Patriots flex dynastic muscles
Eighth straight division title is historic work.
It must be December in the AFC. Chestnuts are roasting on open fires and Tomato Cans are falling down in front of the sons of Bill Belichick.
Enjoy this as long as it lasts, people. You are not likely to see it ever again in professional sports.
It was yet another hat and T-shirt game for the New England Patriots on Sunday. Playing one of their best games of the season, the Patriots trumped the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos 16-3 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, winning the AFC East for the eighth consecutive season and the 13th time in the last 14 years. The Pats are 14-2 in AFC East titles since Tom Brady took over at quarterback in 2001.
For the Patriots, winning the AFC East has become like signing up for Facebook or getting a letter of acceptance from the University of Phoenix. It’s professional sports’ version of a Newton youth soccer participation trophy. All the Patriots have to do to win is show up, play their traditional tight game and wait for the other guys to make mistakes.
The chorus line of dunce coaches (Cam Cameron?) and bum quarterbacks (Thad Lewis?) populating the AFC East in this century stretches from Orchard Park to Miami Gardens with an annual stop at Exit 16W off the Jersey Turnpike. And the beneficiaries of this abject ineptitude are your New England Patriots — a team that never, ever takes a year off.
Winning the division is the first step in taking the Patriots where they expect to go. The Patriots’ annual mission is to win the division, qualify for a bye, then secure home field for the duration of the playoffs. They do this with historic efficiency. Winning the AFC East with two weeks still to play, and securing one of the top two seeds in the conference, gives the Patriots the inside track to Houston and an appearance in Super Bowl LI. A loss by Kansas City on Sunday put the Patriots ever closer to a sixth consecutive AFC championship game.
“Our goals can now be reset,” said Belichick after clinching the East. “That’s the first one. We’ll try to accomplish more this year.’’
The Patriots didn’t do anything spectacular Sunday, but it’s been really hard to win in Denver, and any victory at Mile High is to be coveted. Brady was 2-7 in the Broncos corral before Sunday.
“It was no masterpiece, but it was what it needed to be,’’ said Belichick.
True to form, fraidy cat Broncos coach Gary Kubiak was fully cooperative, chickening out on a long field-goal attempt and sitting on the ball when it was still a competitive game late in the first half. The Broncos were rightfully booed off their own field by their own fans (74,698 cold souls) at intermission.
New England led 10-3 at halftime. It felt like 73-0. The Patriots’ one and only touchdown of the day came on a 1-yard run by LeGarrette Blount. The Patriots fumbled twice on their only TD drive, but naturally recovered both drops. New England has fumbled 25 times this year, recovering an amazing 16 times. I think they work on that on Fridays.
When it was over, the Patriots were greeted in their locker room with hats that read “champions” and T-shirts with “Hold down the East” inscribed on the front. It was especially nice for veterans such as Chris Long and Chris Hogan, guys with no playoff experience.
The list of inept offenses the Patriots have faced this year staggers the mind. I keep worrying that New England could be stunned by a good offense in the playoffs. Then again, maybe not. Maybe nobody can score on the Patriots because they are really good.
Seven Super Bowls. Six straight AFC title games. Eight straight division championships.
Enjoy. These are the good old days.
New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount rushes against the Broncos on Sunday. Joe Amon, The Denver Post