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Win Over Bills Shows How Brady and Edelman Will Not Let the Patriots Die

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterDecember 22, 2019

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - DECEMBER 21: Julian Edelman #11 of the New England Patriots celebrates with Tom Brady #12 after connecting on a pass for a two point conversion during the fourth quarter against the Buffalo Bills in the game at Gillette Stadium on December 21, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)
Billie Weiss/Getty Images

You keep saying the Patriots are dead. You keep saying Tom Brady is too old. You think they are done, a decaying empire. You say these things over and over and over again.

You take shot after shot. They stand. You try to stick a fork in 'em, and the fork bends because that's what forks do when they hit the chest of Superman.

The Patriots won their 11th straight AFC East title Saturday at home. They have 12 wins and an offense that's potent again. They look pretty spritely for a corpse.

There are two reasons you can't dismiss the Patriots. One is Brady, who in New England's 24-17 win looked like the Brady we've seen in years past.

The second is receiver Julian Edelman, who had five catches for 72 yards, and who, after being knocked out of the game, came back to key the final scoring drive that beat a talented Bills team.

This isn't to say the Patriots will win a Super Bowl. This is to say those two players are more than enough to give them a good shot.

Brady was 26-of-33 for 271 yards and a touchdown, which tied him with Peyton Manning for second on the all-time TD list with 539, behind Drew Brees (541). He threw a nasty block, too, moving those slow-ass legs with surprising speed.

He started the game 10-of-10 for 94 yards. His first incompletion didn't come until about the 11-minute mark in the second quarter.

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Tom Brady now has 70 career pass TD against the Bills. Brady joins Dan Marino as the only other QB in NFL history with 70+ TD passes vs a single opponent. Marino recorded 72 pass TD against the Jets. https://t.co/Mbd74TtA5i

It's true that the Patriots' rushing game generated 143 yards and opened up the passing game, but Brady was key. He hit nine different receivers and was his usual dead-eye self.

Will the Patriots have to generate more offense in a potential AFC title game against Baltimore? Of course.

But beating a formidable Buffalo team showed that Brady and Edelman are a good enough core to potentially lead the Patriots past any team.

They are more than enough.

No, the Patriots aren't perfect, but Brady and Edelman still make them far from deceased. They make the Patriots scary.

"Great win today," Brady said on the NFL Network. "We beat a damn good football team."

When asked about Edelman, he said: "He's been ballin' all year."

Edelman had a scary moment when he collided with a Bills receiver and was temporarily motionless on the ground with an apparent head injury. He got up and then went into the locker room for most of the third quarter and returned in the fourth.

With about nine minutes left in the game, the Patriots started a drive at their 41, trailing 17-16. On the first play, Edelman completed a 30-yard catch-and-run. Just under four minutes later, the Patriots were up 24-17, capped by Edelman's reception on the two-point conversion.

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - DECEMBER 21: Julian Edelman #11 of the New England Patriots celebrates after catching a pass for a two point conversion during the fourth quarter against the Buffalo Bills in the game at Gillette Stadium on December 21, 2019 in
Billie Weiss/Getty Images

There is a relentlessness to both players, who feed off disrespect, and there's been plenty of that.

The Patriots are still dominant, still formidable, but that doesn't mean there aren't small cracks.

One of the more stunning moments happened in the third quarter. It was something we hadn't seen all year.

Bills receiver John Brown lined up to the right, and covering him was all-Milky Way Galaxy corner Stephon Gilmore.

Brown, whose 40-time breaks the sound barrier, ran straight and fast, and then pulled a sweet double move. He initially headed for a corner route and then flipped back to a post. It froze Gilmore and turned him completely around.

Devin McCourty, the lone high safety, was also burned. By the time McCourty recovered, the football was in the air, and Brown was two yards behind him. The 53-yard touchdown was the longest play of the year for Buffalo.

Again, this was Stephon Gilmore. He's been talked about as Defensive Player of the Year. He's the best in football. He had not given up a touchdown pass all season.

That big play followed a late-first-half, 33-yard deep pass from Bills quarterback Josh Allen to tight end Dawson Knox. The Bills were also able to move the ball deep into Patriots territory late in the game. Then Allen was stopped as Buffalo's line gave way to the Patriots' pass-rushers. 

If you have been saying the Patriots are on life support, you've been wrong.

That's because Brady and Edelman give them life.

                

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.