Things to consider while acknowledging that while we lost David Bowie, Hans Gruber and Grizzly Adams, we did gain Julian Edelman. And the universe is in balance once more:
— As a kid, I used to dream about seeing the Patriots win a playoff game. Just a single playoff win. I was trying to stay realistic so my goals for them weren’t any higher. And I was already a grown man of legal drinking age before I finally saw it come to fruition. Now they’re in their fifth straight AFC championship game. Fifth. In a year when the NFL changed rules to try and stop them, investigated them, tried to suspend their best player and they’ve a higher casualty count than the boxed set of “Game of Thrones,” they’ve made it back to the title game where all the lunacy started last season. So if you’ve ever wondered why I am the way I am, there’s your answer.
— And make no mistake, this is exactly the kind of week that would have derailed the Patriots season back in my formative years. Mysterious black eyes, police reports about bizarre behavior, an All-Pro coming up with enough ailments to get officially licensed my Milton Bradley for his own “Operation” game. Foxboro would have been Distractionville. Population: Them and there wouldn’t have been enough Ritalin in the world to get them to focus on the game. But this team continues to demonstrate a level of resolve and mental toughness that was unthinkable, pre-Bill Belichick.
— And if you can’t admire what witnessing, if you’re one of those twisted, wretched, soulless creatures who’d rather focus on “arrogance,” “tomato cans,” Chad Jackson, conspiracies and (to use Belichick’s words) warm drinks and trash cans, then I have no sympathy for you. There’s historic greatness happening right in front of us. And I’ll be damned if I don’t make the most of it.
— Could anything be more 21st century Patriots than the fact that the most pivotal play and the only sack of the game were both made by Chandler Jones? That strip of Knile Davis stole the momentum away from Kansas City and set up the touchdown that took them out of the game for good. And to Cris Carter, in New England we’re also accusing Jones of PCP: a Pretty Clutch Play.— Could it have felt any better to have the band back together offensively? Granted this is isn’t the versatile Optimus Prime McOffense we saw against Pittsburgh and Buffalo in September. This assembly can’t switch from power run set to spread at the press of a button like it used to. But with Edelman back, Tom Brady can still detach four and five guys from the formation and choose his mismatch like he’s playing ‘Go Fish’ and can see your cards. Rob Gronkowski is drawing single coverages again. The ball is coming out quickly again. And in spite of some bad cases of the dropsies and a few misfires by the QB, they still put up 27 on an elite defense and brought hope back to the masses.
— I’m not saying it’s all because of Edelman’s return. But I don’t think it would be inappropriate to put yellow ribbons around every telephone pole in New England.
— While we’re paying tributes, if you’re not writing songs, poems and erotic fanfic about the job this offensive line did, you’re doing them a grave injustice. Two weeks ago these guys were just the last survivors of a siege, the enemy was closing in and no help was on the way. Looking at the Chiefs front, my only hope was that they’d blow the whole compound to sacrifice themselves but take the Chiefs with them. But they positively won the battle. On the first drive Marcus Cannon had some issues with Dee Ford. And Sebastian Vollmer was fending off blitzes from Frank Zombo. But they both settled in and were rock solid. And the interior of the line did the impossible. They made 350 pounds of pure nightmare fuel named Dontari Poe completely disappear. He played 79 percent of their snaps and made zero tackles. That is just an incredible turn around from the end of the regular season.
— It just proves that while Belichick’s human outer tissue suffered some damage around the left eye, his cyborg endoskeleton and central processing unit underneath remain intact.
— If it was up to me, I’d have the entire Patriots team go down to Florida to visit Mrs. Gronkowski. It seems to work miracles.
— You know it’s your day when you put the game away with a Brady trick shot carom off Tamba Hali and right to Edelman. If they were playing by house rules at the Knights of Columbus in Weymouth, he wouldn’t have gotten credit for that unless he called it.
— Since Mike Kensil was in town over the weekend and the gang at the NFL is never happier than when they’re digging around looking for conspiracies, maybe they can look into whether Hali was helping the Pats on that one. Maybe if they check his phone they’ll find a text where he calls himself “The Deflector.”
— No sooner did the Christmas commercials stop ruining NFL games than they got replaced by the political ads. And now we’ve got to spend the playoffs trying to sort out the flip-floppers in the pockets of the special interests from the champions of the middle class who will stand up for a strong America because jobs and women’s health. Oy vey. Still, I’ll take all the campaign ads in the world if I never have to way the promo for that Very Special Beheading Episode of ‘Criminal Minds’ again.
