By Michael Felger
That was an old-school Patriots win.
Old school as in special teams carrying the day.
Old school as in undrafted andor unheralded players making game-winning plays.
Old school as in maintaining composure on the road.
Old school as in playing well in the second half.
Old school as in feeling disrespected and actually doing something about it.
Not that I'd recomend making travel plans to Dallas (site of the Super Bowl) for February just yet. But at least the next two weeks should be a pleasant stretch for the Patriots and their fans after Monday's 41-14 thumping of the Dolphins on Monday Night Football.
There's nothing worse than spending two weeks bemoaning a loss. Instead, the Pats gave themselves something to build off while silencing their critics for at least the next 12 days.
Guess we'll have to spend the next two weeks ripping the Red Sox.
As for Monday, it was a vintage, 2001-era victory.
That's what was going through my head as I watched the Pats return a kickoff for a touchdown (Brandon Tate to open the second half), block a punt (by Patrick Chung) to set up a score, and block a field goal (again by Chung) to give them another touchdown return (by Kyle Arrington). Sort felt like the 2001 AFC title game in Pittsburgh. Remember?
That was also the feeling after witnessing the performances of Rob Ninkovich (two interceptions, sack), Danny Woodhead (36 rushing yards; 11-yard touchdown catch) and BenJarvus Green-Ellis (76 rushing yards; touchdown). Future Hall of Fame receiver Randy Moss, meanwhile, didn't even catch a single pass. It was fitting. Sort of felt like the days of David Patten, Bobby Hamilton and Jermaine Wiggins all over again.
When it comes to winning on the road and playing well in the clutch -- forget 2001. Coming up big in hostile environments was a hallmark of the Patriots right up through 2008.
And, finally, that element returned on Monday night, as the Pats outscored the Fish, 38-7, after halftime and recorded their biggest road win since beating the eventual AFC East champion Dolphins in Miami in November of 2008.
Remember, that game was under the direction of Matt Cassel.
For Tom Brady, you'd have to go back to Week 17 of 2007 for his last feel-good road win.
And you could tell he felt good about it. The shots ESPN got of Bill Belichick and Brady celebrating in the final two minutes constitute what I call Patriots porn for the footy-pajama crowd. It was quite a sight. And it was deserved. Belichick reportedly spent much of the past week letting his players know how much heat they were taking in the media, and the players were able to turn that around and use it as motivation.
The Pats used to do that, too. A lot.
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