By Rich Levine
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.