Sunday, March 9, 2014
The New England Patriots have set themselves up nicely to take control of the AFC East even before they enter their bye week on Nov. 10.
Sunday's 30-27 victory over the New Orleans Saints lifted the Patriots to 5-1 (2-0 in the division). Next week they travel to the Meadowlands to play the 3-3 New York Jets. The week after that, they're at home against the 3-2 Miami Dolphins, who play Buffalo at home next weekend.
Wins in both those games will give the Patriots a huge lead in the division. Of course, the Patriots aren't thinking that far ahead.
Their mindset was best illustrated by cornerback Kyle Arrington after Sunday's thrilling win.
Asked how the win could help the Patriots going forward, he said, "The goal, week-in and week-out, is to work hard on the field, off the field, on the game plan, in the playbook. So we just take it a week at a time. It’s a great win, don’t give me wrong, but that’s our goal heading into the week every week.''
THERE WAS a little confusion after the game about how many game-winning drives Tom Brady has actually engineered in his career. The pre-game notes provided to the media said that he had "engineered 36 career game-winning performances.''
But after the game, the notes said it was his 38th.
A member of the Patriots staff said the pre-game notes were missing one (a Sept. 30, 2012 game against Buffalo that was tied 21-21 entering the fourth and ended up a 52-28 Patriots rout) and that the post-game notes were correct.
Not that it matters much. By beating the Saints with his no-name receivers in the final five seconds, Brady once again proved that the Patriots always have a shot at winning.
Speaking on WEEI Monday morning, Brady said, "“No one gave up yesterday at any point.''
That touchdown pass to Kenbrell Thompkins, by the way, enabled Brady to tie Fran Tarkenton for fourth place on the NFL's all-time touchdown pass list. Both have 342. Drew Brees is close behind, with 338. Next up is Dan Marino, with 420.
Brady should be moving past Tarkenton on the all-time yardage list sometime this season. He passed Vinny Testaverde on Sunday and now has 46,286 career passing yards, eighth all-time. Tarkenton is seventh with 47,003.
ROOKIE DT Chris Jones, thrown into the starting lineup because of injuries to Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, played every defensive snap for the Patriots. He finished with three total tackles.
His effort was noted by Bill Belichick on Monday.
"Chris is a smart kid,'' said Belichick. "He came in and picked things up pretty quickly. His play time has increased a little bit each week. I think he's athletic, he runs well, he has good playing strength, he has a little bit of quickness in the pass rush and overall, he's got I think decent skills in there.''
Belichick went on to say that Jones and fellow rookie DT Joe Vellano (who led the Pats with eight tackles Sunday) have done a good job considering everything that's being thrown at them.
Mike Lowe has covered the New England Patriots since 1999 for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram and has had a nice view of their emergence as one of the NFL’s premier franchises.
He’s been at the paper since 1982 and has covered everything from a Little League World Series to the Summer Olympics. He is married to Tracie and they have three children and two grandchildren.
Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeLowePPH.