The Patriots keep on T.C.O.B.

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The Patriots keep on T.C.O.B.

The Patriots took care of business yesterday.

Thats probably the best and most simple way to put it.

They didnt do anything especially well. They didnt do anything especially poorly. There were no game-breaking highlights that youre dying to re-watch this morning (although it was nice to see Aaron Hernandez in the open field, and WelkerRidley both go over 1000 yards for the season). There's no one player particularly deserving of week-long media stoning (although it would be cool if Stephen Gostkowski chilled out on the Scott Sisson impression).

Basically, all the Pats did this week was go down to Miami and earn a solid, division road win against a solid NFL team.

Like I said, they took care of business.

At this point, what more can you ask for?

Were long past the audition stage of this NFL season. Were long past obsessing over the aesthetics of any victory. From here on out, there are no ugly wins or uplifting losses. Youre either good enough or youre not, and thats all that people will remember. That is, if they remember at all. But on Sunday, the Pats certainly set a positive tone.

For the third straight week, they took the field as the more talented team and actually played like it for the better part of 60 minutes. For the third straight week, they had nothing to gain (in the eyes of the fansmedia) and everything to lose against an inferior opponent, but still maintained an adderall-like focus. And while, individually, those three victories did little to change our perception of the Patriots, as a collective, those wins made an important statement. Today, New England not only stands at 9-3, but it's a 9-3 that you can believe in. A 9-3 that you can celebrate without an assembly line of buts and ifs.

But naturally, no one's celebrating. Not an admirable win over Miami. Not the 9-3 start. Not even the team's 10th AFC East title in the last 12 years.

Instead, we're already looking ahead to one week from today: Monday Night Football. Houston at New England. The latest and greatest Most Important Game of the Patriots season.

With a win, despite their tumultuous and exhausting 3-3 start, the Pats will be back within a game of the AFCs No. 1 seed (and would obviously hold the head-to-head tie-breaker over the Texans). With a win, if were being honest, the Pats wont have too much more to prove this regular season. Sure, seeding is important, and there will still be plenty to play for, but really, if they beat Houston on Monday night, expectations will officially burst through the ceiling. With a win, regardless of what happens the following Sunday against the 49ers, or in either of the final two games against Jacksonville and Miami, the Pats' Super Bowl aspirations will be certified beyond a reasonable doubt.

For what its worth: Despite the Texans' 11-1 record, their fourth-ranked offense, sixth-ranked defense, the fact that theyre undefeated on the road and have already handedly beaten both the Ravens and Broncos, the Patriots opened as 4.5 point favorites.

For what it's worth (part II): This is only the second time all season that Houston will enter a game as the underdog. The other time was in Week 10 at Chicago, and the Texans won 13-7.

For what it's worth (part III): No one cares.

At this stage, it's not about favorites and underdogs. It's not about style points. It's not about blow out victories or escaping by the skin of Vince Wilfork's belly. It's only about doing enough to win. It's about doing what the Patriots have for six straight weeks and counting.

It's about taking care of business.

And they've got nine weeks to finish the job.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Rob Gronkowski appears to thoroughly enjoy himself at Daytona 500

Rob Gronkowski appears to thoroughly enjoy himself at Daytona 500

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski attended the Dayton 500 in true Gronkowski form.

He appeared to be there promoting Monster Energy drink, and was therefore hanging with the Monster Girls, who were also promoting the drink. Gronkowski's herniated disc injury, which required surgery in December 2016, does not seem to be slowing him down as he gets warmed up for the Summer of Gronk.

During the race coverage on FOX Sports, Gronk delivered a speed limit joke, which is sure to make the 13-year-old in you chuckle. (You can watch it here.)

[H/T NESN.com]

Curran: It's time to let the air out of Deflategate

Curran: It's time to let the air out of Deflategate

I think it’s time. Time to let the Deflategate wound scab over. Time to exit the active, raging, teeth-gnashing, petition-signing, lawsuit-filing portion of the program and let the hate follow its natural course into a slow-boil loathing.

