Sunday’s win over the Dallas Cowboys in Foxborough felt like a throwback: I was reminded of the New England Patriots teams of 2003 and 2004. The way they would completely shut down an opposing offense, and, although the game was relatively close, leave no doubt who the winner would eventually be.
Because of the weather, the easiest comparison is a game against the Cleveland Browns from the 2003 season. The Patriots went on to win the game 9-3, and I was actually on the sideline for this one, and about 15 yards away from Ty Law when he made the game-sealing interception. The Patriots held the Browns to under 100 yards rushing, and under 200 yards passing that day. The Patriots offense also had less than 100 yards rushing, and although Tom Brady had 259 passing yards, were obviously unable to get into the end zone.
It was a nasty, rainy day. A 1 o’clock game played in October, but, the similarities are still there. In that game, as well as in yesterday’s, even though the game was close, I never felt any fear that the Patriots would lose.
That has been the key this year. The Patriots aren’t allowing a ton of points. In fact, they have allowed 14 or fewer in all 10 of their wins. But the offense, even with its struggles, is trying to do its part as well: not giving the opposing team a short field, like the one New England got that led to the N’Keal Harry touchdown catch in the first quarter, is huge in keeping those points down.
Early in Brady’s career, he was more of a “game manager.” I know, I hate the label too, but what Brady has always had is the ability to elevate his play, and the play of the guys around him, when the moment is the biggest. You can win with a great defense and a game manager. You can win a whole lot with a great defense and a guy who consistently elevates in the clutch. Brady was both of those things early in his career, and, as I pointed out in July, the team is set up to allow him to be that same guy once again.
So, criticize Brady and the offense if you want. I actually think they took a positive step this weekend, with the running game gaining some traction, and the young receivers earning some trust from their quarterback. It’s true that the Patriots might not be able to win games 43-40 this season, but they also might not have to.
Pat is a host of The Patriot Nation Podcast
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