The Patriots: 2012 vs. 2007


The Patriots: 2012 vs. 2007

The Pats are barely a week into Training Camp and we're already running short on drama. And that's a good thing. It's a sign that, unlike another team in this twon, the Pats have their act together.

Will Welker ever get a deal? Will Brian Waters report? How did Jonathan Kraft do in his fantasy draft? And that's about it. Everything else is Xs and Os; straight football. And that's beautiful.

It's also a little boring. So, we've created a few distractions.

For instance: Can this Patriots team go undefeated?

I think so. Why not, right? If everyone's healthy (and that's what it would take), the Pats will be favored in at least 15 of 16 games this year. The only straggler is Week 3 in Baltimore, but even if the Pats are two or three-point underdogs, it's anyone's game.

Sure, they can go undefeated. Of course, there's a better chance you see Bill Belichick show up to a press conference wearing a yellow tank top and an eye patch, but it's still possible. (I'll say 14-2, with losses at Baltimore and Seattle.)

Another aspect of the undefeated conversation is a straight comparison:

2007 offense vs. 2012 offense: Who you got?

It's hard to answer right now, when we haven't seen exactly what 2012 can do. But the argument can be made that this year's squad will be just as imposing as their predecessors. The 2007 team had no one like Gronk. And there's a good chance that Stevan Ridley develops into a bigger threat than Lawrence Maroney. With Gronk, Hernandez and Welker keeping the defense occupied on the inside, Brandon Lloyd and Jabar GaffneyDonte' Stallworth will be waiting over the top. They're going to be unstoppable.

In reality, choosing between the 2007 and 2012 Patriots offense is like choosing between Kate Upton and Bar Raefali. You can't go wrong. But here's one major reason I'm leaning towards 2007.

Randy Moss.

I've heard a few people say that Lloyd is the closest thing the Pats have had to Moss, and I think that's true. But come on: Randy Moss caught 23 touchdowns in 2007. Brandon Lloyd has caught 23 touchdowns since 2005. He may be the closest thing, but that doesn't mean he's that close.

I know that's an obvious point. I'm not suggesting that people actually believe Lloyd is in 2007 Randy Moss's league. But I think it's sometimes easy to forget how devastating that Brady-to-Moss combination was. I know Brady has his thing with Gronk. And Welker. And that he'll hopefully build something special with Lloyd. But nothing compares to what he and Moss did to NFL defenses. That's where 2007 has the edge.

Last thing: How funny would it be if someone asked Belichick about this at his next press conference? "Yeah, coach. I'm wondering, if you had to win one game, and could choose between this year's offense and 2007's: Who would you pick, and why?"

I imagine the answer would sound something like this:

" . . . ."

At which point, the reporter would be escorted out of the building and tossed into a dumpster.

Rich can be reached at Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Curran: Pats already winning the mind game

Curran: Pats already winning the mind game

FOXBORO -- There’s this book called “The Obstacle is the Way,” written by an author named Ryan Holiday.


Therein, the 29-year-old author explains how many highly successful people use adversity as a springboard. Holiday explains that dwelling on impediments to success -- whether they be personal shortcomings, daily challenges that confront us or just bad luck -- hinders our ability to accept them and move on undeterred . . . which is critical to success.  

It’s a book I first became aware of when reading a feature on John Schneider, the Seahawks GM. Schneider said he was told about the book by Bill Belichick confidante and former Patriots executive Mike Lombardi in 2015.

“[Lombardi] said, 'That's really where you would get a great vibe for what [Belichick] is like and what his philosophy is and how he approaches life and his football culture and all. I went out and purchased it right away, and it was awesome.”

The book came to mind last week when Mike Tomlin, in his postgame address to his team, lamented that the Patriots were “a day-and-a-half” ahead of Pittsburgh in prep time and that the Steelers wouldn’t be back in Pennsylvania until 4 a.m.

Already there was that “I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’ . . . ” woe-is-me approach that gave not just Tomlin an issue to fixate upon, but his players as well. Kind of like the idle intimation Tomlin made after the 2015 opener that the Steelers headsets gave them issues.

