Some mid-week thoughts and questions after this weekend... 1. How and when exactly did the national anti-Pats consciousness change from "The Pats are cheaters...the NFL should take them down" to "There is a conspiracy in which the NFL now wants the Pats to win"? 2. I am more heartnened than concerned about the team after the last 4 weeks. Why? The team showed toughness, will to win close games, all those qualities which were unknowns prior to the Colts game, and then the Eagles/Ravens. As much as we hated to see the D gashed and dominated, how could you not love seeing them get those tough 3-and-outs when they needed them? Phil Simms was one of the first to observe it early in the season, when on a pregame show even in the middle of a string of blowouts he said something like: "These Pats love to compete, they lactually ove to fight for a full 60 minutes, and anyone that beats them is going to have to mathc their will to fight for a long time." How nice to see this show up, and this quality is indispensable, because of the next point... 3. In the NFL, I rarely think blowouts are as "big" as they look on the scoreboard. Teams are all closer than they look, and small differences in plays in the early/middle of games often compound into huge scoring differences late. Take the Ravens game. If Watson holds onto the first TD, and Boller doesn't make the remarkable scramble/long pass in Q1 leading to a TD, that game could easily have turned into another Pats blowout. A few inches or small difference, and the Pats might have been up 14-0 like other games. Then their defense, as we all know, is in a different position. I'm not reinventing this game--i'm just saying I don't think the Pats are really 30 points better than most of the teams on their schedule. 4. I really don't understand what the offensive philosophy is of late. Midway through the season, Belichick talked at length about how the best strategy is to have a balanced attack so the other team has to defend everything and can't overload or easily guess pass v. run. Being so pass-centric seems to hurt both the passing and the running game. I'm sure their is some larger logic to it, I guess we will need to see it all unfold in the next 4 games and the playoffs. One big positive for me in the game were the two long passing gains by Maroney after short dumpoffs, in addition to his improved blocking on pass plays. This relates to the above point: Maroney in the set has been way too predictable IMO--if he has gotten the ball so far, it must have been overwhelmingly a run. Having to defend LM as a viable pass threat in this offense makes us extremely hard to stop, and I'd like to see a lot more of that the rest of the way. He's great in space and more importantly a few more nice passes to Maroney on tape should help his running game a lot. 5. Kevin Faulk is a great example of this balance and strategy. He gets a lot of nice gains when he runs. I have never thought this was because he was such a great runner (though he is very shifty and quick) as much as it was the dual threat due to it being a passing situation. The combo threats are the most devastating for the defense to manage. 6. I am impressed that Belichick gave the team some much needed physical and, for this team especially, psychological rest. I think this was pretty obvious from watching them the last month, and I suspect it was another instance of BB going to the team leaders, asking their opinions, and actually listening. Moss said as much at the post game. 7. For me, one of the best athletic comparisons for the Pats is Tiger Woods. I have seen this analogy on occasion, but not much. Both are physically gifted, but even more so just so mentally tough. Tiger has had his share of blowouts, such as double digit major victories, but he has had a lot more 1 and 2-stroke, gut it out victories like the Pats just experienced. Both Tiger and the Pats are publically dull and maniacally driven and focused to win, and even more importantly to always improve and be as perfect as possible. They are their own worst critics, and practice harder than all other competitors. Also, Tiger doesn't win every time and the Pats don't win the super bowl every year, just to put it in perspective. There is just some natural performance variation: When Tiger brings his A game, no one else is beating him that weekend. Ditto for the Pats. If the opponent(s) bring their A game also, it will be a close, tough win. If the competition is off, it's a blowout. If Tiger or the Pats bring their B game or worse, they're probably not going to win, except they still have a fighter's chance because they rarely beat themself and they give the opponent a few chances to let their B game show up. 8. A final thought on the Ravens game, one that has been somewhat lost amidst all the stories about Refs, conspiracy, cheating, Ravens players whining and losing composure, Pats weaknesses, and of course their march to 16-0: That was one hell of an exciting game. It wasn't pretty, just incredible exciting, one of the most riveting I can ever remember. Naturally, it was all amped up 10x because of the Pats undefeated record on the line, but even taking that into consideration it was a great game. It has a last minute come from behind TD, and the hail Mary falling just short as a final dramatic ending. Their was a thread last week about the "top 5 regular season games of all time for the Pats"--how does this one not make it, perhaps even 1 or 2?