These Pats have a near-perfect feel

197881.jpg

These Pats have a near-perfect feel

By Michael Felger

This is getting a little scary.

The Patriots aren't just beating good competition anymore. They aren't just winning on the road, or in the elements, or in big games -- although they are doing all those things.

They're getting to a point where they aren't even letting teams compete with them.

Sunday's rout in Chicago was just the latest stop on the Pats' NFL Domination Tour. The 36-7 final was impressive in all three phases, but it was hardly unusual. It's actually become the norm for a Patriots team that is now the odd-on favorite to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. The last bump in the road was in Cleveland, a 34-14 defeat on Nov. 7.

Since then the Patriots have gone 5-0 while outscoring opponents 196-88. They've averaged 39.5 points per game over that stretch, which isn't even their most impressive stat. Guess how many turnovers they've had since that Browns loss?

Zero.

Not a fumble, not a pick, not a single solitary mistake that resulted in a lost ball.

Nobody is perfect. But over the last five games the Pats have come as close to playing perfect football as you can expect in the NFL nowadays.

And they've done it against the iron. At Pittsburgh. Indianapolis. The Jets. The Bears. Even their one bunny, the Lions, came with a special circumstance -- on Thanksgiving, just four days after their yearly epic with the Colts. No one can say they did it against unworthy competition.

Did you say "competition"? If only the Pats' opponents had been offering some.

The Pats began the run at Pittsburgh, where they led, 23-3 entering the fourth quarter. A garbage-time flurry by Ben Roethlisberger tightened the score, but the game was never in doubt after Brady spiked the ball in the face of Steelers fans following a QB sneak in the third quarter.

Then they returned home to face Indianapolis, where they burst out to a customary 31-14 lead early in the fourth quarter. Of course, Peyton Manning made them sweat, as he always does. It's why he and the Colts are the only things that scare me right now if I'm the Patriots.

But after that the Pats have won going away each of the last three games.

They scored the last 28 points in Detroit and won by 21. They were never threatened by the Jets and won by 42. They dominated from the opening kick in Chicago and led by 36 before ultimately winning by 29.

Remember, the Steelers were supposed to be the best team in football when the Pats showed up. The Jets were the top team in the conference. The Bears were one of the NFC's best. The Colts were the Colts. And outside of the Colts finish, the Pats were barely threatened.

Pretty good.

At varying points this year the Pats have been compared to their 2001 Super Bowl predecessor. They've also drawn comparisons to the 2003 squad. But this year is really starting to feel like 2007, when the competition was scarce and the only thing left to determine in the second halves of games was how long Tom Brady would stay in and whether Bill Belichick was running up the score or not.

That may be an uneasy comparison for many fans given how that year ended, but these Patriots are leaving us with no other choice.

They're that good right now.

Felger's report card will appear on Tuesday morning. Email him HERE and read the mailbag on Thursdays. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

Griff Whalen practicing for Patriots, wearing No. 14

patriots_bill_belichick_2_092216.jpg

Griff Whalen practicing for Patriots, wearing No. 14

FOXBORO -- The Patriots took to the practice field behind Gillette Stadium on Friday with all but one player. 

Wideout Danny Amendola was the only player not present at the session. Newly-acquired receiver Griff Whalen was present and wearing No. 14. 

Safety Jordan Richards was back on the practice field for the first time since suffering a knee injury against the Jets in Week 12. Martellus Bennett (ankle/shoulder), Elandon Roberts (hamstring), Eric Rowe (hamstring) and Matthew Slater (foot) were all limited in practice on Thursday, but were on the field Friday.

Ravens safety Weddle was interested in joining Patriots before landing in Baltimore

Ravens safety Weddle was interested in joining Patriots before landing in Baltimore

FOXBORO – Back in March, Eric Weddle batted his eyes longingly at the Patriots. The two-time All-Pro safety’s time was done with the Chargers and he wanted to spend his NFL autumn with a team that had a chance to win it all. 

He didn’t land in New England, but he didn’t too badly, winding up with the usually competitive Ravens.  

On a Thursday conference call with New England media, Weddle confirmed that there was mutual interest expressed. 

“Obviously, I was interested,” he acknowledged. “I have nothing but high regard, respect and admiration – and envy, quite honestly – of the success of the New England Patriots over the years. Obviously, battling them in my career, it’s always been a great game. I love the way they play, love the foundation, love everything about it. It was definitely on my radar. There were talks both ways, it just didn’t end up [working out].”

The numbers massed at the position with Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon played a role in the two sides not being able to reach accord, according to Weddle. 

“I’m good buddies with Patrick Chung,” he said. “I grew up playing with him and Devin [McCourty] is one of the best to play, so I don’t know if it would have worked out personnel-wise. But obviously, I could have seen myself fitting in there seamlessly.”

Weddle’s New England attraction apparently wasn’t love that bloomed late in his career. Toward the end of his conference call, Weddle said, “I’m still wondering why they just didn’t draft me in ’07; I could have been still playing there now.”

As reporters puzzled for a moment trying to recall the 2007 first-rounder, Weddle chipped in with the answer: “[They took] Brandon Meriweather.”