FOXBORO MA - NOVERMBER 21: James Sanders #36 of the New England Patriots intercepts a pass in the fourth quarter as Pierre Garcon #85 of the Indianapolis Colts looks on at Gillette Stadium on November 21 2010 in Foxboro Massachusetts. The Patriots won 31-28. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Everyone has a parent or grandparent that was fond of saying, "Back in my day...." There was the, "Back in my day we had to walk to school ten miles ... uphill ... both ways ... and we were grateful ...." Or for Pats fans, "Back in my day we had Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, and Willie McGinest, and we were grateful because they ended years of struggling, of almost being relevant, and finally gave us a championship or three." Those tales being told by those of us old enough to remember, are cherished memories for us, but we need to keep in mind the younger generation. For them, names like Babe Parilli and John Hannah fall into the same category as Babe the Blue Ox and Johnny Appleseed. Legends that they've heard, but are far away from their reality. They are a NOW generation, and they want to see results from their heroes, today.
At the start of the season Bill Belichick removed the pictures of past glory from the walls of Gillete. A new coat of paint and a fresh slate awaited both the younger and the older Patriot players. There was a picture of Troy Brown lined up opposite Donald Driver (then one of the best WR's in the game) as a cornerback. Certainly a cherished memory, but that picture is gone; replaced by James Sanders picking off Peyton Manning to seal the win at Gillete. A new cherished memory for a new generation of players and fans alike. While Sanders may be the focus of the picture, it was the whole defense in on that play. A push up the middle by Wilfork, Cunningham hitting Manning on the edge, Guyton jamming the TE on the line, McCourty's tight coverage of Garcon, and Sander's seeing Manning's eyes and knowing he could try to make a play. A picture of Sanders catching the ball. A picture of the defense stepping up and making a play. A new chapter in Patriots history.
These aren't your grandfather's Patriots. These aren't your father's Patriots. Very few guys on this team have three rings, in fact few have any rings at all. Some have only seen the Super Bowl from the losing bench, and that's not a bad thing. Neither was the loss to the Browns this year. Sometimes, when you're successful, you forget how much work went into that success. You forget how razor thin the line between success and failure can be. As Belichick put it, "This is the NFL. There are no bad teams." There are teams that are poorly lead, there are teams that refuse to follow, and there are teams that haven't put it all together yet. They all have talent and any given Sunday, they can cause an upset or get on a roll that, like the Giants who got hot at the right time, can end with a Lombardi Trophy. These Patriots now realize that as they prepare for the Lions on Thanksgiving. Another good team that hasn't put it all together ... yet. A big, "Thank you", to the Browns for that lesson learned.
These guys are young, but they're listening and learning. They're immature, but disciplined and work hard. They're ignorant, but not willfully so. They have a lot to experience before they reach their individual peaks, but they're doing their jobs and they're fighting for each other. They are gelling as a team, and from where I sit, the skies the limit for these guys. No, these aren't your father's Patriots, who found a way to win when needed. They're YOUR Patriots, and they're making their own history. They're writing their own names into Patriots legend, so listen, watch and enjoy, and someday you can say, "Back in my day...."