Maybe you have noticed the same thing I have. Does it seem as if the 2015 New England Patriots are playing with a chip on their shoulders? Does it seem as if they are hellbent on bringing yet another Vince Lombardi Trophy home to Foxboro just to spite NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell? Through three weeks, and now into their bye this week, Tom Brady‘s offense is averaging 39.7 points per game.
Were the Pittsburgh Steelers supposed to give them competition on opening night? Were the Buffalo Bills, who were playing host, supposed to unseat the champions atop the AFC North? Sure, the Patriots laid the wood on Jacksonville by putting up 51 last Sunday, but they also laid 40 on the Bills’ revamped roster led by division nemesis Rex Ryan.
We’ve seen this all before. Looking ahead at the remaining games on the Patriots’ 2015 regular season schedule, it seems like a cakewalk now for a team firing on all cylinders. Going to the Giants might pose an interesting outcome, as it was Eli Manning and two of his Giants’ teams that derailed New England in the Super Bowl–including ending the miracle undefeated regular season in 2007. Denver MIGHT, and I stress MIGHT, pose the only legitimate threat to preventing the 2015 Patriots from running the table, en route to a fifth Super Bowl title in the Brady/Belichick era.
Where have we seen this before? Yes, I mentioned the 2007 regular season. That Patriots’ team averaged 36.8 points per game during the regular season, while allowing an average of only 17.1. This year’s Patriots’ defense through three games is allowing 23.3 points per game–a difference of 6.2 more points per game. Here’s the thing: the last time this Patriots’ team looked this hungry, this determined to throttle everything in their path, that magical 2007 season before succumbing to the Giants 17-14, was off of the heels of “Spygate.” Oh, you remember Spygate. The situation in which the Patriots were caught illegally videotaping the defensive signals of Rex Ryan’s New York Jets during a September 9th, 2007 game. Belichick and the Patriots were fined, along with their losing of their 2008 first round draft pick.
And what’s been the controversy surrounding the Patriots and Tom Brady heading into the 2015 season? Of course that answer is “Deflategate.” While the NFL is still pushing through the appeals process, trying to suspend Brady for four games, he’s putting up numbers that are on pace for a record-breaking regular season from the quarterback position. Through three weeks, Brady has two, 300+ yard passing games, 9 touchdown passes, and no interceptions. That’s good for a QB rating of 119.6–fourth in the league but third behind qualified starters Aaron Rodgers and Andy Dalton.
If you think the New England Patriots are going to cool off or slow down between now and Super Bowl 50, think again. Roger Goodell and the NFL did Bill Belichick a favor. By going for the blood of Tom Brady, the NFL has now made the Patriots the bad guys. They have provided the chip on the shoulder of a team that has done it all. One of the most difficult things to do in sports as a professional coach, is to keep your players hungry, to go after another title, to keep hunting for the ultimate prize. The 2007 Patriots proved that controversy became motivation, and 2015 and the persecution of the Patriots and Tom Brady, is no different.