Where do you go from Pittsburgh?

197883.jpg

Where do you go from Pittsburgh?

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

Where do you go from Pittsburgh?

Well, if youre one of the Patriots, you go home to your house in the suburbs or your lavish penthouse in the Back Bay and enjoy a nice day offcourtesy of The Sweatshirt.

You take the day to revel in the fact that the night before, you went on national TV and essentially wiped your you-know-what with a stack of Terrible Towels. That you flat out embarrassed the sleazy, trash-talking Steelers in front of their home fans. That youll spend the upcoming week as the toast of the NFL.

The next day, you come back to work and start worrying about Peyton Manning. Hey, Tuesdays the new Monday. Good times.

But what if youre a Patriots fan?

Where do you go? In the aftermath of New Englands ruthless beating of Big Ben and the boys, to what places do you to let your imagination wander?

In the short term, well obviously soak it all in. The mere thought of this game will be like a glorious drug. Sundays was probably the most impressive win the Patriots have had since Brady busted his knee. Why shouldnt you get a little crazy? Why wouldnt you want to? For the next few days, Patriots Nations excitement will be contained about as well as Rob Gronkowski in the red zone.

But eventually, once the glow of Pittsburgh has faded, and the date with Peyton (much safer than a date with Big Ben) looms, that excitement will wear off, and well be faced with reality. Real questions; questions that, not too long ago, seemed too far-fetched to ask.

Im talking long term. Big picture. Im wondering, after Sunday night, how high we should raise our expectations for the 2010 Patriots? Should we start to truly believe that this teamthe same one that supposedly didnt have a defense, or a running game, or enough depth and experience to contendis in fact a major contender?

When the Power Rankings (however stupid they may be) come out this week, and the Pats are either first or second in every case, will we be convinced that they belong?

Can the terms BenJarvis Green Ellis, Kyle Arrington and Super Bowl really co-exist?

On one hand, its dangerous to think that way only nine games into the season, because we know how quickly it can come crashing down.

Remember Cleveland? Of course you do. Youve still got a hole in the wall next to your TV as a reminder. Regardless of all the positives vibes blasting out of Foxboro this morning, we know that it only takes a clunker against the Colts on Sunday or a Thanksgiving disaster in Detroit, to destroy any Super Bowl buzz.

In either case, a loss wont break the Pats season, the same way Sundays win didnt make it, but its fair to say that in either case, a loss would take us down a few pegs. If we buy into this team now; if we decide that Sunday night was real, and not a one-night stand with greatness, then a loss in either of the next two gamesleading up to the Jetswill feel a little stupid.

Well look back on this week and say, Damn, we over reacted. Why do we always over-react!? If the Pats lose to Indy or Detroit, well remember the week after Pittsburgh with the same disdain we now do the week after Cleveland. Well despise the time and energy we wasted stressing and contemplating a misguided opinion, and thats reason enough to just take last nights win with a grain of salt, appreciate it for what it was, and remember that theres so much football left to play.

But on the other hand

Didnt they just look unbelievable?

Isn't there something about the way they playedabout the way that Bradys regained his super human focus, Logan Mankins has so seamlessly re-entered the fray, Chung and McCourty have developed (alongside Mayo and Wilfork) into legitimate defensive weapons, Arringtons now holding his own, the Law Firm's looking more like Antoine Smith, Danny Woodhead's looking like far more than a tiny novelty, or the way that both rookie tight ends have faced serious adversity, and are now better and stronger for itthat makes you want to believe.

Even though its too early to say that the Pats will achieve anything of substance this season, isnt Sundays win a sign that, at the very least, theyre capable of it?

If you can go into Heinz Field, and not only beat the Steelers, but dominate them; dwarf them in every aspect of the gameaside from cheap shotsthen you can win anywhere, against anyone. Your potential is greater than it was before. As the legendary German pop duo Snap! once said, Youve got the power! Actually, Snap said, Ive got the power, but youve got the point.

These last two games were a lesson in the roller coaster ride that is the NFL season.

Last Sunday in Cleveland, we learned of the depths to which this Patriots team can sink.

