Go ahead and hate, haters.
Celebrate the downfall of Coach Condescending and Tom Terrific. Please convince yourselves it's finally safe to write off Bill Belichick and Tom Brady just four games into a season.
Let me hear you, Doubting Toms: Brady finally got old! He lost his zip, aim and nerve! Belichick hastened his demise by providing a sorry offensive line and sorrier receivers! Die, dynasty, die!
Now hear me: The New England Patriots will rise like the phoenix from the ashes of Monday night's 41-14 loss in Kansas City and land at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, playing in Super Bowl XLIX. This will begin Sunday night in Foxborough, Massachusetts, when New England defeats unbeaten Cincinnati 24-21.
Go ahead, laugh.
While you can.
The Patriots, who lead the NFL in Jealousy Generated, soon will shut up skeptics from sea to doubting sea. Here are 12 reasons No. 12 will lead them to yet another 12-4 record ...
Beware the NFL's red herring game
It's doubtful the 1985 Bears would have beaten the Chiefs in that stadium on that night. Twelfth Man Seahawks fans still generate the loudest media hype, but Chiefs fans again set the decibel record for an outdoor stadium, inspiring their team to play (and their coaches to coach) a near-perfect game.
I'll be the first to admit the Patriots looked miss-the-playoffs hapless in every phase -- couldn't run or pass or stop the run or the pass. But it appeared Brady's offense (with rookie starters at center and guard) underestimated how much the record decibels would disrupt execution, and Belichick's defense was caught flat-footed by many of K.C. coach Andy Reid's creative wrinkles. Shame on Belichick.
But bad quickly turned into misleading worse.
Result: hilarious overreaction to yet another of the NFL's addictively astonishing outcomes, such as Tennessee 26, Chiefs 10 in that same stadium on opening afternoon; Carolina 24, Detroit 7; Giants 45, at Washington 14; Atlanta 56, Tampa Bay 14 followed by last Sunday's visiting Tampa Bay 27, Pittsburgh 24.
Wait, with Brady still reasonably healthy, bettors are jumping off New England's bandwagon as if this is a stock-market panic, plunging the spread an insane four points? The Pats, who opened as a three-point favorite, are now a one-point underdog? If I were a betting man ...
I'm certainly not suggesting Belichick scripted this debacle, but it will serve as the perfect launching pad for a team many predicted would make it to the Super Bowl or at least to the AFC title game for the fourth straight season. I predicted Seattle over New England in the Super Bowl, and I am loving all the preposterous doom-saying reverberating on TV and radio. The Patriots will NOT love it. Advantage: Belichick.
As Brady said Wednesday, his teams have always had the ability to "grind it out" when things look bleak -- to figure it out on the fly, lead the league in instant ingenuity. Brady emphasized that "we have a lot of high-character individuals in the locker room." Do they ever. And now that locker room is embarrassed and angry and hyper-focused and ready to play with what San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich calls "appropriate fear." (The Spurs and Patriots organizations have modeled themselves after each other.)
Beware the Patriots coming off an all-time, big-stage humiliation returning to prime time Sunday night to take on the 3-0 Bengals, who beat them 13-6 in the rain in Cincinnati last season. This team (like Florida State in college football) is so much better than it has played.
Tom Brady/Tom Hardy
Brady reminds me a little of Tom Hardy's Oscar-worthy portrayal of Bob Saginowski in James Gandolfini's final movie, "The Drop." Bob is a nice, polite, easygoing guy ... who will shoot you in the face if he has to. Brady is at his greatest when he plays mad -- when he hits Rob Gronkowski with a touchdown pass and runs all the way to the end zone to helmet-butt him in a jarringly maniacal celebration. We're about to see Angry Brady thanks to Belichick.
I was surprised at how surprised (to the point of outrage) ESPN's Steve Young and Trent Dilfer were after Monday night's game that Belichick yanked Brady after Brady threw the interception returned for a touchdown that made it 41-7 with 10:34 left. Young said Brady should've been allowed to "clean up the mess." Brady didn't exactly sound pleased with the decision, saying, "I do what I'm told."
