I just read one of the best articles of the season that not only captures the attitude of the Patriots, but of how I feel about them this season with the whole "spying" saga. I have a link but I also pasted the article here in hopes more people (the lazy) will still read it.
Kneel before the Pats -- 'cause the Pats ain't kneeling
By Bill Simmons
Right after Junior Seau's interception clinched the Patriots' 48-27 victory in Dallas on Sunday, my BlackBerry vibrated with a six-word text from my friend Willy:
"Here comes the Eff You TD."
Three minutes later, it happened: Fourth-string running back Kyle Eckel rammed home a fourth-and-1 carry with 19 seconds remaining in a 14-point game. Normally, you take a knee there ... but not this year. Back in the mid-'80s, every time the Celtics walked off an opposing floor after a hard-fought road victory, a giddy Kevin McHale clenched his fists, raised his Frankenstein arms above his head and showed off his victorious armpits. This was the hairy victory cigar of the Bird era. Maybe the 2007 Patriots don't have anything as magical as McHale's pits, but they do have the "Eff You TD." It's their little way of telling the other 31 teams, "You took shots at us after the Jets game, you discredited our three Super Bowls, you pretended we were the only team stealing opposing signals when everyone does it, so you know what? Eff you."
You might remember me bringing this up in my Week 4 picks column: "Yeah, it's wrong to run up the score. I'd be the first one to admit it. But it's a natural reaction to the way they were vilified for two straight weeks. The rest of the nation turned them into a mutant cross between Cobra Kai and the Yankees, so screw it, they're acting like the Cobra Kai Yankees. Can you blame them? I can't answer that one objectively, so I won't try. But if you don't think they'll be running up the score in Cincinnati on Monday night, you're crazy."
What happened in that Bengals game? Leading by 14 points with nine minutes left, the Pats commenced a climactic 85-yard drive by putting Brady in the shotgun, then throwing five straight times before following it up with three Sammy Morris handoffs that brought them to Cincy's 14-yard line with 3:24 remaining. Teams always run out the clock, make the opposing team burn the rest of its timeouts and kick the game-clinching field goal here, right? Not the 2007 Cobra Kai Yankees. Coming off a Cincy timeout, Brady nailed Moss for a 14-yard touchdown. In other words, eff you.
As you might have heard by now, the Patriots are 6-0, they've outscored opponents by a 230-92 margin, and Tom Brady might quintuple Gus Frerotte's QB rating before everything's said and done. In each of those six wins, they specifically went for a meaningless touchdown just to stick it to their opponents. Here's the complete list:
Week 1 at New York Jets (38-14): 1-yard TD by Heath Evans, 1:58 left.
Week 2 vs. San Diego (38-14): 3-yard TD by Sammy Morris, 3:18 left.
Week 3 vs. Buffalo (38-7): 45-yard TD catch by Randy Moss, 10:22 left.
Week 4 at Cincy (34-17): 14-yard TD catch by Randy Moss, 3:18 left.
Week 5 vs. Cleveland (34-17): 15-yard fumble return TD by Randall Gay, 0:42 left.
(Important note: This came one play after the Pats failed to convert the "Eff You TD" on fourth-and-goal from Cleveland's 4 when Brady just missed Kyle Brady in the end zone.)
Week 6 vs. Dallas (48-27): 1-yard TD run by Kyle Eckel, 0:19 left.
What does this all mean, other than we should start preparing ourselves for the first 100-point game in NFL history against the Jets in Week 15? We have our first potentially dominant team of the hard-cap era, but more importantly, we have our first true NFL villain since the Raiders in the late-'70s. People hate this team. They want them to lose. It's like having the '96 Bulls back, only if everyone despised them and MJ played garbage-time minutes just to make sure every opponent lost by 20-plus points.
Regardless of how you feel about the 2007 Patriots, at the very least, you have to admit the following three things:
1. You haven't seen football played this well in a long time. Three weeks ago, Malcolm Gladwell e-mailed me to say he was heading to Europe and wanted to know if there was a Web site that allowed him to buy a game tape of the Pats-Bengals game and have it Fed Ex'ed to him. When I asked why he didn't TiVo the game and just watch it when he came back, Gladwell explained he didn't want to wait that long -- the Pats were playing at such a high level, he was fascinated with them in a way that went beyond football. And it's true. We haven't seen anything like this with professional sports in a while. When Dallas took the lead in the third quarter Sunday, the thing that amazed me wasn't that it happened, but how assured I was the Patriots would immediately answer with a score. There was no doubt in my mind. Honestly, I haven't felt this way about a Boston team since the '86 Celtics.
2. Barring injuries, it's going to be an enormous, enormous deal if somebody beats New England this season. That's the sign of a truly great team, regardless of the sport. During my sophomore year in college, I remember watching the '89 Niners and thinking, "There's no way in hell they can be beaten. You'd need about 35 things to happen." As it turned out, they outscored their opponents by a 442-253 margin in the regular season, lost two games by a total of five points and rolled through their three playoff opponents by the unfathomable score of 126-26. Yeah, the '92 Cowboys were great; so were the '94 Niners and the '98 Broncos. But the '89 Niners were on a different level, and we haven't seen anything like it since. Now we're seeing it again.
3. It's fun to have a old-school villain in sports again, right? There's a reason every sports movie has a bad guy in it. There's a reason "USA 4, USSR 3" was the single greatest moment in American sports history. There's a reason people enjoy hating the Yankees and Duke as much as they do.
Over the past 25 years, we've found more and more ways to become attached to sporting events -- there are fantasy teams, office pools, gambling and everything else. On Sundays during the NFL season, I'm rooting for so many different things that I can't even keep track of everything. But here's a case in which sports has been reduced to the purest form: A great football team broke the rules and paid the price; media members and NFL folks had a field day excoriating the team for what happened; somewhere along the line, people decided the team's Super Bowls were tainted even though the NFL didn't send out its much-discussed memo about videotaping opposing signals until September 2006; and that's when the team made the collective decision, "You know what? Eff you!"
It's a two-word phrase that can't be printed on ESPN.com, but it's become the mantra of the 2007 Patriots season. Eff you. You can see it with every rubbing-it-in touchdown in the fourth quarter, as well as every "Get 'em a body bag ... YEAHHHHHHHHH!" reaction on the sidelines after it happens. You can see it with Brady's ticked-off game face that hasn't changed for five straight weeks. You can see it with Belichick's super-satisfied grin during the postgame handshake with the opposing coach -- especially with Wade Phillips, who made the fatal mistake of taking a shot at the Pats this week, when Belichick looked liked he was dying to tell him, "Man, imagine what the score could have been had if we were allowed to videotape your terrible coaching signals!"
It's a great football team with an even greater edge. If you're rooting against them, you hate them for it. If you're rooting for them, you love it and feel the same way. Best of all, there's no middle ground. Maybe the 2007 Pats were caught stealing signals, but only one signal matters anymore: two middle fingers turned toward the sky.