It's been four thousand, four hundred, and eighty six days. 4,486 days. That was the last time that the New England Patriots posted 30 or more points and won the game, while the quarterback threw for zero touchdowns.
30 points is arbitrary, but it's a sign of fantastic offensive output. It's a milestone of beyond competence and to reach that point without a passing touchdown is usually a sign that the team is operating with many more cylinders than the average offense.
To win a game without throwing a passing touchdown is rare; including Saturday's victory against the Colts, the Patriots have managed that feat twenty-one times in the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era (and I'm including three games in 2008 with Matt Cassell at the helm). It doesn't happen that often.
In all but one of those games, prior to Saturday, the Patriots failed to break the 30 point barrier. Good games, great even. It implies a strong rushing attack, as well as a defense stout enough to stall the opposition.
Four thousand, four hundred, and eighty six days since the last time the Patriots managed to do what they they did on Saturday.
That date is September 30th, 2001. Against the Indianapolis Colts. That date should be etched into the hearts and minds of Patriots fans everywhere because it represents a change in the very foundation of the franchise. It signifies the day the Patriots started to play with the heart of a Champion.
My friends, that was the day Thomas Edward Patrick Brady, Jr. made his first career NFL start.
This season has been trying for so many reasons; the off-the-field issues, the injuries, the knowledge that the season had so much potential, only to see it get carted off the field in a knee brace.
Yet this team doesn't care. The shadows of the Championship squads are long and dark, yet this team continues to shine a bright light for all to see and are able to emerge anew. This isn't a team like we've ever seen before, and it's for this very reason that this season should mean so much more to all of us.
Gone are the household names of Richard Seymour, Matt Light, Tedy Bruschi, and Rodney Harrison. Hell, gone are Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, and Rob Gronkowski. This team is led by Julian Edelman, and Devin McCourty, and Dont'a Hightower. Yet they don't walk alone.
"Losing Jerod, losing Vince, Aqib in the time he was out, a lot of pressure was on me and I didn't fold because of the guys around me," Hightower explains. "Chandler, Sealver, Jamie, Dane, all those guys had my back. It’s kind of like a brotherhood now. We all play for each other."
This team isn't propped up by the arm of Tom Brady. This team can win by land or by air or by aggressive defense and it doesn't matter who the Patriots put on the field. They will beat you with whoever is left standing.
This 2013 New England Patriots team is like one we haven't seen in over a decade. There are weaknesses everywhere. There's no reason for how or why they are able to do what they've been doing for the past season, yet they manage to stand up, stand their ground, and make the other team stand down. There are injuries at every single position. Brady is left without any of his targets that stand over six feet tall (pending Kenbrell Thompkins' concussion). Yet this team doesn't care what you think.
They are a team and they have each other's back.
In a sense, it's poetic that the Patriots beat the Colts in 2014 the same way they beat them in 2001. The 2001 team had no business accomplishing what it did, and even Bill Belichick knew it. He admits that the squad was full of holes and the roster was far from fleshed out.
But that didn't stop him or the team. They don't care what they should or should not be able to do. They don't care about the bounds that people have placed on the team's potential, or the limitations that should prevent them from winning and winning and winning.
You have a former college quarterback who is the heart of the Patriots receiving game. You have rookies and sophomores playing extensive snaps at seven of the starting defensive positions. The stars are on the sideline and the team should be left in blackness, yet they emerge shining brighter than before.
This Patriots team makes me proud to be fan. From Brady to Belichick, from Logan Mankins to Rob Ninkovich, from Hightower to McCourty. Every player is moving towards the greater goal in a unifying fashion, bonding all those on this team under the banner of desire. The desire for greatness. The desire to prove that anything can be possible if you are fighting for more than yourself.
There's no more questions with this team. Whatever they do for the rest of the season, it will be for each other. The brotherhood. It's a team risen from the ashes that will continue to burn bright.
It's hope and promise that we haven't seen in over a decade. Four thousand, four hundred, and eighty six days. That's how long it's been since the heart of Champion started to beat for the Patriots. Even after all that time, the heart is still beating strong and now...now it's beating for everyone.