LONDON Crushing afternoon of football for legions in New England who live to lament the decline of the Patriots.
A 45-7 Pats win in London over the Rams. Bitter soup for the I hand-wring, therefore I am crowd. But it was exactly what the Patriots needed to close out a star-crossed first half of the season and head into their bye week on a high.
So, while the bleating harpies withdraw their forks from the aging carcass of the quarterback, it is time, once again, for the annual Ode To Mental Toughness column.
Look around the NFL at the teams that fold like lawn chairs when the adversity hits. Or that chase a decent performance with a horrid one, vacillating between pretty good and totally uncompetitive on a weekly basis.
Are the Patriots all better? No.
They had a very, very good day and won. Last week against the Jets, they had a pretty bad day and still won. They had a really bad day against the Cardinals and lost by two in the seasons second game. They had a disastrous half against the Bills and fixed it midstream and won by 34.
Their three losses are by a combined four points. All were eminently winnable. There are facets of the team that have played badly. And more evidence needs to be submitted to conclude that they can play consistently on defense. In this season, Sundays game was an outlier until proven otherwise.
But this team has, time and again, showed an ability to rectify. And even when everyone on the periphery is down on them, they dont fold in the face of adversity over the long haul. Fail to execute? Certainly. Quit. Havent really seen that.
And if there ever was an occasion for this team to lick a stamp and slap it on the envelope, Sunday seemed the day.
Shipped to London as part of the NFLs genius plan to shakedown Europe for a few billion pounds in the not-too-distant future, the Patriots went there late and their coach was in noticeably bad humor about the whole thing. A week off loomed and in the rearview was a messy win over the Jets and a self-inflicted loss in the Pacific Northwest to the Seahawks.
Plus the Patriots were all banged up at every level of the offense and defense.
And they sucked it up and played through all of it.
This is a tough football team, said Vince Wilfork. I'm talking physically, mentally. The things Bill asks us to do sometimes don't always work in our favor and we wonder why we have to do it this way. But he's the head coach. He knew what's best for this team.
What was best this week was to cram like hell early in the week and fly out later. For a team that had been on the road for seven of their last 10 games including preseason, it was a push.
I give him a lot of credit because sometimes we are beat up, sometimes we are tired, sometimes we are sick, said Wilfork. Guys find a way to keep moving on. We had guys go down. We had to suck it up because we know the next guy depends on us. I always say: If I can walk, I can play. I don't care how I'm feeling physically. Sometimes it might not be my best, but if I can walk, I can play. This is one of (those games). We knew how important this was to us. Going into the bye week at 53 and winning two key games to get us going. We are right where we want to be.
Where they are is heading into an off week followed by games against the Bills, Dolphins, Jets and Colts. Nobodys a pushover, as weve seen, but the expectation of 9-3 is realistic.
Belichick knows he put his teams through the wringer annually. And his coaches. His appreciation for them when they answer the bell is palpable.
That was a nice way to end this trip for us, Belichick said.I really have to give the players a lot of credit this week. It was a tough game against the Jets, kind of a quick turnaround. We moved everything up for them. It was really kind of like a short week for us. Came a long way, but I thought they really did a good job in their preparation and they executed and played very well out there today. Really proud of the way our players performed. I give them all the credit in the world. They had a couple tough weeks here with the Seattle trip, then this trip. They didn't let it affect them. They just took care of business, played a good, solid football game.
The business of actually being in London was all about business. The football was incidental to the games raison detre selling the brand to consumers who have yet to be turned upside down and shaken for loose change to help the NFLs bottom line. Did you know the NFLs a non-profit league? No lie. Look it up.
But despite the barriers put in front of a team that didnt need to be in Europe this week, the Patriots dug deep and played like they can. Because, eventually, thats usually what they do.