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Patriots Replay Mon Jun 24 | 12:00 AM - 11:59 PM

View from Above: Going from good to 'scary' good

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Do you remember what it was like to try something that seemed scary for the first time? 

Maybe it was your first trip on an amusement park ride? Or perhaps asking that special someone out on a date? What about getting up the courage to ask your boss for a raise?

All are scary prospects, sure. They involve the fear of the unknown, and yet, we’re drawn to these moments like bugs are drawn to the light. It’s having a chance to succeed in the face of failure or defeat that drives us – overcoming the odds against us along the way – that keeps our drive for success alive. 

Watching the New England Patriots play football this season has been a little scary, too. Fun, yes. But fear of the unknown, or at least what we’ve known of them compared to previous seasons, has caused us to reevaluate their present worth.  

You know that, and I know that. 

Sure, climb aboard the freight train on the way to Super Bowl LIII – the franchise’s NFL-record 11th appearance in the NFL Championship Game. There’s plenty of room on board. But don’t think for a minute this team hasn’t heard the doubt, the disdain, the displeasure, or seen the disappearance in the number of believers in their ability to overcome the odds against them this season. 

They’ve noticed. They’re just like us. It’s been everywhere.

Everyone has a ‘hot take?’ Opinions are like belly-buttons, and we know everyone has one. Many of these opinions have been negative or doubting without much fact to back them up…and some are just flat-out wrong. But that’s what we have in this snap-shot world we live in.

And the pervasive, overly-general feeling of negativity appears to have assisted this team on its’ drive to succeed despite the warts, the flaws and the losses on the road we’ve all witnessed.

Kyle Van Noy tweeted out after the AFC title game win over Kansas City: “#wesuck.”

Tom Brady, as we know, told a national TV audience a week ago he knew “everyone thinks we suck.” And after directing an unprecedented, possibly never-to-be-matched mark of his 9th come from behind playoff victory, he embraced Chris Hogan in an emotional, on-field celebration at Arrowhead Stadium:

“I’m too old. You’re too slow. We’ve got no skill players. We’ve got no defense. We’ve got nothing. Love you man. Unreal bro.”

Definitely unreal. So unreal, it’s a little scary, isn’t it? I mean, what would these guys be capable of if they were actually any good?

How about Julian Edelman’s social media hashtag the past week – “#BetAgainstUs?” Did you?

If there has been one defining characteristic or trait that somehow ties each of the NINE Tom Brady-led Super Bowl teams together, it has been this uncanny ability to produce and execute when odds are against them, when others say they can’t do it. To consistently defy reasonable, normal expectations. To disprove doubters. 

To believe in your own self and ability. 

See? You can’t even narrow it down to just one thing. It’s scary, I tell ya’.

Confidence, maybe? This is beyond simple confidence. This brand of Patriot confidence transcends being bold and brash with hard-as-rock resolution, grit and fortitude. It comes from knowing you’ve done things before, and you can do things again.

You can’t possibly understand it, unless you’re enveloped within it. 

Four Patriot players played in their 8th straight AFC title game – Brady, Stephen Gostkowski, Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater. That’s enough leadership from within to have at least a trickle-down effect on much of the roster. The culture is, and has been, in place…and it continues to perform.

We tend to dismiss the unusual and the unlikely. We fear the unknown, and what we don’t understand. “They can’t do that, because I can’t do that.”  When the same unlikely event happens over, and over, and over again, right in front of our eyes, are we seeing it? 

Or are we dismissing it, because we don’t believe what we’re seeing?

Believe it. As unbelievable as it may seem. 

It’s a scary proposition.

What did we just see?

Perspective is an amazing thing. Trying to round up and make sense out of what we witnessed in the 4th quarter and overtime of the game in Kansas City may not happen until at least a little more time passes, if only to appreciate the magnitude of it all.

Bad mistakes? Yes, they made a few. But channeling my best Freddy Mercury, “I’ve had my share of sand kicked in my face but I’ve come through.” Or at least, the Patriots came through.

Getting nitpicky: TB 12’s two interceptions were different beasts – the end zone pick was perhaps a questionable play call, if only because the running game had been working well to that point (and beyond). Sometimes, things get over-thunk.

The second interception (by Daniel Sorensen) came on a tipped ball from Julian Edelman, who later greatly assisted on making-up for his physical error. 

It was a rough 4th quarter for rookie cornerback J.C. Jackson, who had his challenges in coverage with Travis Kelce but largely defended him well. Two pass interference calls were critical, one setting up the Chiefs for a score on the second play of the period, and a defensive holding call rubbed out what might have been a fumble recovery by Dont’a Hightower.

But it’s clear to see he’s developing and improving while defending some of the NFL’s best receivers Sunday. 

And the whole Edelman muffed-punt/not-a-muffed-punt? It was basically negated by Brady’s interception to Sorensen two plays later. 

Yeah, that 4th quarter had a couple games’ worth of bad mistakes, at least. But the Patriots are the (AFC) Champions, my friends. And they’ll keep on fighting, till the end.

Reffing Unbelievable

That was the headline in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, following the Saints’ overtime loss to the LA Rams in the NFC title game. “Blown no-call robs New Orleans of NFC Championship, sets up tainted Super Bowl LIII between Rams and Patriots.”

That’s more than just sour grapes. New York, you’ve got a problem, and it’s only going to get worse.

Aside from the Rams’ Nickell Robey-Coleman obliterating New Orleans receiver Tommy Lee Lewis before a pass from Drew Brees got to him, impaired or impinged judgment from NFL officials is a good part of the reason why games slow down to a crawl, just when the action heats up at the end.

It happened in the 4th quarter of the Patriots and Chiefs, too. Or how many times did you yell at your TV to ‘hurry up and snap the ball!’ because of the long delays at the review monitors? 

The game is too fast. The refs can’t handle the pace, or the pressure. And that’s not necessarily an indictment of their abilities. It’s simply recognition that we’ve over-officiated the process by allowing review to come into consideration in the first place. Once-upon-a-time, replay didn’t exist…and the NFL managed to persevere through decades of bad calls and questionable outcomes.

So, let’s fix this.

The crucial call in the Saints-Rams game was not reviewable. It’s time to make some “judgment” calls reviewable. The end goal is to not have the officials ‘re-officiated’ for every call they make, but to ensure egregious errors don’t change an outcome. That one did.

Or, go back to the way things were before video replay. Eliminate replay altogether, and let the officials handle what they’ve handled forever. I would argue the game has become too fast and physical for many split-second judgment calls, but that’s just me.

The NFL has adjusted its’ rules to favor the offense, ostensibly to keep the excitement in the game. But with poor officiating, they’ll have worse problems to deal with if calls like the one in the NFC title game keep occurring. Will the ‘fix’ be in?

Changes were made to the definition of a ‘catch’ after last season, remember? If a catch can be redefined, interference can be re-calculated, too. Time for the Competition Committee to step up and fix this, so the attention can return to the great plays made.

Not the bad calls blown.

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 Hall of Fame and RI's Words Unlimited Hall of Fame.

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