Are Boston fans spoiled?

992447.jpg

Are Boston fans spoiled?

Who says that? They ran the ball good this year. I dont know what happened in the playoffs, but heres what I say to you guys in New England: You guys are spoiled. Really, you are. Youve got to remember how the other half lives. You forgot. I was there for it, so I know. Just remember, you could be like some of these other franchises that you see. You got a couple of em in your division."

This quote is from Bill Parcells, and was taken from a conversation he had with the Globe's Dan Shaughnessy during Super Bowl week in New Orleans. The conversation took place shortly before Parcells learned that he's finally headed to Canton; long before Bar Refaeli sucked face with Walter, the Superdome wasn't ready for Beyonce's jelly, and the Ravens held off the Niners to win Super Bowl XLVII.

The game was a classic. It may not have played out exactly how Patriots fans had hoped, but what else is new, right? These days, the Pats and Super Bowl disappointment pretty much go hand in hand.

OK, everyone take a second and re-read that last sentence.

That's exactly what Bill Parcells is talking about. That's the spoiled attitude that he's apparently so fed up with. And in that sense, you can't argue with the Tuna. Which is great, because who wants to argue with the Tuna? But while he definitely has a point, Parcells statement misses on a larger level, and does so in a way that (I think) can help explain exactly what's going on here in New England.

Basically, how the most fortunate fan base in recent NFL history has morphed into a seemingly miserable crew of ungrateful monsters.

Now I don't think that the "miserable crew of ungrateful monsters" description is necessarily true, but that's definitely the perception. That's where Parcells is coming from, and it's one of the major reasons why so many football fans around the country have grown to hate New England.

Are Patriots fans spoiled? Yes, of course. In today's NFL, I'd say one championship in a lifetime qualifies you as spoiled. The fact that New England's experienced three Super Bowl wins, five Super Bowl appearances and 11 ten-win seasons in the last 12 years puts Pats fans on a level of spoiled only visible by telescope (like the one Marshall Faulk used to spy on the Patriots walk-through before Super Bowl XXXVI).

New England is so ridiculously spoiled.

As a result, we sometimes lose perspective. We hold the team to an unfair standard. There are things we say and do that are so far lost on (essentially offensive to) anyone outside of the region. On the surface, we're the little kid at the movies, throwing a tantrum because his mom won't let him have a fourth candy bar and the rest of the theater hates our guts.

At the end of the day, what are you going to do? That's what happens when you experience this kind of success. It rubs people the wrong way. It changes who you are. And when that success comes on the heels of a long string of disappointment, those changes are very rarely for the better. It's like all these people who win hundred of millions of dollars in the lottery something everyone dreams of and then watch as their lives spin out of control and into the dumpster.

Truth is that folks who aren't used to insane levels of success aren't always the best at dealing with it. And if we're being honest, considering where we were before the Pats started this run, New England has fallen victim to that. Even if it's just a little bit (or a lot bit). My point is that either way, you can understand the outside hate. From Parcells, Deadspin or whomever.

But here's where that hate goes wrong . . .

Actually, I should start by putting Parcells' statement in a little better context.

Who says that? They ran the ball good this year. I dont know what happened in the playoffs, but heres what I say to you guys in New England: You guys are spoiled. Really, you are. Youve got to remember how the other half lives. You forgot. I was there for it, so I know. Just remember, you could be like some of these other franchises that you see. You got a couple of em in your division."

This was a response to Shaughnessy raising the notion that the Patriots have become a "finesse team" in recent years. Basically, implying that the Patriots eight-year Super Bowl drought is a matter of them not being tough enough.

You can you understand why that would get Parcells heated. He has too much respect for Belichick. You know he has a distaste for the media, and especially the Boston media. For the face of that contingent to ask such an insulting (at least to a football coach) question was a recipe for disaster.

For that reason, I think it's far more likely that Parcells just snapped (Dan has a knack for bringing that out in people) than it is that the Tuna walks around fostering so much hate for New England. But either way, on some level, he believes what he's saying here, and the opinion certainly matches what so many others around the country think: Patriot fans Boston fans, in general are ungrateful morons; they've lost touch with reality, and don't remember how the other half lives.

Now, for real this time, here's where that hate goes wrong.

Patriots fans remember everything.

Maybe not 100 percent of the population, but a majority of Patriots fans understand what's going on here. They haven't forgotten how the other half lives. In fact, more than stupidity, arrogance and ungratefulness, it's that knowledge of what it really means to be an NFL fan, and the memory of what it was like before the Pats started winning that fuels New England's current (and seemingly unreasonable) behavior.

Patriots fans are spoiled, but we're also realistic.

We know that this won't last forever, and that there's a rude awakening on the other side. Once it's over, we know that there's no guarantee we'll ever see it again.

Patriots fans are spoiled, but we're also a little desperate.

Tom Brady has two years left on his contract. And while there's certainly a chance that he'll play beyond this current deal, he'll also be 38 years old when it ends. John Elway's the only quarterback to win a Super Bowl and that age, and he was riding the coattails of Terrell Davis' 2,000-yard season. Is there a Davis in Tom Brady's future?

We can hope, but we can't count on it. We can't count on anything, except for that fact this era of Patriots football is finally starting to wind down.

But in the meantime, like I said: What can you do?

In the words of Winston Churchill: "Haters gonna hate." And there's no doubt that as long as Brady and Belichick are leading the charge, the rest of the world will hate the Patriots. Mostly, because as long as Brady and Belichick are leading the charge, Pats fans are going to carry themselves in a way that will inspire that hate.

They're going to hold this team to an unreasonable standard. Complain about problems that three-quarters of the league would love to have. And resort to subtle, bitchy little tactics like entirely avoiding the fact that the Ravens won the Super Bowl.