Of course, by Monday morning, the Steelers had more to deal with, as Antonio Brown broadcast live 17 minutes of locker-room footage. The Steelers fixated on that through Wednesday. Then the flu descended on their locker room and reportedly affected 15 players. Early Sunday morning, the Steelers had the fire alarm pulled at their hotel and -- even though they didn’t evacuate -- it’s shaping up as something the Steelers will be muttering about for weeks.

Or even years. They still think they got jobbed out of a Super Bowl by “Spygate” even though the 2001 Patriots beat them because of two special-teams touchdowns more than anything having to do with alleged taped signals.

Contrast that with the Patriots. After they sat on the tarmac in Providence for three hours on New Year’s Eve waiting to take off for the finale in Miami, Tom Brady talked about the opportunity the delay afforded the team to catch up on rest or preparation.

It’s just the way the Patriots have been hard-wired since Belichick took over. Screw the mottos, like “Do Your Job” or the hokey “One More”. (Can someone tell me that if “One More” occurs, what's next year’s saying? “One More One More?”) If there’s been a mantra for success that underpins everything the Patriots have been about it would be: “It is what it is.”

Quarterbacks coach passes away? (Dick Rehbein in 2001.) Very sad. But it is what it is. Starting quarterback has artery sheared? (Drew Bledsoe in 2001.) Is what it is. A league-sponsored witch hunt is carried out prior to the Super Bowl with the starting quarterback in the crosshairs? (Deflategate/Tom Brady in 2015.) It is what it is. That quarterback’s ultimately yanked off the field for four games? (Brady's suspension, 2016.) Is what it is.

Bill Parcells once said, “If you give a team an excuse they will take it every time.”

So it was with that in mind when the Patriots in 2003 boarded a plane for Miami and Belichick told them they were going down there to win and that he “didn’t want to hear about the heat or the plane ride or the f****** orange juice.” The Patriots got the point and extracted a 19-13 overtime win -- the first time they’d won there under Belichick.

The Patriots have had plenty of fire alarms pulled on them over the years -- three times during their week in Indy prior to Super Bowl 46, at least once in Arizona prior to SB49 -- and never did those cause the outcry that this minor disturbance caused.

That has to do with the mythology around the Patriots and Belichick that’s grown and festered for a decade-and-a-half.  The rest of the paranoid NFL imagines a KGB-style intelligence agency and wound up more concerned with the Patriots than readying a great team tto unseat them. Which is handy when explaining to your owner why the Patriots routinely win at the rate that they do. They cheat. What better way to cover your ass?

It can work for a while, right Ryan Grigson?

Another pro sports dynasty that enjoyed the kind of long-term dominance New England's in the midst of also won a lot of games because opponents got spooked by dead spots in the floor, hot locker rooms and cold showers in the original Boston Garden.

In other words, this mental tenderness exhibited by teams that choose to rage at the unfairness of it all rather than laugh and soldier on is nothing new.

Today, the ill-feeling, sleep-deprived, Steelers -- who had to cram their preparation around the distraction caused by a great player -- will play their most important game in six years.

God willing, the headsets work.

Bruschi to serve as honorary captain for Patriots before AFC title game

Bruschi to serve as honorary captain for Patriots before AFC title game

FOXBORO -- The Patriots will have a good-luck charm of sorts on their side before they take on the Steelers for the AFC Championship.


Former Patriots linebacker and three-time Super Bowl champ Tedi Bruschi will serve as an honorary captain Sunday, taking the field for the pre-game coin toss with Devin McCourty, Dont'a Hightower and Matthew Slater. Tom Brady is the team's fourth active captain, though, he rarely participates in the coin toss. 

"With an undefeated record in games that we have honored him, I can't think of a more perfect player to serve as honorary captain this Sunday," team chairman and CEO Robert Kraft said in a statement. "He was called the perfect Patriot by head coach Bill Belichick, and he has lived up to that nickname with an 8-0 record in games where he has been a part of the Patriots celebration."

Bruschi is 2-0 as an honorary captain in AFC Championship Games, taking part in the pre-game festivities in the conference title games in both 2012 and 2015. Bruschi was last at Gillette Stadium as an honorary captain back in Week 13, when the Patriots took on the Rams and celebrated the franchise's Super Bowl XXXVI victory back in 2002.