If you are of Irish descent, you know how it works. Clear a big-ass space on the grudge shelf. Put Roger Goodell, Jeff Pash, Mike Kensil, Troy Vincent, Ryan Grigson, Jim Irsay, every shiv-wielding owner, all the cluck-clucking media and the legion of retired players and exiled GMs from Marshall Faulk to Joey Porter through Marty Hurney and into Bill Polian up there. Turn off light. Leave room.

When you need to piss yourself off -- in traffic, mowing the lawn, waiting for your coffee -- fetch ‘em down, blow the dust off and when you’re in a sufficiently foul mood, return grudge to shelf.

You rode the roller coaster. You’ve been there, done that and have all the T-shirts.

I came to this conclusion a few days ago, when ESPN’s Cari Champion interviewed Rob Gronkowski and asked about Goodell visiting Gillette. It was like playing “Get the Stick!” with a big goofy Lab. Champion threw the leading question, Gronk fetched -- tail-wagging --  and returned with a slobbery response that was completely implausible but still designed to dominate a four-hour news cycle.

"The fans are nuts, they’re wild, and they have the Patriots’ back no matter what,” said Gronkowski. “They have [Tom Brady’s] back. I’m telling you, he won’t get through the highway if the fans saw him. I don’t even think he can even land in the airport in Boston because Patriot fans are the best fans, they’re the most loyal fans. I’m telling you, they might just carry out Roger themselves. They couldn’t even get to the stadium in Foxboro if he landed in Boston."

Gronk’s just doing what he thinks he’s supposed to do. And Champion is, too. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

Watch these mooks up in New England get all pissed off: “Hey, hey, Chowderhead . . . Roger Goodell . . . . ”

“F*** that guy, he better never show his face in Foxboro! But I want him to come to Foxboro so I can boo the ever-living s*** out of him and maybe barricade Route 1 like Gronk said we would!”

See? Works every time.

The irony is that the person mainly responsible for turning up the burner on this is Robert Kraft.

In May 2015, Kraft said at the owners meetings in San Francisco, “I don’t want to continue the rhetoric that’s gone on for the last four months. I’m going to accept, reluctantly, what he has given to us, and not continue this dialogue and rhetoric, and we won’t appeal.

“Now, I know that a lot of Patriots fans are going to be disappointed in that decision, but I hope they trust my judgment and know that I really feel at this point in time that taking this off the agenda, this is the best thing for the New England Patriots, our fans, and the NFL, and I hope you all can respect that.”

Well, that blew up like an ACME bomb. And -- from that moment on -- Kraft has tried to recoup the fanbase that believed he sold them out by issuing a succession of calls-to-arms that the region has dutifully responded to.

The most recent was throwing down the gauntlet to Goodell by expressly inviting him to the 2017 season opener.  I mean, it would have been a conversation point anyway, but now it’s metastasized into something that will be discussed throughout the offseason, ratcheting up in early September and hitting a crescendo on opening night.

There is appeal to seeing Goodell squirm while knowing the Maras, Rooneys and Irsays will be sipping highballs and lamenting the caddish treatment of Poor Roger. But I still like the football better.

Conversation about the historic import of SB51, the legacy of Brady and Belichick, prospects for the league in 2017? I’ll take those rather than an ESPN “personality” who spent a weekend in Newburyport at a friend’s wedding telling everyone what the mindset of the New England sports fan is.  

But that’s not what we’re going to get. There will instead be ever-escalating predictions of the terrors Goodell will be subjected to fueled by interviews with tatted-up kids from the mean streets of Marshfield who wanted “Hoodie” fired when he let Revis sign with the Jets.

Unless . . . unless the region en masse decides to let its loathing mature. Mature to the point that when the carrot gets dangled in its collective face it doesn’t leap at it with teeth bared but instead says, “No thanks. Already full.”

Yeah. I don’t think it’s gonna happen either.