All while walking the tight rope between trying to enjoy this while it lasts, and fearing what will happen next.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Butler, Brown set to square off again in AFC title game

Butler, Brown set to square off again in AFC title game

FOXBORO -- The general consensus has been that when it comes to defending Antonio Brown, or any No. 1 receiver for that matter, the Patriots have two options: Use their top corner Malcolm Butler in man-to-man coverage or double-team him.

There are benefits to each. Butler has the speed an quickness to effectively mirror Brown's routes. Meanwhile, Logan Ryan has found recent success in teaming up with teammates to slow down top options like Houston's DeAndre Hopkins, who was the target when Devin McCourty broke up a fourth-quarter pass that resulted in a Ryan interception last week. 

Both the Steelers and the Patriots seemed to indicate that they knew which way Bill Belichick will lean this weekend. 

"[I] assume maybe that [Butler] will follow AB around," Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "He’s a guy that really has just come into the role of being pretty much a shutdown corner."

"[Butler] takes this as a big challenge," Patriots defensive captain Dont'a Hightower said. "We obviously know what Antonio Brown is. He’s arguably the best wide receiver in the league. We know what kind of matchup threat he poses. We expect Malcolm to take advantage of that, and I know he’s ready to rise up to that challenge." 

But Brown -- named a First-Team All-Pro this season after reeling in 106 passes for 1,284 yards and 12 touchdowns -- has the ability to make one singular plan of attack obsolete, eventually. The Patriots will have to throw different looks at him to keep him guessing, keep Roethlisberger thinking, and keep their connection somewhat under control.

Here are a few of the options . . . 

COVER-1

In Week 7 against the Steelers, this seemed to be the coverage of choice for the Patriots. They used Butler to shadow Brown all over the field for much of the game while one safety patrolled the deep middle portion of the field.

The third-year corner saw nine targets sent his way while in coverage of Brown. Five were caught for 94 yards.

Though the numbers looked pretty good for Brown fantasy owners, Butler had one of his stronger games of the season, making an interception in the end zone while draped all over his man. That was followed up by a celebrattion that mocked Brown's staple touchdown dance.

Brown and Butler have a relationship after seeing each other over the last two seasons and shooting a Visa commerical together earlier this year, and he sounded fired up to go against Brown again this weekend.

"Most definitely I respect that guy," Butler said of Brown this week. "Great player obviously, and (I) just love to compete and he loves to compete also."

Though Butler found himself on what looked like an island in plenty of situations back in Week 7, the Patriots also had their deep safeties (McCourty and Duron Harmon) keep a close eye on Brown as well.

But on Brown's longest catch of the game, a 51-yarder over the middle of the field, having a safety there didn't mean much due to a smart play-design by offensive coordinator Todd Haley. 

Brown was followed by Butler all the way across the field, and though Harmon may have been in position to help over the top, he had to respect the deep over route run by Steelers burner Darrius Heyward-Bey. By the time Harmon got to Brown -- Heyward-Bey actually helped slow down Harmon by screening him deep down the field -- it was too late. 

IMMEDIATE DOUBLE-TEAM

There were other instances -- like the very first third-and-long of the game for the Steelers -- when the Patriots doubled Brown off the snap with Butler and McCourty. With a player of Brown's caliber, it's not question of either single him with Butler or double him. Doubles will simply be part of the deal, in all likelihood, whether Butler's on him or not.

Back in Week 7, the Patriots were burned by Steelers secondary options on a couple of occasions when they quickly removed Brown from the equation.

The first time Brown was doubled off the snap (above), Eric Rowe was left with Heyward-Bey in a one-on-one situation and was beaten for a 14-yard touchdown in the back corner of the end zone. The second time (below), Heyward-Bey ran across the field with Rowe trailing him, scoring once again from 14 yards out.

A holding penalty negated the second score, but it seemed clear what the Patriots were trying to tell the Steelers in those situations: "Go ahead and beat us with someone else, but we won't let you do it with Brown."

Even when Brown inevitably makes plays despite the extra attention -- the Steelers will run rub routes, screens and reverses simply to get the football in his hands -- it will be incumbent upon everyone to help limit his yards after the catch, McCourty explained this week.

"Brown is a great player and Malcolm has done a great job but it’s going to be all of us," McCourty said. "All of us have to help out and make sure we try to limit him whether that’s getting everyone to the ball, whether it’s a short pass [or] intermediate pass, whether he breaks a tackle and he’s trying to reverse, we all just got to have a high sense of urgency for him and alertness and try to get to him before he’s able to break the 50-60-yard play. I think defensively we all understand that and we’re going to work on that all week."

COVER-2, 2-MAN, COVER-4, ETC., ETC., ETC...

There are plenty of other defenses that the Patriots may choose to run in order to try to take away one of the game's best play-makers. If they feel as though Heyward-Bey or Eli Rogers or another teammate of Brown's is worthy of garnering special attention from one of their safeties, they could opt for more split-safety looks -- with both McCourty and Harmon deep -- than they did in Week 7.

The fact that it's Ben Roethlisberger behind center now -- and not Landry Jones, as it was in Week 7 -- may also help dictate coverages and encourage the Patriots to be more vigilent against the explosive play. 

Bottom line: Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia will employ more than one look when they take on the best passing game they've faced all season. Oftentimes that'll mean two sets of eyes on Brown, and even then that's not guaranteed to stop him.

"It's tough because the thing about Antonio Brown and players of that caliber is that they're used to the multiple attention," Ryan said. "He gets doubled, he gets attention. Every team tries to do it, and he still has the numbers he has because he's a great player. That's what great players do.

"We just need to execute a little better than what other teams do. It's possible. It's not impossible. But he's not a guy you're going to completely eliminate from the game, and we've just got to corral him as a team."