Okay, so maybe Beth's a little bit biased...
For some reason, the New England area boasts a disproportionate number of displaced Cowboys fans. This probably dates back to the days of the Cowboys as "America's Team" when certain frontrunning types in New England apparently decided to jump on the 'boys bandwagon rather than following the home team, which at the time was still known as the "Patsies" with good reason.
So all week, I've been hearing a disproportionate amount of noise from the odd coworker / business associate / radio caller locally about how the undefeated Cowboys were going to walk out the only undefeated team yesterday, how TO was going to run all over the Patriots, how Tony Romo is every bit as good as Tom Brady, etc.
Hence my disclaimer to you all: now that the Patriots have won, I am now going to address said Cowboys homerism from a standpoint of extreme Patriots prejudice. What will follow from me will contain displays of significant Patriots bias and maybe even a little gloating, so any Jets fans in the audience can start preparing their retorts now.
So, look. Obviously the Cowboys, who put up more points against the Pats than any other opponent so far this season, are a good team this year. Obviously they have a lot to play for, even now that the Patriots have finished destroying them in front of their home crowd (see what I mean about the gloating? I'm not gonna be able to control it today, I'm afraid).
As a Red Sox fan, I think I understand a little bit about how they are about the Cowboys in Texas. As a completely myopic, 100% biased, religious baseball fan, I know that if the Red Sox were in an equivalent position with another opposing team, I'd be breaking out every rationale in the book to figure out how to downplay and rationalize that other team's accomplishments.
As a complete and utter Patriots homer who at this point would not be surprised to see Tom Brady literally walk on water, I also know there probably isn't a fan in Dallas who doesn't feel the same way about Romo and the 'boys. I know there probably wasn't a single person in that stadium before kickoff who thought they were there to witness a loss. And I know the terrible, sick, cognitive-dissonance-combined-with-a-swift-kick-to-the-shin feeling that happens when the team you've built up so much, been so confident in, winds up walking off the field in defeat.
So I can sympathize to some extent. But to another extent I want to say, to Dallas, to Cowboys fans, to the league in general: Let's get real. Okay? Really, though.
Yes, Bill Belichick was caught cheating. Vince Wilfork may or may not be a mean, mean man to opposing quarterbacks. Rodney Harrison similarly isn't winning any conduct awards this year. Also, Tom Brady has been fined $10,000 for improperly buckling his chinstrap. Any other Patriots sins I've missed? Oh well, if there are any more, they're sure to be catalogued with painstaking accuracy by someone whenever and wherever they're found, as that appears to be the league's MO this year.
And you know, I sort of get it. You have to think like a league official or a broadcaster / beat writer. You have to think in terms of sheer audience numbers and butts in seats. Who are there more of? Opposing coaches and fans pissed the Pats keep winning, or Pats coaches and fans? League officials and those in the media must play to the largest audience, period. Hence this Patriots backlash even as they embark on a season that is already one for the record books.
And yeah, sure, there's a point or two in there. I still don't defend Belichick's actions against the Jets. That was probably a dirty hit by Wilfork on the Browns QB last week and Rodney Harrison and I are still not on speaking terms.
But really, guys. Really, though.
What does any of that have to do with the absolute bomb unleashed by Brady to Donte Stallworth for his fifth touchdown of the game?
What does it have to do with "the Original 81" being held to 66 total yards, while Donte Stallworth doubled that total and Wes Welker posted his own 124?
What does it have to do with Tony Romo's total of 188 yards to Brady's 388?
What does it have to do with the fact that by the end of this game, the same big, bad undefeated Cowboys squad was being scored upon by a Patriots practice-squad runningback?
Oh, and spare me the whole "the Pats rubbed it in with that last touchdown" baloney. When the Cowboys show throughout at least the first half of the game that their offense can remain a threat, exactly what are the Patriots supposed to do? Last I checked, there wasn't a "mercy rule" in professional football--and at this point, aren't we a little bit past the "respect for underlying gentleman's rules" point when it comes to the Patriots? I mean, every Patriots uniform violation is being picked on now. The league seems to be saying, okay, you guys think you're better than everyone else, then you're going to be the example.
And that's fine. But then let's not start in about gentleman's agreements when things are going (once again) in the Patriots favor. Either we're going to be gnitpicky blowhards about the rules for the rest of the year here or we aren't.
What the Patriots did with that last touchdown was perfectly within the legal rules, and so given our newfound rigorous respect for the rules when it comes to the Patriots, I, for one, cordially invite critics of said touchdown to take a long walk off a short pier.
Clearly the Pats' dominance this year is threatening to the league's sense of parity, it's threatening to the sense of competitiveness of other franchises and it's threatening to the pride of other fans. I can understand, at least abstractly, some of the very real psychological and / or economic reasons for all the Patriots hateration this season and I'll admit 100% here and now that if the roles were reversed, I'd probably be finding the same gnits to pick, the same rationalizations to cling to.
But really, guys. Really, though. Instead of, as my friend Kristen once so aptly put it, using GQ as scouting material, let's look at the facts:
- Tom Brady threw five touchdown passes, becoming the second quarterback in team history to throw five or more passes in a single game.
- Tom Brady's five touchdown passes mark the first time any quarterback in NFL history has thrown three or more touchdown passes in each of the first six games of the season.
- Brady is also on track to break Peyton Manning's single-season touchdown-pass record of 49.
- By the way, that was Brady's 100th regular-season start of his career. In those starts the Patriots are 76-24; this ties Cowboys HOF Roger Staubach's win percentage as the best in the first hundred starts.
Seriously. Let's just get real about all this. When all is said and done this season, chances are we won't be remembering Brady's chin strap. Or which defensive lineman got called for which personal foul in Week 5. Or even Belichick's videographer.
And we sure as hell aren't going to remember whatever T.O. said a couple of days ago.
This Patriots team is going to go down in history. That much, even this early, is a fact. Criticize everything else all you want, but as the game yesterday showed, it's time for the rest of the league to just start finding a way to deal with it.