I would have been surprised if Belichick hadn't taken him out. Imagine the backlash if Brady had gotten hurt in the final 10 minutes of what was looking like the worst blowout ever suffered in the Belichick era.
But if Brady is starting to boil because he was benched ... advantage: Belichick.
Young was equally passionate in his defense of Brady before the game, when he criticized the Patriots organization for not giving Brady enough help to "attack the Super Bowl."
Sorry, I have no sympathy for Tom Brady, BECAUSE HE'S TOM BRADY. Last season, the Patriots scored the NFL's third-most points -- while Gronkowski missed nine games, including the 43-22 playoff win over Andrew Luck's Colts. I made the case all season on "First Take" that Brady should be MVP because his go-to receiver was a seventh-round pick who was a college QB, Julian Edelman, who will never invite Randy Moss comparisons.
So Belichick didn't cheat Brady by allocating far more money for positions other than receiver. He paid homage to him. Or maybe, like some Pats fans, he was just spoiled by him. Why wouldn't Belichick believe Brady could repeat last year's feat?
With Gronkowski trying to return from knee, back and elbow surgeries, Belichick did sign Brandon LaFell, who became a Brady favorite during camp. So this offense can begin to click like last season if ...
Brady recommits to strangely underutilized targets
Word is Brady is down on Danny Amendola, who's still capable of filling Wes Welker's jitterbugging shoes. Brady, I'm told, has become less and less impressed with Amendola's football IQ and unwillingness to play with minor injuries. Amendola had two 10-catch games last season. He now has three catches in four games. That must change, and will now.
So must this: Second-year receivers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins were healthy inactives Monday night. Huh? The Boston Globe reported Dobson has been in coordinator Josh McDaniel's doghouse. Has Thompkins been in Brady's?
Both have some deep speed. Both had their moments last season. If both are now blended back into the passing attack, it will start looking much more explosive. Ditto Shane Vereen, who had a 10-catch game and two eight-catch games last season. So far: two five-catch games.
Brady still has enough weapons, if he's desperate enough to use them. Even Brady can't pull off routinely forcing passes to a double-covered Edelman.
Gronk will start to Gronk
The only good sign Monday night was Gronkowski's late catch and bulldoze for a TD.
Brandon Browner is finally eligible
He's coming off a PED suspension to join the great Darrelle Revis at cornerback in what could turn into a secondary rivaling Seattle's.
Collective amnesia II
Just last season, a Pats defense that lost Vince Wilfork for the last 12 games and Jerod Mayo for the last 10 -- and that did not have Revis or Browner -- managed to get New England to the AFC title game. This defense will get much better than last year's.
Belichick will soon be proved right about trading offensive guard and leader Logan Mankins
In Belichick you must trust. In 2003 the world pretty much ended when he released Lawyer Milloy -- and New England won the Super Bowl. In 2005, Belichick released Ty Law and still won the division. In 2009, he traded Richard Seymour and Mike Vrabel ... division champs. In 2010, he traded Randy Moss and finished with the NFL's best record, 14-2.
The offensive line won't keep offending fans
The Pats used an unheard-of five line combinations Monday night. Utter desperation. But watch Belichick find the right fit and watch rookies Bryan Stork and Cameron Fleming start to play like vets. Belichick deemed Mankins disposable because he saw something in these kids.
The East is no beast
Second-year QB EJ Manuel was just demoted in Buffalo. Many Jets fans would like to see second-year QB Geno Smith demoted. It sounded as though Miami coach Joe Philbin at least considered demoting a struggling Ryan Tannehill last week. Advantage: Belichick.
The Pats are 2-2, not 2-12
Under Belichick, they've started 2-2 three times, finishing 14-2 in 2003, 10-6 in 2005 and 12-4 two years ago. They have four of the next five games at home.
So you had better laugh now. Belichick nearly always laughs last, behind closed doors.