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Patriots critics eat crow for Thanksgiving

Posted by Obnoxious Boston Fan  November 25, 2013 01:00 AM

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You are losing 24-0 to Peyton Manning the Broncos and Wes Welker.

You've given up three turnovers that resulted in 17 points.

Your defense gave up a 31-yard screen pass on a 3rd and 20.

Usually, that means it's over.

But you are not Tom Brady.

You are not Bill Belichick.

Turns out the Patriots were fortunate to be down 24-0 at the half. And had the Broncos right where they wanted them.

You are the guy who turned off the TV, or even worse, switched to the AMA's at half time. You are the guy who left Foxborough at halftime, even though your kid wanted to stay, because your buzz was wearing off and the cold started to feel, well, cold.

You are the idiot on the interwebs or our Boston.Com in-game chat who said "this team sucks," "fire Josh McDaniels" or "the defense is toast without Wilfork."

Or even worse, you're the moron who Tweeted this:

Of course, it wasn't just fans and media types trying to be realistic at half-time Sunday night who questioned this team. The haters were also out in full force, continuing their rampage that began Monday night.

We know there are never any nails in the coffin of Brady, Belichick and their Patriots as long as they still have a mathematical chance and enough time to win. Even these Patriots. The team with the decimated defense. The team without Welker. The team without accused killer Aaron Hernandez. The team whose best running back fumbled the ball right out of the gate Sunday night.

That same team also demolished a 24-0 halftime deficit and won 34-31 in OT Sunday night. It was the biggest comeback in Patriots' history and the timing was perfect. It came on a Sunday night with millions watching on NBC against their biggest obstacle in the AFC.

Ten years from now, there will be 14 million people who say:

1. "I was at that game when the Patriots came back on the Broncos in 2013."

2. "I stayed until the end."

3. "I said Belichick should defer and take the wind ... and I activated Knowshon Moreno that week on my Fantasy League team."

Sure you did.

If the Patriots [8-3] can win out against a very downhill schedule, New England will have a first-round bye. If the Patriots win out and the Broncos [9-2] lose again [they play at Kansas City next week] the Patriots could gain home field throughout the playoffs. The Chiefs will have to help a bit. That means a very likely rematch against the Broncos at home on January 19, 2014. The Broncos-Patriots AFC title game match-up that so many of us saw as inevitable in August appears even clearer as we prepare for Thanksgiving dinner and Black Friday, Thursday, Wednesday Night.

The Patriots took some major steps toward creating a championship contender with this victory. For one, they put the entire Welker exit/departure mess behind them. That ghost was buried, hopefully for good, along with any doubts about kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who hasn't missed a key kick all season and was ice-cold money with his 31-yarder that won this game in OT.

Forget Bill, in Gostkowski we trust.

Four hours of f-bombs, frustration and football were rewarded with another one of these victories over Manning in another "Game of The Ages." While 2013 has already given media types, fans and anyone else paying attention, an Improbable Dream championship in the Red Sox, the Patriots are quietly and indirectly working on their own little Miracle In Foxborough.

Brady is now 10-4 against Manning. More like, 10-4, over and out, when it comes to the never-ending argument over which one of these QBs is better, and which QB is the best one of this era. There is one Manning who has Brady's number, but his team lost to the Cowboys Sunday and fell to 4-7. Archie might have fared better against Tom in the blustery, winter-like conditions at Gillette Stadium.

Tom owns Peyton. No question. No doubt.

Peyton has one Super Bowl ring. Brady has three.

Peyton pitches pizza. Brady hawks Movado watches.

Peyton drives a Buick. Brady has a Gisele.

New England's special teams were spectacular all around, as well. Welker's miscue on the final punt of the game, which resulted fumble that was recovered by Nate Ebner, led to the game-winning field goal. Denver's Tony Carter ran into Ryan Allen's punt after it landed, and Ebner recovered it at the 13-yard line.

