These Pats have a near-perfect feel

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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.

Brady on whether he called Trump: 'I've called him in the past'

Brady on whether he called Trump: 'I've called him in the past'

When President Donald Trump announced last week that he'd received a phone call from Tom Brady, Brady's response when questioned by reporters at a mass press conference was "Let's talk about football."

This morning, during his weekly interview on WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show, Brady shed a little more light onto the subject.

Though not a whole lot more.

"I have called him, yes, in the past," Brady said when given the chance the confirm or deny the call.  "Sometimes he calls me. Sometimes I call,. But, again, that’s been someone I’ve known. I always try to keep it in context because for 16 years you know someone before maybe he was in the position that he was in. He’s been very supportive of me for a long time. It’s just a friendship. I have a lot of friends. I call a lot of people.”

He also explained why he chooses to dance around this topict . . . and a lot of others.

“I’m a pretty positive person, so I don’t want to create any distractions for our team and so forth,” he said. “I just try and stay positive and actually this world could use a little more positivity. Everything’s not great in this world and everything is not great in life. But if you try and take a positive approach … I try to do that. I try to do that in practice. I try to do that with my team. I try to do that with my family. That’s how I go about life. I don’t like negativity. I don’t like a lot of confrontation. Those things don’t make me feel very good. I wouldn’t be a good talk show host."

Curran: Relentless Patriots proving that living well is the best revenge

Curran: Relentless Patriots proving that living well is the best revenge

FOXBORO -- There's a clock on the wall in the weight room at Tom Brady's house.

When the Patriots lost to the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game last January, Brady's father told me his son set the clock to count away the days, hours, minutes and seconds until Super Bowl 51. That clock has just 13 days left on it now. It won't require a sad resetting this week.

Brady won't be around to see it hit zeroes. He'll be in Texas playing in his record seventh Super Bowl. As planned.

PATRIOTS 33, STEELERS 9

HERE THEY COME, ROGER

The Patriots are the last team the NFL apparatus wanted to see in Houston and now the boogeyman's at their door, proving that living well is the best revenge.

Nowhere to run to, Roger. Nowhere to hide. The rules apply to everyone and there's a rule that we all learn sooner or later is very true. What goes around comes around. We all have it coming, kid.

We imagine Brady is clearing his throat for the delicious last laugh, but he's said it a hundred different ways in the past four months: Vengeance and vindication aren't driving him. That's wasted energy. Poison.

He's focused on what's immediately in front of him while reminding himself time's fleeting. The best way for him to help his team during his four-game exile in September was to work out relentlessly, which he did so that when he returned he was as good as he's ever been.

And in his absence, his team understood the best way to honor him while he was gone was to take care of business. Which they did beginning September 12 in Arizona when, instead of playing rudderless football without their on-field leader, they began a 3-1 run with a combination of Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett at quarterback.

"Yeah, well we never dwell on that," Bill Belichick began when I asked him Sunday night about the obstacles the team's had in front of it beginning in September and through the rest of the season. "We take the hand that we're dealt and play the cards . . .

"You referenced the beginning of the year, but it's been true in every game, really," Belichick added. "It's a credit to those guys. It's a credit to the depth on our team and the way that those guys prepare. They work hard. They don't know if they're going to get an opportunity or not and then when it finally comes and they do get it, they're usually ready to take advantage of it and help the team win. That's why we're where we are. We have a special team, a special group of guys that really work hard. They deserve the success that they've had. I mean, it's hard to win 16 games in this league. You've got to give a lot of credit to the players and the job they've done all year week after week. It's tough, but they come in and grind it out. They sit in these seats for hours, and hours, and hours, and prepare, and prepare, and go out there and lay it on the line every week. Again, it's a good group of men."

Beginning in the offseason with the trade of Chandler Jones to the start of the season with the Brady suspension to the stunning trade of Jamie Collins, the loss of Rob Gronkowski and a defense that was scoffed at on a weekly basis, the Patriots have weathered all of it to get to this point.

"One More" is the marketing slogan this team's had affixed to it.

"Bend Don't Break" is much more apt. Because they never did.

It's a phrase that's been framed as a slight by when used to describe the New England defense this season but safety Duron Harmon had a different interpretation.

"I don't know. I kind of like it," he said. "It just shows the type of toughness and mental toughness we have. Even when the situation might seem terrible or might seem bad, we have enough mental toughness to come out and make a positive out of it."

Harmon and Patrick Chung hauled down Steelers tight end Jesse James inches short of a touchdown just before halftime. The Patriots defense held after that, forcing Pittsburgh to settle for a deflating field goal. Instead of a 17-13 lead at halftime, the Pats led 17-9.

"Right then and there, a lot of people are thinking that's seven points, but that's a four-point turnover basically," said Harmon. "Just hold them to three and that really helped us with the momentum going into [halftime]."

When one considers all the collateral damage of Deflategate and the fortunes of the antagonists and protagonists since, it's . . . well, it's telling.

The Colts canned tattletale GM Ryan Grigson on Saturday and are in disarray. The Ravens missed the playoffs again. Owners who fingerwagged and wanted to see the Patriots brought to heel like John Mara, Bob McNair, Jerry Jones and Jerry Richardson have teams that were either bounced from the playoffs or didn't even make them.

And the Patriots are headed to Houston anyway. Despite all their best efforts.

"I think it's a great story, but I think right now our focus is got to go out to Houston in a couple of weeks and try to win it," said Devin McCourty when asked about the revenge angle. "I think that makes the story even better."