Biggest win on Sunday? Evidence of offensive potency

Biggest win on Sunday? Evidence of offensive potency
November 4, 2013, 12:45 am
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FOXBORO – It’s going to look bad again. Because that’s the way it works. Whether it’s a win or a loss it’s fleeting.
So the 55 points? The wide receivers running naked and alone through the Steelers secondary? The 151.8 passer rating for Tom Brady? Nothing more than nice fodder for the next 15 days.
On November 18, the ball will be kicked off on a Monday night in Carolina and none of that stuff will matter. Brady’s 432 passing yards and the Patriots 610 total yards against Pittsburgh will matter as much as Jonny Gomes’ playoff OPS.
Same way the Patriots 3-for-23 stretch on third down conversions over the last two games was useless and irrelevant Sunday. Same way speculation over Brady’s hand, age and temperament was useless when Brady started toying with Troy Polamalu and the rest of the Steelers secondary.
Which is why, when Brady was asked Sunday if the Patriots were building toward playing their best football and getting some separation from the field, he tapped the brakes.

“Yeah, but I mean, it’s one game…,” he said. “You play once a week and it was a good week of practice and it showed in the game. We have a bye week and then we play Carolina. So this really doesn’t matter much going forward, or the score. I think the improvement of our team and the confidence, that’s the most important thing.”

In other words, enjoy the hell out of the performance but – aside from the total in the win column ticking up a notch – it’s irrelevant whether they put up 55 or 35.

“That’s all that matters at this point,” Brady said of his team’s 7-2 record. “All the stats and percentages, you can throw them all out the door now because hopefully we’re going into Carolina playing our best. It’s a week-by-week league and you really get out of it what you put into it. It was a fun week. Games like this, you’ll always remember them.”

The memory of it. Now that can help down the road. Aaron Dobson’s 81-yard touchdown reception is useless unless he remembers how the play came together, how he signaled Brady, looked the ball in and hit the afterburners. That, and the way he finally executed a back-shoulder touchdown throw with Brady after eight weeks of trying.

Just like last week’s nimble footwork on a 17-yard touchdown may have helped on those touchdown this week, little bits of confidence are gained and built upon. Now, when Dobson drops a pass he shouldn’t or gets the Brady helmet-clutch after a bad route, he won’t have to wonder if he’ll ever get it right because – as the season has progressed – he’s submitted evidence that he can.  

The Patriots needed this one because – after eight weeks of helmet-clutching and eye-rolling, missed blitz-pickups, forced throws into blanketed receivers and drop after drop – it clicked.

“I don’t think anyone in here was too happy (with the way the offense was performing),” said Logan Mankins. “We knew we had the talent and the scheme, we just had to get everyone to do good a majority of the time and that was a game tonight where everybody played good a majority of the time and we didn’t have a lot of mistakes.

“It’s good for everyone on offense to see that we could do it,” Mankins added. “We’ve had great spurts this season where we have a good drive here, a couple bad ones, a good one, a good one… We just never were consistent for a whole game.”

This is shaping into a fascinating Patriots season. The defensive attrition is close to hitting critical mass. A group that was blossoming because of its mix of talent and experience is going to have to patch it together now. There are going to be games when – no matter what scheme they cook up – there will be too much talent coming at them to hold an offense down. November 24 against the Broncos jumps out.

The Patriots dormant offense is stirring now. Rob Gronkowski is closer to Gronk. Danny Amendola is edging closer to 100 percent. Dobson is retaining what he’s learned and adding to his toolbox. Julian Edelman has played better sustained offense than at any time in his career. There is a true No. 1 running back – Stevan Ridley – and two decent ones behind him with LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden. And Shane Vereen can return in Week 11.   

Brady isn’t “back.” In truth, he was never gone.

Through nine games, the Patriots offense has learned that, when it plays badly, it can still win. And now it knows when it plays well, it can hang 55.

Adversity will be back. But thanks to evidence gained against the Steelers, the Patriots offense knows what it CAN do. Because it has actually done it.