— I was much more impressed with the Chiefs zone option attack than I thought I’d be. Before the game got out of hand and they had to chuck it on every down, they brilliantly attacked the Patriots defense with inside and outside zones, zone reads, counters, traps, quarterback powers. I think the Pats focused on defending the perimeters for the most part, so KC carved them up on the interior and it was really effective.
— The Pats for the most part were in a 3-4 front, with Rob Ninkovich at one end and Jones or Jabaal Sheard at the Will linebacker spot. When they were in nickel (which was often by my math), Dont’a Hightower was at Will with Jamie Collins alone in the middle. Repeatedly Hightower would stay home to contain the outside run, so Smith would leave him unblocked and either hand it off up the middle or keep it himself. I still think that in 2016 trying to beat a good passing game with that option offense is like dogfighting an FA/18 with a biplane. But it can be fun to watch a smart, athletic quarterback run it.
— Next to Jones’ forced fumble, no stop the Patriots D made all year was as important as that three-and-out after the Chiefs took over on the Pats’ 36. And it was almost all Malcolm Butler. He sniffed out a tight end screen to blow up Travis Kelce for a loss. Then stayed stride-for-stride with Jeremy Maclin on a Go route. And on the third-and-long, Pat Chung brought down Kelce with that Atomic Wedgie tackle. Just a tremendous sequence by the secondary when they needed it most.
— The punt that followed was the one where Danny Amendola went all Chuck Bednarik on Jamell Fleming. I am still trying to figure out what exactly the roughness penalty was called for, since I have no idea what a “blindside block” is and no one was in any hurry to explain it to us. All I know is that if you can clobber a guy in a non-lethal, non-headshot way and only get a 2 1/2-yard penalty? You take that every time. And the donkeys who were calling Amendola “soft” a year ago have yet to be heard from.
— Ordinarily I’d start the 80’s move slow clap for any officiating crew that puts the whistles away and lets the borderline penalties go. But there was no excusing the non-call when Edelman got manhandled in the end zone by Marcus Peters. That was the kind of “borderline” you see in a Donald Trump campaign spot, the league needs to build a wall there and make Mexico pay for it. OK, I have no idea what that meant. See what these ads are doing to me?
— I don’t mind when Ian Eagle is doing the games. Mainly because I liked the Lou Gossett Jr. films of the same name. But Dan Fouts was atrocious. First of all, you did hear him correctly. When Brady suckered Eric Berry into trying to jump James White’s underneath route and left Gronk open for his first touchdown, Dan described it with the word “unfortunately,” which was hardly the term I would have used. But his worst moment had to be when Smith had run for a first down and Hightower pulled him down from behind in bounds as they both went out of bounds, and Fouts was indignantly calling for the flag. For what? Tackling a ballcarrier? The day that becomes a penalty I’m just going to watch Lou Gossett Jr. movies and wonder when America lost its way.
— Charcandrick West can run the ball for me any day. And might retire the trophy as the most Pokemon-named player in NFL history.
— Speaking of Chiefs names, I tried all game to find a way to work in a reference to “Well if peeing your pants is cool, consider me Knile Davis.” But I couldn’t make it work. Do with it as you will.
— Hands down the best moment was Brady’s deranged, enthusiastic bro hug of Josh McDaniels after he ran that broken play down to the one. There must be plenty of testosterone in all that dehydrated algae and spirulina fruit roll ups.
— To the kids who were at Gillette: That “Saturday Night” song they were playing was by a band called the Bay City Rollers. Next time your parents tell you the music you listen to is crap, pull up a YouTube of them and show you folks to remind them their music wasn’t all Pink Floyd and Velvet Underground.
— Jon Gruden Nickname of the Week: Get a load of this kid Duron Harmon nearly picking that ball off 30 yards upfield on fourth down! I gotta tell ya, I call him “Almost” as in “He was Almost Harmon his own team!” See what I did there, Mike?
— For future reference, we can all live without Edelman with his ankles wrapped up fighting for inches like he was doing near the end of the third quarter. There wasn’t a man, woman or child in New England that wasn’t screaming for him to get down like Mick in Rocky’s corner.
— This week’s applicable movie quote: “Nobody told you to smoke that thing. You made the decision. Live with your decision. Ain’t like I put a gun to your head.” – Det. Alonzo Harris, “Training Day”
— The best part about yet another return to football’s final four — the 10th in Brady’s 14 years as a starter – is that it is taking years off the lives of all those miserable jackasses who claimed the Patriots can’t win if they’re not cheating. It’s comforting to know that after a surreal week around here, we’ve got the familiar feeling of some good, old fashioned animosity to comfort us.
— Am I the only thinking that I was watching the first 20 minutes of “3 Games to Glory V”?
— We’re onto the AFC championship game. Again.
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