Victory produced smiles all around
Bill Belichick has front teeth.
He’s been here more than 10 years, and I never knew. But Monday night, in the minutes after a wildly satisfying 41-14 road demolition of the Miami Dolphins, Belichick actually smiled when he was asked a question. I saw the front teeth.
Belichick grinned in response to a query regarding the stellar play of his special teams in the big Monday night win. After his guys blocked a field goal for a touchdown, blocked a punt to set up a touchdown, ran back a kickoff for a touchdown, and forced five touchbacks on seven kickoffs, Belichick was asked about the play of his special teams.
The official transcript of BB’s response starts, “They were all right (laughing) . . .’’
They were all right? It is the first time I can remember Belichick described as “laughing’’ while giving a response.
Wow. Belichick is going all Pete Carroll on us. Pumped and jacked. Old Laughing Boy. Mr. High Five. It’s surprising that BB didn’t pull a Francona and start talking about “Tommy,’’ “Woody,’’ “Chungy,’’ “Ninky,’’ “Happy,’’ “Grumpy,’’ and “Sneezy.’’
The Patriots want to think this was a season-defining game. The wagons were circled. The SS Kraft was taking on water. Nationally, the Patriots were in the discussion with the Falcons, Giants, Bengals, Broncos, and other bubble teams of the NFL. They were no longer lumped with the elite. They were inhaling the noxious fumes of the New York Jets. It got so bad that nine of nine prognosticators in the house organ Patriots Football Weekly picked the Dolphins to beat the Patriots in Miami. This was almost as bad as having the local car dealers — risking future sales of Audis and Volvos — picking against the Patriots.
Which is why the Patriots victory was as sweet as the cream pie named after the city of Boston.
When Brady Gaga was asked if there was a chip on the team’s shoulders, he answered, “It’s going to be there for a while like that. We’ve got a lot of chips.’’
Perfect. This is what made the Patriots great in the first years of this century. New England held a patent on the “us against the world’’ theme, and the traditional reaction to victories and Super Bowls was, “Nobody thought we could do it.’’ In the dark spirit of Jonathan Kraft, the joy was not in winning as much as it was in silencing sideline critics. The response to victory was never, “Happy day,’’ as much as it was, “[Bleep] you guys for not believing in us.’’
And now those Patriots are back. They have tossed away the skeptics (for two weeks) with an impressive, nationally televised, road thrashing of a traditional rival. Belichick used Patriots Weekly predictions to motivate his players, and the postgame response from Jerod Mayo was, “Everybody doubted us, but we like it that way. Keep doing it.’’
In the wake of Monday’s impressive win, we are in for a two-week festival lauding the genius of all things Belichick. There will be no more questions about the young defense or Bill O’Brien’s game plan or the motivations of the always-weird Randy Moss. It’s going to be a fortnight bacchanal celebrating the Patriots’ return to the world of the NFL elite. Never mind that Chad Henne was the ghost of Tony Eason. Forget the fact that Moss didn’t catch a ball or that the Dolphins defense stuffed the Patriots in the first half.
The Patriots shucked the road monster in this one. New England had been 2-7 in road games over the last two years, and neither win (vs. Tampa in London and at Buffalo) really counted. They were due to make a statement away from Gillette, and this one was emphatic.
“It is now three out of the last four, right?’’ Belichick innocently asked.
He is right. For all the talk about Miami being a house of horrors, the Patriots have won three of the last four times they have played on the road against their division rival from Florida. Belichick made sure this was duly noted.
The coach liked the history. He is the Halberstam of the gridiron. No NFL team had ever scored in so many different manners. Brady became the fastest quarterback to 100 wins. And the Belichick-Brady tandem goes into the 100-win pantheon alongside Noll and Bradshaw, Shula and Marino.
Is it possible we are seeing a return to 2007 (the last time the Patriots won a playoff game), when they were good enough to get people fired (Miami axed special teams coach John Bonamego Tuesday morning), and postgame questions centered on the idea of leaving Brady on the field in garbage time?
But they were indirectly accused of piling on Monday. Brady was asked why he was still on the field in the final minute of a 41-14 win, and he answered, “You never know.’’
Right. The Dolphins might have had a 28-point play up their sleeves.
Just like the old days: Kick butt. Take names. Hate the haters. And bring on the Ravens. After what happened in January, old Laughing Boy will have plenty of motivation for that one.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.