Taylor McCloud — Pats Militia
On the first drive of last night’s Super Bowl rematch between the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots, five flags were thrown. The Gillette Stadium turf was littered with yellow, and the game had less than no flow.
That was short lived. A crazy amount of fog rolled into Foxborough, and with it came the Patriots of old.
Last night’s game could have gone one of two ways. One, the Falcons could have slaughtered the Patriots with an offensive barrage. Two, the Patriots could have buckled down and played the type of football we’ve grown accustomed to seeing. Fortunately, we got the latter. The Patriots buckled down and defeated Atlanta, 23-7.
Tom Brady was on his game, per usual. On 21/29 passing, Brady threw for 249 yards and two touchdowns. One was this incredible deep ball to Brandin Cooks:
— NFL UK (@NFLUK) October 23, 2017
And one was this laser into James White’s gut.
— HighlightHub (@HighlightHub_) October 23, 2017
However, more impressive than Brady was Dion Lewis.
After seeing a sharp decline in usage throughout the first couple weeks, Lewis’ is back to getting his fair share of touches. Last night, he carried the ball 13 times, five more times than Mike Gillislee. He ran for 76 yards, the second most in his career, and despite not getting in the endzone, set the tone for the Patriots’ offense. Like he said after the game, he’s small, but he ain’t litte.
Dion Lewis: I try not to be a one-trick pony. I'm small, but I'm not little.
— Mark Daniels (@MarkDanielsPJ) October 23, 2017
The heart inside the Patriots’ defense isn’t either, apparently.
Last week, against the Jets, the defense looked better than it had all season. New York scored 14 points early, and Josh McCown threw for 354 yards, but the Pats held them to 17 points. While it wasn’t the most impressive effort, it was a step in the right direction. And last night, it was followed by a bunch of steps in the right direction.
From the opening drive, the defense played with a new intensity. They were flying around the field, bashing skulls. They stopped the run, the pass, and celebrated as a team after every big play. I felt like the Grinch watching it because my heart grew three sizes. I missed that type of emotion from a Pats D’. And it’s that type of emotion that this team needs to bring every week. But that’s a topic for another time. Back to last night.
This season, the Falcons have averaged 372.5 yards per game. The Patriots held them to 353. Matt Ryan averages 265 passing yards per game. The Patriots held him to 233. The Falcons were average 21.3 points per game. The Patriots held them to seven. This trend continues all the way down the stat sheet. The Patriots took one of the better offenses in football, and bottled them up.
It was an impressive effort by a group which has struggled mightily this season. For the first time in 2017, there was real confidence that the defense wasn’t going to crumble. It was a welcome sight for the Patriots and their fans alike.
The game itself, though, was not. I’m being literal, too. For fans watching at home (Based on photos, for fans at the game, too), seeing what was going on on the field was nearly impossible. The amount of fog hanging over Gillette Stadium was insane. Even NBC, a company equipped to handle almost anything, had to switch from their traditional camera angle to an angle provided by SkyCam. Obviously the fog (probably) had a small impact on gameplay, but it added an undeniably strange element.
No amount of fog or Falcons, for that matter, was going to stop the Patriots.
Every season, media members and football fans find a reason to write this team off. They find some chink in the armor and harp on it. It’s like clockwork. But what’s also like clockwork is a game like last night. Some team comes into Gillette, expecting to knock the Patriots from their throne, and it just doesn’t happen. The Patriots rise up to whatever challenge is presented and crush it.
Chris Collinsworth said it perfectly, “(The Patriots) just don’t waste their time on things that aren’t important to winning football games.” This team doesn’t worry about the outside noise. No amount of criticism phases them. They are the goddamn New England Patriots. This just what they do.