In the continuation of a 1980s musical theme that haunts us like Brom Bones haunted Ichabod Cran
e, last night's Denver-New England battle reminds us – naturally – of the Beastie Boys classic "Rhymin' & Stealin'." In an upset, "Rhymin' & Stealin'" was recently named the greatest song of the 1980s by Jewish rappers about hard-drinking pirates.
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The swashbucklin' pirates of pigskin called the Cold, Hard Football Facts used to be so brash and cocky – pillaging the "pundits" and commandeering their leaky vessels of opinion.
This year it seems we're doomed to meet the same gory fate as Calico Jack
, tarred and feathered and swinging from the gallows of the gridiron for crimes on the high seas of analysis. After all, it was less than a week ago – with our friends from WEEI.com
in Boston – that we declared the Tom Brady-less Patriots a hopeless cause.
(At least we haven't lost our lusty thirst for Caribbean rum ... or for vanilla extract and lighter fluid. Hey, any port in a storm, matey.)
The trolls seemed to agree with our assessment of New England's hopes. In our most recent Troll Poll on the CHFF homepage (as of Tuesday morning), 41 percent of respondents said Brady was mostly responsible for the Patriots dynasty. Just 11 percent said Patriots coach Bill Belichick was most responsible.
Yet today, the Patriots are 4-2 and fresh off the most single most impressive victory of the season – a 41-7 thrashing of the AFC West-leading Broncos.
Oh, it was not New England's most impressive victory of the season – it was THE most impressive victory of the season by any team in the NFL this year.
There have been just four 34-point-or-greater victories in the NFL this year.
- The Eagles beat the pre-Jim Haslett Rams, 38-3, in Week 1
- The Panthers beat the Herm Squad, 34-0, in Week 5
- The Giants beat the lame-duck-coach Seahawks, 44-6, in Week 5
- The Patriots beat the Broncos, 41-7, in Week 7
The Rams, Chiefs and Seahawks, the victims in those other three blowouts, all have one thing in common: they suck.
New England's humiliation of the defenseless Broncos is the biggest win of the year over a Quality Team
(a team with a winning record) as we near the halfway mark of the 2008 season. History tells us it's doubtful we'll see another division leader suffer such a crushing defeat.
It comes just eight days after the Cold, Hard Football Facts – and virtually everybody else – wrote off the Patriots following their embarrassing 30-10 Week 6 loss to the Chargers.
The win over the Broncos was more than just the biggest blowout of a Quality Team this year, it was a devastating example of old-school football that indicates there's still a lot of fight left in the wounded gridiron galleon that sails the New England main.
The Patriots rushed for a stunning 257 yards (on 38 carries, for 6.8 YPA), the organization's greatest ground output in 23 years – and they did it on a day in which their No. 1 back (Laurence Maroney) was placed on IR for the season, their No. 2 back (Sammy Morris) was sent off with a knee injury and their No. 4 back (BenJarvus Ellis-Green), who had never carried the ball in an NFL game, shouldered the entire load in the second half (13 for 65 5.0 YPA, and 1 TD).
The Patriots played lights-out defense (at least by their standards), forcing five turnovers and holding Denver QB Jay Cutler to a 64.3 passer rating, his lowest mark of the year.
Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel played largely efficient, winning football (other than taking way too many sacks, six), completing 18 of 24 passes (75%) for 185 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT, and a 136.3 passer rating – clearly the best performance of his young career.
New England's offense, meanwhile, has started to find something of a groove, with 81 points (27.0 PPG) over its last three contests.
The 2008 season has been marked by a massive sea change in the NFL power structure: The NFC has risen to prominence after more than a decade of being ruled by the AFC; the NFC South is asserting itself
as a powerhouse division for the first time; Tennessee and Tampa look like the two best teams in football this year; and 21st-century AFC powers have struggled severely.
The Broncos were just crushed and their cause is hopeless with such a porous defense. The Chargers are 3-4 and fresh off a loss to the upstart Bills. The Colts, who host the Patriots in two weeks, are on the verge of imploding following a 34-14 loss at Green Bay. And the Steelers look much like other Pittsburgh teams of recent vintage, but have yet to face a Quality Team.
New England, of course, lost its salty captain in the first quarter of the season, which looked like it would sink the NFL's dominant sea power of the 21st century. But, for at least one week in this stormy pro football season, the ship has steadied and the Patriots appear to have a little more swash left in their buckle.