Sunday, January 12, 2014

Is anybody else confused as to how these Patriots are so freaking good?

I've said this before, but it's worth repeating.  Last year the Patriots top offensive weapons were Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, and Wes Welker.  Their defense was anchored by Vince Wilfork and Jerrod Mayo.  New England finished the regular season with a 12-4 record (below average for the Brady/Belichick era), earned a #2 seed in the playoffs, and advanced to the AFC championship game.  This year they've done all that again (now 8 conference title games since 2001), but without any of those guys (I realize Gronk, Wilfork, and Mayo played some, but the Pats haven't missed a beat since they've been gone).

How is this happening?  Normally an NFL team would crumble under such circumstances (take a look at the 2-14 Houston Texans: 12-4 a year ago, expected to be a contender again this season, started 2-0, suffered a few big injuries, and then lost 14 straight games).  The easy answer would be Tom Brady, except that Brady's numbers haven't been very impressive lately.  Over the past three contests (all New England victories) he's just 41-75 (54.7%) for 992 yards (164 average), with only two touchdown passes.

However, in that same three-game span LeGarrette Blount (a guy they got off the scrap heap from Tampa Bay and basically a non-factor all season) has morphed into Barry Sanders 2.0, racking up 431 rushing yards (143.7 per game) and 8 touchdowns (plus his two kick returns vs Buffalo for a combined 145 yards).

On Saturday against the Colts Jamie Collins had the best tackle of the game (while lying on his back), the best sack of the game (in which he shot right through the line and demolished Andrew Luck), and an interception that iced the game.  I'd never even heard of Jamie Collins until that night.  Somehow these Patriots continue to be great even when all reasonable logic says they shouldn't be.

Just after the victory over Indianapolis I sent out this tweet:

Later I discovered that was in fact true, but on one other occasion Brady's Pats had managed to score at least 42 points without a passing touchdown: September 30th, 2001, the very first start of his NFL career.  Oddly enough, also against the Colts.

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