Viewpoint Patriots show that they’re not dead yet
FOXBORO, Mass. — Not dead yet.
For all those awaiting that Kodak moment when the Patriots are laid out, washed up, counted out forever, they only got the Kodak Bop from James White.
For all those certain Tom Brady has fallen off the career cliff, we present the 41-year old quarterback backpedaling — about to be flattened by Stephone Anthony — calmly floating a 16-yard pass behind Kiko Alonso and Xavien Howard to White in the back corner of the end zone.
“Tom got hit pretty hard on that play,” White said after the Patriots flattened the previously unbeaten Dolphins, 38-7, Sunday at Gillette Stadium. “But he still put it in the perfect spot.”
From his backside, Brady pumped his fist and yelled something. Maybe, “Not dead yet!”
“I looked under some legs and saw James make a great catch,” Brady said. “Pretty sweet. Those are the fun ones.”
Not so sweet for those who were hoping the Patriots were 1-2 on their way to 7-9. Not so sweet for those hoping the 2018 Dolphins are the 1972 Dolphins and that the Jets’ Sam Darnold is certifiably the next Joe Willie Namath.
In other words, not so fun for those — OK, all of America outside of New England — who are praying that this is finally the year the Patriots don’t recover from a listless start and take a leisurely autumn stroll through the AFC East en route to the Super Bowl.
Nah, they’re not dead yet.
“The key to us is no panic,” safety Devin McCourty said. “Tom just said as he was going into the shower, ‘This is a great feeling to be 2-2.’”
“What you say is important, but what you do is more important,” Brady said. “I think we’ve got to do more doin’ and less sayin’ and just get the job done.”
The job got done Sunday.
Earlier in the game, White ran a pick at the line of scrimmage to spring Cordarelle Patterson. Brady found his receiver on the left sideline, Patterson faked out safety T.J. McDonald and his first Patriots touchdown catch of 55 yards also was the longest play of New England’s season. Patterson became the 70th player to catch a touchdown pass from Brady, tying Vinny Testaverde’s NFL record.
Josh Gordon is fast yet ultimately may not be fast enough to outrun personal transgressions that have haunted his career. Nevertheless, in his first appearance in a Patriots uniform after his acquisition from the Browns, Gordon not only produced two catches. He drew a penalty and threw a strong block down field on Howard on White’s 22-yard touchdown run.
“I have no doubt I’m going to take advantage of this opportunity,” Gordon said. “I’m more than blessed and extremely grateful to be put in this scenario. The only thing right for me to do is take full advantage of it. It’s a real home environment. I feel as comfortable as ever.”
More than all that, the addition of Gordon and Julian Edelman’s return from a four-game suspension gives the Patriots much more depth and flexibility in the receiver corps.
“Everyone loves Jules and loves him coming back,” Brady said.
What Bill Belichick and the Patriots love most, of course, are the jewels of complementary football. Running backs White and Sony Michel both had 112 yards of offense. Michel got all 112 on 25 rushes, while White caught eight passes for 68 yards and ran eight times for 44. It doesn’t get much more complementary than that to go along with Brady’s 274 yards in the air and three touchdowns. Those measly 48 plays the Patriots got offensively against the Lions last week? They had 75 plays against Miami.
The defense, meanwhile, allowed only 75 yards and was 5-for-6 in third down efficiency in the first half. Kyle Van Noy’s fumble recovery set up White’s run. The Dolphins, who finished with only 172 net yards, wouldn’t score a point until 2:42 remained and backup Brock Osweiler was in the game.
“It was time for us to play as a team,” McCourty said.
After falling to the Lions, after dropping back-to-back games by double digits for the first time in 16 years, after Kerryon Johnson became the first Lion to run for 100 yards in five years, there was plenty of media criticism that the Patriots were painfully slow on defense.
“We talk about Patriot football, complementing each other and we weren’t doing it,” McCourty said. “You need that as a team to do it, so we know we can do. You guys can watch this game again, evaluate and tell us we were fast or slow.”
The only potential piece of bad news came when Rob Groknowski left in the second half with an ankle problem. Earlier, he had broken the Patriots record of Ben Coates for most catches by a tight end. The severity of Gronk’s injury isn’t known.
What is known is the Patriots started 2-2 last season and went to the Super Bowl. In 2014, the Patriots got blown out by the Chiefs, 41-14, dropped to 2-2 and won the Super Bowl. And all that talk about the Patriots going 1-3 for the first time since 2001?
On his touchdown run, White was one-on-one against Robert Quinn and faked him out of his cleats with a devastating move. When he got to the end zone, he went into his celebratory Kodak Bop touchdown dance. If you’re not a hip 41-year quarterback like Tom Brady who was practicing the move earlier in the week, or a 63-year-old sports columnist with Google, it’s a dance move invented by South Florida rapper Kodak Black.
“I think everyone attacked this week with a sense of urgency,” White said.
Yes, the Patriots are 2-2 and as Brady said it felt great. As the Patriots left the field, “Glory Days” blared at Gillette Stadium. This was Springsteen, not Kodak Black, but glory days evidently have not passed the Patriots by. Not yet.