Well, that was certainly more like it.
The Patriots ruthlessly dominated the Texans yesterday, 40-17. You know, the way they're supposed to play against bad teams--not like this other crap we've been seeing over the last two weeks.
During one of his press conferences last week, Brady said not enough players are listening to the coaches. I don't know if it's coincidence, then, that there were at least a half-dozen guys whose names I reacted to with "Who?" on the roster yesterday. It looks as though Belichick may have cleaned house a bit (and of course there are the usual boatload of injuries). Either that, or the players got their shit together after the devastation in Miami. Maybe it took that loss to light a fire under them; maybe that's what it took to instill a little humility among the rank and file.
But what stood out more than anything else in this game was the plus-3 turnover differential. There were still stupid penalties from time to time and the offense still stalled a disconcerting number of times in the red zone, but we held on to the damn football while taking it away from the other team. Whatever it takes to make that last--Superglue, threats of bodily harm, Post-It Notes inside facemasks--I hope it gets done.
My favorite moment of the game yesterday, aside from Ellis Hobbs' triumphant 94-yard kickoff return to begin the third quarter, was the moment after Brady's final touchdown pass (before he was lifted for Cassel and then Testaverde) when he leapt in to the arms of Matt Light, grinning like an idiot. I love the way he's been this season, maintaining his intensity and trying to light a fire under his teammates. I love the way he's talked a little junk at press conferences--the little edge in his voice when he talked about the Miami game, the now-famous shots of him haranguing teammates on the sidelines. Seeing him finally satisfied with the effort made the victory real.
But at the same time, I can remember domination of this sort against Minnesota...and then came the Denver and Jets games. Then we spanked Green Bay...and then there were the Lions and the Dolphins. So now we send Houston packing, and we get the red-hot Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tennessee Titans, who have won five games in a row.
Yesterday's win was wonderful, but we're going to really see what this team is made of over the next two weeks, and I'd be lying if I said I was totally confident that it'll be the Patriots we saw yesterday who show up for those games. There have been two versions of the Patriots on the field this season, and Mr. Turnover might still rear his ugly head before the season is over--especially with quality teams coming in to Foxboro.