By Mark Paulette
Several weeks ago, I took to this very blog to spread encouragement at the thought of the New England Patriots and a 19-0 season. An idea many treated as they would a leper, avoiding all contact with the notion. I believed it was not only the Patriots’ rite, it was the lone remaining crusade in a two-decade conquest of the NFL.
I was so confident in this fact, that I looked past the injury to Julian Edelman and ignored the red flags which cropped up throughout camp on the defensive side of the ball. This was the team of destiny. A team leagues ahead of any other.
Never for a second did I let the thought of an opening night loss to the Kansas City Chiefs creep into the darkest depths of my mind. The Pats would pass their first test with flying colors, no matter the enthusiastic warnings of ex-Chief, Mike DeVito. My confidence grew to such heights that I offered to tattoo the arrowhead logo on an unspeakable part of my body should KC have pulled the upset. All Mike had to do in return was ink a simple “TB12” on his bicep. (Luckily, his wife promptly vetoed the idea).
Like many, I sat silent as Kansas City scored the opener’s final 21 points to hand New England one of the most embarrassing home losses of the Brady/Belichick era. Yet as shock set in and the cathedral of 19-0 came crashing down, a pattern emerged in the ruins.
2001…2003…2014. Lose the season opener…win the Super Bowl. Lose the opener…win the Super Bowl. Lose the opener…plus get trounced in an eerily similar game to the Chiefs on a Monday night in 2014, only to have the football world proclaim your demise…win the Super Bowl.
We’ve seen this movie before and we know how it ends.
Whether it was an 0-2 start and a Drew Bledsoe punctured lung which opened the door for some gangly quarterback named Tom Brady, or being shut out by a Buffalo team constructed of Patriots’ cast-offs, or that four game stretch which made us question the unquestionable. A theme of early-season redemption has been a constant in Belichick’s championship squads. Even last year the team was required to make-do without Brady for four games thanks to an injustice which shall not be referred to by name.
While on the surface it may have seemed like Kansas City exploited fatal flaws in the Patriots’ system, the Chiefs provided New England a bigger favor than if they had rolled over and played dead. And they just may have doomed the rest of the league in doing so.
“Hell hath no fury like a pissed off Brady and Belichick,” was what DeVito told me after the game. A man who was part of the ’14 Chiefs team which unseated the Patriots, only to see them march on to a fourth Lombardi trophy.
To become the greatest at your craft, it requires a borderline diagnosable drive towards perfection. A trait that’s presence is well documented in Brady and Belichick. Now, thanks to last Thursday’s ignominious defeat, the pair have been left to stew in the halls of Gillette, replaying their every mistake. That is a thought that should terrify the other 31 teams in the league.
To steal a popular saying from HBO’s hit series, Game of Thrones; winter has come for the NFL. And while predictions of the initial storm proved futile, we know how this story ends.
Mark Paulette is the Senior Producer of The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.