That odd noise you heard around 7:30 yesterday wasn't the wind or a ghost. It was the sound of several million Patriots fans all exhaling at once. They had been holding their breath for nearly a week, so I'm sure it was quite loud even miles away. The fans who survived without oxygen for that long, however, were very excited to say: Brady who?
Okay, so maybe 165 yards and 0 touchdowns isn't quite good enough for that sentiment, but Cassel certainly did a serviceable job. He made key throws when needed and didn't make any glaring mistakes. It made everyone realize that the world isn't coming to a horrible fiery destruction just because Brady is broken from the knee down.
It must have been a good feeling. Almost as good as watching Favre throw a key interception and throwing under 200 yards passing for the second game in a row. Patriots fans can practically hear the Packers fans from all the way over in New England: "Hahahahahahahaha*snort*!"
I'm not wholly sure why everyone doubted this Patriots team so much. For years all fans could talk about was how awesomely awesome Belichick is, and how he could coach a pee-wee football team into an NFL championship contender. Fans would tell this to anyone who would listen. Actually, they even told people who refused to listen. They were very persistent. The courts are still backlogged with restraining order requests.
Then, Brady suddenly goes down in a heap and it's as if they thought Pee-Wee Herman took over as head coach (which would be entertaining, but not at all conducive to a winning environment). They should have known better.
Yes, Brady is awesome, no doubt about it. In fact, he is pure awesome. If you melted him down into a big plastic bowl, what you would have is a bowl full of gooey awesomeness with no chemical additives. And the bowl could probably still hit his man in double coverage without blinking an eye. Brady is just that awesome. And we won't even start talking about his dimpled chin.
That being said, Brady is not the entire team. This is a very good thing, because he would be destroyed were he to play nose tackle, and it would be very hard for him to snap the ball to himself. More importantly, though, the rest of the team is actually quite good.
Patriots fans so easily forgot when Brady went down that they still had Moss, Welker, Faulk, and Maroney ready to put points on the board. They also forgot that they had Bruschi, Seymour, Vrabel and Thomas ready to keep points off the board.
They're a very forgetful bunch, those Patriots fans.
I will confess that I didn't see the Jets as a huge challenge. People forget that had Favre not gone all crazy on the Packers and squeezed Chad Pennington onto the Dolphins like a pimple, this team would have been a favorite to win only the two scheduled games against the aforementioned Dolphins. And even with Favre, they managed to beat them by only six points last week.
However, this game was still the all-important first step in the road to acceptance: Brady isn't coming back this year, and that's OK. It allowed everyone to look at each other with a smile and say, "Maybe there won't be 52-7 blowouts this year, but at least Cassel isn't going to be a collosal screw-up."
And really, isn't that what it's all about?
Besides, Cassel isn't all that terrible looking. Maybe he can do a Gap ad! Or, judging by his profuse sweating during the post-game interview, a Right Guard ad. He just needs to find a way to dimple his chin...