The Patriots destroyed the Indianapolis Colts 45-7 on Sunday’s AFC Championship game meaning they are heading to Super Bowl 49. The Super Bowl will consist of the number one seeds in the AFC and NFC for the second straight season and this one will be a dog fight. I’m here to tell you that one year ago, the Patriots would have lost this game. More respectably than Denver, but the game would have been over by the third quarter. This year, the game is a pick-em in Las Vegas and I’ll tell you why.
The knock on the Patriots for the past 7-plus years is they had no defense, but even more so, they felt like they had limited toughness. Offensively, they were skilled. Defensively they were anything but skilled. Toughness was something the team has lacked in the playoffs getting there with a weak division and superior skill. This season is different.
Sure the results read the same, but this Patriots team has played the best and competed with the best since week 4. They have been in the sort of dog fights they would have lost previously, but free agency gave this team new life. The signing of Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Brandon LaFell, Pat Chung and LeGarrette Blount has provided toughness where the Patriots lacked it.
Darrelle Revis had an interception yesterday and came back in the game after an apparent head injury. Browner establishes toughness every game by hard hits and physical play. Blount’s day is well documented with 148 yards and 3 touchdowns. The emergence of LaFell has sparked an interesting dynamic of Brady with three legit passing weapons and was praised for his toughness all last week. Pat Chung, for all the grief I give him, is tough as nails and hits hard. His skill comes within the running game, but he’s made improvements in pass coverage as well.
What they needed this offseason was a little more grit and Belichick cashed in with his free agent pick ups. They didn’t need Talib, who would have tapped out yesterday. They didn’t need Brandon Lloyd or Aaron Dobson. They didn’t need Ridley. They needed finishers and that’s exactly what they’ll need against Seattle.
Briefly looking ahead, we saw a Seattle team that has a weakness – it’s offense. Containing the running game is the answer because Russell Wilson is a timely quarterback, but he’s not going to beat you through the air. The Packers shut Seattle’s offense down for three quarters and outplayed Seattle for most of that game. What I’m trying to say is Seattle, like the Patriots, are mortal. Richard Sherman got banged up. Earl Thomas got banged up. They can be beaten.
When I think about this game, I think the two best teams in the NFL will be competing in two weeks. The team that is trying to win Super Bowls back-to-back for the first time in ten years will have to go through the last team that did it in the New England Patriots. How fitting.