by Kent Sterling
Since winning the Super Bowl to end the 2004 NFL season, the New England Patriots are a very pedestrian 8-7 in the postseason.
Peyton Manning gets killed for his lack of postseason success, but during the same period, his postseason record is 6-6. Yet Coach Hoodie is seen as some reincarnation of Lombardi-esque genius.
The question for the Colts as they try to reach the AFC Championship Game for the first time under second-year quarterback Andrew Luck and Chuck Pagano isn’t whether they can scheme to outwit Bill Belichick. It’s why Belichick is seen as so clever to begin with.
In no way am I arguing that Belichick isn’t a good coach. He is, but since being outed as a cheat, he is ringless with a barely over .500 record in the postseason. Belichick has always been willing to do whatever is necessary to gain an advantage, but since he has been restricted to what is allowed by the rules, his results have been ultimately disappointing.
The Patriots have suffered a number of injuries that have adversely affected their work on either side of the ball, and finishing 12-4 given their offensive weaponry, the majority of which were employed by the St. Louis Rams last year, is quite an accomplishment.
There are 12 Patriots on injured reserve and two others on the non-football injury list. That would be impressive if the Colts didn’t sport a list 18 names long on their own injured reserve list.
Patriots fans, like all fans of Boston teams, tend to think of themselves as very special. That haughtiness stretches to Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy, who wrote a piece featuring a nauseating level of hubris (since when is a columnist nothing more than a cheerleader for a team they cover? This column would have made for a good call to a sportstalk station from a deranged and myopic fan).
Among other bizarre statements of Patriots superiority not yet in evidence:
- But they (Colts) have all the ingredients Bill Belichick loves in a playoff chump.
- If you were going to draw up a Hoodie dream playoff opponent, you would ask for a dome team with a young quarterback, a neophyte coach, and a bad defense…
- Bring on the Broncos. Or better yet, bring on the Chargers in the shadow of the high-fivin’ CBS Scene.
- On Saturday, Belichick will own Luck the way he owned Drew Bledsoe.
- Pagano will lose his football mind at the sight of Belichick and Tom Brady at Gillette Stadium. He will forget everything he ever knew about the gridiron.
- With all due respect, this is something of a joke.
- Seriously. It’s just like two years ago when all the Patriots had to do was beat an 8-8 Tim Tebow-quarterbacked team at home (45-10, thank you).
- Give me the Patriots over the Indianapolis Colts. Big time. Every time.
Anytime a writer begins a sentence with, “With all due respect,” what follows is going to be idiotic. It’s a weak and contradictory phrase that has no place in a column by a guy who writes for a living.
I doubt Belichick lends any more credence to Shaughnessy’s ill-founded and lazy rant than Chuck Pagano does, and it won’t have anything to do with the result, but it speaks to the reason it is so much fun to beat the Patriots. Their fans have a sense of entitlement and dismissiveness that is almost entirely undeserved.
The Colts will show up Saturday, play hard, and try to find a way. Stopping Danny Amendola shouldn’t be too difficult. When Rams opponents had trouble slowing him, Amendola did it himself with a routine series of injuries. LeGarrette Blount is big and mediocre. Julian Edelman – no, not Bob Kraft’s attorney. He’s a former college quarterback who became a wide receiver under the genius. Going into this season, Edelman had amassed 69 career catches in four seasons.
Sure, Brady is a scary guy with a track record of hard work, indomitable spirit, and magical access to hot women. The only meaningful stat that hasn’t declined over the past three seasons is wins.
Going to Foxborough to win a playoff game is always a great challenge, but it won’t be the mother of all miracles when the Colts pull out a win Saturday night, despite what Shaughnessy thinks. It will be a good but flawed team beating another good but flawed team.