It might seem a bit redundant to rehash the agony of the New England Patriots' woes, from the ignominious end to a stellar 2012 campaign to a pile—up of injuries that would fill the wing of some hospitals... it's a torrid tale of disgusting proportions!
Bill Belichick is certainly battling nightmares over the sequence of events that has taken a severe toll on his troops, including the loss of several key players that most of us hoped would be a part of Patriot lore for years to come. How does a coach endure such blows and soldier—on in the face of the revolving door that free agency has put smack in the middle of the plans of every NFL team?
Belichick goes out and finds new stars to insert where circumstance dictates. He scoops—up an Aqib Talib, resigns a Julian Edelman, and trades for a LeGarrette Blount... to name a few. He takes the worst and turns it into the best.
And that is where the Patriots are right now; things have been rocky, unstable, yet somewhere in the mix is a resolve and resilience to rise above the obstacles and win football games. Having Tom Brady as your field general doesn't hurt either. He takes his lumps and hands out a few of his own.
When you look at the Patriot's roster, you see a lot of new names. You see undrafted rookie free agents, you see guys released from their previous employers, and you see guys you thought were second and third stringers suddenly thrust into starting roles with the likes of the best players in football... the Bradys and the Vince Wilforks... and then one of those guys goes down and yet another stranger fills the void to keep the train roaring down the tracks.
You won't see the Patriots setting any Bronco—like records this year. They aren't going undefeated and might even have a tough fight to gain home—field advantage in the playoffs. But they have not lost, despite all the other losses, the will to win.
Brady is not putting up gaudy numbers while leading the league in... well... anything.
Stevan Ridley is not poised to break the rushing record, or even his own career best stats.
Heck, Rob Gronkowski just got clesared to play football again... will we finally see him on the field alongside his teammates? Now that is a boost that the rest of the league is not prepared to handle! His presence will not fix all of the problems that Belichick's team has accumulated over the past 10 months. He just adds another dimension to a team that finds a way.
But we have seen so much improvement in related areas, such as the playmaking of young receivers and the versatility of the running backs, that the addition of one of the biggest threats in football will be like the shot heard round the world.
With every loss there has been a gain, regardless of how small; just when it seems like nothing is going right, another contributor makes his mark. Last week it was Kenbrell Thompkins, catching a 17 yard gem from Brady to steal the win from the clutches of Drew Brees. Against the Atlanta Falcons it was the secondary, clinched by the heroics of Aqib Talib on the final deflection, to hold—off Matt Ryan and co.
One might wonder how a team with such a plethora of absentees can even field a team, let alone one that can control a ballgame and emerge in triumph. And one must be reminded that this is no ordinary ballclub. This is the Patriots. This the team led by Belichick the Crafty and Brady the Killer. And behind him you will see the most motley crew of football players... but you will see winners.
It matters not that many of them have yet to complete a full season with the Patriots, let alone in the NFL. Belichick and Brady gladly take the players that all other teams pass to create a winner, a champion, and a dynasty. Just remember where Brady was selected in the 2000 draft and you will understand.
Just when things seem the worst for the red, white, and blue, the Patriots turn it to the best of times. Yeah, "These are the best of times." (Thank you Styx)
The Patriots are not hurting, at least not in the way everyone would like to think. I doubt that most of us understand what exactly is going on in New England right now. But we have seen this before. We know where Brady is headed and what drives him. Some of us have read his biography.
We know he has three rings to herald his glory. We await the next.