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Patriots were the big winners of Week 15

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff  December 20, 2011 03:16 PM

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Every once in a while you have one of those weeks, where it feels like the universe is working for you and not against you. The Patriots, a team that has benefited from its share of good fortune over the years, just had one of those weeks.

The way events unfolded in the NFL in Week 15 felt almost like like Bill Belichick had turned the rest of the league into his pigskin puppets, and he was just pulling the strings and smirking along the way.

The only way that the week could have been gone any better for the Patriots would have been if Tim Tebow's apparent attempt at divine healing Andre Carter after he suffered a quadriceps injury that will mothball him for the remainder of the season had worked.

Perhaps this was the first sign on Sunday that Tebow was going to be exposed as a false football prophet by the Patriots.

The lack of a miracle cure for Carter aside, the NFL axis shifted decidedly in the direction of Foxborough in Week 15. The two biggest stories of the NFL season -- the rise of Tebow and the Green Bay Packers' pursuit of a perfect 16-0 regular season -- both got overridden and overwritten by the Patriots.

In his first game as interim coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, former Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel did his old boss a favor, taking out the 13-0 Packers. Crennel and KC handed Green Bay their first loss of the season and made a goal line stand for the legacy of Belichick and Tom Brady.

Thanks to the Chiefs, the 2007 Patriots will remain the only team in NFL history to post an unblemished regular season record since the league moved to a 16-game slate in 1978, and the Patriots' record of 21-straight victories, set in 2003 and 2004, is also intact. The Packers were threatening it with 19 in a row.

Hours after Crennel and Co., beat back the Pack, the Patriots won their sixth straight game by defeating Tebow and the blessed Broncos. They did so in impressive fashion, battling back from a 16-7 deficit for a 41-23 win. It was a victory that showcased why this year's Patriots team feels different than the versions that have failed in the past two postseasons.

Losing arguably their best defensive player this season in the first quarter, Carter, and without their security-blanket second receiver, Deion Branch, the Patriots displayed the mental toughness and resiliency that was their hallmark during the aughts. They roared back to overwhelm the Broncos, who were looking to make a statement with a win over NFL royalty.

"No question, resiliency would have to be the theme of the day," said wide receiver/safety and captain Matthew Slater. "These guys have had it rolling, they had the Tebow-mania, and rightfully so. They've been playing well and winning games on the road. We were on the road, we were struggling early, and yet we found a way to pull it together and get a win.

"I think that speaks to the character of this football team. It speak to the guys on this football team, and how we feel about one and other. We go out there and play for each other. It's as simple as that. Win, lose or draw, we're going to play for each other. We did that [Sunday]."

That's old-school Patriot-speak.

The Patriots always say they can only control what they can control, but it felt like they were controlling the outcomes of other games that mattered to them.

All of their competitors for the best record in the AFC -- the Houston Texans, Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers -- lost, ceding to the Patriots the inside track for the AFC's top seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Steelers' loss last night to the San Francisco 49ers was a particularly welcome development since Pittsburgh has a tie-breaker over the Patriots by virtue of their victory over New England on Oct. 30.

As an added bonus, Jets coach Rex Ryan moved one step closer to eating his words. The J-E-T-S suffered an embarrassing 45-19 L-O-S-S to imperil their playoff chances. It's always a good week in these parts when the Jets fail.

At 11-3, New England has a one-game lead on the rest of the pack in the AFC, and if they take care of business against Miami this Saturday and Buffalo on New Year's Day, the next road trip the Patriots will have to pack for would be an excursion to Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI.

How great would that be? The Patriots playing in the Super Bowl in the city of their most fierce rival over the last decade.

The Patriots' victories weren't confined to stadiums across the league on Sunday and Monday. They signed linebacker Jerod Mayo to a five-year, $50-million extension that became public knowledge on Saturday, and last Wednesday the NFL announced that it reached a nine-year extension on the television contracts it has with CBS, NBC and Fox for approximately $3 billion dollars.

The chairman of the NFL's broadcast committee is none other than Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

That's some six days.

We can only hope that the Patriots saved some of that good fortune for the playoffs.

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The word

Christopher L. Gasper riffs on the news

Dearth

...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.

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