All this week in the world of the NFL, we kept hearing about how the Patriots are staying grounded despite their unbeaten record and the ridiculous numbers they've been throwing up on their opponents.
About how Bill Belichick was making sure his players got their full serving of "Humble Pie" for Thanksgiving.
About how, by going for it on 4th down late in games where they had insurmountable leads, the Pats weren't running up the score, but "giving the other team's defense an opportunity to stop them."
What a load of B.S.
If there is one thing that will bring the Patriots down this year and prevent them from reaching their goal of going 19-0, it's the dreaded stench of hubris that is now emanating from the New England area.
Try as they might to convince you otherwise, the Pats are full of themselves, and they're starting to lose their grip. All the PR and talk about "staying grounded" and "Humble Pie" is just that much more indicative of a team that can't stop thinking about its legacy—even before that legacy has been set in stone.
Want evidence? Look now further than the Pats' narrow 31-28 victory last night over a banged up Philadelphia Eagles team starting their back-up quarterback.
A.J. Feeley and the Iggles came to play, matching points with the Pats throughout the game and dispelling the irresistible force / immovable object combination that New England had brought to the table against lesser opponents all year.
Philadelphia may have been a perennial playoff team in years past, but they certainly aren't playing like it this year. Nonetheless, they took this Pats team to the brink.
With Feeley driving for a winning touchdown (or at least a tying field goal) late in the fourth quarter, it took an Asante Samuel end-zone interception to bail out Belichick and the Pats.
You may call it a fluke and say that New England will regain its composure and win out. You'd be better off, though, accepting what the Eagles showed us all on Sunday:
A sign of things to come.
The Pats are vulnerable, and it shows. They've been running on all cylinders for so long, running around like madmen trying to prove what world-beaters they are, having to answer all the questions about their dominance, and holding back smirks to stay on message about how they're just "taking it one game at a time", enjoying all the servings of "humble pie" that Belichick feeds them.
Sure, they'll bounce back against a flagging Baltimore team next week, but circle December 9th against the Steelers. Big Ben and the bruising Pittsburgh D have what it takes to knock the Patriots down a peg or five.
In fact, circle all the games remaining on the New England schedule.
The Jets, as horrible as they are, are out for revenge. Miami is always frisky late in the season, as they've shown in years past, and will be playing with nothing to lose and everything to gain. And the Giants could be fighting for their playoff lives while the Patriots look ahead to their first round bye.
All the ingredients are there for a late season stumble. And once the dreams of an undefeated season have been shattered, could a playoff disappointment be too far behind?
That's the funny thing about immortality—the moment you start thinking about it is the moment it slips away.
In going for broke and shooting for immortality in the regular season, the Patriots chose poorly.