September 21, 2009
The 2007 Season Taints Our 2009 Patriots Outlook
BY: Kevin Rousseau
The (near) perfect 2007 season. It's the gift that keeps on giving. It spoiled us. It crushed us and now it's controlling how we view the Patriots on a weekly basis.
The most prolific offense in NFL history. The first undefeated regular season ever. A very good defense to go along with that offense. Coaching schemes that were from another planet. It was the ride of a life and it set the bar so high that it likely will never be reached by another NFL team--much less a New England Patriots team--in our lifetimes.
The real hangover of the 2007 season isn't so much the empty space behind my back shoulder at Gillette Stadium where a fourth Super Bowl banner should be hanging. Rather, it's the memory of putting up 40+ points a game on a regular basis that clouds our views on current Patriots teams and efforts. It's patently not fair to current and future Patriots teams but ask any pre-2004 Red Sox team about carrying around the Samsonite historical luggage and they will tell you that bag is always waiting for them on the Boston sports luggage carousel.
So with those lenses, we take a look back at the loss to the Jets on Sunday and wonder just how the Patriots could lay such an egg like? Nine points? Nine points? Red zone fiascos. Delay of game penalties. Missed receivers by Tom Brady. The indignity, Martha. The indignity.
Like most Patriots followers, it was alarming to see a Patriots team that always responds to trash talk and verbal challenges just not be up to the task. Too much finesse and not enough straight ahead "We are going to beat you at the line of scrimmage" football. Mix in zero commitment yet again to a running game and lack of any semblance of a pass rush and yep, the Chicken Little alarm bells are going off in my head just like they are in yours.
The sky isn't completely falling, folks. The defense, which was thought to be a huge question mark, has been probably better than anticipated through two games; giving up 17 and 16 points respectively. Special teams have been pretty good so far and there is a lot of young talent that is developing nicely. And besides, it's SEPTEMBER folks. SEPTEMBER. Nobody hands out hardware in September. All that's handed out that makes a difference this time of year is one-way trips to the season-ending injured reserve list.
If you're glasses are rose-colored, you can hang your hat on a few past historical facts. First, the Patriots under Belichick always seem to hit their stride as the season progresses with the possible exception of 2007 when they came out gangbusters and stumbled towards the endů..
See! There is that darn 2007 thing creeping back into the discussion. Ugh.
Ok. Back to my list of reassurances. There is no way in H-E-Double Hockey Sticks that Tom Brady is going to continue to stink out the joint as he mostly has over the course of the first two games. Just like when Peyton Manning came back from knee infection, Brady will be back to his old self in short order and some semblance of order in the universe will be restored.
The new players, who have showed a good deal of promise, will only hopefully only get better as the season goes along. If I keep feeding you these Articles of Faith, maybe I'll actually start believing them.
Realistically, the Patriots have to come out of September at least with a record of 2-2. That means going 1-1 the next two weeks at home versus two very good teams, the Falcons and Ravens.
You don't have to shout. I can hear you screaming at your monitor "2-2? You kidding me? That's worthy of a Jim Mora press conference meltdown! A 3-1 record would be embarrassing enough, Rousseau."
There's that 2007 garbage creeping back into the discussion.
It's like the gift Clark Griswold got from his boss one Christmas, the Jelly-of-the-Month Club. Indeed as Cousin Eddie would tell us, the 2007 season is the (crummy) "gift that always keeps on giving."
"Paging, the 2009 New England Patriots. Your 2007 model Samsonite baggage has arrived for you on carousel two."
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