Where do you go from Pittsburgh?


Where do you go from Pittsburgh?

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.

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

Injury report: Amendola out for Ravens game, Bennett questionable

Injury report: Amendola out for Ravens game, Bennett questionable

Wide receiver Danny Amendola was officially listed as out on the injury report for the Patriots' Monday night home game against the Baltimore Ravens.

Amendola injured his ankle on a punt return against the Los Angeles Rams last Sunday. It will be the first game he's missed this season. The Patriots signed veteran wide receiver and kick returner Griff Whalen during the week.

Tight end Martellus Bennett (ankle, shoulder) is among the Pats listed as questionable, along with special teams ace Matt Slater (foot), who missed the Rams game, safety Jordan Richards (knee), linebacker Elandon Roberts (hamstring) and cornerback Eric Rowe (hamstring).

Whalen, part of Colts' infamous fake punt play, settles in with Patriots

Whalen, part of Colts' infamous fake punt play, settles in with Patriots

FOXBORO – Griff Whalen was at the epicenter of one of the stupidest, funniest, most “did that just happen?!” plays in NFL history.

So indescribable it never even really earned a name, it was the fourth-down gadget play the Colts tried to run against the Patriots on Sunday Night Football in the first meeting between the teams after Indy ran to the principal’s office to start Deflategate. 

Whalen was the center on that play (I tried to call it “Fourth-and-Wrong” but it didn’t take) and the millisecond between him snapping the ball and the three players processing that the ball had indeed been snapped is perhaps my favorite moment of the past several seasons. 

Whalen is a Patriot now, brought in this week in the wake of Danny Amendola’s knee injury presumably to fill Amendola’s role as a punt returner and wideout. The Colts released him last January, the Dolphins picked him up and cut him at the end of training camp and the Chargers had him on their roster from mid-September until releasing him last month after eight games, two catches and 22 yards. He returned kickoffs for San Diego but no punts since 2015.

The primary area of need for the Patriots is on punt returns. Rookie Cyrus Jones’ transition to appearing comfortable remains glacially slow. It was Jones’ muff last week that brought on Amendola in relief. When Amendola hurt his ankle on a late-game return, the Patriots were forced to decide between Jones, wideout Julian Edelman (who doesn’t need extra work) and making a move.

Whalen is a move they made.

The slight and baby-faced Whalen indicated he had fielded some punts in practice, saying it went, “Fine.” Punt returns are something he’s done “since I was a kid.”

His first impression of the team was, "A lot of what I expected to see. A lot of detail. A lot of effort in practice. Good coaching all-around. I am excited to be here. I was excited to come into a good team that I’d gone against a few times. Hopefully come in and help out the team with whatever I can.”

I asked Whalen if he saw much of the commentary or creativity last year’s failed play spawned.

“I wasn’t paying too much attention,” he said. “When it’s during the season guys are pretty locked in on what they’re doing inside the building. But I heard more about it later on afterwards.”

Asked if he’d heard anything about the play since being here, Whalen replied, “I haven’t. Kinda was [expecting it].”

The Patriots will be hoping Whalen remains as productive for them on fourth down this year as he was in 2015.