Patriots aren't Super Bowl bound yet


Patriots aren't Super Bowl bound yet

Theres no point in making any crazy proclamations after a game like last night, because at this point we all know better.

We all know that theres a good chance that the Patriots will see the Texans again, and that theyll most likely do so on the road down in Houston. And in that (or any) case, we know that any number of crucial elements from Mondays blowout may not necessarily exist.

We know that Arian Fosters tone-setting 12-yard-run on the first play from scrimmage may not get called back on a penalty. We know that Stevan Ridleys goal-line fumble on the opening drive might not find its way into Aaron Hernandezs gut. We know that the 5050 pass interference calls may not fall in the Patriots favor and that Matt Schaub will probably look a little less like Matt Leinart in the pocket.

We know that regardless of what happened last night, that the Patriots and Texans are much closer than the 28-point spread would indicate. We know that for all the talk about how the Pats taught Houston what its like to be a champion, that in reality there are only two guys in the New England locker room Tom Brady and Vince Wilfork who have any idea what that feels like, and that the rest of the roster (and this team on the whole) still has room to grow.

Did you know that before last year, the Patriots were eliminated in three straight playoffs by a team whom theyd defeated in the regular season?

Yes. Of course you did. We all know. Weve all been here before. So anyone using last nights game as definitive proof that the Pats are headed to New Orleans is either crazy or just trolling. In any event, lets ignore them. Lets remember that this isnt the end of the line for these Patriots, but just the beginning.

And now . . . lets get back to obsessing over that ridiculous game.

First of all, just a quick reminder that the Pats are doing all of this without Rob Gronkowski. How crazy is that? Was he even mentioned on the telecast last night? Was there any point when you found yourself pining for Gronk or even making note of the fact that the Patriots offense was without its No. 1 weapon? Or maybe, does this just prove that Gronk isnt the No. 1 weapon? And that its not Welker, Hernandez or Ridley, but the man under center 'ol No. 12. Honestly, at this point Im convinced that the Pats could pick up Terrell Owens, re-sign Ochocinco, coax Rod Rutledge out of retirement and still put up 30 points a night.

Hell, they might even be able to pick Donte Stallworth up off the scrap heap and turn him into a legitimate deep threat oh wait.

One more thing on Brady: Through 13 games, he's now thrown a total of four interceptions on the season, and short of a total meltdown will likely post the third single-digit INT season of his career. For a little perspective of how ridiculous this is, consider that Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, John Elway and Dan Marino have only two single digit interception seasons COMBINED.

Enough about the offense for now. After all, 42 points just comes with the territory for this unit. Plain and simple, they're the best offense in the NFL, and maybe, just maybe, the best offense of all time. But like I said, enough about the offense. Let's get to the real core of this latest Patriots resurgence: The defense.

Have we all learned our lesson now? Next year, when the Pats are 4-2 after six weeks and are giving up 600 passing yards a game, are we still going to lose our minds? Claim that this team doesn't have a chance? That the game has passed Belichick by? That the organization is wasting the prime of Brady's career?

Or will remember this year . . . and last year . . . and the year before . . . and realize that the first month of the season doesn't define any team, never mind a squad even more, a defense coached by Bob Belichick?

Eh, probably not. But it won't change the end result.

As for the specifics:

At this point, the folks over in Canton might as well start setting aside some extra mold for Vince Wilfork's Hall of Fame bust. At 31 years old, Vince may very well be having of the best season of his life. He's already doubled his previous career highs for passes deflected (6) and fumble recoveries (4) in a season. He's tripled his previous career high in fumbles forced (3). He's also a sack and a half short of tying his previous best in that category.

But with Wilfork, it's never really about the raw numbers. He effectsdominates games in a way that doesn't necessarily show up in the box score. And this year, he's doing that more than ever.

I don't ask for much, but here's hoping the "Devin McCourty: Corner back or Safety?" discussion is dead and buried for the rest of McCourty's Patriots career.

Is he capable of playing CB? Yeah, sure. But you can find plenty of guys who can play that position with McCourty's efficiency. However, good luck finding a safety with DM's athleticism, hands and overall nose for the ball. As the season goes on, it's looking more and more like Patrick Chung's days in New England are over, and if that's the case, you can do a lot worse than having Devin McCourty patrolling the field at safety.

Speaking of cornerbacks, how's that Aqib Talib for a fourth rounder trade looking these days? Now obviously, this might change depending on the extent of the injury he suffered last night (I'm sure Belichick will clear that up this week), but since joining the team, Talib's presence has played a major role in the development of the Pats D.

Last night, Jon Gruden commented that much of the Pats success in stopping Arian Foster (they held him under 50 yards for only the third time this year) stemmed from their ability to go with one-on-one coverage against Andre Johnson and stack the box vs. the run. Hard to imagine there's anyone else in that secondary that Belichick would have felt confident leaving on an island with AJ.

Staying with the rhetorical secondary-related questions: How's that seventh round pick the Pats used to snag Alfonzo Dennard looking these days? The kid may not be an angel off the field (or, I should say, "may not have been") but he's a second-to-third-round talent who's playing like it so far, and continues to get better every snap that he's out there. Could he be this year's Sterling Moore?

Nope. He can be better.

And really, so can the Pats. They'll need to be better in order for Monday's big win to ever amount to more than just one regular season win. But for now, things are certainly looking up. With another huge test on tap for Sunday.

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

AFC: Vinatieri sets NFL record for consecutive field goals in Colts' win


AFC: Vinatieri sets NFL record for consecutive field goals in Colts' win

Ex-Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri hits his 43rd consecutive field goal, setting an NFL record, in the Colts' 34-26 victory over the Titans.

Click here for the game story.

AFC EAST: Ajayi runs for 200 yards for second game in row as Dolphins top Bills


AFC EAST: Ajayi runs for 200 yards for second game in row as Dolphins top Bills

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Jay Ajayi tied an NFL record by surpassing 200 yards rushing for the second game in a row, helping the Miami Dolphins rally past the Buffalo Bills 28-25 Sunday.

Ajayi rushed for 214 yards in 29 carries after totaling 204 yards a week earlier in a win over Pittsburgh. He scored on a 4-yard run , and busted a 53-yarder when the Dolphins were pinned at their 3 and trailing in the fourth quarter.

The Dolphins (3-4) used an extra lineman much of the time to clear big holes for Ajayi, who tied the NFL record for consecutive 200-yard games held by O.J. Simpson, Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams.