A Watched Pot Never Boils

Hot takes made very early in an NFL season sometimes don't age well with time. It is easy to overreact to the result of a single game if a team has only played 2 games, because that game is 50% of the total games played. Not so when viewed in the big picture, because over a 17 game slate, 1 game is less than 6% of the entire season. An example of the pundits overreacting too early in the year is what happened with the 2014 New England Patriots.

Now, I'm not saying that the Rams are a dynasty like the Pats. Winning one Super Bowl doesn't create a dynasty. I'm also not saying that Matthew Stafford is the GOAT and on the same level as Tom Brady. Nor am I predicting how the remainder of 2022 will go and whether the Rams will repeat as champs. All I'm saying is that many of the things the media wrote and said about Brady and the Pats early in that 2014 season, well, they looked very silly in hindsight by the end of that year.

Elite No More

The 2013 season was a difficult grind for Brady. In terms of individual statistics, it was one of the weakest years of his career. Due to factors such as Welker leaving in FA and Gronk getting injured, Brady was forced to play with a depleted supporting cast. It was essentially Edelman, Amendola (for part of the year), then several inexperienced and not so good WRs. Brady nearly dragged the team all the way to the SB, but they couldn't overcome the Broncos in the AFC title game.

While most Pats fans and some experts praised Brady for how he handled the team's challenges in 2013, detractors asserted that Brady was going downhill. Football Outsiders had an article stating that based on a deep dive into the 2013 game tape, it was clear that age had caught up with Brady and that he was on the decline. After the 2013 season, ESPN declared that Brady was no longer an elite QB and didn't deserve to be ranked among the league's best. The naysayers said that Brady would never be MVP again and that the Pats would never win another SB with Brady.

Brady is so competitive, you'd think that he would have used those press clippings as motivation and that he'd burst out of the gate in 2014 determined to prove that he was still a great QB. Instead of dispelling the rumors of Brady's demise, the early season results in 2014 only seemed to validate the position that Brady had lost his magic and that the Pats were on the brink of unraveling.

We're On the Cincinnati

The Pats were embarrassed by a mediocre Miami team in the opening game of 2014. The Fins would finish 8-8 that season. Brady and the offense produced virtually nothing in the 2nd half of that game, including 2 sack fumbles by Brady and several 3 and outs.

In the 3rd game of the year, the Pats were lucky to escape with a win against a bad Raiders team that would finish 3-13 that season. The Raiders were on the verge of scoring the tying TD late in the 4th when the Pats intercepted a pass to hold on.

The 4th game was Monday Night Football showdown with the Chiefs and became one of the most famous losses in the Brady/Belichick era. The Pats were crushed 41-14 with Brady throwing 2 INTs and losing yet another fumble (at that point in the season he had already fumbled 5 times and lost 3, even though he had only been sacked 9 times.) The Pats even put Jimmy G in the game to finish out. The loss put NE at 2-2 on the year. After this high profile humiliation, several media types declared the Pats dynasty over. The wicked witch was dead.

Individually, not only did Brady not look like an elite QB, he was producing like a marginal journeyman QB. Through the first 4 games of 2014, Brady was completing only 59.1% of his passes, for 5.77 yards per attempt (which would have been 33rd in the NFL if extended for the full year), 197.8 yards per game (on pace for 30th in the NFL) and a 79.06 passer rating (on pace for 28th in the NFL). If Brady had played the entire 2014 the way he did in those first 4 games, the QB he would have statistically resembled would have been rookie Derek Carr, the starter for that 3 win Raiders team that nearly knocked off the Pats.

Refusing to directly respond to questions about his struggling team after the loss to the Chiefs, Belichick in his press conference repeatedly answered questions by saying "We're on the Cincinnati."

The Aftermath

In the 4 games following the loss to KC, Tom Brady threw for 14 TDs and had zero INTs. After fumbling 5 times in the first 4 games, Brady only fumbled once the rest of the season, including the playoffs (a total of 15 games).

The 2014 Pats had problems with their offensive line. PFF ranked them as the 31st best pass blocking line in the league that season and 23rd overall.

Shaking off the slow start, Brady and the Pats advanced to the Super Bowl, where they faced the Seattle Seahawks. In the 1st quarter of the SB, the Pats had the ball on Seattle's 10 yard line when Brady throws what might have been one of the dumbest and ugliest INTs in Super Bowl history. In the 3rd quarter of a tight game, Brady throws another INT, setting up the Hawks with great field position. Those mistakes nearly cost the Pats the game, but we all know what happened at the end as just as it appeared that the Hawks would score the winning TD, Butler makes the INT in the end zone and once again the Pats are champs (with most people forgetting about the ugly picks Brady had earlier in the game.)

Turning the Page

I enjoy stories that end with Seattle losing. Like the 2014 Patriots and their supposedly over the hill and past his prime QB, some folks are already predicting doom and dark clouds ahead for the Rams and Stafford. Maybe someday down the road we can dissect what happened in the 2022 season, what went right, what went wrong and the direction of the team in general. I don't think this the time for that. Right now, I'm on to Arizona.