Tom Brady rallying the troops.
I look to the heavens with thanks for two facts:
1. The Patriots won, and
2. I don’t live in Buffalo, rooting in vain for the hapless Bills.
One half of my brain tells me that the Patriots escaped because they were lucky, but the other half reminds me of the old adage that you make your own luck. After all was said and done, the Pats made just enough plays to win, and the Bills made just enough to lose.
Call it luck, call it whatever. I’ll settle for calling it a "W."
This was a game with lots of storylines, both big and small:
1. If penalty yards were electoral votes, by halftime, the Bills would have been well on their way to winning the election. Some teams just seem to know how to shoot themselves in the foot and how to make the wrong plays at the wrong time to keep the other team’s momentum going.
I wonder if the Bills practice stupid plays. How else could they execute them so well and so consistently?
2. When the Bills weren’t taking key penalties, they were making key turnovers. Fred Jackson, for one, coughed it up twice at inopportune moments of the fourth quarter.
After looking masterful all afternoon—the Pats have a way of making barely average quarterbacks look great—Ryan Fitzpatrick managed to deliver a strike to Devin McCourty with less than a minute to go and the game on the line.
Sorry, Crimson lovers, but a Harvard pedigree goes much further in law or medicine than it is does on the gridiron.
3. When the Patriots defense wasn’t being torched through the air by Ryan Fitzpatrick—on this day, he threw for more yards than Peyton Manning or Drew Brees—it was getting beaten on the ground. The two-headed monster known as Jackson and C.J. Spiller constantly bounced runs to the outside and gobbled up tons of yardage.
Whoever had the responsibility of containing the outside was asleep at the wheel most of the game.
4. On the plus side, let’s give our guys credit for forcing turnovers. After all of the drama late in the game, it’s easy to forget big Vince Wilfork charging up the middle, sacking Fitzpatrick and causing a fumble that led to an easy touchdown.
This defense, once it gets its hands on people, knows how to strip the ball. For now, turnover margin is one of the few defensive stats that the Pats can be proud of.
5. Stevan Ridley has become “the man” in the Patriots running game. He’s a back who can grind out yards up the middle, the kind of runner that Tom Brady has lacked in recent years. Without him as a ground threat, Tom and the turf would be much more intimately acquainted.
6. The O-line got banged up during this game with Logan Mankins adding to his long list of injuries and Dan Connolly also leaving the game. Let’s hear it for Nick McDonald and Donald Thomas, the anonymous grunts on the inside, for stepping up big time and holding up their end of the bargain.
7. And while we are congratulating the big guys in the trenches, let’s also acknowledge Sebastian Vollmer for making Mario Williams invisible. And when the Bills sent their multi-million dollar bust to the other side, he hardly had better luck with Nate Solder.
8. Let’s also hear it for Danny Woodhead—all 5'8" of him—who was Mr. Clutch in the first half. He's turning into the second coming of Kevin Faulk.
9. There was even a Deion Branch sighting on Sunday. It’s hard to believe that Brady tossed twice as many balls his way (eight) as he did to Rob Gronkowski (four).
10. And let's not forget the play of Aqib Talib—there wasn't a single pass completed against him. Oh, what's that you say? Suspended? Not eligible to play yet? Ah well, we'll have to wait until next week for the savior of the defensive backfield.
Still, this game did not have the look of a win late in the fourth quarter. When the Bills got the ball back with just over two minutes to play and trailing by six, I got that sinking déjà vu feeling that this was the Seattle game all over again. As the Bills moved the ball quickly down the field against the classically porous Patriots defense, all I could think was that New England was on its way to a one-point loss.
Don’t try to deny it, you thought so, too.
But I forgot. The Patriots were safe this time because it was the Bills. Ryan Fitzpatrick found the open man in the end zone who, luckily, had a Patriots jersey on, and New England won a squeaker. The Patriots eked out a game that they seemed destined to lose.
Call me happy. Call me relieved. Even call me surprised.
I live in Boston, and I don’t have to root for the Bills.
Life is good.