The joy of six.
Six AFC championships.
Six Super Bowls for Tom Brady as a starting quarterback and Bill Belichick as a head coach.
Both NFL records.
The Patriots' spot in Super Bowl XLIX against the Seattle Seahawks was assured about 40 minutes into Sunday's rain-soaked demolition of the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC championship game at Gillette Stadium.
New England would lead 38-7 at the start of the fourth quarter. It was almost too ugly, too embarrassing to watch. Almost. But not enough.
Indianapolis QB Andrew Luck had none after halftime. As he and the Colts got soaked by the rain and socked by the Patriots, he was probably wishing he played baseball. Or chess. Or hockey.
Anything but pro football.
The next great No. 12 came up more than three dozen points short.
It got so lopsided, so embarrassingly easy, that Nate Solder caught a 16-yard TD pass on a tackle-eligible play. Belichick, it seemed, used everyone on the roster as an eligible receiver except Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, and Gisele.
"We've been practicing that for years. I practiced it in college," Solder said. "The stars were aligned. It was awesome."
Awesome, and so much more.
Millions in Patriots Nation from Eastport, Maine, to Westport, Conn., watched and savored every second. Countless others nationwide cursed, muttered, and resigned themselves to the fact that this Evil Empire isn't going anywhere.
Except back to another Super Bowl.
This was not a time for somber contemplation and a quick cheer. This was celebration-without-apology time. And why not? The Patriots have nothing to apologize for. While their victims cry foul, or just cry, football is so wildly followed in this country because it offers one of the few venues where there are clear winners and clear losers.
Sunday, the Patriots were the clear winners.
It is all the worst nightmare possible for the Spy Gate Truthers, Full-Time Contrarians, Defeatists, and envy-laden Haters. Yet it may fuel their rage for another 10 years.
This 45-7 massacre of the Colts in the AFC Conference championship game was a gift for everyone who has been with this team since the dark ages of the AFL and Fenway Park, the stumbling and bumbling of the early days in Foxborough, the leaky concrete of the old stadium, the bungled No. 1 draft picks, the last-place finishes, the days of longing to see a Super Bowl team while Dallas and Pittsburgh ruled the NFL, the lost hope of Darryl Stingley, the "roughing the passer" call, the Patriots being fodder for the Bears and Packers in Super Bowls, the decades of losing at the old Mile High Stadium and Orange Bowl, the crushing loss to Indy in the 2006 AFC title game, or those last two consecutive championship game defeats that seemingly heralded the end of this era.
There was no last-second Billy Cundiff field-goal miss here. No last-minute win over the Chargers. No hard-fought win over Peyton Manning. These Colts were blown up and blown out.
Save for the horror of 18-1, and the not-quite-as painful Super Bowl XLVI loss to the same Giants three years ago, this unrelenting, unbelievable, unexpected 38-point triumph has wiped out whatever ailed this team.
All that remains incomplete is that crusade for a fourth Super Bowl ring.
Tedy Bruschi, a defensive link to the glory days of the three-time Super Bowl champions, gave Robert Kraft the Lamar Hunt Trophy once the Colts were mercifully allowed to leave the playing field. "We all know there's more work to do. But for now, the New England Patriots are AFC champions," Bruschi said.
Kraft smiled, and told the masses that "you did your job." Even the diabolical, deceptive, and deceitful Belichick, who dispatched the Colts without mercy, pity, or hesitation in the second half on Sunday, smiled.
"We're on to Seattle," he said, raising the latest piece of well-earned hardware that will grace the trophy collection at One Patriot Place.
The Comcast Sports Net cameras caught a laughing and swaying Belichick embracing his girlfriend Linda Holliday, shaking hands with John Kerry, and bro-hugging Danny Amendola.
The only person missing was Manny Ortez.
"I know we've had some ups and downs this year, but right now, we're up baby," Brady added from the post-game podium.
Brady left the field during the game to a raucous, uncontrolled, and well-deserved ovation with 3:22 to play. The crowd chanted his name, seemingly never wanting it to stop.
There is a sliver of a chance that Sunday could have possibly been his last game in Foxborough.
A fourth Super Bowl ring would make retirement look awfully enticing for someone who turns 38 next August. And the way Brady restructured his contract last month makes that an easy financial option for both him and the team.
Not that he really needs the money.
Brady's spot as an elite NFL QB and his status as "Patriots QB Until Further Notice" was imperiled earlier this season. Those doubts and those doubters have long since been embarrassed into silence. We all know Brady's favorite ring is the "next one."
Sure, five Super Bowl rings would 100-percent cement his status as "Best QB Ever" in any reasonable mind. But the thought that we saw his last game, and his last win in Foxborough, it's not entirely out of the question.
That is getting a couple of miles ahead of ourselves, and reality. We have two weeks to ponder the "Legion of Boom," the sudden [as of last year] brilliance of Pete Carroll, and Russell Wilson's amazing ability to play well when it matters most. He threw four interceptions in Seattle 28-22 OT win over Green Bay. The Packers blew a 12-point lead with 2:09 to play, completing the biggest choke job this side of the 2004 Yankees.
Concerns about the Seahawks, like any talk of Brady's future, is for another day.
This is a time to celebrate and appreciate. Celebrate what this team, these players, this owner, this Alan Turing of coaches, the NFL's living embodiment of Red Auerbach [you read that here first on Friday, by the way], this Adonis-like tight end, and this quarterback who ranks No. 1 in just about every postseason passing category of significance, has accomplished.
The joy ride of the 2014/15 Patriots season continues for another 13 days. We've been gifted NFL football until February. The day after the Super Bowl, win or lose, pitchers and catchers will just two weeks away. Although it's less than three weeks old, 2015 has been a pretty sweet year thus far for Boston sports partisans.
The Patriots are undefeated in this calendar year and are heading for another Super Bowl.
The freaking Patriots.
Sometimes, this dynastic dominance seems incomprehensible, even though it's been routine since 2001.
These are the glory days.
Like any great empire, this reign of Patriots Nation cannot last forever.
Enjoy Sunday's rout. Enjoy the next two weeks. Whatever impenetrable Seahawks' fortress that awaits the Patriots in Glendale will be there, whether you have fun during the next fortnight, or not.
For those who care about such things, the Patriots moved from two-point underdogs to a one-point favorite in Las Vegas sports books in the three-plus hours it took them to turn the Colts into geldings.
The fourth Super Bowl has been unattainable in Foxborough for 10 years. The Patriots get another chance on the first day of next month. They are 60 minutes of football away from a permanent spot on the Mt. Rushmore of NFL dynasties.
Until then, sit back, relax, and enjoy all of it.
You never know when you'll get to do that again.
The OBF column is written by award-winning journalist and Bay State native Bill Speros. Bill has reported for ESPN, CBSSports.Com, and was a sports/deputy sports editor at the Orlando Sentinel, Denver Post, and several other newspapers. Reach Bill on the OBF Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or at his
OBF email Address. Thanks always for reading.
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