December 07, 2010
BY: Kevin Rousseau
The secret about putting together a column is finding the lead. Find a good lead jumbling around in your head and the rest of the column becomes just stream of consciousness.
I was still in the market for a candidate when I woke up this morning after the Patriots' delightful 45-3 blowout of the not-ready-for-primetime-despite-what-they-think Jets. "Geez, Tom Brady is really cool" and "Bill Belichick is a great coach" were discarded out of my brain about as quickly as week-old gas station potato salad hiding in the back of the fridge.
Then I walked into the kitchen and saw my son devouring a "Justice League" comic book along with his daily French toast sticks and milk. "That's it!" I said under my breath.
Sure, I'm guilty of devouring a good deal of the hype, analysis and news that is now available to us leading up to game day thanks to the internet and the 438 channels devoted to following the NFL and its teams. It gets out of hand when after week four, we are subjected to a "Who's the best team in the AFC?" debate on one of the round tables. And by the time gametime comes around, most of the analysis--including in space occupied by this column--is forgotten.
As the NFL games get colder and more important, the decisiveness of what happens in those three hours puts to rest all of the speculation and truth prevails. Despite an oddball play or flag, justice usually prevails as the season plays out through November, December and the playoffs. Great teams repel back challenges from so-so teams. Then teams with flaws, like last year's Patriots team, are eventually exposed.
Maybe you can recall one, but as the clock struck midnight on Monday night I had a hard time remembering a Patriots game over the years that made me as silly, amused and satisfied as this one did. We have a coach, team and fan base that hasn't been able to purchase an over-priced Division, Conference or Super Bowl champs t-shirt/hat combo from NFLshop.com in recent memory. Yet they've been talking up a storm, haven't they? They were going to kick this guy's rear end and win this. They weren't going to keep their mouth shut and let their work on the field be the barometers for others to use to judge them. Indeed, the Jets' mouths wrote a check that their rear ends couldn't cash on Monday night.
Too often in these scenarios, such arrogance like the Jets showed is never met with such a sharp rebuke as the one the Patriots dished out to them on Monday night. Usually it's a coulda-woulda-shoulda loss in overtime or because of a bad pass interference call.
And because this check wasn't cashed by the Jets on Monday night, their house of cards could very easy collapse underneath. I doubt we'll be seeing any stand-up comedy routines doubling as Rex Ryan press conferences anytime soon. The real danger for the Jets is that the players will now view their coach differently. Up until now, they blindly followed Ryan's direction and demeanor. They had no reason to do otherwise. Now self-doubt has to creep into their minds no matter what we are told otherwise. This often eventually leads to players tuning out their coach and ineffectivenss taking over.
On the other side of the field, we had a Patriots team that always says the right thing about opponents leading up to a game. We can surmise of course that the Patriots had been steaming inside at all the attention that the Jets have been lauding upon themselves despite the lack of expensive championship merchandise in their closets. The Patriots didn't buy into the 24/7 news cycle Jets hype and they let their on-field actions set their currency value.
I hope you are enjoying this season as much as I am. I find that I'm nervous for big games like I was back in earlier part of the decade. I love watching players like Rob Ninkovich, Danny Woodhead and James Sanders squeeze more ability out of their bodies as can otherwise be reasonably expected. Sharp execution, a team bonding among itself before our eyes and both offensive and defensive coordinators seemingly making all the right moves at the right time.
But perhaps the most intriguing story of this season is the emergence of the young talent on defense that is growing up before our eyes. In fact, many outsiders will point to Monday night's game against the Jets as the re-birth of a great Patriots defense.
But you and I know better. I can remember their birth exactly. It was in the fourth quarter of the Ravens game back in October. They held back a quality team and it led to the type of win that hadn't been seen around here in a few years. I know they are last in the League in this and that. I could care less. My eyes aren't lying. I see guys that are fast, smart, getting better every week and rarely out of position. Then you start to think about all of those draft picks coming up next year. An extra corner here and a pass rusher there and my goodness, we're in business for the long haul again.
As the season comes towards a close, I have a question for you to ponder. Which team's players, Jets or Patriots, is now drinking the Kool-aid their coach is serving to them after Monday night's game?
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