Being a Boston sports fan in the land of Marino usually doesn’t bother me too much. I am reminded on almost a daily basis that the Dolphins are still the only team with a perfect season (Don Shula coached the fins to a perfect 17-0 in 1972), which is fine. If Miami fans need to parade around making themselves feel better about winning 17 games before most of them were born, I am ok with it. Whatever helps you sleep at night, “Dolfans”. But this season, 7 weeks in, with the AFC East as close as it is, I’m not sitting pretty, laughing at Dolphins fans as they walk by in their aqua and orange garb as I often do… Or did. A panicky maniac has replaced my usually smug disposition. The Patriots are 4-3, and currently leading the fins by a half game in the standings. The Pats squeaked out an OT win against the rival Jets, by the skin of their teeth on Sunday in what many thought would be a blowout.
As a loyal Patriots fan for more than half my life, I have seen my team play in 5 Super Bowls, winning 3 of them (they are 3-4 all time). I believe the safest bet someone could make would be to bet it all on the Pats making it to the postseason. In the Brady era, we’re just accustomed to racking up touchdowns like they’re a walk-in-the-park. It’s not uncommon to score 35+ points in at least half of our games.
It’s different this year. Sure we’ve won 4 amazing games (by a margin of 57 points) but we’ve lost 3 (by a margin of 4) and we’ve blown 4th quarter leads twice. We have the best quarterback in the league throwing to some of the greatest hands in the league (Welker, Gronkowski, Hernandez, Lloyd, Branch). Our run game has been revitalized thanks to Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden. But something just doesn’t seem right. This roller coaster of a season has magnified the Patriots weaknesses. Late drops, uneven match-ups, special teams follies, are all knocking this usually poised and balanced Patriots team off its even keel.
Don’t get me wrong I am never one to complain about a win. But I can’t help but feel like they used to be a whole lot easier to come by. Maybe that’s just because the Patriots have made it look so easy in the past? This season, as Tom Brady’s arm is another year older, and the offensive line is another vet lighter, the Patriots almost look… gasp… human.
During his weekly radio interview on WEEI on Monday, Tom Brady addressed his teams’ and fans’ frustrations:
“We’re trying to do it. It’s not like you flip a switch. I don’t think that’s it. There’s 53 guys that are trying to do their best out there, and we’re just not doing our best. Hopefully we get to that point. That’s part of why we practice, why we meet and why we go to work every day,” Brady said. “I wish it were that easy. And maybe there were times when it has looked that easy. But I think you appreciate it when it does work. And you realize the preparation that you put into it, that it pays off. Maybe we’ve just spoiled some people in the meantime. Because it’s hard to win, man. It’s really hard to win.”
So, is the Patriots’ 4-3 record cause for concern? Not so fast, spoiled Pats fans. Although we are used to things a certain way, maybe change is good. Maybe this season will make us appreciate the wins more. We can yell and curse all we want about why Belichick called that play or how the receivers could have dropped that ball, but in the end, our guys are trying their best out there, and we cannot take that for granted. If they lose their next game (against the St. Louis Rams at Wembley Stadium in London) chances are I’ll be singing a different tune. In the meantime, let’s relish our 4 wins, because, hey, we’re still better than the Dolphins.