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Patriots’ Win Looks All Too Familiar

By: Alex Reimer

The only thing that would have made this win sweeter was if Tom Brady got a crew cut on the sidelines.

Brady rang up a performance on par with his brilliance in the 2001 and 2004 AFC Championship games. Brady threw 3 touchdown passes to Rob Gronkowski and he scored one himself on a QB sneak. He went 30-43 with 350 yards in the air.

Under Bill Belichick, the Patriots throw the ball 70% of the time against Pittsburgh. The game plan isn’t that complex. Spread the receivers out, block the blitz, and work the corners. Wes Welker garnered 8 receptions and Deion Branch had 7. Gronkowski, after his poor game in Cleveland, was featured early in the offense, and featured often in the red zone.

The loss against the Browns gave Belichick an opportunity to coach last week. Unlike last year’s team, this year’s team takes the coaching.

An overwhelming narrative with the 2010 Patriots is the transformation that has taken place since last year’s horrific playoff loss to Baltimore. Adalius Thomas, Shawn Springs, and Laurence Maroney have all been waived or traded. Randy Moss was dumped after week 4, and is now on his 3rd team this season (only 1 reception for a Titans team which put 17 points yesterday, by the way).

Belichick has taken control of the locker room again, and now surrounds himself with players who “get it.” Veteran Alge Crumpler is a quintessential example of this. Crumpler, once a prominent fixture in the Atlanta Falcons’ passing game, only had 1 catch for 4 yards last night. But he didn’t pout, because he knew he had another job to do that was just as important to the game plan as catching a slew of passes. Crumpler was assigned to James Harrison last night, with Matt Light and Logan Mankins largely consumed with Lawrence Timmons and others. Harrison didn’t get near Brady all night. In fact, nobody on the Steelers did. Brady’s jersey was just as clean after the game as it was before.

The Patriots’ defense rushed Ben Roethlisberger, keeping him in the pocket and knocking him down to the tune of 4 sacks. On the opening Pittsburgh possession, Gary Guyton and Jerod Mayo came charging into the backfield. The Patriots dominated up front yesterday.

The young defense continues to progress. Hines Ward was out for the majority of the game; so some of Pittsburgh’s offensive problems (especially close to the goal line) can be attributed to his absence. But the New England defense made plays when they had to. Devin McCourty did a tremendous job down the sidelines, keeping deep threat Mike Wallace in check.

This was a game that didn’t look good on paper. The Steelers hadn’t been home in nearly a month. They were coming off of a divisional win, and the Patriots were coming off of arguably their most lopsided loss in years. Tom Brady was reportedly battling a foot injury, there was a new Patriots’ long-snapper, and Stephen Gostkowski was declared out indefinitely. But the Patriots used to always win games like these.

If they have truly gone “back to the future,” then they had to win last night’s game. They did.

Last year at this time, the Patriots were coming off of “4th and 2” in Indianapolis. They went 4-5 after that point.

Next week the Patriots have the Colts at home, after a big victory and enjoying a 7-2 record. They’re undoubtedly now an elite team in the AFC. What a difference a year makes.

Alex Reimer is the host of the Red Sox podcast, “Without a Curse.” “Without a Curse” is available on both www.thesportsstuff.com and in the iTunes store. Alex is also the host of “The Alex Reimer Show,” which airs Saturday’s from 4-6 PM EST on 1120 AM WBNW Boston and www.moneymattersradio.net. Alex can be reached at, [email protected]

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