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Patriots Replay Fri Dec 14 | 12:00 AM - 11:59 PM

View from Above: Being thankful for what we've had

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This is not one of those “I’m thankful for the birds chirping, the waves crashing and the sun shining” kind of stories.

Even though I am thankful for those.

No, this thought is a bit more football-centric. As someone who has reported on this franchise for 30 years and worked for them for 26 of those, I’ve heard a lot, seen a lot and learned a lot, to be sure. Not a week goes by without learning something – and we should all be so lucky.

Always mindful of issues concerning any conflict-of-interest, since I’ve stumbled around the reporting business (and the NFL) for more than 40 years, it’s always been easy for me to draw the line between what I should say, as opposed to what I want to say as a reporter.

When thinking critically, I always ask myself, “Am I being fair?” And the fact this team allows me that opportunity is more than fair. I am thankful for that.

I am thankful for the privilege of observing, writing and talking about great coaches and players like Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. On occasion, even talking to people like Belichick and Brady. You don’t have to like their press conference-style or mannerisms or agree with everything they say or do on a football field.

But most people know what great is when they see it.

And if their photos aren’t next to the word great in the dictionary, they should be. Covering true greatness is rare in this business. Having two decades of it is a privilege. I am thankful for that.

I am thankful, speaking as a fan now, that the Patriots reside in the AFC East. Who wouldn’t be thankful for nine straight division titles, the longest such streak in NFL history? As a reporter/radio host/columnist, the AFC East has always been full of great storylines – from the rivalry days of Don Shula and Dan Marino in Miami, to the Buffalo Bills going to (and losing) four straight Super Bowls, to the New York Jets being, well, the J-E-T-S.

Since 2001, the Patriots have three times as many division titles as the Jets have in their entire history, dating to 1960. Five times as many Super Bowl trophies. And, they have a coach who has been in New England for nearly two decades, after spending one day as a head coach in New York.

They do have the playoff win in 2010 to hang their hats on, but you could be a Jets’ fan, you know. Be thankful for that.

I miss Rex Ryan being around, and we had him with two of those three teams. He was always great for doing or saying something outlandish that we could write or talk about. But I am thankful for having had that.

In the winning and losing – mostly winning – through the years, one thing continues to hit me over the head every time I write or listen to or speak with a Patriots’ fan.

The passion. The pride. The sense of belonging to something great. And I am definitely thankful for that.

The conquerors conquered?

ESPN’s Mike Reiss sent out a telling tweet over the past weekend:

Last four teams to beat the Patriots, and their record since beating NE:

  • Eagles: 4-6
  • Jaguars: 1-7
  • Lions: 3-4
  • Titans: 0-1

This was one notable theme of Patriots’ bye weekend. Beating Patriots can be Super Bowl-caliber win, but foes have struggled to maintain afterwards.”

Interesting, isn’t it? One interpretation could certainly mean opponents tend to put all their energy and effort into winning their matchup with the Patriots, as if it were their own Super Bowl game (Hello, Jacksonville). Or, it could be a simple case of having a Patriot-hangover after enjoying the fruits of their labor (‘Sup, Tennessee?).

Having fun now, Philly?

What it could also mean – the conquerors are talented enough to win A game, but perhaps not talented enough to win THE game. Or at least, win more games to get to THE game.

It could also mean that parity is real in this NFL season, and every game is a virtual toss-up. It all boils down to creating, then executing, a game-plan better than the other guys.

Didn’t mean to sound like Bill Belichick there, but strangely, it just came out that way.

Noodle me this

Chris Price of the Boston Sports Journal also had a great take on some of the national “feedback” the Patriots and Tom Brady have received since the team lost at Tennessee.

ESPN bloviator Max Kellerman said last Monday that Brady had “a wet noodle for an arm right now,” referring to his throws against the Titans and other incompletions or throwaways he’s made recently.

So naturally, the thought was to ask the guys on the receiving ends of those noodles what they thought? Good idea.

Said Philip Dorsett: “Well, that’s a lie. We play with him every day. Velocity and arm strength aren’t an issue. I’ve been here for a little over a year, and there’s no difference from last year to this year. I mean, he won MVP last year. The results speak for themselves. There’s no difference from last year to this year.

“I don’t see any difference,” he added.

Said James White: “That’s crazy. That has never been an issue. It’s the same ball he was throwing last year and the year before that.”

Ok, could it simply be teammates coming to his rescue, or is there some truth to what’s being said here?

While it’s true that some tightening up on pass patterns, QB reads and physical throws are in order, the velocity of the ball apparently hasn’t wavered. If you were able to visit a practice and simply listen to the ball zip through the air, you might better understand.

Or, just take Dorsett’s word for it.

“When I’m warming up with him and he’s throwing on the sideline, that ball is coming in with some heat,” he said, smiling. “You stand in there and try and catch it.”

Injury and attitude

If you’re of a certain age, you undoubtedly remember the gruesome injury suffered once upon a time by former Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann. 33 years ago Sunday, Theismann was sacked by the New York Giants’ Lawrence Taylor, and his leg literally snapped in two.

Fast forward 33 years later – and nearly the same thing happened to current Redskins’ QB Alex Smith, who was caught and twisted by Houston’s Kareem Jackson and J.J. Watt. It broke his right leg in two places.

As Yogi Berra might have once said, it was like “déjà vu all over again.”

The similarities extend further than just the seriousness of the injury itself. Washington lost to Houston 23-21 Sunday – which was also the exact score from 33 years ago, as the Redskins beat the Giants 23-21.

Additionally, the two guys involved in the tackle – LT and JJ – are the only two players to have won the Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year award three times.

33 years from now, I already feel sorry for Washington’s quarterback.

To replace Smith in the lineup, Colt McCoy moves under center in Washington, and ex-Jet Mark Sanchez has been signed to take the back-up role.

And I know it’s tough emotionally when you lose a game, but the L.A. Chargers’ Keenan Allen apparently wasn’t in any mood to give the Denver Broncos credit for their win on Sunday.

"No, I don't think they played well at all," he said to Eric Williams of ESPN.com. "We dominated the game. Turnovers, we gave them some points and that's what happened.”

“They suck."

Maybe Keenan, maybe. But they also won, too.

The Chargers moved the ball all over the field against the Broncos’ defense but could never apply a knock-out punch thanks to late mistakes and poor clock management. Denver’s Brandon McManus hit a last-second field goal from 34 yards out to win it.

Someone should remind Allen, perhaps, that it’s a 60-minute game. Not 59 minutes and 59 seconds.

John Rooke, an author and award-winning broadcaster, is in his 26th season as the Patriots' stadium voice. Currently serving in several media capacities - which include hosting "Patriots Playbook" on Patriots.com Radio - Rooke has broadcast college football and basketball locally and nationally for more than 30 years and is a member of the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame and RI's Words Unlimited Hall of Fame.

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