Analysis  

 

Patriots' dominance on display ahead of Antonio Brown's arrival

Print

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots raised their sixth championship banner, trotting out some of their most beloved players in a ceremony that has become so routine here it didn't seem to ignite quite as much excitement from the faithful fans as it has in the past. They demolished the Pittsburgh Steelers, a rival in name only, 33-3, exposing the lack of firepower in the offense of a team that is considered a perennial threat to challenge New England in the AFC. The Pats featured a dynamic offense of their own that reminded everyone what a prodigious and physical talent receiver Josh Gordon is and what a creative play-caller Josh McDaniels is. And they found out Tom Brady wants to be roomies with Antonio Brown.

The entire opening weekend of the NFL's 100th season was overshadowed by the cross-country follies of Brown, and after Sunday's blowout, it's clear that the Patriots are probably going to overshadow the league for the rest of the season, too. Even though he apparently was not present at Gillette Stadium on Sunday night, Brown's impending arrival -- in a hot air balloon or otherwise -- after the Patriots' latest display of bared-teeth dominance raises an unexpected question when pondering Brown's baggage: Can New England give Brown enough targets in this offense to keep him happy?

Ridiculous, of course, for arguably the best receiver in football. But after six Patriots pass catchers had double-digit yards, after Tom Brady completed 67 percent of his passes for 341 yards as Phillip Dorsett (two touchdowns) and Gordon (one touchdown) reminded everyone they, too, are on the roster, it's fair to wonder how the famously irascible Brown will like it when Brady doesn't look his way. It is a strange bit of solace to offer the rest of the league, that Brown may be driven crazy because the Patriots are so good.

Bill Belichick would not even wait for Brown's name to be uttered before he said he had no comment. When it was pointed out to him that Brown himself had already posted on social media that he was joining the Patriots, and he was asked if he could say anything about the acquisition, Belichick said, "No. I'll talk about the game and the players on this team." So already Brown is getting the same treatment as everybody else in New England does.

Gordon is the most recent Patriots acquisition who might be able to relate to the transition Brown has to make. There were considerable questions last season about how Gordon, who was reinstated last month from his most recent suspension, would fit in on the Patriots and he admitted it was a tough transition.

"For me, initially, it was a culture shock," Gordon said. "It was definitely different. But as I grew in this environment and got to observe other young men move and organize and act professionally and the expectations were high, this is the way it's done here. It wasn't anything more than what I think they knew they could do that was asked of them. Get with it or look for a transition somewhere else. It's tough, but if this is what you want to do, I think it's the best place to be."

"Antonio is Antonio," he continued. "He's going to have to find his own way."

But those questioning why the Patriots would gamble on a potentially disruptive presence like Brown need only look at the Steelers to see what his absence has done to them. Without him, the Steelers had no deep threat, didn't convert a third down until there were just three minutes left in the first half, and never made it to the end zone, one season after ranking sixth in the league in scoring.

Still, it says a lot about Brown that when Ben Roethlisberger was asked about him and the Patriots, his response was, "Whatever."

The NFL is not a morality play. The Steelers may have done the right thing in excising Brown, but they are paying the price for that right now. And New England is about to reap the benefit of getting him for a low-risk deal. The Patriots are banking on having a strong enough culture, a powerful enough group of veterans, that they can harness Brown and bend him to the Belichick way.

"We're all excited to have him," Brady said. "We're going to work as hard as we possibly can to get up to speed as fast as possible.

"We've got a lot of players that are talented. We've just got to figure out how to make it all work."

The rich are getting richer with Brown joining New England -- there can be no disputing that after watching the Patriots raise another banner and dominate another game with the knowledge that Brown will be in the locker room tomorrow. The Pats might have their most dynamic offense since 2007, when another difficult personality -- Randy Moss -- joined with Brady amid questions about how he would fit in to rewrite the offensive record books.

There was only one thing about that season that might be instructive for Brown and the Patriots as they begin this marriage of convenience and ambition: None of the banners in the spotlight Sunday night represented that year.

Follow Judy Battista on Twitter @JudyBattista.

Print

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop