New England Patriots

The Patriots were not as good as they fooled us into thinking

Since the nationally televised pantsing of the Patriots on Saturday night theories on what happened, how it happened, and what is going to happen are beyond plentiful. It stands as the worst loss of Bill Belichick’s post-season career – in terms of the final score and the disgust it churned among the masses.

On the disgust meter, the 2009 Patriots (aka The Adalius Thomas Era) went 10-6 and got smoked at Gillette Stadium by Thomas’ prior employer, the Baltimore Ravens. That wreck began with Ray Rice’s 83-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage.

Talk about a keynote opening.

And not to be outdone, the 2010 Patriots went 14-2, reigniting the fervor … until the New York Jets came to Gillette and won 28-21. The Jets – the Rex Ryan Jets. Losing a playoff game to the round mound of snarky sound may have been worse than the year before.

But neither was as horrible as Saturday night. The ease with which the Bills chewed up yardage and glided down the field as if they were completely unhindered by the Patriots’ defense – which, of course, they were.

This defense had some wonderful statistical baubles, entering the playoffs as the No. 4 defense in the NFL. This is one reason statistics are nice, but there is nothing like seeing how players play before canonizing or damning them.

There was something about the Patriots defense that never quite clicked. For a while – particularly that long stretch of games with the dregs of the league – they were descendants of those teams at the beginning of the dynasty. Or we tried to tell ourselves that so much bending was OK so long as the defense didn’t break too often at the worst times.

So, when the Bills shredded the Patriots defense Saturday, leaving its tatters to swirl in winter’s winds, it really should not have been a great surprise.

Much of the radio talk-show ranting is aimed squarely at Belichick – mostly Bill, for letting his son Steve serve as a quasi-coordinator. When a team’s performance scrapes bottom for four full there is no question that the coaches take their rhetorical spanking.

Time typically has a way of coaxing the conversation into a U-turn and the assessing the level of talent the coaches are working with. If there is anyone who doesn’t understand the Patriots’ shallow depth of talent, it is a case of willful blindness.

We all would have been better off willfully blind Saturday night.

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