Patriots

Bean: RIP, 19-0; season's lost a little flavor

Bean: RIP, 19-0; season's lost a little flavor

As we sort out the mess that was the Patriots’ season-opening 42-27, Patriots fans will look for a silver lining. 

If that silver lining for even one person is “at least the 19-0 talk is dead,” cut that person out of your life forever. They’re no fun.

Nineteen and zero wasn’t just a potential record, it was the extent to which we presumed the 2017 Patriots were better than everyone else. They still may be leaps and bounds better than the rest of the NFL, but they weren’t for one game. 

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Yet we set that mark. The aforementioned anti-fun folks cautioned against all the variables that go into a given season: injuries, officials, luck. The rest of us understood all of those variables, but also understood that if things went mostly right for this roster -- particularly the offense -- that they could win every game. No other team can say that.  

Then there were the people afraid of chasing perfection. Maybe the perfect record got to the Pats as the 2007 season wore on, culminating in a suboptimal game plan in the Super Bowl. Then again, the best team doesn’t always win anyway. The 2016 Pats came a penalty away from being a best team that lost. 

I wanted 19-0. Not because I’m some sort of In "Bill We Trust" nutbar, but because it’s something we haven’t seen before. And it’s not like 19-0 was a topic over the summer because we were bored; this was something that was conceivable. 

In fact, I was even going to do a weekly 19-0 Watch looking at every upcoming matchup and where the season could go wrong. That lasted just one installment before @OldTakesExposed got to it.

The Patriots, as they should be, are still favored to win the Super Bowl. They’re better than every other team. They could lose any game, but they should win every one. And hey, there’s never been a team that’s run the table through a 16-game regular season and playoffs, so imagine the Patriots becoming the first en route to tying the Steelers for most Super Bowl titles ever? 

This sounds outrageously New England sports observer of me, but I can’t help but feel that the season has lost a little of its flavor with 19-0 no longer in play. Sure, they’ll still probably run away with the top seed in the AFC and will have a terrific chance at a second straight title, but think back to 2007. The drama that came in the three near upsets was outrageous. 

A season after having the year of three starting quarterbacks, it would have taken something crazy for the Patriots to remain unique beyond their usual dominance. That would have been it. 

Every Patriots championship season can be identified by just a word or a name. Brady. Harrison. Branch. Butler. Comeback. Will future Pats teams be better than this one? Maybe not; as Tom Brady ages, it’s plenty realistic to assume this is as good as it will get. “Perfect” would have fit nicely. 

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Butler never flips 'off' switch, even in locker room games

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Butler never flips 'off' switch, even in locker room games

FOXBORO -- Say this for Malcolm Butler: Since his rookie season he's proven time and again to be an utterly resilient player.

Go back to Super Bowl XLIX. He was beside himself on the sidelines after Jermaine Kearse somehow came up with an acrobatic grab on a pass he deflected in the fourth quarter. Moments later he was back on the field to make the play of life.

Against the Jets on Sunday, he had to make another -- albeit less dramatic -- turnaround.

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Early on, it wasn't pretty. He allowed a third-and-long conversion when he played well off of Robby Anderson during a first-quarter touchdown drive. He allowed 31-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Kerley when he made a bad gamble to try to break up the throw.

Yet without Butler's interception at the end of the first half, and without his strip of Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the fourth quarter, the Patriots might be 3-3 headed into a Super Bowl rematch with the Falcons.

The competitive streak that Butler has exhibited to make game-changing moments regardless of what has happened earlier in the game is something that Bill Belichick has grown accustomed to.

"Since the first rookie minicamp," Belichick said. "He’s a very competitive player, whatever it is. Practice, games, trash ball in the locker room. Whatever it is. He’s a very competitive player."

Earlier this season, in Week 2 against the Saints, Butler was briefly demoted to the No. 3 cornerback role. After the fact, he was open about how he wasn't playing up to his own lofty standards. Since then, he's been the only regular for the Patriots at his position as Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe have dealt with injuries. 

It's been far from perfect, as moments like his breakdowns during the Jets game exhibited. But his aggressiveness rarely wanes. Even during down moments in the Patriots locker, apparently. 

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QUICK SLANTS PODCAST: Belichick ignoring noise? Or trying to change the narrative?

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QUICK SLANTS PODCAST: Belichick ignoring noise? Or trying to change the narrative?

3:00 Why has Bill Belichick been so surprisingly positive of his team’s performance in tight wins?

6:30 Phil Perry breaks down what grades he gave the Patriots on his report card following the win over the Jets

15:00 Reaction to the Austin-Seferian Jenkins overturned touchdown, and what changes need to be made in the NFL replay system. 

23:00 Why was Patriots offensive line much more effective against Jets?

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25:00 Patriots-Falcons preview, how did Falcons blow a 17 point lead to the Dolphins?