New England Patriots fans: You know you’re spoiled, right?
After all those winning seasons and Super Bowl championships, the moment something goes wrong — a loss, an injury, a win despite a poor performance, like … one broken play, a touchdown despite an imperfect throw, any time Tom Brady is touched, any offensive pass interference call against Rob Gronkowski, an ugly divisional championship hat, when Brady has a bad haircut — you, yes you, act like the sky is falling.
Want an example? It’s happening right this second. The Patriots have sole possession of the AFC East and are tied for the conference lead in the loss column. Despite this, there are Patriots fans who think this team is bad. Not just average or below average — they think this team is straight-up bad. Patriots fans essentially come in two forms. There are the ones who believe the team can do no wrong and that any criticism is unwarranted, and there are those that just love complaining. Those in the middle are at least a vocal minority.
For the second straight year, there are rumblings that New England is not good enough to win a Super Bowl. The team proved it was last year when it beat the Atlanta Falcons last year to, you know, actually win the Super Bowl.
The Patriots can prove they’re good enough to win a Super Bowl again Sunday night against the Falcons in a rematch from February’s incredible comeback win.
It should be obvious that New England is good enough to at least compete for a championship — win or lose Sunday. The best team in the AFC is the Kansas City Chiefs, and they’ve lost consecutive games to less talented squads in the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders. The second-best team is the Patriots. And if you think it’s the Steelers, then you very clearly missed their quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, throw five interceptions in Week 5 and Pittsburgh lose to the Mike Glennon-quarterbacked Chicago Bears in Week 3.
NFL fans wanted parity for years, and it seems they’re finally getting it in a large batch of mediocre-to-above average teams this season. New England is in the top end of that group, no matter how terrible its defense is.
But Patriots fans still need convincing. And a win over the Falcons and a solid defensive performance against Atlanta’s offense would go a long way in persuading them.
Don’t expect perfection against the Falcons. There’s a near-perfect chance Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan becomes the seventh consecutive signal caller to throw for 300 yards or more against the Patriots’ secondary. The Pats are without No. 1 and 3 cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe, after all. And even if Gilmore and Rowe were playing, recent history suggests New England would give up enough big plays to eventually add up to 300 yards passing.
Here’s a request, however: Gauge the Patriots’ defense by points allowed, not yards, on Sunday. That’s how they judge themselves, and it’s worked out pretty well for the last 16 seasons. The Patriots have allowed 31 total points in their last two weeks against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets. No one’s about to suddenly declare the unit “good” after those performances, but it’s a step in the right direction.
If they take another step and beat the Falcons on Sunday, then act like normal human beings and understand you’re once again watching one of the NFL’s best teams. And if they don’t defeat Atlanta, then go ahead and doubt away.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images