By: Steve Balestrieri
I love Boston, the city of my youth, it’s a great mix of beautiful seasons (three anyway) lots to do, great culture and great sports teams. It’s also home to some of the most negative, glass half-empty sports reporters in the business.
Now that the Red Sox epic September collapse is done, the nay-sayers have shifted their crosshairs straight on Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. The locals falling all over themselves to appear un-biased have for the past few years gone way over to the negative side on the balance sheet.
Reading about Belichick and the Patriots, if one were an alien transported to Earth, you would think this is a team that never wins a big game and is a perpetual has-been. Which is exactly what this team WAS before Belichick came to town and the Patriots started winning more games than anyone the past decade.
Take this week for example, a big game ensued with the Jets, with first place of the AFC East on the line. Rex Ryan head coach of the Jets, never one to mince words said that the Jets “need this game”. Fair enough, the Jets had already lost to New England and didn’t want to get swept and essentially go behind two games with a loss.
All week, the gloom and doom rivaled only the ground and pound we heard from the press. Nearly every one of them predicted a Jets victory (including this writer), signifying the changing of the guard in the AFC East. The Pats obits were written on Saturday night on a lot of laptops. Unlike the rest, I said that the season didn’t end after Week 9 that there was still plenty of football left win or lose. Some were actually questioning whether this 2011 Patriots team was a playoff team.
But a funny thing happened in the swamps of New Jersey on Sunday night. Bill Belichick and a cast of no names on defense that no one ever heard of, broke open a close game in the fourth quarter, eventually blowing out the Jets 37-16. Want proof? NBC had to Marcel Marceau two of the starters for the Patriots defense during the introductions because no one had ever heard of these guys. The Patriots won? Yeah but…
Bill Belichick coached a fine game Sunday night, yeah but… (FILE:Icon/SMI)
Amazing how everyone was ready to throw dirt on this Patriots team for the season but yet after a huge team victory on Sunday, all of the Boston media felt it necessary to caveat their stories or broadcasts with the “Patriots win, yeah but… Take your pick
A. They will ultimately lose in the playoffs. That is ordained after just nine games? Really?
B. They didn’t really win the game, the Jets lost it?
Again, really? Had the Patriots lost that game with the mistakes the Jets made, would we be reading the Jets didn’t win it, the Patriots lost it? No we’d be reading like we were subjected to all week of how Rex Ryan had forged a “mentally tough” team. That they stepped up at crunch time, yeah but…
Tom Brady shook off another so-so first half, leading a last minute drive to put the Pats up for good, going 80 yards for a touchdown with just 9 seconds left. Yeah but…. The Jets shouldn’t have called timeout. Brady in the second half put on a vintage performance completing his last 14 passes of the game, brilliantly using the no-huddle against an obviously gassed Jets defense. Yeah but….
Rob Gronkowski tortured the Jets secondary time and again, specifically the overmatched Eric Smith to the tune of 8 catches for 113 yards and 2 TDs. He narrowly missed a third when he stepped out of bounds in the back of the endzone. The Jets didn’t have anyone to match up with him, even putting Darrelle Revis on him. Yeah but…
Andre Carter had a day that no Patriot defender has had…ever. Four and half sacks against Mark Sanchez and he narrowly missed a couple of more. Carter set a team record for sacks in one game. For the first time in quite a while, the Patriots had a consistent pass rush, forcing Sanchez to move or throw the ball before he wanted to. And because of this, the Patriots beat the Jets at their own game, getting pressure rushing four and dropping seven into coverage and leaving little room to throw. Yeah but…
Carter got scanty praise, instead I’ve read or heard “he got the first two sacks which were more coverage sacks and the last two were because the Jets were so far behind.” Or because the Jets offensive line had a poor game…OK fine, but wasn’t this the same Jets offensive line that all week we heard, was again one of the better ones in the NFL again with the returned health of Nick Mangold and had resumed their “ground and pound” mentality?
Carter’s last two sacks were against D’Brickashaw Fergusson, hardly a stiff. One of the better offensive tackles in the NFL we were told all week. I wonder if Westerman had four and a half sacks for the Jets, would we have heard that? Yeah but…
After the Devin McCourty injury the Patriots were playing a secondary with all UDFAs. One Sterling Moore had never even played a down as a Safety before. They performed very, very well, much better than anyone had any reason to suspect. What did we read on Monday, “the secondary played well but…. Sanchez was the reason they did, or if they played anyone other than the Jets they would have been roasted etc.” Yeah but…
Bill Belichick has been called into question a lot this year, surprising considering the team is 6-3, some of it is well deserved as in his personnel decisions, but many were questioning his coaching ability as well. After putting that patchwork defense on the field in a big game against a team that has perpetual Super Bowl aspirations (just ask them) and on the road to boot, the Patriots hold them to 16 points. Did Belichick get many kudos on Monday. “Belichick got the most out of the team, yeah but… Rex Ryan made too many mistakes” Anyone who thinks Belichick has lost it as a coach should get a game tape and watch the Patriots defense in this game and see who was on the field. The 32nd ranked defense missing three starters stepped up in a big way. Yeah but…
This week on our PatsFans Patriots 4th & 2 podcast we had Mike Reiss from ESPN Boston who gave a lot of his usual great insight into the team. He had the Patriots winning and he said, “I see this team as a resilient one, this is a good locker room and I think they are going to pull together and pull out a big win.” Reiss saw something the rest of us seemed to have missed. That maybe this Patriots team is made of much sterner stuff than what was thought of earlier. Yeah but…
Now after the win, with the Jets celebration put on hold, the Boston media feels it’s necessary to throw ice water on the parade again caveating everything with a statement that regardless of the win, this is a team destined for playoff defeat. WEEI in weekly report card felt it was necessary to say that as well as the Boston Globe among others, stating the Patriots defense was bound to be the reason this team will SURELY lose in January.
Once again, really? Should the last seven games be written off because of a destiny already written in stone? With seven games to go, there are too many variables to deal with to state unequivocally that the Patriots will lose. I listened to 98.5 yesterday, and heard that “there is no way the Patriots will beat Houston in the playoffs.” The same Houston team that has never been to the playoffs, let alone actually won a playoff game? Then we hear that the QB Matt Schaub is gone for the year. Are the Texans so “unbeatable” with Matt Leinart at QB?
Is the Patriots defense championship caliber right now? No, not even close. But are we to believe that it can’t get better with nearly half the season remaining? If the Patriots offense can execute like they did yesterday, it doesn’t have to be the ’86 Bears. Yeah but… someone will shut them down. Yeah but… no can shut down the Packers. Speaking of which, Green Bay’s defense is closer to the Patriots in terms of yardage than anyone would ever dream of saying, giving up nearly the same amount of passing yards. Yeah but…
With seven games remaining, there is too much time to worry about who is going to roll through the playoffs, who is one and done or who even makes it. Bill Belichick certainly isn’t, his focus is on the Kansas City Chiefs only and not who might be on the slate in January. There is plenty of time to dissect what the defense looks like, after the next seven games, then talk about matchups. Who knows what everyone’s roster will look like in seven weeks.
To the Boston media, quit being such negative, silly nannies (see Family Guy). If they play badly, call them on it. Call out the coaches, the players even Robert Kraft and Belichick if they deserve it. Quit looking for a storm cloud in every ray of sunshine. In perfect ‘Belispeak” just do your job. Yeah but….
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