now looks tame, and that defense that was so suspect now stiffens at just the right moments. Brady to Moss may have been fun to watch as they not-so-quietly assaulted the record books, but let us not forget that the famous duo produced exactly zero rings. The Super Bowl titles were not won by names like Moss, but by names like Brown, Wiggins, Harrison, Bruschi and Vrabel. While these players are long gone, the Patriots might just have some up-and-coming replacements like Mayo, McCourty, Hernandez, Woodhead and Ninkovich, as well as some familiar ones like Brady and Branch.
I won't predict a Super Bowl winner in week eight. Anything can change over the next 13 weeks. But if these Patriots keep playing like the Patriots of old, New Englanders might have more to celebrate come February.