Pa­tri­ots flex dy­nas­tic mus­cles

Eighth straight di­vi­sion ti­tle is his­toric work.

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Dan Shaugh­nessy

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.