If the New England Patriots haven’t proven to you that they are a legitimate Super Bowl contender, it may be time to see a doctor.
With their second straight dominating win over the Miami Dolphins, the Patriots completed a regular-season stretch that set multiple team records, as well as a few individual ones for Mr. Tom Brady.
While many viewed the first meeting a fluke game in which the Patriots were on the positive end of so many unusual plays that it could not be considered a legitimate win, the second go-around was nothing more than a classic beatdown.
I will first argue the point that the first game was less of a fluke. By scoring a touchdown in basically every conceivable way possible, the Patriots played a complete game. They dominated in every facet of the game. How that can be considered a fluke is beyond me.
In a similar respect, Sunday’s game was also a domination that to me more than anything legitimized the first game against these two teams. It was also a game that was controlled in all respects by the Patriots. Offensively, the Patriots stood up against the third-ranked defense in total yards allowed and only managed the following:
- Picked up 502 total offensive yards, including 122 from backup quarterback Brian Hoyer;
- Went 11-17 on third down;
- Dominated time of possession, 36:19 – 23.41;
- Didn’t allow a sack;
- Had five different players cross the goal line, including Julian Edelman’s franchise record 94-yard punt return; and
- Did all of the preceding without their top three receivers.
Defensively, the Patriots, who have been an opportunistic, but far from dominating bunch this season, had one of its best games statistically this season by doing the following:
- Held Miami to 250 total yards on the day;
- Allowed an average of just 4.3 yards per play and 2.4 yards per rush attempt;
- Sacked Miami quarterbacks five times;
- Forced two turnovers;
- Allowed just four first downs on 13 third-down situations; and
- Shut out the Dolphins for 57:49.
Miami clearly has its problems and that is why it is not going to the postseason. But this win for the Patriots was an illustration of how this team has gelled from Week 1 to now.
A defense that was considered at worst a joke and at best a liability at the beginning of the season has contributed an AFC-high 38 takeaways.
With those opportunities, Tom Brady, whose most talented receiver was shipped out of town mid-season, has led the offense to nine straight games of 30 points or more, which ties a record shared by the 2007 Patriots and the 2000 St. Louis Rams. The Patriots turn turnovers into points. They don’t give it up and make you pay when you do.
What’s more, the Patriots have done all this against one of the most difficult schedules in the NFL this season.
While statistically they may not be the best Patriots team ever, you could make the argument that this young squad may be the most complete Patriots team.
And that is why they have to be considered a true Super Bowl favorite.