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Patriots should wear black hat to the very end

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Minutes after the Patriots put the final touches on their decimation of the Chargers at Gillette Stadium, Tom Brady used his perfunctory postgame chat with CBS sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson to roll out his version of a surprise album drop.

"I know everyone thinks we suck and can't win any games," Brady said. "We'll see."

Just like that, a carefully curated narrative represented by just 13 words was rolled out to the masses: The Patriots were underdogs again ... at least according to the Patriots.

Brady's comments sparked a domino effect within the organization. The Patriots' social team played up the doubters angle all week. On Thursday, they retweeted an NFL Network segment in which James Jones said the Chiefs had the edge at head coach in Sunday's AFC title game. (In fairness, that is a spicy meatball of a take from Jones.) Julian Edelman passed on Mama's meatballs in favor of a tasty business opportunity:

The Patriots heard plenty of talk about the end of days during a regular season that saw the NFL's dominant team of the century show potential signs of slippage. Never mind the fact that the Pats cruised to their 16th division title in 18 years and entered the playoffs as the AFC's No. 2 seed. The team -- following the lead of its quarterback -- now had an angle. Patriots fans -- aware that pretty much everyone outside New England wants to see the local team go down in flames on Sunday -- amplified Brady's sentiment. You think we suck! We'll show you! (Then many of them gave Julian Edelman $30 for a terrible shirt.)

A cynic could see all this as an audacious attempt by pro football's most dominant entity to gaslight the entire world. You don't believe in the Patriots. You counted us out. You say we have no chance. Professional athletes love to use slights, both real and imagined, as motivation. What we've seen over the past week is that fans like it, too.

We've seen pushback on the Pats' angle followed by pushback to the pushback. As is often the case, the truth lies somewhere in between. Yes, the Chiefs are the favorites on Sunday, but that doesn't make the Patriots an underdog. New England qualifies only in the strictest sense of the term -- the gospel according to the desert people of Nevada. That's where it stays.

Would anyone call a Patriots win over the Chiefs on Sunday an upset? Would you really be shocked if, come Sunday evening, Tom Brady is hugging teammates on a riser and Bill Belichick is once again showing casual indifference for that poor Lamar Hunt Trophy?

Of course not. They're the freaking Patriots! The window for Belichick and Brady as "underdogs" closed the moment Adam Vinatieri put that kick through the uprights on the final play of Super Bowl XXXVI. You know, 17 years ago. The Pats have been the NFL's version of the Evil Empire pretty much ever since. It's a role they've played incredibly well.

So stick with that. This is no time to turn back. Honestly, it isn't even an option, no matter how hard the Patriots try to spin their current place in the landscape. The clock is ticking on the 41-year-old Brady and this enduring dynasty; the most logical and respectable thing to do is wear the black hat to the very end.

It fits too well.

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