New England Patriots fans have long lustily consumed the Bill Belichick Kool-Aid.
But the flavor of the 2013 season is Tom Brady Lemonade. Handed a pile of sour lemons for weapons this year, the future Hall of Famer has helped orchestrate a 5-1 record that puts the Patriots smack dab in the middle off the top-heavy AFC playoff race.
None of those five victories tasted sweeter for Patriots fans than the thrilling 30-27 win over prolific Drew Brees and the fully stocked arsenal of the previously undefeated New Orleans Saints (5-1).
The resurgent New England defense has been the story of the young season so far. The Patriots entered Week 6 No. 2 in scoring defense.
But twice in the last three weeks Brady and the Patriots had to outgun great quarterbacks and teams stocked with an array of great receiving weapons.
New England hung 30 on both the Atlanta Falcons and the Saints, winning each time.
Both games were not only victories for the Patriots, they were victories for CHFF's all-powerful Shiny Hood Ornament Man Law.
The SHOML is a foundation of the Cold, Hard Football Facts that tells us that receivers are merely role players – hood ornaments – in the NFL, and that at the end of the day the game is all about the quarterback.
Brady and the Patriots once won three Super Bowls in four years without a single legit big-time weapon at wide receiver. In fact, at one point they won a record 34 games over a two-year span, including a record 21 in a row.
The team is once again proving the power of the Shiny Hood Ornament Man Law here in 2013.
No moment provided more powerful evidence of this Gridiron Gravity than the final drive against the Saints on Sunday: the Patriots marched 70 yards in 68 seconds to pull out the win with five ticks on the clock.
Here’s who caught passes for Brady on the game-winning drive:
Julian Edelman – This former small-college quarterback and NFL special-teams specialist is now the leading receiver on the Patriots (41 catches, 411 yards, both career bests). He caught Brady’s first pass on the final drive for 23 yards.
Austin Collie – This oft-concussed four-year NFL journeyman caught just one pass in 2012 was sitting at home eating bonbons earlier this month before signing a 1-year veteran minimum contract with the Patriots last week. Forced into duty late Sunday after Danny Amendola was injured, he caught two passes on the game-winning drive for 24 yards.
Aaron Dobson – The rookie second-round draft pick out of Marshall hauled in a quick reception for 6 yards. He led all pass catchers Sunday with 6 catches for 63 yards.
Kenbrell Thompkins – The rookie wide receiver was undrafted out Cincinnati, but has emerged as the closest thing to a star in the Patriots receiving corps. He caught the game-winning 17-yard touchdown, a beautifully thrown pass to the far left corner of the end zone, and now boasts a team-high four scores.
The reality on Sunday is that Brees, Jimmy Graham (0 catches), Marques Colston (1 catch), Robert Meachem (0 catches), Pierre Thomas (1 catch) and Darren Sproles (6 catches) could not keep pace with Michael Hoomanawanui (4 catches), Dobson (6 catches), Edelman (5 catches), Thompkins (3 catches) and Collie (2 catches).
We saw the same thing two weeks ago in Atlanta when Matt Ryan, Tony Gonzalez, Julio Jones and Roddy White were outgunned by Brady, Matthew Mulligan, Thompkins and Edelman.
Patriots fans were near hysterical in before the start of the 2013 season, wondering how the team would cope after its receiving corps was decimated. The tenor of the fandom on Boston sports radio reamained morose last week, even as the "Get Tough Or Die" Patriots sported a 4-1 record and held first place, yet again, in the AFC East.
That attitude was on display on national television Sunday, as distraught Patriots fans were pictured streaming out of the stadium of a one-score game.
The Cold, Hard Football Facts, and proponents of the Shiny Hood Ornament Man Law, never quibble about the wide receiver position. They know that success in the NFL rarely hinges on the size of the stars at wide receiver.
Success in the NFL almost always hinges on the size of the star at quarterback. We saw proof again Sunday in Foxboro ... and never should have doubted it in the first place.
The remaining schedule, meanwhile, suddenly looks pretty cozy for the Patriots, with four straight very winnable games against the Jets, Dolphins, Steelers and Panthers before yet antoher epic showdown with Peyton Manning and his mighty Broncos, followed by five more very winnable games (Texans, Browns, Dolphins, Ravens, Bills) to close the season.
The 6-0 Broncos and Chiefs, meanwhile, face mutually assured destruction with a pair of AFC West showdowns later this season that will render one a wildcard team. A first-round bye for the Patriots and their third-rate receiver corps suddenly seems like a very achievable goal.