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Patriots on the road again for SB 5


02/01/18



 It’s not supposed to be this way, you know. 

Four teams have never been to the Super Bowl. Cleveland went 52 years without a championship in any sport and the Indians last won a World Series in 1948. After being the Patriots of the late ’40s and early ’50s by going to 10 straight championship games in the AFC and NFL, winning seven times, the Browns haven’t won a title since 1964. And if you missed the news, they went 0-16 in 2017 and 1-31 the past two seasons. 
Then there are your New England Patriots. Thanks to the latest stirring comeback win in a remarkable 17-year run, they’re now going to their eighth Super Bowl in the Brady-Belichick era. This time after the Jacksonville Jaguars won the battle over the first three quarters but lost the war to a 14-point fourth-quarter Tom Brady blitz in a rousing 24-20 win for the AFC Championship.   
For those who’ve watched intently during their reign the why is obvious. And it has nothing to do with the notion of cheating the haters hold on to so tightly. Like in the fourth quarter and OT in last year’s Super Bowl win, Sunday’s final eight minutes tell the story of why they’re on the cusp of being the greatest of all the dynasties in NFL history. 
First, there’s Next Man Up. Yes, that seems so trite. But after watching Danny Amendola step into a spotlight previously occupied by Troy Brown, David Patten, Deion Branch, Kevin Faulk, Adam V, Matt Cassell, Randall Gay, Shane Vereen, Martellus Bennett and many others, it doesn’t seem so trite any more. Because on Sunday with no Julian Edelman, no Gronk and down 10 in the fourth quarter, it was no problem again when Dola delivered in a major way.  
That forces me to first say, once again, Bill was right and I was wrong. This time for giving the money to Amendola over Wes Welker in 2013. Because with Welker roping steers someplace and the receiving core riddled with injuries, this pint-sized guy with well-known durability issues missed just one early game while delivering 11 big catches last week vs. Tennessee and eight more Sunday, including the two fourth-quarter TDs that won the game. The question is, did he just never have the opportunity to show this in St. Louis? Or was it brought out here being around all the winning and playing with Brady? 
Next comes Coach B. Even the haters grudgingly acknowledge how good he is. But a week after Mike Tomlin panicked for the botched on-sides kick that handed the Jags the field goal that ultimately beat his team, Coach B patiently played for field position over fourth-down tries with the clock ticking down. That kept pinning the Jags deep in their end, where he correctly figured they’d play it ultra-safe. And that’s why Amendola fielded the ball at just mid-field before his gigantic punt return let Brady start the game-winning drive at Jacksonville’s 30. 
There also consistency. While rivals like Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Denver, Indy, the G-Men and the Jets for a short time under Rex have come at them for a while before falling back, they’re always good. Even the two times they missed the playoffs, they still tied for the most wins in the Conference, but lost out on tie-breakers. 
And then there is not-so-young Mr. Brady, who is the only one to be here since it started. There he was on Sunday with between four and 212 stitches in his throwing hand, down 10 before stepping into the phone booth to lead his 54th fourth-quarter comeback. This time by throwing lasers down field after abandoning the dink and dunk to the flat game plan that wasn’t working. The best being the third-and-18 dart to Amendola for 21 and a first down. 
If you think the Jags weren’t aware then they were facing the great Brady, you’re mistaken. Do not for a second under-sell intimidation. It’s a powerful force, which grew stronger on Jacksonville once Brady got the momentum going. How do I know that? First, because Jacksonville’s mouthy defense had stopped yapping. That’s always a telltale sign of fear. Second, whether it’s covering Michael Jordan, or knowing Tiger was lurking out there in his prime on the final day, it makes you do things you normally wouldn’t. That leads to mistakes or playing it too safe and if any mere mortal player or coach tries to pretend that’s not so they’re lying. 
Given the Ps’ well-earned aura, that Belichick was pulling the strings and Brady was under center, that was definitely at play on Sunday. It’s why the Jags went so conservative, as they didn’t want to give Brady a short field off a turnover. Which happened anyway on the Amendola punt return of a bad punt after being pinned deep in their territory. And also probably why Kyle Shanahan went for the TD over the sure FG in the Super Bowl last year, because he was afraid of what Brady might do. And that’ll probably continue until Brady retires in 2033 or so, because I’m starting to think he may be not just the G.O.A.T., but the best player at any position in any sport.   
Making the bottom line: Ain’t it great to be a Patriots fan? 
Because they get to see Brady shove all the nonsense back down Max the Moron’s throat, even if all true, show how irrelevant Seth Wickersham’s ESPN gossip piece actually was, and let the Nation take on the idiotic haters like the crazed female Chiefs fan who called WEEI to say Brady had cheated again by using stick’em to make the bandage over his stitches stay more secure. 
So my advice is to one and all is this drink all this in. Savor it, wallow in it, enjoy it and most of all appreciate it. Because it can’t last forever. 
At least I don’t think it can. 
Email Dave Long at dlong@hippopress.com. 





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