How does that feel? Three straight victories by 20 or more points, all against division leaders who are three games over .500? The first NFL team to ever do that? Feels good?
Well, the Patriots are about to walk into a buzz saw in Green Bay, so they'd better be able to put the past behind them and keep their eyes straight ahead. As Bill Belichick says, those games have no effect on the one on the schedule.
This has been a season of the phoenix, a rising out of the ashes, seeing something beautiful coming from that which is truly horrifying. After the Week 4 disaster against Kansas City, the Patriots became a team that would be unable to look too far ahead; they saw their NFL mortality and attacked it head on. They've been reborn and Green Bay is just the next challenge ahead.
It's entirely a coincidence that the Super Bowl is in Phoenix, Arizona, but I wanted to force that comparison.
With the thought of rebirth in mind, let's look at the top plays that resulted from an initial mistake.
Ryan Allen's Insane Punt
I haven't seen a punt like that. Long snapper Danny Aiken skipped the ball to the punter, Ryan Allen. SKIPPED. ON THE GOAL LINE. WHAT. Allen picked it up off the bounce and then launched the punt of his life, the ball exploding 80 yards off his foot.
Factor in the great coverage play by the Patriots special teams unit and the Lions somehow managed to lose yardage on the return. No idea how. Allen tilted the field in possibly the most important special teams play of the day, where the Patriots actually had a lot to choose from.
Julian Edelman's Bobble
This was a really cool catch. Not even sure if he actually made it. But Tom Brady was slightly inaccurate for a lot of the game and Julian Edelman had to make the most of this pass attempt.
The ball was high and outside and Jules had to corral it back, obtain possession, tap both feet, and then get absolutely laid out in under a second of time. Those are some impressive rebounding skills.
Edelman was wiped off the turf more than a couple times during the game and he's been showing considerable toughness the past few weeks. Brady's got to be more careful with Edelman to make sure he lasts the season. Still, Edelman has the athleticism to make absurd catches like the above.
Jamie Collins Covers Calvin Johnson
This is a multi-part story. The Patriots defense varied its coverage between man and zone, and the Lions opted to attack the zone coverage with low crossing routes. This meant that receivers like Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate would be out of the coverage of cornerbacks and expected to be watched by linebackers. Like Collins.
Let's just say that Collins isn't the best zone read linebacker. He's great when asked to watch a specific man, and he's fantastic attacking the wheel routes. He struggles, reasonably so, against wide receivers on crossing patterns. The Lions had picked on Collins multiple times early on the game.
So on this third down play, Collins was going to put a stop to everything. Collins teed up Johnson and just leveled him. I think the technical term in the rulebook is "chuck". Collins chucked Megatron. The second that Matthew Stafford left the pocket, Collins just annihilated Calvin and sent him to the ground.
Brandon LaFell's Sacrifice
Going to be upfront that this is my favorite play. Keep in mind that this is a fourth down conversion where Brandon LaFell goes near full extension to make the grab and to keep the drive alive. He lands awkwardly on his shoulder and had to come off the field.
This is a player making something out of very little, on potentially the final play of the drive. After missing the first down marker on three plays, someone had to do it- and LaFell's been the one to step up all season long.
This is a truly phenomenal grab. Just watch it. Ignore Nate Solder tugging on the defensive lineman's jersey. Just watch Brady to LaFell, with the fans in the front row standing up in anticipation.