I know it's almost impossible to comprehend after what we just watched, but sometime in the future the Patriots will be terrible. And I’m not talking 7-9 terrible, either, the kind of season where if a few breaks go your way you win 10 games. I’m talking 2-14, paper bags over your head and a weekly appointment with the lowest announcing duo on the network roster (see: Criqui and Trumpy, 1992) level of hideousness.
Maybe it won’t be in three years, or five, but it’ll happen. Could be three coaches and five QBs removed from this duo. The NFL works in cycles, and right now the Patriots are in their salad days. But you know what? Twenty years ago the same could be said about the Raiders and Redskins and Bills and 49ers. Ten years ago the Jaguars won 14 games and the Rams won the Super Bowl.
Things change -- sometimes quickly (there was a team from Tennessee that won the most games in the NFL last season) and sometimes it takes a while (the Patriots have been at least decent for a decade-and-a-half, same with the Steelers).
But there will be a day when mediocrity returns. And when that day comes you might think a little bit about Tedy Bruschi and Troy Brown and Adam Vinatieri and Kevin Faulk and all the other supporting actors. But the co-stars of the dynasty will be the names that you reach for the most when you dig into the nostalgia file.
And while yesterday was a return to the days of Belichick embarrassing an opposing QB (minus-7 passing yards), the story of the Patriots' 59-0 humiliation of the Titans was Tom Brady. Before I run down Brady’s numbers, remember that this game was played in the snow. With plenty of wind. The kind of conditions that usually call for a 4:1 run-to-pass ratio, hoping to escape with a 13-10 win.
So how does this happen?
- Six TD passes — ties a team record (his own)
- Five TD passes in a quarter — sets an NFL record and ties my Sega 2002 mark. To my credit, I managed to turn the trick with Jay Fiedler under center. That alone should’ve gotten me at least an interview for an offensive coordinator’s job.
- 345 yards passing in the first half (personal record)
- 619 yards of team offense in the game (Patriots record)
- And all of a sudden Brady is on pace to throw for 4,600 yards and 32 touchdowns.
The Snow Bowl. The three Super Bowls. Beating Peyton Manning again and again. 2007. And now, make room for another Brady moment.
I have no idea if this means he’s “back” or if it will be remembered as the last great game of his career, but to put up those numbers in that weather is staggering. And I don’t care if the Titans lose every game the rest of the season by 59 points, the opponent was almost immaterial.
Does anyone, for example, even remember who the Celtics were playing the night Larry Bird had a triple-double in the FIRST HALF? (It was the Bullets, by the way.) Does the fact that the Mariners won just 67 games in 1986 take anything way from the first 20-strikeout game from Clemens? Of course not. What you saw from those guys was what you saw from Brady on Sunday — at least for a day, a master of his craft at the absolute hysterical peak of his talent.
It may mean nothing next week, or it might be the start of a torrid stretch. But at the very worst it allows Pats fans to know that that kind of game from Brady still exists.
Plus it’ll help you get through that eight-game losing streak in 2022.
A trio of questions to ponder (we aren’t afraid to settle for the field goal here) while realizing that the Rams haven’t scored 59 points this season (54 points in six weeks):
I’ll be honest: I would have predicted five TD passes from Brady in a quarter before I would have bet on a 123-yard rushing game from Maroney. I’m more than a little hesitant to jump on the Maroney train but maybe — maybe this is start of something?
I know, he carries the ball six times for 9 yards next week and the we’re back to where we’ve been over the last couple of years. But he ran with the purpose of someone who had been told that it was time to do something. And I do get that the Titans flat-out quit and that BenJarvus Green-Ellis was also able to do whatever he wanted but you have to be at least intrigued by Maroney. Something to watch next week at least.
DO WE TAKE ANYTHING FROM THE DEFENSE, OR DO WE JUST ACCEPT THAT THE TITANS ARE A MESS AND MOVE ON?
Here’s the thing about the Titans: They are still sort of new to this level of ineptitude, but they have really made a seamless transition. I don’t think anyone thought they would go 13-3 again this season, but 10 or 11 wins and maybe the second round of the playoffs sounded about right, no? And most people still felt that way after the opening night OT loss at Pittsburgh.
The Week 2 home loss to the Texans and Week 3 road loss to the Jets were red flags, sure, but hope wasn’t gone. But since then?
Lost by 20 at Jacksonville.
Lost by 22 at Indy.
Lost by 59 at NE.
You don’t want to believe that they are as bad as the Rams or the Browns or the Bucs. It usually takes a year or two to move into that group. But you will never see a team play, in every way possible, as brutal a game as the Titans authored Sunday (even accounting for the fact that Chris Johnson ran for 128 yards).
So I don’t know what the Patriots' shutout means. Really, the big news from the defense is Adalius Thomas as a healthy scratch. What happened? This isn’t Joey Galloway or even Maroney, this is a guy who was supposed to be an All-Pro when he came to New England in 2007.
He’s had his moments. (Thomas, not Welker, would have been my Super Bowl MVP choice if the Pats had won that game. That was the guy we were told about when he signed.) But to call his tenure with the Pats a disappointment to this point is an understatement. Hard to believe that Junior Seau is higher on the food chain, but he was the one in uniform on Sunday.
ARE WE GOING TO HAVE TO DEAL WITH A WEEK'S WORTH OF 'IS IT A SIN TO RUN UP THE SCORE' PHONE CALLS, STORIES AND QUESTIONS?
Look, this was my take in 2007 and I feel the same way now: These are all grown men. They get paid a ludicrous amount of money. Kyle Vanden Bosch makes 5.3 million bucks this season, or 331 grand and change a game. Deal with it. If it bothers you that much, stop them. Pretty simple.
Here’s where you can go nuts if you find this stuff (and by “ stuff,” of course, I mean calling timeouts to try and sneak in another score when you're already up 38-0, or throwing the ball with a 59-point lead) offensive. If it ever happens to the Pats and anyone in that locker room complains, then you have every right to call out shenanigans.
Until that happens, why don’t you worry about things like Leonard Little being able to make a huge living playing in the NFL when in a fair and just world he would be in year 11 of a 200-year prison sentence for murder? But that stuff doesn’t play on “Around the Horn,” I guess.
This is professional football. You get the ball and try and score. If the other team stops you, it stops you. If it can’t, you score and then try to score again the next time you get the ball. No orange slices at halftime. Not everybody gets to play. I understand that Belichick has his faults (isn’t the best sport after a loss, Spygate, all the other stuff) but this isn’t one of them for me. If the Patriots are lucky enough to be up 40-0 in London next week I expect them to be throwing and throwing.