Patriots

Patriots

There was a moment in the second quarter of Sunday’s win over the Cowboys when Tom Brady did one of the things that Tom Brady does best. At the time there were less than four minutes left in the half. The score was tied 3-3. The Patriots had the ball, first and goal at the one yard line and Brady took the snap, ducked his head and barreled one yard into the end zone.

The old Brady dive!

A few seconds later he emerged from the pile, crow hopped and spiked the ball like he was Bill Brasky’s younger brother.

To Tom Brasky!

The vine is great but seriously just look at this picture. That’s statue material. You can’t see his eyes but that’s OK because they’d melt your brain. Brady literally tried to fire that ball through the Earth and when he was done he unleashed a wild fist pump, stared into the crowd and screamed “LET’S GO!” The touchdown gave New England a 10-3 lead, and they never looked back on their way to a 30-6 victory, a 4-0 record — and now, Indianapolis.

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You ever wonder where the Patriots would be without Judge Richard Berman? Like let’s say the offseason played out identically right up until that federal court ruling, but instead of embarrassment for the NFL, some more conservative judge double stamped the punishment and upheld every ounce of Roger Goodell’s power. Now let’s say Brady had enough. Let’s say Bill Belichick really had enough. Let’s say it became clear that the NFL is too powerful and an appeal was just a waste of time. Let’s say Brady served the four game suspension. Now this Sunday marks his first game back. What’s the Patriots record?

It’s hard to guess when we don’t really know what Jimmy Garoppolo’s made of, but even the best quarterbacks struggle at first. Maybe not every game but certainly in select games, and games like Week 2 in Buffalo or last week in Dallas or even opening night against Pittsburgh were tailor made for growing pains. Realistically, 2-2 is probably the best case scenario under Jimmy G, and that’s not tragic, but with the way the Bengals and Broncos are playing, a 2-2 start could’ve cost the Pats home field advantage; it could’ve meant an extra playoff game. Obviously we’ll see where this goes in real life, but a 2-2 or even a 1-3 start would’ve injected some real urgency and chaos into Brady’s return. Amidst all the excitement, there’d be that underlying truth that, “Hey, Tom doesn’t have much time to get it together here. The Pats can’t afford for him to ease back in.” And it doesn’t matter what the Colts look like so far this year, Sunday night in Indianapolis isn’t exactly a Welcome Party. If it was they’d have a big “2015 Welcome Party” banner in the rafters.

But either way that doesn’t matter because Judge Berman is a hero and Brady hasn’t skipped a beat. Instead of returning this Sunday draped in urgency and chaos, Brady will walk into Lucas Oil stadium with the confidence of a Terminator and the willful determination of every Liam Neeson character spliced into one. Brady’s not frantically searching for rhythm, he’s floating through the air comfortably at 200 miles an hour. And he’s angry. And you can’t blame him.

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In so many ways it’s so hard to feel bad for Tom Brady, so let’s not feel bad for him. But let’s also realize how much DeflateGate screwed with his life. Not his football life but his real life as a human being with a wife and children and parents and siblings. When you think about it he (and to a certain extent Dorito Dink and the Deflator) is the only one who really suffered during this mess. The media complained but they loved it. They made piles of money with it. There were careers made during DeflateGate. Meanwhile fans complained but that didn’t stop them from clicking, watching and listening in record numbers; it was a nice distraction from the Red Sox. And while it might seem like Roger Goodell was a big loser in all this, was he really? Does he look any dumber or more sinister than he did before? He was already a gigantic loser and this was just another notch on his belt. But Brady? Yeah, Brady suffered.

He was the butt of so many jokes, and that’s fine, but there were also so many angry verbal and personal attacks from desperate local loud mouths like Shaughnessy and Massarotti, and then nationally on every show across every channel and station. You know his kids heard some of that. There are also rumors that all the drama messed with his marriage and while rumors are just rumors in this case it would make sense. You’d understand if he wasn’t the same laid back and sensitive Offseason Tom that Gisele is used to. You can see this raising a few issues. And remember the fire in Brady’s father’s voice as he berated that radio troll in San Francisco?

“It's all lies,” the Brady Sr. screamed. “It’s all ESPN, it’s all NFL propaganda. The only person that's testified under oath in this is Tom Brady. We know Goodell is lying. He lied in the Ray Rice case, he lied in this case and has lied in the Peterson case. How many times do you need to know this guy is a flaming liar?”

You know that the younger Brady feels the same way but you know he’d never voice it like that. He can’t. He’d have nothing to gain. Instead Brady’s only revenge happens between the lines, and that’s why he’s on this mission. While SpyGate was Bill Belichick's chance to embarrass a league that did him wrong, DeflateGate is Brady’s — and he knows where it started. And this Sunday he’s Beatrix Kiddo walking into Bill’s house.

What happens next is — well, we’ll see. You know Brady would love nothing more than to spread the field all night, stand tall in the pocket, carve up that defense and embarrass an entire city on national TV.

Actually, no.

There’s one thing he’d love even more than that.

A QB dive from the goal line and one giant spike to deflate all the demons.

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