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

Rex Ryan: 'If Belichick's playing quarterback, we're coming after him'


Rex Ryan: 'If Belichick's playing quarterback, we're coming after him'

Must be Bills week. 

After Rex Ryan's club put together an impressive win at home over the Cardinals, 33-18, it wasn't long before the Bills coach was yapping about the Patriots and their coach Bill Belichick.

Ryan was asked about the quarterback situation in New England since both Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett are dealing with injuries at the moment. Who might the Bills see when they visit Gillette Stadium?

"Look, I can sit back and say I don’t care who plays quarterback, cuz I know (Tom) Brady ain’t," he said. "I don’t care who plays quarterback; Steve Grogan can play quarterback. If Belichick’s playing quarterback, we’re coming after him. I promise you that."

There's no indication yet as to whether or not Garoppolo or Brissett will be unavailable for Week 4. When asked about his level of concern when it came to his quarterbacks, Belichick didn't say much during a conference call on Sunday

Ryan, like the rest of us, will probably have to wait for the Patriots to release an injury report before he learns about the status of either young passer. And until then, he'll have to prepare for both. 

Bill Belichick says Brad Stevens has given him 'a lot of insight' on coaching

Bill Belichick says Brad Stevens has given him 'a lot of insight' on coaching

Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters last week that spending time with Bill Belichick can make you "feel pretty inadequate as a coach."

But Belichick raved about Stevens during a conference call on Sunday. The two spent time together on Friday night for the Hall of Fame Huddle fundraiser to benefit Belichick's foundation, and the Patriots coach explained that he's learned a lot from the Celtics boss.

"Got to know Brad ove the last couple of years," Belichick said. "I have a tremendous amount of respect for what he's done, taking a young team, a team that we barely knew some of the players on the team, and in a couple of years has built them into a strong team last year and played very competitively in the playoffs. Fun to go over there and watch them.


"Brad and I have talked about a lot of things that are just coaching-related. Obviously the sports are different. I don't know anything about basketball, and he says he doesn't know much about football. It's really not about Xs and Os and that kind of thing. It's more the other parts of coaching: Preparation, training, team work, team-building, confidence, communication, players and coaches relationships and so forth.

"Obviously we're in the same business in taking more people to training camp than we can keep on a roster, then managing a roster and dealing with things that happen during the year with that roster, whether it's bringing other guys onto the team, trades and so forth. We've chatted about a lot of those things. He's given me a lot of insight.

"I'd say some of the players they get are a little younger than the guys we get on average. Kids that are coming out of college after one year, we get them after three years or four. Just the trans from college to pro which he obviously has a lot of experience with. Coming to the New England area for most players, that's an adjustment, we don't get too many guys from this area. All of those things like that."