As a Patriots fan, right now I feel like someone just walked up and handed me a twenty or two and I don't know what I did to deserve it, and I still wonder if maybe it's a trick.
I have a vague sense that the Patriots are winning with offense, and by that I mean Tom Brady, but then I think that's just because a) I cannot even pretend not to be a raging Brady fangirl and b) I usually figure there's some epically deep statistical analysis I haven't yet figured out that would be THE ANSWER about just how they got to be tied for the best record in the league, when there have been times they look like the worst 7-2 team ever.
But then I read a fine piece of sports journalism by Robert Lee in the Providence Journal that crunched all the numbers, and made a compelling case for the conclusion that... there is no conclusion. The Patriots don't add up, or at least not in any one solid way. As I have by instinct as well as bias, Lee points to Brady as the key, by default.
Tom Brady’s brilliance is a big reason why the Patriots are 7-2 and have been able to overcome a lot of their mistakes and shortcomings. He’s completing 64.5 percent of his passes and has 17 touchdowns compared to only four interceptions. His 98.8 passer rating ranks fourth in the league.
I have to wonder if that overall passer rating isn't a bit like pitcher ERA, dragged down by the two absolute eggs he laid amid an otherwise inspired season. Those two stinkers came against a defense-focused, relentlessly blitzing Jets team coached by Rex Ryan with something to prove, and in Cleveland against Ryan's brother, Rob, former linebackers coach for the Patriots and now the Browns' defensive coordinator. In both those games, the opponenet successfully neutralized Brady, and for 60 solid minutes, not allowing him the opportunity for one of his patented comebacks. Those two games were the ones the Patriots lost.
It's not so much that there haven't been contributions from others -- obviously not. But Brady's leadership as well as his prodigious ability to read the field gives the Patriots offense an edge amid the bludgeoning parity and inherent attrition of this league, at least against the relatively mediocre stretch of opponents they've faced so far. That's why he's The Franchise.
But it's also like the fake football player said in that one beer commercial a few years ago: "Leon can't do everything."
If we can agree that Brady drives the offense, and that the offense is driving the team, for me it begs the question: what's up with the defense?