You didn’t hear it here first, but, the holidays are pretty darn special. Marked by seasonal craft brews, mad dashes for virtual reality sets, and perpetual desserts. The Thanksgiving and holiday season are, in fact, a feast. But, while you and yours enjoy delights to the senses, and the digestive system, this year’s New England Patriots are enjoying a feast of a different kind.
This team is no stranger to winning, just ask anyone who lives above ground about the words: “dominance”, and “dynasty,” and the Pats are likely to be included in their response. What Brady and Bellichick have been able to accomplish together, with a crucial and evolving supporting cast, is nothing short of breathtaking. Four championship rings to show for almost two decades of work. Not bad. Especially when you take into account the level of parity in the league today.
Here in 2016, New England, with steady yet not always stunning performances from players like tight end Rob Gronkowski, is right back at the top of the AFC East, and firmly in the discussion as a favorite to win Super Bowl LI in Houston, Texas. And this is all in the face of persistent injuries.
That’s not surprising, but how we got here, is. Boy, is it ever. This article doesn’t have a character limit, but, if it did, a mere fraction of the “Deflategate” timeline would fit in the space provided.
You’ve heard the story more times than you’d like to, or your friends would like to, in a thousand lifetimes. But, 544 days elapsed from the start of “Deflategate,” to the day Brady decided he couldn’t carry on the appeals fight any longer. Now, given that we have the luxury of hindsight to work on our behalf, the four-game suspension was served without the sky falling, and without raising too many questions.
At the outset of this season, when major sports publications like The Ringer, and Bleacher Report, issued their season previews, few thought the team would be able to withstand the mental toll this scandal took on the guys in the locker room. In the midst of an ordeal like this, players will always tell the media that getting out on the field is a welcome distraction, but there’s only so much you can do, as they say.
What happened next easily could have come with a script written by Christopher Nolan. Jimmy Garoppolo, playing for the first time since college, grinded out a 23-21 win at Arizona, and then… He got injured. Once Jacoby Brissett took the reigns in place of Jimmy G, the visiting teams began a hard investigation of the surveillance video depicting Bellichick’s deal with the devil.
In reality, to replace the most important position on the field, one held by a future Hall of Famer, and barely miss a beat in the process, is cosmically perplexing to an outsider.
On balance, the 2016 Patriots run towards the playoffs is most impressive because of the level of adversity the team has dealt with, and the fact that there is not as much clear-cut, super star talent on this year’s team. TB12 continues to dazzle right now, with role players with him in the huddle. There is no Randy Moss. There is no Deion Branch. There are guys like Julian Edelman, and Danny Amendola, who are just happy to have their primary signal caller back under center.
The team is hungry and energized now, and I think this year’s soap opera is giving them more to fight for and more to prove. Winning solves everything, not as an absolute, but at the right time, when it matters most. If this team is able to punch its ticket to the Super Bowl, a win will provide the ultimate closure to this saga. If all you want for Christmas is a deep run through the playoffs, you just might be in luck.