Not so much to the rest of the league — but to themselves.
That’s the way Bill Belichick’s team plays every week whether the opponent is Indianapolis, Dallas or Washington. Belichick and his players have the maturity to handle the worst of circumstances and that’s what they faced Sunday afternoon against the Colts.
When Peyton Manning got into the end zone from one yard out with 9:42 remaining in the fourth quarter, the undefeated Patriots were trailing 20-10 and 57,450 Colt fans were in full roar. Not only was New England behind, the team had been outplayed for 50 minutes and their chances for keeping their record unblemished appeared to be blowing right out of the RCA Dome.
At least that’s what would have happened with a normal team. Every other team in the league would have shrugged and waited for the next opportunity because the Colts played outstanding football for 50 minutes. But Belichick’s team lives by the mantra of playing 60 minutes — and never more so than this week. The Patriots knew they were playing the best team in the league and that nothing would come easy.
The Patriots tried as much as they could to stay away from the big-picture angle of this game. This was clearly the biggest regular-season in recent memory and the Patriots have earned a significant advantage on the Colts when it comes to securing home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The one game at a time mentality that is pervasive in all NFL lockerrooms is gospel in New England. But the Patriots are a team of men and not robots. There was a celebratory air after the game — from Donte Stallworth’s give-and-take with anguished Colts fans as he made his way back to the locker room to Rosey Colvin’s explanation of his game-clinching fumble recovery following Jarvis Green’s sack of Manning with 2:34 to go.
“We just believe in ourselves always, all the time,” Colvin said. “You get down by 10 points and you don’t stop believing that you can get it done. The only thing you can do is fight. If you get down because everything isn’t going right all the time you can’t play the way you have to when the game is on the line.”
The Pats have been rolling over their opponents all year, winning their previous eight games by an average of 25.5 points. They have been criticized for pouring it on, but they have also been doing their job for 60 minutes — a characteristic that was a big key for them in beating the Colts.
Where does this team go from here? They have beaten the Cowboys and Colts on the road and they get a bye week to recover from this momentous victory. Can they join the 1972 Dolphins and finish the season with a perfect record? Is this even on their minds?
Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork wouldn’t admit it but the twinkle in his eye after the game said “yes, absolutely.”
Forgive the interpretation, but Wilfork’s take on the subject wreaked of enthusiasm and confidence. “There’s still so many games to go that you can’t talk about an undefeated season,” Wilfork said. “We just go out and try to play our best game every week. Now we get a week off and then Buffalo. That’s what we have to think about. What happens at the end of the year is going to play itself out. Who knows what it will bring? We don’t have to figure that out. We just have to play.”
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
There will be tests the rest of the way. A road game at Baltimore. A home game with the Steelers and a road game with the Giants in the season finale. But they will not be tested in a more severe manner than the Colts came at them Sunday.
This is a team for the ages. They may have to go undefeated and sweep their way to another championship for them to get the recognition, but they are on their way to a 4th Super Bowl title and a spot with the great dynasties of the Packers, Steelers and 49ers.
Don’t bet against them. History is what happens when talent and execution meet opportunity. Neither Belichick nor his players will ease off the throttle. They will go hard for 60 minutes this week, next week and every week.
CSN: Brian Urlacher, who played 13 seasons for the Bears, announced his retirement from football Wenesday on his personal twitter account.
CSN: The Super Bowl's golden anniversary will be held in the Golden State. The new stadium, which opens in 2014, in Santa Clara will host Super Bowl L two years later, the NFL announced Tuesday.
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Pats dig deep
Nov. 4: Tom Brady says his Patriots knew they'd overcome the 10-point 4th quarter deficit against the Colts.
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9-0 and counting
Nov. 4: Tom Brady says Patriots are more concerned with the playoffs, not perfection, and Peyton Manning discusses his team's loss.
2013 SNF Schedule
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