Ever wondered what it would be like to be a Patriots fan? The thought disgusts me; the vision of cheering a Tom Brady touchdown throw gives me stomach pain the likes of appendicitis has never seen. But boy - I sure wouldn't mind the winning, even if it had recently been tarnished by a cheating scandal. Let's be honest - it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to be a Pats fan. A Dolphin fan, on the other hand...
We don't have to imagine being a Pats fan today (you're welcome), because Tommasse of Pats Pulpit is here to give us his take on the Pats. It's like viewing the thoughts of a Pats fan without the appendicitis, or something. Here's his take on his team and the game this weekend (my questions in bold):
I'll only bring this up once - Spygate. We know where you stand. Were you surprised at all with how well the Patriots played after the consequences were handed out, or was this just another aced test of your team's mettle?
PP: No, I wasn't surprised so much by how well the Patriots played more than surprised by how poorly San Diego did. I'll couch that by saying it's just Week 2, and a lot of teams aren't in midseason form. I don't think anyone else should be very surprised by New England's performance either. This is been a hallmark of Belichick's Patriots teams going right back to the all-consuming Bledsoe vs. Brady debate six years ago.
There are only two times I can think of that "distractions" may have prevented this team from playing to (or above) its expected level: The release of Lawyer Milloy and the trade of Deion Branch. A week after the Patriots released Milloy and Buffalo signed him, the Bills crushed New England up north, 31-0, in the first game of the season. Of course, the Patriots rebounded, beat Buffalo by an identical score in Week 17 and then won a Super Bowl. With Branch, it was as much a function of having virtually no receivers than any kind of emotional drain. It took time for Tom Brady and the new receivers to gel, but it happened, and New England came up ever-so-short of another Super Bowl appearance.
The Patriots are the eye of the hurricane. With all the surrounding chaos, it's a real testament to this team and its coach that they are so well prepared and so focused.
What is the biggest difference you see between the '06 Patriots and the '07 Patriots that could put them over the top?
PP: I think there's no question that it's the receiving corps. The offensive line and tight ends are largely the same, and the running game is about equal. The defense is clearly better with Adalius Thomas, but it's pretty much the same defense. Last Sunday, New England marched down the field on seven straight passing plays, six completions, and it didn't look like San Diego had a clue what to do about it. A couple drives later, they left Randy Moss uncovered in the slot, and he scored easily.
Brady looks like a completely different quarterback, as hard as that is to believe. Even the O line looks better, because the linebackers are trying to figure out coverages; and if anyone blitzes, Brady is so good at reading defenses, he can find the open man and release the ball very quickly. ESPN or NFL Network put a stopwatch on Brady, and he was releasing the ball less than 2 seconds after the snap.
Are you (pleasantly, to be sure) surprised by the resurgence of WR Randy Moss? Or did you think he was a lock for this type of production all along?
PP: I won't say I'm surprised. It's just Week 2. Outside of wondering about the hamstring injury, I fully expected him to storm out of the gate. On the other hand, there's no way I expected this. It's very difficult not to get too excited, and I try to remind myself that we're just coming up on Week 3. It's a long season, and New England will turn on Moss as quickly as they warmed up to him if he says he's just "Randy being Randy." Fans most places are pretty astute, and if Moss starts lollygagging and "taking plays off," the fans will notice, and the honeymoon will end quickly. In the meantime, we've dropped the "cautiously" off "optimistic" and despite his past, New England is enjoying every minute of it.
What area of the Patriots concerns you most as the team looks to fulfill predictions of a Super Bowl championship?
PP: I'm still concerned about the defensive secondary. They've played great so far, but they played that way often last year, too. But not always. There were games that the d-backs were obviously overmatched, and at times appeared to forget how to tackle. A team can play great defense for 58 minutes, but big plays during a minute at the end of each half can mean the difference between winning and losing.
The other concern is the durability and maturity of Laurence Maroney. Certainly, the offenses new passing prowess takes a lot of pressure off him, and Sammy Morris is surprising as such an effective alternative. The healthier the receivers stay, the better chance Maroney stays healthy too. A breakdown anywhere can have a domino effect, and if New England comes to rely on the running game, Maroney will have to answer some tough questions.
What do you see as the biggest potential stumbling block for the Patriots this season?
PP: Well, injuries. That's always foremost, because you can't predict them and you can't control them. New England has had its share of major injuries to key players over the years, and they can really drain a team physically. One bright spot is how well the defensive line is playing without Richard Seymour.
Injuries aside, you always worry about the division games. The win over the Jets was sweet, but New England beat them in New Jersey last year before they came north and beat the Patriots at home. That's the way this division has been for years. They play each other very tough almost every time. New England has never swept the division; you can almost count on one or two of those games tripping you up -- and that could cost a slot in the postseason seedings.
Maybe the biggest danger is getting overconfident and looking past teams. It's unlikely with this coaching staff, but it's an ever-present danger. Take a team like Washington. Before the season, most fans chalked that up as a win. But the Redskins have a good team and a good coach. You can't underestimate them, regardless of their record, just because the next team on the slate is Indianapolis. That can cost you a postseason seed, too.
OK. Exhale. Life as a Pats fan is over - a big thanks goes out to Tommasse for his insight into the 2007 Patriots. Be sure to stop by his site later today to see the reciprocating set of questions he asked me.