Tuesday, October 19, 2010
AP Photo/Michael Dwyer
Yes, the most die-hard of New England Patriots fans have put their entire trust in Bill Belichick over the years and do not question him.
But they aren’t in the majority.
Last year the Pats got beat down in the first round of the NFL Playoffs by the Baltimore Ravens, leaving many to comment that the dynasty was dead. Many opined that Belichick was a control freak when he took over the defensive coordinator position, along with the offensive coordinator position rather than hiring people to fill those spots. And all hell broke loose when Randy Moss, arguably a future Hall-of-Famer, was traded away for the bargain-price of a third round draft pick.
Belichick must be laughing right now.
Avenge the playoff loss as best as they possibly could? Check.
Win without Randy Moss? Check.
Win using his preferred style of offense, spreading the ball around? Check.
New England’s 23-20 win over Baltimore has some people trumpeting the Patriots as one of the top teams in the NFL.
Deion Branch, the man the Pats traded for after dumping Moss—which seems to constitute a shift back in time in both offensive philosophy and personnel—caught a game-high nine passes for a team-high 98 yards and a touchdown.
He and Tom Brady seemed to have lost no chemistry regardless of the four-year layover. He made Patriot fans, for the moment, forget about Moss. And he earned a postgame hug from Belichick.
For the rest of the offense, three players caught five or more passes, and four had 50-plus yards receiving. They also had two players rush the ball at least 10 times.
The defense, criticized for being young, inexperienced and far from polished, bent but did not break. The Patriots beat the Ravens in yards gained. The Ravens running game was kept to less than 99 total yards, mostly thanks to the 10-plus tackles from Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes and Patrick Chung.
The Patriots executed well on offense against one of the premier defenses in the NFL, and the defense kept a Ravens offense with eight former Pro-Bowlers at bay.
Bill Belichick was vindicated Sunday afternoon.
The on-going soap opera will now be whether he really is the best coach in the league or whether this will make him so full of himself that he thinks he can do anything and continue to walk the fine line between genius and crazy.