It’s a viewpoint, or the state of one’s ideas or facts known in an instant – at least in this instance. I mean, it’s hard to put into mere words what the New England Patriots have accomplished for themselves, right? It’s hard to give what we’ve all witnessed this season – the last five seasons, really – the proper perspective at this moment.
Perspective is also the state of existence in space before your eyes. And what’s before our eyes right now has caused more than a few of us, most definitely, to rub those eyes in semi-disbelief.
Is this real?
Yup, it’s real. And it’s spectacular.
Sorry, Mr. Seinfeld. Couldn’t resist.
16 AFC East titles, including having won 10 straight. A 9-4 record in AFC title games (13 total) and a 6-3 mark in Super Bowls (winning three of the last five overall) under Bill Belichick’s coaching and led by Tom Brady’s quarterbacking. Man, it’s hard to wrap your head around those facts, but “it is what it is.”
It has also been 17 years since Belichick and Brady were a part of grounding what was then known as the “Greatest Show on Turf” in Super Bowl XXXVI, a game in which former (St. Louis) Rams’ quarterback Kurt Warner admitted this past week “all I know is that for those 60 minutes they outplayed us.”
And for another 60 minutes this past Sunday night, the Patriots not only outplayed the Los Angeles Rams, they outclassed them with a strong dose of physical, change-it-up-and-hit-you-in-the-mouth football. They went ‘old school.’
Nu skool coaching wunderkind Sean McVay hardly knew what hit him, or his team. Jared Goff looked little like a #1 draft pick at the controls of an offensive juggernaut. The plan worked to perfection. An ugly game, you say?
Terrible football, a real clunker of a game? To whom?
Look, it was far from aesthetically pleasing…only if you’re a victim of the current video-game generation that craves offense and scoring points like a little kid craves an ice cream cone in the summertime. Need points? Gimme, gimme, gimme. Football has been your sport, your salvation for the past decade.
In November of this season, when the Rams outscored the Kansas City Chiefs 54-51, it was basically a basketball game that broke out on turf. Exciting, sure. But was it real football?
Fast-forward to this past Sunday. The Rams’ first eight offensive drives were punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt and punt. But that wasn’t really football, was it?
Of course it was. It was defensive dominance. You do remember defense, don’t you? Defense, special teams and field position all came into play. Welcome back to the beautiful game, people…the one that existed so well in the first 90 years of the NFL’s existence.
It’s a game where you don’t need 105 points scored in order to win impressively – fans, the media, TV ratings or video game sales-be-damned.
And Patriots fans will undoubtedly remember it was the defense that let the team down a year ago in a 41-33 Super Bowl LII loss to Philadelphia. Want perspective? What a complete 180-degree turnaround – with many of the same players on the field this year as they were last year.
The Patriots’ defense did nothing that the Rams expected. They played zone, they switched up to man, they rushed without blitzing and then they blitzed – and covered – like there was no tomorrow. That’s some perspective, huh?
“It was a great game plan,” McVay said afterward. “There is no other way to say it but, I got out-coached.”
Offense is still fun and cool and all, but defense can still win championships.
It won this one.
Super Bowl LIII was a victory for the Patriots, of course. Julian Edelman was more than just “Brady’s binky,” he was a deserving MVP. The Rams had no answer for his presence. But this game was also a victory for football. It was a victory for old-school thought within nu-skool practice.
It proved there’s still a place for defense in the game, despite the attraction of points lighting up a scoreboard – just like mosquitos light up an electric bug-zapper.
It also proved the Patriots are #StillHere. The versatility, the process and the genius. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, that’s a perspective the rest of America now deals with.
But it could always be better
This team just won a World Championship.
But were there little things – little nitpicks – you could complain about? Of course there were. What New Englander doesn’t love a good fight or argument? Let’s throw His Majesty’s tea into the harbor, shall we?
The entire first quarter was largely a sub-standard mish-mash of offensive sputtering from the Patriots’ side. While the defense dug in and created havoc for the Rams to deal with, the offense responded with:
- An interception from Brady on the first pass he threw
- Early inability to deal with LA’s interior line quickness
- Questionable play-calling (a run up the middle on a 3rd and 8 following a time out?)
- A 46-yard missed field goal from Stephen Gostkowski
- Nothing to show on the scoreboard for an eight-and-a-half-minute advantage (11:47-3:13) in time of possession
Pretty much like the first half to three-quarters of the regular season turned out, wouldn’t you say? Games aren’t played perfectly, we know. Generally, when mistakes of the above nature occur, a team will find itself in trouble – or at least behind on the scoreboard.
But not this time, thanks to the defense.
2018 (and the 2019 playoff run) will largely be remembered for a flawed Patriots’ team, based on the nitpicks that have occurred (and re-occurred) throughout the season, that was good enough to have things figured out in the end. That’s what matters most.
The best, ever
One hand has always washed the other around here. So while the issues over week-to-week improvement in execution (springtime OTA’s, anyone?) are tabled for at least a couple of months, what about the legacy 2018 leaves behind?
Where does this Patriot team rank among the greats?
Best team ever? Well, you’d be hard-pressed to make that argument compared to some recent Patriot editions, certainly. But if you look at the bigger picture – organizationally, at least – New England has certainly made its’ case for best franchise. Ever.
First, they’ve matched the Pittsburgh Steelers in number of Super Bowls won, with six. That’s six in 18 seasons, mind you…in an era of salary caps, 53-man rosters, cost controls and true free agency limiting how much talent one team can reasonably hold onto. The Steelers’ heyday was before built-in parity became the rule.
The Washington Post had a cool piece looking at the odds of building a dynasty by today’s present NFL rules and standards and came up with odds of 71,000-to-1 for a team to win six championships in an 18-year period of standardized equity, if not equality.
The Patriots ARE the exception to the rule, it seems.
Those other dynastic teams in recent NFL history? Pretty good, but not Patriot-good.
- 1991-97 Dallas Cowboys: three titles in seven years, 700-to-1
- 1981-89 San Francisco 49ers: four titles in nine years, 5,000-to-1
- 1974-79 Pittsburgh Steelers: four titles in six years, 38,000-to-1
The Patriots even overshadow the dynastic run of the 1936-39 New York Yankees, with four titles in four years at odds of 50,000-to-1 to pull off the feat during that era of major league baseball.
No wonder the haters continue to have a field day with this team. If you can beat out “Yankee Hate,” you must really be good.
With this organization making an astounding run of NINE Super Bowl appearances in the past 18 years – all during a time when free agency and salary caps were supposed to make this kind of run impossible – even the Steelers should grudgingly admit it, but they won’t.
The Patriots are the best. Ever. The NFL’s future will simply have to wait.
And that’s a legacy worth leaving behind.
John Rooke, an author and award-winning broadcaster, is concluding 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 & Television Hall of Fame and RI's Words Unlimited Hall of Fame.