But last night in Pittsburgh, we were witness to their potential greatnessand it was much higher than most anyone could have imagined.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Reaction to weekend protests

best_of_bst_podcast.jpg

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Reaction to weekend protests

0:41 - Tom Giles, Tom Curran, Kayce Smith, and Michael Holley discuss the National Anthem protests across the NFL over the weekend and the reactions to players kneeling.

10:07 - Michael Hurley joins the BST crew to talk about the Patriots' thrilling last-minute victory over the Texans and how concerning the Patriots' issues on defense are.

18:13 - Michael Holley and Kayce Smith discuss Kyrie Irving and LeBron James' comments about one another during Media Day, including LeBron referring to Kyrie as "The Kid" instead of his name.

22:30 - Evan Drellich joins BST to talk about Mookie Betts and Eduardo Nunez both leaving with injuries during the Red Sox's Monday night loss to the Blue Jays, and other concerns surrounding the team heading into the postseason.

MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Prescott, Cowboys pull away to beat Cardinals, 28-17

cowboys_cardinals_dak_prescott_092517.jpg

MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Prescott, Cowboys pull away to beat Cardinals, 28-17

GLENDALE, Ariz. , Dak Prescott kneeled with his teammates and team owner before the game, flipped head over heels for a touchdown in the first half and capped his night with a 37-yard TD pass that proved to be the game winner.

The Dallas Cowboys erased last week's ugly memory on Monday night, with their young quarterback leading the way.

"He just kept battling," Dallas coach Jason Garrett said.

"He kept making good decisions. Obviously he made some good plays, big-time throws, but as much as anything else he's got an amazing spirit and our players follow him."

The Cowboys (2-1), bouncing back from a 42-17 pummeling in Denver, began the game kneeling at midfield with owner Jerry Jones in a show of unity that followed widespread protests across the NFL of critical comments by President Donald Trump over the weekend.

After they kneeled, they stood and walked to the sideline and stood for the anthem.

"We planned and it was executed that we would go out and kneel," Jones said, "and basically make the statement regarding the need for unity and the need for equality."

Prescott, 13 of 18 for 183 yards, broke a 14-14 tie with a 37-yard scoring pass to Brice Butler with 11:52 to play.

"I immediately scrambled and when I scrambled Brice took the right angle and the right initiative going to the back of the end zone," Prescott said.

Arizona, with a spectacular catch by Larry Fitzgerald for 24 yards on a third-and-18 play, moved downfield but the drive stalled. Phil Dawson's 37-yard field goal cut the lead to 21-17 with 6:35 left.

Ezekiel Elliott, who gained 8 yards on nine carries against Denver and drew criticism for not hustling after a couple of late interceptions, was bottled up much of the game, but still gained 80 yards on 22 attempts, 30 on one play. He ran 8 yards for the final Cowboys touchdown.

The Cardinals (1-2), in their home opener, got a big game from Fitzgerald, who caught 13 passes for 149 yards, in the process moving ahead of Marvin Harrison into eighth in career receiving yards. The 13 receptions tied a career high.

"That's Fitz. It's Monday night," Arizona coach Bruce Arians said. "He's a money player. It was a great performance by him. It's a shame we couldn't play better around him."

Carson Palmer had a big first half, completed 15 of 18 for 145 yards and finished 29 of 48 for 325 yards and two scores. He was sacked six times, a career-high three by DeMarcus Lawrence.

The Cardinals dominated the first half statistically, but were deadlocked with the Cowboys at 7-7. Arizona had a 152-57 advantage in yards and dominated time of possession 19:34 to 9:41.

Arizona took the opening kickoff and went 82 yards in eight plays. Palmer was 5-for-5 on the drive, capped by a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jaron Brown.

Before Dallas even had a first down, Arizona mounted a nearly nine-minute drive but a touchdown pass to Brown was negated by a holding penalty and Phil Dawson's 36-yard field goal try was wide right. It was the third mid-range miss for the 41-year-old kicker this season.

And the miss left the door open for the Cowboys to get back in it.

Prescott scored on a 10-yard run, flipping head-first over the goal line to tie it at 7-7 with 3:33 left in the half.

CSNNE SCHEDULE