FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) – The Patriots mystique is back.
That’s not necessarily because they beat Chicago 17-13 yesterday. It’s because they beat the Bears the way the Bears have beaten other people.
It’s also the way New England beat the rest of the NFL when they won three Super Bowls in four seasons between 2001-2004.
Never mind that it was ugly. There were nine turnovers in the game, five by the Patriots and three of them inside the Chicago 20. Not quite the formula for winning Super Bowls.
“You win, it doesn’t matter, you come back the next day and correct the mistakes,” said linebacker Tedy Bruschi, one of the core players from the three championship teams.
That’s one thing that makes the Patriots unique. They’re not into looking good. Only winning.
What made this unique was how it was accomplished and who did it:
– Tom Brady, with an 11-yard run for a first down at the Chicago 14 that set up the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter. En route, he put a move worthy of LaDainian Tomlinson on Brian Urlacher, probably the game’s premier defender.
– Richard Seymour, who has been the NFL’s best defensive lineman for the last two or three years but only ordinary this season. Not on Sunday. He tipped a field goal attempt (Robbie Gould’s first miss of the season); recovered a fumble, and sacked Rex Grossman. “Feels pretty good,” said Seymour, who has been bothered by elbow and groin injuries and actually sat out part of the loss to the Jets two weeks ago.
– Asante Samuel, who had three interceptions, including one that clinched the game with 1:46 left. He’s only 25 and in his fourth season so he normally isn’t listed with the usual playmaking subjects – Brady, Seymour, Bruschi, Mike Vrabel and other veterans are the guys in that category. But those things are contagious, and Samuel may be the next guy on the list.
No, at 8-3, the Patriots probably won’t get home-field advantage throughout the playoffs – they trail Indianapolis and San Diego and have already lost to the Colts. But do they need it? This win on their new Field Turf was just their third in six games at Gillette Stadium. On the other hand, they are 5-0 on the road, where they also won two of their three AFC title games.
Beyond that, they are just different.
Just ask Vinny Testaverde, who signed two weeks ago after playing 19 years against New England. Now that he’s an insider, he has a new different perspective.
“How are they different?” the 43-year-old third-string QB asked. “The guys like to play football. That doesn’t sound so unique, but it is. There are just more of them on this team. On some teams, they just like to get paid, or like to be on TV shows. They just love the game. Everyone who sticks here is of good quality.”
The most obvious of that group are the survivors from the Super Bowl teams – the Bradys, Bruschis and Seymours. Now maybe Samuel. It’s why they pick up veteran winners, like Junior Seau, who injured his right arm on Sunday and didn’t return to the game.
No matter – they win. And they beat good teams like Chicago in a game that both sides seemed to enjoy.
Urlacher and Brady, both stars of major magnitude, were two guys having fun.
“After that play, he told me ‘You embarrassed me,'” Brady said. “I told him, ‘You’ve been embarrassing us all afternoon.’ “
Naturally, it all flows up the guy in the tattered sweatshirt – no, Bill Belichick did not follow the lead of Mike Nolan and Jack Del Rio and don a suit for Sunday’s game.
But even Belichick, not exactly a ball of laughs at any time, recognized that a winning is more important than form.
“It’s not exactly the way you draw it up,” he said. “Not for either team.”
Yes, but his was the one that won.
It usually is.