Welker owned up to the mistake. He also had a pair of notable drops late in the game, one in the fourth quarter and another in OT, that triggered immediate flashbacks to Super Bowl XLVI. But at least he's got a nice head of hair.

Dare we say he ... ahem ... choked. We said that after the Super Bowl two years ago and it didn't work out so well.

Belichick pulled out his "Genius" card by double-dog daring Manning to beat the Patriots with the first possession on overtime. He took the wind and gave Papa John's favorite QB the ball and said: "Here you go, see if you can win on the first possession of OT like Tim Tebow did back in the playoffs two years ago."

The Patriots players at mid-field still weren't sure that they got their coach right in declining the ball to start overtime. But they did. Belichick wanted the wind. And he wanted to make Manning win this game, take it in overtime, on the road, in cold and blustery Foxborough.

Manning then stuck out his tongue and it stuck to the frozen telephone pole.

He blinked, flinched and fizzled. Moreno was a "brahma bull" - as the late, great John Facenda would say - chewing up 224 yards on the ground. But Moreno could not carry his team in overtime. That was Manning's job. The Patriots defense, which was gassed in addition to being depleted, pushed Manning into being Manning. It was Peyton at Foxborough circa 2003. He was stunned, befuddled and rattled.

Brady, meanwhile, owned the final 43 minutes and 55 seconds of Chapter 14 in the "Manning Vs. Brady" saga. He finished 34 for 50, with 344 yards and 3 TDs overall and compiled a 107.1 passer rating. The Patriots fumbled six times in the game, but didn't commit any turnovers in the second half or overtime. Some of that came as a result of cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie dislocating his shoulder after diving to try and pick off Brady's final pass of the first half.

Without Rodgers-Cromartie, the Broncos secondary was shattered and Brady picked it apart over the final [almost] three quarters of play.

Julian Edelman and Welker went "Freaky Friday" and Edelman dominated the Broncos with nine catches for 110 yards, highlighted by a masterful 43-yard gainer. He also returned three punts for 39 yards.

Wes who? Danny what?

Rob Gronkowski, who appears completely recovered from his early-season ailments, was in full beast mode again Sunday night, dragging defenders after each catch and triggering contact with the defenders before they got the chance to go Luke Kuechly on him.

Gronk catch. Gronk run. Gronk score. Gronk spike. And eventually, Gronk party.

There were another slew of questionable calls. It would be interesting if you asked all the NFL officials to define pass interference or defensive holding and see how many different answers you'd get. There was a glaring non-call on a mugging of Kenbrell Thompkins in OT that ignited Brady's famous Irish temper and left everyone in Foxborough and Patriots fans everywhere groaning. There was also trouble with the play clock and game clock early in the game. It's reassuring that the NFL has its focus on important things like idiot Tweets from players but can't keep the lights on during the Super Bowl, ensure that facilities have clocks and/or operators that work or go a season without someone being charged with murder.

But enough of the NFL's troubles. Sunday night the Patriots put a season's worth of criticism of doubt behind them.

Brady is now the first NFL QB ever to be 102 games over .500 in his career [144-42]. He and Belichick re-asserted their dominance over Peyton Manning Sunday in front of a stadium and TV audience full of frustrated skeptics and doubters.

Despite everything that's happened to this team and this franchise in the past 11 months, the Patriots will be 8-3 when their players and coaches sit down for Thanksgiving dinner this week.

And while Manning offered up another turkey in Foxborough, the meal served Thursday should taste pretty damn good, too.

But not nearly as tasty as the crow so many of us ate Sunday night.

Got a news tip, want to let me know directly what you think, or have a complaint or compliment, hit me up on our Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or e-mail me at obnoxiousbostonfan@hotmail.com. Don't forget to visit our Obnoxious Boston Fan blog. Thanks always for reading and pass the clicker.

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Obnoxious Boston Fan offers a fun, unique and biting perspective on the Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins, Patriots and whatever else people are talking about in the world of sports. We More »
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